Newsletter Archive

Issue 413 - May 2007

Previous Issue
April 2007
Current Newsletter
This month's Newsletter

Archive Index
Next Issue
June 2007

Chairman's Column

 
Next Article

May Meeting

Because of altered holiday arrangements, Roger Squires was unable to visit us last year but I am delighted to welcome him to our May meeting. Roger will be taking us to Portugal with his talk about the River Duoro, from Oporto to the Spanish border.

Spring Boat Trip

Because of our early 'May' meeting and, therefore, very tight deadlines for this Newsletter, I am having to write my input on the eve of the Society's sell-out boat trip on the Wey & Arun Canal on 21 April. A full report of that outing, together with accompanying photographs, will be published in the June Newsletter. [Editor's note: However, see the last minute item included below. As Paul says, a full report will appear next month.]

Annual Society Boat Gathering

It has become customary over the early May bank holiday for a number of Society boaters to get together for an informal gathering. Unfortunately, we have had to postpone the 'event' this year due to a number of reasons. The majority of regular and potential participants (including Gill and myself) were unable to make it because of holidays, cruising or generally unavailability. However, it is hoped to arrange an alternative weekend during the summer.

Chairman's Email & Internet Connection

Because of problems with my Internet provider, I have lost my connection. I am therefore unable to send or receive any emails. If you need to contact me for any reason can you please revert to the old tried and tested methods of telephone or the post. Many thanks.

Refreshment Volunteers

Gill is looking for volunteers to help with the refreshments at our monthly meetings, from June onwards. All offers of help are appreciated.

Paul Herbert


Society Boat Trip

 
Top of Page

Next Article

Saturday morning was blessed with bright, warm sunshine when members and friends gathered at Loxwood for their "day out". The weather was the icing on a most enjoyable cake - a day to remember.

Whilst a full report will appear in next month's Newsletter, in the meantime here are some pictures taken by Laura Sturrock to give a flavour of the occasion.


The Zachariah Keppel at Drungewick


Returning through the newly modified Brewhurst Lock (complete with working party)


Members at Brewhurst Mill visited during the afternoon

Peter Oates


April Meeting

Peter Boyce - 'The Moving Meadow' and his boats

 
Previous Article

Top of Page

Next Article

Peter is very well known to our Society and we were delighted to welcome him to our April meeting to talk to us about his experiences of 'The Moving Meadow' and the heavy maintenance work involved with his boats. I had been concerned that we might have had a sparse audience for Peter's talk as I was aware that many of our regular attendees were away on their Easter holidays. However, I was delighted to see so many of our members there that evening.

Betelgeuse and James Loader So, what is 'The Moving Meadow'? Basically, it is a wildflower meadow, which was commissioned for Bath Sculpture Garden, an initiative of Bath Spa University's School of Art and Design and a programme led by sculptor, Michael Pennie. The aim of the Sculpture Garden is to revive the tradition of contemporary sculpture in Bath and contribute significantly to the visual culture of the city. Artist Tania Kovats was commissioned to design the installation of the meadow, with the help and support of a team of students and staff from the School of Art and Design. Two meadows were grown simultaneously, one of which will remain permanently at Bath Spa University's Sion Hill campus as a visual reminder of the project.

The project involves a working butty ('Betelgeuse') that housed the floating meadow, being towed by a tug ('James Loader') from Newbridge in Bath along the Kennet & Avon Canal to the Thames at Reading and thence via the Grand Union and Regent's Canals to Camden in the East End of London. MEADOW, which is approximately 50' x 6', then spent some time moored at The Drawing Room, one of the contemporary art venues located on the canal. 'Betelgeuse had to be prepared in advance in Bath to ensure that its cargo, the meadow, was in full flower during its journey to London in June last year.

The intention of the project was that "MEADOW will trace a line in the landscape, making a connection between two places, and leaving a trace of its journey in the mind of all those who encounter this floating garden. MEADOW is both an idea of a landscape and a floating miniature landscape itself. The waterways of this country are hidden conduits or green fingers that were once essential lines of communication and trade; the brilliance of their engineering remains in these elegant cuts through the landscape. The canals are slow routes, well used by a diverse population of walkers, cyclists and river people, and as such MEADOW will seek out an unexpected audience. This is in addition to a more familiar art audience that will be targeted in the towns and cities MEADOW passes through".

Peter, the owner of 'Betelgeuse' and 'James Loader' skippered the boats on their journey from Bath to London, and artist Tania accompanied the moving meadow, delivering workshops at selected locations along the way. Peter described the work involved in preparing his butty for this most unusual cargo, including loading the wire cages containing the cut turfs, and the ongoing maintenance of the meadow during its three week journey - at least there was no problem with a watering supply! It was interesting watching the meadow continuing to grow during the cruise, with the various wild flowers developing.

Peter illustrated his talk with photographs of the journey and gave examples of some of the humorous aspects of the trip. Examples included the dogs who jumped onboard the meadow, not realising it was on a boat; the offer of a goat to keep the grass down; and the man strimming the towpath edge who also nearly included the meadow in his maintenance. When moored up, the meadow naturally merged into the tow path vegetation! Peter described the great interest in the meadow from passers-by. They attended Reading Waterfest and other events on route.

In the second part of the evening, Peter described the history of his boats. The full length butty 'Betelgeuse' was built in steel and elm in 1935 for the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company. The 40' tug 'James Loader' was built of oak and elm and towed coal boats for a living until the late 1970's. Both boats have been used recently in the coal trade and are shortly to start on the mineral traffic on the lower Grand Union Canal. Peter restored both boats and his presentation mainly focused on 'James Loader' in the Basingstoke Canal dry-dock at Deepcut.

