May-June 1973

Lock gate ceremony
Society diary
Ramblers' Corner
Committee Notes
Dredger purchased
Working Party news
Natural History group
How we spent our Jubilee

Contact the Society


    bcnmsthd50 (12K)

Newsletter No. 50.May-June 1973




The committee invite you (yes, every one of you) to attend a ceremony on Saturday, June 9 at 3.00pm at Ash Vale Barge Yard to witness the completion of our pair of bottom lock gates by Mr. John Humphrys, government adviser on waterways, and their subsequent presentation by our President, Lord Onslow, to Surrey and Hampshire County Councils. The gates will be accepted by Mr. David Pumfrett (Hampshire) and Mr. Reginald Reekie, MBE (Surrey). It is expected that many other county councillors and officials will attend together with representatives of the Department of the Environment, Ministry of Defence, local councils, parish councils and waterways organisations.

These people will be coming not just to see the lock gates, but to meet YOU. They don't want to meet the committee (they have met most of them before), but they want to measure our strength, to assess our spirit, to talk to YOU to find out what YOU think about the canal. Our guests will be very disappointed if you are not there. IT IS ESSENTIAL THAT WE HAVE A MASSIVE SHOW OF STRENGTH ON THE DAY.

If you have not been to the Barge Yard before, it is reached by the A.3013 Frimley-Ash road. Turn east into the Ash Vale railway station yard, drive up the slope past the station entrance, past the old boat house and cross the canal and the barge yard is on the right hand side. Special car parking facilities are being made available for hundreds of cars, so you have no excuse, we need you all there, so please come. (Our apologies to shopkeepers and others who have to work on Saturdays, but the choice of day was unavoidable).

The programme for the event will be:
2.00pm: Barge Yard opens to visitors and members
3.00pm: Lock gate completion ceremony
8.00pm: Barbecue for members to round off the day.

We expect to have an accordian band, Morris dancing, a bar and plenty to eat. Entrance fee 15p - but the first drink is FREE.

To make the event a success, some people will, alas, have to do a bit of work as well as enjoying themselves. We need: People to help prepare the Barge Yard in the morning; people to supervise the car parking; ladies to help in the guest refreshment tent - plus some stalwarts to do numerous other jobs bound to crop up. If your conscience is urging you to lend a hand, please ring David Robinson, Fleet 21376, and put your name down for duty.

Three sections of the Society will be putting on shows at the Barge Yard on The Day - the working party group, the ramblers, and our new Natural History section. Do have a look at their displays, and make yourselves known to their organisers, who will welcome a chat and any suggestions you have to make. On an occasion such as this, when we are expecting a crowd, introductions will not be possible - so it will be up to you to introduce yourselves to other members and the committee (they'll be the ones looking a bit hectic).

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Sunday, May 27: Working party, Ash Vale Barge Yard, start 10am.
Monday, May 28: Pub evening, The Swan, Hutton Road, Ash Vale.
Sunday, June 3: Working party, Ash Vale Barge Yard, start 10am.
SATURDAY, JUNE 9: Lock Gate ceremony, Ash Vale Barge Yard, 3pm; barbecue 8pm - 11pm (at least).
Sunday, June 10: Ramble, Basingstoke Canal, meet Brookwood Station 2pm.
Monday, June 11: Pub evening, New Inn, Odiham.
Wednesday, June 13: Evening of members' slides, King's Head, Frimley Green, 7.30pm for 8pm. Bring your 12 best slides.
Monday, June 25: Pub evening, The Swan, Hutton Road, Ash Vale.
Monday, July 9: Pub evening, New Inn, Odiham.
Wednesday, July 11: Evening of members' 8mm films, King's Head, Frimley Green, 7.30pm for 8pm. Bring along any piece of film about canals, boating, etc.
Monday, July 30: Pub evening, The Swan, Hutton Road, Ash Vale.
Monday, Aug 6: Pub evening, New Inn, Odiham.
Monday, August 27: Pub evening, The Swan, Hutton Road, Ash Vale.

For new members: The pub evenings are opportunities for members to meet socially in a very social atmosphere. No lectures - just a chance to meet other like-minded folk. They are held regularly at two venues along the canal. As Mae West said; "Come up and see us some time".
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MEMBERSHIP MATTERS By Alan Babister, Membership Secretary
This year we have tried, bearing in mind our ever increasing membership, to introduce a renewal system to eliminate the ritual form-filling and hopefully cut the renewal period from the four or five months previously experienced. With a few teething troubles the system seems to be working well.

