No. 201 SPRING 2004
Having ended the last issue on a somewhat glum note, with the canal drastically short of water, and the Society without a Membership Secretary, it is good to be able to report that the canal is now full to the brim and that we had not one, but two volunteers to take over from Lesley Richards.
Once the rain started falling, I was amazed how fast the canal re-filled, and it re-opened to allow boats to return to their moorings at Bridge Barn and the River Wey on 27 November 2003. The previous weekend had seen 1" (22mm) of rain, more than the entire summer's rainfall. One wonders, however, how long it will take to refill the aquifers to give us a reserve if we have another drought next year.
We still have one empty seat on the Society's Committee. Whilst this is a much more healthy state than existed a couple of years ago, it would be nice to fill it.
We have quite a lot on at the moment should you feel like helping. Verna Smith not only acts as our Secretary, but also runs our Sales business and chairs the Bridge Barn organisation; she is always grateful for offers of help, particularly at this time of year during the run-up to the Woking event.
The St. John's back-pumping scheme is progressing well, but is going to come to a grinding halt in the not too distant future if more money is not forthcoming from somewhere. Fund raising is about to become a major activity. This scheme will not, of course, be the end of the story. We are already thinking about a scheme for the Brookwood flight of locks, and then there's Deepcut!
Looking a bit further into the future, Roger Read's research into a link to the Kennet & Avon Canal has probably got about as far as he can go, and probably about as far as he needs to go.The next step is to talk to interested parties and then to commission a professional preliminary feasibility study. Compared to the one commissioned by Basingstoke & Deane Council ten years ago into restoring the line into Basingstoke, this will, I think, have the great advantage of Roger's work as a foundation to build on. This should save money and avoid nugatory effort. We currently have a small working group progressing this activity, but if it does take off, we shall be looking for more help.
The Committee meets once a month, so it is not too onerous a commitment. If you think you might be interested, why not give somebody on the Committee a ring? All our names and phone numbers are on the back page.
We only need two volunteers and we could have all the excitement of an election!
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Elsewhere you will find Leigh Thornton's notes about the BCA's activities, which include work on the towpath in Aldershot. Whilst this has undoubtedly removed large areas of quagmire, it has left the towpath very uneven with large patches of sandy subsoil exposed, which are liable to be washed into the canal by any heavy rain. What is needed is some resurfacing. Leigh recognises this, but doesn't have the funds to buy materials.
David Millett in his musings appeals to Rushmoor Council to fund it, but what is really needed is a proper financial basis for the canal itself. The current system of essentially voluntary payments by the various district councils puts the continued existence of the canal in permanent jeopardy. How can the BCA plan for any development when they have no control over their income? They are barely keeping pace with essential maintenance - indeed some who have battled their way through the locks recently would argue that they are not doing so.
A few years ago Dieter Jebens wrote a paper suggesting that consideration should be given to passing responsibility for running the canal to British Waterways. He did not necessarily advocate any change of ownership, but felt that advantage should be taken of the expertise and capabilities of BW to produce a more cost-effective management. It would also have improved the career opportuities for the staff and simplified boat licensing arrangements.
The paper was submitted to the Basingstoke Canal Advisory Group, which advises the Joint Management Committee. It was greeted with some hostility by County Council officers, being seen as a criticism of the BCA, and progressed no further. However, the paper was aimed at the management policy and framework, not the managers who are stuck with working witnin these constraints.
The topic is surely worth airing again, perhaps initially in a more relaxed environment than a formal meeting, where a more open minded exchange of views can take place. It is very difficult to see a stable future for the canal under the present system.
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Sunday morning walk at Barley Mow. Photo: Roger Cansdale
I am writing this report in January 2004, a far cry from the long hot summer of 2003.
Aldershot Military Town
The outline proposals for the redevelopment of the Aldershot Military Town will have a considerable impact on the canal. The existing military buildings south of the canal from Government Road to Queens Avenue, between the dual carriageway will be scheduled for reconstruction.
We have been supported by the BCA in our response to the consultation process, advocating landscape works on the south bank of the canal as a screen, also a proposal for water storage facilities, with drain down responsibility being vested with the BCA. These facilities will reduce the volume of surface water run off into the canal in heavy rain, meeting Environmental Agency criteria, also providing some water catchment for use during dry conditions.
Military land release is also probable west of Queens Avenue, and redevelopment is planned from 2005/6 to 2010/11.
Leigh Thornton and I were invited to give a joint presentation to a Planning Workshop in December, and we again advocated water storage facilities within the development, leisure facilities and towpath improvements. Feedback on the final day session was positive. Outline possibilities included a canal lay-by/mooring facility and retail kiosk facilities for canal visitors.
The planning applications will show how successfully our presentation for improvements and canal facilities was received by the various authorities.
Deepcut Dry Dock
It is a sign of our times that a Dry Dock facility constructed by the then Canal Company during the 1880s has been the subject of a Certificate of Lawful Use application in 2003.
The BCA has had to apply for this Certificate in order that use of the dock can continue. The case submitted included copies of past conveyance plans, user bookings and revenue; the Society confirmed dates of restoration and use by the John Pinkerton and our various work craft.
The result is lost revenue to the BCA and time spent on research and application case compilation. I understand that a recomendation by Guildford Borough Solicitors to their Planning Officers supports the issue of the Certificate of Lawful Use. If this is confirmed dry dock activities will resume, the initial noise issues can then be reopened for negotiation.