Peter had hired the dry-dock for three weeks and intended to replace some of the damaged planks on the hull of his tug. However, on his way to the Basingstoke Peter discovered that the Thames was in flood but, nevertheless, he had to continue to meet his Easter deadline for the dry-dock. He encountered a whirlpool on the approach to the entrance to the River Wey and then discovered that the Wey itself was short of water!!!

James Loader As work progressed removing the old planks from the bow section of 'James Loader' Peter discovered a lot more damage and rot which, obviously, had to be cut out and replaced. With the aid of photographs Peter described how he progressed the necessary work and the various processes involved. With only a diminishing three week window he had to urgently source suitable replacement timber, get that cut into planks and carried to the dock. He had to construct his own steamer out of old oil drums, in order to heat the wooden planks to be able to bend them into shape. We were all fascinated how, without any previous experience of this type of work (though Peter admitted to some basic woodworking classes at school) he knew the elements required - and had undertaken the necessary research and understood the techniques.

Whilst Peter was beavering away at the bow of 'James Loader' his partner, Irene, was painting and sign-writing the stern cabin. Quite a team!

Peter described some of the problems he encountered and the day a duck flew into the dry-dock which, despite much coaxing with bread on a plank leading up to the dockside, refused to abandon them. Still, the incident gave them some light relief.

All the work planned for 'James Loader' was completed on the deadline, much to Peter's relief, and considerable credit.

As can be expected, there were quite a few questions of Peter from the audience. Many thanks Peter for such an enjoyable and informative programme. Good luck with your canal-carrying.

Paul Herbert


Save Our Waterways Campaign

 
Previous Article

Top of Page
 

Adjournment Debate - Waterways in the West Midlands

Charlotte Atkins, MP for Staffordshire Moorlands, secured a Westminster Hall adjournment debate, which took place from 9.30 am to 11.00 am in the Houses of Parliament on 27th March on "Inland Waterways in the West Midlands". This provided another good opportunity to once again raise the issue of funding cuts to British Waterways in particular, and to keep pressure on government for better funding for canals and river navigations. IWA hopes that this might be the first of a series of regional debates on inland waterways issues regarding the impact of the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs' funding cuts on British Waterways, the Environment Agency and the regional economies, regeneration, tourism, etc, and IWA has lobbied other MPs to apply for similar debates.

The previous adjournment debate on the inland waterways at Westminster Hall, won by Sir Peter Soulsby MP, and held on 6th December, was very well attended by MPs, many of whom spoke to illustrate issues on waterways in their own area. Fourteen MPs took part in this latest debate and all bar the minister were very positive. The full transcript is available at www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmhansrd/cm070327/hallindx/70327-x.htm

All the key points that IWA had hoped and lobbied for were raised and although the waterways minister, Barry Gardiner MP, had 15 minutes to reply he failed to address any of the main issues. It is clear that the Minister and his officials were very unhappy at how well briefed the MPs were - a testimony to IWA's good contacts and the continuing strength of the campaign.

Further Adjournment Debate on the Inland Waterways

Michael Fabricant MP, (Member of Parliament for Lichfield]) secured a Westminster Hall adjournment debate, which was due to take place from 9.30 am to 11.00 am in the Houses of Parliament on Wednesday 25th April on "Funding of British Waterways"

Every effort was being made to encourage MPs to attend and take part, particularly those who have not been able to contribute to the two previous adjournment debates, secured by Sir Peter Soulsby MP and Charlotte Atkins MP. It was hoped that local issues that have arisen as a result of the cuts would especially be highlighted; for example any waterway regeneration projects that could be affected, or deferred maintenance projects. These were the issues MPs needed to know about to be able to raise during the debate.

Feedback from reliable sources in Parliament continues to indicate that the message is being heard and decision makers are having to take note.

Where next?

IWA has expressed it's appreciation of the very considerable practical support demonstrated by such a wide range of members and supporters, particularly in the activities over the weekend 3rd and 4th March. It is felt that the inland waterways has achieved a very significant profile and goodwill with the vast majority of MPs.

However, there remains a need to maintain this through the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review, which will affect the budgets for all areas of government over the next few years, and in any re-juggling of departmental responsibilities for the election of a successor prime minister, when it is possible that the inland waterways, and British Waterways in particular, could find itself funded by a different part of government. It seems highly likely that the Spending Review will not be made until the change of Prime Minister has happened and possibly not until September, so there's a need to keep the campaign going rather longer than some expected.

In considering the need for continued communication to politicians; in particular writing letters to MPs, the IWA is deeply conscious that waterway supporters cannot afford to be complacent with the success to date, and must continue to remind the ministers that Government's Waterways for Tomorrow commitments are now being broken.  Council was concerned that this winter's reductions in maintenance were in danger of being the thin end of a wedge.

IWA is continuing to encourage waterway supporters to write yet again to their constituency MP, and also the MPs who cover the areas in which they use canals and rivers. This time, MPs should be encouraged to ask the Waterways Minister, Barry Gardiner, how he equates the document Waterways for Tomorrow with the recent actions of the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, and to request that he addresses an area of the document that they are concerned about, illustrated by examples relevant in their community - such as wildlife, regeneration, freight, etc. If supporters ask about specific issues that are important to them, it helps avoid junior civil servants churning out standard replies.

The Waterways for Tomorrow document is available at: www.defra.gov.uk/environment/water/iw/tomorrow/index.htm and latest news from www.saveourwaterways.co.uk

Taken from various IWA sources


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

© Southampton Canal Society 1999 - 2007. 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 9 May 2007 - archived 8 June 2007.

  Previous Issue
April 2007
Current Newsletter
This month's Newsletter

Archive Index
Next Issue
June 2007

This page is valid XHTML 1.0