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Issue 354 - August 2001

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October 2001

Chairman's Column

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I know, I can hear you say, he has only been Chairman for five minutes and he is already getting ideas above his station - after all, who does he think he is, Nelson!

Fair enough, but it's not that kind of column. All the best society magazines seem to have a column (or even page) written by their Chairman, so I thought I would have a go.

Obviously, I cannot start without paying my own personal tribute to Brian Evans. Without Brian the Southampton Canal Society would probably have ceased to exist many years ago. Many thanks Brian for leading the Society for so long and if you see me straying just a bit too far...

One of my first tasks as Chairman will be to work with the Committee to define the Society's objectives for the year ahead. My first thoughts are that we need to review our marketing in order to attract new members, particularly families with children - who could become the core of the Society in the years to come. We also need to consider our financial objectives. The Society has had a healthy bank balance for some time but, as Brian was often reminding the Committee, providing we have sufficient funds to pay the Society's expenses we should, perhaps, be more pro-active in our financial support of the many waterways good causes.

Brian and our Newsletter Editor, Peter Oates, have often made the plea for Society members to submit contributions for the Newsletter. Many thanks to Ken and Margaret Froud (of the Society's 'Warwickshire Branch' - see the feature in a future Newsletter) for their contributions in the June issue. One doesn't have to be a budding author to write for the Newsletter - any little snippet will do that you think may interest or amuse our members. So come on, out with your pens and pencils (or keyboards, if you prefer) and break a habit of a lifetime - let Peter have items for future publication. I have already made my own list of future articles, all I have to do now is get down to actually write them.

One of Peter's tasks as Society Secretary is the booking of speakers. The Committee would value comments from members on topics you would like addressed or, do you know of someone appropriate who could come and talk to us? It doesn't have to be about the waterways, but a link is always useful. So come and let us have your ideas.

We are very fortunate in being able to attract quality speakers to our meetings. Our October meeting is no exception, when Roger Hanbury, Chief Executive of the new 'Waterways Trust' will be paying us a visit. Whilst there has been some criticism in the waterways press about the links between the Trust and British Waterways, nevertheless the Trust has an important role to play in securing funding for major waterways projects, particularly the future restoration programme. Roger and the Society deserve a full house on 4 October and I hope as many members as possible will attend. Please tell your friends about this important night and bring guests with you. We will be encouraging members of other waterways organisations in the area to join us.

Paul Herbert


Our Boating Members

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A number of our members are fortunate enough to own their own boats and are proud to fly the Society burgee. I wonder whether they would be willing to share the details of their craft with other members. It is easily possible to pass a fellow Society member's boat without realising, until it is almost too late, that its crew are colleagues. I am therefore proposing a simple 'register' listing brief details of boats and their owners. Do you think this idea has any merit? If so, please let me have details of your boat, either by 'phone, e-mail (see below) or a note.

To start off the register, herewith the details of Gill's and my boat:

Owners/Society Members: Paul & Gill Herbert
Boat Name: "The Evelyn Broadbent"
Boat Type: Narrowboat
Length: 50ft
Builder: Sagar Marine
Colour Scheme: Black Hull, Blue Cabin Sides with Red Panels and White Coach Lining
Base: Napton Marina, South Oxford Canal

Paul Herbert
Tel: 023 8026 2365
E-mail: p.herbert@ukgateway.net


July Meeting - Annual General Meeting

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The Society's Annual General Meeting doesn't often attract a large audience but it is, nevertheless, a very important event for the Society and its membership. The 34th AGM held on 5 July 2001 was attended by 25 members, the highest attendance since 1997, and there were 9 apologies. The meeting followed a long established procedure (the agenda having been included in the July Newsletter) dealing with the minutes of the previous year's AGM, reports from the Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer (which included details of the Society's finances for the year just ended), review of annual subscription rates and the election of the Society's Officers and Committee, more of which later.

The Chairman's and Secretary's reports had been included in the June Newsletter and the Treasurer's report and minutes of the 2000 AGM were tabled at the meeting. The accounts for the year ended 31 March 2001 show the Society has a very healthy balance of over £1,500 despite some fairly large donations to waterway causes during the year.

Because the cost of hiring the Chilworth Parish Hall is significantly higher than that for the St John Ambulance Hall, the AGM agreed to increase annual subscription rates to £8.00 Single and £12.00 Family for the current year.

