Today we were up frightfully early to catch the train to Rugby, where we got a lift to Napton Village Hall. It was to be our first AGM as historic narrow boat owners, but also the first AGM where the fact that we were owners made no difference to our membership status. At last year’s AGM, we welcomed the club’s decision to remove the “Owners” part of the name, as well as the distinction in membership type for owners and non-owners of historic narrow boats.
First up was the HNBC committee meeting, which I attended as Fens Rep. James went for a walk along the Napton Flight, helping work a boat through the locks. Once the business of the committee meeting was over, we had some time to catch up with friends – they were very keen to learn about our new acquisition. We introduced ourselves to Nick, who owns Eileen, and also met Di, who lived on the Severner Ash in the 1960s. She promised to send me photos from when she lived on it!
There is always a speaker before the business of the AGM, and this year we heard from Tony Stammers, the head of Health and Safety at the Canals and Rivers Trust. He spoke well about the difficult balance between maintaining public safety and allowing people the freedom to use what is actually an inherently dangerous system of locks and waterways. He acknowledged that they had got things wrong in the past (Falling Sands lock being a particular example, where the safety of boaters working the lock was compromised for the safety of casual public users walking across a bridge) but that CRT are keen to work with and take advice from groups such as the HNBC. We were particularly interested in the differences in approach taken by the Environment Agency and CRT. Where the EA generally opt to fence locks in as much as possible, CRT take the position that the risks are so “obvious” that fences should not be needed.
After the talk there were lots of questions, and then it was time for tea, cake and more chat. Then the actual AGM, at which the committee did not change and so I remain Fens rep. At 5:45 we headed off, to get a lift back to Rugby and catch our train home.