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Issue 495 - April 2014

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Chairman’s Column

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April Meeting

I would like to extend a warm welcome to visitors from IWA Guildford & Reading Branch who are joining us, as we welcome Peter Boyce with an evening listening about his further restoration work being carried out on Wooden Narrowboats.

Peter last visited us in June 2012 when he detailed his work on NB Lucy .

Please note that, after our last two meetings at St Deny’s Hall, this meeting will be held in our normal venue at Chilworth Parish Hall. Details on back page or

May Meeting

There will be no May Meeting as the hall may be commandeered for elections.

June Meeting

At our meeting on 5th June, SCS member Gordon Osborn will tell about the “Ups and Downs of the South Pennine Ring,” as we look at the canals of that part of Yorkshire.

It has come some way since the “impossible restoration” project of a few decades ago. See just how far at the meeting!

Alan Rose

Grand Western Canal Re-Opens

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Reopening the canal

The Grand Western Canal and towpath was officially re-opened on 19th March after the completion of structural repairs to a breached embankment at Halberton, caused by severe weather in November 2012.

A group gathered at Swing Bridge for the official re-opening of the canal by the Chairman of Devon County Council, Councillor Bernard Hughes.

The Grand Western Canal suffered a serious breach of its northern bank in November 2012, which closed a half-mile stretch of the canal between Greenway Bridge and Rock Bridge. After the incident, Devon County Council and its partners developed a programme of works to repair the breach and introduce new measures to reduce the likelihood of a breach in the future. These new measures included inspections of all infrastructure along the canal, the installation of a water level monitoring and alarm system, additional and improved stop boards and an increase in the height of the embankment.

There is to be a second phase of works that will be informed by the results of a detailed hydrological survey of the canal and the surrounding catchments. The plan is to construct new sluices and weirs to further improve the canal’s resistance to breaches through a greater ability to control water levels.

The works were carried out by contractor South West Highways Ltd and were finished in time for the canal’s 200th anniversary celebrations, which includes the IWA 2014 National Trailboat Festival. The festival is to be held over the late May Bank Holiday with the main event at the Mid-Devon Showground on 24th May and several satellite events along the length of the canal on the 25th and 26th May.[0]= news/list 19 March 2014

New Lease Agreed for Tidal River

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THE Crown Estate and the Lymington Harbour Commissioners have completed a new lease for the tidal stretch of the Lymington River in Hampshire.

The lease, which will last for 25 years, will facilitate the ongoing management of some 1600 river moorings, walk-ashore pontoon moorings and enable the Harbour Commissioners to further invest in protection works to secure the long term future of the harbour.

The Lymington Harbour Commissioners were awarded The Crown Estate Coastal Business Award 2013, in recognition of the organisation's work to regenerate the significant intertidal saltmarsh habitats in the area, as part of its long-term plans to safeguard the harbour’s future.

The award also reflected the Commissioners' extensive engagement with the local community in developing its plans. The Crown Estate provided around £100,000 from its Marine Stewardship Fund towards the Commissioners’ saltmarsh replenishment scheme. 3 March 2014

Membership Subscriptions Reminder

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Subscriptions for the year 2014/2015 are due on 1 April. This year the joint subscription is £27 and £16 for individuals. I would be happy to receive subscriptions at the next meeting. Many thanks.

Gill Herbert, Treasurer & Membership Secretary

March Meeting

“Secret Canals of Britain” by Stuart Fisher

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Stuart started us off on the Grand Western Canal and the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal in Devon and Somerset. Then up through Wales Stuart started us off on the Grand Western Canal and the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal in Devon and Somerset. Then up through Wales on the Mon & Brec.

Some of Stuart’s pictures went back in time as a few of the waterways that he had ventured on are now linked to the main system. It was interesting to see waterways that, in their time, were industrial: areas around Runcorn, Warrington & St Helens (Pilkington Glass). Seeing coal boats using canal tunnels, disappearing into the mine on the Bridgwater Canal.

Up through Kendal, 8 locks by the M6 at Tewitfield on the Lancaster Canal, venturing as far north as the Forth & Clyde, the Crinan and Caledonian Canals in Scotland.

Stuart also enjoyed the wildlife, seeing urban foxes, stags by Loch Ness & puffins of Skoma.

Back down the eastern side through Chesterfield and Staveley Basin, onto the Cromford Canal, on the A6, with Arkwright’s mills at Crich & Ambergate.

Further down to the Royal Military Canal on Romney Marsh and Camber Castle which years ago was on the coast.