The Dower House estate at Dogmersfield has recently changed ownership, and Private Property notices have been placed above Tundry Pond.
From the Canal Estate plans (as registered) the offside bank, from Blacksmith's Bridge above Tundry Pond and extending to the west of the embankment, is in Canal ownership. Leigh Thornton (BCA Director) is meeting with the estate Land Agent to agree boundaries.
Ash Tree Project
The work was scheduled to commence during February, and the initial proposals have been modified so that specimen trees are retained and the "Glade" concept retained.
Now that the trees have been marked, a site survey before work starts will confirm the extent of the proposals and allow time for any changes which may be identified.
Surrey County Council Offices Move
Woking Borough Council and Surrey County Council have both endorsed the continuing negotiations for the SCC move to Brewery Road site at Woking. With the move of SCC, the canal owners, to a canal side site in Woking, we may see a more pro-active corporate response evolve.
The opportunity to seek enhancements for the canal, now that the decision to move has been made, should not be missed, and we have a number of initiatives for improving the canal facilities which we now need to pursue with the respective authorities.
Friends of Mark Coxhead will have been upset last year to hear of his illness. It was great news, therefore to receive the following message from him:
"I would like to thank all the Society members, who over the past months have expressed their concern for my health. I am pleased to report that I am now hopefully on the road to recovery and thank you again for your good wishes".
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The long summer season has now progressed to almost continual rain interspersed with frost and light snow, certainly not the ideal conditions for construction work and canal working parties - spring must be around the corner!
Since the last report, work has moved on.
St. John's backpumping scheme
Work on the pump inlet chamber at St. John's has made good progress. Steelwork fitted after the roof shuttering was in place, created a complex beam structure which is integral with the roof structure on the canal side. The final concrete pour was scheduled for a November Monday morning; the day was cloudy with the probability of rain. The Premix concrete was offered earlier than ordered, and as we were ready we accepted and the concrete was placed before lunch. We were lucky - as we were covering the concrete it started raining; this signalled the end of the dry summer.
Inlet chamber, above Lock 11
A month's curing time later we removed the roof shuttering supports and off-hired the equipment, removed the shuttering and stored the reusable materials. Yet to be completed, the final finishing of the intake requires bankside piling, cleaning up joins in the structure, "tanking" of the inside and fitting of the intake grids.
Pipeline construction, slowed during the inlet construction works, has progressed towards Lock 8. Visiting groups and society volunteers have all contributed to the work. Sufficient pipes have been purchased to reach the pump chamber at Lock 7.
Estimates are in hand for the remaining specialist works, our objective being that the pump is being tested by the Autumn of 2004.
In January we returned to the Western End, and this was a mini reunion with many familiar faces enjoying the towpath clearance work and removal of a dead oak tree. The sun was shining and work went with a swing after a delayed start waiting for the Transit van and tools.
February work parties continue the off bank clearing between Slade's and Eastrop Bridges, also some sapling growth at the tunnel.
Winter Work Camp
A work camp was sheduled for February 14th to 21st, with accomodation at Bisley Camp. The work programme included piling and other works at St. John's, and some "scrub bashing" as a change.
Volunteers constructed the water inlet chamber in 15 weeks. This is excellent progress involving 3 and 4-day weekends after the work camp. Everybody involved in the construction has made significant contributions. Thanks everyone.
The tractor and flail made short work of bankside growth, while other volunteers set about some of the overgrown hedge between Slade's Bridge and the Brickworks Arm.
Launching Kevin Redway's home-made work boat was easier than recovering it..|
but it proved useful....
...once he had dredged a channel for it under Slade's Bridge.
A dead oak tree proved a challenge to Dave Lunn and his chain saw, but it succumbed in the end and someone is going to have some good logs for the fire.
With weather looking less friendly than for last year's Western End work party, less people turned out. Nevertheless, a lot of work was done, and a second session is to follow.
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As the new year kicks off, the BCA are embarking on an ambitious maintenance programme which involves tidying and improvements as well as more fundamental structural works.
The towpath through Rushmoor from the A325 Bridge to Ash Lock is being scraped and re-cambered to improve drainage and get rid of the muddy patches and puddles. (left) It has become near impassable overthe last couple of years. Overhanging growth and dead wood is also being cut back to allow drying sunshine to get to the path surface and reduce winter leaf fall. In many places the old hard surface is being revealed, but we hope to follow up the structural work with some surfacing next year, subject to a bit of fund-raising for material.
The Deepcut tree project should be under way by the time of publication, with essential safety related works taking place on the steep cutting sides. It's going to look drastic fora while, but there is a very real danger of human injury and the collapse of the cutting side into the canal unless action is taken. All decent timber will, of course, be re-used on the canal and we anticipate the sawmill will be busy in the summer! We aim to follow along with a "cunning plan" that will enable us to "re-profile" the canal bottom and rebuild 1000 metres of bankside through the cutting at the same time. This should also be sufficient to negate the need for
further dredging in the cutting.
New gates are ready for Locks 14 and 16, while re-planking and rebuilding of gates at Locks 2,5 and 6 is also planned. With the dredger working at Deepcut, we are to bring in a lorry mounted crane to help with this work. Improvements are being carried out to Ash Lock to reduce water loss which will involve lifting out gates and replacing cills.
