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Issue 315 - November 1997

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HAVING A BREAK

 
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Ken and Margaret Froud, two of our members who live aboard their boat near Napton, have recently been on 'holiday' to get away from it all. I am grateful to Margaret for providing this account.

Our planned holiday with friends on Rajah Brooke was to cruise the southern GU and visit Aylesbury before drydocking our boat DUORF II on 12th October at Yardley Gobion on the way back.

However, two days out from Napton, Fred and Phylis had to return home as a family member was seriously ill. The prospect of working wide locks on our own was daunting as very few boats were on the move, and we missed the cheerful company of our friends.

Visiting Milton Keynes shopping centre was our first frustration. Our up-to-date Nicholsons guide tells you to moor at Bridge 82A. This we did BUT there is no access on to the dual carriageway from the canal and never has been!! A passing cyclist recommended cruising on to Pear Tree Bridge Marina and catch a bus.

After a pleasant tour of the shops and a chat with David Kesslar-Lyne in John Lewis' about SCS and the 30th Birthday Party we attended, it was time to catch a bus back to Pear Tree Bridge. Bus driver after bus driver declared they didn't go there. Then a lady front-seat passenger argued that that one did! We took her word for it and got on - she was right.

Later on that same day we came across contractors laying fibre optic cables. Their equipment was everywhere - on towpath and in barges and one of these sank in the bridgehole No 99 at Willowbridge Marina just as we approached it, leading to a hold-up of 24 hours! Two pumps were brought in, together with plastic sheeting and sandbags to empty the loaded barge of water. After several hours - and just as it was getting dark - the pumps failed and the sandbags tumbled into the barge. Everyone then went home to try again next day.

More sandbags and a much larger pump arrived in the morning, together with a much larger presence of BW personnel. After four hours more, the barge was raised sufficiently to pull it clear - when it promptly sunk again! What happened subsequently we do not know, as it was a relief to get under way again separated from the noise of equipment and traffic. Still we did get a few chores done while waiting.

The weather was perfect for nearly three weeks and we cruised as far as Watford. Rickmansworth had been our planned turnaround point, as we intended to surprise a boating friend of ours there. But on checking her address we discovered she lived in Berkhamsted, so the surprise was on us as well as we had passed through Berkhamsted two days previously! We much enjoyed our meeting.

The narrow locks of the Aylesbury Arm were quick and easy to work - it was a pleasant diversion from the main line of the GU.

Then came disaster - I fell over at Marsworth Locks closing a bottom gate and broke my left wrist very badly. Ken got the boat round to Pitstone Wharf where an ambulance soon arrived to take us to Stoke Mandeville Hospital. We were there all day, and I had to return the next day but one to have my arm replastered and X-rayed - not easy when the hospital is twelve miles away from the canal.

We had to keep on the move as our drydocking date was in four days time. Fortunately, a Wyvern hire boat brought us nine locks and a swing bridge to Leighton Buzzard; our son-in-law (who lives near Bedford) took us to hospital from there and we had a taxi back. Another Wyvern hire crew brought us through the next locks to Milton Keynes. It poured with rain all day and we passed 300 fishermen taking part in a match - not ideal boating conditions, but we did get to the dry dock at Yardley Gobion with two hours to spare.

Four days later and DUORF II is looking much smarter, all done single handed by Ken. I haven't been able to help him at all. This afternoon (16th October) the dock will be flooded - then there are 27 locks between us and Napton to negotiate.

Thank you very much for the story, Margaret. I trust that your wrist is feeling much better and I'm sure all our members will join me in hoping you get well soon.


Get Well Soon

 
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Apart from Margaret Froud's recent difficulty (see article elsewhere in this issue), a little bird tells me that Society member Joan Reed from Braunston has recently been in hospital with the prospect of more surgery looming ahead. Our sincerest best wishes to you, Joan, and let's trust that you have a speedy recovery.


