No. 179 Autumn 1998
My editorial in the last Newsletter concentrated on the need to revive the flagging support for the running of the Canal Society and, regrettably, this is a theme which I feel I must return to in this issue.
The fact that I am writing this shows that nobody has volunteered as yet to take on the job of Newsletter editor, although Nick Halford has offered to assist with its production. Since he is a professional designer, this should be a big help, but I do not really have the time to do the rest of the editor's job as well as it has been done in the past, so we are still looking for a volunteer.
However, my appeal for Newsletter assistance is a success story compared to the result of our plea for new blood on the Society's Committee. Our "Meet the Committee" morning on the John Pinkerton passed pleasantly enough - the sun shone and half a dozen people turned up, but none appeared to be interested in joining the Committee.
I very much fear that we are heading for a crisis at next year's AGM. Our Committee currently has only 9 members out of a potential 12, our Vice-Chairman has stated positively that he will not be seeking re-election and I think that several others remain only because of loyalty to the Society and the Chairman. He himself is perhaps the one we should be most concerned about because he seems to be in danger of having to carry the whole of the Society on his shoulders - looking back through the minutes of our Committee meetings, I find that over half the actions every month fall to him.
This is not a healthy situation and it cannot continue indefinitely. Indeed if there are no new nominees for the Committee at the next AGM, the millennium celebrations could turn into a wake for the Surrey and Hampshire Canal Society.
This would be a tragedy on two counts. Firstly, the Canal needs a body such as the Society for a multitude of reasons. Raising money and effort to do jobs that the BCA cannot do, and protecting it from the pressures that seem to come from all directions are but two, but they are just as important today as they were when the Society was founded. Two of the letters in this issue are suggesting things of this nature that the Society should be doing, but they fail to recognise that there are precious few people to do them.
The other aspect is the human one. I recall a memorable (and somewhat alcoholic!) television interview with Frank
Jones at the time of the Royal Opening in which he declared that the canal restoration was really all about friends, and one has only to read Arthur Dungate's letter inside to find a similar view today. Perhaps we needed the pressures of the restoration phase to generate and cement these friendships, but it would be very sad if the decline of the Society were to deprive us of this potential.
To say that you only get out what you put in is trite, but nevertheless true, and the two aspects mentioned above are the two sides of the coin.
Concern has been expressed about the aesthetic aspect of the notices which have been put on the canal's bridges telling cyclists to dismount. They are nicely made and neatly mounted, but they do undoubtedly detract from the traditional appearance of the bridges. The BCA obviously feel that they are necessary, due to the thoughtless behaviour of a few cyclists who probably don't care what the canal looks like anyway. It is to be hoped though that this is not to be the beginning of a crop of prohibitory notices springing up along the canal - I do not want to be told not to swim, skate or sail model boats every 20 yards!
The Society's colourful float (cover picture) featuring John Ross and his much admired Mirror dinghy Elizabeth Rose decorated with traditional roses and castles, accompained by Rosie and Jim, won the award for the best entry in the 'associations class' in the Woking carnival street parade.
Congratulations to Peter Coxhead who entered the float and thanks to canal ware painter and signwriter Dick Harper-White who created the Greywell Tunnel portal backdrop. Thanks to to Shirley Trott and Janet Greenfield who helped decorate the float and turned out in their delightul 19th century boatwomen's costumes, complemented by Peter Coxhead and Edwin Chappell dressed as canal boatmen.
|Waterwatch - Galleon Marine||4|
|Work Party Information||9|
The Society's float in Woking Carnival procession judged best in its class.
Photo - Dieter Jebens
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Our summer newsletter contained the bad news that the Heritage Lottery Fund had rejected the application for the Basingstoke Canal. The "not so silly season" continues with open season on the Canal finances being the theme. The agenda for the July meeting for the Surrey County Council Environment Committee contained a case history on the restoration debt interest payments and a proposal that Surrey County Council's contribution for 1999/2000 be reduced by some £26,000 (2 years at £13,000 per annum). The reason for this arbitrary proposal was that a Riparian District (Surrey Heath Borough Council) had not contributed to the Canal restoration interest fund over the past years. The £13,000 per annum had been classed as a debt and entered into the accounts as such. The serious issue of this nature affecting the viability of the Canal should, in my opinion, have been raised and fully discussed at the Joint Management Committee, not slipped in by the back door. The Society had just sufficient time to write to individual councillors on the Environment Committee setting out the Society's policy, past restoration activities, current financial support, our working party programmes and that we also strongly objected to the proposals, as the knock on effect could have been a corresponding reduction by all Joint Management Committee authorities. The Canal finances are 50% less per mile of canal than British Waterways and any reduction in funding [will] have a devastating effect on the canal maintenance. The timing of the proposals coincides with the fund-raising for the water enhancement works at Woodham (backpumping) and this proposal by Project Partner and part owners of the canal, is in my opinion, myopic, negative, and could certainly have an adverse affect on potential sponsors and supporters of the project. The interest payments under scrutiny certainly should be paid. An agreement was, I understand, entered into at the time of restoration. I can accept that circumstances change but if full discussion between both parties had been undertaken, it would have avoided unilateral proposals which can only decimate Canal finances. Other methods must be identified to resolve this issue.
