No. 210 Summer 2006
40 years, eh? Doesn't time fly when you're having fun? I wonder if we would have started if we'd know how long it was going to take? For the volunteers, I suspect that the answer would have been yes, but I'm not sure that the accountants would have been too happy if they had known by how much the Society's original £30,000 estimate would be exceeded. Nevertheless, it was very good value for money and it would need a brave man to try to get rid of it today.
However, the world seems to be ruled by accountants today so perhaps we need to learn to play by their rules. The canal actually provides various services for which it receives no income. One of these is drainage, which would have to be provided at great cost if the canal ceased to exist. Perhaps the BCA should bill the local districts for this service.
Of course the main benefit to the local communities is the most intangible one, the pleasure that people get from walking or cycling along it. It would be impossible to try to charge people directly for this, but I don't think that most people would object to paying a pound or two extra in their council tax for it.
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By any logical standards the Basingstoke Canal should never have survived - it never had enough income or enough water and originally didn't serve enough towns to really justify its existence. The fact that it is still there today is largely due to a few individuals who appeared at critical times in its history: Dr Robert Bland who raised money to ensure that it was completed, Alex Harmsworth who provided a period of stability that put an end to the cycles of bankrupcy, Joan Marshall who somehow persuaded Sid Cooke to put up the money to buy the canal in 1949, and Jim Woolgar who set the restoration ball rolling.
I wonder if Ian Brown, the new Canal Director, is another of these fortuitous figures? In the current circumstances it is hard to think of a better background than battling with the NHS bureaucracy and funding nightmares as he did in his previous career. It is also difficult to see how the BCA could have afforded to pay enough to attract someone of his calibre without his particular set of circumstances.
Ian gave a talk at our AGM and I, and other people I have spoken to, were very impressed by his air of quiet capability and confidence, as well as his obvious love for the canal. He also seemed to have his feet firmly on the ground, but at the same time to have a lot of ideas for the development of the canal.
That said, he is not going to be a miracle worker and will need all the help he can get, but I think with him in charge, the BCA and the Society can make a fairly formidable team.
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The rumpus that erupted over Surrey's proposed funding cuts may well have been a blessing in disguise, because if nothing else, it demonstrated that the Society is still capable of mobilising public opinion in support of the canal.
One obviously has sympathy with the County Council who are trying to balance the books and who are bound to offend someone. However, in these circumstances the one who wins is usually the one who is prepared to shout loudest and make the biggest nuisance of themselves, and if we don't do it, someone else will.
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It was very interesting going through the various collections of slides and photos when putting the 40 years booklet together. One of the things that surprised and rather frightened me was the fact that in the early 1960s, many parts of the canal looked to be in as good a state as today, and yet only 10 years later much of it was completely derelict. The speed at which nature takes over once maintenance slips and the water goes is appalling, with bank to bank vegetation and trees growing out of the lock walls.
Trees growing in the wrong place also played a major role in the bank breaches that occured in 1968 and the news that a tree survey of the whole canal is to be done is very welcome. I noticed that some have already been felled on the embankment at Tundry Pond.
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From time to time the Canal Society gets accused by one or other of its newer members for being inaccessible. We greatly regret this because the Committee certainly do not intend to be. The fact of the matter is that everyone is busy, and communication is a two way process. We can send out newsletters and organise meetings, but if people don't respond it is difficult to know what else to do.
The AGM was well attended this year, but there was little or no sign of any new members. Where were you all? It was an interesting evening, particularly Ian Brown's bit, and a chance to find out what we had been doing with your subscription.
Please, please, do come along to the rally at Brookwood at the end of May. The canal needs all the help it can get and we need all the support you can give. The Committee may be the front row of the scrum, but it isn't much use without a bit of weight behind it!
Fitting the pump to the St John's back-pumping system. Photo: Duncan Paine.
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CHAIRMAN'S REPORT to the AGM
Ladies and Gentlemen, Welcome to our 29th AGM.
First of all, I would like to thank you all for your wonderful support in our attempts to achieve reinstatement of the Surrey County Council contributions for revenue funding of the canal.
At a meeting last Wednesday it was confirmed by David Munro (Executive member for S.C.C.) that following the receipt of a large number of letters, canal funding is secure for 2006.
The "Constructive, measured and considered comments" made by members, waterway organisations, MPs and canal restoration groups, indicated that significant support for the canal exists. That we are prepared to lobby strongly in order to maintain a unique leisure facility for all users has proved a powerful reminder.
We championed restoration of the canal and we do not accept anything less than full navigation for the future.
Surrey County Council has had to manage severe cuts in their Government Support Grant and we give them the credit due for maintaining the canal revenue contributions.
A word of caution - we have achieved a breathing space for planning a sustainable future for the canal and have moved into the strategic review for the canal future. Studies are planned so that recommendations on management organisation, core and non-core facilities, Trusts or British Waterways can be evaluated.
