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volunteers restoring waterways

navvies Spotlight on the

Cotswold Canals

waterway recovery group

Issue No 258 April-May 2013

Navvies Production Editor: Martin Ludgate, 35 Silvester Road, East Dulwich London SE22 9PB 020-8693 3266 martin.ludgate@wrg.org.uk 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 john.hawkins@wrg.org.uk 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 Š 2013 WRG

Martin Ludgate

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

Contents In this issue...

Eaniel Krebs

Editorial to publish or not to publish’ 4-5 Coming soon Summer camps preview and training weekend 6-8 Camp report February on the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation 9-11 Dig report WRG NW on the Cromford 12-13 40 interviews Al Moore and Sophie Smith face the questions 14-22 Boat Club news from WRG BC 23 Diary canal camps and weekend digs 24-26 Letters the width of the Somerset Coal Canal, the importance of the H&G, and why no credit for the Oxford bridges? 27-31 Progress Wendover, Lapal, Mont, Buckingham, Wooden boats society 32-37 Cotswold feature more volunteer work Above: Workboat Buddy in use on the Chelmer & on the Phase 1a restoration length 38-41 Blackwater camp. See report p9-11. Left: Easter Tirfors and how to use them 42-45 camp on the Cotswold Canals - report next time. Noticeboard help the Grantham 46 Below: book now for the Training Weekend - see p6. Infill John Hawkins goes on-line 47 Front cover: Easter camp on the Lancaster Canal, report next time (photo by Sarah Ashman). Back Contributions... cover top: the Jacksons Wood Express, a special heritage diesel train run by Churnet Valley Railway ...are always welcome, whether handwritten, carrying volunteers to visit the current Uttoxeter typed, on CD, DVD or by email. Canal worksite at Jacksons Wood Lock - the dip in the Photos welcome: digital, slides, ground just visible to the left is the canal (Waterways prints. Please say if you want prints back. Images) Back cover bottom: London WRG held the Digital pics are welcome as email attachfirst visiting work party reently on the Shrewsbury & ments, preferably JPG, but if you have a lot Newport Canals just east of Newport (Martin Ludgate). 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 martin.ludgate@wrg.org.uk. Press date for issue 259: 1 May.

Martin Ludgate

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

all the latest news of WRG's activities page 3

Editorial Publish and be slammed?

Shock, horror! Editor admits he was wrong about the Cotswold Canals! (Does that count as an attentiongrabbing headline or what?)

Editorial There are a couple of letters in this issue (pages 27-30) from canal society representatives in response to two letters in the last Navvies from readers who were unconvinced of the value of some work being carried out (with WRG support) on certain canals. Now I don’t intend to get involved in the arguments for and against carrying out a particular piece of restoration work, or doing it in a particular way, or at a particular time in the greater scheme of things – or even of restoring a particular waterway at all. Because believe me, there are plenty of folk out there more able to do so from a well-informed point of view than I am. Yes, I know a bit about a lot of restorations – but they generally know a lot about their own particular bit of restoration. And I’m glad to say that a fair number of them have contributed to Navvies over the years, including this issue. But that brings me to the part of the discussion that I will stick my oar into. I don’t believe that excluding letters which have been submitted to Navvies for publication by people with serious concerns – even if a few clicks of a mouse might (as one of our correspondents this time indicates) take them to a website that will put them straight – is the way to get people better informed about restoration. For starters, anyone who uses the internet to look at waterways stuff (or, indeed, any other kind of stuff) will know that trusting everything (or anything) you read there is a mug’s game. For every well-informed site, there will be others put together by the ill-informed or those with axes to grind – whether it’s pushing the views of a subsector of the itinerant liveaboard boater to the apparent exclusion of everyone else; relentless bashing of the Canal & River Trust whatever they do; making out that all boaters are polluters out to destroy the planet; or whatever. I’m not for one minute suggesting that the one mentioned in the letters in this issue is one of the latter; but how would somebody taking a deeper interest in waterway restoration for the first time be expected to know that? And that leads me to the next point: taking a deeper interest. It’s simply not true to claim that a good turnout on a particular work site implies that the majority are persuaded of the benefit to waterway restoration of them working there, and that anyone critical of restoration policy is therefore in an insignificant minority. It often comes as a surprise to some involved in canal societies and other parts of the waterways movement to find that many WRGies have a limited interest in canal restoration beyond the task they’re involved in – or at all. They may just leave the politics to the local canal trust and assume they’re doing what’s right for the canal, or they might simply not be interested. I remember my early days with WRG in the early 1980s when our main project was the Basingstoke. We occasionally also worked on other projects, including the Thames & Severn Canal (part of the restoration now known as the Cotswold Canals): not because we believed it would one day re-link Britain’s two greatest rivers, open up a new southern cruising ring, bring boats back to the delightful Golden Valley, regenerate Stroud, save some fascinating bits of heritage, or any of the other things that it will do. To be honest most of us (myself included) didn’t really believe it would ever open. We went there as light relief from our main site on the Basingstoke: for the great scenery; for a change from concreting and Kangoing; to meet some friendly local canal society folks; and to sample the ales and ciders from a wider variety of sources than the diet of Woodpecker and Courage Best (if we were lucky enough to find real ale at all) which was what most of the Surrey pubs served. And that was a group of people most of whom had more than a passing interest in the waterways. Given that most new recruits to WRG (and a surprising number who’ve been around for a little while) don’t have any interest in canals at all, it’s treading on very dodgy

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Martin Ludgate

ground to make any assumptions about whether they support your canal society’s methodology from their continued attendance on digs there. But I did say ‘taking a deeper interest’ above. Many of those I’ve just described do, after a while, go from deciding which canal camp to attend based on breweries, scenery, likelihood of available volunteers of the opposite (or, for that matter, the same) sex etc etc to actually caring about canal restoration. They start asking questions (sometimes fairly blunt ones – but hey, that’s WRGies for you!) about what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and how we’re doing it. This is when we can explain the difficulties, intricacies and what often looks like downright arse-about-face-ness involved in restoring a canal. We can help turn them into canal enthusiasts, and the next generation of camp leaders and canal society stalwarts. Or we can bin their letters and tell them to go away and look on the internet. So hang about, I hear you ask, am I suggesting that the way forward is to print all letters, however well- or ill-informed, and rely on somebody spotting anything they take issue with, and putting the explanation in the next issue? Well, yes, if that’s the only way of doing it – but no, actually I’m thinking of how we (ie WRG and the canal societies) can perhaps do a little better. In pretty much every issue for the last few years we’ve run a ‘progress’ section in Navvies, where canal societies, trusts and other restoration groups report what they’ve been doing and what they’re planning to do next. In the last couple of issues we’ve also started supplementing this with ‘feature’ articles or sets of articles homing in on a particular scheme. This is how we can get the message about the more in-depth aspects of canal restoration across to our volunteers who know all about the practical side but could learn more about the planning, politics and all the rest. But (and you knew this was coming, didn’t you?) somebody has to write it. I do, as I said earlier, know a bit about a lot of restorations - but this, once again, is where we need the help of those of you who know a lot about your local bit. Our volunteer Robert Goundry does an excellent job of chasing up progress reports from canal societies for Navvies. But if yours hasn’t featured recently, don’t wait for him to pester you – write one and send it to us. Feel free to go one further and write a full-blown restoration feature. We’ll publish it as soon as we’ve got space. Do accept, though, that you might have to reply to the odd query or criticism from some of our readers. And that – just once in a while – they might have a point. I’ve been wrong (about the chances of the Thames & Severn ever reopening, for one thing!); Navvies has been wrong; WRG has been wrong; why should any canal society be immune from ever making mistakes? Martin Ludgate

“Most of us didn’t believe it would ever open” - Stroud Brewery Bridge, Cotswold Canals, 2012

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Coming soon Canal Camps Preview

In the first part of our summer 2012 Canal Camps preview, we look forward to working on the Wey & Arun, Wilts & Berks, Lichfield and Wendover

Canal Camps 2013: “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men...” “...aft gang a-Stroud”, as Robbie Burns would no doubt have written, had he been involved in trying to organise the Easter canal camps. Thanks to the ridiculously cold weather snow in April when we were meant to be concreting - plus problems with permissions, both the second week of the fortnight on the Lancaster Canal and the camp planned for the Lichfield ended up looking for a new site. But their loss was the Cotswold Canals’ gain, with the work at Griffin Mill near Stroud providing a replacement site which can make good use of all the volunteer labour we can throw at it - see elsewhere in this issue for a feature on what’s Help turn this into a canal - at Lichfield going on there. And neither of the other two sites missed out completely. The first week on the Lancaster went ahead as planned (and we hope to have a camp report in the next issue), while the Lichfield Canal will be the very first restoration project to benefit from our attention during this summer’s canal camps programme, with a Camp 2013-05 on 29 June to 6 July working on constructing the new route of the canal below Lock 26 at Tamworth Road, near Lichfield . Leaders are Becky ‘Bex’ Parr and Mark ‘Mk2’ Richardson. Let’s hear from Mark about it... Lichfield 2 has now been promoted to LiGet trained! chfield 1, following “RAF” Martin Thompson’s April If you want to make the most of whatever Canal Camp you’re Camp being moved elseabout to book on (go on, you know you want to!); or you’re a where due to the wrong local canal society whose volunteers are just starting a new kind of spring. We’re fully project; or you’re a local WRG group ‘regular’ who fancies doing booked, working to get something a bit different from scrub-bashing and brick cleaning, our campers the kind of then you might like to gain some useful skills - and that’s where accommodation which will the annual WRG Training weekend comes in. keep them happy and Its taking place on 22-23 June, there will be overnight expecting to carry out accommodation available, and we aim to offer a variety of mawhatever it was that Mr. T. chinery and vehicle operation, construction skill and other trainwas going to do! ing - at a site which is likely to be the Lichfield Canal. But you’ll That’s right - as he need to book your training in advance - the sooner the better - so said, it’s fully booked get in touch with Ali Bottomley on aliwomble@fsmail.net as already. But if you really soon as possible and tell her what you’d like to learn about. want to go, feel free to contact Head Office nearer

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the time in case there have been any cancellations. Also running from 29 Buckingham Arm needs volunteers June to 6 July is camp 2013-06 on the Wey & Arun, led by our friends in Not actually a WRG canal camp, but equally NWPG. Over to their leader Bill Nicholdeserving of your support, is a six day ‘long son to find out what’s happening... weekend’ working party on Thursday 9 to We are building a park for local Tuesday 14 May on the Buckingham Arm people! What has that got to do with that’s just been confirmed by Buckingham canal restoration? Well the park is on Canal Society. the proposed route of the new line of They’ve just got permission from Canal & canal leading from the River Wey southRiver Trust to go ahead with their work to wards – the Bramley Link. This is rebuild the first bund (temporary dam) which quired, as much of the first two miles of will allow rewatering (hopefully later this year) canal has been sold off into private of the first length of canal from the Cosgrove gardens. The park, “Hunt Park” (named end. And they need volunteers for jobs includafter the benefactors who have funded ing digger and dumper driving for some or all this part of the work) will with the canal of that time. Contact Terry Cavender on terry.cavender@buckinghamcanal.org.uk become an important recreational facility for residents of both Bramley and Shalford. Our work is therefore both politically sensible as well as being part of the Wey & Arun Canal Trust’s plan to link the restored sections further south to the main waterway network. If building a park doesn’t sound terribly exciting, we have a very wide range of jobs on offer. First there is 400m of footpath to construct with significant use of dumpers, rollers and small excavators. We also have to build a number of structures including a viewing platform,

Leaders’ Training Day: 18 May The leaders’ training day is back and this year will be held at Rowington Village Hall on Saturday 18th May 2013 – coffee from 10 am, start around 10.30 am. The main content will be finished around 4.30 pm and this year we will providing overnight accommodation in the hall with a BBQ and then breakfast butties the next morning. Each year good conversations get going just at the end of the day and then we terminate them abruptly by kicking you out of the hall leaving you to skulk in the car park – so we thought we’d try something a bit different this year and organise some food and gazebos. The more astute of you will have spotted that the WRG committee meeting is on the Sunday and whilst you’re hanging around you might as well have another cup of tea and stay on for that..... But back to the leaders’ day: it’s open to experienced leaders, assistants, MUPs and cooks (though there won’t be a specific cook section this year – it’s just if you’d benefit from more information about how canal camps work behind the scenes), anyone who wants to find out more about leading and also local society working party organisers – so everyone really. The day is the main way we get information out to our leaders so it’s useful that if you’re thinking about leading this year you can manage to attend - we try really hard to vary the content year on year and make it interesting. Training also goes the other way and there tends to be a lot of feedback and discussion from the leaders themselves on how we can all do things better. People who have never led are very welcome and whilst the whole day is not specifically tailored to you, lots of it will still be relevant and there is lots of opportunity to talk to other leaders and find out all you need to know – it’s generally more useful if you’ve been on a canal camp before though. The agenda is made up of subjects that you, the leaders and volunteers, think leaders should know about so send any questions / comments / items to helen_gardner@hotmail.com 07989 425346. Bookings are now open, please contact Jenny Morris (nee Black) at head office on jenny.black@waterways.org.uk or 01494 783453 with your name, any dietary requirements and allergies. This year you also need to let her know if you will be staying over and require feeding in the evening and/or in the morning. Helen Gardner

