No. 161 Spring 1993
With the completion of the dredging task set for the Perseverance - an account of which appears in this edition of the Newsletter - will come the end of an era, to use a time-honoured if hackneyed phrase. It will come at a time when the task of the Society is changing too. The original purpose of the Society was to restore the canal, and members can be justly proud of the way the canal now looks as compared with the derelict and muddy series of ditches to which it had degenerated some 20 years ago. It now gives pleasure to tens of thousands of people each year through walking the towpath, boating, canoeing, angling, watching wildlife; it inspires photographers and artists; and it brings trade to pubs and shops in its vicinity.
There is, of course, restoration work still going on: another article in this issue describes the efforts of those working on the western end beyond the Greywell Tunnel. But more and more the task of the Society will be to preserve and maintain the canal rather than restore it. This may require more than physical work, for there are some latent threats to the canal which may call for members to be prepared to stand up and make their voices known.
One of these is the fact that local authorities are generally strapped for cash, and if any one authority should be tempted to cut back too drastically on its commitment to fund the maintenance of the canal, there could be a domino effect on other authorities to follow suit. If that happened the canal would, in relatively few years, revert to its former sorry state.
Another possible threat is the assumption that there is a sound case for the canal to be declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest (an SSSI). That the restoration of the canal has enabled many interesting flora and fauna to flourish is beyond doubt, and this is to be welcomed by all. But the declaration of an SSSI would be to a large extent incompatible with the leisure and amenity value of the canal. Some scientific enthusiasts believe that the best way of preserving wildlife is to limit access by people and boats. But just as there are canal enthusiasts who sometimes go over the top, so can some naturalists lose a sense of proportion. The community as a whole is best served by a proper balance of interests: any case put forward for an SSSI must be rigorously examined and will be watched with concern by canal people all over the country who fear that an SSSI here would create an unfortunate precedent.
- and a users comment
The following is a very recent account of a winter trip made up the Basingstoke by the Stewards of Farnham in their narrow boat Lark Rise.
It was good to be back on the Basingstoke - but in January ? Well at least there was plenty of water -more than enough - and still it came - falling from leaden skies like stair rods or hitting you horizontally as freezing sleet. The weather was liberally mixed with windy gale-force gusts that not only brought branches down conveniently for fuel, but also whole trees to block the cut. Of course you can't expect to find many other holidaymakers on a canal in January but when signing Peter Munt's visitors' book by lock 28 on our way up we were pleased to see we were by no means the first of the year. Ahead of us by a day or two was Rod Taylor on Crete and we would shortly meet Victoria M and four others on their way out.
It was good to get waves from windows as we passed the ends of gardens and the interest of dog walkers, runners and others of a hardy nature who came across us on our journey. 'Good to see boats on the canal' was the prevailing message.
Really bad weather conditions pinned us down at Frimley Lodge Park for an extended stop - it was so strange to be the only boat on that stretch. Last time we were there so were over 150 others for the grand re-opening.
We sat in the warmth below amused by the comments of passers-by.'Do people really live on boats like that ?'
Yes - the truly mad do - even in January. But to the truly mad boater there is no season for boating and no need to spell out the attractions of a winter's cruise - the isolation; the freedom; the nearness to nature. Add to this the exhilaration of driving wind and rain, knowing that within five minutes of tying up you can, with luck, be below, warm and dry with a hot drink in your hand.
We were heartened by the ever-changing weather patterns, light and shade, shadows and silhouettes and reflections; the fox who strolled by and the tantalising kingfisher. Such were the many and varied pleasures of a memorable week, made possible by unobtrusive yet wholehearted help of all the canal staff we met. 'Come again' said Tony as he saw us out of lock one. 'We will' we said.
Mychett Community Centre, Mychett Road,
Mychett, Surrey on Saturday 24th April 1993
commencing at 6.30pm
Perseverance approaching Pondtail Bridge on the final leg of her 20 year dredging odyssey - Photo - John Glide
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The canal's longest running working party is coming to an end after almost 20 years. Soon the Society's steam powered dredger Perseverance, which started work at Colt Hill in 1974, will reach the end of its 8-1/2 mile journey to Pondtail Bridge, Fleet.
"...dredging and removing three to four feet of accumulated silt..."
was bought from
the Kennet &
Avon Canal Trust
for £225 shortly
CC bought the canal's 15-mile
summit pound. Anticipating the
costly task of dredging and
removing three to four feet of
accumulated silt throughout the
length of canal, the Society saw a
canal-based dredger worked by
volunteers as a practical solution.
The Society's new acquisition was moored at Reading. Here Ian Cripps, helped by fellow steam enthusiasts, painstakingly stripped the vessel of all its mechanical equipment. The boiler had to re-tubed and the entire dredger was refurbished and rebuilt on site. Among the tasks Ian Cripps recalls: "Lying inside the boiler, wearing goggles and respirator, cutting out tubes with oxy-acetylene on a hot July afternoon". The dredger was then dismantled again for transportation to the Basingstoke Canal. Restoration took hundreds of hours to complete.
The project also saved a interesting steam-age antiquity; only one other similar working vessel was known to exist, in the Exeter Ship Museum. Built for the Grand Union
Canal Company in 1934, the 70ft long hull was constructed by James Pollock & Sons of Millwall at a
cost of £812. The steam crane was
supplied by Grafton Cranes of Bedford for £1,639.
The dredger was registered No 14 in the GUCC's fleet of maintenance craft used for modernising the main line of the Grand Union Canal. In 1947 it was transferred to the British Transport Commission and ended its working life on the Shropshire Union Canal. The Kennet & Avon Canal Trust bought it but hardly used it and was happy to sell it to the Society.
The 'Iron Coot', as Ron Jesse who took on the role of resident engineer called the vessel, arrived at Colt Hill with a police escort on 29th July 1974, The move from Reading was a difficult enough operation in itself, involving the last-minute removal of 2-1/2 tons of pig iron, used as ballast, before the hull could be lifted from the water. The move took twelve hours continuous work to complete, at a cost of £1,000 sponsored by
brewers Watney Mann, owners of the New Inn as the Waterwitch at Colt Hill was then named.
