Craig Shanks

Mar 292020

From a Victorian ‘message in a bottle’, a tragic World War 1 story, through to a 21st century hi-tech drone, the history surrounding Basingstoke Canal is amazing.

Here are just some of the stories, the detective work that surrounds them and how our Social media Manager, Ian Sims, is leading the campaign to build awareness of the Basingstoke Canal Society.

Message in a bottle

During recent maintenance work on the Woking stretch of the Canal that involved draining the water, we found a beautiful 19th century glass bottle manufactured by J. Woods & Co of Aldershot. Research by one of our volunteers, Graham Corsa, identified the owner of the company as Samuel Woods.

The next step was a campaign through social media…we used Graham’s work in a post on Facebook that has so far reached over 11,000 people and attracted 329 reactions, comments and shares. Such is the power of social media that we even reached Samuel’s great-great granddaughter in the West Country.

Canal maintenance can often be a muddy business and perhaps the saying “Where there’s muck there’s brass” has never been more appropriate. Certainly the social media team is turning our surprising historical finds into digital gold!

“Our social media post on Facebook has so far reached over 11,000 people and attracted 329 reactions, comments and shares”… Ian Sims, Social media Manager, Basingstoke Canal Society

Tragedy of World War 1 Hero

Another story that attracted attention includes an air accident over the canal in 1918.

A De Havilland two-seat bomber piloted by Lieutenant Derek Lutyens broke up in mid-air and tragically the crew died. Lutyens’ body was found quickly. However, despite a search by 1,200 soldiers that included dragging the Canal and nearby ponds, no trace of observer David Pinsent was found. Six days later Pinsent’s body was discovered floating in the Canal between the Frimley and Mytchett Bridges. We posted the story on social media and received a lot of reaction to this tragic story.

Drone strike that landed in the Canal

During the same maintenance session in March this year at Woking, the working party found a drone!

Cue more detective work… the team was able to access the memory card that among other things contained video shot by the drone in flight of a house. To trace the owner, we made a short video and posted it on Facebook.

So far the 53 second video has reached over 6,000 people and been viewed for a total of 1,079 minutes. 91 people actually engaged through comments and likes. The top audience for this video was woman aged between 45 and 54. Interestingly, on Facebook woman continue to be our overall top supporters.

The house was identified by a reader using Google Street who used a tree with an unusual bark formation that is positioned next to a lamp post of a particular colour and design. As well as fantastic detective work, it’s good example of how people can work together using technology to solve common problems.

The impact of social media

As well as highlighting these fascinating stories, Ian’s team is making fantastic progress in raising the profile of our Society.

With cuts in funding threatening the future of the Canal, public opinion and the level of awareness will count ‘big time’ in mobilising support to fight our battles. Social media is such a powerful tool in the armoury of the Society.

Here are a couple of further examples of the impact that we have made:

  • A competition based on winning tickets for our boat Kitty on Social media reached over 18,000 people. Social media gives the Basingstoke Canal unprecedented exposure.
  • The Society’s Facebook page has over 4,000 followers and numbers are growing all the time.

In social media terms, if each of those 4,000 followers has just 20 friends on Facebook, we could potentially reach 80,000 people. And in reality, people have a lot more than 20 friends on Facebook.

To protect the Canal, we need to be in a position to challenge as effectively as possible and that’s why increasing our digital presence through social media is so vital.

“With cuts in funding threatening the future of the Canal, social media is such a powerful tool in the armoury of the Society.”

Do you have a story to tell?

If you have a story, or a news item, that you think would be of interest on social media, please contact us at

 Last updated by on 3 April, 2020
Mar 262020

My Name is Martin Thompson. I’m aged 23 and have been volunteering with Basingstoke Canal Society for the last three years.

I first found out about the need for volunteers when I was walking home along the Canal and saw a sign asking for volunteers to help with the conservation of the Canal. I thought this sounds like fun and decided to get on board.

Nearly three years later, I’m still a volunteer

The work varies quite a lot and you can work as part of a team or as an individual. Typical tasks include canal bank scrub clearance, managing over hanging trees, fencing work, repairing damaged banks, painting lock gates…anything that needs to be done to keep the Canal looking good. It can be hard work but it’s also a lot of fun.

I was really impressed with how well you are looked after. Volunteers get very good training in how to use equipment such as mechanical hedge trimmers, brush cutters and grass mowers. They treat you as a person as you become part of the community of volunteers.

