Martin Leech

Sep 172018

On the first Sunday in September we had the first ever Odiham Raft Race. Seven teams competed over a course that started at the North Warnborough lift bridge and ended some 2km East at Colt Hill. The fastest time of just over half an hour was set by the BCA team (right, and below right), thanks to the muscle power of four rangers and a cunning raft design that featured a wooden framework wrapped in layers of, yes, clingfilm. It looked flimsy but “Raft for Life” was very stable and inexplicably held together; well done Mark Foster, designer, builder and paddler.

Second fastest time, 47 minutes, was logged by “In Deep Ship”, just beating “BAD Idea”, the Basingstoke & Deane Canoe Club entry; the club also did a great job of providing canoe escorts for all the rafts. Fourth place went to the Galleon Marine entry “Blues & Twos” after surviving a capsize before they had even started. Just behind them came another two-man crew aboard the “John Sinkerton”, finishing well despite its name and a very low freeboard. Last in were the “West Street Wafters” and “Crafty Bu**ers”, who might have gone faster if their beer supply hadn’t run out.

Finally, there was a short race for children’s teams, with BAD Idea doing well again, hotly pursued by the West Street Wafters.

A trophy for the winners and medals all round were presented by Air Chief Marshal Sir Joe French, one-time Commander-in-Chief of RAF Strike Command (right, with the winning team). A great crowd turned out to watch the fun (below) and there seems to be plenty of support for making this an annual event.

Thanks are particularly due to Odiham Parish Councillor David Stewart, whose idea it was, Philip Riley, Chairman of the Basingstoke Canal Society, and Fiona Shipp, the Canal Manager, for allowing the lunacy to take place!  A special thanks should go to organisers and sponsors Arthur and Karen McCaffery of Galleon Marine for all their hard work preparing for and promoting the event. Arthur declared the day “a fabulous success”.

Thanks to everyone who took part – more than £500 was raised for the Canal Society to benefit the canal. For lots more photos and race report , see the Galleon Marine Raft Race website, and the newpaper report here.

Sep 172018

Those following the Society’s Facebook page may know that the results of the photography competition have been announced, and the resulting calendar for 2019 has been published and is now for sale.

There were a large number of entries (over 200) and the quality of photos submitted was very high. See for yourself the winning images that made it into the calendar.

To obtain your own copy, click this link and follow the instructions.  These will of course make ideal Christmas presents!


Sep 012018

To celebrate our very proud achievement of a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, around 150 Society volunteers, both past and present, recently gathered at the Basingstoke Canal Centre for a celebratory barbecue come hog-roast. It was a joint event with, and hosted by the Canal Authority, and we thank them for their involvement with setting up and providing some of the refreshments.

It was an opportunity for a lot of people who were involved with the restoration of the Canal to meet once again.

We put up several gazebos just in case it rained, but thankfully it stayed fine. Clearly if we hadn’t bothered with the cover then of course it would have bucketed.

HRH The Duke of Kent aboard JP I at the Canal re-opening in 1991, with then chairman Robin Higgs OBE.

As Chairman Philip Riley explained, it was initially thought that the QAVS award (which consists of a glass trophy and certificate signed by Her Majesty) was going to be presented at the event by perhaps the Lord-Lieutenant of Surrey. However we subsequently heard that a senior royal had taken an interest in making the presentation, and we have been notified that HRH The Duke of Kent will be doing this on November 13th. Further details about the arrangements for this event will be announced. It is of course fitting that The Duke should be attending the Canal again since he was present at the original re-opening in 1991 (right).

All in all, the celebration event seemed to go well – and all the pork was eaten!

If you would like volunteer on the Basingstoke Canal, read about the various ways you can become involved.

Jun 072018

The Basingstoke Canal Society is very proud to announce that it was selected for The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service recently.

This unique UK national honour, equivalent to an MBE, was created by Her Majesty to mark the Golden Jubilee in 2002 and to recognise the outstanding contributions made to local communities by groups of volunteers.

Society Chairman Philip Riley said: “We are absolutely delighted with the award. It acknowledges over half a century of effort by very many volunteers dedicated to the restoration and preservation of the beautiful Basingstoke Canal that runs for over 30 miles through Surrey and Hampshire”.

The Society will be presented with a glass trophy and certificate signed by Her Majesty in due course.

