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volunteers restoring waterways

navvies waterway recovery group

Issue No 246 April-May 2011

Navvies Production

Printing and assembly: John & Tess Hawkins, 4 Links Way, Croxley Green, Rickmansworth, Herts WD3 3RQ 01923 448559 Navvies is published by Waterway Recovery Group, Island House, Moor Rd., Chesham HP5 1WA and is available to all interested in promoting the restoration and conservation of inland waterways by voluntary effort in Great Britain. Articles may be reproduced in allied magazines provided that the source is acknowledged. WRG may not agree with opinions expressed in this magazine, but encourages publication as a matter of interest. Nothing printed may be construed as policy or an official announcement unless so stated - otherwise WRG and IWA accept no liability for any matter in this magazine.


Subscriptions: Sue Watts, 15 Eleanor Rd., Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester M21 9FZ

Martin Ludgate

Editor: Martin Ludgate, 35 Silvester Road, East Dulwich London SE22 9PB 020-8693 3266

Waterway Recovery Group is part of The Inland Waterways Association, (registered office: Island House, Moor Road, Chesham HP5 1WA). The Inland Waterways Association is a non-profit distributing company limited by guarantee, registered in England no 612245, and registered as a charity no 212342. VAT registration no 342 0715 89. Directors of WRG: Rick Barnes, John Baylis, Mick Beattie, James Butler, Spencer Collins, Christopher Davey, George Eycott, Helen Gardner, John Hawkins, Judith Palmer, Michael Palmer, Jonathan Smith, Harry Watts.

Š 2011 WRG


ISSN: 0953-6655

Visit our web site for page 2

Contents WCBS

In this issue...

Left, top to bottom: Going, going, gone! The former paper mill building that blocked the Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal just a couple of hundred yards from the site of our New Year camp has been demolished, ridding the canal of a serious blockage. Above: Wooden Canal Boat Society volunteers get to work on Southam’s cabin. For some good news on a project to restore another of their boats see pages 28-29. Below: Eddie Jones of KESCRG was presented with this award recently by the group for services to weekend dig organising and Land Rover driving above and beyond the call of duty. Front Cover: David Miller proves that he’s got the knack of taking a front cover photo by sending in this pic of towpath work on the Chelmer & Blackwater camp in Febuary - see camp report, pages 9-10. Back cover main pic: London WRG put the finishing touches on the Hereford & Gloucester Canal by the new Aylestone Park Slipway in time for a trailboat rally on Sunday 22 May. (pic: Martin Ludgate) Inset upper: WRG Forestry Team on the Grand Western at Nynehead - see report on p12-13. (Tim Lewis) Inset lower: The Kennet & Avon: is it falling into dereliction? See letter, p23 (Martin Ludgate)

Chairman MKP on suits vs shovels 4-5 Coming soon Canalway Cavalcade, training weekend and lots of camps 6-8 Camp reports Chelmer & Blackwater, Wilts & Berks and Grand Western 9-13 WRG at 40 Ian McCarthy provides some controversial answers to the questions14-19 Diary canal camps and weekend digs 20-22 Letters human ballast, a Dudley dig a long time ago, and the state of the K&A 23-24 Montgomery plans for this year 25 Progress a roundup of news from restoration projects around the country 26-32 WRG Print the pre-John H days 33-35 WRG BC boat club update 36 Pete Redway an appreciation 37 Noticeboard A Forestry camp on the GW 38 Infill Deirdre’s back! 39

Contributions... ...are always welcome, whether handwritten, typed, on CD-ROM, DVD or by email. Photos also welcome: digital, slides, prints. Please state whether you want your prints back. Digital pics are welcome as email attachments, preferably JPG format, but if you have a lot of large files it is best to send them on CD-ROM or DVD or to contact the editor first. Contributions by post to the editor Martin Ludgate, 35, Silvester Road, London SE22 9PB, or by email to Press date for issue 247: May 1st.

Alan Lines

Subscriptions A year's subscription (6 issues) is available for a minimum of £3.00 to Sue Watts, 15 Eleanor Road, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester M21 9FZ. Cheques payable to "Waterway Recovery Group" please. This is a minimum subscription, that everyone can afford. Please add a donation.

all the latest news of WRG's activities page 3

Chairman’s comment Suits versus Shovels

“Defra are not about to hand over a priceless heritage network to just anyone, are they?”

Chairman’s Comment There is a splendidly fruity account of two contrasting waterway management styles in the letters pages of this Navvies. In my view it’s not very balanced, until the final paragraph takes it from rant back into sensible land. The two waterways mentioned are very different and don’t really bear comparison, so while it fails under proper analysis, it does accurately reflect a conversation that I have heard a million times on sites and in pubs around the country, namely:

Suits versus Shovels – which actually restores a canal? It’s a classic dichotomy that all canal societies face and that is why we agreed to reprint the letter. Because these things have a habit of being brought into sharp focus by external events – an over-reliance on council support can be a problem now the cuts are here. Equally what use is a hard-won Section 106 agreement without eager volunteers to implement it. So it was worth printing the letter for that reminder alone. But it is a particularly timely argument to have now, as Government department Defra is recruiting the ‘Transition Trustees’ for the New Waterways Charity (NWC) which is to run the British Waterways network from next year. These aren’t the final trustees of the NWC – they are the small group who are charged with investigating how the final NWC should be made up, what it should do, what it should concentrate on, etc. In short they have to create a believable ‘business plan’ by next April that will convince the minister to say “OK I reckon that will work – I’ll transfer the whole of British Waterways (and later the EA as well) out of public ownership and into a new charity”. So who are these mighty people going to be? There is certainly a large clamour for them to be from the existing waterways scene. Whereas, from conversations I have had with Defra and others, their primary concern is much more for ‘a safe pair of hands’; people who have previously been involved in big changes and see the big picture. This is perfectly understandable – they are not about to hand over a priceless heritage network to just anyone are they? But I can’t help feeling it seems a bit ‘suit or shovel’. Because the group will comprise three current BW trustees and four new ones. Now if you look at the numbers (and I’m doing this from gut instinct and no other evidence) that means you get three people who have a natural predilection to say “well, in the old BW we always did things like this so we are bound to say it’s still a good idea”, together with (I reckon) three who can be trusted to set up something ‘safe’. Which leaves just one opening for the bloke from the Monster Raving Loony Party* and that’s not good odds for any hope of getting genuinely radical change. Which is the reason I decided not to apply to be a transition trustee. I’m not sure I stood a chance anyway but I reckon that in this particular case it is going to be more effective being outside the tent than in. So like all the best “comments” in Navvies this one has evolved into a challenge – if we are going to have any influence in how NWC is set up then we need to achieve two things: Firstly, good work, because no matter how respectable our reputation they will be wanting to look at what volunteers and alternative management structures (that’s WRG!) are delivering today. Secondly, we need to generate some good debate on the ‘suits versus shovels’ argument and if anyone is qualified to debate this it’s Navvies readers. Because, although by the time you read this the transition trustees will have been picked, the decisions they make over the next year will select the balance of suits and shovels throughout the organisation from bottom to top.

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* Given that there are seven trustees, the other possible analogy I could have used was the Seven Dwarfs. But I still think the issue shows through: I don’t remember Snow White saying “Listen everyone, I think Dopey has got the right answer….”

Next week... ...we will be getting the Camp Kits ready – now everybody seemed to get the hang off the kit not having numbers on anymore BUT it still needs to say WRG on it somewhere! People seemed to think that if the kit list said three roasting tins then they just needed to find any three tins and pack them. As a result we had lots of tins saying “Nits and Stuffs Village Hall” and presumably they are now pondering why their tins now have “wrg canal camps” engraved on them!

After a particularly embarrassing moment... ...last month it might be timely to remind everyone that, if you are dropping off a WRG trailer at our compound please don’t leave the handbrake on. They tend to stick on and this makes driving them off again very difficult. If you are worried about it rolling off then chock it (and of course fit the wheel clamp). It took a lot of effort to get the wheels rolling again and we knew what we were doing. Another driver might not have been able to get it going and that would have made a right mess of some weekend wouldn’t it !

A circular from the HSE... ...reminds us that they have recently decided that the levels of dust used when a cut-off saw (that’s a Stihl brick-saw to you and me) means that you need ‘FFP3 grade’ dust-masks, even if you are using a dust suppression system (that’s a water bottle to you and me). We will be deciding whether to upgrade everyone’s masks in the PPE kits or supply some special ones just for the brick-saw in time for the Camps. Full details on HSE website, search for ‘misc830’.

My friends on the inside ...tell me that, by the time you read this, the Droitwich Junction Canal will be open – blimey!

Inglesham Initial investigations have started on this exciting new site. However, please remember that the Roundhouse and much of the grounds are a private residence. Just because we know Nic doesn’t mean we can roam over his property. When you arrive at Inglesham you will be briefed on the boundaries of our work site. Please don’t go past these boundaries without an invite.

A reminder... ...that this years Mikron performance at Rowington Village Hall will be on 2nd August – all welcome, bring your own picnic, or just watch Bungle and Mel tackle their epicurean epic. Some acting will be going on as well.

How will this summer go? Well it’s looking tricky to predict as just about every ‘partner’ we have is shedding officers like mad and trying to avoid anything that isn’t core spending. In Navvies not so long ago I described volunteers as the glue that holds everything together when all the other components look shaky. Looks like we better had be, not only to inspire all those decision makers watching us but also to keep the movement vibrant in these uncertain times. Mike Palmer

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Coming soon Lots of canal camps!

With the start of the summer camps programme barely two months off, it’s time to send your bookings in. Here’s part one of our camps preview to help you decide which camps to go on...

Canalway Cavalcade at Little Venice: May Day Bank Holiday Before we start the main summer canal camps programme, we’ve got a couple of extra camps that you might be interested in. The first is Canalway Cavalcade, for which we have this brief note from Liz Wilson: Volunteers wanted 27th April - 3rd May (or any duration in between) to help out at Canalway Cavalcade at Little Venice in London. Please contact Liz Wilson for details on 07730 814029 or

Welsh Waterways Festival Camp: 25 - 31 May ...and the next is the Welsh Waterways Festival, aka the IWA National Trailboat Festival, where last year’s successful event on the Mon & Brec is being followed up by one a little further west on the Neath Canal. Here’s Martin Thompson to explain more... I know it’s a festival and the price of fuel is going up every day it seems, but where can you have 6 days in a glorious, beautiful rural location, a most excellent canal, near to the longest single span aqueduct in the UK, with loads of free entertainment such as vintage machinery (Petter or Lister, which is the best engine, discuss?), music & choral performances, boat and canoe demonstrations, plus much, much more. Oh, just a little side job will be helping to supplement the (no doubt keen and plenty in number) local canal trust volunteers to set up the site, do odd jobs on the show days and help take it all down again. Although the exact range of jobs has yet to be confirmed, there will plenty of time to enjoy the show. We will have the WRG stand present to promote our wonderful way of life and hopefully attract more people to join us, so standing around drinking tea/coffee will add that authentic touch! The site location is at Ynysarwed Farm, Abergarwed, Resolven, SA11 4DD. Currently the intent is to arrive on the Wednesday (25 April) evening and depart sometime on Tuesday 1st May. A WRG van plus a kit trailer has been booked and will be leaving from RAF Fairford nr Swindon so if you need a ride /car pooling please contact me and I will try to sort something out. Accommodation location has yet to be confirmed but I’m sure it will be lovely and near an appropriate hostelry! If you’re interested, ring me on 07736-796419 or email head office on

Leaders’ Training Day, 14 May If you can bear to wait just a few seconds longer before we get to the nitty gritty and actually start telling you about the summer camps, we’d like to say a couple of things about camp leadership. First let’s hear from Helen Gardner: The leaders day is on Saturday 14th May 2011 at Corley Village Hall, near Coventry (*). It will start around 10am and we’ll be done by 5pm. The idea is for anyone who has led (whether last year or not), will lead in the future or think they may – it is also suitable for local society working party organisers. We cover training on issues that have arisen out of the camps season and also things that people want to cover. We also look at things that have gone well and share any good ideas we’ve had. There is no cost to the day and lunch is provided. Book by emailing Jenny Black at and including your dietary requirements. Any questions to 07989 425346. * and more pertinently, near Fillongley - see the note about the Dr Busker gig on page 38

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And on the subject of leaders...’s over to James Butler for an update on how we’re doing with sorting leaders for the summer’s camps... and sorting a leader-sorter for next year... It’s only March and already it’s t-shirt weather. Things are looking good for a scorcher of a summer in both weather and in the world of WRG camps! We have already had one very successful canal camp and we have many more to come - but we still need a few more people to fill in a couple more gaps for leading, assisting and cooking. There are only a few limited spaces left so if you haven’t contacted myself or Jenny Black at head office then NOW is the time to do so before your chance goes. Jenny Black can be contacted by email at and I can be emailed at Also as mentioned in last Navvies, I am stepping down from the leader-finding role at the end of this year. I would like to thank everyone who has come forward to help next year, but unfortunately the hat in which we could put some names is a bit empty at the moment. Without someone to co-ordinate finding leaders there may well be many fantastic camps in 2012 which could have given us all a chance to escape from the Olympics, but which might not go ahead due to no leaders being found! There is great support from many people in WRG so you won’t be doing the whole job yourself - and coming forward won’t automatically entitle you to 10 years worth of committee meetings! So don’t be scared! I am happy to chat to anyone about what the role consists of. There is no minimum or maximum length of time to do the role either. More next time about what I do!

