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KNOBSTICKS Winter 2015 IWA North Staffordshire & South Cheshire

At work on Lock 46

Andy Hellyar-Brook


Memories of Brian Curry (who died on November 2 nd ) the right moment he would call out “Come on Cyril!” and the boat would obligingly move out of the empty lock. He knew just when the reflected wave would return from the lock ahead and do the business - magic!

Dot Piper told us years ago that Brian had helped Pipers to acquire the property at Red Bull Basin - before it was named thus from a Mr. Jepson. I think that Brian put in a good word for them. We had photo somewhere of the old man sitting outside the original cottage. When we bought Owlet in 1993 Brian was moored right behind us, almost under the aqueduct, in the Piper boat Fiddlers Green, which preceded his last boat Fiddlers Dream. Brian had a vast knowledge of the local waterways and how they worked. He would often advise using just one paddle as it would save water and make little difference to the overall speed of progress. He was a skilled single handed boater. Sometimes we might be concerned that a pound was low but he would usually say, “Just leave it - it’ll sort itself out in time.” And, of course he was right. We cruised with him along the Caldon and Leek canals. He knew exactly when and where to tie up and on several occasions we had some good rides on the Churnet Valley Railway with him. He loved to demonstrate to any children around the locks how his boat would come out of a lock by itself: at Page 2

Brian would recount various incidents with awkward boaters who thought they could tell him what they were going to do. On one occasion he told a pushy lady that she could not proceed through a lock as a vital part was missing. When she asked what the part was called, he replied, “The Gigglingpin”, which she accepted calmly and went off to wait for permission to proceed. Before Brian had a ‘proper’ narrowboat he had a craft which he made up from two exarmy pontoons and the tops of two Bedford vans back to back and all bodged together. I have seen a photo of this craft, called Koala, crossing the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct so it must have worked! Another boat he had was Chugger made up by David Piper from cut-off steel plates from around the boatyard. It didn’t look anything like the classic Piper boat but it served its purpose of keeping Brian afloat. Again, I have seen a photo of Chugger on the Kennet & Avon. On one occasion when we were passing through Harecastle Tunnel Brian stopped his boat and showed us the bricked up cross passages leading from the old tunnel into the local coal mines. We were able to photograph these and publish them in the Piper Boat Club Magazine. Now, every time I pass through the tunnel, I look out for the change of bricks and think of Brian. Article: Patrick Marks. Photo: Harry Arnold Brian, an IWA member since 1969, was taken through Harecastle Tunnel one last time on the way to his funeral at Bradwell Crematorium on November 13th. Editor KNOBSTICKS


Chairman’s Report

Hello All. Well summer is now a thing of the past and after a short but pleasant 'Indian Summer' during October, the nights are drawing in and we are now in the season of foggy days and frosty nights. Of course, it can also be a lovely time to be either on, or beside, the canals and rivers as the Autumn colours look so magnificent; at least for a few weeks. I am currently away from home for an extended period looking after elderly relatives, so I apologise that my Chairman’s report is a little shorter than normal as I have to type and send this by mobile phone as internet access seems to be in short supply in this part of the world. I have also had to winterise my boat a bit earlier than usual, but I'm still hoping that I can get out occasionally over the coming months. There is something special and atmospheric about cruising along with the morning mists riding from the water and the smell of wood stoves warming the interior of the boats. As I write this, today marks a particular personal anniversary, namely the day I Winter 2015

become eligible for both my state pension and indeed can apply for a free bus pass! Of course none of us are getting any younger and that is regrettably true of many of the more active members of our IWA branches. Yet working as I do as a volunteer lock keeper, I see a lot of younger families and couples enjoying holidays on a boat or enjoying walking or cycling along the towpaths. One of the key challenges for us as an Association is how to encourage more younger people and families to, not only enjoy our wonderful canals and rivers, but to also want to get more actively involved (either as members or indeed as volunteers) in ensuring that the rich heritage we have on all our doorsteps is preserved and remains open for the enjoyment of all. If anyone has any good ideas or thoughts on this subject then do please let either myself or any of the committee know. Talking of the committee, I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank Andy Hellyar-Brook who, with his wife Liz, will be moving away from the area over the coming months and starting a new chapter in their lives somewhere on the coast. Whilst Andy has not been on the committee for a long time, nonetheless he has made a significant contribution to our work both as Planning Officer and Work Party Leader for the Cheshire Locks. Obviously we wish Andy and Liz every happiness wherever they eventually settle, but we certainly miss Andy on the committee. I am pleased however, that a couple of the regular work party volunteers have agreed to lead our Cheshire Locks work parties to ensure that we are able to continue the great work the team has done over the past few years. Elsewhere in this edition you can Page 3


