Martin Leech

Oct 132017

Those curious in how the Basingstoke Canal could have played a part in halting Hitler’s forces in 1940 had an invasion taken place, will find this republished booklet by Tim Denton of interest.

This booklet has sold steadily to a wide audience since 2009, when it first appeared. This new-look version has been updated to include additional information, plans and images, many of which have not been available before.

To order your copy, go to the Society publications page, or purchase it from the Basingstoke Canal Centre.

Other Basingstoke Canal Society publications that have been published recently include an updated Rambles booklet, a 50th Anniversary history of the Canal, and an updated Guide to the Canal. Details about all of these can be found on the Society publications page.

May 192017

Kitty moored at Woking Town Wharf, from where trips will depart

Following its introduction to the Canal at the Woking Canal Festival last year, the Society’s second trip boat Kitty is gearing up to provide trips in Woking from the end of May.

Kitty was acquired by the Society last year with the intent of raising awareness of and interest in the Canal at its eastern end. Operating under the John Pinkerton Canal Cruises banner,  the boat accommodates up to 12 people, including up to 2 wheelchair users.

For more details about Kitty see the About Our Boats page.  For more information on when trips will take place and how to book, see the new Kitty website.

Do come along and support this new venture!

Sep 132016
Society co-president Liz Dodwell performing the naming of nb Kitty at the Woking Canal Festival

Society co-president Liz Dodwell performing the naming of nb Kitty at the Woking Canal Festival

Here is a re-issue of an article by Roger Cansdale in the latest Basingstoke Canal News regarding the use, and naming, of our new trip boat Kitty at the Woking Canal Festival.

“As reported in the last BCN, the Society has bought a 12-seat passenger boat from the Chichester Canal Society. After delivery by road to the River Wey, the boat, then named Egremont, went to TLC at Byfleet, where it was craned out for hull inspection, minor welding and blacking. After a few days, it was back in the water and up the Basingstoke to Ash Lock, where painting of the upper works and general tidying up was done in time to go back down to Woking for the Canal festival.

There our Co-President Liz Dodwell renamed the boat Kitty (above right) after a horse that worked on the canal in the 1940s and ’50s and also used to draw their family caravan. nb Kitty ran public trips over the Festival weekend (below) and raised £170 in fares (£1 for adults, kids free).

Kitty will be going back to Ash Lock for the winter for further work before, hopefully, starting regular public trips in Woking next Easter. However, this will depend on a number of factors.
A suitable mooring needs to be identified with somewhere for crews to park their cars. This isn’t easy to find in Woking but we have offers and ideas.

The main thing we need though is people to set up a group to operate the boat. Again, we have had quite a few expressions of interest, but more would be very welcome. Please contact Martin Leech ( 01276-452754).”

Kitty Operation Update

kittyA lot of thought and preparation has gone into how a trip boat operation in Woking might operate. There are a number of issues still to overcome, but this is the status so far

  • Though we have been kindly offered the use of  a mooring at the end of Pablo and Jill Haworth’s garden in Sheerwater, this is some 35 minutes cruising from the centre of town, which would add a considerable time to the crew’s working day, fetching and returning the boat. We are therefore searching for a mooring closer to the Woking Wharf (near the WWF building), from where trips would probably run. We are following up lines of enquiry.
  • Wherever the boat is moored, parking for the crew could be a problem because of the extensive restrictions in the area, which we are trying to address. We have had a positive response for help in this respect from Woking Borough Council, though have still to have a conversation about the details.
  • We think that circular trips will run from (probably) Woking Wharf, turning at Bridge Barn and Monument Bridge, which would last about an hour each. Since nb Kitty is part of the John Pinkerton Canal Cruises “fleet”, bookings for trips would be handled in an extension to the JP trip booking website.
  • There are many jobs still to be done on the boat itself, which are not likely to be completed during this winter. However, maintenance work will continue probably from the beginning of October when the boat is returned to Ash Lock (reopening of lock flight closures permitting).