“I was really impressed with how well they look after volunteers. You get very good training and they treat you as a person.”

Volunteering with the Canal Society is very relaxing, and in some way, I find it therapeutic. It helps to take my mind off pressing issues in my frequently chaotic (but fun) model aircraft business. I always make a point of leaving my mobile in the car as it’s good to focus on things away from work. By volunteering, you gain a different perspective.

Not all volunteering is the same

When volunteering with the Canal Society, I really like some of the ‘soft’ stuff’ such as the happy celebrations when it’s a fellow volunteer’s birthday. Suddenly a birthday cake appears! That’s on top of the regular the tea, coffee and biscuits in the rest breaks. After a busy day, it’s also not uncommon for the work party to recuperate at a local pub with a well-earned pint or two.

How volunteering has shaped my life

Volunteering has been, and still is, a massive part of my life. I first started volunteering with the Surrey Wildlife Trust on Chobam Common when I was seven years sold. I had recently taken up the hobby of flying model aeroplanes on the Common with my father.  In stark contrast to some of my fellow school classmates, who have subsequently found themselves facing challenges such as drug addiction and other serious issues, I believe that volunteering and my hobby have given me the building blocks for life. Both have helped me to stay on the ‘straight and narrow’ path.

The influence of older people who were more than happy to talk about their lives and their experiences have been key in helping me to avoid potential problems. And with the support of my Dad and his “Let’s do something practical” attitude to life, I kept out of trouble at school.


“Volunteering and my model aircraft business have given me the building blocks for life. Both have helped me to stay on the ‘straight and narrow’. Over the years I have met some fantastic role models who have helped me a lot to see life one step ahead.”  

A couple of years ago, I was very fortunate to volunteer in Bangladesh with an organisation called VSO – VSO is a voluntary organisation that sends volunteers overseas to help disadvantaged communities. The Canal Society helped me with my application – they were able to vouch that through my volunteering I had shown commitment, dedication and that I was reliable – key requirements for a VSO project.

Upon returning home to the UK, we were asked to carry out what VSO calls “Action at Home”. My project was to walk the Pembrokeshire Coast Path with two friends in support of the Alzheimer’s society. We raised over £2,000 for the charity.

After recovering from the Pembrokeshire coastline, I felt I could do more and have recently been asked to go on BBC Radio Surrey to spread the message about volunteering as well as to speak about my experiences in Bangladesh.

Would I recommend volunteering with Basingstoke Canal Society?

Absolutely! It’s something that I would recommend to any young or older person. It’s really about ‘Give back’ to society and I encourage you to get involved.

“Basingstoke Canal society is a fantastic organisation to volunteer with. The people are amazing from the staff through to your fellow volunteers. It’s always an enjoyable experience… even when it’s raining!”

Find out more

For more information about how you can get involved as a volunteer with Basingstoke Canal Society, please go to our Volunteer page. You can also contact Ken Sankey on 07850 652769 or at



 Last updated by on 27 March, 2020
Feb 022020

John Pinkerton II Public and Theme Cruises in Hampshire

The season starts early this year with two cruises on Mother’s Day, 22 March; the afternoon cruise is already sold out.

There’s an underlying theme to several of the theme cruises: food, drink and music.  A perfect way to enjoy a summer’s evening on the canal.

Our theatre cruise this year commemorates the role the Basingstoke Canal played at the beginning of WWII, 80 years ago. Two nights of drama, comedy and song (and a fish and chips supper).

Children will especially enjoy the Easter egg hunt on the Easter Sunday cruise and the Pirate Treasure Hunt in August.

If you can’t decide whether to walk the towpath or cruise the cut, there are two trips in August when you can do both, and enjoy a ploughman’s lunch in the middle.

If you just want to relax and enjoy a few hours cruising through the beautiful Hampshire countryside, there are public trips on Wednesdays and Sundays throughout the season, and Fridays as well in August.

Find out more on the JP public trips page or go straight to bookings.

Kitty Public and Charter Trips in Woking

Our 12-seater narrowboat Kitty runs trips from the town wharf in Woking from April though October.  You can join a 1 ¼ hour public trip or charter the boat for that special occasion for up to 2 ½ hours.  The boat has a hydraulic lift and ramp and can accommodate up to two unpowered wheelchair users per trip.

Find out more on the Kitty trips page or go straight to bookings.