Chairman’s Report read more about the various work parties that we run every month and thanks to all the regular and occasional volunteers who ensure that we are able to undertake this valuable and productive work. This, of course, will be the last edition of Knobsticks before Christmas. Yet it seems rather early to me to be sending out Christmas wishes, despite the fact that many shops seem to have been heralding its coming for several weeks now. It does, however, remind me that it won't be too long before we are at the start of a new year, and of course not long after that our Annual General Meeting (see page 12). This year several members of the committee come to the end of their term of office and some will also be retiring from key positions on the committee at the same time.

So in addition to the various committee vacancies already announced we do face an increasing challenge if we are to maintain our very busy branch programme of activities which include, of course, our monthly social programme as well as the numerous work parties advertised. It has been good to have some new members join the committee during the last year but we really do need more people who can help out, so my final comment in this report is again a plea for anyone who has a bit of time that they could offer to help us out on the committee. It may well be that you feel that you can offer only very limited time, but every little bit really does help us make a difference. Best wishes to you all and kind regards.

Bob

Inter-Branch Skittles Competition 2015 Lichfield Branch fielded 2 teams, NSSC 3, Shrewsbury District & North Wales just 1 (plus one person lent to Lichfield) but they still won the competition! Shrewsbury District & North Wales branch members John Myers and Val Haig also shared the prize for the individual who scored the highest points throughout the competition.

Once again this was a great evening with our Branch hosting the event at Stafford Boat Club on 19th October. There was a change to the dining arrangements this year, catering for individual dietary needs. Fish and chips (and complimentary peas) were ordered in. Deserts were provided by Lichfield branch and NSSC branch and all was very well received, some hungry souls having seconds (two even managed thirds!). Page 4

The picture shows John Myers receiving the cup for the winning team. This cup is usually passed around team members for them to display at home for a period during the year and the last person holding it has to bring it to the next competition shiny and bright ready for the next winning team to cherish. The 2016 event will be hosted by Shrewsbury District & North Wales branch, possibly assisted by Lichfield branch (or both jointly?). Gillian Watson KNOBSTICKS


Living Waterways Awards

Richard Parry Chief Executive CRT (left) presents the Outstanding Achievement Award to Harry Arnold (left) accompanied by his wife Beryl, and the Natural Environment Award for the Himalayan Balsam Campaign to Julie Arnold and Alison Smedley. Photograph courtesy of CRT At the CRT Living Waterways Awards our branch was especially pleased with 2 awards. Outstanding Achievement Award Harry Arnold, author, historian, journalist and photographer, has been a stalwart supporter, advocate, restorer and chronicler of the inland waterways for more than half a century. He has tenaciously recorded the changing places, craft and people of the waterways since the late 1950s, and has also been heavily involved in a number of waterway charities and organisations, leading campaigns to promote and protect canals. Harry was central to setting up the Boat Museum at Ellesmere Port, now the National Waterways Museum, and has energetically supported many other waterway projects and campaigns to promote and protect canals and their heritage. Winter 2015

Now a national Vice President of The Inland Waterways Association (IWA), he has also inspired, enthused and assisted many individuals on their own conservation and restoration projects. Harry lives and works by the Trent & Mersey Canal at Alrewas, near Lichfield Outstanding Achievement Award (for Himalayan Balsam Campaign) The Inland Waterways Association has campaigned to tackle the spread of the invasive Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens Glandulifera), which has spread across the waterway network, crowding out native plants and reducing biodiversity. The campaign aimed to increase waterway users’ awareness of the plant and organised Himalayan Balsam ‘pull’ events across the country to help limit the spread of the plant. Press Release Page 5


Roger Savage’s Nostalgic Cruise

Canal-side bottle ovens at the former Twyford’s works in Stoke-on-Trent Branch Vice-President Roger Savage and his wife Pauline have just sold their share in nb Chisbury, after boating for 53 years, due to increasing lack of mobility. They decided to make one last nostalgic cruise from their base in Great Haywood to the Caldon Canal as part of the 40th Anniversary year of the reopening. The cruise took them through the southern part of our branch area. As Vice President, and a former Branch Chairman, he used this experience to take stock of the Branch’s influence over the years ... (Editor) In the 40th Anniversary Year of the reopening of the Caldon Canal, we thought it would be appropriate to spend our final two weeks on Chisbury revisiting our old haunts. Accordingly, in the last week of April, we set out from our home mooring at Great Haywood. As luck would have it, the inverter packed up on our first night, so that Page 6