I should like, on your behalf, to thank John Fawkner-Corbett, who printed the forms at minimal cost, and Lyn and Derek Herd for handling all the renewal returns.

Thank you for not asking for receipts for subscriptions, this saves us around £35 a year in postage. Receipt of this Newsletter may be taken that we have received your renewal.

The majority of Newsletters sent to members are hand-delivered, by our volunteer Postmen, now to be found between Basingstoke and Molesey. We have some vacancies, notably a round in central Guildford, one in Fleet, and could always do with more help in "boom" areas snch as Woking. If you would like to do this chore five times a year in all weathers, contact the Newsletter Editor, Miss June Sparey, address on back page, or in the case of volun­teers for the Woking area, the "head postmaster" there, Stuart Browning, Finse Norge, 34 Parvis Road, West Byfleet, Surrey.

The pay is non-existent, you may get soaked, frozen, or bitten by unfriendly hounds - but by golly, you will help us save a lot of money by doing this job!
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About 28 people turned up for the start of our April ramble along the Kennet and Avon Canal, starting from Reading. The weather was superb and most walkers made the lunch-time break at a pub at Tile Mill, where ploughmen's lunches were laid on. The majority of the party carried on as far as Woolhampton - and five sturdy stalwarts reached Newbury.

Our programme of summer "family" rambles starts on Sunday, June 10. This will be a 4 1/2-mile walk between Brookwood and Woking along the Basingstoke Canal towpath. Wellingtons are advisable if the weather has been wet. Children and dogs welcome. Meet: Brookwood Station (off Connaught Road. Brookwood) 2pm. Any queries, ring John Peart at Farnborough 46554. The rambling section will be having a stand at the lock gate ceremony on June 9. If you want to know more about our hikes, or have any ideas for routes, please call at the stand.
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MONEY MATTERS By Peter Youngs, Treasurer
Payment of subscriptions by Banker's Order
This concerns only those members who paid their annual subscriptions by Banker's Order prior to March 1, 1973. Arising from the increased rates of subscription and my reference to the effect on payments by Banker's Order in the last Newsletter, it has been decided, on reflection, that it would be easier for members and less costly for the Society if those members paying their subscription by Banker's Order prior to March 1, 1973 would be kind enough to take the following action:-
(a) Instruct your bank to increase the amount payable under your standing order to the new rate (or more if you wish) of subscription as from March 1, 1974.
(b) Instruct your bank to pay forthwith the balance of subscription due for the current year. This is because payments so far made by banks have been on the old subscription rates.

New subscription rates are as follows: Junior: 50p; Adult: £1.20; Family: £1.50. PLEASE DO THIS NOW.

A number of you have in fact already done this or have personally sent the additional amount due. To you, my thanks, and to the remainder a request that you give the necessary instructions to your bank as soon as possible. If any member particularly wishes to receive an amending order form, kindly let me know when I shall be pleased to forward one.

One final point: a number of you have already sent me amending orders which have been forwarded to your banks for payment. In some cases you failed to add an instruction to the bank to cancel your old order. You may therefore find your bank has paid two subscriptions, one at the old rate, one at the new. If you want a refund, please write and say so, otherwise I will assume you are being particularly generous this year and will treat one as a donation. In any event, please take steps to cancel the old order for subsequent years.
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The work of the Joint County Working Party (on which I represent the Society) has now been completed, and the report of their work has been circulated to county councillors. It is hoped it will be made available to the general public when the counties decide what to do with the canal. County officials have promised to let the Society have a copy of the report as soon as it can be removed from the confidential list, and this will be passed to the Editor for comment in the Newsletter.

The committee has been disturbed by the apparent inactivity of Surrey County Council in completing its compulsory purchase order and the Society wrote on April 18 to all Surrey county councillors. The letter reminded them of election pledges of support for the campaign to restore the Basingstoke; pointed out that our second pair of lock gates (worth £1,500) was nearing completion and would be presented to the counties; revealed that we were buying a 70ft. steel-hulled dredger (read on for more details about this); and mentioned our enormous membership. The letter concluded by asking for Surrey's CPO to be published "forthwith".

This letter set things buzzing, and Surrey newspapers reported com­ments made at a recent county council meeting. Several councillors replied direct to us and some of their comments were rather disturbing. As a result, a further letter was sent to the ten members of Surrey's canal sub-committee in the following terms:
Concern was expressed at comments made at a county Finance Committee meeting at which a report on the acquisition of the canal was submitted by the County Valuer. We criticised the fact that this report was submitted in advance and independently from the Joint Working Party Report.

