Newsletter No. 25October 1969
CONCRETE DAM ON CANAL GETS GO-AHEAD
A reinforced concrete dam is to be built into the wing walls of Ash Lock. Planning permission has been granted to the New Basingstoke Canal Company Ltd. by Hampshire County Council for the construction of the dam. It will replace the wooden dam which has held back the waters of the summit pound since September last year, when the canal burst its banks at Ash Valley embankment, just a few hundred yards downstream of the lock.
The Society knew nothing of this until a report appeared in an Aldershot newspaper during the first week of September. Aldershot Council, to whom the application for planning permission was made, did not think to let the Society know - despite the fact that only a few days earlier two committee members had talks with the Clerk and Surveyor of Aldershot Borough Council when the situation at Ash Lock was specifically mentioned. The application to build the dam filtered through various planning committees and ended up at Hampshire County Council headquarters in Winchester, where final approval was given by the County Planning Committee.
Why was planning permission granted? The authorities have been worried about the possibility of flooding in the vicinity of Ash Lock, particularly since the unhappy events of last year. The New Basingstoke Canal Company was not prepared to repair the breach in the embankment which, together with a new pair of upper gates at Ash would have solved the problem. The County Council did not feel empowered to insist that the owners should repair the breach. But the canal company was willing to build a concrete dam at Ash to make the area "safe". Just how this dam is to be built, and where, are topics on which the Society could have given help and advice, had it been consulted. Instead, the matter appears to have been dealt with in great haste, and to some extent the County Council has played right into the canal company's hands.
For the only people who are really happy with the situation are the New Basingstoke Canal Company. Hampshire County Council approved the dam reluctantly, feeling they had little choice. Surrey, who were consulted before final approval was given, also expressed reservations, and were in favour of a temporary planning consent only being given. The Society, having studied the plans for the dam, is frankly worried. Although we are assured that the dam can easily be knocked down when the time comes, its physical presence becomes a permanency in the eyes of the general public. Is it easy for us to say "Save the Basingstoke Canal" when there is a concrete dam built across it? The way it is to be built, into the wing walls of the lock is not, in our opinion satisfactory. And will the planning permission given by Hampshire now set a precedent for other applications which might concern the bed of the canal? New roads, lower bridges could follow.
Unfortunately, the Society has no way of forcing the matter to a public inquiry. But the committee has taken what steps are open to us in expressing our opinion most forcibly. A letter of protest has been lodged with Hampshire County Council, with a copy sent to the Minister of Housing and Local Government in the hope that something can be done at Ministry level to either halt plans for this dam or get them reconsidered. Had we been warned, advised, or consulted by the planning authorities before a final decision was taken, we would not have had to resort to such drastic measures. At any rate, with over 1,000 members and thousands of other individuals affiliated to us through member societies, we feel our views should have been sought before it was too late.
Meanwhile, our own lock gates, painstakingly built by members, remain at Ash Vale Barge Yard. Designed to fit Ash Lock, they would do the job of any dam if securely fastened against vandals. With the Whitewater Aqueduct still leaking badly, water levels dropping in Surrey and pounds drying out because of the temporary dam at Ash, the canal's condition is now critical. Hampshire County Council expects a consultant's report on the canal by March 1970. When it is received they must act quickly. Further delay will mean the death of the canal, and the hopes of thousand. The rot has now set in. How much further will it be allowed to spread?
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Sunday, October 12: Working party at Greywell CANCELLED until further notice. Hampshire County Council have agreed to provide materials for repair of the footpath, but they feel consent should also be obtained fron the New Basingstoke Canal Company before giving a final go-ahead.
Saturday, October 18: Boat Auction at Bushnells, Wargrave on Thames. Starts 11am. Bargains can be found at these auctions. Catalogues from Apthorpe & Co. Station Road, Aldershot.
Saturday/Sunday, October 25-26: Society-organised working party to visit the Upper Avon. This is a plan to link the Avon Navigation with Stratford on Avon. We are hoping for a good turn-out of society members, accommodation provided. Party will leave Friday night, return Sunday. Help with transport can be arranged. Please contact Jim Woolgar, 56 Connaught Crescent, Brookwood, Woking, Surrey, tel. Brookwood 4064 if you want to join in.
Sunday, November 2: Dave's Rave, Ash Vale Barge Yard. Meet 10.30am. Work on machinery. Come for half a day - or the whole day if you can.
