RWNS AGM » River Weaver Navigation Society

The 2010 Riversdale Bridge

The Northwich Woodlands

The Anderton Boat Lift Mural

The Weaver is only navigable from Winsford Bridge to its confluence with the Ship Canal

RWNS AGM

Our Chairman, John Tackley gave the following report at the recent 2017 RWN AGM .... 

Welcome to you all here tonight at Winnington, located in the heartland of the activity that helped turn the Weaver into the fascinating River it is today. 

A few days ago, I had reason to walk from here to Winnington Bridge, and that short walk highlighted some of the problems that have to be solved within the very near future, as we see around us matters needing urgent attention if the Weaver is to again serve the local residents as well as it has done in the past.

First, I crossed the old river on the stone bridge, and it was highly turbulent after the recent rain, reminding me of the critical situation we have at Barons Quay, in Northwich, costing us, as ratepayers, £40,000 per week. A few paces further on, I crossed the Winnington Swing Bridge, where the vehicle usage and frustrations mount, as the enormous Winnington Estate grows and the traffic congestion continues to build. We all know we will face months and even years of delay before a solution is found and implemented. This is a major problem that should have been resolved before the planners irresponsibly contrived to force our newly created Northwich residents to experience a traffic jam daily on their own doorstep.

So, how has our Society attempted to deal with these two major problems and many other lesser ones, and striven to make the River Weaver a better place, over the past year. I will start by moving downriver from above the declared head of navigation - Winsford Flash. One of our major aims is to achieve a navigable connection between the Middlewich Branch and the upper navigable river to promote greater river usage, but I fear little progress was made this year, as the Mid Cheshire Waterways Strategy, promoted by CWAC, and which will incorporate our recommendations seems to have lost momentum, despite chasing the council officers responsible for its production. We intended to keep the pressure on.

We continued our very happy relationship with Winsford Town Council, with frequent meetings between us, and our suggestions resulted in further work being undertaken by contractors to dredge and hard edge the Basin in the Flash, and these improved moorings help to entice boat traffic to Winsford, for the benefit of the town.

This was highlighted by our annual joint venture with the Town Council, the Salt Regatta, in September, where some thirty boats processed up the River to the Marina, and various waterside activities were organised, both for boaters and other visitors, including popular public trips on the river, provided by the Davenport's Tea Room trip boat, "Duke." 

Jalsea, the old Pimblotts Yard site, now very neglected and run down, has been the subject of a planning application for a housing development, with limited marina facilities retained. We have made comments on this, suggesting a high quality development with prestigious dwellings and attractive moorings. We have no news on its current progress. 

It is pleasing to report that CART have negotiated a long term lease with the newly formed Northwich Dry Dock Company, ensuring the commercial use of the wet dock on the backwater of the river by Hayhurst Bridge and the dry dock beneath the railway arches. This is such a special dry dock as it is sized to take deeper draughted and larger vessels than normal wide beamed canal craft, and its new usage will help ensure the passage of larger craft on the river.

Our Committee member and Historian, Colin Edmondson, has established such a reputation that he was contacted by a relation of a previous senior employee of Yarwoods, who wished to give him the original Yard Book of shipyard, containing all orders received from 1900 onwards, and which he great fully received, together with a selection of photographs.

This Yard Book will be eventually lodged in the Boat Museum Archives for all interested to study. A truly valuable and priceless document containing much detailed information of local maritime history.

Northwich Rotary Club arranged a Regatta in Northwich in August, in conjunction with Northwich Rowing Club, the Town Council, CART and ourselves, with Dragon Boat Racing and a duck race high on the menu.

It was a great weekend and will be repeated, with alterations, this current year. It is pleasing to report that the Northwich Rotary Club's adoption of Lock Street and the bankside beyond, (in which we had some influence) is resulting in a much tidier river frontage.

The Northwich Neighbourhood Plan, in which we have, primarily through our committee member David Roberts, been involved, is being subjected to its final analysis, and is likely to be approved mid- 2018. This will offer greater planning control of the riverside environment in the vicinity of Northwich for the benefit of all. A very worthwhile venture.