Water Success

 
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BW themselves describe their management of its water resources this summer as "Magnificent". Despite the driest 2½ years since 1850, there were no canal closures for lack of water. Restrictions were relaxed on many canals and some summits were able to sustain unrestricted passage.


October Meeting

 
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In presenting his 'Bristol to Sharpness', Alan Padwick constantly emphasised the dangers involved when taking a narrow boat out onto tidal waters. Every detail of the journey must be well planned and all precautions taken to ensure a safe and enjoyable journey.

With excellent, clear diagrams Alan pointed out the route taken showing navigation markers, and this coupled with the strict timetable enforced by the strong tides of the Bristol Channel made a very exciting talk.

After the tea break, we went by video through the whole experience again. Seeing how small the two narrow boats looked at the bottom of a towering quay at low tide and plodding through the racing currents, viewers could well see the reasons for planning and safety that Alan had put over so well during the evening.


   
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Chichester Canal Society
'Santa Special' Boat Trips
Christmas 1997

Period of Operation: 29th November to 24th December

Departure Times (Canal Basin): 0915, 1030, 1200, 1330 & 1500

Cost: £4.00 per passenger, adult or child. (NB No concessions)

Rewards: Every child will receive a present from Santa
Every adult will receive festive refreshment

Booking: Advance booking essential
Contact Vic Nicholls on 01243 605631

NB Book early to avoid disappointment


Sapperton Tunnel

 
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Sketch by Brian Evans

Subscriptions

 
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This is just a further reminder to members that subscriptions to the Society for the year 1997-8 became due back at the AGM in July. Please also note that the rates were increased at that meeting to: Single £6.00 and £9.00 for the Family rate. By any reckoning still a bargain for 12 meetings, newsletters etc!


Surrey & Hampshire Canal Society

 
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SHCS holds a series of illustrated talks each winter. The venue is the Westgate Centre, Woking, alongside the Bas.ingstoke Canal, at Chobham Road Bridge. Meetings start at 8pm. Admission free. Tea, coffee and biscuits provided.

11 November (Tue) - "The River Lee" by Richard Thomas. (NB Richard visited SCS with this talk some months ago. This is another opportunity to see the talk, before Richard's visit to SCS next May with a second talk on the River.)

10 December (Tue) - An informal Social Evening. If you have any slides, please bring them with you. We may even have some more of those hot mince pies which disappeared so quickly last time!

13 January (Tue) - "A Visit to China" by Robin Higgs. Robin was Chairman of SHCS for many years and campaigns extensively on behalf of our inland waterways. He is also President of the Mid-Hants Railway (the Watercress Line), and his interest in railways worldwide has resulted in a number of trips to see railways in foreign lands.

10 February (Tue) - "Direct Television from Alexandra Palace" by Arthur Dungate. Arthur produces Audio Visual displays for SHCS. He used to work for the BBC Television Service in the 1950s. This talk recounts some of his experiences of Television in those pioneering days.

10 March (Tue) - Panama (provisional) by John Humphries. John in association with Hugh McKnight has in previous years presented 16mm films of his voyages along the canals of the continent. Although circumstances have prevented him from visiting SHCS recently, hopefully in March he will be able to present a film trip, possibly on Panama.

8 April (Tue) - "The Foxton Inclined Plane" by Mike Beech (Curator of the museum of the Foxton Inclined Plane Trust). This talk will detail the Trust's plans to restore and rebuild this engineering marvel to full operation.


IWA Guildford & Reading Branch Events

 
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The branch are holding the following meetings at the Basingstoke Canal Centre, Mytchett Place Road, Mytchett, Surrey (off A321 Frimley - Guildford road). Talks are illustrated by colour slide or video. Doors open 7.30pm, start 8.00pm.

