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Issue 357 - December 2001

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Chairman's Column

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Welcome to our Visitors to the Inter-Society Quiz

On behalf of the Society I am delighted to welcome our visitors who will be taking part in the 2001 Inter-Society Quiz. This year's teams will include: Avon & Wilts Branch IWA; Salisbury Group; Solent & Arun Branch IWA; and, of course, Southampton Canal Society.

Whilst our Society will be hosting the event, last year's winners, the Salisbury Group, has organised the Quiz. The Quizmaster is Eric Lewis who has been responsible for thinking up the teasers for our teams. Eric's situation is slightly unusual in that he is a member of all four waterway organisations taking part, and was a key figure in the Salisbury Group's victory in 2000.

Problems with this Modern Technology

Elsewhere I have referred to my problems with using the Internet when sending material for the Newsletter via e-mail to Peter Oates, our Editor. Those problems were caused by me!

However, I have now got a major problem with my e-mail system (which I don't think is my fault???). This means that I can neither send nor receive e-mails at present. Further more, I am unable to access details of those I have already sent or received. With apologies those who have sent me messages but haven't yet had a reply. Now you know why!

Therefore, I would be grateful if members could hold back from sending me messages via that route for the time being. However, the 'phone still works (023 8026 2365) and I would be pleased to hear from you.

British Waterways Calendars

Many thanks to Terry Phippard for donating a number of 2002 British Waterways calendars for sale on the Sales Stand at the October meeting. The calendars were part of Terry's prize for having one of his photographs accepted for inclusion in next year's calendar (April, I believe). Well done Terry!

Raffle Prizes

Many thanks once again for the number of raffle prizes donated at the October and November meetings. Well done to all concerned.

The Brindley Connection

Gill has recently discovered that one of her long-term Teacher friends is a direct descendent of James Brindley. Fancy that!

Interval Refreshments

Members will be aware that Joyce and Eric have not been able to join us for some time and others have stepped into the breach to organise the interval refreshments at our meetings. We are very grateful for their assistance. From a recent chat with Joyce it appears that, due to family illness, it is unlikely that they can rejoin us for a while. Therefore, if we are to continue to provide refreshments I would suggest that a rota be drawn up from willing volunteers. If we are able to attract sufficient helpers the task will not have to fall on just one or two individuals. Therefore, if you able to assist in organising our refreshments perhaps you could contact me as soon as possible.

A Happy Christmas to all our Readers

As we come to the end of another year, and approach the first anniversary of our move to Chilworth Parish Hall, I would like to extend to all Society members Best Wishes for a Very Happy Christmas and New Year.

Paul Herbert


October Meeting

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At our October meeting we were pleased to welcome Roger Hanbury, Chief Executive of the Waterways Trust. It was good to see such a large audience for Roger's presentation, including some members we have not seen for a while (welcome back) and some new guests. We hope you will visit us again. We even had a special international guest, Brian and Annegret's daughter, Anne Marie, who had travelled all the way from Hong Kong just to visit us. Whilst she was over here she thought that she had better spend the rest of her three week stay visiting friends and relations as well! It was good to see you Anne Marie.

Roger gave us an in depth look at the Waterways Trust, why it was established and its aims, objectives and aspirations. I will not go in to too much of the details here because much of the work of the Waterways Trust was included in the write up on Roger's presentation to the Parliamentary Waterways Group which was published in our October Newsletter, but I will try and 'cherry-pick'.

One new Trust initiative is the formation of a group of Volunteer Lock Keepers, properly trained. This scheme is to be piloted on the Anderton Boat Lift.

Roger touched on some of the waterways restoration projects that the Trust was involved in, many to a significant extent, including in some cases the actual ownership of the waterway concerned. Their projects included:-

Their next generation projects (over the next five years) include:-

They had a large number of projects in development which include:-

There were also a small number of other restoration projects under consideration, though some of those may not be viable.

Roger explained that fund raising for the waterways was a major part of the Trust's work and gave details of some of their more major successes, including the Anderton Lift and the Ribble Link. He continued by describing their more general fundraising initiatives. Details of the Trust's expenditure and fundraising income to date were shown.

Of major importance were the Waterways Museums and Archives. Roger briefly touched on the locations of the various museums which contain 90% of the UK's waterway collection. The Trust had been successful in attracting significant funding for its Museums and Archives. The proposed Virtual Archive on the Internet would connect 15 Regional Centres and should be completed in 2004. Of the estimated cost of £650k, the Heritage Lottery Fund was contributing £400k.

Following Roger's presentation there was a fairly lengthy question and answer question with a number of the audience raising very pertinent issues of interest to all of us involved in the waterways. Of particular interest was the suggestion by Roger of possible new waterway connections in the future.

