January 1969

The Company
Coming events
Review: London's Lost Route to Basingstoke
Journey into Darkness
Boats from the Bas's Past -7
Rambles no. 4
Navvies Notebook

Contact the Society


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Newsletter No. 18January 1969

As most of you will have seen from your local newspapers, the canal company has issued a reply to the case for restoration of the Basingstoke Canal contained in our booklet. At the same time, the company makes a rather savage attack on the society. The reply is not without certain inaccuracies, out-of-context statements and some sweeping allegations. On detailed examination it adds nothing new, except to say that the company is prepared to let the canal come under public ownership by sale to the county councils.

Rather than become involved in a tit-for-tat argument in correspondence columns, the society is sending a detailed memorandum on the company's reply to the Minister of Transport, the company, and local authorities, in which each point raised by the company will be answered. The Press will also receive a copy.

The company's reply was carefully worded on the point of retaining through navigation (i.e. repairing the locks), and indeed it gave the impression that the company was dictating to the county councils the use to which the canal should be put if it was taken into public ownership. While we are certain that the county councils will not be dictated to if a sale is envisaged, it may be that our next step is to convince the county councils that through navigation is the best possible plan for the canal. It has always been the policy of the society to underline this question of through navigation, and it is a policy we shall, be adhering to firmly in the months ahead. The county councils are by no means fully convinced that this is the answer. The alternative is, of course, that put forward by the company: weiring the locks, closing the canal to craft except in short pounds between the weirs, and ending for ever the function of the canal as a through waterway for powered craft.

As far as the county councils are concerned, Surrey has been quoted in print as saying it is considering purchase of the canal (with all sorts of ifs and buts attached); and Hampshire is now spending money on a survey of their stretch of the canal. The canal and the society were both referred to at a full meeting of Hampshire County Council which approved the finance for the survey, and the society is regarded by both as a responsible body and not the cranks which the canal company seem to think we are.

While it would seem that we have won the first round in encouraging the county councils to consider purchase of the canal, our battle is by no means over. If the canal is bought publicly, we may have a bigger fight on our hands to get through navigation - and if necessary the society will offer help in rebuilding the locks and raising the money to pay for them. Soon work will begin on building our first set of lock gates, thanks to our Lock Gate Fund to which so many of you have generously subscribed. This is an act of goodwill and faith on our part, and one which we hope the county councils will take note of.
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Sadly, we have to report that one of our founder and most loyal members is resigning from the committee. Mrs. Flo Woolgar, who has been treasurer, is leaving us for domestic reasons: she has great difficulty in finding baby­sitters while committee meetings are held, meaning that most meetings have taken place at her home. But she will continue to give her valuable advice and help. A rest from committee work may also give her a chance to expand her literaty activities: she now contributes to Motor Boat and Yachting a series of amusing articles. We now have two vacancies on the committee, and although it will be impossible to find anyone prepared to work as hard for the society as Flo has done, the committee will welcome its new members and will probably benefit from some new ideas. Thanks, Flo, for everything.
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First and third Sunday of each month: Dave's Rave - our name for the informal get-together for members at Ash Vale Barge Yard. Since this group started to meet, they have installed electric lighting in the hut, run from a generator, and have bought a dumper truck. Everyone welcome to meet at about 3p.m.
Saturday, January 25: ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING, Brookwood Memorial Hall, Brookwood Woking, Surrey, 7.30 pm. The hall is down a lane at the junction of Connaught Road and Connaught Crescent. Nearest station: Brookwood, (turn left into Connaught Road from station exit). We hope as many members as possible will attend.
Tuesday, January 31: Public meeting at Christ Church Hall, Woking, to mark the publication of Paul Vine's book: 'London's Lost Route to Basingstoke". 8 p.m. Mr. Vine will be the speaker.

