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PETERBOROUGH BRANCH

HEREWARD AUTUMN 2011

www.iwapeterborough.org.uk The IWA charity registered number 212342 The views expressed in this publication are not necessarily those of the Inland Waterways Association or of the Peterborough Branch. They are, however, published as being of interest to our members and readers


Droitwich canals opening 2011

The connected waterways network gained some further mileage this summer with the opening of the Droitwich Canals which link the River Severn and the Worcester & Birmingham Canal. John Revell cruised to Droitwich for the celebrations and his account is on page 2 of this issue. Here are some views of John’s trip.


CHAIRMAN’S LETTER

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here is a feeling of déjà vu as I write this. It does seem that much of what I have to say has been said before. However one thing is new, we now know what the New Waterways Charity is going to be called. With stunning originality it’s the Canal And River Trust (cart !) as in “ in the cart, cart before the horse, etc etc”. IWA is still busy with lobbying behind the scenes at parliamentary level in order to secure the least worst deal as far as funding goes, but no one could say that the future looks too bright. We all know that EA isn’t included from day one, mainly because of complexities of separating the EA navigation functions from its other environmental responsibilities. It is possible that it may never be included, who knows, I certainly don’t. Welches Dam has not progressed very far, although a visit to the site by Paul Roper, Chair Navcom and Clive Henderson, National Chair, has been organised for November. Following that we shall see what happens. We have put together a shortened social programme, details within the newsletter. Several people did respond to my piece in the last Hereward, the general opinion was, “ we like the social programme, but we can’t always attend”. So rather than abandon that side of the Branch activities we have decided to run a limited programme and review it after the AGM when untold numbers of willing volunteers will have come forward to swell the ranks. Then again, maybe not.

Alastair Chambers We hope you will please support our advertisers in return for the continued valuable support they give to the Branch in making this publication possible.

WELCOME The Branch extends a warm welcome to the following new members:• Mr & Mrs Bolt of Peterborough • Mr & Mrs Durham of Eatonford, St Neots • Mr & Mrs Hughes of Brampton, Huntingdon 1


DROITWICH CANALS OPENING

by John Revell

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he highlight of my recent canal trip was reaching Droitwich Spa during the celebrations for the re-opening of the Droitwich Canals. I have to confess that prior to my journey I had no real idea where Droitwich was. Now I can say it is near Worcester and close to the bottom of the famous Tardebigge flight of narrow locks. I can recommend it. The Droitwich Canals are in fact two canals, the Droitwich Barge Canal and the Droitwich Junction Canal. The Barge canal is wide beam and leaves the River Severn at Hawford, above Worcester to make an end on junction with the narrow Droitwich Junction Canal in Droitwich. The Junction canal then continues to meet the Worcester & Birmingham Canal at Hanbury Wharf. The new link creates a 21 mile cruising ring for narrow craft taking in the Worcester & Birmingham Canal and River Severn. It will also provide opportunities for circular walks and improved access to the towpath and allows a useful shortcut for boats cruising the Severn Ring. The restoration has involved work on 12 existing locks and the construction of four new locks, 1km of new cut and 500m of canalised river, one major bridge construction under the A449 and creation of offline reedbeds to replace those removed from the channel to allow restoration for navigation. The canals were officially closed in 1939 and the Droitwich Canals Trust was formed in 1973 to re-open them. It has been a long haul with money, labour and sheer doggedness from many private and public bodies. One of the volunteers told me that when they seemed to be going nowhere they would organise a working party and 200 volunteers would turn up. No-one could then say there was no demand for the re-opening of the canals. There were lots of other stories. One man living by the canal had bought a tiny narrowboat some years earlier and had used this ever since to go to the shops a few miles down a short stretch of navigable canal. Another told me how part of the canal had looked like an open sewer in the past. Another man had been walking the same section for 20 years. He had known it completely weeded over, with impassable locks without gates (or water). He said it was fantastic to see it fully restored. As we arrived and passed through the Droitwich Barge Lock the church bells rang – definitely a first. We were later told that the vicar had offered to ring the bells in celebration that morning. There were thousands of people enjoying the sunshine, walking along the canal and looking at all the boats. The press were there in force, a band was playing and the food and beer tents were in full swing. It was a great occasion. Let's hope that Peterborough IWA's campaign to fully restore the ancient route from Horseways Lock to the Old Bedford sluice (and Welches Dam lock in particular) is equally successful.