With stop planks across the tail of the lock, Unity and its pumps empty the lock, exposing the lower gate paddles and cill.
Foam injection is being used behind lock walls to fill voids and provide an element of waterproofing which should minimise water loss. Foam has also been used in the embankment through Woking Town Centre to plug leaks and stabilise it.
We have had a supply of cast iron paddle racks specially made in Bristol and these have now arrived. With the new plastic paddles and tubular pull rods already in stock we will gradually replace lock operating gear throughout the system on a needs basis.
Throughout Hampshire, further bankside trimming is taking place from the workboat. Over the summer we will be embarking on spending the £40,000 received from the Waterways Trust for bankside, environmental and access
improvements through Hampshire. This will include using hazel faggots for bankside protection, marginal reed planting, safety related tree works, hedgerow rejuvenation and further work on bat surveying at Greywell.
A very nice piece of traditional hedge laying by Paul Hope near Double Bridge.
Some bankside restoration near Poulter's Bridge
Operations Manager Tony Beecher is currently carrying out a huge audit of necessary canal repairs along all 32 miles. After some 13 years (longer for many sections) of use and abuse since the re-opening, the canal is in need of some quite serious work, as was emphasised during last Summer's low water levels. The results of this audit will form the basis of our maintenance action plan for the coming few years, tying in with the new Canal Management Plan. It will also identify key areas where major structural works are required which will have to form the platform for increased capital funding, whether from the partner authorities or external bodies.
We hope to work together to use the advantages of BCA resources combined with the Canal Society's Charitable Status and knowledgeable fund raisers to access new sources of money.
Tree Projects for conservation value are taking place at Ash Vale and Rushmoor Flash this winter. The aim is to get more light in to the flashes-which still remain as strongholds for aquatic plants - and encourage re-colonisation in the vicinity.
Looking at the "wider picture" for a while, a number of exciting changes are on the horizon. The proposed new HQ for Surrey County Council at Brewery Road, Woking (adjacent to the Canal) could provide opportunities for raising the profile of the canal locally and bringing it in to the "heart" of Woking both physically and psychologically. Certainly it will raise the profile of the canal amongst the landowning members of Surrey County Council!
In Aldershot, "Project Connaught" is underway which will transform the military area and release a parcel of canalside land for a new housing "village". BCA and SHCS have already been involved in workshops and discussions on this issue and are looking for some "regeneration" of the old A325 Wharf area, new canalside facilities, towpath and environmental improvements and possibly the opportunity fora reservoir in the form of excess drainage water storage.
Work is progressing well on the St Johns Backpumping scheme (which will no doubt be covered elsewhere in this issue) paving the way for a scheme at Brookwood. This will tie in nicely with the proposed Country Park at Brookwood which will create another exciting new canalside facility.
Yes there are problems - they never go away on a 32 mile long waterway, rather like painting the Severn Bridge! Furthermore, funding is constantly under pressure. However it is essential that we keep plugging away at the basics to keep the canal in water and enjoyable as a facility. We do need to balance this though with keeping a positive and opportunistic eye to the future - and taking the odd risk!
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FARNBOROUGH ROAD BRIDGE
Work finally started in January 2004 to strengthen the old bridge to enable it to carry modern levels of traffic. The old brick facings have been supported by extensive steelwork, while a new re-inforced deck is added.
The old bridge with temporary strengthening girders
One side of the dual carriageway on the A325 is closed, together with the slip road from the Fleet-Aldershot road. As a consequence, the slipway on the offside near the bridge is currently inaccessible.
Despite the delayed start, we are assured that the canal will be open for boats by Easter. Let us hope that the contractors refrain from dropping too much debris into the canal. Difficulties were experienced recently by the Society's tug when negotiating Brookwood Bridge below Lock 12 due to rubbish from the road works.
(from The Fleet COURIER, 19 May 2004) [not in BC News] ---
Urgent strengthening works to a century-old bridge which forms part of the main highway between Farnborough and Aldershot have been completed.
Both lanes of the A325 have now been reopened and the 40mph speed restriction lifted allowing traffic to travel along it as normal.
Concerns about Wharf Bridge's safety came to light last September when Hampshire Council announced it needed to be strengthened to ensure it was safe for heavy goods vehicles.
An external consultant employed by the council assessed the bridge's capacity to hold 40 tonnes when in fact it was only 7.5 tonnes.
A spokeswoman admitted the council had been aware of the inaccurate assessment for over 18 months, sparking condemnation by Rushmoor's Cllr Mike Roberts who said at the time: "This is a terrible indictment of Hampshire's overseeing of the standard of assessment in respect of this bridge".
The news alarmed Tesco chiefs, unaware of the weak bridge which their delivery lorries go over daily to reach the superstore. At the time, a spokesman for the Aldershot store, said: "We are very concerned for the safety of our drivers".
A contraflow was created around the bridge in September and strengthening work started in January, resulting in single-lane traffic north and southbound and a speed limit of 40mph.
On Monday a spokeswoman for Hampshire Council said: "The work is now complete and the bridge is safe for all vehicles to use. All that remains is some landscaping work to be done along the central reservation, but that will not have an effect on the traffic".
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In the last issue we reported the arguments going on with the owner of the Wilderness about noise. She ended up by challenging the legality of operating the Dry Dock without planning permission, ignoring the fact that it had been there for at least a hundred years.....
