THE BUTTY The magazine for members of the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust Issue No: 219 Spring 2021
Beyond the pandemic: developing a new vision for the Trust The Trust's current strapline is 'Working to Protect, Enhance and Promote Britain’s best waterway'. Now while we naturally think that the K&A is indeed the best, this description of our role begs lots of questions. How does our role fit with that of the Canal and River Trust? What are our priorities? How should we go about things? With losses on boat operations last year of more than £100K and a significant loss of income at Crofton, where we were not able to steam the engines, the pandemic has hit the Trust hard. Although we hopefully have sufficient reserves to see us through until we see things returning towards normality later this year, it was
clear to Trustees that if we did nothing we would still be on a path of managed decline.
To attract new
members and new funding, following the success of the major project at Crofton supported by the Heritage Fund, Trust Council decided in July to establish a sub-group to develop a new Vision and Strategy. This was led by David Line, a long-term volunteer on the Bruce Boats and, at that time a Trustee, and benefited from input from all Branches. In November, our President, Rob Dean, and Trustees met to review the outcome, which is set out in full opposite. We also agreed some priority tasks. So what will our approach be in 2021 and beyond?
First of all, we believe we are here to promote the interests of all users of the canal, whether on boats or the towpath, and improve links between the canal and the local community. We have a particular role to protect the heritage of the canal, to make it easier for a wide range of people to enjoy the canal and learn more about it. To translate this vision into practical actions, we have developed an initial work programme for 2021, which is outlined in the Trustees' Annual Report. We are clear that our volunteers, organised through our Branches, are key to delivering this. Branches can be our 'local champions' for the canal, as well as providing boat trips and holidays and operating visitor attractions such as at Crofton and Devizes. So we want to improve
communication between Trust Council and Branches, and between Branches, but we will also need to continue to develop our relationship with the Canal and River Trust, as the legal guardians of the canal, and with others such as our café licensees who can promote both the Trust and the Canal to their many customers. Our members are also key to delivering this vision so we will be refreshing the membership offer and structure. We will set this out in more detail at the AGM in May. We very much hope to see you then - either in person at Devizes or on Zoom. Chris Sims Chairman
Kennet and Avon Canal Trust Vision and Strategy What are we here to do?
To promote the Kennet and Avon Canal to the benefit of all its users, the communities through which it passes, and its heritage
To be a voice for users of the Kennet and Avon Canal - whether on the water or on the towpath
To preserve the heritage of the canal, by promoting protection and restoration of historic features and making them accessible to visitors, canal users and local communities
To provide opportunities for all members of the public, and in particular community groups and those who are disadvantaged or disabled, to access the canal whether on boats or along the towpath
To develop new ways of enabling the public to experience the canal and its history, and widen the range of people who can engage with it
How will we do it?
Through our Branch structure, we will ensure that the whole length of the canal has a local champion, working to improve the canal and towpath both directly and through lobbying
We will develop facilities for learning and community engagement along the canal
We will identify and promote projects to protect the canal's heritage
We will encourage our trading subsidiary to continue to provide boat and other recreational facilities, supporting these with grants where they are not commercially viable but bring public benefit
We will engage constructively with the Canal and River Trust as the canal's guardian and operator, and with other heritage and community bodies, and participate in events promoting the canal
We will report regularly on our activities to members, volunteers, funders and other stakeholders
What does this mean for our priorities?
We will prepare and publish an annual plan, which will set clear objectives for our work, and in particular identify projects which, with external funding support, we will champion
We will identify our key stakeholders, including in particular CRT, and engage constructively with them to protect, enhance and promote the canal and towpath
In collaboration with our partners, including café licensees, we will develop our visitor facilities along the canal
We will refresh our membership offer, and seek to increase the number of members
We will maintain and develop links with potential funders
We will improve our communications with members, with Branches and volunteers, and with the public, using a range of channels.
A Note from the Editor
Lesley Hooper: firstname.lastname@example.org
We are pleased to bring you another very full edition of our magazine. We have been particularly proactive in seeking articles, to ensure you are not disappointed during what continues to be an unusual period of our lives. A number of our Vice Presidents agreed to write about themselves and two are profiled in this edition. They have all had such interesting lives and significant involvement with our canal. The Branches were asked to write about a WW2 topic according to their geographical location along the K&A. This has resulted in an overview of the role played by the Thin Blue Line including details with which we can regale visitors to our attractions. One of our members, Richard Cartwright, sent in a diary he had recently found, written during a trip on a narrowboat in the 1950s. You will already have seen many of his photos in the digital Butty last November, that are very evocative of a bygone age. The restoration of the John Gould Globe Garden at Newbury looks to be a fascinating community project and will clearly be a joy to visit in due course. Bill Fisher and Terry Kemp continue apace with their Steel Lock Gates initiative; they are unstoppable - no retirement for them! What a legacy they are working on for the benefit of us all. We look forward to seeing the progress of the plans at Newbury as they are rolled out. You will have had a survey and a request for key data fall out as you opened this magazine. Please, please, please complete both sides and return to the Trust, or alternatively, complete both on-line. All the details are on the sheet. I would like to invite members to get in touch with stories that could be shared with others in this magazine. Don’t be shy! My thanks go to the rest of the editorial team for their painstaking work as I sign off for the last time as Editor. After 5 years I am moving on to new roles in the Bradford on Avon Branch and I wish my successor creative ideas and inspiration. Lesley 4
KACT: Beyond the pandemic
KACT Vision & Strategy
The K&A in WW2
Adventure Aboard NB James Brindley
John Gould Globe Garden
Profiles of 2 VPs
Sell the benefits!
Virtual Canal Trip
News from the Nivernais
The memoirs of Frank Smith
Notes from the wild west
Our Crofton Story
Characters on the cut
Steel Lock Gates?
Simon Eveleigh: Obituary
Poem by Canal Laureate
Back Cover: AGM notice
Front Cover: Sunrise near Limpley Stoke by Chris Fox. Chris was one of the army of volunteers involved in clearing the derelict canal from Devizes to Bradford on Avon during the 1970s.
2020 commemorated ve and vj days...we look back at the role the k&a played in wwii GHQ Line Blue: The Thin Blue Line Few people remain today who know, from first-hand experience, the predicament Britain was in during the early part of 1940, how low morale had become in just a few months since the start of WWII, how worried the population was and how threatened the country was. In just a few months Hitler and the mighty Third Reich had swept across Europe and were just 32 miles from our shores. Britain was dangerously close to defeat, after the miraculous rescue of the British Expeditionary Forces from the beaches of Dunkirk, leaving most of their equipment abandoned in France. The RAF had been mauled by the Luftwaffe and Hitler was poised to invade. The invasion was expected along Britain’s southern shores and to drive “Blitzkrieg” fashion for the industrial heartland of the Midlands and the country’s capital – London. General “Tiny” Ironside, being appointed C-in-C Home Forces came up with a defensive plan in June 1940. Over 50 defensive lines were constructed around Britain, compartmentalising the country and designed to delay the expected German advance long enough to enable a counter attack force to be mobilized. One such line was the “General Headquarters (GHQ) Line”. The GHQ Line was the longest and most important defensive line and was split into sections, Green, Blue and Red. “GHQ Line – Green” running from north of Taunton Somerset along the River Brue and across the Mendips joining “GHQ Line – Blue” which ran from Bradford on Avon along the Kennet & Avon Canal to Reading and the Thames
Estuary joining “GHQ Line – Red” which ran north to Edinburgh. GHQ Lines consisted of pill boxes, barbed wire entanglements, anti-tank obstacles and trench systems manned largely by The Home Guard.
Defences along the K&A Canal * Pillboxes sited and designed to remain hidden from the enemy until they were within firing range. * Various sizes depending on weapons to be contained. Smallest for lightly armed troops; medium ones for Bren-gun crews, and largest for 2lb field gun crews. * Berkshire ones made of concrete. Elsewhere brick was sometimes used. Much of the building material was transported by canal.
