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Issue 459 - April 2011

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April 2011 Meeting

On this beautiful Spring evening we welcome members and visitors to the Annual Inter-Society Waterways Quiz.

As reigning Champions IWA Salisbury have organised the Quiz. Tonight's Teams: IWA Guildford & Reading, IWA Solent & Arun, Southampton Canal Society and IWA Salisbury.

As tradition an American Super will finish off the evening. Thank you all for bringing along the food to share.

Next Month's Meeting

Our next meeting will be on Thursday April 28th which is the day before the Royal Wedding. Please note that there will be NO meeting on the usual day - May 5th

Roger Squires will be talking to us on "The Suez Canal - Past & Present." Roger recently cruised through the Suez Canal on a northbound daylight convoy. He will share this experience with us and will start the evening by telling us about the history of the various earlier links between the Med and the Red Sea.

He will highlight the various enlargement works undertaken on the current canal since it was nationalised by Egypt.

Society Burgees

These are available at £12.50 each or £13.50 posted. For further details contact Angela, Club Secretary (contact details).

June 2nd Meeting.

This will be a Social evening to include Bring & Buy, Silent Auction, a Quiz running through the evening. Is there anything else you, as members, would like to include?

Please see any Committee member.

SS Shieldhall

Last month's Newsletter included an article on the SS Shieldhall. Brian Evans has sent us an e mail mentioning that he had enjoyed an interesting time on board the vessel at her moorings, and wondered, if members would show their support if a similar visit could be arranged.

Alan Rose

Kennet & Avon gets Cruiseway status

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Caen Hill Locks

Following years of lobbying by the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust and British Waterways, the Kennet & Avon Canal has been upgraded to 'cruiseway' status, writes Harry Arnold.

The reclassification order, issued by the government's Department for Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), was made public on March 21 and comes into force on April 18.

The then mostly un-navigable 87 mile waterway from the River Thames at Reading to the tidal River Avon at Bristol was classified as a 'remainder' waterway under the 1968 Transport Act, having been steadily run down since the days of ownership by the Great Western Railway, with the last boats making a through passage in the early 1950s.

After initial campaigning by the Inland Waterways Association (IWA), the Kennet & Avon Canal Association was formed in 1951 and became the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust in 1962. With K&ACT working in partnership with BW and local authorities the canal was eventually restored and through navigation was possible by the time HM The Queen officially reopened the Caen Hill Lock flight in August 1990.

Above right: Caen Hill Locks, Devizes

Below: West Mills, Newbury

West Mills, Newbury

The waterway remained in a poor state until a major £25m Heritage Lottery Grant was obtained to complete an extensive renovation of the waterway some 10 years ago. BW has since maintained it at cruising standards from its existing budget but the reclassification to 'cruiseway' now gives this official backing.

It's unlikely, however, that the new classification will mean that BW gains any extra funding.

As a broad canal which is the key component of a coast-to-coast link, the Kennet & Avon is possibly the most interesting, varied and attractive of England's southern waterways. Reclassification appropriately comes in the year that the bicentenary of the waterway's opening is being celebrated.

By coincidence it also runs through the constituency of the current waterway minister Richard Benyon MP. 28-03-2011

March Meeting

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Horsham to Littlehampton in 100 years - Tony Pratt


Above: Visitor moorings at Littlehampton

Left: Houghton Bridge near Amberley

26 members enjoyed a very well researched and informative presentation by Tony Pratt.

The speaker showed a number of postcards, one of 1895 showing the iron works in St Leonards Forest, near Horsham, and another of the Town Mill, Gibbons Mill and the double railway bridge at Rudgwick.

We were then moved on to see a photograph, Early Aviation at Houghton in 1870. This was followed by a picture from 1910 taken at Bury, near Amberley, the ferry and toll house "Pebble Cottage", with barges carrying Lime & Chalk moving down river to Littlehampton.

Houghton Bridge

We enjoyed the amateur film clips and archive photographs from the 1930's, showing activities on the river through the century including boating and shipping in the port of Littlehampton. As quite often, in old scenes we see local folks out and about and on Sundays in their best dresses with suited men.

A 1921 silent film showing "Tansy" a shepherdess and her admirer's (they did look middle aged) at the sheep wash in a section of the river. Nothing fancy and no chemicals, just throwing the sheep in and pulling them out approx 30 ft later.

It was suggested that we should have a visit to Amberley Museum to find out more about the history of the area.

Tony also gave us a short up date on the Wey & Arun Canal Trust, to which our Society gave a donation of £50.

Angela Rose

New era for our canals and rivers

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British Waterways today welcomes the start of a three-month government consultation into the future of inland waterways in England and Wales.