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ÂŁ7.95

EA—Anglian Region Charges for 2012

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or some time the EA Anglia Region Regional Navigation Group has been meeting three times a year. This year a special additional meeting was called to discuss Charging and it was held on 23rd September. It had been preceded by a meeting of the EA National Navigation Users Forum [NNUF] held in London on 23rd August and IWA representatives had the advantage of a report from Paul Roper the Chairman of Nav Com on that meeting. What had transpired at NNUF had been a long presentation about how Navigation would be funded in future. In essence GIA [i.e. the part of the Government grant devoted to Navigation] had been cut by 50% and the EA was considering introducing a licensing system under which the three EA navigation regions would each be expected to pay their respective running costs from registration fees with the GIA paying for capital investment. You probably do not need me to tell you that this could, if implemented. be a disaster for Anglia region boaters. The last figures I have [for 2009/10] suggest that in Anglia the licence fee pays about 64 % of operations costs. By contrast Thames pays some way more than its operations costs. If therefore the suggested charging regime were to be implemented over night it would mean that Anglia charges would need to be increased by some 36% while Thames would actually see a reduction in charges. With that background the IWA representatives at the RNG meeting (Derek Bradley 3


from Cambridge branch, Dave Carnell from Lincolnshire branch and Nigel Long from Peterborough branch) were expecting these proposals to be repeated and were prepared accordingly. In the event, the meeting did not go as we expected. Irven Forbes did indeed spend a long time giving a presentation which was designed to show how hard up Anglia was for money. The EA priorities up to 2015 were said to be:to keep the waterways in their current condition, and to provide a service that feels the same or better for customers. In order to achieve this the EA ambitions were to:● increase income from moorings ● increase income from registrations ● maintain focus on enforcement ● increase income from other sources

● find further efficiencies ● engage volunteers ● consider locally agreed charges ● improve financial transparency.

There was a suggestion that Anglia charges could be increased without having any undue impact on craft registrations. We challenged this analysis on the figures. Eventually Irven invited members to give their suggestions for the percentage increase in charges for next year. It was at this point that we queried whether we were being asked to suggest a percentage increase which would be applicable to Anglia or nationally. The answer we received was that for next year the Agency was simply looking to establish an increase which would be applied nationally. It was acknowledged that the EA was considering the possibility of introducing a licensing system under which individual regions would be funded by regionally raised charges but this was not intended for next year. The committee then set about discussing a percentage increase and eventually agreed on a recommendation for a national increase of 5%. We subsequently discovered that this was the same percentage as the Thames users had independently recommended. The final decision will be taken by the Agency Board but if an increase of 5% is imposed for next year then I hope you will agree that this is a reasonable result particularly given that there was no increase in licensing fees in the current year. The more worrying aspect of this whole saga is, of course, the suggestion that in future years regions may be expected to pay through their licensing fees the running costs of their regions. This would potentially be a disaster for boaters in Anglia. For years they have paid fees which for longer craft have been higher than those applicable on the Thames yet have received about one half of the Agency capital investment made on the Thames. Now they are potentially being told that their fees will have to be increased substantially while presumably those on the Thames will be reduced. Nothing has been said about the future level of capital investment. If the Agency does come up with detailed plans along these lines they will need to be justified by the Agency and scrutinised by boaters in great detail!

Nigel Long 4


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WELCHES DAM LOCK UPDATE

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last wrote on this subject in the Summer edition. At the time we were still awaiting a detailed response from the Environment Agency to the letter sent by the IWA’s solicitors on 3rd March. I am pleased to be able to report that a letter was eventually received from the Agency and that at the date of this note it is due to be considered by Nav Com. at its next meeting on 8th October. I hope to be able to report positive progress in the next edition.