The Inland Waterways Amenity Advisory Council (IWAAC) report on restoration priorities has been published. I received my copy on the 10th August 1998. The Basingstoke Canal applications for backpumping and other works has been given priority ranking on the short term projects section by the IWAAC Review. Had the Heritage Lottery Fund not refused the Canal's application but held it pending the IWAAC report, we would, I'm sure, have been awarded some funding, if not the full £1.7m. I intend to liaise with all our partners in the project, making strong submissions for an urgent review of the application.
From the UK UFO Network website:-
Alfred the fisherman was not a prize catch.
On August 12, 1983, Alfred Burtoo was night-fishing on the Basingstoke Canal near Aldershot, Hampshire, when he saw a bright light approaching.
His dog growled and then Alfred saw two entities walking towards him. They were about 4 ft tall, dressed in green one-piece overalls, with their heads covered by a sort of helmet. They beckoned to him to follow them, which he did.
Then, on the towpath, he encountered a UFO on the ground and followed the beings aboard. After some time inside, during which Burtoo had been observing his surroundings, he was told to stand under a light.
He was asked his age, and told them he was 77. To his disappointment, he was told that he was too old for their purposes. He then left the craft, heard a whining noise and saw the craft fly away at high speed.
Incredibly, he calmly picked up his equipment and carried on fishing. Burtoo died in 1986, never having once changed his story.
Was this a nocturnal S&HCS work party, Gurkas on exercise, the RAE doing something mysterious or genuine little green men? Suggestions please and we will publish the best in a BC News X-files item!
About 11 or 12 years ago one of our members, Mr J.Tucker, kindly donated a small boat complete with outboard motor to the Society. He recently wrote to enquire if we were still using them, and if not, whether he could have them back. The boat was in fact being kept at Deepcut and has been given back to Mr Tucker and he has given the Society an extremely generous donation of £100 in return! The current whereabouts of the outboard are, however, a mystery. If anybody can recall its fate, please give Peter Redway a ring.
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GALLEON MARINE - Cathy Garrett reports
The blue-tit nesting in the post box, the duck rearing eleven chicks on the walkway and the sheep tethered to a boat trailer in the yard was an indication that this waterside business was a bit special and so it proved to be. When Gordon Muchamore decided on a change in lifestyle from that of director of an international company he, with his wife Wendy, looked for a boating related business, having enjoyed a number of years leisure cruising. They had set their hearts on a marina and had not seriously contemplated boat hire and when the possibility of taking over the small business at Odiham first arose they were unenthusiastic. The rowing boat and punt hire outfit, with some recently introduced Dawncraft Cruisers, was not really what they were seeking. However, after taking a few days holiday afloat on the Basingstoke Canal, they arrived back completely committed to it, finding the peace and tranquillity of the miles of countryside incomparable anywhere else and determined that it should become a part of their life.
Gordon made plans for a narrow boat hire fleet concentrating on short breaks and was undeterred by pessimistic advice from other operators that his plans were not workable and that because of the difficulty of connecting to other waterways the volume of business would be low. He set about developing a business based on his own short break vision and aiming to provide his customers with the type of holiday that his family had sought, supplying what they had found to be missing elsewhere. This has meant schedules built around eliminating the late afternoon pick up and early morning hand back times which are so difficult for parents with young families, and providing the little things that are so often forgotten by busy mothers such as matches, tea towels, rubbish bags and washing up liquid. The new narrowboats, which have replaced the original Dawncraft, have also been built with greater than usual bathroom area with radiators installed which enables mothers to cope easily with young children. This is a big plus point with customers and many favourable
comments are made on the comfort of the boats at a time when hirers are becoming increasingly demanding.