The letter went ons "In the Society's view the absence of the Working Party Report would give a very unbalanced view of the total commitment and a disregard of the social and environmental benefits that would accrue". We had understood that included in the Valuer's Report were costings for the re-housing of people who live in house boats on the canal. The letter stated that this "appears to us to be a very misdirected and weighted cost which the restoration of the canal should not be called upon to carry".

We pointed out that houseboat owners generally,did not want to be re-housed, but if it was county principle to re-house them, then the policy would apply irrespective of whether or not the canal was purchased. The cost of re-housing would be borne by the council regardless of the canal's ownership.

If, however, it was not policy to re-house these people, why should they have to be re-housed if the county owns the canal, when they would not be re-housed if the council, did not own it? "As far as the Society is aware", the letter continued, "All existing houseboats are on temporary mooring licences and under the current ownership of the canal company, their owners having no expectation of permanent mooring facilities or legal claim to be re-housed by the company". We pointed out that a county council is not a housing authority, the houseboats were no obstacle to restoration in physical terms and the Society could see no reason why their presence could not be progressively phased out by non-renewal of their current licences or as owners found their boats were reaching a stage of uneconomic repair.

We also criticised the apparent omission from the Valuer's Report of a cost-benefit analysis - "a well-founded and recognised basis for providing a more objective analysis in arriving at a soundly judged decision".

Another item of concern was a Press report of a statement reportedly made by Mr. Reekie (Planning committee chairman) that "until decisions have been taken as to the way in which the canal will be managed following acquisition, it would be impossible for any compulsory purchase order to be promoted at a public inquiry". We deprecated the delay in the publication of the Surrey order - and pointed out that Hampshire was sufficiently confident in its abilities to justify acquisition to serve its order in advance of completion of restoration plans ... "and we see no reason why Surrey could not adopt the same procedure", the letter continued. Time-lag between the publication of the two orders will delay an inquiry, and the prospects of restoration will recede while costs will increase, we added.

It ended by pointing out that the Society had gathered its resources for restoration and was "determined" to bring its campaign for restoration to a successful conclusion. "It would be unfortunate indeed, and a reflection on the county council, if these resources had to be dissipated in a drawn-out struggle brought about by the inertia of the county council to seize this opportunity to undertake a conservation project which in many ways would be a unique and inspiring enterprise of countywide if not national significance", we declared.

The next instalment of the Surrey saga is now awaited.
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You may remember that at the AGM we discussed various items for the present year, and the committee was delighted with your participation in that discussion. One of the proposals which the vast majority of you approved was the possible acquisition of a dredger.

We know that a few members have strong reservations about this proposal, believing that it is the counties' duty to dredge the canal. However, your committee, after considerable discussion and thought, felt that providing the dredger under consideration was found to be suitable, then we should go ahead.

The committee set up a small group to carry out a feasibility study to assess (1) the dredger's ability to work on the Basingstoke; (2) the condition of the dredger and work that needed doing to it in order to put it into good condition; (3) the problems of getting the dredger to the canal. The study group comprised a well-qualified engineer from the Civil Service, a dredger operator, and a steam engine enthusiast.

Their reports all indicated that the dredger is an ideal machine, can be put into good order and can be moved to the canal. Their very detailed reports are on file and any member wishing to inspect them should contact the Secretary (address on back page). The committee was obviously concerned about value for money, and is satisfied that if the machine dredged only one mile of the canal it will have more than paid for itself. The value of mud currently being shifted by that dredger out of county councillors' eyes is considerable and will certainly make the dredger pay for itself much earlier! The committee has unanimously agreed to buy and it will be ours on June 1. We are paying by instalments over the next 18 months, full details will be disclosed later about the deal.

Any member who is anxious about the cash side of the purchase should ring Peter Youngs, treasurer, at Camberley 25819. At the present time we have been advised not to publicise the vendor's name or the whereabouts of the dredger. This is not because we don't want you to know about it, but it may involve us in extra expense during the dredger's restoration, and obviously we would like to save cash where possible.