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Stephen Davis

a bird hide, a small bridge and a ramped access with sleeper and gabion walls – constructive work including a lot of carpentry and concreting. Part of the footpath will form the new towpath along the river navigation section of the new waterway. No shortage of varied and interesting work. Accommodation will be in the attractive village of Dunsfold about 15 minutes drive from the site, where the spacious hall is close to the village shop and pub. Showers are available at the hall as well as a quiet room and we are planning a range of evening activities. We are due some warm and dry weather this year and although described as being “led by NWPG” we welcome all WRGies, old and new to come and join us in Surrey. Next it’s the turn of the Wilts & Berks Canal which we’ll be supporting with camp 2013-07 running from 6 to 13 July. Leaders are Bob Crow and Katrina Schonhut. What’s happening, Bob? The aim of the Wilts and Berks canal camp is to complete the work of rebuilding Steppingstone Lane Bridge. This will entail bricklaying, reinstating the coping stones which together with traditional ‘down and dirty’ work clearing debris from the canal, some towpath repair and landscaping the area will give a good mix of tasks for everybody and lots of opportunities to learn new skills. Our cook is confirmed as Harri Barnes so we are assured of being well fed - and cake to die for! Also on 6 to 13 July our friends in KESCRG are leading another camp on one of their favourite sites, Camp 2013-08 on the Wendover Arm. Here’s leader Steven Davis with the latest info... The Wendover Arm summer camp will be continuing work started last year to rebuild the water level control structures at the historic Whitehouses Pumping station site on the edge of the Chilterns. This work is important for the trust as their re-lining work on the canal channel is scheduled to reach this point in the next year or two. At which point the flow of water from the springs in Wendover to the Tringford Reservoirs, which feed the Grand Union summit pound, will flow along the canal to Whitehouses and use our weir and sluices to reach the reservoirs. On offer we expect there to be heritage limemortar brickwork, some KESCRG rebuidi a Wendover weir in 2012. Fancy joining them this time? industrial archaeology, the creation of a naturetrail footpath to the site and possibly some work on the channel relining itself (depending on the weather between now and the summer), as well as the usual range of evening entertainment and feasting provided again this year by Nina and Michael. Our summer camps programme then take a break from restoration as we support the IWA National Waterways Festival, helping with the setup, running the site services, and dismantling afterwards. This year it’s at Cassiobury Park on the Grand Union Canal near Watford in Hertfordshire, Camp 2013-09 runs from 13 to 24 July, and we hope to confirm who the leaders are very soon. We’ll have more news of that and all the rest of the summer’s canal camps in the next issue. But remember - they’re booking up very fast, so get your bookings in early to avoid disappointment. For the latest details including how to book visit wrg.org.uk, check the WRG Facebook group, or contact head office on 01494 783453 or enquiries@wrg.org.uk.

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First canal camp of the year February on the Chelmer & Blackwater - and Tasterella has another spellchecker-challenging camp report for us...

Camp report Chelmer & Blackwater

Other birds: swans, kestrel, terns, robins. Of the WRG variety:Me, Rachel P, Fran ( newbie) and the Ăźber strong Rebecca of the Boxercise and DoE. Males: Iain (fire dog) Tom and Nick (DoE and energetic) James (secateurs) and Back from another scrumdacious Daniel (photos), plus Lawrence (bramble burntastic smokey brambly snow flurking), Chris B and Gordon B (leaders ried Essex kind of canal camp. You extraordinaire) ably assisted by Sprightly should see my legs! Bob, wonderful Roy and Michael of the By this I mean, not that they are mushrooms (wooden). shapely or tanned, but they look like I have Word of the week was W.S. This is a been flayed with BRAMBLES. Essex brambles name I was called by one of my cherubic at that. students and does not bear typing on this Which is true. Also COLD and even with ‘ere. five layers on the top half, two hats and two Peter was our chef for the week, which neck warmers it was still brrrrrrrrr. Minus he did superbly; also he drove us hither and degrees, apparently. yon, and was keen to show us a photo of his Wildlife spotted: ducks, obviously, poorly toe. on the Chelmer Navigation. Always the poor Peter informed us that women love female plus three brutish males. What does giving birth as they get all those endorphins. that remind me of? Work completed: Between that

Rebecca Herd

Chelmer & Blackwater Camp or The mushroom, the secateurs and the Billy Goat

Loading up the workboat Buddy

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Camp report

“You don’t mind if I put my dog poo in this bag and throw it in the bush for you to find with your strimmer, do you?”

Chelmer & Blackwater

Slashing and strimming...

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Daniel Krebs

Goat. Buddy is the work boat bought by Essex canal guys (for over £20,000!) and was useful in bringing loads of wood and brambles to the FIRE which on a few occasions singed the FireDog’s beard. Billy Goat is the extra fierce lawnmower type of beast which had to be walked back to Heybridge by Nick (“I’ve gorra wet leg”) DoE’er. Complaints and praise from the locals: “Why do you have to let this smoke billow over towards my washing?” “I am so pleased with what you’ve done! I normally bring my secateurs for a walk but today I didn’t need them!” “Lovely jubbly - oops, down Scruffy, you just bit that lad’s leg...!” “What exactly are you doing?”

Daniel Krebs

bridge, Hall Bridge? Near Freshwater Crescent. Was it? Where we had our Burco and the portaloo, and down a bit as far as where you could see some moored boats, and then all the way down to the next bridge... Waye Bridge? Accommodation was at Danbury Outdoor Centre. This was a series of log cabins and climbing wall and lots of dear cherubs used it in the day and left mud everywhere (like in the showers) for us, but it was warm and snuggly and we had soft warm beds and a nice communal room, just the right size for our group of chums. Downside: they wouldn’t let us sleep in our campervan so poor Tom had us as roomies, which was not his dream scenario. Tools used: All about Buddy and Billy

...and barrowing...

Camp report Chelmer & Blackwater

“How far down will the towpath be closed for re-surfacing?” “You don’t mind if I put my dog poo in this bag and throw it in the bush for you to find with your strimmer, do you?” “Are you on community service?” “Grr... grumble... scrunnffff... burning wood... chopping down trees... grumble” “Can I have those logs for my wood burner? Can you load it in my car for me?” “Can my grandchildren play on the logs, fall off and injure themselves?” Excitement: Ten pin bowling, Daniel’s team won. London Canal Museum: Navvies stuffing amind the memorabilia of ice warehouse and canal living, which was stopped by the severe winter of ’62-’63. Another brrr. The young uns went to the cinema, to see I give it a year. I give it a bit longer. I hope they all come back to WRG, they were a fine bunch. LOTS of larfs and fun was had by all, and God bless our leaders. Lovely Essex, aint it? Mange tout. Tasterella Taster

...and the odd bonfire

Daniel Krebs

“Navvies stuffing amid the memorabilia of ice warehouse and canal living, which was stopped by the severe winter of ’62 and ’63...”

Gordon Brown

The towpath looking neatly trimmed afterwards

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Dig report

Never ones to leap into anything too hastily, WRG NW wait till a fortnight after the rest of us to have Christmas on the Cromford

WRG NW at Cromford

tion of a feast). Saturday morning dawned, and after all were supplied with a hearty breakfast it was The following dig report is reproduced off to site for the majority. Once there, we crom issue 44 of the Portal, magazine of the met up with a couple more volunteers and it Friends of the Cromford Canal was on to site for a (brief) health and safety briefing - basically, “please don’t stand under The first weekend of the year is not tradition- trees that are being felled”, and “it would be ally the time to celebrate Christmas. But for helpful if you didn’t chop the wrong trees the North West regional group of the Waterdown!” With the formalities out of the way, way Recovery Group, aka WRG NW, tradition the chainsaw operators got busy, the “Iis not always the way forward. Thus, on much-prefer-to-use-hand-tools” volunteers Friday 4th January 2013, the Waingroves were scything (well technically they were Community Centre welcomed 12 WRG NW using a bill hook, but I’m not sure about “bill volunteers - there, ostensibly, to continue the hooking”) their way through the undertree felling at Sawmills (east of Ambergate growth, and the fire starters were, well, on the central length of the canal), but perstarting fires. Before long, smoke was drifthaps more accurately for their Christmas/ ing over the site and trees were starting to New Year meal (the kitchen, and in particular fall. the large oven, lending itself to the producAnd thus the day went. After lunch, having been fortified by fresh soup thanks to Matthew Rogers, and having been strengthened with the addition of a second chainsaw operator, work started on some of the trickier trees close to the telephone cable. Anyone walking the stretch between the Brick Yard Bridge (26) and Bullbridge may have noticed this cable passing over the canal into Lockwood’s Yard. Whilst a cable is no problem if the trees are naturally falling away, we would prefer not to bring it down with a tree falling into it. The solution: a winch attached part way up the tree to pull it the correct way. All this meant each tree took longer than normal, and so progress slowed somewhat - although at least it gave the fires a chance to catch up. By the end of the Saturday, considerable progress had been made, and so the volunteers retired to Waingroves for a well deserved Christmas feast thanks to the catering team led by Liz Chase - complete with crackers, party hats and ‘jokes’. More amusing to many was the fact that I had lost my voice thanks to a combination of a cold and shouting too much, which was a blessing to some and entertainment to others! The overgrown channel before NW’s visit Sunday dawned, and on site we welGeorge Rogers

Sawmills Tree Felling WRG NW weekend, 5-6 January

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Hugh Potter

comed our final volunteer for the weekend. The order of the day was much as before, although with the addition of a second fire. By the end of the working day, many trees had been removed, although there are still plenty remaining for a future weekend. A huge thank you to the usual culprits of these weekends - the WRG NW volunteers, Rob Lockwood for allowing us to work on his land, Gill & David Hirst (without whose help the Sawmills work parties would Looking nice and clear after attention from WRG NW never run so smoothly), the local people who kept the site clear of logs for us and to Matthew for the soup. A personal, humungous thankyou to Liz Chase for the dinner. I have eaten or cooked 5 Christmas dinners this season, and yours was definitely the best (albeit possibly tied with my own...). George Rogers

Since George wrote his report, London WRG visited the site, working on the toll-stop narrows

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WRG at 40

“there’s always someone able to talk passionately about something even if it is, you know, north Lancastrian lock gates between 1780 and 1810” – Sophie Smith on WRG

Forty views for forty years

Number 31: I have finally tracked down Sophie Smith. Meeting Sophie, being a London WRG regular, involved a pub - which I’m not complaining about at all. A prolific contributor to Navvies, and Somerset’s biggest fan.

Q: How and when did you first get involved in canal restoration? A: I was working in a job that I wasn’t very good at, my senior colleague was away a lot so I was having to cover his work and failing to do so. Lost self-esteem – I could tell I had no confidence in myself anymore and I thought I’m gonna quit. I’ll get another job but first I need to do something to raise my self-esteem so I looked at working holidays. I’d heard about the canal restoration one – it’d been mentioned once or twice by one or two people and I thought ok I’ll look at that one, googled it. It absolutely perfectly worked out that there was a camp going on between me quitting my job and starting my next one – the only problem was that it wasn’t a canal camp. It was the National – I know I’ve made a right fuss about it but I really, really didn’t enjoy it at all. I could tell from that first camp (a brutal festival, knee deep in mud) that the restoration work I was interested in sounded like great fun. There were a couple of really good people who publicised it and persuaded me to come on a London WRG weekend to the Mon & Brec about a month later. I had a fantastic time there and that was the point that I got the bug. So difficult start but I got there in the end.

Q: The Mon and Brec weekend – what kind of work were you doing on that? A: It must have been early autumn, we were very lucky with the weather. What I think of still is the London WRG core team of sort of Tim, Nigel, Martin and Frank. We just had a really good laugh, there were only about 10 of us, I was the only woman. I remember not being trusted to do anything beyond poke a bit of mortar into a old culvert – so I was basically re-pointing. It was quite an easy dig so that was a nice intro to the work. The countryside was fabulous, I liked where we stayed and the food. (I have to say Jude’s food from that National was incredibly impressive – I’ve seen some really good catering on the camps.)

Q: How long ago was this? A: It’ll be six years this summer. Q: Where did you go from there? A: For the first while I tried not to be just London so I dug with KESCRG a bit as well but it just became easier with lifts to settle with London. I did all the things WRG has to offer like the Bonfire Bash and BCN. Then I became quite time-poor and realised that what I really, really enjoyed were the London WRG weekend digs. I didn’t do a camp for a long time - eventually I did and really enjoyed them.

Q: You live in London? A: Yes – about the only person in London WRG who does! Q: What would you say are the main characteristics of London WRG as a group ? A: They’re a good bunch! I mean they’re bonkers – this is what I love about them all. Really good sense of humour. I do really get tired of the innuendo, I think sometimes we really do overdo that. I think what I like about WRG is it’s a case of odd passions. You get people who are very passionate about very niche areas, there’s always someone able to talk passionately about something even if it is,

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you know, north Lancastrian lock gates between 1780 and 1810. There’s a sense of community and acceptance which I think is very nice. Since I moved to London, perhaps where you don’t belong to a community quite as much in London, with London WRG you very much do.

Q: The first canal camp you went on – can you tell me about that? A: I led the first canal camp I went on (which was stupid). This was about 3 years after I’d been involved with WRG – I was assistant leader to Nat Belderson. I think it worked quite well as a personality combination, he was very thorough and good on the technical side, I was very good at standing on a chair and shouting at everyone. Really enjoyed that week – we were on the Wilts & Berks at Pewsham Locks. Really nice weather and countryside, great accommodation. The other thing was that I was also the cook on that. We were just staying in this little hamlet and round the corner was this beautiful manor house where Norris McWhirter apparently lived for years and years. In this tiny village they had an egg shop which was basically a jack russell terrier and a basket full of eggs. Good fun – incredibly draining. Obviously as assistant leader you don’t have the full responsibility but it really was hard work. Things like: we had a volunteer who was meant to turn up at 11 o’clock and I volunteered to drive and pick him up and in the end he said he’d missed that coach and he’d be arriving at two in the morning. Looking back we should have told him to get a bloody taxi.

