No. 208 Winter 2005
I hope that things are going to improve in time for the Society's 40th birthday party, but they are not looking too good for the canal at the moment. Water levels are still down and we shall need a very wet winter to avoid more early closures next year. The departure from the BCA of Leigh Thornton and Andy Howard has left holes in the organisation which look like remaining for a while until replacements are found.
However, the pumps for the St. John's back-pumping scheme are on order and it should all be working in time for the Brookwood rally, so provided that the Environment Agency let us actually use it, that event should be OK. It is good to hear that representations are being made to the EA about increasing the amount of pumping permitted; it all ends up in the River Wey anyway, so what does it matter how many times it gets used on the way down?
* * * * *
Another area of uncertainty that has just opened up is the plan to build the new Surrey County Council headquarters on the Brewery Road site in Woking. SCC has to make savings of £50 million next year and the business case for the project is to be reviewed.
I'm not sure whether this is good or bad news for the canal. A large office block is probably not the best option for the site from the point of view of the canal since there is little scope in the plans for any enhancements for users of the canal. However, there was the prospect of significant amounts of Section 106 money from the project being made available to make improvements elsewhere on the Woking pound.
The SCC HQ may still go ahead, so we shall have to wait and see. There's nothing like another study for putting off spending money (and probably increasing the amount ultimately spent!).
* * * * *
Another project that has been subject to interminable delays is the mooring basin at the Canal Centre. It was one of Leigh Thornton's ambitions when he became Canal Director to get this built, but work has yet to start. The delays have been due to the need to obtain planning approval from so many different bodies, and the fact that these seem to have been done sequentially rather than all at the same time.
It was stated that work would start this autumn and the JMC confirmed its support, but it remains to be seen whether the depleted management of the BCA is up to the task of getting things going.
* * * * *
My apologies to Philip Riley for failing to note in the last issue that he had taken over from Dieter Jebens as the Society's Vice-Chairman. Good to know that Philip's legal mind is on tap if we are forced to do battle over the future of the canal.
* * * * *
2005 has not been a good year elsewhere either, with the Far East tsunami, the New Orleans hurricane and now the earthquake in Kashmir. Many people seem to be wondering what is going wrong. However, we tend to forget that these awful things do happen from time to time in a pretty random fashion.
Work began on the Basingstoke Canal in 1784 although the Act of Parliament had been passed 6 years earlier. The delay is usually attributed to the American War of Independence, but there was another event that probably caused even more concern for most people, although they may not have known its cause.
On June 8 1783, a huge volcanic eruption began at Laki in Iceland and continued for 8 months. The effect was catastrophic. 25% of the population of Iceland died, together with most of their livestock, and there were climatic effects over much of Europe caused by the cloud of gas and ash. A heatwave in the summer of 1783 was followed by a horrendously cold winter in 1784 and it is estimated that there were perhaps 10,000 extra deaths in England alone as a result.
It is humbling, and properly so, to reflect that man is probably where he is today because of similar events which have driven his evolution and over which he had, and still has, absolutely no control at all.
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This issue of the BCN is either going to be a bit early or very late, because my wife and I are going off to Australia for a month just about when I would normally be getting things off to the printers. I think it will be early thanks to all the regular contributors who have done a splendid job of getting their stuff in to me by the deadline; my apologies, however, if it all goes pear-shaped at the last minute.
And just in case we don't get the Christmas cards done in time before we go off, a very happy Christmas to everybody!
Bank work at St John's (story on page 4)
Photo: Peter Redway
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As an opening for these comments, may I wish all of our members a very Happy Christmas and New Year. Although it is only October, the next Newsletter will be delivered in 2006, a reminder that time passes very quickly.
The past year has been an eventful one for the canal, and recent changes at the Canal Centre have increased the uncertainty. Leigh Thornton has moved to Kent County Council, Andy Howard has moved to Sussex and the Surrey County Council re-organisation resulted in the departure of Nick Baxter. The collective effect of these vacancies must have an effect on the canal organisation and therefore these posts should be filled as soon as practical.
The delegate responses during the workshop held in July on the future of the canal have now been analysed. A presentation has been given to the Joint Management Committee, which has agreed that feasibility studies on the various options should be carried out. Three of the options being considered maintain through-navigation and, subject to the studies being published, have potential. Other options include closure of through-navigation and we have recorded our strong objections to this possibility (see Press Release below).
The studies may indicate that partial orfull closure would not
be possible for the very basic reasons that restoration was supported in the 1970s. We will be commenting on these studies and if the need arises we will negotiate strongly to retain the canal navigation that we have restored.
I was proud to see many members attend the Joint Management Meeting today as observers. It sent a strong signal that members have an interest in the canal and that rank and file support remains strong.
On a completely different topic, the Marine and Coastguard Agency has consulted on widening the scope of the Boat Masters Licence. Proposals include the testing of workboat skippers, logbooks for crews and a two tier licence structure. Volunteers using workboats would require licences for operating on individual waterways. The cost of training, medical and tests for every waterway being worked on by volunteers would be prohibitive.