A Dredger Restoration Group has been established, led by Ian Cripps and George Welsh, who are appealing for volunteers to help them. If you have experience in steam boiler plant overhaul, including re-tubing, general workshop and fitting work, painting - or no ex­perience at all - we have a job for you. Weekend and evening working parties will start at the beginning of June, Contact Ian Crimps (Fleet 7831) or George Welsh (Fleet 5481).
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George Welsh's desertion to the world of steam means we have a vacancy for a genius who can get switched on by electricity. For several issues, George has been the guardian angel of the duplicator, the mighty press which churns out the Newsletter every two months (as well as leaflets, booklets, and other paperwork). Ho is now concentrating his efforts on the dredger, so we need:
1. Someone living within easy reach of Camberley/Farnborough/Fleet.
2. Someone with space to store paper (though if any intending volunteer's resources in this respect are limited, we can farm it out a bit).
3. Someone who is firm, patient,"on the ball", and can speak persuasively to a duplicator which, thanks to George, is now well versed in Scots Gaelic.

Do we have perhaps a housewife wanting a job - or a pensioner doing likewise? It is a Roneo automatic machine, pretty reliable, capable of stowage under stairs and in cupboards. The work will come in fits and starts - the printing of the Newsletter being the biggest chore. Any saint willing to take the job on please contact the Secretary, Liz Nicholson, address back page, quickly. First come and you're hired!
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As those who have read the front page will have noticed, this is our 50th issue - a Golden Jubilee for the Newsletter, How different it is to Newsletter No.1 - a quarto sheet of paper sent to about 40 people! The chairman offers his thanks to the team who produce the NL. Don't mention it!

The last Newsletter had to be sent out by post to all members due to unforeseen delays in getting it printed. So our postmen, who have now had two issues' rest, should be very energetic this time round! The Editor would like to thank Dave and Judy Gerry, Peter Youngs, Tony and Gloria Jarrett - not forgetting the younger Gerrys, Robert and Steven, who all got together one night and stapled, stuffed, folded, stuck 1,600 issues and 1,600 postage stamps in order to get the Newsletter out as quickly as possible. This took a total of 27 man hours. More detailed information about Newsletter production will be given in the next issue.

THINKS: Which issue of the Newsletter will give the news we are all waiting for - the go-ahead for restoration? Anyone care to place a bet (for charity, of course)?
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Helpers are urgently required to prepare the Barge Yard for the lock gate ceremony on June 9. Help is particularly required on May 27 and June 3 (both Sundays) starting at 10am. Work includes painting cutting grass and general tidying.

Will all those who lead or attend working partiesr either on the Basingstoke or other waterways; machinery or carpentry; please make every effort to attend the ceremony on June 9.

Machinery working parties are now taking place at Chobham twice a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays). Even for the non-mechanical there is painting, cleaning and similar work. The lads meet about 7pm and finish about 10pm. Contacts: Tony Clarke (Aldershot 22061) or Bob Humphrey (Chobham 8822).

A carpenter's mate is urgently wanted in the Brookwood area to help Robin Jacobs paint and generally repair our 10ft. dinghy. Any offer of help to Brookwood 3245 please. Work included in the above appeals all has to be finished by June 9 - so we are really desperate for volunteers!
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An informal meeting was held on March 12 at the home of Mr. P.M.L. Barnes, 15 Beech Ride, Fleet, attended by five people interested in the formation of a natural history section within the Society.

In discussion generally, it was felt that the restoration of the canal for boating and other activities need not conflict with the idea of the canal as a green and pleasant area for the preservation and appreciation of nature. Concern was expressed, however, at the potential for damage to the natural environment that would exist when major clearance work begins, and it was here that a positive role for a natural history section was thought to present itself.

The existence of an active group of people within the Society concentrating on building up a sound knowledge of the canal's natural history by field surveys etc. and prepared to turn out and co-operate with working parties would, it was felt, ensure minimum disturbance and the positive conservation of the natural history associated with the canal.

There must be, among the membership of the Society, many people interested in natural history and probably quite a few with specialist knowledge that could be put to good use. It is hoped this article will bring some response and later, if a section is formed, possibly other members could be drawn from the amenity and natural history societies in areas near the canal. The existence of a natural history section, encouraging the genuine love of nature that exists in most civilised people, would help to encourage new members.

The activities of a section - if more interested people from a wider range of areas by the canal are forthcoming - were discussed at the meeting, and a broad outline suggested:
1. Survey as much as possible of the canal to pin-point areas of particular interest and worthy of special consideration when restoration begins - using members' specialist knowledge where possible and, perhaps, such sources as lengthsmen's reports etc.
2. Ascertain and become involved in the methods of restoration to be used, the siting of access points, huts etc. 3. Pursue an active conservation policy for the benefit of and with all nature lovers without an obsessive scientific or pseudo-scientific attitude towards any particular species or areas.
4. Contact specialists for advice and assistance.
5. Encourage interest generally in the canal as a linear park to be protected and developed.

