volunteers restoring waterways
navvies Working together: the future?
waterway recovery group
Issue No 256 December-January 2012-13
Navvies Production Editor: Martin Ludgate, 35 Silvester Road, East Dulwich London SE22 9PB 020-8693 3266 firstname.lastname@example.org Subscriptions: Sue Watts, 15 Eleanor Rd., Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester M21 9FZ Printing and assembly: John & Tess Hawkins, 4 Links Way, Croxley Green, Rickmansworth, Herts WD3 3RQ 01923 448559 email@example.com 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. 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.
ISSN: 0953-6655 ÂŠ 2012 WRG
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.
Visit our web site www.wrg.org.uk for page 2
In this issue...
Above: Herefordshire & Gloucestershire Canal: pulling stumps during the Bonfire Bash. See report, p36. Left: Somersetshire Coal Canal: London WRG help uncover Paulton Drydock. See report, p48. Below: ‘working together’ on the Oxford: Bridge 80 nearing completion. See report, p39 Front Cover: ‘working together’ on the Uttoxeter Canal: during WRG Forestry’s week-long camp supporting the Caldon & Uttoxeter Canal Trust, they were visited by a Churnet Valley Railway diesel, on a length where some close cooperation will be needed to get both canal and railway restored. Report next time. (photo by one of the train crew) Back cover top: autumn’s rains saw a few bits of usually rather dry canal looking more navigable: Inglesham Lock (pic by Nic Bennett); inset upper the length of the Mont that WRG lined last year and inset lower the Somerset Coal Canal at Combe Hay (pic by Adrian Tuddenham) Back cover bottom: here’s one that’s meant to have water: October camp on the Chelmer & Blackwater. Book now for February’s Camp. (photo by Daniel Krebs)
Editorial Working together: what’s that? 4-5 Coming soon Winter camps and Cleanup 6 Split sites tips for the leader whose camp ends up divided between worksites 7 Camp reports from the Chesterfield 8-13 40 interviews IWA’s Audrey Smith and KESCRG’s Ian Williamson face the questions0 14-22 Dig report from the Stover 23 Camp report 40 years ago at Stratford24-25 Diary canal camps and weekend digs 26-28 Letters more on this ‘working together’ thing - plus some work on the Mont 29-32 Progress projects around the country 33-35 Reunion report from the H&G 36-38 Camp reports Oxford bridges and the Chelmer & Blackwater 39-46 Dig reports Kings Norton & Somerset 47-48 Bricksaws building a brick jig 49 Noticeboard 50 Infill Lieber Deirdre 51
Contributions... ...are always welcome, whether handwritten, typed, on CD, DVD or by email. Photos welcome: digital, slides, prints. Please say if you want prints back. Digital pics are welcome as email attachments, preferably JPG, but if you have a lot of large files it’s best to send them on CD 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Press date for issue 257: 1 January.
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Working together could mean a whole lot more than helping CRT rebuild some bridges on the Oxford? How much more? What do you think?
A new spirit of cooperation?
So what’s all this about working together? “Working together”, it says on the front cover of this issue of Navvies, followed by the “the future?” But hang about, I hear you ask, isn’t working together with others something that we’ve always done? Well, yes, indeed it is. There are few waterway restoration schemes (as opposed to individual projects) that have ever been exclusively or even predominantly run by WRG. Our main role has always been in providing expertise, labour and assistance to canal societies, trusts, IWA branches, navigation authorities and other groups each responsible for their local projects across the country. And it’s a model that’s worked very well. So what’s new? What’s new is that in several different ways we’re getting involved in forms of cooperation and collaboration with other organisations which might work out rather differently from what we’ve done before. And the first one, as I’m sure you’ll guess, is the new Canal & River Trust (CRT), the result of the transformation of national navigation authority British Waterways (BW) from a nationalised industry into a major charity. You might have seen Ian Mac’s Comment page in the last Navvies. If you didn’t, I would encourage you to dig out your copy (or download it from wrg.org.uk) and read it. The gist of it is something like “We’ve been used to an ‘us and them’ situation, with BW seen in some quarters as ‘the enemy’ for the last 40-plus years. With the switch to CRT, all that’s now changed, and we’re all ‘us’, in it together – or at least it ought to have changed. If we can find a way to make sure it really has changed, then it could be the greatest thing for the waterways. If we can’t, then a huge opportunity will have been missed.” As you might expect, the selection of responses in this issue (and comments made to the editor) include a wide range of views – roughly speaking, from “Don’t touch them with a bargepole” to “We have to do together or we’re all doomed” probably encompasses most of the spread of opinion. But aside from the ‘political’ views on whether CRT is the new Messiah or just a very naughty boy (sorry, showing my age!) we’ve also seen what trying to work with them is like on the ground. On page 39 you can read Maria’s account of a ten-day camp in October working on rebuilding two falling-down bridges on the North Oxford Canal. Sure, it didn’t all go smoothly all the time – but that’s not entirely surprising given that we were working with new partners on a new type of work, and there is the extra layer of complexity added when you deal with CRT’s contractors too. But compared to an attempt at working with BW a couple of years ago which our Chairman Mike Palmer called “a cock-up from start to finish” * it was a roaring success. One bridge was completed; the other needed an extra one-day WRG working party leaving the contractors to just put the coping stones on one of the rebuilt walls. And the CRT folks were very happy with it. But is that the entire measure of success? Or will real success in working with CRT be when they stop thanking us and start turning up on site and asking us to show them how to lay bricks – or how to recruit, train, motivate and inspire their own volunteers to lay bricks? Can we really imagine CRT saying “we used to do this our way but we reckon your way is much better”? Perhaps only then will we be on the way to ensuring that both organisations get the most out of WRG and CRT working together. What do you think? Please send us your views, and we’ll publish them in the next issue of Navvies. And don’t think that nobody important in CRT will read them: I’ve already had comments from one of CRT’s national Trustees on Ian Mac’s piece last time.
* Actually I think he was slightly less polite
Our cover photo depicts a very different but equally important form of working together – as you might guess from the railway locomotive. The Uttoxeter Canal (an extension of the Caldon) is one of a number of canals whose routes were partly used after closure for building railway lines. This can make restoration harder – but it’s rarely a show-stopper, as many of the railways have since shut, and anyway often they only destroyed a relatively small amount of the route as they tended to be built straighter, and cut off the earlier canals’ meanderings. The Uttoxeter’s slightly different. Not only are the rails still there for the first couple of miles, but the Churnet Valley Railway aims to extend its steam train services down that part of the route in the future. In the early days there wasn’t much communication between railway and canal groups, but just recently they’ve begun working closely together to find a way to achieve both groups’ aims. The bridge in the picture is symbolic of this: it’s one place where the routes do coincide; it will need a canal channel barely 7ft wide to be squeezed through alongside a single-track railway – and probably some changes to canal levels and new locks added to make it work. The current work parties – a WRG Forestry Camp, London WRG & KESCRG Christmas dig, and New Year Camp – are uncovering the remains of the canal nearby, to find out what’s left and how best to proceed with the restoration. And also, to help the railway by improving sight lines both for train crews and for people photographing the trains. Look out for more work parties coming up in 2013 on this interesting example of ‘working together’. And the third kind of working together is with WRG’s parent body the Inland Waterways Association. Elsewhere in this issue you can find a report from an IWA-led Cleanup at Kings Norton, and dates of several more forthcoming Oxford bridges project: how do you gauge its success? local events organised by IWA branches (often jointly with canal societies or other groups). These events – and the publicity for them – are all part of an IWA push for more local campaigning, which IWA’s Branch Campaign Officer (and well-known WRGie) Alison Smedley is leading. They aren’t quite WRG’s mainstream activity (they don’t tend to work on disused canals) but we think they fall within our remit of ‘national coordinating body for voluntary labour on inland waterways’ sufficiently that Navvies is a good place to publicise them. You are most welcome to take part in any of these events – and to tell Navvies about any more that you know about. And that brings us back to the Canal & River Trust. What about CRT’s own volunteer events? Shouldn’t we be listing them too? Should we include Towpath Taskforce contacts and details? Should we solicit articles for Navvies from their volunteer coordinators? Alternatively should we wait and see if they ask to be included? Or is it a job for the WRG bargepole again? Once again, I’m going to ask you, the Navvies readers: what do you reckon? Martin Ludgate
Coming soon Winter camps, spring camps, BCN Cleanup... Last call for New Year! As we went to press both of the WRG New Year Camps were getting pretty full - but there’s always the chance that they might be able to squeeze you in, especially if they’ve had a cancellation. One will also be on the Uttoxeter Canal - complete with a railway trolley to take our stuff to and from site so we can play at trains too - led by Gary Summers and Pete Fleming. The other Christmas camp will be on the Cotswold Canals, clearing scrub from the canal bed eastwards from Rucks Bridge near Eisey, and Martin Thompson will be the leader. Both camps run from 26 December to 1 January. To check if there’s any space and book a place if there is, contact Head Office: Tel: 01494 783453, email: email@example.com, online bookings at wrg.org.uk.
February Camp ...is on the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation again, we’re hoping to have the Haybay Barge (complete with REAL BEDS in CABINS) as our accommodation, and the work is likely to be the usual mix of bank protection, towpath improvement and vegetation clearance aimed at helping Essex Waterways Ltd in their vital and continuing job of putting a waterway that they inherited in a sorry state a few years ago back into a good sound condition.
Easter Camps There are three of them this year. Two weeks on the northern reaches of the Lancaster Canal, from 29 March to 6 April, plus a week on the Lichfield from 6 to 13 April when we’ll be working in Darnford Park on the edge of Lichfield city, creating the base for a new lock and building a section of the channel leading up to it. More details of all these, and the summer camps, in the camps preview articles which will appear in forthcoming issues of Navvies.
BCN Cleanup 13-14 April 2013 This is our annual weekend of slinging grappling hooks into the murky waters of the Birmingham Canal Navigations, pulling out all manner of junk - bikes, prams, tyres, shopping trolleys and quite a few things that defy identification - in the name of keeping the lesserused parts of this fascinating network in a navigable condition. A bit of a departure for 2013, though: it won’t actually be on the BCN at all! But fear not, it will be on the Stourbridge, a canal very closely linked to the BCN (it connects with the Dudley Canal below Delph Locks, ) and we’ll be concentrating on the Fens Branch, a dead-end arm that leads to an attractive mooring at Fens Pool but is difficult to navigate as a result of the amount of rubbish in it. Full details in the next issue including accommodation details and a booking form.
Leader training day 18 May All you camp leaders and would-be leaders, save the date: the next leaders’ training will be Saturday 18th May 2013 at Rowington Village Hall. There is a slight change in that we’ll be offering overnight accommodation in the hall and will be having a bit of a do in the evening – maybe a BBQ. We’ll be taking bookings after Christmas, meanwhile we’re putting together agenda items. Send suggestions to Helen Gardner at firstname.lastname@example.org 07989 425346
If you are (or could one day be) a Canal Camp leader, Ed has some tips for dealing with a job that’s split across two sites - without stuff ending up all in the wrong place! How to lead a two-site camp So you’re leading a two site canal camp? It happens, a month or so before the start of your camp and you’re suddenly working on two sites separated by ten miles of road / two miles of towpath / a welsh valley – here are a few tips that have helped me over the last few years: Find a good assistant leader or MUP [‘Most Useful Person’ - typically an ‘old hand’ that the leaders can rely on to help them] who you can trust one of the sites to – the camp will work a lot better if you’re not bouncing between both sites as it’s guaranteed you’ll be on the wrong one at the wrong time. Beg / borrow another gas Burco – you’re going to be having separate tea breaks and lunch all week, so you’re going to need a second one. While on that subject, you will obviously need two brew kits and more (possibly smaller) containers of milk/tea etc than are present in the standard camp kit. Assign a van to each site for the week – this means the tools for the site can stay in the van and people know which van to get in each day. I find an A4 label on the dashboard with the site name on it works well. Tools – some thought is required in advance here. Have you got enough tools for both sites to work? Do you need a second mixer / more barrows / an extra first aid kit / another generator? Sorting the kit across the two vans on the Saturday afternoon works well as you can start quickly on the Sunday. A bit of forward planning will stop most of the ‘all the buckets are on the other site’ type problems. An extension to this is the ‘wrong plant keys on site’ problem – best way of sorting this is to store the keys in the sitespecific van. Plan your lunch – depending on how you run your camp and where the sites are in relation to each other, it may be worth one site taking lunch with them in the morning to save the cook going round both sites to deliver. If one site has a significant longer
Running a split camp
‘commute’, then further planning around site leaving times, showers, dinner and evening activities will be required. A third vehicle – with a van on each site you will need a third vehicle around to do kit & materials pickup / drop off or to stand in as the emergency vehicle on site while a van is off on runs. People – it’s worth trying to prevent a ‘your site, our site’ mentality; best ways of doing this are to make sure you update the whole camp on how both sites are doing (parish notices in the evening?) and move volunteers between the sites so everyone has buy in on all the jobs. More thought may be required about volunteer numbers on each site depending on the amount of work each day and you may need to hunt out more ‘useful people’ to do all the training you may need. On plant-heavy sites you will obviously have to spend more time doing training if you do move volunteers around - limiting the changes to one person per day can optimise the training-to-work ratio. Communication – make sure you have phones with reception on both sites (and a good number of the volunteers have phone numbers for the other site!) or WRG radios if the range is low enough (<1 mile). Project plans and other paperwork – you (or the locals) will need to generate two sets of project plans, probably with two completely different sets of directions to hospital A&E, emergency contacts and risk assessments. Overall, running a multi-site camp is perfectly possible but more planning than usual is required. The key to success (as ever with canal camps) is to delegate! Ed Walker with additions by Gordon Brown Richard Worthington For more useful assistance and information for leaders, come to the Leaders’ Training Day on 18 May. See opposite page.
