Page 1

navvies volunteers restoring

waterways

Droitwich Barge Lock: start to finish Summer camp reports Coming soon: Christmas digs

waterway recovery group

Issue No 231 October-November 2008 page 1


Navvies Production

Editor: Martin Ludgate, 35 Silvester Road, East Dulwich London SE22 9PB 020-8693 3266 Subscriptions: Sue Watts, 15 Eleanor Rd, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester M21 9FZ

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.

Bobby Silverwood

Printing and assembly: John & Tess Hawkins, 4 Links Way, Croxley Green, Rickmansworth, Herts WD3 3RQ 01923 448559 john.hawkins@wrg.org.uk

Above Wilts & Berks: KESCRG finishing tail walls and backfilling the offisde with clay at Lock 4, Seven Locks Below Mon & Brec: repointing walls at Fourteen Locks Right mixing muck on the Mont: the inside view Front cover: London WRG getting stuck in at Goughs Orchard Lock on the Cotswolds (pic by Martin Ludgate) Back Cover: Droitwich Barge Lock start (Mike Palmer) and finish (Martin Ludgate) - see special feature p23-34

Waterway Recovery Group is part of The Inland Waterways Association, (registered office: Island House, Moor Road, Chesham HP5 1WA). The Inland Waterways Association is a non-profit distributing company limited by guarantee, registered in England no 612245, and registered as a charity no 212342. VAT registration no 342 0715 89. Directors of WRG: Rick Barnes, John Baylis, Mick Beattie, Malcolm Bridge, Spencer Collins, Christopher Davey, Roger Day, Neil Edwards, George Eycott, John Fletcher, Adrian Fry, John Hawkins, Jennifer Leigh, Judith Palmer, Michael Palmer, Jonathan Smith. Secretary: Neil Edwards ISSN: 0953-6655 Š 2008 WRG

Visit our web site www.wrg.org.uk for page 2


Contents

In this issue...

Chairman is MKP a grumpy old navvy? 4-5 Coming soon Christmas/New Year digs 6-8 Camp reports from the Wilts & Berks, Mon & Brec, Montgomery (twice), Lord Rolle and Cotswold (twice) Canals 9-22 Droitwich Barge Lock start to finish: a twelve-page Navvies special feature 23-34 Letters on festivals, toilets and awards 35 Diary canal camps and weekend digs 36-38 WCBS preserving wooden boats 39-41 More camp reports Basingstoke 42-45 Festival camps GW and National 46-49 KESCRG bricklaying and bhajis 50 WRGBC WRG boat club news 51 Navvies news lost property and stuff 52 Noticeboard everyone’s getting married! 53 Infill ‘Dear Deirdre’ is back! 54-55

Contributions... ...are always welcome, whether hand-written, typed, on CD-ROM, DVD or by email. Photos also welcome: digital, slides, prints. Please state whether you want your prints back. Digital pics are welcome as email attachments, preferably JPG format, but if you have a lot it is preferable to send them on CD-ROM or DVD or to contact the editor first. Contributions by post to the editor Martin Ludgate, 35, Silvester Road, London SE22 9PB, or by email to martin.ludgate@wrg.org.uk. Press date for issue 232: November 1st.

John Corble

Subscriptions A year's subscription (6 issues) is available for a minimum of £1.50 to Sue Watts, 15 Eleanor Road, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester M21 9FZ. Cheques to "Waterway Recovery Group" please. This is a minimum subscription, kept low so that everyone can afford to subscribe. Please add a donation if you can.

all the latest news of WRG's activities page 3


Chairman

MKP on the Droitwich...

