No. 193 Spring 2002
This issue is a bit heavy on the side of nostalgia, which hopefully will appeal to some, but may annoy others. It is, however, a relatively quiet time of year on the canal, so that apart from the WRG Christmas Camp and the dredging, there has not been a great deal of activity to report on.
However, spring is not far away, bringing with it the Bridge Barn Rally at Easter and our Annual General Meeting on 13th April.
The Society's Committee is currently ten strong out of a possible twelve and we would very much like to fill these vacancies. I feel that the most urgent need is to lighten the load on our Chairman, Peter Redway, who not only attends a large number of meetings on behalf of the Society, but also organises most of the volunteer effort on the Canal.
Nostalgia for the past is all very well, but we need to look to the future as well. Elsewhere in this issue is mention of some of the exciting things going on in other parts of the national waterways system, and we need to try to create a similar sense of interest and vitality about the Basingstoke.
Idealy, therefore, we are looking for some of our newer members to join the Committee to bring a fresh perspective to our activities. Our newest Director, Graham Hornsey. only joined the Society a couple of years ago, so don't be shy about putting yourself forward if you feel you can and would like to help with any aspects of the Society.
I feel that we need to form a Strategy Group to think about what we should be doing in the short term, say next 5 years, then the following 10 years, and finally over the next 25 years. Much of this will be pure speculation, but it would be foolish to pretend that anything very dramatic is going to happen quickly apart from, hopefully, making the canal usable all year every year.
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Editing this newsletter is sometimes a bit like waiting for a bus - nothing happens for ages and then several related things come along at the same time. This time they are all about the Cotswold Canals. We have the announcementof Andy Stumpfs new job, which coincided with our invitation to Bruce Hall to speak at the AGM. Sadly we also have the request for donations to the Cotswold Canal Trust in memory of Brian Percy, who died recently.
Perhaps the best thing we can all do in memory of Brian is attend our Society's AGM and listen to Bruce talking about what Brian, and many more people, including me, regard as the most exciting of the next generation of canal restoration projects, and make a donation to help it on its way.
It's the time of year when local councils look at their budgets and decide what they are going to fund. I have criticised Hart In the past for their failure to contribute the full amount calculated for their part of the canal to the BCA's running costs.
This year their contribution is again apparently in doubt and they made a request for information about how much had been spent on their length, compared to what they had contributed. If Hart took any real interest in the canal, they should have been well aware that dredging had cost the BCA some £400,000 in the last 10 years, which alone is about twice what Hart has contributed.
Hart always plead poverty because of a lack of government support grant, but the full amount of Hart's calculated share of the BCA's budget is not huge and is actually less than they are contemplating spending on fencing in Odiham Common, which is being strongly opposed by many local people. It is also a great deal less than was recently expended on doing a tree survey in Fleet and slapping preservation orders on trees that people had planted in their own gardens. I can't help feeling that they lose sight of priorities sometimes.
The Committee came across another waste of public
money recently during a walk to King John's Castle, which
they found defaced by large and, to our mind, unnecessary
warning notices. It is to be hoped that these are a temporary
measure. &NBSP; Photo: Dieter Jebens
Dredging the Brookwood pound. Photo: Roger Cansdale
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The news of Brian Percy's sudden death is reported elsewhere in this Newsletter, and our condolences go to Angela at this time. Brian was a key member of the IWA and many other waterway organisations. His support and advice on Basingstoke issues will be greatly missed by myself and the committee.
With the cruising and events season rapidly approaching, the Canal Authority has revised the Boating Licence arrangements. Licences will be issued more quickly, subject to the usual documentation and fees being paid; a telephone request with exchange of documents at Lock 1 can also be arranged. Lock 1 opening times have been extended as part of the package; full details are available from the BCA on request.
Planning of the events at Bridge Barn and Odiham are well advanced, with a full range of land and water activities. With events at the Canal Centre and the Fox and Hounds, we have a comprehensive programme arranged.
Woodham Backpumping volunteer work will be completed by the end of the financial year with the final accounts being compiled for the end of March. Society "Contribution in Kind" work will meet our targets for the project. The County Solicitors have advised the BCA on the Abstraction Licence issue, it is possible that this advice will achieve an early result.
The St. Johns Backpumping is being estimated and a shortfall in funding has been identified, the committee is considering how to raise the additional finance.
Dredging has now started at Brookwood above Lock 14. and Woking B.C. have agreed for the dredgings to be placed on their land adjacent to the canal. This section had become badly silted overthe years and a considerable improvement should result from the operation.
Following the formal business we have a talk on the Cotswold Canals by Bruce Hall. This should be an interesting topic, so come along and hear about the restoration plans.
OBITUARY OF BRIAN PERCY
who died on January 30th 2002
With Brian Percy's recent death the Basingstoke Canal has lost one of its great champions, particularly on the national scene. For many years Brian had fought to uphold the rights of navigators on the restored canal, and of those who did so much to bring about that restoration, against those who would wish to curtail its use for its intended and original purpose. I think particularly of English Nature with its power to impose SSSIs. Inevitably this also meant putting some backbone into the Local Authorities, and the Canal Authority in its earlier days, which he did by way of his position as the official Inland Waterways Association representative on the Advisory Committee from its inception up until his recent death.
I first met Brian, and his wife Angela, when they volunteered to help run the IWA's Weybridge Rally in 1975, one of the main campaigning purposes of which was to persuade the riparian Local Authorities to take over ownership of the Basingstoke Canal, and to commit themselves to its full restoration, which finally happened a few months later. From then onwards he became more and more fully involved in the waterways scene, firstly as Secretary of the Guildford and Reading Branch of the IWA, then as its Chairman, He served on organising committees of whatever was happening in 1980s and 90s—Godalming Rally in 1981, Frimley Trailboat National Festival 1987, the Royal Re-opening in 1991, and nationally on the IWA's Reading and Brentford National Festivals.
In 1992 Brian became Chairman of the Central Southern Region of IWA and therefore a member of Council, upon which he was still serving at the time he died. As a member of the Nav/Tech/Am Committee he continued to champion the Basingstoke Canal in particular and southern waterways in general. In 1997 he took over Chairmanship of IWA National Waterways Festivals at short notice to run the Henley Festival, and held the position for 4 years with great success. He was assiduous in carrying out his tasks and would always be phoning to give and accept advice, thereby gaining very comprehensive knowledge on waterway matters and cultivating an enormously wide range of contacts and friends. By dint of hard work and good humour he was able to exercise skills of diplomacy necessary to bring divided factions together, I don't believe he ended up with any enemies, and was always fun to be with.
Brian had trained as an Officer in the Merchant Navy and had many tales to tell of his trips to foreign ports in earlier days. Latterly he worked for British Airways and continued his world travels, collecting further tales on the way. "To cut a long story short........" was Brian's favourite expression, and it is so sad that what should have been his own much longer story, should have been so sadly cut short at much too early an age. We shall miss you a lot, Brian.
(Any tributes in Brian's name may be made to the Cotswold Canals Trust at 44 Black Jack Street, Cirencester, Glos. GL72AA, which he considered to be the most exciting of the next generation of waterway restoration projects).
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ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
NOTICE is hereby given that the Twenty-Fifth Annual General Meeting of the Society will be held on Saturday 13th April 2002 at the Mytchett Community Centre, Mytchett Road, Mytchett, Surrey commencing at 7.30 pm.