Camp reports Chesterfield Canal
Back in August, our volunteers spent two weeks building abutments for a new bridge and culverts for a new lock at Staveley
the three sites which somehow or other, by the end of the week, became 6 with such titles as 6.1.1 or 5.2.1. – Don’t ask. As a diligent and loyal deputy to George, I On our return from the site visit, we started to make some notes on the first day were informed that the hall was being used of my first Chesterfield camp hoping that that night for an over 60s Dance Night. these would somehow help him with the After the meal, prior to the H & S brieffinal report. This proved to be a big mistake ing, Liv was fulminating about the H & S as I am now writing the report and strugbriefing and declared in a rash moment that gling a few days later to remember ‘who did next year she would do it in dance form. what to whom’ and with what result. AnyAnd so on Saturday evening we all way, for anyone who has stayed awake this assembled – George, our Leader and Guru, far, it may prove worthwhile to re-read Navme as loyal deputy, three new D of E’ers vies 253 pages 44 – 48; on the other hand it Anna, Tom and Simon (Liv’s brother) and may not as despite two reports on the same Maili who although not doing D of E was of project, you will not be much wiser. that generation. After this came the youngThere are, however, common themes. ish veterans, Andy and Mike,; then came the Many of the dramatis personae are the same real veterans – the ones that the H & S video and the drains at the Staveley rooms still warns you against copying – Colin and Tina, preclude using the readily available toilets; Kimm and Jim, Chris and Laurence, and the sleeping accommodation is still cramped; Steve, with the most essential member of the the caretaker still has little idea of any bookcast, Mandy, our cook. ings; the portaloo was not on site; the digger There was also there just for the first was “somewhere” in the future; and the brick night ‘Little’ Liv’s sister. mountain was still huge – at the start!. On a Thus we settled down in the accommopositive note, we could still use the facilities dation for the first night. Although not in the leisure centre for showering and swim- roomy, it was acceptable and with the excepming. tion of the 40 yard walk to the toilets, it was The advance guard arrived between reasonable as we could eat in the main hall. 1pm and 2pm fresh from deeds of derringIf this sounds too good to be true, that is do on the Cromford and started to unload because it was. the kit. Fears that the cooking facilities were So we came to Sunday and the continuinadequate had been vanquished by the ance of the common themes mentioned acquisition of the WRG 6-burner monster but earlier. Colin, Tina, Jim, Kimm, Andy and there was one small snag with this beheSimon departed early to finish off a couple of moth: it was 4mm wider than the two doors jobs remaining on the Cromford, as there giving access to the kitchen. George (being was not a lot of work possible on the Chesa Cambridge student) suggested brute force terfield. The remainder of us walked to site but this led to it being almost immovably where, encouragingly, there were some ten jammed in the first door. After much discus- or so members of the Chesterfield Canal sion and further application of force it was Trust working on the bridge abutments on pushed back and the slow process of remov- the towpath side (far side) of the canal. ing the oven doors began. About an hour On the minus side, there was no sign of later the cooker, minus oven doors, was in the digger, or the portaloo, and the bricks situ in the small room adjacent to the required were in another container a quarter kitchen. of a mile away. A number of brick runs Having gathered all those who had followed and the bricklaying on both abutarrived, our leader took us for a site visit to ments of the bridge proceeded slowly with
Chesterfield Canal first week Camp 20120: 18-25 August
Pictures by George Rogers
Tom and Anna being trained. runs. We also heard that we could not use Bricklaying was slow but steady as the hall for eating anymore as there were people either started to practise the skill for bookings for the rest of the week. the first time or re-acquainted themselves On Wednesday, Dave of the Chesterfield with the art. The highlight of the afternoon Canal Trust started laying the steps of the far was when Mandy managed to lock herself side abutment. The event of the day was a out of the accommodation. This was only large concrete pour into the far side abutmatched by Simon at Cromford managing to ment by a specialist lorry from the nearside pour petrol all over his trousers thus render- of the canal equipped with a huge hydraulic ing them an H&S fire hazard which the otharm which reached right over the canal to ers refused to countenance in the passenger feed the concrete into the abutment. Then compartment of the vehicle. lo and behold - things really improved when At the end of the day we started the the portaloo arrived and was safely installed daily trek to the leisure centre and to the in one of the containers and was checked showers which were in the Spa. This was a and tested by Kimm. It was kept in the separate section of the centre decorated in container as the local populace have a protasteful pastel colours and with a distinctive pensity to remove anything not locked or aroma of herbs, with uniformed attendants nailed down. Final event of the day was an and a general atmosphere of karma. To elderly gentleman wearing headphones and complete the atmosphere of welcome for leading a dog walking straight through the truly metrosexual men, there was even a site and over the plank across the canal hairdryer in the menâ€™s changing room. We nonchalantly ignoring all shouts to stop and arrived and rather disturbed the aura of disappearing up the footpath to Morrisons. peace. A visit to Chesterfield bowling alley and On Monday (Day 2) we were all on site subsequently to a local hostelry rounded off punctually by 9 am and carried out bricklaya good day. ing on the far (towpath) side all day while That night, because the digger was to Colin instructed on the starting and operation arrive the following day, George devised an of the brick saw. Our leader was noticeably extensive work-and-training schedule for his more watchful today and did not once close loyal deputy to implement the following day his eyes in contemplation after lunch. The as he would be supervising the digger which first runs of the van to the brick mountain was to start on the weir at site 2. The clever were made. In the evening as talk turned to menus a suggestion for Eton Mess occurred which incurred the scornful comment from our cook that this was not a difficult thing to prepare and that anybody could do it. That night pudding was melon slices!!! Tuesday (Day 3) came and went with more of the same â€“ bricklaying and brick The nearside bridge abutment was taking shape at the end of the fortnight...
plan encompassed brick runs, brick saw training, bricklaying and concrete mixing. It is axiomatic in the military that no plan survives first contact with the enemy. We did not even have contact with the ‘enemy’ who was in fact a local contractor delivering 288 25kg concrete blocks. Nobody had mentioned that this delivery had a 10 day ‘window’ whilst we were on site. As the locals had removed over £12,000 worth of stone copings overnight a year ago, these blocks had to be safeguarded immediately; thus we moved approximately 7.2 tonnes of blocks by hand into the container. This was seriously hard work matched only by Colin who had been left solo on site to set up everything for the day’s work. Fortunately the rain held off and bricklaying and other activities resumed albeit a lot later than planned. That night the local Canal Society had arranged a boat trip for us on a section of the restored canal near Kiveton Park. This was an excellent advert for canal restoration and impressed some of the younger members who had never boated before. The weather forecast for Friday was grim with rain or showers all day but we hoped to get one concrete mix in for the abutments and then to finish and clear up in the late afternoon. In the event the rain held off and we worked straight through to 2 pm concreting and bricklaying. After a very late lunch the clean up and inventory was taken. As a final ‘thank you’ the local society gave us a BBQ at the Hollingwod Hub about 2 miles away on Friday night. Intermittent showers meant that this had to be held indoors but an endless supply of BBQ’d meat ensured that nobody went hungry and rounded off a really good week that had seen much completed at site and a pleasant social time in the evenings. ...while on the other Dave Bradford
Chesterfield Canal second week Camp 2012-23 25 Aug - 1 Sep And we start off with a disclaimer from assistant camp leader George Rogers... First and foremost, let me clarify that writing the camp report this way was Not My Idea. Following on from our Easter Camp, Steve Baylis had decided that we’d repeat the exercise of the rota also involving writing the day’s camp report. The twist was, each day was to be in a given style – Steve set the first couple but was running out of ideas, so the volunteers were left to it! I’ve added some of my explanatory comments to the text below [these are the words in italic ...Ed], but before we plunge in I’ll just explain the work asked of us. All in all there were five jobs – firstly, continuing brickwork on the bridge at Constitution Hill (the focus of week one). Secondly and thirdly, at the new lock site at Staveley Town Basin, we had to repair the lock bywash and continue to build the paddle culverts. Fourthly, we had some initial prep works to do at the weir site that had been excavated in week one. Finally, local Geraint wanted to lead some archaeological investigations across the bed from the weir site (this ended up not happening due to the weather flooding that section). So that’s the work – how did we get on?
side the steps were well under construction
An interesting style of camp report for week 2. Or, as one of the leaders puts it: “I was there, and it still doesn’t make sense” Day 1 – theme: Shakespeare Two worksites, both alike in difficulty In fair Staveley, where we lay our scene From ancient ruins break to new marina Where civil mud makes civil wrgies unclean From forth the fatal bricks of these two sites A pair of star-cross’d lovers* arrive on camp * Mike Chase and Liz Wright (now Chase)
Camp reports Chesterfield Canal which! Secondly, I was there, and it still doesn’t make sense. In essence we took down some of the brickwork done on the bywash, built some steps down into the lock site in order to give safe access, and continued brickwork on the bridge.
Day 2 – theme: Limerick (or several) There was a canal camp in Staveley, Attended by many WRGs bravely, And those on DoE Made coffee and tea For George Rogers and leader Steve Bailey*
This place is Staveley, a town in Derbyshire “Look where it comes again” The basin, the walls, are finished In the same stretch as lies the basin that’s finished The footbridge, the lock bywash, have remain unfinished, * should be Baylis, but it doesn’t rhyme Much to the basin’s displeasure “It was about to rain when the wrgies finished” Colin did ‘demo’ the bricksaw “Tis built” Thus training a dozen or more “Tis dismantled” It made dust and noise “Tis a completed workday” So it suited the boys That grows to look: things built and cut with bricksaw But the ladies all thought it a chore Possess it merely The locals did get their van stuck, George says: Firstly, I am reliably ensured Dave was heard to comment “Oh, suck”* that this is the beginning of two well known We went to their aid Shakespeare plays rewritten. English literaThey did not seem dismayed ture was never my forte, so I’ll let you guess When we helped them get out of the muck * At least, we think that’s what he said… At the lock we’d dug many a stair While generally, weather was fair A wall’d been demolished (It couldn’t be polished) It’s now being rebuilt with great care Mike’s Liz came here and cooked Steve’s Michelle was also booked Everyone who ate Said they did great So their efforts were not overlooked
“Can you see what it is yet?” The new lock
It didn’t take long after tea To set up a card game of Beanie For those not inclined This was just fine – Or a hazardous game of Frisbee!
George says: Well, I guess that looks like we just continued what we started on day 1. Work on the bridge continued – building a central pier within the offside bridge parapet, in order to minimise the amount of concrete required. At the lock, the paddle culverts were being extended, preparing for building the brickwork in the gate recesses.
heads and scoffed their food. However, the dark clouds of dread descended upon the land, as the wise wizard had foretold – yet foolish King Steve did not heed this warning and trudged the wary noblemen to site. With the rain lashing their faces, the noblemen parted ways – some to the province of locked water and the others to Barren Bridge. When their Day 3 – theme: Hi Ho, Hi Ho thoughts turned to work it became It’s off to work we go… impossible for the downpour was too Day 3 at the Chesterfield Canal Camp and merciless. Only one potion of holding the old hands and the 7 dwarves had an was brewed. Steve summoned his early start – partly because there was an fiery red dragons to rescue his dishevexercise class taking place at the digs. elled subjects. There was lots of bricklaying at the On return to the Palace of Eternal bridge and block and brick laying at the Slumber, many took this turn of events lock culverts. Work stopped for a while as as an opportunity to rest their heads, Dopey and Grumpy got the cable of the whilst others explored the magical cement mixer caught. After a short while pool of water where the sound of the day was saved by camp leader and self laughter echoed all around. As time proclaimed God amongst men, Mr Baylis, but passed by and the rain continued to only with the tools supplied by Dave and his dominate some undertook a trip to the band of merry men. land of Moving Images. Back at the While Dopey was learning to fill the Palace the minds of the noblemen were paddle culvert with Pro Pete, Gorgeous challenged by an array of puzzles. Great George was asked to demonstrate what 6 fun was had by all and it was a welinches looked like… Lots of bricks had to come rest from the gruelling labour. be sorted from the rubbish ones to the not As the day came to a close Queen so rubbish ones – Happy did a grand job of Michelle had prepared a banquet of wheel barrowing piles to the old hands to prawn cocktail and avocado starter, use. Still not sure if it is one good side or followed by steak in red wine sauce two that’s needed but you definitely need to and concluded with crackers and makeep away from the purple ones! ture stilton. It was at this time when At the bridge lots of ‘Muggles’ tried the sharpest of mind and fairest maidto get across the temporary bridge. The ens captured this memorable tale with trolls managed to keep them at bay though beautiful words. and they had to walk the long way round. Hopefully in the sun like today, its more George says: So, to simplify things – we brick work and block laying tomorrow, but were rained off. before then a lovely tea of lasagne and a few games of ten pin bowling are to be had. Day 5 – theme: silent dance… George says: finally, a day that makes sense(ish)
Day 4 – theme: Fairytale Once upon a time in the kingdom of Staveley, King Steve and Prince George, along with their team of noblemen, were set the quest of ridding the waterways of their fatal curse. All went well to begin with. Rays of twinkling sunlight beamed through the window as the noblemen hung their
George says: Well I can only conclude this must have been the case – it seems I was never graced with a report from Day 5. Without the rain, we made good progress at both sites – continuing brickwork at both the lock and the bridge. Colin and I also set up the formwork that I had brought up from Cromford in the weir excavation. The aim was not to pour any foundations, but provide some retaining strength to a section of the excavated face which consisted of type 1 fill. We then filled it with a runny mortar mix so that it bound the existing aggregate together
Day 6 – theme: The Book of Volunteers (by some known as the Book of Not for Prophets). In the beginning was the Word and the Word was Staveley, and also was Town, and another was Lock. And the tribe of the Chesterites did fall back amazed by the miracles performed by Stephen, King of the WRGs. The multitude of Chesterites and WRGs was soon famished by their labours, but King Stephen, taking five chips and two small fishes, created a feast such that the crumbs thereof fed the Chesterites. And straight thereupon he commanded all WRGs there present to take to the water which fell and rose again in its haste to reach the mighty River Trent. But ho! None was drowned nor yet wetted. On the morrow St Stephen commanded three bands of his disciples to go forth. One went to the bridge which cannot be crossed. This band was led by St Christopher who stood ready to carry all those who could not swim. There they met with those of the Chesterite tribe led by the mighty and comely King David of France; also Ralph and Terry. On one bank of the sylvan waters WRGs Helen, Sam, Colin of Des, and Richard toiled long under the pitiless sun to prepare a sacrificial altar for the transgressors against the will of the Roman slave driver, Colinus. Another band, commanded by Colinus, travelled far to the landlock whereupon they did smite the rock to tame the rushing waters of the paddles. All other WRGs, bar one, were here appointed to their allotted tasks. Laura, the chosen one, led by Saint George, travelled beyond the Bridge of Doom to wrest back the wooden walls from the clutches of the ravenous dragon which inhabits George’s sulphurous hole. Much gnashing of teeth was heard throughout the land but the disciples of St Stephen returned triumphant and bore the walls to St George’s personal chariot. Working on the And a great feast was
ordered to be prepared on the banks of the running water in a place called The Hub. All WRGs and Chesterites were summoned to attend, but prior thereto came the Great Counting of the Tools. Every hammer, sickle, dagger of every sort, spade and weapon known and unknown was accounted for before the celebration began. Much rejoicing, imbibing and feasting celebrated the mighty feats of the tribe of WRGs. So ended the sixth day and St Stephen saw that it was good. George says: So that’s how we got on. A huge thanks to all of the volunteers, the locals (particularly Dave France and Geraint Coles), the two cooks Liz Chase and Michelle Baylis, and of course our illustrious leader, Steve Baylis. I’d like to add a personal thanks to Colin Hobbs – having been on camp for 6 weeks by the time this camp started, and particularly following two stressful weeks of being the local at Cromford and then one week of leading, I wasn’t as on the ball as normal. Colin certainly helped to define the role of MUP – whenever I thought about something that needed doing, I’d turn around to find he’d already done it. That makes life a lot easier, and allowed me to spend time practicing my penchant for leaning on a wide variety of tools… On such split sites, it was also good to have a third person to rely on to lead a site.
lock head walls and paddle culvert entrances
WRG at 40
“So many people prepared to get so dirty and so wet; and everybody enjoying themselves – it was just fabulous!” – Audrey Smith on Ashtac
Forty views for forty years
40 Views for 40 Years Number 27 in a series of interviews to celebrate WRG’s 40th birthday. In this interview we meet Audrey Smith who’s been in and out and around of WRG for quite a number of years.
Q: How did you first get involved with boating and the waterways in general? A: The waterways in general we have to blame David [Audrey’s husband] for. We’d been married maybe five or six years (early ’60s) and David said he thought it’d be a good idea if we had a boat. I discussed this with my mother; I had a little boy of a year old and a lump (which was eventually to become Gillian) - I thought this was a barmy idea. My mother’s view was: it might be a sensible thing to do because otherwise he’d go and play golf every weekend and at least we would do something as family. And so we bought and fitted out a small cruiser. Now I think I should say that David’s grandfather was the lock keeper at Bingley Five Rise, his mother was married from that house and I’ve always blamed everything that happened ever since on the canal water that’s in David’s veins. We launched our first boat round about Easter 1966 – Gillian was a matter of weeks old.
Q: Had you done any boating before that? A: Absolutely raw – knew nothing. We launched it at Bingley, right at the top of Five Rise locks and we went the other way – on the level bit. It was fascinating actually; it was very different to what canals are now. Expectations were much less. A new fibre glass boat was something quite unusual – the bulk of the boats on the Leeds Liverpool then were lifeboat conversions. I smile when I look at young families out boating now because I had Terry nappies to deal with, and Terry bibs and two babes. If the weather wasn’t fine I used to fold them in 4 and dry them in the Calor gas oven.
Q: Where did it go from there? A: We boated quite happily for about 4 years totally unaware of the existence of the IWA. Then in 1970 we went to an event in Huddersfield Basin. There we met some quite formidable people and before we knew it we’d joined the IWA. At that time we’d moved and we were living in Wetherby and David had got very involved in the restoration of the River Derwent so we went as a family to working parties on the Derwent. I don’t know if WRG were actually involved in working parties there because this would have been quite early days of WRG but there was a Smalley digger there – bright red – and somewhere on our cine films we have evidence of that. Because David worked away a lot I couldn’t go out much in the evenings. I offered to be secretary of the local branch of the IWA if they would come and have the meetings at our house, which they did. That’s really how it all started and the rest is history.
Q: The River Derwent – what kind of work was that? A: Some of the locks were semi-derelict so there was lock refurbishment and fundraising for re-gating. A lot of it was greenery management so tree felling, bush cutting, bonfires. Our offspring obviously cut their teeth on that as small ones.