This resulted in the BCA requesting Surrey County Council, the canal's owner, to obtain a Certificate of Lawful Use from Guildford Borough Council, the local planning authority. The Society provided supporting evidence, including Newsletter articles about the dock's rebuilding 20 years ago and the work done in it 10 years ago to weld new bottom plates onto the John Pinkerton.
Happily, the Certificate was duly issued at the beginning of February, enabling the Pinkerton to finally get in for essential maintenance and its annual inspection.
Any further complaints about noise will have to be dealt with by the Environmental Health Department, but the Society's own measurements show that normal operations should not cause any real disturbance.
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LITTLE TUNNEL BRIDGE
A break in the work party at the Western End provided a recent opportunity to go and inspect Little Tunnel Bridge in Up Nately.
The bridge is a listed building but this does not appear to be a major concern to the owner of the land on which it now sits, who uses it as a barn. There are signs of poorly repaired brickwork under the arch and the whole structure looks to be badly in need of re-pointing. Some of the parapet is also beginning to fall away.
Little Tunnel Bridge
It is understood that the bridge is on Basingstoke & Deane's list of endangered buildings and that funds may be available to do some preservation work. The Society has written to the council urging that action be taken soon.
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The Country Ways programme on the Basingstoke Canal featuring the John Pinkerton and Ron McLaughlin, made in October, will be transmitted on Thursday 25th March 2004 at 7.30pm on Meridian. We will try to obtain a copy for the benefit of those who cannot receive this channel.
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Donation from the Cavalcade of Transport
Peter Redway was surprised and delighted recently to be presented with a cheque for £1500 by Reg Connell and Phil Booraman, who organised last autumn's Cavalcade of Transport at the Canal Centre.
This very generous gesture was made possible by the Canal Authority, who made no charge for the use of the field.
A very big Thank You to the steam enthusiasts and the BCA!
Since the last newsletter the St.John's Back Pumping appeal has received donations from the following:-
David Gibson from Burton in Lonsdale.
Relations and friends of Don Larcombe, MBE (brother-in-law of Nancy Larcombe), who gavea very generous donation for the Back Pumping at his funeral.
The St. John's appeal now stands at £8050.
The Society's website has moved to a new address:-
The Canal Authority have also got their site running at:- www.basingstoke-canal.co.uk
I was sent the postcard below by someone who though that the bridge might be on the Basingstoke Canal. I'm pretty sure that it isn't, but does anyone know where it is? The waterway looks more like a river than a canal to me. There are no postal clues to the card's origin and, frustratingly, the photo is not quite good enough to make out the inscription over the arch, apart from the date which looks like 1772.
No prizes, but any suggestions would be welcome.
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Annual General Meeting
NOTICE is hereby given that the Twenty-Seventh Annual General Meeting of the Society will be held on Saturday 24th April in the St.John's Memorial Hall, St.John's, Woking, Surrey commencing at 7 pm.
The formal agenda for the meeting is as follows:-
1. To hear apologies for absence.
2. To confirm the minutes of the Twenty-Sixth AGM held on 12th April 2003.
3. To approve the Annual Accounts for the year ending 31st December 2003.
4. To re-appoint the auditors, Hilton and Company.
5. To elect or confirm the appointment of the members of the Board of Directors (Executive Committee).
6. To transact any other business relative to the Annual General Meeting of the Society.
8th February 2004
By order of the Board of Directors Verna Smith, Honorary Secretary
a) This Notice is issued from the Honorary Secretary's address at 63 Avondale, Ash Vale, Aldershot, Hants, GU125NE.
b) Every member of the Society who is entitled to vote at a General Meeting is entitled to appoint a proxy, who need not be a member, to attend and vote in his/her stead. Forms of Proxy can be obtained from the Honorary Secretary.
c) Only paid-up members are entitled to attend and vote at the meeting.
d) Copies of the Accounts can be obtained from the Honorary Secretary priorto the AGM upon receipt of an SAE. In accordance with normal practice the Accounts, when approved, will be published in summary in the Basingstoke Canal News.
e) Nomination forms for the election of the Board of Directors can be obtained from the Honorary Secretary.
Following the formal business of the AGM, we are again having a guest speaker. Andy Stumpf has been invited to make a return visit to talk about the Cotswold Canals and other projects that he is now working on. There will be a period for awards, general discussion and questions after this.
The last minute appeal in the Winter issue for a new Membership Secretary succeeded in producing two volunteers. Since one was a local Councillor, we felt that taking on a Society office could produce a conflict of interest, and since the other was Doreen Hornsey, whose husband Graham is already looking after gift aid business, we recognised the synergy this could bring and happily accepted her offer.
Doreen has already taken over from Lesley Richards, to whom we owe a great debt of gratitude for doing this job so well since taking it on 3 years ago, and has this to say:-
It is now time to renew your membership for 2004. The
current minimum rates are as follows:
If you pay by cash or cheque you will have received a form for completion and return to the Membership Secretary. If you pay by Bankers Order, please ensure that you are paying at one of the above current rates.
|2 x O.A.P. Membership||£7.00|
If you are able to include a Donation, however large or small, this will give the Society greater resources to achieve its aims.
Your subscription, as well as any donation you are able to make, are eligible for Gift Aid, which will increase the cash received by the Society by nearly 30% without any extra cost to you and will benefit you if you pay higher rate tax. Please request a form from the Membership Secretary if you have not already completed one and would like to do so.