Training Weekend 18-19 June There’s just one last thing left before we get onto the summer camps, and that’s to tell you how to go about getting some training that you’ll be able to put to good use on your camp. Once again Ali Bottomley is co-ordinating the Training Weekend, and once again the Lichfield & Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust are kindly providing a work site to host it. It’s still in the fairly early days of planning so we don’t have details of what manual skills (eg bricklaying), plant and vehicles (eg driving dumpers or minibuses) or other training (eg First Aid) will be on offer yet. But we do very much aim to match the training available to (a) want to learn (so give Ali a ring and tell her!) and (b) what skills are likely to be useful on the summer’s camps (so read the camps preview article below to find out) We have overnight accommodation available, and there will be more details on the WRG website. But remember: we can’t promise to provide any training at short notice, so don’t just turn up and expect to be able to learn to drive a digger. You need to book on, and the sooner you do that the better: Phone Ali on 07719 643870 or email

And finally, what you’ve been waiting for... Back onto this year’s camps, and once again we’ve been in touch with the leaders of the first half of this summer’s programme to tell us first-hand about their camps and why you should book on. And it all kicks off with a week on the Basingstoke Canal on 25 June to 2 July, led by Paul Shaw. So, Paul, what’s happening? The work has changed slightly from what was initially advertised, and we’ll now be building a lock landing stage or two. This will involve sheet piling, so if you’ve not seen this done before now is a good chance to learn how it works. If you have seen it done, we need you to show the rest of us how to do it! As ever with the Basingstoke Canal, there will be lots of digger and dumper work. The acommodation has been upgraded from last year’s ‘portacabins’, and this year we should be returning to Knaphill Football Club. Yes, there are even showers at the accommodation! But that’s not the only camp that week. Over on the Cotswold Canals, KESCRG will be helping to put the finishing touches on Eisey Lock, which we’ve been rebuilding for the last three years. Let’s hear from Adam ‘Digger’ Morris about it... Our summer camp is at Eisey Lock on the Thames & Severn Canal which will hopefully be finished this year in true “one more camp should do it” style! The outstanding work includes the rebuilding of the lower wingwalls, placing the coping stones along the length of

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the lock, reinstalling the bywash and landscaping the area on our way out. Any left over materials need transporting to nearby Inglesham and there will also be plenty of “just” jobs as always. Team this up with our usual great selection of social events and we have a perfect camp in the making. We don’t have any accommodation sorted as yet, but when has that ever stopped us? Next we head for a new site, the Higher Avon in Warwickshire for 2 to 9 July. Here’s camp leader Ed Walker to tell us about it: Richard Worthington, Harri Barnes and I will be leading another action packed week; this year on the River Avon near the M40 road bridge. We will be working on a brand new project to help make the River Avon navigable as far as Warwick - at present you can only boat as far as Stratford-upon-Avon. The first stage of this is to build a slipway so trail boats can use the navigable-but-isolated section into Warwick. This camp will consist of all the usual work associated with putting in a slipway - concrete, steelwork, earthmoving and possibly a small amount of bricklaying and I’m sure we’ll find some fun things to do in the evenings, we’ve already found a pub that has a skittle alley! Unfortunately as we go to press the camp is already fully booked. Feel free to phone head office nearer the time to see if there are any more places due to cancellations, but if not perhaps a week on the Chesterfield Canal would suit instead? Let’s hear from Steve Baylis about what’s happening there on the same week - and the following week too. Welcome to the first of two weeks this summer on the Chesterfield. From the 2nd-9th July George Rogers and myself will be working in partnership with Chesterfield Canal Trust on the building of a brand new lock from the ground up as we work towards the re-opening of more sections of this historic canal, which was originally opened on the 4 June 1777. The work will mainly involve the setting out and laying of brick and blockwork for the foundations of the new lock and wing walls. If you have ever fancied learning to bricklay, this is your camp. If you want to mix tons of mortar, move loads of bricks, this is also the camp for you!! We are also looking for experienced brickies and groundworkers, and of course, D of E volunteers and other newcomers. As camp leaders, George and I look forward to welcoming you on to what we plan to be a superb camp. We hope to have the accommodation confirmed within the next couple of weeks and are planning a number of evening activities just in case you have some energy left to burn, failing that, the local pub may see an increase in profit for the week!! If you want any more details on the camp, please feel free to give me a call on 07919 386 628. And staying up in Derbyshire, the Chesterfield camps are followed immediately by a week on the Cromford on 16 to 23 July. Here’s leader George Rogers with the latest... Work on the Cromford Canal this summer offers something different: Water! And no, I don’t mean rain; this section does actually have water in it, even if there aren’t any boats yet. Plus, it’s a world heritage site – so a double difference to enjoy and help to shape. The week will be split between two sites, the main focus being the removing and rebuilding of an outfall (where the water may or may not get in the way) in preparation for the rebuilding of a spill weir at a future date. Another group will then be on a separate (dry) section commencing the rebuilding of a gauging narrows. And for those interested in other forms of transport, Crich Tramway Village have offered to open up for us for free one evening. Add to that myself, Rakey Dave, the marvels of Sue Johnson’s cooking and you have the potential for an entertaining week. So come and enjoy something a little different, and hopefully the start of a long campaign on the Cromford! We’ve also got a couple of weeks on the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canals in South Wales on 9 to 23 July which we’ll tell you about next time, along with the latest on the Burtonupon-Trent IWA Festival Camp and the second half of the summer’s programme. And for a taster of what we’ll be doing in August on the Montgomery Canal, Alan Jervis says... Where better to spend your summer? The next issue of Navvies will contain more information from the leaders about the work on the Mont Canal Camps but at least some of the camps will require experienced machine operators so we thought we’d tell you now. See Alan’s article about our plans for the Montgomery on page 25. Finally, there’s an extra camp this autumn run by WRG Forestry Team at Nynehead on the Grand Western - see p38. Meanwhile, until the next time... get those bookings sent in now to avoid disappointment!

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Camp Report

The Canal Camps 2011 programme kicks off with a week of towpath work on ‘our’ waterway...

Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation

good meal and an evening of domino felling (mostly unsuccessful, Ninja, Hightower and Pantenn) and various other games. My very first camp as leader and i wasn’t Monday.... Thursday. Paper Mill Lock... really sure what to expect. Well I shouldn’t Well let me see. What was it the team did? If have worried so, my volunteers arrived as recall correctly there was some shifting of planned and they were: Purple Helen, Rob about 100 tonnes of Type 1 stone, path the weekend cook, Sleeepy Dave, A.D. aslaying alng the moorings, followed by much sistant leader alias H2O, Adrian - Radio Gaga, whacking done by all. When we had finished Dave - Pathman, Colin - Puzzler, Jonathan the task of finishing the path and Tea Shop Dumper, Tom - Maverick, Ninja, Chris car park, another task was found: to dig a Hightower, Sarah - Smurfette, Jack French drain, lay and level and much more Pantenn, Greg - Dennis, Oliver - Flash Our whacking of the boaters car park. The four other cook Frank alias Mr Greyson (are you days were varied (not) but the tasks were being served?) Tuesday till Friday, and done with great enthusiasm. Sarah - Handsfree. It was a great team for my first camp Let me say a big thankyou to Roy, Colin and they all worked like Trojans. The eveand Michael the locals who were a fantastic nings... Well what can I say? They worked help to me and the team, many thanks guys. hard and they played harder. There were All arrived at the accomodation - the many games of chess, Pictionary and Haybay - by 5pm and unpacked and settled whiteboard Hangman, the crew were fond of well into this super barge. We had a great meal by rob, the H&S talk was completed without too many mistakes - not by me of course. We all decided to adjourn to the local to introduce ourselves to the friendly people (Jolly Roger). Some tried to play darts while others tried their hand at car racing on the Wii computer; after much laughter it was time for bed and all slept well for the first night. Sunday morning arrived very quickly, a hearty breakfast was eaten with great relish with a hope of more to come. Arrived on site at 9.30am (breaking them in gently). We met Roy at Hoe Mill Lock where we were loading a boat with all the stone from dredgings of the Navigation; they were then being taken to Heybridge Basin. Maverick drove the small boat ferrying people to each shore, which by the end of the day he managed to master but let me assure you, not before he gave the leader a little dunk in the drink, how she managed to save herself i don’t know because all in the boat were wetting themselves including Maverick. I was not amused, very much. The day involved much engineering but Loading material onto the work boat was successful and was ended with another All photos by David Miller

Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation Camp 2011-01: Feb 19-26

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Camp report Chelmer & Blackwater

“Who needs a leader when you have such a great team of volunteers?”

a tipple or 2 (...3-4-5-6... well I leave that to you). We felt we had to be hospitable to the locals and kept them company on many nights, taking over the dartboard and Wii console. By Wednesday I wasn’t really needed as when we got to site all got on with the jobs who needs a leader all week when you have such a great team of volunteers? Quiz night at The Ship: one team came 2nd ,one team came 4th and one came joint 7th (but it wasn’t last, you must understand that it was joint 7th). Hightower won a tin of chocolates which under some gentle persuasion he shared with all, thanks Chris. Friday, last day on site and it was back to Hoe Mill Lock loading more dredgings onto two barges, this time to be moved. It was almost disaster as we couldn’t get the Burco to fire but after gently bashing it did oblige and we did do some work. That evening it was a pub crawl from the Ship to the Jolly Roger until 2am when we left quietly and meandered back to the Haybay, some went to bed ,some ate lots and some were still playing games - night night from me and don’t wake me!

Saturday I let them have a lie in , brekker at 9am then time for the worst part of camp: packing, counting and saying goodbye to new friends of which I’ve made a few thanks to WRG. Let me just say a big thank you to all the volunteers and MUPs who made my job easy. Debbie Curtis

Using the small boat to ferry volunteers

Compacting the towpath with a Wacker plate

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The Christmas Camp that didn’t quite make it into the last issue of Navvies: WBCT at Dauntsey

Camp Report

New Year on the Wilts & Berks

Wilts & Berks Trust Christmas Camp to use on the Foxham/Lyneham Branch. The The start of the camp didn’t bode too well from the point of view of how much work we’d be able to do. We were under at least 3" of snow, with 3"-4" of ice on the canal itself. Only Robin, myself and Di were able to make it on Boxing Day, so we spent the time thinning out part of the hedge that Di will be laying in the Spring, being showered with snow with every branch we pulled out! Monday not only saw five more arrivals, but the hoped-for start of a thaw. Rob had been planning to come up before Christmas, but having an old house he was concerned about burst pipes, particularly if there was a thaw, so unfortunately he didn’t feel safe leaving home until the Wednesday. David James also put off coming until Tuesday after a heavy (?) previous night, but Frank, David Salisbury, Lifeboat Alan, Mike Helas and Valerie arrived on Monday. There was still a lot of snow around, so that day had been spent having big bonfires to burn Di’s hedgelaying brash. Tuesday at last saw us starting on the big task for the camp - breaking up the concrete base of the spillweir to the east of Dauntsey Lock. We’ve known for some time that there was a serious leak from underneath the spillweir, and the only way to find out what was going on was to take up the concrete, which we’d started on the BITM Christmas dig. Unfortunately it turned out to be 8"-9" thick, much worse than we’d expected. It took a combination of brick saw, Kango hammer and sledgehammer (the latter combined with brute force and ignorance) to even start to make an impression. It took several of us, taking turns with the various demolition tools, most of the rest of the camp to finally break it up, get the pieces out and smash these into smaller lumps so the local farmer could use them for hardcore in his gateways. For the last few Christmas camps, I’ve been lucky enough to have the loan of a 3tonne digger - FREE - for the complete week

local hire company, having had all their equipment off hire for that period, were relieved to have a little extra space in their yard. It proved invaluable, not only for scooping out all the concrete out of the spillweir and loading the dumper, but also for removing willow saplings along the canal bank, and these are now cleared for at least a mile along that stretch. I was also able to train both David Salisbury and Lifeboat Alan (Simister) on small excavators, both proving competent. By cutting round sections of the concrete we were able to wrap a chain round and lift them out with the digger. At one stage, one large lump slipped and fell back into the water, one or two people having an early cold shower. We averaged 10 people for most of the week. As some went home, others arrived, with Martin T. and Luke arriving on New Year’s Eve. Alan enjoyed himself so much that he stayed on for extra days, as did Valerie who cleared a lot of bramble out of the hedge ahead of the hedgelaying. Robin also did bramble clearance, and Frank kept the home (bon)fires burning. We also had help from our local work party on a couple of days. Di proportioned her time between her three roles of cook, shopper and hedgelayer, and still managed to have tea on the table by around 6.30 p.m. each day. It might have been difficult to fit in 3-4 hours a day working on site if she hadn’t done plenty of advance preparation, including making all the cakes and freezing them. What did we do without freezers? We probably bought readymade cakes and puddings, not to mention some main courses, from the old supermarket, but Di feels that she’d be letting people down if she did that. My neighbour Fran, a Trust member, also baked some cakes for us. We were two people short, as one of the three Davids had ‘flu, and Welsh Alan was descended on unexpectedly by his family, so had a celebratory gathering.

