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Issue 447 - April 2010

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Chairman's Column

 
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April Meeting

On behalf of the Society I am delighted to welcome travel author Liam D'Arcy Brown to our April meeting when he will be describing to us the 'Chinese Grand Canal' - a waterway that is 1,400 years old and stretches for 1,100 miles crossing several river valleys on route.

The Grand Canal of China has had a lot of coverage recently as, in advance of Liam's talk to the IWA Solent & Arun Branch on 25 March, the Spring issue of "Cargoes" carries an article on this major waterway. In addition, this month's "Waterways World" includes an excellent illustrated article by Liam entitled "The Emperor's River."

So all members attending this meeting should have an extensive knowledge of this canal at the end of Liam's talk to us.

Society Skittles Evening

Details of our successful Society Skittles Evening which took place on 26 February are included in this Newsletter.

Proposed Boat Gathering

Five boats will now be taking part in our 2010 Boat Gathering which will be taking place at Flecknoe and Braunston, on the Grand Union Canal, early next month. It is still not too late to join us, just contact me as soon as possible.

Vacancies for Chairman and Treasurer & Membership Secretary

I cannot say that I have been overwhelmed with responses regarding the forthcoming vacancies for Chairman and Treasurer & Membership Secretary following my personal letter to all members. Please remember, this is your Society and without your help the future is uncertain. Having been a member for many years, I would hate to see the Society come to an end after forty-three years just because we could not fill these important positions.

Society Visit to Bursledon Brickworks

It is proposed to have a visit to Bursledon Brickworks at 2pm on 10 June. This is the last surviving Victorian steam-driven brickworks in the country and is run by enthusiastic volunteers to preserve the site for future generations.

The cost for admission, guided tour and cream tea comprising 2 scones, clotted cream and jam, tea or coffee is £7.50. Please add your names to the list available at our monthly meetings if you would like to be included in the visit. Payment to Maureen Greenham by the end of April please.

Society Burgees

We have long exhausted our stock of Society burgees and Angela Rose has been making enquiries about a new supply. Our original supplier, who still has the Society artwork, can provide new burgees at a cost in the region of £10.00 each. If you would like one of these can you please advise Angela.

Membership Subscriptions

Just another reminder that our new membership year starts on 1 April and subscriptions (Individual - £15; Joint/Family - £22) should now be paid to Anne as soon as possible.

The Purton Hulks

Members will well remember the talk Paul Barnett gave us in November 2008 about 'The Purton Hulks'. There has, at last, been some movement concerning the official protection of these important relics. Paul has now announced that, "Having recently returned from a meeting with Lady Margaret Hodge and English Heritage, I am immensely pleased to advise that The Friends of Purton have successfully secured a ministerial pledge to protect the timbers of the last remaining Kennet barge - "Harriett," which currently lies within the 81 vessels of the Purton Hulks. Although a major breakthrough, the Friends would like to state that it considers the move to be a small yet significant step forward in the protection of this vitally important collection for the nation."

Well done to Paul Barnett and the Friends of Purton. We will watch further developments with interest.

The Purton Hulks recently featured on BBC TV's 'Countryfile'.

2010 Annual General Meeting

This year's Annual General Meeting is currently scheduled for Thursday 29 July but, because of the unavailability of some key Committee members on that date, the AGM is likely to be brought forward by one week to 22 July. This will be confirmed in a future Newsletter.

Our Next Speaker

A reminder that our May meeting will actually be held on Thursday 29 April. Our speaker will be Paul Gosling and we will be hearing about 'Gosling's Gallivants 2009'. I understand that boats, railways and airplanes are all involved.

Paul Herbert


Canal project moves on to another lock

 
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The Wey & Arun Canal Trust is now turning its attention to the next major extension to the navigable section centred on Loxwood, on the West Sussex/Surrey border.

With Devils Hole Lock virtually complete and ready for its formal reopening on 17 April 2010, the Trust is launching an appeal for reconstruction of the next lock north - Southland.

Restoration of Southland Lock is, in effect, a complete rebuild. The only visible remains are the iron quoins (hinge posts) for the bottom gates, and because a badger sett is located at the foot of the original lock, it is planned to build a replacement lock about 10m away from the badger sett.

Southland Lock was originally built of bricks, rather than the local stone used for the locks further south. The bricks were recycled in the 1930s, reportedly by the Cokelers, a Loxwood-based religious community, who sold the bricks to a Cranleigh builders' merchant. The plans are to use bricks for the new lock chamber, probably the locally-produced Weinerberger red multi stock, as used successfully by the Trust for the Loxwood road crossing project. The bricks will face walls of reinforced concrete blocks, resulting in a much stronger and more stable structure than the original. The brick 'training' walls will continue south to the original lock site, to provide protection for the banks without undue disturbance to the badgers and other wildlife.

Gates will be of Ekki, a long-lasting environmentally-friendly tropical hardwood from sustainable sources. The same material will be used to provide a bridge giving access across the canal for the badgers.

As with all of the restored and rebuilt locks currently in use, an electric pump, with the associated power supply, will be installed, to return water to the pound above the lock.

The detailed plans for the lock, bridges and surrounding landscape have still to be drawn up, and will be produced in full consultation with interested parties, including the riparian owners and the Sussex Badger Group. The dimensions, slightly longer and wider than the original, will comply with Association of Inland Navigation Authorities guidelines.