Can I thank all those who have come forward showing interest in the Kitty operation and offering to helm, crew, undertake maintenance or provide administrative support. My hope is to hold an open meeting towards the end of September to go over the plans as they stand at the time, by which time I hope some of the outstanding questions above will have been answered.

Anybody else who would be interested in being involved, please contact me, Martin Leech by email or on 01276-452754.

We need to identify a group of people who would be willing to take on the management of the Kitty operation, dealing with both day-to-day matters (eg creating a trip schedule, downloading passenger details for each trip, rostering crew, and organising refueling etc) and making “strategic” decisions about how the operation is adapted or expanded according to demand. This would entail many of the aspects of the JP operation, so there is a blue-print to follow.  I hope such individuals will make themselves known to me before or at the meeting.

Sep 062016
326. Approaching Barley Mow Bri.

Barley Mow bridge (photo: Michael Lidstone)

Retired local government officer Mike Lidstone from Woking decided, having walked the length of the Canal some 15 year ago, to do so again this year. This time he kept notes about his journey, which took place between February and July 2016, and took many photographs.

Here is his account: A trip down memory canal.

Aug 142016


Here is a sample of the feedback we have found regarding the Woking Canal Festival that took place recently. The fact that the event and the many historic boats were enjoyed by so many is encouraging to all of us involved with the promotion of the Basingstoke Canal. It also confirms that we are custodians of a much appreciated and attractive amenity. Prospective boaters, please note the first comment below! – Ed.

Verbal comments:
… the most friendly canal we have ever visited. The BCA rangers were brilliant, and very helpful.
The Deepcut flight is one of the most attractive in the country.
HNBC boaters

I very much enjoyed the time I spent at the festival and was very impressed with the whole mood and spirit surrounding the event.
Richard Parry (Chief Executive, Canal & River Trust)

Boats moored near Chertsey Road Bridge

Some comments appearing on the Woking Streetlife website:

Another 12 boats due to come up the Woodham locks on Friday heading to join the 30 already in Woking for the festival this weekend.
Paul and Susan

It’s wonderful to see and have such life colour and movement on the canal. We’re loving it, we back onto where all the boats are moored and have front row seats!
Claire S

Saturday has been a perfect idyllic English quaint day, absolutely delightful, the boats, the stalls, the music, the entertainment the sunshine, just lovely all round.
Paul and Susan

Today was lovely. We had a stall for the Hospice and people were all in such high spirits. A lovely atmosphere so well done to all of the organisers !
Wendy D

Great day out, lovely friendly atmosphere and well organised. Thanks to the people who put the event on in an idea location for parking etc.
Chrissie E

Historic boats on moorings at the Festival site.

Historic boats on moorings at the Festival site.

I went along to the Bedser bridge to see the parade of narrow boats come along. Lovely sight. What made it even better was seeing a heron fishing in the canal only feet away from pedestrians and just across from the busy road and town centre. Also saw a young moorhen swimming along with a fish in its beak which it then swallowed.
Mary B

We really enjoyed our day thank you to all the organisers. Beautiful boats, friendly and informative folk, wonderfully relaxing finishing off at the Light box.
Caron B

What a fabulous two days of Canal activity, even the weather was superb. Thank you to all the people involved, so many smiles around and lots of banter. The location was perfect and things like this should happen more often. It felt like a perfect old-fashioned English weekend. Thank you again and hope all the boats get home safely.
Paul and Susan

We had a lovely time too, really appreciated the thought gone in to it, great family atmosphere, kid’s entertainment etc. Delightful.
Kaz G

We on the stalls thought was a great event too. A great location, great weather and well attended. The Mikron theatre show Pure was a wonderful finale. Well done and thanks to the organisers.
Robin & Amanda

Our family went and really enjoyed it .
Trudi C

We had a great day on the Saturday, beautiful weather, great rides on the canal looking at all the boats and lots of great stalls.
Sheila D

Parade of historic boats viewed from Bedser Bridge

Parade of historic boats viewed from Bedser Bridge

Some comments on Facebook:

Enjoyed looking at the beautifully decorated canal boats in the sunshine today and then a delicious lunch of chips and ice cream. Interesting stalls too – I bought a beautifully decorated crochet jug cover
Maureen Bird

Although I prefer rail transport I spent an enjoyable couple of hours today at the Woking Canal Festival. I also enjoyed a pint of Thurstons, local brewery – very refreshing.
Roger Manley

Yesterday we were at the Woking Canal Festival. An amazing day – brilliant weather, large and good-natured crowd, good beer tent – we should do this every weekend.
Thames Valley Morris Men

Lovely afternoon looking at historic narrowboats at Woking Canal Festival.
Cllr Ann-Marie Barker

Lovely walk to work this morning past “WOKING CANAL FESTIVAL”
David Donoghue

Some comments on Twitter:

Great to see so many boats on the canal – beer, burgers and entertainment for the kids come on down @BasingstokeCS
Cllr Colin Kemp

It’s good to see so many boats on the Basingstoke Canal @TheBCATeam #flickr
Paul Appleyard

@BoxcarJames @TheBCATeam It has just passed by our garden at Pondtail, Fleet. It’s lovely to see the canal being well used as it should be.
Anne Pickett

#Woking Canal Festival all on again tomorrow. Nice to see land at Brookhouse Common being used for public event.
Cllr Ann-Marie Barker

Happy 50th anniversary to the Historic Narrow Boat Club! Having a fantastic weekend in Woking thanks @BasingstokeCS
@TheBCATeam we all wish we could have stayed longer! Thanks for a great time on your lovely canal!
The Historic Narrow Boat Club

Boats in central Woking this weekend #wokingcanalfestival – if only they could stay! @basingstokecs @thebcateam
Claire Cockett

#Woking Canal Festival brilliant day – juggler and magician hilarious and awesome @BasingstokeCS
Chris Bore

Finally, a comment by Society Chairman, Philip Riley:

I think we can all be very pleased with the outstanding success of the Woking Canal Festival. Everyone I talked to (and there were a lot) including the boat owners, stall holders, BCA and visitors all said that they had really enjoyed the event which had a very friendly and informal atmosphere.

I’m sure the Festival will create a legacy of support both in Woking and throughout the length of the canal so we must capitalise on the tremendous good will that emerged from the event.

My sincere thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make the event a memorable occasion.

Philip Riley (Chairman)


Aug 142016

Boats moored near Chertsey Road Bridge

Here is a press release from the Historic Narrow Boat Club about their recent visit to the Woking Canal Festival – prospective visitors to the Basingstoke please note! – Ed

The Historic Narrow Boat Club is dedicated to preserving the working heritage of UK canals, and on the 6th & 7th August the Club celebrated its 50th anniversary with a gathering of boats and a programme of events, joining in with the fantastic Woking Canal Festival at Brookhouse Common. This was also a campaigning rally to encourage more boats onto the Basingstoke Canal.

Parade of historic boats viewed from Bedser Bridge

Parade of historic boats viewed from Bedser Bridge and, left, the Society’s recently acquired trip boat nb Kitty.

In total, 32 historic narrow boats made the journey to Woking to celebrate the occasion, with the furthest distance travelled being the 340 mile trip of NB Beatty, who set off in June from Liverpool! Everyone was full of praise for the help they received from the Basingstoke Canal Society and the Basingstoke Canal Authority, who were on hand to help the boats through the lock flights and even donned drysuits at a moment’s notice to clear debris from behind a gate.

We were delighted by the reaction of the public, who showed a great interest in the boats both as they travelled and during the weekend’s festivities – the traditional cabin of NB Beatty received over 500 visitors throughout the weekend. We hope that we helped people come away enthused about their beautiful local canal.

