June 1969

Thanks x 10,000
General Meeting
Recent events
Waterside Inns
End of an Era

Contact the Society



Newsletter No. 22June 1969

THANKS - 10.000 TIMES!
Well, you made it. The petition has now passed the 10,000 signature mark, and the first batches of 5,000 signatures apiece are being presented to Surrey and Hampshire County Councils on Saturday, June 14.

The 10,000th signature was collected over the Whitsun holiday and bang on tar­get by the Walker family, who manned a display stand at Farnborough Donkey Derby. In addition, another stand at the Surrey Show netted about 1,000 sig­natures. Our very sincere thanks go to all the members who worked so hard during the last six weeks. We don't know precisely who the top scorers are, but the Walkers with over 500 signatures must be the top family, and several individual members - Peter Chadwick, Tony Harmsworth and Les Harris among them - handed in over 250. Members living in less populated areas also had some good returns - there can't be many adults in Crookham Village who haven't signed. It was also encouraging to see our faraway members in places like Kent, Dorset and Cheshire adding their names, all of which made valuable con­tributions to the grand total.

Thanks also to those who slipped in notes with your petitions. It has not been possible to reply to them all, but your encouragement helped a good deal.

Statisticians can see below the area results from these approximate scores?

Alton140             Frimley & Camberley485
Ash, Aldershot140Farnham & Crondall473
Basingstoke540Guildford & Godalming812
Farnborough and Cove1,235Weybridge & Walton477
Fleet and Crookham1,250Brookwood, Woking
and Byfleet
Odiham116Rest of U.K.120

With others, the total for Hampshire was 4,500, and Surrey's total 5,400.

But we haven't finished yet. We shall go on collecting signatures throughout the summer and will forward them to the counties in suitable batches when they come in. These further instalments will be important: they will remind the counties of the need for action and will ensure that the petition is not "pigeon-holed". The secretary has plenty more forms to be filled in, and if you already have a form with some names on it then please try to get it filled up.
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The secretary has now moved to a new job, and subsequently has a new address. From now on, all general correspondence should be sent to her at 8 Beaufort Road, Maybury Estate, Woking, Surrey, telephone Woking 63095 (after 7 pm). Apologies to any members who may have been ringing her former Reading number without success, but the move took place between newsletters.
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Members who attended the A.G.M. will remember that certain amendments to the Constitution were proposed. As our application for registration as a charity was at that stage being considered by the Charity Commission, it was agreed by the meeting to hold over any decision on Constitutional changes until the Commission's reply to our application was received. Our initial application was refused, and the matter has now been put in the hands of solicitors. However, if any member or members specifically wish a general meeting to take place to discuss any changes in the Constitution, will they please get in touch with the secretary. At the A.G.M. it was felt that it would be unwise to amend the Constitution which at that stage was being considered with our application by the Charity Commission. It may also be that the solicitors now acting for us in this matter may themselves have suggestions to make about the Constitution.
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Sunday, June 22: Working party at Ash Vale Barge Yard. General tydying up, grass cutting etc. 10.30am.
Sunday, June 22: Ramble, from Brookwood westwards probably as far as Aldershot. Stop for lunch at Frimley Green or Ash Vale. Meet at Waterloo Station 9.35am at platform barriers to catch 9.43 fast train to Brookwood, or outside Brookwood at 10.30am. Further details contact Peter Ward, 01-GLA 9943.
Saturday, June 28: LOCK GATES ON DISPLAY. The lock gates are now almost finished, and will be on view to members of local and county councils, MPs and other people in public life who have shown interest and encouragement. At 3pm at Ash Vale Barge Yard Mr. Paul Vine, author of London's Lost Route to Basingstoke will ceremoniously drive in the last nail. Members are invited to attend, but because of pressure on parking space and in order to "stagger" the event, we would be grateful if some members could arrive a little later, say at 4.30 or 5pm. Refreshments will be available.

