Newsletter No. 29March 1970
THE COUNTDOWN BEGINS
At the end of this month, Hampshire County Council will receive its long-awaited engineer's report on the condition of the Hampshire section of the Basingstoke Canal. On this will depend whether or not - the two county councils will join in purchasing the canal.
We do not expect something dramatic to happen on March 31 - nor for some little time afterwards. But we hope that Hampshire will come to a decision as speedily as possible, since too much valuable time has already been lost or wasted.
Afterwards will come the big decision: what will happen to the canal if it becomes public property? Will it be weired into a water channel, left to moulder on as it is — or restored?
From the efforts which the society has put into its campaign over the past three years, no member of any canalside local authority has a reason for saying they are not aware of our restoration plans, or what would be involved. In the past week we have made doubly sure of this.
A copy of our new publication, Restoration of the Basingstoke Canal — Some Questions and Answers, has been sent to every local authority councillor along the canal — over 250 of them. The booklet explains with great clarity why we think the canal should be publicly owned, why we think it should be restored, and how this could be achieved. In addition, the booklet is illustrated with photographs which show the dramatic changes in the canal's condition which have occurred over the past two years.
Now it must be the turn of the general membership of the canal society to have their say. If you are at all concerned about what happens to the canal in the future — and if you are reading this then you must be - PLEASE WRITE TO YOUR COUNTY COUNCILLOR ABOUT IT, whether you live in Surrey or Hampshire. Your library can give you his or her name and address. If you are unable to obtain it that way, then write to your representative c/o The Castle, Winchester, Hampshire, or County Hall, Kingston on Thames, Surrey, as the case may be. In some cases, the secretary can help you find your ward county councillor if you get in touch with her.
We have made similar appeals in the past - but this one is in earnest. In trying to save the canal, we must all be sure that we have done as much as we can to achieve our object. Simply joining the society is, sadly, not enough. The operative words at the moment are that the Basingstoke Canal should be saved - that is the message we want you to get across to your elected representatives.
Please spare us a few minutes of your time, pen, paper and a 4d. stamp. And remember - the municipal elections are not far away. Your councillor is there to represent you, therefore you must tell him what you want him to do.
[back to top]
HARVINGTON - APRIL 4-5
This working party on the Upper Avon was announced in the last newsletter. The work on the Avon is solely dependent on support from groups like ours. To Many members, the Avon scheme can be used as a training ground. Under the soulless, ruthless leadership of David Hutchings, you can learn how digging mud for 25 hours a day can be fun. As one member has pointed out: "It is essential for our cause that the Avon be reopened - it is essential also that this society rapidly acquires the expertise to carry out more complicated work than tree-cutting". So if you can spare the weekend to come to Harvington, please contact Jim Woolgar, 56 Connaught Crescent, Broowkood, Woking, Surrey (tel. Brookwood 4064). This offer also applies to the fair sex: ladies are welcome and suitable work for them will be found.
[back to top]
EASTER 1970 - Walk The Canal
Spring is in the air and here's a chance to get rid of the winter fat and breathe fresh air. This Easter, we aim to walk the length of the canal, and every member is invited to join in - either all the way, part of the way, or for 100 yards if necessary. As mentioned in the last newsletter, enterprising types who want to combine this walk with a bit of fundraising are welcome to seek private sponsors at so much a mile (or lock). Here is the Easter time table, please join us at one of the points en route. If you can't manage to join the main walk, then please spare just a little time over Easter to get out on the towpath somehow, and show people that it is used.
Starts. Scotland Bridge, New Haw, 10.00am
Hospital Bridge, Woking, 11.30; St. John's 12.30, Brookwood Bridge (A.322) 1.00pm; lunch break. Re-start Brookwood Bridge 2.00; Curzon Bridge 3.15; Frimley Green Bridge (A.321 ) 4.15; Ash Vale Barge Yard 5.00.
Start: Ash Vale Barge Yard, 10.00am Monday March 30.
Ash Vale Bridge (A.3011) 10.30; Gasworks Bridg'e 11.30 (Aldershot); Wharf Bridge (A.323) 11.45; Norris Bridge (Pyestock, 12.45; Reading Road Bridge, Fleet (B.3013) 1.30. Lunch break. Re-start: Reading Road Bridge, 2.30; Crookhan 3.00; Dogmersfield (double bridge) 4.15; Winchfield 4.45; Odiham Wharf (B.3016) 6.15.