We have liased with the IWA on this consultation and our individual responses emphasise that volunteer working practices do not constitute the hazard the proposals are being aimed at removing. We are seeking a dispensation for volunteers working on restoration projects. The consultation period has just ended and we now wait for the MCA deliberations to be published.
The Society issued the following Press Release following the JMC meeting in October:-
The Surrey and Hampshire Canal Society has become increasingly concerned in recent years about the shortfalls from some of the local riparian authorities to the requested revenue contributions to the Basingstoke Canal Authority, who manage and operate the canal on a day to day basis.
These contributions are requested each year by the Basingstoke Canal Joint Management Committee under an agreed formula based on the length of canal in each borough or district.
The authorities not paying their full share are Runnymede Borough Council, Surrey Heath Borough Council and Hart District Council.
These shortfalls have resulted in the postponement of essential maintenance work and a general deterioration in the canal infrastructure.
In view of the worsening situation, the Society applauds the initiative taken by the Surrey and Hampshire County Councils, as the canal's owners, to seek a long term and sustainable basis to finance the operation and maintenance of the canal.
The Society has confirmed its willingness to participate In the proposed review and it welcomes the opportunity to assist the county and local boroughs and districts in identifying a satisfactory solution.
However, Peter Redway. the Canal Society Chairman, pointed out:
"That since the Society was formed with the specific purpose of campaigning to restore the canal and preserve it as a fully navigable waterway, it would not support any option which could result in the closure of the canal to through navigation or in the imposition of any restrictions on the use of the canal as a navigable waterway".
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The past months have provided a varied mix of work, certainly a change from the pipeline installation of the last year or so. The dry summer enabled a concentrated effort on the canal and access to Brookwood Country Park, bank protection works at St. Johns and channel clearance.
May and June were exceptionally dry and hot, not the ideal conditions for the towpath work programmed. Visiting groups and our volunteers tackled the task of levelling some [875yds] of off-side bank from Hermitage Bridge towards Bagshot Road, creating a path along the canal with access points into the Country Park. The new path surface is compacted roadstone; a total of [400 tons] was required and this was delivered via Strathcona Drive and the Park.
The very dry conditions enabled deliveries of up to [200 tons] for a weekend. Dumpers were used to transport the materials to the canal bank, and two excavators were used, one loading and the second laying the material. Final levels were by hand and a roller was used for compacting. The heat dried the material and frequent wetting was required, and the volunteers also required a plentiful supply of cold drinks to keep going.
The surfacing work was completed in three weekends of sustained effort and is a credit to all the volunteers involved.
Some remedial work was required in the park, mainly repairing wheel ruts, but this was minor compared to what would have resulted if it had been a wet period.
The next stage will be constructing the jetty. Some bank protection has already been installed on the opposite side using coir rolls (below).
Above: L to R: Zak, David Junkison, James Tressider & Janet Greenfield
BANK PROTECTION - ST JOHNS|
Piling work below lock 8 was suspended earlier in the year when tree roots underwater in the canal bed prevented piles from being fully driven. We agreed not to drain the section and wait for the predicted drought. In the event this section was empty for some months and excavations in the bed of the canal were possible.
The tree roots were exposed and cut, and the piles driven, the void behind the piles was filled with silt from the canal bed and the bank profiled. A six-ton excavator was used initially (see cover photo), but did not have sufficient power to move through the silt which was about [1yd] deep. A larger machine was used the following weekend for backfilling and channel clearing (see right).
Excess silt in the canal channel was removed and stock piled on canal land above lock 7. Marginal growth was retained in situ and the silt removed with the excavator and dumpers. A bund was constructed around in a low area and used as an interim silt dump. When dry we intend to landscape the pipeline route with the dry material and let the area naturalise.
This section of canal, when re-filled should provide a better habitat for aquatic growth recovery than the thick layer of silt would have provided. We wait to see the final results.
With dry conditions and low water levels the opportunity has been taken to carry out some maintenance work on the Tug Sapper. The silencer has been re-fabricated, some welding work carried out on the superstructure and a re-paint is in progress. Our thanks to Jeff Holman for his assistance with the exhaust silencer work.
Above: Kevin Redway doing some tug repairs
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Above: Piling, channel clearance and bankwork. Kevin at work! (Photo: Peter Redway)
LOCK 6 WATER CONTROL|
With water supplies at an all time low this summer, the Environment Agency restricted pumping of water at Woodham to the licensed 4 hours per day. Potential pollution from severed houseboat sewage connections resulted in water being drawn off the Woking Pound and passed down to Woodham.
We were asked to modify the outlet chamber at Lock 6 so that a percentage of water pumped into the Woking section could be passed downstream via the lock bye wash. The assessment is that when water is being pumped the maximum volume passing down the canal is 33%, with the remainder feeding the Woking Section.
Members and IWA colleagues are carrying out monitoring of the canal levels to evaluate the actual flows.