Bradford on Avon Pill Box
There remains to this day hundreds of instances of the “GHQ Line – Blue” defensive positions along the length of the canal, many restored and protected as listed buildings showing many different designs of tank stop and pillboxes. In Bradford on Avon one stands guard as you enter the town and another is perched above Avoncliffe Aqueduct. While one has been restored the other has been reclaimed by Mother Nature. Thankfully the defences were never put to the test; Hitler changed his mind and decided to turn against Russia before invading Britain. A mistake which ultimately lead to his defeat. Would these defences have stopped the advancing Panzer divisions? Who knows, I have my own opinion – “Who do you think you’re kidding Mr. Hitler? Bryan Baker BoA Branch Chair
* Many have been removed, such as ones at Cobblers Lock and Hungerford Town Lock.
Pill Box at Lower Denford
* Examples can be seen at Dun Mill Lock and Lower Denford as well as many other locations on the canal. Thankfully, planned invasion didn’t take place and pillboxes never used. * Anti-tank hedgehogs and concrete cylinders were built on bridges. * Hungerford Town Bridge had
hedgehog road blocks. Until resurfacing, you could see the tarmac dipping.
Evidence of former hedgehog road block in Hungerford
* Domed cylinders were built on Bridge 99 at Great Bedwyn to prevent enemy tanks crossing the canal.
Domed defences at Bedwyn
These remaining defences are an important reminder of the serious threat that Britain once faced and give us an opportunity to remember those who lost their lives or were injured in the defence of our country. Sarah Warburton, The Rose of Hungerford
The American Bridge, Newbury At the start of every public trip on Jubilee the boat passes underneath a bridge which spans The Kennet between The Teashop on the Canal and the green open space that is Victoria Park, but how many people know the history of
this crossing? Up until the 1930s the park was still common land and Newbury’s Northbrook Street and the Town Bridge was the main traffic route through Newbury. After the outbreak of the Second World War there were real fears that the Town Bridge would be bombed. If this had happened the town would have been split in two, so the decision was taken to build a temporary emergency bridge across the canal to join the park with the centre of the town. Plans were drawn up by the War Office for the structure which would be built by civilian contractors. In order for American forces to be able to use the bridge the American Army had to certify the plans; they were officially stamped and it became known as The American Bridge! The temporary bridge had one major problem – it was only 7 ft high instead of the recommended 8ft 6in on the plans. The bridge lasted until 2001 when it was replaced with the bridge that we see today, and renamed Parkway Bridge. Even so, there are still many people who still call this bridge by the old name – The American Bridge. Sarah Foley, The Jubilee
The bath blitz of 1942 The residents of Bath had become used to the sights and sounds of the German bombers on their regular raids on the docks and factories of Bristol. For the previous four months Bristol had been raided almost every night. On the weekend, 25th - 27th April 1942, however, they were to be subjected to one of the highest air-raid related 6
death tolls in the West of England as the 80 bombers of the Luftwaffe appeared over Bath in what has become known as the Baedecker Raids.
Locksbridge bomb damage
During the three raids 417 people were killed, 19,000 buildings damaged and more than 1000 destroyed. The dead included 10 police officers and this is still the largest loss of life at a single incident for Avon and Somerset Police. It is known that these raids were ordered in response to an increase in the mass bombing raids on German towns by the RAF. In particular the highly destructive attacks on Lubeck and Rostock on the Baltic coast. Another contributing factor, it is thought, was the increased British defences and use of night fighters which made the bombing offensive over Britain less effective for the reduced assets that the German command could spare from the Russian front. There are two memorials to the event in Bath. One is part of the larger War Memorial at the entrance to Victoria Park and one has very recently been added as part of a development along the Lower Bristol Road. This is visible from the River, just after passing under Windsor Bridge. Ian Herve
Crofton Beam Engines during WW2 Information about events at Crofton during the war years is limited but falls into several categories. There are some notes about engine running records and various failures; the pill box in the car park was built as part of the GHQ Blue Line which ran along the Canal. There were changes to Pumphouse Cottage to provide accommodation for evacuees and some war damage as a result of an explosion at the nearby ammunition dumps in Savernake Forest. Engine Records The data in the table below was obtained from a Crofton Pumping Station Log Book which was found by Ian Broom at the Gloucester Dock Office. YEAR
REPORT SHEET NUMBERS
TOTAL REPORT SHEETS
No.1 ENGINE HOURS
No.2 ENGINE HOURS
COAL USED (CWT)
7 JAN—30 DEC
6 JAN—28 DEC
4 JAN—29 DEC
3 JAN—19 DEC
(i) This figure is suspect and is not supported by the “Coal used” figures which are very similar to those for other years. There was an increase in canal traffic in 1940 to support building the pill boxes but this was not enough to justify such a large increase in pumping hours. A comparison with 1941 based on the “coal used” figures suggests that a pro rata figure would be about 2178 hours, This suggests there could have been a transcription error in the original log book entry and 2392 hours may have been the intended figure!
There was one Report Sheet per week so this indicates that from 1939 to at least 1943 the engines were being run regularly. This Log Book ended on 19 December 1942, hence the lack of records thereafter.
In 1942 it was recorded that the stroke counter on the No 1 Engine failed on 10 February and was restarted on 10 March but had to be reset to “0”. Also, the No 2 Engine was undergoing repairs between mid-February and 14 March. Keeping the canal full was important as it was used to provide a water supply for railway locomotives at Savernake Station. There is a report that in July 1945 this supply was interrupted. The water level in the canal had dropped because Crofton was unable to pump due to a lack of coal. Pumphouse Cottage Ethel Giles records in her leaflet “Crofton in the Twenties” that one of the rooms in the cottage was used as an office and contained all the old ledgers and records. It was only accessible via an outside door and a ladder – the door can be seen high up on the west wall in the old photograph of the cottage in the late 1920`s/early 1930`s. The woman in the doorway is thought to be Ethel`s mother. During WWII there was a desperate shortage of accommodation and Ethel records that the outside door was bricked up and a new internal door opened up. This room was then used by evacuees (a mother and two children) from one of the towns which had been bombed. The 1939 “Census” shows the two boys, Charles & 7
Joseph Vaughan, staying at the cottage but no mother – which is a puzzle! Sadly, what happened to the records is not known – they could probably have answered many of our questions about Crofton`s history!
War damage During the war, there were large ammunition dumps in Savernake Forest and on 7 July 1945, there was an explosion that caused severe damage to St Katherine`s Church and windows were damaged in the pump house. Repairs were estimated to cost £10 which the GWR intended to reclaim from the US military authorities. There was a another, more serious, explosion in January 1946 at sidings adjacent to the Marlborough to Savernake railway line but the blast from this was not felt at Crofton. Pill Box The pill box in the car park was a type 28A, designed for a 2pounder anti-tank gun and supporting infantry. It is now a Grade 2 listed building. It was built as part of the GHQ Blue Defence Line that ran along the Canal. A series of pill boxes were built along the north bank of the canal as shown in the diagram adjacent.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Ian Broom for looking at my first draft, answering my queries and suggesting various corrections! Other sources were: Crofton Year by Year folder (Ian Broom) The Crofton Story (Ian Broom) “Crofton in the Twenties” (Ethel Giles) Pill box info Jamie Wright
John Coulson 8
Pill boxes in the reading area Much like the rest of the canal system, the Kennet Navigation has its fair share of pill boxes and defences. A major town like Reading, however, resulted in facilities not seen elsewhere on our waterway. Unsurprisingly, huge areas of land bounding the waterway have changed substantially in the last 75 years. Just south of Burghfield Bridge, fishing lakes and old gravel works now occupy ½ sq mi of former farmland at Knight’s Farm. In 1940 this open land was chosen for the site of a Ground Controller Interception Station—a radar site that would have been used to detect, locate and track enemy aircraft. While it is not recorded what type of radar was used, it may have been similar to that at RAF Sopley in Hampshire, which used a huge installation as shown in the photograph.
A short distance to the west, bounding the navigation at Garston and Sheffield Locks, was Theale Airfield. Originally farmland that had been requisitioned, Theale began operation on 14 August 1940. The newly-sown grass had yet to fully grow and readers familiar with the meadows in the area won’t be
surprised to hear that opening had to be delayed as the Kennet had flooded the land. Flight training at Theale began in August 1941 with a fleet of de Havilland DH.82s—the Tiger Moth.. Other aircraft used at Theale were the older Puss Moth, the Hawker Hind, and the Beechcraft T-34 Mentor. By 1944, trainees also learned in the Slingsby Kirby Cadet glider.