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Camp report

“The caretakers had decorated the accommodation for Christmas including a lighted tree next to Frank’s bed...”

Wilts & Berks

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WRG FT cut it up (above) and burn it (below) at Nynehead - see report opposite

All photos by Tim Lewis

The snow had virtually gone by Friday, and the ice was receding on the canal until by Saturday it might not have borne the weight of a dog, viz a 26kg flat-coated retriever. We were hoping anyway that she might have learnt her lesson after falling off the edge of ice into the water two weeks previously on a BITM dig! Mina loves canal camps, and as usual had a whale of a time. She particularly took to Mike, and when he made the mistake of lying down on his bed on his last night before he went home, and therefore on Mina’s level, he found himself smothered with big sloppy kisses. We have got well used to the Foxham Reading Rooms now, and they provide a warm welcome to come back to each night after a bitterly cold day on site. The caretakers decorate them well for Christmas, including a lighted tree next to Frank’s bed, but it didn’t seem to keep him awake judging from the regular sounds emanating from there. They don’t have showers, but as I only live about 3 miles away, the campers were able to come back to the cottage each night to get cleaned up. Our Christmas camp tends to consist of a number of jigsaw addicts, and we completed two 1,000 piece and one 500 piece by Saturday night. In fact, we only managed to drag them away on one night for a skittles evening. We had only hired the Reading Rooms until Sunday morning, and as six of us were staying on to work until Monday lunchtime, we all then retreated to the cottage for Sunday night. Winter returned on Monday, but we still managed to struggle through! All the work we were hoping for was completed, and everyone worked incredibly hard, and they were probably quite glad to get home and rest their aching muscles. We even managed to burn a lot of brash down by Lock 1 at 7 Locks, and tirfor out quite a few stumps. I am extremely grateful for all that was done, and enjoyed the company of everyone. Rachael Banyard

Reporting from WRG Forestry Team’s long weekend carrying out final clearance in preparation for a major project by contractors at Nynehead

Dig Report

WRG FT on the Grand Western

Grand Western Dirty Weekend February 18th - 20th At Nynehead on the Grand Western Canal, scene of rather a lot of WRG Forestry action in recent years, plans are well in hand for a major work programme by contractors, funded through Natural England’s Higher Level Environmental Stewardship scheme, involving work on two aqueducts and the surviving remains of the best-preserved of the seven boat lifts on the canal. WRG FT went down there again in February for a final long weekend of preparation in readiness for the start of this project in spring. Molly and Hazel take up the story...

starts with Barry the bolt going completely blind, after a tree stole his glasses, flinging them into the undergrowth,never to be seen again! Chainsaws were in abundance by now, with Clive & Ben swinging (in the trees), John Rogers on logging, ably supervised by Martyn. Whilst Paul Shaw coppiced the area below the Aqueduct, Sir Clive and Tim Lewis were on dragging and clearing to the “smaller” second fire. John and Alan headed the Perfect Tirforing team, pulling down many trees that Clive & Ben had been swinging in! Lou kept Alan happy by keeping Stiggy - more machine than man - filled, with standard tea breaks including lunchtime. Afternoon work: more the same as the morning. Sunday and the last day, finishing up at lunch time. Log splitting was enjoyed by Jo & Lou keeping them out of mischief. Everyone else was on tidying up their own mess and making a grand job of it. Lunch time over and everyone departs, with Tim leaving half his luggage behind as usual. A good weekend was had by all, leaving Mr Dodd to recover from his love shack weekend and leaving for Tenerife the following weekend. Molly and Hazel

It was a cold and muddy but not wet weekend! With the Harris moor replanted we moved on to the adjacent land following the line of the canal. Next job to do clearance of overhanging trees near to the aqueduct ready for contractors to restore all the stonework including the lift and Three Arch Bridge. All fourteen hot and steamy bodies squeezed into Denis Dodd’s love shack. With chef Jo’s cooking, there was plenty of wind around to help with the felling of the trees. First day started with the catering department’s dream answered, the Tesco’s lady arriving and standing and watching the guys unload her van of the grub for the weekend, then the scrub bashing and site clearing commenced, with Alan on his brush cutter, John the Hawk on his bowsaw, ready for the masses arriving the next day, Martyn doing a grand job of supervising from the bank, with Clive & Ben making more mess for Jo and Lou to tidy up as usual. Second day and the Nynehead boat lift awaits the start of major work masses have arrived. The day

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WRG at 40 Forty views for forty years

Ian Mac tells us all about Marple, the Warm Hole, the Cold Hole, and a ‘precocious little bugger’ called Mike Palmer...

40 Views for 40 Years The eighth in a series of articles to celebrate WRG’s 40th birthday by capturing the views of various people who have been involved in various capacities.

Q: How and when did you first get involved in canal restoration? A: I didn’t get involved in canal restoration straight away, what actually

hHelen Gardner

Now for an epic: Ian ‘Mac’ McCarthy; those of you who know Ian will not be surprised to learn that he was able to talk for two and half hours and still have lots more to say. Ian – son of Mr Mac – tells us of tales of Manchester in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Obviously I’ve had to edit this down severely and it was hard to choose which bits to include and which bits had to go – I’ve had to leave a lot out but you’ll get the gist...

happened was I was brought up in a good Church of England Christian Society and I went, like everybody else in the ’50s and ’60s, to Sunday school. Only my father was the Sunday school headmaster so one definitely had to go. When we were about 9 we went into a Sunday school class that was run by one Harold Wither who was a local lad in his late 20s at the time. Unfortunately Harold died earlier this year in February. Harold, at the end of the year, took his class for the last Sunday out on a trip. In the early July we went on a trip, now hindsight’s wonderful, I now understand why we went on the trip. The reason we went on the trip was that Harold was actually a scout master for Manchester Grammar School Troop C Scouts; to occupy the scouts he and two of the other Scout masters had bought the narrowboat William which was one of the royalty class king class narrowboats and they’d bought it out of trade from whoever was carrying coal on it in the early ‘60s and they’d converted into a boat that the Scouts could go away on – it had a Bollinder in it. Because it was Manchester Grammar School, they broke up for their summer holidays a week earlier than all the other schools so the Scout troop went away on holiday on the boat the week that was the last Sunday of Sunday school. So that Harold could go, he took us as a group of kids on the narrowboat. My first recollection is going on this magical journey when I was about 9, we went by train into Manchester, we then walked to Knott Mill railway station and got on the old Altrincham electric line and caught the train out to Brooklands where the boat was moored up. We then got on the boat. We then went from there by boat to Broken Cross at Northwich. We then walked back into Northwich, had a root round the railway sheds with the steam engines, collected some numbers and then caught the train back into Manchester. That was magic, it was a magic day out. It was ruined a bit, somebody else had brought along a class of girls and we went under a pipe bridge and when she was told to duck she turned round to look at the bridge and smacked straight into it. After that I was hooked and we wanted to go on the boat again. But of course he carried on taking the 9 year olds – it was only when he was promoted to the senior school we got trips out again on the boat. I can remember all the masters went off to the pub except Harold who gave us a Sunday school lesson sat on the bank at Lymm. I remember them coming back with a water can full of beer – because then the more senior scouts could have beer. Things were so much easier in those days. The next time I remember going on the boat was mid 60s – did the same run again – except there were only a couple of steam engines in the shed at Northwich that time. One of my mates, he’d actually joined the scout troop because he went to Manchester Grammar school - he’d got a scholarship from Manchester Corporation. Because he was in the Scout troop he knew what they were doing and they used to raise funds to pay for diesel for the boat by doing little jollies. The little jolly I first remember going on was in late ‘66 and we went up the Rochdale canal in the centre of Manchester just after Frowdy [?] had cleaned it out; they’d managed to get up the Rochdale Canal and we

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Chris Griffiths

attempted it with a little fibreglass boat called Tigerlily - that became an annual event. I missed out on operation Ashton because I didn’t know about it but the year after they had a working party at Marple – it was only a small one but I conned my father into taking me there. The important thing was I was only 15 – that’s quite important because I actually believe an awful lot of my mates all started off at the age of about 14/ 15 in canal restoration; they got the bug at that age. Once you’ve got the bug then you’re into it and it’s self perpetuating. But if they find something else to do at that age they that’ll be the bug. I really believe we’ve got to get over this stupidity of health and safety which is absolutely adverse to risk; people have got to understand risk and the only way of understanding risk is that you understand what the risk is by experiencing it. The other thing is we’ve got to sort out is the insurance. At 15 I was working on the canal at Marple and I really enjoyed it I then took to riding over there on my bike. I joined such luminaries as Tim Noakes, Pete Stockdale, Andrew Boucher, we worked with Cyril ‘Tongue and Groove’ Boucher. We used to sleep in Boucher’s cellar on the Saturday night – we used to drink in the pub. By 16 I was drinking cider in the pub – drinking pint for pint against people like John Greenway. John Marple Locks with work in progress Greenway used to turn up with a party 7 under his arm as light refreshment before the pub opened. John Foley was around, Mike Heap, Ted Keaveney, the man who did all the insurance: Ted Hill. We started on the bottom eight at Marple, we were slowly trying to get those to work and by 1970 we’d actually made [it] (and this was under the guise of the Peak Forest Canal Society). In 1970 me dad took me on another working party and I believe it was the first big working party that WRG was involved in or it might well have been London IWA in those days. We started on the top eight, in particular the side pounds. I remember digging sedge out of what’s called the pound out of Possett Lock which is the one in Marple right by the main road. We spent ages digging that out.

Q: What kind of state were the locks in when you started? A: Cyril ‘Tongue and Groove’ Boucher had done quite a lot of work by that stage and the bottom eight could be made to hold water. The top gates were still in but some had missing or rotten balance beams; the bottom gates were there but very ropey. We used signal posts to replace them, we’d got the bottom 8 working fairly well and we’d started working our way up the top eight. There was a magic working party where London IWA and Piggy turned up with a gate for lock 10 – a steel gate – all the others were wooden. They tried to lift it in with a Jones crane and the dumper truck fell in the canal and the crane fell over – it was basically a comedy of errors. It was lots of well meaning people who couldn’t measure things and didn’t quite understand how the canal worked. At the top there was a guy called Tommy Wood who was the section inspector for the Peak Forest Canal: from Dukinfield all the way up to Whaley Bridge [though I’m sure he said Wallaby Ridge!] and Bugsworth. He was really up for restoration and he used to say things like ‘if you want to do this properly then what you need to do is...’ All locks on Marple Lock leak like sieves – Tommy knew what the answer was: you dig down the back, you repuddle them and they’ll be right for another 150 years because that’s how long the pressure of the water filling and emptying the lock will take to punch its way through the clay - as long as you do it properly. If you don’t do that the water will punch through, fill another void then it’ll wash it all out again – and that is precisely what’s happening. We’ve got this quick fix mentality of how to fix a lock chamber that’s been happening at Marple Locks for the past 40 years: ‘oh dear it’s leaking we’ll pressure grout them again’ at vast expense. These days with a big machine you could rip the clay out in a day – although it’s more expensive at the time it’ll last a lot longer. There’s lot of examples like that – the old ways are seen as slow but they actually work. In 1971 [maybe late 70] about Christmas time it was decided that we would have a rally of boats in

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WRG at 40

“We slept underneath Rodwell Tower in a place that became known as the Warm Hole. All the central heating pipes kept it lovely and warm...”

