Newsletter No. 36January 1971
FOURTH ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
Formal notice is hereby given that the fourth annual general
meeting of the Surrey and Hampshire Canal Society will be
held on WEDNESDAY, MARCH 31. 1971, at the Brookwood Memorial
Hall, Connaught Road, Brookwood, woking, Surrey, at 8,00pm.
Nominations of people willing to form the 1971-72 committee
are now invited. Each nomination must be accompanied by the
name and address of both proposer and seconder, and by the
written consent of the nominee, signifying his willingness
to stand. In the event of more than NINE nominations being
received, a ballot will be held.
Resolutions and other items for discussion at the annual
general meeting - which do not involve alterations to the
Constitution - are also invited for inclusion on the AGM $
agenda. Any member wishing to propose an amendment to the
Constitution should contact the secretary immediately on
receipt of this newsletter.
ALL NOMINATIONS AND ITEMS FOR THE AGM AGENDA MUST BE
RECEIVED BY THE SECRETARY, IN WRITING, BY: SUNDAY, FEBRUARY
28, 1971. ANY WHICH ARRIVE AFTER THAT DATE WILL BE
Prior to the AGM, an agenda and the society s audited
accounts will be circulated to each member.
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Your committee has a problem. It is not certain as a body what its attitude should be to the voluntary working parties that are currently clearing sections of the canal. These private individuals are, with the canal owner's permission, clearing rubbish, cutting undergrowth and generally making the canal look much tidier. The sort of dialogue which crops up in committee meetings goes something like this:
A. By working on the canal at the present time these people may reduce the pressure of local residents on the county councils to act.
B. Ah, but there are county councillors who do not think it is worth restoring, and if we can make it look much better we might be able to change their minds.
C. In view of the owner's attitude to society requests for permission to do work in the past, is it wise to carry out work on his terms at this stage, when purchase negotiations are taking place?
D. Well, at least it is enabling some enthusiasts to do some work.
Chairman to Members: Can we please have your opinions on this subject. There can be no question that the work is being done well and is worth while if the canal is to be restored ultimately. But it would certainly be a tragedy if acquisition by the county councils were delayed because of this action. Please write to the secretary (when possible). The committee has decided that society equipment cannot, at the present time, be loaned to unofficial working parties unless there is some justifiable emergency.
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STOP PRESS: POSTAL STRIKE:
In view of the strike, and in the event of its being prolonged, the secretary will accept verbal nominations for committee provided they are supported in writing by proposer, seconder and nominee when circumstances permit.
Are you one of those who mourn the passing of the Age of Steam? Does the name Boulton & Watt make you nostalgic? Would you like to spend a day in the quiet Wiltshire countryside, looking at a bit of history that has come alive? Then read on ... We are in the process of getting up a coach party to visit the now famous pumping station at Crofton on the Kennet and Avon Canal. Here, you can see the only Boulton & Watt engine in steam, doing the work for which it was originally installed, the oldest working steam engine in the world. The 1812 engine with its probably 1809 beam has been renovated by members of the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust and now steams to long queues of people on four days of the year. The society has been fortunate in getting permission to visit Crofton on a day when a private steaming has been arranged - which will save having to queue for about two hours as is now proving necessary on a public day.
The cost of the trip, which will include admission, has not yet been finalised, as we now want a definite idea of how many members would like to come on this trip. The itinerary will be to visit Crofton in the morning, and go on in the afternoon to visit other interesting places on the Kennet and Avon. Because space at Crofton is limited, and we have to be away from there by 12.30pm, we advise you to book early, as we may have to restrict numbers.
The date is SUNDAY, APRIL 25. Those wanting to go please send names and addresses to Peter Caiger, 42 Orchard Way, Camberley, Surrey, as soon as possible. Full details will appear in a subsequent newsletter, when we've arranged the itinerary.
The fame of Crofton is now spreading, and this trip will give those of you who are interested in seeing lovely old machinery doing the job it was meant to do an ideal opportunity to watch it in relative comfort, without having to queue or find somewhere to park your car. It promises to be a jolly good day out, so let's hope we can fill a couple of coaches for the trip. Crofton itself enjoys a lovely setting away from it all with, to quote a poetic and awe-struck member who has been there - "Nothing but sparrow hawks wheeling in the sky".
Our wine and cheese party idea flourishes, and four more parties are now being organised. Members living in the general areas of Weybridge, Church Crookham, Sandhurst and Farnborough can expect to receive invitations to attend one of these functions in coming months. They are not an excuse to get you to do some work (though we shan't say no if you offer), but just an opportunity to get members living relatively near to each other together for a social occasion. Many thanks to our prospective hosts and hostesses - Mr. and Mrs. Goodwin at Church Crookham; Dr. and Mrs. Lippold, Weybridge; Mrs. Thomson, Sandhurst; and Mrs. Mary Turner, Farnborough.
