We had a one day Towpath Ranger conference on Saturday, and very interesting it was too. Quite a lot of it was us Rangers asking CRT for more guidance on how we should work. One thing we didn’t expect, but I suppose we should have realised, is that we are not allowed to be seen boozing in our uniforms, so if we feel in need of alcoholic refreshment after a hard day volunteering, we need to take a spare jumper.
One contentious issue is Lone Working. As Rangers we often have the opportunity to take a walk or a cycle down the towpath to report on conditions, send in details of a fallen tree or damage to the path surface, or to answer questions from boaters or the public. The question is, should we be allowed to do this solo? Most of us rangers are perfectly happy to do this, especially as it takes effort to organise joint efforts, but CRT is not comfortable about this because of risks of accident or possible confrontation with stroppy people. We have sent them away to produce more definitive guidance, bearing in mind that if we can never work solo, then we will get a lot less done. In fact it raises the whole issue of when we are or are not on duty. Some rangers patrol the towpath on their way to work. I might send in a report of something I see when boating along. Neither of us would be in uniform or officially on duty, but that shouldn’t mean we cant report a tree down or snip of the end of a trailing bramble. What we did agree was that we should not formally approach a member of the public unless we have ID on us. I think we are to be issued with identity tag lanyards.
As long as I have a lanyard i would be happy to approach a boater or member of the public in a helpful way if I was on my own, but I guess if I was dealing with anything contentious then I ought to be accompanied. We’ll have to wait and see what the new guidance says.
Having started in London, the Towpath Ranger idea is being rolled out to the rest of the UK, the first ones are now going out in Leicester with many other places to follow so if you fancy a go at it, now’s your chance. The good thing is that there is no specific regular weekly commitment. One or two days a month is a sufficient minimum, plus the odd meeting.
Next week, we are told, we’ll get more publicity reminding people to be good towpath citizens and a couple of new posters will be revealed. Don’t get too excited I have seen them. They are fine, but not exciting.
We’ve now got a natty little phone app to report in damage / incidents and the like. If we fill in the form in situ, it’ll record the GPS location automatically and we can attach photographs too. No they don’t give us smartphones, we have to use our own and the App is optional.
As for my other volunteering role as a boat mover. I am now getting inundated with requests just as I am going away for a month on Herbie. I think there’ll be plenty more when I get back, so it looks like Il be doing a fair bit of boating this year.