Q: Have you been on camps since then? A: Yes I have – the next one I led which was back to the Mon and Brec. Smashing week with smashing people but very, very difficult. Proud of myself for having survived that because we lost a lot of people. Lost my very good assistant leader (48 hours in), we lost various other people who hadn’t quite realised what the week would be and thought it would be different. It was quite difficult to recover from that. A lot of work to get done but we managed it. Had some fantastic support, people like Tim Lewis and Welsh Phil. What I love about WRG is every so often you’ll say to people “Oh, we’re having some problems with this” and they’ll say “I’ve got an industrial pump in the back of my car – actually I’ve got two”. You sort of say “Aren’t you a librarian?” and they say “Yeah – do you want the industrial pump or not?” If I asked around WRG if anyone had a rocket launcher I pretty much know what the answer would be. Phil turned up with a couple of industrial pumps, we managed to empty the lock, pick all the eels out of the sludge and get the job done. Everyone helped but it was quite harrowing.

Q: So have you dabbled in the catering side as well? A: Yeah, I think, bless

Q: Navvies and writing stuff for Navvies; you appear to have your name against a few things, how did that start? A: The first weekend that I went on someone said “We’ve got to write the camp report – make the new girl do it”. I went “Yeah ok” and

Martin Ludgate

her, Helena [Rosiecka] has told me that I’m to stop fiddling around with the leadership and just stay in the kitchen where I belong. I’m not quite sure how to take that but I’ll take it as a compliment. I love the cooking, it’s the most fulfilling thing. I quite like having a bit of time to myself in a way.

Sophie on her first London WRG dig on the Mon & Brec in 2007

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knocked it up. I think they were quite horrified with what resulted but it sort of snowballed from there and for a long time I was always the person that wrote the London WRG camp report. Then Helena decided that wasn’t fair and kicked other people until they wrote one instead. I’ve written other bits and pieces through the years.

Q: Are there any particular articles that you’re prepared to confess to? A: Do you remember when we did an anniversary of Navvies, we did a futuristic one which I quite enjoyed doing. There was ‘Dog-gate’ as well which I think I might have been responsible for. Which was what I thought was a throwaway line when I mentioned some overexcited dogs on a camp and it turned into... everyone wrote in. I know the issue of dogs is very controversial in WRG – I absolutely love dogs. One of the things I like about WRG is that there are dogs running about but I appreciate that there are some people who are nervous and it’s always difficult to balance. I think that trod on a few toes.

Q: Do you know Deirdre? A: Yes I do know Deirdre – I’m her representative on earth.

Q: Have there been any letters that Deirdre’s received that have shocked you?

A: I‘ve been in WRG long enough now that nothing shocks me anymore. That’s what’s so great about WRG, the only thing anyone will take you to task on is not pulling your weight.

Q: What are you most proud of about your involvement? certainly my only camp that I’ve actually led myself which I’m proud for having survived. I find it hard to do the project management and [there have been] some difficult characters to manage. I think as a leader you always end up running yourself ragged and there’s a huge sense of achievement from surviving!

Q: What’s the most useful skill you’ve learnt

Martin Lugate

A: There’s a couple of weekends that I’ve led and

Favourite: Cotswolds. Early days at Eisey Lock

and who taught it to you? A: Although I complain about van driving (I’m a nervous driver) it has been quite valuable having that. Martin Ludgate (although we argue like an old married couple at the wheel sometimes) he has been very good and patient with me. I’ve appreciated driving the excavator and the bricklaying – I do appreciate stuff like that. Then you end up being told things in WRG that you’re not really sure you wanted to know but thank you very much – like always leave a car in gear when you park on a hill. Most men in WRG like to tell women useful advice like that so you just have to nod and take it. Also some interesting things about wildlife: we ended up randomly having a chat by a badger expert about bats while we were on one camp. One of the best weekends I’ve ever spent in my whole life was when we went to Somerset last year. Just met some very interesting characters with interesting stories to tell. I think the full version of that is in the last edition of Navvies [For the full version with all the extra bits see London WRG News, downloadable from the WRG website ...Ed] but basically lots of crazy goings on in very obscure corners of Somerset.

Q: Has anyone inspired you? A: Quite a few people; I’m so impressed with people like Mike Palmer who hold down incredibly full-time jobs. You’ve got Eddie as well, and Liz and Ian Williamson, who hold down jobs at a very high professional level and do massive amounts of work and manage to be decent human beings too. I’m one of these people in WRG where you have to be quite defensive about what you take on. One of the phenomenon I think we all see is WRG burnout – some people over-commit themselves without

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actually volunteering for anything and end up later saying I need to have a bit of a break from this. It’s really impressive the people that just keep going, soldiering on. Something’s got to be said for Martin Ludgate as well who is amazing in the amount that he does all over the country, the hours that he puts in.

Martin Lugate

Q: What would you say was WRG’s greatest achievement? A: There’s something to be said for creating a community of common purpose out of very different groups of people and keeping the momentum going London WRG at Combe Hay Locks, Somersetshire Coal Canal over huge amounts of time – we talk about decades. People talk about getting involved in canals that they won’t live to see opened – that’s impressive. One of the things that makes me proud about WRG is how welcoming it can be of newcomers - it helps if it’s attractive young women but they do really welcome new people – it’s very accepting. Q: What’s your favourite derelict canal? A: The Cotswold Canals; I’ve always had a good time on the Cotswolds, I’ve never had a rainy dig on the Cotswolds. Also Somerset is now my pet, I really recommend people go and dig with Somerset Coal Canal, they’re a great bunch of people. Sorry - Somersetshire – don’t get it wrong.

Q: Do you have any classic ‘do you remember the time when?’ stories? A: It’s worth talking about some of the magic of WRG, there’s some magical moments that are just brilliant. Things like the first time we went to Inglesham, we went along the moon cratered track to Nic Bennett’s Roundhouse and the swans were having a conference that day. We looked through the weeping willows and saw hundreds of swans on this floodplain by the Thames doing whatever swans do. Then we approached this beautiful little cottage and the Roundhouse by the bridge – it was absolutely magical. We were staying in the Roundhouse which I really enjoyed, that night we said “let’s go to the pub”. I didn’t realise this would involve crawling on hands and knees through a field full of cow pats, trying not to fall in the Thames, absolutely pitch black to the pub. Then the even more difficult crawl back trying not to get bitten by a swan. One Helena would probably tell you about: when we were on the Bonfire Bash on the Wilts & Berks, a local was being very, very difficult - we were planting these switches, very young sapling trees. We were the only people, it seemed to us, there were about 100 people on site and we were the only three doing any work. He came along and told us we were doing it all wrong and we had to pull them all out again. When his back was turned I just threw one in the canal out of irritation. We worked it out that they were worth about 12p each but it felt good to get the frustration out. It’s one of these [things] that I’m terribly ashamed of!!

Q: Where do you see WRG’s future? A: I think we’re going to hang grimly on for the next ... err ... years until we knock some projects on the head, I’m really interested to see the Cotswold’s one done. I’ve been with WRG long enough now where I’ve started to see progress - you have to stick with it – it’s been more than five years now. I’ve started to see things like Eisey completed which is very exciting. I do slightly worry, I mean, we are very good at keeping men of a certain generation (the beard generation), I do wonder how good we are at recruiting the next generation. There is this problem with frankly people my age having to wonder how they’re going to managing balancing having a family at some point. Liz and Ian Williamson for instance, do a brilliant job still to keep up while they’ve got such a young family, but we maybe need to think how we’re recruiting the next generation.

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And on to number 32: familiar face of the National Waterways Festival from recent years and beyond – Alison Moore (sister of Jude Palmer) explains things from the cook’s side of the accommodation and very little about actual canals.

Q: How and when did you first get involved in canal restoration? A: The background is probably fairly obvious in terms of Dad being a

Alan Lines

big IWA character, so that featured fairly heavily in our lives growing up, and Jude getting into digging a few years earlier than me (she’s got 4 years on me). To be honest, up to that point, apart from doing some waterways for youth stuff when I was a kid I hadn’t shown any interest in it at all. Then, I remember, it must have been when I was at university, Jude asked me if I would come and be a cook on a camp, in South Cerney, and this is where I’m going to demonstrate my complete lack of technical or any kind of interest really actually in understanding canals – I don’t even know what canal that is. We stayed in a village hall, it was a Christmas camp, I didn’t really have any idea. She [Jude] said “Don’t worry there’s this really nice lady as well called Sue Burchett – she’s done quite a lot of cooking so she’ll help you out if you get stuck.” I remember, it was Tory’s [Burr] birthday, so one of the dinners we did was a special thing for Tory and she’d said what she wanted which included something like parsnip soup – and I was thinking “I’ve never made parsnip soup in my life” but it was actually very nice. The other thing I remember about that camp was it was the gold and silver jubilee – I can’t remember whose jubilees they were, presumably something to do with IWA and WRG. I remember that Simon Jones [brother of Eddie] had the most outrageous gold lamé suit ever and Mummy Cool [Jenny Worthington] had the most outrageous hot pants – Kylie would have been impressed. I also remember being in the back of a van on the way back from a pub with Eddie Jones singing some really quite rude songs so that opened my ears to some new words. That was still when we had benches in the backs of the van and you just piled in. I think broadly it went well. There were two things that went horribly wrong: one was I was suffering horribly with a cold and I was a bit bunged up and I dumped about half a tub of chilli powder into an apple crumble thinking it was cinnamon and didn’t taste it until I served it up. Eddie got the first mouthful and looked a bit surprised but then carried on and everyone else steered clear. The other one was the jelly omelette. I’d made this huge jelly – very optimistically – in one of those huge mixing bowls. I had no idea how I thought that was ever going to set, in hindsight. But I’d never cooked for that many people before so I assumed you doubled the quantities. I was trying to find something to tip it out into and the only thing was one of those giant frying pans so we had a jelly omelette – it all collapsed. I put in midget gems thinking that would be a nice surprise to find some sweets in it but they kind of half dissolved so there were just these revolting lumps of sticky stuff. That was pretty unpleasant. Apart from that I think it was a huge success. Oh and I can never go back to I think it was the Sainsburys because Mike [Palmer] and Frankie [Can’t remember his surname] and somebody else... there’s a trolley with no wheels on, abandoned in the vegetable department there. I really enjoyed it and I never got anywhere near a canal. I had a great time, loads of new people. People who just seemed to have a really good laugh with each other. It was a bit strange because I was clearly an outsider – but not an outsider ’cos I was Jude’s sister. I remember Gav [Gavin Moor] ringing up Jude about something and I answered Jude’s phone and he started talking. I said “You need to know it’s not Jude”. He said “who is it then?” and I said “Al”, so he said “Al who?” and I said “Al Moore” and he went “That’s my wife”. Very, very strange conversation.

Q: What did you do after that? A: I flirted round the edges of a couple of things – I turned up briefly at Salford [IWA National Festival]. I was living either in Nottingham or Lincoln and because I’d only relatively recently passed my driving test I hadn’t really got that mental map of the UK. I knew the rough motorway I was looking for and I knew that Liverpool was quite near Manchester but unfortunately I went the wrong way and did end up in Liverpool. I remember, when I finally got there, walking into the end of a WRG panto with Jude with her arm strapped up. I just sorted of tagged along and helped people out – you know when you don’t quite understand what’s going on and it’s all sort of happening around you? The following year, I decided to drive to Worcester to see Jude and stay on the Worcester [National] camp for a few days. It was just bizarre – this festival in the middle of the race course. Mike said to me “do you fancy helping out with breakfast” – yeah – really happy to do that. He said “Stevie

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Bollocks is going to help you out” and I said “why’s he called Stevie Bollocks” and Mike just laughed. I turned up in the kitchen and there was this chap, I have to say, looking very at home busy shovelling sausages into a tray. But the whole time just uttering swear words. Another character, a really nice man and he was really friendly to me. I hung around at the end and helped pack that up. I remember Cattermole – you didn’t have to have a drivers licence to drive a Bradshaw so he was well away – he couldn’t drive at the time. After that that’s when I thought: all right let’s do something properly then. So Waltham Abbey, Jude and Mitch led. Jude said “would you come and cook?” So that was my first National where I cooked. It felt bizarrely easy – I have to say the job has got progressively harder as the years have gone by. I think it’s got bigger, I think the numbers you’re catering for have got bigger. I don’t know whether it’s just perhaps that the whole thing has got more sophisticated and therefore there’s more work to do. At Waltham Abbey we did a revue show in the middle of it – I think Ralph [Bateman] was dressed up as a Flintstone, there was time out for rehearsals. I have no idea now where you’d get the time to do that. I just remember having time on my hands which I don’t seem to get on them now. It’s fine, it’s not a bad thing – it is what it is. Mummy Cool was my helper which was fabulous because she knew exactly what she was doing – very helpful. And it was before we had the fridge annexe – this is examples of how it’s got bigger even in the kitchen. All of the fridges were in the kitchens with the ovens and you don’t realise how much heat those things kick out. It got to the point where eggs sat on top of the fridges started to cook in their shells. I don’t remember doing any corkers in terms of chilli in crumble. The party night was Australia – that’s probably the only one I have dressed up for, I dressed up as Dame Edna Everage. We had the beer pool – we had a paddling pool full of beer to keep it cool. It went absolutely fine – I quite enjoyed that one, it was a really nice one. I have done some normal digging as well but not a lot. I can’t quite remember when, helped out quite a bit when we did Over Basin. The reason I really enjoyed that one was because it had a deadline on it and I quite like things where you go in and do it and then it’s done and you can see what you’ve done. It’s one of the reasons I really enjoy the National ’cos you turn up and there’s a field, then you create this amazing spectacle, and then you pack it all away and you go home. You go “we did something – we achieved something” whereas, personally, my sense of some of the more regular canal camp work is you can turn up for a whole week and you walk away and you go “look’s pretty similar to how it was before”. And that’s not because you haven’t done amazing stuff - it doesn’t give you the same sense. Over was where I learnt to drive a dumper truck. I’m mainly good at carting things around, cleaning things, breaking things apart, cutting things down. I’m not very good at brick laying – the dullest thing on earth and my hands aren’t big enough, I don’t understand how generators work, don’t want to, I don’t know anything about cement, I don’t understand any of those things. I did a bit on the Mont with people like Lou Kellet, she was always a good laugh. Probably when I was younger I did a few more weekends or reunions. In terms of the work I enjoy doing it’s more of the cooking work or the cleaning. I do enjoy turning up at Tom’s container and getting everything out and giving it a good scrub.

