May-June 1972

Canal purchase happens
Committee Notes
Society Diary
Working Party
Cruising down the River
Have yourself a holiday
Membership Report
Ramblers' Corner

Contact the Society


bcnmsthd39 (11K)

Newsletter No. 44       President: The Earl of Onslow.         May-June 1972

Both county councils have now agreed to apply for compulsory purchase orders to acquire their respective halves of the Basingstoke Canal, and things are really moving at last. In Hampshire, there is a hope that a CPO may not be necessary. The canal company has been given a deadline by which it must make up its mind whether or not to settle without a CPO.

In Surrey, the position is more complex, but Surrey County Council is forging ahead as best it can. The problem at the moment is the basis on which the canal should be valued. In such cases the owner of the land affected by a CPO can apply for what is called an Alternative Development Certificate. This is granted by the local planning authority, and it sets out to determine to what use the land could reasonably have been put planning-wise, had it not been the subject of a CFO. The land is then valued on the basis of whatever alternative use is named in the certificate.

But in this case, the canal company has not applied for an Alternative Development Certificate. So Surrey County Council - which is the local planning authority - is itself forcing the issue. This month, a sub-committee will recommend the main Town and Country Planning Committee to apply for a certificate giving the alternative development of the canal as "a private navigable waterway ".

The planning committee must decide whether this is a reasonable alternative use on planning grounds. It may feel that although basically the canal is a private navigable waterway, some stretches of it do have potential development value. Whatever the wording on the certificate issued by the county planning committee, the canal company has a right of appeal to the Secretary of State for the Environment. If the Secretary of State confirms the alternative development put forward by the planning committee, that fixes the basis on which the canal is to be valued. Should an appeal be lodged, it could be the spring of next year before Surrey's CPO is confirmed.

We should like to thank Mr. Reekie, chairman of Surrey's planning committee for attending a meeting of our committee and explaining the situation to us; also the members and officers of both county councils for doing as much as they can as quickly as they are able to get this matter resolved.

It is not only on the question of purchase that things are moving: thought is now being given to the future management of the canal by the working party recently set up (see Committee Notes, Page 2) which had its first meeting on May 15 at Minley. It's deliberations, though confidential, were wide-ranging. The working party will make recommendations which will be relayed to the county councils by their representatives on it, and it is pressing for a joint management scheme to be established as a matter of urgency. The working party will operate in the vacuum that will exist until a management structure for the canal is finally set­up. And when that happens, one of the first things the management committee must ask itself is: Do we want boats on the canal - or not? That question, still unresolved, has dogged us for six years. It is right that before it is answered, all the groundwork must be laid, the homework done, so that the right decision is reached. But whatever the answer is to be, nothing must be done to the canal which would preclude its eventual restoration.
[back to top]

COMMITTEE NOTES by John Edmondson
Since the restoration of the canal seems at last to be in sight, now is the time which we must use to agree upon plans of action, both for the restoration and a management system to run the waterway. In this respect a working party - fact-finding not mud-shovelling - has already been set up and has its first meeting this month. It will consist of a representative from Hampshire County Council, Surrey County Council, the Army and this society. The Army is being represented in these important talks because it is hoped it will be able to contribute a great deal towards the restoration of the canal in those fields which provide useful training for its men, as it has previously done in connection with other waterways projects. The society will be represented by its chairman, David Gerry.

In case there is a public inquiry in connection with the compulsory purchase orders which are being made by the county councils, your committee is giving a great deal of thought as to the best role the society can play in such an inquiry so as to obtain the greatest benefit for the canal.

Meanwhile, there may be a period of months - perhaps even a year or more depending how events take their course - before work can begin on the canal, during which we must not be idle. We need your support just as much now, hence our continued programme of public membership meetings. During this time too we must improve our tool collections and organise ourselves into a competent work force. In this respect we are enlarging our collection of hand tools and hope soon to acquire a large, steam-powered dredger, provided that transport difficulties can be overcome.