Such was the condition of the canal that an area alongside the wharf had to be excavated by Hymac before the hull and the pontoons could be launched for assembly.
While the method of dredging was clear enough, silt disposal was a more vexing problem. Stan Meller estimated that 2,750 yards of the canal to Greywell alone contained 27,500 cubic yards of silt, or 2,750 large lorry loads.
Alternatively if the spoil was dumped on the canalside, the weight of silt would be equivalent to half that of the liner QE2, and cover a 3-acre field - multiplied by 8 to clear all the way down to Ash Lock.
While Hampshire CC sought suitable riparian fields and farmers willing to accept tons of oozing, black mud, railway enthusiasts Stan Meller and John Peart hatched an idea to lay a towpath railway to transport silt to riparian dump sites. 600 yards of track together with 17
...our own working museum
sets of points and 10 side-tipping skips were bought from Berrylands Sewage Works near Surbiton - a major operation in itself since volunteers had to lift the track by cutting and chipping dozens of bolts securing it to a concrete base.
"...as it clanked and hissed its way forward..."
On 9th February 1975 the dredger crew held a public steaming at Colt Hill as the vessel went into service. But the celebration was short-lived and frustration set in. The first dump site, fed by an Emmett-style railway layout, soon filled up and work was forced to stop for three months while Hampshire CC negotiated for a field near Lodge Farm Bridge.
Meanwhile the county council employed a land-based contract excavator to clear 650 yards of canal with silt dumped on a field on the opposite bank. The process of dumping tons of squelching, black mud on a green field was hard to reconcile with the claim that the ground would soon revert to its natural state. The fact is it does: after draining and levelling the fertile material encourages the growth of whatever is planted. Any sign of dumping soon disappears.
Unfortunately the days of simply talking to a landowner and reaching an agreement now seem far away. Today the task of finding suitable new riparian sites is subjected to planning consent, pollution controls and possible objections from one body or another.
The false start clearly affected the recruitment of dredger crews. Society member Stan Googe appealed impatiently for more members to volunteer for work, saying, "if we want the dredger to reach Greywell by Christmas..."
By December Perseverance, as the dredger was now formally called, had only reached Lodge Farm Bridge, but it was now in steam every weekend, with a towpath railway and man-handled skips taking silt to a riparian field, Ian Cripps was dredger manager and Roger Thomas organised the silt disposal team.
At Swan Bridge, North Warnborough, a Hunslet diesel locomotive took over from man power, and trains of skips marginally speeded up the dumping process. Further mechanical power
was to follow. Johnson Wax of Frimley contributed £1,000 to buy two Bantam tugs; a couple of mud barges were bought and someone spotted an old dragline crane in a household garden in Fleet. The dredger crew now had the ultimate setup, at the same time opening a new dump site on the field above North Warnborough lift bridge.
Perseverance finally reached the Whitewater winding hole, the extent of its westerly progress, in December 1976 - a year later than it was hoped. In February 1977, four months before the hull of the John Pinkerton was delivered, the dredger was back at Colt Hill clearing the wharf. Perseverance was aptly named as it clanked and hissed its way forward at the rate of two lengths a weekend if the going was good. Working through areas of solidified silt, the hydraulic operated steam powered grab was fitted to drive the excavating bucket deep into the black stuff. Other times a conventional ring grab was fitted.
The slow progress prompted plans for canal wardens - as they then known - to work the vessel during weekdays. But Perseverance needed more than hired hands at the controls; it required constant attention by operators who cared for her idiosyncrasies, and so full time steaming never materialised.
3-1/2 years after leaving Colt Hill to head eastward, Perseverance emerged from the remote woodlands at Barley Mow Bridge -a distance of two miles. When one considers that that amounts to an average of 58 feet dredged each weekend, the determination to dredge another 5-1/2 miles down to Fleet says much for the dedication of the crew.
...the end of an era ?
The low average weekly progress,
compared with a capability to cover
140 feet a weekend, is accounted
for by maintenance stoppages,
unexpected breakdowns, distances
from dump sites, weather
conditions and events such as the
annual boiler inspection. By law all
vessels must be
was a specialist
task and a
Flitter who was
several years. It
the boiler and
the fire box to
remove ten or
more mud doors and dismantling
gaskets, valves, steam pressure
and water gauges and other fittings.
Both units were then flushed out.
That could take the best part of a
weekend alone. The following
weekend an inspector from
National Vulcan would examine the
inside of the boiler for any cracks
and corrosion. When he was
satisfied, the fittings were replaced
and the boiler gradually brought up
to working pressure, constantly
checking for leaks. The inspector
returned to pass the dredger in
steam. This involved bringing
pressure up to 125psi - 130psi until
the safety valves blew. Once
passed, the inspector issued two
certificates - one for his physical
inspection and the other
compliance with steam safety
regulations. The cranes were also
subject to safety inspections - both
the dredger and the dragline.
"...it deserves to be kept in steaming order..."
Probably the most protracted delay
occurred at Dogmersfield slip. First work was stopped for five months during the second half of 1981 for new king-posts to be fitted to the dredger. That was followed by a 12-month hold up for the slip to be cleared. The dredger finally passed by the site in April 1983.
By this time Andy Stumpf, then a naval architect with British Waterways, was
| co-managing Perseverance with Brian Bane who took the job on back at North
Warnborough. The seventh dump site had been opened at Goddard's Farm which borders the canal between Blacksmiths and Double Bridge at Dogmersfield, and a replacement dragline crane was put into service.
In September 1985 the crew celebrated the dredger's 50th anniversary. The event proved so successful that another 'open day' was held in October 1986 when the dredger reached Poulter's Bridge, Among the visitors was Penny Gaskill, who once stoked Ihe boiler, now showing her 8-year old son, James, where mother spent her weekends shovelling coal. It served as a stark personification of the passage of time.
Although crews worked through foul weather and fine, there were times when conditions took control. At Crookham Wharf the dredger was stuck fast in ice 4in thick for four weeks early in 1984. It was halted again and narrowly missed serious damage when a 60-year old oak tree crashed across the boiler housing in the Great Storm during the night of 16th October 1988. Fortunately the tree missed the jib and chimney stack and damaged only a steam valve. And in the more gentle months, Perseverance, or rather the mud barges, were stopped through lack of water for six months of 1990. But this last stoppage was put to good use with the boiler being re-tubed and other repairs to give the vessel a new lease of life.