Thank you for your continuing support and we hope you are enjoying the benefits of your membership.
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The annual Easter rally in Woking will revert to a two day event this year, following last year's three day experiment. The rally will take place atthe Bridge Barn pub near Arthur's Bridge on Easter Saturday and Sunday, April 10th and 11th.
This event is organised largely by the Society, with help from the BCBC, Byfleet Boat Club and the local IWA. Verna Smith chairs the organising committee, still with help from Peter Coxhead.
As usual, they will be looking for help over the weekend. Bodies are needed for all sorts of tasks, from escorting the mayor and other VIPs round to manning the car park for a spell. The more volunteers we have, the less each has to do!
If you are planning to go to the rally and can spare an hour or so, please give Verna a ring on 01252 517622.
This event started as a Millennium celebration and proved so popular that it was retained as an annual event. Last year, however, because of the late Easter, it was scheduled only a month after the Bridge Barn rally and failed to attract enough entrants to make it viable, so it was cancelled.
This year, the rally is being organised by the Basingstoke Canal Boating Club and, with a greater separation from Easter, it is hoped to revitalise this event. The rally will take place on Whit Sunday, May 30th.
Whilst never attracting as many boats as the Bridge Barn, the Odiham rally is important in demonstrating to the outside world that the canal isfully navigable, at least in the early part of the year, and introducing new visitors to its many attactions.
Fox & Hounds
This annual gathering started many years ago and is still a popular event in Fleet. It mainly attracts local boats, together with visiting steam trail boats, which always provide a great attraction for the general public.
Also organised by the BCBC, it will take place on September 18th and 19th.
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17 March: David Gerry - Pirbeck Minerals & Mining Museum
The meeting on February 18th, which was still to be arranged when the last newsletter went out, will be, at the time of writing, a talk about the proposed link to the Kennet & Avon Canal by Roger Reed, who has done all the work, and Roger Cansdale, who merely started the ball rolling. Apologies for the fact that this issue of the newsletter is unlikely to be out in time to publicise this meeting, but we hope that people will be coming anyway.
[Cavalcade of Transport]
As reported elsewhere, the Society benefited handsomely from last year's event at the Canal Centre. Sadly, the steam enthusiasts have been unable to find a satisfactory free weekend at the Canal Centre, because the BCA has already booked them all for car boot sales. The organisers of these were unwilling to give up a day in September and the only free weekend, earlier in the year, clashed with a counter-attraction at Rushmoor Arena.
Let's hope that the booters can be given the boot for one weekend next year to enable this rather more interesting event to take place again.
There is a large number of fishing matches booked for the season that starts in mid-June. Two of the largest, each with 80 pegs, are on successive Sundays in June, from Lodge Copse Bridge to Broad Oak on the 20th and from Spratts Hatch Bridge to Double Bridge on the 27th.
Interesting to note also that there is a series of matches in memory of Albert Burtoo, who I seem to remember was the gentleman who claimed to have been abducted by the occupants of a flying saucer when fishing near Eelmoor.
It would be nice to see this as a fancy dress event with the towpath lined with Wookies, Klingons, Treens and other assorted aliens!
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The Society has received a draft copy of the new Canal Management Plan for comment.
Perhaps the most immediately striking thing about it is the emphasis on the SSSI designation and its impact on virtually every aspect of the canal and its management. For example, the aim of the plan is -
"To provide a fully integrated management manual for the Canal which provides protection and enhancement for the SSSI in harmony with providing a well managed navigation and community leisure facility that is safe and accessible to as many people as possible".
It does not say -
To provide a fully integrated management manual for the Canal which provides a well managed navigation and community leisure facility that is safe and accessible to as many people as possible, in harmony with protecting and enhancing the ecological environment of the SSSI".
Of seven objectives, three are directly concerned with SSSI and conservation measures, one is about safety management, one is administrative, one about enhancing the navigation and one about improving water supplies (but both qualified by the need to retain an overall balance with nature conservation). 80 policy statements are defined, of which by my reckoning, only about half would be there in the absence of SSSI considerations.
What is very obvious is that the BCA recognises a clear legal duty to comply with English Nature's every command in respect of the SSSI designation, but actually has no legal obligation to allow any boats on the canal, or indeed use by anybody for any purpose.
This is not the BCA's fault and I am not suggesting for a minute that this is what they are trying to achieve. Nor am I suggesting that all consideration of the environment should be abandoned. However, I doubt whether the Council Tax payers realise that control of their prime leisure facility is effectively vested in English Nature, who contribute essentially nothing to its running costs. I've heard lots of members of the public saying they would like to see more boats on the canal, but I have yet to hear any of them bemoaning the declining aquatic plant life.
Perhaps it doesn't make much difference when boating is restricted by lack of water, but one feels that there are going to be battles ahead should we ever get the water supply sorted out. Our chances of raising money to do this are also not going to be enhanced if people get the impression that boating is still going to be restricted by environmental concerns.
I would not mind the boating restrictions if I saw any evidence on the canal that boating was the cause of the increase in water turbidity and the associated decline in the aquatic plants. However, this seems to be happening in parts of the canal where boats are seldom seen and, according to the management plan, the channel should be becoming blocked by aquatic plant growth.
We really do need to get to grips with the causes of this problem, and it is to be hoped that the research that is being done by Farnborough Technical College in monitoring water quality, and by Peter Bickford, produces some results. It is a great pity that a bit more "Special Scientific Interest" wasn't taken earlier when the decline started.
