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BEAR ESSENTIALS The Newsletter of : -

IWA Warwickshire Branch Issue No. 38 – December 2013.

Back to the Future

Welcome to this edition of the ‘new format’ Bear Essentials. The unfortunate demise of our regional magazine Navigation (see elsewhere) has spurred us into developing ‘BE’ beyond its original brief – that of simply advertising up-coming events within our branch – and on into a more comprehensive newsletter. We now plan to include reports on past activities - and not simply the IWA activities within our branch area. Indeed, more items of regional waterway interest will also be considered – particularly if they’re unlikely to be found elsewhere. On the eve of what – as you will read herein - is going to be a significant year for Warwickshire’s waterways, I, and indeed the whole of the Branch Committee, will relish the challenge that this change brings. Editor.


Ian Fletcher.


Over the weekend of October 19 - 20 2013, Warwickshire Branch members led fellow local boaters and Wootton Wawen residents in a celebration of the bi-centenary of the opening of the Stratford Canal’s Wootton Wawen Aqueduct. The highlight of the weekend was a re-interpretation of the original 1813 opening ceremony (see above) by Branch members Stuart Lawson and Tony Hales: in the respective roles of William Whitmore – Engineer for the construction of the canal, and William James – Deputy Chairman of the Stratford on Avon Canal Navigation Company. Their fine rousing speeches culminated in a tape-cutting ceremony, which was followed by a procession of boats across the aqueduct. There was of course another reason for this gathering. In his ‘opening’ speech, Mr. Whitmore had indicated that it would take a further 3 years for the new canal to reach Stratford and the River Avon itself. However, in his concluding remarks, event organiser Clive Henderson pointed out that today things move a little faster. Our goal was now to lead IWA members and fellow boaters to the town and the river within twelve months. – not th really to celebrate the then 198 anniversary of the original th canal completion, but to celebrate the 50 anniversary of the restored Southern Stratford canal reaching the river, and the th 40 anniversary of the restored Avon Navigation reaching the town; all to take place, with significant IWA support, at The Stratford River Festival – which will be held over the weekend of th th July 5 & 6 2014.

Future Bear Essentials Distribution Members who have provided IWA with an e-mail address will, in addition to this particular hard-copy of BE, receive an electronic version. For those wishing to ‘opt-in’ to continue to receive future postal copies, details of how to do this will be given in its accompanying e-mail. Note: The postal option is not available to those with Electronic Membership.

Thank You Warwickshire Branch has, yet again, increased its sales of IWA Christmas cards and calendars. Through members pre-ordering via the Branch, and additional sales made at meetings, this year’s total already exceeds £290. Our thanks go to all of you who have helped us in this fund-raising for local and regional waterway causes.

Our New Year Programme of Evening Activities.

Bear in Mind:

Unless otherwise stated all evening events take place at:

(Our Chairman’s Notes)

The Sports ConneXion, Ryton-on-Dunsmore, Coventry CV8 3FL All meetings start at 7:30 pm. Wednesday January 8th 2014: Branch Annual Dinner, The Kings Head, Napton. Although most tickets have been sold at our earlier meetings, there may be a few places left. For the latest situation phone Tina Jackson on 01788 - 891 545.

Wednesday February 12th 2014: Trail Boat Exploration of the British Isles, by Jeanne & Derek Smith. To Branch members, Derek and Jeanne may perhaps be best remembered for their pirouetting performances in their illuminated Wilderness cruiser Olive at the Stratford River Festival some years ago; but as ‘leading lights’ in the restoration movement, and in the trail boat ‘wing’ of IWA, their cruises have taken them far and wide – even to some waterways that some of us will not have heard of. We’re surely in for a treat tonight.

Wednesday March 12th 2014: Branch AGM, followed by: The Inside Story of the Diamond Jubilee Pageant. by Helen Henderson. Warwickshire Branch AGM Agenda. 1. Apologies for absence. 2. Approval of minutes of the last AGM, and matters arising from these minutes. 3. Report from the Branch Chairman. 4. Financial Report from the Branch Treasurer. 5. Election of members of the Committee. 6. Any items requested by members of the Branch provided the Branch Chairman or Secretary is notified of the item, in writing, at least 6 weeks prior to the AGM. The formalities of our AGM are always kept to a minimum, but this year the pressure to conclude will be even greater, as Helen will be waiting to tell us how she, Clive, and their other crew, experienced the pain and the pleasure of the 2012 Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the River Thames. Thereby earning the right to call their boat Nanshe ‘one in a thousand’ – and having the pennant to prove it.

