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Issue 436 - May 2009

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Chairman's Column

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Welcome to our Speaker

We are delighted to welcome Dr Roger Squires, the well known waterways campaigner and author, to our April meeting when he will be telling us all about the Panama Canal.

Proposed Visit to the Purton Hulks

I regret that, due to insufficient numbers, the Society's proposed trip to the Purton Hulks on Saturday 16 May has been cancelled. Perhaps this can be looked at again for sometime next year.

River Thames Trip

As announced at our last meeting, providing there is sufficient interest from members we are planning a boat trip on the River Thames on Sunday 7 June, on board a Salter's 'Steamer'. The trip, which will be part of a scheduled cruise, will start from Wallingford at 10.30am arriving at Abingdon at 1.30pm. The return journey starts at 2.30pm so there should be enough time to look around Abingdon or have lunch if required. The boat will arrive back at Wallingford at 5.30pm.

Of interest along the way are Benson Lock, Shillingford House (built for Lily Langtree), River Thame, Dorchester Abbey, Wittenham Clumps, Days Lock, Redbrick Clifton Hampden Bridge near the famous Barley Mow Pub, Culham Lock Cut, Abingdon Marina, and Abingdon's magnificent waterfront including almshouses and the dominant spire of St Helen's Church.

The cost of the trip is £15.60 for seniors, £16.40 for adults and £8.20 for children. As usual, people will need to make their own way to Wallingford (directions will be provided) and car share would be encouraged (however, hiring a mini-bus might be a possibility). Maureen will need to take bookings, complete with payment, at our meeting on 30 April.

Please see Maureen Greenham at the 30 April meeting or contact her (Tel: 023 8040 6951 or Email: ) to book your place.

Since this Newsletter went to press, Maureen's email address has changed to

Next Month's Meeting

Another reminder that our next meeting will be held on the second Thursday in June, viz. the 11th. This is because Chilworth Hall may be needed for election purposes on our original date.

At this meeting we will not be having a speaker but instead have organised a 'double-header' event. We will be having a General Knowledge Quiz, organised by Maureen Greenham. We will also be holding a Silent Auction for charity. We are looking for members to bring along, for auction, items of a variety and quality that they might want to buy themselves. For example, this could include pictures, cushions, decorative items, games, puzzles, toys, boat items, small pieces of furniture, electrical equipment (in good and safe working order, obviously), homemade cakes, jams etc. I must stress that this is not a jumble sale so we won't be looking for unwanted toiletries, chocolate or wine (however tasty) etc.

Anne Coleman is organising this part of the evening and will need to have your items at least half an hour before the start of the evening. If you are able to let Anne know in advance what you may be bringing and the space they might take up (if appropriate) could you please contact her as soon as possible. Her contact details are elsewhere in this Newsletter.

Let's see if we can have a really enjoyable evening and raise a significant sum for charity. Wine and soft drinks will be provided along with the normal tea and coffee. So, please, see what you can 'dig out' for the auction. Please remember, you will have to take any unwanted items home with you.

British Waterways Canalside Property Portfolio

I have been advised that a press release on BWs Waterscape website recently reported that the Government is allowing BW to retain control of its canalside property portfolio through a new separate wholly owned subsidiary. If correct, that is good news. However, cynics have already claimed that wholly owned subsidiaries can so easily become wholly owned by someone else....whilst another has said that this is like having the portfolio gift-wrapped and placed in the property business's equivalent of the Estate Agent's window! So, I would suggest we all watch this space.............

Paul Herbert

Canalside pub re-opens again

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One of Northamptonshire's most treasured canalside pubs has re-opened just three months after its future seemed doomed.

The Admiral Nelson in Braunston, near Daventry, is back in business under new management, Maureen Hume and Howard Thompson, who also own the Braunston Manor Hotel and the village's Old Plough.

The pub - which is very popular with visiting canal boat users - ceased trading in January because there were not enough customers to keep up the running costs.

Mr Thompson, who has lived in Braunston and the surrounding area all his life, said: "I was really pleased to be involved with getting the Admiral Nelson back up and running so quickly.

"I have been coming here for most of my life and drank my first ever ginger beer in this pub aged 13. People are very pleased that we have opened it again."

Both Ms Hume and Mr Thompson are determined to make the Admiral Nelson a success despite the recession. They have already made some changes, including refurbishing, decorating and extending the dining area.