Thursday, November 11: Talk with slides and film, "The Basingstoke Canal: Past, Present and Future". Aldershot Central Library, High Street, Aldershot. 7.45 for 8.00pm. Aldershot members please try and come along with friends, neighbours and relatives (we have a big hall to fill).
Sunday, November 16: Autumn ramble along the canal. We shall be walking from Brookwood to Ash Vale (for those who want to get trains home), or carrying on to Ash Lock and the site of the dam for those who are interested. The ramble will pass by the flight of fourteen locks at Deepcut, and we shall see what effect the damming of the canal has had on the lower reaches. Meet Brookwood Station, 10.00am. Lunch at Frimley.
Saturday/Sunday, November 28-29: Display at Farnborough Town Hall, Model Transpo' '69, organised by the Railway Enthusiasts' Club. Helpers to man the stand needed for both days. Offers of help to Les Harris, 01-735-9133 Ext.366 (working hours) or 198 Hermitage Woods Crescent, St. John's, Woking, Surrey.
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Basingstoke Canal: The Case for Restoration; Society publication, illustrated, with map,4s. 6d.
Boats from the Basingstoke's Past, by Tony Harmsworth. With map, 2s. (postage 6d)
London's Lost Route to Basingstoke by P. A. L. Vine. Comprehensive history of the canal. Also London's Lost Route to the Sea (same author). Both 50s. post free.
6" map of the Basingstoke Canal in two sections, east and west. 8s.6d. per section, postage 6d.
Biros white, with Society's name engraved on barrel. Blue ink. 6s. per dozen. China canal narrow boats and Measham teapots, 17s.6d. and 22s.6d. respectively. Available soon: Society badge depicting the sailing barge on the canal token. 4s.6d.
The above items can be obtained by post (with the exception of chinaware which must be collected because of the risk of breakage) from the sales manager, Paul Dyson, 53 Wyke Avenue, Ash, Aldershot, Hants.
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The I.W.A. cruise from Millmead, Guildford to New Haw on the River Wey Navigation raised £16 for London & Home Counties Branch's Basingstoke Canal Eestoration Fund. Our thanks to Tim Dodwell for organising the event, which attracted a large number of boats. The weather was glorious - a usual feature of events in which the society has a hand. On September 28 the society held a working party on public footpath at Greywell which is also canal towpath. There were about 20 workers, and the autosythe was a great help in widening the footpath and clearing back undergrowth to the water line. An opportunity was taken to inspect the small aqueduct taking the canal over the River Whitewater. Despite canal company activity there, it is still leaking and the water level in the Greywell area has dropped.
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Our meeting on September 27 was a break from tradition. Members were given - and took - the opportunity of telling the committee what should be done. Group discussion, tried for the first time, got everyone talking about the canal (it proved quite a job to stop them talking). Certainly it showed that the membership is 100 per cent behind full restoration of the canal, with a fight to the bitter end to achieve it if necessary. Many useful suggestions were made, which will be discussed by committee members and implemented. We hope to have more meetings of this nature in future. The Constitution was explained, and the present position is that it is now being studied by the Charity Commissioners.
The meeting also gave us an opportunity to welcome our 1,000th member - Mr. M. Boyden, of Lightwater. He was presented with a complimentary copy of "London's Lost Route to Basingstoke" by chairman David Gerry. We hope Mr. Boyden enjoys his membership of the Society. Now on to the 2,000th member ...
With this newsletter each member will receive a membership form. Please pass it on to anyone who shows interest in the canal. With a decision on the canal's future expected next year, we must go into 1970 with as strong a membership as possible. The success of our campaign is largely dependent upon maintaining and increasing public interest - and this is where every member can help.
If you live in an area where you think there is great interest in the canal and its present condition, then you might undertake a door-to-door distribution of membership forms. The secretary can supply them on request.
One other way in which members can draw attention to the society is by following up articles about the canal in local newspapers with a letter to the Editor. Complain about the condition of the canal, urge the county councils to take action, support restoration. It's all good publicity for the Society and it shows the authorities that our campaign isn't merely a nine-day wonder. Remember: the Councils need our support if they are to take action.
Finally, the petition goes on. Now over 12,000 signatures have been received. More petition forms are available from the secretary.
