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Issue 340 - April 2000

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CANAL IN JEOPARDY

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Fears are growing over the state of parts of the Itchen Navigation, the historic canal that runs from Southampton to Winchester. The waterway - running north from Southampton through Eastleigh - is in danger of collapse just south of Winchester, according to environment watchdogs.

The wildlife interest of the canal is also undermined by a lack of proper maintenance.

Among the concerns is the management by Winchester College. Using sluices, it has stemmed the flow to maintain the water level for its young rowers.

The water flow is now minimal, creating near stagnant conditions - conditions in which few fish thrive.

Rod Murchie, Environment Agency (EA) water resources manager, is increasingly concerned for one of Hampshire's finest industrial monuments.

Mr Murchie said, "Our heritage is gradually going. If the bank went the water would go. No-one is maintaining them. It costs too much money. No-one owns it I'm afraid. No-one wants it. The college maintains the water levels for its rowing. But if it goes that is their rowing finished.

"Ash trees are growing in the masonry at St Catherine's Lock and ripping it apart. I would like to cut them down but there would be a huge fuss. The masonry will burst apart and the masonry will be in the river and then the banks will go."

Mr Murchie is concerned that a collapse of the navigation could have a severe impact on the adjacent River Itchen Site of Scientific Interest.

Seen on a recent walk along the navigation were kingfishers, wrens, dabchicks, yellow wagtails, and even an egret, a heron normally only found in Europe. But there was also rubbish accumulating on the surface by the sluice and no plants grew in the water.

Others echo Mr Murchie's concerns. Clive Chatters, of Hampshire Wildlife Trust, said of the stretch south of Garnier Road: "The trees are overshadowing the water and the riverbank is highly unstable."

The EA wants to set up a River Itchen steering group with landowners and other bodies such as the wildlife trust and English Nature. As the Itchen Navigation is part of the river it will soon be part of a Special Area of Conservation. The designation means that it is of European significance and so legally should have a proper management scheme.

Ian Davidson-Watts, of English Nature, said: "We would like to see improvements including speeding up the water flow. If it is neglected ultimately it will deteriorate."

Robin Chute, estates bursar at Winchester College, said: "We share these concerns. We have done a lot of work on the banks. They are basically stable. There is one leak but it is mendable."

Mr Chute said he supported proposals to improve the management of the waterway providing the college, which owns the banks, was not landed with the whole cost. He would like to increase the water flow but that would affect the flow of water into the interconnected River Itchen. On the future of St Catherine's Lock, Mr Chute said as no-one claimed to own it there was little that could be done to stop its decline.

Southampton Advertiser, 24 February 2000


Donations

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The following donations have been made recently by the Society:

The Dig Deep initiative is a scheme involving four mobile working party groups - KESCRG, WRG BITM, London WRG and (NWPG) - operating mainly in the South of England. The idea is that by adopting certain projects on various canals, they can coordinate their efforts and give a joint commitment to a certain number of working parties on each project, which will help enable the local canal societies to commit the necessary resources to the projects. To help the scheme, we have sent £50.00.

In thanking us for our donation, Bill Nicholson says, "It is possible that we shall put the money towards the purchase of an item of small plant, this time a concrete vibrator. Last year we bought an electric mixer and generator which were used by the Dig Deep Groups on the Dig Deep 2000 project on the Wey & Arun. Having these small plant items dedicated to a project saves considerably on both cost and having to arrange hire/collection etc for each weekend that we work. I can assure you that the money will be spent wisely!

"Please convey my thanks to your Members."

As a result of Neil Kearns' talk last summer on the restoration of Southern Railway locomotives 828 and Lord Nelson, Eastleigh Railway Preservation Society has been sent a cheque for £35.00.

The BCN Marathon Challenge has benefited to the tune of £50.00 following Chris and Helen Davey's talk on that subject.

After Pam Taylor's talk on the Jubilee Sailing Trust, that organisation has received £50.00.

Finally, the Stover Canal restoration scheme has been given £50.00 as a result of Bob Dukes' talk last month. In thanking us, Bob Dukes said, "On behalf of the Stover Canal Society may I ask you to pass on our thanks to your committee and Society for their generous donation. We look forward to seeing some of your members in the wild of the west country this summer."


March Meeting

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Although numerous, the canals of the South West of England have remained unknown to the greater number of canal enthusiasts in the rest of the country. This is most likely because many of them are short in length and are disconnected from those that form the main canal system.

For some of them, things could be changing as more attention is paid to their state, and the restoration movement begins to consider their potential.

At the March meeting, the IWA South West Region Chairman, Bob Dukes, introduced us to six of the South West's waterways, ranging in size from the Exeter, a small ship canal, through the Grand Western, Bridgwater & Taunton, and Stover as more 'normal' gauged, to the tub boat canals of Tavistock and Bude.

