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Issue 393 - June 2005

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Chairman's Column

 
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June Speaker

The Society is pleased to welcome Richard Thomas to our June meeting. Richard has spoken to us on a number of occasions in the past and his topic this month is "A Day in the Life of a Thames Tug".

Society Visit to the Weald & Downland Open Air Museum

A party from the Society visited the Weald & Downland Museum at Singleton on Sunday 8 May. Full details of that visit are published in this Newsletter.

WaterWorld

Ken and Margaret Froud, our Warwickshire-based members, who live on their narrow boat "Duorf II" on the Old Engine Arm at Napton, have kindly recorded the latest series of TVs popular 'WaterWorld'. Ray Brooks has offered to make a copy which will then be available from Alan Howarth's library stand at Society meetings. Watch this space for an announcement about its availability.

Mary Hill

Further to the item about Mary in my last Chairman's Column, I understand she is still in hospital. On behalf of all her friends and colleagues in the Society I would like to send Mary our very best wishes for a speedy recovery. Our thoughts are also extended to David in this difficult time for them both.

Annual General Meeting

An advance reminder that the Society's 2005 Annual General Meeting will be held on 28 July (our 'August' meeting). The agenda, accounts and officers' reports will be printed in a future Newsletter. As always, all Officers and Committee posts will be up for election so, if you are interested in taking a more active role in the Society, please put your name forward, either to me or the Secretary, Eric Lewis. If you would like to know what such duties might entail, just have a word with me - my contact details are on the last page of this Newsletter.

Paul Herbert


Society Visit to the Weald & Downland Open Air Museum

 
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Eighteen members and friends attended the Society's outing to the Weald & Downland Open Air Museum at Singleton on Sunday 8 May. Originally a party of 23 had been booked but, due to various reasons, some members had to drop out at a fairly late stage. They missed a great day out!

View of part of museum

Singleton (as the Museum is commonly known) contains 44 buildings from Hampshire, Sussex, Surrey and Kent, which have been saved from demolition, carefully dismantled and re-erected at the Museum. Often new timbers and other material have to be used where parts of the original could not be salvaged because of their poor condition. Our guided tour took in a range of buildings which included large splendid farmhouses and smaller cottages, medieval houses, industrial buildings such as a smithy, watermill, saw-pit shed, a small schoolroom and a humble cattle shed. Many of the buildings have to be seen to be fully understood and appreciated. I certainly cannot give them full credit in this brief article.

One of the crowning parts of the day was our visit to the Downland Gridshell, the innovative construction of which celebrates the use of wood as a building material. The basement of the Gridshell houses the Museum's craft workshops and collection of 7,500 rural life artefacts and we were privileged to be allowed to wander through the latter, looking at the tools and other implements of a bygone age.

Despite the sun, the morning was quite cool and many of us were glad to have brought warm coats with us. In a couple of the buildings fires had been lit and it was good to huddle around them, if only for a brief spell. Many of us ate lunch in the Museum's café where hot, tasty food was on offer, as well as ploughmans, sandwiches, cakes and the usual beverages. The café was very busy, and the downside of this was that, unfortunately, they had run out of hot soup - something many of us were looking forward to!

Fortunately, the afternoon had warmed up considerably and the group split up into individual groups for a general look round the site and a visit to the shop.

I think everybody agreed that the outing had been a great success. The Society needs to express a big 'Thank You' to Maureen and Brian Greenham for their hard work in organising this visit.

For those who were unable to go on the outing, the Museum is open until October from 10.30am to 6pm, after which winter opening hours apply. The Museum hosts a number of special events throughout the year.

Paul Herbert

SCS members at Singleton

Some of the Society members on their visit to the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum


Annual General Meeting 2005

 
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In accordance with the Constitution, notice is hereby formally given of the Southampton Canal Society's Annual General Meeting on the 28th July 2005 at Chilworth Parish Hall, Chilworth Road, Chilworth, Southampton at 7.45pm.

Any member may request an item to be included on the agenda of the AGM by giving at least fourteen days written notice of the item and its nature to the Chairman.


May Meeting

Valley of the Barn Owls - Dennis Bright

 
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We were delighted to welcome back Dennis Bright on his third visit to the Society. On this occasion his programme was 'Valley of the Barn Owls' - the valley being that of the River Test.

Dennis started his talk with a photograph of a tower of a derelict church, where Barn Owls had been seen roosting. Eastleigh's original Parish Church, the Church of the Resurrection, had become surplus to the needs of the community and had been acquired by a developer, but was subsequently burnt out. When the building was recently 'restored' and converted into apartments, the openings in the tower had been glazed and the owls lost one of their roosting sites. Dennis described the dangers of urban development to barn owls and other species because of lost habitats. In Hampshire, there had been a significant loss of habitat due to the disastrous loss of trees as a result of the 1987 hurricane and subsequent winter storms. Nationally, it was estimated that the barn owl population had been reduced by 70%.

The Environment Agency and other sponsors had promoted the provision of nesting boxes for Barn Owls and Dennis described to us the various projects he had been involved with to provide new habitats for the owls. He had constructed a large number of nesting boxes and he described his various methods of construction (wooden tea chests were evidently popular in his earlier experiments) and their location in trees and barns etc. As his efforts proved more and more successful so his designs improved. The upshot of all his hard work was a significant increase in the numbers of breeding pairs of owls and, subsequently, larger surviving broods. One particular problem he had encountered had been competition from jackdaws, who often tried to take over the boxes.

We learnt a great deal about the habits of barn owls, their breeding cycles and hunting methods etc. Unfortunately we also heard about the threats to their existence, from changes in the countryside, particularly from extensive farming methods which removed hedges and field margins, where the barn owls traditionally hunted for prey, and from collisions with motor vehicles when they swooped low over roads.

However, through the efforts of people like Dennis, the barn owl population of Hampshire, and particularly the valley of the Test, was now thriving. We learnt where to go to see barn owls at the best times of the year.

Throughout his talk we witnessed excellent examples of Dennis's brilliant photography. It was obvious that Dennis has much affection for his 'Ghost Owls' as barn owls are often known. He has often spent many hours parked in his car, with his camera at the ready, waiting to catch a particular barn owl in flight or resting on one of a number of perches that Dennis has set up.

Many thanks Dennis for a wonderful evening, your enthusiasm for your subject always comes through most strongly, and we all look forward to your talks.

Dennis will be back to talk to us sometime in 2006.


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