The formal agenda for the meeting is as follows:-
1. To hear apologies for absence
2. To confirm the minutes of the Twenty-Fourth AGM
held on 21st April 2001
3. To approve the Annual Accounts tor the year ending
4. To re-appoint the auditors, Hilton and Company
5. To elect or confirm the appointment of the members of
the Board of Directors (Executive Committee)
6. To approve an increase in subscription rales for
membership of the Society (please refer to this page for
a note of the proposed rates)
7. To transact any other business relative to the Annual
General Meeting of the Society.
14th January 2002 By order of the Board of Directors Philip Riley. Honorary Secretary
(a) This Notice is issued from the Honorary Secretary's
address at Wincornbe Cottage. Broad Oak. Odiham.
Hook, Hants, RG29 1AH
(b) Every member of the Society who is entitled to vole at
a General Meeting is entitled to appoint a proxy, who
need not be a member, to attend and vote in his/her
stead. Forms of Proxy can be obtained from the
(c) Only paid-up members are entitled to attend and vote
at the meeting.
(d) Copies of the Accounts can be obtained from the
Honorary Secretary prior to the AGM upon receipt of
an SAE. In accordance with normal practice the
Accounts, when approved, will be published in summary
in the Basingstoke Canal News
(e) Nomination forms for the election of the Board of
Directors can be obtained from the Honorary Secretary.
The Society's Executive Committee recently reviewed membership subscriptions which have remained unaltered since 1995. In the intervening period, the cost of providing membership benefits has increased. In particular, postage rates have risen and there has also been an increase in the cost of printing the Basingstoke Canal News. The Committee has therefore decided, with reluctance, that membership subscriptions should increase with effect from 1st January 2003. The proposed increase requires the approval of members and a resolution, setting out the new rates, will be put to members at the AGM on 13th April 2002. The proposed increases are as follows:-
|Current rate||New rate|
|Senior Citizen (couple)||5||7|
Following the increase, the Committee still believes that membership of the Society offers excellent value for money and members are therefore urged to approve the new subscription rates at the AGM. The increases, if approved, will impose an additional administrative burden on the Membership Secretary, Lesley Richards, and members are therefore asked to assist Lesley in dealing with the increase as efficiently as possible.
Please note that the AGM will be starting at
7.30 pm rather than at 6.30 as in previous years. We have decided on the later start in response to those who found the earlier time inconvenient on a Saturday afternoon. Hopefully, it will allow people to eat before coming to the AGM.
Following the successful pattern of last year's meeting, we have decided again to have a guest speaker. This year we have invited Bruce Hall from the Cotswold Canal Trust
to talk about the restoration of the Thames & Severn and Stroudwater Canals.
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This report covers the late autumn and winter period up to mid Feb 2002.
At the time of writing, all the shuttering and temporary
supports have been removed. Material from the clay bund
will be used for backfill. This and the piling will be removed
when the structure is complete to operational standard, the
water control penstock fitted and the pumping main capped
Society volunteers and visiting groups have constructed the
pumping main to the lower wall of Lock 11.
Materials for the section between Locks 10 and 11 have
been purchased and work will progress as drier conditions
allow. Work there will require water levels to be reduced as
a safety precaution, rather than rely on the piled bank.
WOODHAM BACKPUMPING PROJECT
The fitting out of the non-operational rooms of the pumphouse is part of the Society's matching funding contribution. Remedial work on the structure has been carried out and the building now accepted from the contractor. The remaining Society works can now be programmed prior to the final Heritage Lottery Account being submitted in March 2002.
As reported in the last newsletter the steel for replating the bottom of Sapper was delayed by the Port Talbot Steelworks explosion. The 8m x2m plate was set up on scaffold boards and painted. Sapper was then drawn up the slipway at Ash Lock on large rollers by lorry mounted HiAb crane, and smaller rollers were used to position Sapper on the steel plate. When in position the small rollers were removed and Sapper then rested on the new bottom plate. Fuel was pumped out of the integral tank and stored, and all consumables were removed, together with spare winch cables. Additional rnetal plating 150mm x 6mm was used to reinforce the lower section of the side to bottom joint.
Peter Redway inspecting Sapper's new propeller. Photo: Dieter Jebens|
The bulk of the work was carried out between Christmas and New Year with completion of welding in mid-January. The hull was then cleaned off and primed, but unfortunately rain delayed the application of the bitumen finish for some weeks. Sapper was eventually returned to the canal on Friday 8th February, with servicing and trials on Saturday 9th, and moving to Pondtail on the Sunday. Fallen trees across the canal prevented collection of the BCA Barges from Winchfield until Tuesday.
Sapper pushed one barge and pulled the other from Winchfield to Mytchett, where we were met by the dredging contractors' tug. which then took over the second barge. Both tugs and barges navigated the Deepcut locks, arriving at Brookwood in the afternoon.
Sapper then continued to St. Johns prior to collecting our workboat from Woodham.
The Waterway Recovery Group returned to the Basingstoke for a Christmas Camp; the work carried on from the November weekend. Unity was again available for the camp as a support workboat, although hydraulic failure restricted the use of the lifting grab.
Offside bank clearance to the Grove was achieved, completing the section from lock 6.
The camp was organised by Garry and Clive Alderman with catering by Karen Alderman and Maureen Amos, plus others. Numbers rose to the upper thirties towards the New Year weekend. The work achieved was a splendid effort by all involved.
Well done Clive and Carry and thanks to all for the hard work.
WORKING PARTY DATES & VENUES
* with visiting group.
|23/24 Mar||DJ/DL||Bridge Barn|
|13/13 Apr||DJ/DL/PR||St Johns*|
|27/28 Apr||DJ/DL||St Johns|
|11/12 May||DJ/DL/KR||St Johns|
|25/26 May||DJ/DL/PR||St Johns|
Work Party leaders:
DJ David Junkison 020 894 10685
DL Dave Lunn 01483 771294
KR Kevin Redway 01483 722206
PR Peter Redway 01483 721710
Note: Please contact Work Party leaders before the weekend
in case of last minute changes.
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Having concentrated on redredging the bits of the canal in Hampshire that were restored first, the Canal Authority decided to turn their attention to Surrey this year. Contractors started work recently on the Brookwood pound between Locks 14 and 15.
They are using a couple of the Society's barges, which had to be moved down from Hampshire. Fortunately, the leaking hull of the Society's operational tug, Sapper, had been discovered before Christmas and repairs begun. These were completed in early February.
Above: Sapper at Ash Lock ready for re-launching.
This, however, was only the beginning of the story, which then became an epic voyage, with Sapper pushing one 70ft x 14ft barge and towing the other. Peter casually mentions this in his report, and glosses over the difficulties of manoeuvring this lot through Fleet, with its many vulnerable moored boats, and past the Canal Centre, where David Dare's double parked hotel boats pushed the tug out of the centre channel and put it aground at a critical point.
Above: The tow passing under the new Morris bridge.
Above: At Eelmoor Flash with "North Korea" in the background (see Page 18)
Above: Passing through the Canal Centre swing bridge.
Some refief came at Mytchett, where they were met by the contractor's tug, which took over the barge that Sapper had been towing. This must have been a considerable relief, because I can remember towing a smaller barge behind the Pinkerton and having the whole ensemble jack-knife at Mytchett Lake, very slowly but completely uncontrollably!
