The Waterway Recovery Group, part of the Inland Waterways Association and better known as WRG, played a major part in the restoration of the Basingstoke Canal in the 1980s and has continued to do work on the canal ever since. This autumn, some 20 WRG volunteers spent a week resurfacing the towpath at Brookwood and extending the landing stage at the Country Park.
As a result, half a mile of the towpath on the south side of the canal from Hermitage to Brookwood Bridge, which had become overgrown, uneven and muddy in wet weather, has now been cleared, levelled and resurfaced. On the north side of the canal, the boat mooring can now accommodate twice as many boats.
Although WRG provided most of the labour, the Basingstoke Canal Society was responsible for organising the work camp and getting agreement from all the interested bodies such as the Canal Authority, Woking Council, Natural England and, last but not least, local residents and land owners. The Society also organised the delivery of the materials and the excavators, dumpers and rollers that were used, and paid for it all – some £15,000! Thanks are particularly due to Andy Skilton Engineers of West End for sourcing the unusual low-level tracked dumpers that were used for safety reasons on the narrow towpath, and to Hampshire County Council for providing special rate accommodation for the volunteers at the Runways End Centre in Rushmoor.
I would like to add my personal thanks to the WRG team, led by Adrian Crow, for having completed a lot of work during their visit to the Basingstoke. I was quite certain that they would not complete either the landing stage or the towpath resurfacing in the time available, but I am pleased to say they were able to prove me wrong on both counts. Not that things didn’t go right up to the wire however – the last screw was not inserted into the landing stage until around 5.30pm on their last day! I hope they found their workparty enjoyable and will visit us again next year.