A very good meeting and I would like to thank Roger for making the long trip to talk to us about the current and future work of the Waterways Trust.

Paul Herbert

(With apologies for the delay in publishing this review of our October meeting. I finished writing it the evening before going away on holiday, sent our Editor an e-mail regarding this item and two additions to my October Chairman's Column, but then forget to send the attachments. For those used to e-mailing, they will understand what I mean - for others, just say I forget to send the intended enclosures.)


November Meeting

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Over 30 people enjoyed the annual Members' Slides/Prints Evening and Photographic Competition. As projectionist, I managed to display lots and lots of slides and prints from over 10 people (most the right way up!). As a reporter, I must to admit to total failure - I forgot to take any notes about what was shown and who took what. All I can say is that an extraordinary variety ranged from working narrow boats to a sternwheeler in Alaska, from the Kennet & Avon in the 70's to Chichester Harbour in a dinghy.

There were 10 entries in the competition which were judged by the audience. Three pictures tied for first place and these three had to be put to the vote again. The eventual winner was Terry Phippard with a print of Hawkesbury Junction. Congratulations.

Thanks to all those who took part for sorting out your pictures to make it such an entertaining evening. Pity I couldn't mention you all by name!

Peter Oates


Adventure Afloat 2001

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(continued from last month)

On Sunday morning everyone was up bright and early and after breakfast all seven boats left their moorings below Buckby Top Lock and, with the respective crews working the locks, proceeded down the flight to Whilton and then along the long pound to the moorings on the high embankment at Weedon Church. This is a regular stop on Adventure Afloat and the children (with their helpers) streamed down into the Churchyard to sketch the church and then into the Village Shop for sweets and to send their first postcards of the trip. After lunch it was on to Gayton Junction to fill water tanks before passing through Blisworth Tunnel (very wet and very very noisy - with so many children wanting to hear the echoes!!!) and to the overnight mooring at Stoke Bruerne. After dinner it was off to the local recreation ground for games.

The next day started with the descent of the Stoke Bruerne flight and then onto our lunch stop at Cosgrove, where the children walked through a dark, wet tunnel under the canal and down to the bank of the Great Ouse (under close supervision, of course) where they sketched the Wolverton Aqueduct. It was then off to the shop at the nearby Caravan Site for ice creams - it was a lovely hot day! Back on board for the journey to the next overnight stop at Fenny Stratford, which is also the turn-around spot.

The following morning the party split up for the first time. All the children and adults, with the exception of a few of the steerers, headed for the Bletchley Leisure Centre whilst the steerers that were left had plenty of work on their hands. Each boat had to be taken down through Fenny Stratford Lock, turned, watered, and the rubbish disposed of. It was then back up through the lock and moor. Then it was time to start the whole process again with the next boat. It takes some time to deal with seven boats in this way and the steerers then had a well-deserved rest. By the time the Leisure Centre party returned the boats were all ready for the next boat of their journey to Bridge 82 at Newlands Park, Milton Keynes. This is always one of the favourite stops of the trip - the children were all taken into Newlands Park for the evening and later the adults were able to relax and have a social evening. Even Bridge 82 was illuminated with coloured lights thanks to the ingenuity of Ray Brooks.

Have you ever tried shopping for 80 people in one trip? You should try it some time! Wednesday morning meant a long walk into the large Milton Keynes Shopping Complex where the children were allowed to go off in groups to visit the shops whilst the adults either made for one of the coffee shops or to buy provisions for the rest of the trip. Then it was time to return to the boats - but this time with a difference. There were seemingly hundreds of bags of food to be got back and this involved everyone taking a bag or two. You can imagine the stares of passers-by when they saw this long crocodile of children, with the adults on shepherding and shotgun duties heading away from the shops and across the parkland and off into the distance. Once the shopping had been delivered back to the boats it was off on the one hour cruise to Great Linford to sketch the church and other interesting village buildings before the next stage back to Cosgrove. Once more it was off to the local recreation ground and then to bed.

Thursday arrived and we knew we were in for a long day. It was back up the Stoke Bruerne flight and then a visit to the Museum and shop. Then, about three hours later, we were off again, through Blisworth Tunnel, another water stop at Gayton Junction and then the longish haul to Weedon. This was a major stop-over for everyone. The whole party went off to the recreation ground on the other side of the canal where the adult helpers and steerers were thanked for coming on the trip and each given a little gift. And then, the main part of the evening. During the cruise the children on each boat had to write a song about their experiences which they rehearsed throughout the week (including as we travelled through Blisworth Tunnel!). At Weedon, the boats' crews competed against each other, and 'the recreation ground was alive with the sound of music.........' Then it was time for the children to have their refreshments before heading back to the boats. Later it was the adults' turn with a barbeque on the towing path.