As usual at this time of year, we have had a number of requests to enter a display stall at local fetes and a carnival or two. We are desperately short of helpers, and may have to give certain events a miss because of this - a pity because it is good publicity. Here is a list of events at which we hope to be represented, if any are in your area and you are willing to spend an hour or two putting up and taking down the stand, and answering questions, please contact Les Harris, 198 Hermitage Woods Crescent, St. John's, Woking, Surrey, or in the case of Fleet Carnival, contact Dave Gerry, 10 Fairland Close, Fleet. Usually these tasks fall on one or two ever-willing shoulders, but there is a limit to what we can do. So your help - however limited - will be very much appreciated!

Fleet Carnival, Wednesday June 25 (Procession). Can anyone make a float or tow a boat?
28th to 29th the stand will be on display. Attendants required for both afternoons, 2,30pm to 6pm. On these days also there is a carnival at Frimley and Camberley. Basingstoke Carnival is on July 10 - again we need someone either to make a float for the procession or tow a boat which we can provide if necessary.

Woking "Whirl" and Worplesdon Show are both on July 12.
For your diary: The Inland Waterways Association's annual rally of boats takes place from July 25-28 at Farmers Bridge, Birmingham. Don't forget our own Dave's Rave, each first and third Sunday of the month at Ash Vale Barge Yard.
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On Sunday, May 8 the society and the London and Home Counties Branch of the I.W.A. arranged a cruise on the River Wey from Newark to Byfleet for members and representatives of both county councils and local authorities which have the Basingstoke Canal running through their patch.

The event was very well attended, entirely informal and, from the letters we have subsequently received much enjoyed as a departure from normal civic routines. We took a party of over 40 guests cruising along the Wey, through two locks, and gave them tea with a film of Operation Ashton at Byfleet Boat Club, It brought all sides together for an afternoon out, as well as reminding our guests of our existence.

Our very grateful thanks to those boat owners who put their craft at our disposal, including members of our society, the I.W.A., Wey Cruising Club and Byfleet Boat Club - and more thanks to Byfleet Boat Club's committee and members who gave us the use of their boat house for the afternoon.

Thanks too to the members who turned up for our first real working party on the canal, when we cleared weed opposite Ash Vale Boat House. We were able to use our tractor for the first time, and altogether cleared about seven tons of weed from the canal.
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We have now discovered that the cost to public funds of the repair to the breach at the R.A.E., Farnborough, was £3,000, and in addition another £2,000 was incurred in damage to R.A.E. property. We are informed that the Ministry of Technology is now seeking to recover this money from the canal's owners. If you think they might need encouragement - and it is taxpayer's money, write to the Ministry in London.

The following items can be obtained from the Sales Manager, Paul Dyson, 53 Wyke Avenue, Ash, Aldershot, Hants.
London's Lost Route to Basingstoko by Paul Vine. Illustrated, 50s. Also London's Lost Route to the Sea by the same author, same price. Post free.
Basingstoke Canal: The Case for Restoration. The society's plans for restoration of the canal, with map and photographs, 4s.6d. post free.
Boats from the Basingstoke's Past by Tony Harmsworth. Society publication with details and histories of old Basingstoke barges. 2s. plus 6d. postage.
Biros, white with society's name engraved on barrel, blue ink, 6s. dozen, 6d. postage.
China canal narrow boats, 12" long, 17s.6d. (1s. postage).
Miniature Moasham Teapots 22s.6d. (1s. postage)
Available soon: Society enamel badge, 4s.6d., two-section 6" map of the Basingstoke Canal, 8s.6d. per section (6d. post).
We can also supply any of Messrs. David & Charles books post free.

Wanted; A pair of oars, 2"; a mains tape recorder, age and operating condition immaterial but must be cheap. Inquiries to Jon Talbot, 1 Madeley Road, Church Crookham, Hampshire.
Wanted: Ladies bicycle, cheap and safe. Ring Josephine Sparey, Woking 65095.
No charge is made for advertisements in the newsletter, but donations to either Dick Snell's machinery fund or the Lock Gate Fund are welcome. Please send advertising copy to the secretary as soon as possible after receipt of this newsletter for inclusion in the next.