Trainees inspecting the Slingsby Kirby Cadet at Denham
Surprisingly and fortunately, accidents were rare at Theale. One major incident occurred on 19 May 1942 when two aircraft collided on approach to the airfield. Another occurred in 1944 when an aircraft crashed amongst the site’s Nissen huts. In both instances, the fate of those involved is not known. The last wartime flights at Theale took place in June 1945, and by early July the flying school had left the site although glider training remained for a couple of years. The fate of the site was brought up in the House of Commons in January 1948, when Newbury MP Anthony Hurd pressured Arthur Henderson, the Secretary of State for Air, about when the site would be released. Henderson confirmed that the field had been released for farming one year previously and the buildings would be derequisitioned to their owners in February 1948. 9
Aerial photo of Theale airfield in 1946
The vacation of the site led to the establishment of gravel works. Even into the 21st century, some remnants of the airfield could still be found—the southwest corner, near the Fox and Hounds Pub, was where hangars and other buildings had been constructed and these were demolished in the mid-2000s. Today, it seems, the only reminder of what took place in the 1940s in this area is the sign marking “Hangar Road”. Well, that and the fact the land still floods over winter... Matt Girling Reading Branch Photos 1 & 2 are public domain, no rights clearance required . Photo 3: Assumed public domain as originally covered by Crown Copyright (expires 50 years after publication).
Each Branch was asked to write about one of the topics covered above. Between them, they have provided a wonderful summary of different aspects of how the K&A was involved in WW2.
HIGHLIGHTS OF ADVENTURES IN NB ‘JAMES BRINDLEY’ The Shropshire Ring 18th – 25th April 1953 One of our Trust members, Richard Cartwright came across a diary written by his late aunt in 1953. He was part of the crew aged 14 at the time. Richard recalls that this was one of his most memorable holidays. Before long we were under way heading towards the first lock where we were ably instructed into their workings by the Wyatts, the kindly owners of the James Brindley, who took us through the first lock. We were a totally novice crew of 2 middle aged ladies and 3 young teenagers who were feeling a little nervous inwardly, though outwardly full of confidence and zest for the adventures as we headed off on that cold uninviting April afternoon with the challenge of the Shropshire Ring ahead of us. Saturday 18th April
The young and enthusiastic crew were up with the lark, decks scrubbed, engine checked for oil and grease, the bilges pumped and all before sitting down to a hearty breakfast. Our “Notes on Canals” told us that we should find Mr Askey, the lock keeper, on hand but maybe he was having a lie in as it was Sunday. Anyway our confidence grew as we safely descended to the next level. We revelled in the countryside as we meandered along at this novel speed of 3½ mph sighting herons, moorhens and swans. We reached Great Haywood and the junction with the Staffs & Worcester Canal. Unlike the roads there were no warning signs or signposts and we were admiring the bridge as we passed only to realise that it was our turning! Now was the time to Sunday 19th April
experience an emergency stop in a 38ft Narrow Boat which we found a rather different experience to that when driving a car. Eventually with much use of gears, astern & ahead we reached the bank and tied up to have a look around. We set off for Autherley and very soon had our first encounter with a horse drawn narrow boat. Of course it would happen to be a narrow part of the canal and we found ourselves in close contact to brambles and thorns. We were blessed with unbroken warm sunshine which lightened up the ever changing colours of the trees that climbed up the sides of the cuttings while herons fished and kingfishers flitted low over the water. We met no other craft all day. Almost like an enchanted land. A perfect day! Monday 20th April
Our destination for today was to be Middlewich. After Barbridge we had been warned that we might have some difficulty with lack of water or silting up of the channel. We had both. Our entry into Middlewich was watched by an admiring crowd of young and old. It was apparent not many hire boats came this way and we felt quite a novelty. A commercial narrowboat we met told us they had left Liverpool at 5am that day with a load of clay Wednesday
for Stoke-on-Trent. They were not stopping until 11pm, would stop for 6 hours and be on the way again the next morning at 5am! This was the day we were planning to pass through the Harecastle tunnel a few miles north of Stoke. We had about 11 miles and 25 locks ahead of us. The pressure was on to reach Harecastle by 4pm. This was the final time for south bound boats each day. It was an impressive sight having a 300 ft hill in front of you with a small tunnel opening leading into a 1¾ mile cavern. A small electric tug driven from an overhead rail which had a small cabin boat behind was our escort to tow us through the tunnel. Richard was invited to ride in the tug while the guard joined us on the James Brindley. We only just scrapped through and just squeezed beneath the part of the where the tunnel roof had dropped and wasn’t I glad of my sou’wester as we experienced quite a wetting from the water trickling from the roof. We stopped to be shown a side passage, the remains of a small tunnel into an adjacent coal mine. The idea had been to load the coal directly into boats in the tunnel. The guard took one of the crew into the side tunnel and returned with a souvenir piece of coal, real ‘black diamond’. We took 1 hour 10 minutes but it seemed much shorter. Thursday 23rd April
A number of atmospheric photos appeared in the Digital Butty, autumn 2020.
EXPLORING JOHN GOULD’S GLOBE GARDEN
The opportunity to explore a hidden gem of the canal is hard to resist and so the invitation to visit The Secret Garden Project was quickly accepted. The Globe Garden sits adjacent to the lock in Newbury and is the resting place for John Gould, MBE who was instrumental in the restoration of the K&A canal that can be enjoyed by so many today. In fact this was clearly evident on the day we visited. It was lovely to see so much activity surrounding the waterway, Canal and River Trust (CRT) volunteers on hand to assist boats making their first outings through the lock post-lockdown, not to mention the numerous people walking, running or cycling the towpath. Crossing the wobbly lock tailgate, currently the only access, was where we found Sukey RussellHayward, her husband Geoff and volunteers from the Community Matters group all hard at work bringing the once loved garden back to life. The garden had slowly fallen into disrepair becoming more and more overgrown and was in need of
rescue. In October 2018, this came from the Community Matters group who adopted the garden from CRT. And boy, has the group come a long way since being allowed to re-open the metal gates. There are grand plans ahead to bring it back to life and in doing so the creation of a safe space to run educational programmes and provide support to those who have become alienated from community or suffering from mental health issues. The space could be described as having two sides, one exposed and visible to all users of the canal and the second, much more secret and hidden behind a crumbling Victorian wall. The raised beds on the lock side have been designed to look like a narrowboat with planting to match the vibrant colours expected of boat livery. They are already putting on a display and quickly becoming a wildlife haven. The hidden side has been cleared of the self-seeded sycamore, opened up and replanted although there is still a way to go. This side 11
will feature a series of ‘garden rooms’ that will be key to delivering environmental education and support sessions for both groups and individuals. There are plans to widen the access gates, build a larch screen, which will include porthole views over the waterway for visitors to enjoy and a giant log wall with archway which will inevitably become home to the local insect population. The project faces two big hurdles; restoring the boundary wall before it collapses and improving the access, with the creation of a bridge or a wider, safe lock gate walkway as disabled access to the project is vital. One thing is obvious, community is at the heart of the garden’s future and evidence of this is in abundance, from the mosaic pathway bricks (created by school children, homeless people and local residents then painstakingly finished by Sukey) to a poem by Nancy Campbell, inspired by the spirit of the project, adorning one of the walls, with local school children being tasked with decorating another. All supported by the enthusiasm of the volunteers, following in John Gould’s footsteps, bringing the community together to achieve something inspirational. Anyone keen to get involved with the project, please email Sukey or Geoff on secretgardennewbury@yahoo. Zaira Puddephatt
At the time of writing, the inside of the boat looked like a bomb site but with the ongoing care, attention and support of a small but beautifully formed team, led by Merv Kelly the KV will be ready for her final inspection before the start of our new season.
Simon on the new base, awaiting red oxide.
Red oxide applied and ready for the new toilet and galley.
At the end of last year Simon Eveleigh, relinquished his role as Branch chairman. We will always be indebted to Simon for all he achieved in the Devizes Branch and the Trust as a whole over many years. Sadly, Simon passed away at the end of January 2021 and a tribute to him appears in this magazine on page 25.
The Kenavon Venture was pleased to take part in the town’s “ Window Wanderland” which took place instead of the annual Devizes Lantern parade. People decorated their windows for townsfolk to enjoy on dark winters nights. The KV resident artists got to work and all the windows on the boat were decorated and lit from behind to give a shadow image of the flora and fauna to be found along the Kennet & Avon canal.