It is always a pleasure to mention new names in the newsletter, and we would like to say a grateful "thank you" to three members who have helped in various ways recently. Mr. Bevington of Blackheath, near Guildford, has given the society a hand-operated winch; Mr. Brian Harris of Croydon kindly printed for us free of charge 500 compliments slips; and Mr. Venables of Farnham has donated a caravan for which we advertised in the newsletter. This will be used for publicity purposes - and later we hope as a site office for working parties, and let's not forget our "postmen" who halve our postage bill by delivering newsletters by hand. If you would like to help by acting as postman in your area, please contact the Membership Secretary, Mrs. F. Woolgar, Brookwood 4064 (56 Connaught Crescent, Brookwood, Woking). If you are clearing out the garage or tool-shed, any items which could conceivably be used in restoration work (grass-cutters, long handled scythes, rakes etc.) will always be given a home by the Society. Our stock of machinery is impressive and growing, but we shall need a lot more if we get the all-clear to work on the canal next year.
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THAMES CONSERVANCY - LOCK CLOSURES
The following locks will be closed for repairs at the times given: (dates inclusive)
Marlow Lock .................................. November 3 - November 22
Hurley Lock ................................... November 24 - November 28
Abingdon Lock ............................... November 24 - December 15
Shiplake Lock ................................ December 1 - December 21
Grafton Lock .................................. December 29 - January 20
Eadcot Lock .................................. January 26 - February 23
Mapledurham Lock ......................... February 2 - February 15
Old Windsor Lock .......................... February 9 - February 23
THE WORD GETS ROUND THE WORLD ...
Seen on a car in Venice - a "Save the Basingstoke Canal" sticker.
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A THOUGHT FOR WINTER
Miss Edith Villiers, who delivers newsletters in the Woking area, writes to say that recently she delivered to a new neniber who knew nothing about canal holidays. Miss Villiers is a seasoned canal traveller, as she explains in this contribution to the newsletter:
"When I was in Pamela, a Hostelcraft boat in 1967, I suggested to the skipper that we should go on the Grand Union Canal at Foxton, to do the staircase of ten flights of locks. I had heard such a lot about it from an old lady of over 100. She was born at Foxton and played by the canal as a child.
"This year I was able to fulfill my wish, as the brochure included a trip down the Foxton flight, in Pamela drawn by Jim, a 6-year old horse. It was ny 6th holiday on narrow boats, and it was the best as the company, weather and food were splendid.
"We went from Northampton to Leicester, doing about 50 miles. We went through many locks, and three tunnels. The longest was a mile and took us 1 1/2-hours by the hand method, walking on the roof of the boat and pushing us along.
"One amazing moment was standing on the towpath, watching the boat coming slowly towards me. I looked to the left and saw and heard the continuous roar of the M.1, and then to the right to hear and see trains go by. It is lovely to know that by England's canals there is still a part where wild flowers and butterflies still abound".
If you are thinking of taking a canal holiday next year, the Society can help put you in touch with hire firms. Miss Villiers is willing to give the benefit of her experience to intending canal cruisers. You can get in touch with her at Woking 2241. If you have already had your first holiday afloat, and would like to share some of your experiences with other members, please write to the Newsletter Editor (address on page 6). All contributions to the newsletter are welcomed.
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GOLD MEDAL ADVENTURE by Donald Laing and Christopher Sykes
Donald and Christopher are pupils at Wellington College, Crowthorne. In August this year they made a trip by canoe along the navigable portions of the Basingstoke Canal. They made the attempt in conjunction with the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme, trying for a gold medal. They didn't tell us whether they got the gold - but from their account of the journey they deserved it. Here is their tale:
"On Monday, August 4, the trip began, after over three months' preparation, from North Warnborough lift Bridge. It was at 10.30am that everybody and everything were safely installed in the two boats - one a l6ft. Canadian canoe called 'Rough and Tumble II', towing the other, a polystyrene rowboat called 'Sportyak'. With one person in the rowboat, and three in the canoe, our party of four, with the dog on the towpath set out.
"Our first obstacle came only 20 yards fron the start - a large clump of reeds. After this it was clear for some way to the first roadbridge, where we again met a clunp of reeds. Travelling on from here, we reached a stretch of thickly interwoven small lilies. We found it a little tiring on the arms to paddle through this, so we thought of the idea of pulling the boats from the towpath fron the canoe's painter.
