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Issue 480 - January 2013

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Chairman's Column

 
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On behalf of the Society I wish you all a Happy and Enjoyable New Year for 2013.

January Meeting

We all look forward with eagerness to our members' photographic evening and especially the competition. The meeting gives us all the opportunity to share our boating experiences and the "fun" we have and see around us on the waterways.

Society Christmas/New Year Lunch

We have organised our now traditional Christmas/New Year Lunch which will be held on Saturday 12 January starting at 12 noon. The venue will as usual be The Blue Hayes Restaurant, Salisbury Road, Shootash, Romsey, SO51 6GA.

The cost of the lunch is £20.50 per person and if you haven't yet booked your place or confirmed your menu choice can you please see Angela at our January meeting or contact her immediately (contact details here). If you haven't yet paid, Gill Herbert will be delighted to take your money.

As usual, please bring along any unused Christmas crackers, party poppers and the like.

February Meeting

The subject of our evening on 7th February will be the Chichester Ship Canal with Linda Wilkinson, chairman of the Canal Trust.

The canal is so close to us that there may be an opportunity for the Society to visit the waterway in the Spring.

March Meeting

On the 7th March, we will welcome John Dodwell, a Trustee of the Canal & River Trust. John will update us about the Trust, plus give us the opportunity for Questions & Answers.

On this occasion SCS members will be joined by local IWA members for a "joint" meeting which we hope will be well supported.

Alan Howarth

We are pleased to advise members that Gill Herbert saw Adrienne Howarth before Christmas and Alan's health has greatly improved. So much so that he is now driving again and hopes to start attending Society meetings in the near future.

Quiz Evening

Thank you all for your help and support on the Quiz evening in December. Although Angela and I could not attend, we hear all went well.

Alan Rose


Mary Hill

 
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Mary Hill

We very much regret to have to inform members that Mary Hill passed away last month after a brief stay in hospital. Mary and her husband David had been members for some time and were popular with all. After David died last February, Mary continued to attend meetings and our various events, the last time being at Day-Star Theatre in November. Mary will be sadly missed. Her funeral service was held on 2 January.

Paul Herbert

 

Right: Mary Hill at Kintbury on the Kennet and Avon Canal on the Society Boat Trip in 2010.
Photo © Alan Rose


Voles scupper plans for towpath revamp

 
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THE discovery of water voles next to a towpath has dashed hopes for £200,000 of resurfacing work.

Earlier this year cycling campaigners were delighted when funding was announced to upgrade a neglected 1,100m stretch of the Oxford Canal towpath past Jericho.

But Government-funded charity Sustrans now says the city-centre route will not receive any money because it is 20cm too narrow.

The organisation insists on a minimum width of two metres for "shared use" cycle paths for safety reasons.

And campaigners say there is no chance of the path being widened, because the verge next to the canal is a protected habitat for water voles.

The other side of the towpath is obstructed by a brick wall, so making it wider on that side is impossible.

Susanna Pressel, the Labour city councillor for Jericho and Osney, said she had written to the chief executive of Sustrans asking for the decision to be reconsidered.

"I'm intensely disappointed," she said. "It looks like Sustrans is not going to budge. Even though many resurfaced towpaths are only 1.5m wide at most and work perfectly fine.

Along some sections of the path, such as next to Aristotle Lane Recreation Ground, it is extremely unpleasant to cycle and walk on.

"So either we have a really dire situation or we have something slightly less than ideal."

Lib Dem city councillor Jim Campbell said: "It seems to me very unfortunate if, for the sake of eight inches, we are going to lose sufficient funding for a very important project. "We are contacting as many people in high places as we can to see what can be done."

Spokesman for Sustrans Matt Hemsley said the charity was willing to investigate solutions, but at the moment it saw no way of resolving the problem.

He said: "The issue is that this path is not wide enough for our guidelines. We ask for a minimum of two metres and recommend three, because we want it to be safe for everyone. In this case it would be difficult to add on the extra 20cm because of the wildlife issues with water voles identified in the area.

"This issue probably isn't going to be resolvable."

Oxford Mail, 11 December 2012


December Meeting

The Annual Inter-Society Waterways Quiz

 
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As always, our 2012 programme rounded off with the very popular Inter-Society Waterways Quiz. A good crowd of members and guests sat down to watch the competing teams though, overall, attendance was down on previous years.

As our Society had won the last quiz it fell to our Committee to organise this one. Because of the sad demise of the IWA Solent & Arun Branch we were only able to field three teams on this occasion, IWA Salisbury Group, IWA Guildford & Reading Branch and Southampton Canal Society. One of our team regrettably had to withdraw at late notice but we were delighted that last year's audience winner, Janet Gunningham, volunteered to fill the gap - alongside Brian Evans, Aelred Derbyshire and Paul Herbert.

Our quizmaster was the very experienced Peter Oates who had produced a number of challenging rounds with plenty of interesting computer enhanced images and effects. He was ably assisted by Laura Sturrock keeping us up to date with the scores for each round.

Until the closing rounds not many points separated the three teams but Southampton tailed away at the end, leaving a close contest between Guildford & Reading and Salisbury. IWA Guildford & Reading came through at the end, winning by just three points, and were deservedly presented with the magnificent Inter-Society Waterways Quiz Trophy.

Peter had also invited audience participation but when the result was requested our members were too shy to come forward with their scores.