Even using mainly volunteer labour, the cost is estimated at around £300,000, which will be met by the Trust's own fundraising activities.

Further information about the Wey & Arun Canal Trust is available from the Trust's office, on 01403 752403.

Wey & Arun Canal Trust Press Release - 14 March 2010


March Meeting

Alan Copeland - "Curiosities of the Chilterns"

 
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Before our March meeting none of us knew quite what to expect from Alan's talk, but what an evening it turned out to be. Those members who were unable to attend missed an exceptional event.

Alan had prepared well for his talk, providing print-outs of the wealth of curiosities, and their locations, he would be speaking to us about. Because of the large number and various complexities of those curiosities, it is simply impossible to include them all here. But, just to give a flavour.......

We saw various memorials, Victorian loos, water pumps, drinking fountains and wells, stocks and pillories, attractive and somewhat bizarre buildings, strange and funny signs, mile stones, green telephone boxes, old post boxes, a totem pole and a ship's figurehead. Then we had level crossing gates, but no railway, an Egyptian shelter, a boundary tithing stone, a topiary cockerel, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and even the nude statue of a young lady linked to the sinking of the SS Lusitania! What about the underpass for frogs and toads and the windmill that starred in 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang'? Do you know of a Marmoset that has its own marked grave or the shark that nose-dived into the roof of a house?

And there were so many more - I only wish I could list them all here.

But, for those of you who did miss Alan's talk, don't despair - he has a number of similar talks about curiosities in other areas and we will be inviting him back. If you cannot wait until then, log on to his website at www.curiosities.co.uk for full details and pictures from all his shows.

Many thanks Alan for such a wonderful evening which we all thoroughly enjoyed, particularly your own brand of humour - and, oh yes - your well planned background sound effects. We look forward to welcoming you back sometime in the future.

Paul Herbert


Society Skittles Evening

 
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Skittle alley at the Pheonix

Above: The skittle alley at the Phoenix.

Left: Tim and Jan - the evening's winners.

Below: Tony and Maureen - the event's organisers.

Our occasional Skittles Evenings have always been popular and the latest event on 26 February this year was no exception. On this occasion we had moved to a different venue, The Phoenix in Twyford which proved to be a good choice. The Pub was easy to find and had adequate car parking. The skittles alley was on the same floor as the entrance so no more trying to descend those difficult stairs at our former venue.

We were again able to attract a good crowd of members and guests and, whilst we were below the maximum capacity of the room, we were really cosy and I am not sure where more people could have been fitted in.

Tim and Jan
Tony and Maureen

We are grateful to Maureen Greenham for organising the event and to Tony Fry for the actual organisation of the skittles competition on the night. This time the competition was individuals and it was the girls against the boys. After a 'nail-biting' event the ladies competition was won by Jan (? surname - apologies Jan). The men's competition was even more fiercely fought with a dead-heat between Tim Symington and Paul Herbert, both of whom had managed to knock down all 27 skittles over the three rounds played. So, it was down to a sudden death play-off, won by Tim. So, congratulations to Jan and Tim who were awarded their prizes. To add an extra variation to the evening Tony organised a knock-out competition with participants paying for the privilege - all for a cash prize. Again, Tim and Paul were in the running for the top spot with Tim finally taking the prize.

It was a great evening, and all appeared to enjoy the food laid on by The Phoenix. Paul had pleasure in presenting Maureen and Tony with a bottle of wine each as the Society's token of appreciation for all their efforts. They have agreed to run another similar event, perhaps in the autumn.

Paul Herbert


Canals to leave Government control after 62 years

 
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The Inland Waterways Association ( IWA ) welcomes the Government's announcement in its Budget statement on 24 March (www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/d/budget2010_armslengthbodies.pdf) today, that it will progress proposals to allow British Waterways to be mutualised, possibly as a charitable trust, responsible for managing waterways assets on a long lease with the non-operational property endowment held in a 'charity locked' arrangement.

IWA understands that much further work will be needed to identify the exact form of mutual and the detail of its governance and relationship with Government. IWA also welcomes the Government's intention to safeguard British Waterways' assets by ensuring that any proposal will:

Speaking on behalf of IWA, Clive Henderson, national chairman said:

'We are pleased with today's announcement as we have supported this initiative from the start. We are also pleased to see Government's intentions to ensure that the public interest is safeguarded, as this has also been one of our overriding concerns in the development of the proposals put forward by BW.'

He continued:

'IWA looks forward to participating in the promised full consultation, and will be actively seeking to ensure that this opportunity is built upon for the benefit of all waterways users, by exploring the opportunities that a larger Inland Waterways Conservancy might present. With over 5,000km of navigable waterways in the ownership or control of over 30 navigation authorities, the two largest are the government funded and controlled agencies, British Waterways and the Environment Agency. Our vision is to encourage the formation of a larger, rationalised organisation, incorporating both British Waterways and Environment Agency managed waterways, that will also allow for the opportunity for other non-publicly funded navigations to join at some time in the future.'

A copy of the IWA's inland waterways conservancy proposals can be found on the internet at:

www.waterways.org.uk/documents/inland_waterways_conservancy

IWA Press Release - 24 March 2010

Editor's comment: This seems to be a step in the right direction to remove BW's waterways from the direct control of the Government. However, much water will pass under the bridge before these proposals come to fruition. In the immediate future, there is to be a general election. If there's a change of Government, these proposals could well be dropped in favour of some other "solution."


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