Cars can be parked at Scotland Bridge alongside the railway embankment or in the station yard; at Ash Vale Barge Yard and Reading Road Bridge. On the Sunday, the walk starts and finishes between two railway stations - Byfleet and New Haw and Ash Vale. On the Monday, there will be a car shuttle service to and from Winchfield
How to get there: If you are unable to join the walk at start points, you can meet the walkers at road bridges, and road numbers are given where possible. Otherwise consult sheet 169 of the Ordnance Survey Map, which shows the canal and the bridges given.
April 4-5: Harvington, near Eveshan, Worcs. working party on the Upper Avon. Acccommodation provided. Volunteers urgently needed (See Page l).
August 7, 8, 9, 10: Guildford Water Festival and National Rally of Boats, Guildford. See Rally news, Page 3.
[back to top]
Basingstoke Canal: The Case for Restoration; 4s.6d. post free.
Canals and their Architecture by Robert Harris, £4. 4s. post free,
London's Lost Route to Basingstoke by Paul Vine, also London's Lost Route to the Sea, same author, both 50s. post free.
English Canals: Part I (A Concise Eistory): Part II (Engineers and Engineering); Part III (Boats and Boatnen) 15s. each post free
Boats from the Basingstoke's Past, by Tony Harmsworth, 2s., postage 6d. 6" map of the canal, two sections, east and west, 8s. 6d. per section, postage 6d. each
Society badge, 4s.6d; cuff links 15s. postage 6d. in each case. Newsletter sets (15-19, 20-24) ls.6d., postage 6d.
Questions and Answers booklet on restoration of the Basingstoke Canal, 1s., post. 6d.
Miniature Meashan Teapot and China Canal Narrow Boat, l7s. 6d. and 22s. 6d. (fron society stands or by personal application to the Sales Manager).
Also available! IWA Holiday Guide and River Wey Guide.
The above itens can be obtained fron the Sales Manager, Paul Dyson, 53 Wyke Avenue, Ash, Aldershot, Hants.
We must thank Mr. Robin Bridger of Woking who has kindly given the society seven ladders, two hoists and a concrete mixer (arriving later). A reminder that we do need hand tools in good condition, particularly scythes, shovels, spades, sickles, bow saws, axes, picks and carpentry tools. If you have any spare tools you are willing to donate, please contact John Preston, 24 Mulberry Trees, Russell Road, Shepperton, Middlesex.
If it hasn't yet sunk in, the IWA's National Rally is this year being held at Guildford on August 7, 8, 9 and 10. We still need volunteers to man the society's stands at the rally - where we hope to have our lock gates on display - particularly for the Friday and Monday of the rally.
Please write to our social secretary, Peter Caiger, 42 Orchard Way, Camberley, Surrey, if you can offer help in advance, or if you would like to join the small sub-committee which is being set up to organise the society's rally participation.
While on the subject, member Mr. Reg Best of Woking has kindly offered to supply some oil paintings taken fron photographs of the Basingstoke Canal for exhibition at the rally, with part of any sale proceeds being donated to society funds. Any similar offers from other members will be very welcome. The secretary has had a preview of Mr. Best's work and can vouch for its excellence, so if you are on the look-out for unusual paintings of the canal, cone to the rally.
[back to top]
Calling bright sparks - by Liz Dodwell, I.W.A.
The site organisers for the rally are trying to arrange facilities and services, and if anyone has any good contacts that will save money (and thereby put more into the kitty), please write to Robin Hggs, 18 Barnsford Crescent, West End, Woking, Surrey (tel. Chobhan 7314).
You know the sort of thing? Public address, electrics, water pipes and taps, toilets (yes, a mobile unit out of a hat is just what we need!), tentage, fairy lights, internal telephone, fireworks, scaffold poles, planks, fencing etc. etc.
These arrangenents must be made soon, so it's really only definite ideas that will help - the comfort and enjoyment of a lot of us will depend on good service.
On a similar subject, We shall need practical help fron experienced (professional or anateur) plumbers and electricians. Names and addresses to Robin again, please.