Nigel Long

EDITOR’S NOTES

We are running a bit behind our usual schedule of publication dates for Hereward and for this I apologise. There is a reason however and this is timing publication to hopefully allow capture of anticipated developments on the various issues that are important to us all at the moment. These are the on-going saga of Welches Dam Lock, the format of the new National Waterways Charity and the impact that will have on the EA waterways and the way forward for the Branch programme of winter Social Events. These matters are taking longer than anticipated to reach a resolution and as outlined elsewhere in this issue we are still not in a position to give you, the members much more information despite holding back publication. We hope some of these issues will be resolved to allow some answers to be given in the next issue planned for mid-December. Philip Halstead

Mill Drove, Ramsey Cambs. PE26 2RD Tel: 01487 813621 billfenmarina@tiscali.co.uk www.billfenmarina.com

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BRANCH SOCIAL PROGRAMME

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he Branch Social Programme this year is much reduced as your committee has been awaiting responses from the membership on previous requests for ideas and a sense of direction. We are not having a Christmas Party this year as there seems to be a declining interest in this event and so many of you are probably already committed to other events by now. We have decided to run a social programme starting early in the New Year on Wednesday 18th January at our usual venue, the Peterborough Indoor Bowls Club. The theme will be a 'Book-Swap'. This is your chance to refresh your library, to browse through what other people read and to clear out some of your accumulated clutter! Bring a box or bag with books that you are prepared to swap or lend, anything from Persian Poetry - novels - history - technical, even Russell Newbury manuals! On 15th February Irven Forbes will again come and bring us up to date on what is happening on the Environment Agency waterways. As usual we will have the question time when any burning topics can be raised by members. On 14th March we will have the Branch and Region AGM and after the serious stuff we hope to have an interesting guest speaker with details to be confirmed in the next issue of Hereward due for publication in December.

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PROTECTIVE COVERS FOR ALL APPLICATIONS

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ORTON LOCK IMPROVEMENTS

The improvement work around Orton Lock on the River Nene was completed by late summer and already the landscaping is beginning to mature and green over. There is now a new fixed level lock landing stage which can be seen at the end of the handrailing in the centre of the picture, a canoe or portable craft launching point, then further downstream towards the parkway bridge there are 48 hour visitor moorings with rise and fall mooring poles. Access ramps to the site have been provided for cycles, pushchairs and disabled users. The whole area looks much improved.

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TIPS FOR CROSSING THE WASH—Part 2

by Richard Fairman

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irst let me correct a misconception in the last issue. You do need Imray!! Imray chart Y9 is the most important piece of equipment the pilot must have to safely navigate this crossing. Essential Equipment.

There are two categories of essential equipment - the first is a list of items that you probably already have and are certain to use on voyage and the second are things that you hope you will never need !

The first list includes:-

• • • • • •

Anchor and chain with suitable length of rope Compass -be careful of a magnetic compass on a steel boat, better to use the GPS Binoculars Chart Communications equipment - as a minimum a mobile phone Fuel and provisions. Do not forget the tea making equipment!

The second list are the items that no seagoing boat would sail without: -

• • • •

Foul weather gear Flares Life rings, life jackets and a throwing rope Bucket (in an emergency a bucket is the best form of bilge pump !)

Many of the risks at sea are the same as on the inland waterways but the remedies have to be different, for instance, in the event of fire you cannot call the fire brigade or just jump on to the bank. You must take extra precautions so that you do not have a fire, you would have to fight it yourself ! You must check the integrity of the hull, is the weed hatch watertight or the stern tube greaser and thrust bearing up to scratch ? You may know some people who have simply left one estuary, gone along the coast and into the next estuary without any research and suitable equipment. They were lucky and such behaviour gives professional seamen nightmares. Beware of one week experts. As far as I know there have only ever been two narrow boats lost at sea in modern times when hundreds make short sea passages; both were lost due to being in shallow water, ironic when you think that most of their lives are spent scraping the bottom! Hence the importance of knowing exactly where you are and the direction and force of tidal flows, familiarity with the buoys and other navigation marks is best learnt on the job. Local knowledge is the best insurance. Professional pilots are extremely expensive, even local fishermen tend to charge quite a lot. Some of us do it for the pleasure of it! 11