Another important project we have decided to undertake is the building of a second pair of lock gates, for which volunteers are required - more of that elsewhere. We have also obtained quotes for professionally-built gates and advice on designs alternative to the traditional ones, which may be easier to build and cheaper.

We are, as usual, keeping an eye on planning applications in the vicinity of the canal, and recently sent our objections to a section of one such application for planning permission in the St. John's, Woking, area which involved vehicular access along the towpath. We are also investigating reports of land-grabbing in Fleet, Ash and Woking. The newsletter is to stay in its present form for the time being, but when we actually start work on the canal we hope to introduce a revised format which will allow the inclusion of photographs.

The pontoon which we recently bought has been painted and fitted out and had its maiden voyage on the councillors' cruise recently. It handles well and should make an excellent workboat when the time comes. Many thanks to those who gave their time to get the pontoon ready.

A committee member was recently at Ash Vale Barge Yard painting the pontoon when a chap carrying two sacks came up to him,, and asked if he could take some soldier weed from the canal. On questioning him, it transpired that this enterprising businessman sold it to people for their garden ponds - at 30p a piece!

David Robinson is temporarily acting as our Exhibitions Manager - until we can find another volunteer for the job. Information on any events which members think our exhibition and/or sales stand could usefully attend will be welcomed by David at 14 Brinksway, Fleet, Hants, (tel. Fleet 21376).

Just a reminder that if you are moving house - either in the near future or later in the year, don't forget, to let the Membership Secretary have a note of your new address and the date of your move. Each year we lose a small amount of members who move and don't tell us where they are going - and we hate losing members!
[back to top]

Sunday, June 11: Family ramble, meet Guildford Station, 2.00 pm. See Page 8.
June 11: Working party, Wey and Arun. See Page 4.
Sunday, June 18: Working party, Bath locks, Kennet and Avon Canal. See below..
July 8-15: Peter Walker's canal holiday - a week afloat for under £12. See Page 6.
Saturday, August 5: Society trip on the Charlotte Dundas, Kennet and Avon Canal. There are a few seats left, so hurry. For those who have already booked seats, details will be sent to you shortly. Contact David Robinson, Fleet 21376.
Sunday, August 13: Family ramble, meet Basingstoke Station 2.30 pm. More details in next newsletter.
Sunday, August 13: South of England Country Sports Fair, NRA Ranges, Bisley. Any members willing to help in traffic and entry control contact Lt. Col. D.A.G. Horton Smith, Montrose, Sheets Heath, Brookwood, Woking, Surrey.

Film evening: The first of a series of film evenings was held at the Standard of England in Ash on April 12. Forty people were present and saw two waterway films and one on the Severn Tunnel pumping engines. These evenings will re-start in September.
Don't forget our Monday evenings at The Swan, Hutton Road, Ash Vale, open to anyone who wants to come in for a jar and a jaw. Having said that, the May pub evening is being held on TUESDAY, MAY 30 - because of the Spring bank holiday. Pub evenings are normally held on the last Monday of each month - barring bank holidays.
[back to top]

Two dozen members from the SHCS in the "official" party joined about 1,000 enthusiasts to begin the Cheshire Ring Restoration Programme with a flying start. We were given a bridgehole clearance job with "our own" crane, skip buckets and tipper lorries. A fantastic amount of rubbish was removed and in the end we were being "fed" rubbish from a half mile stretch manned by about 150 people. All their junk had to be "skipped" and tipped on to the lorry. We certainly learnt a lot about techniques!

Some remarkable finds included several perfect railway lamps, a box of spanners, a gun sight and an anti-aircraft shell. In all, a fantastic "happening" that has left an indelible memory of being there and part of it all.

Our next visit to Bath Locks is near - June 18. The 20-odd people who visited Bath on January 16 are all itching to go again, and those of you who missed out should make sure this time - once the Basingstoke gets going we may not get the chance to go West Country for a long time.

Psssst - some lovely old bottles were retrieved in perfect nick last time - so why not come and dig your own ?