One of Simon’s last major headaches was to organise a ‘heel test’ for the Kenavon Venture, as seen in this photo.
Throughout the winter months various jobs have been completed on the KV to ensure that she will pass all safety checks. These included a stay in dry dock to have 15 feet of base plate replaced and then painted with two coats of red oxide.
Bruce Boats has some exciting plans afoot. The first is to develop a new BRUCE BOATS Discovery Day Trip in conjunction with Crofton. It will be an introduction to many aspects of canal boating including taking the helm, opening a lock, and how Bruce Boats operate. These trips will leave from Bedwyn Wharf and cruise to Crofton for lunch., followed by a tour of The Beam Engines by a Crofton volunteer, who will explain the importance of Crofton to the canal.
We are also aiming for a major redevelopment at the Wharf. All the current buildings will be replaced with a building in sympathy with the historic significance of the site. In addition to providing for all our current needs, we will incorporate a reception area to welcome arrivals whether to hire one of our fleet or to take part in a day trip. We know that this project will need major funding so if any reader has a suggestion we would be pleased to hear from you. Our Caring for Carers Day Trips that you may have read about in the Digital Butty, autumn 2020 are currently on hold but we will honour all bookings. Patrick Pease 12
PROFILES OF OUR VICE PRESIDENTS As a relative newcomer to KACT, I have seen the names of the Vice Presidents at the front of each magazine, and have often wondered “Who are these people that hold the lofty title of “Vice President?” So, I asked a number of them about their background and how that has equipped them for this role, along with memorable projects with which they have been involved or are currently busy. Here are the first two. Editor BILL FISHER
became a committee member of A.C.E. the Association of Canal Enterprises that later became the K&A
Following the death of Sir John Knill our founder and President, I
Canal Association’s formation in
Newbury Library in 1951. Later I
For twenty years I have been an
became a Committee Member
advocate and campaigner for Steel
Lock Gates for their longevity and
Branch. With the formation of
therefore cost effectiveness in
the K&A Trust in 1962 I became
Suitable oak of a minimum of 150
In the early 70’s we started the
years old has become scarce and
Horse Drawn passenger boat on
therefore expensive (4 lock beams
a part time basis. In 1973
means 4 trees). I and others within
Suzanne and I took the plunge
the K&A Trust are now working
and started horse boating full
with CRT on a replacement
time together with opening our
project; one set of Steel Gates is
first Marina at Greenham Island.
now in place at Picketfield Lock
At this time I resigned as
with the outward appearance of
Newbury Branch Chairman and
the traditional timber gate but
from Trust Council as we feared
with more than double the life
criticism by way of a conflict of
My interest in canals especially
the K&A, started when I was five
Some years later I was invited to
years old. This was in 1945 below
become a trustee again which I
Guyers Lock; the canal at that
was pleased to accept. By then
time was still officially open to
we had sold the passenger boat
traffic but solid with weed from
business to the Butler family
bank to bank.
who are still running it;
Some years later I had the good
fortune to meet John Gould at the
time of the Kennet and Avon
maintenance on canals and rivers
in the south of England. I 13
TERRY KEMP I moved from South London back in the late 1970s leaving a banking career as I was keen to
work on the waterways and also paint pictures. Taking my wife, two children, a goldfish and my paintbox I never imagined the delight and experiences we would
all enjoy as a family.
this often provides the fuel to
Starting as ‘canalman’ through to
make things work. It is my
being a Recreation Development Officer, my proudest moment was as Waterway Manager in charge at the Royal reopening of the Kennet
However, what happened and the exciting times I had both locally and on national waterway projects cannot remove the additional
personal view that we as the local and respected Trust should continue
should be part of any decision making processes taken on our waterway,
voice. And perhaps one that
shouts from time to time!
pleasure of meeting so many people who were and are part of our canal heritage. So many names of people who are perhaps ‘heroes’ within the waterways world. I met them, I worked with them, some became friends and
contribution to making the canals what they are today. With the waterways now being run by the reshaped organisation and charity Canal and River Trust much has changed. The charitable objects of this new Trust are benefiting the waterways and have changed the whole landscape of the our waterways management and development. As we move into the economic outcomes of the present health crisis, it is perhaps a concern that waterways will not have a high priority in terms of government spending. I am a great advocate of local action. The success of the past was often about local decisions being taken with local ownership. The accountability that goes with
SELL THE BENEFITS The lockdowns of 2020 & 2021 have had a tremendous impact on people: families, businesses, charities and economies all over the world. The issues that we face in the future in mitigating the impact will not be easy and in the grand list of things waterway organisations, charities, communities and businesses will not escape. Terry Kemp a Trust Vice President and former Waterway Manager has spent much of his business life debating and promoting the benefits of waterways. Here he takes a look at past analysis of these benefits and values on the Kennet and Avon Canal. He argues that these benefits are a critical part of our social, economic and environmental future and must not get lost within the other conflicting priorities created by the pandemic. 14
During my extremely happy and challenging career and life involved in inland waterways I must have preached so often the need to forget the obvious -“that canals are fantastic” – but sell the benefits! So many canal projects do not make financial sense if you consider them in purely financial terms. However, consider the many other contributions to the wider society beyond hard cash and, and, and, and…………. Canal and River Trust still use the many research tools and historic facts that were used during the development of the £25 Million Lottery grant and other schemes on the Kennet and Avon Canal. It is this data I have revisited to consider what we need to remember in protecting, rebuilding and arguing our waterway corner as we move forward again. I will make no apologies as to the date of the data. I am using information from many dated reports but it is with some confidence that we can predict that many of the numbers will have improved prior to the present crisis. The purpose of the detail is to illustrate and attempt to generally quantify what we could risk should there not be a full understanding. In the beginning As with so many other waterways, the competition from the railways brought about its closure. The formation of the Kennet and Avon Canal Association was the beginning of the restoration campaign that reached an historic milestone in 1990 when Her Majesty the Queen opened the full navigation once more. The estimate is that £9.5 million was invested by many to get to this
point. The next historic ‘journey’ of fundraising was for water pumps (£1.8 million) and then the mighty Lottery project totalling almost £30 million. But why invest such large sums and with that now done, why should we continue to support and protect the Kennet and Avon Canal and its benefits? The objectives of the Lottery Grant application perhaps sum it up and are still relevant:
A secure and sustainable future for a major national heritage asset.
An annual injection of £28 million into the local economies in the area to sustain wider community benefits. (It was estimated that in early 2000 this had increased to over £35 million)
The enjoyment of the waterway heritage by the whole community, including disabled visitors, because of new access points, interpretation facilities and car parking.
Direct involvement and commitment of local communities in the interpretation and management of the canal heritage and environment.
A carefully considered environmental and heritage strategy to protect the unique and special character of the canal’s “corridor of heritage”.
An improved heritage, environmental and leisure asset for the local community that already receives nearly 11 million
visits a year.
The generation of 487 man years of construction jobs and £42 million of private sector capital investment during the six years of the project. (This increased substantially during 2000 plus to over £400 million) Protection of 700 existing jobs and creation of 1,900 new ones
Despite the objectives being written a while ago, the value of the K&A locally, regionally and nationally can be seen to be important. However this year businesses have closed, jobs have been lost or furloughed, CRT waterway maintenance delayed, KACT volunteer work stopped and boats docked. The livelihoods of the canalside businesses are having to take a big hit, but to agonise and quantify in this article would be difficult and perhaps counterproductive for the moment. The past figures show us what can be achieved in partnership with all sectors of the communities that make up ‘the whole business of the Kennet and Avon Canal’. As we have done in the past, we can bounce back together. I was involved for much of the period of restoration and can confirm that it only happened because we all worked together – Waterway Managers, The Kennet and Avon Canal Trust, businesses, volunteers, charities, local authorities, Government. We need therefore to hold on to this partnership to ensure that, because of other perceived priorities, we do not lose the 15
benefits we have gained over so many years. Who are the ‘we’? Well that is you and me. Remember! “SELL THE BENEFITS”.