Forty views for forty years

Harry Arnold

Chris Griffiths

Manchester, in the city centre, based on the Dale St car park of the Rochdale Canal as a campaigning thing. We would take 100 boats – it became known as the 100 boat rally. I remember we arrived at Castlefield Lock – we made stop planks out of bits of old floor boarding and lumped them together, we ended up using a Bridgewater boat as a strap to stop them bowing in the middle. We dug out all the muck from behind the bottom lock gates and tipped it on the offside – there was a guy who lived in the house called Bill Roberts who ran a firm called Home Hire; a ladder and wheelbarrow run hire place which was dead handy because we got the wheelbarrow runs from him. We were also allowed to sleep in his railway arch which he ran his business out of – this was underneath what’s now the line that goes from Knott Mill to Salford station. There was still the next two arches owned by a rag and bone firm; one was where the rags were stored and sorted and the other was where the ponies were kept and hired out from. We set to work there; we replaced all the timber boarding from the low water level up to the top on the bottom gates with floor joists which we fastened on with big nails. We slowly then worked our way up the flight kind of codging the gates as we went; dumping all the muck from behind the gates in piles. The lock keeper still lived on the canal (Harold Williams) and had lived there with his mistress since before the First World War – and she used to row at him. We numbered them [locks] from the bottom up – lock 1 was the one at Duke’s 92. Harold’s lock was in immaculate condition for two reasons: one Harold lived there and two the IWPS had had a go in the mid sixties (under Bessie Bunker) at this magic competition to keep the Rochdale open and they’d conned industry into taking a lock each in sponsorship and restoring it – but they took the one at lock 7 [Harold’s] and they won the competition because it needed no working doing to it. It actually did an immense amount of harm to the political scene. We slowly restored our way up the Rochdale replacing gate timbers as they came until we got to lock 8. Now lock 8 was an epic – because it had been built over, the bottom lock gates had dry rot and were basically dust. Tim Noakes and I were the main carpenters; Pete Stockdale was in charge of getting the diggers and Patching up the Rochdale Nine and (below) the barrow hoist. We set to and we had this boats using them for the 1971 rally monstrous working party where we had to saw through, by hand, the mitre post. Basically we had a week off college to do this – I can remember it took us 24 hours to get the scarf joint into the post – whatever that timber was made of below the water line it was like rock – I can remember still sawing through it at 3 o’clock in the morning. We slept down there underneath Rodwell Tower in a place that became known as the Warm Hole. All the central heating pipes kept it lovely and warm – there was this breeze block hole into these foundations so we camped out there – we had cookers and everything. We had 2 pubs on the Rochdale – we had the Crown Hotel on Deansgate for the bottom of the flight. Mrs

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Chris Griffiths

Hardcastle used to run it and interesting characters used to live there. We used to go in the back room and sing rugby songs. At the top of the flight we had the Coach and Horses. We got evicted from the warm hole by the police – who came in and said ‘we’re very sorry lads – you’re doing a right good job’. The police really knew us well – they’d turn up and come and drink tea that my father used to come down and brew. My father and another guy called Tom Cook would arrive about 3, 4 o’clock in the afternoon and they’d brew tea. On a Saturday that’s the time when all the football supporters are inside the ground – it was always a 3 o’clock kickoff. The police used to come and drink tea. When they came to evict us they were very polite - they said “there’s somewhere else you can use”. That was an air raid shelter actually underneath Dale St - it had been built by the Corporation for the Rochdale Canal Company. We made a big heavy door – put that on and that became known as the Cold Hole. Lock 9 wasn’t bad and with a couple of weeks to clear we managed to get a boat up the flight. We had the rally of the 100 boats. Ted being Ted [Keaveney] had managed to get every councillor that he could think of to turn up. That was probably the thing that got the restoration to occur. Ted discovered who the chauffeurs were for all the mayors and organised for the chauffeurs to bring the mayors and then told the mayors they were coming – they couldn’t say they weren’t because the cars were organised. One boat needed to go on the Saturday (the James Loader) – we’d said ‘right – there is only you going downhill and we are going to go for it – we are going to take you downhill quick’. We did it in 45 minutes – from Piccadilly to him going away from the bottom. 9 locks 45 minutes – 9 wide locks. But going along the Oxford Road pound you needed your wellies on because it was about a foot above the towpath. We discovered the nuclear bunker by flooding it and then depriving it of water. We got the boats up – basically as a consequence the restoration of the Cheshire Canal ring which is what we’d been campaigning for happened. Then it started big style. There was an agreement with British Waterways that there would be volunteer input – we went back to clearing all the lock chambers out at Marple. By that stage we had some better funding and the ability to con industry. We’d got Grayston Cranes to provide us with small mobile cranes and that made clearing out lock chambers great fun. Waterway Recovery Group had come into existence under the guise of Piggy – him and Nigel Stevens, Mike Day, Meg would all appear and camp out in various church Clearing Lock 8 of the Rochdale Nine (the one under Rodwell halls – there were various lasses – Tower) during the 1974 series of digs Maggie Blewitt sticks in mind. One thing that set the canal society and WRG apart [specifically talking about Ashtac] was WRG would come in and blitz the place and we’d then spend months sorting out the political ramifications and all the shit that was left behind. There was lots of support beforehand setting it up and greeting people – afterwards it was just left to the canal society and it was a real hard job sorting. There was a lot of animosity caused by that between the Peak Forest working party and the Peak Forest Canal Society and WRG – a lot of management had to go on. Anyway – we got it restored. We set off with a narrowboat called Ant and that was the first boat that actually did the full length of the [Ashton] canal. Joel was the first boat to get down from the Ashton into Manchester. This bit of a problem came into existence – the Rochdale was still like we’d left it in Easter 1971 i.e. with knackered gates and not holding water and people now wanted to use this Cheshire Canal Ring that was beautifully restored. The Rochdale Canal Company who had hoped it would never happen and they’d be able to build all over it all of a sudden had a financial liability on their hands and the political persuasion was that Manchester Corporation were not going to pay for this big property company to restore – they could restore it. There became a huge push from the canal society and Corporation pressure. They agreed that they’d have a couple of pairs of lock gates manufactured. They agreed to pay for mobile cranes so we could clean out the lock chambers. We then ran the Rochdale – we restored it and really dug it out. We had huge

page 17

WRG at 40 Forty views for forty years

“At one point some character called Tom Cook said ‘Mr Mac – I’ve had an idea. There’s all this paper...’ ”

working parties; it was the Ashton and the Peak Forest and the Marple crowd all working together. We dug out the Rochdale but it then took a lot of management, we used to work it every weekend and work boats through it. A couple of our guys were paid for by the Rochdale Canal Company – they worked as lock keepers – 7 day a week cover. John Palmer came on the scene with his little white pickup. I can actually remember the first day he turned up and stood and watched us clearing out probably lock 14 at Marple. We’d run out of petrol and he wandered over to his pickup and produced a petrol can. And then something else happened and he produced that out of the back of his pickup. This man in a purple boiler suit. He worked for Shell Carrington in those days who provided the boiler suit. He worked on some peculiar reverse continental shift pattern which basically meant you never knew when he was working and when he wasn’t. We used to go and eat in places like the Hazel Grove takeaway once John had arrived because he lived in the place – that was always the last resort when you’re at 11 o’clock on a Sunday night getting back from somewhere and the Hazel Grove takeaway would feed you. John would take us there and we would suffer. In those days of course Mikey [Mike Palmer] was this precocious little bugger – 7 year old child, who had watched every one of the trade programs on BBC2 and could tell you how an atomic reactor worked – in detail. There was another brother but we hardly saw him except when things were desperate. And then there was John senior; he ran the camping and outdoor leisure and canals (COLAC) and he had the big exhibition hall at what was then called Belle Vue in Manchester. Because he couldn’t quite fill the hall the canal societies got in for free to fill the end of it – so that the traders weren’t at the end of the line. We’ll have a little digression into canal societies and bric a brac. Having muscled our way onto the committee of the Peak Forest Canal Society – we conned my father into joining as well – to give us more power. We needed money and we had Peak Forest Canal Society sales stand so we made a proper sales stand out of bits of hardboard and pictures of what we did. We used to drag that around the place. I remember we went to the national rally of boats at Lymm. We sold marble bottles - we’d found a supply and it must have been somewhere like one of the lock cottages at Marple and we’d discovered the rubbish tip and we’d dug them all out. We sold them and we made a fortune – we sold them there – that must have been ‘72 I think. I can remember the first working party where I went away. Must have been in 1970/69 – we were going to go and work on the Stratford canal at somewhere need Lowsonford. We didn’t have many away working parties because we were trying to restore our own canal so everybody came to us.

Q: After the Cheshire Ring was restored what happened next? A: We convinced the committee of the Peak Forest Canal Society that we had a debt of honour to pay – what we did, we got them to fund us to go away once a month and pay for the fuel and maintenance of tools. We started going once a month working on other canals. We went to work on all sorts of things – it started off we worked on the Caldon (although that was basically open), we worked on the Cromford – that was a waste of time because they wrecked the pumping engine at Cromford itself by running it off load daft buggers – again it’s not listening to experience or finding out. We used to do 11 working parties on canals (on the Avon, on the Stratford, the Mont must have reared its head, I remember going to the big dig at Droitwich – that must have been ’76). We went up to Scotland to help the Scottish IWA – they were wondering how to kick start the restoration of the Forth and Clyde so we went to Maryhill and dug out the lock chamber up there. We had another run up to Scotland to work on the other end of the canal, we had this amazing run in with this local businessman on the Friday night who appeared from nowhere and suggested we might like to use his canteen. I never did read what was written on the wall. On the Saturday afternoon this tight Scottish bugger turned up and demanded to know how many man hours we’d had on his premises; we’re halving the number and he’s doubling it and adding a nought. Anyway – he says ‘do you not know what we do here?’ – not a bloody clue. ‘We’re a distillery and if you’ve had so many man hours on the premises you’re entitled to so much

page 18

whisky so stop arguing about the numbers’. It was originally called Peak Forest Mobile whilst we were paying off this debt of honour – we were going to national rallies by that stage as well – we would go as ourselves and not as WRG. Eventually we became WRG North-West and were completely independent except in name. When we became WRG we instituted this thing called the ad-hoc which still runs. We weren’t going to be formal we weren’t going to have named positions – the idea was to be flexible. It worked fairly well.

Q: What was Graham Palmer like?

A: He was a round, gnome-like character – we knew him as Gnome, as Piggy. He always had this bobble hat on. He was quite a forceful character and knew what he wanted. He had an entourage around him that came along for free, that did his beck and call and organised things; that would be people like Mike Day, [John] Felix, Doddy [John Dodwell] – yes and no – Doddy was IWA. We didn’t get to know Graham that well until we broke out of being Peak Forest and came under the WRG mantle – that would be ’76, ’77. Now David Hutchings was the real organiser – he made Piggy look like a non-starter. Hutchings, we Long distance dig: giving a hand on the Forth & Clyde used to have a secret pact when we went down there – we’d say we are NOT going to jump when he says jump. And we’d all collectively jump when he said jump. An amazing leader, a tremendous guy. I went down there by myself as well – it was just immense fun working with Hutch. We ran out of cement one Sunday, we drove to the builders yard and we arrived there and it was all locked. He went into this beat up old Land Rover – they weren’t street legal – they were just wrecks. He got the bolt croppers out, cut through the chain, got his own padlock and fastened the chain, we went in, got the bags of cement. Q: WRG North-West has obviously carried on since the ‘70s? A: Now then at one point some character called Tom Cook said ‘Mr Mac – I’ve had an idea. There’s all this paper’. And that was the start of the WRG North-West paper collection. It’s gone from strength to strength – in recent years it’s a real money spinner. When we were doing it we were down to 50p a tonne at one stage but we just carried on doing it – it was a social event but once you’d got it going you could never tell the paper price. It was very variable in those days – it kept the coffers full and it meant we could get a tranny van of our own. It paid for the working parties.

