No. 162 Summer 1993
The Perseverance has honourably completed its task of restoration dredging, and was taken out of service at a fitting ceremony at Pondtail on 17 April. In a notable aside during his speech the Mayor of Basingstoke expressed the desire to see the canal restored as far as his Borough. Whilst that may have to remain a pipedream (to get to Basingstoke would mean crossing the M3), the restoration of the towpath beyond Greywell is going ahead with the support of Hampshire County Council and the hard work of volunteers from the Society.
But desirable as this further restoration is, this is not the most serious problem facing the Society and the Canal Authority. The biggest issue is keeping the restored length of the canal navigable. Now that significant progress has been made to increase the water supply by means of the pumping schemes at Sheerwater and Frimley (and there are two more possible schemes in the offing), the greatest problem has become the disposal of silt from maintenance dredging. At one time it seemed not too difficult to find a farmer willing to have dredgings spread on his land to dry out and become fertile soil. Now licences have to be sought before anyone can dispose of or accept sludge, which is now regarded as classified waste. The urgent need is to find a site, or rather a number of sites along the length of the canal, with good road access so that sludge can be removed after drying out. This is a problem which the Society cannot solve: a solution must come from the Local Authorities, and the Society and the BCA must join forces in lobbying them to acquire suitable sites. Continuous dredging is not just nice to have: it is a necessity if the work of restoration is not to be thrown away.
New Telephone Numbers for BCA
New telephone numbers fqr the BCA have been
announced following the opening of the Canal Centre at Mytchett.
Canal Centre (0252) 370073
Fax: (0252) 371758
Canal Bavigation info (0252) 376523
Ash Lock (0252) 331552
Fax: (0252) 21310
Woking's Canal Fun Day
From informal gatherings to a Royal re-opening, the canal has seen all sorts of events. Many members will recall the Society's rallies at Ash Lock to be amongst the most enjoyable. Like a village fete, they were unpretentious happenings: a colourful blend of entertainments, exhibitions, displays and stalls centred around a canal full of boats and gentle activities.
It was in the same spirit that Ginny Birkett, Edwin Chappell and Peter Redway sat down in Peter Coxhead's house on the evening of 2nd February this year and formulated the idea of an event which would show the Council and the people of Woking that after a frustrating period of inactivity brought about by the water shortage problems, the Basingstoke canal was still very much alive.
Just over two months later, on Easter Sunday, the Woking Canal Fun Day was in full swing at the waterside venue by the Bridge Barn Restaurant. Gaily decorated boats from the Basingstoke Canal and Byfleet Boat Clubs lined the banks of the canal, later to be judged by the Mayor, Councillor Les Pescodd. The first prize of a tankard and a free meal for two was won by Vic and Shirley Trott, with the second prize of a bottle of wine going to Alec and Betty Gosling, the prizes having been generously sponsored by the Bridge Barn.
Stalls galore sold goodies of various kinds. The Canal Authority had their caravan on site, run by Pat Barton, who also doubled as harbourmaster. Our Society stand was looked after by John Hulbert. David and Judith Gerry's Boats for the Handicapped Association and the Woking Hospice Appeal both declared themselves pleased with the profits made for their worthy causes.
Besides the stalls there was the entertainment provided by the Minden Rose Ladies Morris Dancers, the conjuror Steve Heather, a bouncy castle, Alec Gosling's 12 seat trip boat sponsored by the Peacocks Centre, and a raft race whose participants got themselves very wet and of course made everybody laugh.
And that's what it's all about - making people happy. That's why it was such a success. Whether it made money or not doesn't matter. What is important is that everyone had an enjoyable, relaxed afternoon out, on and around the waterway, in a pleasant environment. Even at a Council meeting, the Mayor of Woking remarked how much he had enjoyed it. That sort of goodwill is invaluable.
[back to top]
For those accustomed to regarding AGMs as dull, boring affairs, the meeting on 24th April was something of an eye-opener. The formal business was over in just 14 minutes, during which the minutes of the last meeting were approved, the accounts for 1992 adopted, auditors appointed, and Mike Munro and Kathryn Dodington were added to the Board of Directors. Then we got down to the interesting part of the evening.
Mike Munro gave his first and last report as dredger manager, the restoration dredging programme having just ended with the 'final grab' ceremony when the Perseverance was paid off the previous Saturday at Pondtail. In a witty account of his time as the last of 5 dredger managers over the last 18 years 'scratching about at the bottom', Mike showed us slides of the Perseverance's activities over the last year, culminating in having to bring back some silt so that the dredger had something to pick up off the bottom for the final ceremony. The average speed over the 18 years worked out at 50 feet per weekend, which led Mike to speculate that Perseverance might have been better named L'Escargot. Paying tribute to all the volunteers who had operated Perseverance over the years. Mike said she had 'literally carved a unique place in canal history' and it was fitting that she had been given the Steam Heritage Trust award
Roger Cansdale reported that the John Pinkerton had had a good year in 1992, and that gross profits were up by £3.000. New ventures had included establishing an operating base at Fleet during bank holiday weekends, and chartering the vessel to firms exhibiting at the Farnborough Air Show. The crews had benefited particularly from the latter activity through the excessive scale of catering provided for the
guests. During the last winter a new steel bottom had been welded onto the boat in the dry dock. Roger showed slides of this remarkable operation, completed in two weeks by Mick Liddiard and Nick Cockbum, manoeuvering 8' x 16' sheets of steel without the use of cranes or other mechanical aids. After repainting and other work the JP was back in operation for the Easter weekend. It will be operating from Odiham for a while, and is
to undertake some of the trips to King John's Castle which have been popular in the past. In conclusion Roger floated the idea of purchasing a second trip boat, to operate from Woking. More crews would be needed, but the catchment area for customers would be greatly enlarged with the closer proximity to London. Now was the time to consider an extension of activities, before 1997 when new regulations came in and before a commercial operator took advantage of the opportunity.