Here our first disaster struck. This idea worked well to begin with, but it became inpossible to keep the canoe in the centre of the canal. The two on the towpath pulled when the two in the canoe were not ready, and a semi— capsizal resulted, wetting the underneaths of the cardboard food containers which, as can be imagined, caused considerable difficulty in the later stages of the trip. After this incident we canoed on through more reeds and lily pads to Odiham Bridge where a short rest was taken. A mile further on we spent an hour and a half portaging round a section of the canal where it shelved to less than two inches of water. No more incidents were had before our 3.00pm lunch. After that we paddled on along some very pleasant stretches of the canal near Dogmersfield and Crookham. The only incident we had in the afternoon was when we met a family of swans. We camped the night on Army ground, having obtained a permit beforehand, at Pyestock Hill, near a dam and a water pump making an infernal racket.
We were checked in every night by Capt. Chetwynd Stapylton, because our trip was the expedition for the Gold Duke of Edinburgh's Award, and it states in the rules that we have to be checked in every night.
"On the second day we had to carry the equipment over the road and down a very steep bank which took us rather a long time. After going through a big patch of soldier weed, we arrived at Farnborough Road Bridge. At that time a new bridge was being built, so again we had to portage. Having put in the boats again, we set off past the Aldershot Barracks where we counted, in one clump over 46 tins. We grounded near the Aldershot swimming pool, but luckily with only one person aboard we were able to pull the boats over the mud. The water in Aldershot is very oily. Not long after this we came to several trees which had fallen together into the canal. As there was precious little towpath, the only way to overcome this obstacle was to go through. We were held up by this for over an hour.
Having surmounted this difficulty, by laboriously moving logs out of the way, we canoed only to meet round the next corner another fallen tree and half a mile's worth of soldier weed, otherwise known as pineapple weed which floats on the surface like a lawn of grass. The only way to get through was by poling. This naturally held us up for a good one and a half hours, added to which, at the end of this stretch, we grounded and so had to do a portage. After that it was plain sailing to Gasworks Bridge, where we arrived at about 8.30pm. That night we camped in the Army barracks with permission of the Military Police.
"From Gasworks Bridge to Brookwood Bridge is unnavigable (due to the dam at Ash Lock). In places, like Mytchett Lake and Greatbottom Flash, the canal is pleasant and navigable but the entrances and exits are so choked with soldier weed that it would have taken us a good ten days to get through the lot. So we were transported by car to Brookwood Bridge. This took the whole of the morning until 1.00pm. We were glad to meet a well-kept stretch of about two and a half miles, after the difficulties of the previous day. Another passive family of swans were met on our way to a series of five locks, where more portaging was required.
As we were unloading the boat, a jerk was given to the canoe by a member of the party on the bank who was holding the painter, thus causing the person standing in the canoe to fall overboard, filling the canoe with water. Luckily, most of the stores had already been unloaded. We had lunch at the second lock. After that we continued with the portage. The canal became clear from here towards our camp site at Woking Common, but shelved in some places, causing us to ground twice.
"On our last day on the canal we replenished our stores. On arriving later at another lock, we got out and portaged to just past the next, where we re-launched the boats. We went on to the third, where we were again forced to disembark and portage to the fourth. After that we came to the last lock of the canal and the end of our journey was in sight. However, our troubles were not over, for five demons were guarding the entrance to the Wey Navigation system. After two retreats and a few decoy biscuits, we managed to slip past these swans and into the Wey Navigation. A little further on we camped on common land, and the next day went down the Thames to Hampton Court.
"The party consisted of Donald Laing, aged 16, the leader; Christopher Sykes, 17, and their two brothers, Robert Laing and Jeremy Sykes, both aged 12 1/2. The two youngest took turns to go in the rowboat, where they noted down the rubbish seen and took the depths. The camping sites near the canal were good, and fortunately the weather was fine throughout the trip. We need scarcely point out that most rubbish was found in residential areas, Aldershot and Woking being the worst. All in all the trip went well, and was enjoyed by all - despite the difficulties".
Here is the boys' list of rubbish found in the canal:
291 bottles; 217 pieces of paper; 93 plastic bags; 59 car tyres; 247 oil drums; 29 stoves, tanks, gas meters, sinks, loos, basins; 16 prams; 26 bicycles; 46l tin cans; 6 lengths fish gut and floats; 16 pieces cardboard; 45 paper mugs; 19 items shoes, footwear; 35 pieces metal sheeting; 34 milk crates; 3 cars and parts (including one complete car); 2 suitcases; 5 footballs; 7 balls; 4 toy pedal cars; 1 toy bath boat; 1 toy poodle; 11 mats; 7 mattresses and springs; 12 sunken barges; 1 dead puppy.