All credit then to Sapper's crew, which as well as Peter included at various time Janet Greenfield, David Junkison, Dave Lunn, Pablo Haworth, Stuart Colyer, John Bailey. Tony Clark and Robin Higgs, for managing to avoid hitting any other boats. Credit also to Kevin Redway, Chris Guthrie and others involved with the repairs, that Sapper completed the task without problems.
The trip took 2 days to deliver the barges to Brookwood. The dredging itself has been making rapid progress, with the silt being spread on a field behind the towpath above Lock 14.
Above left: The Society's barges back on dredging duty at Brookwood, just below Sheet's Heath Bridge.
Above right: An empty barge coming back from the silt dump site above Lock 14.
Photos by Dieter Jebens, Pablo Haworth and Roger Cansdale.
The Annual General Meeting of Surrey & Hampshire Canal Cruises Ltd, otherwise known as the 'Boat Company', will be held in the meeting room at the Standard of England at Ash Wharf at 8pm on Wednesday 27th March. As before, it will be combined with a crew evening, so all crew members are welcome.
One benefit of attending will be the ability to pick up a copy of the latest edition of the Crew Manual, completely revised to cover all the latest requirements dreamt up by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency.
Last year's operations produced a profit of just under £17,000 from a turnover of £32,000. Very creditable considering the adverse effect that the foot and mouth outbreak had on tourist activities throughout the country. As usual, the Company received some very nice letters from satisfied customers, including the Chernobyl Children Life Line organisation who had the last trip of the season; good to know that the kids survived the surfeit of chocolate and other sweets!
The coming season promises to be be even better as the income should benefit handsomely from trips to the biennial Farnborough airshow.
The Pinkerton itself is laid up at the Canal Centre undergoing its usual winter overhaul prior to resuming operations at Easter.
If you have access to the Internet, don't forget to look in on the Boat Company's website www.s-h-c-c.co.uk. This is maintained by Andy Beale, who also has supplies of JP tops. If you need a new one, his number is 01252 549562.
The Company is always looking for new crew, so if you or any family or friends are interested, give Ron McLaughlin a ring on 01252 672189. For existing crew, the organisers remain Janet Moore (01483 771843) for evenings and weekend trips and Mike Hammersley (01252 314443) for the day crew.
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I would just like to add a few personal words to the tribute to Jim Reid by Stan Meller in the last issue.
In the early days of the full-time schemes, his easy manner contributed greatly to defusing difficult situations that were encountered, in attempting to motivate and encourage youngsters to achieve, despite an ever present disruptive element. Together with his practical work-around approach, the aspects of gearing up for batch restoration of lock chambers and their surrounds became easier to accomplish.
As with some volunteers, some full-timers took a "them and us" attitude to the work programme, but Jim could see that the infectious enthusiasm of the volunteer way of working in pursuit of a big idea, when harnessed with solidly based traditional construction techniques, would produce the best results, so there was a free flow of information between the two groups.
In 14 years of full-time working with Jim, his steadying influence made for an easy working relationship and his instinctive appreciation of risk, whether in pursuit of a winning greyhound or the buying/selling of a favourite share, usually meant he came out on top.
I will remember Jim as one of those life enhancing people it was good to have known. My thoughts are with Gill, his wife and their family.
As a long term but long distance life member (I live in the Scottish Borders) perhaps such a distant view of matters in the latest newsletter may add to the debate.
The view from afar is that the BC is nether accessible with ease nor is it integrated in any way. To be successful it needs to be both "accessible and integrated" to encourage traffic.
Perhaps moving ownership to the Waterways Trust might be advantageous and then integrating the whole with BW.
Even if this is not done has anyone considered the number of licences a boater needs from Oxford
1. A Thames transit licence
2. A NT licence
3. A BC licence.
Add to this the forthcoming progress on the W&A and it's
Its time to get the marketing together and encourage traffic with a "joint" licence that covers all 4 waterways. By thinking about the W&A now and addressing its inclusion in licensing then BW boaters and EA boaters will see the independents are serious about access.
It's time to think ahead 5-10 years and realise that boats want to come, but it has to be straightforward.
I am writing in support of the review of the finances of the Basingstoke Canal currently underway, and specifically to support the greater involvement of The Waterways Trust in the future of the canal.
It has been clear for many years now, indeed since the reopening of the canal in 1991, that a long term and stable source of funding is vital to the future well-being of our hard fought for canal.
Many in the Basingstoke Canal Boating Club have spoken in past years about the desirability of British Waterways being the navigation authority for the Basingstoke. This was perhaps at that time partly due to a sense of frustration with the BCA, but also due to the long term objective of seeing common boat licensing throughout the waterways system.
The BCA is by all accounts a different animal now, but the inability to secure guaranteed funding must be a continual concern to the authority, as well as to all the users of the canal - whoever they may be.
Let us hope that the review is approached with the sole objective of safeguarding the future of the Basingstoke. Politics and personal feelings must not be allowed to get in the way.
Chris de Wet
The BCA are in fact trying to streamline the procedure for visiting boats, but this, of course, will not remove the need for multiple licences. This will only be achieved by entrusting all navigable waterways to BW.
There is of course one crucial and fundamental flaw in concentrating on getting the existing canal working before worrying about the Western End. In that intervening period the Western End could be comprehensively redeveloped so future restoration would become either totally impractical or prodigiously more expensive. Look at Swindon or Killamarsh near Chesterfield.
Am I right in thinking the Western End line is not (unlike most other restorations) protected in local plans? If so, you haven't a leg to stand on if Tesco plan a huge redevelopment on the line.
The current SHCS position is fundamentally dishonest. It should either delete any references to restoring the Western End from its constitution or keep the objective in and do something about it. There is no point in keeping restoration to Basingstoke in if there is no intention to do anything about it.
The latest local plan for Basingstoke & Deane shows no
further planned developments on the line of the canal, but
we are looking to see what protection is, or can be, afforded
to what is left. As for the dishonesty of our position, I see no
reason to delete reference to a very long-term (post
motorway?) aim to restore the final 5 miles merely because it
is currently already so prodigiously expensive as to put it a very
long way down the list of restoration projects. Editor
Subject: SHCS membership
I was recently browsing the Basingstoke Canal Web Page, and wondered whether the Society had considered connecting the west end of the Basingstoke to the Kennet and Avon as a long term goal, since:
The original terminus in Basingstoke is no longer attainable.
The canal at Greywell is in a watershed that flows north towards Reading.
There are streams that could form the basic route for a navigation northwards.
A new through route and ring would be created in a high demand part of the country.
Thank you for your email. I have only been a member of the Canal Society myself for about 18 months and I know that the points you have brought up have been discussed before. I believe that the general "short term" aims of the Society are to render the canal navigable all year round with the completion of back pumping schemes along the Woodham, St John's, Brookwood and Deepcut flights of the canal. You may be aware that Woodham has been completed, allowing year round navigation as far as Woking and that the work for St John's is well underway.
Having said that, my association with the Canal Society does not give me enough depth of knowledge to fully answer your points, so I have forwarded on your message to Roger Cansdale, our newsletter editor who will be able to give a more complete picture on the current aims & aspirations of the Canal Society.