The most significant event at the AGM was, of course, the retirement of our Chairman Brian Evans, who had held this pivotal role since the Society was founded in 1967. His wife, Annegret, wasn't slow to point out that Brian had only been 29 when he first became Chairman!!!

Paul Herbert, who has been a Committee Member and the Sales Stand Manager for many years and, subsequently, Vice-Chairman was elected as the Society's new Chairman.

Laura Sturrock was re-elected as our Treasurer and has also taken on the mantle of Vice-Chairman. Peter Oates was re-elected as Secretary (though he was very willing to pass on that role but the expected queue of applicants didn't materialise). Peter will also continue editing the Society Newsletter.

In addition to Paul, Laura and Peter, Martin Cripps and David Townley-Jones were re-elected to the Committee. Re-joining the Committee after an absence of many years is Laurie Pearce. Like Brian, Laurie was a Founder Member of the Society, is a Vice-President and for many years was our Secretary. Linda Pearce was also elected as the remaining Committee member. We welcome them both to the Committee and thank all the Committee members for willingly giving so much of their time to the Society.

Under the (normally) fairly mundane item of 'Any Other Business' a surprise was in store for both Brian and Annegret. As the incoming incumbent of the office of Chairman I was delighted to be able to mark Brian's long 'reign' and the debt the Society owes to him. If those members who attended the AGM will forgive me for repeating here what I said at that time, for the benefit of the wider membership...

"Brian has been Chairman since the Society was first established in 1967. Throughout his 34 years as Chairman the Society, under his leadership, has achieved much. Whilst no longer a Society that goes out to physically restore canals it is, nevertheless, still very active in its campaigning for the waterways and providing financial assistance, albeit in a small way, towards their continued use and restoration.

As a member organisation of the Parliamentary Waterways Group the Society's voice is heard within 'the corridors of power'.

Brian has been 'threatening' to retire as Chairman for a number of years but, up and until now, your Committee has been successful in talking him out of it. But - all good things have to come to an end and Brian made a firm decision, which the rest of the Committee respected, to bring his long tenure to a close at this AGM.

However, Brian has promised he will still remain active in the Society and will assist as required (hopefully, for many years to come).

It is going to be difficult for any new Chairman to take over from Brian but I am going to give it my best shot, with the assistance of the Committee and the support of the Membership. I have worked it out that if I was able to emulate Brian's achievement, I would be due to retire as Chairman in 2035 - at the age of 91 (I needed a calculator for that one!!!)

As we come to the end of an era, we cannot just let Brian slink off into 'oblivion'. Therefore, I have great pleasure in proposing that Brian be elected as the Society's first President, and I know I can count on your support for that proposal."

As expected, that suggestion met with the AGM's unanimous support.

Brian had thought that not being re-elected to the Committee would release him from such duties but I had pleasure in pointing out that the President is an ex-officio member of the Committee and can attend any meeting and, in any event, would be sent all the relevant paperwork. Brian got his own back by reminding those present that it is one of the roles of President to Chair the Annual General Meeting so he would still be able to keep the new Chairman and Committee in order!

Annegret was then asked to join us at the top table and we reminded ourselves that behind every successful man is a successful woman - and that Annegret had played a very important role in the Society, which was very much appreciated. Then, very much to their surprise (and delight we hope) Brian and Annegret were presented with two framed prints by Dave Rogers of canal scenes at Braunston. We are sure these will take pride of place on their sitting room walls.

Following the formal part of the evening and the compulsory and always welcome refreshment break, Peter Oates gave us a talk, illustrated by slides, on his and Laura's latest acquisition, their 65' narrowboat Beatrice May (though now renamed Swallowdale - of 'Swallows & Amazons' fame).

Peter, with assistance from Laura, described how they had searched for a boat, finally finding just what they wanted (though, at 65', a bit longer than their original specification) on the Slough Arm of the Grand Union Canal, through the broker Virginia Currer. They had the usual anxieties of going through the essential condition survey, including seeing their hoped-for purchase suspended in slings from a crane before being deposited on the wharf. Luckily, the survey found no problems and the purchase was completed in July last year.

