Thames flowing too fast for Pooh Sticks

Easter Saturday 3rd April 2010

The World Pooh Sticks Championships have been cancelled for safety reasons.  Traditionally held on Easter Sunday at Days Lock on the Thames for the last 27 years, sadly this year’s event will not take place, according to the Oxford Mail.

Am I bored tonight?  Yes I guess I am – LOL!

But tomorrow, Easter Sunday morning, nice and early, Zulu will be off through Fenny Statford, Leighton, Marsworth and maybe even down towards Berkhamstead.   Fingers crossed for a nice day.

British Waterways Complaints – Freedom of Information Reply

A couple of weeks ago I was really annoyed with British Waterways as I felt that having raised complaints about various aspects of the information they were providing to boaters during my extended winter journey, they were failing to do anything but send a standard acknowledgement while the subject of my complaint had not been rectified.

Its not that any individual event was a huge issue but when the promised response didn’t arrive within 15 working days for the third time in a row, the tone of my fourth complaint was most definitely louder than before.

When I requested these to be raised to level 2 of the complaints process, I was not surprised by receiving an almost  immediate response to two of the three older issues, plus an instant response to my latest complaint.  In fact I was pleasantly with two of them which actually left me feeling like I had raised a genuine issue which was indeed being addressed by people who cared, while the third was more defensive, most likely as a result of viewing my final comments about the stoppage at Buckby Locks in isolation rather than as the fourth factor in a row.

The reasons for failing to respond within 15 days were given as guilty – an email response had been sent back to customer services instead of to me (by the IT department!), guilty – a second identical complaint to mine had been processed the same day and my reply had been overlooked and he jury is still out about the third.

But on my angry night two weeks ago I filed a Freedom of Information request to BW to ask “How many complaints are satisfactorily handled?” and duly received my response.  I used which makes the whole process very easy.

The answer was interesting and is shown below in full.  What intrigues me about the figures quoted is that if it is true that only 363 complaints have been handled in the last 12 month period, then having written 4 times I personally represent 1.1% of all complaints during this period, and possibly  yet apart from this series I have not made a written complaint to anyone else anywhere in the last 15 years (I tell a lie – I did write to BW last year to complain that I was unable to walk safely to my boat on my BW offside mooring due to mud churned up by hundreds of dog walkers a day, but they didn’t agree that the council should be taking action to repair the path!). 

Hmmmmmh.  I wonder if these figures are produced by the same counting methods as the number of waterways users which extend into the hundreds of millions!

British Waterways Answer:

Chris Gray
British Waterways Board17 March 2010

Further to my correspondence with you of 16^th March 2010 I am responding
to your request for information regarding:

1. How many complaints did you receive in the last 12 months.

2. how many have you responded within 15 working days many are resolved to the satisfaction of the originator?

2008-2009 level 2nd level
Apr-08 31 4
May-08 47 3
Jun-08 42 7
Jul-08 48 5
Aug-08 50 9
Sep-08 40 7
Oct-08 30 5
Nov-08 20 3
Dec-08 34 3
Jan-09 25 0
Feb-09 24 4
Mar-09 26 13
417 63

2009-2010 1st level 2nd level
Apr-09 43 3
May-09 30 7
Jun-09 43 8
Jul-09 48 11
Aug-09 29 4
Sep-09 23 7
Oct-09 33 8
Nov-09 20 4
Dec-09 24 5
Jan-10 25 6
Feb-10 19 1
337 64

The number of first level complaints responded to within the 15 days from
written acknowledgement – 94% (average response time is 11 days)

The number of second level complaints responded to within the 15 days from
written acknowledgement – 39%

The number of second level complaints responded to within the 15 days from
written acknowledgement or within an extension agreed by the customer 98%
(average response time is 25 days)

Do not keep info on satisfaction but this could be gauged by the number of
complaints progressing from one stage to the next. The number of
ombudsman accepted complaints in 2008/09 was 16 and so far this year is
22. Also to date (in the financial year 2009/10) the Waterway Ombudsman
has completed 18 investigations. The Ombudsman fully upheld three of these
complaints and she found partially against British Waterways on five
occasions. Ten were not upheld.

If we haven’t reasonably met your expectations in relation to a request
for information or you believe we may not have acted in accordance with
the above legislation you should write in the first instance to Caroline
Killeavy Head of Customer Relations, 64 Clarendon Road, Watford, Herts
WD17 1DA outlining your concerns and asking for a review to be
undertaken. Your correspondence will be acknowledged and a review of your
case will be undertaken. The review is usually undertaken by a director
and you should receive a response within 15 working days.

Should you remain unsatisfied by the response you receive you are able to
contact the Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane,
Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF [1]

Yours Sincerely

Chris Gray

Information Officer


Visible links

A new dimension through blogging?