FUTURE WORKING PARTY DATES
|29-30 Oct||PR,DJ,DL||Brookwood jetty|
|12-13 Nov||PR,DJ,DL||Brookwood jetty|
|26-27 Nov||PR/DJ/DL||Brookwood jetty|
|10-11 Dec||PR/DJ/DL/KR||Brookwood bank clearing|
|17-18 Dec||PR/DJ/DL/KR||Brookwood bank clearing|
To be confirmed
|7-8 Jan||PR/DJ/DL/KR||Brookwood bank clearing|
|21-22 Jan||PR/DJ/DL/KR||Brookwood or Lock 22 wing wall|
PR . PETER REDWAY . 01483 721710
DL . DAVE LUNN . 01483 77129
DJ . DAVE JUNKISON . 0208 941 0685
KR . KEVIN REDWAY . 01483 722206
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Future of the Canal|
The Joint Management Committee met on 21st October to discuss, amongst other things, the output from the workshop on the future financing and management of the Canal, that was mentioned in the last Newsletter.
It was accepted that a number of the options should be subject to a further detailed feasibility study:
The notes for the meeting did however make the point that "It is very important to highlight the position taken by the Canal Society. The Society understood why some of the more unpalatable options concerning restrictions to navigation on the Canal are being considered, but expressed their unequivocal opposition to any such move".
|1)||Revised management arrangements|
(a) Cutting level of service.
(b) Formalising funding arrangements.
|2)||Management by a third party|
(a) British Waterways
(b) National Trust
(c) A new independent body such as a charitable trust or private company
|3)||Stop or limit navigation|
(b) Retain water but stop through boat movements
Other members of the JMC are in no doubt whatsoever as to the Society's position and, following the meeting, we put out the Press Release printed on page 3.
The intention of Option 1b is to agree a legally binding agreement with the local councils over funding, rather than the current, often ignored, gentleman's agreement.
Option 2b is still being considered despite the comment that the funding situation on the River Wey was even worse than that of the Canal. Interestingly, HCC have requested, and been given, a copy of the large body of work done by Richard Allnut many years ago when the Society was pushing for a trust to be established to run the Canal.
Other options not listed above, such as the possibility of obtaining EC funding, are also being pursued and information about such funding obtained by the Canal d'Orleans, with which the Basingstoke is twinned, has been passed on to HCC.
Leigh Thornton's last report highlighted the water supply problems this year. The low levels and the limits imposed on back-pumping by the Environment Agency raised real fears about rupturing of drainage connections to the houseboats, with consequential pollution problems. It didn't quite happen, but the back-pumping outfall at Lock 6 has been modified to allow water to go directly down to the house-
boats; Leigh registered his thanks to the Society for doing this work.
Two areas of leakage on the Woking pound and one near Colt Hill have been dealt with by foam injection and nicospan bank protection, and improved water level retention has been noted in Woking. More work may be needed at Odiham.
A new landing jetty is to be built at King John's Castle this autumn.
English Nature organised a "practitioners workshop" to look at problems on the Canal. This seems to have replaced the Conservation Work Party which has not been convened for a long time, and the Society was not invited to take part, although we have been given the notes of actions from the meeting following a request. The conclusion was that the main cause of the decline was light and sediment, despite the admission that there was little data on water quality.
The BCA is looking at various changes and improvements to the Ash Lock depot including, possibly, a new dry dock. Funding might come from the planned Aldershot Urban Extension on the land released by the Army.
It was noted that there was an 11.7% (£60,300) shortfall in the 2005/06 budget contributions from the local authorities. Rushmoor, Guildford and Woking paid in full, but Hart, Surrey Heath and Runnymede did not. Once again, dredging was deferred as a £30,000 cost saving.
Boat licence fees
It was agreed that these should be increased in 2006 by 3%, roughly in line with inflation. The largest boats, Group 7, will pay £151.40 per annum, whilst the smallest, unpowered ones in Group 1 will pay £14.70. Charity boats such as the Pinkerton pay 25% of the standard fee and are excused mooring fees.
Society's JMC voting rights
The Society, and English Nature, have lost their right to vote on JMC matters, because this would alter the Canal's legal status and render it liable to pay VAT; perhaps £30,000 a year. Currently it is included within the HCC registration and it would lose this status if non-local authority members of the JMC were allowed to vote.
Having consulted tax and legal experts, the Society has reluctantly agreed to accept this but has stated that it would seek to have its voting rights re-established if the management structure were to change as a result of the current deliberations. In practice it is unlikely to make a significant difference since our general influence is worth more than 1 vote amongst 18.
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FULL STEAM AHEAD FOR THE IWA CAMPAIGN RALLY ON THE BASINGSTOKE CANAL BROOKWOOD 26th to 29th May 2006
The organising committee are delighted to announce that, even at this early date, more than 60 boats have booked to join the rally. We would naturally welcome as many boats as possible. The entry fee is just £15 and a special commemorative boat plaque will be available for purchase. Booking enquiries to James Bell on 01932 830493. Entry forms can also be downloaded from:
Included in the programme of events for the weekend are live entertainment and BBQ evenings (DIY) for the boaters. During the day, there will be craft stalls, talks and Waterway Society stands. There will also be an illuminated cavalcade, decorated boats and boaters'costume competitions.
During the weekend, the Surrey & Hampshire Canal Society will be celebrating their 40th birthday - so do come along and join in the fun. Their passenger boat John Pinkerton will be on site throughout the weekend although public trips will be on smaller boats that can turn round in the pound.