Nov 122019

Family reunion, birthday celebration, club or business away day?

A charter cruise on John Pinkerton II is the perfect way to celebrate

with family, friends or work colleagues.

You can…

                            • Bring you own music
                            • Arrange catering for food
                            • Decorate the boat
                            • Arrange the furniture to suit

Licensed bar onboard, serving hot and cold drinks and snacks


Morning, afternoon or evening cruise

April through October

Approx 2.5 hours, up to 50 people

The skipper and crew will man the boat and galley while you and your guests enjoy a cruise through beautiful Hampshire countryside.

Check date and time availability

Nov 092019

An ideal present for birthdays, Christmas and other special occasions.

John Pinkerton II in Odiham: vouchers between £10 and £100, for use on any public or theme cruise, can be purchased online here.

Kitty in Woking: vouchers between £10 and £60, for use on public or charter cruises, can be purchased online here.

Give them to family, friends and work colleagues, and allow them to enjoy the wildlife and beautiful countryside along the Basingstoke Canal.

(Please note: vouchers are not interchangeable between boats)

May 172015

MagnaCarta KJPosted 18th May:

Magna Carta events in Odiham:

Fri May 22nd – Mon May 25th Exhibition All Saints Parish Church, Odiham.

Sat May 23rd – Mon May 25th Archaeology Dig in field adjacent to KJC.

Embroidery at Library in the Bridewell (22nd/23rd 9.30 -5.00pm) 24/25th (10.00 – 5.00pm)

Flower Festival Fri May 22nd – Mon May 25th All Saints Church

Fri May 22nd Village Festival in The Bury 6.00 -8.30pm

Fri May 22nd Grand Parade starts 6.30 from Close Walk (Live TV from the Church Tower)

Sat May 23rd – Mon 25th May Living History at KJC  at KJC 11.00 – 4.00pm.

Feudals Living History Group in fields near KJC

Food and Refreshments

Sun May 24th The Basingstoke Society Boat Rally

Sun May 24th Hog Roast at KJC

Mon May 25th Events at KJC finish 4.00pm

Art Festival – from 1st May

For more details, see the Odiham Magna Carta website and Facebook page.

How to get to King Johns Castle

John Pinkerton Canal Cruises and Accessible Boating Association will be running trips from Odiham wharf. There will also be a Park & Ride operating to the swing bridge in Tunnel Lane, with a short walk to the castle along the towpath.

JP Trips

Fri May 22nd 14.30 Public Trip pre-booked, + any spare spaces

Sat May 23rd 10.30 & 14.30 Charter trips

Sun May 24th 10.30 Public trip Pay’n Go one leg availability to or from KJC. Return leg depart no later than 12.00. (Adult £4, child £2.50 per leg)

14.30 Public Trip pre-booked, + any spare spaces

18.00 Public trip Pay’n Go one leg availability to or from KJC. Return leg depart no later than 19.30.

Mon May 25th 11.00 Public Trip pre-booked, + any spare spaces

14.30 Public Trip pre-booked, + any spare spaces

ABA Trips

On each day over the weekend there will be ABA boats starting about an hour after JP has left for its first trip, and spaced through the day on a demand basis. Some to go to KJC, others possible half-hr trips. Both Dawn and Madame Butterfly will be running, and both cater for wheel-chair users. (Adult £4, child £2.50 per leg).

Mooring at KJC

Would boaters please leave a free space at KJC wharf on the down-stream end, from the down-stream bollard to the end, marked by a notice.

This will still leave room for two medium narrow boats on the rest of the wharf.

24th May Society Boat Rally Details

At least 18 boats have booked, and also some steam boats.

Decorated boat competition, to be judged early Sunday pm, prize giving to follow

Prize for furthest travelled boat by water

Prize for furthest travelled boat by trail

Rally Timings: start 11.00, finish 5.00pm.

Heavy Horse Display

Canoe Demonstrations 11.30 – 12.00 & 3.00- 3.30

Morris Dancers 12.00 – 12.30 &  1.00 – 1.30

Birds of Prey Demo 12.30 – 1.00 flown from Galleon Marine.

Childrens’ Entertainment: Punch & Judy 2.00 – 2.30 and Kids Magic Show 3.30 – 4.00

Cactus Brass Band  1.30 – 2.00,  2.30 – 3.00 & 4.00-4.45

Canalania and Sales Stalls

Mobile Caterer

Andwells Brewery

Galleon Marine will be selling ice-creams etc, using a punt pushed across the canal, and then hauled back on a chain.