Edwin Chappell reported that the Woking Fun Day on 11th April was a great success. His slides of the raft race revealed a degree of inexperience on the part of some of the participants, judging by the depth of their immersion in the canal, but those of the Lady Morris Dancers (with whom it was said that the Mayor of Woking participated, but I hope this is not libellous) provided an elegant contrast. Radio Surrey conducted live interviews on the spot with various participants, including our revered chairman, David Millett.
Peter Redway related the progress made in the last year by the volunteer working parties, who contributed a total of 5,000 man hours in 1992. He showed slides of the various hazards encountered at the Western end, including the bridge for the Brickworks Arm being towed
[back to top]
by dumper across country, and then
the dumper having itself to be towed by the digger before the bridge could be placed in its rightful position. Despite all these problems they beat their target date by a month last summer. But that was before the rain came and turned the dry canal bed back into a canal - which looks better but makes work more difficult. Peter concluded by paying fulsome tribute to all those volunteers who had given up so much time and energy to help with all the work involved in turning the derelict canal back into a useful and attractive amenity for the enjoyment of the whole community.
After the interval for refreshments David Gerry showed us some slides of the progress of the pumping schemes at Sheerwater and Frimley to provide more water for the canal, including some views of the interiors of the vast wells which have been built - views never to be seen again now that they full of water. He thanked the Society for the £10,000 contributed forthe Frimley project, which was now almost complete.
Arthur Dungate then entertained us with one of his highly polished audio-visual presentations on Basingstoke Canal in the 90's, showing the Hotel Boats Rose and Castte (which are doing 6 more cruises on the Basingstoke Canal in 1993), some lovely shots of the canal in its autumn colours, the work at the Western end, and finally a hilarious mock-melodramatic trailer for his forthcoming production on the Perseverance. If the final production is half as good as the trailer, it will be worth paying cinema prices to see.
Lord Onslow, our President for the last 18 years, congratulated the Society on all its achievements, saying that he thought the Society was typical of what was uniquely British - an organisation dedicated
to improving the environment for the community and doing no harm to anybody in the process. The Chairman, David Millett, announced the programme of events over the next few months (reported elsewhere) and appealed for volunteers to come forward to act as Social Secretary to increase the social activity of the Society and for voluteer lockkeepers to help boats through the locks in the summer months. He also announced that the Robin Higgs Award to the member who has contributed outstanding service to the Society was to go to Martin Bowers for his services to dredging, to the sales team and to the maintenance of the John Pinkerton.
The evening concluded with a question and answer session, in which Paddy Field, Director of the Basingstoke Canal Authority took a prominent part. Amongst other points made, he pointed to the possibility of further water supplies above Curzon Bridge and from Bourley Hill, on which negotiations were in progress; to boat numbers being the principal problem in the discussions with English Nature on their proposal to declare most of the canal an SSSI; and to plans for the aqueduct over the Blackwater Valley road having been set back by a year by the refusal of plans for an A frame construction. As regards the Western end, he explained that this was owned by Hampshire County Council, and their policy at present was to restore the towpath only, not to restore the tunnel nor the canal beyond the tunnel.
In his final summing up the chairman pointed to the fact that the Society had contributed a total of £850,000 so far to the restoration of the canal as an amenity to the community, and he stressed that the JMC's aims were to maintain the canal as a navigational, recreational
and leisure amenity, taking into account wildlife interests. Neither the Society nor the local authorities wished to see complete control going to English Nature, and this would be an important issue in the future.
Board of Directors
The following is a full list of the Committee of the Surrey & Hampshire Canal Society.
Chairman Vice Chairman Secretary Treasurer Mem'ship Sec
David Millett Chairman
Peter Redway Vice Chairman
Philip Riley Secretary
Jonathan Wade Treasurer
Edwin Chappell Mem'ship Sec
Work Party Details
All are at the Western End. Contact details are as follows:
Dave Junkison (081) 941 0685
Peter Redway (0483)721710
|13/14 June||Dave Junkison|
|26/27 June||Peter Redway|
|10/11 July||Dave Junkison|
|24/25 July||Peter Redway|
|7/8 August||Dave Junkison|
|21/22 August||Peter Redway|
|11/12 September||Dave Junkison|
Bank clearance work will recommence in September; details in the
During the Summer other work parties will be arranged. Contact Peter Redway for details on (0483) 721710.
[back to top]
Is this, I wonder, how the Surrey County Council would refer to the proposed aqueduct on the Ash embankment?
The story started with the planning in the late sixties of the Blackwater Valley Relief Road. The BVR, as the planned road came to be known, was intended primarily to relieve the A325 through Farnborough: anyone who has tried to get to the M3 in the rush hour will see the need for such relief. The BVR, now in construction, will join the M3 at Frimley to the Hog's Back (A31) at Runfold. Passing up the Blackwater Valley, it will encounter the Basingstoke Canal. Had the Canal not been restored, the road would
have been driven right through the embankment.