I notice from the records that you are currently not a member of the Society - membership subscriptions are very modest (annually £8 per adult, £10 per family); one of the benefits being the receipt of a quarterly newsletter which is packed full of information and thought provoking letters etc. Our AGM is being held this year on 13th April at Mytchett Community Centre to which you are welcome to attend - as a paid up member you would be entitled to vote! If you would like to join the Surrey & Hants Canal Society, please let me know your postal address and I can send you an application form. Again, thank you for your interest - Lesley Richards
I was delighted to see your message that Lesley forwarded to me. This idea is one that I have been trying gently to promote in the past few issues of our newsletter, of which I am the editor.
The "official" long term aim of our society is the complete restoration of the Basingstoke Canal, including the last few miles to Basingstoke. However, the connection from the currently restored part to Basingstoke is unlikely to be practical on anything like its original line until the motorcar goes out of use and they dig up the M3. There are a few other obstacles, such as the Greywell Tunnel and its bats, the dozen houses built on the line in Old Basing, and the new shopping centre being erected over the terminal basin in Basingstoke. A very long term aim and, in my view, not a particularly useful one, as it will still be a dead end.
Far better, as you say, to look at something a bit more constructive and complete a Surrey, Hants & Berks ring, with a cut going off from the Basingstoke near King John's Castle thereby avoiding the bat problem. What I would like to do is get someone to look at the geography and see what might be feasible. Do join the Society. As a taster*, the attached will be appearing in the next newsletter issue and maybe of interest - you and I are not the first with this idea. Best wishes - Roger Cansdale
*see Page 10
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We received the press cutting from Paul Vine:
In case you have difficulty reading the 173 year old piece, it says|
"LONDON TO BRISTOL SHIP CANAL
? Telegraph 25 May 1829
The prospectus of a new Ship Canal, for vessels of 400 tons from London to Bristol, has been forwarded to us. The direction it will take is from Depford to Sydenham, Epsom, Odiham, and Devizes. It cuts through the Basing Canal in four, and the Avon Canal in nine places. At Old Stoke, near Odiham, a large basin is to be constructed, from which a Canal, to bear ships of 700 tons burthen, is to be formed, to run in nearly a South line to Portsmouth Harbour; the cost of this undertaking is estimated at eight millions of money, and the annual revenue to arise from it 500,000/. The Canal from London to Portsmouth is to be called George the Fourth's Canal and that from Bristol to Stoke the Wellington Canal. A third Cut is to branch off to Reading; upon this work six millions will be expended in labour, of which it is proposed that each county through which the Canal pass, shall contribute its proportionate quota, and each be responsible for its proportion of Exchequer Bills, which the Government is to advance upon the undertaking. Two millions more are to be raised in shares of one hundred pounds".
What happened to these proposals? One feels that the proprietors of the Thames and the Kennet & Avon Canal (which had only been open for 19 years) probably took a dim view of them, as they did of the other proposal a few years before for the Hants & Berks Canal from Old Basing to Newbury.
It is also interesting to speculate on the exact location of the basin at "Old Stoke near Odiham". The nearest place of such a name that I can find is a house just south of Stoke Charity near Micheldever, and apparently it is what Stoke Charity was called previously. It's about 18 miles from Odiham as the crow flies, but maybe that was near enough for the journalist. However, the Anglo-Saxon "stoc" just meant a dependent or grange farm, so there may well have been others nearer. Any local historians care to enlighten us?
I have also been sent a map of the proposed route of the Hants & Berks Canal through, and under, Tadley by the Tadley Historical Society, together with this note:-
I presume you have seen the write up in our book Around Tadley - Fact and Fable 1999 (copies available in Basingstoke, Winchester and Tadley Libraries) and the map at the back which was supposd to be the route of the canal with tunnel. However since that book went to press I have found (among the Englefield papers in Berkshire RO) a letter from one of the engineers on the canal project (addressed to the head of the Englefield estates of whose land the canal would need to pass - by compulsary purchase no doubt - like motorways today!!) and accompaning this letter was a hand drawn plan in ink and coloured crayon which shows the route of the proposed canal from around Axmansford to Pamber Green with reference to all the roads it crosses etc. The tunnel in question begins just west of the Baughurst Turnpike and passes through north of Browning Hill but finishing well before the next road - Church Road - the road to Tadley Church near Church Brook farm junction.
TADS had hoped to produce a small leaflet/booklet on the canal but myself I don't have the time for research etc and I understand that the full plans (geological borings etc) are in the House of Lords library. We have walks from time to time and one on the list for the spring is to walk the route of the canal in our area. You are welcome to join us.
Tadley History Society
This may not be the most practical route for a new link canal, since it included a tunnel, inclined plane, 12 locks, 3 aqueducts and 6 miles of deep cutting!
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Bridge Barn Rally, Woking 30th March-1st April
This popular annual event stretches to three days this year. For the public, the start is at 1pm on Easter Saturday and 11am on the Sunday and Monday, with activities drawing to an end at 4pm each day. However, on the Saturday there is in addition the procession of illuminated boats, leaving Brewery Road car park at 8.45pm and heading back to the Bridge Barn. This year's theme is "Fools", so no problems there.
The usual attractions for the public include boat trips to Woking on Dragonfly, model boats, rope fender making, painted canal ware, garden and cake stalls, lace painting and games for children, and of course the decorated boats. There will also be live entertainment throughout the weekend.
All these activities need manning and the organisers are looking for help. If you are planning to come to the rally and fee/ that you can spare some time, even if it is only an hour or two, the organisers would love to hear from you. Please give Verna Smith or Peter Coxhead a ring - their phone numbers are on the back page. If you don't ring them, they may be ringing you if you live in the Woking area!
Golden Jubilee Rally, Colt Hill, Odiham 1 - 3 June
Mikron Theatre, Canal Centre 7.30pm 7 July
Woking Classic Car Show 26 August
Cavalcade of Transport, Canal Centre, Mytchett 7-8 September
Westgate Centre, Woking, starting at 8pm.
20th March Leigh Thornton "Managing the Basingstoke Canal"
17th April Bernard Potter "The Natural History of the Basingstoke Canal"
The Mikron Theatre will be paying their annual visit to the Basingstoke on Saturday, 7th July. Like last year, the performance will be at the Canal Centre, outside if we are again lucky with the weather, but indoors if not. This is the great advantage of the Canal Centre as a venue.
They will be performing their new production, which looks at yet another form of transport. Having tackled canals and roads, they are turning their attention to steam and the railways, with a show based on the colourful life of Richard Trevithick.
If you are a fan of the Mikron, do buy Mike Lucas's book "I'd go back tomorrow" (See the review in Page 16).
Other Basingstoke Canal Events
Mar Mon 4th - Fri 15th Junior Citizen Scheme at the Canal Centre
Thurs 28th & Fri 29th Canal Centre Easter Hunt
Apr Thurs 25th Spring Wildlife Walk, Pete Bickford 6.00pm
May Sat 11th Dawn Chorus Walk comparing woodland and heathland birds, Pete Bickford 4.30am
Jun Sun 9th Basingstoke Canal Canoe Club Marathon Races 9.00am-400pm Canal Centre to Ash Warf
Wed 19th Angling Association Match, Chequers Br. to Swing Br
Sat 22nd Angling Association Match, Pirbright Lock to Brookwood Lock, 60 pegs
Wed 26nd Angling Association Match, Winchfield, Barley Mow Br to Baseleys Br to Barley Mow Br. 60 pegs.
