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Issue 435 - April 2009

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Chairman's Column

 
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Welcome to our Speaker

We are delighted to welcome Alan Smith to our April meeting with his talk about "Alaska and the Yukon".

2009 Society Boat Gathering

Further to items in previous Newsletters, to date the crews of five boats have indicated they will be attending this year's informal get together over the early May bank holiday weekend. If others would like to take part and haven't yet spoken to me, I would be delighted to hear from you as soon as possible.

Proposed Visit to the Purton Hulks

Following on from the item in our last Newsletter, a reminder that the Society has arranged an outing to visit the Purton Hulks on Saturday 16 May. The cost of the 2+ hour tour will be £3.50 each. We will make the trip to the Sharpness area by car, so obviously car sharing is encouraged. We have to be at the meeting place (details in the next Newsletter) for the tour to start at 11am. Please see Maureen Greenham at meetings or contact her (Tel: 023 8040.6951 or Email: maureen.greenham@dsl.pipex.com) to book your place.

Next Month's Speaker

Don't forget, our May meeting will actually be held on Thursday 30 April. We have a special treat that evening when the well known waterways campaigner and author, Dr Roger Squires, will be making a very welcome return visit to us. Roger has been heavily involved with the waterways and the IWA for many years. He is an IWA Life Member and Trustee, has been involved with London IWA since 1974 and joined IWA's Council, as Chairman of the London Region, in 2000. On this occasion Roger will be talking to us about the Panama Canal.

Paul Herbert


Trip reminders

 
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For a number of years Tony Shadick, of the Ordnance Survey Cine and Video Club, has joined Society members on outings. On each occasion he has produced a record of the trip or visit, at one time on video, the later ones on DVD.

Tony came along on the trip last April when we visited the Basingstoke Canal and the Mid Hants Railway.

Our thanks are now due to Tony for two more of his DVDs - "All Aboard the John Pinkerton" and "A Trip on the Watercress Line".

These discs, along with his previous presentations, can be borrowed from the Society Library.

Brian Evans


Michaela Strachan opens £8.5m lock link

 
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BAFTA-winning wildlife television presenter Michaela Strachan officially opened Boston's £8.5million lock link on Friday.

Among the VIP guests present were members of the Lincolnshire Waterways Partnership, the Mayor of Boston Coun Peter Bedford and local councillors.

Hundreds of people also flocked to the riverbank alongside London Road to mark the occasion.

Michaela, who also unveiled a unique sculpture carved from the old wooden lock gates to declare it open, said: "I was asked to come along and open this new landmark and was glad to have been a part of this. The lock will encourage more people to the area and is very positive for the town.

"At this time of the credit crunch, more and more people will be taking their holidays in this country so it's great to have an attraction like this to encourage more people to the town. And it's free.

"People need to spend more time outdoors. The waterways has so much to offer."

Michaela was on one of the first boats to pass through the new lock.

Lincolnshire County Council's tourism and development officer Mary Powell described the occasion as "momentous."

She said: "So many people turned up. It was great and the atmosphere was fantastic. This project has attracted national interest. We already have bookings for boats to go through the locks over the Easter weekend.

"We want everyone, whether it be anglers, walkers or boaters, to support this project.

"Plans for the design and route for phase two to connect Boston with Spalding are now under way."

Lord Chris Smith, chairman of the Environment Agency which forms part of the Lincolnshire Waterways Partnership, unveiled the plaque with Michaela.

In his speech he said: "Today is a very proud day for all, including the people of Boston and Lincolnshire Waterways Partnership.

"The new lock offers a great opportunity for recreation and enjoyment in this part of the town that's never been here before. This is a major project to open up underused areas for recreation, walking, riding and for people to enjoy themselves.

"The Environment Agency is proud to be a part of this project."

The lock at the Black Sluice pumping station has been inaccessible to boats for more than 40 years.

Boston Lock forms the first stage of the 240km Fens Waterway Link which is the largest waterways project seen in Europe and will eventually create a new circular route for recreation, tourism and the environment connecting Boston, Lincoln, Peterborough, Ely, Spalding, Crowland and Ramsey.