Given the existence of the canal and its great amenity value, Surrey County Council made two alternative assumptions: either the embankment would be removed or an aqueduct would be needed. The removal of the embankment would have entailed the building of three locks on either side of the BVR, so that the canal passed under the road and over the Blackwater River. Apart from the horrendous problems this would have caused to canal users (not least of which is that the five mile Ash to Deepcut pound has no continuous water supply and cannot adequately
supply the rest of the canal, let alone three more locks) this would have caused major disruptions to graveyards throughout the country as Thomas Telford, John Pinkerton and numerous other canal worthies turned in their graves. So an aqueduct was accepted as the answer to the problem.
But that was only the start. In 1991, the SCC put forward three designs for discussion. They left out the one favoured by the Society's Special Project team - a cast iron trough, like many others on the canal system. The three proposals were: a concrete trough; a bowstring arch; and a cable-stayed single tower design.
[back to top]
The design favoured by the Surrey County Council was the Cable-Stayed Single Tower (see the illustration and photograph in the Winter 92/3 BC news). The main advantages over the others were that it achieved the BVR and Blackwater River crossing in a single, elegant, asymmetric design; it would be a striking, 20th century structure which would become a landmark: and it would enable the main span of the bridge to be supported from above, thus providing the best solution for coping with the intense stress levels caused by the width of the span and the huge weight of water. As a result there would be no need for reinforcement or pre-stressing, thus minimising the risk of future maintenance problems within the main bridge deck.
The last two points are perhaps the most important. The embankment is not a modern structure. It is over 200 years old. It is a 'weak link' and must be treated with respect. Taking the weight off the embankment was a shrewd move and maintenance is vital: just think what the leakage of large volumes of water would do to the BVR and the thousands of drivers who will come to depend on it.
The County engineers intended the cable-stayed aqueduct to be a unique design. Unlike the M25 railway crossing at Egham, it would be an elegant structure, slim with style and grace despite its 90ft height. At a public meeting in Ash Vale in December the enthusiasm of the designers was a joy to behold. How often does the public see real enthusiasm form Council officials? They expected to get planning permission by March and begin construction in September.
So what went wrong? Well, the first thing was that through a breakdown in communications, various County Councillors were
not told of the plan for this design. They found out by accident. Then a public meeting in Ash Vale had an attendance of only 20 people. But 13 yards of the proposed aqueduct were in Hampshire, so there was a public meeting in Aldershot. This time 100 people attended, even though the meeting was in a semi-detached 3 bedroomed house. Two Rushmore Councillors showed violent opposition to the idea of a tower structure. Those 13 yards in Hampshire required plans to be approved by Rushmore Borough Council. Permission for the tower option was refused.
The Surrey County Council were not pleased with Rushmore's refusal. A large amount of public money had gone into the design, let alone the time spent in planning. The model alone cost £3,000. So they approached the Royal Fine Arts Commission, and made a presentation to that august body of people eminent in the art world. Two weeks later came the verdict. The proposed aqueduct was 'overdesigned and out of scale in a flat, wooded location which was also a conservation area and close to housing'.
It is difficult to reconcile that last statement with the gas holder in Aldershot, also near the BVR, grey-painted, 150 feet high, amongst
The Gas Holder from Ash Embankment
housing: this has been designated a Hampshire Treasure by the Hampshire County Council. Anything more out of scale in a flat location close to houses is difficult to imagine. Yet presumably this is precious enough to require preservation.
But in view of the opposition, disappointed Surrey County Council officials are now redesigning the aqueduct in a more conventional way. The building of the aqueduct may be set back by a year. More public money will be spent. It will be wider than the tower design. It will need more foundations. More of the embankment will have to be removed. Let us hope that the designers, under pressure to produce a revised design quickly, will be able to take full account of the age of the embankment. Some will say that an opportunity to build an imaginative structure has been missed, that men of vision have been defeated by the more mundane. Others will say it is a victory for local democracy, the individual triumphing over the official. I wonder what our children will say.
Please refer to the enclosed sheet for the list of forthcoming events.
[back to top]
DS Millett Esq|
Surrey & Hampshire Canal Society
I write to acknowledge formally the Surrey and Hampshire Canal Society's most generous donation of £10,000 towards the Frimley Green pumping scheme. As you are aware, the contractors ran into the inevitable unexpected difficulties in carrying out their work, which is slightly behind time and also slightly over cost. Our anticipated budget was £40,000, of which the contributory members of the Canal Budget have provided £30,000 and the Canal Society £10,000. I have detailed in the annex (not printed due to space limitations - Ed) the exact costs of the scheme, from which you you will see that although I cannot set your £10,000 against any specific element of the work, your donation has been used entirely on the project, which would not have been completed and paid for without your support.
Will you please thank your Committee and members of your Society for this wonderful donation. I cannot emphasize too strongly the difference it makes in seeking to improve the canal when we receive assistance of this magnitude.
I shall be very pleased to participate in a cheque handing over ceremony at a date convenient to you and I hope that the Society can obtain some worthwhile publicity from that event.
With our grateful thanks.