Flushed with the success of our public meeting in Farnborough, which has brought us around 100 new members, our Membership Secretary now plans to repeat the performance in other districts. Areas earmarked for similar public meetings are Crookham (Wednesday March 10); Woking; Frimley/Camberley. Alan Babister, 31 Elmsleigh Road, Cove, Farnborough, will be getting in touch with members in those districts when all dates and halls are booked to ask for help in distributing handbills publicising each meeting. At Farnborough, nearly 8,000 were distributed, and though the return may seem small, it was financially very successful. The meeting made a profit of £34 counting new members' subscriptions. A handbill at least brings the name and aims of the society to the public's attention - important public relations. And it seems there are still a few pockets of isolated souls who have not yet heard of the society!
At the time of writing this page of the newsletter, it seems as if a postal strike is about to start. It's worth mentioning that this society will be only slightly affected, since only a third of our newsletters go out via the GPO. We now have a volunteer postman network stretching from New Malden to Basingstoke, and it's at times like this that we realise just how much we owe - apart from £ s d or £p -to our postmen. All the vacancies advertised recently have now been filled, but if our membership drives are successful, doubtless we shall need more postmen. So thanks — it's nice for a society with 1,190 members to be in a position to function in a situation which threatens chaos all round.
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There will be a "spring cleaning" working party at Ash Vale Barge Yard, adjacent to Ash Vale station, on Sunday, February 14 starting 10.30am. Hacksaws will be handy if you can bring them.
Our application to clear out Cowshot Stream, Pirbright, has become somewhat bogged down in the machinations of Whitehall. We have to get permission from the Ministry of Defence, and while there shouldn't be any objections, we're still waiting for the Whitehall wheels to go round and churn out our consent. So we can't fix a date for this at the moment.
Thanks to those of you who returned the working party questionnaires sent out with the last newsletter. The information you gave has already led to one or two useful contacts.
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There is one resolution already in hand for the AGM, proposed by the committee. This concerns the decimalisation of subscription rates, and really involves raising the family membership rate - presently 12s.6d. to 75p (l5s.). The main reason for this is that banks will not accept cheques which include 1/2-p, which would be necessary if the 12s.6d. subscription remained (62 1/2p). For future reference, other rates ares adult 10s. (50p); junior 25p; group affiliation £1.00.
When the business part of the meeting is over, we shall be showing a film made by Bourne End Cine Club of the Guildford Bally of Boats which includes scenes of the Basingstoke Canal.
Any members who want to come to the AGM and don't know where the Memorial Hall is will find it down a little lane at the junction of Connaught Road and Connaught Crescent. Approaching from the Aldershot direction it's on the left, from Woking on the right.
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DECIMAL SALES LIST
The following items can be obtained from our Sales Manager, Peter Walker, 6 Carlyon Close, Farnborough, Hants, (tel. Farnborough 42438). Items marked with an asterisk are not available through the post (when operating) because of the risk of breakage, but by personal application. Stock inspection welcomed most evenings or weekends by arrangement. In going decimal we have rounded down in most cases, and up only where absolutely necessary. Unless otherwise stated, please add 3p (6d) for postage.
Boats from the Basingstoke's Past by Tony Harmsworth;
Walks Along the Basingstoke Canal by David Gerry;
5 Waterside Inns of the Basingstoke by Jon Talbot, 22p each.
Restoration of the Basingstoke Canal, Some Questions and Answers, 5p (1s).
6in map of the Basingstoke Canal, two sections, east and west of Farnborough Wharf 8s.6d. (42p) per section;
6" map of the Wey & Arun, northern and southern, 42p per section.
Society badge 22p (4s. 6d).
Back copies of newsletters 1p each.
Cardboard cut out narrow boats (not suitable for young children) 25p (5s.)
5 plastic carrier bags lOp (2s).
Books supplied post free: Basingstoke Canal, The Case for Restoration 22p (4s. 6d);
London's Lost Route to Basingstoke, by Paul Vine, £2. 50;
Canals of South and South East England by Charles Hadfield £3.50;
English Canals: Part I - A Concise History; Part II - Engineers and Engineering; Part III - Boats and Boatmen, 75p (l5s.) each.
We can also supply any of David & Charles books post free.
Items hand-painted with traditional designs: china narrow boats 90p (l7s.6d)*
Miniature painted stools: 52p, 75p, £1.05p, £1.50p (l0s.6d, 15s. Od. £l.ls. £1.10s.)*
Plant pots 30p (6s. Od)*
Waste paper bins 90p (l8s.)*
Trays 85p (17s.)*
Dippers £1.65 (33s.)*
Cake tins £1.25 (25s.)*
A new addition to the stock will be Frederic Doerflinger's book Slow Boat Through England, which we are offering in paperback at 35p (7s). It's a jolly good book for anyone contemplating a cruising holiday for the first time, and includes a list of all hire craft operators. We'll publish a review of it in the next newsletter.