Other studies will consider more secure funding based on formal agreements, sponsorship, European grants and sources not available to local government organisations.
Last but certainly not least, restrictions on through navigation, which could include partial closure for sections of the canal, are being considered. Engineering and legal considerations will require careful study and must not be "glossed" over.
We have agreed to be part of these studies, as it is better to influence from within than try and change a decision after it has been made. We are on record that we oppose any restriction on full navigation. I urge members - do not become complacent, be our eyes and ears locally as further more intense political lobbying may be required. We need to assume the worst scenario and evolve action plans as appropriate.
The survey of the Deepcut locks in January 2005 confirmed the need for capital works; Lock 27 bywash and Lock 22 lower wing wall are examples of failure. This issue has been raised with Surrey County Council and a bid for Capital Allocation made for the permanent repairs to lock 22; this has not yet been confirmed.
The process of assessment, estimates and priorities has yet to be concluded, and only then can a viable capital programme and business plan be compiled. The need for this process was accepted at a meeting in April - watch this space!
Campaign Rally and Society 40th Anniversary
The Campaign Rally at Brookwood on 27th- 29th May 2006 has a message for everyone -
Raise the profile of the canal and the need for a negotiated sustainable future
Recognise the volunteer achievement in constructing a back pump scheme, a first by volunteers
Recognise support by Woking BC over many years.
Reinforce this message and enjoy the weekend by attending and becoming involved. Boats, land-based events and celebrations combine in providing the opportunity to renew old acquaintances and celebrate a milestone in Society history.
In closing, I wish to thank the Committee, the BCA, all the behind the scenes workers and my family for their support and help during the past year.
MEMBERS TRIPS TO & FROM BROOKWOOD ON THE JP
Water supplies and all else permitting, the John Pinkerton will be going to the Brookwood Rally.
It will be running from Colt Hill, Odiham to Sheets Heath Bridge (walking distance from Brookwood Station) on May 26th and returning on May 30th, both starting at 9am and finishing at about 4pm.
Members are invited to join the trips free of charge. You MUST make your own travel arrangements and bring your own food. Non alcoholic drinks will be available all day. The Bar will be open for part of the day.
Further details and bookings from Marion Gough on 01962 713564 after 18th April.
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The number of people attending the Society's 29th AGM on 22nd April was up on last year by about a third and filled the St. John's Youth Hall in Woking.
Annual General Meeting
After apologies for absence, the minutes of last year's AGM and the EGM, held later to accept the delayed accounts, were accepted.
Jonathan Wade as Treasurer then presented the accounts for last year. He apologised for the fact that they were only in draft despite the auditors having had them for 6 weeks, but said that they had been accepted by the Directors subject to minor amendments to clarify the source of some of the income; the sum shown against Subscriptions included Gift Aid tax refunds for both subscriptions and donations, which gave a misleading impression when comparing with the previous accounts.
Jon explained some of the other items. Income from Fund raising events included the 200 Club and money from the sale of Christmas cards. The Water Appeal income included the £20,000 donation from the IWA. Sundry receipts included an insurance claim. On the expenditure side, the majority of Postage and Telephone was for the newsletter, as was Printing and Stationery. Subscriptions and Donations included two lots of donations to the Mikron Theatre, one late and one early.
The sum carried forward, £74,634, was a record and there were a number of reasons for this. Because of uncertainty about when the promised IWA grant would arrive, the Committee had adopted a prudent spending policy to avoid depleting the Society's resources too much. The Boat Company had had a very good year and the IWA grant had arrived and this combined with the low spending had led to the high reserves now.
A proposal to accept the accounts was carried unanimously, and Hilton Evans & Co were re-appointed as auditors. A summary of the final accounts will appear in the newsletter.
Verna Smith, the Secretary, announced that the same 11 people as last year were standing for the Committee: Peter Redway, Dieter Jebens, Verna Smith, Jonathan Wade, Roger Cansdale, Graham Hornsey, Roger Ilett, David Lloydlangston, Bob Malcolm, Philip Riley, Peter Wright. Jon Wade stated that he would be stepping down as Treasurer later in the year.
This ended the formal business of the AGM.
Robin Higgs Award|
The winners of the Robin Higgs Award were then announced. This year it went to Robert Knight and his family
in recognition of the many years that they had been carrying out the Tuesday evening maintenance of the John Pinkerton. Unfortunately neither Robin Higgs nor the Knights were present, so appropriately the actual award will probably take place on the Pinkerton on a Tuesday evening.
Above. Robert & Mandy Knight and their children
Peter Redway then gave his Chairman's report (see Page 3). In particular he announced that earlier in the week Surrey County Council had confirmed that it would be funding the canal in full for 2005. He said that it was very gratifying that the Society still had a fighting spirit and thanked all those who had written the "constructive, measured and considered" comments that had brought about the change.
The Society would be taking part in the Strategic Review of the canal's management and funding because it was felt to be better to work from inside than to comment after a decision had been made. Peter asked members to act as eyes and ears of the Society and feed back any local issues or opinions that might come up.