Our thanks to Mr. Ray Denyer of the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust for a most interesting talk on his pet canal, and to Mr. Roy Coombs of the Wessex branch of the Ramblers' Association for leading an enthusiastic party of ramblers along the Itchen Navigation in Hampshire. This association is supporting our campaign for the Basingstoke Canal and we are very grateful for their help. We were also interested to see the condition of the sections of the Itchen which had been weired: some were well-filled with a good flow of water, others dry or near dry and in terrible condition. Perhaps some people who advocate weiring the Basingstoke Canal should take a look at the Itchen before making a definite decision.

Finally, a very big thank-you to Mrs. Wrendy Walker of Farnborough and her family who played the biggest part in raising £35 for our funds from the jumble sale. The Walkers did all the donkey work and we are truly indebted to them. Anyone else fancy playing host to a jumble sale?
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LONDON'S LOST ROUTE TO BASINGSTOKE, by Paul Vine, published by David & Charles at 50s.
This is the first fulL-length book to be written about the Basingstoke Canal, and several of our members have assisted in its publication. Members who would like a copy will find an order form with this newsletter, and a full review will appear in the next newsletter. Meanwhile, this is what the dust jacket says about the book: "The Basingstoke Canal is an enigma. It was one of the first to be opened in Southern England, and was intended to form part of a national waterway between the Thames and the English and Bristol Channels. Yet although links were sought with other navigations, the canal never progressed beyond Basingstoke. The book tells a story of great enterprise fought with singular lack of success, of a famous gynaecologist who saved the company from bankruptcy almost as soon as it was opened, and of how London's chief magistrate sought to develop trade; of how the building of the London and Southampton railway and the military camp of Aldershot changed the pattern of traffic; of the succession of speculators, few were successful, some endeavoured to revive trade, others to swindle gullible investors. Today the future of this beautiful waterway remains uncertain, but the Surrey and Hampshire Canal Society is making determined efforts to restore its navigability".
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Basingstoke Canal: The Case for Restoration, published by the Surrey and Hampshire Canal Society and the Inland Waterways Association. Available from the secretary price 4s.6d. (post free).
Ball Point Pens: white barrel, with society's name engraved in blue along the side, blue ink. price 6s. per dozen from: Mr. P. Dyson, 53 Wyke Avenue, Ash, Aldershot, Hants.
Boats From The Basingstoke's Past: our first booklet in a series on features of the Basingstoke Canal. Written by Tony Harmsworth, it contains full details of the barge building industry of Ash Vale, barges and narrow boats that worked the canal, plus details of the remains of boats still moored or sunk in the canal. The booklet has an attractive cover design, map showing access points and the sites of boats. Available end of January, price 2s.
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From: Philippa Norchi, Booker Hospital, High Wycombe, Bucks.
Perhaps members may be interested in the following piece of news from the Daily Telegraph: "A weed eating breed of carp is being imported by the Ministry of Agriculture to help clear choked rivers and lakes". This may be worth further investigation by the society if we are able to start work on the canal.

We rang the Ministry about this fishy business, and were told they were experimenting with the carp before letting them loose on Britain's waterways. This was to make sure that by champing its way through vast quantities of water weed, the carp does not upset the balance of water life. It may be sons years before they are avail­able for general release. But the society will not let this one get away! - Editor.

From: Mr. R. Stevenson, 79 Alsen Road, Holloway, London N.7.
In the latest nexvsletter you asked for suggestions that could be immediately implemented. May I suggest that for the sake of flood prevention the society could organise working parties to scour out drainage ditches and local rivers and streams where they cross or run alongside the canal. I am thinking of course of the breaches that were caused recently, the effect of which - if allowed to repeat the performance - could well be disastrous to our cause. This is only a suggestion but I think it could be made an alternative to clearing Ash Vale Barge Yard.

Streams which run into the canal are of course feeders, and as such come under the canal company's jurisdiction. We have already cleared Cowshott Stream - but only because it was on military land. But if any others come to our notice where we can get permission to work, we will get cracking. - Editor.