Q: What are you most proud of? A: Getting the Rochdale to work in ‘71 was an incredible achievement with volunteers. Volunteers are all very well and good but at the end of the day they are purely a political weapon. They can’t easily do a serious restoration – it’s a very long winded process. Getting the Rochdale to work again and a 100 boats up was a major achievement for a volunteer organisation with not much money.

Q: Where do you see WRG’s future? A: For WRG to have a future it’s got to admit it’s a political organisation as well as restoring canals. Canals don’t get restored by WRG. WRG enables the politicians to see the error of their ways and then get round to doing it. WRG has to have two elements in my view.

Helen: I think we’re just about done. Mac: I’m not – I could talk for hours. I only got up to 1975...

page 19

Navvies diary Your guide to all the forthcoming work parties Apr 16-25

Camp 2011-02 Cotswolds (Eisey Lock): Leader: Martin Thompson, Assistant: Gary Sum

Apr 16/17


PAT (Portable Appliance Testing) weekend: Basingstoke

Apr 28-May 3WRG

Site Services for Little Venice: Volunteers wanted to help run the festiva

Apr 29-May 2wrgNW

Thames & Severn Canal: Inglesham Lock. Joint dig with Essex WRG. S

Apr 29-May 2Essex WRG

Thames & Severn Canal: Inglesham Lock. Joint dig with wrgNW. Start

Apr 30-May 2IWA

National Campaign Rally: Northampton (River Nene)

May 6-12


Wendover Arm: Seven-day weekend

May 7/8


Wendover Arm: KESCRG AGM

May 7 Sat


‘Paper Chase’ waste paper collection

May 14 Sat


Leaders Training Day: for Canal camp and work party leaders, at Corle

May 14/15


Thames & Severn Canal: Dig Deep project, bricklaying at Eisey Lock

May 15 Sun WRG

Committee & Board Meetings: Fillongley Village Hall

May 21/22


Rickmansworth Waterways Festival: Site Services and BITM Sales Stand

May 21/22

London WRG

Thames & Severn Canal: Dig Deep project at Eisey Lock

May 25-31


Trail-boat Festival, Neath Canal: Site services for Welsh Waterways Fest to be held just south of Resolven. Leader: Martin Thompson. See page

May 26-31


WAT festival at Boxmoor: Setting up festival site (open Sat-Mon)

May 28-30


Boxmoor Canal Festival: Wendover Arm Trust festival on new site at He Site Services and BITM Sales Stand

May 28-30


Wendover Arm Festival: at Hemel Hempstead. Bhaji stand.

May 28-30


IWA Trail-boat Festival, Neath Canal: Sales Stand

Jun 3-9


Wendover Arm: Seven-day weekend. To be confirmed

Jun 4/5

London WRG

Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation

Jun 4/5

Essex WRG

To be arranged

Jun 11 Sat


‘Paper Chase’ waste paper collection

Jun 18/19


Wilts & Berks Canal: Lock 2 at Seven Locks, preparing for the new brid

Jun 18/19


Middlewich Folk & Boat Festival: Sales Stand

Jun 18/19


WRG Training Weekend: Lichfield Canal

Jun 25/26


Basingstoke Canal: Construction of back pump pipe

Jun 25/26

London WRG

To be arranged: Tool painting weekend?

Jun 25-Jul 1 Camp 2011-05 Thames & Severn Canal: Dig Deep project at Eisey Lock. Week-long ca

Jun 25-Jul 2 Camp 2011-03 CANCELLED - Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation: There are still two oth Jun 25-Jul 2 Camp 2011-04 Basingstoke Canal: Leader: Paul Shaw, Assistant: Steve O’Neill, Cook:

For details of diary dates beyond the end of this list ple

page 20

Canal Camps cost £56 per week unless otherwise stated. Bookings for WRG Camps identified by a camp number e.g. 'Camp 2011-02' should go to WRG Canal Camps, Island House, Moor Road, Chesham HP5 1WA. Tel: 01494 783453, Diary compiled by Dave Wedd. Tel: 01252 874437,

mmers, Cooks: George Rogers, Debbie Curtis 01494-783453

George ‘Bungle’ Eycott 07771-775745


Liz Wilson


tart Thurs eve.

David McCarthy


Thurs eve.

John Gale


John Pomfret

ey Village Hall


tival, e6

emel Hempstead.


Roger Leishman


Bobby Silverwood


David McCarthy


Helen Gardner


Bill Nicholson


Mike Palmer


Dave Wedd


Tim Lewis


Martin Thompson


Roger Leishman


Dave Wedd


Bobby Silverwood


David McCarthy


Roger Leishman


Tim Lewis


John Gale


David McCarthy


Dave Wedd


David McCarthy


Jenny Black


Bill Nicholson


Tim Lewis





mp led by KESCRG.

her camps on that week. Andy Ramsay.

ease contact diary compiler Dave Wedd: see top of page

page 21

Navvies diary

Mobile groups' socials: phone to confirm

London WRG: 7:30pm on Tues 11 days before dig. 'Star Tavern', Belgrave Mews West, London. Tim Lewis 07802-518094 NWPG: 9:00pm on 3rd Tue of month at the 'Hope Tap', West Canal societies’ regular working parties end of Friar St. Reading. Graham Hawkes 0118 941 0586 Once per month: pls check BCNS BCN waterways Mike Rolfe 07763-171735 2nd Sunday & alternate Thurs BCS Buckingham area Athina Beckett 01908-661217 Anytime inc. weekdays BCT Aqueduct section Gerald Fry 01288-353273 Every Mon and Wed CCT Cotswold (W depot) Ron Kerby 01453-836018 Every mon am Thu pm CCT Cotswold (E end) John Maxted 01285-861011 Various dates CCT Cotswold Phase 1a Jon Pontefract 07986-351412 Every Sunday ChCT Various sites Mick Hodgetts 01246-620695 Every Tue & Wed C&BN Chelmer & Blackwater John Gale 01376-334896 Every Saturday DCT Droitwich Canal Jon Axe 0121-608 0296 4th Sunday of month ECPDA Langley Mill Michael Golds 0115-932-8042 Second Sun of month FIPT Foxton Inclined Plane Mike Beech 0116-279-2657 2nd weekend of month GCRS Grantham Canal Ian Wakefield 0115-989-2128 2nd Sat of month GWCT Nynehead Lift Denis Dodd 01823-661653 Tuesdays H&GCT Oxenhall Brian Fox 01432 358628 Weekends H&GCT Over Wharf House Maggie Jones 01452 618010 Wednesdays H&GCT Over Wharf House Wilf Jones 01452 413888 Weekends H&GCT Hereford Aylestone Martin Danks 01432 344488 Every Sunday if required IWPS Bugsworth Basin Ian Edgar 0161-427 7402 1st & 3rd Sunday KACT Bradford-on-Avon Derrick Hunt 01225-863066 2nd Sunday of month LCT Lancaster N. Reaches Paul Shaw 01524-35685 1st, 2nd, 4th Sun + 3rd Sat LHCRT Lichfield Sue Williams 01543-671427 3rd Sunday of month LHCRT Hatherton Denis Cooper 01543-374370 Last weekend of month MBBCS Creams Paper Mill Steve Dent 07802-973228 Two Sundays per month NWDCT N Walsham Canal David Revill 01603-738648 2nd & last Sundays PCAS Pocklington Canal Paul Waddington 01757-638027 Every Wed and 1st Sat RGT Stowmarket Navigtn. Martin Bird 01394-380765 2nd Sunday of month SCARS Sankey Canal Colin Greenall 01744-731746 1st Sunday of month SCCS Combe Hay Locks Derrick Hunt 01225-863066 Most weekends SHCS Basingstoke Dave Wedd 01252-874437 Last weekend of month SCS Stover Canal George Whitehead 01626-775498 2nd Sunday of month SNT Sleaford Navigation Mel Sowerby 01522-856810 1st weekend of month SUCS Newhouse Lock Mike Friend 01948-880723 Every Tuesday morning TMCA Thames & Medway C Brian Macnish 01732-823725 Every Sunday & Thurs WACT varied construction Eric Walker 023-9246-3025 Mondays (2 per month) WACT tidying road crossings John Empringham 01483-562657 Wednesdays WACT Tickner's Heath Depot John Smith 01903-235790 Wednesdays WACT maintenance work Peter Jackman 01483-772132 Wednesdays WACT Loxwood Link Peter Wilding 01483-422519 Thursdays WACT Winston Harwood Grp Tony Clear 01903-774301 Various dates WACT Hedgelaying (Oct-Mar) Keith Nichols 01403-753882 1st w/e (Fri-Tue or Fri-Wed) WAT Drayton Beauchamp Roger Leishman 01442-874536 2nd Thursday of month WAT Drayton Beauchamp Pete Bowers 01255-504540 Every weekend WBCT Wilts & Berks Canal Rachael Banyard 01249-892289 Please send any additions corrections or deletions to diary compiler Dave Wedd (see previous page) Abbreviations used in Diary: LCT Lancaster Canal Trust BCNS Birmingham Canal Navigations Soc. LHCRT Lichfield & Hatherton Canals Rest'n Trust BCS Buckingham Canal Society MBBCS Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal Society BCT Bude Canal Trust NWPG Newbury Working Party Group ChCT Chesterfield Canal Trust NWDCT North Walsham & Dilham Canal Trust CBN Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation PCAS Pocklington Canal Amenity Society CCT Cotswolds Canals Trust RGT River Gipping Trust DCT Droitwich Canals Trust SCARS Sankey Canal Restoration Society EAWA East Anglian Waterways Association SCCS Somersetshire Coal Canal Society ECPDA Erewash Canal Pres. & Devt. Assoc. SHCS Surrey & Hants Canal Society FIPT Foxton Inclined Plane Trust SCS Stover Canal Society GCRS Grantham Canal Restoration Society SNT Sleaford Navigation Trust GWCT Grand Western Canal Trust SUCS Shropshire Union Canal Society H&GCT Hereford & Gloucester Canal Trust TMCA Thames & Medway Canal Association IWPS Inland Waterways Protection Society WACT Wey & Arun Canal Trust KACT Kennet & Avon Canal Trust WAT Wendover Arm Trust KESCRG Kent & E Sussex Canal Rest. Group WBCT Wilts & Berks Canal Trust

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“The Kennet and Avon canal, arguably the most beautiful canal in the country, and after ten years it is the worst maintained canal in the country”

Letters to the editor

The following letter was originally published in the Stover Canal Society’s magazine. The author has agreed for it to be printed in Navvies to give the views expressed a wider audience Dear Editor A Tale of Two Canals It looks very much as if British Waterways, the controlling body of the majority of Britain’s canals, will become a charitable trust, just like the Stover Canal Society. The jury is still out on the proposal but the majority opinion is that whatever, it can’t get any worse. I am not so sure. Two of our major canals, the Shropshire Union and the Kennet and Avon, were largely resurrected by charitable trust and handed over to British Waterways to run. Many years on, the Shroppie, as the Shropshire Union is known, has gone from strength to strength whilst the Kennet and Avon has declined almost into dereliction. The difference is in the committees. The Shropshire Union Society committee is still largely composed of those members who got down and dirty during the restoration of their canal. They are fanatical about what they consider is their canal; they are very proactive in providing and maintaining almost one hundred visitor moorings, information boards, picnic sites and seats along the four canals that comprise the Shropshire Union. Apart from the Shroppie they have the Llangollen canal, the Montgomery and the Middlewich Branch. At the slightest hint that British Waterways is not looking after their canal properly the committee is in there, lobbying BW to get it sorted, and you can see that it works. On the other hand we have the Kennet and Avon canal, arguably the most beautiful canal in the country, and after ten years it is the worst maintained canal in the country. I’ve travelled the length of it this year, Reading to Bristol and back. It is a shambles, fallen trees almost blocking the waterway, most of the visitor moorings waist high with brambles and stinging nettles and the canal is full of junk. Sunken boats along the length of the canal and paddles and lock gates almost too heavy to move due to lack of maintenance. Unlike the Shropshire Union Society, the Kennet and Avon Society has no members of the original restoration team on their committee. They have bank managers, accountants, local government officers, solicitors, high ranking police officers and head teachers. They have enough paper pushers to move even the EU paper mountain and they are all in it for themselves. It looks good to have a charitable trust on your CV, or to boast about it at the golf club. There is hardly a one of them who owns a boat and most of them have never even been on a canal boat. They wouldn’t know if British Waterways is doing their job properly because they never go near the canal. Where the little money they can cadge as donations goes nobody knows, they certainly would not get engaged in anything as crass as raising money to provide facilities for the boaters. So nothing gets done and the canal slips back to near dereliction. Except in the visitor hotspots like the Devizes flight and Bradford on Avon where the grass is mown to within a millimetre of its life, gates painted and stones whitewashed and where the British Waterways managers and the Kennet and Avon committee members meet to congratulate themselves on a job well done. The Stover Canal Society and the Stover Canal Trust need administrators, somebody has to count the pennies and the shovelfuls of sludge dug out of the canal, but we also need the diggers. The trick is getting the balance right, as the Stover moves up a gear and heads towards re-watering we must ensure that the balance of both committees are right before we end up back where we started, like the Kennet and Avon. Bill de Leie, Stover Canal Society member

