Last weekend I visited a friend in Essex, where, in between the showers, we managed a morning rowing on the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation. Coming from Wiltshire, with its history of canals, the contrast was stark.
In Devizes - where I used to work- the Kennet and Avon canal is heavily used by large narrow boats (sounds like an oxymoron!), but in Essex the only moving watercraft we encountered in 2 hours was the tourist boat doing trips up and down the canal, and another rowing boat. The banks were lined with a thick carpet of yellow and white water lilies, and the tall stems of branched bur-reed. The water was clear and fished by common terns flying overhead. A far cry from The K&A, where the constant traffic stirs up the sediments and prevents larger plants from settling. This results in a pea-soup, home only to rats, and a few waterfowl and water voles if they're lucky.