Photo: Dave Chetwyn

was one luxury we would have to do without! But then, on our first voyage north in Muscari in 1968 (a 20ft Hemming & Morris hull that we had fitted out on the tideway at Twickenham) we only had a 2ring camping gas stove and an Elsan compared to the luxury of a fully equipped, centrally heated 58 ft modern narrowboat. What else had changed on the Trent and Mersey Canal since that first visit? Well of course, there was no marina at Great Haywood then. Kingfisher Line has long since ceased operating from Hoo Mill Lock but otherwise the waterway was relatively unchanged until Aston, where the latest marina is, complete with Bistro and Farm Shop. On the way, we passed Malcolm Braine’s house at Weston, as ever with a collection of traditional craft moored alongside. KNOBSTICKS


Roger Savage’s Nostalgic Cruise As we approached Stone, I realised that this would be a voyage of reminiscences, often focussed on the improvements that IWA locally had helped bring about. The first of these was the improved moorings below Star lock, and the improved towpath, complete with disabled access beside Westbridge Park – all facilitated by money obtained through the Market Towns Initiative. As well as the art work completed with the help of local school children, there remain excellent information boards for the towpath tourist to learn about the Canal Town and its history.

very efficiently, mooring for the night above the top lock some 90 minutes later. On the way, we passed the Floating Market of a dozen trading boats moored opposite Roger Fuller’s yard – that was not there in 1968, no crane, no light railway, and no traditional boats being built or refurbished. Of course, the new housing of the Whitebridge estate was just a green field in 1968, one of the many that has since disappeared to provide waterside housing. At least here we were able to prevent the developers turning the backs of the houses towards the canal and encouraging the planning authority to insist on a waterside walkway – one of the better housing developments.

Stone - Disabled Access and Information Board Also, for the present at least, no supermarket built on the tennis courts: we had helped the campaign to resist this development, although a scaled down version is currently under consideration again. In 1968, the Star Inn was still undeveloped and completely traditional, with welcoming coal fire in the boatman’s snug. I think too that Joules Brewery was still functioning, now just the fading sign of the Red Cross trademark to remind us of Stone’s brewing heritage. It took us 4 hours to reach Stone. Then, with the help of our son Adrian, we locked up the Stone and Meaford flights Winter 2015

Whitebridge Estate The next field to go will be the one beside Meaford Top Lock, until very recently the home to a flock of sheep but soon to become part of a road scheme as the former Meaford Power Station site is redeveloped. I always get especial satisfaction whether cruising or walking the pound from Meaford to Barlaston as I can claim some success in getting the towpath improved. I recall walking that muddy length with Ian Dudson when, as High Sheriff, it was part of his fundPage 7


Roger Savage’s Nostalgic Cruise raising walk covering all 153 miles of Staffordshire towpaths. Ian was concerned that the towpath nearest his home in Barlaston was the muddiest in the whole county. Appropriate pressure was brought to bear which resulted in BW, the County and Stafford Borough (with help from Sustrans funding) jointly getting the path surfaced so that it linked up with the path which had been surfaced some years previously as part of the £5 million improvements of towpaths within the City of Stoke boundary.

Improved Towpath above Meaford It is really pleasing to see the large number of walkers and cyclists using this path now. It is also good to see how the residents of Barlaston have stepped up to adopt their section of canal: and to see how waterside tables have enhanced the Plume of Feathers, recently upgraded when Neil Morrissey took it over.

The next section has of course changed considerably over the years, largely due to the construction of the A500 D-road alongside. We moored just above Osborne Bridge, and it was good to see that the memorial plaque which we put up in 2009 to Pat and Millie has survived unscathed. The Stoke flight was bathed in sunshine as we locked up. It seem more rural now compared with 1968. The Cockshute sidings, beside lock 37 are silent and deserted now. It always was peaceful boating through the cemetery, now overlooked by new flats on the site of the former Twyford works. Here again IWA played a major part in preserving the distinctive frontage of the factory as well as the two canalside bottle ovens.