However, back to the management plan. It's not all bad news for canal enthusiasts. Policy 2/4 refers to Bourley reservoir as a potential source of water and 9/1 states that a programme of dredging will be carried out. Policies 12/1-4 deal with locks and the need to improve their operation and water control. It is good to note also that the need for the BCA to work with local planners to retain and enhance the appearance of the canal in places like Woking is recognised.
There is also clear evidence that the BCA recognises the need to maintain a safe canal in terms of pro-active work to remove potential causes of bank breaches, such as trees on embankments etc. One hopes that some of our local councils who have not been paying their full contribution to the BCA's running costs, will read this and realise that money is having to be spent to keep possible floods at bay.
The plan still lacks the section dealing with Management Guidelines, to be added following a full survey of the canal and prioritisation of actions, and a number of appendices dealing, amongst other things, with probable reasons for decline in the Canal SSSI.
The IWA has suggested that key issues are likely to be -
# Review the reasons for the decline in conservation interest and
assess whether it can be reversed.
# Review the numbers of boat movements; current numbers are
based on what is probably out-of-date information.
# Consider the needs of users of the Canal.
# Carry out a public consultation before the Plan is finalised.
Sounds sensible to me.Editor
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As a rather hard-headed pragmatist myself - when it comes to the emotive subject of Canal Restoration - it has always seemed to me a tribute to the sheer bloody-mindedness of the early Surrey & Hants restoration fanatics that they went ahead despite all the obvious signs that were available to them at the time that the canal was going to be even more short of water in their time than it had been when it was previously in use, largely due to the huge wave of building development that engulfed the area that forms the canal's very limited water catchment.
That catchment is not on Greensand, as was stated in the report on the St Johns back-pumping report, but on the Eocene period's Bagshot Beds, a much later deposition. Most of the canal runs over such beds. At St Johns, the Upper Cretaceous Greensand and the Lower Cretaceous Greensand are at great depth under the London Basin, emerging to the surface much further to the south and south-west of Farnham, their nearest approach to the canal.
When I joined Byfleet Boat Club some thirty years ago, the Committee at that time was also made up of boaters, like myself, who regarded SHCS as a bunch of crackpots without a hope of making the canal work even if they did manage to get it cleared out.
But, times change, sometimes painfully slowly.
It's some comfort to realise that the contemporary SHCS Committee has - at long last - come round to the view that something seriously expensive needs to be done about the water supply if the canal is to remain open to boating. The writing has been plain to see on the wall for donkey's years but only now is it being read.
Back-pumping is, not surprisingly, the preferred option.
A little thought soon ascertains that British Waterways has - these days - by far the most extensive expertise at this technique of water conservation, amply demonstrated not far off by the flights of locks at Caen Hill on the K&A, at Buckby on the Grand Union main line and at the Napton Flight on the Oxford Canal. So it no surprise they are deemed better fitted to manage the Basingstoke Canal than the two County Councils team with therr cash-strapped budgets for all purposes besides the canal. However much some may hate the monolithic British Waterways, it is the only realistic solution to the canal's problems.
If England's ever-worsening water crisis is to be solved, alternative sources of supply must be found. It is highly unlikely - given the current structure of the water supply industry - that anything effective will be done about it. It'sfar more profitable to issue economy warnings than invest in
effective water supply infrastructure so today's water companies prefer to maximise their profits by keeping everyone short of water. Already, existing resources are running short whilst dividends are kept high, directors enjoy fat-cat bonuses and the consumer is expected to make do.
If push comes to shove the water supply requirements of pleasure boating are of minor concern when compared with those of public health and hygiene. All of us need to be far more aware and articulate about the lamentable lack of any coherent water supply policy emanating from any political source.
If we don't shake off this lethargy, that precious water will, sooner or later, no longer remain freely available so that some small GRP cruiser can flush an entire barge-lock full of water down the locks when - in its better days - the Basingstoke Canal could count on at least a few fully laden West Country style barges filling the locks so that water expenditure was far more economical.
How many barges of that degree of economical displacement have we got today? You can consider yourself lucky if you get a pair of lightly loaded, full length narrow boats in a lock at once, using three times as much water as those laden West Country barges would have done.
By all means give as much as you can afford for the Basingstoke Canal back-pumping schemes. There's one proving its worth, on the Sheerwater Flight but it won't be fully effective until not only St Johns is running but Brookwood and Deepcut as well as there's only a limited - if useful - demand for short passages to Woking and back. Most boaters need to get up to the top pounds to make it worth their while cruising from much further afield than the Wey.
So, in the short term, dig deep in your pockets for the Back-Pumping Appeals but, in the long term, get those thinking caps on, get those debates going and start lobbying for a better national water policy. We're sitting in an ocean of sea water whilst we wring our hands about water shortages. What a pitiful farce it is!
I would agree with some of Graham's statements, but take issue with others. If those campaigning for restoration of the canal had gone round telling everyone that there wasn't enough water, we would have a linear housing estate now rather than a waterway, however imperfect. Secondly, you use exactly the same amount of water when a lock is used, irrespective of the size of boat in it, provided that it's afloat (think of Archimedes).
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# Good to hear that Hampshire County Council (HCC) has secured Heritage Lottery funding (£3/4m) towards the stabilising and improvements to King John's Castle and the surrounding area including the towpath and bankside whaling. Work should start in 2005 after the plans have been approved.