The Brookwood Campaign Rally would be even more important than appreciated when it was first suggested. In addition to emphasising the need for support to the canal, it would celebrate the work of the volunteers who had installed the back-pumping scheme (a first for volunteers) and the support given by Woking.
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Work Party Report
Peter then went on to the Work Party report (Page 7). He also commented on the very healthy financial reserves and said that consideration was being given to using some of them to buy a couple of boats that were amongst surplus BW fleet being auctioned.
He finished by thanking the Society volunteers, visiting groups, the Committee, the BCA and finally his family for their support throughout the year.
Boat Company Report
Nigel Bird, the Boat Company Treasurer standing in for Peter Wright who was abroad, then reported on the Pinkerton's season and plans. 2005 had been a very good year with near record profits despite not being an Airshow year. Public trips had been particularly profitable thanks to better advertising, particularly in Hampshire News which went out to half a million households in the county; they would like to know of any similar publication in Surrey.
He noted that Peter Philips was taking over the winter maintenance management from John Abbott and thanked John and the rest of the winter team.
Looking forward to the new season, Nigel explained that the boat now was required to have a licence to sell alcohol. Ann Langworthy had done most of the work to obtain this, which had cost about £1000; hopefully renewal in future would be much less expensive. Licensing and inspection of both the boat and captains, many of whom were now over 65 and needed annual medicals, was becoming increasingly expensive. New MCA regulations now also required evidence of crew training.
Competition from other boats was not currently a problem and there was good rapport with other operators. Indeed, he had captained the 4 Seasons' boat; crews were paid and the fee was split with the Boat Company.
He ended with a reminder that everyone was welcome on Tuesday evenings, starting at about 7pm from Colt Hill, and that the boat would be going down to Brookwood for the rally and that members would be welcome to join the trips there on the Friday and back on Tuesday, leaving at 9am. People would need to arrange their own return transport, bring food and let Marion Gough know that they were coming.
The meeting then broke for refreshments, (thanks as usual to the Coxhead family for organising this), followed by the raffle and then Ian Brown, the Canal Director, was invited to talk.
Canal Director's talk|
Ian began by saying that the canal had meant a lot to him ever since his father had taken him down the towpath on his bicycle at the age of 3. After a successful career in the NHS, he had accepted a chance to escape and after a year or two had taken the job of general maintenance man at the Canal Centre. He had immediately been struck by the tremendous potential and when the jobs of first Head Ranger and then Canal Director had come up, he had applied for and got them. He now had to navigate the canal through the forthcoming review. He felt that the outcome must be a balance between the interests of recreation and conservation, but his personal belief was that the canal must be a navigation. This met with sounds of approval from the members!
The review would be examining a number of options derived from the findings of last year's workshop:-
Option 1: Unchanged Management
1a Cutting the level of service
1b Formalise the funding agreement
Option 2: Management by a third party
2a British Waterways
2b National Trust
2d Independent body such as charitable trust, private company, park authority
Option 3: Stop or limit use of the Canal
3b: Retain water, but stop through boat movements
Ian said that it was vital to address all the options fully, however unpalatable, because they would only pop up again otherwise. He explained the structure of the groups that would be looking at the various options and who would be involved. Peter Redway, Philip Riley and David Millett would be representing the Society. The formal process would start in May and deliver a report to the Autumn JMC, but much work had already been done.
British Waterways would not be interested in any sort of take-over unless a dowry of some £15-20 million could be found, but might offer limited support in the way of expertise or facilities. The National Trust could not offer any strategic support but would help where they could.
A trust was a possibility that could draw funds in from other sources, but it would need basic solid support from the counties and local districts. The Milestones Museum in Basingstoke was looking at trust status as a way out of its current problems, and there was an opportunity to learn from there. Sponsorship by local companies would be pursued, perhaps by something like an "adopt-a-lock" scheme, but those approached so far seemed more
(Continued on page 6)
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interested in conservation ratherthan recreation, although they might not really understand what was meant by conservation. An entrepreneurial approach to improving the canal's earnings was also needed and he was looking at mooring basins in Woking and Mytchett Lake, increasing the use of the Canal Centre facilities and land, and also the possibility of producing lock gates for other canals.
Ian ended to promising that everything about the review would be open - there would be no smoke and mirrors! The canal was a tremendous amenity and every opportunity should be taken to tell local representatives how much it is valued.
Ian then took questions.
On water supply improvements, he said that they were looking at levels of abstraction at the Western End and attending to leaky areas. A reservoir in the hollow at Deepcut by Lock 28 was a possibility.
It was suggested that there should be a tie-up with some source of timber to produce lock gates, and Ian said that the
Counties' Country Parks could be a source of free timber.
A member involved also with the Wey & Arun pointed out that one of their stakeholders was the South East Development Agency and Ian confirmed that they would be one of the organisations to be approached.