New flats contrast with old Twyford’s Frontage by lock 38. Photo: Dave Chetwyn

I think my memory is at fault if I remember the roof over the top lock: I think it was removed before we came up from London – On past the Britannia Stadium – Stoke were and my memory is based on photos. It was still playing at the old Victoria Ground in the certainly there in 1961…. [Photo opposite] Sixties - where we saw another recent innovation – Que Sara Sara, the Oatcake We made the sharp turn above the top lock boat moored ready to serve Stoke City at Etruria into the Caldon and passed supporters on their way to the match. The several live-aboards moored beside the relics of Hem Heath colliery have survived Industrial Museum: there were very few such people in the Sixties. The offside here well as canalside mementos. Page 8

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Roger Savage’s Nostalgic Cruise

Etruria Top Lock, complete with Roof has changed greatly since 1968, with the new landscaped garden of the Beth Johnson sheltered housing presided over by the statue of James Brindley. This statue was erected by public donations in 1990. IWA and Stoke Boat Club members were

Photo: RVF Torrington prominent in raising the funds for this statue. To read how the Caldon has changed over the same time, see a future Knobsticks. Article (& un-credited photos): Roger Savage

Can You Help with First-Aid ? Our work parties are getting increasingly effective and sophisticated. We now have people with the proper certificates to use mechanical equipment, such as brush cutters. This equipment is invaluable on the work parties on the Uttoxeter Canal and at Burslem Port. This brings with it an enhanced need for first-aid cover, which is a requirement of the insurance. Winter 2015

Perhaps you might be able to help in this respect. If you don’t want to get dirty by tackling the undergrowth yourself, you could enable others to get on with it by offering to attend a work party as the designated first-aider. If you already have the qualification, that’s even better: if not, there are training courses available from time to time. If you are interested, contact Steve Wood (see page 23) in the first instance. Roger Savage Page 9


Richard Bird Medal awarded to Roger Evans He is though probably known by many more IWA members for his work with the IWA Festivals team over many years. Regular visitors to these festivals will have noted his activities in the IWA sales marquee (beginning with Nottingham in 1974) as one of the members serving and restocking the counters. He is always jolly, friendly and helpful to potential purchasers, advising which book or object to buy.

Our vice-president Roger Savage presented an IWA Richard Bird medal to Roger Evans during the Stafford Skittles evening on behalf of the Inland Waterways Association (as he couldn’t attend the main presentation which had taken place at the IWA AGM). Richard Bird Medals are awarded to members of the Inland Waterways Association whose efforts and support are considered to have brought significant benefit to the Association over a sustained period. Roger’s first experience of canal work was helping to clear, and then secure the site at Ellesmere Port in 1974 for the then proposed Boat Museum. This was as a member of the IWA Liverpool working party, which shortly became part of the newly-created northwest branch of Waterway Recovery Group (WRG/NW). Later he spent many days working on the restoration of the Toll House and for a considerable time was a regular member of the site and building teams. Once the museum was open his activities were focused on canal restoration and improvement on a number of waterways. He became a WRG/NW committee member, and is currently treasurer and sales stand organiser. Page 10

The sales work was a job within a much longer commitment helping to set up structures and services on the site and then taking them all down again. This year, Northampton was his 41st IWA Festival. Besides the above commitments to IWA/ WRG he is currently the Chairman of the Trent & Mersey Canal Society; he is involved with the ‘Cheshire Locks Project’ and, in his spare time, edits Knobsticks magazine for the North Staffordshire & South Cheshire branch of the IWA. Press Release (Photo: Gillian Watson)

The medal inside its presentation case KNOBSTICKS


The Blue Bell Hardingswood, Kidsgrove

Dave and Kay Washbrook welcome you to a true free house www.bluebellkidsgrove.co.uk Opening hours: Monday

Closed (except Bank Holidays)

Tuesday - Friday 7:30 to 11:00pm Saturday

1:00 to 4:00pm & 7:00 to 11:00pm

Constantly changing Real Ales from smaller breweries Farmhouse Cider and Perry Speciality bottled beers

CAMRA award-winning Pub Winter 2015

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Social Programme

PROGRAMME OF TALKS + AGM 2015 – 2016 Friday 11th December 2015, 7.45 for 8pm Canal and River Trust Water Control and Scada in the 21st Century

Nigel Taylor will give us an insight into how the Canal and River Trust utilises modern technology for water control and automation. He is hoping to explain what those little black kiosks do on the lock sides.

