Oct 1968

Membership survey
After the deluge
AGM notice
Coming events
Lock gates appeal
Following the horses
Boats from the Bas's Past -5
Book reviews
Rambles No. 2

Contact the Society


. logo (13K)

Newsletter No. 16October 1968

What is the Surrey and Hampshire Canal Society? Who are its members? These are, of course, very good questions - and questions which can only be answered accurately by the members themselves. So, with this newsletter, you will find a questionnaire. This has been compiled by the committee in an attempt to find out more about society membership. There are several reasons why this information will be invaluable. Most important is that with negotiations now taking place between Surrey and Hampshire County Council and the New Basingstoke Canal Company, there may be a day when we are asked exactly what active support we could provide for any voluntary restoration work on the canal. Secondly, society membership has grown so rapidly that the committee would like to know what particularly interests members about the canal, so that a programme of events to suit all tastes can be arranged. Thirdly, you may have some valid comments to make about the society.

All information supplied will be kept confidential, and no member will put himself or herself under any obligation by answering questions. Please will you help the committee by completing the questionnaire and returning it to: Mr. Robert Harris, 33 Crondall Lane, Farnham, Surrey, by December 1. Family member who would like to complete more than one questionnaire can obtain additional copies by sending a stamped addressed envelope to the secretary. Thank you.
[back to top]

AFTER THE DELUGE - by Jim Woolgar
The weekend of September 14-15 will go down in history as the time that the Basingstoke Canal kept the first day of the Farnborough Air Show on the ground. It was a critical weekend for the canal. All the streams and surface water drains feeding it were soon at maximum flow. Most of the short pounds between the locks and the lock chambers themselves were full - a most unusual sight. Not surprisingly, the canal could not cope with this sudden influx of water, and on the Sunday it began to overflow its banks. Horsell and St. John's in Woking, Ash and Odiham were worst hit.

On Monday morning a breach developed on Ash embankment to the east of Ash Lock. The cause could be due to one of several factors. Luckily, the water coming through the breach found its way into the nearby River Blackwater. Later on the Monday a second breach developed at the bottom of the Royal Aircraft Establishment's runway at Farnborough, flooding the runway and grounding the flying display. A temporary repair was carried out by using an old aircraft fuselage and clay, and the canal has been dammed above and below the breach. At the time of writing, no repair work appears to have started, although protective fencing has been erected.
[back to top]

The date: Saturday, January 25. The place: Brookwood Memorial Hall, Brookwood, Surrey. The time: 7.30 p.m. NOW is the time to start thinking of any constitutional matters you would like discussed at our third A.G.M. Nominations are also invited for committee members, with one vacancy already notified, Paul Dyson, who has served on the committee since the society's inception, has decided not to seek re-election. So that members will know who's who on the committee when election time comes, details of present comaittee members will be published in ensuing newsletters.

Obviously we hope that as many members as possible will come to the A.G.M. Please let tho secretary have early warning of any matters you would like discussed, and make a note in your diary now of the date. As well as the business part of the meeting, we hope to provide some light relief by showing slides of the year's activities.
[back to top]

Saturday. October 26: Bushnells Boat Auction, Station Road, Wargrave, Berks. (off the A.4 just on the London side of Reading). Bidding starts 11 a.m. Catalogues obtainable price ls.6d. from the auctioneers, Messrs, Apthorpe & Co. Station Road, Aldershot. If you have not been to a boat auction before, you may find this interesting. Society members will be there to give advice.
Tuesday, October 29: Talk with slides on the Basingstoke Canal at North Warnborough Village Hall, near Odiham. If you live in this area bring your non-member friends, as this is a recruitment meeting. Speakers: Dave Gerry, Tony Harmsworth and Robert Harris.
Saturday. November 2: Informal get together and discussion for members at Ash Vale Barge Yard, opposite Ash Vale Station, 3p.m.
Saturday. November 16: Illustrated talk on the Kennet & Avon Canal by Ray Denyar of the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust. Brookwood Memorial Hall, 7.30 p.m. The hall is situated off Connaught Road, Brookwood (turn left out of Brookwood Station yard), at the end of a narrow lane adjoining the junction of Connaught Road and Connaught Crescent (on the right hand side of the road travelling towards Pirbright).
Saturday, November 23: Jumble Sale, Jubilee Hall, Farnborough, Hants. If you can help on the stalls or have any jumble, please contact Mrs. Wendy Walker, 6 Carleon Close, Farnborough.
Sunday. November 24: Ramble along tho Itchen Navigation in Hampshire with the Wessex branch of the Ramblers Association. More details in next newsletter.
Sunday. December 8: Working party at Ash Barge Yard. Meet 10 a.m.
Saturday. January 25: ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING, Brookwood Memorial Hall, 7.30 p.m. Review of society activities and film show. MAKE A NOTE IN YOUR DIARY NOW.
[back to top]

During the next month or two we will start a new addressing system for newsletters. Please chock the present address on your envelope, and advise the secretary of any errors or alterations.

