This towpath shall never open!

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Will it or won’t it? Lisson Grove towpath stays shut Nov 2015

The long, drawn, still ongoing saga of the Lisson Grove towpath is still with us. Canal & River Trust informed the world it would be open on October 27th.

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CRT’s blog informing Lisson Grove towpath would be finished by 27th

Since then, nowt. Towpath remains shut. No sign of it re-opening. A terrible state of affairs. ‘Improved towpath’ from Waters Meeting to Eryre’s Tunnel as CRT’s blog details (note CRT calls it ‘a bridge’ once again!!) yes but that was also due to be completed by the 20th Oct and it is clear that this ‘completion’ is nowhere in sight with the enforced Lisson Grove towpath closure.

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Towpath gates and a dangerous road

Following on from the earlier post featuring a collation of news snippets regarding canal towpath cycling in the W2/W9/NW8 areas, here’s another similar post, this time concerning the dreadful pedestrian route over the top of Maida Hill tunnel – and of course those ubiquitous gates at the Lisson Grove moorings – which seem to open and close at times clearly suited to the whims of a particular guy who spends his days captaining either the waterbuses or Prince Regent.

Some days the gates dont even open! The gates have clearly denoted times of opening and closing at either end of the Lisson Grove moorings, yet as I and many others have observed there’s very little regard made to these published times. At one time I kept a tally of the times the gates did (or did not open) and complained to British Waterways about it. Have even tweeted about the gates being shut at the wrong times or never opened at all.

The problem of public access to the section past the Lisson Grove moorings has been ongoing for years now – there are problems with the gates being shut at unauthorised times every single summer and winter.

I now fully realise those many past complaints dont exist because as we will see, Canal & River Trust claim it is only just recently that people are complaining.

Besides myself, many other people actually complained to British Waterways too. I know about this and I have seen the correspondence on this. It comes as a shock then that Canal & River Trust make a largesse claim in their statement below: “There are many people that have enjoyed use of this towpath over the years without cause to complain.

Yes, indeed CRT, lets just pretend that no-one has complained until of late, let’s just say its been happening since mid 2015!

A brief history of the management of the Lisson Grove gates: These were previously managed by Thames 21 who found its representive very unreliable. Guess what. The same problems existed then as now! We are talking about 8 years or so back. The person operating the gates was eventually dismissed and other people took over the job before British Waterways scrapped the contract and did the task with its own employees once again.

In the long run up to Canal & River Trust management, British Waterways issued a new contract for the management of the Lisson Grove gates. Guess what? The same person employed (and dismissed) by Thames 21 comes back and the task is up to him once again.

Clearly they (being mainly the same management team that migrated from British Waterways days) are burying their head in the sand once again.

Is there any wonder that the whole thing is a shambles? Oh dont worry! If the gates are closed one can always damn well walk through the Wharncliffe Gardens estate, the Lisson Green estate and via the Pateley Street footbridge!

They might as well throw away the keys and make this other route the official one! Someone might lose their job but at least people walking the towpath wont loose their heads trying to make heads or tails of the strange and unreliable management of the gates at either end of the Lisson Grove moorings – nor worry that their complaints will be instantly dispatched to the great filing cabinet in the sky!

Again this curation of relevant items concerning the route over the top of the canal tunnel comes from the very useful Westminster Labour website:

Blomfield Road/Edgware Road

We have asked the Road Safety Team to investigate this issue which has been raised by a number of residents:

“As a resident of Clarendon Gardens for many years, I can only add to the concern expressed about pedestrian risk at the western end of Blomfield Road by saying that the eastern end, the turn off the Edgware Rd, is equally dangerous. Apart from the lack of a crossing, this very heavily used rat run is made very unsafe by drivers tuning into Blomfield Road at high speed long after the lights have turned red against them. Can the police be persuaded to arrest/install safety cameras here? They would make a lot of money in fines.”

“The crossing has several issues which we would like to highlight below and hope you will be able to assist to make this a safer place for residents and visitors, in particular pedestrians:

• Blomfield Road has no camera. There is an increasing number of drivers that run the red light to cross. We assume these to be locals, aware of the traffic light system and lack of a camera on Blomfield road. This seems to be an increasing issue.
• Blomfield Road has no pedestrian crossing. there is no safe moment for pedestrians to cross as there is always one direction of drivers having the green light to cross. pedestrians have to endure a lot of verbal abuse when trying to cross and slowing down cars trying to enter/leave the road. we have witnessed and endured this on endless occasions.
• The pedestrian crossing across Edgware Road has a very short green light, which does not give pedestrians enough time to cross safely. Especially the elderly and families. 
• The kerb on the side of Aberdeen Place, where pedestrians press the green light to cross Edgware Road and wait for the green light, is not raised. A lot of cars coming from Blomfield Road run over the curb and are of great danger to pedestrians. We have witnessed this on numerous occasions.
• Edgware Road is often congested, especially during peak hours (e.g. mornings). This causes the crossing to be blocked by cars pushing in despite the congestion. This includes many London buses, which cause a dangerous barrier. During these peak hours it is near impossible to cross as the crossing is never clear with the green light. There are also many cars coming from Blomfield Road trying to push into the already congested Edgware Road and continue their journey on Edgware Road when the pedestrians have the green light, putting them into great danger.
• Cyclists coming from Aberdeen Place have their own green light. They often ignore or are not aware of pedestrians crossing at Blomfield road, which lacks a crossing. Pedestrians can’t hear the bicycles approaching and/or are not aware of the bike lane system. There have been many near misses.
The fact that the crossing is very busy with families and tourists walking along the canal makes it even more dangerous for these pedestrians as they are slower and/or unfamiliar with the dangerous light system.”