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It has been suggested that we hold "evening classes" for members who would be willing to act as working party leaders. These would acquaint people with the type of tools required, sizes of saplings to be cut down, the correct method of tackling different types of work. We need only about half a dozen people, perhaps to meet in a house for a few days where all can be explained. If you are interested in tackling the type of work - vital if we are to carry out our promise of helping to restore the canal - please get in touch with the chairman, David Gerry, 10 Fairland Close, Fleet, Hampshire. You need not be an expert - we'll do the teaching.
WATERSIDE INNS OF THE BASINGSTOKE - by Jon Talbot
The Chequers Inn, Crookham - No. 4
The Chequers is a good example of that rare phenomenon the Free House. Parts of the building are of great age and the inn existed at the time of the canal's construction or was built immediately afterwards. Its position may well have influenced the original canal company in its choice of a site for a wharf and a flash in which boats could be moored overnight.
During the 18th Century and well into the 19th the boat crews would have seen few signs of human habitation after leaving Ash. Even the development of agriculture came very late in this corner of England and much of their route lay through barren heathland. They saw a glimpse, perhaps, of a cottage at Coxheath, Grove Farm and the Malthouse across the fields. Perhaps there was a bark of welcome or warning from a dog in the garden of a cottage which once stood at the water's edge near Malthouse Bridge. The only signs of industry would have been the brickyard at Zephon Common, near the swing bridge, and a coal pen at Malthouse Bridge.
Doubtless The Chequers was a welcome sight to these crews - an ideal overnight stop before pressing on westwards to Odiham and Basingstoke.
The licence has been in the family of the present holder, Mrs. Ida Hale, since about 1810 or 1820, a happy fragment of stability in these days of change. The succession has been in the female line of Cowley-Ivil-Eale and during the time of Mrs. Hale's grandfather, Mr. George Cowley, and probably well before his time, a contract existed with the canal company for the boarding of boatmen and their horses. The innkeeper received fivepence a night per man and for this sum a straw bed in the stable loft was provided, together with a clay pipe and some tobacco. Stabling and fodder for the horse cost the company 9d. per night, but this fee included the horse's food also. In the stable is an old barge tiller upon which the boaters' harness was hung.
The Chequers was not alone in the canal trade, however, for a cottage called The Chestnuts opposite the garage was once The Jolly Waterman. Its name and character was probably derived fron the habit of boatmen of taking their horses along the road when they had no barges to pull, thus avoiding the excursions of the towpath as the canal followed the natural contour of the land. A saving of about four niles accrued if the horse left the towpath at Chatter Alley, Pilcot, and joined it again at Malthouse Bridge. That doughty resident of Crookham, Mr. Stan Knight, who has kindly provided chapter (and much of the verse) of this passage, says that his father recalled that it was a common sight to see a blue-jerseyed waterman, complete with cloth cap, muffler and red spotted handkerchief, riding a harnessed barge horse side saddle through the village street.
It has been suggested that this practice might well have extended to a cross-country journey via Crookham Cross Roads and Windy Gap, thus avoiding further deviations of the towing path. This would have been very dependent upon the weather, however. For much of the year the country lanes, few enough in number, would have been miry or even impassable. Even the muddy lane as we know it was regarded as a good road a century ago, and the metalled highway is a very recent innovation.
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WELSHPOOL - OCTOBER 18/19
The first working party on the Montgomery branch of the Shropshire Union Canal will be held over this weekend. Machinery has been donated, but there may be a shortage of workers, so volunteers are urgently needed. Anyone who would like to join this working party should contact Graham Palmer, 4 Wentworth Court, Wentworth Avenue, Finchley, London N.3. Telephones 01-346-4949.
NEWS FROM WOKING
A public meeting on the route of the proposed Horsell by-pass/town centre link road voted overwhelmingly against the necessity of the road at all. One of the proposed routes for the road ran alongside the canal for 1/2-mile. The matter is now being reconsidered by the Council. The Surveyor of Woking Council is calling a meeting of his colleagues on other canalside Councils to discuss the danger of collapses in the canal banks and what can be done about it. Arthur Skeffington, Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government spoke in Woking recently and said in reply to a question that if the Basingstoke Canal were restored to countryside park standards, it would qualify for a 75 per cent Government grant towards the cost.
Secretary & Newsletter Editor: Miss June Sparey, 8 Beaufort Road, Maybury Estate, Woking, Surrey. Tel: Woking 63095 (weekends), 01-992-5167 (weekday evenings)
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