The consultation sets out the proposals for a new charitable trust to take over the management of the waterways, including how the organisation will be governed and how it will give communities a greater role in looking after their local canals, rivers, reservoirs and docks.

British Waterways' chairman, Tony Hales, comments: "The consultation is an important step forward in achieving a long held vision among waterway supporters. Having set out our proposals in 2009 for a 'national trust' for the waterways, the Minister is now embarking upon the biggest shake-up of the waterway governance since nationalisation in 1948.

"I believe the proposals will build upon the recent waterway renaissance to ensure they never again revert to the dereliction and decline that saw part of the network abandoned and filled in during the 20th century.

"Caring for a 200-year old network requires intense management and significant funding. The consultation is an important part of establishing the best framework for the long term security for our canals and rivers, which harnesses community enthusiasm to deliver local priorities. I would encourage all those who have an interest in the nation's magnificent former industrial waterway network to take part."

The consultation document is published at 30-03-2011

Summer Boat Trip

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The SCS outing this year will be a sea cruise from Gosport to the Beaulieu River and Bucklers Hard on Tuesday 19 July, returning along the north shore of the Isle of Wight and ending with a trip round Portsmouth Harbour.

The cost will be £20 which includes a ploughman's or jacket potato lunch (we are no longer able to eat our own food on board). The trip leaves at 11.30am and returns at 4.30pm.

Will interested parties please give Maureen Greenham your names at the next meeting or by phone on 02380 406951 or email to

Maureen Greenham

2011/2012 Annual Subscriptions

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Just to remind members that subscriptions became due on 1 April this year (Joint Membership - £25.00 and Individual Membership - £15.00). If you haven't already done so, please pay our Treasurer, Gill Herbert, either at a meeting or by sending her a cheque (contact details).

Devizes canal trust shock

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Mike Rodd

Mike Rodd says the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust has no option but to move from the Wharf

The Kennet and Avon Canal Trust has to move out of the canal centre on Devizes Wharf or face repairs amounting to £500,000.

The Wharf Centre, thought to be 200 years old, houses the trust museum and shop but has been suffering structural problems for some time.

Just before last year's Devizes to Westminster canoe race, one of the toilets fell through a rotten floor, which cost nearly £20,000 to repair.

A beam had to be propped up after a crack was discovered and a five-yearly inspection revealed the wiring did not comply with regulations and needs £10,000 to put right. The heating system needs new radiators and boiler.

Possibly most seriously, the back wall facing Couch Lane is deteriorating, with pointing missing, stones falling out and light visible through it at one point.

Trustee Mike Rodd said: "The bottom line is that it is costing the trust £40,000 a year to maintain the building, money we can't afford. But that is a small part of the picture.

"It would cost close to half a million pounds to completely renovate the building, and funding for that kind of work is hard to find."

He said that the trust may have to leave Devizes, where it has been since 1982.

He said: "We have to face reality. We must get out of here and we have said we will leave by the end of September."

A spokesman for Wiltshire Council, which lets the building to the trust, said discussions with the trust are continuing.

He added: "We are sympathetic to their position and hopefully we can come to some agreement." 21-03-2011

Hydro project comes under scrutiny

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PLANS to kick-start a hydroelectric facility in the canal near Victoria Park, Newbury, as part of a 'Big Society' community project came under scrutiny at a public meeting on Monday.

Mark Knight, of Kiln Road, Newbury, got the idea to construct a hydroelectric facility in the Kennet and Avon Canal that would generate electricity to feed into the national grid following discussions on the forum, and he called a public meeting that was held at the town council offices in Market Place.

During the meeting, West Berkshire councillor Roger Hunneman (Lib Dem, Victoria) said that the capital costs, when compared to the potential electricity generating capacity of a scheme in the Kennet and Avon has always proved prohibitive.

But Newbury resident Simon Kirby said that the costs could potentially be dramatically reduced if most of the work was carried out by skilled members of the community.

He said: "We have all the skills right here in Newbury and if we can pull that together, we can really turn it into a much more viable project."

Some of Newbury's electricity supply came from a hydro generator at Greenham Mill in the 1900s and similar hydro projects have previously been suggested by both Newbury Town Council and West Berkshire Council, although these have never materialised, despite feasibility studies being carried out.

During the meeting, various different design possibilities were discussed, including a water wheel and so-called Archimedes screws, which see the water flow through a turbine.

Problems with disturbing the course of the waterway was also discussed and Mr Hunneman advised Mr Knight that serious consideration would have to be taken about what type of legal entity would be formed to represent the project.

Mr Knight said that he would now take all these matters into account and consider the future of the project, after which further meetings will be held to discuss the outline of the project in greater depth. 04-03-2011

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