Their first trip in Beatrice May was to the end of the Slough Arm and then north on the main line of the Grand Union as far as the Troy Cut between Uxbridge and Rickmansworth. Later, during August, BM was taken into Central London for a week. As well as visiting Little Venice and Limehouse the boat was used as a hotel whilst visiting some of the land-based attractions. On their way back to Slough they made a detour down to Brentford.

At the end of August, in the week following the National Waterways Festival (which was visited overland - by car), the boat was taken north to her new moorings at Welton Haven on the Leicester Line, not far from Norton Junction.

Peter's presentation continued with various snippets including meeting Nick Grazebrook (IWA Solicitor) and his wife on their wooden boat Ken Keay as Peter and Laura worked up through King's Langley up to Berkhamsted. We saw pictures of Cowroast, Tring Summit and Marsworth. They met Ara with her 'new' motor Archimedes as they went through Startopsend on the Marsworth flight (there will be more about 'Ara' and its indirect links with the Southampton Canal Society in a feature in the next Newsletter). The slide show continued with scenes of Soulbury, the famous canalside railway mural at Wolverton, more working boats at Cosgrove and the bottom of the Stoke Bruerne flight. Peter rounded off his presentation at Braunston.
This was a very interesting presentation describing the 'mechanics' of finding and purchasing a boat and then the thrills of taking it out on its first cruises. This rounded off a very enjoyable and landmark evening for the Society.

Paul Herbert


BRIAN'S VIEW

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As AGM's go the July meeting was quite well attended. With nothing controversial, and willing horses for the committee, chairing my last AGM was an easy and enjoyable duty.

One part of the proceedings surprised Annegret and me when we were presented with two nice narrowboat pictures, wonderful keepsakes to remind us of our time "at the top". Having received a gift at the Society's 30 year mark, we would not have expected anything further. We both thank Society members very much for their generosity.

Also "Thank You" for making me your president. As I wrote in my annual report, I always felt that being chairman gave me status and privilege, now I think that I am in an even better position, both of these without the chairman's jobs. I feel also it is an honour to be president and as such I stay close to the workings of the Society, and as always I aim to make a positive contribution to the work of the Society.

Brian Evans


Update On Our Old Home

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During a recent (and infrequent) visit into Southampton, Gill and I decided to detour from our normal route home to have a look at the St John Ambulance Hall in Kings Park Road, the Canal Society's home for so many years, until we had to move to Chilworth Parish Hall in February this year because of the sale of St John's.

We were surprised to see that the building is still unoccupied, looks much the same as when we moved out, and there is no sign that the new owner has taken occupation, let alone started to carry out its conversion (which we believe is for religious purposes).

Therefore, in hindsight, it appears that we might have been able to stay at St Johns for a while longer. However, having said that, we are all very happy with our new home at Chilworth, which suits our needs very well and its accommodation is superior to our former abode.

Paul Herbert


MORE NEWS FROM WESTMINSTER - PARLIAMENTARY WATERWAYS GROUP

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We are gradually catching up with our reports on the proceedings of the Parliamentary Waterways Group (PWG) which is attended on a regular basis by the Society's representative, Eric Lewis. On 10 April 2001 the then Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, the Rt Hon Chris Smith MP (who was later to be replaced in the Cabinet reshuffle following the General Election in June) addressed the PWG which was chaired, as usual, by Bill O'Brien MP.

(On that occasion Eric Lewis was unable to attend the meeting because of other commitments).

Chris Smith opened by saying that the waterways were a vital part of recreation in Britain. In his constituency, City Road Basin provided outdoor activities for youngsters via the Islington Boat Club.

His department recognised the significance of waterways in tourism, sport and industrial heritage. There was a need to strike the right balance between different types of use. The Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) (now no longer in existence as a result of Cabinet and Departmental changes following the General Election) had attempted to do this in their document, 'Waterways for Tomorrow'. His own Department had been closely involved in its preparation and the theme Waterways for All.

Different recreational uses could sometimes conflict and there was sometimes a need to curb some in order that others could take place. His Department was doing research jointly with DETR to establish a picture of recreation across the country. It was supporting angling and canoeing with major grants and the Millennium Commission had supported the Rochdale and Forth & Clyde restoration schemes.

The sustainable distribution strategy published last year by DETR looked seriously at how the waterway network could be incorporated into the general transport structure. Waterways could form a small part of a sensible integrated policy for the carriage of freight.