Pardon the lapse en francais, but the newsletter is the only means we have of expressing our thanks - in whatever language - to all the people who help in so many ways. The Wessex branch of the Ramblers Association are continuing to back us to the hilt by holding rambles along the canal. For those who want to join, membership details are obtainable from the secretary, 66 St. Catherine's Road, Winchester, Hants. Their next ramble is on June 29 from Aldershot to Fleet, meeting at the entrance to Aldershot Station at 5pm or the A.325 canal bridge at 3.30pm.

To those who have generously contributed to the building of our first set of lock gates and those who have given their evenings up to help build them we can again only say "thanks". We hope those who see the gates will feel that their money has been well spent.

Few pubs are approached via a garden gate and a path lined by carefully tended rose trees and so, when I visited The Row Barge at St. John's, I found myself in a moment of idiocy wondering whether "they" would be "in". When viewed from the nearby car park, this Friary Meux house looks like a private dwelling which has been modernised, its steel window frames and tile-hung facade contrasting strangely with the mellow brick which reveals that parts of the building, at any rate, are of great age.

Two Tudor cottages once stood on this site and one of these was a bakery. An alcove which once accommodated an oven is now used for storage purposes behind the bar in the lounge. A wooden door, set high in an outside wall, doubtless leads to a spacious loft which would have been used for flour storage.

The Row Barge was once a popular haunt of canal boatmen, who moored their craft on the outside bank (i.e. the non-towing path side) below Goldsworth Top Lock and approached the inn on foot via a narrow lane. This portion of the Basingstoke Canal is now little more than a grassy depression, strewn with bottles, tins and milk crates. The pub has forsaken the disused waterway and now has a close association with the local cricket team instead.

The present licensee is Mr. Leonard W. Hollingdale, who offers a varied selection of table wines, a speciality of the house, in addition to the customary range of ales and spirits. It is particularly recommended for good, quick hot lunches at reasonable prices - and I can vouch for the excellence of Mrs. Hollingdale's home-made steak and kidney pie!
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"Over the Tunnel" - Total distance, 2-3/4 miles, footwear: hiking boots or Wellingtons after rain.

This ramble starts in Greywell village, reached on foot from Hook Station 1-3/4 miles away, or by a rather infrequent bus service from Odiham or Basingstoke. Cars can be parked in the village near the church, or you could ask permission to park at the Fox and Goose. Standing outside the Pox and Goose, at the T-junction, start to walk down the road opposite and almost immediately (after about 15-20 yards) turn left up a grassy bank into a narrow footpath. In about 30-40 yards cross the eastern portal of Greywell Tunnel. There were in earlier times extensive timber yards on the canal bank in this area, - but there is little if any trace to be seen today.

Having seen the eastern portal of the tunnel, retrace your steps to the Fox and Goose, at the T-junction turn right towards Hook, and in 40-50 yards find a stile in the left hand hedge. Cross the stile and enter a narrow track between high hedges. The track enters a copse, keep straight on through the copse and enter a field. Cross the field, going straight uphill, climb over the fence and enter a second field. Carry straight on up the hill and at the top of the hill you will come to a wood. At the left hand side of this will be found a gate to a cart track into the wood. Follow the track, keeping Greywell Hill House and outbuildings on your left. This track winds gently downhill through the wood past several ponds which have contributed to the collapse of the tunnel.

At the bottom of the hill, enter a wide track running at right-angles to your track, turn right for a few yards until another track is reached, running off to the left. Now the ramble leaves the legal right of way and follows the old barge horse path. While, strictly speaking, you will be trespassing for the next 1/2-mile or so, the landowner, the Earl of Malmesbury, has so far been kind to canal lovers and has said that he does not mind people following the old cart track providing they are quiet and well-behaved. So please remember you are on another canal lover's property and take great care. Take the path mentioned earlier, turning left to reach it. In a short distance pass a pond on your left and reach an estate track. Cross and keep straight on along an indistinct track downhill until you reach the canal cutting and remains of the western portal of the tunnel. The remains of the towpath can be seen sloping down to the old canal bank, which follow until Eastrop Bridge is reached. Climb up on to and cross the bridge, and follow the lane round several bends until a T-junction is reached on the Greywell-Basingstoke road. Turn left and walk over the hill back to Greywell village.
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Since my last letter regarding a weed-eating breed of carp, I've discovered they're called Chinese grass carp and are being tried out in a pond somewhere in Lincolnshire to see if they mix peacefully with the local fish. When I contacted the Ministry of Agriculture, they said it will be some time before the public can buy them, but the scientist concerned is going to keep me informed of their progress. If they are successful, it could save quite a bit of money in clearing the canal. (Mrs) Phillipa Fraser 269 Camden Road, Holloway, N.7
*Mrs. Fraser would like to hear from any more of our members in the Holloway area. And thanks for looking after our fishy interests!

