March 1969

18,000 signatures
Coming events
Other side of lock-keeping
A lovely waterway - 1896
Area representatives
Power boats - never!

Contact the Society

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Newsletter No. 20March 1969

This is the headline we want to see. This is what we are aiming for. Impossible? No. For the fact is: if every member filled a petition form, we would get 18,000 names at least to present to the county councils.

So far, the response has been quite good - but not good enough. Some members are devoting a lot of time to filling up the form. But others, we suspect, have simply placed it behind the clock, lit the fire with it - or just forgotten about it.

Perhaps some of you are shy - or not sufficiently Interested. But those who have been collecting signatures have found little resistance to signing. Most people are only too willing to sign. Now, we understand, there is a rival petition circulating in the Aldershot area, demanding that the canal should be filled in.

IS THIS WHAT YOU WANT? If not, then get signing now. Don't just sign the form yourself and send it in - we need every name we can get. Ask the neighbours; ask your colleagues at work; ask granddad and Aunt Maud; ask the milkman. If they are Surrey or Hampshire electors we want their signatures on that petition.

We particularly need more completed forms from Surrey - so far Hampshire are ahead in the petition stakes. Remember: it is Surrey that we shall have to work on in order to get the canal fully restored.

Our petition offers you a real opportunity to make your voice heard. One man can do little to influence those in charge of our local affairs — but 18,000 can do a lot.

The secretary has a pile of petition forms begging to be signed. The target is Easter. We shall want AT LEAST 10,000 names by then in order to make even the slightest impression on the county councils.

There is no need to feel shy about asking people to sign our petition. You are only asking their support for something worthwhile: the acquisition of a beautiful waterway, which will provide enjoyment not only for ourselves, but for our children and thousands of others in an age when amenities are paramount.

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Saturday, March 22: Petition signing stand opposite the Methodist Church, Fleet. This will be manned by our chairman, Dave Gerry - who will doubtless welcome helpers to persuade the public to sign the petition.
Sunday. March 25: Ramble with members of the Wessex branch of the Ramblers Association. Meet 10.50am entrance to Basingstoke Railway Station. The ramble will follow the canal route, visiting the Greywell Tunnel, Little Tunnel Bridge and Hook. Bring a packed lunch.

We have tried to produce a programme containing something for everyone: opportunity for rambles, a boat trip for members - and a chance to have a protest if you want to. Number One priority will be to deliver the petitions to the county councils. They will be relayed along the route of the canal by walkers - and here we need volunteers to carry the petitions and just join in. From Basingstoke, the Hants, petition will go overland to Winchester, while the Surrey petition will travel to Kingston from New Haw by water. Here's the itinerary, and we hope as many members as possible will spend their Easter with us - either walking along the canal or coming on the boat trip. Good Friday, April 4: Meet at Ash Lock, Aldershot, at 10.30am. The petitions will be divided into two batches for the two county councils and will start their journey eastwards and westwards along the canal.
Easter Saturday, April 5: Petitions and walkers will reach Woking and Fleet.
Easter Sunday, April 6: At noon the petitions will arrive at New Haw and Basingstoke.
The Hampshire petitions then set off for Winchester. At New Haw, the Surrey petitions will be transferred to a boat, which will meet the Surrey walkers at the Basingstoke Canal/Wey Navigation junction, and will start their journey by water to Kingston. At 2.30p.m. the members' boat trip along the Wey Navigation to Thames Lock starts from the White Hart Lock, near the White Hart public house on the main road through New Haw, Surrey. Boats will be returning to New Haw that night.
Easter Monday, April 7: Remainder of boats leave Thames Lock at 9.30a.m. Approximate times of arrival at locks en route to Kingston (for those who want to join this part of the festivities) are: Sunbury - 10.15am; Molesey 11.00 am., arriving Kingston at 11am. The petition will then be presented to Surrey County Council. The boats will leave Kingston at 2p.m., arriving back at New Haw at 6p.m.
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HELPERS: Those who want to take an active part, either by carrying petitions or bringing a boat - please contact Mr. Les Harris, 198 Hermitage Woods Crescent, St. John's, Woking, Surrey, for more in­formation. Casual visitors who just want to drop in for a look will find us somewhere along the route of the canal at the times specified. Saturday, April 26: Boat auction at Bushnells, Station Yard, Wargrave near Reading. Catalogues from Apthorpes of Aldershot, start 11am.
Dave's Rave: First and third Sundays of each month. Plenty to do with the machinery now acquired - and the lock gate timber has arrived for carpenters to get busy on. Pop along to Ash Vale Barge Yard if you have nothing to do one Sunday afternoon. Bring some cash - Dick Snell is still welcoming donations for his machinery fund. All nachinery is presented to the society - and may come in extremely handy one day.
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I should like to reply to Mr. Talbot's article "A Groove in the Ground", which appeared in the last newsletter.

