Monday, October 15, 2007

The Inquisition

Excitement in the mail today. I have been specially selected (well, randomly chosen along with thousands of others actually) to participate in British Waterways' Annual Boaters Survey. Which means filling in a form.

In my working days I designed many a questionnaire and I know how hard it is to construct one which allows the respondent to get across their point of view. So BW, I forgive you. Nevertheless it is a bit frustrating. For a start I am asked to choose one of a number of cruising areas on which to comment, and of course a boundary between two cuts right through the middle of where we cruise. So we get to comment on half of our journeys in an area we only use half of.

Questions such as what is your typical crew number are impossible to answer. We have anything between two and five. How many locks do you do in a typical day - well none if we go to Paddington, or perhaps twenty odd if we go from Bulbourne to Aylesbury. How many miles in a day? Depends how many locks doesn't it. I just dreamt up some averages.

I chose to comment on the greater London area which is where we have most to grumble about. The other option for us would have been the Grand Union north of Watford which to my mind is pretty good as far as we reach and unknown beyond that.

In general I am not one of the folks who perpetually gripe about BW. They have a huge task and much of the network is very well maintained. So what were my grumbles.
  1. Too many boats moored bankside between Cowley and Rickmansworth. You have to cruise for miles at very slow speed. It wouldn't be so bad if less of them were illegally moored!
  2. No dredging or weed clearance in the Slough arm
  3. Proliferation of submerged plastic bags between Bulls Bridge and Hanwell. About one every yard I reckon..
  4. Infrequent clearance of floating rubbish below Hanwell- especially at Osterley where it all gathers like a huge log jam and bars entrance to the lock.
  5. Poor provision of recycling facilities.
  6. Overstayers on key moorings eg Camden

However on the positive side I was able to indicate (through tick boxes) that other facilities such as sanitary stations, boatyards, water points etc were sufficient, although not regularly enough cleared / maintained and that the BW waterside staff were unfailingly polite pleasant and helpful, if a little slow. Towpaths were generally good as was the condition of the banks (Slough arm excluded).

Well, I've done my bit, and I may even get lucky in the draw for a free years licence.

Don't hold your breath.

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