KACT PHOTO LIBRARY The Trust is wishing to build a Photo Library of people, events and scenes of the K&A and the work of the Trust. This will provide a ready supply of images for p o s t e r s, l e a f l e t s a n d magazines. If anyone has any photos that you would be willing to send us for this Library, please contact Jen in the office to find out how best to upload your images. All photos should be clearly marked with the name of the photographer, so it can be correctly credited along with the subject to ensure it can be readily searched for. Jen’s email address is: email@example.com
Annual servicing of KACT Life Jackets Photo: Rob Dean
VIRTUAL CANAL TRIP In Girl Guiding, we put our heads together and came up with a way to still enjoy the missed 2020 summer events in a fun but safe way. This meant the girls could still keep in touch with friends and forget about any Covid-19 worries for a while. Timsbury Guides and Rangers took this to the next level! We had: summer parties, camping trips and VE Day celebrations using Zoom, and in this article I am going to tell you all about the Timsbury Rangers Canal Trip (online of course).
Thanks to Alison Cannon and Zoom, it was decided that we could still have our canal trip but virtually; so that is just what we did! On a very rainy day (we would have got a bit wet on a canal boat) a few of us Rangers sat down in our own homes and logged onto a private Zoom meeting where we were led through a series of fun activities by Alison who would have been helping us girls crew the boat for the weekend. Firstly, we drew a tiny little canal boat on a strip of paper, which was really cute (unless yours looked like a pea pod like mine did)! This canal boat was later going to be part of a very cool moving boat scene. Then, to get us in the mood of boating, we watched a video all about the history of canal boatsand we were honestly surprised how small the living conditions were! Just imagine eating, sleeping and washing in an area the size of... your bed! To test our knowledge, we played a Kahoot Quiz all about the facts we had just learnt. It does seem that I need to brush up on my facts though, as I came last—whoops!
The next part of our virtual Canal Boat Trip was a personal favourite of mine. We made an origami kingfisher.
be able to still have the opportunity to earn a gorgeous little canal boat badge, like this:
As you can probably imagine, trying to teach origami virtually isn't the easiest thing in the world; but Alison pulled it off and each Ranger ended up with a perfectly unique bird (mine had quite a fat belly). They were red and blue, and mine looks gorgeous hung up in my room to keep me company. We couldn’t physically be on a canal boat to experience the problems and dilemmas that handling a canal boat brought, so we watched a video about how three people had to overcome the issue of squeezing two extremely long boats past each other. With a lot of skill and communication, both canal boat captains managed it. In addition, we saw the people sailing over the highest aqueduct in the UK - The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, one hundred and twenty-six feet in the air! Now I know that an aqueduct is like a really high bridge that is designed for canal boats to travel across. Watching the video, it seemed quite scary because there is one side that doesn't have any railings on. Ahhhhh, scary! But there have never been any reports of boats going over the edge. Alison showed us how to make that tiny paper canal boat into a picture with the boat actually moving on it! Of course, as lovely as it was to 16
The Rangers have all agreed that when it is safe to do so, we should rearrange our Canal Boat Trip for another time. Then we can actually have a go at steering the boat, observe the beautiful birds that live near the canal (we may even see a kingfisher), and look out for fish that apparently pop up to say “hello” every now and then. I can’t wait until we can eventually go canal boating for more fun (especially sleeping on the water). The Timsbury Rangers would also like to say a huge thank you to Alison Cannon for setting up and running all of the incredible activities for us!
Thanks to YOU very much for reading this article. The Timsbury Rangers absolutely loved our morning of virtual boating. For those of you girls and women who aren’t yet a member of the Girl Guiding family, perhaps I have inspired you to join our worldwide community, where we can be the best people we are and face the challenges of growing up today together. This is just a snippet of the incredible things that we do in Girl Guiding!
Lily May Girl Guiding Ranger & Young Leader
News from the Nivernais With thanks to Mary Ranger I often think when navigating, as you rise up in a lock, a new world opens up in front of you. Here on the Nivernais canal life was very quiet from the beginning of the March 2020 lockdown, or for those who would like to expand their French vocabulary «le confinement» because the canal had not yet re-opened from the winter closure and did not open to navigation until the 29th May. The weather was glorious throughout and as we could go nowhere it was the perfect opportunity to catch up on the backlog of painting on the boat. The towpath was also very quiet with very few, then no cyclists at all using the «veloroute», nobody participating in «fluvestre» activities. Eventually, as restrictions were tightened, the gendarmerie patrolled the towpath and issued fines for being out and about without the correctly filled in documents, the fine being 135 euros. This new bewildering situation to us all incited the V.N.F (Voies Navigables de France) to take precautionary measures and open up all the weirs and paddles along the canal with a view to anticipating a flood situation should it occur. Water levels dropped inevitably until boatyards, boaters and fishermen alike cried «stop!». Fortunately the artificial lake Pannaciere, which assures the water supply to the canal, saved us again because it was 90% full after winter rains and careful management. Despite a very hot and dry 2020 summer, levels held up well. Another positive side to the Covid 19 situation was that many people here stayed in France for their holidays and despite lower numbers of boats using the canal, French people discovered the waterways in large numbers, which will hopefully be a continuing trend for the future and perhaps give inland boating wider press and voters ! A local British hire operator interviewed on a French radio station pointed out that whereas 70% of hirers were previously from abroad, in 2020 70% were French, mainly from Paris and Lyon. However he reckoned that the number of weeks hired would be less than 50% of normal annual expectations. Private boats out and about were few and far between as many owners do not live in France and only one hotel boat was seen on the move. The hotel boat Luciole ex Palinurus for those who have been on the waterway’s scene for a while, has even shut up shop for the year. Another problem that we avoided on the canal in 2019 was the abundant growth of weed that literally blocked many other waterways, 17
propellors and water intakes. However, with the warm weather conditions and a lack of boat movements, especially the larger boats, the weed grew and grew here too last spring. V.N.F brought in a company to chop up and remove it from the pounds worst affected mostly by the weed Myriophylle or Parrot’s feathers. Again for your French vocabulary, this process is called «faucardage» in French. The guard gates alongside my mooring remained closed and the eventual accumulation of tree trunks and general flotsum and jetsum that gathers and grows showed how quickly nature takes over and how crucial constant maintenance is. Philippe Benard, one of our founder members and expresident but still very much a mover and shaker in our association, suggested that we carry a knife and secateurs in our bag when out walking along the canal in order to remove some of the weeds that annually invade the lock sides and structures to preserve them and present a tidier image of our canal. An excellent idea ! As a final note, for all of you who knew and remember Jo Parfitt, also a founder member and ex-president, his son Herby has taken over the running of the port at Mailly la Ville and it will be called «Chantier Fluvial du Nivernais» in honour of his father’s original boatyard there. Mary Ranger
This is an extract from the memoirs of
Frank Smith following his visit to Southcote Mill and re
-acquaintance with childhood friend Tom Hine after many years. The full version can be found on www.southcotemill.co.uk
I was born in Hungerford in 1934 and named Francis—which I didn’t like—so I have always been called Frank. My father, William (Bill) Smith— it seems neither of us liked our birth names—was a steam dredger driver on the Kennet and Avon canal in Newbury. When he married my mum, Winifred (Winnie), he was offered the job of lockkeeper at Southcote. This was mainly to look after lock no. 104 (Southcote) but also 105 (Burghfield Lock). The oldest record (thanks to my friend Tom Hine) is 1851 when the lock cottage was called Fisherman’s Cottage; it was later called Southcote Lock House. In 1871 the name changed to Pound House. In 1881, it was still called Pound House, but beside the lockkeeper and his wife there were two daughters, a son, plus a granddaughter and a male lodger!
The cottage had two main bedrooms, one reached by going through the other, as well as a tiny attic room! In 1891, the name changed to Lock Keeper’s Cottage as it was when I lived there. It was lived in by the Lawrence family; both grandfather and grandson
were lockkeepers. There were two main rooms downstairs, plus a very narrow kitchen, and coal storage under the stairs. There was just one cold tap in the kitchen and a hand-pumped bore hole pump in the wash house. This photo, taken from the swing bridge, shows how low down the cottage was to the canal. Dad’s punt is in the canal and you can just see it as he used to submerge it to seal the wooden joins (or so he told me). In the distance are the filter beds building which were next to the lock and supplied filtered water to the pumping station through underground pipes below the canal.
