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Issue 425 - May 2008

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Chairman's Column

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May Meeting

Yes, I know the meeting is actually being held on 24 April, but as we are not able to use the hall in May, due to its use as a Polling Station, we always have to bring that meeting forward to the last Thursday in April. But as we have already held a meeting this month, we always refer to it as the May meeting. Whatever - this is the Society's May Newsletter. We are delighted to welcome Clive Field to the current meeting with his talk about 'Narrowboats to Norway".

2008 Society Spring Outing

In spite of the poor weather, Society members and guests enjoyed an excellent outing on the Basingstoke Canal and 'The Watercress Line' on Saturday 19 April. For the full story and photographs see elsewhere in this issue.

New Members

I am pleased to welcome new Society members, Pete and Carol Jones. I hope you will enjoy our future programme of speakers and special events.

Skittles Evenings

Following the successful Society Skittles Evening on 15 March, it is hoped to organise another event in November. Further details in a future Newsletter.

June Meeting

A reminder that next month Society member Bob Dukes will be telling us all about "Silk, Myth & Mystery" - the history of how silk came from China, the start of its production in Europe, the UK and America, industrialisation, etc.

Paul Herbert

April Meeting

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Steve Haywood - "Fruit Flies Like a Banana"

Having read his book "Fruit Flies Like A Banana", I was delighted to welcome Steve Haywood to our April meeting.

Steve is an award-winning TV producer, journalist and author. He worked on a number of current affairs programmes, including Newsnight, Panorama and the award-winning series 'Rough Justice'. In 1990 he formed Just Television Ltd and, in 1999, he won a Royal Television Society award for investigative journalism. The following year, after the publication of his first novel, he left the industry to pursue a career as a writer. Steve will, perhaps, be best known to our members for his monthly column in the "Canal Boat" magazine.

He introduced himself and his talk by telling us 'there will be no holiday slides tonight, you will just have to listen to me' which we all did, avidly. Apart from canals his other interest was football. He supports Leicester City and therefore enjoyed visiting Southampton, who were having similar problems.

Steve told us he had always been obsessed with canals, he had been a boat owner for more than 30 years; his narrow boat is called 'Justice'. He described his early adventures at Barrow on the River Soar - swimming in the lock and throwing bricks at passing boats - and being told off by his Mum.

It was Steve's 50th birthday that spurred him into action. As he explained that 'What men do, when they hit 50, is cycle around the world, or go to the Amazon - but, not me. I made a trip from Oxford to Bristol by narrow boat and in a classic Triumph Herald car'. Therein lays the premise of his book "Fruit Flies Like A Banana' - an account of the journey he took through the nation's waterways in 2000.

He referred to his first hire boat experience and he quoted from excerpts of the old (Northern) Nicholson Guide, concerning likely problems to be encountered, including very shallow canals and the risks of running aground, making sure one didn't run out of fuel because of the infrequency of convenient re-fuelling points, and emptying the toilet. He went on to compare the differences between canals of, say, 30 years ago and now: made up towing paths, cyclists, joggers, and fishermen with all their tackle. He recollected about the early hire companies with their converted pontoons and ships' lifeboats and cut down working boats.

After the interval Steve had a rant against British Waterways (something he is well known for) and its ever-increasing regulations. He was obviously unhappy about the increasing number of boats on the waterways and the growth in marina development.

We heard of his spooky experience of a ghost on Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.

He was looking forward to 2044(!!!) - the 100th anniversary of Tom Rolt's "Narrow Boat" - which had started it all.

During the evening Steve sold signed copies of "Fruit Flies Like A Banana" - at a specially reduced price. Steve has another book, due to be published later this year - "Narrow Boat Dreams".

Many thanks Steve for taking the time to visit us and for such an entertaining and humorous talk.

Paul Herbert

(With acknowledgement to an article in the Manchester Evening News and an interview of Steve Haywood by Riazat Butt).

Society Spring Outing

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The Basingstoke Canal and the Mid-Hants Railway

The John Pinkerton

Despite the inclement weather (overcast and intermittent rain) a party of 32 Society members and guests enjoyed a 'double-headed' outing on Saturday 19 April. All week the weather forecast for that weekend warned of bad conditions so none of us should have been surprised that it was a little on the damp side.

