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Issue 440 - September 2009

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Chairman's Column

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September Meeting

We are pleased to welcome Peter Jordan to this month's meeting to talk to us about the history of the Kennet & Avon Canal and its restoration.

Day-Star Theatre Visit - Friday 25 September

Have you got your tickets for Day-Star Theatre's production of "An Unpleasant Business" which will be staged at Chilworth Parish Hall on Friday 25 September? Let us try and give Pete and Jane Marshall a full house again. Full details of this production are included elsewhere in this Newsletter. You can get your tickets (£8) from our Secretary, Angela Rose, or Treasurer, Anne Coleman.

And please don't forget, despite the date, this production is, in effect, our October meeting. The next meeting will be on 5 November.

Day-Star Theatre - 'After Show Supper'

Just a reminder that there will be the usual American Supper following Day-Star Theatre's performance. That supper will be along the same lines as previously. Wine and soft drinks will be provided but each member or guest should bring along food for all to share.

Membership Subscriptions

Membership subscriptions for the current year were due as from 1 April. However, due to an oversight members had not been reminded of this fact. Can you now please pay your subs (£15 for individuals and £22 for couples/family membership) to Anne Coleman as soon as possible. Many thanks.

2009 Annual General Meeting

A report on our 42nd Annual General Meeting held on 30 July has been included in this Newsletter.

Society Skittles Evening

The Society Skittles Evening which was to have been held on 9 October has been re-scheduled. Details of the new date and venue will be published in a future Newsletter.

Society New Year Lunch

Yes, I know it is only September but early planning is essential for such events. Following the success of the lunch held in January this year, and at the request of members, a similar event will be held on 16 January 2010. Further details elsewhere in this Newsletter.

British Waterways Annual Meeting

The Society has received the usual invitation to attend British Waterways Annual Meeting which this year will be held in Birmingham on 6 October. This year's meeting will focus on BW's proposed new strategy and move to the third sector. Instead of the usual 'review of the year' presentations, key speakers will explore the options available to BW in the third sector to stimulate discussion and questions.

Paul Herbert

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Day-Star banner

An Unpleasant Business

The village of Oakley Magna no longer has a shop, a post office, a school, a pub or a bus service. It is, on the whole, apart from the annoying teenagers in the defunct bus shelter, a quiet village.

So when Septuagenarian Daisy Thomas is found hanging upside down in a disused abattoir it is easy to imagine how the locals feel. Except that no one much liked the old lady. In fact most villagers openly disliked her. She'd been a bit of a nuisance over the years with her objections to fox hunting and G.M. crops and barn conversions and vehicles speeding through the village. And it's not as if she was a real local. She'd only been in the village forty years and before that no one knows anything about her.

Detective Inspector Gibson and Detective Constable Saunders arrive from nearby Market Kingsley to unravel the truth behind this unpleasant business. They lead themselves up and down several garden paths and even back to the most wanted man in England in 1966. And they bring with them their own personal baggage.

Another weird and wonderful, witty and whacky take on rural life with the distinct possibility of an unexpected twist or two.

Day-Star will be appearing on FRIDAY 25th September at 7.45pm. Tickets price £8.00 for the show and the following American Supper are now available from the Secretary, Angela Rose or the Treasurer, Anne Coleman (contact details here).

August Meeting

Society's 42nd Annual General Meeting

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Twenty members attended the Society's 42nd Annual General Meeting held at Chilworth Parish Hall on 30 July 2009 (though there were seventeen recorded apologies for absence), which was chaired by our Chairman, Paul Herbert, whilst our President, Brian Evans, officiated for the election of officers and committee. The meeting followed the usual procedure and, with the exception of the accounts, all documentation had been published in the August Newsletter, which had been provided in advance to members.

It was necessary to temporarily suspend the requirement of the Society's Constitution (see note below) that only fully paid up members are eligible to vote at Society meetings. Members were reminded that at last year's AGM it was agreed that the membership year be brought in line with the Society's financial year, viz. 1 April to 31 March. Due to an unfortunate oversight membership subscriptions had not been collected since April (though some members had paid their subscriptions at the start of the meeting). It was therefore necessary to ask members to agree to a temporary suspension of that element of the Constitution in order to permit all members, whether paid up or not, to vote at the AGM. The meeting agreed to that motion.

There were two matters arising from the minutes of the 2008 AGM. Firstly, it had been agreed that the Committee would consider alternatives for improving sound quality at our monthly meetings. David Townley-Jones gave members a progress report on that matter. Secondly, it had been agreed that members would be invited to raise any canal related matters at our meetings. That proposal had been adhered to, whenever possible.

The Chairman and Treasurer & Membership Secretary presented their reports, and the latter tabled the accounts (headed 'Profit & Loss Comparison - 01/04/07 through 31/03/09'), both highlighting issues of particular note. In the absence of the Secretary, the Chairman presented that report on her behalf.

The Society had enjoyed another good year with a very successful programme of speakers, other monthly activities, some enjoyable outings and our first New Year's Lunch. We have an interesting and varied programme of speakers and other activities arranged for the ensuing year, including the return of 'Day-Star Theatre. Our financial base remains sound and we have been able to make donations to other waterways organisations. We had sadly lost two of our long standing members during the year, whilst five others had retired from the Society. While we had welcomed some new members our priority remained the same as always, to increase membership. Both in his report and at the AGM the Chairman thanked all those members who contributed to the Society's success, particularly the Committee and the other regular volunteers.

Regarding membership subscriptions, because of the Society's healthy financial position, for the second year running the Committee had recommended that there be no increase for 2009/2010.

There then followed the election of Officers and other Committee members. There had been no other nominations and, therefore, all the current Officers were re-elected. However the Chairman advised the meeting that this would be his last year in office and he would be standing down as Chairman and from the Committee at the 2010 AGM, in order for him and Gill to cruise more and spend time on their other interests..