A great deal of concern had followed the outbreak of foot and mouth disease and British Waterways (BW) had responded immediately by closing its canals. This had entailed hardship for those involved in tourism and recreation. However, it was clear the disease was not spread by traffic along waterways and during the few weeks leading up to the PWG meeting the Government had been promoting the waterways as open for business. Although (at the time of the meeting) a number of towpaths were still closed, considerable progress had been made and two thirds of towpaths were open for people to walk.

The Government had tried to ensure information was available to the public on places to go. The web site 'openbritain.gov.uk' had (by then) had its millionth visit. Detailed information had been made available by local and national tourist bodies on areas open to the public.

There then followed a discussion session.

In response to an enquiry from the Inland Waterways Amenity Advisory Council, Chris Smith said he would draw the importance of marketing the waterways abroad to the British Tourism Authority. Answering the British Marine Industries Federation he said the Deputy Prime Minister would be promoting waterways shortly. Waterways businesses would be eligible for business rate relief, deferred VAT and PAYE payments and an extended small business loan scheme. In response to the Community Boats Association he saw no reason why these should not also apply to charities, apart from rate relief if they already received this.

Answering a question from the Yacht Builders, Designers and Surveyors' Association he said there was no need to disinfect shoes when boating unless people had crossed land recently grazed by livestock. To the Canoe-Camping Club he said his Department was in regular dialogue with DETR to ensure they and the Environment Agency (EA) were open-minded about canoeing on rivers.

EA said the rivers they managed were public navigations. They had a wider role to promote navigation on any waters which might not have a public right of navigation. They were sponsoring research led by the DETR Countryside Division to see how they could encourage access to currently non-navigable waters which were privately owned. There was a balance to be struck with landowners and fisheries interests. A report should be available in the autumn.

In response to the Residential Boat Owners' Association, Chris Smith said his Department would respond positively to the recent report of the Environment Select Committee into waterways, however the lead role would rest with DETR. The Government's response would be formally published and a specific reply would be made to each of the Select Committee's recommendations.

With reference to the National Athletics Stadium to be sited alongside Picketts Lock on the River Lee he said that this would need building materials and this was a golden opportunity to use the river for transport.

Replying to a question Chris Smith advised that to dispel qualms particularly in the USA about foot and mouth, web sites and phone lines had been established. Interviews by the Prime Minister and Janet Anderson MP had been provided for the press and he (Chris Smith) was travelling to Canada for the same purpose. Some of North America's leading travel writers were to be given a tour of Britain.

The next meeting of the Parliamentary Waterways Group, which would be its Annual General Meeting, was due to be held on 19 June 2001 when the speaker would be Roger Hanbury, Chief Executive of the Waterways Trust. A report on that meeting will be included in the Society's next Newsletter.

Eric Lewis and Paul Herbert


News from the Basingstoke Canal

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Tony Harmsworth, Waterway Manager of the Basingstoke Canal, retired in June thereby ending his family's association with the canal dating back over 200 years. Apparently, in the early 1790s, a Harmsworth from Basingstoke was employed by John Pinkerton (the canal's contractor) as a brick inspector during the construction of Greywell Tunnel. Members of the Harmsworth family were employed after the canal opened in 1794 in a number of occupations including as lock-keepers, carpenters and bargemen up until 1899. In 1896 AJ (Alec) Harmsworth, Tony's grandfather, started a boat hire business at Ash Vale. In the early 1900s he bought a barge Mabel and started trading on the canal. From that beginning he built up a thriving commercial carrying and road haulage business. In 1923 Alec bought the canal and, by 1930, had a large fleet of barges and narrowboats, many of them built at his yard at Ash Vale. It was following Alec Harmsworth's death in 1947 that the family sold the Basingstoke Canal, at auction, for £9,000. Tony Harmsworth served on the original committee of the Surrey & Hampshire Canal Society when it was formed in 1966. He later joined Hampshire County Council, in 1973, as Senior Ranger working on restoration and later, in 1986, became Assistant Canal Manager and subsequently Waterway Manager in 1994. Tony is looking forward to spending more time on his leisure interests in retirement, which include building steam locomotives and model aircraft.