From: Paul Biscoe, University of Nottingham, School of Agriculture.
I am very interested in the conservation of the natural resources and environment of Britain (and the world) and I feel that the SHCS is doing a wonderful job in trying to restore the Basingstoke Canal to a working condition. This will provide, when completed, a thin ribbon of land and water for the enjoyment of people with many varied interests. It will also provide a haven for the survival and multiplication of wild life, both plant and animal, which is suffering due to man.

Also, in view of recent experiments on rats, which are usually fairly stable in their behaviour, when subjected to stress they reverted to violence and murder. It has been suggested from these results that excessive, unrelenting stress on man could cause a violent disruption of his social pattern. I feel that if this is true, people living in or near London would be the first to suffer, so that a recreation and place for escape from cars, people, houses etc. usually encountered at work is essential. I believe that the Basingstoke Canal offers such an escape, and a very attractive one.

It is my belief that many members, if they think about the problem, will agree with the basis of what I have said above. I would therefore attract their attention to the Conservation Society, which is trying to pull together all aspects of and people in­terested in conservation. Like all societies of its kind, a strong membership is essential. If anyone would like further details, the secretary is: Mr. S. G. Lawrence, 21 Hanyards Lane, Cuffley, Potter's Bar, Herts.

If you have a point of view to put, a suggestion or comment to make about the society or the canal, write to the Newsletter Editor, Miss J. Sparey, 76 Basingstoke Road, Reading, Berks.
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Our sincere thanks to those members who took the time and trouble to complete and return the questionnaire sent out recently. We have received some very valuable and interesting replies and comments. All those who have offered help and advice will be contacted in due course - but with many replies to deal with it may take a little time. But we are taking note of all your comments.
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JOURNEY INTO DARKNESS - by Jim Fleming and Martyn Penny
On Sunday, November 3, we trailed an 8 ft. clinker dinghy to Odiham, and launched in the field by the bridge, after getting bogged down in the mud produced by the heavy rain the day before. Heading in the direction of North Warnborough, we paused to disengage a fisherman's hook caught in the weed, which although not thick proved a nuisance until we had mastered a delayed rowing action. By now the sun had emerged and we were glad of its warmth, for in exposed positions the wind was very chilling. The water in this section of the Basingstoke Canal is perfectly clear and the sun's rays picked out every fish and weed in beautiful contrast.

Approaching North Warnborough the weed thickened, and passing under the bridge we battled our way through the first thick patch of watercress. The problem was to find a strong enough piece of weed to push against, as rowing was useless. Passing under a fallen tree we reached clearer water and soon arrived at the famous lift bridge. Enquiries at the adjoining cottage revealed that the lady no longer had the key to lift the manhole.

After hunting through our possessions we hit upon the only suitable implement - a rowlock. This soon had the cover up and inside was the lever for operating the hydraulic pump. Fifteen minutes of extremely hard pumping raised the bridge seven or eight feet and left both of us exhausted. We decided not to lift it fully open as we had first intended as one pump of the lever raised the bridge only 1/4". Letting it down is much easier, you just release the tap, and down it comes. This was obviously the first time it had been raised this year as there was grass growing out of everywhere.

The next obstacle was a recent footbridge at a very low level and we just managed to squeeze under by removing the rowlocks, laying in the bottom of the boat, pulling on the timbers and rocking gently. On emerging we found that a section of the bridge could be lifted!

Over the River Whitewater, into a cutting and we were confronted with the object of our mission: Greywell Tunnel. We quickly connected the portable headlamp to the 6-volt battery we had brought for the purpose and set off inside. The crystal clear water deepens suddenly at the entrance to perhaps six or eight feet, and continues at this depth all the way. For the first 100 yards or so, the brickwork has been sprayed with cement render, but the remainder is as clean as the day it was built.