Ian was asked whether, if the District Councils all paid their full amount, he would have enough money to run the canal, and he said that he would need 2 or 3 times more, confirming the inadequacy of the current arrangements. TAG and TESCO were suggested as possible sponsors, Ian said that TESCO was a very good partner if you could get them on side, and agreed that TAG might benefit from increased goodwill if they supported the canal more.
Philip Riley wound up the evening by thanking Jonathan Wade for doing the somewhat thankless job of treasurer so well for so long, and then by thanking Ian Brown. He had a daunting job but was clearly up for it and the Society was very much behind him. He suggested that perhaps another Society meeting was needed in the autumn to hear the results of the review.
High up on the side of Langman's Bridge below Lock 7 is a small brass plaque (above).
Although a bit tarnished and hard to read, it is a rather charming tribute to a Miss Betty Goodall, a teacher at the Dell School in Woking. The canal obviously meant a lot to her and "Goody" meant a lot to her ex-pupils.
Long may her memory remain.
Carboot Sales at the Canal Centre|
The French call these "vide-greniers" - "empty the attic". Why not empty yours and make a few pounds? Alternatively, go along and find some bargains.
The Saturday afternoon sales at the Canal Centre usually attract a good number of both buyers and sellers and there is plenty of parking.
May 6th, 27th
June 3rd, 10th, 17th, 24th
August 5th, 12th, 19th, 26th
September 23rd, 30th
For more information, ring 01276 62512
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Work Parties for the year have concentrated on the Brookwood Hospital Site, in preparation for the Campaign Rally in May. Visiting Groups and Society Volunteers have been working on the site since May 2005, completing infrastructure and canal clearing in April 2006.
Sponsored by Woking BC, 875yds of old chain link fence have been removed, moved by barge and off-loaded into skips. Growth through the fence required saw cutting before removal could start; also an access strip needed clearing before machinery could be used for post removal and extraction.
Improved access into the park from the canal was next on the agenda, and a ramp was constructed at the halfway point with rails and revetments retaining the slope and providing a safety barrier around the seepage culvert. Other access points at canal bank level not requiring safety rails were constructed.
The very hot and dry conditions in June 2005 were not ideal for surfacing the informal path along the north bank of the canal with stone. Path formation, stone laying and rolling teams moved along the path, and dumpers supplied the stone to the laying teams from the jetty area. A total of 400 [tons] of stone was laid over two weekends in very hot and dry conditions; the stone had to be kept damp and the volunteers required frequent supplies of cold drinks.
At the time I thought I had chosen the wrong conditions, but with hindsight after experiencing the effect of rain on the site, it was the perfect time. The clay soil would not have supported a winter operation.
A permanent [22 yds] jetty has been constructed from recycled felled timber from Deepcut (see below). The BCA provided the wood from the sawmill at Deepcut and our volunteers constructed the jetty early this year completing in March. The site has a Siberian climate in winter; cold hands resulted in nuts and washers falling into the canal and slower progress than we would have wished.
February and March also provided the opportunity for bank side clearing. HSBC Volunteers and Swingbridge coppiced the low growth. WRG BITM cleared the mature and overhanging trees marked for felling, also winching out stumps from the bank. Tug and barge supported tree removal and later clearance of overhanging growth from the channel. Newbury Working Party and SHCS volunteers carried out this work.
The pump installation at St Johns is scheduled to commence in May; our volunteers are working on the flow meter chamber construction (see below) so that the pump contractor can install the meter required by the Environment Agency.
The pump will be powered by a generator for the duration of the Campaign Rally with electricity and towpath works following in August/September.
Working Parties do notjust happen; the organisation can be complex, and I take this opportunity to thank all involved.
Thanks for many week end digs to all the volunteers and back room workers from SHCS and the Visiting Groups:- Newbury Working Party Group, Kent and East Sussex Canal Restoration Group, London WRG, BITM WRG.
Thanks also to the BCA, SHCS Committee and my Family for their support and assistance during the year.
And our thanks, as ever, to Pete, without whom none of this would have happened.
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Above: Soon to be home for 130+ boats, the Brookwood rally site looks peaceful with just a Galleon Marine boat moored on the new jetty. What a difference 12 months of hard work by Society, WRG and other volunteers has made.
When, about 18 months ago, Peter Redway suggested the idea of a rally, he could not have realised just how needed and appropriate it would be today. We in the Society were aware that things could not go on as they were with the canal, but we certainly did not know that the Counties' support might be in doubt.
The current state of affairs makes the aims of the rally, designated by the Inland Waterways Association as one of its Campaign Rallies, all the more important:-
• To highlight the threats to the Canal and need for support to ensure its long-term future;
• To recognise the contribution made by the volunteers over the last 40 years;
• To recognise the years of support given by Woking Borough Council to the Canal.
About 130 boats are due to attend the rally and a contingent from the Canal d'Orleans in France will be coming to see how the English run a boat rally; they are hoping to have one next year.