The Woodham Backpumping Scheme was completed in May. This will enable boats to access the canal from the River Wey Navigation and reach Woking, even when locks higher up the canal are closed to conserve water. A modest brick pumphouse is all that marks the spot below Lock 1. Beneath the building are wet and dry wells and two 8inch submersible pumps. Working alternatively, each pump is capable of recycling 90,000 gallons of water (approximately two locks full) per hour. This water would otherwise be lost to the River Wey. Water used in the Woodham flight of locks will now be pumped 1½ miles to be returned to the Woking pound above Sheerwater Lock. The scheme, which cost £476,000 was managed by British Waterways on behalf of the Basingstoke Canal Authority. The Surrey & Hampshire Canal Society are now fund raising for the installation of backpumping on the flight of five locks at St Johns, to the west of Woking.

A new bridge is being constructed at Pyestock. Britain's largest mobile crane had to be used to place pre-stressed concrete beams as the foundations for a new road bridge over the canal. The beams, each 40 yards long and weighing 62 tonnes, were delivered individually to the site and are believed to be the longest loads ever to be transported by road in the UK. This new bridge forms a section of a new gyratory road system in the area of the former Royal Aircraft Establishment. Construction of the bridge is expected to be completed by September.

Acknowledgements: The above three Basingstoke Canal items have been based on a feature written by Dieter Jebens and published in the August 2001 issue of 'Waterways World'


Back copies of 'Waterways World'

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Are you a collector of 'Waterways World' but have a gap that you cannot fill? Derric Webster of Chandler's Ford has all issues from 1997 to 2000 inclusive (unbound) which he wishes to dispose of. If you are interested, please ring Derric direct on 023 8026 1949


SOCIETY NEWSLETTER

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As the Editor will be on away for much of August, including the IWA National at Milton Keynes over the Bank Holiday, there will be no September 2001 issue of the Newsletter.


It's All Happening on the Herbert Front

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Since the AGM there has been a lot of activity in our new Chairman's household. The following week Gill went into hospital for the first of her total hip replacements. The date of her admission was deliberately planned to avoid the birth of Paul's and Gill's first grandchild, due at the end of June. However - what is it they say about the best laid plans ...? Gill's operation was on 11 July and Sharon gave birth to Zachary the same day!!! That led to a very busy time for both Paul and son, Steven, speeding their way back and forth between two different hospitals.

After ten days in hospital, Gill was allowed home for a long weekend before being re-admitted to the Nuffield last week for the replacement of her other hip. Not bad - two hips replaced within two weeks! Both operations were successful so you could say 'Hip, Hip Hooray' (or is that just a trifle corny!)

Anyway, if her recovery continues at the current rate, Gill will hopefully be allowed home for good this coming weekend and then starts the long period of recuperation. We hope to see her back at the Canal Society before not too long and, in the meantime, wish her a speedy recovery.

Meanwhile, the new addition to the Herbert family is well but is causing many sleepless nights to his new parents. Such is the bliss of parenthood! Congratulations to the new Grandparents (and, of course, to Steven and Sharon as well).


CANAL TALK FOR THE BLIND

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On September 11th I have agreed to give a canal talk to blind and partially sighted members of Southampton Society for the Blind. Giving talks accompanied by slides present me with no problem, but I will be finding this one considerably more difficult.

To replace the slides I think that, particularly for the totally blind, it will be of benefit to have objects that they can feel.

I have two small wooden boats, a mini decorated dipper, canal stool ... but would like to borrow other items from SCS members, eg a windlass, one or two horse brasses, a brass rally plaque, and other items you may think appropriate. We must, of course, avoid any sharp edges.

I would like to borrow these items by the September meeting and would return them in October.

Brian Evans


IWA WELCOMES NEW GUIDELINES TO PROTECT DERELICT CANALS

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The Inland Waterways Association (IWA) today welcomed new guidelines, announced jointly by Transport Minister John Spellar and Inland Waterways Minister Lord Whitty, to safeguard the restoration of derelict canals. The Highways Agency must now take waterway restoration projects into account when designing road improvements, or building new roads. Provision must be made, such as navigable crossings, so as not to block the path of waterways that have a realistic chance of being restored.

IWA has also welcomed the announcement that a culvert costing £345,000 will be installed under the Birmingham Northern Relief Road at the Government's instruction, following pressure by waterways enthusiasts, British Waterways and The Waterways Trust.

