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Issue 358 - February 2002

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Chairman's Column

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A Backward/Forward Look

As this is our first Newsletter of 2002 I thought it would be worthwhile taking a brief look back over our activities in 2001 and our plans for 2002.

Very early last year we had to say 'goodbye' to our home for so many years, the St John Ambulance Hall in Kings Park Road, Southampton, and 'hello' to our new base, Chilworth Parish Hall. Everyone appears to agree that this was a good move and the accommodation and facilities at Chilworth suits the Society well.

Peter arranged an interesting and varied programme of speakers during the year and, of course, we welcomed back 'DayStar Theatre' for their annual visit. We experienced a 'hic-cup' in June, when no meeting was possible due to the Hall being required for General Election purposes. Our Annual General Meeting in July saw the largest attendance at such a meeting for many years. That AGM was, of course, particularly noteworthy as we said another 'goodbye' - this time to our Founder Chairman, Brian Evans, and another 'hello' to our first ever President - Brian Evans.

In October we welcomed our most influential visitor of the year, Roger Hanbury, Chief Executive of The Waterways Trust.

We finished of our year in the usual fashion with the Inter-Society Waterways Quiz and American Supper.

I think we should all be pleased with our achievements during 2001 - not only did we enjoy our monthly programme of events, we maintained the healthy finances of the Society whilst, at the same time, making a number of donations to waterways causes.

As we move forward into 2002 our programme of speakers is virtually complete to the end of the year - no mean feat as former Secretaries will confirm. In addition to the interesting range of speakers an Auction has been added to our programme. 'DayStar Theatre' will be returning in October to entertain us in their usual fashion. It is also proposed to organise a Society Boat Rally in the Napton area during the spring and, hopefully, a visit to Crofton some time in the summer.

At recent meetings I have been delighted to see some members who we haven't seen for a while and we have also been able to welcome a number of new members and guests.

All in all we can look forward to another very good year for the Society.

E-mail Problems

In the last Newsletter I referred to the problems I had been having with my e-mail system. I am pleased to report that these have now been overcome and I am now back 'on line'. As far as I am aware I have not lost any messages but, if you sent me an e-mail and haven't had a response, please send me a follow up. Many thanks.

Raffle Prizes

The Committee is delighted that the flow of donated raffle prizes has continued. Many thanks again to all those involved.

Refreshments Rota

Until we know whether Joyce is going to be able to return and take over the interval refreshments once again, it is necessary to organise a rota. What we are looking for is one person to take on the responsibility to organise the refreshments for one meeting. Many thanks to those who have already taken a spell - I think they would agree that the task is not too onerous and there is a small but willing band of helpers to assist.

A rota list will be available on the Treasurer's table at each meeting and I would ask for volunteers to add their names. Alternatively, they can contact me by 'phone or e-mail and add their name to the list.

Please remember ...

no volunteers = no interval refreshments!!!

Paul Herbert


December Meeting

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Inter Society Waterways Quiz & American Supper

An excellent turn out greeted the four teams entered for the 2001 Inter-Society Waterways Quiz. It will be remembered that the Avon & Wilts Branch IWA won the 2000 Quiz and they, therefore, had the task of organising the quiz for the following year, but they asked if the Southampton Canal Society could continue to host it, which we were delighted to do.

The teams taking part in addition to Avon & Wilts were the Salisbury Group, the Solent & Arun Branch IWA and our own Society.

The Quizmaster for the evening was Eric Lewis (who is a current member of three of the four organisations taking part, and a former member of the fourth - therefore, very divided loyalties). Eric has been a member of one or other of the quiz teams over the years but on this occasion he was the one asking the questions - and what a fine job he made of it! He introduced a number of new and challenging rounds that really had us all on our toes, not just the team members taking part.

Eric was ably assisted by wife Sue (on the 'old scoreboard') and SCS member, Ray Brooks, looking after the technical bits.

Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond anyone's control, two of the Solent & Arun team had to withdraw at the last moment but that didn't stop the two remaining team members from taking the trophy, in a very tightly fought contest. Many belated congratulations to the Solent & Arun Branch. The final scores were:-

Solent & Arun Branch 27.5
Southampton Canal Society 26
Avon & Wilts 25
Salisbury Group 22

This of course means that Solent & Arun have the task of organising the 2002 Quiz - at a venue to be determined. However, the Southampton Canal Society will be happy to host the event if required.

On the run up to the December event we had organised a caption competition through the Newsletter. Members will recall that a photograph showing a large cabin cruiser stranded high and dry on rocks, adjacent to a light-house, had been published in the Newsletter and members were invited to submit an appropriate caption which would be judged at the December meeting. Seven captions were submitted and all those attending the Quiz Evening voted for their favourite caption.

In another close fought contest the winner was Ron Glover with - "Well, don't just sit there, while we're here get out and scrub the bottom before the tide comes back in." An excellent caption, I wish I had thought of it. A bottle of wine was awarded to the winner.

In the interval I was very pleased to make a presentation to Eric Lewis of a video of 'The River Nene' - a waterway which Eric and Sue had enjoyed during the summer. This was in appreciation of Eric's commitment to the Parliamentary Waterways Group as the Canal Society's representative.

At the Christmas meeting it is customary for the Chairman to make a small presentation to Joyce Mayhew in appreciation for organising the Society's refreshments at its monthly meetings. However, as Joyce could not be with us at that meeting, I carried out the same pleasant duty - but on her 'doorstep'. Joyce and Eric send their regards to all their friends in the Society and they hope to rejoin us soon.

The evening finished in high style with the annual American Supper which seemed to be enjoyed by all.

Paul Herbert


January Meeting

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Considering that we hadn't been able to pre-advertise the content of our January meeting; it was held immediately after the Christmas/New Year season; and on one of the coldest nights of the year, when the car park at Chilworth was like a skating rink - it would have been reasonable to have expected a low turn out. Not so - over 60 members and guests braved the harsh conditions to hear Peter Oates's talk about the Southampton and Salisbury Canal. This was the same presentation that Peter had been invited to give to the London Canal Museum in December.

Peter certainly knew his stuff and had obviously added to his own extensive knowledge of this long defunct waterway with considerable research. The Southampton and Salisbury Canal was beset with problems from the start and never did achieve its objective of reaching Salisbury or the River Itchen at Northam (via the tunnel built almost under the site of the current Civic Centre).

Peter was able to quote from the various Acts of Parliament, the minutes and correspondence of the Canal Company and from many other sundry documents. This was a very detailed presentation and Peter should be complimented on his preparation.

To finish off the evening Peter displayed around 75 slides showing the current canal environment - much of which in the Southampton area has now been built over, but in rural areas there is much to be discovered even after 190 years.

Paul Herbert


Society Auction - 9 May 2002

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On 9 May we will be having a change in our usual programme of speakers when we will be staging our own auction. This will be a fun event but, nevertheless, will have a serious side - to raise money for charity. The Society's finances are fairly healthy and, therefore, the Committee felt that the proceeds of the auction should be donated equally to a waterways charitable body - 'The Friends of Raymond' and to a local children's charity - 'Naomi House' (the Children's Hospice in Sutton Scotney).

By giving plenty of notice of this event it is hoped that as many members as possible will take part in what is expected to be a very enjoyable evening. So come on ... look into those seldom opened cupboards or search through those attics for any items that you are loath to part with, but would be willing to do so for such good causes. But - no 'tat' or clothing please. Items to be auctioned could include maps, books and jig-saws - obviously though, those with a waterways theme would have greater interest to the wider membership. To avoid the Society being left with some unwanted items at the end of the evening the Auction will be run on a 'sale or return basis'.

Our Auctioneer for the evening will be Linda Pearce who, as well as trying to drag out of us as much money as possible, will be entertaining us with her antics with the gavel.

For further information please contact Linda Pearce or Paul Herbert.

Please note the date of this event in your diary - the second Thursday in May. This is to avoid the possible use of the Hall for any local elections on 2 May.