The event is being held at what will eventually be Woking Borough Council's "Brookwood Countryside Park" and the official opening of the park will take place during the weekend. All the site facilities required are now being organised, including marquees. A jetty is to be built specially for the event.
Publicity - Organising Committee
IWA Campaign Rally, Brookwood 2006
Email: publicity® brookwood2006.com
Farewell to Leigh & Andy
As was mentioned in the previous issue, Leigh Thornton left the Canal at the end of August. A farewell barbecue was organised at the Canal Centre and Peter Redway presented him with a decanter as a token of thanks from the Society. Tony Beecher is acting as Director until a permanent replacement is found.
Leigh's is not the only departure as Andy Howard has also gone. He put a lot into the Canal in his quiet way, since in addition to his work in the office he has often at weekends
been the man in charge of everything. We shall miss him too and Peter presented him with a tankard on behalf of the Society.
A further change is that Nick Baxter, who as Head of Countryside at Surrey County Council was one of the people Leigh answered to, is moving on.
Left: Leigh and Nick Baxter. Right: Andy and Peter
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CHOBHAM SOCIAL MEETINGS
The new season of social meetings started in October with Runnalls Davis giving an enthralling talk about the "Idle Women" who operated working narrow boats during WW2.
The meetings will be held at 8pm on the third Wednesday of each month at the Parish Pavilion, Station Road, Chobham until April 2006. See map for exact location. Coffee/Tea and biscuits will be available during the interval. All welcome, so bring your friends.
Wednesday 21st December 2005
Rick Travis - "Past, Present and Future of the Chichester Canal"
Rick Travis from the Chichester Ship Canal Trust will illustrate the story of this south coast canal plus the Portsmouth and Arundel Canal. Many of will probably have had a trip on the boat operating from the Chichester Canal Basin.
Wednesday 18th January 2006
Dr.ArthurTanner "History of London Trams"
Changing the mode of transport from water to land Dr. Tanner will illustrate the story of the London Tram system including their social consequences and ending with the fairly new Croydon Trams system.
Wednesday 15th February 2006
Chris Cove-Smith "London's Waterways"
Chris is the author of the definitive guide to London's waterways and will illustrate the history and development of the Tideway, River Lea, Bow Creek, Paddington Arm, Regent's Canal and the Grand Union Canal.
Wednesday 15th March 2006
Peter Hammond - "Charter Fairs to Village
Peter will illustrate the history and development of travelling fairs and their showgrounds and describe the life of a travelling showman.
Wednesday 19th April 2006
Peter Oates - "The Andover, Southampton &
Peter is from the Southampton Canal Society. He will recount the history of these long abandoned canals and show slides of the few sections that are still in water or discernable on the ground.
Odiham to Brookwood
Members of the Society will have a rare opportunity next year to enjoy a trip on the Canal from Odiham to Brookwood, or vice versa, on board the John Pinkerton.
The boat will be at Brookwood during the IWA Rally overthe Late May Bank Holiday weekend, and will be going down to the rally on the previous Friday (May 26th) and returning on the Tuesday (May 30th). The intention is to depart promptly at 9am on both days.
The good news is that the trip will be free! The bad news is
that food will not be provided, so passengers will have to bring their own. The bar will be open however.
The Boat Company will not be organising transport for passengers to and from the boat, but there will be a point of contact to put people in touch with others so that arrangements can be co-ordinated. It may be possible to organise transport between Winchf ield Station and Colt Hill forthose who want to use the train to get back from Brookwood.
More details and how to book, etc in the next newsletter.
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This annual gathering switched to the August Bank Holiday weekend this year, but retained the usual number of boats with half a dozen visiting steamers and about twice this number of other boats.
The prize for Best Presented Boat went to Roger and Barbara llett's "Megan", while David and Doreen Ward's "Owl & Pussycat" was named "Boat of Distinction", possibly on account of the excellent cream teas that were served from it! The Best Presented Steam Boat was "Ursula", (above right) owned by Julian Garret from Cambridge, and John Trevellyan's "Phoenix" took the Furthest Travelled prize, having come 108 miles from Worcester.
A final presentation was made to David and Sue Venn (below), who were made life members of the BCBC in recognition of the many years of effort that they had put into the club. David and Sue have finally managed to complete their house move and we wish them all the best in their new home.
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Many thanks for your letter of 30th August and I was pleased to see you had my letter printed in the News Letter. I am sorry to see that the usefulness of the Dry Dock is now reduced. I cannot help but agree with you that unwarranted restrictions on the two hundred year old Dry Dock facility should be resisted. I had no idea that restrictions had been imposed, which are difficult for you all. There is no doubt that the law in this situation is complicated. It must be right that the Dry Dock is available for normal maintenance activities. Were you dealing with any particular officer at the Guildford Council or the County Council, because if there is anyone for me to contact on your behalf I would be happy to do so and I would be happy to be involved in an on-site meeting with any relevant persons. Do keep in touch on this important issue.
Humfrey Malins CBE MP
As some will have already discovered, ALL back issues of BC News are now on the website. This has been quite a task, and I am grateful to David Millett who has kindly lent me the few missing back copies from my collection, since I joined about 20 years ago, plus all the early issues starting from No1. in the 1960s.