Director Basingstoke Canal Authority
Pumping started at Frimley recently with volumes of water higher than expected. Ed
Surrey & Hampshire Canal Society
Surrey KT21 1QR
My husband, a retired lecturer, and I spent Friday 26 March cycling along the towpath of the Basingstoke Canal from Greywell Tunnel to Woodham Junction near Byfleet. We could not have had a more perfect day, with ideal weather conditions, and almost entirely deserted towpath, and above all the tranquility of the canal and its environs.
It is the the first time we have seen the canal in its entirety, and we were truly amazed at the work and dedication which must have gone in to its restoration. Everyone involved deserves congratulations and thanks for their efforts, which have resulted in a wonderful amenity as well as a thriving reserve for plants and animals.
Our day beside the canal gave us so much pleasure as well as a sense of achievement, and we would like to place on record our thanks and appreciation.
Gillian & David Young
1 Redway Cottages
St John's Lye
Surrey GU21 1SL
I would like, through the Newsletter, to say a big thank you to everyone who sent me letters, cards and flowers during my sudden stay in hospital recently. It was very reassuring and encouraging to know so many were thinking of me.
Thank you for all your good wishes.
I hope to be out with the group at the Western End
[back to top]
Sir John Verney, painter, author and illustrator, died at his home in Claire, Suffolk, aged 79, on 2nd February.
He joined the Society at a model railway exhibition held at the Memorial Hall in Farnham in 1970. He took an active interest in the campaign for restoration and accepted the Society's invitation to became a Vice President. When the Society came to Farnham again, in 1971, he chaired a public meeting at Church House and proclaimed: "The canal can afford a wonderful outlet for youth, both in restorinq and using it for sport and other recreation, and is a vital 'green lung' in the area reserved for major growth". When voluntary working parties officially started at the end of 1973, Sir John was one of the first to visit Barley Mow Bridge, insisting on hacking away the dense bankside undergrowth alongside other volunteers. Again, with an eye on making practical contributions, he located a disused ship's gangplank which he offered to the Society and was installed over Fleet Weir as a footbridge, opened by Lady Verney.
Until Sir John and Lady Verney moved to Clare in 1977, the family home was Runwick House, on the west side of Farnham. Sir John was a popular figure in Farnham which he chronicled in an amusing and entertaining sketchbook entitled 'John Verney's Farnham'. In a number of the drawings of the town's architecture, social and business life, his familiar figure was portrayed in a well worn overcoat, invariably crowned by a battered trilby, and sometimes astride his bicycle which was his regular mode of transport.
||Sir John Verney with Michael Kingham and David Gerry|
His care for the community was personified not only by becoming elected an independent councillor on Farnham Urban District Council, but in actively supporting the
successful campaign to save the Farnham Maltings and turn it into a community centre.
He is survived by Lady Vemey, his five daughters and youngest son. His eldest son died at the age of eight in 1948.
[back to top]
From the Past - an interview with RONALD COX
Sadly the boathouse built on Reading Road Wharf in Fleet during the last century by Mr James Harold Cox has sunk without trace. 'Gone forever' said his grandson Mr Ronald Cox in a recent interview.
James Harold, born in 1855 was a skilled carpenter with an interest in boats. He started what became a very successful boat hire business ending up with a fleet of 30 punts, rowing skiffs and canoes. Not only did he repair and restore boats, he also clinker built craft with ship lapping sides of teak and secured with copper rivets. His son, Harold James, born in 1908 worked with his father and took over the business after his death.
Third generation Mr Cox recalled 'the way it was' when he was a boy, remembering the neat rows of hand tools which were sharpened with sandstone, the spy hole in the workshop where grandfather and son took their meal breaks and kept an eagle eye open for customers. At the back of the boathouse they kept chickens and two pigs. When blue tits nested among the paddles the door was kept open in order not to disturb them. There was a little shop which sold not only fishing tackle, butterfly nets and fishing nets but things likes jews harps, mouth organs, stuffed fish in tanks and ice cream and lemonade.
Grandfather Cox, a strict disciplinarian, was always smartly turned out. He even wore his spats to work and it was his wife's job to clean them daily.
Children in those days could wander safely and spent a lot of time fishing for roach, perch and crayfish (known to locals as crawley-dads). They raided moorhen's nests, taking the eggs home - they made good eating. Their entertainment was the Salvation Army Band which performed on the bank on Sundays.
During the Second World War business flourished when Canadian soldiers were billeted in Dinorben Court. They hired boats at 2/6d an hour, sometimes keeping them for a week. When their hob nailed boots damaged the boats their deposit was forfeited. There are probably still many happy memories of the Basingstoke Canal and Cox's boathouse floating around Canada. A foot bridge was built across the canal, close to the Fox and Hounds. The soldiers at Dinorben must have appreciated the convenient access, not only to the main road and public transport but to the pub as well.
One of the regular patrons at Cox's boat house was Victoria Drummond, a lady well known for being the first female artificer in the Royal Navy. At that time she lived in Fleet with her two sisters.
Harold James Cox sold the business when he went off to fight in the last war; his son doesn't know what happened to it after that. Perhaps some of our readers can provide the sequel to 'the demise of Cox's boat house'.
Following the interview with Ronald Cox, I talked to a great admirer of James Harold's superb craftsmanship. Arthur Jeffrey Edwards, born in 1906, had a book published when he was 81 entitled 'Fleet, The Town of my Youth'. In the chapter 'Canal and boats' he describes James Harold as an enterprising craftsman, very highly
skilled. A carpenter, Mr Edwards helped Harold Cox build a boat to 'exact perfection'.