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Letters the editor Dear Martin

It’s always good to know that there is help at hand. At last year’s Welsh Waterways Festivalat Newport, the first two boats to navigate to Pentre Lane were prevented by the low Bettws Bridge. But - a quick call to the Rally WRG organiser for extra ballast and ‘Bungle’ was quickly despatched and loaded on to the front of the Wilderness Beaver Navi, whilst two of his colleagues were needed to assist the Olive. Navi was now able to clear Bettws bridge - and become the first official boat to navigate the newly restored canal. My thanks to the efficient team at Newport for this - and for all the other things they did to make our visit to Newport go smoothly Ivan Cane, nb Navi

Ivan Cane

WRGIES to the Rescue

Two WRGies provide human ballast for nb Olive (above) while Bungle helps nb Navi squeeze under Bettws Lane Bridge (Below)

Ivan Cane

Dear Martin This Christmas the ice was so thick that we were unable to start our usual boat trip for the first time in over 40 years. I finally ran out of excuses to do some of those long-deferred jobs like clearing out old papers but I came across some real delights. One was a scribbled note that I had written after a working party at Dudley (I’ve forgotten the exact year) and I Thought it might bring back memories for some readers of Navvies. It read as follows: Had a great time grovelling in the muck - up to our necks in muck and sinks and lavatories and bicycles and bricks - what heroes! We did a tremendous amount of work, frightened the locals to death, exhausted the man at the slipper baths and drank a lot of beer. Dave Kee was in a picture in the Birmingham Evening Thing which referred to “the greatest event on Brum’s canals in 200 years”— the working party not Dave Kee. Dave Goode dropped a bucket on my head, Fred thought he’d got tetanus and we all got colds. Great weekend. Yours sincerely Dave Brough (most of us were called Dave - it was more or less compulsory)

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What’s Happening on the Canal? The Montgomery Canal is unique: it passes through beautiful scenery, has over thirty listed buildings and structures and it has a great diversity of wildlife, some of which is very rare. It’s also been derelict since its closure in 1936. Volunteers have been campaigning for its restoration since the late ’60s, both by trying to persuade politicians to fund the restoration and by working on actual rebuilding. The process has been slow because funds are hard to find. Some half of the canal’s 35 miles have been restored, but not all of these sections are accessible from the main canal system which makes it difficult for boats to visit. A number of organisations are involved in the work in various ways: the Friends of the Montgomery Canal, the Inland Waterways Association, the Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust, the Shropshire Union Canal Society and WRG. WRG has worked on the canal extensively: the restoration of Frankton locks and Aston Locks, the construction of the Aston Nature Reserve and the rebuilding of an overflow weir at Maesbury. Now we’re starting another major project. A few years ago, the section from Gronwen Bridge to Redwith Bridge was restored and filled with water. Currently, the Shropshire Union Canal Society are restoring the section from Redwith Bridge to Pryces Bridge. Neither of these sections has a winding hole and so, even when they’re fully restored, BW won’t allow boats to use them. The nearest winding hole is in the next section south, between Pryces Bridge and Crickheath Bridge. Those of you who came to the 2010 Reunion will remember this section: you did the preliminary clearance on it! However, this section is more challenging than most of the sections which have been restored to date, with the exception of the four miles south of Frankton locks (which were not restored by volunteers). Along this length, there are areas where the towpath has sunk very low and where the far bank has almost disappeared. There’s water in the canal bed in winter and it’s dry in summer – a sure sign of leakage. Indeed, we believe that this section (from Pryces Bridge all the way to the border at Llanymynech) has leaked ever since it was constructed. Restoring this section is going to present unique problems. We’ve obtained permission to use this

Montgomery A new project for WRG next section of the Montgomery canal as a ‘test bed’ to develop methods of reconstructing this kind of canal which will not only be useful here, but will, in effect, ‘write the manual’ for restorations all over the country. We have, over the forty-odd years of our existence, developed views about how canals should be restored and we’d like to find approaches which will: 1. Make the canal watertight (obviously). Even this is not easy as the ground is very peaty and it tends to move up and down with the seasons. If we build something too rigid, it’ll just crack and leak again, so we’ll need to lay a flexible watertight liner. 2. Retain the canal’s original appearance. Part of the charm of the Montgomery is its rural appearance: a trapezoidal cross-section with soft banks lined with vegetation. These are visually attractive and offer a good habitat for wildlife. If we have to use modern approaches and steel piles, we don’t want them to be visible, so we’ll probably try to bury them within the banks. 3. Be fairly straightforward for volunteers to build. 4. Be at the lowest possible cost consistent with doing a through job. 5. Be as ecologically friendly as possible: including minimising the ‘transport miles’ for the materials we use. The canal was originally built from local materials and, as far as we can, we’d like to do the same. In the period summer 2011 to somewhere around the end of 2012, we’ll be setting up storage facilities on Crickheath wharf and working to restore this section of canal. There won’t necessarily be a ‘logical’ progress from Pryce’s Bridge southwards: we’ll probably select a couple of the most difficult sections and work on them first. When we’re sure that these are properly sorted out, we’ll do the easier parts! Most of our work this year will be Canal Camps during August and at Christmas, with other occasional weekends organised by WRGNW. Work on this section is directly extending the navigable length of canal: when it’s complete, some two miles will have been added to the connected system: where better to spend your summer? Alan Jervis

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Progress the L&H and the Gipping

Remember that big concrete pipe running through the Tamworth Road Locks on the Lichfield? Well, parts of it are just a memory now...

After the Lichfield Canal closed, its bed at Tamworth Road Locks was used as a route for a concrete pipe carrying a storm water drain. How to get rid of it has long been a headache for the Lichfield & Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust, but they’ve finally removed a big chunk of it as you can see from the pics which show (from top left, anticlockwise) the pipe being removed form Lock 25, the tail of the same lock minus the pipe, the sections of pipe stacked for reuse, and the pound between locks 25 and 26 sans pipe

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Lichfield and Hatherton Canals

River Gipping (aka Ipswich & Stowmarket)

River Gipping Trust

The contractors have moved onto the Pound The River Gipping Trust’s volunteers have 26 site on the Lichfield Canal at Tamworth Road to begin the rewatering project. Speed continued to focus our restoration activites was of the essence to meet the deadlines for on Baylham Lock, located between Needham Market and Great Blakenham spending the three grants. There may be delays due to the slow processes of Severn The proposed work on the retaining wall and the training wall at Baylham was put on Trent Water in granting authority for rehold throughout December and January as the routing one of their land drains. The project should be completed within two months. continuing cold weather, snow and high water This will be an exciting moment for the levels made bricklaying impossible. We made good use of the time howTrust as this will be first, albeit very small, section of canal to have been restored to ever, with a thorough tidy-up around the site, post and rail fencing work, and with water after over 20 years of work. Our own work team and engineers will now be looking clearance work around the old by-wash sluice at the building of Lock 27 and the construction and eel trap. This revealed the need for some new bridge timbers and handrails over the of a weir at the sharp bend by the A38. sluice, which we were able to put in place At the Huddlesford end of the Lichfield Canal we are now close to concluding a land while waiting for the weather to improve. purchase which will secure the ownership of We finally got back to construction work at the end of January: a series of three workthe track from the rebuilt Cappers Bridge to ing days with good weather and low water our existing site just east of the lift bridge. The patchwork of leased and purchased land levels has allowed us to make significant will then be complete to Darnford Lane, with progress to rebuilding both the walls below discussions continuing with Lichfield Cruising the accommodation bridge. We hope to have completed work in Club over relocating their moorings from the this area by mid March, when we hope to easternmost section of the Lichfield Canal. Remedial work on the section west of the lift carry out bank clearance and repair work at Bosmere lock, on the edge of Needham Marbridge can then be considered; this was ket, before moving on to clearance work and previously watered on a trial basis. repairs to bridge abutments at Pipps Ford The other main recent focus has been Lock, the next lock upstream from Baylham. on the Hatherton Canal at Churchbridge Martin Bird, Restoration Manager where we have opposed several planning River Gipping Trust applications from Redrow Homes which would have infringed our protected line. They have now redesigned their proposed estate to meet our objections but still do not have permission to build, as councillors have other concerns about open spaces and the size of gardens. Discussions continue with Little Wyrley Estate and British Waterways over the proposed opening up of the Lord Hayes Branch (which will provide the link from the new route of the Hatherton Canal to the Wyrley & Essington main line) and facilitating the building of mooring basins. As with all canal schemes all these works are costly and the Trust will have to undertake serious fund-raising activities if it is to maintain momentum. Brian Kingshott Baylham Lock: rebuilding the retaining wall below the tail bridge

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Progress Wooden Canal Boat Society

Hazel Project gets Go Ahead Since sending us the progress report in the previous column, the WCBS has been able to go public on its ‘major boatbuilding project’:

Thanks to a grant of £75,000 from Tameside Council, the Wooden Canal Boat Society will be able to start rebuilding their 1914 narrow boat Hazel in Spring 2011 for use as a a Wooden Canal Boat Society wellbeing boat. Hazel will provide holidays Thanks to an important funding breakfor people whose wellbeing will benefit from through work is expected to start on a major canal boating on this historic wooden boat. boatbuilding project in May. More details will This is truly remarkable in the current ecobe announced soon. [See next column for nomic climate, when the media is full of latest news ...Ed] stories about public spending cuts and reThis means that the tiny number of duced grants for charities. dedicated volunteers who have been working WCBS has had a very good relationship day and night for years to save some of the with Tameside Council since moving into the waterways’ floating heritage now need a bit borough in 1996. In 2011Tameside Council more help from you! Though the funding is put together a pilot Social Returns on Insubstantial, there’s still a gap to fill by marvestment report in partnership with WCBS keting this important project at waterway and T3SC, the local Council for Voluntary events etc. The funding is coming from a Services. Tameside decided to help fund non-waterway source. Hazel because they could see the benefits of The project will take about 18 months canal boating, volunteering and the Hazel and professional boatbuilders will be emwellbeing project to members of the commuployed. There will, however, be plenty of nity who are in recovery from, or at risk of, scope for volunteers to come and work on mental ill-health. the project and learn some traditional The de-construction, charting and boatbuilding skills. In fact this will be vital. restoration of Hazel will take part at WCBS’s Meanwhile, work on Southam’s cabin is newly-built boatyard at Knowl Street, proceeding steadily and her troublesome Stalybridge, which is owned by Tameside gearbox has been replaced with an identical Council. Work will be carried out by skilled but less worn example. boatbuilders backed up by volunteers. When At the Heritage boatyard by the Hudthe work on the boat has been completed it dersfield Narrow Canal some more clay has will be crewed by a mixture of paid skippers been dug out, to rectify the quagmire proband volunteer crew members, many of lem, and the slip has been surfaced with whom may themselves be in recovery from crushed brick. An extra winch anchor point mental ill health. has been made and the slipway beams preAlthough WCBS has most of the fundpared. ing needed to restore Hazel, the fundraising The shop continues to be successful will continue in earnest for the forseeable and is the main funding source. In the past future. Another £40,000 must be raised year it has largely been staffed through the towards the building project, and more Future Jobs Fund. As this is ending it will money will be needed to cover running become crucial to recruit more shop volunexpenses. Donations will enable WCBS to teers through the summer months. maintain and run the boat and subsidise This is a project where ordinary (and places for the less well off. At the same time sometimes extraordinary) people band toHazel will be very much run as a non profit gether to save some of the floating waterway business, or Social Enterprise as they are heritage and use it to benefit the community. also known. Now is a time when more people are needed To find out more about the Hazel in all departments. Come and give is a hand. project or how to make a donation please Contact me on 07931952037 or feel free to contact Fiona Jones by email to or telephone 07500 Chris Leah 828276.