Q: Apart from the first one, have you ever cooked on a canal camp that’s not a National? A: I cooked on a Mont. In some ways it’s harder: the beauty of the National or anything where you turn up where you’ve got the National kit is exactly that – you’ve got the kit. You’ve got the space and you know everything will fit. You’ve got to be going some before you’ve run out of pans or oven space. I think where you’ve a standard cooker in a village hall I think that’s a lot more challenging – you’ve got to think harder about how you’re going to make it work. Q: You’ve not cooked on every national since 2000 but you’ve done quite a few? A: Done most. Milton Keynes I tipped up and helped out – Andi Kewley and Izzy were leading that one. Huddersfield I cooked - a slightly strange one where we were on the school playground. Reading I cooked. Burton I cooked. Preston Brook I led. That was my first go at leading anything – Richard Worthington was my number two. Reading I cooked. Then St Ives we gave a miss. So we turned up for a day and it was quite nice to turn up as a punter. Wolverhampton I cooked. Nottingham I cooked and Neil led. Preston Brook Neil was my cook and I think he’d turned up on a couple of the ones previous – that was pretty impressive. I don’t think he has ever been on a normal canal camp and he’d never cooked for a small normal canal camp but he’s just done it. He obviously has the best tutor in the world.

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Q: Neil, your partner – you were just doing these Nationals and he decided to come along and get involved?

A: Yeah! His first one was I think Reading in 2003 ish. One of the fabulous things about him is he just slots in, he gets on with it and he’s low maintenance and he just mucks in. Most people would find the National thing a bit weird. I have this horrible thing at work when people go “Where are you going for two weeks again?” and you go “You know that power station just down the road from where we actually live – we’re going to go and camp there for two weeks and run a festival”. Neil led Nottingham. Burton, not last year the year before, that’s the last one we did and I led and Neil cooked. There’s quite a few Nationals there, I haven’t done what I would call normal digging for a long, long time. To be honest I don’t enjoy it!! I don’t know anything about canals. If I’m really honest I like them, I think they’re great, I think we should preserve them because they’re a part of our heritage – I don’t know where they are. The National works for me, I love the cooking and I love the leading. Leading a National is relatively easy in terms of you don’t really need any technical knowledge. None of it’s difficult – car parking is just a big logistical exercise but it’s not technical. It’s just about working out there’s a whole load of jobs to do, they can only be done in a certain sequence, how many people do you need and trying to get the right people in the right place at the right time. Touch wood you always seem to get a lovely mix of people who know how it works and they get in there and know how to make it happen. Then a whole bunch of other people who just turn up and go “What on earth is this” but you put the two together and you can produce great stuff. Leading and working a National is physically exhausting; that’s one of the hardest bits. I remember at Burton the heat was phenomenal and you were constantly having to turn people back around and say “I’m really sorry but can you get back out and stand in that car park for another hour”. That’s really hard.

that I don’t do breakfast. Part of that is more often than not it’s easier to get up and off site at 7 o’clock in the morning. If you’re not back by lunchtime you haven’t got a hope in hell of doing it anyway. You rely on fabulous people to get up and do breakfast for you and you have the lunch ladies. You also rely on whoever’s on compound duty to really understand what cleaning and tidying a kitchen looks like. I have to say if you’ve got Maria [Hearnden] leading your compound team you’ve got no worries at all. Right down to Maria knows I have a phobia around cooked eggs. If I had my way you wouldn’t eat eggs at all on a camp, but apparently people do like them. Maria knows to pick the bits of egg shell out of the sink for me. Get out on the road, pick yourself up a coffee, sit down and go “right – what do we need?” Before you leave the compound you need to do a run through of all your cupboards and freezers. Then you need to choose whether you do Sainsburys or Bookers first because you can’t get everything in one of them. You usually have to do that on the basis of which one of them is going to give you the shortest journey for the cold stuff. Say you go and do Bookers first, you go round, order meat – that might be 20-30 kilos, get all the bits you want – giant tins of tomatoes and giant bags of pasta. You’ve got to

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Martin Ludgate

Q: How do you go about cooking at a National– how does a standard day go? A: Cooking is more physical than people comprehend. I’ve always made it a rule, doing a National,

National Festival catering: Neil serves up the curry

load all that onto the trolley, you’ve then got to take it all off the trolley as it goes through the checkout. Back on the trolley and then off the trolley and put it into the van. Then you go to your next stop and you go through the same process. You need at least two of you and a minimum of one person to one trolley. Your ideal is to take with you a fellow trusted WRG cook – when you say “can you please go and get some potatoes” that they know not to get the individually wrapped potatoes that have come from the rare breed farm and they come back with four of them... And then you have to load all of that out of the trolley onto the conveyor belt and then you take it all off the conveyor belt and into the trolley. You have to explain to everybody in the supermarket what you’re doing because people show a lot of interest. It’s usually a great opportunity to do a bit of promotion for the festival and also to collect vouchers for schools. Then back out to the car park – you’ve always had to park on the farthest side as well because it’s easier with the van. Drive back to site and then you have to take it all out of the van and put it all away. Only to then get it back out again to cook it later. Physically shifting that amount of food around is knackering. Sit down, have something to eat and then start preparing it all. That usually takes you 3 or 4 hours then you usually get a little break early evening. If you’re cooking then shower time is early evening. Then it’s starting to clear it all away. We have some volunteers who regularly help out with the washing up – we try and encourage everyone. It’s then a case of “Right: who hasn’t eaten?” and work out if you can give people seconds. I tend to cook way too much so it’s not usually an issue. All the stuff that you are then going to usefully keep, making sure that you store it in the right way. This year, at Burton, was the first year we had to show a food hygiene certificate to the council. Neil did all his training – we got five stars which was very nice. They were very impressed with the standards considering we’re a temporary unit in the middle of a field. Things that I will try to do now – if we’ve cooked way too much say chilli - is actually freeze some quite big portions of that. When you get to the other end of the camp and you’ve only got a few people left actually it’s great.

Q: Are there any meals you would never do again? A: Chinese. I always said I would never do Chinese in the first place ’cos to do good Chinese food is cook to order; it’s fresh. Camp food, particularly National food (because you never know what time people are going to come in) you want stuff that can just sit there. Forever. Most camp food improves with age anyway. It was Wolverhampton, Daddy Cool [Dave Worthington] and Jenny Black were leaders and it was the Beijing Olympics. Daddy Cool basically sidled up to me and said “Would you do it?” We managed to come up with a couple of Chinese casseroles but I remember trying to squeeze the juice out of 50 lemons and my hands were stinging like hell. Wolverhampton had been particularly tough and it was wet and muddy – it was a bit of a difficult site. I remember feeling quite tired on that one – it was me, Neil and Chris Rowell cooking. Doing the Chinese that night – the kitchen was as hot as hell – it was steamy and crazy. I remember sitting in the fridge annexe, on the floor, sobbing my eyes out.

Q: What about chickpeas? A: Chickpeas are fine, you just have to remember that they swell. I think Nottingham was the chickpeas. [Incidentally] one of the things you learn on the National is how to bulk stuff out without people realising – I have probably significantly boosted the fibre content of people’s diets without them realising cos there’s quite a lot of lentils goes in. Those little red lentils - they just disappear to nothing! If you’ve ever made anything and it’s too sloppy and needs to go a bit further like a chilli – bag of porridge oats. Stir it in and you wouldn’t know. We got this sack of dried chickpeas, you have to soak them overnight and then boil them up. I put them in this pan and all the water in, when we came in the next morning I’d misjudged it – these chickpeas had swollen up and exploded to the degree that they’d pushed the lid off. Chickpeas all over the cooker, down the back of the cooker. A lot of chickpeas went into stuff.

Q: What are you most proud of about your involvement in WRG? A: I’m proud to be a part of it – I think it’s an amazing organisation. The level of professionalism with which it operates is to be commended. The fact that it’s run by volunteers, and that goes for the National as well as WRG: whatever your views may be on the National as an event and a vehicle, it’s still an amazing testimony to what people are willing and able to do if they put their minds to it. I’m proud of what it does and the way it goes about stuff.

Q: Where do you see WRG’s future? A: Ooh. That’s a really hard one for me!! So assuming there’s more restoration to do (here we go from my

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limited knowledge) and assuming that work can be done (with the best will in the world some things will run into obstacles that sadly it might not be viable to pursue it) I would hope that WRG can continue to operate the way it does. The thing that’s going to become increasingly challenging, but has been a challenge, is the level of legislation and governance that applies to the arena in which we work. Even if I take something incredibly simple, the bit where they changed the driving licence about not being able to tow a trailer and having to take a test. Now that, in itself, is a small thing but has a big knock on. That’s one tiny example. Actually thinking about the cooking, at Burton this year that’s the first time we’ve ever had to do a proper food hygiene certificate. My initial [reaction] was like “God – great – one more thing we need to do. We’ve never had any problems”. Actually – it doesn’t matter, the point is that’s what the world requires. The right way to respond to that, if you’re going to want to play, is to show up and face into it - which is what Neil did. As far I can see WRG does a really good job rising up to those challenges. I don’t know whether it reaches a point where that degree is so high that running a world of volunteer resource... how do you make that work?

Q: Has anyone inspired you? A: I’d have to put Jude and Mike up there and I know they’re family so that might sound a bit weird but I see how much time, how much energy, how much care they put into it. That extends beyond them – so many people who you come across – whatever contribution that they make I think it is pretty inspirational. For people like me, I turn up at a national and I cook – I don’t give anywhere near the commitment that people on the board, people who are involved in local projects [do]. It’s an amazing amount of time and effort that people put into it. I have to say North West. From a national perspective North West, they’re there when you arrive, they’re there when you leave, they are at the more mature end of the spectrum yet they’re always the first ones out there to do all the really crappy jobs that need doing when everyone’s knackered. They go out and they do it – they just get on with it, they don’t expect any special thanks. I’ve worked very closely with people like Moose and Maria as well – again fantastic dedication to what they’re doing and the level of professional they bring to it. Most people, in their own way, are pretty outstanding.

40 Views for WRG – The (Near) Future There is light at the end of the proverbial tunnel to the point where there are very few slots left. Here is a reminder of the 32 interviews printed so far (in alphabetical order by surname). 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Clive Alderman Harry Arnold Rick Barnes John Baylis Mick Beattie Roger Burchett James Butler Chris Davey

9 Mike and Megan Day 17 Chris Griffiths 10 Helen Dobbie 18 John Hawkins 11 Neil Edwards 19 Bob Keaveney 12 George ‘Bungle’ Eycott 20 Tim Lewis 13 Mike Fellows 21 Martin Ludgate 14 John Foley 22 Ian ‘Mac’ McCarthy 15 John Gale 23 Alison Moore 16 Spencer Greystrong 24 Bill Nicholson

25 Jude Palmer 26 Mark Richardson 27 Alison Smedley 28 Audrey Smith 29 Sophie Smith 30 Nigel Stevens 31 Kirsty Wallace 32 Ian Williamson

And this leaves 8 spots some of which are reserved... 33 Mike Palmer 34 Mr Mac 35 A ‘BITM representative’ – this is currently being negotiated – well someone who’s dug with BITM at some point anyway 36 A new person who has been digging for less time than I’ve been interviewing 37 Me! ...which leaves 3 precious slots. So far there has not exactly been any rhyme or reason as to who I’ve interviewed – I’ve tried to get a mix of ages, regions, gender, background, skill set; there are so many equally worthy potential interviewees. But the question now is not who it would be interesting or useful to interview – but who would be it sacrilege if we didn’t interview. If that’s you then great, please contact me rather than thinking “why hasn’t she asked me yet?” Thanks for all the comments and suggestions so far but to vote on the final 3 places please contact me on Helen_gardner@hotmail.com or 07989 425346. Helen Gardner

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“Please let me know of any ideas for good campaigning ‘things to do and places to go’ that come to mind” - have you any suggestions for the WRG Boat Club? WRG BC news March 2013

WRG BC Boat Club News

It has been decided that our AGM will be held in September (21-22) at the Lichfield and Hatherton gathering at Huddlesford Junction. Please keep an eye on their web site lhcrt.org.uk for booking forms. I have been in contact with Sue Williams (LHRT secretary) and they have been having trouble with the site but she has promised to let me know as soon as booking forms are available. Well, were the few days of sunshine that we have had all the spring we are going to get? [Looking out of the window at the snow as I lay this page out a couple of weeks later, I’m inclined to say ‘yes’ ...Ed] Remembering last year’s ‘drought’ which only lasted for March, then considering the weather we got last ‘summer’, we are very wary of making great plans about cruising but please let me know of any you have, or any ideas for good campaigning ‘things to do and places to go’ that come to mind. I do hope we meet while ‘boating about’ this year. Please fly the flag so we know each other – What, you haven’t one? Lynne has a supply, a bargain for only £10 and this includes postage. You may also want window stickers and I have these (£2 each including postage or £3.50 for two!). It is best if you display one each side! xxx Sadie Heritage 07748186867 sadiedean@msn.com