Perseverance finally reached Fleet in March 1990. The stripped down hull just managed to clear Reading Road Bridge with less than an inch to spare. There followed a civic welcome and a happy reunion of crew members past and present. Now, three years on, Perseverance is close to Pondtail Bridge and the end of the line. Even if it does not do a serious job again, it deserves to be kept in steaming order, not only because it is a unique piece of our industrial heritage but also as a credit to those who persevered to restore, maintain and operate the vessel.
The writer, Dieter Jebens, wishes to acknowledge the contribution made by the late Peter Cooper who chronicled the dredger's progress for the best part of its journey.
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Considering that it is the Pinkerton's closed season, quite a lot has happened since the last Newsletter came out. For the first time in some years we were able to get down to the dry dock soon after trips finished and start our winter maintenance before Christmas.
"...clad in melted-down Russian tanks ?"
During last year's overhaul we had discovered some fairly nasty corrosion in the bilges due to the water that inevitably accumulates there from condensation, rain, spilt beer etc. The bottom plates were originally only 1/4" thick, so this corrosion, coupled with the wear that lakes place on the outside, was beginning to cause us some concern. Since our access to the dry dock is likely to be cut off next winter by the aqueduct work, we decided to do something about it immediately.
Quotations for welding new plates under the existing bottom were obtained from a number of boat yards, the nearest being Uxbridge. However, Martin Bowers knew of a freelance boat builder, Nick Lidiard, who might be prepared to do it in our own dry dock. A visit was arranged and Nick and Mick Cockburn the welder were shown the dry dock and the Pinkerton, and pronounced themselves confident that they could do the job. Their quotation was very competitive and of course saved the cost of BW, Thames and Wey licenses, so we accepted it and booked the dock for December.
The first step was to remove all the ballast from under the floor boards, some 4-1/2 tons of concrete fence posts and old railway line. Most of
this was done by Bill Homewood's gang of young offenders as part of their community service. Then into the dry dock ready for Nick and Mick. Their first job was to cut off the existing edge of the bottom plates which the builders had left sticking out an inch or so all round as a rubbing strip. Having done this they floated the boat out and drained the dock down ready for the steel.
We had specified 10mm plate to BS436043A and this arrived in the form of 8ft x 16ft sheets. It came from Romania and I cannot help wondering if the Pinkerton is now clad in melted-down Russian tanks! Whatever its source, it looked all right and welded well. However, the first hurdle to overcome was that each sheet weighed about 3/4 ton and there is no crane at the dry dock! No problem - the people who built Stonehenge didn't have cranes either. Mick and Nick built a wooden ramp at the end of the dock onto which the steel was offloaded. With the aid of ropes and their truck it was then slid down into the dock on a couple of RSJs that were conveniently lying around. Scaffolding poles served as levers and rollers to manoeuvre the sheets into position.
The four pieces were then arc-welded into the biggest sheet of
steel that I have ever seen. Scaffolding poles were welded vertically onto the support beams in the
dock to serve as guides, the dock was flooded and the JP floated in onto its new bottom. Wooden wedges were used to leave a gap between old and new bottoms and a gas heater was used to dry the plates. Once this was done, the wedges were removed and the new steel was seam welded all round. In
addition holes were cut in the old bottom to allow it to be spot welded to the new every few feet to make everything really solid.
Finally the new plates were trimmed off leaving a generous wear strip all round and Mick and Nick finished their work just two weeks after they started.
Both of them said how much they had enjoyed working at Deepcut, with its peace and quiet, freedom from interference, and security for equipment. They are keen to work there again and, having seen the splendid job they did on the JP, I would happily recommend them. If anyone is interested in having any work done on their boat, Nick Lidiard's phone number is (0784) 259581 and Mick Cockburn's is (0483) 763129.
Although this was the end of Nick and Mick's work, ours was only just beginning. The outside of the hull has been blacked, the inside cleaned out, treated with Furtan anti-rust liquid and coated with grease for good measure. Enough ballast has been put back to return the boat to its original freeboard, leaving a large pile of concrete on the bank. New cabin doors have been made and the usual painting and refurbishment will continue for
some time yet. The tea and coffee may taste better next year as we are installing a plastic water tank inside the present one and putting a charcoal filter in the pipe to the galley tap.
Our operations in 1993 will see a few changes. Contrary to what I said last time, we shall be operating from Colt Hill again at the beginning of the season, keeping our fingers firmly crossed for water levels to stay up. We will move back to Barley Mow from 27 June. We plan to operate from Fleet over all the Bank Holiday weekends and we shall be going to Mytchett to take part in the opening celebrations of the new Canal Centre. The biggest change is that we shall be offering charters on Tuesdays, which means that Club Night will move to Monday evenings.
As a change from the usual 2-1/2 hour trips, we are planning to celebrate the second anniversary of the canal re-opening with a trip down to the River Wey and back. Details are to be found on the enclosed sheet.
Operation of the JP probably now involves more Society members than any of its other activities, but we are always glad to welcome new faces. Would-be crew members should contact Gill Heather on (0252) 624612, or Bill Homewood on (0276) 61343, who will be able to tell them about the training day which will take place early in the season. Anyone interested in helping with the administrative side of things should contact me (Roger Cansdale (0252) 616964): we are particularly looking for someone to manage our publicity. Finally, an appeal for exhibitionists! The JP will be taking part in the Fleet Canal Carnival on June 26. The theme is comedy and we shall be hosting a Mad Hatter's Tea Party - volunteers needed for Alice, the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter and the Dormouse!
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DEDICATION CEREMONY - PHIL PRATT
In Memory of Philip Pratt|
The afternoon of 17th December 1992 was cold and damp. But close by lock 3, fifteen or so members of the Society together with BCA Rangers Geoff Peach and Tony Beecher joined Joyce Pratt in a small ceremony to dedicate a new seat by the canal to the memory of Philip Pratt. The seat was erected by the Society in memory of Joyce's late husband Philip.
