Over the years, and following the completion of the initial restoration in 1991, the role of the Society has evolved somewhat, as the issues facing the Canal changed and the practical difficulties of maintaining a restored canal became evident. Though many of us don’t like the term, the Committee has recently found it useful to agree upon a “mission statement”, to re-establish the main aims of the Society:
The Basingstoke Canal Society:
What are we working on?
The Society is engaged in many projects for the benefit of the Canal. In particular:
- Running a public trip boat to raise funds which are channelled directly towards improvements to the Canal. A brand new trip boat (the John Pinkerton II) has been recently acquired and is now in service.
- Working with local authority and county planning departments and developers to ensure that the character of the Canal corridor is preserved.
- Organising volunteer support to carry out maintenance tasks and structural improvements. This includes additional mooring and landing stages, lock repairs, towpath renovation, and bank and overhanging tree clearance.
- Working with the Environment Agency, councils and other agencies to pursue all potential opportunities for additional water supply to the Canal, to enhance navigation and wildlife habitats. Our investigations include pumping schemes, boreholes, access to reservoirs and catchments from new housing developments.
- Supporting the Canal Owners (Surrey and Hampshire County Councils) as they work towards addressing outstanding structural problems along the Canal, and have assisted with the development of a “Managed Navigation” policy that will encourage more visiting boats to the Canal.
- Organising public events such as the Canalside Jubilee celebrations which took place during 2012.
Some recent successes
Here are some recent achievements by the Society:
- Raised nearly £90,000 in the last 3 years from John Pinkerton trip boat cruises. Around 200 trips take place each year.
- Completed enhancements to the Canal including the rebuilding of Locks 17 and 22, the construction of lock landings at Lock 1 and at Runway’s End, 1km of towpath refurbishment at Runway’s End and more at Frimley Lodge Park, and extensive bank and overhanging tree clearance. We also refitted and launched the Alan Flight workboat to assist with canal maintenance.
- Lobbied local planners and developers for improvements to the Canal to be included in plans for proposed urban developments in Woking, Brookwood, Aldershot, Deepcut and Odiham. The Society also commissioned a study for the development of improved depot facilities at Ash Lock.
- Organised public canal-side events at Bridge Barn and Frimley Lodge Park, and Society sales stand at many other locations to raise awareness of the Canal. Also provided displays to local museums and libraries, and have given talks to local interest groups. The freely available on-line Society bulletin launched late 2010.
- Contributed to the organisation of the 2013 Easter Cruise, where around 25 boats were invited to cruise the length of the Canal to celebrate the reopening of the Deepcut flight after nearly 5 year’s closure owing to structural problems.
The Society’s contribution to the Basingstoke Canal
Since its formation in 1966, the then Surrey and Hampshire Canal Society has contributed hundreds of man-years effort towards the restoration of the Canal from its derelict state, and many more subsequently in enhancing and maintaining the Canal, in fund-raising, and in campaigning for its sustainable future.
Not counting the time put in by the Society Committee and boat company members, the Society and visiting work parties undertake many hundreds of man days of work enhancing the Canal fabric each year, equivalent to Value in Kind of around £55000 in 2012. The income from the trip boat operation pays for plant hire and materials.
In 2012 the Society committee decided that it would be appropriate to change the operating name to The Basingstoke Canal Society, to reflect exactly where the Society’s interests lay. This was to be the original name when the Society was formed in the 1960s, but objections to this were made by then owners who regarded it to be too similar to their own. Surrey and Hampshire Canal Society Ltd continues to be the formal and legal name of the Society, so the connection to the past is not lost.
The Waterway Recovery Group
Affiliated to the Inland Waterway Association, the Waterway Recovery Group (WRG) is a voluntary group with which the Society has enjoyed a connection over many years. WRG hold workparties throughout most of the year on canals throughout the UK, and undertake all sorts of restoration tasks. WRG played a key part in the original restoration of the Basingstoke Canal, on which they held one of their first workcamps. The Basingstoke continues to benefit from one or more week-long, and the occasional weekend, WRG work parties each year, and we thank them for their interest. They visit next in July/August 2013. Details of the planned works will be published nearer the time.