Bob gave us the history of each canal and his slides showed the present condition of each one. He was able to tell us the latest news as to where restoration is going on or where it is likely in the future.

A large number of fascinating remains are still to be seen in the West Country and no doubt some of our members will have been inspired to go along and see for themselves.

Brian Evans


Friend of the Society

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In our search for speakers to entertain and inform our members, we have been in contact with many people. Hugh McKnight has spoken to the Society on a number of occasions but, sadly, not for a few years. Recently, he was invited to speak to us once more. The following is taken from his charming reply:

Yes, it is quite a time since I spoke to you all in Southampton. Of all the groups I have visited, yours is one of the most friendly and, from my point of view, worthwhile.

You will see that I have moved. After 47 years at the Clock House, Shepperton, it had become necessary to make a change and find something less daunting and maintenance-prone.

In order to make the move bearable, I decided that my new house would have to have a mooring. So here I am, on the delightful River Great Ouse, right in the centre of this charming market town, but with a really rural outlook on the riverside. As my motor yacht "Avonbay" is based in Mainland Europe, and the new house came with only a rowing dinghy, I had to purchase a pretty little 15ft motor cruiser (day boat) with trailer. This is now moored at the end of the garden.

St Neots

The Swan House, Priory Terrace, St Neots is Hugh's new house overlooking the River Great Ouse
(the one on the right, with a conservatory over 2 floors)

While in future winters, I shall doubtless continue to give waterways presentations, I shall have to keep travelling distance down to reasonable proportions. Shepperton to Southampton via the M3 was easy. Unfortunately, St Neots to Southampton is rather further than I would want to travel. Therefore I feel that I should not accept your kind invitation. I am sure that you will understand.

Please convey my best wishes to all of your Members. They are all more than welcome to visit me (by land or water) if they should be in this area.

Whilst disappointed that Hugh will not be speaking to us, I am sure we all wish him every happiness in his new home. And, Hugh, should you ever be in the Southampton area, do drop in to see us.


WATERWAYS QUIZ

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A few more questions to test your knowledge. There's no prizes but the answers will be given next month.

  1. When did the Bridgewater Canal open?
  2. Other than navigation, what purpose does Standedge tunnel serve?
  3. What name was given to the false bows used for Tom Pudding trains?
  4. How many sets of lock gates are there at Teddington Locks on the Thames?
  5. What product for the pottery industry was milled at Cheddleton on the Caldon Canal?
  6. Who wrote the Rosie and Jim stories?
  7. When was the Basingstoke Canal officially re-opened?
  8. What name is given to the traditional Norfolk sailing cargo vessels?
  9. Who designed the Anderton lift?
  10. What European waterway carries the most trade?

Last month's Quiz answers

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  1. Marsh Lock the lock upstream of Henley
  2. Part of the towpath was under water.
  3. There are 10 locks at Foxton.
  4. The Anderton Lift was opened in 1875.
  5. GUCCC stood for the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company.
  6. Northgate staircase locks are in Chester.
  7. The French Transport Minister who, in 1879, set standards for French canals was Freycinet (locks 126ft x 17ft 3in or 38.5m x 5.25m).
  8. Two windmill pumps were installed in 1833 and 1834 to fill the summit. They were dismantled in 1854.
  9. There are 15 locks in the Audlem flight.
  10. The world's widest and deepest canal is the Panama Canal.

IWA WELCOMES FINAL LINK IN SOUTH PENNINE RING

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The Inland Waterways Association ('IWA') today expressed full support for the new arrangements to finally secure the restoration and maintenance of the Rochdale Canal. The Waterways Trust and Rochdale Canal Trust are close to agreeing funding arrangements for the canal. British Waterways is expected to begin work on site shortly.

The western side of the Rochdale Canal is the final waterway link to secure funding to complete a ring of waterways over the southern Pennines. Restoration work on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal is rapidly proceeding, the eastern side of the Rochdale Canal has already been re-opened and the Ashton Canal was restored many years ago.

The grants of over £23 million will be received by The Waterways Trust, which will take ownership of the Canal from the Rochdale Canal Company. BW will be contracted by The Waterways Trust to manage the remaining restoration work and run the Canal on a long-term basis.

IWA Press Release - 8th March 2000


Book Review by Pete Boyce

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The Wey & Arun Junction Canal - Compiled by P.A.L.Vine, ISBN 07524-1721-5. £9.99. Tempus Publishing Ltd. in the Images of England series.