Many thanks to Peter and Laura for organising the quiz itself and for the team members for their participation. Thanks also to all those who generously donated raffle prizes and especially to Pam McKeown for her now traditional prize of a great home-baked Christmas Cake. This year the cake was won by our Raffle Manager, David Townley-Jones who was delighted as it was the first time in many years he had won a prize in the raffle he organises every month!

The evening finished with the traditional American Supper - many thanks to our members for providing such a wide variety of delicious food and to those who assisted in the kitchen and setting out and clearing the furniture before and after the event.

Paul Herbert

The victorious team

The victorious IWA Guildford & Reading Branch team (l to r: Tony Davis, team captain Ben Scott, David Daines and Ray Carnell) with quizmaster Peter Oates. (Photo: © Paul Herbert)


Non-native Invasive Shrimp Found in the Thames

 
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An invasive shrimp which could be damaging to native species has been discovered across England, including the Thames. The Environment Agency and Canal & River Trust are now urging water users such as boaters, anglers and canoeists, to help slow the spread of this invasive species by checking, cleaning and drying all their equipment after use, before using it at another location.

Boaters must be particularly careful to ensure that portable boats and kayaks are drained, cleaned and dried. Boat trailers must also be thoroughly cleaned after use. Anglers should take particular care to ensure their nets are thoroughly cleaned and dried before reuse. Boat users need to ensure that any debris or wildlife on hulls, particularly zebra mussels, are removed and disposed of safely - more advice available on the Environment Agency website: https://secure.fera.defra.gov.uk/nonnativespecies/checkcleandry/index.cfm

Invasive species now cost the UK economy an estimated £1.7billion each year. They cause damage to riverbanks, increase flood risk, crowd out and kill off native wildlife and become so prolific on waterways that fishermen, boaters and anglers are unable to use them.

Dikerogammarus haemobaphes is the less aggressive relative of Dikerogammarus villosus, the 'killer shrimp', which was first discovered at Grafham Water, Cambridgeshire, in 2010. Many water bodies in Western Europe have undergone major ecological change due to the arrival of these species, which come from Eastern Europe. They often completely replace many native species in their preferred habitats.

Although Dikerogammarus haemobaphes is the less aggressive relative of the 'killer shrimp', its impact on our ecosystems may be even greater because of its ability to survive in more varied habitats. It is essential to reduce the spread by checking, cleaning and drying all equipment used in the water.

IWA Bulletin December 2012


Defra Review of the Environment Agency and Natural England

 
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The Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) has announced a public consultation as part of its review of the functions of the Environment Agency and of Natural England. Although heralded as a routine review to check that the functions of both bodies are still necessary and appropriate to be undertaken by arms-length government bodies, there is a clear underlying intent to save on costs and trim the organisations down.

The coincident timing of the reviews of both bodies is no accident - the main proposals put forward is that the two organisations might be merged together to form a single UK regulator for the countryside and the environment, with periphery activities passed to other sectors where appropriate. This fits well with the Government's past stated intent that the Agency's navigation functions should be passed to Canal & River Trust in 2015 subject to agreement on funding, etc - and indeed this is mentioned in the consultation document - http://www.defra.gov.uk/review-ea-ne/ - (paragraph 53).

Defra says it plans to announce preliminary conclusions in the spring.

IWA plans to respond to the consultation promptly to remind Government of IWA's past and on-going support to transfer navigation management of the EA's current responsibilities to Canal & River Trust, and recommends that waterway users and other waterways organisations should do likewise, as the alternative future under continued EA management seems likely to be one of dwindling resources under continued budget cuts from an organisation more focussed on environmental concerns than recreational users, however committed EA's present staff are to provide good service.

The review documents can be found on the Defra website: http://www.defra.gov.uk/review-ea-ne/

IWA Bulletin Mid-December 2012


Argy-bargy

 
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Thanks to Laurie Pearce for spotting this item in Private Eye:

The touchy souls in charge of the Canal and River Trust (CRT) are threatening legal action against a small boaters' group over articles questioning the propriety of the charity's relationship with a hire boat holiday brokering firm - and the "malicious unauthorised mockery" of its logo.

The website of the Kennet and Avon Boating Community (Kanda) reported this summer that thee charity, formerly British Waterways, holds shares in Drifters Leisure Limited and that CRT head of boating Sally Ash is a director of Drifters. This is true. CRT says BW set up Drifters in the 1990s to boost waterborne holidays and thus promote the canals as a whole and Ash's role is unpaid.

However, Kanda questioned the propriety of the continuing relationship, saying in strongly worded online postings that the shares add to the impression that CRT, like BW before it, is in cahoots with leisure hire companies, some of which have openly lobbied for higher licence fees to discourage live-aboard boaters, especially those with no permanent home mooring, known as "continuous cruisers".

One consequence of BW ceasing to be a government body is that CRT is no longer prevented from suing for defamation by the "Derbyshire" principle, under which public authorities must take criticism from the public on the chin.

CRT lawyers wrote to Kanda last month saying they considered the allegations of impropriety, misconduct, bullying of boaters and - bizarrely - "the malicious unauthorised mockery of the trust's logo" to be defamatory. They demanded an apology and a "charitable donation to the trust". This is an interesting approach to fundraising from the new charity, which may breach Fundraising Standards Board rules about "undue pressure" to make donations.

Website editor Pamela Smith asked for a proper clarification of which specific words were defamatory, but instead received an abrupt email asking for a solicitor's address for the service of legal documents.

Private Eye, November2012


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