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Those who came to the AGM last year will remember the excellent talk on the happenings on the Scottish canals, given by Andy Stumpf, our ex-dredger manager. It seems as if his employers, BW, have also been impressed by him, because he has a new job. BW put out the following Press Release:
"Progress on the full restoration of ihe Cotswold Canals has moved another step forward. British Waterways has appointed Andrew Stumpf to manage the restoration, which will link the Rivers Severn and Thames. The historic route runs between Saul on the Gloucester/Sharpness Canal via Stroud and Cirencester to Lech lade.
Andrew Stumpf has been with British Waterways for25 years. He has spent the last 2.5 years restoring canals in Scotland and, for 10 years before that, worked as a waterway manager at Gloucester and then Lapworth. He began his career at British Waterways in Planning Services in 1976.
Chris Mitchell, regional director, says: "Andrew has an excellent track record of helping British Waterways to deliver real benefits to millions through urban and rural regeneration schemes and canal restorations. His expertise will help us to realise, through partnership and widespread consultation, our plans to restore the Cotswold Canals".
Andrew Stumpf (who will also manage the construction of a new waterway between Bedford and Milton Keynes) says: "I am looking forward to bringing my skills and experience to this exciting role with British Waterways. The restoration of the Forth & Clyde and Union canals in Scotland - the Millenium Link - is already bringing widespread social, economic and environmental benefits to local communities across its length. I look forward to bringing the experience of large scale waterway regeneration in Scotland to two equally ambitious and exciting waterway regeneration projects in the south of England".
Andrew Stumpf's appointment was warmly welcomed by Bruce Hall, Chairman of the Cotswold Canals Trust. He said "This is an important and exciting milestone in the restoration of the Cotswold Canals, I am confident that under Andrew's leadership there will be real progress within the next few months".
Andrew (46) is a graduate of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. Me has an MBA from the University of West of England, a Diploma in Marketing and is a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, In his spare time Andrew is a keen hill walker. He first became involved in canal restoration during his student days when, in the holidays, he became a volunteer working on the restoration of the Basingstokc Canal.
He joined British Waterways' Southern Region on 3 January 2002. based at the regional office in Watford".
Andy also sent us his own thoughts on these jobs:-
It is probably fair to say that both projects are at the detailed feasibility stage although the Cotswolds are well on. You may wish to speak to Bruce Hall from CCT for an update on progress etc (he will be speaking to us at our AGM). If I did not believe both were achievable within 10 years I would not have moved from Scotland.
Feasibility study publicly launched in October at which point all of the major partners pledged their support. The route is seen as a strategic east-west broad route. David Drew (MP for Stroud) sponsored a very positive adjournment debate in November. A Project Partnership has been set up to make the whole thing happen. That partnership comprises all of the key partners. SWRDA are 50% funding an Environmental Impact Assessment for the project and the scope and brief for this are being written as we speak.
The project has been split into two phases. While the whole project has been costed at £82m over 10 years (including £12m for the tunnel) the first phase is expected to be accomplished in 5 years. That will comprise navigation from Saul Junction to Stroud and from the Thames to Siddington and a trail along the whole 59km length at a cost of £35m.
We are currently seeking funding for some early quick wins and for the project as a whole from a variety of sources. Other issues to be resolved include land ownership (around 70 individual owners), water resources, running costs (and income).
Bedford & Milton Keynes link
A feasibility study was also launched around the same time and is now being circulated widely for consultation. The route is seen as being of strategic importance, linking the waters of the East of England with those of the south east via a broad waterway. Locks would be 4.34m x 30m, air draught 3m, channel depth 1.5m.
Unusually this project will be largely private sector funded, deriving income from planned developments on the chosen route of which there are 9 options. A Project Partnership has been set up and has met once so far. As with the Cotswolds the first stage is a detailed EIA feeding into the route choice equation. Having chosen a route the real work starts, putting together the funding package to make the canal a reality. Construction is not anticipated to begin before 2006 or 7 with an opening in 201O just 200 years after the canal link was first mooted by Samuel Whitbread.
Cost varies depending upon the route but is between £80m
and £150m. All ofthe routes cross the M1 and all meet at
Brogborough where there is an opportunity for "a device" to
overcome a 25m level change.
In both cases jobs, visitor spend and regeneration drive the projects with rural recovery featuring as much as urban regeneration. Technical issues can always be overcome - at a price. Politically the will is defiantly there for both projects - the latter coined the term YIMBY - Yes, in my back yard!
Financially the challenges are still there and a large part of my job is to find the cash to build the canals and to run them.
All of a sudden the possibility of one day boating through Sapperton Tunnel to the Golden Valley seems real!
Andy's job will be the second link between these canals and the Basingstoke, because after completing his work on our canal, Frank Jones supplied several pairs of lock gates for the Stroudwater Canal.
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Tony Beecher, the Basingstoke Canal Authority Operations Manager has now established a set of Waterway Standards for use on the Basingstoke Canal.
The purpose is to provide a clear framework of standards to which we can all work, to provide a uniform level of maintenance and service. The four main sections comprise Navigation, Channel, Environs and Towpath. The first two focus on the needs of boaters while the last two are for the benefit of all users.
Whilst primarily for the use of the Canal Rangers, the Waterway Standards will serve as guidelines for many of the voluntary tasks undertaken by Society and other volunteers along the canal.
They are based on the British Waterway standards and Tony Beecher should be congratulated for producing them for the future use of all concerned with the Basingstoke Canal.
Coupled with the issue of these Waterway Standards the Canal Authority Rangers now have designated sections to inspect and monitor and be responsible for. They will, of course, still be used on other sections of the canal where urgent work is needed by a team of rangers. Volunteers will still be needed and will always be welcome. A Lengthsman Scheme is to be re-constituted for Society members to help monitor and help with minor tasks. Graham Hornsey has offered to help with this and he and David Millett hope to progress things soon.
Greywell to Ash Lock: Andy Foster and Paul Hope
Ash Lock to Ash Wharf: Andy Loader and Tim Down (In
addition to their carpentry work)
Ash Wharf to Lock 15: Peter Munt and James Emmett
Lock 15 to River Wey: Peter Bickford and Jonathan
New Work Party
New Committee member Graham Hornsey, as well as taking over the job of claiming back tax from the Inland Revenue under the Gift Aid scheme, is interested in organising and leading a small working party to undertake minor jobs along the canal in the Fleet and Crookham area, and also further westwards towards Winchfield.
A good opportunity for local members to get out in the fresh air and support our partnership with the Canal Authority.
As mentioned above, Graham is hoping to be able to reactivate the Lengthman scheme, so perhaps if this this Fleet working party takes off, it may serve as a model for activities elsewhere on the canal.
Why not have a go at improving your local environment? Give Graham a ring on 0152 623591 to offer your services.
Margaret Coles (wife of John) and Neil & Joan Clark of Lytham St. Annes (friends of John) have donated money to the Woodham Back Pumping Scheme in the memory of John Coles. David A. Smith of Bitton, nr Bristol has repeated his donation of last year. Our grateful thanks to all of them.
19 Larchfield Road (between Reading Road and Pondtail Bridges in Fleet).
Detached, neo-Georgian house with 45 ft purpose-built mooring on the Canal. 4 bedrooms, 3 reception. Garage. £299,950.
