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Issue 475 - August 2012

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Chairman's Column

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2012 Annual General Meeting

Nineteen members attended the Society's 45th Annual General Meeting on July 5th. Some interesting points were brought up by Members.

We gave our thanks and appreciation to Paul Herbert, our Vice Chairman, and to Maureen Greenham, both for their help and support running the Society over many years. The Committee will miss them.

We welcomed two new Committee members, Aelred and Sue Derbyshire. Gordon Osborn, depending on his commitments, also took up the challenge of joining us on the Committee.

Our next Committee Meeting is in September and I hope they will enjoy working with Gill Herbert, our Treasurer and Membership Secretary, Angela Rose, our Club Secretary and myself.

The formal part of the evening finished at 9.15. We then finished off with Cheese & Wine, supplied by the Committee. All very much appreciated.

September 6th Meeting

At this meeting their will be a talk by Chris Coyle, the Secretary of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust. He will be updating us on the progress of their various on going projects.

October 4th Meeting

A member of the Magic Lantern Society, Alan Brindle will entertain us with Victorian Humour, American Red Indians and, if Alan can find anything within his vast slide / plate collections, Canal and River slides.

Day-Star Theatre

Our friends from Day-Star Theatre, Pete and Jane Marshall, present "A Night at Blackstone Hall" on Thursday 1st November. Tickets are available at £8 each from Gill Herbert or Angela Rose (contact details on back page). An American Supper will follow the performance.

Thank you all for supporting the Society.

Alan Rose

Out with the Old - In with the New

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Canal & River Trust launched on 12th July, with festivities around the waterways.

So it is finally official. On June 26th, Parliament authorised the new Canal & River Trust (CRT), and after a flurry of paperwork the waterways in England and Wales are now in the hands of a charitable trust.

Only three years ago British Waterways (BW) proposed this in their document '2020 Vision', the name referring, of course, to the year they thought it could be achieved.

Lynne Berry, vice-chair of the CRT board of trustees, admitted to being astonished at the speed of change. "After all the planning and delays, I can't believe the Canal & River Trust is finally here - and I can't believe we managed it so quickly!" she said.

The 11 local waterways partnerships across the UK and Wales, along with the specialist Museums partnership, are now in operation.

The official celebrations were held on 12th July. A Freedom of Information request revealed that the Trust had purchased almost 30,000 balloons, 30 miles of bunting and 25,000 stickers for the launch. While the cost of this was estimated to be over £23,000, figures for the total launch cost are not yet calculated - but estimated to be 'in the low tens of thousands', since most of the work will be done by volunteers.

Simon Salem, marketing director of both BW and CRT, believed this figure was extremely low for such a national organisation. "It is crucial that the public notice there is a new guardian of the waterways," he said.

He pointed out that, sandwiched between the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics, the new charity had only a few days to make its mark in the public consciousness. They could not use the Games for publicity because this might be taken as publicity for the Games themselves.

Other organisations who want to host events on towpaths can apply for free balloons, stickers, bunting and leaflets to help raise awareness of the new charity.

Once the Games are over, Simon Salem said the Trust would hold a second publicity-raising event, probably in Westminster in the first week of October.

Waterways World, August 2012

Link could put town back on the waterway map

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THE FUTURE of a Wiltshire market town could be totally transformed if planners agree to an ambitious scheme to restore a former waterway.

The Wilts & Berks Canal Trust has submitted a formal planning application which would bring narrow boats back to Melksham for the first time in more than a century, providing a major boost to local employment and tourism.

If approved by Wiltshire Council, work on the multi-million pound project could start within the next few years.

The old route through the town is lost under housing, so the new route would see boats navigating along a new length of waterway as well as using a short length of the River Avon to travel from the Kennet & Avon Canal near Semington to the Thames & Severn Canal near Cricklade and the River Thames near Abingdon.

The restored canal and towpath would provide a countryside corridor linking Melksham to Lacock, Chippenham, Calne, Royal Wootton Bassett and Swindon.

The plans include a new junction with the Kennet & Avon Canal near the Semington bridge where there would be a potential site for a new marina.

The route then heads north to Berryfield and then across open fields to join the River Avon near the Challymead roundabout, where a new weir would raise the water level to allow boats to navigate through the town centre.

The existing floodgate above the town bridge would remain exactly as it is today, but a new river lock and a hydro-electric turbine would be built alongside.