Immediately downstream, below Town Bridge, we have, of course, the major planning disaster of Barons Quay. We, as a Society, have prepared a statement of our suggestions for its future development which we have been promoting in similar form for years. This has been blatantly ignored. These proposals, if adopted, should reverse the enormous financial burden of Barons Quay on Cheshire West ratepayers and will develop the combination of the many assets that the Weaver offers the town.

We have, as a Society, prepared our current recommendations on suggested worthwhile developments, and I will be presenting these proposals separately immediately after this report. The Anderton Lift continues to attract many tourists and the new pontoon moorings are a great benefit. CART must be congratulated on providing such a useful and wonderful asset for visiting boaters, despite the considerable financial constraints they are currently experiencing. It is probably appropriate at this time to record our happy relationship with CART.

We frequently need their help and support with our activities and they always assist us willingly. It is regrettable that our local CART Regional Manager, Wendy Capelle, with whom we had such a good relationship, has just retired, we wish her well. Her successor has not yet been announced. Acton Bridge has acquired a new focus, with visits of the Daniel Adamson, and it is a delight to us, as a Society, that we will be seeing more trips in 2018. We have had meetings with their staff to cooperate on obtaining maximum publicity and benefit for their activities and visits and we are about to hear much more after this meeting closes.

We have had positive meetings this year with representatives of both Frodsham and Halton Councils, both towns being keen to encourage the development of riverside facilities to improve their town attractiveness, as well as their image. Further developments with both councils are ongoing.

Finally, on our journey downriver, we are obviously offering support to the Runcorn Locks Restoration Society, as now, with the opening of the new Mersey Bridge, the lock flight restoration becomes a strong possibility, and this should increase traffic markedly on the Weaver, as craft using the restored locks would then enter the Weaver via the short transit of the Ship Canal to Marsh Lock, also refurbished this year at considerable expense by CART.

That concludes my overall view of our downstream journey. There are many encouraging signs that the Weaver can regenerate a new prosperity that was previously engendered nearly 300 years ago. The first steps were taken then to create a navigation which eventually helped create such enormous wealth and prosperity for the region and which has, in recent years, been regrettably in decline.

Last year I commented on what I saw as shortcomings of our Society, in that we were not providing sufficient benefits for our loyal members, nor having sufficient planned activities specifically for you. This situation, I fear, has not changed much this year, but promotion and publicity need more attention, we are aware of this shortcoming and can hopefully focus more attention upon it in 2018.

I must make mention now of the efforts of our enthusiastic committee. Pride of place must go to John Temple, who with assistance from Jim Mole and Mac Carding, has surveyed the whole river for suitable mooring locations and has subsequently produced a leaflet displaying the most useful of the information obtained, handed by CART to all boaters joining the River at Anderton. The leaflet is concise, but the effort required to produce it was enormous and time consuming, especially when the advertising support also obtained is added to the equation. Well done, JohnTemple. Copies are available here for you - it also doubles as a membership form.

Jim Mole, as Vice-President and Secretary, has been a tower of strength throughout the year and his support has reduced my stress levels and enabled me to continue as Chair despite my increasing years. I must again proffer my sincere thanks to the rest of our committee, they have so many skills and use them wisely to benefit our Society. Our meetings are very special and our joint knowledge so widely based. Our regret is that we cannot always persuade those currently with authority to listen.

This report highlights the many positive activities that have taken place on the river and its environs in 2017, in which we have either been involved or have applauded. The major concerns are the continuing problems of Barons Quay and the daily problem of the congestion at Winnington Bridge. Both need solutions rapidly, and both lie firmly within the remit of Cheshire West and Chester Council.

The present Council DID NOT create them - the decisions, or lack of them, were taken many years ago, we believe the solutions are being sought but have not yet been found. If as a Society, we are allowed to assist, we will.

OUR aim is to promote the wellbeing of the River Weaver and its environs.....


John continued his report with the following report on the Barons Quay Rescue ....

Barons Quay, conceived by the previous Tory Cheshire West and Chester Council, is creating much Iocal adverse comment as it becomes clear that its original concept was ill conceived.

The revised policy under preparation to encourage effective and profitable use of the empty units is essential, so what are the choices?