Keeping absolutely quiet, we carefully rowed a straight course as far as the clay bank blocking the tunnel some 800 yards inside, where we paused to take some photographs before returning. On the way back we counted 10 bats hanging from the roof, the furthest one was 600 yards inside the tunnel. At about half way, there was the date 1871 painted on the brickwork, in addition to the distances chalked at intervals by other explorers. Emerging into the sunshine after 15 minutes' rowing we were surprised how cold it was, so we set off back at a brisk pace, going through the various obstacles on the return journey much faster than on the way out. This time we only raised the bridge a few feet sufficient to get underneath.

On arriving back at Odiham, we found that we still had 4 hours daylight left, and so decided to tackle the notorious Broadoak section in the opposite direction. We found that we could maintain a good speed on the clear sections when we were both rowing, and the additional pair of oars proved their value in the weedier areas. Passing under Broadoak Bridge we came upon the cause of the silting, a fast flowing stream entering from the right. Obviously the water originally ran east, but this has silted up the canal and it now runs westwards and leaves the canal through the towpath about 1/4-mile further along.

The water in this section was flowing over the towpath in several places. Obviously different tactics were called for, so after a quick reconnaissance we got out the 60 ft. bow hauling rope (we go prepared for everything) and with one person in the boat quanting, and the other hauling, we tackled the reedbeds and watercress that grow on the silt for the next half mile. Apart from keeping his balance, the person in the boat must remember not to let go of the oar, for there is no going back for it! The person hauling has an even more difficult job, trying to keep his balance while leaning forward on a slippery towpath that is threatening to tip him in the cut. After a while, a channel of sorts appeared and by the time we had got to the remains of an old bridge that had been demolished, we were able to get into the boat again.

Pressing on now with a greater sense of urgency, we passed under several of those typically English brick canal bridges which seem to fit so well into the landscape, those on the Basingstoke even more so, for they are nearly all dilapidated and covered with ivy bushes. The section around Dogmersfield is perhaps the most beautiful, and is certainly the most remote on the whole canal, and on this particular bright autumn day looked breathtakingly colourful. By now, the depth of water had improved, the bridgeholes were free of rubbish and there was only the occasional fallen tree or patch of watercress to slow us down as we approached Dogmersfield. But time was against us and so we had to retrace our steps and managed to arrive back at Odiham just as it was getting dark. We had travelled in all ten miles that day, and for the cost of a 3s.0d. day licence it was certainly well worth it.
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In writing this, the last of the present series, I have been very glad of help from some other researchers - particularly Mr. Alan Brown, a member from Rlckmansworth, and Mr. H. W. Stevens of Guildford.

Very little was known about the steam narrow boat, Seagull, now sunken in tho old brickfields arm of the canal at Nateley. This ground is now privately owned and therefore access to it is difficult.

The first record of the Seagull is in a ledger entry of a narrow boat, Seagull, Reg. No. 231 towing a butty, Waterlily, Reg. No. 230 passing through Brentford Locks on May 5, 1896 and owned by Francis Ashby of Heston Mill, Hounslow.

Interesting as this is, there is no evidence to say this was the same Seagull as at Nateley. It was thought that the boat last worked on the River Wey before coming on the Basingstoke Canal. It was found that a steam narrow boat named Seagull, towing a butty, used to work to Unsted Mill, near Godalming, which was a flour mill owned by a Francis Ashby. This boat was sold to the Nataley Brick and Tile Co. in late 1896 or early 1897, so there is a link. The boat worked for the brickworks until 1903 but the fate of the butty is not known. There is an entry in the Frimley lock ledger, dated September 29, 1900: "Seagull, from River Wey to Frimley with ballast 12 MLS 20 tons at ll 1/2d. per ton".

At a sale of Nateley boats, the Seagull was unsold and it laid and rotted in the brickworks arm. She was 70 ft. long, 7 ft. wide, loaded 20 tons and had a compound engine with about 5 in. and 7 in. bores. It had a counter stern and, so I am told, was similar in appearance to the old Fellows, Martin and Clayton steamers.