The current boats are built by Dalecraft at Nottingham and are designed specifically to meet the environmental considerations of the canal, with 18-inch draughts and long swims to reduce wash, and relatively shallow air draught for ease under the low bridges. The boats are painted in the colours of the Great Western Railway Pullman carriages, a reminder of Gordon's youthful hobby of train spotting and are all named after his children. They have cruiser sterns which are well suited to the type of cruising done but a semi-trad design is being tried as well this season to test the market.
Although plans to expand have been thwarted by delays in receiving compensation for loss of business during the building of the aqueduct Gordon would like to build up his fleet by at least another two boats. This would enable him to employ a second full time member of staff which would release him from engineering work to allow greater time for the marketing which is so crucial to the operation. Hopes of buying adjacent land for a mooring basin have had to be abandoned, as the costs have been far greater than expected.
Gordon very much feels that the canal has something special to offer his visitors, the outstandingly beautiful scenery, the peace and tranquillity and the chance of being completely at home with nature in such peaceful surroundings. He is keen to point out to his clients that the Basingstoke is different and that the wild life and scenery can only be appreciated by travelling at 2 miles an hour. He is not afraid to dissuade prospective clients if he feels that their desire is for rings and locks and feels saddened that some visitors from other canals do not spend time to appreciate the canal properly. He actively promotes the top 22 miles and relatively few of his customers venture beyond Lock 28. His own favourite spot is the stretch at Greywell between the lift bridge and King John's Castle and for a cruising section he finds the stretch between the base and Crookham hard to beat.
Although it is difficult to get away he always enjoys taking a boat out and did manage one night away earlier in the year. Holidays are usually taken in November and frequently are based around attendance at the Association of Pleasure Craft Operators Conference, wherever it is held.
Gordon Muchamore welcomes a holiday hire party - picture Dieter Jebens|
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Although Gordon's days do not have any set pattern the telephone really rules every day. The personal touch is very important to Gordon and he tries to speak with all his hirers at some stage during the booking process. As Galleon books independently costly advertising is necessary. Currently advertising is taking place on local radio in Somerset and Gordon is also monitoring responses from the Internet pages as well as the more traditional advertising. Hirers come from much of the south of England with an increasing number from overseas, mostly from North America but also from Europe and South Africa. As Gordon believes that the trade has a responsibility to encourage young people, who represent the future, to enjoy the waterways he recently attended the Caravan and Boating exhibition in Birmingham with six other small businesses to sell the idea of boating holidays. He gains tremendous satisfaction from seeing the smiles on peoples faces when they return from their break particularly in the knowledge that he has helped to introduce 50 per cent of his hirers to the waterways for the first time. If they return to him again, as well over 25 per cent do, he is delighted but is equally content if they find happiness in buying their own boats or in investigating new waterways.
Although the vast majority of people come back totally satisfied Gordon finds the most difficult part of his job to be that of placating the occasional unhappy customer since the cause of their dissatisfaction is rarely to do with the boats but more usually to do with the upkeep of the canal. As he stresses the tranquillity of the canal his hirers expect to be able to moor in Ihe most beautiful spots and it is quite often difficult to achieve because of bankside growth. If one thing could be changed to make
running the business easier Gordon
would choose to improve the maintenance of the canal giving dredging and bank side clearance much greater priority. He would like to see rangers becoming section-based lengthsmen responsible for a short stretch of canal which they could really get to know and walk or boat regularly to note potential problems. He is pleased that progress is being made with the
dredging but feels this is still a priority as, in addition to improved navigation, a properly dredged channel will assist with water provision through the locks.
Since Gordon believes he has an important role in both encouraging and educating his first timers training is an important part of the handover process. All hirers are sent a copy of the Waterway Code on booking and the boat manuals give detailed instruction. One of the biggest problems is to get an excited family to listen long enough to impart the knowledge necessary and so the tuition is
broken into sections. Tuition involves not only verbal instruction but supervision in turning the boat at the winding hole and handling the boat on the first stretch of the cruise during which time additional safety instructions are given. Only when the crew are judged to be
competent will they be left. Even so accidents do occasionally happen which are expensive to repair. Recently hirers have had difficulty operating the swing bridge at Crookham which has resulted in broken windows and dismayed and frustrated boaters.
In spite of any difficulties Gordon is able to say with confidence that he always enjoys his work and that there is never a morning when he doesn't want to come to work. "Arriving at the boatyard and looking out over the canal is like an injection every morning", he says. He is a great ambassador for the canal.