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RETIREMENTS FROM THE COMMITTEE
Two committee members have so far indicated that they will not be seeking re-election at the Annual General Meeting on March 31. They are the society's vice-president, Les Harris, of Hermitage Woods Crescent, St. John's, and the present secretary, June Sparey, also of Woking.
Mr. Harris has been a member of the committee since the society started back in 1966, and now feels he would like to have more time to spend on the 1,001 other things he has been meaning to do.
The secretary is not seeking re-election for personal reasons, but she hopes the new committee will let her continue to edit and produce the newsletter (!). Both she and Mr. Harris are anxious to go on helping the society in any way they can outside the committee.
In view of this, it is doubly important that all members who want to see the
society flourish should think very seriously about nominations for the committee, as we shall have to find two new officers from among the nominations. Anyone willing to have a go is welcome to seek nomination, and the secretary will be delighted to give you some idea of what is involved. New blood is needed particularly in this case, where four years of frustration have taken their toll.
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CHANGE OF TELEPHONE NUMBER
For the past 18 months, the secretary has been leading a triangular existence between London (where she has a small flat), Woking (where she spends the weekends), and Camberley (where she now works). She has at last got around to moving out of London and subsequently, after January 30, cannot be contacted at the London telephone number printed in previous newsletters (01-992—5167).
Unfortunately, the Guildford area telephone service seems to be in a bit of a pickle as far as new telephones are concerned, and won't be able to install one in her new abode (in Camberley) until about June, despite urgent representations.
So, any member wanting to get in touch with the secretary during the week can ring her at work, Camberley 4444, until her telephone is sorted out. Hours to ring are between 9am and 5pm. She can still be reached at weekends at her Woking telephone number, and all mail should continue to be addressed to her at Woking - the address is given on the back page of the newsletter.
In view of the proposed alteration to the family membership subscription, we will not be sending out renewal notices until AFTER the AGM, although officially, everyone should renew on March 1. This way we can benefit from the increased subscription, if it is approved.
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We have referred in past newsletters to the document Strategic Plan for the South East. Members might like to know that the society has written to the Secretary of State for the Environment, pointing out to him the canal's existence (a little factor that could be easily overlooked), and expressing the hope that it will be taken into consideration when detailed plans are prepared for Planning Area No. 8 - the area bounded by Basingstoke, Reading, Aldershot and Wokingham,
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
The Inland Waterways Association's magazine, Bulletin, has an alas all-to-regular section headed "Filling 'em in News". In it one finds little gems of information which are almost beyond belief.
For instance. A contract worth about £800,000 has been awarded for major work on the elimination of the Monkland Canal up in Scotland. Yep, that figure is correct, £800,000.
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THE BIGGEST PROJECT OF THEM ALL - by Jon Talbot
From time to time details have appeared in these columns of society trips to Shakespeare's Avon, where 16 miles of unnavigable waterway are being reconstructed by volunteers. However, Evesham is a long way away, particularly for those of us who have discovered to our cost that families do not travel well! There must be many members of the Surrey and Hampshire Canal Society who are frustrated by the apparent inactivity surrounding the Basingstoke Canal and are unaware that there is another canal in the area upon which they can cut their teeth.
The Kennet and Avon Canal was engineered by John Rennie. It was opened in 1810 and incorporated two existing successful river navigations from which the canal took its name. The K & A provides a water link between the Thames at Reading and the River Avon and docks at Bristol. Locks vary somewhat in dimensions, but 100 ton barges have travelled on the canal from end to end. Pairs of narrow boats traded on the Newbury-Reading section right up to the mid-195's--when some of the locks became unworkable, the British Waterways Board failed to carry out its statutory maintenance obligations and the last remaining trader, John Gould, had to cease operations.
The British Transport Commission has in the past shown great zeal in its efforts to close and abandon the canal, but the strenuous efforts of the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust, in co-operation with the Inland Waterways Association, have brought about a change of heart. A number of problems remain but little official opposition exists. A restoration scheme is under way and valuable work has been done, including much dredging, replacement of lock gates and rebuilding of locks and swing bridges.
Restoration of the Basingstoke Canal will be an awesome task, but it shrinks into insignificance beside the work involved in the K & A project. This canal is 86 miles long, with 106 locks, including 29 in one flight at Caen Hill, Devizes. A long section at Bradford on Avon has defective clay lining and will not hold water. Many of the locks at Reading are turf-sided and call for complete reconstruction. Some of the swing bridges on the Kennet River section have been fixed, restricting headroom to two feet or less.