Is there an accountant who would volunteer to be the Society's auditor? We would like someone to check the treasurer's books before the AGM. Contact secretary.

Postmen: We still need a volunteer to deliver newsletters - once every five or six weeks - in the Frimley-Camberley area, to help us save postage. The Secretary will be delighted to hear from anyone who can help.
[back to top]

Our Lock Gate Fund, launched at the last AGM now stands at £63, leaving another £87 before we reach our £150 target - enough to buy the timber to build a pair of upper gates suitable for a Basingstoke Canal Lock. A pair of lower gates would cost £300. If we can start work on the gates soon, it will demonstrate our serious intention and ability to restore the canal with volunteer labour. We would, of course, like to see enough money available to get the gates made by a contractor. But we should also like some idea of what money would be forthcoming if we got the go—ahead.

Our chairman, Dave Gerry, has suggested and subscribed to a pledge scheme, whereby members and society friends donate a sum of money towards the first set of lock gates and pledge further sums for the next set when the previous ones are installed. For example, if 450 people (three quarters of our present membership) gave on average £1, and pledged a further £1 for each of the canal's 29 locks, we would have enough to rebuild all the gates and supply a set of spares.

We are open to offers of lump sums and of any amount anyone likes to give. Signing the pledge will be one way of subscribing in easy instalments. Records of subscribers are kept, and your name and pledge could help make local history in saving the canal.

Copies of Lock Gate Fund rules can be obtained by sending a s.a.e. to the secretary, and a coupon is enclosed for anyone wanting to make a donation.
[back to top]

FOLLOWING THE HORSES — by Mr. J. H. Talbot, Church Crookham
In 1959 I moved from Hereford to Farnborough, and this coincided with developing an interest in walking. I soon tired of trotting along the roadsides, dodging the motor cars which were so much more numerous here than at my previous home. The problems of cross­country walking included scrambling through barbed wire and paddling through the mud, but one day I "discovered" the Basingstoke Canal and followed the route which the barge horses once took.

I began my exploration of the Basingstoke by walking between Frimley Green and Ash Vale. With what seems now to be astounding naivety, I wondered where all the boats were (my only previous contact with a canal had been in Regents Park at a time when Joshers and Grand Union pairs chugged by at ten-minute intervals). The truth began to dawn when I later walked in the other direction from Frimley Green - which in those days was pretty well weed-free - and passed through the long, leafy cutting to Frimley Top Lock. The dry portion down to Brookwood had been in that state for about five years, and Nature was well in control. Everywhere was dereliction and decay, but the bug that makes you want to see what is around the next bend had bitten hard.

In the end, I walked the whole canal from Wote Street, Basingstoke, to New Haw, Surrey, with the exception of a short stretch at Basing which is still unexplored on my mental map. Personal encounters included Mark, the recently deceased veteran boatman, who related a tale of how he bought a boat from Honeystreet, near Pewsey, down to the Basingstoke on a semi-derelict Kennet and Avon Canal during "the war" (I never worked out which war). I also met, while sheltering from the rain in a bridge hole, a character who could rattle off the name of every boat that ever cruised the cut and recalled the boatmen who crewed each of them.

One very wet day at Nateley Scures I ran into three chaps from Guildford in company with an RAF officer from Odiham. I later learned that these enterprising fellows included among their possessions one brass-bound Austin Chummy, a Morgan 3-wheeler, two of the old Trojan "Brook Bond Tea" vans, circa 1928 (only seven of them are still in existence) and an 8-ton railway locomotive called Lilian. However, on this occasion they had a sailing dinghy with them and we sheltered inside the tunnel mouth while the lightning flashed and the thunder roared. We took a trip about 300 yards into the tunnel to a point where rain water was entering through the roof and noted, with the aid of a car spotlight, that two brick culverts inside the tunnel had collapsed. These probably allowed spring water to enter the canal at one time.

It was pointless to have sheltered from the rain, as it showed no signs of abating. We roared out of the tunnel mouth with an ancient Seagull pushing us along, only to stall repeatedly as the propellor floundered in the grip of the weeds. We pushed, pulled, rowed and bow-hauled the boat back to the New Inn at Odiham in pouring rain and sank a jar or two in the public bar before departing for our respective homes, leaving damp patches on the landlord's settee and puddles on his floor.