"Largely a result of substantial investment by the 3rd Earl of Egremont, a keen patron of the arts and perhaps the richest man in Britain at the time, the Wey & Arun Junction Canal opened in 1816. To contemporary commentators, it seemed set for success as part of a new navigation route from London to Portsmouth and the Sussex coast. A Times correspondent feted the 'canal, 18 miles in length, through a beautiful and picturesque country. A canal... which will be highly beneficial to the public service... as well as to the private trade... of Portsmouth and the city of Chichester.'

"Sadly, though the countryside remained 'beautiful and picturesque', the canal, after fifty-five years of modest trading, fell victim to competition from railways and problems with its own water supply. The order for closure came in 1871 and for the best part of a century the Wey & Arun lay abandoned. The derelict state of the canal as it lingered forgotten and crumbling, as well as the attempts being made since 1970 to reinstate it, are vividly evoked here by illustrations from the author's collection and those of Wey & Arun Canal Trust. Paul Vine is the leading authority on the waterways of South-east England and the author of London's Lost Route to the Sea."

The book is a collection of photographs, maps and documents related to the canal, from 1813 to 1998. Early photographs of the canal itself are very rare, there being just one of barges on the Arun Navigation, for instance. The maps and documents expand on the early history, as do photos of associated items, public houses, cottages and industries along the route. I was fascinated by the copy of an invitation to 'fete Champetre' held at Wonersh in 1831, to which guests were to be conveyed by boat.

However, the canal has more history of dereliction than active life, and the balance of the book reflects this. As a 'new navvy' who started volunteering in the late 60's, I am becoming increasingly aware of the historical importance of the restoration movement, which has now been active for at least as long as this canal was in use. The work of the Wey & Arun Canal Trust from early working parties to the official reopening of Brewhurst Lock is covered well, and the commentary throughout the book is authoritative as expected from Mr Vine. I have one complaint, in that the reproduction technique has affected the clarity of some of the photographs, so that 'dithering' of grey tones is evident, caused by computer scanning. A book full of photographic plates would be far more expensive, of course, and computer technology can bring us illustration as cheaply as printed text, but an improvement in clarity and contrast would be nice to see. Certainly a book to add to the collection.

The above book review first appeared in the Spring issue of Cargoes (the Newsletter of IWA Guildford & Reading, Oxfordshire and Solent & Arun Branches) with acknowledgements.


A case of Leopards and Spots?

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The following letter from a local correspondent appeared in the Spring 2000 edition of Waterways, the IWA National Journal:

Readers of Waterways World (Jan 2000) may have read an open letter to British Waterways in which I proposed several ideas for encouraging the country's youth to take to our canals and rivers in small boats. The basic gist was that BW could ensure their own future by encouraging young people to try boating for themselves. This could be done circumventing the red tape and expense which currently discourages them from using the system as a venue for expeditions.

Bodies such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, the Scout Association, Sea Cadets and schools provide organisation and essential safety cover for such expeditions and the inland waterways are a perfect venue. What is needed are incentives such as a national competition with a suitable trophy, short term licences at a modest price with dispensation for rowing boats to use locks and encouragement or even subsidy for the fast disappearing camping narrowboats.

The reply from BW was disappointing to say the least. John Butterly, BW's National Education Officer offered a treatise on floating classrooms, living history events, printed resource packs and Rosie and Jim. The nearest he came to the thorny subject of actually travelling by boat was a passing nod to the trip boat operators who can offer 'exciting' journeys. Such theoretical education, no matter how well meaning, may create awareness but it will not inspire the future guardians of our waterways. Only real involvement in real canal activities will do that.

A letter to BW expressing my disappointment at this reply brought a phone call from Operations Director, Stewart Sim. Stewart apologised that the intention of my piece had been misinterpreted and agreed that the points raised should indeed be addressed. At the time of writing, a meeting is being arranged where we can discuss potential ways forward. The IWA, represented by Ivor Caplan of Waterways for Youth, has also expressed a desire to become involved.

Hopefully BW, in conjunction with IWA and safe within the sound practice of our many reputable youth organisations, can breath new life into the system by encouraging and assisting young people to discover their potential for exploring the real world of the waterways.

In my article, I expressed a hope that today's BW was a different animal from that of yesteryear. I pointed out that here was a chance for them to demonstrate a 'can do' attitude. Their initial response suggested that the leopard had merely reshuffled its spots for PR purposes. Let us keep our fingers crossed and see what colour of animal now emerges from the shadows.

Now the bit where you come in. Among our membership there must be many teachers, scout leaders, D of E organisers and other youth workers. Even if you are not directly involved with such activities, you must know someone who is. If we can get a package of incentives and a competition together, you can help us to spread the word and get some teams involved.

Think of it as a new campaign, one with an aim just as vital as any canal restoration. After all, it is not just BW's future customer base that we will be encouraging but our own membership. Please give it some thought.