One job that I used to hate was when Dad had a load of coal delivered to the White Swan public house—of course, the lorries couldn’t get down the towpath. We had to take the punt up river and moor next to the pub and wheelbarrow the coal from the shed that the landlord (Fred Fisher) allowed us to use and tip it into the punt then pole it back to the cottage were we bucketed it into the cottage and put it under the stairs. Then I would 18
usually dive into the canal to wash it all off. Here is a photo of the penlocks, as we called them—actually the weir pool just below Burghfield Bridge.
The photo is of the crowds that used to come and swim or just paddle as it was very shallow next to the bank. It was very deep in the middle, which allowed us to dive off of the top of the handrails. I think back about how dangerous this was, but then I was young and couldn’t see any danger. The boards that you stand on to dive in were covered in green slimy silk weed and very slippery so one had to be careful, but that is another story... We did have one very famous narrow boat come through our stretch of canal and it was Cressy, belonging to Tom Rolt. I think it was the only time he came our way as he was based in the Midlands.
This is Tom Rolt standing on the back and steering his boat.
Notes from the wild west David Pearson, Lead Volunteer, Bath Towpath Workforce
The western entrance to the Kennet and Avon navigation is at Hanham Lock near Bristol. The River Avon is still tidal at this point and for several miles upstream. There are six large river locks between Hanham and the start of the Widcombe flight in Bath. Major changes in water levels on the river mean locks can be fully submerged, sometimes for weeks at a time. The Bath towpath taskforce team provides support to the Canal and River Trust in maintaining the K&A from Hanham all the way through Bath and beyond to Dundas Wharf. Together with our sister team of volunteers based at Dundas there are 25 regular volunteers working to maintain and improve this stretch of the waterway. 2020 was a challenging year for us all. Volunteering was put on hold from the beginning of March through to the middle of July. The return to volunteering was managed using CRT procedures to establish rules for COVID safe operations. This required us to significantly change our way of working. We limited our team size to a maximum of six with strict limits on the number of people on our boats and in the workshop buildings at any one time.
Despite these restrictions, our volunteers were very keen to return and contribute to the upkeep of the waterway. We increased our work days from two to three days a week which meant that despite the team size restriction we were able to maintain our ‘hit rate’ of around 18 volunteer days per week for the Bath based team. This way of working has proved to be very efficient despite requiring a bit more organisation to coordinate. Social distancing also required us to be very aware of how our operations might affect the increased number of visitors using the towpath for their regular excercise and wellbeing. Good weather during July and August allowed us to undertake much needed maintenance on the river locks. A complete clean and re-paint of the locks and landing stages at Hanham and Keynsham (see newly painted Keynsham Lock in the photo) was undertaken together with removal of overhanging vegetation on the lock approaches. It is very easy to maintain social distancing while working on such large locks and their location means that we were away from the general public. It is also a very pleasant stretch of the river to work on with a wide variety of wildlife including herons and kingfishers regularly following our workboats. In September we were also able to carry out the re-paint of Kelston Lock together with a thorough clean up at Swineford. So, three out of six locks were painted in 2020 leaving three more Swineford, Saltford and Weston for the 2021 programme. In addition to our work on the river in 2020 the team were able to make significant contributions to the work on the Bathwick section of the 19
towpath that was given a major upgrade this year. In particular the team was asked to complete the re -setting of the cobbles on the horse ramp and dig footings for the new hand rail which is now in place. All this together with our ‘bread and butter’ activities of vegetation management and litter and debris clearance meant we had a very productive summer and autumn. Unfortunately, we are now in lockdown again but we remain a dedicated bunch who feel we benefit greatly from the wellbeing that worthwhile hard work in the fresh air on our beautiful waterway brings. We are greatly looking forward to resuming our activities as soon as it is safe to do so in 2021. Our work is helped enormously by the support we have received through the Waterspace partnership. The K&A Trust is a member of this group which is led by BANES Council and aims to promote and enhance the River and Canal environment from Hanham to Dundas. Funding through this route has enabled the fit out of our large workboat (Sulis), the purchase of our smaller workboat (Community Spirit) and the provision of safety equipment and training for our boat crews. We are very grateful to the K&A trust for contributing to this funding and supporting the work we do on the most westerly outposts of the K&A. Hanham Lock
Our Crofton Story - the eight year journey
In December, the National Lottery Heritage Fund formally signed off as complete our major project to tell 'Our Crofton Story'. It is over 8 years since we began the journey that led here, with the 'Future of Crofton' seminar way back in October 2012. It is due to the vision of past chairs, Jon Willis and Harry Willis, that the idea behind the project developed. At the seminar, building on themes discussed by Crofton Volunteers and guided by our then Chair, Jon, we were helped with contributions from then Trust President, David Bruce, and representatives from the London Museum of Water & Steam, St John’s School Marlborough, The Canal & River Trust, Wiltshire County Council Heritage and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. With the aid of Mike Rodd, then Trust Chair, his successor Rob Dean, and the approval of Trust Council, we assembled a team and partners to turn the dream into reality. We publicly announced (in the Spring/Summer 2014 edition of the Butty) that the Trust was going to submit a National Lottery Heritage Fund bid. Our ‘Stage 1’ pass came through in June 2016, which was an acknowledgement that our project had potential, with funding to develop our ideas further into a ‘Stage 2’ bid for a final decision.
After a busy 12 months the bid was submitted, and to our great relief achieved success with a grant award in September 2017, with a total project cost of around £760K, plus volunteer time input, and grant up to £560K. Despite changes in project manager and some contractors, and with a nine month extension to the project timescale, we now have:
A refurbished and conserved Pumping Station all the work was done without closing to visitors too!
Memories of key Crofton restorers, important documentation and images, captured and ready to be rolled out to our audiences.
Greatly improved visitor facilities - including visitor and volunteer toilets and facilities for less mobile visitors - and a tidied up site.
First class interpretation aimed at the non-specialist visitor installed within the station and around the site.
New and innovative ways of telling the Crofton story and taking it out to the wider world, which will be developed further by our newly appointed Learning and Community Engagement Officer.
Delivery of the project outcomes which were part of our commitment to the Heritage Fund has been independently evaluated, and the summary report is on our website. There is much positive feedback from visitors, volunteers, Trustees and partners, and also lessons for us as we build on what has been achieved so far. But Crofton is only as good as its volunteer base, and without our volunteers rising to meet these challenges we would be nowhere. Over the project as a whole, Crofton volunteers have put more than 10,000 hours into the project, valued by the Heritage Fund at £220K, an amazing total. Funders have also recognised our achievements, and the Trust is reaping the benefit in the shape of an enhanced ability to attract grants - at the end of last year, we received £35,000 from the Wolfson Foundation to protect their investment in us and help us recover from the effects of Covid, and a further £15,000 from the Wiltshire Community Foundation.
So well done everybody who devoted time and effort to making the Delivery Phase of Our Crofton Story a success. Now on to the next project! Peter Turvey (Crofton Branch Chairman 2014-2019 and Project Manager 2019) 20
Characters on the cut Here we meet one of the K&A’s liveaboards who has been happy to share a bit about her life on the canal and how she came to live here. Tell us a bit about yourself and your links to the canal. I’m Dru Marland. I’m a former seafarer, and I used to blow things up in the hunt for oil, and then worked in ships’ engine rooms. I’m also a trans woman; and that forced a change in direction in all sorts of ways. So now I draw pictures and fix things for friends. I needed a new home a few years ago and was lucky to find the perfect boat, and the money to buy it. I’m happier on a boat than in a house to be honest. Now I draw things. My canal maps are popular. I also like drawing the people and wildlife on the cut, and collaborated with other K&A boaters on a collection of poetry called ‘Poets Afloat’ How did you find yourself living on the K&A canal?