From David Gerry
The BCA bid for funds from the Heritage Lottery Board failed, but for what reason? Was the failure because there were just too many bids for the cash available or was it because the bid was flawed in some way? Whichever reason it was, we do now have an opportunity to think again about the proposals before either making another bid for lottery money or raising the cash by more arduous methods.
Were the proposals for which the BCA sought funds well thought out? Not many of us have been party to all of the detailed submission made to the Lottery Board, but it is my belief that the proposals were not well thought out, and I will explain why I think as I do.
You will recall that the proposals were for two separate projects, the first was to pump back water from below Lock 1 to a point above Lock 6 on the long pound through Woking. The second part of the proposal was for alterations to the Canal Centre at Mytchett, and I will review each project in that order.
The Pump-back scheme. The Canal owners and those managing the waterway for them, have a possible right to pump back any water that flows down from higher levels. There is legal case law to support this right, turning it from a possibility to a near certainty. But if it is required to pump more, then a licence is required from the Environmental Agency and agreement from the River Wey/National Trust to do so. My understanding is that no licence had been obtained nor had agreement been obtained from the River Wey's managers. From that we can only assume that the BCA only wanted to pump back their own water.
The result would have been that during the winter or wet months there would have been considerably more lock passages than would otherwise have been the case. But as soon as the sun came out, evaporation of the Woking pound would have drawn down the water level and the navigation would have been closed on the same day as it would have been had no boats used it at all. Those boaters mooring on the pound, at Woodham perhaps, would not have had the unlimited access to the Wey that they had hoped for. Woking Borough Council would not have seen any more boats in summer than they do now.
A member of BCA's staff was reported to have said that this pump back scheme was only seen as phase one to pump water all the way up to the summit, but that would involve pumping all the lockage water back plus sufficient water to compensate for evaporation and seepage. This could easily have meant pumping back over double the lockage water. Were BCA confident that they
would get a licence and the River Wey's manager's agreement or did
they intend to take the water illegally?
Before the Society raises any further cash for water enhancement schemes of the back pumping variety, it must be confident that a licence will be granted and National Trust agreement obtained; otherwise the fund raising might be deemed illegal.
I suggest that SHCS raises funds for research into alternative water supplies, from deep wells near the summit pound perhaps.
Enhancements at Mytchett. There were several sections of this proposal and while I may not have all the details, I will discuss those that I am aware of.
New lock gate workshop. That would enable the public to see lock gates being made in safety and with much improved facilities for the staff. What a super idea, but once BCA got all the locks in good order using quality durable timber, there should only be a need for one new set of gates per year (on average) and with a set of gates only taking 6 - 8 weeks to make, it does sound as if the public will be looking at an empty workshop for a lot of the time, and would it have been a wise investment to have an expensive workshop standing idle for most of the time? I do think that research has to be done into the true costs of BCA making lock gates and comparing them with sub≠contract prices.
Construction of a 38-40 berth marina. My understanding is that commercial operators of mooring basins find that a basin must be large enough for at least 100 boats to have any chance of being profitable, if that is so then had the mooring basin been built at Mytchett, it would probably have been a drain on BCA's already stretched funds.
Construction of a swing bridge to connect the tow-path to the Canal centre. I quote another canal enthusiast - I hope he won't mind - "There are three things preventing the Canal centre being the success that is dreamed of, they are Location, Location and Location".
In my view a swing bridge might help BCA a little to get its visitor numbers up but it would not solve alt its many problems. The mooring basin needs security; a swing bridge would be liable to reduce the security of moored craft and reduce the viability of the mooring basin.
Is there an alternative? Yes, I believe that there is. First, planning permission must be obtained for a sensibly sized mooring basin and then the whole lot should be sold to the private sector, with the meeting room being used for boat sales and chandlery. Canal staff should be busy monitor-
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ing the canal and based at a new centre at a sensible location where the canal's history and natural history could be sensibly displayed. A site does exist on publicly owned land elsewhere in Surrey.
The Canal needs the SHCS as much now as at any time. The Society should be questioning deeply the costs of running every aspect of the Canal's management. County Councils have never been good at knowing the true costs of running their recreational facilities nor of the facilities they provide.
Without sensible information on costs and benefits to the public, how can the County Councils and other members of the Joint Management Committee ever be expected to make sound decisions. Subsidising a guided walk for 40 people is one thing, subsidising a guided walk for 2 people is very different. Value analysis is vital.