The son of a schoolteacher (highly paid at 35/- a week) his recollections of the Basingstoke Canal take him back to the days of coal barges which operated between Basingstoke and London. He remembers the building of the Old Bakery near to the Fox and Hounds. It was built to supply the bargemen with bread when they stayed overnight in the nearby pub. When it was too cold for them to sleep in the loft they were allowed in the bar where there was an open coal fire. Shutters with strong bolts were erected across the counter to keep them away from the alcohol. At some stage the stopped the unloading of coal at Reading Road Wharf and opened a goods siding in Fleet Station. This was to spare the horses. Their work at the Wharf in Ash where the barges unloaded coal for the heating of the many Army camps in the area was heavy and damaged their shoulders causing the animals considerable pain.
In 1915 when Mr Edwards was 9 years old, his greatest pleasure was the Sunday School trips by horse drawn barge to King John's Castle. Their hymn singing, particularly the rendering of Land of Hope and Glory was a crowd stopper on Reading Road Bridge. Such simple pleasures were clearly the memories of a happy childhood! (Margaret Insall)
||Reading Road Wharf in the days of the Cox's|
[back to top]
SOUTHERN CANALS ASSOCIATION
Opposition from landowners; finance; legislation: these were some of the problems listed by the Chairman, Robin Higgs, when he opened the informal assembly aimed at sharing experience and searching for solutions to problems of restoring canals. But he emphasised that there were many success stories to be heard also.
Tom Cairns from the UK Trust encouraged everybody by speaking about grants that were available, and by stoutly asserting that restoration of waterways is good for wildlife, provided that good wildlife practices are followed. Terry Kemp demonstrated the value of restoration in economic terms, following market research on the variety of visitors to the Kennet and Avon Canal. The financial benefit to the community was no less than £13 million in 1990, of which £8Vzm was from informal visitors.
David Stevenson, National Chairman of the Inland Waterways Association, updated the meeting with information about matters affecting waterways, notably the British Waterways Bill currently before Parliament. He emphasised the balance necessary between the interests of navigation and environment, particularly as SSSI's are still being imposed without proper consultation. He showed that claims for Derelict Land Grants were being successful, but even so some waterways are in decline whilst others are being promoted.
Nick Smith, from British Waterways Technical Office at Leeds, gave the most important presentation of the day when he spoke on silt disposal - now classified as disposal of hazardous waste. He showed a massive pile of legislative documents on the subject; but even so the legislation is vague and
Ministers are reluctant to lay down a clear code of practice.
Thus what suits one authority does not necessarily
suit another, so the tasks of finding suitable disposal sites, dealing with land owners, planning authorities, environmental bodies etc. are made into a bureaucratic nightmare. In all this was an excellent account of dealing with what is probably the major problem of waterway restoration and maintenance.
Michael Handford, Chairman of the IWA Restoration Committee, amazed the audience with the fact that there are now no less than 131 restoration schemes underway. Waterways for All had to be the objective. Of particular interest was the Lancaster Canal scheme, the subject of a feasibility study by Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick. Provisional budgeting is in the order of £50m to £80m according to the location of the terminal. The Ribble Link Trust is still active, and this project could result in a 22 mile multi-purpose amenity water park in a most delightful part of the country.
All in all, a valuable meeting, especially as those present had between them some 600 years experience of waterway restoration. The venue for the next meeting will be the Neath and Tennant canal.
Shall we, Shan't we ?
The sight of boats working through the Woodham and St John's locks and cruising through Woking to congregate at Bridge Barn for the Easter gathering, caused the Townsman column in the Woking News & Mail to reflect on Woking's unique opportunity to create a permanent boating centre on the Brewery Road car park site. "This will not be the first time that these columns have implored Woking Council not to waste the Brewery Road canal bank near the town by filling it up with a commercial hotel, and
thus deny us the associated water facilities that could boost trade in the town and give us a new tourist prospect".
For years past, it seems, Woking BC has debated what to do with the site. Seven years ago the Council noted that "considerable public opinion was expressed against an hotel development on the Brewery Road site and after careful consideration of the specialist report in March 1986, the Council decided that this could not be the preferred hotel site for the town". But the Great Debate apparently has no end, even though the hotels are better sited out of town and few other towns are afforded such a golden opportunity to create a lively colourful canal basin with all the associated leisure and recreational benefits.
Lots of advice but no action!
It seems that Woking Council is still scratching its corporate head over what to do with the canal that runs through the borough. That's why presumably it asked a firm of environmental experts to recommend how the canal might be enhanced for the benefit of the community, a a cost reported to be £20,000. 16 years ago the local branch of the Inland Waterways Association published the findings of a similar study, only that was free. Admittedly the canal was a some way off being reopened when Vic Trott's IWA committee made its recommendations, which were much the same as those now before the Council. But that the waterway is open, and now the Council has paid for professional advice, there should be every incentive for making the cost of the Borough's canalside environment.