To find the Bath Locks, go into Bath by the A.36, after going under the railway arch turn left, into Poulteney Gardens - and you're there!

If you have never been on an away working party, don't know what it's like but don't mind finding out, make sure you read the article on working parties for beginners - overleaf.

Maybe you can't work on the canal itself yet - but here's one way in which YOU can play a vital part in its restoration straight away. We have decided to build another pair of lock gates - lowers this time - so that there will be a completely new set of gates for Ash Lock when Hampshire County Council buys its section of the canal.

Can we make a pair of gates by Christmas? It's all up to you. We're obtaining the materials; we now need the chippies. The work should be very interesting and enjoyable but will require people to put in regular sessions. How much you do is again, up to you. If you are an experienced woodworker - or have a basic knowledge of carpentry - please let me, John Edmondson, know as soon as possible. I look forward to hearing from you, my address is School House, School Lane, Bagshot, Surrey, tel. Bagshot 2331.

The following article is reprinted from Navvies Notebook especially for those of our members who have never been on a working party - but are thinking about it.
1. Your first requirement is the will to work: not to have a drunken or lazy weekend in the country. This is as important as money to run the thing and the expenditure of a lot of organising energy. If you can do your part to the best of your ability it will have been worth while. If not ...
2. Gear: Obviously old clothes, gumboots or preferably waders (some groups provide waders for volunteer use, but they invariably get a bit mutilated). Always recommended in view of the danger of cuts from glass, sharp rocks, etc. are a pair of waterproof industrial gloves. If the working party is a one-day affair it would be a good idea to take something to eat - usually most sites have a pub somewhere near where a drink and/or snack can be obtained. If, on the other hand, the working party is a weekend job, catering is usually arranged at the accommodation for the Saturday night and Sunday morning. Also for overnight digs the following should be taken: sleeping bag, lilo or camp bed, plate, mug, knife, fork, spoon and a complete change of clothing.
3. Equipment: Most groups have a supply of basic equipment, but it is always useful if you can bring along the odd shovel etc.
4. Transport: In most cases a call to the organiser will enable some sort of transport to be laid on.
5. Skills: It's great if you are one of those capable people who can turn their hands to woodwork, bricklaying etc. - but don't worry, there will always be non-skilled work available and there is no need to be a "super man/woman".

A little visit by a BIG SHCS contingent is arranged for SUNDAY, JUNE 11 at the site of the summit lock near Cranleigh. The work is mainly removing rubbish: the clobber gloves and wellies and the odd shovel; the main requirement - YOU.

How to get there: Take the A. 281 out of Guildford, through Bramley and con­tinue to Palmers Cross; now look out on the left for a Wey and Arun or SHCS sign - you can't miss it. Then a mile of private road and you're there. Car parking is plentiful at the site, tea etc. will be available and there is the "Leathern Bottle" for lunch. PLEASE support this venture as Surrey County Council is watching the Wey and Arun to assess what volunteers can achieve; their interest must be in our favour.

TRANSPORT MANAGER: The post of Transport Manager has not been filled -perhaps the wording last time suggested that he does it all! In fact, considerable support will be given by the working party group with whom the manager will be in close contact. This is an excellent chance to meet some of the very active people within the society - but not a job for the faint-hearted: a reliable bod is needed. Apply to Jeff Holman, 22 Willow Green, West End, Woking, Surrey (tel. Brookwood 3034).
[back to top]

"I always enjoy your functions, they are so delightfully informal" said the county councillor as he bid us farewell. A Sunday afternoon cruise along the River Wey is probably not the sort of civic function that most people in local government are used to, unfortunately.