David Millett expressed the Society's gratitude for Philip's many years of service to the canal.
Joyce Pratt wrote to the Society with many of the same sentiments and concluded:
'With pride and gratitude to all I give my sincere thanks. I regularly visit there to ensure that all is well. My thanks also for the wonderful letters and cards sent to me which have been so comforting'.
Join the club. Win a prize. There is still plently of time to do the first and your chances of winning a prize will always be very much better than on premium bonds or the new national lottery ! December's winners were:
Mr & Mrs P Redway - St Johns - £55
Mr R Cobey - Witnesam - £27
Mrs FYR Macey - Ash Vale - £14
Mrs Grose-Hodge - Bramley - £14
Contact Derek Truman, Compton Cottage, 11 Connaught Road, Fleet, Hants, GU13 9RA (0252) 613435 for details and an application form.
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AVIEW FROM MY WINDOW - PADDY FIELD, Director BCA
Four boats arrived at Ash Lock at on a very cold day this January carrying Vic Trott, Alec Gosling, their families and friends from the River Wey, The boats in convoy were a welcome sight, but why did they choose a cold and icy day in January rather than a sunny day in midsummer? The answer lies in the most critical problem facing our canal - water supply.
"...a cold and icy day in January..."
The problems of keeping the canal full of water have been evident to all since the Royal Opening nearly two years ago. We are perhaps fortunate in having fifteen miles of level pound in Hampshire that can, with a little care, be navigated throughout the year. Further down the canal we have been less fortunate. The Mytchett pound has no independent source of water and depends for its supply on water run down from above Lock 29 - water that can ill be spared if we are to maintain cruising levels on our longest pound in mid summer. The problems of maintaining water levels down the Deepcut flight have been exacerbated by the regular action of some of our neighbours who apparently take great pleasure in playing with the winding gear and emptying the pounds. Each time that a pound has to be refilled, water must be run down from above, lowering still further levels through Mytchett and Ash.
Below Lock 15, the Cowshot Stream provides a regular inflow to keep the levels up through Brookwood and down to Lock 11 at St Johns, but below this flight, the Woking pound which is still losing some water through seepage during its settling in period, also has no independent source of water
Our aim over the past two years has been to try to make each pound self sufficient.
A major pumping scheme is about to come on stream at Frimley Green which, if it proves to be as successful as we hope, will reduce the need to run water down from Hampshire. Another water source has been identified for diversion into the Deepcut flight near Curzon Bridge and we hope to start work on this project during 1993. At Sheerwater, a pump has already been installed to take water from the Rive Ditch and to put it into the Woking pound above Lock 6. We have already made considerable strides in remedying our
deficiency, but we still need to acquire one more major source of water either in the form of a reservoir or by back pumping if we are to be able to guarantee regular navigable levels along the waterway. Pursuing every opportunity to find and acquire such a supply will be our major task in the near future. In the meantime, the rain that has fallen steadily throughout the Winter so far should give us a full
head of water for the start of the 1993 boating season and we must pray that we do not have too much sun (and therefore evaporation) too early in the year.
Our other major concern is dredging. This is closely allied to water supply, since the lack of dredging becomes most
clearly apparent when water levels are low. During the early stages of restoration, the canal from the Greywell Tunnel towards Barley Mow was dredged only through a central channel, in the belief that this would provide the best possible habitat for the canal's aquatic plant life. Hindsight has shown this to have been a mistaken belief. There is now an urgent need to redredge the whole section, There are two major obstacles that have so far prevented us from getting to grips with this task. The first of these is finance. Dredging is a very expensive operation and the serious dredging of lengthy stretches of the canal is far beyond the means of the canal's maintenance budget. Special funding is required and the contributing authorities to the canal budget are all themselves experiencing difficult financial times and have little extra cash to spare. We must be patient. At the same time, it has proved extremely difficult to find acceptable silt disposal sites for which planning permission can be obtained. We have for some months been involved in lengthy negotiations to try to provide a silt disposal site at Broad Oak and at the time of writing there is every prospect that we may be able to reach a compromise with naturalist bodies and other objectors. If this proves to be the case, we shall be able to start
some dredging in that sector of the canal during the present year. Meanwhile, our limited exercise with our own maintenance dredger has made a considerable difference to the navigability of the central channel eastwards of Qdiham Bypass bridge.
The major events of 1993 promise to be the opening of the Canal Centre at the former Robert Haining school at Mytchett and the start of construction of the aqueduct over the Blackwater Valley Relief Road. The Canal Centre is a very exciting project, which could not have come about without the generosity of Surrey County Council who have funded entirely the renovation of the former school laboratories and kitchens to create an interpretation centre, offices and a clubroom. The location of the site in the middle of the canal and with a long water frontage, make it ideal for its purpose and the BCA team headed by Bridgette Tribe is working feverishly to try to pull all the loose ends together in time for the official opening of the Centre on the weekend of 22/23 May. We have no intention of letting the cat out of the bag at this stage, but we have some very imaginative plans to make the Centre an attraction that you simply must visit! Put the dates in your diaries now.
Work on the aqueduct is scheduled to begin in September 1993, but the work is something over which
the BCA has no control so do not blame us if work does not start on time! The engineers have come up with a design that in my personal view is imaginative and will prove to be a landmark on the British Waterways system, but there is some local opposition from those who feel that its single tower is too dominating in an otherwise flat landscape. If the debate is not resolved quickly, then the start of the project could be delayed. Let us earnestly hope that this is not the case.
Shortage of space prevents me from giving more than passing mention to our continued cooperation with the S&HCS, west of the Greywell Tunnel and in many other areas, but I am sure that this will be dealt with in detail elsewhere. We are tremendously grateful for the support we receive.
The development of the Canal continues to be exciting and full of incident and we look forward to a busy and rewarding year as we continue to move forward in 1993.
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In the spring of 1792 the resident engineer, Mr Eastburn, reported that '32 miles of canal are finished or almost so; and that the parts under immediate execution are in a forward state, and that half a mile
only remains to be begun'. Twenty four locks were completed and four almost completed and lock twenty four was half built. Forty six bridges were complete and seven were under construction.