Editor's note: Unfortunately Paddy Field was on holiday when this newsletter was being prepared, so I was not able to obtain his comments on David's letter. I do know, however, that he had discussed the water supply issue with the previous manager of the Wey Navigation and had reached some form of understanding (I cannot conceive that a public body such as the BCA could allow itself to be accused of illegal abstraction of water!).
Nevertheless, I agree with David that if the scheme is to be of any practical use, a formal agreement needs to be put in place to permit back-pumping of more than just lockage water. Since the Wey has a new manager, this may require some re-negotiation and we will try to get a progress report for the next Newsletter.
David is also correct in saying that the back-pumping scheme was only seen as a first step in improving the water supply situation. However, further back-pumping is only one option. Our Chairman has put forward a suggestion for a reservoir at Brookwood next to the locks, which deserves further study. Bourley reservoir at Aldershot would need no pumping and, who knows, perhaps one day the MOD might change its mind again about making this available. There are also rumours about the water works supply at Greywell becoming available for the canal.
Investigations have already been made
into the possibility of abstracting water from deep wells near the summit pound, but so far without success; pumping from great depth might be needed, together with chemical treatment of the water to obtain the correct pH value. A further
complication is that the Department of the Environment has just issued a consultation paper on "The Review of the Water Abstraction Licensing system in England and Wales", which seems to be seeking to increase the DoE's powers in this area and is already causing concern in relation to British Waterways' existing abstraction rights.
The Society's water supply fund raising is directed to addressing the problems of the whole canal, not merely the Woking pound or the proposed Woodham back-pumping scheme, so I do not think that we need share David Gerry's concerns about its legality.
It would be interesting to get members' reactions to David's thoughts on back-pumping and the proposed developments at Mytchett. Let us have your views and perhaps we can make a feature of them in our next issue.
Dear fellow Society members,
As some of you may know, earlier this year I had to undergo a very major heart operation (which incidentally is proving completely successful). During my period of illness and stay in hospital, and also in the following recovery, I experienced overwhelming support and kindness from my friends in the Society.
To ease my hospital stay, I was unexpectedly presented with a radio/cassette unit which, when I enquired, was from "all of us". To "all of us" (i.e. all of you) I wish to express my deep and sincere gratitude. Even though I am no longer in hospital, your gift is of continuing value.
I once said some years ago - to Frank Jones actually - "I should have joined the Society much earlier, you meet such nice people".
Well I have just about got my full strength back again now, and so I can confidently state that when our Woking talks resume in October (2nd Tuesday as usual, see elsewhere for details), I shall be there to host them again and welcome you.
Russian visitors: A groupd of children from Chernobyl staying with families at Aldershot were guests of the Society for an evening cruise aboard the John Pinkerton one evening in August|
Photo - DieterJebens
Just got rny copy of the Newsletter.....
Reference the concern about the apparent drop off in commitment to working parties referred to in the editorial:
The original members were undoubtedly motivated by the thought that they were restoring a canal for its intended use, i.e. unrestricted boating, and further by the thought that, eventually, the canal would be restored along its full length, if not to the terminus, then to somewhere close by.
I wonder how many of the "pioneers" of the Society would have continued their efforts had they known in the 60's and 70's that, following all their sterling efforts, boat numbers would eventually be capped, some parties would apparently be quite content that water supply problems severely limit access in dry years, and bats that can be moved for road schemes can't be moved for canal restoration?
Could it be that newer members of the Society, having learned of the frustrations of the older ones, are a touch more cynical about the eventual rewards their labours might reap, and are more reticent. If they can be assured that by contributing labour to the back pumping scheme they will be working to support an initiative that will result in greater access for boats and an uninterrupted cruising season, then I suspect some might be more inclined to help. If it is to end up as an elaborate watering system for rare plants at Greywell, I for one won't be getting my hands dirty (except of course when cleaning the silt
out of the Pinkerton's blocked toilet inlet).
The relevant parties should be invited to declare their intent now, rather than emerging from the undergrowth once all the hard work is finished. If they won't
give us a clear picture of how they see the canal being managed once the water supply issue is resolved, we can draw our own conclusions.
Editor's note: I understand that Paddy Field had in fact obtained English Nature's formal support for the back-pumping scheme.
Earlier in the year our report on the AGM contained an error and Ron McLaughlin has written as follows:-
I regret the errors in the reports in the last two newsletters concerning the number of man hours spent working
on the John Pinkerton. The figure of 240 man hours should have read 240 man days or 1920 man hours. Simple arithmetic will show that if 30 crew members worked through the winter then 240 man hours represents only one day's work each. In fact many of these crew worked one or two days every week throughout the winter.