This is an opportunity for all Society members to show their support for the canal. Please do come along.
Better still, contact Verna Smith (01252 517622} and offer your help - it's not too late! Even 1 hour on duty will allow someone else to nip off for a bite to eat.
Entry to the rally is free, with gates open from 11am to 5pm each day.
The official opening will be on Saturday 27th May at 11.30am by the Mayor of Woking. The event will also mark the opening of what will be Woking's "Brookwood Countryside Park" on the site of the old hospital.
On the Sunday, there will be Waterways Praise at 4.30pm and an illuminated Boat Cavalcade in the evening at 9.30pm.
Other attractions include a host of craft and waterway society stalls, public boat trips, a display of classic vehicles, entertainment by local dancing groups, the St.Lawrence handbell ringers, etc.
For general enquiries, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or phone Peter Coxhead on 01932 344564.
See you there!
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Woking Borough Council are providing a free "Park & Ride" scheme for the event, with parking at "The Vine" car park in Alexandra Gardens off Redding Way. There is no public parking at the Rally site. Buses on Routes 34, 35 and 48 run from Woking to Hermitage.
Brookwood railway station is the nearest, about a mile away; walk out of the station yard, across the road into Sheets Heath Lane, over the bridge and turn right down the towpath. This will take you down to the Brookwood flight of locks, the next target for a back-pumping scheme. After Lock 12, the towpath changes sides and you will need to go down to Hermitage to cross over to the Rally site.
The pumps have been installed in the St.John's back-pumping scheme and are working. Water supplies to the rally site are now guaranteed. See cover photo.
Congratulations to Peter Redway and all his team for a fantastic effort!
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Amongst its many problems, the Basingstoke Canal has suffered from periodic outbreaks of vandalism. These were happening back in Mrs Marshall's days in the 1950s, but more recently seem to have been focused on the top pound in Surrey, including the Canal Centre. To combat the situation the Basingstoke Canal Watch Scheme was launched at Easter 2005, to cover the Surrey half of the canal, with Tony Haynes as its General Secretary. It brought together the Canal Authority, the local police, boaters and towpath users... anyone, in fact, who has an interest in making the canal a safe place to enjoy.
The scheme has resulted in a number of offenders being caught and, generally, incidents in 2005 were minimal. The Watch Scheme was declared a success and this year is being extended into Hampshire so that the entire length of the canal will be covered.
However, just moving bored, alienated youths to somewhere else does not really cure the problem and Tony Haynes decided that what was needed was something to show them that the waterways are something they could be enjoying instead of trying to destroy. The idea of the Grand Easter Raft-fest was born.
30 years ago, the Canal Society was able to organise a similar event, "Nobsurd", at Colt Hill without too much trouble, but things are rather more litigious today, and Tony had to find £10,000,000 worth of insurance (achieved by becoming the first canal watch scheme to be accepted into corporate membership of the IWA) and to provide paramedic ambulance cover for the race (courtesy of local Quakers who paid for this). The Basingstoke Canoe Club and the Army helped by providing safety afloat. SC Johnson Ltd (Johnson's Wax) financed a marquee for a free evening concert with nationally known blues band, "Spikedrivers". NABO paid for advertising in the local press.
A visiting Internet VW Campervan club joined in the Raft-
fest. Their children borrowed three spare truck inner-tubes from an Army team, lashed them together with a couple of pallets (bottom left), and, in the race, beat the elaborate Army raft over the entire course and became the overall winners. No motorised propulsion was allowed, but the Army didn't realise that the towpath was there for towing boats; the children did (below). One feels that a change in the rules may be in the offing for next year or we may be seeing rafts towed by horses or teams of huskies!
It was all worth it. At the prize-giving ceremony, the youth who accepted a winner's cup for his college was the same lad who, two years ago, used to come around jeering and taunting people at the Canal Centre whenever vandalism occurred. The event was so successful in raising awareness of the canal that it is hoped to hold another in August 2006, and a further, bigger event, combined with a mixed music mini-festival, in May 2007.
Congratulations to Tony and his team for a very successful event and thanks for permission to make use of his photos and report.
Below. Tony and the winning team. Like the trad footwear!
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Tragedy at Deepcut
A fatal accident occurred on Friday 21st April at Lock 22 when a crew member from a visiting boat was drowned. 47 year old Susan Stewart from Guildford was going on ahead of her boat to set up the locks. Nobody saw what happened, but the supposition is that having opened the top paddle, she accidentally fell in and hit her head or was drawn under by the flow into the lock.
The BCA and emergency services were rapidly on the scene and the flight was closed for some days whilst health and safety officers investigated. British Waterways were also called in immediately as independent experts. It is understood that this tragic incident is being regarded as a simple accident.
Susan was married, with a daughter. Her funeral service was held at St. John's Church, Merrow on 5th May.
Our deepest sympathy goes to Susan's family and friends.