Friday 12th February 2016, 7.45 for 8.00pm IWA NSSC Branch Annual General Meeting followed by Time on the Lot

Once again we enjoy another digital presentation of Patrick and Angela Marks’ trips – this time on the River Lot in southern France. ..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

Notice is hereby given that the 42nd Annual General Meeting of the North Staffordshire & South Cheshire Branch (formerly Stoke-on-Trent Branch) of The Inland Waterways Association will be held on: Friday 12th February 2016 at 7.45 for 8.00 pm at Stoke-on-Trent Boat Club, Endon Wharf, Post Lane, Endon, Stoke-on-Trent, ST9 9DT AGENDA 1. Apologies for absence 2. Approval of the minutes of the last AGM and any 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 resolutions requested by members of the Branch notified to the Branch Secretary in writing at least six weeks prior to the AGM. NOMINATIONS for the BRANCH COMMITTEE Committee members, including those current committee members reaching the end of their 3 year term and wishing to seek re-election, will be elected from the floor at the AGM for a term of 3 years. We welcome any branch member who is interested in joining the committee. If you are unable to attend the AGM but would like to join the committee, or you would like to find out more in advance, do give Gillian Watson, Branch Secretary, a call on 01606 835606 or Email her at secretary.nssc@waterways.org.uk. Page 12

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Social Programme Friday 11th March 2016, 7.30 for 8pm ANNUAL DINNER – Middleport Pottery Port Street, Burslem ST6 3PE Dinner will be followed by our usual Raffle and Auction. Dress: Lounge Suit or Smart Casual. Cost of the 3 course Dinner with Coffee will be £19.00 per person. Full payment is required by Friday 19th February 2016, with you choice of Menu Selection Contact: Barbara Wells (IWA NSSC Branch Social Secretary) on 01782-533856 or 07710-418908 for more details

Friday 8th April 2016, 7.45 for 8pm The Caledonian Canal

A digital presentation by Phil Clayton on the history and tales of the Caledonian Canal.

Friday 13th May 2016, 7.45 for 8.00pm Cruising on Remote Waterways

David and Jeanne Smith give us a digital presentation about the voyages of their Wilderness Trailer Boat on waterways that few narrow boaters see: Isolated sections of the Ashby Canal, Hereford & Gloucester Canal, Stroudwater Navigation, River Rother and a few more besides. Admission to talks is FREE Donations to waterway causes welcome! Refreshments available. Non-IWA members are very welcome Venue (unless otherwise stated): Stoke on Trent Boat Club Endon Wharf, Post Lane, Endon STOKE-ON-TRENT, ST9 9DU For further information contact: Barbara Wells (01782 533856 or 07710 418908) Email bwwells@ntlworld.com or visit the branch webpages at:

www.waterways.org.uk Winter 2015

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Stone, Social & Stafford (or Sales, Social & Skittles) Following our cruise early in the year to Llangollen for the “Steel, Steam and Stars” Gala, we did our own Triple “S” cruise back home in October.

Possibly the highlight was the “Oatcake Boat” and the entertainment it gave us. Alan and I had decided on oatcakes for lunch which was fine until we told people. The boat was moored just below Star Lock and, by the time we got there, the order was huge and the list long! Of course, everyone wanted different ones – confusion reigned temporarily but in the end I think we managed to get what everyone wanted, including the red sauce / tomato sauce / ketchup (depending where you come from). Later in the afternoon while packing up, Alan and Steve were keeping up with the Aston Villa v Stoke City game, another highlight – Stoke won. Then back to the boat for a Pizza!

Almira heading for home after the earlier Gala Our narrowboat Almira was already in Stone at Wyatt’s boatyard, having had a hull inspection for insurance purposes and bottom blacking. Before we set off back to Market Drayton, Karen and Peter very kindly let us keep the boat at their yard as a base for the Stone Food and Drink Festival weekend in early October. Unfortunately, this year, we were unable to have our usual spot for our IWA branch stall in the High Street and were on the towpath between Yard Lock and Star Lock instead. The weather wasn’t too bad and, although footfall was light during the day, we finally managed to take £121. As usual at Stone, Christmas cards and calendars went well. Gillian wasn’t able to be there, but help was plentiful. Mentioning no names, you know who you are, very many thanks for the support. Page 14

So, that was Stone – Phase 1 completed. As you can see, helping to man the stall is not all work. We always manage to have a lot of fun, amongst ourselves and chatting to the public. A fair amount of interest was shown in the display boards we have about our activities and projects. Now for phase 2 – the social at Endon the following Friday. We had decided to visit the Caldon on our way to take Almira back to Market Drayton. Another one of our “cargo” trips followed – a rather heavy box and a bag of Christmas cards and calendars destined for Endon were stashed under the bed on the boat. It is only a few minutes walk to Stoke Boat Club from Post Lane moorings but we were relieved to find the old faithful trolley (also under the bed) with its wheels still on – albeit a bit wobbly! The talk that evening was about the restoration of the wooden boat Hazel as a KNOBSTICKS