Q: What were the challenges of taking small children? A: I never really regarded it as a challenge. There were so many adults about and so many things that the kids could do. The great plus was that they were tired and hungry at the end of day if you fed them they just fell asleep – it was lovely.
Q: You were secretary of the West Riding Branch – where did it go from there? A: The IWA then created its region structure – early 70s – and I became region treasurer. 1977 we moved to live in Lancashire and we went along to the North Lancs and Cumbria branch meetings and within a year I was branch chairman. Many years later I was region secretary and then region chairman. As a region chairman I went to the IWA council meetings (from about 1990) and then we almost had a divorce over the proposal that I should become national chairman in 1994. But I’m very glad we didn’t have a divorce and I’m very glad I did it.
Q: What was your motivation for joining the IWA at that first meeting? A: Pam Cobb, Roger Walmsley, Graham Smith, Ralph and Val Kirkham, Margaret Sinfield – they were such likeable, enthusiastic people and so very committed to improving their little patch of waterways in West Yorkshire – you couldn’t help but be drawn in and supportive. They were very friendly, very welcoming; whatever skill you could offer was welcomed.
Q: What was your first memory of realising WRG existed? A: Probably, I think Ashtac really brought it home to us. We’d come across John Palmer [Senior, Mike Palmer’s father] in his capacity as chairman of the Peak Forest Canal Society and we’d visited the Peak Forest and seen the restoration ongoing at Marple. So WRG and restoration was lurking there in the back of our minds. Then up comes this business of Ashtac and what would happen there – David thought it would be a good idea if we went – so we went with all 3 children. I think Nick would be about 7, Gillian 5 and Jonathan 3. Gillian has an abiding memory of turning the handle on the tea urn and she was so happy. The boys were like pigs in mud and I blame all their further involvement with WRG on that.
Q: What do you remember of that weekend? A: Muck. Lots of mud. I remember the little trolley railway thing whizzing up and down. I still find myself amazed at the number of poles that we got out of the canal – poles for changing the shunting things on the railway. They were stacked up in hundreds – it was quite incredible. So many people prepared to get so dirty and so wet; and everybody enjoying themselves – it was just fabulous.
Q: Did you do any work with WRG? A: Not me no – David would sometimes go off and take Nick to things that were happening locally in the north-east or the north-west but I tended to be more organising of meetings and talking! Something that I’m very good at – not always sense! Really it was [the then WRG chairman] Alan Jervis who was to blame for getting the family back round and involved in WRG. It must have been 1987/88 and he rang me up and said “I need a leader for the WRG camp at the trailboat festival at Glasson Dock – do you think Nick would do it?” Nick had never been on a WRG camp and I said “he’s a big boy – you’d better ask him” – by this time he was at university. Nick was daft enough to say “yes”. We became involved and went along. We were partly organising the event and for my sins it was how I met Mick Beattie to boot. We couldn’t take our boat and our friends decided we could borrow their almost new caravan. We ran two cars but we didn’t have a tow bar – Nick said “oh I’ll ask Mick if he’ll take it across”. Now I’d no idea who Mick was and Friday evening about half past seven there’s a ring on the door bell and when I opened it there was this apparition in black, with rings in his nose and ears – leather boots up to his knees. “Evening [gruffly] – I’ve come for the caravan”. As I watched my best friend’s caravan disappear up the road hooked on behind a WRG van I really thought my world had come to an end. I really wondered whether I’d see the caravan or this “Mick” ever again. But he got it there safely without a scratch, and I’ve loved him to bits ever since.
Q: What was the next step after that? A: Because Nicholas had been asked to do this, younger brother Jonathan had to be in on it too – so he came home from university for the event and weighed in. That was the point when both of them began to turn their back on the university climbing clubs and start going off on WRG weekends. I remember Nick’s favourite trips being down to the Wey and Arun, which, from Lancashire was a long journey. I suppose really, mine was a supportive role rather than a doing role. I provided the food, I did the washing, I made sure everything was ready and off they went. I greatly valued what WRG did even though I wasn’t actually very much involved. I was renowned for my skills as a bonfire stacker on things I did go to.
Q: You would have had some involvement with WRG in your capacity as IWA National Chairman?
A: I’d met WRG North West in my involvement in IWA North West and we’d supported one or two of
Q: What would you WRG is good at? A: There are many strengths: they’ve got
their work parties on things like the Manchester, Bolton & Bury and the Rochdale; gone along for the day but never sort of gone on a camp as such – we left that to the lads. By the time I’d done 4 years on the IWA council, by the time I’d become chairman, I felt that most of these leading active WRGies were almost family. In that capacity I thought that WRG was such a valuable asset to the IWA. There’d been a rough period a little earlier when there could have been a parting of the ways – one of the challenges I set myself was to make sure there wasn’t a parting of the ways. I knew Alan Jervis well and we got on reasonably well. I was quite astounded when he said Mike Palmer was going to succeed him: I couldn’t believe that somebody as young and giddy as Mike was ever going to survive with WRG - he’s been a superb leader. Many of my friendships arose out of the national festival – I was usually there for 3 weeks when the build-up was going on so I got to know individuals in WRG in a much nicer and informal way rather than just committee meetings. As national chairman of course, I was automatically a director of WRG. That was one set of meetings I did try to go to regularly. I’m forever grateful actually to a very large member of WRG, he was my minder at Chester. We had great problems at Chester because we had some of the people mooring down at Ellesmere Port and because of water shortage problems they weren’t allowed to move up to us – we had to organise a fleet of transport for them. There were some unhappy punters and my minder Spencer Collins stepped in and came with me. Very nice to have him stood behind me when I was facing 30 angry men!! [Interviewer: “...when in reality you would have done a better job at fending them off than he would – but he looks the part.”]
tremendous expertise but the thing I would value most is if they say they’ll do something then they’ll do it. The timescale may get “It works” - Over Basin reading for the opening delayed for various reasons but if they say they’re going to do something – it happens. And when it’s done it’s a proper job. I think the camaraderie that they develop and inculcate in newcomers is almost unique – I’ve never come across any other group that has quite this effect on people, these lasting friendships. I find them quite an incredible organisation.
Q: What about WRG’s achievements? A: Unflappiblity and stamina at national festivals is one. If you’re closely involved with festivals you realise just how valuable that group of people are to the event. Things like Over Basin when it seems to go one for ages and ages and ages and you do wonder if it’s going to be finished and then you go to the official opening and it works. I’ve been very impressed by the way WRG have been able to adjust their ways of working to remain viable when the world and his wife are going ever crazy over health and safety. The will to find a way to make it work is very commendable.
Q: What would you say WRG was not so good at? A: I wouldn’t say it would be an improvement but many people in IWA would be comforted by a closer link by individuals in WRG to the IWA as an organisation – probably reflected in being a member because WRG is not a membership organisation and it’s probably the only area where they don’t sit comfortably together. I don’t know how that could be resolved because I never found a way to resolve it when I had the opportunity. I think it would be nice if it could be resolved, on the other hand the independence they manage to retain from IWA is very valuable.
Q: What about WRG’s future and waterway restoration in general? A: A very big question mark hangs over all of that – I don’t think we’re going to see any change in the amount of money available for restoration for quite a number of years so whatever CRT have aspirations to
do, I think compared to the sort of work WRG is capable of doing, CRT will appear to be tinkering round the edges. Unless of course they were to poach WRG. I would be devastated if the IWA let WRG go or if WRG chose to go. I think, despite all the hiccups, the two organisations have a sort of relationship that works and they’ve a history they can be very proud of. Each party is better for the presence of the other. In years to come, if CRT absorbs other waterways and becomes a truly national organisation then I might be tempted to look at it differently. But at the moment the bulk of the restoration activity is going on on non-CRT waterways and the only large organisation which speaks for those waterways is the IWA. The Lancaster: “beautiful and the potential is great” There would have to be some very big changes in thinking in CRT yet; changing the mindset of employees is not an easy thing to do. I think there will be a need for many senior staff to go through a natural wastage programme (retirement; whatever it may be) and fresh eyes in before you really will achieve the potential that is there. There is potential.
Q: Is there anyone that’s inspired you? A: Yes – Robin Higgs. I hope Robin won’t be offended: I’d heard of this man Robin Higgs and the working parties he’d led and his reputation down in the South of England, I assumed he must be a very old man. Towards the end of the first year I was National Chairman I found myself with a gaping hole in the restoration committee of that time. One or two people said to me “why don’t you talk to Robin Higgs?” I’d no idea really who this man was. I wrote to him and said I would be down in the South of England the following month - could we meet up? He wasn’t an old man – he was probably a bit younger than me. He was delightful and I plucked up my courage and said “I need a chairman for restoration committee – will you?” He said “yes” and it really was a vital moment for the IWA. It was the time when Heritage Lottery funding was just coming on stream, there were so many political nuances and we needed somebody with ‘street cred’ and somebody who was not afraid to deal with civil servants. Robin filled that bill for me for a number of years and I’m eternally grateful to him. I have unfailing admiration for Cyril Boucher. I didn’t know Cyril in his active days of the restoration at Marple but I met Cyril when I became region chairman and he was region vice-president. He too was the most inspiring man and he was one of the people who said to me, when I was debating shall I shan’t I, “do it”.
Q: Which derelict canal would you really like to see restored? A: I’d like to see the Northern Reaches of the Lancaster canal restored. David and I are both involved in that so it’s a very personal thing. But I do think it’s a very beautiful waterway and the potential is great. I realise there other schemes that would be more easily completed but I still think it would be good to cruise right into Kendal again.
Q: What would you say has changed for canal restoration? A: Big money. Big money is the difference. The late ’90s, the advent of the Lottery and the Millennium Lottery Fund made it possible for a number of really long, drawn-out restorations to be knocked off the top of the food chain, and that proved quite a number of things which I think were very valuable. One: it proved it could be done physically; but it also then led to the benefits that stemmed from restoration – the economic and the social benefits. That in itself was an encouragement to keep going.
Q: Is there anything you’d say you’d gained or learned from your connections with WRG? A: I gained two daughters in law and two grandchildren – a great asset to the family. What have I learnt from working with WRG? A sense of inadequacy I think because all the things they do well I’m not much good at – I could have been a WRG camp cook possibly. I think the most valuable thing is their sense of humour and resilience. I very much value the friendships I made in WRG.
Q: Is there anything else you wanted to say? A: “Long live WRG!”
And now for number 28: Ian Williamson has the dubious honour of being my first canal camp leader. Chairman of KESCRG for many years – let’s hear from the green shirts. (though he has red ones too). With occasional (invited) interruptions from his wife Dr Liz too.
Q: How and when did you first get involved with canal restoration?
A: I first got involved on the Basingstoke – I got involved through my Duke of Edinburgh’s Gold Award and went to do my residential project. I managed to drag another school friend along who was doing it at the same time and we piled along to a cuddly Ken [Parish] camp. It was the second of two weeks working on lock 4 of the Woodham flight. It was 1987 – I was 17.
Q: It was a canal camp run by KESCRG? A: It was. Mr Fellows [Mike] and Mr Parish [Ken] in particular with the presence of Mr Palmer [Mike] and others.
Q: How did you find out about the canal camp in the first place? A: I can’t actually remember. I’d been boating since I was 8 or 9 years old and liked canals but I can’t remember how the connection was made.
Q: What do you remember about that first week? A: The first thing I did was climb in the boot of a Maestro and have Mr Burchett [Roger] drive me to the pub – and the particular thing about that was Blue [the dog] was in the back with me. We played outdoor skittles in the pub carpark. I remember doing lots of concrete, bywash pipes and I’m fairly sure that week I started to learn brick laying with one Brian Gower.
Q: What was your next step? A: Having gotten to know Brian [Hearne] and Garry [Alderman] very well that week, Rachel Newbery and others, it was back the following summer I think – which was ‘Target ’88’ for the Basingstoke – it was supposed to be finished but they hadn’t finished it. Then it was the Christmas party, camp the following summer and the National Festival at Waltham Abbey.
Q: Did you have any intention to go back when you started? A: I’m not sure that it had crossed my mind really – to keep going. Once you’d been there a few days the number of people and the number of friends made - going back was what I wanted to do. But I worked weekends as a student so that was a bit tricky, but once I’d got to university I had lots and lots of time.
Q: What was your motivation? A: Dominated by friends, the network, the people. The range of people, the age range of people, the skills all capped off by doing something useful outside.
Q: It was KESCRG you started with - when were you first aware of Waterway Recovery Group?
A: I must have been come aware of WRG in ’89 when the Basingstoke was nearing completion and other stuff started happening. Also when I was at university the canal camps started to pick up. When KESCRG ran them on the Basingstoke there weren’t really any WRG camps at the time and then it exploded. ’89 / ’91 I did lots of stuff on the Mont. I ended up, probably through Mike [Palmer], I did two weeks back to back at Droitwich with Ken and then two weeks directly after that with Mike on the Mont. In days when there weren’t any cooks and the assistant leader did the cooking and that was me. That was when we had ‘The Spanish’. Big group of Spaniards had come over to do something useful and hadn’t quite been told what they were really going to be doing. We had to entertain them, feed them, clear up after them and in the end send them home I think.
Q: What kind of work was on the Mont?
A: It was Aston Locks, lock 2 heading down to lock 3. They blur a bit now, the camps on the Mont because there was lots of them but it involved rear wheel dumpers and building up the bank so you could drive down to lock 3 from 2 and avoiding the geese at Howard’s.
Q: KESCRG – did you get involved with the weekend digs? A: Yes – particularly once I’d gone to university – having a Saturday job meant taking a holiday to go and do that. All of a sudden weekends opened up and we were all over the place and KESCRG started travelling for weekends. One of the things that was good in the first place was that you went back to the same accommodation and the same site so there was familiarity, quite a nice warm feeling. Obviously once you got to know people it didn’t matter where you were going but you knew they were going to be there. Long time before email, long time before sat nav so getting hold of the information was all part and parcel of it.
Q: We haven’t covered much about the history of KESCRG in these interviews – what were KESCRG’s early days? A: KESCRG started in 1977 and it was born out of IWA people in the Kent and East Sussex branch wanting to get out there and do something rather than talk about it. The monies and the schemes were put together to do the Basingstoke whereby Surrey and Hampshire’s County Councils signed up to fund materials and equipment as long as the society provided the labour, expecting it all to fizzle out – I’m told. When Mike Fellows in particular got hold of it he was very, very active and a major driver to it. KESCRG started there in ’77 (I started in ’87) so they’d been going 10 years when I first went along. On reflection, I just assumed it’d always been there. It’s only later, having been chairman for 10 years myself, that [I realised that] actually it was fairly young. The early ’90s in particular the group had a big change because it had always gone to the same sites and just worked its way up one canal and then life changed. The weekends could be as many as 50 or 60 people so a huge number compared to what any other site could support. The group then went through a whole period of change and became more mobile, different kit; to a degree different people. We got heavily involved in the Droitwich (which was pushed hard by Ken); Hereford and Gloucester, Wilts and Berks. We did camps on Bow Back Rivers which obviously has all now been finished for the Olympics. A lot of it was clearance and access – in particular lock gate mechanisms and painting things and trying to clear stuff so you could see what was there – early work.
Q: Ken was chairman for quite a long time? A: Yes, I was the second chairman of the group and he was the first. He did twenty–five years. Q: When did you become chairman? What roles did you do to get to those heady heights? A: I was kind of co-opted onto the committee very early on when John Gadd was treasurer. Leading weekends, logistics, kit maintenance, secretary. When I moved to Slough and started work, storing trailers and cookers and that kind of malarkey. I’d been on the KESCRG committee for 12, 13 whatever years and on the 25th anniversary it kind of needed a new leader. Ken had done his stint for a long time, had other things to do as well. I stuck my mitt in the air and everyone else put theirs down on the floor and stood back. We just went from there really.
Q: When you became chairman did you have any aims? A: Tried to broaden the number of people involved in running it; to try and put the finances on a more stable platform and keep it going. None of the groups survive unless there are people behind them to organise weekends, come out and cook. KESCRG has always been exceptionally blessed with good cooks; good cooks in terms of great food and who turn out on a regular basis. Cooks that have a great laugh together and prepared to teach other people.