The canal would continue northwards along the edge of Melksham Forest and then rejoin the original route towards Lacock, where significant stretches have already been restored and reopened.

Melksham Wharf in about 1900

Melksham Wharf in about 1900, near modern-day Rope Walk.
This part of the former route of the canal is not to be restored.

Trust chairman John Laverick said: "This is one of the most significant moments in the history of the restoration of the Wilts & Berks Canal.

"There was a time when the charity was mainly concerned with conservation, but it was clear that people didn't just want to preserve what remained of the canal - they wanted to bring it back to life.

"So over the last few years we've been busy preparing plans and consulting with the local community.

"We've been talking to landowners, the Environment Agency, British Waterways and other stakeholders, listening to concerns and making modifications.

"We hope people will look at the plans and share our excitement at the benefits it will bring to Melksham.

"Instead of turning our backs on the river, we'll turn it into one of the town's most important assets."

The plans include an artist's impression of a narrow boat moored on the River Avon below the town bridge, as well as illustrations of locks and lift-bridges, and a habitat survey.

John added: "The project would provide a much-needed boost to local tourism and employment, as well as creating new wildlife habitats and safe routes for walking and cycling.

"We admit it's ambitious, but we won't be expecting local taxpayers to foot the bill. We'll be approaching national organisations such as the Heritage Lottery Fund and other bodies to provide the necessary grants.

"This is how the nearby Kennet & Avon was restored and reopened, and we see no reason why it shouldn't be the same for the Wilts & Berks through Melksham.

"The latest progress is a tribute to all of our volunteers and fundraisers who have worked so hard to bring us to this point - their dream could soon become a reality."

The plans can be viewed at then click on 'Melksham Link Planning Application'.

Walking the Wilts & Berks Canal

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On the back page are the details of a number of walks by the Itchen Navigation. However, if you're feeling a bit more adventuresome, there are also a number of leaflets available from the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust which detail 7 walks in a different areas along the Wilts & Berks and North Wilts Canals.

These places are Abingdon, Lacock, Melksham, Shrivenham, part of the North Wilts Canal near Swindon, Wantage and Wootton Bassett.

There are also extracts of Ordnance Survey 1:25 000 scale maps detailing the line of the canal. It should be pointed out that some parts of the canals are on private land with no public right of access.

These leaflets and maps can be found at :

BBC coverage of the Jubilee Pageant

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Your editor recently received the following email correspondence:

After reading the letter about the BBC's coverage of the pageant in last month's Newsletter, I was moved to write to Mr Heighton to convey my appreciation for the way he had described so clearly the disappointment of many of us waterway supporting viewers.

I thought you may be interested in the response I received from National Historic Ships UK.

Frank Stokes


Dear Mr Heighton,

Your letter to the paper has been mentioned in the July '12 edition of the newsletter of the Southampton Canal Society.

May we express our thanks to you for the way you put into words the anger we felt watching how the Jubilee Pageant was presented on BBCtv. What an insult to the crews who had put so much effort into creating a really spectacular occasion.

We had been watching in the hope of seeing our friends aboard NB Beatty cruising alongside NB President which, as you know, is a truly historic boat, lovingly restored and with a most interesting story to tell. We were particularly incensed because, just as President came into view, the cameras were switched to Battersea Park for some "entertainment" totally unrelated to the wonders taking place on the water.

In our view, the whole programme was an absolute disaster and not what we expect from the beeb.

It seems the notes you had prepared to support the broadcast would certainly have given the necessary background so sadly lacking in the presentation. If you are so minded, it would be appreciated by us if the notes could be published (say, on your website) so we could really find out what it was all about.

Yours sincerely,

Frank and Norma Stokes.


Frank received the following reply from National Historic Ships:

Dear all, please see response from Martyn Heighton, Director of NHS-UK, in response to your correspondence on the Jubilee Pageant:

Dear all

I appreciate your taking the time to write to me in support of my open letter to the Daily Telegraph and the BBC. I certainly seem to have struck a chord as I have received a large number of emails stating that the authors are (often passionately) of the same view. I am therefore sending this note to all of you. The Pageant was a unique opportunity to bring this country's maritime past to the fore in an informed and interesting way, and I am sure that both HM The Queen and Prince Philip (who is actively involved in so many maritime activities) viewed the Pageant in just such a light.