The figure of 240 man days was worked out counting the number of days that members worked up to the middle of February when the figure was required to be included with other statistics for a Society report. The number of days actually worked was 384 but we did not work a full 8 hour day every time. Converting this to 8 hour days gave a figure of 240, but work actually continued on the boat for at least another 6 weeks after this figure was calculated.
We can only conclude by saying that we are most grateful and thankful for the time and effort given by crew members throughout the winter.
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Since my last working party report, our volunteers have commenced work on the parapets of Blade's Bridge. The remaining parapet has been taken down and all re-useable bricks cleaned, to be used below the string line. The use of lime putty mortar and best matched materials is a requirement of listed structure planning consents.
Mortar mix -
2 parts sharp sand to 1 part hydraulic lime, dry mixed.
Lime putty -
1 part lime putty to 2 parts water, thoroughly mixed to produce a lime cream. The cream is then
added to the dry mortar mix to produce mortar.
For pointing of the mortar, the mortar is struck off flush with the brickwork face and when sufficiently set, lightly sprayed with a fine water spray so that the texture of the sand is exposed. Final cleaning of the bricks will be required on completion of the work.
Other works include the renovation of our second barge; a considerable number of the frames in the hold, 16 out of a total of 34, were replaced. The 2 buoyancy chambers also had extensive replacement of framings. This work was followed by re-paint, new bollards and mooring rings. The total of some 4 weeks work in the dry dock. My thanks to Peter Munt and Family for their co-operation and forbearance in the project. You cannot fabricate steel without noise and the work was far more extensive than I had originally anticipated. The dreaded rustbug had been very busy.
Work Party Dates and Venues
|4/5/6 Sept 98||PR/DL/DJ||Crookham towpath|
|12/13 Sept 98||DJ/DL||SladesBridge|
|18/19/20 Sept||PR/KR||Crookham towpath|
|26/27 Sept 98||DJ/DL||Slades Bridge|
|26/27 Sept 98||KR||Tug, Ash Lock|
|2/3/4 Oct 98||PR||Crookham towpath|
|10/11 Oct 98||DJ/DL||Slades Bridge|
|10/11 Oct 98||KR||Tug, Ash Lock|
|16/17/18 Oct 98||PR/KR||Crookham towpath|
|24/25 Oct 98||DJ/DL/PR||Slades Bridge|
|30/31/1 Oct/Nov98||PR||Crookham towpath|
|7/8 Nov 98||DJ/DL||Slades Bridge|
|7/8 Nov 98||KR||Tug, Ash Lock|
|13/14/15 Nov 98||PR||Crookham towpath|
|21/22 Nov 98||DJ/DL||Slades Bridge|
|21/22 Nov 98||KR||Tug, Ash Lock|
Work Party Leaders
Dave Junkison DJ (0181) 941 0685
Dave Lunn DL (01483)771294
Kevin Redway KR (01483) 722206
Peter Redway PR (01483) 721710
After many years dedicated and appreciated service, Bert Savill has relinquished his duties as central distributor of the Basingstoke Canal
News for Fleet. These duties have now been taken over by John McGarry, who hopes to keep up the previous standard. His phone number
is 01252-621343. Thanks very much Bert and thanks to John for taking over!
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Good to see the canal open to the end of July this year after the above average spring and early summer rainfall. Let's hope that the autumn and winter rainfall is above average too, so that the underground aquifers are fully recharged for the 1999 season.
With work having commenced on the refurbishment and repairs at Colt Hill Wharf, Odiham, it will be a good advertisement for the canal to have the area looking smart and attractive once again. In recent years it has looked decidedly tatty, especially as visitors to the canal from other parts of Hampshire often make this their first port of call. First impressions are very important for public relations for any Organisation.
Whilst it was unfortunate that the
Heritage Lottery bid was unsuccessful it was encouraging to read that in the Inland Waterway Amenities Advisory Council's review of restoration and improvement schemes all over the country, the Basingstoke Canal's scheme came ninth out of ninety-eight considered. Maybe this will mean a re-submission of the bid.
The tea-room at the Canal Centre and the tea-garden at Lock 28 are proving very welcome to walkers, cyclists and boaters. I can vouch for this having used them myself on recent cycle outings along the towpath.
The contrast between the appearance of the canal as far as litter is concerned at Ash Wharf and the Kiln Bridge lock area at St. Johns was very apparent. Ash Wharf area is
kept very clean by Ash Parish Council whilst the clearance at Kiln Bridge leaves a lot to be desired by Woking Borough Council.