It has not been the greatest start to the year for the boat club as a number of members, including a club officer, have suffered very ill health. I am not going into details as I am writing this in early March and you won’t get to read it until mid April. Our very best wishes go to these members and we hope for good news to follow. As I write this I am about to attend the Association of Waterways Cruising Clubs (AWCC) National AGM on 16 March. There is a full agenda and it is important that boaters get their voices heard. The AWCC is a respected body and opinions voiced are considered to be representative and are listened to – we want to get our input into all aspects relevant to us, volunteers, restoration and boating matters. We cannot voice members’ opinions and views if you, the members, don’t give them to us! (Hint of the month) Hopefully we will learn, from the meeting, of good progress being made by the Canal & River Trust, improved relationship with ‘customers’ and better communication. (Has CRT only been in existence for less than a year?) I know one controversial subject for discussion will be the new mooring codes for the south – all members were asked to comment, Lynne collated the replies and they have been submitted. I am of the opinion that whatever the outcome, if what is decided does not include enforcement it will be a mockery! The donation to WRG for materials and/or equipment towards work on the Montgomery Canal has been made, even though there are no WRG work parties planned for this year. The money has gone to the general fund and the amount we donated (+ a lot more) will be used for restoration on the Come to the LHCRT gathering and WRG BC AGM at Huddlesford Mont when work resumes.

page 23

Navvies diary Your guide to all the forthcoming work parties

Apr 20/21 wrgNW Hollinwood Canal Apr 20/21 NWPG Cotswold Canals: Ham Mill Lock Apr 20 Sat IWA Warks/CRT Stratford Canal: Lapworth, lock painting, litter picking, veg clearance & Apr 20/21 IWA London/CRT Paddington Arm: Little Venice. Tidy up before Cavalcade on May 4-6 Apr 21 Sun EAWA/NWDCT North Walsham & Dilham Canal: Honing Lock area Apr 27/28 wrgBITM Chichester Ship Canal: Bank protection using nicospan Apr 27/28 WRG PAT Testing: Electrical testing of festivals kit Apr 27 Sat IWA Mcr/CRT Greater Manchester area: Painting, veg clearance, pulling rubbish out, Apr 28 Sun IWA Northants Westbridge Arm, Northampton: Annual cleanup before Boat Gathering May 3-9 WAT Wendover Arm: Seven-day weekend Fri-Thu. Bed & bank lining. May 4/5 KESCRG Wendover Arm: Whitehouses. Accom at Ivinghoe Aston. Coping stones May 4/5/6 wrgNW To be arranged: Possible joint dig with Essex WRG. May 5 Sun EAWA/NWDCT North Walsham & Dilham Canal May 9 Thu IWA Stoke/CUCTCaldon Canal: Milepost painting 10am-2pm May 11 Sat wrgNW ‘Paper Chase’ waste paper collection May 11 Sat IWA BBCWB Worcester & Birmingham Canal with W&B&Droitwich CS: Tardebigge Lim May 16 Thu IWA Warks Stratford Canal: Lapworth, lock painting, litter pick, veg clearance & pa May 18 Sat WRG Leaders Training Day: for Canal camp and work party leaders, at Rowin May 17/18/19 wrgBITM Rickmansworth Waterways Festival: Site Services. (Setup on Friday) May 18 Sat IWA Stoke/TMCS Trent & Mersey Canal: Cheshire Locks. Painting & veg clearance at Chu May 18 Sat IWA Warks/CRT Stratford Canal: Lapworth, lock painting, litter picking, veg clearance & May 18 Sat IWA W Riding Salterhebble Locks, near Halifax: Weeding,, veg clearance & painting. 1 May 18 Sat IWA Lee & Stort River Lee at Ware: Clearing rubbish & veg, painting. 10am-4pm May 19 Sun EAWA/NWDCT North Walsham & Dilham Canal May 19 Sun WRG Committee & Board Meetings: Rowington May 25/26/27 NWPG Wey & Arun Canal: Towpath at Dunsfold (3-day) TBC May 25 Sat IWA Mcr/CRT Greater Manchester area: Painting, veg clearance, pulling rubbish out, Jun 1/2 London WRG Chichester Ship Canal Jun 1/2 KESCRG Cotswold Canals: Ham Mill Lock Jun 1 Sat IWA Middx Paddington Arm: Cleanup at Bridge 20. Jun 2 Sun EAWA/NWDCT North Walsham & Dilham Canal Jun 7-13 WAT Wendover Arm: Seven-day weekend Fri-Thu. Bed & bank lining. Jun 8 Sat IWA BBCWB Worcester & Birmingham Canal with W&B&Droitwich CS: Tardebigge L Jun 9 Sun IWA Stoke/CUCTCaldon Canal: Location TBC 10am-2pm Jun 14 Fri IWA W Riding Leeds & Liverpool Canal: Milepost painting & litter pick in Leeds. 6pm-9 Jun 15/16 wrgBITM To be arranged Jun 15 Sat IWA Warks/CRT Stratford Canal: Lapworth, lock painting, litter pick, veg clearance & pa Jun 16 Sun EAWA/NWDCT North Walsham & Dilham Canal Jun 18 Tue IWA Stoke/TMCS Trent & Mersey Canal: Cheshire Locks. Painting & veg clearance at Chu

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

page 24

Canal Camps cost ÂŁ56 per week unless otherwise stated. Bookings for WRG Camps identified by a camp number e.g. 'Camp 201305' should go to WRG Canal Camps, Island House, Moor Road, Chesham HP5 1WA. Tel: 01494 783453, enquiries@wrg.org.uk. Diary compiled by Dave Wedd. Tel: 01252 874437, dave.wedd@wrgbitm.org.uk

& path work.

litter pick on May 3-5.

s and footpath

me Kilns ath work. ngton Village Hall

urch Lawton & path work. 10am-4pm

litter pick

ime Kilns

9pm (eve)

ath work.

urch Lawton

David McCarthy Bill Nicholson Alison Smedley Becky Williams David Revill Dave Wedd George Eycott Ian Price Tony Clarke Roger Leishman Bobby Silverwood David McCarthy David Revill Bob Luscombe David McCarthy Bill Lambert Alison Smedley Helen Gardner Dave Wedd Bob Luscombe Alison Smedley Elaine Scott Les Hunt David Revill Mike Palmer Bill Nicholson Ian Price Tim Lewis Bobby Silverwood David Revill Roger Leishman Bill Lambert Bob Luscombe Elaine Scott Dave Wedd Alison Smedley David Revill Bob Luscombe

01706-211377 01844-343369 01538-385388 07799-436816 01603-738648 01252-874437 07971-444258 01442-874536 07971-814986 01706-211377 01603-738648 07710-054848 01706-211377 01538-385388 07989-425346 01252-874437 07710-054848 01538-385388 07980-953880 01603-738648 01564-785293 01844-343369 07971-444258 07802-518094 07971-814986 01603-738648 01442-874536 07710-054848 07980-953880 01252-874437 01538-385388 01603-738648 07710-054848

nw@wrg.org.uk bill@nwpg.org.uk alison.smedley@waterways.org.uk rebecca.williams@canalrivertrust.org.uk davgis@live.co.uk bookings@wrgBITM.org.uk bungle@wrg.org.uk chairman@manchester-iwa.co.uk tony.clarke@waterways.org.uk rwleishman@gmail.com bobby@kescrg.org.uk nw@wrg.org.uk davgis@live.co.uk bobluscombe@btinternet.com w.lambert@ntlworld.com alison.smedley@waterways.org.uk helen_gardner@hotmail.com bookings@wrgBITM.org.uk bobluscombe@btinternet.com alison.smedley@waterways.org.uk elaine.scott@waterways.org.uk les.hunt@waterways.org.uk davgis@live.co.uk mike.palmer@wrg.org.uk bill@nwpg.org.uk chairman@manchester-iwa.co.uk london@wrg.org.uk bobby@kescrg.org.uk middlesex@waterways.org.uk davgis@live.co.uk rwleishman@gmail.com w.lambert@ntlworld.com bobluscombe@btinternet.com elaine.scott@waterways.org.uk bookings@wrgBITM.org.uk alison.smedley@waterways.org.uk davgis@live.co.uk bobluscombe@btinternet.com

ease contact diary compiler Dave Wedd: see top of page

page 25

Navvies diary

Canal societies’ 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 / Vineyard Hill Ted Beagles 01452 522648 Thursdays H&GCT Herefordshire Wilf Jones 01452 413888 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)


page 26

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


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

Dear Martin My initial reaction to Phil Scott’s letter on p27 of Navvies 257 was an indignant “Of course the Somersetshire Coal Canal locks will take a full sized narrow boat”, but when I looked for our original measurements, I couldn’t find them. However, on our latest work party we got busy with the tape measure and I am pleased to confirm that our locks are 7’ 1”. wide and 70’ 3” long. Despite its deceptively narrow appearance, the SCC would be fully navigable by standard canal boats if it were put back in water. Phil Scott’s view of canal restoration is only part of the story. To restore a canal from a state of total dereliction is a very long process involving many stages; and not all sections progress at the same speed. The first thing to remember is that the canal belongs to the landowners and we (the SCCS) cannot do anything to it without their agreement. When we first raised the idea of restoration or even preservation, the phrases “over my dead body”, “legal action for trespass” and “I’ll fill the bloody thing in” were commonly heard. We were lucky enough to find one landowner who was prepared to trust us enough to allow a work party under the auspices of the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers and from that we gradually earned his cautious respect. Once we had established the core of a work party, we found other landowners willing to trust us on the basis of the results we had thus far achieved. Slowly we built up a good reputation and, with gradual changes of land ownership, we have been given access to areas which we had never dreamed we would work on; it is only in the last two years that we have been allowed to touch some of the top locks of the Combe Hay flight which form part of a large private garden. What we discovered when we began clearing these locks was a rich fund of historical treasures: they are the best preserved The historic gates. The tree threatening the lock wall has been removed at the request of the locks on the whole canal. Not only is the landowner - its stump is visible through the gate stonework far less damaged than on the other locks, but some of them even have the remains of the gates. We have found ourselves to be the guardians of what is almost certainly the oldest set of lock gates in the world which are still in their original position. Not only that, but these gates were plated with iron, not wood; a forgotten aspect of technology which would rapidly fail from corrosion if we attempted to replicate it in modern steel plate. If we want to work towards restoration, we need to carefully plan how we intend to deal with the historical sites and artifacts we are uncovering. Blazing away at them with a sledgehammer and chainsaw is guaranteed to raise hackles and put a stop to the whole project. Our work parties have to treat each task as a potential archæological investigation - who knows what we are going to find next? It may be frustrating to have to work around things that must not be touched for reasons which may not be obvious, but in the long run it is the only way which will lead to the eventual re-opening of this fascinating and historic canal. Derrick Hunt Vice Chairman, Somersetshire Coal Canal Society



SCC: the wider view

We also received a note from Tim Wheeldon that the SCC took full size narrowboats “and the first bit still does, as the entrance lock 20ft from my front door demonstrates!”

page 27

Letters ...on the Hereford & Gloucester

“The importance of the teamwork of WRG and H&G CT working together at Over is almost immeasurable”

Dear Martin The first two letters in Navvies 257 may have raised serious doubts for some readers. One challenged the suitability of the site at Kymin East for the Bonfire Bash, the other asked why WRG were involved at Over - as the canal “has no future”! As both sites are on the Hereford & Gloucester Canal I did a quick double take of the cover - and was at least relieved it didn’t say this was the “let’s knock the H&G Canal Trust” issue! After Phil Scott had “chatted with one of the locals” he became convinced he had wasted his weekend on the H&G Canal. The length was not going to be restored for boats or to have public access; had already been cleared “some time in the last ten years” and, apparently, the work was “more psychological really - just to show that we are doing something”! Phil suggested that “random isolated lengths running amongst fields” are not appropriate for WRG activities unless “in the public eye” and that we are “pandering to landowners”. Credibility takes a long time to establish and can be lost in seconds. Does Phil really think that a long-established group such as the H&G CT would be working on such a site (or, for that matter, that WRG had accepted such a site for the important national reunion of the Bonfire Bash)? He said his concerns were shared by other WRGies. If so why were WRG, including WRG Forestry that he strongly insinuated felt the same, undertaking further work at Kymin East at the end of February? Because (unlike Phil) they haven’t got all upset listening to a singularly badly informed ‘local’ (or some ill-advised person practicing for ‘let’s wind up a WRGie week’)!