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We will also need:

itinerary planned, tugs organised and a system for administering bookings and getting guests to the boat. While funding will be sought to employ someone for this role, success is by no means guaranteed, and they would need help from volunteers.

. People to develop the sponsorship scheme: Hazel sponsors put their names to one or more dates each year for which they pay £28 per day sponsored. New volunteers are now needed to promote and administer this scheme.

. Materials: Some of the timber has al-

. Tugs and tug organisers: The rebuilt

ready been acquired. More oak will come from sawmills, at great cost, as the time for slipping Hazel approaches. The WCBS now has a chainsaw based machine that can be used for planking logs in the field, so if anyone has a fallen or felled oak tree, please get in touch. Other rot free timber for fitting out, new or reclaimed, may be useful as long as it does not involve excessive amounts of transport or preparation. Tools: WCBS only has a limited stock of caulking mallets and irons and would welcome donations of these. Good quality hand or power tools, ancient or modern, are always helpful, though power tools must be 110 volt for safer use outdoors.

Hazel will return to her original unpowered status. Boat owning volunteers will be sought to tow Hazel on sections of her planned itinerary. Organising suitable boats and crews to be in the right place at the right time, and providing suitable training for tug steerers, is a task in itself.

. Closing the funding gap: £40,000




doesn’t sound much when you say it quickly, but it’s also an awful lot of jumble sales and raffles. The project will need to raise funds for running costs once the boat is in service. We will need volunteers prepared to put in both inspiration and perspiration to make sure that there’s always enough money to keep going.

Contacts: Planning, administration and Boatbuilding Volunteers: There will be Fundraising: Fiona Jones 07500828276 Boatbuilding, 2 or 3 professional boatbuilders working materials, tools, Hazel sponsorship: Chris on Hazel throughout the 18 months between slipping and launching. Volunteers Leah 07931952037 For more information on the very varwill be an important part of the restoration ied volunteering opportunities available at work. Important events like plank steamWCBS please ring 0161 330 8422 or email ing will be scheduled for weekends to facilitate volunteer support. It will be Hazel has her own Facebook page possible for volunteers who want to stay under the name Narrowboat Hazel and for a week or two to either camp on the boatyard or stay aboard one of the boats. she welcomes new friends. Postal enquiries should be sent to Artistic volunteers: One fundraising Wooden Canal Boat Society, Charity Shop, scheme will be to cut up the old planking, 173, Stamford St Central, Ashton under as it is removed, to form blocks to be Lyne, Lancashire OL6 7PS. painted with castle scenes, roses or other Chris Leah designs. These will be sold through our charity shop, canal events and the internet. Volunteers, who could be anywhere in the country, are sought to paint these.

. Technical volunteers: Some aspects of

the fit out, such as the electrical system, charged by solar cells, the wheelchair lift, gas and plumbing, will require people with the relevant technical knowledge and qualifications. If suitable volunteers help, this could greatly reduce the overall cost. project moves from restoration to the operational phase it will be necessary to have properly trained crew in place, an


. Project planning and training: As the

Can you lend a hand with Hazel?

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Progress N Walsham & Dilham North Walsham & Dilham Canal: 10 years on

east wall; however, the remaining locks are in a reasonable state. During some clearing around Dee Bridge, the entrance of a 100 yard branch – Honing Staithe Cut – was discovered. With encouragement from the North Walsham Canal Co and the local landowner, this became the main focus of attention for the next couple of years (albeit the other cleared sites still needed regular maintenance). First the surrounding scrub, brash and dodgy trees were removed, then one volunteer brought his digger along and the cut was once again in water. The end of the cut had once been truncated by a railway, now closed and converted into part of a long distance walkway, the Weavers Way, and so the sight of open water has made the Staithe a regular picnicking area for walkers. To capitalise on this interest, a ‘canal walk’ was cleared alongside the Staithe and then for a distance upstream along the canal, before returning over a new footbridge to Weavers Way. This soon became a popular diversion; was ‘opened’ by the local MP and also collected an environmental award. Also at this lower end to encourage canoeists and small boats, the channel down to Honing lock

It is now ten years since the East Anglian Waterways Association started restoration of the NW&DC, after several years of spade work by Alan Faulkner with his pen! This included the commissioning of engineering and environmental reports. The NW&DC is a little known private canal in North Norfolk. Originally 9 miles long with 6 locks, the top mile and 2 locks were abandoned in 1870. The remainder of the canal fell into disuse after the last wherry (Norfolk sailing barge) left in the 1930’s. Gates failed, losing the heads of water, and the present top pound above Bacton Wood Lock was dewatered, to enable a road bridge to be lowered to cope with the heavy traffic that was en route to build the first natural gas terminal at Bacton. The rerouting of the flow led to flooding, to which the answer at the time was to cut a channel across the canal – rather than rewatering it! The ‘tidal’ section of 2 miles 510 yards, below Honing Lock, was sold to a local farmer in the 1980’s so that he could rebuild Tonnage Bridge to cope with the wider farm traffic. Luckily this was built to the same design as the original bridges. This lower length is regularly used by canoeists, and an occasional motor boat will venture to the lock remains at Honing. For the first five years, EAWA work parties concentrated on the removal of tree growth from the 4 lock sides and chambers, and some of these were quite large affairs. At the second lock up, Briggate, tree growth Reconnecting the canal and Briggate Mill Pond has led to the imminent collapse of the

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This is to be cleared this spring – and its rebuilding will be a major step forward in allowing water to re-enter the pound. Over the past winter, Briggate Millpond has been the main focus for work parties. A couple of years ago a resident was attempting to ‘claim’ the mill land and millpond as their own. This led to the Canal Company asking us to mark the boundaries of their property. The pond, as well as serving the mill (itself burnt down in an insurance scam in the 1970’s), was also the place that wherries loaded and unloaded for Briggate and the larger nearby village of Worstead. Having established the boundaries, the next logical step was to clear the pond of trees, shrubs and brash. This took place over the next two winters, and in February this year, at the first mid-week work parties, assisted by members with diggers and dumpers, the pond was Honing Staithe Cut once again linked to the canal. For the coming year Briggate pond has been cleared, and an area for canoeists dredging needs to be completed, the five to launch in the soke by the lock. Within an other sites maintained. The focus will now be hour of doing this, three families from on the dry section: clearing of the ‘breach’ Cheshire were using it. Below Honing lock where the IDB opened up a culvert to lessen was hand dredged to enable small boats to flooding in the area; working towards the turn. Above the third lock, Ebridge, tree rebuilding of the culvert; rebuilding of clearance has also been a major task over Bacton Wood weir; clearing the wharf area at the past two winters. At the end of each day Royston Bridge and general clearance of the the work party organiser has re-emerged canal bed – with the eventual aim of refrom the undergrowth saying “Well done lads watering. – just another 100 yards to go!” Work parties are held two Sundays per A major event occurred in October month, with occasional mid-week parties. 2009, when the North Walsham Canal ComDates, reports and pictures to be found at pany sold the top 2½ miles, Ebridge & or by contacting the orBacton Wood Locks to the “Old Canal Comganiser David Revill on 01603 738648. pany”. The directors of this company own the Ivan Cane Mill at Bacton Wood, which is on the dry pound, and wish to rewater the pound so that the restored mill can work once again. Since then a large investment has been made, over 36,000 bricks have been used in the rebuilding of Bacton Wood lock, and the ex BW dredger Weasel has been bought and placed in Ebridge Mill pond and slowly advancing towards Bacton Wood. Work parties have been assisting with this – from brick cleaning to clearing scrub from the dry pound. Whilst doing this the spillweir for the pound was discovered – Rebuilt wing walls at Bacton Wood Lock some ¾ mile above the lock.

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Does your local waterway restoration project not feature in this section? Feel free to send an article in

Wendover Arm Grand Union Wendover Arm

protective plastic sheeting and timber from the top of the wall formwork at Bridge 4 that is ready for concrete pouring. This can only have happened on the previous day, or evening before, when work was only in hand at Little Tring. It was replaced and hopefully would remain undisturbed until the March work party. For more information about the Trust’s work see Roger Leishman, Restoration Director

Pictures by WAT

With improved weather after the start of the year, work on the Wendover Arm Trust’s project to install concrete capping over the canal water supply pipe laid in the bed of the dry length of the arm was in full swing again on the Trust’s February working party. Bulk excavation of Stage 3 was completed up to the manhole, (under the traffic cone), where it is intended to end the present run of pipe capping as can be seen in the first picture. The next section to be re-watered will end at a bund under Bridge 4A. The final 15 metres of Stage 2 pipe capping was prepared ready for concreting at the March Working Party. The second picture is a view from Bridge 4A which shows work in hand at the end of stage 2 where bulk excavation is complete and only the 15 metres of pipe capping and offside bank reinstatement are outstanding before bank profiling and bank/bed lining can commence. In the foreground the line of the underground pipe is in the middle of the bed, thus avoiding cutting into the offside bank but making Above: Bulk excavation of Stage 3 complete (note concrete pouring more difficult as trafficcone onmanhole) Below: Stage 2 progress there will not be enough room for a dumper alongside the trench. During the week both banks were cleared of scrub up to the manhole and stumps removed and carted back to the tip at Little Tring. Young trees on the banks at various points were also removed. To complete housekeeping at Little Tring the area on the offside just inside the inner gates at Little Tring was levelled off and covered in hardcore and road stone as a car park for volunteer’s vehicles. On the last day of the working party it was disappointing to find that vandals had removed the

page 32 which Mike Day fills us in on how Navvies was put together in the days before John Hawkins, and teaches us some new words like ‘Roneo’, ‘foolscap’ and ‘Letraset’...

WRG Print The early years

Cadisch worked for the family firm who sold wire and other mesh. Their factory unit was Seeing John Hawkins’ report of his doings equipped with long benches upon which they for the last 40 years or so sends one off unrolled, cut and rerolled the mesh and down memory lane. This is not to confirm dispatched to their customers, and was the probable opinion that anyone of my age perfect for up to 30 idiots to collate, fold, is a boring old fart, but prompts me to fill in stitch and stuff what was always called Navvies, the WRGPrint history of the time before John even when it said Navvies Notebook on the was involved. cover. The factory was also a very short stagWell, not quite that, because it started ger from 4 Wentworth Court which was to before WRGPrint was thought of. When become well known as “where you send for TimDodwell and Graham Palmer and a few Navvies Notebook”, to quote the song we wrote one drunken evening at the Fleur de other malcontents started our ball rolling by Lys at Lowsonford – shortly before we were dreaming up an umbrella organisation that would help support all the local working parties thrown out. Graham was not happy with this (the up an down the country, the object to do the printing, not the Fleur de Lys) – printshops publicity about it was Navvies Notebook, a Roneoed, folded foolscap publication (ask were not cheap, and true to the idea that we your grandpa about both Roneo and foolsdo whatever we can to control costs he cap) At the time the ‘A’ series of paper sizes bought a printing machine. It was offset was just coming in, and the swap to A4 litho, about as cheap as one could started immediately because Graham saw that Roneo was just not cutting (this is a pun – see note about grandpas above) it, and he could get A4 copied at a printshop (something else brand new then – fortunately Graham was a Londoner and print shops sprang up everywhere in the metropolis where offices needed printing done in an age before desktop computers, desktop printing... but I digress...) Graham would drop the copy into the printshop at lunchtime, and pick it up when he finished work, stuff it into his briefcase and totter off to the Northern Line to Finchley. He would probably do this about three times in order to drag all the printing home, then a group of us met at our treasurer Phil Greenwood’s house to fold, staple and stuff it. I clearly remember leaving Phil’s one night at about 1 am with job still not completed! The print run in those days was about 750 or 1000, but grew rapidly. When I was printing it I produced just under 3000 copies. How it began: Navvies Notebook issue No 1 Our fellow London navvy John

WRG Print: how it began

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WRG Print The early years

“We did dream of what we know now as our desktop computer, and would have killed for an IBM golfball machine...”