Friday is always a sad time on Adventure Afloat because everyone knows it is their last day. There were deadlines to meet again because the two boats from the London Narrowboat Project had to be back first, so the cavalcade left Weedon at 07.15 travelling to Buckby Locks, past Norton Junction where the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal leaves. Then it was the short run through to Braunston Tunnel (where we passed eight boats - must be a record - both for us and them) and then finally down the six locks of the Braunston flight (with lunch on the way) and to our destination at Union Canal Carriers where our coaches were waiting to take us back to Calmore. Over the years a number of 'short cuts' have been learned, one of which is to unload each boat of all its baggage and unused food whilst still in Braunston Bottom Lock. This makes it a lot easier to load the coaches.

Whilst all the children and most of the adults boarded the coaches, it just left the crews of the two Willow Wren boats to make the long journey back to Rugby Wharf before they, in turn, could climb into their car and head for home.

In conclusion it was a very good week for all those involved. The children look forward to their Adventure Afloat, as do many of the helpers, some of whom give up their holiday time to go year after year. Having said that, it is an exhausting week for the school staff and volunteers who go on the trip, and they all look forward to a bit of rest when they get home.

So here we are in December, with Adventure Afloat 2001 now just a memory. However, the planning for Adventure Afloat 2002 started some time ago. All the boats have already been booked, the school knows which children want to go, and work is now progressing on booking steerers and other volunteers.

Paul and Gill Herbert

Postscript: One important fact overlooked in writing these articles is the issue of cakes! It has long been a tradition on Adventure Afloat that each child and adult takes a large cake with them to be shared amongst the crew of their boat throughout the week. Therefore, try and imagine a crew of (say) eight children and three adults having to get through eleven large cakes in six days. No wonder that few of the adults dare get on the scales when they return home!


Our Belated Summer Cruise

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Because of Gill's double operations in July we were obviously unable to take our usual three week summer cruise on the canals this year. However, we had promised ourselves that as soon as Gill felt well enough we would try and get away for a few days. In the event we couldn't get away until the end of October, when we took advantage of the beautiful autumn weather to travel from our base at Napton Marina to the end of the Ashby Canal.

The weather was unbelievable for the time of year. The only rain we experienced was overnight and nearly every day was sunny and warmish (though it got pretty cold late afternoon and we were glad to get inside to the cosy warmth generated by our Torgem stove).

The trip was largely uneventful (with the two exceptions referred to below) and there were few boats on the move. As usual, the upper reaches of the Ashby were badly silted and this did cause one or two problems.

However, back to the two incidents of note.

Sunken Hopes?

On our outward journey up the North Oxford Canal, on the approach to Bridge 30 at Stretton Stop we couldn't help noticing that our route was almost blocked by a sunken full length working boat which was lying almost on its side. We recognised the boat as one used by travellers. There are quite a lot of these around the system these days who get hold of old boats, patch them up, and then live on them, quite usually in out of the way places. Anyway, back to the story - we just managed to creep past, scraping the offside of the boat in the overhanging trees and brambles on the opposite bank. When we passed Rose Narrowboats on the other side of the bridge we referred to the sunken boat and were informed that it had occurred the previous day and that its former occupants had just abandoned it where it was, leaving it to someone else to clear up their mess. There were no warning signs about the obstruction so it was left to us to warn the crews of the various boats that we subsequently passed.

However - they were all wrong!!!

On our return journey we approached Stretton Stop and upon enquiring of Rose Narrowboats staff whether the sunken boat was still obstructing the channel we were told "as far as we know". For those not familiar with that area, Rose Narrowboats' base is about 100 yards from the incident spot, and yet they were not seemingly aware of what we were about to discover.

As we passed under Bridge 30 we became immediately aware of much commotion on the towing path adjacent to the sunken craft. There was a Land Rover parked, a small group of people hard at work, and six pumps working flat out to lighten and raise the boat. These were not BW officials but the crew of the boat and their fellow travellers.

So, there is an obvious moral to this story - one shouldn't jump to conclusions. Obviously, this was the travellers' home and they were not going to lose it without, at least, a long and hard fight!

Sunk without trace?

Every now and again something happens, sometimes due to lack of sufficient care, that we regret. One such incident happened to us as we cruised through Shackerstone towards the end of the trip up the Ashby. At the time it was fairly windy, but nothing to cause us undue problems (we thought at the time). Just after passing the Shackerstone moorings and then through Town Bridge No. 53, there is a large winding hole - and it certainly lived up to its name. As we passed it the wind suddenly gusted with extreme force picking up the 'coolie-hat' off the stove chimney and dumping it over the side. Whilst both our chimneys are chained on this rain protector was only a push-fit. There was nothing Gill and I could do as we saw the 'hat' disappear into the depths of the canal for all time.