Such an event is fortunately very rare on the canals, but it does serve to remind us of the possible hazards that exist. Canals have an air of calm and peace that perhaps tends to lull even experienced users into a false sense of security, and we all need to remember the dangers of water and operating locks.
DRY DOCK VISITORS
The 60-year old tug James Loader
Its butty Betelgeuse
It was nice to see the dry dock in use by visiting boats, highlighting the earning potential of this valuable facility if only the ridiculous operating restrictions could be lifted.
The tug James Loader was built after the Second World War with a wooden hull as steel was still in short supply. It needs some new timber in the bows and a steam box will be used to allow the wood to be bent into shape. Work
however was being delayed for two days because the angle grinder needed to remove a couple of bolt heads could not be used until the following Tuesday. What nonsense!
The James Loader is the twin of another tug that many people will know on the River Wey. Its butty Betelgeuse has by contrast a steel hull.
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Newcomen Society visit
The following is an exerptfrom the report on their visit written by John Russell, Secretary of the Newcomen Society, which is the world's oldest society for the study of the history of engineering and technology. Thanks to John for permission to use it and his photo of the party during a pause to examine the Blackwater Valley aqueduct (below).
The last day of March was a cold but bright day, the rain thankfully keeping away until late afternoon. At the Canal Centre at Mytchett near Farnborough, twenty six members, some with their partners, thirty nine people in total, spent the morning listening to talks on the history, restoration and funding of the Basingstoke Canal, with an afternoon journey on the John Pinkerton narrow boat to see restoration work on parts of the canal.
This was a joint venture organised by the Southern branch in conjunction with the Surrey and Hampshire Canal Society which this year is celebrating the 40th anniversary of its formation. The visit was prompted by our survey of members which showed that 80% of our members are retired people who had expressed an interest in daytime visits, that canals are a favourite topic of interest, and a belief that there was much to be gained in joining forces with other like minded organisations.
Roger Cansdale gave an illustrated talk on the early history of the Canal and David Millett then spoke with pride about its restoration. He recalled how a small but growing number of enthusiasts worked for seven years to get the canal into public ownership with a policy of restoration. Of particular note to Newcomen members was the imaginative use of the steam powered dredger Perseverance. The canal project was completed in 1990, and the Basingstoke Canal was formally opened by the Duke of Kent in May 1991.
One other aspect of the canal important to Newcomen members is the Greywell Tunnel. David Stephens (Newcomen member) described the construction of this
1230 yard tunnel in the late 18th century, the 12th longest canal tunnel in England.
Peter Redway, the Canal Society Chairman, spoke of the Society's concerns for the future of the canal. Previous levels of funding from the two County councils and to a lesser extent from local borough councils have been insufficient to keep abreast of the maintenance costs of the canal and there is a growing backlog, despite a very active programme of fund raising by the canal society.
One thing is clear from our visit. This society, together with the new Canal Director, Ian Brown, means business. They impress as a highly enthusiastic, committed and competent team. As their past chairman, Robin Higgs put it.. ."we can't stand aside and let the canal once again fall into disuse; we owe it to those many people, who gave of their talents and time to resurrect the canal and make it what it is, not to let it happen again".
The overwhelming feedback from our members is that this was a first rate visit.
Thanks also to the Newcomen Society for a generous donation to the Society.
Membership Secretary's Report
Quite a few of our members have yet to pay their 2006 subscription. If you have not paid yet, would you kindly let me have your subscriptions as soon as possible so that we can continue to send you your newsletters. We also have quite a few members paying by bankers order who have not increased their payments to the current rates although these have been in place for several years now. As there has been another increase in postage recently, we would appreciate it if you could make sure you update your payments to the appropriate amount, i.e. Adults £10, Family £12, Junior £3, OAP £5, 2 OAP £7 and Group £15. Thank you for your co-operation.
A warm welcome to the following new members:
Anne Booth, Whitchurch
Jo Jenkinson, Blackwater
John & Suzanne Inman, Northwood
Richard & Sarah Holmes, Frimley Green
Tony Carter, Fleet
David Horner, Fleet
Major P Emery, Shinfield
Angela Ewing, Ash Vale
Guy & Janet Fallen, Woking
Peter Hughes, Liss
Kay Newby, Fleet
Anthony Chapman, Ash Vale
John Goodman, Newbury
- Doreen Hornsey, Membership Secretary
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Date: Sunday 9th.July 2006 Time: 5pm (Please note early start time to avoid the World Cup final).
Venue: The Canalside garden of the Fox and Hounds, Crookham Road, Fleet.
Show: 'MRS BRUNEL' A life with Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
The great engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, was born 200 years ago. Everyone has heard of him; everyone has seem the iconic photograph of him with his stovepipe hat, cigar and muddy boots. He was voted the second greatest Briton in the recent television series.
But what was the man like and what did he really achieve?