The Society was founded in 1966 following the publication in the local press of an open letter suggesting that something should be done about the then derelict canal. About 12 people responded and a campaign began to get the canal taken into public ownership. The Surrey and Hampshire County Councils were persuaded to go for full restoration as a navigable waterway by the promise of voluntary labour. Restoration of locks, bridges, weirs, embankments and cuttings, and dredging using a 50 year old steam powered dredger, began in the early 1970s and continued until the canal was officially re-opened by HRH the Duke of Kent in May 1991.

Vice-chairman Martin Leech and chairman Philip Riley were invited to represent the Society at a Buckingham Palace garden party recently, in recognition of the Society having received the award.

Once the canal was again open for visiting boats, the Society’s volunteers have continued to work to enhance it. Amongst the jobs done was the installation of a back-pumping scheme at St John’s in Woking to improve the water supply, resurfacing of the towpath between Crookham and Winchfield and between Fleet and Rushmoor,  installation of moorings and lock landings and annual clearance of miles of bank growth. A very successful trip boat operation began in 1978 and continues to this day with the John Pinkerton II at Odiham and Kitty in Woking; they have raised over £800,000 for the canal.

In 2016, the Society celebrated its 50th anniversary, and 25 years since the canal re-opening, with the hugely successful  Woking Canal Festival, where we were joined by many visiting boats from the Historic Narrow Boat Club.

Work on the canal is never finished. Director Ken Sankey said: “We must continue to help maintain the canal and, most importantly, tell people about this wonderful asset that we have. Accordingly we need more volunteers to give of their time to communicate with the press, help promote the canal in their local areas and to organise events. This can be as much or little time as people can spare, and it is rewarding and fun”.  The other roles that the Society is looking to fill include Press Officer, Talks Organiser, Exhibitions Manager and Trip Boat Maintenance Engineer. Anyone interested please contact


Mar 082018

The Society representatives, from left: Ken Sankey, Kevin Redway, Cheryl Richards, Martin Leech, Philip Riley, Jenny Pateman, Roger Cansdale

Representatives of The Basingstoke Canal Society recently attended a reception hosted by HM Lord-Lieutenant of Surrey, Michael More-Molyneux at Loseley Park, near Guildford. We were one of a number of invited voluntary organisations from the Surrey area, all of which have been nominated this year for the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. Other groups present included The Surrey Wildlife Trust, The Swan Sanctuary, the British Heart Foundation (Guildford and Godalming branch), Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre, and, well known to many of us, Surrey Care Trust, which operates the Swingbridge Community Boats.

This national award, equivalent to an MBE for voluntary organisations, was created in 2002 to celebrate The Queen’s Golden Jubilee, and recognises outstanding work done in the community.

The Society team with Michael More-Molyneux (Lord-Lieutenant) first left, Bill Biddell DL (Vice Lord-Lieutenant) fourth from left, and Robert Napier CBE DL (High Sheriff), right.

Each team was invited to put on a small exhibition of their work (see above and left), which provided a focus for discussion with the hosts, other QAVS representatives and several Surrey mayors.

There are around 400 QAVS nominations this year nationwide, and the announcement of the successful candidates will be made in early June.

Feb 182018

The John Pinkerton II passing under the Barley Mow bridge at Winchfield.

This season’s schedules of cruises aboard the Society’s two trip boats, the John Pinkerton II in Hampshire, and Kitty in Woking  have now been announced.

John Pinkerton II

Details about the JP II can be found on the Public and Theme Trips and Charter Cruises web pages, and there is a printed brochure available. The popular theme trips during 2017 are to be repeated this year, with a few new additions, including a Quiz and Curry night, Sea Shanties and Ale, and Wines and Food of France cruises.

Public and Special trips can be booked on-line using our secure booking system. Trips can be selected and paid for with a just few clicks of a mouse. Just click on the button below (which can be seen elsewhere on the website).


In addition, you can now buy Public and Theme Cruise Vouchers as gifts to others for them to use on the booking site above towards trips of their choosing. Ideal for Christmas, birthdays, and other special occasions. Find the voucher link at the bottom of the Public and Theme trips web page.

Please Note: Charter trips will continue to be booked directly with our Booking Team, on 01256-765889 (10am-8pm). They will also help with public and theme trips booking, and with the purchase and redemption of vouchers by those without access to on-line facilities.

Kitty moored at Woking Town Wharf, from where trips will depart.


The Society’s second trip boat Kitty will be providing trips in Woking from 31 March until the end of September.

Operating under the John Pinkerton Canal Cruises banner, the boat accommodates up to 12 people, including up to 2 wheelchair users.

Following a successful first year of operation last year, it has been decided that there will be more opportunities to book trips at weekends in high season.