However..... I don't give up that easily. On our return trip, as we approached the same spot, I decided to go 'fishing' with our powerful magnet. Now, the chances of finding the exact spot where the incident had occurred, having the boat along the same line, and actually finding anything in two or three feet of heavily silted canal water, are about the same as winning a fortune on the National Lottery. However, nothing ventured.......... Normally, on such occasions, the usual practice is to stop the boat in roughly the right position and then to start dipping the magnet in and out. We had to do this once many years ago when our (then unchained) rear chimney was knocked into the River Soar by a low overhanging branch. That salvage proved to be very difficult, it being a flowing river, immediately down steam from a lock and with a rocky river bed. On that occasion we 'dipped' for nearly two hours but finally managed to first locate, and then gently recover, the lost chimney. This time I decided the chances were too slim so I threw caution to the wind and, with Gill carefully steering, stood in the bow-well and made a long cast with the magnet (securely tied to the boat, of course) back towards the stern of the boat. The boat was still slowly moving forward whilst I gently pulled the magnet through the bottom silt, hand over hand. Suddenly, I felt the magnet snatch at something and, as you will have already guessed by now, there low and behold, breaking the surface of the canal, was our 'coolie-hat', none the worse for wear. To say we were pleased would be the understatement of the decade. Now, if only we could have the same luck with the Lottery!!!

Paul Herbert


Library Books

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As stated in this Newsletter last month, a number of books have been donated to the Library in the last few months. Again, the Society wishes to say thank you very much to their donors. Some more of the books that have been given are:

Difficult to decide which to choose - go along and look for yourself in the library soon!


John Gagg

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It was with great personal sadness that I read of the recent death of John Gagg. John needed little introduction to those involved in the waterways. By profession he was a teacher, teacher trainer and educational advisor. In his education days he wrote over a hundred books but is more known to us because of his books and photographs about the waterways, which he cruised extensively on his various boats, which were always named Nike (nothing to do with the sportswear company). In addition to his books, he wrote a large number of articles. John had a very dry and often mischievous sense of humour and this was often demonstrated in his regular feature - 'Waterway Cuttings' - 'John Gagg takes a look at the papers' - in 'Waterways', the National Journal of the IWA.

John became quite famous for his single-handed forays around the system and, through his books and articles in the waterways press, passed on his valuable experience of such trips. This was something I found invaluable when I, myself, ventured into lone cruising.

The particular reason for my personal sadness? There is often a time in people's lives when something happens that changes their life for ever. In our case it was because it was John Gagg who first introduced Gill and I to the waterways.

For a time we lived in the East Midlands and occasionally visited 'honey-pot' locations on the canals in our area, such as Stoke Bruerne and Foxton Locks. However, we had no knowledge of or interest in the canals at that time.

In the early 1970's we moved to Camberley in Surrey. On a visit to the local Library I was waiting for Gill to finish her own selections and I happened to find myself in the Transport Section - I cannot remember now why I had wandered into that particular area. However, browsing as one does, I noticed an unusual title on one of the book spines - '5000 Miles 3000 Locks'. I was so intrigued as to what this might be about that I pulled it off the shelf and, for the very first time, found that there was a world out there that I knew nothing about. The book went home with me and I read it straight through - twice! And that was me, well and truly hooked. And the rest they say, is history!

Many years later I met John Gagg as our boats passed - he on his latest craft, 'Nike Four'. We had the usual disjointed conversation often experienced by passing Skippers, but I did manage to tell him that it was all his fault! Regrettably, I never met John again though we did see Nike Four moored at various locations around the system.

For many years I tried to get hold of my own copy of '5000 Miles 3000 Locks' but without success until Eric Lewis noticed a copy advertised in M&M Baldwin's sales list and managed to acquire it for me. It had always taken pride of place in my own waterways library.

The waterways will be a lonelier place without you John and we shall all miss you.

Paul Herbert


Society Web Site

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As an added feature to the Southampton Canal Society website, I thought it might be an idea to allow Society members to show off some of their adventures / exploits on the canals on the web.

To kick this "Members' Exploits" feature off in June, I converted a canal trip on the waterways into web page format. This was the log of a trip made on the BCN Challenge Cruise in 2000 and submitted to the organisers as part of the Challenge. How did we do? You have to wait until the last page to find out!

I am just about to include the log of this year's entry in the BCN Challenge with some 21 pages of photographs, maps and description of the 44 miles and 74 locks covered in just under 24 hours!

If any other member wants to publish some exploit, write about a journey or event or even just a few pictures, just contact the Editor and we can put something together.


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

© Southampton Canal Society 2001 - 2004. 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 10 February 2002. Updated 20 May 2003 - layout changes 10 January 2004.

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