This particular journey included a tussle with that astonishing piece of machinery, the hydraulic lift bridge at North Warnborough. The lever which works the pump to raise the bridge is normally kept at a nearby cottage, but proved difficult to unearth as it is not used very frequently! In the end, a bodge with a lock windlass raised the road a couple of feet so that our small boat could slide underneath.

My canal exploration spread from our own, local canal to the River Wey and the Kennet and Avon. I tramped from Reading to Pewsey, and then from Brentford to Cowroast, and past the backsides of factories from Maida Hill to Islington Tunnel. Later, I took to the water itself and bumped my way through Braunston and Blisworth tunnels, among other places, in a hire cruiser with a flat battery.

However the Basingstoke, mucky ditch that it is, is the cut for which I have a particular affection. In this corner of the country, crammed and cluttered with motor cars, people and houses, it winds through the bricks and mortar, dragging with it a little strip of green. If our campaign is successful, it will become much more: good water for cruising, good water for angling and the towpath, which is as much a part of the cut as the locks and bridges, will be cleared in order to make exploration on foot a little easier.

Meanwhile, if you possess any of the customary British stoicism and are able to view short-sighted neglect without making your blood gurgle, do explore the parts of the canal which you do not know. They will surprise you - pleasantly, I hope.

It takes the resourcefulness of a Colonel Fawcett to hack your way around Dogmersfield Park, but it is worth it. In summer, there are all the wild flowers you ever saw and a few more besides. At the west end of Deepcut, the banks are lined with rhododendrons. The swans sit haughtily on their untidy nests, the moorhens splash across the weedy water and there are some decent sized fish on the summit pound for those that have eyes to see them.

Alternatively, hire a boat from the Fox and Hounds, just west of Reading Road Bridge, Fleet, from Ash Vale Boat House or from Mark's old house at Chequers Bridge, Crookham, and stir up the duckweed a little.

What over you do, please get to know the property for which you are fighting.
[back to top]

The boat "Stanley", now lying sunk in Anglers' Flash, Ash Vale, is a wide boat, not a barge, measuring 12ft. 6in. wide, 5ft. high in the side and 72ft. 6in. long. It was owned by Edward Jones & Son of Brentford, who built the sides up to 5ft. During the timber season it was hired by A. J. Harmsworth & Sons for carrying timber to Guildford and Woking.

Mr. A. J. Harmsworth bought the "Stanley" in 1930. It was taken to Ash Vale and completely overhauled and was used to work into London and up to Woking. In 1933 the boat was towing up the Thames loaded with timber. The deck had shrunk in the sun and water seeped in, making the boat waterlogged. It was run ashore at Battersea and used afterwards as a lightening boat up to Woking.

In 1940, the "Stanley" was moored in Mytchett Lake as an anti-invasion obstacle. It was moved to Anglers' Flash after the war, and eventually sank.
[back to top]

When sending loose cash through the post to the secretary, please use registered post, as there have been instances of cash sent by ordinary mail going astray. Cheques and postal orders are preferable, of course, and these should always be made out to: The Surrey and Hampshire Canal Society.

Boat owners planning to take trips along the Thames during the autumn/winter/ spring should note that the ThaMes-Conservancy is undertaking repair work to certain locks during these months. In the case of Boulters Lock, it is hoped that the work will be completed during the four days from Monday to Thursday, so as to avoid inconvenience during the weekend. The following is a list of dates during which the locks named will be closed to traffic: (all dates inclusive)

Boulters Lock ...................... October 14 - October 28
Pinkhill Lock ................... October 21 - November 4
King's Lock ........................ November 4 - November 18
Mapledurham Lock ................... November 4 - November 25
Osney Lock ......................... November 28 - December 21
Rushey Lock ........................ January 27 - February 10, 1969
Sandford Lock ...................... January 27 - March 3
Romney Lock ......................... February 1O - February 24
[back to top]

Basingstoke _Canal: The Case for Restoration - published by the Surrey and Hampshire Canal Society and the Inland Waterways Association. Illustrated with photographs, diagrams and pull-out map, it is a must for every member who is concerned about the future of the canal. Price (post free) 4s.6d. Obtainable from the secretary.
Ball point pens: White barrel with the society's name engraved in blue along the side. Blue ink. Price 6s. per dozen, obtainable from the secretary.
Newsletters - Nos.l0-14, price 1s.6d. the set.

TOMORROW'S COUNTRYSIDE - The Road to the Seventies, by Garth Christian (published by John Murray, 35s.) reviewed by Dave Gerry, SHCS chairman.