Amy-Alys Tillson, Historic Narrow Boat Club (Press Officer)
Midsummer Common, Cambridge Tel: 07828 763885


Aug 082016



Mrs Liz Dodwell, Society co-president, naming the Society’s new trip boat Kitty

Joan Marshall & Kitty

Kitty with Mrs Joan Marshall during the 1950’s

The Canal Festival in Woking was a huge success with perfect weather and crowds enjoying the sight of some 50 narrow boats on the canal, some of them over 100 years old. The boaters in turn said that the Basingstoke Canal is the friendliest waterway that they have ever visited, both in terms of the reaction from the general public and dealings with the Canal Authority staff (other boaters please take note – Ed).

IMG_4500One of the highlights of the weekend was the naming of the Basingstoke Canal Society’s new trip boat by their Co-President, Mrs Liz Dodwell. The boat is named “Kitty” after a horse which was originally bought in the late 1940s by Liz’s parents to pull a gypsy caravan that they used for holidays. Liz’s mother, Mrs Joan Marshall, became the General Manager of the Basingstoke Canal in 1949 and Kitty then started to pull boats as well.

The Canal Society has operated the “John Pinkerton” trip boat at Odiham for many years, but has always felt that it ought to do trips in Surrey as well. A recent opportunity arose to buy the 12-seat boat from the Chichester Canal Society and the Society plans to start running regular trips on the Basingstoke Canal in Woking next year if enough volunteers can be found to operate and crew “Kitty” (left). The Society would love to hear from anyone interested in joining this project; please contact Martin Leech at


Issued by:            Roger Cansdale (Editor, Basingstoke Canal News)     01252 678608   e-mail:

Aug 082016

PrintIt could not have been better. The Woking Canal Festival lived up to all that we hoped for and more, thanks to the presence of many historic narrow boats and boaters who really enjoyed their visit to the Canal, a really good turnout on the Festival site on both days, some excellent organisation and of course such wonderful weather. It was indeed a fitting celebration of the 25 years since the re-opening of the Basingstoke Canal since its restoration, and also of the 50th anniversary of the formation of both the Basingstoke Canal Society and of the Historic Narrow Boat Club, our guests at the event.

The feedback we have received from the public about the Festival so far has been resoundingly positive. Some examples of this can be found here.

Thanks go to all those who volunteered or were involved in the organisation of the weekend, including both Society and Historic Narrow Boat Club members. Those who deserve particular recognition for the huge amount of work they have done in making the event such a success are Phil Prettyman, chairman of HNBC, event project manager Dick King in particular for the vast quantity of paperwork that had to be produced, and site manager Peter Harman, who was responsible for the site layout, site equipment, entertainment, stall holders and much more.

We also thank Woking Borough Council for hosting us on the Brookhouse Common site and for their financial and other support over the last year or so, and also the Basingstoke Canal Authority whose staff have pulled out many stops to ensure the smooth passage of many more boats than usual on the Canal – not least with the rapid repair of an upper gate at Lock 15 which was accidently lifted off its mountings.

Further updates will follow, but here is a taste of what took place (click for a slide-show).


video icon 20x20Here is a short clip of Clover and its distinctive-sounding semi-diesel Bolinder engine. The boat dates from 1935 and, though not original, the engine is of the type that would have been installed when it was built.

More photos of the event can be found on the BCA Facebook page.


Jul 292016

DSCN1771As has been posted elsewhere, a large number of boats belonging to members of the Historic Narrow Boat Club are due to arrive on the Canal in readiness for the Woking Canal Festival Celebrations. About 50 altogether, including some local boats, will be making their way up the Canal over the next few days, and many are already in evidence (see right and below – click to enlarge).

In order to make most efficient use of lock water (because the Basingstoke Canal has a limited water supply and so it must be conserved), a complicated schedule of locking has been organised and boats paired appropriately so that two will fit into a lock at a time. They therefore have to arrive at the locks in the right order, both on the way up and down again! The schedule of boat movements through the lock flights has now been published.

All boats will be travelling to Woking, however a significant number will be carrying on up through the Brookwood and Deepcut flights and intend to enjoy the entire Canal, either before or after the Festival. So, from now on and into August will be a good time to see historic boats on the Basingstoke.