The Herefordshire & Gloucestershire Canal


Hereford to Gloucester 34 miles 22 locks

page 28

Before writing to Navvies he could have spent no more than a minute on his PC searching for ‘H&G Canal’ and been swiftly directed to h-g-canal.org.uk . Since early November our home page News section has included a prominent ‘Kymin East’ button to take you to a plan and brief description: Kymin East - part of the wider Withington Project to restore the Canal from the adjacent Yarkhill site to Withington. The Kymin East length is intended to be a showpiece of how we will continue to restore other stretches of the H&G Canal - on the basis of minimum intervention and the maximum retention of existing trees. The primary objective is that from the adjoining fields the site will retain a look much as today and that upon ultimate completion of this length public access will also have been delivered so all can fully enjoy this attractive stretch of the Canal... Excavation is planned to take place next summer [2013] and this will be another site on the H&G Canal to be restored and delivered within 12 months of gaining legal access... For many years it has been H&G CT policy to only undertake restoration and maintenance on land that it owns (the majority of our restoration sites) or where it has a very long lease. All these sites do/will provide for public access on foot and, ultimately, by boat and all such sites are regularly maintained. Our Yarkhill restoration site lies adjacent to the ‘random isolated length’ at Kymin East and an extension of the existing site in that direction was an obvious objective. A growing number of landowners have become convinced we would ‘decimate’ the area when restoring the Canal. For many years the adjacent landowner made it very clear that he wanted the densely overgrown section (untouched for over a century Phil!) left exactly as it was with no prospect whatsoever of restoration. Lengthy and carefully judged negotiations with him and his daughter led to the signing of an agreement late last year. His daughter is now our conservation advisor on this and other lengths in the Withington Project area. The high standard achieved at Kymin East, by both WRG and our own volunteers, has been the subject of many compliments (including one of the most vociferous objectors). This change in perception of the impact of our activities is crucial to other restoration proceeding. What Phil describes as “a waste of time” is proving to be a huge success in convincing those opposed to our work that high standards are attained by our volunteers. It’s not just about delivering the work on site – it’s about winning hearts and minds to allow progress to be made elsewhere. Kymin has done both thanks to WRG working together with H&G CT. In the second letter, Mike Day recalls many years within WRG and the immense importance of the voluntary work achieved by WRGies at ‘landmark’ restoration sites (which were vital in saving / restoring the waterways network). I can understand his concern that there is a need to adapt to the changing circumstances that the modern day situation presents. What I cannot understand is why he suddenly states “Personally, I can’t see why resources were put into the project at Over. It has no future as a canal, and the canal had no future when it was built as the mine it served ceased trading 3 years after the canal was finished. Perhaps there are other reasons for WRG involvement but the decision needs to be reviewed in the light of a job obviously well done/the opportunity lost. If you are working there you cannot work somewhere else.” He then has the arrogance to state that he knows where the late Graham Palmer would have preferred WRG to have been working! So let’s have some more facts. Thanks to WRG and our own volunteers the reconstruction of Over Basin was one of the largest highly successful concentrations of volunteer activity on the inland waterways for decades and was featured by WRG at the World Canals Conference in New York as an example of what partnership and volunteers could achieve. Many contributors to your excellent series WRG at 40 - 40 views for 40 years include Over in their list of achievements / involvement within WRG - most of them lovingly! H&G CT have continued to improve Over Basin and surroundings and have been highly successful in fitting out The Wharf House visitor centre, AA rosette restaurant and 4 gold star quality B&B. This generates both awareness and is a ‘catalyst’ for delivery of the Canal – much of which we cannot even talk about yet. The H&G CT is now regarded so highly as a player in major schemes we are involved, sometimes for years, before they are in the public domain. Over has already played a vital part in securing many important agreements. Here are just five examples:

page 29


Imagine, you are in charge of a multimillion pound contract and one of many hundreds of objectors is some group wanting you to re-route your 2 metre diameter high pressure gas pipeline to ensure that their pet project can proceed at some unspecified time in the future. Did we meet standing in the cold and wet amongst over 100 years of growth of trees pointing the incredulous (and very busy) man in the general direction of the Canal? Of course not! He had coffee at The Wharf House, viewed the map of the Canal on the wall, delayed his next meeting and took a stroll around the Basin whilst discussing the matter. Significant changes were agreed and the pipeline now passes safely over Oxenhall Tunnel and incorporates special features to enable restoration of the tunnel to be undertaken. The additional design and pipeline costs were some £300,000 at current day value. Agreement with executors that a £150,000+ legacy be used to purchase Llanthony Lock and Cottages from BW - securing our connection to the inland waterways network at Gloucester and generating a 7.5% return – a legacy only secured because of Over. Joint meetings with Herefordshire and Gloucestershire County Council Directors leading to staff working together on specific long-term projects. Sponsorship (now in second year) from Peel Holdings / Gloucester Quays of Over Canal Festival and the costs of a full time legally trained staff member in our Legal & Project Development Team at The Wharf House dealing with land acquisition, income from properties and planning and other agreements with potential developers. Agreement with the Government Pipeline Agency to take over (expensive!) maintenance of Llanthony footbridge whilst the H&G CT retain all access and use rights.


The importance of Over

. . . .

The list goes on, almost endless - “no future” - how wrong could the writer be? The importance of the teamwork of WRG and H&G CT working together at Over is almost immeasurable! Not only do we have a unique facility from which to promote all work on the Canal, most importantly it serves as testament to the credibility of the H&G CT as an organisation that WILL ultimately deliver 34 miles of financially sustainable restored canal between Gloucester and Hereford. For the H&G CT Over is already a huge success in demonstrating our credibility. In terms of WRG assisting restoration groups to make maximum impact with key decision makers, and to progress with the common objective of a thriving inland waterways system for all, surely Over is also destined to be (yet another) long-term WRG ‘landmark’ success story? It could never have been achieved without WRG. Some of your more widely read readers would have immediately recognised how misinformed both letter writers were, but for the majority such errors have been perpetuated nationally with no opportunity to set the record straight for 2 months. This has led to the wholly unnecessary calling into question of the credibility and decision making of both the H&G CT and WRG. Both our organisations are working for the good of the inland waterways - it is hardly in the spirit of us working together to initiate wholly unwarranted national debate where a simple check within WRG management and the H&G CT website would have stopped Navvies failing to spot that the facts spoil a good headline and story. As editor of the H&G CT’s magazine The Wharfinger for 24 years I appreciate that there is a fine line between freedom of speech and healthy debate. What are clearly misinformed or unsubstantiated letters / statements have no place in Navvies and serve only to waste our precious volunteer time, detracting from our joint objective of working together to achieve the very best we can for the inland waterways now and in the future. Yours sincerely CLIFF PENNY, C.Eng., FICE., MRTPI [Rtd.], Director/Trustee H&G CT, Editor The Wharfinger See editorial comment, page 4 ...Ed

page 30

Alan Smith

Dear Martin I have a share in a narrowboat based at Hillmorton on the north Oxford Canal, I have just returned from my first week this year where I travelled to Welford, passing under bridges 79 and 80 and was very impressed by the re-construction work undertaken mainly by WRG; however what I was not impressed with was the sign erected by the Canal & River Trust (see attached photo). From the reports in Navvies, I understand one of the reasons WRG were requested to undertake the work was to pass on heritage reconstruction techniques to CRT - and considering the man-hours involved saved CRT a significant cost, you think it might have warranted WRG being included in the partnership titling on the board. The second item about the board: as I understand British Waterways ceased to exist Credit where credit due - or not? when CRT took over last summer, why do the enquiries address and the emergency contact name BW? It makes you wonder if they don’t believe the transfer happened. The last point I’d like to comment on is about your last request in your editorial in issue 256. I became a Towpath Taskforce member at the Ashtac 40th anniversary briefing meeting at Portland Basin, and have volunteered at all but one of the subsequent tasks (and will be there next weekend also). I think it would be an advantage if area contacts for the taskforce coordinators could be included within Navvies. Regards Alan Smith Dear Martin Thank you for the latest Navvies, I particularly enjoyed the Meccano bridge picture. However I do question the location, is this not the little-known Binns Road branch of the Leeds and Liverpool canal (in Liverpool)? Good work with Photoshop getting the Lego navvies out of the picture. Perhaps that is an idea for the “Family camps” - Lego WRG. There could be a lockchamber restoration Lego kit: choice of brick or stone blocks, wood or steel lockgates, selection of boots and beards to customize your Lego navvy..... Andrew Harris Whitby, Ontario Dear Martin Having just received this issue and looking forward to an interesting and entertaining read, I was surprised to see that someone had obviously introduced a new tax on spaces in text as the Chairman’s Comment and WRG at 40 seem to be missing a lot of them! I did wonder if this was the result of trying to fit all the comments onto one page but then realised other articles had the same problem at which point I started worrying about my eyes until my wife agreed with my observations! Anyway it is still an interesting read, although a bit difficult in places, and i know from past experiences of producing these sort of publications how simple things often go wrong. Dave Low Our apologies to Dave and to everyone else who struggled to read these pages in the last issue. This was caused by a strange glitch at the platemakers which appears fo have only affected the particular typeface that I used for those two items. I’ve used a different font in this issue so hopefully it will be OK. ...Ed

page 31


Our regular roundup of progress around the waterways starts with the Wendover Arm, where they’ve had a frustrating six months thanks to the weather...

Wendover Arm Grand Union Wendover Arm

to an agreement for further tipping on Herts County Council land to support the base of the former council tip that is moving towards the canal. At the January and February working parties several small trees and scrub were removed to clear the site but three mature trees are to be removed on condition that they are replaced with new plantings when the tipping is completed. The WRG Forestry Team has also agreed to deal with these three trees for us. WAT Restoration Committee: There has been no need in recent times to call a meeting of this Committee because, as a result of a BW re-organisation (cut-back!) they were no longer able to provide a Project Engineer to liaise with the Trust and I have had to fall back on occasional meetings with (now) CRT engineers at Milton Keynes. Recently we have been introducing additional Team Leaders to run working parties and I identified a need for better communication among Team Leaders. Hence we have revived the Restoration Committee as a meeting of Team Leaders to discuss and agree all aspects of ongoing restoration works. Hopefully we may get a CRT representative to attend from time to time? Roger Leishman, Restoration Director rwleishman@gmail.com


January and February Working Parties: For two more months it was not possible to work on the Stage 2 re-lining owing to wet ground conditions. This is why The Wendover Arm Trust is now at least six months behind with restoration (see picture). You would be justified in asking why the canal bed requires re-lining against leaks! We purchased 300 metres of delivery hose to enable us to pump into the nearest manhole on the 18" pipeline and spent both working parties pumping out as much water as possible between Little Tring and the end of completed lining, 1,275 metres in length. At the same time great progress was made on scrub bashing the towpath bank between Little Tring and Bridge 4 and preparing the base for a bench seat. We were also able to construct reels for the new water hose, a personnel shelter especially for protecting anyone injured on site awaiting attention and a ‘loo’ shelter for use on site,. Whitehouses: It is with regret that it has been found necessary to remove the cherry tree at Whitehouses. This must have stood for many years but the roots are now unfortunately causing serious damage to the adjacent brickwork of the settling tank and wharf wall. The roots are also soon liable to affect the over 200 year-old deep pumping shaft that allows water to flow from the canal into the heading connecting to Wilstone Reservoir. I have been in touch with the WRG Forestry Team who has agreed to take the tree down. CRT are arranging a bat survey It was thought that the timber from this tree had some value to a timber merchant but enquiries have revealed that there are no local timber yards for this kind of timber and the cost of transporting one tree would be more than the Trust could raise selling the timber as logs. Herts County Council former tip at Bridge 4A: We have also come Water in the Wendover: “why line it?” you may ask!

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WCBS have some interesting ways of raising money - and of spending it! We catch up with the news on Hazel, Southam, Lilith and the rest of the fleet...


Wooden Canal Boat Society

Hazel’s launch date has been set for Friday May 3rd. There will be a fundraising Ceilidh in the evening - see below. After the launch there will still be lots of work to be done to get the boat finished and there is a danger that work will stop through lack of money. Consequently more help is needed with fundraising. ‘Hazel’s Wedding List’ is available for anyone who would like to help by purchasing one of the items still needed for the fitting out of the boat. Another way that people could help is by selling items online. The society’s charity shop is gradually developing an online branch and anyone who would like to help with this does not necessarily need to live near our base at Ashtonunder-Lyne. There are plenty of saleable items that can be delivered elsewhere for selling or, alternatively, the seller can collect stuff locally. If you would like to help please contact theboatman@mail.com The rest of the WCBS continues, though the other boats are suffering a bit because of the amount of effort that is going into Hazel . More volunteers are needed to look after Forget me Not, Lilith, Southam, Queen and Elton which are based at Portland Basin. Recycling trips, on the first Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of each month, have been powered by Southam in recent times, towing Forget me Not and Lilith on the Sunday trips. Forget me Not is now re-engined and will be taking over towing duties whilst Southam undergoes gearbox repairs. The charity shop is the main fundraising venture. It has always been highly regarded as having the biggest range of secondhand books in Tameside. At the moment we don’t have a volunteer to manage the book collection. Any offers to theboatman@mail.com or ring 0161 330 8422 The Ceildh will be at the Hurst Community Centre, Kings Rd, Ashton under Lyne at 7.30 on May 3rd. Fiddling by Tom Kitching and friends, comedy from Your Dad. For tickets ring 0161 339 8721.


Wooden Canal Boat Society

Hazel’s stern end pitched and ready to launch

Hazel’s Wedding List 4x Bilge Pumps @ £25/each 17x LED Lights @ £20/each 2x Tank Flushing Pumps @ £75/each 1x Toilet @ £400 2x Extractor Fans @ £40/each 1x Shower pump @ £80 1x Water Pump @ £120 1x Fridge (isotherm cruise 100) @ £900 150 metres cable @ £90 1x Headlight @ £50 5x Batteries @ £220 each 1x Gas Water Heater @ £350 1x Calorifier @ £750 1x Gas Cooker @ £500 3x Thermoelectric Generators @ £538 each 1x Houdini Hatch @ £275 2 X large hopper windows @ £200 each 1 X wood stove @ £900

If you want to help WCBS by sponsoring any of these, please contact 0161 330 8422

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Meanwhile there are things happening at both ends of the Buckingham Canal - at Cosgrove and Buckingham and your help is wanted!

Buckingham Arm Buckingham Canal Society

part of the reason we received the grant is that the project was supported by local residents and a great many local groups. There was very positive news in November at our Cosgrove site; the BCS has adopted this section of the canal from the junction by the lock on the Grand Union Canal main line to the A5. This is very good news as it will greatly enhance our ability to work on this site and the next good news is that the Canal & River Trust has given permission for test trials to be carried out starting in March to re-water 500 metres. These re-watering trials include building bunds (temporary dams) at every 200 metres and then filling them with water and monitoring the seepage rate and of course hoping the water stays in the canal bed! Training sessions for our volunteers to learn to drive excavators and dumper trucks are being arranged for March/ April this year. Hopefully the BCS will have two sections of the Buckingham Canal in water later this year. Athina Beckett Buckingham Canal Society


On Saturday 26th January 70 people attended the Buckingham Canal Society AGM at Buckingham Community Centre. It proved to be a successful evening with a presentation showing our volunteers at work installing lock gates at our Nature Reserve site at Hyde Lane Lock. At the AGM we were able to announce that we had been selected by WREN (Waste Recycling Environmental) to receive a grant of ÂŁ69,985 to restore and re-water the section of canal at Bourton Meadow near Buckingham. Ten percent of this grant money will come from AVDC (Aylesbury Vale District Council) Community Chest grant fund. Before this a photo shoot to publicise the grant had been arranged on Friday 25th with Lord Boswell, John Bercow (Speaker of the House of Commons) - both Patrons of the society and Ruth Newell (Mayor of Buckingham) and several local councillors at Bourton Meadow where the first spade was put into the canal bed. Our own volunteers will carry out a lot of the preparation work, which will include clearing the canal bed, raising the height of See page 7 for details of a Cosgrove work the overflow spillweir by at least two rows of party where volunteers are needed to help BCS bricks and keeping the canal bed strimmed. Contractors will carry out the work to reline the canal with Bentoline SS100 starting in July and it is hoped this work should take about four to six weeks. Once the canal bed has been relined BCS volunteers will replant the hedgerow with several native species of saplings, and coir rolls will be placed along the canal bank to give a soft edge and be planted by our volunteers with environmentally friendly noninvasive water plants. Getting this section of canal in water is a very important step On a wintry day, dignitaries cut the first sod at Bourton in restoring the whole canal and

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On the Lapal Canal in Birmingham they’re still fighting to get the canal included in regeneration plans which a couple of years ago looked like they made full provision for navigation...