Funded by Lincolnshire County Council, the East Midlands Development Agency and the European Rural Development Fund, the lock link was project managed by the Environment Agency.

www.thisislincolnshire.co.uk/boston/news/


March Meeting

Peter Payne - "The Life and Times of a Thames Lock-keeper Today"

 
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We were blessed with two waterways personalities at our March meeting. We were obviously expecting our speaker, Peter Payne, who is the lock-keeper at St John's Lock on the River Thames at Lechlade. We were surprised and delighted to discover that Peter's wife, who accompanied him, was no other than Liz Payne, former IWA Deputy National Chairman and now Chairman of the Cotswold Canals Trust.

Peter started his talk to a large audience in the usual fashion describing his background and his current job. He is a waterways and gardening enthusiast who came to lock keeping after many years as a bank manager in Northampton. He became keeper at St John's Lock following the death of the former incumbent for 18 years, Bob Williams, a popular character in the local community.

St John's is the first lock of the 45 on the non-tidal River Thames, 198.67kms (just over 123 miles) from Teddington Lock, the lowest lock, beyond which are tidal waters. Above St John's the Thames flows for 23 miles through the Cotswolds, via Lechlade and Cricklade, to its source in Gloucestershire. The actual head of navigation is Tower Bridge at Cricklade, but it is only possible to reach there in very small, shallow drafted craft. The lock is the smallest (in capacity) on the Thames, containing 330,000 litres of water, and is 71.10 metres above sea level (compared with the final lock downstream, that at Teddington, which is only 4.30m above sea level.

About half a mile above Lechlade we find a three way water junction at Inglesham. To the right the River Colne enters the Thames. On the left the Thames continues its route to Cricklade. Immediately ahead is Inglesham Lock at the entrance to the Thames and Severn Canal which opened in 1789 and via the Stroudwater Navigation made its way to the River Severn. As we all know, those canals are now the most major restoration project in the country, under the Cotswold Canals banner. It is possible to wind a full length narrow boat at the Inglesham junction.

Peter explained the history of the St John's site. The first lock on this site was built in 1790. The lock and its adjoining bridge were named after an Augustinian priory, dedicated to St John the Baptist, that was established nearby in 1250, but which has long since disappeared. With a fall of less than a metre (2 foot 10 inches) this is one of the shallowest locks on the river. We heard the history of various lock houses on site, with the current building, where Peter and Liz live, being built in 1974. At the same time the paddle and rhymer weir was replaced with a modern radial structure. An interesting fact is that the current Oxfordshire/Gloucestershire boundary goes down the centre of the lock.

The most famous permanent resident at St John's Lock is 'Old Father Thames' - the famous concrete statue created by Rafaelle Monti for the 1851 Great Exhibition at London's Crystal Palace. When the latter burnt down in 1936 the statue was moved to near the river's source at Trewsbury Meads in Gloucestershire. However, following incidents of vandalism it was relocated to its last resting place at St John's in 1974.

Peter advised us that the Right of Navigation on the River Thames stems from Magna Carta. For many years the river was sadly neglected and actual navigation was virtually impossible in parts. However, with the opening of connecting canals in 1789 and 1792 there was a massive improvement programme involving locks and bridges etc.

We were reminded that navigation is only a small part of the Environment Agency's (EA) responsibilities. As far as the Thames is concerned their main responsibility is water management and flood control. As Peter explained, the main duties of a lock-keeper include the operation and management of water levels through the control of weirs (originally constructed to maintain water levels for the many mills on the river). He went on to describe the different types of locks and weirs that had been in use on the river over the years. The first pound lock had been built on the river in 1898. Until then navigation had only been possible with the use of 'Flash Locks' which were dangerous structures to use. In fact, the last flash lock (at Eaton Hastings) was not finally removed until 1938! Referring to water management he provided us with the salient fact that one third of all water into the Thames comes from Swindon Sewerage Works!

Peter referred to the high level of boaters' criticism of the EA during the 2007 floods. He explained that that criticism was unjust, reminding us that the EA's prime responsibility in such circumstances is flood control. Whilst much assistance was provided to stranded boats by EA staff, including lock-keepers, it was stressed that EA is not a rescue service!

He went on to show us photographs of the St John's area during the major floods of 2007, particularly of the lock area and of adjacent flooded meadows, taken from the 1st floor bedroom of the lock house. Amongst the many other photographs shown to us, during better conditions, was a superb aerial view of the lock site showing the lock, lock house, side weir, main weir and the famous 'Trout Inn'.