Sunday, May 7 dawned fine and stayed that way for our "Councillors' Cruise" which assembled at Millmead Lock, Guildford, in the afternoon. Among those present were Mr. Colin Bonsey, Hampshire County Council's Land Agent and his family; County Councillors Mr. Reginald Reekie (chairman, Surrey County Council planning committee) and Mr. David Pumfrett (chairman, Hampshire County Council countryside committee); Coun. John Hicks, Mayor of Aldershot and the Mayoress; and representatives from other local authorities including Crookham and Odiham Parish Councils, and organisations such as the Army. Members kindly loaned us their boats - and the muster included three narrow boats.

With everyone on board, the fleet set off for a leisurely cruise upstream past the lovely countryside beyond Guildford. The flotilla eventually arrived back at the Sea Cadets HQ in Guildford for tea, brought there by our member Paul Buck (who says he can now feed a weekend working party of up to 250 people). There were no speeches - except of thanks - no obligations, just a friendly chat and a chance to see canals as we see them.

From comments made afterwards, it seems the occasion - and its informality - was a great success, with a useful exchange of ideas and information taking place.

Our thanks to Les Harris for organising the event, the ladies who helped serve tea, the members whose boats we "pinched" - and our guests for coming.

At about 9 pm on Saturday, May 6, an alert schoolboy walking on the towpath discovered that the canal was leaking at Crookham. He told our member Mr. Stan Knight, who lives in Crookham Village, and by 11 pm several members had assembled at the site.

The leak occurred through a brick culvert just downstream of Crookham swing bridge. At first the position of the leak could not be found in the darkness, so some stop planks were obtained from Chequers Bridge to form a temporary dam just upstream from the swing bridge. Shortly afterwards the leak was found adjacent to the bank opposite the towpath 60 yards downstream. By this time, two canal company employees were on site. Then began an attempt to plug the leak with sandbags and straw. This was only partially successful, so by 3.30 am with the culvert still leaking, everyone went home. The boards at Fleet weir were removed to lower the water level in the canal.

At the time of writing, the leakage appears to have stopped. Nearby residents have expressed thanks to members of this society and the Fleet and Crookham Amenity Society who turned out that night. Obviously a more permanent repair to the leak must be made.

Autumn is my time
With her deep, deep woods
All brown and gold.
In tune with skies of sombre grey
Water winding by, sullen and covered with
fallen leaves
Suddenly, the dart of a fairy bird
All green, blue and red!
So beautiful are these things
So primeval, that I too
Can walk in my past, present and future
Knowing that God, who created all
Lives in me, and with rne for ever.

W.O.B., Sheerwater, Woking.
[back to top]

I set about trying to hire a camping narrow boat and finding some society members to fill it as a way of getting a holiday for myself. (For the uninitiated, a camping narrow boat is an ex-working boat with bunks instead of coal in the hold and a canvas cover over the top). Having followed the family custom of doing everything far too late I was in despair of ever finding a boat not yet fully booked. However, I eventually found two boats, operated together but both with motors. "Chiltern" is used for sleeping and is steered by the owner (who lives in the boatman's cabin) and "Dorset" which has a more solid "waterbus" type superstructure and is used for cooking, eating etc., steered by members of the party.

I have booked these for the week JULY 8 - 15. They start from Nantwich, Cheshire, which means there is a very pleasant circular route available: south­east along the Shropshire Union Canal to Autherley Junction, north along the Staffs and Worcs. Canal to Great Haywood Junction, thence northwest by the Trent and Mersey to Middlewich, from where the Middlewich branch of the Shropshire Union brings one back to within a few miles of Nantwich. With an active party we should be able to travel further - perhaps to visit the famous Anderton boat lift, but that can be decided en route.

There is accommodation for 12 people on Chiltern which can be divided between the sexes, and up to another three (or possibly a small family or a couple) could sleep on camp beds on Dorset. If 12 people come, the cost per person adds up as follows: Hire of boats, fuel etc, £4.50; Food approx. £3; travel to Nantwich - dependent on arrangements made among the party, but if no one wishes to take a car, a hired mini-bus would cost about £4 each return. The grand total - less than £12 for a full week's holiday ! At the time of writing, there are more than half a dozen vacant places, but several people have already expressed interest in them. So if you think you might like to come, please phone me, Peter Walker, at Farnborough 42438 as soon as possible for further details.