Jon Sims

24 Nutshalling Avenue, Rownhams, Southampton, SO16 8AY


Windmill End

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Windmill End

Windmill End at the southern end of Netherton Tunnel on the BCN


Light at the End of the Tunnel?

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Below is reproduced part of a letter dated 2nd March from Bruce Hall, Chairman of the Cotswold Canals Trust, to members of the Trust:

David Fletcher, Chief Executive and Stewart Sim, Operations Director, of British Waterways met with Trust Council last evening to discuss the way forward for complete restoration of the Cotswold Canals.

David Fletcher outlined the work of The Waterways Trust. This come into being as part of the Government review of British Waterways, which John Prescott, Secretary of State for the DETR and Deputy Prime Minister, announced in February 1999. This review will culminate with the publication of the Government White Paper on all inland waterways in the coming months. The newly created Waterways Trust administers the three national Waterways Museums and is also raising money for specific projects, amongst which are the Anderton Lift and the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals, due for completion in 2001. Of particular interest is the acquisition by The Waterways Trust of the Rochdale Canal, which is the same category as the Cotswold Canals, not being part of the current nationally owned British Waterways network.

The Waterways Trust is now in the process of assembling restoration projects for its second tranche. The Inland Waterways Amenity Advisory Council's Report clearly identified the Cotswold Canals as worthy of this inclusion, being of local, regional and national importance.

Trust Council was unanimous in its decision to go ahead to work with The Waterways Trust in assembling a Partnership. The Rochdale Canal will be taken as a role model whereby the Local Authorities, Regional Development Agency, English Partnerships, The Waterways Trust, Lottery Funders and the local Canal Society have pledged to work together for the complete restoration and opening of the Canal. It must be emphasised that strength, commitment and financial backing can only come from such a partnership. The Waterways Trust is not in a position to "go it alone" but is willing to take the lead to establish a Partnership and subsequently manage the project. The next six months will see frenetic activity to establish that the Cotswold Canals have the right support for full restoration to begin in the next few years!

The Cotswold Canals are now seen not only as a waterway for all, including navigation, but also as forming part of a national water resources grid, more of which will be announced in the national press in the coming months.

We are, indeed, entering exciting times. I will keep you informed of progress.


Easter Bunny Boat Trips

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Every day from 15 April to 1 May

12 places are available on Egremont which leaves Chichester Canal Basin throughout the day.

Ticket Price: £6.00 Adult or Child

A surprise for every child!

Advanced bookings absolutely essential.

Please call 01243 670786 from 15 March between 9.30am and 6.30pm. Please note this is a private number manned by a volunteer.

Please note that whilst children of all ages are welcome to participate, the Easter Bunny Trips are aimed principally at the under 10's. Egremont is completely accessible to all wheelchair-bound persons and those with restricted mobility.


Advanced Warning!

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By popular demand Hugh Gough will be back to show more of his canal videos at the June meeting. Some members may remember that Hugh was a last minute stand-in last September when Peter Oates and Laura Sturrock were unable to give their talk. "Better than many professional videos" was the verdict last year. "What a find!" Hugh still has a lot of footage to show. So book the date in your dairy.


"New" Library Book

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Our member Gerald Davies has kindly donated a book to the Society library. Entitled "The Ohio River Handbook and Picture Album", the book was published in Cincinnati in 1950 with around 400 pages. Gerald thinks that this could be the only copy in this country. Whilst not bang up to date, anyone interested in the waterways of the USA, their history, development and use will be fascinated. There are numerous pictures of various craft on the river, in particular the steamboats (stern-wheelers and side-wheelers). The book also contains details of adjoining waterways including a short section on canals. Thank you Gerald for your generosity. Any member may borrow this book from the library at Society meetings. Form an orderly queue!


Day-Star Theatre

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Day-Star logoDon't forget that the Day-Star Theatre will be visiting the Society again this year on 6th July. They will be presenting their new show for the year 2000 which is entitled "The Last Run".

It is the story of an old wooden narrow boat, a quirky mystery which surrounds her and touches all who come in to contact with her over the last fifty five years.

Tickets for this event are now on sale at a cost of £3.00 each including the light refreshments that will follow. These are available from Peter Oates at meetings or by post from the address given above (sae appreciated). These will be sold on a first come, first served basis so buy yours as soon as possible.


Send your comments to the Web Site manager (Peter Oates)

© Southampton Canal Society 2000 - 2003. Except where otherwise indicated, information on these pages may be reproduced provided permission is obtained from the Web Site manager beforehand and due acknowledgement made to the Society.

Page created 19 May 2003 - layout changes 8 December 2003

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