Progress ...or lack of it...

of a canal link that the consultation leaflet shows no indication of the canal route across the site. We now understand that two The history: the Lapal Canal is the name given schemes are being considered; “Option 1” by restorers to the abandoned east end of the with a greenway along the southern boundDudley No 2 Canal from Hawne Basin through ary of the site or “Option 2” which includes Lapal Tunnel to Selly Oak, where it met the a predominantly full-width canal channel Worcester & Birmingham Canal. Two miles at along that southern boundary. the east end are largely unobstructed, the We believe that the unique opportunity channel exists in places, as do bridges (includ- for an imaginative and sympathetic regeneraing one built a few years ago) and restoration tion of this site around the junction of two initially as a dead end would be relatively historically significant canals is being lost in straightforward. Or it would have been... this rearrangement of the site compared with At the east end of this length, the final the previous submission. In particular, the section leading to the W&B passed through a scheme does not integrate well with the derelict ex-industrial area. Known as the canal and does little to enhance the WorcesBattery Park (from a former battery works), ter & Birmingham Canal frontage. this area has been proposed for redevelopHowever, of the two options presented, ment including a supermarket for several we prefer “Option 2” subject to the resoluyears. Initially, the plans involved reinstatement tion of engineering issues, particularly of this length of canal and would have given around the junction with the Worcester & restoration a major boost. Then revised Birmingham Canal and confirmation from the plans appeared to have dropped the canal Canal & River Trust that approval will be completely, jeopardising the whole restoraforthcoming for the junction to be made. tion - only to reinstate it after protests. It remains our expectation that the In late 2012 developer the Harvest partPlans that will eventually receive permission nership yet again substantially revised its Plans for the regeneration of this portion of Selly by replacing a third of the previously-proposed Oak must be those which will deliver a Lapal retail premises with a Life Sciences campus on Canal link ‘westwards’ into future regenerathe Queen Elizabeth Hospital side of the site. tion projects in Selly Oak Park and the comTo achieve this they have repositioned the new munities beyond. Sainsbury’s foodstore and provisionally reasThe Lapal Canal Trust will be submitsigned the site’s southern boundary as a ting its more detailed comments when the Greenway corridor which could become the Outline Planning Application and full details of Lapal Canal. If implemented this could be a the scheme become available for consultation. full-width structure, without crossing bridges However, the Trust remains committed towards and movement restrictions, but the details here a viable implementation and would welcome remain unclear and subject to further enquiry. further cooperation with the Developers. The Lapal Canal Trust has submitted to As we went to press the developers had Birmingham City Council Planning and the just submitted a planning application which Harvest Partnership the following statement: includes a green ‘walkway’, not a canal. LCT The Lapal Canal Trust is extremely was appealing to supporters to visit the disappointed that the Plans submitted (as cp4so.org.uk community website to register 2012/01565/PA) do not appear to embody their objections - and was also busy organisan unequivocal provision for, and continuing ing local work parties to make a surviving commitment to, the previously promised length of the canal as ‘navigable’ (by canoe) Lapal Canal link across the Battery Park site. as possible, to make their point about the It is also confusing for the many supporters importance of not ignoring the canal.

The Selly Oak Regeneration and the Lapal Canal Restoration

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Progress Montgmoery Canal

Over on the Mont, the Shropshire Union Canal Society volunteers have been taking a break from channel lining in the winter weather to do some hedgelaying...

mated 800 cubic metres of it – a result of the wet weather in the last three months. When work began on Friday the channel was full to Another hedge-laying season swung into almost navigable depth and before any work operation like a well oiled military machine at could start this lot had to be moved. The the start of December. Our ‘patch’ this time bulk of the water was pumped through was the first 120 metres of the Montgomery Redwith Bridge into the watered section of Canal to the north east of Schoolhouse canal and this operation lasted two working Bridge, in effect a continuation of last year’s days. The rest was disposed of via the culwork. This hedge has been laid more revert but in small enough quantities so as not cently than any we have worked on before to add to the flooded areas downstream. and so resembles a hedge that needs laying Four pumps were in operation for most of more than a line of trees. Following last this time and administering to their various season’s successful tactics, the plan was to needs was a full time task for a couple of spend the first weekend clearing the hedge volunteers. out, in readiness to start laying next time. The other major task was burning the A strong turnout on both days in Deremaining hedge-laying brash at Schoolcember and relatively level ground meant house Bridge and tidying up the site. This that progress was good. Old pleachers, dead took most of Saturday for five volunteers. wood, stuff off the line and higher branches Also on Saturday much of the setting out on were all removed and the canal bed was the site was checked and any damaged prosoon full of waste. The ensuing bonfire files and pegs replaced. The only thing that reduced it all to a very large pile of ash and remotely resembled ‘construction’ was installattracted the usual alakadoos in the process. ing a platform made of railway sleepers in The January work party began and the channel bed at the bottom of the tip finished in a snowstorm. Turnout was a little slope. This is to permit loaded dumpers to lower, but by Sunday it was clear that we change direction easily in the confined space would be very close to finishing by the end without the risk of throwing a track. of the day. A final push in the last hour of daylight ensured that we would not need to return for just a few yards of hedge. The February work party was therefore cancelled. February 2013, therefore, was the work party that wasn’t! The hedge-laying finished in January and the restoration wasn’t due to start until March, so what did a dozen volunteers do to keep themselves amused for a weekend? The short answer is getting rid of some water, and a few other odds and ends, all with the aim of being able to make a flying start in March. SUCS hedgelaying on the Montgomery in December First the water - an estiSUCS

Shropshire Union Canal Society Winter hedgelaying on the Mont

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Progress ...cleaning up all over...



The Swansea Canal Society volunteers are readying themselves for an influx of WRGies, while IWA continues to run cleanups all around the system...



Martin Davies of the Swansea Canal Society writes: We are very much looking forward to our first Summer Camp in early September on the Swansea Canal. The WRG volunteers will be working on the lower Trebanos Lock so the SCS members have been busy preparing the way for you. A bit like John the Baptist, I suppose, but without the full immersion. Martin sent the above photos of SCS clearing weeds with aspen rakes and spades in November and March.

The rejuvenated IWA branch working parties (now listed in our Diary - see p24-25) continue to make an impression around the network. The left hand photo shows a cleanup on the Soho Loop in Birmingham, organised jointly by IWA Birmingham Black Country and Worcs Branch and the BCN Society, while on the right is a cleanup by IWA Warwickshire on the Grand Union in Leamington Spa. It isn’t just about cleanups: three hedge-laying and planting work parties have been held on the Caldon with volunteers from IWA Stoke and the Caldon & Uttoxeter Canals Trust receiving training thanks to the Churnet Valley Living Landscape project.

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Spotlight on the Cotswold Canals

Cotswold update

As the £20m scheme to open six miles of the Cotswold Canals nears completion, volunteers will play a bigger role. We explain why, and how...

Back to Brimscombe A few years ago it looked like the days of the restoration volunteer on the Cotwold Canals were numbered - at least on the length through Stroud. But now it seems our efforts are needed there more than ever. This article aims to explain how this came about, what the volunteers will be doing... and perhaps to tempt you to come along and help!

teers on the less heavy work at the east end, it can be kept moving - if slightly more slowly.

Who’s doing the work? Three separate forms of volunteer input. Firstly Canal Camps: we’ve just had two extra weeks there as a result of two of the Easter camps being relocated after problems at their original sites. We’ve got two more planned for this summer - Camp 2013-12 from 3 to 10 August led by Martyn Worsley and Phil Rodwell, and Camp 2013-14 the following week with Nigel Lee and Helena Rosiecka in charge. More details next time. Secondly there’s Dig Deep: this was an initiative involving four mobile groups (London WRG, KESCRG, WRG BITM and NWPG) whereby they ‘adopted’ certain projects and co-ordinated their work to achieve good progress in reasonable timescales, making it

What’s happening? Volunteers are now taking on most of the work to restore two miles from Bowbridge above Stroud to Brimscombe Port, rather than the professional contractors who had been expected to do it as part of the Lotteryfunded £20m Phase 1a restoration from Stonehouse through Stroud to Brimscombe. The volunteer work includes channel restoration plus rebuilding five locks. The good news is that one of them, Gough’s Orchard, has already been done (many of you worked on it). The slightly less good news is that another lock, Hope Mill, is completely buried so we’ll need to find it first! The current project is Griffin Mill Lock, with work set to move on to Ham Mill. See over for more.

See the panel opposite for a full explanation of how volunteers have had to come to the rescue. But in short: the worsening economic situation made it impossible to raise the commercial funding which was to have paid for the work, leaving a gap of several million pounds. Rather than abandon it unfinshed when the cash runs out (which the Heritage Lottery Fund would take a pretty dim view of as their grant relies on the ‘match funding’ being in place), by concentrating professional work on the major engineering jobs at the western end of this length and using volun-

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Alan Lines

Why’s it happening?

Griffin Mill, Easter: cutting out damaged brick

a Navvies special feature easier for the relevant canal ‘Phased out’ by the Cotswold Canals? society to commit the necessary Phase 1: the west end, from Saul Junction to Brimscombe materials and plant. It’s been in Phase 2: the east end, from Inglesham to Cotswold Water Park abeyance for a couple of years Phase 3: the middle bit, from Brimscombe to the Water Park having temporarily run out of suitable projects, but is being When it turned out the funders (such as Heritage Lottery Fund) resurrected for the Cotswold locks. couldn’t afford to fund the whole of Phase 1, it was split: By the time you read this, Phase 1a: Stonehouse - Stroud - Brimscombe (current project) WRG BITM and KESCRG will Phase 1b: Saul - Brimscombe (which we hope will come next) already have held weekend work parties at Griffin Mill or Ham Mill Phase 1a is now further split into the contractors’ length Locks; forthcoming weekend (Stonehouse-Bowbridge) and ‘ours’ (Bowbridge-Brimscombe) dates are: 20-21 April (NWPG); volunteers will be working alongside ours, 1-2 June (KESCRG)1; 13-14 July (London WRG); 28-29 September (London WRG); 23- and keeping the work going in between 24 November(NWPG); and there will be visiting groups. For information see www.cotswoldcanals.com or email more. See the Navvies diary. Finally, Cotswold Canals Trust’s own mail@cotswoldcanals.com

The Reason Why (feel free to skip this if you aren’t into canal restoration politics!) Back in 2006, we heard that the Cotswold Canals had been awarded some £12m by the Heritage Lottery Fund, followed by around £6m from the South West Regional Development Agency and some sizeable wedges of cash from the councils and British Waterways - not forgetting the Cotswold Canals Trust, who started the whole thing off. Altogether this would be enough to restore and reopen the six mile ‘Phase 1a’ section (see over for an explanation of the phases) from Stonehouse through Stroud to Brimscombe Port. it seemed like our work on this section was at an end: volunteers could hand over to the professional contractors, and head for pastures new - at the eastern end (with projects such as Eisey and Inglesham) or on other canals. In the event, it hasn’t worked out quite like that. Firstly BW dropped out of the partnership (as a result of its diminishing amounts of cash being needed elsewhere - particularly for engineering work following the Mon & Brec breach), resulting in a delay while Stroud District Council picked up the reins. And meanwhile, the country was beginning to suffer the effects of the economic downturn. It was proving very difficult to raise the final million or so of the money - so CCT and WRG volunteers started to get more involved - for example with the restoration of Goughs Orchard Lock. But there was worse to come: part of the

funding plan had been that redevelopment and regeneration of Brimscombe Port (once a massive inland transhipment port interchanging cargo between different sizes of boat; now mostly a rather run-down industrial area with several empty units) would provide enough income for developers that they would be persuaded to restore the upper length of the canal in exchange for planning permission to develop it. No more, in today’s straightened times. In fact, it looks like they’ll need a subsidy instead! Meanwhile the contractors cracked on with the work at the west end of the length: building the A46 Stroud Brewery Bridge; reconstructing Ryeford Double Locks; installing the new Ocean Swingbridge; re-excavating a filled-in length at Ebley and so on. Currently they’re on the biggest job of the lot - creating a completely new channel in difficult ground under Capel’s Mill Railway Viaduct in Stroud, as well as rebuilding Wallbridge and Dudbridge locks. But they aren’t going to be able to carry on up to Brimscombe on the money available. Fortunately, however, most of the work at the top end is lock restoration and channel repair. In other words, it’s more within the scope of volunteers. There will therefore be a switchover point at Bowbridge where the contractor length will end - and it’s over to us to do the work from there to Brimscombe.

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Spotlight on the Cotswold Canals Cotswold Canals restoration Phase 1a progress map Stonehouse to Bowbridge mainly being restored by contractors; Bowbridge to Brimscombe mostly by volunteers

Dudbridge Locks: Work here is virtually complete, though it has inevitably been delayed by high water levels. The contractors are now expected to be offsite by 15th February. Before then, snagging works to the channel and outstanding works to the wall above the hydro-electric chamber outlet need to be completed. The old Marling school rugby field will be re-fenced over half term. Potential contractors for the lock refurbishment have now been put through the pre-qualification process, preparatory to tenders being invited this month. Near Dudbridge Road, trial holes have been dug to exactly locate the gas main, enabling a new flood wall to be built; this work is out to tender.