Q: KESCRG came out of the IWA but has always been distinct from WRG. What’s the history with that? A: It’s still an independent group – we’ve been waiting for government legislation to sort itself out in terms of charities to become a registered charity. That’s the one thing in my term of chairman we didn’t get done that I really wanted to get done. That was putting it on a more legal standing and less onerous on those who take office in the group. Really, when you look at it, KESCRG is a bunch of friends who go out at the weekend. It just needs to be a bit more formal. It’s operated in a very similar way [to WRG], we share best practice. There were days when KES-
CRG were considered the best at health and safety side of things and then WRG got a lot better at it and we slipped, not slipped behind but didn’t keep up. Part of that is that people know each other very well and you don’t then get into the reviewing and it’s hard to talk keep it all up to date. KESCRG has always been green shirts from as far back as I can remember, the kit colour was always green and WRG was red. There was a move at one time to do a ‘Navvies South-East’ – a sort of halfway house – but mainly it stayed that way because everybody wanted it on both sides. There were two organisations doing similar things: friendly competition over a long period of years. WRG now is by far the bigger organisation.
Q: What possessed us to do the bhaji stand in the first place? A: It was born out of trying to raise the money to buy the vans and the dumpers. We had a big BBQ party as I always did in the summer (or had it in my absence when I was in Saudi) and we were concocting ideas of what we should do and people particularly like Jude [Palmer] and Viv [Day] pointed out that the vegetarian food at Nationals (and other festivals) was crap. We used to cook for lots of people, surely we could do something about it. We had a weekend of trying out recipes and just had a go. The first outing was Viv and I running it at Beale Park and it just grew from there: a lot of support from people like John Foley (in North-West) and the vegetarian contingent; the ability to do vegetarian and vegan food well at a decent price; all the other canal societies pitched in and came to feed from us. We got asked to go to Wendover – we were asked to go to elsewhere as well. There’s a limit to the amount of time people are prepared to spend behind the stand in their leisure time. [Dr Liz: “KESCRG took it over after two years when the appeal had ended and we had a break in at the trailer – we took it over to pay for the excess on the insurance.”] And to replenish the cash reserves. Replacing what we lost and then building from that. We continued to buy – we bought pumps, generators and trailers. Quite a bit of money got invested in kit to do what we did better.
Q: Tell me about the KESCRG award A: Ken was always very good at doing awards each year at Christmas – lots of sillies, events that had gone on in the year. I renamed the trophy – it was a coal barge and I think it was donated by Earl Ford who used to run the sales stand – I think. It was recognition of significant effort and particularly towards those who were new and becoming a big part of it.
Q: Eddie’s been a very key part of KESCRG but we haven’t mentioned him.
A: Eddie [Jones] was KESCRG for a significant period of time. [Liz: “That’s kind of one of the reasons that Ian became chairman, because Eddie was doing everything. Ken had stopped being the other person and Eddie was doing both.” you kind of just get sucked into assisting? A: Yes – there were a lot of young leaders in the late 80s particularly - including the likes of Tom [Jeffries] and the Abigails [nee Jones and Perrin]. The programme of camps just exploded from 2 or 3 or 4 a year to almost as many as 30. All of a sudden there was a desperate need for people to pick up and do. I’d done scout stuff for years and just did it, really.
Q: Was that the Neil Edwards influence [on promoting canal camps] at that time?
A: Yes although at the time I wasn’t so aware
Q: Going back to canal camps – did
The bhaji stall at the National Festival
of it. He came across from the National Trust. Don’t think Neil and I ever ran a weekend but things like the Big Dig in ’91 at Wantage was a major memory. The overriding memory was taking KESCRG’s panel van to the supermarket to get the milk which consisted of wheeling of the shop’s display units out through the checkouts and into the van. ’91 I was at university so I had the time to go a couple of days early. Those were some of the big events where lots of people got to meet other people and know what was going on elsewhere in the country and on other projects – made all sorts of connections.
Q: Did anything change when you got a job? A: Not initially, it then got a bit tricky when I got posted out to Saudi. I moved to a job in Slough in the September and by the following May/June I was out in Saudi. Intermittently for about six months and then out there for another two or something years. So for me, in a way, after what was a very intense, very time consuming, very active 6/7 years, to some degree it was quite nice to have a bit of a break. It wasn’t something I chose to have a break – I came back for the National – but I didn’t get back until ’96. I kept in touch with people so I knew what was going on but that was a bit of a change.
Q: Since then you’ve carried on with KESCRG and carried on with camps? A: Most of the last years I’ve done a weekend a month and at least a week each summer. Q: Did you meet your wife on a canal camp? A: No – I wouldn’t do that... Yes – that summer when I got back. I’d been running a camp with Chris Spencer down on the Cotswolds and took the kit to Droitwich and Liz was there. We didn’t actually get together until ’97.
Q: What are you most proud of about your involvement? A: That’s a difficult one because there’s different aspects. I think the thing I get the most out of is teaching people and giving people the opportunity to learn or the opportunity to try something they wouldn’t get anywhere near. The camps that we’re running we try and get everyone to learn something new even if they weren’t old enough to drive dumpers. In terms of site projects, the new lock on the Wey and Arun was huge. Yes - being in on that in the early days, doing the big concrete pour and being able to go back as a group. Going longer back is probably Aston locks. In terms of what the group has done I’d have to say the Droitwich because for very long periods when no one was working there KESCRG was going up and doing weekends and keeping the project going. I really want to go and walk that bit of the canal – I helped restore it and I’ve not actually boated it. We got to the opening. It was very rewarding when the Basingstoke opened. It’s very nice to be able to say, having moved down to live next to the Kennet and Avon, I did help build and install some of the footbridges over the Caen Hill flight round about 1990 just before it opened.
Q: What’s the most useful skill you’ve learnt? A: The most useful skill has got to have been around people. People – I hesitate, but people management. Being able to pull a team out of random individuals is probably a thing I’ve enjoyed. In terms of practical skills: bricklaying.
Q: Who’s inspired you? A: Mike Palmer coupled with, for very different reasons, Roger Burchett. Mike’s ability to motivate people even when the job is really, really boring, difficult. Finding solutions to stuff. Roger is older than my Dad but not as old as any of my grandparents. It was a different generation and that ability to tell stories, drink beer. Just so much a part of what’s going on – very strong KESCRG person. My first five years of digging involved Mike and Roger.
Q: What would you say WRG’s greatest achievement was? A: I think, although I wasn’t so heavily involved, the Over Basin project. The ability to garner so many people to get there, to go to the same place, to move a massive project forward that was technically very challenging in a very specific timeframe. There’s lots of other stuff.
Q: And what’s WRG not quite so good at? A: I hadn’t thought about this one. Interviewer: It might have been your question [Ian
helped compose the list of questions for these interviews] It does sound exactly like the sort of question I’d put down. I’ll have to come back to that.
Q: Going back to boating – you said been boating since you were 8 or 9? A: The first time my Mum and Dad hired a little 32 foot narrowboat on the River Avon. And it flooded on day 2. We were attached to a tree for 4 days with the river racing past us. It just calmed down enough to get back to base on the Saturday. It was at least two decades before my Dad set foot in a boat on a river again.
Q: Do you have any classic do you remember the time when stories? A: [Liz speaking: “The KESCRG Christmas party at Droitwich, Pirate theme. That was the night of a thousand in-jokes being born - Kaye and Ralph’s engagement was a minor distraction. That was the night of Martin Ludgate’s arm not working the next morning. That was the night Ken Parish warned me off Ian.] Ian: There were all sorts – Droitwich in particular in terms of the sing songs in the showers right through the night. Tripping over people lying on the cricket square on the way back from the pub – which was nowhere near the path but the beer had obviously affected people in the same way.
Q: What’s your favourite derelict canal? A: I’ve got quite an affinity for the Wilts and Berks canal and also the Cotswolds. The amount of the country those two projects will open up is huge. Not too far behind in third place is the Wey and Arun. restoration?
A: The amount of effort that has to go into
Q: Would you say has changed for canal putting a lock back into use. The projects that are now being done are so close to a complete rebuild. A good example of that would be Bluebank “Massive rebuild” - KESCRG add final touches at Eisey Lock on the Chesterfield – that was a real lock clearance job, as was done quite a lot in the 70s. Putting the lock back into use consisted of digging all the crap out of the bottom and putting some new gates on it. When you compare that to what’s being done at Eisey or Lock 4 on the Seven Locks with a massive amount of rebuild.
Q: Where do you see WRG’s future? A: That’s an interesting one because with the move to CRT, and sitting on the partnership board for Kennet and Avon CRT as I do, that organisation is in need of huge numbers of volunteers. WRG has an awful lot to contribute to CRT in knowledge about how to fix canals – big style. And it’s not the bits and pieces about dredging or bank protection. It’s about the bigger structural stuff. It’s about being able to engage with the wide audience to come in and help. Back to the question earlier, its weakness is shouting about it. Its ability to keep people or get people involved – the organisation hasn’t grown, I don’t think, in size an awful lot in the last ten or fifteen years. There’s a few really key people in it, who if they disappeared, are irreplaceable (certainly in their entirety – it would take lots of other people to replace them). But outside of its core audience it’s not so good at being visible and dragging people in to do it. We don’t invest enough time in telling people about what we do.
Q: Is there anything else you wanted to say? A: I’ve loved every bit of it and all the people are involved and continue to be involved – I’m sure it will keep going and in many respects now is going to become more important for the wider network. Interviews by Helen Gardner
Stover 4-day Dig October 2012 Following on from my appeal in Navvies 254 for help on this dig, I’d like to thank any who turned up having seen this. We were mostly BITMites, but some may have come because of our ‘special needs’. Unfortunately it clashed with the camp on the Oxford, but we did average 14 on site; most came for all four days. However as it turned out we should have heeded Robbie Burns’s warning that the best laid plans of mice and men can gang astray, or something like that. We certainly worked up finally to Plan D! Rachael arrived in Devon on Thursday afternoon, and I immediately warned her that our little 6in deep River Lemon that flows through Newton Abbot was now a 4ft deep raging torrent following on from 24 hours of siling it down. We rushed up to do a site visit on the canal to find that - although normally almost dry it was rushing across the road, the canal itself was wide, deep and fast flowing, not only the towpath at one end was under water but so was our main intended work site. The hope that it would recede by the next morning seemed rather forlorn. Originally when we asked for help, it was to put in a concrete pad underneath an archway, and construct a boardwalk through a bywash, to extend and join up two bits of the towpath. That was the original Plan A. That idea had to be abandoned because Network Rail’s wheels turn extremely slowly, and they couldn’t notify us of their agreement to our Method Statement and Risk Assessment until two days before the dig. There was a lot of silt to dig out of the area before we could work there, and Sibelco, the clay works company that owned that bit of the site, wouldn’t recognise our digger operators’ qualifications (i.e. WRG tickets) and insisted that they use their own contractors to dig it out, and that couldn’t be arranged in time. We then decided that it would be just as useful to work on the project at the other end of the section governed by the time-limited grant. That now became Plan A. The plan there was to construct a chicaned road crossing (for safety reasons) and break through the hedge, dig out the ditch and put in two culverts, a concrete cover and posts for handrails. This was the section that had now disappeared beneath the new lake. We had two other plans (B and C); one was at the bottom site near the original Plan A where the bywash weir appeared to have a deep crack needing investigating. We had to
Dig report Stover emergency dig clear the vegetation and dig out and remove a large tree stump, when it became obvious that the crack, which was quite wide, went right down to the base, and the team working there managed to fill this in with fresh mortar. The tirfor team on subsequent days removed numerous stumps from the bywash area, and they also cleared the stumps from the bywash back to our compound on the Monday. The other site (Plan C) was the towpath between the sites at either end, which not only needed widening to allow machinery access, but a large number of stumps had to be removed. Some were pulled out on Friday, including a huger sycamore which needed two tirfors. We had two diggers, a 3-tonne and a 5-tonne, and we had to dig into the bank above the towpath to create the width needed, but some of the other stumps were so huge that they nearly defeated us. By the end of the 4 days there were only two left, and we hung on to the diggers for one extra day and Rachael and George Whitehead, our Work Party Organiser, finally got them out on the Tuesday. Meanwhile, the top site with the culverts actually drained away sufficiently by Saturday for most of the clearance and ditch digging to go ahead - and to our surprise it turned out that one of the culverts was already there underneath all the vegetation. The dumper got stuck in the soft ground and needed dragging out by the excavator. The second culvert was not possible, because it turned out that the levels had been miscalculated and will have to be re-done and passed by Sibelco (Plan D). However, with the clearance, it should be much easier to complete the section. As regards the original Plan A, the archway, the Stover Canal Trust have decided that because of the pressure of time we shall have to get contractors in to do the work. The main thing is that the huge amount of work completed on the towpath and removing stumps and clearing the top site, the four days’ dig has been a tremendous help in our efforts to complete the project on time. Many thanks. Di Smurthwaite
Camp Report The First One Southern Stratford Canal July 15th to July 29th 1972 Camp No. 01
the concrete blocks. This site was right behind the Stratford Council vehicle maintenance works (long since re-developed) so their radio kept us entertained, playing the hits of that summer including Layla and School’s Out. The weather was very good for the entire camp, which did mean that thirsts needed considerable quenching at lunchtime at the One Elm pub close by, but with Bulmers’ Still Cider at 10p a pint, Mild at 12p and Bitter at 14p, we managed admirably. Lunch itself was delivered to site by Alan Petrie, who undertook all the catering for the camp with military precision, a jolly good it was too at 50p per day. Accommodation was at Lowsonford village hall, a well known haunt for navvies working on the Stratford, however the Fleur de Lys in the village was just too posh for us, so the Navigations - pubs at both Wootton
Pictures by Chris Grifiths
Yes it really was 40 years ago this year that the first WRG work camp (as they were called then) was held. I wrote a camp report that was published in Navvies 39, but now the truth can be told. 17 volunteers descended on the Stratford canal, the primary jobs being opening up the original culverted by-washes to locks 53 & 54 that kept blocking and replacing them with open blockwork channels which could take more flow without blocking to reduce the flooding risk. Lock 53 was next to a road access so concrete for the base of this channel was ready mixed and wheel barrowed into place, all the other concrete had to be hand mixed (no mixer provided) and barrowed to it’s final destination, as did
40 years ago, WRG held its first ever week-long camp. Nick Wright, who wrote the original Navvies report, looks back four decades to Stratford in 1972...