Someone asked today whether blogging has opened up a dimension which I wouldn’t have found otherwise.

Moored outside the NIA in Birmingham before moving to 14 day moorings
Moored outside the NIA in Birmingham earlier this month before moving to 14 day moorings

Here is the perfect example.  I am sitting in the south in glorious sunshine.  Zulu is sitting in Birmingham (I hope!!) and this weekend I hope to be able to continue our journey through to Hatton on the Grand Union.  Until now I was oblivious to the difference in weather between here and there.

How topical to discover that the most recent two bloggers to update their blogs, at the time of writing, are both relevant to my journey.

First of all Gypsy Rover who have moored  a couple of spaces behind Zulu.  Their post at 9:01am this morning confirms that it snowed quite heavily in Birmingham last night, so I must make sure the path is clear before setting off to the Grand Union tomorrow morning.

Secondly Matilda Rose who moored near me in Birmingham a couple of weekends ago. Today at 8:23am they have posted a description of their journey from Birmingham to Hatton via the Lapworth flight on the Stratford Canal.  Wow – I hadn’t known for sure that this route was open, after having seen the extent of maintenance works a couple of weeks ago when I called in by car.  Now I will almost certainly head that way instead of going down Farmers Bridge and joining the Grand Union in Birmingham.

Also a double mention to John on Epiphany who has published the most comprehensive list of moorings and facilities on the BCN.  Thanks for this after my annoyance last week that BW publishes a load of out of date information on which doesn’t even include the 14 day moorings on which we are moored right now, despite them having been there, almost outside their West Midlands Office, for at least the last 5 years.  I believe John has also recently taken responsibility for the new NABO website which was launched last night.  I took an interest in this from a technical point of view last year, as this site has long been barred from access to T-Mobile mobile broadband users.  T-Mobile interfere with web pages by keeping  a snapshot copy on their own proxy server, as well as delivering low resolution images in place of those supplied on the original website.  It would not surprise me if they also block access to some sites, though they deny this and why this would have been the case with NABO I have no idea.  Whatever the reason, T-Mobile blamed the hosting company, and the hosting company blamed T-Mobile.  Neither could be swayed to sort it out.  I was able to establish it was the whole web server and not just this website, but the obvious answer was to move to a new hosting company, which NABO have now done.  Therefore all those on T-Mobile who couldn’t access this website in the past – you will have no problems now.

Finally it seems appropriate to also mention that the IWA have also just updated their website – very professional and well laid out it looks too.

It often seems to me that the more corporate the website the flashier it will look, but the content will be duller, more likely to be out of date and even downright incorrect (as per my complaint about’s listing of moorings on the BCN which bears no resemblance to reality).  There seem to be more and more good canal blogs, and almost every single one has something positive to contribute to other boaters – it is obvious how frequently they get updated, unlike most corporate sites, and so I know I can rely on Epiphany’s mooring list more than any produced by BW at present because the people behind it have an interest in making it right. Personal blogs are a tough act for Waterscape, IWA and organisations like NABO to follow although to me the clue to success is staring us in the face.  Write it like it is, put quality of content before quality of presentation, review what you have written and update it when its wrong, and do it often and when appropriate.  Or in one word – “blog”.

Boat rescued on its way from Ripon to London …… at sea??!?!!

Well here I am sitting by the fire in glorious sunshine, while only an hour ago it was a heavy blizzard and so icy I couldn’t even walk back from town.  Worried about safety on a day like this, I have decided to stay put even though it seems quite nice right now, as conditions can clearly change by the minute.

So what the !!***x! were these guys thinking yesterday when, according to the MCA a couple in their 60s had just bought a boat at Ripon and taken it out into the Humber Estuary on their way to London!  It is beyond belief, but with an official report on the MCA website, this is no joke.  To think that the lifeboat crews had to scramble in these horrendous conditions to go to their rescue, only able to locate them by a weak mobile phone signal, seems so unfair.  I hope they make a serious donation to the RNLI once they realise how stupid they have been.

But wait a minute… I just had a thought: There are no frozen locks to negotiate from Middlewich to Anderton where I can go down the Anderton Lift onto the River Weaver and according to my schoolboy world atlas somehow get into the sea near Liverpool by following the blue lines, and it should then be easy to head roughly southwards following the coast until I find London, which is only a hop skip and a jump from Uxbridge.   Problem solved.** 

Link to story on MCA:
 – Couple adrift in grim weather conditions
“At 02 26 this morning Yarmouth Coastguard received a 999 call on mobile phone from a 30 ft motor cruiser the LADY3”

** Just to ensure there is absolutley no doubt, this is intended as pure sarcasm and in no way should be interpreted as a statement of intent… Okay??