The earlier issues, being on duplicated sheets (ie not printed and typeset) presented quite a task of correcting the errors when my computer program mis-read the faded and partially illegible sheets!
Going through all of them, I have tried to correct any errors (spelling) that have crept in. The most noticeable of these being that strange word 'byewash'. I wonder just what that is..... I do know that a bywash is a channel for diverting excess water around a lock. (It is my understanding that the word means allowing the water to 'go by' the lock). So I have said "goodbye" to 'byewash' and hope not to see it again!
I trust that the now complete archive of BC News online will prove to be a useful resource for canal historians.
Some months ago there was talk of having a survey done to assess the viability and the likely cost of a canal linking Old Basing to the Kennet & Avon Canal. Have any contributions, been promised or received toward the cost of this study? I should be pleased to pledge a contribution if there is sufficient interest.
I enclose an article on my early memories of the Basingstoke Canal in 1947 and a copy of my latest book on the Portsmouth & Arundel Canal for review. I enclose a copy of the prospectus. Surrey & Hampshire Canal Society members can obtain copies from the Wey & Arun Canal Trust Trading Company (WAEL), The Granary, Flitchfold Farm, Loxwood, Sussex RH14 ORH at the reduced price of £16 plus £3 postage & packing (or £20 plus £3 postage & packing for one of fifty numbered copies signed by the author).
All best wishes.
See Page 15 for a review of Paul's book.
200 Club Winners
Mr A Hocking||£64|
|Mr D Smith||£31|
|Mr A Hocking||£15|
|Mr & Mrs Redway||£15|
|October||Mr RH Rowley||£64|
|Mrs V Vine||£31|
|Mr & Mrs Redway||£15|
|Mr A Hocking||£15|
|December||Mr J Evelyn||£64|
|Mr L Crutcher||£31|
|Mr DA Webber||£15|
|Miss P Ford-Young||£15|
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London's lost route to Portsmouth|
by P A L Vine Published by Phillimore, price £17.99
Paul Vine's latest book completes, I think, the saga of the various waterways reached from London via the River Wey. We have had the Basingstoke Canal, the Wey & Arun (Lost Route to the Sea) and the River Rother (Lost route to Midhurst) and we now have the story of the Portsmouth & Arun Canal and its branches, the Portsea and Chicester Ship Canals.
The actual window of opportunity for building and recouping the cost of canals was relatively narrow before the railways took over and this waterway clearly missed the boat by a good margin. Even by the standards of the Basingstoke it was extraordinarily ill conceived and mismanaged. It didn't open until 1823 and was a very complicated route which included a
barge canal, a ship canal and a passage through tidal waters where the barges were drawn by a primitive steam tug. Needless to say this caused huge practical problems, many of which were never satisfactorily resolved.
The original intent was to create an inland route from London to Portsmouth, safe from marauding Frenchmen, but Nelson's victory at Trafalgar made this unnecessary and the development of steam
powered boats made the coastal trade much safer. Its only particular use was from 1824 to 1836 when over 600 tons of bullion were taken from Portsmouth to the Bank of England under military escort. The bed of the Portsea Canal was sold in 1891 and the Portsmouth & Arun Canal Company was wound up in 1896. The Chichester Canal was made over to the town corporation and was only formally abandoned in 1928. However, it was then leased to the Chichester Yacht Club as a mooring, bought by West Sussex County Council in 1957 and today is the subject of a restoration programme aimed at a reopening in 2010.
Paul's book displays, as usual, a mass of meticulous historical research and great detail of the history of a waterway which he says was doomed from the outset. It has to be a "must have" for anyone wanting to know more about the waterways of this part of the country, and a good idea for the Christmas present list.
It can be obtained from the Wey & Arun Canal Trust Trading Company (WAEL), The Granary, Flitchfold Farm, Loxwood, Sussex RH14 ORH at a reduced price of £16 (plus £3 p&P). For another £4, you can get one of 50 numbered copies signed by the author.
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The Worst Journey in the Midlands by Sam Llewellyn. Paperback, published by Summersdale Publishers, price £7.49. ISBN: 1840 243384
The thing about being an old Etonian is that it gives you the confidence to do anything, no matter how daft, and being born in the Scilly Isles probably makes it worse. However this still does not really explain why Sam Llewellyn decided to row an ancient leaky boat all the way from the upper reaches of the Severn to Westminster in one of the wettest Octobers on record. The low point came when he discovered that he was turning blue, but he was relieved to discover that this was only due to the dye washing out of his tent.
In the same way that "I'm sorry I haven't a clue" is said to be the antidote to radio panel games, this book may be said
to be the antidote to the more glamourising sort of canal book. We've all had holidays when it rained, met lock gates that jammed, dropped windlasses in the cut and generally wondered why we ever got involved with canals in the first place and why we continue to be. This book doesn't really provide an answer but it at least demonstrates that we are not alone in our lunacy.
Sam is an excellent writer (he now writes rather good thrillers), and has a dry sense of humour (about the only thing on this trip that was). The book kept me giggling for hours.
Members will be saddened to learn of the death of Ron Jesse after a long illness, though he was active until the last few days. Ron was one of our founder members.
