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Issue 493 - February 2014

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Chairman’s Column

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February Meeting

This evening we offer a very warm welcome to Geoff Watts, a Southampton tourist guide, also a member of the Friends of Southampton Old Cemetery.

Tonight Geoff will speak about the “Titanic”, the tragedy and the effect the loss had on the people of Southampton.

March 6th Meeting

Stuart Fisher, editor of the Canoeist Magazine, with “Elusive Canals & Navigations” the waterways you cannot reach easily from the main system by narrowboat.

Please note that the venue for this meeting has changed to:



SO16 7NN.

From our usual venue, follow the A27 towards North Baddesley and Romsey. Ignore the left turn into Chilworth Manor and the Southampton Science Park. About 350 yards further on, turn left into a road with signs saying Chilworth Old Village. Very shortly you should see St Denys’ Church on your left. Parking should be possible in Fowler’s Walk on your left or in the immediate vicinity. Please do not block the narrow lane.

April 3rd Meeting

This is another joint meeting with IWA Guildford & Reading Branch. Peter Boyce will be talking about “The Restoration of Wooden Narrow Boats” to include the work currently being carried out on James Loader, Clent and an update on” Lucy”. Friends and visitors are most welcome, as they are at all of our meetings.

Our New Year Lunch

It was so good to enjoy again the excellent food and the opportunity to relax and chat to members about their other interests and activities.

Thank you to Paul Herbert for taking the photographs.

Alan Rose

Table 1 Table 2 Table 3 Table 4

Storms damage Dudbridge canal locks

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A £300,000 scheme to connect the two stretches of water by restoring the locks at Dudbridge on the Stroudwater Navigation has been washed away after the recent storms caused the canal to flood resulting in damage to the lower lock.

As a result of the canal overflowing on New Year’s Day during the bad weather the newly laid towpath surface has been worn away leading to the collapse of three metres of the lock wall.

According to Stroud District Council’s canal partnership manager Dave Marshall a metal grille, which was placed at the entrance to the culvert at the top lock for safety reasons, became blocked with floating debris as a result of the storm.

“This debris creates a dam that prevents the excess water passing around the locks in the bywash and instead causes the water to back up and flow over the top of the canal edge and into the channel between the locks and out onto the towpath,” said Mr Marshall.

Plans are already in place to redesign the system so that debris is deflected away from the safety grille however in the short term the top and bottom lock gates of the lower lock will be left open at times of expected heavy flow. 6 January 2014

Work on rebuilding the collapse here is well under way, delayed by - you've guessed it - high water levels. Short term solutions are to leave both offside lock gates open when high flows are expected and arrange for the concreting of the towpath alongside the lock. The thinking hats are on to come up with a longer term and permanent solution.

Cotswold Canals Trust ENews 2014-01

January Meeting

Photographic Evening and Competition

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Thank You to David Doulton for running the Show with the use of his digital projector. Twenty one members attended.

Gordon Osborn opened the evening with a view of Ben Nevis from the Caledonian Canal. A short video was shown of the working of the Falkirk Wheel. Views along the Forth & Clyde & the Peak Forest Canal. How about mooring your boat to a shopping trolley!

Eric & Sue Lewis had a busy Summer supporting the Boaters Christian Fellowship, in Droitwich and Stourport. “Come aboard” signs encouraged people for a short boat trip on Remus with tea and a chat. Various pictures of their trip included Beech House the old headquarters of the Shropshire Union Canal Co sited at the entrance into the Ellesmere Branch.

Alan Rose showed pictures of the Anderton Lift, Bulls Bridge, NB Ara which Gill Herbert hired for a school trip a few years ago. He continued with the derelict Stroud Lock and Sapperton Tunnel.

Malcolm & Janet Gunningham showed the low bridge under M5 at Droitwich where they went in 2012. Around Cookley Tunnel they say the shops are good. We also saw a view of Farmers Bridge.

In May 2013 they visited Tixall and Norbury Junction, going on to Hurlstone Bottom Lock where they met up with Jon & Val on NB September Pearl, who we knew from Devizes.

David Doulton kicked off after the break showing a selection of Venice sights. He and Janet had enjoyed a three day break there in November.

David Townley-Jones contributed shots of Henley Regatta (there were boats everywhere!), the restored Thames steamer Alaska originally built in 1883, various trip boats, etc. - all messing about on the river.

Brian Evans showed slides of Wyvern Shipping Co at Leighton Buzzard. Then we saw the old iron aqueduct at Cosgrove. He then moved on to the more unusual “Samphire Hoe” at Dover, a nature reserve made up from the spoil out of the Channel Tunnel. Also there is a plaque to remember the people who died building the Tunnel. Brian finished of with a sunset overlooking Bosham Harbour.

Photographic Competition

An excellent selection of pictures were submitted this year consisting of:

A Mystery Boat; A Bridge ‘ole; Submarine on the Thames!;

MoorlandView; Droitwich Basin; A Thrush in Winter

and the winner:

Wardle Lock

Wardle Lock, Middlewich by Eric Lewis.

Well done Eric.

Thank you all for your support, what a good way to start the year.