First, the Wey and Arun Canal ran for 18-1/2 miles through 23 locks from the River Wey at Shalford to Newbridge, where it joined the Arun Navigation. At this point, the Arun Navigation is, in every sense of the word, a canal and runs southwards for a further 4 1/2 miles through three locks to the River Arun at Pallingham.

Contrary to Mr. Talbot's belief, original brick bridges over the Wey and Arun are few and far between, the only certain one being Fast Bridge near where the A.281 crosses the canal near Alfold. Bricks were with one exception only used in the construction of the canal north of Sidney Wood; local stone being used for the remainder of the canal. There are stone bridges existing at Devil's Hole and Drungewick Locks. On the Wey and Arun there were two aqueducts: one at Gosden, near Stanley — which is far from ruined, and another - the exception regarding brick construction - south of Sidney Wood at Drungewick, which has all but disappeared. I should mention that there was also an aqueduct over the River Arun just above Orfold Lock on the Arun navigation, one wall of which is still intact. There was a flight of nine locks in the area of Sidney Wood, four of which were within the wood itself. The only trace of any of these is a slight rise in the towpath, although the site of the Summit Lock can be fixed by the presence of the large winding hole which was directly above it.

The Act for the closing of the Wey and Arun Junction Canal was passed in 1868, although the last barge to pass the whole length of the canal went through in 1871.

To pass the Rother Navigation by simply saying that it is derelict gives a completely wrong impression, however true this may be. The river is most certainly canoeable throughout, provided that riparian rights are respected.

As regards the Chichester Canal, Mr. Talbot seems to have forgotten Man­hood End Lock, the second up the canal fron the Chichester Channel - Langstone Harbour is over 7 miles away, even as the crow flies. If the low bridges are the only things which prevent navigation, I wish Mr. Talbot would tell us all how he hopes to get through Manhood End when the lock has no gates ...

The canal, 9 miles from Hunston Junction to Ford, was no branch. In fact, it was the main line of another navigation, known as the Portsmouth and Arundel Canal.

In closing, I should like to suggest to Mr. Talbot that such magnificent waterways as these cannot be dealt with in so short a space as he has given then, although they are disused. They each deserve a separate article.
MARTYN DENNEY 74 Ewell Park Way, Ewell, Epsom.

* Are you volunteering, Mr. Denney? But remember - the space of the newsletter is precious - even if we do want to wax lyrical on pet canals. - Editor.
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Perhaps I can explain why there was no windlass or lock key at Bowers Lock during the day "Disgruntled Lock-keeper" (Newsletter No. 19) spent there. The lock holding the chain and lock key to the railings got itself snarled up somehow, and in order to work the lock this person had to saw it off with a file loaned from a passing boatman, Consequently, the lock key was carried back and forth between Horsell and Bowers Lock during the season.

On the whole, we found boating people sympathetic to our cause and grateful for the help we gave ("we"being the writer, a brace of kins­men and half the kids in the neigh­bourhood). In fact, one left two cans of beer on the bank as tokens of his appreciation for our efforts; another tossed a 2s. piece ashore but this was flung back aboard his boat - to the crew's amazement.

There were a thousand and one little incidents one could mention. Some, indeed, could back up "Disgruntled's" argument. I suggest he tries again: there are some fine people on the Wey.

Special mention must be made of the tea made by the charming ladies who live in the Old Mill House alongside the canal - just for us. Thanks, also for the flying displays put on by the local swallows, whose graceful aero­batics never failed to enthral us while we waited for clients.