St. John's Women's Institute has donated to the society an exhibit made by its members publicising the Basingstoke Canal. It consists of a rotating drum, 3 ft. in diameter, 6 ft. tall. Half of it shows the canal as it is today, done in collage. The rats are made with real fur, and rotten wood is used for rotting timbers. The other half of the drum shows the canal as it should be, with a narrow boat entering a lock and a family taking the dog for a walk along the towpath. The display is surmounted by a beautifully embroidered Basingstoke Canal token. The exhibit took the WI three months to make, and was deservedly displayed at the Ideal Home Exhibition. True to WI tradition, the workmanship is superb, and we are most grateful to the ladies of St. John's WI for giving it to us.

However, we now need an electric motor and gearbox to rotate the exhibit, capable of turning it at about 1 revolution a minute. The drum weighs about 30 lbs. If anyone knows of such a motor, please contact David Robinson at Fleet 21376.

With recruitment booming in the Basingstoke and Woking areas, we shall need some more volunteer postmen. We could do with extra help in Basingstoke itself and the following areas of Woking: West By fleet, Byfleet, Woodham (both Woodham Lane from the six cross roads and roads leading off it as well as the geographical area of Woodham), New Haw, Brookwood. Extra helpers would also be useful in Aldershot, Ash Vale, and Farnham.

New members might like to know the background to this: since the society started, volunteers have delivered the newsletter to members living in their area - thus avoiding hefty postage bills and contributing to our present healthy bank balance. The newsletter appears every two months, and any member who can help in its distribution should contact June Sparey, tel. Camberley 29463 (weekday evenings), or Woking 63095 at weekends.
[back to top]

There are still quite a number of renewals outstanding so please, if this includes you, fill in the enclosed form and return it to me as soon as possible - even if you don't intend to renew please let us know. Your support is as important now as it ever was so stay with us - the best is yet to come. In pressing the county .councils to take compulsory purchase action we have won a battle, but the war will not be over until we achieve full restoration. We are sorry, but for those who do not renew, this is the last newsletter we shall be sending.

A word of explanation on renewal procedure: members who joined after November 1 1971 do not need to renew for the current year. The preparation of envelopes and sorting out of renewals, non-renewals, banker's orders etc. is a very complex business, and mistakes can happen. It is possible that members who joined after November 1 or who pay by banker's order have had renewal forms. If this has happened to you please excuse us - it will all come right in the end.

Thank you for your comments and good wishes on the renewal forms. All suggestions have been noted and passed to the committee. Also may I take the opportunity of expressing our thanks for the anonymous donation of £25 from someone in Weybridge.

We recently had successful public meetings at Basingstoke and West Byfleet. In Basingstoke, although breaking fresh ground, the membership has been increased from six to sixty as a result of a splendid meeting ably chaired by Hampshire County Councillor Mr. David Pumfrett. Our thanks to him. The meeting was well attended largely due to the efforts of Archie and Peggy Gary, the Basingstoke postmen, in distributing the handbills and posters for the meeting.

At West Byfleet we had a similar success story, with 140 people crowding into St. John's Church Hall for an interesting evening including a film provided by Rod Smith on the restoration of the Upper Avon. The film showed just what can be done by voluntary workforces on canals. Again our thanks to Audrey and Stuart Browning and their daughter Wendy, who with some of Wendy's school friends did the bulk of the leaflet distribution. Thanks also to Chris Rome for putting up the posters. As a result of the meeting, over 50 members have joined, and we extend a welcome to them and the new Basingstoke members.

A point that arises out of these meetings is the need for more public speakers. I always feel bad about asking the same half dozen people to speak again and again, and I am sure that in a society of 2,000 we must have some more. We have over 150 teachers and lecturers among our membership, perhaps some of you would be prepared to help out? You don't have to know the subject intimately, we will provide the information you need. So please, can I have some volunteers for the proposed autumn meetings at Woking, Camberley and Farnborough? None of us can do much to restore the canal at present, but don't let's leave the jobs that can be done to just a very few members.