Angela Rose

“Susan” and Six

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John Silman, a long-time member of the Society, recently sent your Editor the following account about a canal trip made in 1963. This was John’s introduction to the English canal system. The article first appeared in the K&A Trust magazine “Butty” and John later sent it to SUIAG (Southampton University Industrial Archaeology Group). I feel it bears publishing again in view of the differences and similarities to canal boating 50 years later. Thank you John.

Return with us now to when taking canal holidays was in its infancy and a young John Silman took his first shaky turns of a lock windlass. John remarks that the holiday for 6 people, including 1 night at a Trust House, worked out at about £25 per head for a 14-day holiday!

On a cold, frosty January evening six of us sat round a fire in Winchester and discussed, of all things, the coming year’s holiday which was to be taken somewhere on Britain’s canals. Catalogues and brochures littered the floor and everyone was trying to convince everyone else that the particular craft they were looking at was obviously the most suitable, but more and more often our attention was taken by an outline drawing of “Susan”. “Susan” is a full narrow boat size converted butty with 6 berths, bathroom, galley, gas arid electric light throughout and even, to the joy of the girls in the party, centrally heated. It was decided that an advance party of 4 should go and see her. Her moorings were at a place called Tardebigge. But where was Tardebigge? Hurried reference to all sorts of gazetteers and maps were not very successful but finally Tardebigge was located as being near Bromsgrove, some miles south of Birmingham.

The next free weekend we went through snow-covered countryside and arrived at Tardebigge to find Susan frozen solidly into 10” of ice and dusted with a good covering of snow. However Mr. Duckett, the yard’s proprietor, kindly showed us over the boat and even part-way through a refit she seemed just what we were looking for, if perhaps a bit formidable with her traditional tiller steering from the stern with apparently miles and miles of cabin stretching away ahead of the helmsman. We consoled ourselves with the thought that if by chance we should have the misfortune to collide with any of the more usual forms of pleasure craft on the canals there would be no doubt that 17-ton Susan would come off best. We finalised our arrangements with Mr. Duckett and returned to Hampshire eagerly awaiting June 22nd.

In the meantime many hours were spent discussing possible routes and places we wished to visit. We were deterred from going south for, as you probably know, south of Tardebigge the Worcester & Birmingham Canal falls through 58 locks in 16 miles and it was thought that for complete novices like ourselves this was a bit much. Here let me say that all three male members of the party had some boating experience but this was confined to the rather more roomy stretches of the Solent, the English Channel, Southampton Water, etc.. Finally it was decided that we would make a leisurely journey in the direction of Chester: whether we got there or not being of less importance than whether we enjoyed ourselves on the way.

June 22nd arrived and the six of us set off, accompanied by Tony and Olive’s dog which is, incidentally, called Susan. We arrived alongside and piled aboard Susan and Mr. Duckett enquired if we would like some tuition. Eyeing the enormous length before us we thought that not a bad idea and were soon under way. It seemed no sooner had we got moving than I at the tiller was confronted with a minute and alarmingly black hole in the hillside into which the canal disappeared. Although assured by Mr. Duckett that this was one of the shorter tunnels, the 580 yards of Tardebigge Tunnel seemed never ending, especially as the moment your attention wandered either the bow or the stern appeared to be bumping the tunnel walls. Having emerged at the other end and finished our instruction we turned at the New Wharf, went back through the tunnel and were left to our own devices as Mr. Duckett leapt off our still moving craft and said “See you in a fortnight.” We hoped he was right!

As it was too late to go far that evening, we were soon moored snugly to the bank eating dinner and consuming a well earned pint from the gallon jug that Tim had very thoughtfully brought with him. A somewhat disturbed night was spent in the rather strange surroundings, one member of the crew even taking a stroll on the towpath about 5.30am. Getting under way next morning we soon plunged into Wast Hill Tunnel, 1 mile 970 yards long, the longest on our route. Thank heavens we didn’t meet anything more difficult to negotiate than torrents of water which poured down in several places, but it certainly is an eerie sensation when both ahead and astern there are only tiny pin pricks of light. No place indeed for anyone with claustrophobic tendencies! Margaret seemed to spend all her time in the tunnels in the fore cabin watching the progress of our head lamp on the tunnel walls. It certainly is quite fascinating.

By lunch time we had reached Worcester Bar and commenced to navigate the Birmingham Main Line. Up to this time we had never met a lock face to face but about 3 o’clock we came to Tipton, and there ahead 3 locks in a row. Having moored to the bank Tony, Tim and I went forward to reconnoitre these mysterious and apparently extremely intricate pieces of apparatus. Having had a good look at them we returned and studied the book. Still not feeling too sure of ourselves we studied the locks again and then rushed rapidly back to have another look at the book. At this juncture we were joined by a bright young lad of about 14 years who said “Do you want a hand with the locks Mister?” Trying not to look too green we said “Yes please” and in less time than it takes to tell we were rising smartly through the flight. After duly rewarding our pilot we set off in the direction of Wolverhampton.

To be continued next month.

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Page created 4 February 2014 - last updated 7 April 2014.

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