I first met him in 1962 through the Fleet & Crookham Amenity Society. They were trying to influence the way Fleet and Crookham were developing at the time. I felt that what was needed was a more physical approach to show the authorities that we meant business and were quite prepared to get our hands dirty.
Ron volunteered for the first project
that I came up with, which was to build a footbridge over a stream on a public footpath running from the end of the Lea to Hitches Lane. The bridge was a success and earned us some good publicity and brownie points with the council.
Our next project was to clear rubbish from the canal where it lay within the District Council area; Ron and I surveyed the job to be done and decided that a boat was essential and with none available we wrote to the New Basingstoke Canal Company to ask first, did they mind if we did the work on their property and second, could they lend us a boat. NBCC already had a reputation for not wanting to co-operate with anybody very much and so we were very surprised when a favourable reply was received; we were told that there was a stout punt lying at Ash lock which we could use and we should contact the Lock Keeper to arrange things.
A week or two later found Ron Jesse and me bow-hauling it to Fleet through a much overgrown towpath with trees between path and water that at that time were about 8 feet high. We, and a few fellow F&CAS members spent the next 3-4 Saturday mornings clearing rubbish between Norris and Malthouse bridges; the council collected the rubbish piles on Monday mornings. Again we got good publicity, and the rubbish could have furnished a house complete with WC pan, telephone (the bell rang as we pulled it out) and a wallpaper sample book for us to choose the decorations.
In 1966 the Canal Society was formed and Ron became a member, but made it very clear to me that he didn't like working on committees; he was a get your hands dirty man. During the difficult years when SHCS could only campaign and try to get publicity and raise funds, Ron and his wife Edna helped to organise our first Jumble sale in the old Red Cross hut in Fleet. I think Ron was on the bric-a-brac stall and Edna on the children's clothes, anyway we raised the magnificent sum of about £45 and were well pleased with
It was obvious that the biggest task ahead was dredging, particularly as so much of the Hampshire section was inaccessible for land based equipment. When HCC got control of its length of the canal and SHCS saw an opportunity to purchase the old steam dredger from the K&A, Ron saw an opportunity to get his hands dirty again.
Ron was a very modest man and it wasn't until the dredger restoration began to get under way that I began to appreciate that he was an exceptional character.
Ron did an apprenticeship in the RN as a coppersmith and at the age of 18 joined the Navy proper for a 12 year engagement. He saw service in Arctic waters and was on H.M.S. Belfast when she took part in the Battle of North Cape which resulted in the sinking of the Scharnhorst. Ron's audio memories of the battle were recorded by the Imperial War Museum and are in the process of being digitised so they will be accessible for future generations via the IWM web site. In 1953 he left the Navy and started a second career with the MoD at NGTE Pyestock; while there he obtained an HNC in Engineering from Farnborough Technical College and became a Chartered Engineer and head of the N.G.T.E. Maintenance Department. It may therefore not be a surprise to learn that the dredger's steam grab was completely refurbished by apprentices at the N.G.T.E. as a "training exercise".
In 1981 he took advantage of an opportunity to take early retirement and he and Edna moved to north Dorset where they set up both a home and a workshop repairing tools for "WaterAid" sending tools to third world countries and visited Africa and India for a first hand view of their problems. He also set up a small coppersmithing business offering unusual designs for tourists and repairing antiques. He helped as a literacy tutor and became chairman of the Shaftesbury Panel of REMAP designing and making one off appliances for disabled people that could not be bought on the commercial market.
At the age of 79 he and Edna decided that they should move again to property with a smaller garden and no sooner were they established in St. Ives near to Ringwood than they were organising an old people's social club and doing a regular litter picking walk around the neighbourhood.
So Ron and I became friends picking up rubbish, and he left
this world still picking up rubbish. He was an exceptional character, the sort that makes the world go round, SHCS were so lucky to have him on board. Our sympathy goes out to Edna and their children, grandchildren and a great grandson who turned up to make Ron laugh during his last few months.
Although I never met Ron in person, I felt that I knew him well through the articles he wrote for the Newsletter about the early days of Perseverance. I also have a letter from him in which he recalled that when he worked at NGTE Pyestock, he used to agree the weekly water meter reading down in the pump house near Norris Bridge with Mrs Marshall and that she wore a hat with flowers round the brim. Editor
Recently a man in his 30s living on a boat at Fradley was taken into hospital with flu-like symptoms and died a few days later from what is believed to be Weil's Disease.
Also known as leptospirosis, it is a bacterial infection carried by rat urine. It can be caught from contaminated water which enters the body through cuts or being swallowed. Early symptoms include fever, muscular aches and pains, loss of appetite and nausea when lying down.
If these are observed after contact with, say, canal water, it is vital to contact your doctor immediately and tell him that Weil's is a possibility, because antibiotic treatment is only effective if started early. The disease is rare, but there was a case in Woking a few years ago.