Now too is the tine to produce suggestions for entertainments, displays, exhibitors (clubs or trade show) etc. But please don't be disappointed if your ideas can't all be used.
A campaign is under way to interest as many schools as possible in the River Wey and the Basingstoke Canal areas. Two hundred and fifty letters have been sent out to nearby schools, and both Surrey and Hampshire education departments have included notes about the rally in their schools bulletins.
The main object is to encourage as many teachers as possible to introduce the subject nearest to our hearts (canals in general as well as in particular) to their pupils. It is hoped that competitions for essays, projects and paintings will be organised, depending on response.
I have more copies of the letter which has been circulated - it contains a book list and other bits of useful information - so if anyone knows of any school-teacher who hasn't heard about the scheme, and would be interested (wherever they are situated), please send me names and addresses.
Write to Mrs. E. Dodwell, Windover, Horsell Birch, Woking, Surrey (Woking 65932).
[back to top]
BIBDS, BEES AND THE BASINGSTOKE
On February 18, Mrs. Heather Angel talked at a society meeting at North Warnborough about the canal's natural history. She showed slides of the various plant and insect life in the Basingstoke Canal and was particularly interested in the red fern which grows on the canal in autumn. Unfortunately, it did not appear last year due to lower water levels.
Mrs. Angel had some interesting comments on natural life in the canal at the moment and the effect of restoration on it. She said an assessment ought to be made now to see what was living there, otherwise there would be no measure for the future. In order that plant and insect life can flourish, it was most important for the surface of the water not to become overgrown with weed and other vegetation. There should be a constant flow of water and not great fluctuations in its level - conditions more likely to be prevalent if the canal were restored.
Mrs. Angel also commented on the enormous educational value of the canal. She greatly encouraged field work, stressing that collecting specimens was not detrimental to the wild life, provided small quantities were taken and, where possible, returned to the canal later.
[back to top]
Regular readers of the newsletter will know what a great contribution our arny of volunteer postmen make. Their efforts in delivering newsletters to 50 per cent of society doors cut postage bills by half.
We have vacancies - in Ash Vale and Woking in particular. In Woking, about a dozen addresses to the south of the railway line (Oriental Road/Constitution Hill) are involved. If you live in either of these two areas, and can spend one evening every six weeks in getting the newsletter delivered, please contact our nenbership secretary, Mrs. F. Woolgar, 56 Connaught Crescent, Brookwood, Woking, tel. Brookwood 4064 ionediately.
If you live outside the areas nentioned, but would like to lend a hand in this very worth while way, also get in touch with Mrs. Woolgar - we can probably oblige you.
[back to top]
Our archivist, Miss Doris Potter, has now changed her address to Collingwood, 22 Queen's Road, Fleet, Hants. She will gratefully receive any old photographs, postcards, canalia or documents relating to the Basingstoke Canal which will be given a safe home in our records.
The winner of our quiz last month was nine-year old Karen Fox, of 70 Broomhill Road, Farnborough. Karen sent in the first correct solution to the quiz when your entries were opened on the closing date. She wins a Jackdaw book prize. Congratulations, Karen.
This month's competition is very easy, so let's have lots of entries, please! All you have to do is to see how many words of three letters or more you can make from the words BASINGSTOKE CANAL! All the words on your list must be in a standard dictionary, and the person who sends in the most words will win a prize.
Send your entries to: Miss June Sparey, C Beaufort Boad, Maybury Estate, Woking, Surrey, by April 27.
In the event of a tie, age and neatness of handwriting will be taken into account.
The competition is open to all children under 14 years of age whose parents are nenbers of the society.
On with your thinking caps - and send those entries.
[back to top]
BREACH IN THE CANAL
Most members will know about the large breach in the Basingstoke Canal which occurred after very heavy rainfall one weekend in September, 1968. This breach has not been repaired by the canal's owners, who have said that it cannot be repaired safely by them at the present time.
The question of safety is, of course, paramount. The society committee has consulted two civil engineers experienced in this type of work for their opinions on the breach and its repair. The persons involved are not nenbers of the society, and they were approached independently. Both gave the same verdicts provided the job is properly done, and adequate maintenance and inspection is carried out afterwards, the breach in the canal at Ash Embankment, Aldershot, CAN be repaired and a safe engineering structure will result.