Stone, Social & Stafford (or Sales, Social & Skittles) well-being boat, and was very interesting. Having “trolleyed” the goods there, we did manage to sell some. Boating from Stone to Endon was a lovely leisurely cruise. Also part of this trip included a certain person’s certain birthday (the day before the social) and the chosen venue was the Hollybush at Denford - Good food and good beer. Then on to phase 3 – Stafford Boat Club for the next night – How you might wonder and Why? The day after the social at Endon, it was the annual inter-branch Skittles tournament at Stafford Boat Club, but how to get there? We had a cunning plan of course. On the Saturday morning we set off from Post Lane towards Etruria, in order to be at the China Garden later that afternoon, ready for the pre-arranged, and most generous, lift from Gillian and John Watson on their way from Middlewich to Stafford. All went well, including a quick visit home from Botany Bay Bridge up the estate to check things were okay on the home front and retrieve a ridiculous amount of post. Back to the skittles briefly (as it is covered elsewhere). Again a good evening (as always). The biggest cheer of the night was when Alan and John returned laden with fish and chips from the local chippy. John and Gillian took us back to the China Garden and were then ready the next day to set off through Harecastle and down the hill. Another busy day followed. First the passage of Harecastle. For the first time for quite a while we arrived at the tunnel and went straight in (after all the usual safety checks, and a bit of banter with the tunnelWinter 2015

keeper about us possibly being “the mystery shopper”). Good timing you may say. However we were third into the tunnel and the trip took about 40 minutes. Given the choice I’d much rather be first in line as it seems that the boat in front of you always likes to stop and cause confusion by taking photographs of dark, dank bricks. The roar of the boat engine in front was deafening when they realised we were getting much closer. The last time someone stopped in a, shall we say, interesting (or awkward) place was on the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct going up-stream. For those who know me, definitely NOT a place to linger. But, back to timing, on emerging at Kidsgrove, there were 5 boats waiting, so perhaps our timing was good as we had to get to Tesco before 4 o’clock to stock up the larder and then fulfil yet another social engagement at Red Bull. (I know, life’s just one social whirl!) This time, my brother Mick and his partner Lynne were coming to see us for a cup of tea and to deliver my birthday present. On to Middlewich next, where we spend an evening with John and Gillian before setting off on the rest of our trip back. During a leisurely lunch, (we seem to have a lot of those these days) overlooking the valley at Church Minshull the next day, we saw The Lady Margaret on her way back home from the skittles night. We had some beautiful Autumn weather during the last week and we even managed to achieve our FINAL objective on this trip before mooring up for the Winter – painting the hull which we managed between us. Anne Chetwyn Page 15


Cheshire Locks Work Party Thursday 20th August

Nine volunteers put in a very productive day’s work and made excellent progress on Lock 46. It was a very busy day for boaters and we had much praise and thanks for our volunteer effort. The weather was a little overcast and threatening rain, however luck was with us and all but for a few spots we were spared. Lock 46 handrails and metal work were in a poor state requiring quite an effort to rub down and paint but it all looks really tidy now.

We also uncovered some very nice granite cobbles on the offside landing area and thoroughly cleaned weeds off the brick setts between the pairs of bottom gates. Article (& Photos): Andy Hellyar-Brook Thursday 17th September A good turn out of ten volunteers put the final touches to Lock 46 on a day where the Page 16

weather kept threatening to interrupt us but thankfully the rain held off. It’s been hard work to complete Lock 44 to 46 but well worth the effort.

Article (& Photos): Andy Hellyar-Brook Thursday 15th October Nine willing volunteers joined the Work Party this month to start work on Lock 43. We were pleased to note the support from boaters coming through who admired all the hard work done throughout the year on the Red Bull lock flight. The weather was once again kind and although everything was damp when we arrived it dried sufficiently to do some painting in the afternoon. Five of the team concentrated on the metalwork surrounding the lock which had not been painted for many years. Two KNOBSTICKS


Cheshire Locks Work Party

worked on vegetation clearance and the remaining two worked on the lock gates themselves. The gates are not too old but some smartening up was well worthwhile to match the other locks in the flight. The work of the vegetation team is not always highlighted but their work in exposing the cobbled towpath adjacent to the lock really did transform the area.