Shiny new boats on show at Crick

Email: gregbassam@gbwatersports.co.uk 12


THE GRAND WESTERN CANAL

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visit to the West Country will inevitably involve a dash down the M5 but after crossing the Somerset Levels below Bristol it is well worth anyone with an interest in inland waterways taking a break at Junction 27 and making a short diversion to the village of Sampford Peverell. The village sits handily on the Grand Western Canal about mid-way along the 10 mile length which remains in water. It offers a shop and two good pubs as well. There is an excellent towpath along the whole canal making walking or cycling a pleasure with good disabled access also. The route passes through unspoilt Devon countryside and a horse-drawn trip boat operates from the Tiverton end where refreshments are available. Although isolated from the main waterways network there is access for trailed boats via a slipway at Sampford Peverell and there are some indigenous craft moored on the approaches to Tiverton to add some boating interest.

History

Originally part of an ambitious scheme to link the Bristol Channel with the English Channel, the Grand Western Canal was proposed as a way for shipping to avoid the long and perilous journey around the Cornish peninsular, and as a route for transporting goods, including coal from South Wales, into the heart of Somerset and Devon. The section from Tiverton to the limestone quarries at Westleigh (also known locally as the Tiverton Canal) was completed in 1814, but the costs had escalated hugely due to the use of steep embankments and deep cuttings to keep the canal on a level contour. This massive overspend delayed construction of the next section to Taunton for many years, but eventually it was completed in 1838. By then any plans to link the canal with the English Channel had been abandoned, but for a short time the canal was profitable, mostly carrying coal and limestone, much of which was burnt in limekilns and used for improving agricultural land. The advent of the Bristol & Exeter Railway took much of the trade from the canal, and in 1865 the section from Lowdwells to Taunton was sold to the railway company and abandoned. However the limestone trade continued on the ‘Devon section’ until the 1920s when a major leak led to the damming off of a section near Halberton. Apart from a small lily-cutting business, the canal slowly choked up with reeds and was largely unused until the 1960s, when proposals to use the canal as a linear landfill site and possible route for a road galvanised local support for preserving the canal. The campaign to save the canal proved to be successful as in 1971 Devon County Council bought the canal and declared it a Country Park. Since then a substantial investment in dredging and relining the canal has been made and the canal is now a popular visitor attraction and thriving local amenity. Many original structures dating back to the canal’s heyday are still to be found in 13


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Boat Safety Examinations Engine Evaluation & Condition Ultra-sound Osmosis Assessment Gas System Surveys

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the Country Park. Many are protected by Grade II listing, including the Tiverton Basin and Waytown limekiln complexes, 15 road bridges over the canal and the 40m long Waytown Tunnel. Other notable structures include milestones, culverts, wharves, accommodation bridges and a lock. In recent years, the Grand Western Canal Trust, the Waterway Recovery Group and the Country Park Ranger Service have worked together to restore many of these structures. Bridges

Most of the bridges were built from locally available stone and timber, the stone structures are still functional today. Most of the remaining stone road bridges are now Grade II listed structures. They were built by the famous canal architect John Rennie. Limekilns

Remnants of the industrial age of the canal can be found along its banks. Two limekilns are clearly visible at either end. The kilns are now a valuable historical feature. The first remaining limekiln is at Tiverton basin. The lower arches are visible in the car park and one of the top entrances remains open to show the internal structure, the rest have been closed. The other limekiln still visible along the canal is between Whipcott Bridge and Waytown Tunnel. The remains of a wharf can be seen next to Whipcott Bridge which was used to load and unload cargo to and from the barges. There are plans

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to restore both the wharf and the limekilns with help from volunteers from WRG. The canal carried limestone from nearby quarries to the Tiverton basin limekiln. This was fed into the top of the furnace, and burned lime or ‘quicklime’ was extracted from the bottom, stored in the yard, which is now the car park, ready to be taken away to local farms by road. The kilns near Waytown tunnel received limestone direct from the neighbouring quarry and the barges transported the quicklime to farms accessible from the wharves along the canal. The waterside location of the limekilns improved the efficiency of trade and provided a cost-effective service to the local farmers, who used the lime to fertilise their fields. A working limekiln became a place of social gatherings in the heyday of the canal, especially in the winter. The burning furnace gave out much needed heat to workers, passers-by and the homeless in the area. Food could be heated on the hearths, cider was supplied by the local farmers and much gossip was exchanged! Photoviews (from Inside Back Cover)