# With winter rainfall being above average so far, let's hope that there is enough to recharge the underground aquifers which supply the springs in Greywell Hill and in the canal bed immediately to the east of the tunnel portal.
# Excellent clearance work was achieved on the Ash Embankment during the Waterway Recovery Group's Bonfire weekend camp last November. Good use was made of Malta Barracks nearby for accommodation. WRG's regular support to the canal is much appreciated.
# The latest re-incarnation of Dogmersfield House in Dogmersfield Park open from February as an up-market 5-star Four Seasons Hotel. Latterly it was an IT computer headquarters and previously to that a private school and before that a convent. What a variety of uses!
# A pleasing sight every day on the canal though Fleet is the serene passage of a swan family, still (thankfully) with four of last years' brood (now almost fully grown) in tow.
# Regular reports of the sightings of herons and kingfishers along the canal are being made which is good to hear. Sad, however, that all the little grebes (dabchicks) have gone, and only a few moorhens and coots are seen these days. It is almost certain that the mink are to blame for this. (Editor: Dabchicks are still to be found on the stretch from the winding hole near King Johns' Castle to Greywell tunnel).
# Reports from the Basingstoke Canal Canoe Club indicate that its members are very happy with their new base at the Canal Centre at Mytchett. They now have an excellent Canoe Store at the canal end of the old swimming pool building so that members and club canoes and kayaks can be on site. They meet every Tuesday evening throughout the summer and new members (including families with children) are always welcome. Courses for all levels are catered for. Details from 01252 622630.
# Surrey County Council is proposing to move its headquarters from Kingston-upon-Thames to Brewery Road Car Park site at Woking. This will be a golden opportunity to improve the canal environment in the prime position in the centre of Woking. The glass fronted building will overlook the canal so everyone, whether councillors or officers or employees will be fully aware of the benefits of the canal to Surrey, and, of course, Woking Borough.
# Good to see that, at long last, improvements are being made by BCA to the very muddy and wet towpath between the A325 Farnborough Road and Ash Lock. Levelling has already taken place and funds are now required for surfacing with scalpings. Your chance to help here, Rushmoor Borough Council?
# Tony and Jackie Haynes have taken over the franchise to operate the trip and hire boats for 2004 at the Canal Centre at Mytchett. Operating under the name of Karma Canal Cruises they can be contacted on 01252 378779 or 07930 419981.
# Malthouse Bridge in Crookham Village is to have safety improvements for pedestrian users undertaken by Hampshire County Council shortly. On the footpath side a railing on top of the brick parapet is to be installed and a new pedestrian footbridge outside the existing bridge is to be installed on the other side, where there is no footpath across the bridge at present.
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Well another year has started and the envelopes have been dropping through my door once again, thank you to all for your continued support of the 200 Club and SHCS. I have not completed the accounts yet but we should have about £1000 to pass over to SHCS this year. We all feel that we want [to] give as much to support the various projects, however, the 200 Club allows you to donate to SHCS with the chance
of getting all your money back again. Don't forget that the 200 Club is open to non-members of SHCS, so why not twist a few arms and see if you can get us some more subscribers, the odds are probably betterthan buying lottery tickets.
Sorry, but the winners list somehow got missed from the last edition so here are the lucky people.
Good Luck in the next draw
|45||Mr RJ Debenham||£56|
|83||Mr & Mrs Redway||£28|
|114||Mr S Murrell||£14|
|61||Mr A Hocking||£14|
|89||Mr & Mrs Redway||£56|
|90||Mr & Mrs Redway||£28|
|78||Mrs P Samson||£14|
|20||Mr AJ Smith||£14|
|30||Mrs PM Jenkins||£56|
|118||Mrs S Heming||£28|
|104||Mr D Back||£14|
|14||Mr NW Hayne||£14|
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(From Society Newsletters No.56 May - June 1974 and No.57 July - August 1974)
• Frank Jones, our Working Party Organiser, reported that the Hampshire towpath, that seemingly insuperable problem, is clear. Since work stated in November 1973, Society volunteers, the Army and HCC Countryside Warden have all played their part. Bridge holes now need clearing to enable the steam dredger to pass through, and to allow stop plank grooves to be fitted. Barley Mow bridge is completed and Colt Hill, Reading Road, Pondtail and Norris bridges are partially cleared.
• Now that the Hampshire towpath is clear, the aim is to publicise the fact and raise some urgently needed cash. So a Sponsored Walk has been announced for 21 July with the target of £1000.
• Midweek working parties are to be started as a follow up to the weekend working parties. These will clear up afterthe bonfires, checkfences and cut back overhanging branches.
• Robin Higgs has taken over as Society Chairman from David Gerry, who has been such an able Chairman since the inception of the Society in 1966. David has so enthusiastically and capably steered the policies of the Society that he will be a hard act to follow. Robin said in his Chairman's notes 'that I am sure I speak for you all when I say we owe him a great debt of gratitude'.
• The new footbridge over Fleet waste water weir is to be officially opened by Lady Verney on 9 June. The footbridge wasdonated by her husband Sir John Verney
• John Peart, the Society's Rambles Organiser reported that the ramble on 16th June went on record as the first time since October 1971, when he started his series of rambles, that rain actually fell on the party. The rambles are usually about five miles long using a section of the towpath for part of the circular walk.