At the 2008 AGM Maureen Greenham had been elected Assistant Treasurer & Membership Secretary but there was no further need for that post which she had now relinquished. Maureen and David Townley-Jones were re-elected to the Committee. Because he had not been able to attend many meetings since moving to the Midlands, Peter Oates had decided to retire from the Committee but would be prepared to be co-opted in connection with any future project etc and was willing to continue as Editor of our Newsletter and the Society's Webmaster. Laura Sturrock was re-appointed as the Society's Auditor/Examiner.

Alan Howarth thanked the Chairman and Committee for the work they carried out for the Society.

Following the AGM members enjoyed a DVD "Take to the Boats" about canal hire and trip boats in the early 1960s (sorry about the technical problems with that DVD) followed by the first episode of "The River" - the 1988 BBC series (filmed on the Kennet & Avon Canal) about a canal lock-keeper, starring David Essex. (Many thanks to Peter, Paul and Gill for providing the necessary IT equipment to enable the DVDs to be shown and to Alan for the loan of "The River").

Paul Herbert

Note 1: It is apparent that the majority of Society members have never seen a copy of the Society's Constitution and are probably not even aware that such a document exists. This will be rectified as soon as possible when it will be reproduced in a future issue of the Newsletter.

Note 2: Whilst all members attending the AGM were provided with a copy of the accounts, they will be reproduced in the next issue of the Newsletter for the information of other members.

Society Lunch

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The Society's post Christmas/New Year Lunch will take place on Saturday 16 January 2010 at the Blue Hayes Restaurant, Ampfield, Romsey.

At present we do not have details of the menu or the cost but this will be available in October. The menu will be similar to last year's in that there will be choices of vegetarian, fish and meat dishes for the main course and choices for the starter and dessert. I understand that the cost will be slightly higher than last year but not excessively so.

Please indicate your interest in attending the lunch by adding your name to the list at the September meeting or by telephoning me on 02380 406951 or e-mailing

Maureen Greenham

'Canal can still run through our town'

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THE dream of a canal running through Swindon town centre has not been dimmed by the recession. The £75m scheme to run a waterway through Swindon to link up with the national canal network is included in Swindon Council's draft core strategy - a vision for the town in 2026.

Council leader Rod Bluh said work was still underway to secure funding for the project, but said his administration was still committed to the scheme in principle. He said: "A canal has huge potential if people could get their minds around it but it is going to cost £75m and the challenge now is to find a way of funding that."

The project attracted controversy when details first became public last year, but according to the chairman of the Swindon branch of the Wilts and Berks Canal Trust the mood of the public has changed.

Keith Dowdy said: "People coming into our shop in Theatre Square have been quite positive. When they come to us they get the truth and then they understand a lot more about it. A lot of the negative comments we got were based on flawed logic.

"People seemed to be under the impression that this would just be a cul-de-sac of water in the town centre, whereas the canal would link up with the national network."

Mr Dowdy said a canal would not only be a draw to boaters. "This is also about cyclists, walkers, families. It would bring wildlife back to the area and it would be a great boom to the economy. An independent report estimated a canal could bring in £8m annually to the local economy."

The council's proposed route along Westcott Place, Faringdon Road and Fleet Street was given the thumbs up by a Government planning inspector in January.

According to Coun Phil Young, the cabinet member in charge of the project, officers are now investigating how funding could be secured.

"This is the big challenge because obviously there is less funding around at the moment," he said. "The canal is an aspiration at the moment and now we have to look at the issue of deliverability. "I would hope that within the next few months we will be able to report on that."

More information about the core strategy can be found at a public exhibition in North Swindon Library from noon to 6pm today.

James Wallin, Swindon Advertiser, 27 August 2009

Budget-cut police forced to beg for a boat

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THE lack of police resources on the Thames was highlighted last week when officers had to borrow a boat so they could give chase to a gang of thieves.

PC Jim Halstead's post on the river was abolished last month because of budget cuts and the river is being policed by land units.

And last week fears expressed by riverside homeowners and businesses that the absence of a dedicated officer on the Thames would give crooks an easier ride were realised.

A £2,000, 12ft-long Polar Kraft dinghy-style vessel belonging to Frazer Mitchell, 49, of Esher Road, East Molesey was stolen. Mr Mitchell circulated Thames lock-keepers with a picture of his boat, the Jolly Ollie, and his quick-thinking paid off on Wednesday last week when Andy Croxford at Sunbury Lock spotted the vessel approaching his lock.

He let it through and alerted Mr Mitchell who dashed over and identified the boat which was, by then heading towards Desborough Island, Shepperton.

The owner borrowed a long boat from The Swan pub in Walton and tracked the gang up river, but police were left high and dry until they begged a boat from the Environment Agency office opposite the island.

Only then were they able to intercept the gang and arrest them.

Jenny Beagle, owner of Bridge Marine boatyard in Shepperton, says the incident proves policing of the river is in dire need of reinforcement.

Jenny who drew up a petition asking Surrey Police to re-instate PC Halstead's post, said: "Thieves know there is not a police presence on the river and are taking advantage. Three weeks ago we helped to recover a stolen boat because there was no response from police.

"I'm selling more chains than ever because the thefts are going up and up and people need them to feel secure. Residents are fuming about this, especially after our request to get PC Halstead reinstated was fobbed off."

As a result of the river chase a 21-year-old man from Carshalton, a man, 30, from Croydon, a 24-year old man from Mitcham and an 18-year-old man from Wallington were arrested on suspicion of theft and taken to Staines Police Station.

All four were released on police bail until September 25.

Adam Courtney, Surrey Herald, 5 August 2009

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