We are on the look out for pieces of timber as follows: Deal - 1 1/2" or 2" thick, any width, and/or 9" x 3" the longer the better. Oak beams — any size useful. We will collect.

And has any member a circular bench saw to which we could have access? Offers of either wood or saw should be made to: Mr. Tony Harmsworth, Inverurie, Frimley Road, Ash Vale, Aldershot, Hants.
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The Editor apologises for the fact that in the last newsletter, the R.A.E. at Farnborough was described as the Royal Aeronautical Establishment. It should, of course, have been Royal Aircraft Establishment. Hope this slip didn't cause too much embarrassment to our active R.A.E. members .........

Ramble No.4 - To Dogmersfield Park from Broad Oak. Total distance - 3 1/2 miles Recommended footwear - Hiking Boots

This ramble starts from Broad Oak Green, reached by turning off the A.287 Odiham-Farnham road. Buses from Basingstoke and Aldershot pass the beginning of the lane. You can park on the green at the end of the lane, just to the south of Broad Oak Bridge.

Standing in the lane and facing north, turn right to the north-east corner of the green and take a track through the trees. Cross a small bridge over Broad Oak Stream and carry on along the canal bank (not towpath) until you reach the red brick wall of Dogmersfield Park. Turn right and follow the path running south, parallel to the wall. In about 1/2-mile you reach the gates of the park, turn left through the gates between two white cottages, follow the gravel drive through woodland and out into the fields and over a hill to a large black barn, over the stile and into a large area of meadow. Follow the right hand fence for about 250 yards and then, as the path curves away to the right, strike off across the meadow towards a lone pine tree.

At the edge of the meadow, climb a stile over the wire fence and turn left towards the bridge over Tundry Pond. Before reaching the bridge, a further stile will be found in the left hand fence. Climb over and walk straight away from the fence, keeping the lake on the right hand side. In 1/4-mile you reach Sprats Hatch Farm* - climb a stile in front of the red-brick farm house and enter a lane, turn left and follow tho track to a canal bridge which cross, and turn left and scramble down on to the towpath. Follow the towpath under Sandy Hill Bridge, through the remains of Pillars Bridge (which was timber on brick piles and fell down in about 1930). In 1/4-mile find Wilks Water, a pretty lake on the right hand side. One of the houses near the lake is the home of Sir Michael Redgrave, and the area was featured in the film "The Charge of the Light Brigade".

Another 1/4-mile will bring you to Broad Oak Bridge. Cross it, and return to the start of the ramble.

*Energetic types can add a further two miles by turning right at Sprats Hatch Farm and walking about one mile along the lane to Barley Mow Bridge and then turning left on to the towpath and passing under Staceys Bridge and Baseleys Bridge to the bridge near Sprats Hatch Farm. Then follow the original route.
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To many of our members this needs no introduction - it is the journal of the working party group of the Inland Waterways Association. But those who are itching to work on any canal may like to subscribe to it (an order form is included with this newsletter). It gives details of dates and locations of working parties on canals throughout the country - an ideal way for our active members to dissipate their energy until our day of action comes. It is published bi-monthly for an annual subscription of 5s. The Editor is Mr. G. Palmer, 4 Wentworth Court, Wentworth Avenue, Finchley, London N.3.

We wish all our members a happy, prosperous New Year - - and hope that 1969 will bring joy to us and the Basingstoke Canal.

STOP PRESS: We are holding a public meeting on Thursday, January 9th, at Basingstoke Town Hall, in conjunction with Basingstoke & District Sports Advisory Council. Starts 8p.m.

Sec: E. J. Woolgar, 56 Connaught Crescent, Brookwood, Woking, Surrey. B'wood 4064
Newsletter Editor: Miss J. Sparey, 76 Basingstoke Road, Reading. Reading 84076
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Last updated April 2005