Mr Thompson added: "It has made it look bigger, it is better, cleaner and colour co-ordinated. But the changes are not major. It is still a real ale pub."

The credit crunch has had a major effect on the pub trade with more than 1,000 having closed since December 2005, most of which have been in the past 12 months.

Northampton Chronicle & Echo 23 April 2009

April Meeting

Alan Smith - "Alaska and the Yukon" (or "Up Close, Personal and Casual!")

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We were pleased to welcome Alan Smith to our April meeting and I was delighted with the good attendance again. I took copious notes of Alan's presentation but, let me say from the outset, there is no way that I can give full credit to his beautifully illustrated talk so I hope this brief synopsis will suffice.

Alan and his wife were on a one month holiday which commenced with their voyage on a small cruise ship from Vancouver heading north up the western coastline and then via the Inside Passage. The weather was pretty grim at the start, very cold and wet. However, the spectacular scenery made up for that. Alan gave a brief history of Alaska which was originally Russian, but was then sold to the USA for $2m.

There are very few roads in Alaska so most freight has to go by sea (when weather and ice permits). The population mainly lives in coastal communities. The main industries are fishing, fishing, and even more fishing. Large cruise ships were very evident throughout their trip and many float planes were continually buzzing around, the latter providing an easy form of transport in that region.

We were spellbound with Alan's photographs of the scenery, including glaciers and fjords (reminiscent of Norway), and the very varied wildlife including brown pelicans (a bit out of their normal area), seals, sea lions and porpoise, humpbacked whales, puffins, sea otters, grizzly bears and a lone wolf, just to mention a few!

We saw First Nation (native Canadian) villages. We heard about the famous Klondike Gold Rush and the railway that cuts through that region, now used mainly for tourists off the cruise ships.

Their cruise ended at Wittier. This small town, with a population of around 300, was originally built as a military base in World War II to protect the USA from Japanese air raids and possible invasion. The only inland route at that time was by rail. Now there is a fairly unique tunnel shared by the railway and highway. Alan and his wife left their ship and travelled by road to Anchorage and then onwards via the Alaska Railroad.

The remaining part of Alan's talk was about the Yukon, which takes its name from the Yukon River. Again, we learnt about the history of that region. In 1906 gold was found in Fairbanks - the town with the greatest temperature range in the world.

Again we were entertained by Alan's splendid photography and his tales of their adventures in that area including travelling on one of the Sternwheelers operating on its rivers.

It was an extremely entertaining and informative talk and I can only regret not having more space available for a lengthier and more detailed account of their journey. Many thanks Alan.

Paul Herbert

Piddler will return as £30k iron man

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The controversial Ribble Piddler statue is to return to Preston for good.

The £21,000 oak giant, officially called Gauging the Ripple, was removed from the side of the Millennium Ribble Link canal in January last year because wood in the statue's legs was rotting.

A routine inspection in December 2006 found damage, rot and a crack in the calf of the monument, nicknamed the Ribble Piddler because of its posture over the waterway. It was moved into storage because of safety concerns.

Today Preston Council leader Ken Hudson has announced the Piddler is coming back for good. The monument will be cast in iron by Coupe Foundry in Higher Walton, to ensure there is no repeat of the damage. The work is expected to cost £30,000, which will be paid for through grant funding.

Coun Hudson said: "I am delighted to announce that Preston's iconic piddling man Ribble Link statue is to return. The statue is due to be cast and will be back in pride of place at the Ribble Link later this year.

"Ever since it was removed we've missed him towering over the Ribble Link. It's just not been the same driving down Tom Benson Way, or sailing or walking down the canal.

Chorley sculptor Thompson Dagnall took five months to carve the original 16ft statue after winning a competition in 2002.

Lancashire Evening Post - 30 March 2009

Walkers wanted for wildlife count

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Walkers on Britain's canals are being asked to note the wildlife they see, from dragonflies to frogs, in order to map where nature needs additional help.

With thousands of miles to cover, British Waterways is asking people to help them understand where species are thriving and where they need support.

It is particularly looking for bumblebee sightings, after populations were decimated by a year of disease.

Many crops, including most fruits, depend on bumblebees for pollination.

Ben Darvill, director of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, said three of Britain's 25 native species of bumblebee are now extinct, and a further six species were at "crisis point".