**I absolutely agree. The Edgware Road/Aberdeen Place/Madia Avenue/Blomfield Road junction is a mess!! The layout means a lot of motirists run the lights especially to/from Blomfield Road. As well as that, there’s a mighty surprise being that traffic from Maida Avenue can go in other directions not controlled by the lights and vehicles carrying out these manouvers often catch people unawares!! Westminster Council doesnt seem too bothered about this.

Lisson Grove moorings

The Canal and River Trust tell us;

“Having looked at our records there have been few complaints made regarding access at this site and those that have been formally logged with us have been dealt with accordingly. We currently use an external company that manage the gates on behalf of the Canal & River Trust at a fairly substantial cost. We have had two complaints in the last couple of months regarding the person responsible for the opening and closing of the gates and we have been working with them to resolve these problems. There are many people that have enjoyed use of this towpath over the years without cause to complain. However, we are always looking at ways of improving the canal users experience and I am looking into alternative ways of managing the access at this site with a view to improving current practice which will include clear signage indicating exact opening and closing times of the gates.”

Also we have written again to enquire about “what has happened about the horrible CYCLISTS DISMOUNT notices which wreck the beautiful gates down to the Canal from Lisson Grove?”, raised by a resident.

Regent’s Canal

We have made enquiries with the Canal & River Trust about the following matter;

“During good weather I try to walk to work from the north end of Edgware Road. I walk down Aberdeen Place to the Regent’s Canal and it has been shut on many occasions. Last summer I complained to the Canal and River Trust on several occasion with very little effect. On one occasion the gate closest to Aberdeen Place was open but the gate at near Regent’s Park was closed and I couldn’t exit (I ended up being late for work)! On another occasion I was going down the steps to the canal 20 minutes before the closing time and the person who had come along to close the gate refused to let me in and also a group of tourist – according to him we couldn’t make it to the next gate in 20 minutes! It normally takes me 6/7 minutes. I have started walking to work again and yesterday I got to the gate at 8.40am and it was closed. At times I have caught someone opening the gate (at much later time then advertised) and when I have pointed out the opening/shutting hours they have been quite rude. In my experience the gates are very rarely opened and shut at the designated time. I have lived in my area for a long time and I have realised that the opening/closing times of the gates to the canal are really at the whim of those living on the boats!”

Regent’s Canal

We have made enquiries with the Canal and River Trust following receiving the following enquiry;

“There is a lovely walk along the canal from Little Venice to Regent’s Park. This is used by many tourists as well as residents. There are two gates at the entrance to that walk. A sign on the gates gives the opening times but they are often locked for no reason even at weekends when the walk is very popular. I have complained to Canal and River Trust but with no result. It is very frustrating – especially for the poor tourists. I would be most grateful if you could ask them for an explanation.”

The Canal and River Trust has told us;

“I would like to apologise for the inconvenience towpath users are experiencing in regards to the locked gates between Little Venice and Regents Park. The gates situated at Lisson Grove moorings are there to provide much needed security to the long term mooring site located on the towpath. The opening hours are based on reasonable assessment of the demands of towpath users and the potential limitations with the contract in place for these gates being opened/closed. There is an alternative route in place, as marked on signage at site, which runs along the opposite side of the canal which enables visitors to continue their journey alongside the waterway albeit at street level but given that the Maida Tunnel is located 100yds from the moorings visitors have to leave the towpath at that point anyhow. We are aware of the current situation of the gates not being accessible at its required times, and our moorings manager is currently investigating the situation.”

Kirk returns to Tarporley

Yesyerday I did one of my towpath cycle stints along the Regent’s Canal to King’s Cross, and even tho I reached my Granary Square destination as planned, I deemed I had sufficient time before it got dark so decided to extend the trip to the west portal of Islington tunnel.

When I approached the tunnel portal two boats were emerging. The second happened to be Tarporley.

Tarporley emerges from Islington tunnel in the evening of 16 May 2015

Tarporley emerges from Islington tunnel in the evening of 16 May 2015

I was surprised when I saw who the skipper was, its about 25 years since I last volunteered on Tarporley and pretty much the same period of time for it’s skipper too, who happened to be Kirk Martin.