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HOW I FOUND THE BASINGSTOKE CANAL IN 1947
Bob Humphrey's memories of the canal between 1968 and 1974 (BCN Spring 2003) and the editor's request for contributions have led me to recall that it was in 1966 - the year of the Canal Society's foundation - that David & Charles asked me to write the waterway's history. London's Lost Route to Basingstoke appeared two years later. The following summer I was invited to knock the 'golden' nail into the first completed lock gate at Ash Vale boatyard (below) - a ceremony attended by Tony Harmsworth, the late Cranley Onslow then MP for Woking and one of the Society's Vice-presidents, and his cousin, Lord Onslow, still President.
I had first encountered the Basingstoke Canal in the summer of 1947 while doing part of my National Service at Aldershot. My barrack room dormitory overlooked its bed dotted with pools of water interspersed with a profusion of reeds and rushes. It was not long however before army training exercises required the platoon to cross the canal on planks resting on old oil drums
while thunder flashes were
thrown to distract our attention. The greatest fear was not so much falling in as the penalty of having to clean a rifle encrusted with mud.
Above: A few years before Paul's encounter with the Canal, but things don't change much in the Army!
At weekends I soon discovered the pleasure of cycling along stretches of the overgrown towpath and exploring the summit level as far as Greywell Tunnel. To its eastern entrance I transported an ex-WD yellow rubber dinghy and paddled as far as the main blockage. The water was crystal clear. Stalactites hung from the roof and there was the memorable sight of bats hanging from the crevices in the brickwork and attaching themselves to my proffered fingers.
I travelled back from Jamaica to attend the reopening in May 1991 and marvelled at the Surrey & Hampshire Canal Society's achievement in ensuring the reopening of the waterway to Greywell.
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# Cllr. John Doran, who represents Horsell, Woking on Surrey County Council, and also serves on the Canal Joint Management Committee, has queried the costs of building a new Surrey CC headquarters on the site of the Brewery Road Car Park in Woking. This is because Surrey have to find £50m savings on their overall services and have appointed consultants to help them do so. Already Nick Baxter, the SCC officer with responsibility for the canal in Surrey, has left and we wish him well in his new career.
# At the time of writing these notes (end of October) at long last we are getting amounts of increased rainfall, so lets hope that the late autumn and winter brings above average rain to help to recharge the underground aquifers which feed the springs at Greywell which supply the canal. We certainly do not want another drought like last autumn and winter.
# The forthcoming feasibility studies to be undertaken under the future management options consultations will be vital for the long term future and sustainability of the canal. The canal is at a crossroads and needs to have a regular funding stream in future both for everyday revenue funding and for capital works. No longer can it continue on an annual funding decision basis where some local authorities have reduced their funding commitments so that essential maintenance work has had to be postponed.
# Leigh Thornton produced a paper entitled 'Basingstoke Canal - Value for Money', which the Society has turned into a small booklet. This is full of facts and figures about the canal and its benefit to the local community. This booklet has been circulated to some council members and should be read by everyone involved with the sustainability and value of the canal, and its funding. This booklet is available from the Canal Society (contact Roger Cansdale).
# An Inspector from the Planning Inspectorate has allowed an appeal by developers to build two blocks of flats adjacent to Reading Road Bridge in Fleet, which is in the canal conservation area. This is despite Hart DC refusing the application in the first place and the Society making a strong case at the appeal hearing.
# Sorry to hear that the Canal Development Officer, Andy Howard has resigned from the Canal Authority at Mytchett Canal Centre. He left at the same time as Leigh Thornton, the Canal Director, at the end of August. Dean
Wall is assuming his responsibilities at present, combining this with his duties as the Canal Administrative Assistant.
# A new outlet pipe has been constructed at Woodham to enable, in times of drought, for a direct water supply to feed the houseboats with water from the Woodham backpumping scheme. However, all the income from the houseboat licences and rents goes direct to Surrey CC and not to the Canal Authority budget. Surely this system needs to be changed so that the monies are received by the Canal Authority directly to offset the pumping costs and other expenditure.
# Good to hear that the Inland Waterways Association have awarded a Richard Bird medal, for outstanding service over a long period, to Colin Ward of Yateley. Colin has been a team member for local events in the Guildford and Reading area for nearly 25 years, from the 1981 Godalming Water Festival to the Beale Park National Waterways Festival in 2003. He also edited 'Cargoes' the magazine for the Central Southern Region. He was also a stalwart member of our steam dredging team on the Basingstoke Canal for many years.
# One of the most well known names in the pioneer waterways restoration scene in this country has sadly passed away. David Hutchings managed the restoration, of the Southern Stratford Canal for the National Trust from 1960 to 1964 and then took on the restoration of the Upper Avon Navigation in 1965 becoming its full time manager after reopening in 1974. One of his many attributes was his leadership and inspiration to both volunteers and others and his bold engineering solutions to many problems encountered during the Navigation's restoration.
# The Society's input to the canal is still very considerable. From January to August our financial input was £27803 plus the value of volunteer input of £12,100 from September to February 2005, making atotal of £39,903. We have spent £117,361 on the St. Johns backpumping scheme so far with another £31,400 to find for electrical work and towpath enhancement work. Congratulation to our Chairman, Peter Redway. and our hard working weekend volunteers for this input.