Try again., "Disgruntled". It's excellent training for the day when - who knows - we will be working the locks on the Basingstoke Canal.
"DUM SPIRO SPERO" Russell Road, Horsell, Woking.

* This Latin gentleman spent a lot of his time at Bowers last year. Now let's hear fron the boatmen themselves on this subject. - Ed.
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I thought you might be interested in this extract from the 1896 Oarsman's Guide: - "The Basingstoke is one of the loveliest canals in England - a quiet old-world waterway, winding through lovely woods and heath-clad moors. Unfortunately, the obstructions are numerous. There are 29 locks, Several of which are in bad repair; a tunnel -3/4 mile in length; and several rather dilapidated swing bridges. In addition to these hindrances, the section of eight miles from Basingstoke to Odiham is nuch overgrown with weeds. It is necessary to tow along the whole of this part of the route.

Barges fron the Thames, nowadays, rarely go beyond Odiham and indeed almost the only craft which ascend it now are the lighters of the War Department with stores from Woolwich for Aldershot. Cruisers (i.e. people who cruise) are seldon seen on it's waters; but those who like a quiet voyage among sylvan scenes will find it is well worth a visit.

The best way to explore this deserted waterway is to rail the boat from the Thames at Reading, by the Great Western Railway, to Basingstoke - a truck costs 7s.6d. - and to begin the voyage from the head of the Navigation.

The canal wharf is a quarter of a mile from the Basingstoke Station, where a cart for the conveyance of the boat may be easily procured. By starting reasonably early, it is possible to reach Aldershot on the first night, and the Thames at Weybridge the second; but three days may be very pleasantly spent on the voyage.

In this case, Odiham and Goldsworth Locks (Woking) are perhaps the most convenient stopping places. The toll is 30s. and is payable at Basingstoke. There are only four lock keepers each man having seven or eight locks to look after. As these men have other duties, they are not always to be found when wanted; the crew must therefore carry a winch to open the locks".
Rowley Drive, Cranleigh, Surrey.

The Editor welcomes letters for publication in the newsletter — but please keep them as short as possible. Articles of general interest are also needed.
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Basingstoke Canal: The Case for Restoration: Now in its second edition with improvenents to the binding. Price 4s. 6d.
Boats from the Basingstoke's Past; Tony Harmsworth's series on boats which played their part in the canal's history, much original research is contained in this booklet. With map: 2s.
6" map of the Basingstoke Canal: A must for all lovers of the Basingstoke. The map is divided into two sections, east and west. Order now — 8s. 6d.
Ball point pens in White, with blue ink and the society's name engraved on the barrel. 6s. a dozen.

All these itens are available fron our sales manager, Mr. Paul Dyson, 53 Wyke Avenue, Ash, Aldershot, Hants. Please make cheques and postal orders payable to the Surrey and Hampshire Canal Society , do not send loose cash.
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For some time, the committee has been considering appointing "area representatives" from the ranks of members who want to offer active help, but who do not seek a position within the committee. Such representatives would streamline our work - made difficult because of the length of the canal and the area we cover - and would also relieve the committee of some of the pressures which occur from time to time.

To be frank, area representatives will have to do some "donkey work." Their function will be to keep an eye on the canal in their area; keep the committee informed of any local developments which could affect the canal (i.e. housing developments, rebuilding of bridges); and be general watchdogs in their locality.

They would also be expected to help in local publicity and fund-raising schemes: man our stall at fetes in their village, perhaps give talks local societies (an increasing part of committee work which is time consuming); distribute leaflets} act as local membership agent - even plan and hold a jumble sale. If we could get people to do all these things we would be in clover, but to have just some of these aspects in the capable hands of a local volunteer would be of enormous help.

If you can help - and if possible we want one volunteer in each town or group of villages along the canal - please let the secretary know. We won't expect you to be human dynamos - the amount of work you do will depend on yourself. We know there are members who are anxious to help in this way, and this appeal is directed at them to become "official".
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That's what one of our staunchest members said the other day. So please, let's not talk about power boats any more. This poor soul thought "power boats" meant those sleek machines with gigantic Mercuries on their tails gouging their way along the canal and swamping everyone in sight. Technically he was right: this is what a "power boat" is - thanks to the publicity given in the Press to this new sport.