• Ash Lock looks different, nice and clean but no gates yet. Pointing the brickwork is the next job here.
• Alan Fenton had an unusual find on the Ash Lock clearing out dig on the 5th May. He found a .22 Browning automatic pistol in the lock chamber. He was hoping to keep it, suitably disabled, on his living room wall, but the police kept it and informed him that it would be used at the police training school to teach self-defence to cadets.
• The Society Executive Committee decided that life memberships will be available in future, the next AGM to decide the subscription rate.
• HCC viewing committee, including a member of the SHCS committee, inspected the proposals on the ground for the Odiham by-pass. They agreed with the Society's objections to the original scheme and will submit a new planning application deleting the threat ol a new bridge and extensive earthworks at the Colt Hill crossing of the canal as well as providing substantial environmental benefits forthe residents of the adjoining area.
• On the Spring Bank Holiday weekend 'brawn and brain' got together to clear the mud and debris from under Reading Road Bridge, Fleet. The brawn was provided by Society members to do 'the muck and bullets' stuff, whilst the brains came from the technical staff of John Hudson (Birmingham) Ltd Flexible Structures Division who kindly provided their brainchild, an inflatable dam, especially designed for canal applications, together with a more conventional rib dam. Hampshire Fire Brigade pumped around 30000 gallons from between the two dams and into the 'sausages' - total weight of water pressing on the silt being 140 tons.
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The following items are a selection of those available from the sales team.
Fleeces, sweatshirts, polo shirts with the society logo on.
Rosie and Jim giant dolls and beanies.
Assorted tea towels
Model boats (prices range £5 - £20)
GeoProjects and Nicholson Maps
A selection of books and a limited range of videos.
Xmas cards (It's never too early!!)
We also have a selection of painted ware, pencils, bookmarks and cross stitch kits.
The new edition of the canal guide should be available by the time this issue of the BCN comes out.
Remember, all the profit goes towards our projects on the canal.
Please contact Verna Smith [Telephone: 01252 517622. email: firstname.lastname@example.org] for details of prices and delivery.
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Date for next copy 30th April 2004
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.
Editorial Team: Editor:
Roger Cansdale* 79 Gally Hill Road, Church Crookham, Hants GU52 6RU 01252-616964
President: The Earl of Onslow
Chairman: Peter Redway* 1 Redway Cottages, St John's Lye, Woking, Surrey GU21 1SL 01483-721710
Vice-Chairman: Dieter Jebens* 60 Middle Bourne Lane, Farnham, Surrey GU10 3NJ 01252-715230
Hon. Secretary: Verna Smith* 63 Avondale, Ash Vale, Aldershot, Hants GU12 5NE 01252-517622
Hon. Treasurer: Jonathan Wade* 30 Hanover Gardens, Cove, Farnborough, Hants GU14 9DT 01252-524690
Membership Secretary: Doreen Hornsey 'Mallards', 94a Aldershot Road, Fleet, Hants GU51 3FT 01252-623591
Working Party Information: Peter Redway* 1 Redway Cottages, St John's Lye, Woking, Surrey GU21 1SL 01483-721710
Trip Boat Manager: Ron McLaughlin 94 Guildford Road, Ash Vale, Aldershot, Hants GU12 6BT 01252-672189
Trip Boat Bookings: Marion Gough St Catherines, Hurdle Way, Compton Down, Winchester, Hants SO21 2AN 01962-713564
Sales Manager &
Mail Order Sales: Verna Smith* 63 Avondale, Ash Vale, Aldershot, Hants GU12 5NE 01252-517622
Exhibitions Manager: Position vacant
Website Manager: Arthur Dungate 39 Sian Close, Church Crookham, Fleet, Hants GU52 6BT 01252-622101
Talks Organiser: Position vacant
Press Officer: Dieter Jebens* 60 Middle Bourne Lane, Farnham, Surrey GU10 3NJ 01252-715230
Gift Aid manager
& Lengthman Organiser: Graham Hornsey* 'Mallards', 94a Aldershot Road, Fleet, Hants GU51 3FT 01252-623591
200 Club organiser: Jim Johnstone 20 Hawkins Grove, Fleet, Hants GU51 5TX 01252-626749
Archivist: Jill Haworth Sheerwood, 501 Woodham Lane, Woking, Surrey GU21 5SR 01932-342081
Woking Organiser: Peter Coxhead 17 Abbey Close, Pyrford, Woking, Surrey GU22 8RY 01932-344564
Safety Manager: David Venn* 75 Carfax Ave, Tongham, Farnham, Surrey GU10 1BE 01252-668697
Director: Philip Riley* Wincombe Cottage, Broad Oak, Hook, Hants RG29 1AH 01256-702109
Director: David Lloyd-Langston* 7 Fernhill Close, Upper Hale, Farnham, Surrey GU9 OJL 01252-723309
Director: Bob Malcolm* Little Willow, College Road, Ash, Aldershot, Hants GU12 5DA 01252-659876
Director: Peter Wright* Holly Lodge, 39 The Avenue, Crowthorne, Berks RG45 6PB 01344-772461
Basingstoke Canal Authority:
Canal Centre, Mytchett Place Road, Mytchett, Surrey GU16 6DD 01252-370073
Canal Society Internet Website: www.basingstoke-canal.org.uk
Printed by Commercial Press Ltd, Farnham
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