The Ash valley aqueduct (culvert), ten feet in diameter, was complete also the Whitewater aqueduct at Greywell. The total length of all the culvert under the canal completed was 2,320 yards.
635 yards of Greywell tunnel was complete, and water arising in the canal accounted to about 30 locks full per day.
The committee agreed to pay Mr Pinkerton the next instalment of £10,573/13/2d. Mr Pinkerton submitted his bill for extras amounting to £5,671/17/6d.
By midsummer Mr Eastburn was able to report that 34 miles of canal, fifty two bridges, four lock houses, two wharf walls and a total of 2,599 yards of culvert had been completed.
The tunnellers continued underground and had finished 884 yards.
The Deepcut cutting and Ash Embankment were nearly finished.
By Autumn all of the locks and fifty six bridges were completed. Six bridges were under construction and the total length of completed culverts had reached 2,659 yards. 1006 yards of tunnel had been completed and the heading was through the hill.
The committee now sought the advice of Mr Pinkerton and Mr Eastburn on future staff requirements. And I'll report on that in the next newsletter.
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FROM THE PAST - An interview with Huw Pool
Huw Pool's earliest memory of the Basingstoke Canal takes him back 73 years to the summer of 1919 when as an eleven-year-old he was taken by his sister to the Reading Road bridge in Fleet to watch a lantern lit procession of small boats proceeding from the Aldershot direction towards Crookham. This was part of the celebrations which followed the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.
In 1934 his interest in the canal was revived when the Dinorben estate, in Fleet, consisting of 119 acres came up for sale.
His father (Mr Herbert Pool, pictured above) bought it for development. In charge of the survey, Huw discovered two culverts which must have been built in the late 1700s, still in sound working order some 200 years on. The larger one still carries water flowing from Beacon Hill (the Hampton Gutter) down through Ewshott and Crookham to Elvetham. The smaller culvert, not far from Reading Road South carries storm water from the Estate under the canal to Albany Road and Fleet Pond.
On the western side, Dinorben was bounded by the canal for almost a mile. At that time the canal owner was Mr Harmsworth and he held rights on the Dinorben side whilst Dinorben had a 99 year lease (granted in 1873) on the other side. The two parties reached an amicable agreement to exchange rights and Mr Pool senior built houses
with 5/6 bedrooms, 3 sitting rooms with an acre or more of garden to sell at around £2,500 to £3,000. Many were bought by retired Indian Army soldiers who found the area conveniently near to friends in Aldershot and Camberley.
The deeds and plans of Dinorben are fascinating. The documents, dated 1872, are written in copperplate on linen. Perfectly preserved, they record the name of the owner, one Mr Galsworthy. In 1892, the house was sold to Mr Chinnock, he died around 1918 and left the estate to his daughter. She changed the name to Dinorben Court and lived there until her death in 1934.
In 1942 the canal became a focal point yet again in Huw's life. He was a Garrison Engineer stationed in Aldershot and was ordered to make a survey of all canal bridges. In the event of an invasion they were to be blown up and create craters in the approach roads to delay the enemy.
An extensive anti-tank ditch had been built stretching from Kent to the Bristol Channel. It is possible to trace the original route of the these defences even now, especially between Crookham Wharf Dogmersfield. Fortunately the invasion didn't happen and the bridges remain intact, a testimonial to the bridge builders of 200 years ago.
On the subject of skills, Huw found Mr Harmsworth (owner of the canal during his father's negotiations for Dinorben) a remarkable man with much natural engineering skill. 'He told us of some of his experiences where it seemed his natural skills had outweighed the professional knowledge of the experts'.
On one occasion, a substantial leak occurred in the aqueduct when some shuttering had been withdrawn leaving a gap which should have been filled with clay. The railways engineers were nonplussed by this, but Mr Harmsworth said that given two 30' lengths of timber and some tarpaulin he could plug it. The timber was located at Windsor, and Southern Railway got it to him quickly even though it meant disrupting rail services to do so. On another occasion, the Woking bridge was found to be sinking, and on inspecting the plans he pronounced that this was because the foundations were too deep but not broad enough to support the load. Mr Harmsworth reckoned that the old bridges had survived because they have a wide spread.
Unfortunately Huw missed out on the canal celebrations in 1991 when the small boats were again involved in an illuminated procession during the grand re-opening celebrations. But as he said 'It's good to know that there is much interest in the canal which at one time seemed likely to be left to decay and presumably eventually to disappear'.
Woking Canal Funday - Advance notice of event
We are planning to run a Woking Canal Funday on Sunday 11th April 1993 centred around the Bridge Barn Restaurant. This is situated on the banks of the canal just outside Woking town going towards St Johns. Our aim is to let the councillors and townspeople know that we are still very much alive. Boats will be a prominent feature of the days show backed up on land with displays of canal and local community interests, Contact Peter Coxhead on (0932) 344564 for details.
Dieter Jebens (details on back page) has a number of share certificates for sale in the name of Sir Frederick Seaget Hunt MP. Size of certificates is 13-1/2 x 14-1/2 ins and are offered for sale at £34.00 plus £2.00 post and packing.
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The welcome issue of the Basingstoke Canal News had barely been digested and Christmas decorations taken down when our editor reminded me that another update was due and it is time to put pen to paper once again.
The new year is time to review the past and take stock of the future: this includes the programme of work for our volunteers. Some of you have mentioned local press reports in which the Canal Director, Paddy Field, mentioned a reduction in volunteer work on the canal.
Paddy's comments related to the autumn but the press picked them up much later. The fact was then that the low water levels had prevented dredging operations for a significant period during the summer of 1992, bankside clearance had also been suspended for the summer breeding season and so volunteer input was reduced through no fault of Society membership.
Work has now resumed on both of these activities and with continuing input at the western end our volunteer input has now improved.
Regular meetings are held with the Canal Authority to review progress and agree new projects for volunteer workers. At our last meeting a
number of new projects were
Dredging at Fleet is expected to be completed in the spring and new dredging projects have been identified subject to volunteer timescales being acceptable to the BCA and also subject to equipment availability.