I frequently get requests for spare membership forms, and so we are including one with this newsletter. Please give it to anyone who shows interest, or put one in the door of a new house in your area, or where new people move in. If you want any more please give me a ring at Farnborough 46147.

For Sale: Centreboard from 14 ft. sailing dinghy. Steel. Weighs 85 lbs. £8.
Wanted: Boat trailer with capacity of about 6 cwt. and no heavy corrosion.

For either of the above, contact John Edmondson, Bagshot 2331.

Insurance Adviser: With our growing stocks of equipment and the possibility that members may be working on the canal in the not-too-distant future, the committee has decided that we need someone to advise us on insurance matters. If you can help in this respect, please let Peter Youngs know (Camberley 25819).
[back to top]

On a day of perfect spring weather, our last long ramble of the season, the Wey ramble, was enjoyed by all participants.

I think we had the best ever turn out of dogs! The river towpath, a National Trust property, is in good condition and affords the walker the opportunity to look around at the superb rural scene through which it runs.

Points of interest observed along the way included Pyrford Place, an Elizabethan mansion with a small summer house on the river bank where John Donne, the poet, wrote some of his works. The ruins of Newark Priory are seen to advantage from the river. The building was founded in the reign of Richard I and has some connection with the "Legend of the Silent Pool" (Silent Pool near Shere on the A.25).

The approach to Guildford surprised many of the party, for as is usual on waterways, the Wey slips quietly into town by the "back door", so that one is unaware of the proximity of a busy town centre until suddenly - there it is! The line of old warehouses alongside the towpath provides an interesting contrast in architectural style to Guildford's new sports complex on the opposite bank. It is hoped that future plans for this area can find a use for these old buildings without destroying their attraction.

June Ramble - Sunday, June 11
Meet at Guildford Station at 2.00 pm for a round trip of an easy six miles. All paths are reasonably surfaced except after prolonged rain. Interesting items include locks, weirs - and a visit to a watermill at Shalford.

Diary Date
Sunday, August 13, ramble starting at Basingstoke Station 2.30 pm; this will probably include a visit to historic Basing House - one of Oliver Cromwell's ruins which allegedly has a hoard of gold hidden in it somewhere.

MACHINERY - by Bob Humphrey, Machinery Foreman
Do you service your own car? Check the spark plug gaps, fit new contact breakers and change the oil and perhaps adjust the brakes - leaving the rest to the garage? Then we need you on the machinery group. We will soon have plenty of work renovating three more dumpers and two cement mixers. Working on machinery can be split into four categories:

1. Simple work that anyone can do - cleaning rusty covers, wheels etc. and painting them;
2. Taking bits to pieces for people to do No. 1 type of work and putting them back together again;
3. Finding and making new parts;
4. Dismantling and re-assembling precision parts, such as engines and gearboxes.

At present we have a small work force of six to do all of this and a social life too. If we do Nos. 3 and 4, and ask you to do Nos. 1 and 2 - or only 1 - this would be a tremendous help. Working times and places can be arranged to suit you in most cases. So don't delay, write or phone me, Bob Humphrey, Toriba, Carthouse Lane, Horsell, Woking, Surrey, tel. Chobham 8822.

You won't be expected to strip down a single-acting-automatic-hydraulically-phased-catastrophically-controlled gearbox with one arm tied behind your back -or pay for any spare parts: that's my job (unless you want to do it ... ).

Hon. Secretary: Mrs. E. Nicholson, 1 Kielder Walk, Heatherside, Camberley. Tel. Camberley 29468.
Newsletter Editor: Miss June Sparey, 8 Beaufort Road. Maybury Estate, Woking, Surrey. Tel. Woking 63095 (weekends only); Camberley 29463 (weekday evenings)
[back to top]


Last updated April 2005