WRG Rebuilding bywashes on the Stratford Canal
Wawen and Lapworth - were frequented in affair) that a camp could get a lot of work the evenings. done in a short period of time while having a The camp was led by Nigel Stevens, the great time and meeting and making new London WRG working party organiser (now friends and it was an ideal way of recruiting of Shire Cruisers and new navvies, still just Canal & River Trust as true today as it was fame), ably assisted by all those years ago. Marcus and Lester. I don’t know if Transport comanyone else from that prised Nigel’s ex-Post first camp (apart from Office Morris Minor van Nigel) is still associated with about four in the with the restoration / back and the WRG Ford waterway movement, Thames pick-up with but for me it was best another nine of us sat time I had ever had. loose in the back along Although I was only 15 with the tools, waving at the time, and had at the locals and other been attending working traffic as we passed by. parties with my Dad To sum up, we since 1967, It was this had no mechanical fortnight that changed plant, no health & my whole life. From safety plans or equipthen on I was a dediment (apart from our cated navvy, attending own common sense), working parties and illegal transport and work camps through illegal drinking, but we the 1970s and culmisimply had the best nating in the 1980s, Nick’s original camp report in Navvies 39 working on the Droittime ever and got the allotted tasks done. We wich Canal full time for proved to WRG leader Graham Palmer (who four years on the Vines Park Project. had been very skeptical about the whole Nick Wright
WRG’s headquarters for the ‘Stratford Blitz’ working parties
Navvies diary Your guide to all the forthcoming work parties Dec 26-Jan 1 Camp 201227
Uttoxeter Canal: Scrub bashing at Oakamoor and Crumpwood. Leaders: Gary Summers and Pete Fleming. Cook: George Rogers Dec 26-Jan 1 Camp 201228 Cotswold Canals: Scrub bashing at Rucks Bridge near Eisey. Leader: Martin Thompson Dec 26-Jan 1 WBCCo Wilts & Berks Canal: Offside clearance at Dauntsey using workboat, stump pulling at Seven Locks. Accom at Foxham. Jan 4-10 WAT Wendover Arm: ‘Seven-day weekend’ Fri-Thu. Bed & bank lining. Jan 5/6 wrgNW Cromford Canal: (plus Christmas/New Year meal) Jan 5/6 KESCRG Cotswold Canals: Site & accom TBC Jan 9 Wed wrgNW Ad Hoc meeting, 7.30pm Jan 10 Thu IWA Stoke Joint work party with Caldon & Uttoxeter Canals Trust: hedgelaying on Jan 12/13 London WRG Wilts & Berks Canal: Scrub bashing near Steppingtone Lane Bridge Jan 17 Thu IWA Warwicks Stratford Canal, Lapworth. Lock painting, litter picking, veg clearance a Jan 19 Sat IWA Stoke Cheshire Locks: Joint work party With Trent & Mersey Canal Society: Painting and vegetation clearance at Bridge 140, Rode Heath near Sand Jan 19 Sat IWA Warwicks Stratford Canal, Lapworth with CRT Towpath Taskforce: lock painting, litter picking, veg clearance and path work Jan 19/20 wrgBITM Wilts & Berks Canal: Scrub bashing and stump pulling near Steppingsto Jan 19 Sat wrgNW ‘Paper Chase’ waste paper collection Jan 20 Sun WRG Committee & Board Meetings: Rowington Jan 26 Sat IWA ManchesterCleanup in Manchester area with Canal & River Trust Towpath Taskforc Painting, vegetation clearance, pulling rubbish out of the canal and litte Feb 1-7 WAT Wendover Arm: ‘Seven-day weekend’ Fri-Thu. Bed & bank lining. Feb 2/3 London WRG Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation Feb 2/3 wrgNW Hollinwood Canal: NOTE date changed from Feb 9/10 Feb 2/3 Essex WRG To be arranged, probably Chelmer & Blackwater Feb 2/3 NWPG Wey & Arun Canal: Shalford. Tree clearance. Feb 2/3 KESCRG To be confirmed Feb 16 Sat IWA Birmingham BCN Soho Loop: joint cleanup with BCN Society: Pulling rubbish out of the canal and vegetation clearance Feb 16/17 wrgBITM Wey & Arun Canal: Stump pulling at Shalford Feb 16-23 Camp 201301 Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation: Bank protection, towpath construction and vegetation clearance Feb 19 Tue IWA Stoke Cheshire Locks: joint work party with Trent & Mersey Canal Society: Painting and vegetation clearance at Church Lawton, Cheshire Feb 21 Thu IWA Warwicks Stratford Canal, Lapworth: Lock painting, litter picking, veg clearance and path work Feb 23/24 London WRG Shrewsbury & Newport Canals: scrub clearance near Forton (plus Lond Feb 23 Sat wrgNW ‘Paper Chase’ waste paper collection Feb 23 Sat IWA Manchester Cleanup in Manchester area with Canal & River Trust Towpath Taskforc Painting, vegetation clearance, pulling rubbish out of the canal and litte
For details of diary dates beyond the end of this list ple
Canal Camps cost ÂŁ56 per week unless otherwise stated. Bookings for WRG Camps identified by a camp number e.g. 'Camp 201301' should go to WRG Canal Camps, Island House, Moor Road, Chesham HP5 1WA. Tel: 01494 783453, email@example.com. Diary compiled by Dave Wedd. Tel: 01252 874437, firstname.lastname@example.org
n the Leek Arm
and path work
Roger Leishman David McCarthy Bobby Silverwood David McCarthy Bob Luscombe Tim Lewis Alison Smedley Bob Luscombe
01442-874536 0161-740-2179 07971-814986 0161-740-2179 07710 054848 07802-518094 07779 090915 07710 054848
email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
Dave Wedd David McCarthy Mike Palmer Ian Price
01252-874437 0161-740-2179 01564-785293 07971 444258
Roger Leishman Tim Lewis David McCarthy Frank Wallder Bill Nicholson Bobby Silverwood Alison Smedley
01442-874536 07802-518094 0161-740-2179 01992-636164 01844-343369 07971-814986 07779 090915
firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Tim Lewis David McCarthy Ian Price
07802-518094 0161-740-2179 07971 444258
email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
one Lane Bridge
e er picking
don WRG AGM)
e er picking
ease contact diary compiler Dave Wedd: see top of page
Canal societiesâ€™ regular working parties
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: 7:30pm on 3rd Tue of month at the 'Hope Tap', West end of Friar St. Reading. Phil Dray 07956 185305
Every Tuesday BCA Basingstoke Canal Chris Healy 01252-370073 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 Tuesday CSCT Chichester Canal Carley Sitwell 01243 773002 Every Tue & Wed C&BN Chelmer & Blackwater John Gale 01376-334896 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 Every day 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 Two weekends per month SHCS Basingstoke Canal Duncan Paine 01252-614125 Last weekend of month SCS Stover Canal George Whitehead 01626-775498 2nd Sunday of month SNT Sleaford Navigation Mel Sowerby 01522-856810 Thu and Tue April-September SORT Sussex Ouse Ted Lintott 01444-414413 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 Sundays mainly WACT Loxwood Link Kev Baker 02380-861074 Thursdays WACT Winston Harwood Grp Tony Clear 01903-774301 Various dates WACT Hedgelaying (Oct-Mar) Keith Nichols 01403-753882 last w/e (Fri-Thu) WAT Drayton Beauchamp Roger Leishman 01442-874536 Please send any additions corrections or deletions to diary compiler Dave Wedd (see previous page)
Abbreviations used in Diary: BCA BCNS BCS BCT ChCT CBN CSCT CCT ECPDA FIPT GCRS GWCT H&GCT IWPS KACT KESCRG
Basingstoke Canal Authority Birmingham Canal Navigations Soc. Buckingham Canal Society Bude Canal Trust Chesterfield Canal Trust Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation Chichester Ship Canal Trust Cotswolds Canals Trust Erewash Canal Pres. & Devt. Assoc. Foxton Inclined Plane Trust Grantham Canal Restoration Society Grand Western Canal Trust Hereford & Gloucester Canal Trust Inland Waterways Protection Society Kennet & Avon Canal Trust Kent & E Sussex Canal Rest. Group
LCT LHCRT MBBCS NWPG NWDCT PCAS RGT SCARS SCCS SHCS SCS SNT SORT SUCS TMCA WACT WAT WBCT
Lancaster Canal Trust Lichfield & Hatherton Canals Rest'n Trust Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal Society Newbury Working Party Group North Walsham & Dilham Canal Trust Pocklington Canal Amenity Society River Gipping Trust Sankey Canal Restoration Society Somersetshire Coal Canal Society Surrey & Hants Canal Society Stover Canal Society Sleaford Navigation Trust Sussex Ouse Restoration Trust Shropshire Union Canal Society Thames & Medway Canal Association Wey & Arun Canal Trust Wendover Arm Trust Wilts & Berks Canal Trust
“CRT may become the new enemy anyway, but if we don’t try hard then they will become the enemy by default. What a lost opportunity.”
Letters CRT: what do you reckon? painting and gardening so far, but most of these volunteers are new to canal work and have no other skills (yet?).
No more us and them? Navvies 255 included a Comment article by Ian McCarthy on the conversion earlier this year of the organisation in charge of running most of the navigable waterways (and many of the canals we’re restoring) from the nationalised British Waterways to the new Canal & River Trust (CRT) charity. The gist of Ian’s piece was that this is an opportunity to change from the ‘us and them’ attitude that has existed for the entire 46 years that we have been publishing Navvies to a new situation where we are all ‘us’ together - and that both our attitudes and our magazine need to change to reflect this new era if we are to take full advantage of the chance to create a better canal system. We invited responses from readers - and this is what we got... Dear Martin Mac is absolutely right. Nobody knows who the new enemy will be. My fear is that, unless WRG/IWA/local canal societies respond to the Canal & River Trust positively, then “they” (CRT) will rapidly see “us” (WRG/ IWA/canal societies) as their enemies, and we will respond by making them our new enemy! Locally all three of the old “us” have recently responded positively to CRT:
The Trent & Mersey Canal Society have donated £1,000 to the CRT appeal to help fix the breach on that canal, and have talked informally with the managers of both Manchester & Pennine CRT and Central Shires CRT about other ways of working together. Both managers responded positively, unlike some boaters who have threatened to cancel their T&MCS membership for it daring to give their money to CRT.
I fully realise that these attempts to join together may fail and CRT may become the new enemy anyway, but if we don’t try hard then they will become the enemy by default. What a lost opportunity that would be. Roger Evans Dear Martin Further to Ian McCarthy’s letter in Navvies 2012, while co-ordinating our volunteers could be a good idea, the main problem is that CRT are probably talking about volunteers helping them in the maintenance of existing navigations, whereas WRG volun-
WRG North West have helped out at the Dukinfield “40th Anniversary of Ashtac” weekend with tools and volunteers. IWA Manchester have started organising working parties to help tidy up their local canals. Also the Trent & Mersey Canal Society have joined IWA Stoke-on-Trent in organising and promoting monthly “Cheshire Locks” work (3rd Saturday of 1 month then 3rd Tuesday of the next to attract people with differing free time). Again only
All pulling in the same direction at the Ashtac anniversary
“I would like to see CRT prove that they have really changed their attitude towards restoration before WRG become too committed to working closer with them”
No more ‘us and them’?
teers are mostly concerned in restoring skills on a restoration project. Perhaps these neglected canals, in most of which CRT have CRT Volunteer Coordinators could set up expressed no interest. There is a minority regional groups of volunteers similar to where we have already worked together, as WRG’s regional groups to identify problems in the Droitwich, and to a lesser extent the and arrange for necessary maintenance to be Grantham, but the latter has itself provided carried out. If they are lacking the necessary problems. skills, they could call on WRG in that emerI have attended a number of talks in gency as has just happened on the Oxford. the past by BW managers, and their attitude Di Smurthwaite seemed generally to be that volunteers have their uses, e.g. litter picking and fund raisDear Martin ing, and I am yet to be convinced that CRT There can be few, if any, readers of Navvies are now prepared to recognise the skills who will disagree with the basic sentiments available in WRG. There was one occasion expressed in Ian Mac’s piece in Navvies 255. on the Grantham where we were not allowed My interest in canals stems from their to use chainsaws, because our operators, being living history and I have almost cried although fully certificated, were not trained at some of the barbarous treatment handed by BW. This also applied to operating an out to the system by BW, often in the name excavator. of Health & Safety but, in reality, in the A problem that arose on the Droitwich interests of standardisation. Consequently, I was that BW could not appreciate that WRG will most certainly applaud the C&RT if they canal camps are set up some time in admanage to mobilise new volunteers to carry vance, and they could not expect our volunout the sort of conservation work that Ian teers to change the time that they are availcites and applaud them even more if they able at the drop of a hat, just because BW make a serious attempt to replace historic changed their mind about when a job could features that have been removed. be done. A distinct improvement in BW’s attitude There needs to be such a huge change to heritage issues became apparent in their in management policy - on the Cotswolds, for example, BW obtained a large grant and spent it on employing a number of consultants rather than doing any actual restoration work. The huge achievements of the Cotswolds Canal Trust since BW pulled out proved what was possible when a restoration project is efficiently managed with the best use of any funding available. Yes, CRT is a new broom, but I personally would like to see them prove that they have really changed their attitude towards restoration of neglected canals before WRG become too committed to working closer with them. In addition, I would not have thought that WRGies would be happy doing mainteAn exercise in building bridges with CRT? nance work on a CRT existing canal Or WRG being called on in an emergency? when there was such a demand for their
“You never know - a CRT volunteer painting a lock gate today might like to try his hand at bricklaying tomorrow on a restoration site near you...” later years; however, I believe BW’s heritage reference date was sometime in the 1990s, by which time most of the damage had been done. It should have been no later than the 1950s or 60s. However, the key to my applause is the word “new”. If the volunteers are genuinely new to volunteer work on canals or, like Ian, so long retired from navvying that they might as well be, I have no problem. However, if active volunteers are tempted away from restoration work I have serious problems. Ian writes that “CRT needs WRG and vice versa”. I’m not sure that this is entirely true. WRG certainly needs CRT, if only because it owns many of the canals on which we want to work and without their consent we would have fewer sites available. Whether CRT needs WRG is a moot point. I’m sure that they would like to be able to cite some of WRG’s work as evidence of the success of their volunteer policy when it comes to the end-of-year box-ticking - but collaboration is a two-way street, and what is in it for WRG? Only when CRT offers support and encouragement of WRG activities, for example by unconditionally accepting the WRG Driver Authorisation scheme and dramatically reducing the requirement for paperwork before a shovel can be lifted on their sites, shall we see that the difference between volunteers and hired hands has been understood and the journey has started. When we can do jobs for them in the sure knowledge that they will reciprocate if asked, we will have arrived. I suspect that only volunteers (and exvolunteers) really understand volunteers, and while CRT continues to be run by people who are simply hired hands and not by people who were devoted to the cause long before they were employed in it, that understanding will remain difficult to achieve. One must also remember that many of the people with long track records of opposition to restoration within BW are still either in post or have been promoted to more
Letters Does CRT need WRG? senior ones. I doubt that BW leopards will prove the exceptions to the rule that such felines don’t change their spots. Indeed, I have already heard tell of one CRT volunteer co-ordinator who is tearing his hair at his manager’s unwillingness to support the lowlevel help that he is trying to give to a local canal society as part of developing a good relationship. I hope that I am just being an old cynic and that all will turn out better than I fear, quicker than I fear, though we may need to wait for a significant change in the CRT management before it happens. Malcolm Bridge Dear Martin Mac (Ian McCarthy) is quite right, we all hope that there will be no more us and them but I guess what he is saying is that we need to make it clear we are going to give the new organisation a chance. Of course if CRT persist with some of BW’s less desirable ways or invent a new silliness of their own we reserve the right to tell them what we think but let’s give them that chance first. We need support them since if CRT fails financially the waterways will be returned to government control and I suspect that we will then lose a significant part of our navigable system. WRG and the waterway restoration movement as a whole have fundamentally been about restoration but there has always been an element of maintenance, from litter picks to total maintenance as on some nonBW waterways. In recent year the maintenance part has grown stronger particularly with the takeover by IWA of the Chelmer & Blackwater. Some volunteers will prefer to work on restoration and others will prefer maintaining the present system particularly their bit of local canal but what is the harm in that? Particularly if ‘we’ can attract lots more new volunteers. You never know - a CRT volunteer painting a lock gate today might like to try his hand at bricklaying tomorrow on a restoration site near you. Dave Turner
Apparently referred to as ‘The Missing Link’ the section remained the last un-surfaced length of footpath on the navigable canal connected to the main line. Reports of the Camps will appear elsewhere but what was impressive was the very close contact and interaction we all had with the many walkers and cyclists using the towpath and how appreciative everyone was Dear Martin of our efforts to deliver them from the muddy surface that existed in wet weather. Constructing a Footpath on The Mont Surfacing canal-side footpaths may not bring canals back to navigation but it certainly In August of this year I found myself not, as heightens the visibility of the WRG and its planned, being employed for two WRG Mont volunteers. Enclosed are a few photographs Camps on continuing to line the channel of the construction process. between Price’s Bridge and Crickheath J J Price Bridge, but constructing a surfaced footpath on the towpath between Crofts Mill Lift Bridge and Gronwen Wharf, a length just shy of 200m. As will have been mentioned elsewhere, water in the canal following the earlier wet period and crested newts had led to the lining task being cancelled and with it two of the four planned WRG Mont Camps. Construction of the footpath was at the request of CRT and being a substitute project which would take up much of the remaining two camps, whether it would happen or not was in the balance until the last minute. Dig out between boards and lay terraseal
on the Mont towpath
Then lay coarse stone and compact it
Pictures by JJ Price
Before work started: rather muddy
First set edge boards (with a slope to the water)
And finally lay the fine stone surface
BCS progressing at three sites
Progress Buckingham Arm were looking for practical tasks to undertake as part of the bronze Duke of Edinburgh awards scheme. Two sessions have been carried out so far at Bourton Meadow and have worked well for our volunteers, staff and pupils of the school. More session are planned for the future. The BCS team will also be creating a temporary access road including a river crossing in spring 2013 . Additionally, detail planning work is now being done for creation of temporary 150m sectional bunds and test rewatering at the Cosgrove section from the Grand Union to the A5. BCS anticipate the initial rewatering of these sections now to be in spring 2013 (subject to no drought!!). This will be for the first 500m of the 1.5km remainder canal section following last summer’s agreements with Canal & River Trust. Formal adoption agreements are also being prepared between BCS and CRT to further facilitate this work. Finally, as I write this, our relaunched website is nearing ‘go live’ so why not visit buckinghamcanal.org.uk for details of our work parties and come along for one (or more)? Terry Cavender email@example.com
A team of 15 volunteers from Buckingham Canal Society (BCS) spent a gloriously sunny weekend fitting lock gates at the Buckingham Canal Nature Reserve at Hyde Lane near Buckingham. The recycled lock gates are not currently operational but their presence is helping to preserve the integrity of this heritage structure. They also recreate the look and feel of the canal lock as it would have been in its heyday more than 100 years ago. A grant from WREN (Waste Recycling Environmental Ltd) let the Society restore the he chamber in 2008 and continuing fundraising, including the recent Cosgrove Festival, enabled the Society to take the significant step of fitting the gates. The volunteers were grateful to Bungle for arranging the use of a WRG van and Kit A. In addition a 22 tonne excavator was needed to carry out the heavy lifting and this was supervised by WRG instructor Dave Wedd who was of invaluable help throughout the weekend. Further work will now be undertaken on the lock to complete the removal of mud from the chamber and to repoint the lower parts of the walls as necessary. Volunteers will continue the general maintenance of the overall nature reserve to enhance hedges and water habitats. Hyde Lane Lock is now a significant point of public interest on the Buckingham Canal and easily accessible on the Ouse Valley Walk, which runs along the towpath next to the lock. The lock gates were donated by the Canal & River Trust during a refurbishment of the Northampton Arm earlier in 2012. Our thanks to all the volunteers who contributed more than 250 hours of work during the weekend. Thanks also to the Canal & River Trust for donating the gates. Meanwhile, at the Buckingham end, work is progressing with preparation for the Bourton Meadow site. Planning permission was granted earlier in 2012. As I write we await the WREN grant outcome for the relining work which we hope will be done by contractors in summer 2013 to allow this 400m of canal to be back in water. Preparation includes hedge work and scrub bashing before Christmas. We are being assisted by pupils from Furze Down special needs school, who
Hyde Lane Lock shows off its gates
Progress Wooden Canal Boat Society
Former working narrow boat Hazel has new planking, bottom, stem and stern posts... and a wedding present list!
