The Swan Food Pitch Dragon’s Den – CRT Are You In?

I wrote this week about the big bread debate, as a wildlife and waterways lover it is something I am extremely passionate about. My thoughts as I wrote it took me ambling through the various situational factors that impacted on this problem. When I get an idea in my head I’m a bit of a nightmare, when there is a problem in the world that I identify with I feel a compelling need to resolve it, to have my impact, to in some small way help.

I’m feeling that right now about the big bread debate, my thoughts in that blog took me to thinking that there must be a simple solution to this problem, or if not a solution something which will help in some small way. So I got to researching, and I haven’t really stopped since.

I love life on water, I never want it to end, I struggle to imagine a life away from the boat, but I do worry that as boaters we barely pay our way. I recently read that we contribute just 10% of the CRT’s annual income, 10%, it made me realise pretty quickly that I probably shouldn’t be so hard on the duck lanes after all. To each boat as an individual your license fee seems like a rather large investment, at least it does to us, to the CRT it’s barely a drop in the waterways. Our input isn’t even covering the upkeep we require to make navigation of the waterways possible. That worries me, because financially we don’t mean all that much to the CRT.

The cynics among us predict a world where the CRT want no boaters on the network, after all we cost more than we bring in license fees, simply turn the waterways into a dog walking and nature heaven, which in the large part they already are, just without boaters. It’s a difficult one to call. We must understand that our license fee alone does not provide enough revenue to maintain the network, let alone improve it, as such the CRT does need to future proof, for our sakes as much as anyone else’s. I’m all for bringing more people to the waterways, the difficulty comes in getting other users of the waterways to contribute to their upkeep. I’m looking at you duckies, those lanes don’t come for free! Being in the communities we boat around very few have any idea what the CRT are all about, very few realise the essentials of funding these.

Everywhere I look at the moment I see comments in response to the Swan Bread Debate, I can’t help to see this as an opportunity to of course help these marvellous creatures, whilst also raising awareness and funds for the CRT. How you cry, well as it stands this is what I’ve been thinking.

That original Swan charity did such an incredible job of spreading the word on the bread ban, lets take this as inspiration. At a time when this concern is everywhere the CRT, as I see it, have quite an opportunity to jump on the back of this, with CRT Swan food. It really is as simple as that, swan food exists, it is a thing, it looks and floats very similar to bread, it fills swans tummies and it has a decent shelf life, but it’s available in vast quantities from your country stores. As I said in the previous blog I don’t expect many people to be stock piling this at home. That’s where my idea for CRT Swan feed bags come in, portioned up to be held by little hands and designed to be purchased on the day you go to feed the ducks.

But where do people buy them? We’ve all been to pubs (I know the majority of you readers are boaters so don’t you dare try to claim you don’t frequent!), they span the breadth of the waterways, as do little country shops and even boat businesses. We’ve all been to pubs and shops which have charity sweets available for a donation in the tin. How much more would none boaters connect with the CRT should they be present in these places, offering a product which boasts feeding our beloved swans whilst maintaining the place gongoozlers come to enjoy them. I see it having wings.

Consider the cross campaigning which could take place between the CRT and the Swan Charities, who are currently fighting to raise awareness on the starvation of Swans, and I can really see a campaign that gains traction. I predict already that I’ll receive feedback to say this is a snapshot in time, a short-term focus of social media, so are so many other solutions on the market. The world is changing, people are changing, and a focus is turning to sustainability, and impact on the world around us. So a few swans are starving in the UK, hardly a reason for big change? The 45,000 shares of the latest post to reference this might suggest a little differently, and why shouldn’t you care about impacting the little bit of world around you.

So no Karen, I’m not expecting you and your three kids to stock pile a 15kg bag of swan food in the garage for the three times a year you take them to feed the ducks. I’m not expecting you to do half an hour of google research to see whether or not you should feed swans bread, only to finish more confused than you started. But if I could take that decision process away from you, if you could pop into the canal side tea room where you normally take the kids for an ice cream before feeding the ducks and buy a hand sized bag of swan food, that you know is fine for them to eat, which feeds investment back into the environment the swans live in, could it not work?

So how does this get implemented, how are funds collected swan food delivered, well again provided canal side retailers are focused on I don’t see it being too difficult, with volunteers traversing the network daily is it that difficult for them to drop off or collect from a pub, whose car park they use anyway?

Of course there is investment in the first place, to make it all possible, but I don’t see that being on the scale of the design and implementation of the new Pokemon logo that’s in the process of being rolled out. But I do see it having more traction with the boating and non-boating community. What’s to stop these kits being available to purchase from the CRT, for those who have houses on the waterways, or those boaters who feel compelled to help. Much similar to the MacMillan coffee morning packs.

I’m still working it through in my mind, I may get shot down for it, but the more I think about it, and the more research I do, the more opportunity I see to engage and seek investment from the wider network of Canal and River users. The more I think about it, the more I want to pitch it to the CRT, and no I am not being paid by them, but I would be more than willing to dedicate some woman hours to making this happen, tell me people am I mad!?

James & Kirsty

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