Kirk & his Tarporley crew as they approach the King's Place moorings

Kirk & his Tarporley crew as they approach the King’s Place moorings

Its actually around 20 years since Kirk last regularly skippered Tarporley, bar one stint as part of a community trip as he tells me. On the Tarporley website he is described as ‘one of our current volunteers when he had more hair!’

Kirk on Tarporley (taking a rest from skippering!) as a boat emerges from Laburnum basin 1986

Kirk on Tarporley (taking a rest from skippering!) as a boat emerges from Laburnum basin, 1986

I had not seen Kirk for the best part of a decade so went over to King’s Place to very quickly say hi before cycling home.

Here are a couple of the many pics taken of our stints on Tarporley during the mid-eighties which I have featured on my London Canals website.

Kirk struggles with rubbish around Tarporley's prop at the entrance to the Hertford Union Canal - early 1986

Kirk struggles with rubbish around Tarporley’s prop at the entrance to the Hertford Union Canal – early 1986

Long before Kirk worked on the canals he was one of the crew on the steam operated Humber ferries, as well as being fireman on the LT pannier engines working the engineering trains between various places such as Upminster, Acton, and up the Metropolitan line to places such as the long forgotten Watford (aka Croxley) tips.

I certainly remember the red panniers as they thundered through King’s Cross Met/Circle platforms.

One book on the LT steam workings is Red Panniers co-authored by Kirk.

Another book penned by Kirk features his days on the Humber Ferries, this is Ferries across the Humber.

I have slides of the paddle steamers at work around 1976 when I took a day trip from New Holland pier to Hull.

Besides authoring these books and others, Kirk has also contributed to Waterways World and various railway magazines.

Incidentally this happens to be my 25th posting on my London Canals blog 🙂

Pre Cavalcade pics 1 May 2015

Today I ventured quickly around Little Venice to see what was happening…

Inside the new boat 'Brunel' at Paddington - looks like it'll be in use over the Cavalcade weekend.

Inside the new boat ‘Brunel’ at Paddington – looks like it’ll be in use over the Cavalcade weekend.

Update: No such luck this new barge stayed out of use! A white elephant for Cavalcade!

London Canal museum's Bantam tug arrives for the Cavalcade

London Canal museum’s Bantam tug arrives for the Cavalcade

Who are you looking at? Tug crew looks at goose who looks back. Both parties clearly browned off!

Who are you looking at? Tug crew looks at goose who looks back. Both parties clearly browned off!

Cavalcade steward tries to sort out the moorings for incoming narrowboats

Cavalcade steward tries to sort out the moorings for incoming narrowboats

Some boats not moved from visitor moorings yet! This is the notice on Kaszebe at about 18.00hrs on 1 May 2015.

Some boats not moved from visitor moorings yet! This is the notice on cruiser Kaszebe at about 18.00hrs on 1 May 2015, where Atticus should be moored.

Nice floral display & scarecrow doll on the roof of N/B Lola.

Nice floral display & scarecrow doll on the roof of N/B Lola.

Tug No5 Ann emerges from the tunnel en route from its St Pancras moorings to the weekend festival at Little Venice

Tug No5 Ann emerges from the tunnel en route from its St Pancras moorings to the weekend festival at Little Venice

 

That pesky ‘bridge’ at Lisson Grove!

Is a canal tunnel a bridge or not?

East entrance to Lisson Grove Tunnel

East entrance to Lisson Grove Tunnel with the bridge notice upper right

It seems so, according to Canal & River Trust. Ever since the British Waterways Board and its successors have run London’s canals, they have claimed there are just two tunnels on the city’s entire system. Despite this error being pointed out oft times in the past, Lisson Grove continues to be randomly called either a bridge or a tunnel. BW’s notices claim it as a bridge however its walking guides claim it a tunnel as shown below:

At least BW calls it a tunnel in its circular walk leaflet!

At least BW calls it a tunnel in its circular walk leaflet!

Canal & River Trust seems to have found the ideal solution to the dilemma of whether to call it a bridge or a tunnel. In their version of the Little Venice to Camden circular walk the ‘tunnel’ (or ‘bridge’) disappears altogether! Almost an entire paragraph vanishes from the old BW leaflet as it morphs into a Canal & River Trust information guide. Quite a nifty solution to a problem they dont seem to have a proper answer for!

CRT's solution to the 'impossible' tunnel - remove all reference to it!

CRT’s solution to the ‘impossible’ tunnel – remove all reference to it!

In the past long before BWB/BW/CRT came onto the scene, the bridge, sorry, tunnel, was always known as Eyre’s Tunnel. This name was given because the tunnel went underneath part of the large estate belonging to Richard Eyre. As it went through the ground it is without a doubt 100% of a tunnel.

Definitely a bridge!

Definitely a bridge says CRT!

When Canal & River Trust changed their notices to the new ID (with cheap stickers) they certainly didnt put that ‘bridge’ right. They just stuck a new ID over the old BW notices and left the confusion for others to ponder over. Just wonder, would Canal & River Turst prefer to call its Islington and Maida Hill tunnels – their two official London canal tunnels – a succession, or a multitude, of bridges?