We want to make it quite clear to everyone that when we talk of "power boats" - and preferably powered craft - we mean family-sized cabin cruisers or dinghies fitted with small outboard notors. They would, naturally, be restricted in speed to prevent damage to canal banks and causing the death by drowning of ramblers and fishermen. To be safe, we had better ban the words "power boat" from our phraseology. It sounds alarming to some people. "Powered craft" or "cabin cruisers" sounds much more peaceful. If anyone starts complaining to you about "power boats" on the canal, point out that this type of craft only uses large gravel pits or inshore coastal waters.
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Hooting around in the undergrowth at Ash Vale the other day, one of our members unearthed a rusty plaque bearing the initials: "W.A.B. C,& N. C.P. 1896". We think this means "Woking and Basingstoke Canal and Navigation", - but we're still wondering over what "C.P" could mean in translation. Any historians able to solve this one?

Those of you who were unable to get to the AGM may like to know that amendments to the Constitution were held over during negotiations for the society to become registered as a charity.
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Footpath 17 has been duly cleared, following the working party with the Ranblers Association; and David Tomlinson is to be thanked for a most amusing and enjoyable film on the Stourbridge Canal restoration. Thanks to Howard Diamond as well, who has done a magnificent job in renovating the engine of the dumper truck during "Dave's Raves".

The county's Planning Divisional Committee turned down an application to fill in the canal at Mapledurwell, near Little Tunnel Bridge, and Penny Bridge. It had been planned to use 3.8 acres of the canal as a tip for rubbish. But the county planning officer told the committee that the area had been looked at by the Countryside Connittee "as a possible site for recreational development".

Is it too impertinent to suggest that Hampshire County Council - and the Countryside Committee - has not totally written off the idea of reopening the canal west of Greywell Tunnel - as may be hinted at from this decision? We can only keep our fingers crossed, and thank the county council for its foresight in not letting this part of the canal become a rubbish dump.
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Those who like a stroll through the countryside may be interested in a programme of rambles in canal country, planned by the Wessex branch of the Ramblers' Association. This branch has given us great support in the past. Details of membership (l0s.6d. a year, or 16s. for husband and wife) can be obtained from the secretary, Miss A. Weightman 66 St. Catherine's Road, Winchester, Hants.

Local papers have been bristling with canal in the past few weeks, prompted by a saucy tirade from the New Basingstoke Canal Company's solicitor, Mr. Harry D. Swales. The inaccuracies contained in his letter were swiftly stamped on, and were followed by letters from the public at large on the pros and cons of restoration. Please note: every tine the canal features in correspondence columns, our membership goes up (there must be a moral in that). So please write to your local paper whenever possible. It's nice to have fresh names appearing, and new people springing to our defence.

Collection of press cuttings has now been taken over by Mr. D. Romaine 65 Church Road, Addlestone, Weybridge, Surrey. So if you see the magic words Basingstoke Canal in your paper - please cut out the item and send it to him. We are particularly anxious to get cuttings from the Hants. & Berks Gazette, if a reader in that area can oblige.

While on this subject: contrary to reports which have been appearing in the Aldershot News/Farnborough Chronicle, there are NO plans to "concrete in" this section of the canal.

It was suggested at the AGM that the newsletter might be used for advertising. While the Editor would not be in favour of having display adverts from commercial concerns - not viable in the news­letter's present form - she is willing to consider the introduction of a classified list or "swop shop" - if there is demand. If any members want to take advantage of a trial period of advertising - until the committee fixes a fee (if it is successful) there will be no set charge but donations will be welcome - please send in your adverts as soon as you receive this newsletter. For your information, the newsletter has a circulation of 800 - and an estimated readership of over 2,000. It reaches a wide section of the public through being displayed in several public libraries. Please print your adverts, giving name, address and phone number if you have one. I dare say we could even lay on a box number or two ... But no lonely hearts -please!

Secretary and Newsletter Editor: Miss June Sparey, 76 Basingstoke Road, Reading, Berkshire. Tel. Reading 84076
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Last updated April 2005