We were all intrigued by the vast number of waterways that Stuart had covered in his canoe, travelling far afield over the years. All this experience has led to the publication of his book “Canals of Britain” ISBN 978-1-4081-8195-9.

This meeting was held at the St Deny’s Hall in Old Chilworth, it was fine and very cosy for twenty-one!

Thank you to David Doulton for using his screen and digital projector for the evening.

Angela Rose

M&S volunteers set to tackle beach and canal litter

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Marks & Spencer has announced details of this year’s Big Beach Clean-up, which will tackle the scourge of litter on 95 UK beaches and 42 canals, including locations that were hit by recent storms.

In partnership with the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and the Canal & River Trust, this year's M&S Big Beach Clean-up will take place between 24 and 30 April with thousands of volunteers – including M&S customers, employees and volunteers – taking part.

The target is to clear more than last year’s massive haul of 30 tonnes of litter – the equivalent weight of two double decker buses. Customers that register in advance will receive a money-off M&S voucher on the day of their beach clean.

Unusual items

Most of the litter collected will be common waste items such as fishing nets, ropes and bottles tops. However last year M&S beach and canal cleaners found an array of unusual items including a bath, coffee maker, HM Prison Service toothbrush and a Freeview box.

Last year over 9,000 people (4,000 M&S employees and 5,000 M&S customers) volunteered and collected 4,000 bin bags full of litter after cleaning over 300km of beaches and canals.

Sacha Berendji, director of retail at Marks & Spencer, said: “Our Big Beach Clean-up 2013 exceeded all expectations and made a significant impact on local communities. This year our beaches and canals, and in turn our marine life, need us and our army of volunteers more than ever before. It’s a fun, outdoor activity and I’m confident we can go one step further and surpass last year’s litter haul. And, as an incentive, there’s a £5 money-off voucher for every customer that gets involved.”

National treasures

Richard Parry, Chief Executive at the Canal & River Trust, adds: “Our canals are two hundred year-old national treasures that are enjoyed by millions of people each year.They need looking after. Litter and debris can be a real problem, polluting water, restricting use of the canals and towpaths and harming wildlife. That’s why we’re delighted to be joining forces again with Marks & Spencer and all the volunteers who take part in the Big Beach Clean-up. The event will build on the work that is done every day to keep the waterways in the best possible condition, with this year’s event set to be bigger and better than ever.”

The M&S Big Beach Clean-up is part of M&S’ Forever Fish campaign which is funded by the profits from the 5p carrier bag charge in M&S foodhalls. Since its introduction in 2008, the charge has reduced carrier bag use by 75 per cent and raised over £6 million for good causes.

We are very pleased to announce that for the first time M&S customers will be able to get involved in the clean up at one of our sites, Vickers St in Manchester. There's a limited number of spaces available - please register your interest via the link at the bottom of the page if you would like to join us.

If you’re not near Manchester, or can’t make that date, but are keen to help out, why not join our Towpath Taskforce teams? We have 56 every month spread around the country. Find the nearest Towpath Taskforce to you or find other opportunities through our volunteer search.

In 2013 over 1,000 M&S employees headed down to their local canal bank to volunteer their time. In addition, and as part of the canal clean ups, M&S made a financial contribution towards our work to restore, conserve, enhance and educate people about the nation’s 200 year old network of waterways. 5 & 27 March 2014

Canal blitz shocks onlookers

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Thanks to Ken Froud of our Warwickshire branch for drawing my attention to this story - Editor.

JAWS dropped at the sight of a canal clean-up between Leamington and Warwick.

Staggered faces looked on from the banks as a clean-up of a one-and-a-half mile stretch of the Grand Union Canal at the weekend saw more than 50 shopping trolleys and over 30 bicycles dragged from the water.

The clean-up - organised by the IWA from Clemens Street in Leamington Old Town to the aqueduct over the River Avon in Warwick - also produced mattresses, a ladder, a supermarket advertising banner, traffic cones to roadwork barriers, and sackfuls of general litter.

IWA member Brian Bayston said people watching on from the canal bank could not believe what they were seeing.

Mr Bayston told The Observer: "People were literally staggered - they were taking photographs and commenting on the amount in the boat.

"There was so much in the boat that at one point I had to get up on the front in order to give directions to those steering the tug (which was pushing the boat) as they could not see where they were going.

"There was also an additional car trailer full which would not fit on the boat."

IWA branch chairman Richard Sanders said: "We have an important green corridor for wildlife and it needs to be looked after.

"On previous clean-ups we have pulled out motorbikes, which pollute the water with oil and petrol, but all rubbish is a potential danger to bird and fish life.

"Trolleys, bikes and other rubbish can also pose a problem to the many boaters who enjoy the canal."