At times doubt has been cast upon figures which the society has pub­lished in the past relating to the possible sources of income for a re­opened Basingstoke Canal. The March 1969 edition of the I.W.A. Bulletin contains an interesting passage concerning payments received by river authorities in return for use of drainage facilities. It is revealed that out of the Thames Conservancy's income of £1,629,000 in 1966 a large contribution (£1,155,000) was based upon precepts levied by local authorities. The River Cam Conservancy in the 1966-67 financial year received a total income of £7,520 of which £6,172 was contributed by two authorities for drainage services. In the light of this report, the £500 grant suggested in Case for Restoration for drainage into our canal does not seem to be excessive.

It is also pointed out that the small loss which is made by our nationalised waterways would be turned into a handsome profit if the British Waterways Board received a small fraction of their rightful dues from this source.
Jon Talbot,
1 Madeley Road,
Church Crookham.

The Newsletter Editor welcomes contributions either in letter or article form - but please be as brief as possible.

Items should be submitted as soon as possible after receipt of this newsletter.

A copy of a magazine called Spirax Topics, for the works manager or engineer has come our way - just to illustrate the diversity of interest and awareness that there exists about canals. Under an article headed "Summat for Nowt", the writer says: "Britain has had 70 years to do homage to the original canal builders and bring their mighty and imaginative works back into commission. And precious little has been done about it. This is wastefulness on a lunatic scale". He points out that a fully restored canal system is justified as a linear reservoir alone, and as a means of transporting water from areas of plenty to areas of drought it is difficult to fault. It's nice to know we're not alone.

A reminder that we are hoping to send a volunteer, party to work on the Upper Avon project - and we would also like volunteers for a working party on the River Wey. Anyone interested please contact Jim Woolgar: 56 Connaught Crescent, Brookwood, Woking, Surrey.

A welcome to the many new members who have joined since the last newsletter. Our membership is now over 800 and it will not be too long before we enrol our 1,000th member.
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THE END OF AN ERA by Jon Talbot
This month of June probably brings the end of commercial traffic on the River Wey Navigation. A Guildford firm, William Stevens & Sons, has been operating barges on this waterway, the Thames and other communicating waterways - since 1840. In recent years the trade has consisted almost exclusively of imported wheat, which has been conveyed from the Royal group of docks to Coxes Lock Mills at Weybridge.

In recent months three barges, the HOPE, PERSEVERANCE IV and SPEEDWELL, each of 80 tons capacity, have been running roughly at weekly intervals. A fourth vessel, the RELIANCE, was damaged beyond repair in a collision with a pier at Cannon Street railway bridge last year. The firm also owns an ex-Harmsworth barge, the ARIEL I, renamed FLEET, which was built at Ash Vale in 1935.

I was fortunate enough to travel from Weybridge to the Royal Victoria Dock, in March with SPEEDWELL - and PERSEVERANCE IV, skippered respectively by Messrs. George Fisher and John White, and from an unpromising start on a cold, gloomy, snowy morning this became a pleasant and memorable, experience.

The 100 h.p. tug Leo towed the barges across the furious tail of a weir into the calm waters of the Desborough Cut and downriver to Sunbury Lock, where the tug cast off and, after locking through, the barges awaited a tow from a larger tug, the Ham. The halt at Sunbury provided an opportunity for John to sweep out his cabin, stoke up his stove and replenish his supply of coal from a store below deck in the bows of his barge. The kettle boiled merrily and we enjoyed a mug of tea apiece.