Perseverance has been in continuous use since dredging started at Colt Hill; the hull requires a detailed inspection and it is probable that a major refit will be required.
Mike Munro (Dredger Manager) and the Society Committee are considering options on dredging work subject to the results of the inspections and estimates.
Projects for volunteer work cover a five year period and include: renovation of Brickworks Arm, renovation of
Slades Bridge, piling at Fleet (Fox and Hounds), provision of new capping at Reading Road Wharf at Fleet.
An enhancement to the canal water supplies at Deepcut and modifications to the access into the upper paddle culverts on the locks from Brookwood to lock 1 are included in the longer term projects.
Working parties are arranged for every weekend on a regular basis. You should however contact your work party leader prior to the weekend as follows:
Mike Munro (0252) 624643
Work parties are arranged for every
weekend up to mid April subject to
arriving at Pondtail Bridge.
Peter Jackman (0483) 772132
1st and 3rd Sundays
7th and 21st March
4th and 18th April (subject to
Western End and Deepcut
Dave Junkison (081) 941 0685
Dave Lunn (0483) 771294
13th and 14th March
10th and 11th April
8th and 9th May
12th and 13th June
Peter Redway (0483) 721710
27th and 28th March
24th and 25th April
22nd and 23rd May
26th and 27th June
Please note 27th / 28th March is canal cleanup weekend.
Peter Redway. For general enquiries please contact Peter on (0483) 721710
Land Adjacent to Kiln Bridge St Johns
We have been advised by the BCA not to be too alarmed about the large fence which has just been erected alongside the canal just east of Kiln Bridge in St Johns, Woking.
A six foot high temporary fence has been erected in accordance with planning permission granted by the Borough Council. This fence will be there for the duration of the working period. The land will be landscaped and returned to the Borough Council and County Council (as both have interest in different parts of the land) once the work behind the fence has been completed. The land owned by the Borough Council will be maintained by them and the BCA will manage the other land on behalf of the Surrey County Council.
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BEYOND THE GREYWELL TUNNEL
When the Canal Society first drafted its constitution in 1968 the long term objective was to restore the whole of the Basingstoke Canal. This was to be achieved in three phases: the first from North Warnborough to the River Wey; the second was the western end between the Greywell Tunnel and Penny Bridge; and the final phase - always recognised as being the most difficult - was the restoration of the tunnel itself.
"...masses of hard work..."
Some 25 years of dedicated hard work by countless volunteers have achieved phase one - full navigation from Greywell to the River Wey. Great credit for this achievement is due to the dredging teams, the bankside clearance parties and the lock restorers, as well as to the full-time employees supported by various Manpower Services Schemes and to many visiting groups and their organisations. The fruits of all these labours are now available for all to enjoy: the area now has a unique leisure facility in place of what had become a muddy and unpleasant eyesore. For that achievement the Society can be justly proud.
As phase one neared completion the Society started to think seriously about phase two - the western end. Dieter Jebens and David Junkison prepared plans and publicity for public consultation;
Stan Meller did an engineering study and prepared cost estimates; and the final hurdles were removed when Hampshire County Council purchased this section of the canal in 1989 and thus resolved outstanding ownership issues.
In the Autumn of 1990, Society work parties were requested to start preliminary clearance of undergrowth for the County Surveyors to complete land surveys and to define canal boundaries between Penny Bridge and Brick Kiln Bridge. A year later regular working parties under the direction of Peter Redway started full clearance work on the towpath and canal bed.
The working parties faced a formidable task. Eighty years of neglect and dereliction had to be reversed.
Large trees had to be felled and their stumps removed. The towpath had virtually disappeared in places. Mud and landslip made it difficult to find the exact line of the canal. Unwanted scrub and wood had to be burnt as the work progressed. But all this is now being done, and visitors to the western end will see remarkable progress: indeed with the recent rain it is looking remarkably like a canal again.
How is this being achieved ? By masses
of hard work on the part of Peter Redway and his working parties - that goes
almost without saying. But the work has been helped enormously by a decision to train our volunteers in the safe use of chain saws, by the donation of a 4 wheel drive dumper truck, by the hiring of excavators to reprofile the towpath, by the use of a stump grinder to remove tree stumps. All this work is being supported by the Hampshire County Council in order to restore the towpath to complete the final links of long distance footpaths from Wiltshire to Basingstoke and thence to the Wey and to the Thames or the North Downs. The Ramblers Association too has helped in the clearance, in the interests of improving the towpath network.
The towpath along many stretches needs raising by up to 20 inches, and reclaimed material from the canal bed is being used to build up the path before the all-weather surface is applied. During last summer a bridge was placed over the Brickworks Arm, and the towpath retaining wall under Slades Bridge was reconstructed, with the help of the Newbury Working Party Group. The recent rainfall, welcome in making the eastern end more navigable, has unfortunately caused a delay in the towpath raising, but reprofiling and clearance work continueson the sections up to Eastrop Bridge. The programmes for 1993 covers bankside c;earance to Eastrop Bridge, hedge planting, towpath surfacing, construction of awater control weir at Brickworks Arm, a start on the restoration of Slades Bridge and the restoration of the Brickworks Arm.
"...the towpath retaining wall under Slades Bridge was reconstructed..."
To those sceptics who say "Why are we bothering?", there is only one answer: go and see for yourselves. The area was derelict. When the canal is fully restored west of the Greywell Tunnel, there will be an amenity for walkers, anglers and canoeists; wildlife will flourish as it has on the eastern section; and if the Greywell Tunnel is ever restored as well, the canal will be navigable for another two miles or so. The M3 will always be an obstacle to the full restoration of the canal as it once was, but at least the Society will have done a social service in bringing beauty back into a neglected area. For this reason the work going on has the enthusiastic support of the localcommunity west of Greywell.
Thanks go to Peter Redway, who contributed much of the material for this article; to the volunteers for their time and efforts in achieving such good progress; the visiting groups for London WRG and Newbury Working Party for their help; and to the Basingstoke Canal Authority for their support and equipment hire.