[back to top]
Time has a way of standing still on waterways. The slow pace, humpbacked bridges, and oak-frame 7 lock gates have not changed in 200 years. Whilst once cruising along the Basingstoke Canal, staring into the dark water and reflecting on the apparent timelessness of canal travel, I looked up and was startled to see a tall, lean, white haired man scything the bankside, looking for all the world like Father Time himself. The distinctive figure was, in fact, Ted Hammond, deftly wielding his Scottish scythe which, unlike the conventional tool, has two stems which join at the bottom like an inverted letter' A ' where the curved blade is fixed.
Ted, a retired dentist from Oxted, joined the Society in the 1970s, turning out for bankside clearing parties organised by David Millett. But his interest in the canal started much earlier. In 1929, at the end of a day's rifle shooting at Bisley, as a member of the Whitgift School team, he found the nearby canal and followed it up to Ash Vale. There he hired a skiff from Harmsworth' s boathouse. On later occasions he also hired punts from the other Harmsworth boathouse at Frimley Green, opposite Frimley Lodge, below Kings Head Bridge. Going further afield, he can remember the disused wharf and timber yard still in business at Basingstoke before it became a bus station, and the nearby Barge Inn.
His enjoyment of inland waterways broadened in the post World War 11 years to hiring narrowboats for holidays exploring the canals of the Midlands, after he and his wife Kay had brought up their three children. But he always returned to the Wey Navigation and the Basingstoke Canal. " Other canals seemed much more muddy and shallow", Ted recalls, "and I found the Thames too crowded with frequent' no landing' notices. The Grand Union Canal, with the railway and
M1 motorway running alongside, is very noisy". So he tended to gravitate back to the clear, spring waters of the Basingstoke Canal and its rural peacefulness. His last attempt to navigate up the canal was in a camping punt hired from Leroy' s Boathouse at Guildford. He managed to lock up the Wood-ham flight with the aid of tarpaulins to seal the leaking gates, and fought through the weed to reach Arthur' s Bridge before turning back. Although she did not go on the Basingstoke trip, Kay remembers camping punt voyages well for she was the one to bowhaul while Ted kept dry under the canvas cover on the pretext of steering the craft! This year the couple made a less strenuous journey along the length of the canal aboard a pair of hotel narrowboats, to enjoy the waterway Ted has known for more than 50 years. (Dieter Jebens)
After a lapse of a few years I am happy to say the Society is running a Grand Draw again this year. Enclosed with your newsletter you will have four books, which I hope you will sell. The profits from this draw go towards various projects, including improving water supplies and supporting the working parties.
Selling tickets to friends, relations and colleagues benefits the Society in two ways - a boost to funds and the opportunity to tell them more about the Society, its work and the canal. I speak from experience having sold nearly 200 books over Easter weekend at Woking, in the town centre and at the fun day.
The achievements of the Society are something of which to be proud and here is a way in which everyone can help. I shall be happy to send extra books to any member (a phone call on (0372) 272631 will do) and there is a prize of £10.00 for the member selling the greatest number of tickets. (Yvonne Chappell)
||Ted Hammond and his wife Kay with Hotel Boats Rose and Castle at Brookwood
[back to top]
THE FRENCH ... CONNECTION
The idea of twinning with a French canal was conceived in Tony Davis' kitchen, gestated by Paddy Field's office and finally hatched at 6:00am by the wharf at Fleet on 30th April 1993. Here gathered 25 representatives of the various interests on the Basingstoke - management, restorers, boaters, canoeists. There should have been some fishermen as they initially almost threatened to fill the coach. However when it came to the crunch, none elected to join us which was unfortunate for as it turned out, there were many French fishermen who, we are sure, would have enjoyed their English counterparts.
A wonderfully calm crossing on the Brittany Ferries Normandie and numerous kilometres of French roads brought us finally in the evening to our hotel on Orleans - La Source, a wooded suburb to the south of the city of Orleans. After breakfast on Saturday our French host, Monsieur Rabartin arrived with his grand-daughter and following a general introduction and the traditional group photograph, we set off in out Yateley tours coach driven by Eric, a very pleasant and often amusing character, to visit the Chateau de Chamerolles. This is a 16th century castle recently completely restored by the Conseil General de Loiret, which is similar to our County Council. The Chateau includes a surrounding water filled moat and renaissance gardens planted to a strictly 16th century layout. The interior is decorated in its original style and incorporates a museum of perfumes. Our guide spoke only in French, skilfully translated by Paddy Field.
Eric then whisked us back through the forest of Orleans down to the object of our visit, the Canal D'Orleans where we stopped for lunch by one of the two main feeder
lakes, Etangde la Valee, which is close to Combreux. The lakes together with the canal and its restoration are the responsibility of the Conseil General de Loiret. The lake is set in a delightfully wooded area and is very much leisure orientated - pedaloes, fishing, canoeing, caravan ing and walking. The single storey timber-clad restaurant blends in well with the waterside environment and is an obvious asset to the venture.
The canal D'Orleans is in many ways similar to the Basingstoke. It is [48 miles] long, has a total of 26 locks, a largely rural outlook, originally used for transporting timber, the railway brought about its demise as a commercial thorughfare, and at present doesn't have many boats. Restoration is carried out by contractors as that peculiar British animal the volunteer navvy' is unknown in France. The locks are all constructed in stone and the restored gates are of fabricated steel without a balance beam in sight. During our visit the banks were lined with cowslip but we didn't see many ducks as they are shot for sport, we were told. Their canal has one definite advantage over the Basingstoke in that they have an ample water supply, namely the feeder lakes. During the afternoon we inspected a number of locks before joining the
trip boat L'Oussance at Checy, going through a couple of locks and disembarking at Donnery. This craft was very different from our John Pinkerton being a wide boat capable of carrying 100 passengers. The captain, complete with gold braided cap steers from the back of the covered passenger area. Behind him are the services and a rear open viewing platform. One or two of our boaters donned the headgear and had a go at the wheel. Needless to say some more wine flowed and we all arrived at our hotel content and happy after a very enjoyable day.