The arrival of Ham was the signal for an exchange of banter with the tug's crew, The water boiled under her counter as she manoeuvred into position, ready to take her tow. Downriver we sped to Molesey Lock, passing Hampton Court on the south bank. The three vessels could just squeeze into the lock chamber together but at the last lock, Teddington, there was adequate space above the centre gates; the whole lock would accommodate half a dozen such barges at one time.

We by-passed the "half-tide" lock at Richmond, saving time and lockage charges. A curious arrangement is adopted here, whereby a temporary weir is placed in position at half tide, when the lock comes into use, and by this means navi­gation depth to Teddington is maintained until the tide rises again.

Commercial traffic became heavier on the tideway. At the entrance to the Grand Union Canal at Brentford, where we halted for orders, a great flotilla of lighters was assembled and the river bank was alive with the comings and goings of lorries and lightermen, in sharp contrast to the peaceful grounds of Syon House, which we had passed a few yards upstream. By early afternoon the barges were whipping downstream with the tide, through the many familiar bridges of London. Of course, these bridges have been built at widely difffering dates, but little consideration has been given to the problems of navi­gation. When two breasted barges are tearing down through London, the bridges provide barely sufficient width, allowing for the eddies around the piers. The arches of successive bridges are misaligned relative to each other and it would be all too easy to smack into the stonework broadside on. This was the fate which befell RELIANCE, the first craft which William Stevens & Sons have lost since they began trading in 1840.

London's river traffic may be declining, but on our journey we must have seen many hundreds of steel lighters and I believe that the total number in service is abound 5,000. At one point Ham left us moored to a buoy while she collected a pair of lighters which were dropped off again below Greenwich. It was early evening before we arrived at the entrance to the Royal Victoria Dock and joined a train of a dozen or more lighters which were waiting to be winched into the entrance lock.

An emergency arose for a moment when a tug sped alongside us, turned sharply and a pair of lighters swung across violently. The barge skippers tore up and down the length of their vessels, inserting fenders, and one or two hard blows were softened. Tug skippers show little respect for their craft or anyone else's. Almost an hour passed before the lock gates opened and the long line of craft staggered forward... The huge gates closed behind us, and ten minutes later we were sitting on top of 35 ft. of water, with a fine view of the river over the top of the gates.

The tug hauled a lockful of craft out into the dock, but then we were on our own. Our destination was a tall white building about a mile away, but there was a strong head wind and we had no power. We began to move forward, slowly and painfully, by courtesy of John White who leapt from lighter to lighter hauling on a line. Then, when only open water way ahead, a small tug appeared, 10s, changed hands and a few minutes later we were moored safely beneath the towering mill building.

This was to have been the last outward journey, but owing to teething troubles at the new Tilbury terminal, the barges are continuing to operate until June. For, sad to say, this ancient trade is to end, the barges are to be sold and in future the grain will be conveyed by rail. The same fate has befallen the narrow boats of Willow Wren Canal Transport Services Ltd. which have in the past conveyed 9,000 tons of wheat annually to the Weetabix group at Wellingborough, Northants. It is claimed that the Tilbury terminal is too far down river for economical carriage by water via Brentford to Wellingborough and the improved rail loading facilities at Tilbury have enabled British Rail to undercut William Stevens & Sons and, incidentally, road transport as well.

Thus ends an era in the history of British transport. While European barge traffic expands dramatically each year in what is admittedly a more favourable commercial climate, the use of barges in this country is a shadow of the past. Commercial traffic on road and rail is subsidised cheerfully by the taxpayer, not only through personal taxation but by petrol and road fund tax also. But our waterways, making a tiny paper loss, are hidebound by out of date legislation and have little money available for development. It is all very sad.

*For a more detailed account of this voyage, with photographs, see May 30 edition of Motor Boat and Yachting.

Secretary & Newsletter Editor: Miss June Sparey, 8 Beaufort Road, Maybury Estate, Woking, Surrey. Tel: Woking 63095
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Last updated April 2005