Offering the many current unoccupied shop units at a very low rental to new traders would obviously create a justified outcry from the existing shop owners/occupiers in Northwich, who would then face unfair competition from the subsidised new arrivals, and hence would be counter productive. Conversion of some of the vacant units to homes/flats would be a last ditch solution as it would not materially increase the footfall that is so necessary to make this new development viable.

What is essential is that this newly created enclosed space has to be used to vastly increase visitor activity, both during the day and in the evening, and this means creating a much wider activity base than the current retail unit concept. In other words, Northwich has to become a DESTINATION.

This vital requirement can be achieved by developing an uninterrupted, open, ATTRACTIVE river frontage, with a piled or cantilevered walkway created past the defunct pumping station and a floating pontoon for visiting boats. This waterside pedestrian area needs to be attractive, imaginatively lit, bridge and water illuminated, with generous seating and cafe access.

The most important need is then the provision of a waterside pub/hotel, which would need to face the river, to make it a unique attraction, and water based activities need to be provided close by or on the premises to create extra attractions for all the family.

Visitor attraction must be further encouraged by promoting more river activity, which means a combination of boating activities for the general public, comprising one or more trip boats, small powered launches, rowing boats, canoes, etc,. In short, something available for all ages to enjoy water based activities, either as a participant or as a spectator. Extra promotions could include regattas, concerts, fireworks, light displays, boat shows, mid river theatre etc., the list is formidable.

There are many other activities that can also be promoted to encourage local residents to make Northwich their preferred activity DESTINATION. The cinema is already a huge attraction, but it needs support. A soft play area for children is highly desirable and could be offered rent free by the Council for a limited period in one or more of the voids intended for shops as it would be a family attraction that would result in a long dwell time on the Quay - with a view over the river for the supervising parents! There should also be space available for specialist pursuit and training areas, gymnastics, trampolining, etc.,

Other possibilities include an art gallery, tourist centre, go cart circuit and/or bowling alley. There are certainly more. The first essential is to encourage footfall by offering diverse activity, and a picturesque navigable river with a major tourist attraction one mile away is a godsend that has been totally ignored. 

Lock Street, opposite, should be accessed by a pedestrian/cycleway swing bridge, located near the cinema, similar to the recently installed Riversdale Bridge, to encourage further waterside development and a circular pedestrian route, and also vehicle free access by means of a hard surfaced path suitable for cyclists/ golf trolleys to Wallerscote. The creation of a waterbus service from Wallerscote, serving Anderton, Barons Quay, town Quay and selected services continuing to Weaver Hall ( yes, Weaver Hall does have a quay of its own), similar to the vaporettos in Venice, would be enormously popular and provide vehicle free shopping for the new estate house owners with a cup of coffee en voyage! A second marina would be popular and would provide added colour and activity. 

I say all this with some authority, as we (River Weaver Navigation Society) arranged for the appointed Architects, "Broadway Malyan," prior to commencing design, to participate in a guided cruise on the river from Anderton, furnished them with photographs of river frontages of thriving towns for them to study and created and distributed our own questionnaire for local residents to express their unbiased comment for the Barons Quay development prior to the announcement of the Barons Quay proposals.

We achieved seven times the number of responses that were achieved by the Architects own questionnaire - and - development of the river's assets was the top recommendation of the responders. Our booklet produced several years ago, which many local residents will have seen, was then published and helped illustrate what could be done. We were then told by the leader of the previous Tory council that our carefully collected and summarised conclusions would be totally ignored, as it would delay the development of the town by many years, with the result that we now know.

It must be recorded that despite the known efforts of our Society to suggest an attractive town waterfront, we were at NO time asked by the BQ management team to make any contribution or encouraged to explore new avenues of development on their behalf. This, despite our having a highly skilled committee, with qualified experts in company management, engineering, marketing, accountancy, hospitality and boat operation as members.

Barons Quay still has a brilliant future if its real attractions are recognised and developed. It is pleasing to learn of this new CWAC initiative and we hope we, as a Society, will be given the opportunity to contribute to its development.

We see no reason why Northwich cannot rival or exceed the attractions of the more attractive upper Thames town waterfronts, with all the local benefits that would then ensue.

Let's make it happen.

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