I see our society's efforts to save the Basingstoke Canal as a small but locally very important part of the national need to plan for the full use of all our resources in the future. This book is well illustrated - including two photographs of the Basingstoke Canal! The writer balances the important issues that are frequently discussed today: the problems of pesticides against conservation; of transport and traffic against agriculture; of water storage and loss of countryside.

Garth Christian is a journalist, much concerned with education and the preservation of the countryside. He makes the point in this book that though the threats and dangers of the future are frightening, they have brought with them increased opportunities to overcome just those problems. The countryside of tomorrow demands the right action today. This is a book that is well worth reading.
[back to top]

DISCOVERING CANALS - published by Shire Publications, 4s.6d. - reviewed by June Sparey

Shire Publications have issued a number of small pamphlets, each showing various aspects of the English countryside, such as the sites of famous battles, hill carvings etc. Now their attention has been drawn to inland waterways.

Discovering Canals is a book for the motorist - conveniently sized to fit into the car's glove compartment. It guides people who are interested in inland waterways to places of interest such as the Crofton Pumping Station and the Caen Hill flight of locks, both on the Kennet and Avon Canal; the Anderton Boat Lift, the Pontyscyllte Aqueduct and other marvels of canal engineering. There is a map showing the location of each sight to to see, details of where to park the car and which footpath to take. It is a splendidly useful book to have by on days when the wife and family want a ride in the car - but you are short of ideas of where to go and what to do and it performs the useful function of showing non-boat owners what to see on the waterways.
[back to top]

This is a ramble for the enthusiast - so gum boots are essential! Park the car at Up Nateley near the church, and take the cart track opposite the church. In a quarter of a mile you reach the canal. From the top of the bridge look left to see the Brickworks Arm about 50 yards away. Continue on the track over the bridge and in about 50 yards take a public footpath turning left. The entrance to this path is through high double gates in a high, solid fence. The path is, in fact, the drive to a private house (yes - the footpath goes through a private garden!). Walk through the garden, down the right hand side of the house and carry on to the garden fence, climb over it and turn sharp left into a partly cultivated meadow (this is the wet part).

Keep to the left of the meadow, and walking slightly uphill enter a cart track past some old caravans. Here you are walking along the top of the canal cutting, about 20 ft. above the old, overgrown towpath. At the end of the track turn left over the old canal bridge. Examination of the bridge will show a number of glass plates fitted over the cracks in the brickwork by Hampshire County Council, who were obviously concerned about the condition of the bridge. Continue along the road to the T-junction, and here you can either turn left and back to the car (distance walked - 1 mile) OR:

Turn right and follow the road for 1/4 mile until it crosses the bed of the canal. There is now no sign of the original bridge and only a slight rise in the road. Turn left along the dry bed of the canal, and in another 1/4 -mile find the Little Tunnel. Having had a look at this, climb up the right hand side of the cutting on to the cart track over the tunnel. Turn right (north) along the track for about 300 yards until it meets the road, turn right and return along the road to Up Nateley and the car (distance - about 1 mile).
[back to top]

A party of members represented the Society at Operation Ashton - clearing a section of the Peak Forest Canal through the Manchester suburbs, on a very wet weekend. Those who went came away with a good idea of how to organise a giant working party, and picked up some very useful tips. The only hitch occurred when our secretary drove a dumper into the canal - defeating the object of the exercise.

A fleet of 16 boats and about 30 members had an enjoyable day's cruising in fine weather along the Wey from Guildford to Godalming on October 5. Our thanks to those who brought their boats from some distance to join us.

THE NEWSLETTER - by the Editor
Thanks to Mr. Talbot's interesting article on his introduction to the Basingstoke Canal, this newsletter is rather longer than usual. Nevertheless, I hope it contains something of interest to all our members. Don't forget, I would like to hear from YOU: if you have a comment to make, funny experience to share, memories of boat trips on the canal in bygone days - please let me have them. I am particularly interested to have records of boat trips that members have made individually on the canal. Please send items, as soon as possible after receipt of this newsletter, to the address below.

THANKS: To postmen who volunteered to deliver newsletters in the Fleet area after the appeal in the last newsletter. But we are still short of a Tilley lamp for the hut at Ash Vale. Can anyone oblige?

Hon. Sec: Mr. J. Woolgar, 56 Connaught Crescent, Brookwood, Surrey. Brookwood 4064 Newsletter Editor: Miss J. Sparey, 76 Basingstoke Road, Reading, Berks. Reading 84076
[back to top]


Last updated April 2005