For more details about the boat itself, see the About Our Boats page. There is a printed leaflet available. For more information on when trips will take place and how to book, see the Kitty website. Most trips can be booked online, via our secure booking system.

Gift vouchers are also available for trips on Kitty, a link to which can be found at the bottom of the Kitty web page.


Feb 172018

NOTICE is hereby given that the 40th Annual General Meeting of the Surrey & Hampshire Canal Society Ltd., (aka The Basingstoke Canal Society) will be held on Saturday 19th May 2018 in the Deepcut Village Centre, Swordsman Road, Deepcut GU16 6TB, commencing at 2pm.

The formal Agenda for the meeting is as follows:-

  • To hear apologies for absence.
  • To confirm the minutes of the Thirty Ninth AGM held on 20th May 2017.
  • To approve the Annual Accounts for the year ending 31st December 2017.
  • To appoint the Independent Accountants.
  • To elect or confirm the appointment of the members of the Board of Directors (Executive Committee).
  • To transact any other business relative to the Annual General Meeting of the Society.

By order of the Board of Directors,

Terry Inskip, Honorary Secretary, February 2018.

Following the formal business of the AGM there will be reports from the Chairmen of the Canal Society and Boat Company, the presentation of the Robin Higgs Award and a talk by Richard Davenport of the Maidenhead Waterways Restoration Group.

AGM Notes:

  • The Society’s formal and correspondence address is: Island House, Moor Road, Chesham, HP5 1WA
  • Every member of the Society who is entitled to vote at a General Meeting is entitled to appoint a proxy, who need not be a member, to attend and vote in his/her stead. Forms of Proxy can be obtained from the Honorary Secretary.
  • Only paid-up members are entitled to attend and vote at the meeting.
  • Copies of the Accounts can be obtained from the Honorary Secretary prior to the AGM by email request, or upon receipt of an SAE. In accordance with normal practice the Accounts, when approved, will be published in summary in the Basingstoke Canal News.
  • Nomination forms for the election of the Board of Directors can be obtained from the Honorary Secretary.
Dec 152017

It’s that time of year again. Christmas is closer than you realise, and you still have lots of shopping to do.  If you cannot think what to give a friend, relative or work colleague for Christmas then consider this: why not give them a voucher towards a boat trip on the Basingstoke Canal next year?

The Basingstoke Canal Society runs two trip boats; the 50-seater John Pinkerton II  (right, above) in Hampshire and the 12-seater Kitty in Woking (right, below). For more details about our boats and trips, see the John Pinkerton Canal Cruises web page. Note that at the time of writing, details of next year’s trips are still being finalised, but you can still buy the vouchers.

Very simply, all the recipient has to do is to click on the Book Your Trip link at some time next year, select the trip of their choice, follow the instructions on the voucher to book, and just insert the voucher number! The cost of the trip will be reduced by up to the value of the voucher.

Follow these links to buy your voucher:

Voucher for a trip on the John Pinkerton II in Hampshire during 2018 (up to the value of £100)

Voucher for a trip on Kitty in Woking during 2018 (up to the value of £60)

These pages give more details on how to purchase vouchers, and terms and conditions.

Upon purchase, you will receive both an email containing details of the voucher (which you can forward to the recipient), and a voucher PDF file which you can print and include in a Christmas card.  So, Christmas present problem solved….

Note: Vouchers for the two boats are not interchangeable – they must be used on the boat for which they were purchased.



Oct 132017

Those curious in how the Basingstoke Canal could have played a part in halting Hitler’s forces in 1940 had an invasion taken place, will find this republished booklet by Tim Denton of interest.

This booklet has sold steadily to a wide audience since 2009, when it first appeared. This new-look version has been updated to include additional information, plans and images, many of which have not been available before.

To order your copy, go to the Society publications page, or purchase it from the Basingstoke Canal Centre.

Other Basingstoke Canal Society publications that have been published recently include an updated Rambles booklet, a 50th Anniversary history of the Canal, and an updated Guide to the Canal. Details about all of these can be found on the Society publications page.

May 192017

Kitty moored at Woking Town Wharf, from where trips will depart

Following its introduction to the Canal at the Woking Canal Festival last year, the Society’s second trip boat Kitty is gearing up to provide trips in Woking from the end of May.

Kitty was acquired by the Society last year with the intent of raising awareness of and interest in the Canal at its eastern end. Operating under the John Pinkerton Canal Cruises banner,  the boat accommodates up to 12 people, including up to 2 wheelchair users.

For more details about Kitty see the About Our Boats page.  For more information on when trips will take place and how to book, see the new Kitty website.

Do come along and support this new venture!