# Congratulations to the Byfleet Boat Club for winning the IWA's Tom Rolt Award for the best boat club newsletter with their excellent By the Wey. Some years ago, Dieter Jebens also twice won this award with the Basingstoke Canal News and he is now one of the judges.
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From Society Newsletters No.66 February 1976 and No.67 April 1976
# The offside bank clearance working parties need more volunteers. In 1973/74 we were getting around 100 volunteers at weekends but a recent working party only had six people. Let's have 25 or more for the next one.
# In response to the recent appeal for old photographs and canal artefacts or memorabilia, Mrs Vaux of Greenways in Fleet donated two original Basingstoke Canal share certificates and one Bond certificate. The certificates were bought by her great great grandfather, Thomas Stiff (1749-1824) a silversmith and banker of Covent Garden. They were found in the contents of a deed box on the death of her father in Torquay in 1975.
# There were 30 locks on the Basingstoke Canal - so why is it that all the available literature on the canal quotes 29 locks?
The answer must be that originally there were only 29, but when the canal was opened barge men found that legging through Greywell Tunnel was hard work, aggravated by the fact that the western end of the tunnel was about one foot narrower than the eastern end, thus if you were going west through the tunnel the farther you went the tougher the going became. By 1796 the Board of the Company of proprietors were discussing the construction of Greywell Lock to raise the water level a little, probably about one foot, to give barges a little more water underneath to make the going easier.
The lock evidently had normal mitre gates at each end, but unlike the other 29 locks all paddles were fitted in the gates.
# North Warnborough lift-up bridge is used by 4 vehicles, 2 bicycles and 9 pedestrians on average each day.
# The first reaction to Hampshire CC's mud slinger was that it was a flop. (It didn't last long before it was taken away).
# The restoration work on the eastern portal of Greywell Tunnel is now complete. This work has been made possible through a grant under European Architectural Year funds. It now looks similar to when it was first built.
# On Monday morning, March 8th 1976, a Surrey County Council official left County Hall, Kingston by car bound for Basingstoke. He took with him a signed contract and a cheque for £40000. By mid-day the 17 mile eastern end of the Basingstoke Canal, from Ash Embankment to the River Weyjunction, had changed hands. Now at last, after a 10-year campaign, the 32-mile canal is public property, owned by the two County Councils.
# Surrey CC is expected to make £35,000 available in the first year's budget, starting in April 1976. But by the time salaries and essential overheads are paid, there won't be much left over. So Surrey (and Hampshire) will be relying very heavily on the contribution made by volunteers.
# Thanks to Hymac for the loan of a £21,000 digger which spent a week in February clearing 130 yards of the canal below Swan Bridge, North Warnborough. This saved the Society £500 in hire fees.
# Recently, the professional services of our member Don Neal made Hampshire CC think again before spending an estimated £7,000 to £9,000 on work to 'stabilise' a canal embankment. Don Neal, an expert on embankment construction, surveyed the embankment and reported no major work was needed. He suggested a system of pegs to monitor movement and stop planks grooves in two bridge holes so that water could be cut off if necessary, plus some other ideas. HCC engineers were sufficiently impressed to obtain a second opinion which came up with the same conclusions as Don Neal. The cost will be a few hundred as against up to £9000.
# Outstanding Achievement Award received by the Society in the National Architectural Heritage Year scheme sponsored by Coca Cola. The special award, one of five out of an entry of 300, was for voluntary youth work done on Blacksmith's Bridge, off side canal bank clearance and dredger support operations. An award ceremony for our young representatives will be held in London.
Canoe for sale
Be prepared for the next tsunami/hurricane/flood! Get yourself a boat!
More seriously, spring is just around the corner, so why not treat yourself to a family sized canoe?
Dieter Jebens still has his lovely McNulty Huron Canadian canoe for sale. It's 16 ft long with 3 seats and watertight bouyancy/storage compartments at each end. Complete with 2 paddles. Yours for £500 ovno.
Phone Dieter on 01252-715230
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Canal Society assets
The Society's Secretary, Verna Smith is attempting to
update the Society's Asset Register. We are talking here of mainly of pieces of equipment, tools, etc.
Do you hold anything belonging to the Society? If so, please let her have details (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org) but don't send anything back until she asks for it!
Verna still has supplies of the Society's
Christmas cards for sale. 50p each or £4.50 for 10. Contact details below.
Anyone interested in joining the Society should contact the Membership Secretary, Mrs Doreen
Hornsey, whose contact details are listed below. The annual subscription is Adults £10, Junior £3,
OAP £5, Family £12, 2 GAP £7, and Group £15, payable on March 1st each year.
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Date for next copy 31st January 2006
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 a
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: Philip Riley* Wincombe Cottage, Broad Oak, Hook, Hants RG29 1AH 01256-702109
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: Peter Wright Holly Lodge, 39 The Avenue, Crowthorne, Berks RG45 6PB 01344-772461
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: Roger Cansdale; e-mail: email@example.com 01252 616964
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
Director: Roger Ilett* 30 Waterend Park, Old Basing, Basingstoke, Hants RG24 7BB 01256-764211
Director: David Lloydlangston* 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
Canal Society Internet Website: www.basingstoke-canal.org.uk
Printed by Careprint, Crookham Village.
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