Wooden Canal Boat Society
Stuart Hughes, who travelled from Colorado to work on the restoration of Hazel , has now departed after 16 months, leaving Hazel in an advanced stage of rejuvenation. She has had a new bottom, new keelson, new stem and stern posts and has been completely replanked. The shearing is now complete, caulking is at an advanced stage and the back cabin sides are fitted. Work is proceeding on the foredeck, and the main task to be completed before her launch will be the renewal and attaching of conversion side frames. Once she is in the water, work will continue on fitting out and preparing the boat to go into service in 2013. Stuart working on Hazel’s stern Stuart’s place has been taken by Martin Lowe, a very skilled woodworker in many fields, including boatbuilding and cabin fitting. Stuart is now off on an adventure exploring India before going to Nepal to build an orphanage. Building Hazel has also involved about 4500 volunteer hours to date, and plenty more will be needed if she is to be completed before the money runs out. To help with this the WCBS has published Hazel’s Wedding List, a list of items that will be needed to complete her fit out. Any person or organisation funding one of these items will have their donation commemorated with a plaque at an appropriate place on the boat. All the work on Hazel has to some Hazel’s Wedding List extent been at the expense of the other boats. Both Forget me Not and 4x Bilge Pumps @ £25/each Southam urgently need mechanical work 17x LED Lights @ £20/each and work on Southam’s cabin refit is 2x Tank Flushing Pumps @ £75/each proceeding only slowly. Elton has been 1x Toilet @ £400 sunk for some months. The society 5x 12v sockets @ £7/each urgently needs more volunteers for day 2x Extractor Fans @ £40/each to day maintenance of the boats as well 1x Shower pump @ £80 as fundraising, launching the Hazel Well 1x Water Pump @ £120 Being Boat Project and working in the 1x Fridge (Isotherm Cruise 100) @ £900 society’s charity shop. 150m cable @ £90 Recycling trips still take place on 1x Headlight @ £50 the first Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of 5x Batteries (Odyssey PC 1800 FT) @ £220 each each month. Sunday trips leave Portland 1x Gas Water Heater @ £350 Basin, Ashton under Lyne at 9.30 AM, 1x Calorifier @ £750 Monday and Tuesday trips go from the 1x Gas Cooker @ £500 same place at 6pm. Please note that the 3x Thermoelectric Generators @ £538 each email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, 1x Houdini Hatch @ £275 Tel: 07931 952037 or write to WCBS, 2 X large hopper windows @ £200 each 173, Stamford St Central, Ashton under 1 X wood stove @ £900 Lyne OL6 7PS.
Meanwhile on the Wendover, theyâ€™re a bit under the weather but have managed to complete the next mooring wall and hope to rewater another stretch in 2013 Wendover Arm
Progress Wendover Arm profiling the banks, using the spoil for bed and bank lining and concrete blocking banks as we go. As the distance between excavation and lining is now very short we want to avoid double handling of spoil if at all possible. Hence we will only be using one tracked dumper to transport soil from a 5t excavator profiling the banks to an 8t excavator placing Bentomat rolls and backfilling with spoil. Apart from delaying work, the weather has also increased plant hire costs due to idle time when pumping out water, or ground and/or weather conditions bringing work to a stop. Since we started restoration in 1997 the last year or two are the first in which this has had a noticeable effect on progress and finance. Roger Leishman, Restoration Director 01442 874536 email@example.com
On the WendoverArm Trustâ€™s September and October Working Parties, yet again the weather was not on our side for some of the time â€“ what is very unhelpful is a dry sunny day when things are starting to dry up followed by a very wet day that puts ground conditions back to square one. Due to ground conditions no further canal bed lining was completed but the Stage 2 mooring wall was completed including the weak mix concrete fill, concrete finishes round the wing walls and lining the slope to bed level in front of the wall. The lining of the offside bank opposite the mooring wall was also completed leaving only the bed to complete restoration along the mooring wall length. There are now 212 metres of lining plus the bed lining for the 50 metre length of the mooring wall to be completed before we install a bund at Bridge 4A and rewater the next length of completed canal. The aim is to complete this in 2013 but it has to be borne in mind that the recent bad weather has already put us two to three months behind so all we can do is hope for a drier 2013. With this working party we are now embarking on a very repetitive routine. We will be The completed Stage 2 mooring wall proceeding forward
Becky Parr reports back from a weekend of scrub-bashing, tree-planting, big bonfires and just the odd slight niggle about the accommodation...
Bonfire bashing on the H&G Bonfire Bash Report Hereford & Gloucester Canal
said it wasn’t a problem to have bonfires and use her land on one side for vehicle access and to set up welfare sites. This all seemed pretty straightforward. Between myself and Cath we talked about splitting the site into five and having section leaders running each bit, and knocked around a few names of who to ask. Other jobs were added to the list: dig a big hole for the weir at Aylestone Park and erect signs around the Hereford area. At Aylestone Park we were also down to widen the canal, but this work was put on hold due to licences and other stuff. We then checked out the accommodation, saw there wasn’t enough space for dining, so arranged for a marquee, and it all looked promising – apart from this niggle that I had that it just wouldn’t be big enough... more on that later! After several conversations with the lovely Clive Alderman, WRG Forestry Team was organised to go a day before the Bonfire Bash and get loads done before the volun-
Imagine the scene: I’m sat at home looking through my emails, job hunting, when I get an email from the lovely Jenny at Head Office asking if either myself or Mark ‘MKII’ Richardson, in our role as leader-finders, had found anyone to lead the Bonfire Bash. I replied “no”, and added the line “but if no one steps forward, I’ll give it a whirl”. An email back from Jenny took about 38 seconds, saying she’d put my name forward to the board and how fantastic it was that I’d volunteered. Note to self: think before hitting ‘send’! I had never led a Bonfire Bash before, let alone assisted – (although I’d been to plenty, scrub bashed, got drunk, fallen over, then got up the next morning and gone on site to do it all again) – so didn’t really know what I was letting myself in for! After a fabulous ‘quick’ chat with Moose (it lasted about an hour) about where to start and what to do, I got myself an assistant in the capable form of Cath Coolican-Smith, organised a site visit with Wilf Jones, Dave Penny and ‘JJ’ (the landowner’s daughter), and started what was to become a rather long list of jobs that needed doing before the actual weekend. Thankfully Alan Lines attended the visit and took loads of photos. The task was to scrub bash 926 yards of canal bed of the Herefordshire & Gloucestershire canal on the Kymin site (not far from Withington, a few miles east of Hereford), with the landowner on board: she asked for cerEvidence of WRG Forestry’s contribution to the weekend tain trees to be left, and
was brilliant by asking people to move up and get to know your neighbours! The heating was on in the marquee, and the kitchen was getting sorted. It all seemed to be coming together. Squidge then told me that she’d just seen someone taking their bed and kit into the shower area, I looked around and saw that people were setting up in the foyer and down by the toilets. We had 100-plus people staying in the hall, it was a squeeze, but everyone was brilliant about it.
Not just scrub-bashing: There was some interesting stuff with dumpers and some tree planting too
teers arrived. The T.shirt design was done, the section leaders organised, the hall confirmed (that niggling feeling was still there) and kit was arranged with the help of Mike ‘MKP’ Palmer (while he was bricklaying on the Oxford canal) and the beer sorted with Nic Bennett. More conversations with Adam ‘Digger’ Morris about the work at Aylestone, promising him big machines and lots of work, more conversations with Dave Penny, then back to Digger, then back to Dave, then back to Cath, then back to Dave... (do you get the picture?) With the car packed with a Squidge and Zak (Zak to be dropped off on route), we left on the Thursday to Yarkhill to spend the evening with Forestry, Jen and Digger. The Friday morning was a chat with everyone including Wilf and JJ, Forestry went to site, Digger went to Aylestone Park with ‘RAF Martin’ Thompson to start work and myself, Jenny and Squidge went into Hereford to collect hire equipment from HSS and collect signs from the sign man. I think we covered a fair few miles that day and got to know the man from HSS Hire very well as we needed more kit. Jen was sat in the back of the van covered in paperwork and Squidge sat in the front with my phone sorting out texts and emails and where to go next. At 3pm-ish we went to get the hall keys and were joined by Rick and Harri Barnes who helped get the marquee ready and did the first pick up, Cath came over with Chris, Eli arrived and things started happening. The niggle of the hall not being quite big enough was still there, but I kept putting it in the back of my mind. Forestry arrived off site, everyone threw kit on the floor and got their bedding sorted, and started making the place look welcoming for the volunteers. The KESKRG cooker was taken off the back of the trailer, wheeled in and then didn’t go any further than the main hall: this was down to the fact that the cooker wouldn’t fit through any door. It was decided to lift it over the serving area (without damaging the serving area) and get it in the kitchen that way. The volunteers started arriving, the vans started arriving and kit needed sorting out. It was around 9pm when the niggle came back stronger than ever. I stood behind the hall bar area, paperwork everywhere, drink in hand, looking at loads of people cramming themselves into a room. Jenny
and coats, it was so cold in there! Beer was drunk, Fast Ed got his squeeze box out and good times were had by all. The next morning everyone was back on site, the trees were still being planted and the fires were rekindled, it being the 11th of November everyone respected the 2 minute silence, then work continued. I walked the site in the afternoon and was amazed at the work that had been done. I was so impressed, it was incredible. Back at the hall, kit was being put away, the hall was being cleaned and hire gear was taken to a house to be dealt with the next day, and the minibuses were driven back to the hire company. Everyone was saying their goodbyes, and a few people were left. We locked the hall and stood outside, had a chat and said our own farewells. Over 116 volunteers were at the weekend, 850 yards of scrub bashing was done, 155 trees were planted, signs were put up around the area and a big hole was dug. Absolutely none of this could have happened without all of the volunteers who came along and everyone who helped in the run up and organising on the weekend. It was a fabulous weekend – thank you. Becky Parr
The next day, after a chat about the work and the minibuses being picked up, the majority of people went to the main site, Digger and RAF Martin went to Aylestone Park to carry on with the weir hole, and Dr Ed took his team off to do the signs. We had a tree planting crew led by Cath (did I not mention the trees?) and they sorted out which trees were going where and cracked on planting them. The hall was silent apart from some of the WRG board (who were due to have a meeting) washing up and starting making sandwiches. I then started getting photos of bonfires on my phone, so I knew it was all happening. After going to each site, I did the walk through with Clive, JJ, Dave and Wilf at the main site and was amazed at the difference. JJ noted more trees to come down (she could now see as the area was a lot more clearer!) and was happy with what we’d accomplished so far. Everyone was back at the hall, a gorgeous dinner was served (thank you so much to Eli, Jude and everyone else that helped) and Martin did a slide show of the year which was very entertaining! When anyone went into the marquee, I noticed that they were dressed to go outside – hat, gloves, fleeces
The canal emerges from over a century’s worth of vegetation
So how did WRG’s first attempt at working with the Canal & River Trust on structures on a navigable canal get on? Oxford Bridges Camp A bit of a new departure for WRG: firstly. instead of working on restoring a derelict canal, we were restoring a couple of historic bridges on a navigable canal which had got into a bad way and were in danger of falling down, but were a low priority for maintenance because all they carry is a couple of footpaths. And secondly because it was our first chance to work with the new Canal & River Trust - and we’re hoping it will lead to us helping them to understand working with volunteers, and getting their own teams of volunteers doing similarly technical stuff in the future. So how did it go? Over to Maria...
Oxford Canal bridges Maria also turned up by lunch. Maria and James went shopping while the rest made a start on bridge 79, with chiselling out mortar or reinstating the missing section of wall. Some bricks were removed and some were replaced. The canal, unlike most we work on, was open to navigation, with boats passing under the scaffold clad bridge as we worked. Some boaters passed complimentary comments about our efforts, some were too miserable to even look at us. That evening two Martins turned up as well as Jude for the weekend, and Rick and Harri, but Jenny had to go to play hockey and add more bruises for the week. The local IWA branch chair came to greet us, and invite us to their monthly talk on Wednesday. Much cheese was consumed and we went to bed by midnight. Day 2: On site before 9am, to start and tackle the big jobs on 79, while the brickie group went to start on 80. Unfortunately, bridge 80 was in a far worse condition than first thought, and in an effort to find a good section of wall to start the rebuild on, most of one side was demolished. The previous night’s rain had made the ground conditions fairly slippery over the bridges. While we were working the whole area was covered in hundreds of money spiders, wherever you looked: put something down, in seconds it seems that it was covered in spiders and webs; people were constantly moving them away from their faces. At lunch time, as was the custom, the sandwiches had been made by Maria and Harri, the bags were labelled such as ham, egg, cheese and tuna. When lunch was called people grabbed their sandwiches. Moose munched on the egg and then ham, but as he took a bite out of the Tuna, there was something other than Tuna in it that caught him out! Thinking of Pictures by Martin Ludgate
Day 1: Jenny and Mike Palmer met with May Gurney (CRT’s general engineering contractors, who’d done the initial foundation work) to formally hand over the site to WRG, for the duration of the camp. The quality of the portacabins was far superior to any other site we have ever worked on. So good, that MKP could have hot curry for lunch, courtesy of the microwave. The bridges were suitably dressed in WRG banners for the camp. John Hawkins, Bob Crow, Moose and
Putting the new coping stones on
the spiders, and wondering what he had just eaten... when along comes Harri, to say she had put sweetcorn in with the tuna sandwiches, so feeling brave enough opened the sandwich and, yes it was tuna and sweetcorn. James went to Tom’s to collect the other kit trailer, as we had the time and drying space to sort and paint kit for the October camps. It being a weekend, we had plenty of boats passing under the work sites. The brickies started rebuilding 80 as dusk set in. Some people walked back to the accom as it was quicker than driving it. Katy joined us for dinner and brought flapjack as payment. The evening was spent eating and discussing cheese, and the joys of listening to radio 4, quiet time for our Chairman to practice his sewing. And I don’t mean oats: MKP had a bag of oven cloths that were destined for the WRG kit, but first they had to have their label sewn in. MKP took his time, but at the finish it did look Rebuilding Bridge 80’s end pillar nice. Jude then pointed out there was one already sewn in on the other end. Now James wanted to have a practice, obviously removal. The bridge 80 number plaque was under the watchful eye of Katy, to be honest also removed. Temptation was to replace it Katy did most of it, James’ thumb print gets as ‘bridge 08’ and see who noticed. bigger! All in bed by 11.30pm. The afternoon saw a protest between bridge 80 and 81 against a new Onley monDay 3: Quote of the day “bugger, I wasn’t ster marina. But all that was there seemed to expecting that”. be a lot of steam and a few people, including We woke to a misty morning, which Timothy West. We still haven’t seen the progressed into a t-shirt day in the sun. The Onley monster... drive to site saw one van going via the high In the evening the pub quiz wasn’t on, road, and one going via the low road, and so we did some labelling up for Navvies and some walking. The walkers won, followed by played cards with a Northamptonshire pack the low road van. The site genny had given of cards (No six of spades, two nines of up, so no fridge or kettle on site. We set up clubs). Bed by 11pm, and only day 3! the gas Burco for tea. Just as well we are not used to having such luxuries as electricity on Day 4: Quote of the day “I’ve made a phone sites. Call made to have the genny fixed. call about that.” We punted the site boat to sort out the The man came to fix the genny. He bent pole in the canal, which was now stickautomatically put on a new alternator, before ing out at a dangerous angle. The pole was even looking at it. This meant we could put turned into a barber shop pole with candy on the heaters on in the cabins and the tape, very apt for Barby village. The warning toilets. signs in the canal made an amusing slalom Down at 80, Martin Ludgate nearly got course for the boaters. Katy’s flapjack was constructive, and was overheard saying “I raved about at lunchtime. The farmer on the think we have been using the wrong bricks” other side made hay while the sun shone. to which RAF Martin replied “No-we have The pointers cracked on with bridge 79, so been using all the right bricks, but not necesall the work above the scaffolding was comsarily in the right order” We were identified plete. The call was made to have the scafas WRGies by one boater, as we were wearfolding removed. ing shorts in October. RAF Martin spent a lot Meanwhile Martin was attempting to of the day reversing a van from 79 to 80 consolidate his wall into one easy lump for collecting plop and bricks or copers.