My recent cycle outing revealed that the towpath had really benefited from the midsummer strimmimg with the exception of the section east of Monument Bridge, Woking, which was still overgrown in places.
Also, some of the lock balance beams and lock overbridges on the Goldsworth and Sheerwater flights are in dire need of a new coat of white paint. The overbridges in particular have accumulated a lot of green algae on them, which coupled with the peeling paint makes the whole flight look unattractive.
MIKRON THEATRE COMPANY - by David Millett
The annual visit of the Mikron Theatre Company took place on August 17th at the Fox and Hounds, Crookham Road, Fleet when around 200 members and public turned up on a glorious summer evening to see the show 'Imogen's War' which was an updated version of their 1992 show.
I first brought the Company to Fleet in August 1980 after meeting Mike Lucas, their founder and Artistic Director the previous year when they were performing at a waterways event. Mike had been following the progress of the Basingstoke Canal restoration with great interest and it has always been his intention to bring their narrow boat "Tyseley No 183 " to moor at the Fox and Hounds for the performance. Sadly, for various reasons, this has never been possible to date.
In the early 1970s Mike resigned as
Artistic Director of the Gulbenkian Theatre, Canterbury
to pursue a career as a freelance actor and director. His aim, readily supported by his wife Sarah (who sadly passed away in January 1997) was
to bring live theatre to places where it had never been before, using the canals
and rivers as their highway, a narrow boat as the means of travel, and adjacent pubs and village halls as their venues. Mike had always had an interest in waterways and the canal restoration movement was starting to get going and he thought shows with a canal theme
would help to promote the movement.
Their first show 'Still Waters' was performed at The Kings Head, Islington and was a hour long story of 200 years of canal history.
A few bookings followed and friends carried the cast around for a time and then narrow boats were lent to them. In 1975 they were given the use of "Tyseley" finally purchasing the boat in 1978. 'Tyseley' is now 62 years old
and had been part of the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company's first fleet, later becoming the first restaurant boat on the canals operating from Thrupp on the South Oxford Canal.
In 1978 their base moved to Marsden in Yorkshire and in 1979 full tours of the country commenced, and, as they say, the rest is history.
All sorts of shows followed, a new one being written every winter, and that and the previous one being performed the following summer. Whilst most of the shows have a waterways theme, some have featured other causes and campaigns, most notably the 1997 show, "If you go down to the Woods - tales from the Newborn by-pass", which featured both sides to the argument over whether the notorious by≠pass should be built.
Over 70 actors and actresses have toured with Mikron, and they are all carefully selected, as they have to work and live together as a team on board Tyseley' for the whole season. Some have stayed for a year and some have stayed for more.
Over the years since 1980, nearly all performances on the Basingstoke Canal have been at the Fox and Hounds, as the garden is a natural amphitheatre with the pub as a back≠drop. On only two occasions has it been wet enough to transfer to a local hall.
The shows are always well written with their own brand of witty, educational, and well scripted and acted performances with musical interludes.
'Imogen's War' was a celebration of the women who made their war effort by working on the inland waterways of England, while their menfolk were at war. They were known as the trainees" or ironically, as "Idle Women" after the badge which wartime workers on the canals received.
We all wish the Company best wishes for the future.
Illustrated Talks in Woking - Winter Season 1998/9
As usual, our venue remains the comfortable Westgate Centre in Woking, just by Wheatsheaf (Chobham Road) Bridge, on the second Tuesday in the month at 8pm. There is ample (and free in the evenings!) parking space in the nearby Brewery Road car park.
Tea and coffee are served in the interval. All meetings are free and everyone is welcome!
OCTOBER - Tuesday 13th
Peter Redway - "The Shannon Waterway". Our Chairman describes one of the major canal routes in Ireland.
NOVEMBER - Tuesday 10th
Richard Thomas - "The River Lee - Part 2". Richard, who delighted us last November with his talk, will continue the journey.
DECEMBER - Tuesday 8th
David Freeman - "Narrow-minded boat fitting". David will show how he fits out narrowboats.
JANUARY - Tuesday 12th
Robin Higgs - "South America - Argentina, Patagonia and the Andes!".
Robin will be back to show us his last travel adventure in South America.
FEBRUARY - Tuesday 9th
Arthur Dungate - "Direct Television from Alexandra Palace". Arthur, who had to cancel his BBCTV talk in February, has re-scheduled it and will recount some personal experiences of the early post-war days in television.