Proposed Crofton Trip

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Another suggestion referred to in the November Newsletter was the possibility of organising a Society coach/boat trip. Unfortunately, little interest has been shown by the membership and nobody has come forward to organise such an event.

However, at a recent Committee meeting it was suggested that we might consider organising an informal gathering at Crofton during the summer to coincide with one of the Crofton Beam Engines' Steaming Weekends. Participants would make their own way to Crofton by car (and it is hoped that car owners would be willing to car-share/offer lifts to other members) where we could have a picnic. Those interested could enjoy a walk around Wilton Water and alongside the canal and the Crofton Flight. Obviously, a visit to Crofton Engines would be a must to many but, of course, there is an entrance charge for that site.

Picture of Crofton

A date has yet to be determined but this is likely to be in early June or late September, thereby avoiding the main holiday season when so many members are likely to be away.

Interested? There will be a list on the Sales Stand on which you can add your name. Alternatively, please contact either Laura Sturrock or Paul Herbert.

Editor's note: Days/times of opening of Crofton Pumping Engines are listed in the Waterways Eventsfeature.


Historic question slows up hopes of canal protection

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EFFORTS to protect a historic Hampshire canal are being slowed by the need to find out the basic question: who owns the Itchen Navigation? The canal was originally owned by a company which went bust in the 1880s after the railways took away most of its trade.

Until the fundamental question can be resolved, little can be done to preserve long-term the rapidly deteriorating waterway from Winchester past Eastleigh to Southampton.

Fears are growing that the banks are becoming increasingly unstable and are being weakened by neglect and the growth of many trees.

The waterway, which is part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest, is a great habitat for water voles, salmon, otters, crayfish, southern damselfly and brown trout.

The Hampshire Environment Group of the Environment Agency heard that Hampshire, Winchester and Eastleigh councils along with English Nature have been approached to form a steering group. Later the riverbank owners, fishing interests and users will also be consulted.

Once the ownership issue has resolved then applications for funding for the National Lottery can be made.

Various options for repairing the banks have been mooted including driving steel piling into the banks at a cost of about £1.5m

This article first appeared in the Daily Echo on 8th November 2001. Reproduced with acknowledgments.


Society Boat Register

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The proposal that the Society compiles a register of boats owned by members has met with great success. To date, we have 11 names on the list and the next stage is to decide the format of the register. All participants will be asked to check their details before the register is 'published'.

It is the intention to complete this task by the Spring so, if any boat owning members who want to be included in the register haven't yet given Paul Herbert their information, could they please do so by the end of February.


Proposed Society Boat Club

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Following the suggestion that consideration be given to forming a Society Boat Club and, subsequently, possible membership of the Association of Waterways Cruising Clubs, there has been sufficient interest from boat owning members to take this idea a stage further. Within the next few weeks Paul Herbert will be writing to all those who have shown interest, with further information.

If you haven't yet indicated your interest in the Boat Club, could you please contact Paul by the end of February.


Napton Spring Rally

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Reference was made in the November Newsletter to the possibility of organising a Mini Boat Rally/Get Together/BBQ in the Napton area in the Spring. Having canvassed a number of members with their boats moored in that area it has been suggested that the early May Bank Holiday weekend (viz. 4/5/6 May) would be the ideal time.

Whilst the initial idea was for this to be a boaters gathering, we would like to open up this event to the whole membership and their guests. Therefore, to facilitate access by road, the focal point will either be near a waterside hostelry or somewhere along the 5 mile pound between Napton Junction and Braunston, near a convenient bridge. This would enable those without access to boats to attend and join in the fun. If you can cadge a lift/weekend break on a friend's boat, even better.

Paul will be writing to Napton based Society members within the next few weeks and further details will be included in a future Newsletter. In the meantime, if you are interested in taking part, please put the date in your diary.


Trip to Royal Gunpowder Mills

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On Saturday 13th April 2002, the Hampshire Industrial Archaeology Society (formerly known as Southampton University Industrial Archaeology Group or SUIAG) will be going on a trip to see the mills at Waltham Abbey to the north east of London.