Mike H joined us tonight, and we squeezed him into the now cosy hall. As two Mikes would have been confusing, Mike H was otherwise known as ’Arry. He discovered his airbed was deflated by the morning
have a tea break before the Burco had boiled and we again had no kettle working, so went without. Everyone had to work on 80 to keep out of their way. Some of us started to repack all the newly painted brick kits and tools into the trailer. Day 5: Quote of the day “Jenny will sort that The CRT heritage advisor came to site. tomorrow” (That’s heritage advisor as in an advisor on A few of us started on kit A refurbishheritage, as opposed to a very old advisor). ment. So we set to washing, sorting, paintWe impressed her with the quality of the ing, counting etc. We put the tools in the sun specially commissioned bricks. RAF Martin to dry and painted tools in the meeting picked up one of the better ones to show her, cabin, with the heater on to dry the paint. as it broke in half in his hand. She was (Did say we had superior site cabins?) Mused happy with all our work, and not so happy over how to threaten people about future / with the bricks, but did take one home as a potential users losing stuff… souvenir. CRT senior engineer arrived and Harri and Rick left the camp, and the stopped work, by parking too close to the rest knocked off early, at 5pm, so we could mixer, as lime mortar could have damaged make it to the IWA talk in Ryton about the the car paintwork. We also wondered who Ashby Canal, by 7.30pm. It was a good talk gave him a Honda as a company car. He left and Moose was asked to stand up and say a quite happy with our work so far. We then few words about the work on the bridges, wondered if he was really old enough to be a and invited people to come and see what we senior engineer. were doing. The afternoon saw a police helicopter Back to the hall by 10pm and early to hovering overhead, and then arresting some- bed. ’Arry pumped up his bed again, only for one. We found out later that they arrested a it to go down in the night. man with a gun in Barby. Trouble was, he legally owned the gun and was shooting Day 7: The Onley monster came in the night vermin in a field. and took the remaining scaffolding away. The day finished with a good turning Jenny arrived on site, and became site point on bridge 80. Martin went off boating. leader to also meet and greet visitors. In the James also left to go to work, probably morning the young senior engineer came collecting our rubbish later in the week. We back, and was asked to park is car away ordered more sand and lime as we were from the lime cloud, as not to hinder rapidly running out. progress again. He brought John Dodwell MKP went home saying he had a conwith him, a CRT trustee. Jenny went to show ference in Reading for two days and would them round. The local navigation manager be back Thursday night. Rick and RAF Martin also arrived and all three went to tour the had a long chat the evening, putting the site with Jenny and Moose. They chatted as Cotswolds to rights. ’Arry’s bed went down we plied them with tea and cake. that night, but was now able to have a crash The pointing on 79 neared completion. mat under it to stop him lying flat on the (One more day should do it). The old farts floor by morning. brickie team steadily made progress on 80. Most importantly the rain held back to a steady Day 6: Quote of the day “Still waiting for drizzle, while hail, thunderstorms and torrenJenny to arrive to sort it”. tial downpours were all reported locally. With the site leader absent, Rick was We all went to the pub in Barby for the nominated leader until he left at 3pm, then quiz, only to find it was a music quiz. Shame Moose took over until Jenny arrived. MKP was hijacked by his wife to stay home The site genny failed again. The battery another night, as we were terrible. But we had no charge as the man who put on the won the consolation prize on the second alternator failed to put the fan belt back on round. As one team couldn’t win twice, we correctly, which had now fallen off. We made won, as there were only two teams playing another call to have it fixed. that night. Back to accom and bed. ’Arry’s The scaffolding men came to take bed went down again that night, despite us down Bridge 79’s scaffolding. They tried to nagging him to buy a new bed.
Day 8: MKP arrived back as we finished breakfast. We were still waiting for CRT and May Gurney to deliver the sand and lime. We continued on pointing on 79. (One more day should do it).The wall continued to grow on 80. The wrong sand and lime were delivered by CRT. A navigation error by a boater, who was chatting and not looking, saw the removal of the fencing in the water. He may well have to make a claim on his insurance. Luckily he owns the insurance company. The CRT volunteer coordinator came to visit. He failed to volunteer with us though. The day saw less rain than the day before, but the shorts had been replaced by trousers as the week was getting progressively colder. Jenny went home again to get some more scars playing hockey. Adrian came to join us for the weekend. James came for a visit, and was asked to move Moose’s Range Rover and broke it: it was stuck in second gear. The weekend cheese board came out again. ’Arry’s bed went down again. Day 9: Another day on the bridges dawned. Bridge 79 was almost finished with a few odd bricks replaced. Bridge 80 was well under way, with the brickies moving up the wall, but still not run out of bricks yet, and the pointing on the other side moving along well. The previous night’s rain had left a site to toboggan on, and Martin made Rob walk through it. At lunch some people tried to eat four banana muffins in order to have one of their 5-a-day. The rain in the air saw a rainbow over site. A hotel boat pair were seen with a traditional rear. One boater asked when were we starting bridge 76! We gave up waiting for the genny man to come and fix our genny. We put the fan belt on ourselves and jump started it. Moose painted more kit. The IWA branch chair came to visit site in the afternoon to show support. Moose looked at his broken sad car, after a few minutes said “I need to speak to a very nice AA man”. The cheese eating continued. ’Arry still hasn’t bought a new bed. Day 10: We have thought up a national navvies competition: ‘How knacked is your bridge?’ (We would enter a picture of Malcolm.) Moose looked at his broken sad car, after a few minutes said “I need to speak to a very nice AA man”, arranged a man to come and see it, organised a recovery of said vehicle, took Maria the cook to the supermar-
ket and was still on site by 11:30hrs - must have been the quickest the AA had ever moved. The car was sent unattended, as Moose was already been volunteered to take away the WRG Van that London WRG was going to have, and it helped if Moose could take it to his boat yard. Pointing on 80 continued into the dark. The brickies almost ran out bricks. The lightweights went home today. The few of us left went out for a pint and opted out of the quiz, then returned to finish the cheese. ’Arry spent another night flat on the floor. Day 11: The few die hards embarked on a great clean up of the site and the hall. Kit was packed, cleaned and put away, then returned to where it came from. Three returned to site to tidy up and get it ready to hand over to CRT, a lorry was waiting for us, as we approached we joked it could be our lime or even bricks. He did have some lime, 40 bags of the stuff, which three of us had to unload into the container. Almost on cue several members of CRT arrived to see how we had done and to take back the site, all this meant was MKP was waffling to CRT while ’Arry and Moose did all the work! After a very late lunch, we took ’Arry and his airless bed to the train station, and finally set off home in the vans. This was a long and tiring camp, but successful for WRG in being able to show CRT what we can achieve, as volunteers. We hope CRT has learnt a lot from this as well. Maria Hearnden
Repointing Bridge 79’s parapet
“Last year was an easy camp” says James, before describing a week of dodging workmen in the accommodation, and setting fire to the safety signs on site...
Camp report Chelmer & Blackwater
off at Heybridge on Thursday night. Sadly, there was nobody in the office where the van keys were to collect them. So some calling around got the office open! On my way down I have never heard my phone ring so much. It turned out there was only 3 folks awaiting a collection and not 4! Richard had public transport issues. I would like to point Saturday came and time for everyone to out that the last leg of the train journey was head to the Plume School in Maldon. I got a bus replacement which was organised by my bags packed, dog squashed into the Rob Daffern. No, Rob didn’t arrange the bus, footwell of the Land Rover. We were due to he was the one who closed the line down for meet the van and trailer and secret driver overhead wire replacement! Richard eventu(wsn’t given driver’s name until the last ally arrived by taxi after calling me to get a minute) at the WRG storage area in the lift but I didn’t answer as I was driving! After midlands. I gave Clive (leader of the week dragging all the kit out the van, everyone before) a call to check the van had left when dived for the mouse proof box for tea and intended. Due to a power cut they were coffee to find none what so ever, so Derek running late and the trailer lights were on the our cook made a mad dash back to Tesco. blink. Wiggle plug up for side lights, down With Derek’s ‘gift of the gab’ skills he did for brake lights! I since found out that the manage to get Tesco to donate £50 to the problem wasn’t new and there was gremlins camp so one trolley load of shopping only in the socket since the summer! cost £1.59! The clock was now ticking as plan A So that was Saturday! A bad day at Day was for me to collect the five volunteers 1, and from there on in, it’s plain sailing, you arriving at the train station at 4pm on my think... way to the accommodation. Well, sadly due to one volunteer being ill they would arrive later in the week. So down to 4 train collections! The van and trailer arrived and I set to work to make the lights work. It’s wasn’t having it, so off to the nearest town to borrow a trailer board from Halfords. Simplest solution! Sadly the board didn’t work either so they had that back! In the end I abandoned the trailer and loaded everything into the van that was needed. It wasn’t pretty packing, Sandy my dog was less than impressed of being in yet another footwell tied up but we arrived at the accommodation an hour and a half late! So plan B was kick started for train collection. Martin Ludgate had Fun with boats on the Chelmer & Blackwater very kindly dropped the other van Pictures by Daniel Krebs
“Last year was an easy camp, so yeah, why not do this year too on the Chelmer and Blackwater?” Those might be the first words of this report, but they’re better described as ‘famous last words’. I should have remembered that no two camps are ever the same...
Sunday: the hall was a bit parky but a big space + poor heaters = cold! Also the clocks going back an hour probably upset the timer! For some of us the auto set date and time function on our phones didn’t work very well! I woke up at 7am ready for 7:30am breakfast. Went into the dining area and asked if it was time to turn the lights on. That’s when I found my phone hadn’t gone back the hour and it was actually 6am. I wasn’t the only person to have been caught out. For Derek and Maggie, their phone had gone back, but by two hours! This was our first day on site. We all went to Hoe Mill Lock and cut down a few ivy ridden trees to make stakes (not beef ones) to put into the ground and then lay long logs in front, then infilled with rubble out of Julie. Julie being a work boat not someone who likes eating bricks! Reason being for infilling, is there will be piling work going on so we needed to make a base for an excavator to sit on and work from in the future. This job nicely took up the day and we went back to the accommodation for showers. The showers were lovely and warm, although walking out of the shower to find strangers in the changing room was a novelty! Don’t worry, it was only footballers getting changed for training practice on an outside court! They use the changing rooms every Sunday! A quick word with the weekend caretaker revealed that yes, this is all correct. Would have been nice to have been told! He let slip that there was wheelchair basketball on one evening through the week where we were sleeping and he didn’t have the power to turn the heating on! Sunday was a chilly evening (as in cold not the food, chilli was tomorrow night’s dinner!) but we did find a tiny room that was hot due to lots of fridges and freezers being in there giving off heat, so when cold, go into room to warm up! We had to say good bye to Gordon this evening too. Monday: we headed to Rickets lock for our main scrub bash work to start. We got given a key to get through the road gate and a key for the height barrier. The gate key worked, the height barrier not so well. The vans definitely wouldn’t have fitted and we didn’t have the bricksaw to lower the vans’ roof height. After looking and reaching and head scratching, we finally managed to break into the height barrier and open it. I won’t say here how it’s done but let’s say you have to think cleverly like on the Crystal Maze back in
Clearing vegetation on the banks the ’90s! We emptied Julie of wood that we loaded on yesterday and got a fire going. The fire wasn’t that great so I put a request in for a Moose to get it going. I was told Moose was unavailable but if I was to give it the “Moose stare” it will go up. Fifteen minutes later we had a roaring fire! It was obviously worried! After a van load went “home” a few of us stayed on to put the now roaring fire out but not before Luke and GB Dan (we had an English (GB) Daniel and a German (D) Daniel) had cooked their orange and lemon flavoured marshmallows! This evening we lost a Purple Fairy but gained an Emma! The heating was on-ish, and we moved to the school gym where there wouldn’t be anyone else using the hall. Our original accommodation, before it was double booked, was the Haybay boat where you have to go outside to the loos. Well now the school is a bit like that, as we have to go out and around the main hall to the gym when it was in use, to get to the loos and our beds! Sadly I broke Maggie my assistant and she had to stay off site due to a migrane. Tonights sport in the hall was football and badminton! Tuesday arrived and we continued along the towpath scrub bashing the brambles and trees. It was all going well and then Maggie heard a very well controlled “helloooo, can I have some help please!” from Richard. He had been strimming near the waters edge
and stood on a clump of soil which he had tested that it was able to hold his weight. Sadly he didn’t try it with a brushcutter in his hands too. That over loaded the clump and down he went. He made sure the strimmer engine was above the water though! On the way back to the hall we heard news on the radio (van radio not one of Adrian Sturgess’ own many radios) that there was a hurricane Sandy. Luckily I had my eye on my dog Sandy at all times and she wasn’t the culprit. Just as it got to the interesting bit Adrian tried to turn the volume up, only to turn the radio off and not be able to turn it on again. We found out the next morning he had unlocked the security feature... We arrived back at the hall to be locked out! During the day, workmen had installed key code locks to the door! You guessed it, we hadn’t been told about it! Tonights sport in the hall was the wheel chair basketball. Some folks decided to go to the pub and “Mr Chatterbox” Graham was too busy chatting that he walked smack into a bollard. He was adamant that the bollard and the bollard’s other 9 friends weren’t there the other night!!! Susan, one of our first aiders was kept busy by a footballer from an outside pitch with a graze that needed a plaster!