By the end of the day most of the metal that had been cleaned was painted and protected for a few more years to come. It will however require another day's work in November to complete the task. We are always looking for new volunteers to help with the work. It is a fun and rewarding day and makes a real difference to our canals. Article (& Photo above): John Brighouse

Before and After Photos: David Clegg Winter 2015

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Uttoxeter Canal Work Party Thursday 13th August On a fine summer’s day we split into two groups. One group worked ‘downstream’ from Crumpwood flood lock (this section of the canal is dry) with the now legendary Caldon Canal Society slashers, dispatching a very large area of Himalayan balsam monoculture. The other group worked between the flood lock and the footbridge over the river Churnet hand-pulling the balsam that was growing amongst the desirable native species on site. Suitably equipped with life jackets they worked right down to the water’s edge and in the absence of a workboat improvised with rakes to reach the balsam that grew out from the bank. After lunch we continued as before except one volunteer removed regrowth of the ivy growing on the weir abutment. Unfortunately the ivy has rooted through the joints in the stonework into the soil under the abutment deck. Understandably we are unable to control the ivy with herbicide because of its proximity to the river but each time we remove the regrowth the plant is weakened that little bit more; it is just a case of which gives up first, the ivy or us, but as we all know canal restoration volunteers are a very tenacious bunch!

We managed to complete the removal of balsam from the section between the flood lock and footbridge that we started on the previous work party. The only patch of Himalayan balsam we could not access was growing on a tree which must have fallen into the river some time ago and became lodged against the weir. It is planned that Waterway Recovery Group will remove this tree, along with a more recently fallen silver birch, from the weir during their annual ‘Bonfire Bash’ reunion camp in early November. [The trees were removed - Editor] Thursday 10th September Although there were still areas of Himalayan balsam to be tackled around Bridge 70, it will have to wait until next year now as the plant’s seed pods had started ‘popping’. We had done well to be still ‘balsam bashing’ in late August but now we turned our attention to other vegetation management.

Saturday 29th August

On a very warm sunny day, most of the volunteers worked on what appeared to be a hedge of ivy forming the front boundary to Crumpwood Cottage. In reality the ivy was completely obscuring an attractive wall, built of coursed stone blocks and finished with half-round copings. One of the volunteers continued with the vital task of removing the ivy regrowth from the weir abutment. Page 18

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Uttoxeter Canal Work Party so obviously much later than the canal, which opened in 1811, it has been suggested it could be part of one of the previous incarnations of footbridge over the river. After lunch we moved down to Bridge 70 and spent the afternoon continuing to remove regrowth from the many tree stumps along the line of the canal. Also one of us slashed the weeds to tidy the immediate area around the bridge itself. While posing for a photograph showing the result of their hard labours in revealing the wall, one of the team, justifiably proud of everyone’s efforts declared “volunteers can make a real difference”. At the very end of the session one volunteer had a quick probe with a spade in the soil in front the steps already visible in the wall, suspecting there could be more steps buried; something solid could be felt but we had run out of time and energy to investigate further.

Thursday 8th October The prolonged ‘Indian Summer’ dry spells had seen the bed of the canal dry up, allowing us easy access to tree stumps in the canal bed and on the offside; so we continued with the ongoing task of cutting back the regrowth on the stumps from Bridge 70 upstream towards Alton. Saturday 24th October

Saturday 26th September

Greeted with a fine late-summer morning we decided to do some digging in front of the boundary wall to Crumpwood Cottage. As suspected we uncovered 2 more steps and also an intriguing structure. Possibly too narrow to be a path and made of concrete Winter 2015

Our task for the day was to clear a route to launch the boat on the wrg reunion dig in November. The ‘Indian Summer’ we had appreciated on the previous work party was definitely over, as on a particularly rainy day we cleared scrub, crown-lifted some trees and did quite a bit of strimming, getting very wet in the process. Right on cue as we were packing up for the day, the rain stopped and the sun broke through the clouds. Article & Photos: Robert Frost Page 19


C.J. Skelhorne

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Page 20

KNOBSTICKS


Book Review—Shropshire Union Fly-Boats (Jack Roberts Story)

This is a fascinating book, covering Jack’s trips all over the canal system from 1904 to his final retirement in 1964. He wrote his memoir in 1969, but it has only just been edited (by our own Harry Arnold amongst others) and published with many photos. His first trip, Ellesmere Port to Newtown in 1904, is recounted (P19-31) in incredible detail allowing us to enjoy the long vanished southern end of the Montgomery Canal You might wonder whether a book about Shropshire Union Flyboats will have any interest local to our branch, but I can assure you that it does with many trips through Wardle Lock. He often worked the “North Stafford Canal” up the “21 Cheshire Locks” using the big paddles which then interconnected the paired chambers (P32), legged through the old “Uphill“ Harecastle Tunnel, and returned horse-drawn through the new “Downhill” one. Winter 2015