From the 1600s gunpowder and explosives made here helped to shape the history of Britain and the World. This became the most important gunpowder works in Europe and is the most complete one to survive. In a remarkable landscape of mysterious complexity, you can discover many unusual buildings.

Explosives were made in buildings spread throughout the 175 acre site. It had its own canal system (including locks) to transport materials around the site and to export the finished products. The canal system, surrounding woods and natural parkland became a haven for wildlife. It is now a Site of Special Scientific Interest, home to the largest heronry in Essex.

Royal Gunpowder Mills banner

Scientific methods made British gunpowder the envy of the world. From the development of Congreve's rocket in the 1800s to the Bouncing Bomb in the 1940s, Waltham Abbey has always been at the centre of scientific research. More recent work included fuel for rocket motors and ejector seats, until the site closed in 1991.

After a number of years of neglect, the works being developed as a heritage site and museum.

Jon Sims is organising the trip on behalf of HIAS. Tickets will cost £15 each to include the cost of transport and entry to the museum. The coach is due to depart from Hedge End (just east of Southampton) at 8.00am and return at about 6.00pm.

If you want further details of the trip, Jon can be contacted at home on 023 8073 2868. Further information about the mills can be found on the web at www.royalgunpowdermills.com

Please make out your cheques to H.I.A.S. and send them to Jon Sims, 24 Nutshalling Avenue, Rownhams, Southampton, SO16 8AY. Please include your name, address and telephone number (in block capitals).


Adventure Afloat 2001 - Postscripts

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Just a couple of postscripts to the feature on 'Adventure Afloat 2001' published in the November and December Newsletters.

"Who's a Learner Driver?"

I have been steering canal boats of different types and varying lengths since the '70s and therefore think I am reasonably experienced. Whilst I have assisted with 'Adventure Afloat' for many years, this was restricted to the first weekend when I helped work the boats through the first two flights of locks at Braunston and Buckby, before returning to work on the Monday. 'Adventure Afloat 2001' was the first time I had been involved for the whole week, and in a full-time steerer capacity. At some time during the second day of the trip I discovered that someone unknown (actually Canal Society member and long-time Adventure Afloat steerer, Ray Brooks) had affixed a magnetic 'L' plate to the stern of my boat. He had obviously put a lot of thought and work into this - as I hope you can see. It is decorated with the legend 'AA' with a swag of canal roses in each corner.

'L' Plate

It was a lovely gesture and I took it in the spirit intended. (I wonder if Ray has dried out yet!!!) Needless to say, I left the plate in position for the rest of the trip and then took it home, where it is now the largest fridge magnet in our collection!

"Voices in the Tunnel!"

Imagine the scene - we have a long convoy of 7 canal boats, forming the 'Adventure Afloat 2001' fleet, cruising through the long, crooked, dark and dank Braunston Canal at virtually the end of the week's cruise - carefully spaced out for safety. I am steering the sixth boat, trying to peer through the gloom created by the tunnel's normal environment enhanced by the exhaust smoke of so many boats. I am hugging the side wall to avoid collision with a couple of dark boats heading in the other direction. As my stern and the leading boat's bow passes a voice from the darkness suddenly says 'Good morning Mr Herbert'. Now you have to remember that I am steering a strange boat - so how does the mysterious traveller know who I am - it was so dark that I couldn't even see anything other than a shadowy figure. There was no comment when I passed that boat's steerer, or from the crew of the other passing boat travelling close behind its companion.

When we came out into daylight and joined the other boats waiting to descend the Braunston Flight it transpired that four other steerers had all received the same mysterious greeting. We all puzzled over this ghostly welcome but none of us could come up with the answer as to who it was. It took some time before we realised the connection - all five of us are Southampton Canal Society members so that gave us our only clue. Later (much later) the mystery was solved - the leading mystery boat was Michael and Angela Faull's "Laura" followed by Malcolm and Barbara Hartas's "Marianne".

Only a short tale that I thought might be of some interest!

Paul Herbert


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