24 November (Mon) - "Manufacture and Transport of Gunpowder in Surrey" by Prof A Crocker.

26 January 1998 (Mon) - "River Thames, Limehouse to Lechlade" by Ian Fletcher.

23 February 1998 (Mon) - "Basingstoke Canal, History and Restoration" by Tony Harmsworth.

23 March 1998 (Mon) - Branch AGM, followed by "Limehouse to the Medway by Narrow boat" by Norman Woolley.

20 April 1998 (Mon) - "Kennet and Avon Heritage Lottery Fund" by John Laverick (BW Project Manager).

Boat Rally: July 1998 - Godalming Working Boat Rally. Largest ever (?) gathering of working boats at the southernmost point of Britain's connected inland waterway system. Full weekend event, precise date still to be confirmed. All information from Mike Adams 01483 773512.


IWA Salisbury Group Events

 
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20 November (Thu) - Presentation on the Dorset & Somerset Canal by Derrick Hunt at Salisbury Rugby Clubrooms, Castle Road, Salisbury at 7.30pm. Details from Tony Fry on 01722 710192.


Proposed Birmingham Northern Relief Road (BNRR)

 
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Effect on Restoration of Lichfield & Hatherton Canals

Last week, our Chairman received a letter from the Chairman of the Lichfield & Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust asking for our support on the problems raised by the BNRR. The following is the text of this open letter addressed to all members of the Southampton Canal Society

Dear Brian

Can you imagine what it would cost to provide TWO canal crossings AFTER the BNRR has been built when they could be done as part of the original construction? The likely answer is "so much that the work would be very seriously delayed"!

It is now widely known and accepted that restoration of the Wyrley & Essington Canal, Ogley Section (named the Lichfield Canal) and the Hatherton Branch of the Staffs & Worcester Canal (named The Hatherton Canal) is well in progress with considerable finance and effort already expended. Representations to this effect were made at the second Public Enquiry into the proposed new toll motorway and were totally upheld by the Inspector who recommended the requirements for restoring both Canals be included during the construction of the Motorway at the private developer's expense.

In July, a decision letter issued on behalf of Rt Hon John Prescott, MP, Secretary of State for Transport, Environment and the Regions tersely stated without reason there should be no provision for the "Hatherton Canal", and minimal foundations only during road-building to enable a "Lichfield Canal" aqueduct to be constructed by the Trust later (albeit without any claim for any loss of tolls).

These points are put more fully in the enclosed "BNRR letter" with extracts from the report and the reply. We are seeking every possible support from all parts of the country as the decision seriously affects the future prospects of the whole of the forty miles of Birmingham Canal Navigations which are in much need of revitalisation. Restoration of the two Canals would provide an opportunity for boats - and other canal users - to pass in and out of the BCN in the north east and north west, creating several new cruising rings in the Midlands.

Can I ask you please to bring this letter and enclosure to the attention of your members and encourage them to write to their Member of Parliament to take up with the Secretary of State the need to reconsider the decision in favour of providing for the Canals during the construction of the Motorway. NB The volume of letters was a major influence in changing the recent "Latton" decision.

Since I wrote last March, several Clubs have taken Group Membership of the Trust which is very encouraging support. Others are again invited to do so by asking me for the necessary papers. We are doing our best towards achieving full restoration but on this vital issue of the BNRR, WE NEED EVERYONE'S HELP NOW. Thank you in anticipation of your support.

Yours sincerely

J Eric Wood
Chairman

A copy of the enclosed "BNRR letter" is attached to this newsletter. Your editor feels that this matter is important enough to be advertised as fully as possible to our members. Please take the time to read the letter. I and your chairman ask you all to seriously consider writing to your MP on this matter. Don't leave it to someone else to object on your behalf because they could be leaving it to you!

I am sure that you have enough material in the attached letter to compose an objection, but I am sure that even the briefest letter stating that the Secretary of State's decision needs to be reviewed is better than nothing. Such a letter does not need to be lengthy, a simple statement of one or two reasons for objection is sufficient. It is a fact that the number of letters about the Latton crossing was a major factor in the change of fortunes on the Thames and Severn Canal. A few minutes of your time and your letter CAN make a difference!


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