It’s the obvious place to be for me; I’ve got all sorts of connections with Bristol, and I love the West Country; it’s my adopted home. Most memorable moment on the K&A canal? My arrival on it, when helping a friend down the Thames from Oxford; she was heading for London, and the Thames went from yellow boards to red as we approached Reading. “Why don’t we just turn off onto the K&A?” I said, innocently and with a hidden agenda. So we did. Out of the frying pan into the fire. The water was pouring over the tops of the locks and we struggled through
that shopping centre at full throttle against the torrent, in peril of our lives, while leisuresuited shoppers wandered past munching burgers. It was all really rather surreal What’s the best thing about living on the K&A? The community. That’s kind of why I mentioned the trans thing earlier; in my everyday life it’s irrelevant, as it should be, but it often isn’t in the wider world; on the canal, folk are strongly individual, self-reliant and ready to help each other. It’s an imperfect, marginalised and struggling but basically good society. They’re my people! And the worst? Struggling with this one. Maybe the snarky comments about unsightly boaters from people who came expecting Rosie and Jim. I know there’s some “mickey taking” and selfish behaviour from a small minority of boaters. But…it’s an imperfect world, and we’re all falling into an uncertain future. The canal isn’t a theme park. And some folk appreciate us! Transport yourself to a spot on the canal network for a day, where would you go and why? Glasson Dock on the Lancaster Canal, where we used to go when I was tiny. The water is clear as anything, as I discovered when I fell off Uncle George’s cabin cruiser in 1962. As I got older, I’d walk out to the Lune estuary and listen to the curlews calling over the endless sands and have melancholy thoughts. Then go to the local pub. Given an unlimited budget what one thing would you do to 21
enhance the K&A canal for others? Crazy golf. One hole for every lock. Wouldn’t that be great? How has lock down affected your work? I couldn’t trade on the towpath. But I could keep on drawing of course! Finally, who’s your favourite, Rosie or Jim? *cough* Dru has recently become the Canal Laureate. She also writes a regular blog which can be found at druwithoutamap.blogspot.com. Her canal and wildlife inspired artwork and poetry can be found for sale on etsy: www.etsy.com/uk/ shop/DruMarland.
Long Life Lock Gates?
The issue of the potential of substantially reducing waterway budgets and concerns as to the impact of this prompted representatives of the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust to investigate alternative construction designs and methods of lock gates replacement. Here Bill Fisher and Terry Kemp,Vice Presidents of the Trust, bring members up to date on this work. The Canal and River Trust make a significant investment each year in the replacement of lock gates across the waterways network. The majority of these gates are of oak with various metal additions and often last less than 25 years. On the Kennet and Avon Canal, during the time of the waterways restoration and lottery funded improvements, lock gate replacements were undertaken in ‘large batches’. This places budgetary pressures on the waterway finances as these gate numbers regularly come up for renewal. For some years representatives of the Trust have considered how to construct and install waterway lock gates reducing material and installation costs, environmental impact and maintenance. The project was undertaken with the knowledge and involvement of originally British Waterways originally, and later Canal and River Trust but unfortunately early agreements were not forthcoming. However, over time, an innovative design of a metal lock gate was developed that could be manufactured and installed meeting the overall objectives of the initiative. Swansea University was employed with a grant to test the engineering. These early new designs were adopted, used and installed as part of a ‘non Canal and River Trust’ lottery funded canal project, on the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal’s Ty Coch flight above Newport. This provided an excellent model and test of the idea. More recently Vice Presidents, Bill Fisher and Terry Kemp formed a partnership project with Canal and River Trust Engineers and Managers and have now taken the project a step further forward. New gates were fitted at Picketsfield Lock, near Hungerford in the winter of 2019/2020. Both Bill and Terry are enthusiastic advocates of this change convinced that it will improve the operational efficiency of the lock, benefit the environment, reduce maintenance and perhaps more importantly, will create savings to be Picketsfield Lock Nr Hungerford. spent elsewhere. New composite gate being lifted into place.
Why change? What are the benefits? Indeed listing some of the benefits additional to cost savings adds weight to the need for change:
Lifespan of timber gates at present averages 20 to 25 years. Steel gates will have a lifespan of 50 to 100 years. ( Good examples of this are the top gates on the Devizes Lock flight fitted in the 1980s)
The energy costs of manufacture and installation of steel gates is less than wooden gates when measured over time
Timber gates at present require approx. 15 fully grown 250 year old oak trees to make a full set of top and bottom gates
Timber gates when removed are not economically recyclable, metal gates can be 22
It is estimated that the last of the oak trees planted in the UK by the Victorians are being harvested. Imported timber will therefore be the only source in future.
When used in a waterway environment, the oak used for lock gates, has a budgeted operational life span of approximately 25 years, equating to 60 trees per 100 years per lock.
There are energy costs in addition to the manufacture with the required use of heavy plant for installation every 20 to 25 years rather than for every 50 to a 100 years if steel was used.
Along the length of the Kennet and Avon Canal (and other waterways) many historic locks have been modified, added to or changed. The new design can take on the ‘look’ of a traditional timber lock gate.
Gate maintenance at present is a costly issue. Damage, weathering and wear of the timber gates requires constant operational attention. Steel gates will require significantly less operation attention by comparison.
Along the way the input by many both within the Trust and within CRT has been great. Bill and Terry visited Picketsfield when the gates were being fitted and gained great encouragement and endorsement from the locally based gate fitting specialist staff on site. However the finished gates at Picketsfield only part meet the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust’s objectives. Although these gates have taken on many of the changes that are being advocated, they are still composite gates (steel and wood) rather than the steel gates expected. So what is the issue, why cannot changes be more fully be embraced? This is a difficult question to answer. The issue lies within the debate that requires understanding of the necessary balance between the various determinants in the decision process of waterways management: Heritage - Cost - Engineering - Sustainability - Environment - Functionality. Each of these headings can and have created passionate arguments within the debate about lock gates, their repair and replacement. These arguments are all valid. It is for Canal and River Trust Trustees to consider these arguments and to come to the right policy decisions. Local engagement in this decision making process is one reason that Bill and Terry have become involved on behalf of the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust . So what next? Should the Trust be concerned? The debate about steel or wood will continue but in the meantime we are seeing evidence of the pressures on waterway budgets from many angles. On the K & A during 2019 and 2020 our concerns about waterway budgets, gate repairs and replacements have grown. The number of annual replacements have reduced substantially (only Weston Lock gates have been replaced during the past winter), emergency closures have increased and unscheduled repairs have been undertaken, sometimes as a result of K & A Trust reports. During the meetings with CRT there is an increasing need to provide evidence and to quantify our concerns as users that bring weight to the discussions. This is not an easy task. We all are perhaps amateur waterway engineers but not professionals! However, visual inspections by Trust volunteers can provide valid and obvious detailed findings that can support the case for work to be carried out. To this end focusing on lock gates for the moment, a visual survey of gate condition is to be piloted by the Reading Branch. Lessons learned from this pilot will show how the initiative can then be rolled out along the waterway, thus achieving better records of condition to bring to our Hampstead Lock, top offside gate. discussions with CRT. December 2020.
crofton All our plans were in place to prepare the engines at Crofton for steaming, when Covid struck and we went into lockdown last March. Over April and May, nothing other than basic housekeeping took place. But with lockdown easing, we set ourselves the target of reopening to the public from 18 July, and with tremendous efforts from volunteers, coordinated by Pam Weeks who took on the role of Site Manager and Catherine Hutchings our Assistant Site Manager, we achieved it!
In June and early July, contractors installed the new interpretation panels and play area, and volunteers assembled the new picnic benches and cycle racks. With a one-way system round the station for timed, self-guided tours, a minimum of six volunteers on duty every day to manage entry to the site, supervise visitor circulation and clean and sanitise between tours, we opened for three days a week through to the end of September.
We were not able to steam the engines, but could at least show videos of the engines in action including the iconic John Betjeman Shell film from the 1950s.
Altogether, we had 1,760 visitors - far less than in a normal year, but still a real achievement. And some of the comments from visitors were really heartening: “The volunteers were careful and considerate whilst still being friendly and helpful”, “On our narrowboat, after 10 weeks trip, this is the highlight” and “That was the first time that I’d brought my dad out in 6 months.” Lockdowns 2 and 3 have slowed progress in preparing for the 2021 season, and our original aim of steaming again at Easter will not be achieved. But we still plan to open then, and to steam the engines once a month from May onwards. Even if, as currently seems likely, some social distancing measures remain in place for much of the year, our experience in 2020 gives us confidence that we can keep volunteers, staff and visitors safe and give our visitors an enjoyable time.