The photos were taken on a recent visit when we cycled the full length of the canal. This was comfortably achieved in an afternoon. Photo 1 The limekilns at Waytown with the wharf and widening in the canal to accommodate boats loading and unloading. This spot would have been a hive of activity in its heyday but now it is peaceful haven in the countryside. Further restoration at this site is planned. Photo 2 The western portal of Waytown Tunnel. The tunnel is in tact for its full length but water levels are currently such that navigation proved impossible, as referred to below. Photo 3 Tiverton Basin with the horse-drawn trip boat. There is a café and visitor centre at the basin which is also close to the town for full facilities. Photo 4 General view of the canal showing the typical scenery and well surfaced towpath which extends for the whole route. There are many interpretation boards along the way to make for an interesting journey. Photo 5 Although the canal sees little boat traffic, on our visit we were lucky enough to encounter this Thames Camping Skiff crewed by a very enthusiastic couple whose passion is tackling isolated and remote waterways. They told us they had tried to get through Waytown Tunnel but were defeated by the lack of water and the concern that they would be unable to turn at the far end. After the tunnel the canal only extends for a few hundred yards before coming to an end at Lowdwells. The route from here is dry and obliterated but can be walked using local footpaths. The normal method of propulsion for this type if craft is conventional oars but due to width restrictions at certain parts of the canal and particularly under the bridges, the use of a paddle was necessary at times. This is the same type of boat that the ‘Three Men in a Boat’ of Jerome K Jerome fame would have used in their intrepid voyage on the Thames and meeting and chatting to the crew made the day. Philip Halstead 15


INLAND WATERWAYS ASSOCIATION Peterborough Branch

COMMITTEE MEMBERS CHAIRMAN: Alastair Chambers 52 Hereward Way, Deeping St James, Peterborough PE6 8QB Tel: 01778 344438 e-mail: alastair.boater@virgin.net DEPUTY CHAIRMAN & SALES OFFICER: Graham Baughn PO Box 15, 10 Marina Drive, March, Cambs PE15 0AU Tel: 07578-753558 e-mail: w.baughn@tesco.net SECRETARY: Nigel Long 7 Georgian Court, Peterborough PE3 6AF Tel: 01733 553782 e-mail: nhlong@supanet.com TREASURER: Michael Slaughter 45 Elstone, Orton Waterville, Peterborough PE2 5JZ Tel: 01733 390598 e-mail: m.slaughter45@ntlworld.com MEMBERSHIP SECRETARY: Carole Chambers 52 Hereward Way, Deeping St James, Peterborough PE6 8QB Tel: 01778 344438 e-mail: alastair.boater@virgin.net EDITOR: Philip Halstead, 20 Cane Avenue, Peterborough PE2 9QT Tel: 01733 348500 e-mail: pp@halstead5.orangehome.co.uk John Dudley, 1 Bellmans Road, Whittlesey, Peterborough PE7 1TY Tel: 01733 202581 Roger Mungham Boatmans Cottage, Workhouse Lane, Upwell, Wisbech PE14 9ET Tel: 01945 773002 e-mail: rogerboatmans@talktalk.net Roger Sexton, 2 Shaw Drive, March, Cambridgeshire PE15 9TB Tel: 01354 652329 David Venn, Bruffs Lodge, High Street, Nordelph, Downham Market PE38 0BL Tel: 01366 324102 e-mail:davidgvenn@tiscali.co.uk Richard Fairman, The Old Railway House, Cowbit, Spalding, Lincs PE12 0XD Tel: 01406 380575

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The Grand Western Canal 1

2

3

Captions to these views and a feature on a recent visit to the canal by the Editor commence on page 12.

4 5

Just as we went to press dredging was taking place by the new piling


hereward Autumn 2011  

The magazine of the Peterborough Branch of the Inland Waterways Association

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