In Middlewich he talks of the “3 New’Uns” (which had replaced the original Staircase soon after the canal was built, over a hundred years before he first used them!). Jack recounts how they overtook 2 other horse-drawn boats in the long pounds between Middlewich and Wheelock as it was forbidden to overtake in the pairedlocks (but then they did overtake a motor boat at the second lock anyway which caused a fight (P115-116). Out of our area, he recalls loading (P68) at Wilden Steel Works on the extremely narrow River Stour, which was reached through a side lock from the “Stafford and Worcester” below Kidderminster. They had to have the help of a donkey to “pull the other end of the boat round the bends”. All in all, a good read and well worth the £16.95. ISBN 978-0-9574037-4-1 Editor Page 21


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Serving 10 Real Ales & Scrumpy Cider Bar Snacks available Page 22

Beer Garden KNOBSTICKS


North Staffordshire & South Cheshire contacts President: Chris Skelhorne Vice President Roger Savage roger.st21@gmail.com Chairman Bob Luscombe 07710 054848 bob.luscombe@waterways.org.uk Deputy Chairman + Minutes Secretary Steve Wood 07976 805858 steve.wood@waterways.org.uk Treasurer Alan Chetwyn 01782 279277 (No Email) Secretary + Sales Officer Gillian Watson 01606 835606 secretary.nssc@waterways.org.uk 107 St Anns Road, Middlewich, Cheshire CW10 0AA Social Secretary Barbara Wells 01782 533856 socialsec.nssc@waterways.org.uk Publicity Officer Sarah Honeysett 01782 772295 s.honeysett@btinternet.com Newsletter Editor Roger Evans 01606 834471 newsletter.nssc@waterways.org.uk 10 Long Lane, Middlewich, Cheshire, CW10 0BL Web-site Liaison Alison Smedley 01538 385388 webmaster.nssc@waterways.org.uk

Planning Andrew Hellyar-Brook 07926 204206 andy.hellyarbrook@waterways.org.uk Membership Officer VACANT (Contact bob.luscombe@waterways.org.uk) Stoke-on-Trent Boat Club Rep. VACANT (Contact secretary.nssc@waterways.org.uk) Navigation Officer VACANT (Contact bob.luscombe@waterways.org.uk) Burslem Port Work Party Steve Wood 07976 805858 steve.wood@waterways.org.uk Caldon Work Party + Uttoxeter W.P. Robert Frost 07743 628091 robert.frost@waterways.org.uk Cheshire Locks Work Party Andrew Hellyar-Brook 07926 204206 andy.hellyarbrook@waterways.org.uk Congleton Work Party Bob Luscombe 07710 054848 bob.luscombe@waterways.org.uk Other committee member: Julie Arnold 01538 361138 Maria Frost West Midlands Region Chairman VACANT (Contact bob.luscombe@waterways.org.uk)

The Branch committee meets at 7:30 p.m. on the 2 nd Tuesday of odd-numbered months at Stoke Boat Club, Endon Wharf, Post Lane, Endon, Stoke-on-Trent, ST9 9DU. All Branch members are invited to attend. The views expressed in this publication are not necessarily those of the Inland Waterways Association, the West Midlands Region, or North Staffordshire & South Cheshire Branch. They are, however, published as being of interest to our members and readers. Š The Inland Waterways Association - Registered as a charity no. 212342 Winter 2015

www.waterways.org.uk/staffscheshire

Page 23


Join Us on a Canal Work Party

 Cheshire Locks (Trent & Mersey Canal, Kidsgrove to Wheelock) 3rd Thursday of each month (except December), 10am to 3pm. Contact: John Brighouse Phone: 07808-878317 Email: john.brighouse@waterways.org.uk  Uttoxeter Canal (Bridge 70, near Denstone) 2nd Thursday of each month, 10am to 3pm. also Saturday 19th December [2016 Saturday dates still TBA] Contact: Robert Frost Phone: 07743 628091 Email: robert.frost@waterways.org.uk  Burslem Port, Stoke-on-Trent 4th Tuesday of each month, 10am to 3pm. also 1st Saturday of each month, 10am to 3pm. Contact: Steve Wood Phone: 07976-805858 Email: steve.wood@waterways.org.uk  Congleton, Macclesfield Canal 4th Friday of each month, 10am to 12:30pm. Contact: Bob Luscombe Phone: 07710-054848 Email: bob.luscombe@waterways.org.uk ——————————–——————–————————————-———————————————–——————————–———————————-—————————-—————

See the IWA website www.waterways.org.uk under “Events” for dates. Volunteers are advised to wear stout shoes and old clothes, and to bring waterproofs (and a packed lunch and drink if staying all day) Page 24

KNOBSTICKS

Profile for The Inland Waterways Association

Knobsticks Winter 2015  

Knobsticks Winter 2015