Up-coming Walk and Work Party info. Jan 5th (Sunday). A 2 hr. walk around the Stratford Canal at Wilmcote. Meet at The Masons Arms Wilmcote - 10:15 for 10:30am Lunches (pre-booked on the day) available at the pub. th

Feb 16 (Sunday) A 2 hr. walk from Napton to New Zealand and back ! Meet 10:15 for 10:30 at the Bridge Inn - on A425 / Oxford Canal, Bridge 111 (nr, Napton). No passports required ! th

Mar 18 (Tuesday) A long and a short walk around Earlswood Lakes. Meet at the Craft Centre car-park - 10:15 for 10:30am. Lunches available at the café. Branch Work Parties* A) Off-side lock-landings Hatton – before end March* B) East-Enders ? (see page 3) * st

CRT Towpath task-force. A) 1 Mon & Wed of each month – Hatton. rd B) 3 Thur & Sat of each month - Lapworth. *Note: For the most up-to-date information on Branch work-parties (and all other Branch activities) see our Branch page on the IWA web-site. << >>

As I write this, the CRT winter maintenance programme is well underway. In mid January, in a nationally pioneering move, volunteers from our branch will be helping with repairs to Wilmcote top lock on the Stratford Canal. Later in the year we expect to run a variety of work-parties hopefully some on other waterways within the Branch area. In the past, IWA erected a number of memorials, such as one to Robert Aickman at Harvington Lock on the river Avon, and more recently the finger-post at Kingswood Junction has become a memorial to Doug Smith; both are now in need of ‘TLC’, and I expect some Branch members would like to help with these tasks. In order to hold a full and varied programme of activities, we need members prepared to help with their organisation - within a framework agreed by your committee. At our AGM in March you will have the opportunity to volunteer your services to help in a number of capacities. Vacancies include: * Branch Secretary * Programme Secretary * Publicity Officer * Walks Coordinator * Work Party Organiser If you are able to help in any of these roles please contact to me. Recently, IWA responded to the Strategic Waterways Plans of the three CRT Partnerships within our Branch area. These documents will guide each CRT Region’s management with their resource investment over the next 10 years. Our comments included:- the need to widen the skill base of volunteers, improve the dredging plans, and a request for prioritisation of their objectives. Finally, 2014 will see a number of anniversaries of important events in Warwickshire Branch’s history. Your support for the associated activities which mark these anniversaries is essential to their success. Wishing you all a busy 2014.

Richard Sanders.

Bear - faced Lines:

Random snippets from around the patch

The Year of the Bear:

Lock 40, Southern Stratford:

With so many waterway activities being planned around the county next year, some members are starting to call 2014 ‘The Year of the Bear’. Branch member Ian West is already bringing his Festivals experience to ‘bear’ (oops! – sorry about that) on a series of events that will lead up to the Stratford River Festival in July. One idea is to recreate the classic 1957 canoe trip down the Stratford by John Pinder and Michael Fox (see below). The toll ticket for their trip prevented Warwickshire County Council from ‘dropping’ Bridge 59 at Wilmcote – which, had that happened, would have rendered restoration impossible. Canoeists of the county take up your paddles in celebration of that epic voyage !

In January, in a nationally pioneering move, CRT volunteers – including a number from our Branch will undertake some ‘real work’. As part of the winter stoppage programme on the Wilmcote flight, they will augment the professionals by ‘breaking out’ the damaged lower quadrant and wing-wall at lock 40. A disconcerting bulge in the wing-wall was detected after all winter stoppage commitments had been made. Postponement of the repair could, at worst, have had implications for traffic heading for Stratford next summer. There was therefore no hesitation in Branch members supporting this innovative project.

Coventry Basin: Valley Cruises is moving from its Springwood Marina base near Nuneaton to Coventry Basin. On balance we feel that this is not a bad move. Seven hire-boats and one private resident / security boat, located in part of the Basin’s southern (warehouse) arm will occupy about 1/3 of the Basin’s total water-space. Valley’s activities will bring more life, and a greater degree of security into an otherwise sadly sterile location. And the whole 5½ mile arm should benefit from increased boat movements. Visitor mooring, in the north arm, Canoe Club operation in the south arm, and boat winding by James Brindley will not be affected.

Kingswood Finger-post:

If you are cruising around Kingswood Junction in the New Year; the finger-post – one of three commissioned by the Branch in 1989 - may not be there to direct you. But don’t panic, as the above photo shows, it is now in dire need of some TLC. So, in the next few weeks, CRT plans to remove it – for repair and renovation. It is hoped that some of the original Branch members who worked on the 1989 project will be able to help with this refurbishment. It is planned to re-installed the post before next ‘season’ really gets under-way, because – as you will read elsewhere – we expect that a lot of boaters will be looking for the way to get to Stratford next summer.

East Enders ? Travelling the northern GU from Knowle to Napton is today like travelling through two different worlds. In some respects it is – in that the section from Radford Semele to Napton is now managed by CRT - South East. The physical condition on this section compared with the CRT-West Midlands section vividly illustrates this division. Unkempt vegetation and poor paintwork are but the most obvious differences to be seen when heading south-east (see below).