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EARLY DAYS on the BASINGSTOKE
In the last issue of the BC News, I included a picture of Tim
Dodwell helping with WRG's 'Bonfire Bash' at Woking.
What I failed to recognise, having only been a member of
the Society for about 29 years, was that the other man in the
boat was his brother John who was equally involved in
canals and who in fact later became IWA's General
Secretary. My apologies to him and thanks to Tim for the
following piece, much of which first appeared in 'Navies'.
Thanks also to Tim for the photos of boating in those pre-restoration days. Editor
The November 'Bonfire Bash', based on Monument Bridge in Woking, brought back memories of a Sunday in December 1961 (the 10th to be precise), all but forty years ago, when I took part in my first canal working party, and with some twenty others, in the first in a series of nine in preparation for the 1962 Woking Rally in April of that year.
The work that first Sunday consisted of clearing rubbish from Monument Bridge and the immediately surrounding area, and opening up the overgrown winding-hole to the west opposite what was then the Woking gasworks, which had once been supplied with coal by canal. By the end of the day a truck-load of rubbish had been piled on the bank for the Council to collect. That was to be the pattern of subsequent working parties, working down the canal towards Sheerwater Lock clearing the channel, with particularly rewarding sessions opposite gaps in the fence along the Sheerwater Estate. We had the use of a large wooden dredge-punt, and later the help of a small Maid Line cruiser, Maid Melorna, loaned by Captain Lional Munk, then Chairman of the IWA, as a tug. As the date of the rally approached we moved further west, finishing up by literally hand-dredging silt from Chobham Road Bridge with a small dredging-spoon into the dredge-punt and bucketing it out onto the bank subsequently.
Above: General view of the 1962 rally site at Monument Bridge. The wide boat is the horse-drawn hostel boat 'Firebrand' operated by Pat Saunders.
Above: Banner in the centre of Woking.
Below: Returning down the canal at Sheerwater.
The previous Easter I had helped navigate a small outboard cruiser through the locks with some difficulty to the bottom of the Deepcut Flight (reported in the February 1962 issue of the IWA Branch magazine'Windlass'), but for the rally 23 boats came up through the Woodham Locks to Monument Bridge, including the tripping boat Arcturus, a number of other full-length narrow boat conversions and the wide horse-drawn hostel boat Firebrand, with many going through the centre of Woking on a cruise on the Sunday.
In March 1963 another series of monthly working parties began, continuing until June 1964, mainly working on the Woodham Locks and Woking pound, but occasionally elsewhere, with the object of keeping the canal navigable. Boats did come up to Woking again in October 1963 and May 1964, with a schoolchildren's horse-drawn outing on the dredge-punt on the Woking pound in July - but that was the end of cruising through the locks until restoration, although they were occasionally worked to move houseboats over the next few years. However we always kept a dinghy licensed on the canal, and it was this dinghy, complete with its New Basingstoke Canal Company licence plate, which featured in the photograph in issue No 192.
Above: Barge horse Captain towing a dredge punt west of Chequers Bridge, with Dave Gregory the Canal Foreman. Right: Filling Lock 11
Those early working parties were arranged with Mrs Joan Marshall, the then General Manager of the New Basingstoke Canal Company Ltd, who had a difficult relationship with Mr Cooke, the owner of the company. She left the canal company at the beginning of September 1964, shortly after I had married her daughter, Elizabeth, and went to live on the canal on the houseboat Adelina just below Woodham Lock (No 3). For a while it seemed touch and go whether we would be allowed to stay, and Mr Cooke certainly did not want to have anything to do with working parties.
This attitude persisted after the Surrey & Hants Canal Society was formed, and the canal deteriorated, the Woking pound often empty and with sections of towpath becoming impassable. Particularly at the eastern end it presented every appearance of dereliction to the public, and the canal company wanted to turn it into a series of ponds. By 1967 I had moved ashore, and late in 1969 I had a meeting with Mr Cooke, and managed to convince him that there could be no harm in allowing a local group, unconnected organisationally with either the Canal Society or the IWA
(who were both anathema to him) to do some limited towpath clearance work which would be needed even if his plans were eventually to proceed. The ideal spot was just to the west of Chobham Road Bridge, where the towpath was heavily overgrown, but could provide a very convenient short-cut from the car park, which backed onto the canal, to Woking Town Centre and the railway station. The first of these working parties (which included Robin Higgs, Ernie Pull and Tony Davis) made short work of an initial clearance and attracted considerable attention from passers-by, including a reporter from the local paper, who had to be dissuaded from reporting what we were doing, as part of the arrangement with Mr Cooke was that there should be no publicity. Far better from our point of view to let the work be seen, and let people form their own view that the canal was worth preserving! - and the path was soon well-used.
These working parlies continued, mostly in the winter, clearing the towpath, and sometimes the channel along the Woking pound (with Robin Higgs' brother Peter and his wife Paula becoming stalwart supporters) until late 1973, by which time Pablo Howarth had joined us, and the real restoration work was beginning. We like to think that our work made a small contribution to getting to that conclusion.
As a footnote, after working parties on the Basingstoke had to stop in 1964, it was suggested to the London & Home Counties Branch of the IWA that we might try to establish a group to help out on restoration projects elsewhere in the country. My brother John, later IWA General Secretary, who was also at the 'Bonfire Bash', was already travelling to the Midlands to work on the Stourbridge Canal, so that was our first destination in October 1965 - six of us including Graham Palmer and Ernie Pull. Such visits, to that and many other projects, became a monthly event, developed into a formal Working Party Group, and thanks to Graham Palmer's vision into the publication of Navvies Notebook and subsequently the formation of WRG in 1970. But that is another story!
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In January, the Woking Talk was given by Mike Lucas on the history of the Mikron Theatre. I have to confess that I was a little disappointed at first, when I realised that this was to consist of readings from his book "I'd go back tomrrow", but, of course, any lecture has to be prepared and what better way of doing this than writing a whole book? It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening and I invested in Mike's memoirs for some further reading.
I have always wondered whether the founders of our Society were supremely self-confident or balmy to start on such a project and I have the same sense of wonder about a man like Mike who had the guts not only to launch a theatre company but also to drag it round the country by canal boat. 30 years ago, both canals and boats were a fairly unreliable form of transport and to compound the problems, he and his wife Sarah then also had a very young baby to look after.
The fact that they survived the first season with sufficient enthusiasm left to want to carry on says volumes about the characters of Mike and Sarah, as does the fact that they
were able to attract others to share this nomadic thespian life. The majority of people who joined their company over the years had no previous experience of boating or canals and the book recounts many incidents, some hilarious, others potentially disastrous. Those who have embarked on a fortnight's canal holiday in the company of old friends, and ended it barely on speaking terms, will know only too well the tensions that such enforced proximity can bring, so Mike's diplomatic skills must have been considerable to avoid at least one murder during 30 years of cruising!
The book gives a fascinating insight into the three threads of Mike and Sarah's life during these years, the theatrical side, the boating and the family.
They rapidly became experts at assessing the characters and compatibility of new members of the company, as well as their acting and musical skills, and seem to have made remarkably few mistakes. Perhaps actors and actresses are not quite as temperamental as generally imagined, or maybe the canals have a soothing effect. The other aspect was the funding of the Mikron, with unreliable Arts Councils and sponsors and the occasional pub landlord who failed to cough up the agreed money. Mike pulls no punches in the book and one can only hope that some of those named feel suitably abashed.