Following a public appeal, headed by the well known actor David Suchet, Lichfield & Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust (LHCRT) secured a culvert under the A5 at Churchbridge, near Cannock, costing approximately £130,000. IWA is the largest contributor to this appeal, giving £20,000. Government has now given instructions to contractors to construct a second navigable culvert at a cost of £345,000 under the Birmingham Relief Road.

LHCRT aims to restore the Lichfield section of the Wyrley and Essington Canal and the Hatherton Branch of the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal opening up links to the northern part of the Birmingham Canal Navigations. Restoration work is underway on both canals, including three sites around Lichfield, by the Trust's volunteers and contractors and with frequent visits from IWA's Waterway Recovery Group.

Richard Drake, IWA National Chairman, said "The Association has long campaigned for the protection of derelict waterways from development, so we are delighted with the introduction of these new guidelines, in line with the Government paper Waterways for Tomorrow. Further endorsing IWA's campaign, Planning Policy Guidance Note 13, which covers transport, has also been revised to include protection for derelict waterways.

This is especially timely for the Lichfield & Hatherton Canals restoration project. Phil Sharpe, Vice-Chairman of Lichfield & Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust, explained, "Construction of the Birmingham Northern Relief Road would have stopped the full restoration of the Hatherton Canal. We have secured the provision of one enlarged culvert for the canal and we are very pleased that the Government has now instructed the motorway contractors to build the second of the navigable culverts, which together are essential to protect the through route of the canal for restoration to continue."

Richard Drake added "These are exciting times for canal restoration, more waterways are being restored to their former glory at an astonishing rate. Canal restorers now have the backing of the Government. This means we can concentrate on opening up the lost waterways without new obstructions being built, and thus save millions of pounds of unnecessary expenditure. IWA would like to see as much as possible of the waterway system opened up for the enjoyment of everyone.

IWA Press Release 23 July 2001


Sinking feeling as show shrinks again

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Councillors pour cold water on duration of popular canal festival

THE Berkhamsted Canal Festival weekend has been reduced to a one-day event because the programme for the second day was considered "very weak" by some town councillors.

The majority of the working party organising the event voted for the second day to be dropped at a meeting last Wednesday.

Chair of the committee and mayor of Berkhamsted, Councillor Garrick Stevens, said: "We are at the stage where we are in the last two to three months of getting arrangements finalised. "The programme for Sunday looked very weak and does not look as if it's the kind of programme that will appeal to the majority of Berkhamsted."

Fellow committee member Councillor Lindy Foster-Weinreb had been pushing for a two-day event. She said: "It's a decision I am sad about and has involved me cancelling a number of events I had already organised and disappointing a number of performers.

"A canal festival is not a fete by the canal but a festival which becomes an event on the calendar for boaters all over the country. What I had organised was a canal festival. What the councillors who have instigated the cancellation want is a festival by the canal. There's a difference."

Councillor Victor Earl said the working party had decided Sunday's events should be scrapped because only one of them was a confirmed booking. He added: "There was virtually nothing booked for Sunday and as it's only nine weeks away we had to make a decision. "We could not see the town turning out in great numbers just to see the Salvation Army band on Sunday. It's annoying, but the detailed organisation was lacking."

Councillor Foster Weinreb said enough had been organised for the second day and it was what the people of Berkhamsted wanted.

She added: "The nature of a canal festival is that on the second day it's relaxing - not noisy and there does not have to be as much activity. There was going to be three different, types of music, a hog roast, the Salvation Army and Morris Dancing.

"The councillors want a little show for local people but the people wanted a canal festival. The councillors want a much more parochial affair and not something that is going to attract people from far afield which is what I understood the community wanted. Nevertheless, it's going to be a great occasion which I am sure people will remember for years to come."

The event had already been reduced from a three-day event to a two-day one last year because the council could not obtain a licence for private parties on Friday night. It was scheduled to take place last September as part of the Millennium celebrations but was postponed due to lack of time.

What has now been arranged is the arrival of boaters on Friday, September 7 and an all-day event on Saturday, September 8 with plenty of fun for all the family.

Thanks to Brian Evans for sending in this clipping from the local paper covering Hemel Hempstead, Berkhamsted and Tring of 20th July 2001.


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