Sunday morning saw us in the city of Orleans doing the tourist round. This one time home of the French Kings and the centre of vinegar manufacture at the turn of the century, has a very impressive lofty Cathedral with a number of wonderful stained glass windows some of which depict the Maid of Orleans. Joan of Arc. We learnt more about her from a visit to a timber framed house which is now a museum in her name.
Following a drive out to one of the suburbs, Saint Dennis, we joined members, friends and various mayors at the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Montjoie Association which has amongst its many activities a thriving canoe club. A
[back to top]
||The Buckby can suitably inscribed by Gill Heather
most delightful country buffet lunch, where again the red wine flowed freely, was arranged on numerous tables in a large hall where we did our best at conversing with our newly acquired French friends.
For the remainder of the afternoon, the group split up, some of us went to meet the resident engineer and a contractor when we jointly visited some of their recently completed lock restoration projects. A few of the fitter members went canoeing whilst the ladies graced the floral park.
On Monday we had to make tracks for home but not before calling on Le Presidente du Sydicat Mixte du Canal D'Orleans at the offices of the Conseil General du Loiret which can be likened to our County Hall. It is the administration centre for a population of some 581,000 inhabitants. Surrey has approximatey 1,000,000 bodies to look after. Seated in the tiered carved Council Chamber, we felt like a true delegation from a successful English waterway restoration group. Paddy Field presented our host with a painted buckby can suitably inscribed by Gill Heather. For once we had to decline any refreshments as we had a boat to catch from Cherbourg. Our driver, Eric, excelled himself on the journey back along the motorways, arriving with only 20 minutes to spare. Another pleasant crossing of the channel, this time to Poole arriving safely in Fleet by late evening.
A worthwhile venture which we trust will prove to be a springboard for future dialogue and goodwill between our two countries.
I am sure I speak for all members of our group in thanking Paddy Field for organising the trip and also to Monsieur Rabartin who gave up his weekend to be with us.
Our winter overhaul was completed with rather less panic than usual in spite of disruption of painting plans by rain. Nevertheless, Martin Bowers, Bill Homewood and their various helpers ended up putting in a great many hours as Easter and our annual DoT inspection approached.
This went off without any problems; the inspector approved of the new bottom and made some complimentary remarks about the boat. Easter found us back at Reading Road Wharf at Fleet, together with Gill Heather's sales stand. In spite of mediocre weather we banked over £1,500 for the weekend. One or two of our plans for 1993 have changed since the last Newsletter. We had intended to take the JP to the opening of the new Canal Centre in Mytchett and to Fleet Canal Carnival to run a few trips for the public. However there is now a new source of trips for the public in the form of Alec Gosling's two small boats and he will be at both functions. Since they can turn anywhere on the canal, he can provide a lot of short trips which are likely to be more suitable than one or two long ones in the JP which needs a substantial winding hole. In addition, there will be canoe and raft races going on as well as a
number of other visiting boats so that the canal would be very crowded. For these reasons we decided to opt out of the festivities and concentrate on our normal business of making money with charters.
Crews will not notice many changes to the boat. I have previously mentioned the improved quality of the fresh water supply, and the gas detector has been moved because it seemed to suffer from the regular doses of steam from the kettles. We shall be asking crews to count the money in the till before and after trips and to note this and the money taken for banking in a book which will be in the till; this is to help our Treasurer keep our new auditors happy, We will be publishing an updated edition of the Crewing Manual shortly which will be given to all crew members. Charter bookings seem to be coming in well, so there should be work for anyone willing to crew - make Bill Homewood's day by giving him a ring on (0276) 61343. Alternatively, if you haven't crewed before, ring Gill Heather on (0252) 624612 or turn up on a Club Night. Don't forget that these are now on MONDAY evenings. We shall be at Odiham until 20th June (except for Bank Holidays) and thereafter at Barley Mow.
[back to top]
In two days - 31st March and 1st April - the canal rose 3-1/2 inches and is, at the time of writing, full from end to end.
# to help run the shop and information desk at the new Canal Centre at Mytchett, on a rota basis, mainly at weekends. Names to Pat Barton. Tel (0252)370073.
# to act as guides for school parties at the Canal Centre. Full briefings given. Contact Pat Barton as above.
# to act as Social Secretary, organising social activities for Society members. Contact David Millett on (0252) 617364
# to organise trips to other canals, museums, steam railways etc. Contact David Millett as above.
# to take over exhibition boards, displays etc. from David Junkison, Contact David Millett as above.
# to help escort bats * through locks, mainly at weekends, under a volunteer lock keeper scheme now under discussion. Names to Pablo Howarth (0932) 342081. * [I swear I typed 'boats' - Ed]
# to help paint lock gates, bridges, balance beams in a team of 3 or 4 people. Names to David Millett above.
# to repair the Society dinghy (mainly woodwork). Please call Bill Homewood on (0276) 61343.
# to help man (person) the Sales
Stand during the summer and bring in much needed income to the Society. Please call Gill Heather on (0252) 624612.