The reports of both civil engineers have been circulated to all members of Aldershot Borough Council, and to appropriate persons on Surrey and Hampshire County Councils. It is also interesting that the reports confirm the society's fears about the temporary dam now constructed at Ash Lock: that unless certain constructional points were carefully observed, there is a likelihood of water percolating beneath the dam. We hope we shall never have to say: "We told you so".
[back to top]
WORKING PARTY NEWS
The working party sub-committee is looking for someone who will be responsible for the huts at Ash Vale. This should not be a difficult assignment. The main task will be to decide what work is necessary in maintaining the property and the society will try to organise the labour. Volunteers to Jim Woolgar, please.
Machinery: Work is progressing well on our mechanical equipment. Anyone who has any knowledge of the insides of engines and would like to help keep the plant up to scratch should contact Howard Diamond, The Corner, West End Grove, Farnham, Surrey, tel. Farnham 3054.
Woking: A "clear the canal" assault under the guidance of Woking Council is being planned for when water levels are a bit lower. The council will be needing volunteers from all walks of life, though it would obviously look pretty bad if the canal society did not turn up in force. Woking members should look for an advertisement in the local paper giving details of when the working party is planned. Other members who live out of the local paper range but who want to be counted in on any clearing operation on the canal should contact Jim Woolgar, who will send details when they are available.
[back to top]
WATERSIDE INNS OF THE BASINGSTOKE by Jon Talbot
The Swan, Hutton Road, Ash Vale: From the towing path of the Basingstoke Canal, only a corner of The Swan is visible, most of this large and imposing house being hidden by trees. Historically, the Swan has served an essentially local trade, but its fortunes have improved in recent years. Since the house was first taken under the wing of Courage and Barclay, a lot of money has been spent in an effort to attract yet more trade.
The present licensees, Austen and Audrey Puttock, take a keen interest in the inn and its customers, and offer meals and snacks ranging from an extensive a la carte menu to egg and chips at the bar. Bed and breakfast accommodation is available.
The Barley Mow, Dogmersfield: The Barley Mow stands at a junction on the road between Dogmersfield Village and Winchfield. The licensee, Mr. Philip O'Grady, keeps a friendly house which I have visited at intervals over a period of five years.
The 'public' is frequented by several local inhabitants who have good stories to tell, a refreshing change from the tap room bores who can so easily mar a pleasant evening at an otherwise comfortable pub. The 'Barley Mow' is a hotbed of staunch canal supporters and one carefully timed remark can do more good to the SHCS cause than all the propaganda in the world.
The homely lounge is furnished with Windsor stick-backed chairs, high backed benches and simple tables which are "chunky" but pleasantly proportioned. In my view, the only unhappy feature of the room is the fireplace, but this is very much a personal opinion.
The Barley Mow is more of a landmark than it first appears, to my mind. It marks the limit beyond which the tentacles of London do not reach. It is the end of commuter country, the end of the ill-planned, downright haphazard developments which have ruined much of south-east England and the beginning of the open, chalky fields and the hop gardens which are a true measure of the county which is Hampshire.
The Basingstoke Canal is nearby. It passes beneath a bridge over which runs a lane which leads to a farm and to a rhododendron-lined driveway which is flanked by two halves of what was once a gatehouse at the entrance to Dogmersfield Park.
[back to top]
PLANNED YOUR HOLIDAY?
Here's a very special offer to all society members who haven't yet made holiday arrangements for either late this year or next. A new hire cruiser firm, Carrick Craft, have begun operation on the lovely River Shannon in Eire. They have four classes of cruisers, all new and fully equipped, with inboard motors. Hire rates are competitive, between £8 and £10 per berth in 4-6 berth boats, depending on the season chosen. Cruises start from Carrick on Shannon, and there is a special bus service from Dublin. Next year it is hoped that an inclusive holiday with BEA will be available. The firm has generously offered to refund 10 per cent of the cost of any holiday booked with them by society members to the society's general fund. The peak season for this year is now fully booked, but there may still be a week or two in September/October available. Bookings can be made through travel agents, or write to the secretary for full details of the scheme and brochure. The Shannon lakes offer excellent fishing, and canal enthusiasts can also explore the Grand Canal at Athlone.