Trying to keep to a performance schedule by canal must have been a constant source of worry, as they battled to move Tyseley, a deep draught ex-working boat, round the poorly dredged waterways.
The story of the upbringing of their son, Sam, is very touching. Up to the age of twelve, he spent the touring season on the boat, getting school lessons from the other members of the company and probably playing a vital part in ensuring that the company retained a family relationship. What a wonderful way of growing up! Only when it got to GCSE time did he and Sarah leave the full-time touring.
I feel envious of Mike at being able to look back on such a remarkable and brave career, which established a waterways tradition that looks set to continue vigorously into the new millenium. Mike no longer tours full time but is still very much involved.
If you would like a copy of "I'd go back tomorrow", send a cheque made out to the Mikron Theatre Company for £22.50 (hardback) or £17 (paperback) to Mikron Theatre Company, Marsden Mechanics, Peel Street, Marsden, Huddersfield HD76BW. Also available for £10 is their first CD 'Mikron live at the Mechanics", which includes 16 songs from the period 1990 to 2001. Prices include postage and packing. Both will almost certainly be on sale when the Mikron visits the Basingstoke on 7th July.
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MILLETT'S MUSINGS - David Millett
# Good to hear that the Fox and Hounds public house is due to re-open after refurbishment on 15l" March. We understand it will feature an interesting and appetising food menu. There will be large doors opening onto a new canal patio.
# Looks like the second half of the winter is making up for the dry first part. This will, hopefully, top up the chalk aquifers to keep the springsfeeding the canal at Greywell flowing well all the year. The best indicator is to watch the Broad Oak stream outfall into the canal, the source of which is near Hill Side Farm at the back of Odiham.
# Seen recently. A huge cloud of black smoke drifting across the canal in the Eelmoor area. Reason: Out of sight of the canal over the hill in the Long Valley area the latest James Bond movie (the 20th) was being filmed. North Korean soldiers, tanks, trucks, hovercraft, explosions etc and a Russian Mil 8 helicopter flying across Eelmoor Flash from the Farnborough airfield. Good fun all round.
Above: James Bond film set in Long Valley
# Pleased to see the excellent work undertaken by the contractor doing the winter towpath cutback. A good winter clearance is essential to start the new canal season off.
• A pat on the back for HCC's Bridges Department who have repainted and smartened up the Lift-Up Bridge at North Warnborough. It is only a minor bridge amongst the 1400 road bridgesand 750 footbridges the County is responsible for but it is feature in the Canal and North Warnborough Conservation Area.
# The recent severe winter storms have highlighted the need to check and fell any diseased or unsafe trees on the towpath or off-side bank. A huge ivy covered silver birch (long past its best) completely blocked the canal near Regent Street in Fleet and would have injured anyone who happened to be on the towpath at that time. Realistic co-operation by local authority tree officers is essential.
# Congratulations to Andy Stumph (ex Society steam dredger manager) on his new appointment within British Waterways. He is to be based at Watford and manage the schemes to restore the Cotswold Canals and the proposed new waterway link between the Grand Union Canal at Milton Keynes and the River Ouse at Bedford.
# The graffiti merchants never cease to disfigure the canal structures and notice boards, mainly in the urban areas of Fleet and Woking and Woodham. Why do they have to do it? A youth said on a recent television discussion programme 'I have an urge to do it which I cannot control'. There are, unfortunately, too many of these sad cases around.
• Funding for the canal under the new Cabinet and Policy Review Panel, a system of the local authorities seems to be becoming more difficult. The canal is a wonderful green lung and linear country park running through an increasingly built up area with wide benefits for navigation and a wide variety of recreational and ecological interests. Never cease to remind your local councillors of this.
• Sorry to hear that Chambers have lost their client for the sand from the proposed new mooring basin at Mytchett. However, new mooring basin plans are afoot to minimise the problem. (According to Leigh Thornton, these will change the basin into a "lay-by", which will reduce the amount of sand that has to be disposed of, and the quantity of piling needed, to a third, whilst retaining the same number of moorings).
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MEMORIES of the DREDGER - Ron Jesse
One problem which sticks in my mind was the removal of ballast in the rear compartment of the main hull, placed there to partly balance the crane at the front end. This ballast consisted of thousands of rivet punchings, mixed with cement, and poured into the hold. Removal was only possible by chipping away individual lumps of iron, and it took Ages. Bucketfuls (small ones) were passed up for a chain of members to tip over the side. Several weekends were spent on this job, and woe betide the dredger which picks that lot up sometime! Never!
Finally we parted the hulls. To take the strain off the bolts (by now the main hull was riding too high for the pontoons), we partly filled the hull with water, then floated the pontoons away. All was well, until we pumped out the main hull. At about one foot deep, the water sloshed to one side, and there was a real risk of capsize. That would have been fatal, as it would have certainly sunk. We stopped pumping at once. Fortunately we caught her.
With me hanging on to the ropes to hold her steady, Ian dashed to the phone to ring for assistance, as we were on our own, and nearly at the end of another long day.
The "cavalry" came over the hill, and a dozen or so members from Fleet came out to our rescue. I was very glad to see them it had been a very nasty moment. With their help, we finished pumping out and all was ready for lifting from the water.
The great day came..July 24th 1974.
With the assistance of some diving enthusiasts, we positioned three chains beneath the centre hull, to spread the weight. A single 45 ton crane took the strain, and in no time it was onto an extendible 'trombone' trailer, festooned with advertisements by Watneys as to their involvement. Television cameras whirred, and off it went. The pontoons were child's play by comparison, and by noon all the transport was on army trackway which we had laid on the cricket pitch beside the canal at Colt Hill.
We had dug a launching hole to receive the hulls, but in the event it was not deep enough to float them. This was not important as we had plenty of preparatory work to do before it would be necessary to float them off.
Many weeks were spent chipping and painting every square inch of exposed steelwork, inside and out. Firms sponsored needle guns, paint, wire brushes - you name it! Volunteer members made up gangs on Saturdaysand Sundays, and we made a personal approach to every resident of the road near the bridge explaining what was happening.
In the Autumn of 1974, wedug a larger hole next to the hulls,
winched them into it, and joined them together. The army fetched the boiler, and in it went. They fetched the crane, and all the odds and ends. All were duly bolted on. I remember Brian Bane turning up as a new member, asking for a job. He paled slightly when I suggested he should take the Land-Rover and trailer to Ash Vale, load up the ring grab, and fetch it to Colt Hill. To his credit, he went off without a murmur and did just that. He later became dredger manager, and was responsible for digging out many miles of canal. My abiding memory of those days is, that if a task wanted doing, we just did it, regardless of the difficulties.
The entire project of reconditioning the dredger, proving it, dismantling it for overland removal to the Basingstoke Canal, and re-assernbly, took over two years. For quite a long time, Ian Cripps and I were the only members working at Reading; and I reckon we spent some 60 weekends breathing new life into the rusty hulk that was to become our Iron Coot, the "Perseverance".
So at last steam was raised, and in February 1975, lan took the first grabful of mud from the Basingstoke Canal.
His first task was to wind the dredger round, to point towards Greywell. It would dig its way to the Whitewater winding hole before turning round, and heading eastwards to Aldershot, and Lock 28.