Your Editors lead eventful lives. One has had her second car accident within six months and was late for the AGM because she was held up and robbed at gunpoint in Rotterdam that very afternoon. Another has become a grandfather for the first time, which he found equally exciting though rather less hazardous. Rather more hazardous were the exploits of the third member of our editorial team, who found himself abseiling down the 120 foot high Guildford police station - not we hasten to add in an attempt to escape the attentions of the Law or for any other nefarious purpose, but with the rather more honourable aim of raising funds for a Spastics charity. We are pleased to report that he arrived safely at the foot of the building, and that the subsequent operation he had on his eye was in no way connected with this exploit. So if you have any brickbats to throw at your editors, please make them soft ones for the time being.
Woking Council Trip
An evening trip for a number of Woking Councillors and local business people went off well, and we were able to point out what had been achieved on the canal and the benefits to the community. It also gave an opportunity to see the locations which are currently being considered for redevelopment and which we are not so happy about, namely the Hall and Co land and the old Victoria Hospital site.
Dick and Alison Snell in Athai were the 100th boat through Deepcut since Peter Munt replaced Les
Foster as ranger for the area. To mark the occasion Dick and Alison were presented with a box of chocolates by Peter. Business is still brisk for Peter with 157 boats now having passed through Deepcut since taking over from Les.
Firstly, a big thank you to all those members who have renewed their subscriptions. Also, thanks go to those who very kindly enclosed a donation. It is all appreciated.
Secondly, if you have not yet got around to renewing your membership, I hope that I will hear from you very soon. The Society does not wish to lose any members. Remember, if you have any questions or problems, contact me and I will try and help in whatever way possible.
Thirdly, if you are ever stuck for a present for the person who has everything - why not give them a membership of the Society. Contact me for details on how to give the ultimate gift.
We welcome the following members who have joined the Society recently:
Mr RF Roberts, Broad Oak, Odiham
Mr& Mrs OL Lockwood, Addlestone
Mr J Noakes, Church Crookham
Mr GJ Tucker, Carshalton
Mr & Ms CP Cox, Church Crookham
Mr I Standfast, Epping
Mrs JM Bates, Kintbury
Mr & Mrs S Thirkettle, Church Crookham
Mr & Mrs T De'Ath, Dummer
Mrs FM Sangster, Farnborough
Mrs & Mrs MS Wilson-Brown, Fleet
Mr & Mrs I Keel, Farnborough
Mrs MJ Gerard, Hartley Wintney
Mr & Mrs JW Gatiss, Farnborough
Mr & Mrs A Hooper, Fleet
[back to top]
PERSEVERANCE'S PAYOFF PARTY
Several hundred people turned out on April 17th to see the Perseverance make its final 'grab' at Pondtail, completing 18 years of service dredging the 12 miles from Odiham to Fleet. It was fitting that Ian Edwards and Peter Caiger made the final grab, since they have both been working on the canal since the Perseverance was purchased in 1975. The occasion was marked by speeches from Councillor Patrick Evelyn, Chairman of the Joint Management Committee, by Dennis Cleaton, Chairman of Hart Council, and by David Millett, our Society Chairman. The Mayor of Basingstoke also spoke briefly but significantly, saying that he would like to see the canal restored to reach the borough whose name it bears.
Finally a plaque was unveiled at the Pondtail bridge to mark the achievements of Perseverance and all who have operated her over the years. The celebrations continued with a jazz band and a barbeque in the evening.
[back to top]
# Canal Blockage
The Canal was blocked at Sheets Heath Bridge on Saturday 15th May when seven boats stopped for the night on their way up the canal to celebrate the opening of the Canal Centre at Mytchett. With four of the seven 'breasted up' for the night you could walk from bank to bank via the boats. The interest it aroused in the locality had to be seen to be believed. Long may this kind of blockage continue !
# Rose & Castle
Hotel boats Rose & Castle made their sixth and final trip on the canal on 25th May. They hope to be back for an autumn trip, water permitting.
# Margurite Redway
Best wishes are extended to Margurite for her continued recovery from recent surgery.
# Boat Numbers
As of 20th May this year there had been 127 boat movements at Lock 28. This compares with the total of 25 for the whole of 1992.
The number of boats through the boat counter at Double Bridge has amounted to 446 since October '92.
A new boat counter has now been installed at Deepcut and will be operational shortly.
# Canal Centre
The new Canal Centre was formally handed over by Surrey County Council to the Basingstoke Canal Authority on Saturday 22nd May. There is a permanent Society exhibition there so please do take time to visit the Centre. We propose to produce a fuller report on the Centre in the next edition of the News. Opening hours are 10:00am
to 4:30pm daily except Mondays. Do pay a visit if in the area.
# London's Lost Route
Paue Vine's book 'London's Lost Route to Basingstoke' is to be republished by Alan Sutton in February 1994. The new edition will include all the latest information about the restoration and Royal reopening.
# Quiz Success
A team representing the Society was placed first by 1/2 point in a quiz on opening day at the new Canal Centre. Other contestants were the Basingstoke Canal Boating Club, The Byfleet Boat Club and The Wey Cruising Club.
[back to top]
Copy date for Next BC News: 15th July 1993
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
[back to top]