A guest blog from Peter Underwood today.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I have always admired the Shropshire Union Canal Society as one of the most effective and hard-working in the country.
It does a great job keeping the canal looking good and I regularly see members touching up wood stain on signs and canal ‘furniture’ such as the benches on the splendid picnic areas such as the one at Coole Pilate.
I am not sure, however, that they and British Waterways have got it right when it comes to moorings.
They have identified some lovely mooring sites, but seem to have decided that every boat on the Shropshire Union only wants to stop for 48 hours in one place.
It is true there are three five-day mooring spots at Norbury, and a seven-day slot for a few boats at Gnosall and Audlem but almost everywhere else, including the whole of Nantwich and even the rural moorings to the south of Brewood are 48 hours.
Why is that wrong? Well an estimated 6,000 people live on their boats and many more indulge in six or eight month cruises around the system.
That means they are not hurrying like the average hire or share boat and have time, inclination, and often the money, to stop for several days and enjoy what a particular area has to offer.
There are three good pubs in Audlem and, over a period of a week or more such boaters may well want to try each of them. Nantwich has lots of restaurants and pubs as well as shops and for these more laid-back boaters 48 hours may well simply not be enough to enjoy them all. The same can be applied to Wheaton Ashton, Brewood and any number of the other towns and villages along the canal’s length.
There will be those who argue that having longer mooring times encourages boaters to exploit the moorings by overstaying but the reality is that 48 hour moorings cannot be enforced unless they are patrolled daily and so they are regularly abused as, on the Shropshire Union some BW official wanders past at best once a week and usually once a fortnight.
I strongly feel that you should not impose rules you can’t enforce and it would be much better if the SUCS were to settle for signs in the busiest areas that simply asked boaters not to stay more than 48 hours in the busy season – a request not an order.
At the same time establishing some 14 day moorings near popular towns and villages would mean that the local economy can benefit more from those cruising for long periods and wanting to stay a week or two.
Those who want or need to stay longer than 48 hours either ignore the rules – and that’s bad for BW’s credibility – or they go somewhere more suited to their needs. If the latter is the case then canalside businesses lose out.