Ocean Bridge, Stonehouse: Difficulties in operating this hand-wound swing bridge remain. Our own engineers have assessed it and found that it does not appear to be swinging evenly. Certainly the mechanism does not run smoothly and the bridge could be out-of-balance. Whilst not having an operable bridge in terms of boating is not currently a problem. The contractor is expected to resolve the problem before final payment is made.

Ryeford Double Locks: restoration complete

Dudbridge Towpath: REACH continues work to raise the towpath between Hilly Orchard and Dudbridge Bridge.

Capels Mill: construction of canal diversion under railway viaduct. The last of the 53 special ground anchors has finally been installed, a layer of gravel 2530m below ground level having caused problems. The anchors are intended to ‘tie in’ the concrete piled wall, which holds back the hillside – which largely consists of 1970s domestic refuse! This final anchor still needs to be tested and stressed. Works to reduce the level below the piled wall have begun, with surplus soil being removed from the site. This will eventually permit construction of the concrete channel which will carry the canal East of the railway viaduct.

Bowbridge: Volunteers from the Tuesday and Thursday groups are now busy upgrading the towpath East of Bowbridge Lock. This section is extremely narrow and in most cases it will not be possible to achieve the 2m standard width.

Main article by Martin Ludgate with progress details by Dave Marshall, Stroud District Council

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a Navvies special feature Griffins Mill Lock: Cotswold Canals Trust volunteers have finished rebuilding the offside wall and are now focusing on removing defective brickwork from the towpath side. They have also installed stop plank grooves. Work here has been delayed by high water levels. Main site for WRG Easter canal camps - see camp reports in next issue.

Martin Ludgate

Chestnut Lane: The new swing bridge is again unserviceable. The problem appears to be a cable fault, perhaps caused by flooding. Investigations are underway to locate the problem. The brick wall behind the control cabinet is complete and protective railings around the structure are being installed. Stroud brewery Bridge: new road bridge opened 2012, one lock restored

Ham Mill Lock: volunteer restoration by visiting groups starts here in 2012

Bowbridge Lock: to be restored by volunteers after Griffin Mill and Ham Mill Locks

Hope Mill Lock: currently buried, to be re-excavated and restored by volunteers after Griffin Mill, Ham Mill and Bowbridge Locks

Martin Ludgate


Goughs Orchard Lock: chamber restoration by volunteers complete Brimscombe Port: needs re-excavating, road bridge and river culvert to be constructed

Ham Mill and Brimscombe: filled in lengths of channel need excavating

Where? Inglesham? Ah yes, the one worksite on the Cotswolds that we haven’t really mentioned this time. Don’t worry, we’ll tell you what’s happening there in the next issue...

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Tech tips

Stump being pulled Snatch (pulley) block

‘Tirfor’ hand winches

Second anchor point

Hand winches (‘Tirfors’) and kit A lot of hand winches are called ‘Tirfors’ but the proper Tirfor is made by a company called Tractel. More recently lots of ‘clones’ have appeared on the market and are made by many different companies; internally all operate by a very similar method. The general principle is best described as “handover-hand” - they pull on a cable as if using two hands that are pulling on a rope. Whilst the internal workings are pretty much the same, the casings that hold everything together vary considerably. Also there are many different working capacities, be it for lifting and/or dragging. Types/models also vary as to how the machine is set up and the positions of the operating handles/levers. They can be used for either lifting or pulling. If the former then the Tirfor can be either anchored to the ground or above the load; it could also lift a load via a pulley block. If used for pulling then it can be a direct pull along the ground, pulling down a tree or pulling up a post with the cable going up and over a pulley on a tripod or similar.

These machines and their sundry equipment must always be used by experienced personnel who have been trained in their use.

· · · · · ·

Always ensure that all items being used are in good condition and are fit for purpose. The correct PPE must be used, particularly when handling the cable. Ensure that you have a clear area in which to operate, and that there is plenty of space - particularly if pulling down a tree. If pulling down a tree, only operate the Tirfor as directed by the chainsaw operator. Never overload the Tirfor and always use the correct handle. Take care not to drop the Tirfor to

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Martin Ludgate

Using them safely

Anchor point

Using a snatch block to double the pull


avoid possibly damaging the casing. Never step over the cable if it has a load on it.

‘Loose kit’ This is the general term given to all of the other items that will be needed while setting up and operating the Tirfor. The top picture opposite shows:

· · ·

Tirfor, with its correct handle. Cable stowed in its tyre, some cables are wound on to a ‘spider’, both methods have their advantages/disadvantages. Snatch (pulley) block.

· · · · ·

Heavy chain-used to anchor Tirfor or wrap around stump to be pulled out. Short chain-with hook that can be used to couple Tirfor to sling as an anchor. Different sizes of bow shackles. Small chain to wrap around smaller tree stumps. Flat slings.

Site set up and operation

John Hawkins

The bottom picture on this page shows:

John Hawkins

The best place to locate the Tirfor is often a compromise. There are different things to be thought about: ideally the place where the Tirfor is to be anchored needs to level and flat; a clear view through any other trees so that the work end of the cable can be observed; there may be a need to utilise the snatch bock (so that the pull of cable can be different to a direct pull from the Tirfor); any other obstacles may interfere with the job. Having chosen the area to be used the cable can be unrolled; if it has been stored in a tyre do NOT just pull out the shackle end; but slowly pull out the cable, and at the same time turn the tyre so that the cable exits without any loops/kinks in it. The Tirfor, having first ascertained that the cable release lever/knob is in the release position, can then be stood on its end and the cable fed through, ensuring that it goes right through the machine. The machine can now be suitably anchored to a fixed point. There are many ways this can be achieved, depending on the situation and equipment available. My preferred method is shown in picture (overleaf) with cable having first been put through machine. If a flat sling is used then make sure that it isn’t twisted and lays flat. It may be necessary to cut any small branches at the base of the tree and also any other small branches that could possibly injure the operator. It is also essential that the slings

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Tech tips ‘Tirfor’ hand winches

What’s the best way to join two slings together? How can a 3 tonne Tirfor generate a 9-tonne pull? John Hawkins explains...

pin, on all shackles, by about one turn, this makes it easier to undo at a later stage. If slings have to be joined together then shackles can once again be used; or slings can be looped back, and if looped fully back through on itself always insert a suitable piece of wood in the loop (as indicated in picture) otherwise it will extremely difficult to release and could possibly damage the slings. After having first ascertained that nobody is in the vicinity and that the cable release lever has been put to the correct position, start to apply the load and take note that all equipment is in the correct position, especially the shackles. If pulling a tree over only operate the Tirfor as requested by the chainsaw personnel. Operate the reverse lever to reduce any load on the cable; the cable release lever can then be used so that the cable can be pulled through by hand if needed. If a larger force needs to be applied then a snatch block can be used. This needs to be fixed to the stump and the cable from the Tirfor will pass through the block (the block can be swung apart to make the cable easier to fit) and then anchored to another convenient tree close by. Ideally this part of the cable needs to run fairly close to parallel with the other section. When the snatch block is in use do not stand between the cable runs to operate the Tirfor but to one side. It must be remembered that when using the snatch block this can nearly John’s preferred method of anchoring the Tirfor double the pulling force John Hawkins

do not damage the bark of the tree, especially if the tree is to remain in position. It’s preferable that the stumps have been cut with about 1 metre still above ground level, thus providing some degree of leverage. If a tree stump is to be pulled out then a suitably sized chain can be wrapped around the stump and looped back on its self, and then using slings and/or shackles fixed to the free end of the Tirfor cable. Bow shackles are preferable, always back turn the screwed

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being applied. And so with a 3 tonne lift Tirfor and thus an approximate drag of 4.5 tonnes the total load on the stump can be as much as 9 tonnes. The snatch block can also be utilised to alter the angle of pull by the cable - often useful when pulling down trees so that the operator is away from the line in which the tree may drop. When work is complete release the cable and pull it out of the Tirfor.

After you have finished using the Tirfor:

· · · · ·

John Hawkins

Care of kit etc

Clean and oil the cable. Re-coil the cable into the tyre/ Joining two slings: put a piece of wood in the loop spider by reversing the method used to extract it and by starting with plain end. Clean and oil the Tirfor and ensure that the cable release lever is in the engaged position. Check all slings, and if wet then they should be hung up to dry. If a broken strand of wire is found, this can be cut off with a suitable pair of cutters.

General care and safety:


Only use the correct cable (size and type) - they are of a different construction to other types of lifting cable. Some Tirfors have shear pins fitted, always ensure that you have spare ones to hand. These should be kept either in the stub of the operating lever or in the rope release lever-behind the plastic cap. Do NOT use anything other then the proper item. If any malfunctions arise the Tirfor should be taken to a competent repair specialist for attention. John Hawkins

We hope you find our technical articles helpful. All of them will appear on the WRG website and we hope to publish them as a booklet in due course. If there are any particular subjects you would like us to cover, please contact the editor. Coming soon: breakers and other compressed air tools.

Martin Ludgate

· ·

Pulling down trees: always follow the chainsaw operator’s direction

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Congratulations to Abigail and Anthony Davison-Hoult on the arrival of Patrick on 13 February

Stamps wanted

Directory update

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.

New contact for Shrewsbury & Newport Canal Trust is Bernie Jones, 07971 016322, bj@sncanal.org.uk

also to Annette and Matt Taylor on the arrival of Lewis Robert on 27 March Boat share for sale Would you like to buy a share in unconverted historic working narrowboat Fulbourne, owned by a group of mainly WRG and ex-WRG folks? If so, contact Tim Lewis on 07802 518094

Want a trip-boat? The Basingstoke Canal Society (formerly the Surrey & Hants Canal Society) is launching a new trip boat to replace the John Pinkerton. If you’re interested in acquiring the old one (48 seats, MCA certificate), contact them via www. basingstoke-canal.org.uk

Help the Grantham Canal The Grantham Canal Society and Grantham Canal Partnership are in the process of applying for major funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The project is to train volunteers to restore locks 14 and 15 and they have been requested by the HLF to consider adding locks 12 and 13 as this would deliver greater value. The extra two locks are a tall order, but with the help of the HLF, volunteers, supporters and rangers, it is thought achievable. There would then be 7 working locks, access to the 19 mile lock-free stretch of the canal and with the winding hole below lock 12 the attraction of a 13 mile return boat trip from the A1. “A massive achievement – and we are going for it!” How can you help? Letter of support by EARLY MAY would help a great deal. If you could write such a letter, send it to John Brydon, Vice Chairman of Grantham Canal Society, Yew Tree Farm, Hawksworth, Notts NG13 9DD or email to jpb@freenetname.co.uk Obviously the Society wishes you to compose your own letter but has some suggestions of pointers: including the value of the canal as a leisure facility; to serve the community health agenda; as a community asset; the project as a regional initiative; the preservation of a vital part of our East Midlands heritage; preventing the waste of public money already spent; the opportunity for volunteers to be trained in heritage restoration skills, so that this canal (and others across Britain) can be cost-effectively maintained in the future; and bringing the canal back into full navigable use including the building of the new Trent Link at the Nottingham end. For more information contact John Baylis at JWBaylis@aol.com

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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: mike.palmer@wrg.org.uk

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



Speaking of health and safety...

As we always point out in our Canal Camps booklet, WRG has an excellent safety record.So you can imagine how pleased I was when the following book arrived through the letterbox. Was waterways history writer Tony Burton trying to single-handedly undermine four decades of good practice?

...have come flooding in from readers following our photo last time showing WRG Print’s John Hawkins tied to the track in traditional ‘silent movie’ style. Here are a few of a great number from Rob Brotherston... I said “Just drop me a line”, not “drop me ON the line!” OK, OK, I promise to print your article in the next three issues of Navvies Just relax, John, we’ve been through the Health & Safety talk... Keep your hard hat on, John! We’re WRG Forestry and we’ve come to cut you free, John... with our chainsaws! Meanwhile Enid Mitchell points out that the original 1920s Saturday cinema serial where this situation happened more than once (so her ma told her) was called Perils of Pauline and suggests ours should be Perils Appalling Mike (’Arry) Harrison chips in with: Mix up as John Hawkins volunteers to be a conductor on electrified railway line Finally David Evans of the Sussex Ouse provides a selection...

Fortunately it turns out he was writing about the original navvies who built the canals and railways, not us! Seriously, it’s a good read get it from www.iwashop.com

And finally... A canal society press release arrives at Navvies. Picture the scene: a well-known (not to mention well-endowed country singer from the 1970s-80s and all her family, wailing “Jolene, Jolene...” as they heave shovelfuls of soil over their shoulders. Sadly, this particular picture only exists within the editor’s rather over-fertile imagination, as on opening the attached JPG file the picture revealed is a rather more prosaic (but, I’m sure, worthy) one of town councillors, MPs and similar bigwigs cutting the first sod on a new length of canal. Yes, I’m afraid it was a typo. For ‘The Partons’ read ‘The Patrons’. Still, let’s hope they’re working nine-to-five on the canal! PS yes, I know: “There, but for the grace of God...”

Who is that old buffer on the track? WRG Forestry: “John, you are too ****** ugly to be Lillian Gish’s stunt double!” Network Rail’s prototype sleeper designed to speed up services fails its first test

PPS In case you’re missing our regular writer, Deirdre is away on Easter Canal Camp. But don’t worry, she’ll be back next time to answer your most embarrassing questions - hopefully with equally embarrassing replies.

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Profile for The Inland Waterways Association

Navvies 258  

Navvies 258. Magazine for volunteers restoring the waterways and canals of England and Wales

Navvies 258  

Navvies 258. Magazine for volunteers restoring the waterways and canals of England and Wales