So what else will 2021 bring? Hopefully, we will get full control of the Smithy (the only building on the main part of the site still owned by CRT) and can develop plans to convert it for visitor and education use, and at 24
the same time improve workshop and volunteer facilities. We hope to appoint a new General Manager in the summer, and also to complete conservation work on the Archimedean screw that has been slowly deteriorating in the often wet and windy Wiltshire climate, funded by grants we have secured from the Wiltshire Community Foundation and the Pilgrim Trust. Katherine Davis, our Learning and Community Engagement Officer, will continue developing our learning offer, initially online, but hopefully with school visits resuming later in the year. We will continue with other initiatives such as the collaboration with students from the University of Bath and from UWE (to extend the ground-breaking mechatronics project), oral history interviews, and developing our virtual archive. But challenges remain. We expect to have to undertake major work on the boiler next winter, which could easily cost £50K, and we will need to raise funds for that. Keeping Crofton steaming will never be easy, but who else can say that they operate the oldest beam engine in the world, still in its original location, and still able to carry out the task pumping water to the summit of the K&A - for which it was built?
Chris Bolt Crofton Branch Vice-Chairman
Obituary to simon eveleigh
Simon Eveleigh, one of our best loved members, died in late January of COVID-19 at the age of 74. Simon had been Trust Assets Advisor, Devizes Branch Chairman, Kenavon Venture Boat Manager, a Boatmaster on Kenavon Venture, Jubilee and The Rose of Hungerford. Simon came to the Trust after a career as Estate Manager at Marlborough College. That gave him a practical approach to life and a real talent for fixing things. He also had a passion for boats which drew him to the Kenavon Venture and getting involved in the project to move Jubilee to Newbury and refurbish her. When I met Simon in 2011, I was struck by his combination of expertise and self-deprecating humour. He knew how to fix something but did not grumble if his suggestion was not followed. But he was so good with people that his idea was invariably taken up. He espoused a wish not to take on roles with responsibility. He didn’t want to be a manager and he didn’t want to be a Boat
Master, but he was drawn into Trust work the way so many of us are, and by 2013 was keen to train as Boat Master. Not only did he become an experienced and popular skipper, but he also demonstrated an excellent ability to coach others in boat handling. When a Boat Manager was needed for Kenavon Venture, he stepped up and did a terrific job. His last great achievement was in 2020 when he managed the complexities of a ‘heel test’ required by our regulators, and organised and started the refit necessary after a new bottom had been welded on. Simon’s energy seemed neverending and he was often at the boat or in the Trust sheds, checking and organising equipment and paperwork. He was always generous with his time and when thanked for the immense effort he put in would reply with a grin, “it fills the time between getting up and going to bed”. Simon was fun to be with and few could resist the wide-beam smile of this gentle giant, but he also took his professional responsibilities as a skipper and Boat Manager very seriously. His immense charm ensured a day on his boat was serious fun. He also loved a social occasion and could be relied on to organise great events. Simon had a life outside the Trust, of course. He took time out to sail through the Panama 25
Canal and across the Pacific as part of a round-the-world journey. Some members were fascinated to hear his tales of this journey over Zoom last autumn. He was widowed young and absolutely devoted to the 2 young daughters he raised alone. He was proud of his achievement and the successful women they grew into. He was especially delighted to become a grandfather and regaled anyone he could with photos of his grandson. When the pandemic brought Trust activities to a halt, Simon spotted the challenges and insisted on a safe approach. He took great care to keep anyone working on the boat safe. He stepped down as Boat Manager at the end of 2020 to ‘get back to the fun’. It is a great sadness that he didn’t get that time. Those that worked with him are indebted for his leadership and the legacy he has left us. We valued his advice and knowledge, but most of all his friendship. We will all miss him so much but now have good footsteps to follow. Rob Dean
At the time of writing this piece in early February it has not so far been the best of starts to the New Year with strong flows in Newbury and ongoing Covid restrictions limiting much of our normal off-season work like maintenance and preparing for the MCA annual survey. We were also deeply saddened at the news that Simon Eveleigh succumbed to Covid. Simon was a very popular member of Jubilee’s crew and a good friend to many of us. He made a big contribution and will be very sorely missed. Despite the uncertain outlook, we are continuing to plan as much as we can for the new season, so that we will be ready to restart operations when it is safe to do so. We hope that, lockdown restrictions permitting, we will be able to run public trips with very small numbers of passengers, but our ever- popular special trips like our pirate trips in the summer holidays are unlikely to be possible. Likewise, whether Newbury Waterways Festival, which was postponed from last year to 4th July this year, can proceed remains uncertain and planning is currently on hold. Exploratory discussions with West Berkshire Council about our plans to use some of the Greenfield legacy for improvements to Newbury Wharf are underway. Our aim is to improve the visitor experience by renovating the crane and surrounding area and installing some interpretation boards about the canal, Jubilee and the work of the Trust more generally. We also plan to upgrade the lighting in the canal and information centre in the John Gould room upstairs in the Stone Building. Hopefully we will have good news to report for the next Butty. Our volunteer crew remain optimistic and their enthusiasm remains undimmed. They are an adaptable and resilient bunch and we will be back.
Julian Foley Newbury Branch Chairman
THE BRADFORD FLIGHT There’s some wot dwells at Darlington And some by Avoncliff And they’ll maybe jaunt to Diggers if the swingbridge ain’t too stiff. And the fear of where they’ve never been Will haunt their dreams at night For there’s dragons beyond Lock 14 Above the Bradford Flight. And there’s some wot braves the Kennet’s floods Despite the gruesome tattle ‘bout West End folk up to no good and boats packed in like cattle. And silent, high upon Caen Hill they'll gaze with wild surmise at the lowlands all before them still and Wiltshire's farms and spires. For there's adventures yet to come, at Bowerhill and Semington; but it's Lock 14 at Bradford, yes, the Bradford Flight, in Bradford town that's one lock up and one lock down is gateway to the Shire!
Dru Marland “Canal Laureate” 26
VOLUNTEERING ROLES WITH THE KACT
Here are a few ways in which YOU could be involved: Crewing on one of our boats; Gardening at one of our Cafe location;
Being involved at Crofton, as a guide; Becoming a local K&A Champion, to lobby re local issues affecting the canal; Helping develop educational resources and programmes for adults - nature, canal heritage or industrial archaeology, for example; Helping develop educational resources and programmes for children, in partnership with schools and youth groups; Regularly supply canal related photos to the new KACT Photo Library;
Research and write historical articles for The Butty. https://katrust.org.uk Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
THE KENNET AND AVON CANAL TRUST Devizes Wharf, Couch Lane, Devizes, Wiltshire SN10 1EB Telephone: 01380 721279 www.katrust.org.uk President:
Rob Dean CMG
Richard Benyon MP
Bookings & Administration
Editor, The Butty
Timothy West Trust Council Chair:
Bath & Bristol
Bradford on Avon
Chris Bolt CB
The Kennet & Avon Canal Trust: Company No. 00726331, Registered Charity No. 209206 The Kennet & Avon Canal Trust (Enterprise) Ltd: Company No. 02679756 27
The Kennet & Avon Canal Trust Notice of Annual General Meeting
The 59th Annual General Meeting of The Kennet & Avon Canal Trust will be held at Devizes Wharf, Couch Lane, Devizes, Wiltshire, SN10 1EB and by Zoom on Saturday 22 May 2021, commencing at 11am, to conduct the business shown in the Agenda below.
To receive and adopt the Report and Accounts for the year ended 31 December 2020
To elect Directors: Mike Bailey, Chris Bolt and David Copley retire in accordance with Articles 32 and 33 of the Trust's Articles of Association and are recommended by the Directors for re-election
To transact any other business which may properly be conducted at an Annual General Meeting
Following the formal business, the Chairman will give an update on current issues and the future direction of the Trust, and take questions from members. A copy of the draft minutes for the 2020 AGM is on the Trust website. By Order of the Board
1 March 2020
Appointment of Proxies: A member entitled to attend and vote may appoint a proxy to attend and vote in his/her stead. The proxy need not be a member of the Company. A copy of the proxy form is available on the Trust website or by written application to the Trust office: The Kennet and Avon Canal Trust, Devizes Wharf, Couch Lane, Devizes, SN10 1EB. All proxy forms must be returned either electronically to email@example.com or by post to be received no later than 11 am on Thursday 20 May 2021. Registered in England and Wales: No 00726331. Registered Charity: No 209206 28