Progress in many of these activities depends on how many people are willing to actively support a natural history section and, as mentioned earlier, some publicity in the Newsletter might stimulate interest.
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Judging from changes of address reported recently, it appears some members are swapping houses - whether intentionally or not we don't know. But in three cases members have sold houses to other members. So if you are moving, ask your prospective purchaser/vendor if they are Society members - you might be surprised!

Will people who do move house PLEASE remember to let the Membership Secretary have a note of their new address, and the date of the move, so that Newsletters will still reach you. Two notes, one to the Membership Secretary, Alan Babister, 31 Elmsleigh Road, Cove, Farnborough, and one to the Newsletter Editor (address on back page) would be appreciated.

Wanted urgently: A volunteer to give talks to schoolchildren in the vicinity of the Basingstoke Canal. Previous experience not essential, would suit someone who wants something to do during school hours. This is a most rewarding job, as it is training children to appreciate their environment. Slides can be provided if required. Further information from Mrs. E. Nicholson, 1 Kielder Walk, Heatherside, Camberley, tel. Camberley 29468.
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The following article is reprinted from Sheldrake's Aldershot and Sandhurst Military Gazette, July 16, 1887.

To those who spent the memorable 21st of June in anything but a loyal and profitable manner, the following episode might prove beneficial to those who know of no other means of spending a day or two away from the monotonous strain of everyday life:- Not caring to mingle with the busy throng of sightseers, seven assist­ants connected with the world-renowned firm of military outfitters in Aldershot determined to spend Jubilee Day in a quiet and novel manner.

Starting at 9pm on the eve of the 20th, we reached the Basingstoke Canal at 9.15, where the necessary equipment for a three days' campaign had been previously provided.

"After embarking our Indian tent, cooking utensils, provisions, and not forgetting a good supply of warm blankets to protect us from the night air, we manned our boats, leaving the boathouse in capital form, bound for our destination some miles up the canal. Reaching the Fox and Hounds shortly before 10pm we disembarked, feeling somewhat fatigued after our hard pull. Having refreshed ourselves at this snug and pretty hostelry, we towed our crafts some distance further up, reaching our camping ground at midnight. After landing our cargo and securing our boats, we at once proceeded to pitch our tent, after which we partook of a sumptuous repast, and having indulged in the fragrant weed, we made ourselves snug and comfortable for a few hours' rest.

Sleeping soundly till the birds awoke us with their morning songs, we partook of a bath in the canal, which much refreshed us. After dressing, we proceeded to get breakfast. Having lit our fire, the cook soon placed before us a very tempting dish, to which we all did good justice. Having finished our meal, we went for a spin up the canal, returning back to dinner at 12 o'clock. After dinner some friends called to see us, and having laced up our tent, we all embarked once more, and rowed up to Odiham to witness the fires that were lit around Aldershot in honour of the Jubilee, the effect of them being very grand. We shortly after retired to rest, and having partaken of a good night, we turned out at 5am. Breakfasting, we struck our tent, and collecting our baggage, we once more made a move for home, reaching Aldershot boathouse about 7.30.

In concluding our narrative, we may say that we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, and consider that we were just as satisfied with our holiday as those who were fortunate enough in getting a view of the Jubilee procession in London".

Note: The Newsletter Editor is indebted to Jon Talbot of Church Crookham for the above and another fascinating look at the canal of yesterday which will appear in the next Newsletter.

If you come across any references to the canal, or remember it well in happier days, please jot down your memories and send them to the Editor for publication.

The Editor also welcomes letters from members - or articles of about one Newsletter page long - for inclusion in the Newsletter. Any topic, so long as it has some relevance to what we are trying to achieve, please.

Send any contributions to the Editor as soon as possible after receiving this Newsletter.

Ref: Committee Notes, page 6 and the "Surrey Saga" - we have now had a reply from Surrey to our letter, containing a mild rebuke which probably indicates that the letter has struck home and achieved its object. If you would like to give your opinions of the letter to county councillors, come along on June 9!

Hon. Sec. Mrs. E. Nicholson, 1 Kielder Walk, Heatherside, Camberley, Tel. Camberley 29468.
Newsletter Editor: Miss June Sparey, 8 Beaufort Road, Maybury Estate, Woking, Surrey. Tel. Camberley 29463 (weekday evenings); Woking 63095 (weekends only).
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Last updated April 2005