better! Derek also had a call on the kitchen phone asking for the kitchen staff. When he replied with “sorry, it is just me here, it is half term and nobody is about” he got a reply of “there must be someone about, go and find them!” We also found Derek’s cunning and devious way of making us not eat all the dinner so he could make some into soup for lunch. He used a serving spoon with holes in so most of the juice was left in the pan!!! We tried to organise a cinema trip to see James Bond, but unsurprisingly it was fully booked! Tonight’s sport in the hall is the Gary Clubb. Yes, it had a double b! The Gary Clubb was followed by the Real Maldon FC. (Not to be mistaken for the artificial Maldon FC)
Thursday: Last night Derek asked us to write on the white board our egg request for the morning. He was liking his requests as we got to choose our sandwich filling and number of slices of bread a couple of days when there wasn’t soup on the menu! After our eggs were made how we wanted them we drove to site. I knew it was bin day as being in that line of work I can spot bin day a mile off! So being cautious about meeting a bin lorry down a country lane I approached our last Wednesday saw an early crew set off to site lane with care, only to find the recycle lorry to move the 2 small boats down from Hoe about to come out the road. At first I Mill Lock down to our site. We have been thought I recognised some old sign writing using the 2 boats all week and they have to on the lorry. Then I saw the number plate, it be kept at Hoe Mill each night for security. was only my old lorry from a year and a half This involves going through two locks and ago that had been sent to a different conalong a long stretch of canal. It takes just tract! Small world! over an hour to do the travelling to site. Lee Today Sandy decided she didn’t want to was becoming a dab hand at driving the get out the van. Once encouraged out of one radar boat and Susan was driving Buddy too. van, she jumped into the other. In the end Adrian got a go driving the dredger, but Adrian put her on her lead to bring her to thankfully this year the engine was off and site, only for her to jump out the van, tie he was only allowed to manoeuvre it using him up around his legs and jump back in the the winch cables! Read last year’s camp van! Wise dog as it was drizzling that day! report for Adrians big boat driving skills! Sadly today I got the “Tim Lewis syndrome”. Susan and Adrian got to use their first It took me five hours to get the bonfire aid skills again but this time Sandy’s 4-bygoing. Apologies to the logistics team but paw system needed mending! She wasn’t the only thing that caught fire (and not on stuck in the mud, just she had a large thorn purpose) was the hard hat sign. They make in her pad! After more fire and marshmalgreat “wafting” devices to get air into the fire! lows we headed back to the school. I put it out before too much damage was Derek had more unsuspected workmen done. Thankfuly we have new boards for in the hall, this time they were fitting a new 2012 season. Or so it says on the paperwork mystery machine in the kitchen. Now, we anyway. Maybe “one more year should do it” knew it was Halloween that day and Scooby until we see the new signs! Doo had a van called the mystery machine, Due to heavy rain last night, Rickets but the school didn’t HAVE to try and go one lock had quiet a waterfall over the bottom
gates so it was impossible to get the boats back to Hoe Mill Lock. Plan B: take them to Heybridge Basin, an hour and a half down stream! Some running around in vans to get folks back to where they should be and we eventually ended up back “home”! Tonight some folks managed to get to the cinema and see James Bond. D Daniel drove and kept to the “wrong” side of the road in his car and Mr Chatterbox actually stayed quiet through the film. Somebody must have drugged him! Back at the hall it was men’s keep fit. Maggie had her hopes up for 2 hours worth of grunting sweating men to look at. She was disappointed when all it turned out to be a few fellas playing football and half the folks hadn’t turned up! Derek had another visit from workmen too. This time it was men testing the fire alarm system. They told him that the alarms would go off but failed to tell him that the metal roller shutter between the kitchen and the hall was going to go down too, trapping him in the kitchen. Luckily he had the hall keys on him which opened the kitchen door to escape and get the fire guys to “reset” the roller shutter back open! Friday at last. Sorry for the long camp report but hey, you don’t have that many reports to read being November and not many camps have happened since the last Navvies!!! [Don’t you believe it! ...Ed] This morning I was woken to the dawn chorus of mobile phone alarms going off at 7am. I think 6 alarms went off in total! Over the week, the number of alarms gradually increased! Today Derek WILL get onto site. Ok, it was to serve the soup, but he still made it onto site! Maggie had the Tim Lewis Syndrome today. D Daniel found a pallet down the track to site and went off to fetch it as that had to burn easily! Hm, famous last words! Adrian was living up to his reputation of boat driving today and managed to bounce Buddy off most things. His excuse was the river was faster flowing than yesterday. He is right, the water was at least a foot over the top of the coping stones at Rickets Lock, but I blame bad driving! Tonight’s sports
hall entertainment was Mr Suggit’s charity netball event. This is where the boys dress in as little as possible and in pink and the girls the same but in green. Emma was the girls’ team photographer. She hadn’t planned on being it but she was in the wrong place at the wrong time! Tonight we had a three course home made burger meal. Beef burger, followed by Lamb burgers and then pork burgers! Emma finished off her crochet volcano which could also be an egg warmer and a couple of us had a go on the climbing wall! Saturday we were up, packed and gone by 10am! So that’s the Chelmer and Blackwater October camp 2012 camp report! I would like to thank Tesco’s for their £50 donation to shopping, Maggie for being a great assistant, Derek for his amazing food and allotment grown veg, Rob Daffern for joining us for a few days (but not thanking him for the bus replacements), Adrian for being Adrian and being really useful and there to bounce ideas off. I would like to also thank everyone else for all their help on the camp and their support and patience when the going got tough and cold! I would like to not thank the Plume school for their failure to notify us of any of the workmen or evening activities during the week and for not putting the heating up to “warm” setting. I will thank Terry, the evening caretaker for doing his best to help us out wherever possible. The school is great for weekend digs, but sadly I feel not for another week camp in the future. James Butler
Toasted sarnies - WRG style
In recent months there’s been an increase in local ‘cleanup’ events on the navigable network. Last month we reported from the Ashtac anniversary weekend near Manchester. This time we report from Birmimgham area...
...at Kings Norton
encroached on to the towpath. Each day there was a small team armed with paint and brushes who painted railings, signs and gates. Meanwhile the workboat was used on the Saturday by a team of people with grappling hooks who removed a boat full of rubbish from the canal. On the Sunday the workboat was used for offside vegetation clearance. The rubbish pulled out of the canal over the weekend included 2 huge sections of pipe bridge railings, a wheelchair and a motor scooter, as well as the usual assortment of tyres and bicycles. Thanks are due to the Patrick Motor Group for the use of their car park and access to the canalside wharf adjacent to the car park, which itself was cleared of overhanging trees and a build up of debris, leafmould and vegetation on part of the wharf itself. The clean up event also celebrated the work being carried out by contractors working for the Canal & River Trust, to the iconic guillotine lock at King’s Norton Junction, which is a Grade II* listed Scheduled Ancient Monument. After many years of being subjected to vandalism and neglect, the Canal & River Trust has obtained funding from the Peoples Postcode Lottery and English Heritage to contribute towards its restoration. Alison Smedley
King’s Norton Clean Up
A joint initiative between five waterway organisations saw dozens of people converge on King’s Norton Junction over the weekend of 17th and 18th November for a canal clean up and work party weekend. The event was organised by IWA Birmingham, Black Country & Worcestershire Branch and was supported by IWA Warwickshire Branch, Worcester Birmingham & Droitwich Canals Society and the Stratford-uponAvon Canal Society and by the Canal & River Trust who provided all the tools, equipment and a work boat. Many of the volunteers (there were 35 people on the Saturday and 31 on the Sunday) were members of the two IWA branches and the two canal societies, but there were also several people from the local community who came along to take part, including a group of cubs and scouts from the 218th Birmingham Woodgate Pioneers Scout Group, as well as members of a local history society and the Friends of King’s Norton Park. Litter picking was carried out from the junction in all three directions – as far as Wast Hill Tunnel on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, as far as Brandwood Tunnel on the Stratford Canal and for some distance on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal heading north. A lot of vegetation clearance was also carried out in all three directions, including removing trees and shrubs overhanging the towpath and clearing weed and grass that had
The more observant of you will notice a few IWA Cleanup type events sneaking into our Diary this time. They’re organised by local IWA branches (often jointly with canal societies or CRT) but as always, everyone is welcome to turn up. Our friend (and WRGie) Alison Smedley is now employed by IWA as Branch Campaign Officer, which covers helping IWA’s branches organise and publicise their work parties - and we felt that Navvies was a good place to publicise them. Here’s Alison’s report of a cleanup at Kings Norton...
Volunteers grappling for rubbish at Kings Norton
Dig Report London WRG in Somerset London WRG weekend on the Somersetshire Coal Canal
to clear a troublesome willow at the dry dock entrance. Newcomers Heather and Athos coped manfully with the work and made a good dent in the balsam whilst others including Adrian, Hamon and Martin Danks strimmed and lopped the nettles and brambles. Tim intimidated the bonfire with Martin Ludgate and Dave whilst Tasterella and Iain managed to overcome vehicular failure to get to site and start work on clearing the thicket. Whilst clearing foliage, volunteers also uncovered a number of interesting clues which may help show the exact lay of the dry dock. Improvements were made with the drainage of the site which should mean the trust should be able to press ahead with foliage clearance and we tidied up some of the towpath popular with walkers. Our work also seems to have met the approval of local landowners whose support is so critical to the SCC restoration at this fragile stage in the project. Please support the Somersetshire Coal Canal! It can be a lonely business, local canal restoration, and the SCC could use a few more active members of their Society. I enjoy working on this canal hugely and the countryside south of Bath is fabulous. You can do the following: Join the Trust as an armchair supporter or active member at www.coalcanal.org; join their regular working party on the first Sunday of every month (also some Saturdays); and come on my London WRG dig in October 2013 and see our new accommodation on an organic farm! Sophie Smith
In what is now our regular autumn habit, London WRG returned to the rolling wooded hills south of Bath to scrub bash on the Somersetshire Coal Canal. This year we were working on a new site in this scenic area; at Paulton Basin near Radford where the ruins of Paulton Foundry formed a gothic backdrop to our tea breaks. The small local canal trust has a limited membership and a critical leader’s recent illness has put the committee under considerable pressure. Nevertheless our visit was well-coordinated and we received the usual warm and appreciative welcome from local contacts who rallied round to cover the necessary tasks for our visit. The SCC trust is inventive in its ideas for drumming up local support and I was impressed by their hightech plans to use QR codes along the old towpath to allow self-conducted tours. QR (‘Quick response’) codes are a kind of 3D barcode that you scan with a mobile phone. These quickly direct you to a specific web page without the need to type in a web address. My understanding is walkers would Editor’s note: This is actually an abridged scan the QR codes at points along the footversion of the full report which includes path to visit an online guide to that area of more on the Organic Accommoration; dark the canal. It’s an innovative way to provide doings and dog-breeding at the Paulton information and a webpage can more easily Foundry; anbd the tale of the Gipsy Queen’s be updated than a static information board. funeral. See the next London WRG News The SCC is little more than a dent in (available to download from the London WRG the earth where we worked at Paulton Basin pages on the WRG website) for the full story felling mature trees, bashing brambles and uprooting the invasive weed Himalayan Balsam from the old dry dock area. Man of the Match was Paul Ireson, who not only cooked breakfast both days but also took on the task of wading into thigh-deep water to uncover the hidden drainage sluice to the Locals’ great delight. Other workers including Pete assisted local chainsaw wielder Richard The Gothic ruins of Paulton Foundry
“I get a bit worried when I see a brick being held in place by a safety boot: not ideal positioning next to a rotating cutting blade” - Mick has a safer idea...
Brick saws Toolbox talk extra
More on brick-cutting
Pictures by Mick Lilliman
Following our ‘Toolbox Talks’ piece last time on how to use brick saws safely, Mick from KESCRG has sent in the following... Many thanks to Ed Walker (issue 255) for an excellent article on the use of brick saws. The issue of holding the workpiece, particularly if it’s a brick or part of a brick, is a tricky one. I get a bit worried when I see a brick being held in place by a safety boot: not ideal positioning next to a rotating cutting blade. To overcome the problem of holding the workpiece I made a brick jig; my specification was that it had to be easy to use, difficult to break and made from Above: room for 3 at once. Below: set up for an angled cut bits I already had in the workshop. It also needed to hold more than 1 brick at a time. Stihl make one, it looks vey good, but it’s expensive! I used two 12mm studs to do the clamping, some leftover ply for the clamping faces and leftover carpet tile to provide a bit of friction to grip the brick. Wing-nuts were made by welding nuts onto steel bar. The top clamp is reinforced by some steel tube, probably a bit overengineered. Following use at summer camp a non slip surface has been added. If this is of any use please contact me for dimensions via Navvies. Mick Lilliman We plan to include further ‘toolbox talks’ pieces in future issues. Coming soon are an article using compressed air tools, and a rather different one about dealing with invasive species on site. If you’ve got any ideas for articles that you’d like to see in Navvies, or you’d like to offer to write one, contact the editor.
Congratulations to Corinne and James Brice on the arrival of Seren Brice on 17 Nov weighing 8lb 1oz
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.
Apologies... ...if anything you sent didn’t appear in this issue. Once again a couple of items have had to be held over owing to lack of space
also to Oliver Revel and Nicola Collard on their marriage on 31 October and to Ju Davenport and Darren Piotrowicz on their engagement
Navvies Directory The next issue of Navvies, issue 257 published in February 2013, will include the full directory of WRG and canal society contacts. Please send any additions, deletions, updates or corrections to the editor.
Thanks from WRG Print ...to all have helped during the last year at Navvies stuffing dates, either at the London Canal Museum or during Canal Camps. A happy Christmas and New Year to all, and as always expect an email or ’phone call from me during 2013. And also many thanks to the London Canal Museum for the continuing use of the premises. John Hawkins
Thanks to Chris Griffiths of Stroudprint for continued assistance with Navvies cover printing
Contacting the chairman: Mike Palmer, 3 Finwood Rd, Rowington Warwickshire CV35 7DH
Tel: 01564 785293 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
And finally Thank you from the editor to everyone
To contact any WRG Canal Camp: 07850 422156 (Kit ‘A’ camps) 07850 422157 (Kit ‘B’ camps)
who has sent in contributions to Navvies during 2012. Also to diary compiler Dave Wedd, to Robert Goundry for chasing up canal society progress reports, and to John Hawkins, Head Office, Chris Griffiths and everyone else involved in Navvies print and production. Wishing all our readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and if I don’t see you on the Uttoxeter Camp, I’ll see you in 2013.
Dear Deirdre Although born in Hamburg, I am
living in England for thirty years and enjoy working alongside your WRGies on my local canal. However it distresses me to see the work constantly interrupted for the purposes of imbibing this bland milky liquid, ‘tea’. Surely these incessant stoppages are preventing the efficient restoration of the canal network? I instead propose that each volunteer be assigned at 08.00 sharp the following:
. One (1) strong coffee, to provide caffeine . 800ml (0.8ltr) of water, the amount I calculate they require for moderate exertion in most temperatures . Three (3) glucose tablets, to overcome the dependency on biscuits This new more efficient system would also reduce the burden on the cook by reducing the time wasted in the biscuit aisle, and as the Burco would no longer be required this could be sold for scrap metal, raising valuable funds. Do you not agree this system would be more efficient? - Fritz, Newport Deirdre writes I agree your proposal has its merits, however you overlook one crucial matter. It is only the opportunity to tell long-winded stories about epic, pre-health-andsafety-era digs that brings many of our older volunteers back. Many of these greybeards live purely for the opportunity to bore the ears off the youngsters with rambling tales of how the mighty Graham Palmer broke his first spade over a council officer’s head, or that time a collie chased a rabbit under the wheels of a mechanical digger and lived on, one-legged, for another eight decades, or that hilarious episode when the brakes failed as they drove that dumper truck full of explosives past a nursery school for children with brittle bone disease. Tea break is the only time they get a captive audience for their unlikely tales and so, regretfully, I think this institution will have to continue. Do you have a question for Deirdre? You can email it to email@example.com
...and speaking of Germany... I am indebted to Roger Burchett for lending me this recent translation of a German book about Britain from the early 1940s, which details many aspects of the country they hoped to invade. What’s it got to do with us? Well, it covers transport – seen through the eyes of those planning the invasion – and it includes inland waterways. So what does it have to say about our splendid canals, carrying millions of tons of vital cargo every year and helping the war effort? “Despite the favourable natural conditions, the modern British waterway system is practically meaningless. The canals themselves are numerous, but most of them originated in the 18th century and have been heavily neglected, sometimes even fallen into disrepair, since the development of the railway network. In general it can be said that the canals are, with very few exceptions, no wider than 20 metres and rarely deeper than 1.8 metres. The banks have been insufficiently strengthened, and the number of locks is far too great for modern transport.” Despite this, the book includes among its 32 full-page illustrations three pictures of canals. Mind you, it also includes a photo of a gramophone record factory – whose military usefulness somehow escapes me... If you want to track down a copy of this fascinating volume, it was published in 2007 by the Bodleian Library, ISBN 978 1 85124 356 3
Navvies - the magazine for waterway restoration volunteers.