MARCH - Tuesday 9th
Frank Greenway - "Roosting bats and waterways". Frank, of the Natural History Museum in London, is the noted expert on bats and designed the "bat cave" at the Ash Embankment.
APRIL - Tuesday 13th
Still being negotiated.
If you have any interesting ideas for future talks, the Talks Organiser will be pleased to hear from you. Please contact Arthur Dungate.
Mail Order Offers
All available from: Alec Gosling, 12 Mole Road, Hersham, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, KT12 4LV. All prices include p&p.
30th Anniversary Mugs (white or yellow) £3.20
Tea Towels (map of canal) £3.15
Sweatshirts (L or XL) Red, Royal Blue. Bottle Green £13.70
Guide to the Basingstoke Canal £3.95
Circular Rambles on the Basingstoke Canal £3.95
Wildlife of the Basingstoke Canal £1.85
All cheques payable to Surrey and Hampshire Canal Society please
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The Society expects to launch a new 12-seater trip boat next season to cover a stretch of the canal above Lock 11 at St John's. John Abbott and Bill Browbrick have been busy refitting the 18ft GRP hull kindly donated by Bruce and Roz White. With Bill acting as quartermaster. John and Bill have been spending three days a week for most of the summer getting the boat into shape including fitting bench seating and a canopy.
Galleon Marine have provided a 10hp outboard at a special price for the boat which wll be operated by the Society's subsidiary company, Surrey & Hampshire Canal Cruises and will be run by a crew of two. Anyone wgo lives in the Woking area and does not already crew the John Pinkerton but would like to crew the new trip boat should contact Ron McLaughlin on (01252) 672189
The boat at Ash Lock depot. Photo: John Abbott
Date for next copy 31st October 1998
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 and Directors of the Society have an
asterisk (') after their name.
Roger Cansdale*. 79 Gally Hill Road, Church Crookham, Hampshire. GU13 0RU (01252) 616964
Cathy Garrett. 122 Lovelace Drive, Pyrford, Woking, Surrey GU22 8RR (01932) 341993
Chairman: Peter Redway*. 1 Redway Cottages, St John's Lye, Woking, Surrey, GU21 1SL (0483) 721710
Vice-Chairman: Peter Coxhead*. 17 Abbey Close, Pyrford, Woking, Surrey, GU22 8PY (01932) 344564
Hon. Secretary: Philip Riley*. Wincombe Cottage, Broad Oak, Odiham, Hampshire, RG25 1AH (0256) 702109
Hon. Treasurer: Jonathan Wade*. 30 Hanover Gardens, Cove, Famborough, Hampshire, GU14 9DT (0252) 524690
Membership Secretary: Edwin Chappell*. The Spinney, Meadow Road, Ashtead, Surrey, KT21 1QR (0372) 272631
Working Party Information: Peter Redway*. 1 Redway Cottages, St John's Lye, Woking, Surrey, GU21 1SL (0483) 721710
Trip Boat Manager: Ron McLaughlin. 94 Guildford Road, Ash Vale, Aldershot, Hampshire GU12 6BT (012520 26722
Trip Boat Bookings: Marion Gough. St Catherines, Hurdle Way, Compton Down, Winchester, Hants. SO21 2AN (01962) 713564
Sales Manager: Gill Freeman. 35 Holland Gardens, Fleet, Hampshire, GU139NE (0252) 624612
Mail Order Sales: Alec Gosling. 12 Mole Road, Hersham, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey. KT12 4LV (01932) 224950
Exhibitions Manager: David Junkison*. 4 Thames Meadow, West Molesley, Surrey, KT146BE (081) 941 0685
Audio Visual Producer: Arthur Dungate. 187 Ellerdine Road, Hounstow, Middlesex, TW3 2PU (0181) 737 4896
Talks Organiser: Arthur Dungate. 187 Ellerdine Road, Hounstow, Middlesex, TW3 2PU (0181) 737 4896
Press Officer: Dieter Jebens. 60 Middle Bourne Lane, Famham, Surrey, GU10 3NJ (0252) 715230
Archivist: Jill Haworth. Sheerwood, Woodham Lane, Woking, Surrey. GU21 5SR (01932) 342081
Woking Area Director: Peter Coxhead*. 17 Abbey Close, Pyrford, Woking, Surrey. GU22 8PY (01932) 344584
Director: Roger Cansdale*. 79 Gally Hill Road, Church Crookham, Hampshire. GU13 0RU (01252) 616964
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