[back to top]
WHAT'S ALL THIS ABOUT THE AVON, THEN?
Prisoners, boy scouts, a student protestor and Mr. and Mrs. Joe Bloggs Average. Not much common ground between that lot, you may think. Add the Army, some highly expensive equipment and David Hutchings and the penny begins to drop. They are all helping to open the Avon.
So, what's the Avon - and why does the newsletter keep telling us about it? The Upper Avon River runs between Evesham and Stratford on Avon. Both the Lower Avon, between Tewkesbury and Evesham, and the Stratford on Avon Canal between Birmingham and Stratford, were opened in 1964. The Upper Avon will be opened ... or will it?
It is 100 years since a boat navigated the Upper Avon's 17 1/2-miles of turbulent water, Once it was the best equipped navigation in England. When work started in May last year there was nothing of the navigation left: 10 new locks had to be built, canal channels cut. In the words of David Hutchings when he spoke at a Wey Cruising Club meeting on March 14: "There was virtually nothing left except water - and plenty of that".
The Upper Avon Navigation Trust was given an anonymous donation of £100,000 to make the Avon navigable again - if that £100,000 could be matched by a public appeal. The response was dismal, one in 2,000 gave money. The Trust receives no financial help from local authorities - although they have so far spent £60,000 in improving Worcestershire's best amenity, the county council has not contributed one brass farthing.
But work goes on. Using short-term prisoners from Gloucester Jail ("the lowest of the low - they're not even successful criminals"), the Army, and volunteers like you and I, the Trust has blasted out three new locks, each 120 ft. wide by 140 ft. long (making the Basingstoke's look like a baby's bath). All the materials are bought second hand, using steel piling for lock chambers, lock gates from the old Runcorn flight. And the cost is working out less than estimated nine years ago.
The work on the Avon is mechanisation on the grandest scale. The month before last, for example, £7,000 was spent on plant hire, paying full commercial rates. There is a chance that "by the end of this year, two-thirds of the work will be finished. If.
The ifs are big ones. Cash and people. Officialdom has done its best to be obstructive, with the river board telling the Trust that the job couldn't be done, winding large quantities of red tape around every move, insisting on planning permissions for new locks. But officialdom, says Mr. Hutchings, we can deal with. Cash we can't. And on cash will depend the entire project.
Now to people. Anyone who can wield a spade or pickaxe, lift a paintbrush, is needed on the Avon. The work is tough, the leadership ruthless. But in the words of one, very ordinary, civil engineer who worked with Mr. Hutchings on the Stratford on Avon scheme: "It was the experience of a lifetime, never to be forgotten". Fresh air and manual labour are great eye openers to the deskbound. It gives the mind a rest and the muscles a chance to take over.
It has been said before that the work on the Avon is being watched carefully in other parts of the country. On its success or failure could depend other restoration schemes, including one near to our hearts. Be warned.
Don't put this newsletter aside and settle down to watch the telly without thinking seriously about the Avon and what you can do to help. We can all do something. If you cannot, for physical or financial reasons, help in the ways outlined, you may have a contact with a youth club or scout group who could send half a dozen bodies on our trip to Harvington in April. Ring then up - or write to the leader, telling him about it.
If you would like to sign a covenant, or send a little something to help the Avon on its navigable way, then write to: David Hutchings, The Upper Avon Navigation Trust Ltd., 10 Guild Street, Stratford on Avon, Warwickshire.
[back to top]
ANY OLD SEAPLANES?
At the time of printing this newsletter, some RAF types are rooting about in Greatbottom Flash for the wrecks of seaplanes which were moored across the flash as anti invasion obstacles during the war. We'll let you know next time how many they found.
Hon. Sec. & Newsletter Editor: Miss June Sparey, 8 Beaufort Road, Weybury Estate, Woking, Surrey. Tel: Woking 63095 (weekends only), 01-992-5167 (weekday evenings).
Hon. Sec. and Newsletter Editor: Miss June Sparey, 8 Beaufort Road, Maybury. Woking, Surrey. Tel: 01-992-5167 (Mon-Thurs evenings), Woking 63095 (weekends only).
[back to top]