Food and Ale Trail – from 1st May

Posted 12th February:

Magna Carta Boat Rally Lock opening dates and times

The Basingstoke Canal Authority has put on additional dates between 18th and 27th May 2015 to make it easier for all the boats to attend the rally. For boat movements either side of those dates please refer to our normal weekly timetable.

The boat rally is being held at Colt Hill in Odiham. You will be shown to a suitable mooring point on arrival. Please allow a minimum of 3 days to complete the journey also allow for lock opening days.

Please note that the Rally licence last for 10 days starting from the day you come onto the canal, should you wish to extend the licence please contact the office on 01252 370073. Lock opening and clearing times remain unchanged.

Lock Times

Posted 21st December:


The Basingstoke Canal Society is pleased to announce that a Boat Rally will be held at Colt Hill on the Basingstoke Canal over the May late bank holiday. This will be part of  the Magna Carta celebrations in Odiham – more details of local events can be seen here.

There will be land-based attractions on Sunday 24th May complementing the boaters gathering and competitions. Due to available space, there will be a limit of 30 boats attending the rally, so boaters are asked to register as soon as possible. Arrivals from noon on Friday 22nd, illuminated boat competition to be judged on Saturday evening, with Best Presented Boat to be judged on Sunday. Prizes for the furthest travelled boat in each of Trailed and By-Water categories.

This page will be updated as soon as more details are finalised, so please come back for the latest information.

Boaters Information

Boaters attending the Rally are eligible for the special inclusive Visitor’s Navigation Licence of £45 for up to 10 days, including a single return lock transit Woodham (lock 1) to Mytchett pound (lock 28), which needs to be booked prior to travel. Lock 29 is open everyday, and this inclusive offer gives ample opportunity to explore the whole of the canal.

All boaters must complete a Visitor’s Application Form (send to BCA if not trailing) and a Registration Form to be sent to the address on the form.

Trail boats may launch at Barley Mow slipway, and the Navigation Licence is £3 per day; please bring your Visitor’s Application Form together with BSS certificate, insurance details, registration fee with you, and hand to the Harbour Master on arrival.

Visitor’s Application Form 2015

Rally Registration Form 2015



Nov 172014


22nd & 23rd November 2014

Start 9.30-10
Meet at the barn at Colt Hill and catch Alan Flight, or walk up the tow path until you find the working party.

Odiham and upstream

Scrub bashing/bank clearance from Odiham, pumping out the barge at Lodge Farm bridge

 Last updated by on 17 November, 2014
Nov 072014

8th & 9th November 2014

Load the boats on Saturday morning, and sell in the afternoon if any takers.  Otherwise, depending on requirements for Sunday, consider moving some logs to Odiham.

Sell logs in the morning.  Move boats and remaining logs back to Odiham and store at the barn.

Start 9.30-10

Barley Mow car park, Dogmersfield
Usual walk down to the slip

Sorting saleable logs (and move chopping and splitting) etc, selling logs, clearing site and going to Odiham

 Last updated by on 7 November, 2014
Sep 212014


27th & 28th September 2014

Meet at Slade’s Bridge about 9.30

Location & Directions:

Slade’s Bridge is where Heather Lane goers over the canal.  Parking is a bit  challenging.
There is some parking in the lane, especially in front of the big green garage over Slade’s Bridge.
From Slade’s Bridge walk south to the start of the permissive path over Greywell Hill

Repairing the permissive path with wood chips

 Last updated by on 21 September, 2014
Sep 092014



13th & 14th September 2014

Saturday: meet at Britannia Wharf (post code of nearest building GU215LW), Woking at 9.

Sunday start location:  Byfleet Boat  Club (4, Old Parvis Road, Byfleet, Surrey. KT146LE) at 8.30 a.m.

Work Site:

Park in the public car park at Britannia Wharf.  Car parking arrangements/shuffling will be made for the other end.
Alan Flight will be brought to Britannia Wharf, the barge retrieved from Horsell Common (with luck the Martians will have taken it away).

Taking the large heavy barge off the Basingstoke Canal (Saturday) and up the Wey to Godalming (Saturday and Sunday).  Barge movement on the Basingstoke is painfully slow, but it is hoped that with the Wey being deeper the barge will not be scraping alone the bottom and that progress will improve.

 Last updated by on 13 September, 2014