We arrived at Odiham Wharf on the Basingstoke Canal where we met the crew of the Surrey & Hampshire Canal Society's trip boat "The John Pinkerton" headed by its skipper, Hugh Gough, who was known to a number of us, as he and wife Marion, who live in Compton, near Winchester, were members of our Society some years ago. When they heard that we had chartered the boat they wanted to come along and share in our trip.

SCS members and friends

Our outward cruise took us through the electrically operated North Warnborough Lift Bridge to Odiham Castle where we disembarked and the boat was winded. Whilst some members explored the recently 'restored' King John's Castle', others walked beyond the (current) head of navigation to view the entrance portal to Greywell Tunnel. Then it was back on board for the return journey to Odiham Wharf. Light refreshments were available on board and Maureen Greenham had organised a raffle.

We took our leave of "The John Pinkerton" after thanking its crew of Hugh & Marion Gough and John & Yvonne Kilburn. Just time for the traditional group photograph alongside the boat.

Inspector Lewis

Then it was back into the cars for the drive to 'The Watercress Line' at Alresford Station, with members making their own lunch arrangements en-route.

Society members Sue and Eric Lewis were much in evidence, Sue working in the Station Buffet whilst Eric (who is training as a Travelling Ticket Inspector) was on duty on the platform, resplendent in his Southern Railway uniform, complete with peaked cap!

35005 Canadian Pacific

We joined the 3pm train, headed by Bulleid Merchant Navy Class No. 35005 Canadian Pacific, on which we had our own reserved carriage section. Sue was able to join our party for the return trip to Alton whilst Eric was up and down checking tickets. As might be expected, he had to put up with some good natured banter from many of us.

Another group photo!

At Alton Station a number of us disembarked to watch our locomotive run around its train to be re-coupled at the other end, ready for our return journey back to Alresford. On reaching journey's end there was the opportunity for a further group photograph alongside the train before we dispersed to make our own way home.

The Society owes a great deal to Maureen Greenham (and, I am sure, husband Brian) for organising yet another successful and enjoyable outing. Not only does she do the actual organisation and make the necessary bookings, but she and Brian visit the locations, making careful note of the best route to take and journey times, details of which are then provided to all those taking part. MANY THANKS MAUREEN.

Paul Herbert

The Itchen Way

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We have recently heard of (but been unable to review) a new 40 page guide to the popular long distance footpath along the River Itchen by Richard Kenchington. This is now available for £6 plus £1 for post and packing. Cheques should be made payable to "Walk the World Limited" and sent to 2 Pavilion Close, Fair Oak, Hampshire SO50 7PS

Further details at:

The Itchen Navigation Project

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Following the recent Heritage Lottery grant for this project, the Project Team have a busy schedule for the coming year including the following plans:

Volunteer Opportunities:

There are a number of opportunities for which we are seeking the aid of volunteers. If you're interested in any of the tasks listed below, get in touch with Polly Whyte (contact details below). Volunteer involvement is a vital part of the project so it's hoped there is a task here that appeals to you.

Species Surveys:

Water vole and otter surveys: monitoring their distribution and recording bank vegetation on stretches of the Navigation.

Bat Surveys: emergence surveys using bat detectors.

Bird Surveys: experienced birders required for monitoring the distribution of birds at specified sites.

Dragonfly, damselfly and butterfly surveys: recording the presence of different species from the bank of the Navigation.

Practical Conservation:

Lock preservation including some vegetation clearance, re-pointing and brick work.

Habitat enhancement which includes scrub management and litter clearance.


Can you take a good photo? A photographer is needed to capture a photographic record of the project and the people involved. Required one day per month.

Website Editor: to update and maintain the project website.

Public Transport Guide Editor: researching bus and train timetables and publishing on the web.

Newsletter Editor: to put articles and information for the quarterly Itchen Navigation Newsletter.

Events Assistant: helping with the coordination of key events throughout the year, including publicising the event and support with running it.

Finally, we are also looking for a Heritage Researcher to bring together details of the Itchen's industrial heritage including text, photos and artwork.

If you are interested in any of the above, contact Polly Whyte, Itchen Navigation Project Officer, Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, Beechcroft House, Vicarage Lane, Curdridge, Hampshire, SO32 2DP Email: Telephone: 01489 774400

For regular updates go to

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

© Southampton Canal Society 1999 - 2008. 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 24 April 2008 - archived 10 June 2008.

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