'Rapid destruction'

"With the rapid destruction of bee-friendly habitats, canals and river banks have become an important home to a variety of wild flowers and native plants that bumblebees rely on to survive," he said.

British Waterways, which manages 2,200 miles of canals and rivers, has produced a guide to wildlife found near the country's canals and rivers, including information on bumblebees and tips for how to help them.

Mark Robinson, national ecology manager at British Waterways, said: "A wealth of water-loving birds, mammals, fish, amphibians and insects thrive on the UK's canals, rivers and reservoirs, which act as green corridors and safe havens for many species."

Flooding in recent years has also damaged natural habitats alongside canals, which has led to a decline in the Kingfisher population.


To take part in the survey or find more details go to the website:

Alternatively contact British Waterways at 64 Clarendon Road, Watford, Hertfordshire WD17 1DA. Tel: 0845 6715530 (Mon-Fri, 9:00-17:30) Fax: 01923 201300

Boris' new transport plan a boost for Thames ferry services

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The River Thames could be returned to its glory days under a plan by the Mayor of London to promote it as an integral transport link, The Times has learnt.

Boris Johnson will announce today the integration of river services into the wider transport network, enabling Oyster cards, a form of electronic ticketing, to be used for the first time.

Passenger boat on the Thames

The frequency of ferries will be increased and a new service - running every ten minutes between London Bridge and Canary Wharf - will encourage more people to take to the water for their daily commute.

The announcement forms part of a wider strategy to make better use of the river resource, with the ultimate aim of ferrying thousands of Olympic visitors to events at the 2012 Games and relieving pressure on the Tube.

More than 30 organisations, including boat operators, pier owners and Transport for London, have signed up to a river concordat, which will aim to promote and improve services.

City Hall is exploring the possibility of extending regular services to Putney in the west and expanding the fleet of ferries. The private sector will be approached to invest in extra piers and better infrastructure.

Mr Johnson said: "With the right mixture of investment and imagination, river services can become a truly integral, as well as an extremely pleasant, part of the capital's transport network. Travelling on the river is one of the great pleasures of London, and I want more people to be able to share in the experience."

Kulveer Ranger, the mayor's transport adviser, said that the scheme would provide an incentive to commuters to use the river. "It is an iconic part of London and we want to make better use of it," he told The Times.

Mr Ranger admitted that there were challenges to overcome, not least that river fares are more expensive than the Tube and bus. Ferries are also less environmentally friendly than other modes of transport because they use considerable amounts of diesel, and the winding route of the Thames and its tidal nature pose difficulties in providing a fast and efficient service.

A number of ferry operators have tried and failed to attract commuters. Several services have closed, while proposals in 2006 to provide craft every ten minutes between Putney and Greenwich never came to fruition. However, Mr Ranger said that the Tory administration hoped to improve services and increase capacity by attracting private investment. He said that investigations into fuel-efficient vessels were taking place.

Sean Collins, the managing director of Thames Clippers, which is owned by the operators of the O2 entertainment centre in Greenwich, southeast London, said he was confident that more commuters could be attracted to the river despite the relatively expensive fares. The company operates 12 vessels, but more will be added to the fleet as the service expands. Last year passenger numbers rose from 900,000 to 2.7 million.

Mr Collins said that an increasing number of new housing developments along the river justified a better service. "The level of comfort is better than that of a shorthaul aircraft. Everyone is guaranteed a seat on our boats, which are licensed and also offer tea, coffee and snacks.

"A lot of commuters will pay that bit extra for comfortable seats, a wonderful ambience and a brilliant view."

Richard Tracey, the Conservative leader of the transport committee at the London Assembly, said that the river was a wasted resource. "The objective is to get a really good boat service integrated with the rest of the public transport system in time for the Olympics," he said.

"People have been trying to get this happening for 30 years - but let's hope that we can crack it this time."

The proposal has caused concern among some pleasure cruise operators on the Thames, who claim that the Clipper service has already started to attract their customers.

The proposed expansion of the London river service is modelled on a system running in Brisbane, eastern Australia, which carries almost three million people a year and serves 19 stops.


From November passengers on Thames Clippers will receive a one-third discount if they use their Oyster cards. The cost of a single ticket will fall from £5 to £3.30. Weekly and monthly tickets will also be reduced in price.

The Times - 6 April 2009

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