Over 80 volunteers took part in the clean-up on Sunday March 9. All who helped were thanked for their efforts, including the Leamington Army cadets, students from Warwick University, a Warwick youth group, and local residents.

All the metal collected will be going to a recycling centre. 19 March 2014

“Susan” and Six

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Concluding our story by John Silman about his introduction to the English canal system in 1963.

On Thursday we soon passed through the two looks at Hack Green and a little later passed four working boats being handled by a family. It was obvious from a very long way off that they were carrying artificial fertiliser! I asked the steersman of the leading craft what his draft was. He replied “Three foot three inches”. As the average depth of the canal appeared to us to be about three feet we considered this to be nothing short of miraculous. That evening saw us moored safely at Nantwich Basin End. A council of war decided that we would, in order to give us a little more time, moor for two nights here and visit Chester by bus on Friday. Our Chester visit can be summed up in two short sentences. It rained all day. We ate the biggest cold lunch I have ever seen.

Saturday morning saw us going a little further down the canal to the nearest winding point and then beginning to retrace our steps. We stopped in Audlem for a cup of coffee in the morning and Tony and I were detailed to buy the meat. The local butchery was presided over by a very rotund gentleman in the usual striped apron. After inspecting various cuts we purchased what was undoubtedly the finest piece of beef in the whole of Cheshire and in fact may well have been half an ox! We moored that evening just above Adderley Top Lock because the “book of words” said that it was only half a mile to the village. After walking what seemed two or three miles we discovered to our horror that the village consisted of about a dozen houses, no shop and, worst of all, no pub, a dreadful thing to find when your tongue is nearly resting on your boots! I finally found that the little kiosk in the forecourt of the local garage also did duty as the village shop and post office but on questioning the proprietor could not even provide us with a bottle of lemonade and there was still about two miles to walk back.

On Sunday we travelled leisurely along, lunching off the magnificent piece of beef at Tyrley and mooring overnight opposite the British Waterways Yard at Norbury Junction. Considerable amusement was afforded to a great number of anglers during this afternoon when I inadvertently knocked the mop overboard, the merriment being caused by our efforts to manoeuvre Susan astern for about 100 yards in order to retrieve the offending mop. If you have never tried backing a narrow boat, take my advice, don’t.

We had retraced our route rather more quickly than we had anticipated so reaching Autherley Junction on Monday evening we decided to go up the Staffs & Worcs Canal to Great Haywood on Tuesday. After travelling Telford’s straight main line the windings of Brindley’s earlier waterway we found much more difficult, although the morning’s proceedings were enlivened when we met “a gentleman of the towpath” who was enjoying a shave in “pure cold canal water” under one of the accommodation bridges. Narrowly avoiding disaster in the shape of three British Waterways hire cruisers being sadly mishandled by a crowd of young teenagers we arrived at Gailey Top Lock. Whipping Susan smartly into the lock down we went only to discover the lock much too narrow at the bottom to allow our well built lady to get out. Neither corsets nor curses would shift her so sadly we locked back up, reversed out and turned round. Luckily there is a winding point right by the lock or heaven knows what we would have done. To make up for our disappointment it was decided we go ashore and dine in style so Tony and I were despatched (again) to order dinner at the nearest hotel which advertised meals, this being about two miles up the main road.

Innocently we asked the buxom and fierce-looking proprietress for the Menu only to be told “We can’t get the staff so we are not doing meals”. Sadly we returned but were cheered to hear the girls say “Never mind, we will cook the chicken we bought today”, so with a bottle of wine to keep it company we dined on chicken to the accompaniment of the biggest thunderstorm we had heard in years. Next day we returned through the Wolverhampton Flight towards Birmingham, spending the night near Coseley Tunnel. By Thursday lunchtime we arrived at Gas Street Basin, Birmingham. This belying its name is a delightfully quiet mooring right in the heart of Birmingham, Broad Street passes almost overhead, two minutes walk takes you to the heart of the City, yet at night no sound of traffic can be heard. About 5.30 the following morning I had a dream - I dreamt a horse drawn boat passed by but when rising later there were hoof marks in the towpath and at midday the horse, for it was real enough, returned from its journey to Dudley and what a pleasant sight it was in this mechanised age.

Friday lunchtime we set off on the last lap of our journey back to Tardebigge. That evening we returned to Tardebigge and on the following morning somewhat regretfully returned our craft to its owner.

Would we do it again? I speak only for myself. Pass me Stanford’s Map of Inland Waterways, please. I wonder where we will go this year?

John Silman

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Page created 7 April 2014 - last updated 1 May 2014.

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