Mike Day

get it, but it served us for several years. Once we had the hands-on experience we had better printing than we usually picked up from a printshop. Their products were really poor and could not be confused with today’s printshops 40 years on. Graham sourced the machine via his printroom at work, and had several minutes instruction on how to work it. He and I worked it out a bit more in his garage at home. Ostensibly Navvies assembly as it used to be: on the big metal tables at Cadisch’s he was telling me how to do it – actually we worked it out from first on a spurt and erected the heap of shuttering principles as we went along. Graham could ply purloined for me by Jim Evans, and never be accused of being a mechanic! found I had a shed big enough to print in, Not surprisingly I ended up running off and eventually we had two Gestolith machines the magazine downstairs whilst Megan (the running, and I did once manage to print a wife) was upstairs typing furiously or taking complete issue in an evening. Quite how I got shorthand from Graham, variously trying to to work the following day beats me. keep up with his correspondence and/or The problem with litho is that it relies produce the next few pages of the already on oil and water not mixing. The water overdue NN ready for the platemaker. We roller adds a film of water to the plate that did dream of what we know now as our does not stick on the image areas, but the desktop computer, and would have killed for ink does when that roller does its job a an IBM golfball machine, as it was all the nanosecond later. Unfortunately, to get a titling was by Letraset and the maps were knackered Gestolith to work the water volhand drawn and it all took ages; but we had ume had to be turned up, which swelled the a laugh putting it together. paper and in damp conditions (like British I can’t remember where we got the weather) it was unusual to be able to run the plates made, but they were shot on a galley second side immediately, as the paper camera then printed down to the aluminium scrunched up as it went through the maplate. Later Len Felix, John’s dad, did them chine. Even more unfortunately, if I left for us by a photocopier process for a while, paper in the shed at all it sucked up all the but when that finished I found a platemaker atmospheric water and became unusable. in Yiewsley (on the canal bank, would you We lived in an upstairs maisonette at the believe) who was ace. time, so I had to take delivery of 12 boxes of Driving to Finchley and printing for 10 reams, carry it upstairs, carry it down and hours was not for the fainthearted, so I put print the first side, upstairs again, down

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“I was lucky enough to have help from a couple of nubile young ladies for a while as the printing outfit became WRG Print” again for the second side, upstairs, then finally down to the car and off to Cadisches. One was fitter in those days. Today, paper is only supplied in 5 ream boxes owing to the physically challenged population (or H&S@W.) I was lucky enough to have help from a couple of nubile young ladies for a while as the printing outfit became WRGPrint, and we printed bits and bobs for all kinds of people and societies (IWA London Branch Windlass for some time) and made a bob or two for WRG. The girls drifted away (one got a job printing, on the back of producing Navvies in my shed) and John came and thankfully relieved me of the printing. I suspect now he fancies a couple of nubile helpers dropping round to help out as well. Naturally I have just looked up when all this happened, and I see that Graham owned up to printing it all ourselves in No 40 (Jan 1973), although I think some odd

WRG Print The early years pages were done that way several issues before. I stopped on No 80 or 81 (Feb ‘81/ Jan ‘82) around that time John took over. It was a bad time for Graham. He had moved to Oswestry, but was suffering more than usual with depression (a constant companion) and within a year or two had heart surgery; only lasting five years beyond that. In fact the 80s was a bad time for canal restoration in general, with very little money available – just like today really. Anyway, WRGPrint was part of the ten years when we acquired thousands of pounds worth of machinery, ran big digs, toured the country whipping in local societies, always hanging on to Graham’s coattails and even had to run the site at National Rallies because IWA did not seem able. But that is another story. Mike Day

Navvies 40: GKP announces WRG Print’s birth

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WRG BC Boat Club news Wrg bc news March 2011 I’m not sure if I should begin with an apology or just think – well what do you expect from the secretary of a boat club with the motto ‘Incompetence at its Best’? As we didn’t have as much money as those at the AGM thought, we were able to make donations of just £100 each to the Inglesham Lock Appeal and ‘Barrow of Boulders’ appeal for The Mont. Changes of names I forgot to mention in the Christmas Mailing include:

. Athena Beckett’s boat is now Brown Trout, not Bonnie Lassie . Jean and Peter Cookes’ boat is now Waffle, not Jeep II . My surname is now Heritage not Dean but as I haven’t got round to changing either my email address or my bank details, this wont complicate things yet.

In which it is revealed that the WRG Boat Club secretary is now officially a piece of waterways heritage... If you are going to be unable to attend, let me know if you would like a copy of the Agenda. Please send me any comments you want to make or matters you wish to raise. All nominations for club officers gratefully received!! Cruising This Year: The club cruise is to the Droitwich Canals – or if you can’t get there by boat there is a very pleasant towpath walk. Please let me know how you get on and take and send me photographs plus any comments or observations you wish to make. New Members: anyone wishing to join wrg boat club, (probably the best boat club on the cut), get in touch with me or any club officer, giving a postal address so I can send an application form. Membership is open to active members of Waterway Recovery Group and those who have previously been involved in working with the group. A joining fee of £10 is payable (plus 1 year subscription) by new members. xxx Sadie (Heritage not Dean)

We need some new inside window burgee stickers. These are on order and will now cost £1.50 each + postage. I will bring them to the National Festival if you want to save on postage. On the topic of The National – will you be there? It has been agreed that we hold the AGM/social gathering on some evening over the weekend. Saturday is preferred, but we need to check the programme first. I hope we will be able to erect the clubhouse somewhere near the site or WRG accommodation and Cruise through here this year: the new double locks on the Droitwich the boats.

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Pete Redway An appreciation Pete Redway

Martin Ludgate

To those involved on the practical side on the Basingstoke Canal, Pete Redway was the able and enthusiastic organiser who led the Surrey & Hants Canal Society work parties for over two decades, from taking over from Mike Fellows in the final stages of restoration in 1989 until just a few weeks before his untimely death in February. To those involved in the political side, he was a respected canal society chairman who fought hard for the canal that he believed in. To WRGies and other visiting volunteers, he was Mr Basingstoke Canal - and an all-round good bloke. Taking over at the very end of the restoration effort might sound like an easy number. Not on the Basingstoke Canal, it wasn’t. The canal was restored, but in many Pete Redway is surprised to find a pumping ways its problems were only just beginning. It was crippled by inadequate water supplies station named in his honour in 2003 which meant that most years it ran out and had to close by early summer. It was forever strapped for cash owing to local authorities failing to honour the ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ they had made to pay for maintenance, which meant that even if the canal had enough water there were often stoppages due to lock gate failures and other problems - for example Deepcut Locks have been closed for a couple of years now, and the canal authority’s finances are in a critical state. And all the while, nature conservation organisations - who had kept rather a low profile while the volunteers were restoring the canal - were trying to push through proposals to severely restrict the numbers of craft permitted to use it. Despite all these challenges, Pete always remained upbeat about the canal. Whether in his negotiations with the local councils, or down on the towpath with a team of volunteers, he was always sure that “we’ve turned the corner” and there was a secure future in prospect for the canal. And despite his increasing involvement with local authority politics he never lost contact with the volunteers on the ground - whether driving up the towpath in a battered van full of kit, or making sure to write a letter to Navvies thanking the volunteers after the end of a canal camp. Always a practical man, one of his biggest contributions to putting the canal’s future on a more secure footing was his involvement in the backpumping systems that are gradually being installed along the canal. Fittingly, when the first one at Woodham was officially opened in 2003, it was named the Redway Pumphouse in his honour. A second one, at St Johns, followed - this time almost entirely built by volunteers - and he was already planning a third pump at Brookwood, or a new reservoir as an alternative. At the same time he was leading work parties at Deepcut Locks, rebuilding wing walls with the aim of getting the flight and the whole canal open again for next year. We owe it to Pete to help the Canal Society to reach that target, and ensure that the canal really has “turned the corner”. Martin Ludgate

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NOTICEBOARD Extra Canal Camp on the Grand Western Canal WRG Foresty will be leading a weekís camp down in Devon in october, running from Friday 21st to Saturday 29th. The work will be scrub bashing the line of the canal, and the accommodation will be in Burlescombe hall If interested, please book through head office as usual. Well-known entertainer

Dr Busker is performing live at Fillongley Village Hall (not far from Coventry) to an audience of local people plus KESCRG and WRG volunteers on the evening of Saturday 14 May - the same weekend as the Leader Training Day and WRG Committee meeting held neaby. For information and tickets contact Eddie Jones

Dial-a-camp To contact any WRG Canal Camp: 07850 422156 (Kit ‘A’ camps) 07850 422157 (Kit ‘B’ camps)

Stamps wanted

Send used stamps, petrol coupons, phone cards, empty computer printer ink cartridges to IWA/WRG Stamp Bank, 33 Hambleton Grove, Milton Keynes MK4 2JS. All proceeds to canal restoration.

DIRECTORY UPDATE Unfortunately a few errors crept into the Navvies Directory in the last issue Firstly our apologies for giving an out-of-date address for Malcolm Bridge of WRG North West. His address is 89 Rishworth Mill, Rishworth, Sowerby Bridge HX6 4RZ. Tel: 01422-820693. Secondly we’ve reverted to the previous NWPG contact. Their work party organiser is now Bill Nicholson, 17 Clifford Road, Princes Risborough HP27 0DU. Tel: 01844 343369. Mob: 0779 109 7773. email: Thirdly we’ve got an out-of-date contact for the Somersetshire Coal Canal Society. It should be Derrick Hunt on 01225 863066. He is also contact for Kennet & Avon Canal Trust work parties. Finally the Wooden Canal Boats Society email address is wrong. It should be We’ve also got an update: Dave Wedd has taken over as the contact for WRG on the Basingstoke Canal. Phone 01252874437 or email The next full directory will appear in issue 248. Please send any updates to the editor.

Inglesham Update The IWA Inglesham Lock Appeal to raise funds to enable WRG volunteers to restore this crucial lock where the Cotswold Canals meet the Thames had raised almost £36,500 towards the £125,000 target as we went to press. To support the appeal see: Thanks to Chris Griffiths of Stroudprint for his continued help with Navvies printing

Contacting the chairman: Mike Palmer 3 Finwood Rd, Rowington, Warwickshire CV35 7DH Tel: 01564 785293 email:

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Congratulations to Jenny Black and Adam ‘Digger’ Morris on their engagement


Is it namby-pamby to stop digging for the winter? And how many times have you seen the WRG safety video?

Featuring Dear Deirdre

Dear Deirdre Owing to my advanced age (I’m 74 next birthday), my children are urging me to lay off the digging over the winter and resume again when it’s a bit warmer. Do you think this is being a bit namby-pamby? - AB, Dull Eastwich

they’re so obsessed with sex they’ll never get the brick courses straight. You must also consider the possibility that WRG is the only thing keeping you alive. Just buy some bloody thermals and don’t let me hear any more about it.

Dear Deirdre After a busy summer of camps, I have now seen the WRG Deirdre writes: It certainly is nambysafety video 27 times. Do you know if pamby, and you should be ashamed of yourthis is a record? self for even considering it. What kind of exam- Jon J, by email ple are you setting the youngsters? If the WRG veterans start slacking off just because the Deirdre writes: You’re a long way canal’s frozen solid and the van lock’s iced shut, short: the record for the most number of then the youngsters in their 50’s and 60’s will times watching the WRG safety video curstart to think it’s okay to drop out, and restora- rently stands at 239 and is held by Mr Frank tion will be left to the mercy of those giddy Wallder. But this is only because of the habit young forty-somethings for six months of the of Essex WRG of watching the video with a year. The peace of the canal bank will be ruwarm milky drink last thing at night to help ined by Radio 2 blasting all over the place and them settle down to sleep on their digs. Have you got a question for Deirdre? Just email And finally... As with many online sales websites, the very useful IWA online shop (which is what you also use when you book a camp online) will sometimes suggest another purchase, which it (or whoever programmed it) judges might be appropriate based on what you’ve just ordered. Sometimes these things seem quite smart, other times... well, you know the sort of thing: you order a copy of Graham Greene’s classic murder thriller Brighton Rock from a books site and it suggests a couple of geology titles you might be interested in too... In my case, a few months back I ‘ordered’ a canal camp. What did it suggest? A waterproof case for digital cameras and a sea-searcher magnet to retrieve things that you drop in the cut! Has somebody told it about the episode at Droitwich Barge Lock in 2009? I think we should be told.

Scenes you seldom see on a dig: No 6

“We don’t care how many guest ales the Rat & Ferret has on, we’re still going clubbing.”

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Navvies 246  

Navvies 246. Magazine for volunteers restoring the waterways