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An error in the last edition of the News referred to an area east of Broad Oak Bridge, whereas the site is to the west of Broad Oak Bridge. The present position is that a route has been agreed with English Nature for taking the silt out through a newly-designated SSSI at Odiham Common to the tip site at Hazeley Heath where it is needed by Hart District Council. We understand that Hampshire County Council approval has just been given subject to final details of the route.
Pondtail Winding Hole
After some delay permission has been granted for the construction of this winding hole only for further delays to occur over price negotiations with the Ministry of Defence. It seems unlikely that construction will take place this winter, which is a condition of the planning permission to avoid harm to wildlife.
Blackwater Valley Road Aqueduct
The Society has supported the case put forward by Surrey County Council for a cable-stayed aqueduct. In the Executive Committee's opinion this is the most elegant design of those put foward as well as being the most practicable. The height of the tower ([23 yards]) was illustrated by the hoisting of a balloon at the point where the Blackwater Valley Relief Road will pass under the canal and it is understandable that there are local objections. So far as the Society is concerned, the important consideration is that the aqueduct is built with minimum closure of the canal, and we should not be too worried if another design is chosen - indeed, even within the Society there are differing opinions as to whether the cable-stayed design is likely to be the least ruinous of this pleasant stretch of canal. The situation is complicated by the fact that part of the area is in Surrey and part in Hampshire, and we understand that Hampshire County Council have delegated their planning powers for this project to Rushmoor Borough Council which is likely to oppose the cable-stayed solution. If the two planning authorities cannot agree presumably it will go to the DoE, but will this be at the cost of delay to the much-needed relief road ?
An article on this topic is being prepared for the next issue of the Basingstoke Canal News.
The Balloon goes up!
|The Balloon goes up!
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The reference in Dieter Jeben's letter in the last issue to the possibility of a regular contribution from Society funds to the BCA raised the odd hackle or two - particularly his reference to a 'bottomless bucket'. It was pointed out that the suggestion had been made to help retain the Society's voice on the Joint Management Committee, and any money would be spent only on projects specifically agreed by the Society to give the Society control over how it was spent. In the event the particular circumstances under which the suggestion was made have passed and the idea of a regular contribution is no longer an issue. It is also worth noting that, far from having a bottomless budget, the BCA is in fact only funded to about 60% of the running costs of the national average of canals - about £12,000 per mile against
£20,000 per mile for British Waterways canals - and that the support of the Society in a variety of practical ways is vital for the maintenance of the canal.
Dancing in the middle of the Thames ?
Well, dancing with rage, he was. His boat had just pulled up to await the opening of the lock at one of those mooring places in the river which has no connection with the land. He stepped on to it just as the lock gates opened. His wife, at the wheel, promptly drove into the lock leaving him stranded. Hence the dance of rage. Everyone else thought it hugely funny but by the time we left he still hadn't seen the joke.
Come on readers give us your humorous boating stories so that we can share them with all Society members. We haven't heard from you yet !
Know yor Canal - Competition
A prize of one year's free entry to the 200 Club. Just briefly state
where this pipe and steps are situated on the canal to within 100 yards. Send your entry (in an envelope marked 'Canal Competition') to Peter B Jones, 54 Wharf Road, Ash Vale, Nr Aldershot, Hants GU12 SAY. The winning entry will be drawn at the AGM. Answer, winner and new competition in the next issue, Members of the Board of Directors are not eligible to enter.
We have been invited by the Guild of Air Traffic Controllers to nominate 20 members to visit UK Air Traffic Control Centre - and in particular London ATCC - at West Drayton. The visit will start at 8:00pm on Sunday 16th May and last for about 2 hours. Members
interested should give their names to David Millett who will also require car registration number and Nationality (if not British) of those who are going.
The Society's thanks are due to Dr John Holgate who donated a galvanometer and a surveyors instrument. These tools were sold at acution and raised a considerable sum for the Society. Thanks also to Eddie
Pohorley who researched the value of the tools.
Frimley Pumping Scheme
It is reported that the pumping scheme is five weeks late - due to the wetness of the ground in the area. The Society plans to get some publicity out of the commissioning when it hands over its cheque for £10,000.
The Case for Restoration Booklet
A photocopy reprint of the original highly aclaimed booklet published in 1968 by the IWA and the Society to publicise the case for restoring the canal is now available. A must for historians and those not around in 1968. Price is £5.50 including postage and packing from John Greenfield (address on back page).
The study commissioned by Woking Borough Council from a firm of environmental consultants, Gillespies, has been circulated for public comment and the Society has made the following main comments:
Brewery Road Site
Whilst ideally we would like to see the whole site as a water orientated leisure development, this is clearly not realistic, given the commercial interests involved.
We therefore favour a hotel with a maximum of 85 beds. This would involve
a Town Quay, an inset mooring basin, large enough for full length boats to wind, a layby for boat moorings (temporary), plus restaurant, museum and other small canal-related units. The Vale Farm Road project may never materialise so the above is probably the best compromise.
In contrast with the study's comments, we are recommending a slipway where houseboats used to be moored at Harelands Lane off Parley Drive. An upgraded sanitary station and small car park, for boaters only, would make this an ideal site with good access and reasonably secure parking for cars and trailers.
Brookwood Canalside Country Park
We support the concept of a country park but think that boating in this location should be limited to rowing boats and canoes etc. Also this would make a good site for a water activities centre involving schools, scouts, guides and youth groups rather like the North East Hampshire Water Activity Centre at Court Moor in Fleet.
Proposals should be supported by an Article 4 Direction if necessary
to prevent unslightly buildings near the canal such as the eyesore swimming pool building backing on to the canal at The Grove, Woking.
We have suggested that the Surrey Waste Disposal Plan should incorporate a possible site at the back of Goldsworth Park Industrial Estate.
Before consideration is given to a new footbridge at Brookwood, the question of responsibility for Sheets Heath Bridge should be addressed as this is a currently well used track and footway from one side of the canal to the other.
New Year Honours
Congratulations to our long serving Vice President, The Rt. Hon. Cranley Onslow MP on receiving the KCMG in the New Years Honours list.