In 1836, Brunel married Mary Horsely, a beautiful young woman from a musical family. By then, at the age of 30, Brunel had already worked on the Thames Tunnel and plans for a suspension bridge in Bristol and had surveyed the route for the longest railway in Britain, the Great Western.
Looking through Mary's eyes, we go on a musical journey following the progress of this driven, visionary hero and genius. We look at his triumphs and disasters, his railways, his bridges and his ships. But we also see him as a family man at home in London or on his estate in Devon, where he and Mary constructed a beautiful garden together.
DON'T MISS THIS SHOW AS YOUR SUPPORT IS VITAL TO ENSURE THE MIKRON'S FUTURE. THEY RELY ON SOME GRANT FUNDING BUT MAINLY INCOME FROM THE SHOWS.
Come along by boat or car or on foot. Bring a folding chair or rug or just sit on the grass bank. Indoor back-up in case of rain. Admission is free but there will be a collection after the show. Contact David Millett on 01252 617364 for any further information.
It's Poddle time!
It's many years since the Society had a sponsored walk on the Basingstoke, but if you've still got your walking boots, why not give the Wey & Arun a go?
The annual Wey & Arun Canal Trust's sponsored walk, the "Poddle" will start and finish at Mill Pool House, in Godalming, Surrey, with lunch at Hascombe Village Hall on Sunday 11th June 2006.
This year they are encouraging as many people as possible to "leave the car at home" and come by train to Godalming to the start of the walk. Please see their website www.weyandarun.co.uk for details. However, if you feel this is not for you, then there is plenty of car parking available at the Start/Finish point.
Sponsor Forms are available from the Trust's website, or from the office (Mondays-Fridays - 9am-12pm) 01403 752403 if you would like to join in the walk, or sponsor "the last man" to finish. Last year they raised £13,000 for the restoration of the canal, and this year they aim to raise money towards the Gates at the new Lock being built in Loxwood. The lock is the first part of the B2133 main road crossing project on which the Trust is currently engaged. The Trust aims to restore the whole historic 23-mile waterway between the River Arun near Pulborough in Sussex and the River Wey near Guildford in Surrey. The canal is part of the only inland water route between London and the south coast.
Jim Phillips, the Trust's treasurer and fundraising manager says "The new bridge and lock at Loxwood, a £1.2 million project, is our most ambitious fund raising challenge so far. We still need to raise funds for the Road Bridge to complete the project, hopefully in 2007".
So if you can spare a few hours and would like to help the Trust to raise more money, please contact the Trust office by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone on 01403 752403.
Fox & Hounds Rally
The annual event at the Fox & Hounds pub in Fleet, organised by the Basingstoke Canal Boat Club, will be taking place on 12th August this year to avoid a clash with the »»»»»»
IWA National Rally
which will be taking place over the August Bank Holiday weekend at Beale Park, Pangbourne. This is about as local as it gets, to please go along and give the IWA and the Canal Society your support.
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Surrey County Council reversed its decision to cut the canal's funding this year as a result of the "constructive, measured and considered" comments made in letters from many people. The following is typical of them and the Society is deeply grateful to all who wrote.
Cllr. David Munro, Surrey County Council
Dear Mr Munro
BASINGSTOKE CANAL BUDGET
It is with great regret that I recently read of the intention of Surrey County Council to reduce their contribution to the canal budget for the coming year by £50,000. This comes on top of the cuts already made by Hart, Surrey Heath and Runnymede in recent years. Vast amounts of money have been made available to restore waterways in the past and we, in Surrey and Hampshire, live alongside one which was rescued by individual effort and has been maintained and operated largely by volunteer labour.
I am now turned 80 but I make good use of the amenity for walking and am happy to contribute to funds and support SHCS. As a young family we used to take our sons on the waterways in the north Midlands for holidays, which served to develop many skills for them. This opportunity must not be withdrawn from others by allowing the Basingstoke to fall into decline once again due to the lack of funding. If the Government can fund investment through British Waterways then ways must be found to deal with what is in effect a private venture. Remember, the County Council own the property and should not let its assets fall into disrepair.
Yours faithfully A. Keith Jebson
We also received several e-mails from local councillors to whom we had appealed for support. Cllr Alan Broadhurst from Chandler's Ford in Hampshire sent the following
Thank you for the attached letter, it would be an insult to those who worked so hard to restore the canal if it were now to be allowed to fall back into disrepair. Regards Alan Broadhurst
Having spent a few days of my holiday walking the Basingstoke Canal, I am wondering if the local people appreciate what an amenity they have on their doorstep. It would appear that many are apathetic and treat it as a convenient rubbish dump; however I know that several people are interested in its possible restoration - although at the moment, due to vandalism and the Canal Company's lack of finance, it is still deteriorating. I feel that the time is ripe to form a Basingstoke Canal Restoration Society so that a start could be made removing debris and clearing the towpath. Perhaps it might be possible to re-open it for navigation. If anyone is interested perhaps they would be kind enough to write (enclosing a stamped addressed envelope) and a possible meeting can be arranged if there is suficient interest.