To-date CRT-SE has not been as pro–active as CRT-WM in enlisting volunteer help on our patch. How long should we wait for Milton-Keynes based personnel to contact us ? Should we be pressing them to allow us to smarten up this section ? particularly in view of the increased number of visitors that we can expect in Warwickshire in 2014. It isn’t a good advert for one of ‘our’ waterways. So, those of you who live in Napton, Rugby, Southam, Stockton – and all points east, are you prepared to become an ‘east-ender’ to wield a paint-brush or some secateurs, and help us sort this embarrassing problem? If so, then please e-mail us at < >, or phone a committee member (their numbers are on your programme card).

Stop Press ! Recently sighted near the Shirley Drawbridge, and believed to be heading south for the winter – a lesser-spotted spot-dredger. Would members who feel particularly ‘twitchy’ about this sighting please report further sightings – as these will confirm CRTWM’s commitment to improving navigation on the Stratford canal in time for our 2014 celebrations.


ANT- icipation. The story of the ArgoCat.

Notice of West Midlands Region Annual General Meeting The 2014 Annual General Meeting of West Midlands Region will take place at 8:00pm on th March 17 in the ‘Cabin’ at Coombeswood Canal Trust, Hawne Basin, Hereward Rise, Halesowen, West Midlands, B62 8AW. It will follow the Annual General Meeting of the Birmingham, Black Country & Worcestershire Branch (which is scheduled to start at 7:30pm). AGENDA 1. Apologies for absence 2. Approval of minutes of the last AGM and any matters arising from these minutes 3. Report from the Region Chairman 4. Financial Report 5. Election of members of the Committee 6. Any items requested by members of the Region provided the Region Chairman is notified in writing of the item at least six weeks prior to the AGM.

Over the years, ANT (the Avon Navigation Trust), has built up a significant fleet of ‘rapid response’ vehicles for both rescue and emergency repair – from its land-based Land Rovers to waterbased ‘ribs’ (rigid inflatable boats). However, after a series of floods in 2012, ANT’s General Manager, Clive Matthews, determined that another kind of vehicle would benefit the Trust, and its customers – an amphibian. Such a vehicle could operate in water too shallow for a rib - with its vulnerable outboard, or water too deep, or ground too soft for a Land Rover. Anticipating an inevitable future need for such a vehicle, an ArgoCat was purchased, and unveiled by the Trust at the 2013 Stratford River Festival. In addition to its driver, it can carry comprehensive tools and rescue kit to the most remote of sites, and in extreme conditions can rescue a boat crew of up to four people at a time. Fortunately, like many insurance policies, it has not yet been used to this extreme; but it has already proved invaluable in the prompt clearing and repair of locks after flooding.

This agenda follows the Association’s by-laws. Any member, regardless of the length of their membership, who feels that they can contribute to the work of the committee is welcome to volunteer for election, this is normally for a term of three years. This can either be done in advance of the meeting by contacting the Chairman or Secretary, or at the start of the item dealing with the election of the committee when the Chairman of the meeting may seek interest from the floor. No formal nominations are required in either case. Once constituted, the new Committee will elect its Officers - other than the Chairman who is elected by means of a separate poll once every three years - at its first meeting following the AGM. Normally this will take place within a few days of the AGM.

It is good to think that ANT’s investment in the ArgoCat – supported by both our Branch and individual Branch members - probably makes ‘our river’ the safest to navigate in the country; and it continues a safety crusade that we started several years ago - by providing Warwickshire’s emergency services, and our air-ambulance, with grid-reference data of all our key waterway locations.

The IWA may not agree with opinions expressed here in this newsletter, but encourages its publication as a matter of interest. Nothing herein may be construed as a matter of policy, or an official announcement, unless otherwise stated. The Association accepts no liability for any of the material contained herein. The IWA is a registered charity (No. 212342), founded in 1946. Supported by donations & members’ subscriptions, it campaigns for conservation, use, maintenance, restoration, & development of the inland waterways of England and Wales - for the benefit of all. Registered & General Office: - Island House, Moor Road, Chesham, Herts. HP5 1WA. Phone: 01494 - 783 453.

Website :-

Editor: Ian Fletcher, 4 Village Hall Cottages, CV47 9QH Phone :01926 – 815 413. E-mail : For local contact on all other Branch activities please e-mail: < > For up to date info. between BE editions visit our web page: < > Please inform Head Office of any e-mail address changes.

Profile for The Inland Waterways Association

Bear Essentials Issue 38  

Newsletter of the Warwickshire Branch of the Inland Waterways Association

Bear Essentials Issue 38  

Newsletter of the Warwickshire Branch of the Inland Waterways Association