Sheerwater Groundwater Seepage
It has been established that much of the seepage into the playing fields of Bishop David Brown School at Sheerwater, Woking is due to groundwater seepage under the bed of the canal and not from the canal itself. The full Mouchell and Partners report has now been received by Woking Borough Council. This report is looking into the whole water supply sitation on the canal and possible seepages in the Woking area in more detail, although they may not be from the canal itself.
Towpath Levelling and Re-surfacing
Work should now be finished on the Malthouse Cutting, Crookham Village piling, levelling and resurfacing work which has been delayed by wet weather. In addition BCA Ranger, Ted Harding is hard at work working eastwards from Colt Hill, Odiham levelling and resurfacing the very uneven and sloping, worn towpath. A new Employment Action team is working ahead of him hedgetrimming and generally preparing the towpath to receive machinery.
The story of Perseverance
Arthur Dungate is at present making an AV presentation and video of the whole story of our dredging operation with Perseverance from when it was acquired from the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust at Reading in 1973 to the completion of restoration dredging at Pondtail Bridge, Fleet. The first showing of this AV presentation will be at our AGM. Some of the dredging crew looked a lot younger 20 years ago !
Once again Waterways Recovery Group have a list of canal camps where you can help restore other inland waterways. There's jobs throughout the country with some close to home on the Wey and Arun and the Chichester Ship Canal. Contact Waterways Recovery Group Enquiries, 144 Regents Park Road, London NW1 8UQ
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All Weirs Running
All overflow weirs were seen to be running during the December rain. Is this a record ?
Shell Better Britain Campaign
A cheque for £200 has been received from Shell. The donation will be used to purchase a winch for the western end.
Kings Head Bridge
A public enquiry will be held unless Surrey County Council withdraws its proposal to demolish the bridge. The Society is seeking professional help to back its case for repairing the existing bridge.
Blackwater Valley Aqueduct
Surrey County Council has formally submitted a planning application to Rushmoor and Guildford Borough Councils.
John Pinkerton Profit
The John Pinkerton is expected to realise a profit of £19,000 in 1992.
Steam Heritage Award
The Perseverance has been entered for the 1992/3 Steam Heritage Award organised by the Transport Trust. The steam section is sponsored by British Coal. The judges were noncommittal when they visited but hopes are high that we shall be placed.
Senior Lengthsman Hampshire
A new Senior Lengthsman has been appointed for Hampshire. He is Ken Stephenson (0252) 616946. If there are any volunteers for the
job of lengthsman in Hampshire please contact Ken on the above number.
Those crew members who have not yet crewed from Odiham will be invited to the crew training day as operations will start from Odiham until June.
Gill Heather's address is 35 Holland
Gardens and not 11 Holland Gardens as published in the last news. Janet Greenfield is the Talks Organiser and not Arthur Dungate.
The History of the Basingstoke Canal was the subject of a recent project organised by Fleet and Crookham Local History Group, in which three local senior schools took part. Stan Knight, George Hedgerand David Millett judged the many varied and interesting written and illustrated projects.
Newsletter Postmen Required
We urgently need two postmen/ women for the Frimley/Deepcut area. Please contact Margaret Bond on (0276) 28554 if you can help.
Among the visiting boats this Christmas was Crete, a 60' ex working butty, owned by Rod Taylor a touring boat and canalware painter.
Copy date for Next BC News: 15th April 1993
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Published by the Surrey and Hampshire Canal Society Ltd., a non-profit distributing company limited by guarantee, registered as a Charity. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Society. Executive members of the Committee are shown in bold type
Editorial Team: Kathryn Dodington, Brian Fox and Peter B Jones
Editorial Offices: Sequoia, Sheets Heath Lane, Brookwood, Woking, Surrey, GU24 OEH (0483) 473630
Brian Fox 60 Dinorben Avenue, Fleet, Hants, GU139SH (0252) 613147
Peter B Jones 54 Wharf Road, Ash Vale, NrAldershot, Hants, GU125AY (0252) 313076
Chairman: David Millett 14 Dinorben Close, Fleet, Hampshire, GU139SW (0252) 617364
Vice-Chairman: Peter Redway 1 Redway Cottages, St John's Lye, Woking, Surrey, GU21 1SL (0483) 721710
Hon. Secretary: Philip Riley Wincombe Cottage, Broad Oak, Odiham, Hampshire, RG25 1AH (0256) 702109
Hon. Treasurer: Jonathan Wade 43 Sheridan Road, Frimley, Camberley, Surrey, GU16 5DU (0276) 65622
Membership Secretary: Edwin Chappell The Spinney, Meadow Road, Ashtead, Surrey, KT21 1 QR (0372) 272631
Dredger Manager: Mike Munro 46 Malthouse Close, Church Crookham, Hampshire, GU130TB (0252) 624643
Special Projects Manager: Stan Meller 101 Branksome Hill Road, College Town, Camberley, Surrey, GU144QG (0276) 32096
Working Party Information: Peter Redway 1 Redway Cottages, St John's Lye, Woking, Surrey, GU21 1 SL (0483) 721710
Trip Boat Manager: Roger Cansdale 79 Gally Hill Road, Church Crookham, Hampshire, GU130RU (0252) 616964
Trip Boat Bookings: Ann Bird 25 Farnham Road, Fleet, Hampshire, GU139HZ (0252) 622758
Sales Manager: Gill Heather 35 Holland Gardens, Fleet, Hampshire, GU139NE (0252) 624612
Mail Order Sales: John Greenfield 9 Mistletoe Road, Yateley, Camberley, Surrey, GU177DT (0252) 873167
Exhibitions Manager: David Junkison 4 Thames Meadow, West Molesley, Surrey, KT146BE (081) 941 0685
Audio Visual Producer: Arthur Dungate 187 Ellerdine Road, Hounslow, Middlesex, TW3 2PU No Telephone
Talks Organiser: Janet Greenfield 9 Mistletoe Road, Yateley, Camberley, Surrey, GU177DT (0252) 873167
Distribution: Janet & George Hedger 7 Gorse Way, Fleet, Hampshire, GU139NA (0252) 617465
Press Officer: Dieter Jebens 60 Middle Bourne Lane, Farnham, Surrey, GU103NJ
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