Fascinating wildlife abounds in and around the lock area. There is a large otter population and there are red kites, roe deer, owls and buzzards together with the many other species of birds usually seen on the waterways, particularly kingfishers.

During his talk Peter gave us many examples of the day to day experiences of a lock-keeper, including the humorous incidents and strange sights to be seen sometimes.

A fascinating and interesting talk Peter for which we owe you many thanks. A donation was made to the Cotswold Canals Trust in recognition of a very pleasurable evening.

Paul Herbert


Memories of Alan Moorse

 
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For a while Alan and Sonja Moorse were very active Canal Society committee members. It was at a time when committee members were sometimes thin on the ground and a number of committee meetings were held at their home in Stockbridge.

For a period they ran the sales stand and waterway causes often benefited from funds raised by the sale of produce from their large garden.

The last time that most SCS members will have met Alan and Sonja was on the occasion of a Society coach trip to the Black Country Museum. They had travelled with their narrow boat 'Guelrose' from Hopwas and moored just along the canal from Dudley Tunnel.

In the afternoon all members of our coach party were invited to visit their boat. The endless stream of people came through from bow to stern. A number of people emerged who we had never seen before. They had presumed that 'Guelrose' was part of the museum exhibition.

Alan just laughed. "Oh well," he said. "The more the merrier."

Brian Evans


New canal opens

 
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Pier Head, Liverpool

Huge crowds at the Pier Head

In what was intended to be a low-key ceremony, the Liverpool Canal Link was officially opened on 25th March 2009 in front of huge crowds at the Pier Head.

Mayor of Liverpool Steve Rotheram, with other invited guests, travelled along the Link from Princes Dock aboard the Pride of Sefton. The boat emerged from the tunnel at the Pier Head to loud cheers.

British Waterways Chairman Tony Hales thanks the crowd for coming and praises the successful efforts of the various parties that have worked together to ensure the creation of the link. The Mayor of Liverpool, Steve Rotheram, then said that the Pier Head was now a must-see destination.

The actual opening was carried out by a group of children from New Park Primary School, who unveiled a plaque.

The Pride of Sefton then continued into the final tunnel towards Mann Island Lock and Canning Dock.

It passed through the new lock at Mann Island and entered Canning Dock. After travelling through the famous Albert Dock, it moored up in Salthouse Dock for the guests to disembark. It was joined by the flotilla of boats that had travelled down into Liverpool for the opening.

The Link will not open for boaters properly until April 20th. More information for boaters considering coming to Liverpool can be found on the internet at www.penninewaterways.co.uk/news/news2009a.htm#liverpoollink3.

www.penninewaterways.co.uk


Call to save water at Kennet & Avon Canal hot spots

 
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British Waterways is calling on its boating customers to help conserve water on the Kennet & Avon Canal as concerns grow over low water levels.

The main water source for the canal is from an abstraction on the River Avon near Claverton. This water is supplemented by a number of other smaller feeders along the 87 miles of the canal, and is then recycled and transferred using a back pumping scheme.

A pump failure at Bradford on Avon, next to the most heavily used lock on the whole canal, and the largest pump in the chain, has led staff to ask boaters to help conserve water until the repairs can be carried out.

Will Burnish, asset manager for British Waterways said: "Bradford on Avon is a critical point on the canal for us. We have two pumps here and with one of them down, we just cannot get the water from below the lock pumped back up to the upper wharf as quickly as we'd like to. We're doing everything we can to get the pump mended as soon as possible, but in the meantime if boaters can help us by sharing locks it will really help".

As well as sharing locks, boaters are asked to make sure that the lock paddles are fully lowered to prevent unnecessary leakage and that local signs and advice are followed.

Cathleen Ryan, water engineer added: "The Kennet & Avon Canal does suffer from low water levels at places of high demand like Bradford on Avon and the Caen Hill Flight. If we can get boaters to help us out by waiting a few moments so that they share the lock with another boat, we can cut our water consumption drastically. Water is just about the most precious resource we have on the canal and if we all work together we can make it go further and last longer. It looks like being a great weekend for boating so we'll be doing all we can to keep the boats afloat"

www.waterscape.com


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