E J. Woolgar,
Brookwood, Woking, Surrey.
That's the way is was in 1966. Let's hope that the Strategic Review succeeds in producing a formula that ensures a sustainable and secure future for the Basingstoke Canal, so that there is no need for a successor to Jim Woolgar to write another letter like this in 40 years time.
Only 1 entry so far! Thanks to Mrs Jewell from Slough for a rather interesting collection of past and current pictures of the canal at Old Basing, including this one of her parents taken in the 1920s.
I'll let the competition run on to the autumn, so come on, get your camera out and let me have a few more entries.
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MILLETT'S MUSINGS - David Millett
# How time flies. It seems amazing that the Society is 40 years old this year. So much has taken place since Jim Woolgar wrote to the Woking paper asking for anyone interested in forming a group to campaign for the canal to be restored. The writer moved to Fleet in 1969 and joined the Society at a public meeting in Church Crookham later that year. Little did I know how involved Rosemary and I would become over the years. However, it has all been very satisfying to be part of an adventure to restore a derelict, rubbish filled and overgrown canal to full navigation. There have been many ups and downs along the way, and even now, with funding from local authorities being cut back, there is another fight on to prevent the canal deteriorating again. It must be retained for full navigation because all the other interests in the canal rely on the canal being used by boats.
# By the time you read these notes the Brookwood Campaign Rally may be in full swing and let's hope that the profile of the canal will have been enhanced so that all the communities along the canal realise what an asset the canal is and that it is essential to find a sustainable way forward to fund, manage and operate it in the longer term. Whatever management system is decided upon, there will always be the need for the two counties and the six riparian boroughs and districts to continue to be involved in funding the canal. This will have to be on a much better system than on an annual basis where it is impossible to plan properly for maintenance and improvements.
# A party of members of the Newcomen Society recently spent a day on the canal. In the morning, they were given a PowerPoint presentation by Roger Cansdale, Peter Redway and myself on the history, the restoration and the current position at the Canal Centre clubroom. In the afternoon they enjoyed a cruise on the 'John Pinkerton' to Ash Lock and back. We even passed a floating sofa near Greatbottom Flash. Why can't people take their unwanted items to the tip rather than chuck them in the canal? Unfortunately, some people just do not respect the environment and just seem unconcerned in despoiling it. Hence dumping everywhere which is getting worse by the day.
# Dieter Jebens has recently been in hospital again to have an operation on his foot which will hopefully give him more mobility after his stroke a few years ago. We all hope that this is the case and wish him all the best. He keeps very cheerful despite all the restrictions the stroke has placed on his life.
# John Cale, who runs all the trip and day hire boats at the Canal Centre, has now added some Canadian canoes and pedalos to his fleet. He has found that not everyone wishes to have a proper cruise on the canals or wishes to hire the day hire boats. Many families wish to go out on the canal on their own so this is the answer. He also has a new safety boat to satisfy insurance requirements. John Cale can be contacted on 01252 837165 or mobile 07984 952712 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
# Some of our'John Pinkerton' skippers have recently been in demand to captain the Four Seasons trip boat at Dogmersfield and also the Accessible Boating's day hire boat 'Dawn', when it has been booked by Four Seasons from Galleon Marine. However, there is no clash with the operation of the 'John Pinkerton' as these are for people or groups using the hotel for meetings, conferences or just staying at the hotel. The captains are paid and there is a gentleman's agreement to split the money with the Boat Company, since it has paid for the captains' licences.
# The Easter Raft Fun event at the Canal Centre organised by Tony Haynes of the Canal Watch Scheme and local Quakers attracted many people to the Canal Centre and grounds over the Saturday and Sunday. Five rafts took part including a team from RAF Odiham who stayed in tents on the field for the weekend. One of the rafts entered by the King's College had a lad who, a year or two ago, was one of the local lads who was causing vandalism to boats moored at the Canal Centre. So, hopefully, he has discovered that that canal is a useful leisure facility which they can enjoy rather than destroy.
# The drought in the south of England continues with the underground acquifers not being recharged by enough autumn and winter rainfall. This will affect the date the locks in Surrey have to be closed for navigation this year; let's hope it's not too early. In the longer term, a reservoir will be needed for the middle and top pounds but this will be quite an expensive capital requirement.
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40th Birthday Party
Individual invitations have gone out to a good number of people who contributed to the restoration of the canal, but we are very well aware that the list was very far from comprehensive and that many deserving people will have been missed, either through old age and forgetfulness on our part, or because we couldn't find an address.
If you didn't get one but would like to come along to the reunion at Brookwood on Sunday afternoon, 28th May, please do so and please forgive us for the absence of a personal invitation. With luck you will find some old friends in the Society's marquee.
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 OAP £7, and Group £15, payable on March 1st each year.
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Date for next copy 31st July 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 A3 Design, Farnham.
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