I have now received a reply from the BBC which I include below. Frankly it does not come up to the mark. The BBC cannot re-write the past, but it could and should be more open in demonstrating what it has learnt from this fiasco. I will share any reply I get to my next letter with you all.


FAO: Martyn Heighton
Director, National Historic Ships UK

Dear Mr Heighton

Thank you for taking to the trouble to the write to us about the BBC's coverage of the Diamond Jubilee Thames Pageant. My apologies for the delay in responding, but I wanted to make sure I sent you a personal response and there has been a lot going on as you can imagine.

We accept that there are lessons to be learnt from this broadcast. You can be assured that your detailed comments are being taken fully into account on this score. It is important to keep in mind that this was a completely unprecedented and unrehearsable event, and also one of the most technically complex OBs the BBC has ever mounted. A number of issues on the day conspired to make the broadcast much more difficult than was expected. This was not because the BBC believes that the factual content and accuracy isn't important - on the contrary - and I hope our efforts in working closely with your organisation beforehand bear this out.

I am once again very grateful to you for setting out your concerns and thoughts in such detail, and please be assured that these will be taken fully into account in order to help improve our output in the future.

With all good wishes

Yours sincerely

Ben Weston

Executive Producer, BBC Events and Music
Room 3114-3118, BBC Television Centre, Wood Lane, London, W12 7RJ
Tel: +44 (0)20 8576 9345
Mob: +44 (0)7973 219225


Kind regards

Emerald Laing

Coordinator, National Historic Ships UK
Park Row, Greenwich, London, SE10 9NF
Tel: (020) 8312 8558

Editor's notes: A comprehensive and searchable gallery of boats attending can be seen at

The official site has fuller details of boats that were due to attend listed under "Flotilla participants". Over 90 boats in the flotilla on the National Register of Historic Vessels are listed on

Part of the Avenue of Sail

Above: Part of the Avenue of Sail which did not feature on the BBC coverage.
Below: Some of the man-powered craft which did feature.

Some of the man-powered craft

Upgrade work completed on Loxwood Bridge

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Loxwood Bridge before

Loxwood Bridge before (above) and after (below)

Loxwood Bridge after

Scaffolding shielding the construction work on the Loxwood Bridge over the Wey & Arun Canal on the B2133 Loxwood High Street has now been removed to reveal the new, but more traditional-looking brick and rail parapets that replace the previous steel barriers.

Following considerable negotiation with local residents, represented by Loxwood Parish Council and The Loxwood Society, as well as local authority Chichester District Council and highways authority West Sussex County Council, the Wey & Arun Canal Trust (WACT) worked to replace the motorway-style barrier with a more sympathetic solution, in keeping with the location and planning guidance.

Work by Sussex-based Concept Building Services to replace the 1.8m high galvanised steel railing and mesh fence, which was installed when the bridge was completed in 2009, started in April and was completed ahead of schedule on 1 June.

"The steel barrier has been replaced by a 1m high cast in situ concrete wall, that has been faced with brickwork, and topped by a single rail to raise the height to 1.4m," says WACT chief engineer John Talbot. "The result is strong enough to provide containment and protection for users of the bridleway but looks more in keeping with the canal setting and allows pedestrians a clearer glimpse of the canal too."

Although the work has been completed ahead of time, the construction process was not straightforward. "Retrofitting the wall onto the bridge meant that holes for dowel bars had to be drilled into the existing steel reinforced concrete bridge deck," says John. "Concept planned to scan the deck to locate the steel reinforcement and drill the holes for the dowels around these. Unfortunately the scanner could only penetrate 50mm which wasn't enough to locate the reinforcement and this added five days to the time take to drill the dowel holes."

Len Milsom on behalf of Loxwood Society said "The Loxwood Society and the Canal Trust have been working hard over the last three and a half years to raise sufficient funds to replace the bridge parapets. We are delighted that now the appearance of the bridge is more in keeping with its local environment and other local river and canal structures. We would like to thank all those people who have supported us in this effort."

Restoring the Wey & Arun Canal - the first four decades

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Much has been written about the construction and operation of the Wey & Arun Canal but now a new book draws together the efforts over the last four decades to restore the canal to its former glory.

The new book

The new book

'The Wey-South Project' by John Wood MBE records the work started by the Wey & Arun Canal Society in 1970, which is continued today by the Wey & Arun Canal Trust (WACT), through to the opening of the new B2133 Loxwood Crossing in 2009.