Some locks at Newbury have been re-gated by British Waterways and lock reconstruction and repair is being undertaken at both ends of the waterway. The canal is navigable at present from the Thames to Tyle Mill, near Sulhamstead (8 miles, 7 locks); from Benham to Ham Mills (Newbury section, 5 miles, 6 locks); and from Hanham to Bath (ll miles, 6 locks). The latter section will be extended by 9 miles and 6 locks next summer. In addition, a 15-mile lock-free section over the Marlborough Downs is navigable with some difficulty, although the regular passage of a paddle-boat, the Charlotte Dundas, which runs on public day trips, is improving navigation.
A feature of considerable engineering interest on this canal is the steam pumping station at Crofton, near Bedwyn. It is hoped to describe this in some detail in a future article.
The K & A closely follows the line of the main railway line between Reading and Bristol - the line which took away much of the canal's trade. However, the K & A could be made to relinquish the last of its trade only by strangulation. The GWR bought it and, by a policy of deliberate neglect, forced all but a handful of carriers into liquidation. Today, the express trains roar by in disdain and the nearby A.4 road is choked with half-loaded lorries which are carrying low-value and low-priority loads in many cases - loads which could soon travel by boat instead.
In spite of the proximity of the railway, the K & A offers a staggering variety of scenery. At this end, the canal enters and leaves the Kennet at intervals; there are a host of secret backwaters, long lines of pollarded willows, derelict water mills and lonely cottages. The summit level has fine views of the Marlborough Downs. At Bradford and Bath the canal crosses and re-crosses the Avon on ornate stone aqueducts and then dives mysteriously into a series of tunnels and bridges which are linked by deep, narrow cuttings lined by Bath stone walls.
Most restoration work is taking place at the Bath end of the canal at present, as work on the Reading section is to be suspended until the M.4 motorway is complete and lorries will no longer use the swing bridges which have been fixed. However, a lot of work is to begin on the section between Newbury and Hungerford in the near future and volunteers will be sorely needed. Details of the Trust's activities are available from the Secretary, Mr. D. D. Hutchings, The Coppice, Elm Lane, Barley, Reading, Berks. Full details of all working parties are contained in an interesting little journal, Navvies Notebook, published by Graham Palmer, 4 Wentworth Court, Wentworth Avenue, London N.3.
Just a brief warning - the K & A bunch are pretty keen, so don't let them entice you away from your first love!
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WEY & ARUN CANAL SOCIETY
Since we announced details of this society's formation in the last newsletter, a number of requests for membership have been received. The Hon. Secretary of this society is Mr. John Markwick, 59 Ardsheal Road, Worthing, Sussex (tel. no. Worthing 203433). Anyone interested in the society should contact him direct, but please heed the warning given above in respect of the K & A — the same applies here!
THANKS FOR THE MEMORY
- from Mr. W. Burgess, 15 Durham Closef Stoughton, Guildford
Before the last war, I lived at Fowler Road, Rafborough. As a boy I spent many happy hours on Cove Common, the reservoir which was constructed to train army horses, to become accustomed to water, the mile straight, with blue gentians, Laffan's Plain, and then on to the Eelmoor Flash.
One favourite haunt of my pals and I was Pyestock Canal Bridge. We would spend hours under the bridge, dangling pieces of raw meat tied on string. This bait was used to catch crayfish that lurked in dark depths under this bridge.
The keeper's lodge at Pyestock was the annual venue of my mother. She always bought our Christmas apples there. Needless to say, I visit the canal in the Pyestock area quite frequently. I find it quite relaxing, but the gentians and reservoir are now the runways of the RAE airfield.
** If you have a memory of the canal to share, please send it in to the secretary. However brief, we're anxious to hear from any of you who knew the canal well in the old days.
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Old newspapers and magazines are being collected for the National Waterways Restoration Fund, who can obtain as much as £6 for each ton of old newspapers. If you have a shed or other similar building where this could be stored, why not ask your neighbours to let you have their waste paper? Obviously it is preferable to collect bulk loads rather than small heaps. The Fund's Appeals Secretary, John Dodwell, 19 Drill Hall Road, Chertsey, will arrange to have your pile collected. If you want to know what is involved, a two ton load of old newspapers would cover an area approximately 10 ft. by 6ft.4in. The National Waterways Restoration Fund exists to help raise money for restoring all waterways, and it has already got a very healthy sum earmarked for use on the Basingstoke. Help it - and you'll be helping the society.
The fund also offers various sales items, including tea towels of the Birmingham Canal Navigation, Irish linen at 7s.6d. (postage 4d), and some very attractive and useful postcards featuring ink drawings of canal scenes at 6d. each or 4d. each for orders of two dozen. Apply to John for these items and details of others in aid of the Fund.
Hon. Sec. Miss June Sparey. 8 Beaufort Road. Maybury Estate, Woking, Surrey. Tel: Woking 63095 (weekends only); Camberley 4444 (weekdays 9am - 5pm).
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