While all the rebuilding work was going on, agroup of us had been agonising over the disposal of silt. In the historical photographs of dredging other canals, the silt is being placed neatly behind bankside piles, to raise the towpath. We were going to produce at least 10 tons of material per yard progress, so we would have to distribute the mud beyond the towpath.
We experimented with a hopper and chute, which collapsed. We tried a portable escalator, but the mud slid off! We tried a machine which flung the mud into the air, but ours was too wet and it went everywhere - except where it was supposed to go.
Eventually, someone found some tipping skips on narrow gauge rails going spare. These were purchased, rigged, and hey presto it worked. Each grabful from the dredger was emptied gently into a skip, which was pushed along the rails to the dump site — usually a field a few yards in from the towpath edge. After tipping, the skip was returned via a loop for refilling. A great job for small boys! This system lasted until we reached Swan Cutting, when it was mechanised with a diesel engine. The steam grab was mounted here for widening the canal.
The dump site now was a low-lying meadow some 400 yards from the cutting. It was here that I first noticed Stan Meller busy laying rails on the towpath very professionally, with a spirit level. When the distance to haul the mud became too great, the next advance was made, to mud barges, a tugboat, sponsored by Johnsons Wax, and a bank-side grabbing crane to throw the mud inland. This latter machine was discovered in a garden. It had been used by its owner to aim at the moon with its jib, to concentrate rays therefrom. He was said to have no further use for it..!
The methods employed to work through the Swan Cutting were the only ones practicable, given Society financial restraints, and the need to avoid damage to the surroundings. This episode 'pulled' the crowds; every weekend the bridge parapet was jammed with "Gongoozlers", so the Society rattled the contributions tin.
Later on, in the vicinity of Sandy Lane, an extension was made to the jib, so that the steam grab could work across the 30 foot width of the canal. This was a big improvement, although some listing of the dredger resulted with an overfull bucket.
Bridge holes were a nuisance. In the very early days, we tackled this problem from first principles - we got in with spade and wheelbarrow! To pump a given bridge hole dry, we drove a line of scaffold tubes with planks into the bed at each end of the hole, and laid polythene sheeting out facing away from the hole, but supported by the planks. When we pumped the water out, the weight of water pressed the polythene onto the muddy bottom to form a crude seal. In went the 'navvies' with shovels and barrows and barrow-runs, and out came the silt. Complete of course, with bottles, beer cans and bicycles!
This system worked well until, one day, the mud beneath the polythene was too wet to stick, and it shot underneath - to the consternation of members in the hole, who crawled out, looking very bedraggled — muddy boots is one thing to be expected, but mud inside your boots, and over the top of your knees is an experience never to be repeated. That system was abandoned, to be replaced by professional plank dams. Eventually every bridge hole was grooved to take stop planks.
Frank Jones and I worked closely during this period. We would spend Thursday evenings in the pub next door to his house in Farnborough, laying plans for the week-end work. I still have the note-book we used , and some hair-brained schemes are entered in rough, which formed the basis for Frank's later expertise. He must have become one of the country's finest canal restorers. "If it wants doing, do it" was our motto.
We tried to develop an hydraulic machine to cope with bridge holes, but it never came to much. By that time, locks in the Surrey part of the canal required all the money that could be spared, and dredging was going on alright in its own slow time; and I quite agreed.
From Greywell to Fleet took 18 years.
There were hold-ups for :-
-The bank-slip at Dogmersfield - Low water level summers
- Waiting for dump sites - Retubing the boiler (another twice?) and other breakdowns.
- Hauls to dump sites of greater distance than had been anticipated. They always had to be behind the dredger, so that the barges could move in deep water.
I am proud to have been associated with a project which was a classic of its type, and can boast
There were no serious accidents.|
There was no serious pollution, physical, chemical, or noise.
The local population were not upset.
There was no outrageous expenditure (maximum
capital cost, mudboats?)
There was lots of useful publicity, giving the Society, the County Councils, and the canal restoration project as a whole, a very positive and wholesome image.
I only hope it will serve the Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port as faithfully as it served the Basingstoke.
Journey's end at Pondtail, Fleet
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Lesley Richards, our Membership Secretary, would like to remind members who pay their subscriptions by cheque that it's that time of year again! Current rates are listed on page 4.
Better still, give her a ring and get a form to pay by standing order and enable us to get some Gift Aid money out of the Inland Revenue. Even better, save yourself the bother of future payments, take out a life membership and forget about any future subscription increases.
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Don't forget the AGM!
Saturday 13th April, 7.30pm at the Mytchett Community Centre
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 an asterisk (*) after their name.
Editorial Team: Editor:
Roger Cansdale* 79 Gally Hill Road, Church Crookham, Hants GU52 6RU 01252-616964
Photos: Dieter Jebens* 60 Middle Bourne Lane, Farnham, Surrey GU10 3NJ 01252-715230
President: The Earl of Onslow
Chairman: Peter Redway* 1 Redway Cottages, St John's Lye, Woking, Surrey GU21 1SL 01483-721710
Vice-Chairman: Dieter Jebens* 60 Middle Bourne Lane, Farnham, Surrey GU10 3NJ 01252-715230
Hon. Secretary: Philip Riley* Wincombe Cottage, Broad Oak, Odiham, Hants. RG291AH 01256-702109
Hon. Treasurer: Jonathan Wade* 30 Hanover Gardens, Cove, Farnborough, Hants GU14 9DT 01252-524690
Membership Secretary: Lesley Richards 9 Denning Close, Fleet, Hants GU52 7SP 01252-684112
Working Party Information: Peter Redway* 1 Redway Cottages, St John's Lye, Woking, Surrey GU21 1SL 01483-721710
Trip Boat Manager: Ron McLaughlin 94 Guildford Road, Ash Vale, Aldershot, Hants GU12 6BT 01252-672189
Trip Boat Bookings: Marion Gough St Catherines, Hurdle Way, Compton Down, Winchester, Hants SO21 2AN 01962-713564
Sales Manager: Verna Smith* 63 Avondale, Ash Vale, Aldershot, Hants GU12 5NE 01252-517622
Mail Order Sales: Alec Gosling, 12 Mole Road, Hersham, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey KT12 4LV 01932-224950
Exhibitions Manager: David Junkison 4 Thames Meadow, West Molesey, Surrey KT6 1TQ 0208 941 0685
Website Manager: Arthur Dungate 39 Sian Close, Church Crookham, Fleet, Hants GU52 6BT 01252-622101
Talks Organiser: Arthur Dungate 39 Sian Close, Church Crookham, Fleet, Hants GU52 6BT 01252-622101
Press Officer: Dieter Jebens* 60 Middle Bourne Lane, Farnham, Surrey GU10 3NJ 01252-715230
Gift Aid manager: 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: Kathryn Dodington* 8 Sheets Heath Lane, Brookwood, Woking, Surrey GU24 0EH 01483-473630
Director: David Lloyd-Langston* 7 Fernhill Close, Upper Hale, Farnham, Surrey GU9 OJL 01252-723309
Director: John Ross* 14 Heathcote Road, Ash, Aldershot, Hants GU12 5BH 01252-330311
Canal Society Internet Website: www.basingstoke-canal.org.uk
Printed by Commercial Press Ltd, Farnham
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