John is well qualified to chart the history of the restoration work as he first became involved in 1971 and was awarded his MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours in June 2000 for his work on the canal. His wife, Joy, and their two sons regularly spent their Sundays in the 1970s "jungle busting" and he has also taken on the roles of honorary secretary, company secretary and, more recently, vice president of the Trust over the last 40 years.

"Nobody could be better qualified to tell the story of the canal's restoration," said fellow WACT volunteer Geoff Perks. "The book presents the history on a year by year basis and one can follow the progress made with each of the restoration projects. It is interesting to learn of the problems encountered in the early stages."

Another WACT volunteer Peter Foulger added: "It is to be applauded that John has committed his memories to paper so that we can appreciate how an idea by a small group in 1970 could grow to where we were in 2009 and still to this day be expanding into ever more ambitious projects."

Copies of the book are available from the Canal Centre at Loxwood for £17.50, or by mail order from the Trust office for £22 (cheques payable to W&A Enterprises Ltd, The Granary, Flitchfold Farm, Loxwood, Billingshurst, West Sussex, RH14 0RH).

Constable's The Lock sells for £22m

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The painting

A work by the English romantic painter John Constable has sold for £22,441,250, a world record price at auction for the artist.

The Lock, finished in 1824, is the fifth in a celebrated series of six large-scale paintings of the Stour Valley that Constable exhibited between 1819 and 1825. The series also includes The Hay Wain.

The painting, from the collection of Baroness Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza and remarkable for its excellent state of preservation, sold at Christie's in London.

The auction house said the series of paintings defined Constable's artistic maturity and "represent a distillation of his profound emotional and artistic response to the scenery of his native Suffolk".

Among the series are several of the artist's most renowned works, including The White Horse (1819; New York, The Frick Collection), and The Hay Wain (1822; London, National Gallery).

The Lock was bought at the 1824 Royal Academy exhibition by James Morrison, who was the son of an innkeeper and who rose to become one of the wealthiest British merchants of the 19th century and an outstanding collector of old and modern masters.

The Lock remained in the possession of his descendants until 1990.

The Constable's latest buyer remained anonymous.

On the night, sales totalled £85,057,100 for 54 lots sold. The selling price of The Lock included the buyer's premium. 4 July 2012

Itchen Navigation Walks

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The Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust have produced a circular walks pack called 'Walks along the Itchen Navigation', which includes 6 circular walks between 2 and 6 miles in length, plus a leaflet guiding you up the whole 10 mile route along the Itchen Navigation Heritage Trail. The leaflet pack is available from local outlets (pubs, visitors centres & Tourist Information Centres) or you can download individual leaflets from their website at:

Itchen Navigation Heritage Trail - Southampton to Winchester (10.5 miles). The Itchen Navigation is one of the best chalk rivers for wildlife in Europe. It is home to otter, water vole, salmon, rare dragonflies and lots of other plants and animals. A 'navigation' is a modified river. The Itchen Navigation as created in 1710 to transport barges of coal and timber from Southampton to Winchester. The old towpath is now a public footpath, allowing rare access to a beautiful river.

Mills and Meadows - Winchester (3 miles). Take a walk along two branches of the River Itchen alongside historic water meadows and the Iron Age hill fort of St. Catherine's Hill nature reserve.

Valley of Fields - Compton (6 miles). Explore the countryside around Compton, the 'Valley of Fields'. Discover views and ancient yews on this beautiful walk along the Itchen Navigation.

Kingfisher Trail - Twyford (6 miles). Take a walk across the rolling hills of the South Downs National Park and along the stunning Itchen river valley.

Otter Trail - Otterbourne (3.5 miles). Follow in the footsteps of otters along the Itchen Navigation. Discover an old churchyard and wonderful ancient woodland on the outskirts of Otterbourne.

Water Vole Way - Bishopstoke (3.5 miles). Look out for water voles swimming across the Itchen Navigation and damselflies hovering over the river margin as you walk the old towpath.

Bargeman's Walk - Mansbridge (Southampton) (2 miles). Follow the start of the bargeman's journey up the Itchen Navigation across old river crossings, past a historic mill and medieval church.

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

© Southampton Canal Society 1999 - 2012. 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 August 2012 - archived 7 September 2012.

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