In which a boil on the arse becomes a jewel in the crown

Chairman’s comment I’m writing this a few days before the completion ceremony for the Barge Lock at Droitwich and I’m really looking forward to it. Despite the appalling weather (at one point the water was a good two foot over the dams !) we did manage to finish just about everything. Admittedly we will have to pop back next year to install the quadrants though, but that’s because we need the Council to re-adjust the ground levels around the lock. Although all our volunteers were wonderful, determined and undaunted by widely predicted disaster the people I do want to highlight are all the others involved. Be it the DCT volunteers, “On-Site” the wonderful dam contractors, British Waterways or even just the locals who came to see how we were doing during their lunch hour it was always a pleasure to meet and work with them. Given that many restoration schemes appear to be in a quiet “planning” phase it looks like we are all relying on Droitwich (once described by a senior waterways commentator as “a festering boil on the backside of waterway restoration”) to provide the national proof that waterways, despite a loss of interest* from government, can still deliver all the good things we know then can. Yes, I know that there is progress on a number of other projects and I don’t want to dismiss everything else going on around the system but I don’t know anywhere else that is building several locks and going under a dual carriageway by the end of this year. WRG has always supported Droitwich, it feels great to see such progress and I hope that the very big decision makers with the very big wallets take notice of its success. One of the lessons I hope it proves is that you don’t need the GDP of Ghana to complete a restoration. Is it just me or has the price of everything just gone absolutely crazy? I’m not talking about the “little” inflationary increases of 35% that the whole construction industry is complaining about. But many of the schemes that used to talk about needing lumps of £10million are suddenly using figures five times that. It’s all very well taking a pessimistic view of things but it seems that current trend is to take the largest quote from a contractor for doing the whole lot, then double it to Christine Martin deliver all the community benefits (by contractor), Christine Martin, wife of David Martin, an early IWA Northampthen triple that by adding ton Branch Secretary and later its Chairman, died after a long management fees and then illness at the end of June finally double the whole lot because there are some Chrissie gave David staunch support throughout his active inunknown risks. volvement with the Association, especially during the period when Looking at the above I he was the powerhouse behind the highly successful IWA Nathink I may have officially tional Rally at Beckets Park, Northampton, in 1971. In her own become a grumpy old right, Chrissie organised payment and circulation of what was navvy**. I’d always hoped then Navvies Notebook for many years in the days before to avoid this but I think this computers. She was also involved in the formation of the Narrow summer might have pushed Boat Trust as well as giving invaluable assistance in the adminisme over the edge. Put tration of several early WRG Big Digs. simply there was just too much bricks and mortar We extend our deepest sympathy to David and his family. and, as everyone knows, if you want to become a real Roger Hazdell moaner then go and lay

page 4


“One of the lessons it proves is that you don’t need the GDP of Ghana to complete a restoration”

Chairman

...and grumpy old navvies

some bricks. Just moving bricks doesn’t do it, neither does just mixing mortar - there is some complicated alchemy that occurs when you put a brick in one hand and mortar in the other. If you doubt it, then just try putting your most happy-go-lucky navvy on the brickie gang. Within ten minutes I guarantee you will hear “How do you expect me to work with this?” At the start of this summer the Board issued a bit of a reminder about the use of “nearmiss/incident” reports. We didn’t think that we had too many problems with Health and Safety but it would be nice to have it confirmed and to see if there were any areas where we could improve things. I’m pleased to say we did get quite a few in and even more pleased to say that there were no worrying trends on site. There are a couple of incidents we are going to check up on but overall the majority of all the reports were what could be described as silly things - sharp knives in the accommodation being a particular issue ! A full analysis will be in the next issue but in the mean time could I thank you all on behalf of the board for another season of safe work. Hope to see you all at the Bonfire Bash, where, in line with recent tradition, you will get a sneak preview of our schedule of Canal Camps and weekends for 2009. Hugs and kisses Mike Palmer * I ‘m probably supposed to describe this as “A refocusing of the strategic steer given in the light of changing priorities.” But I think you get the idea (and know how it feels down on the ground!)

Mike Palmer

** Now there is a excellent suggestion for an entertainment at the National - WRG presents Grumpy Old Navvies...

The final weekend on the Droitwich: the dam has completely disappeared under water, and London WRG are sheltering from the torrential rain, but somehow the work got done

page 5


Coming soon

Book now for the Bonfire Bash and Xmas digs waterway recovery group

Reunion Bonfire Bash 2008 I would like to attend the 2008 WRG Bonfire Bash on the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation on November 1st-2nd Forename:

Surname:

Address:

email: Phone: Any special dietary requirements? I require accommodation on Friday night / Saturday night / both nights I enclose payment of £

(please make cheques payable to ‘WRG’) for food

(cost is £12 for the whole weekend) How will you be travelling to the Bonfire Bash?

Do you want to work with volunteers from one of this year’s Canal Camps or from one of the regional groups? If so, which camp or group? Do you suffer from any illness, such as epilepsy or diabetes, about which we should know, or are you receiving treatment or under medical supervision for any condition YES/NO If yes, please attach details on a covering letter. In the unlikely event that you should be injured, who should we contact? Name:

Phone:

Signed: Please send this form to: Bonfire Bash Bookings, Island House, Moor Road, Chesham HP5 1WA

page 6


Bonfire Bash, Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation, November 1-2 As you may be aware the Bonfire Bash for this year will be on the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation. But what you might not be aware of is how we have come to be holding it on a waterway that’s already open rather than a restoration. Well, to set the scene: the Chelmer and Blackwater is now run by the Inland Waterways Association. When the previous Canal Company went bust and called in the receivers, to save the waterway the IWA set up Essex Waterways Ltd to run it - with all of two fully employed staff covering a canal of 13 miles. So certain maintenance tasks and projects have been ‘put on the back burner’ until they have the time to do them. But this might eventually cause a problem - and how can we have a go at British Waterways for not doing things, when our own house might not be in order! So the Bonfire Bash weekend, unlike some previous years, won’t just be a lot of big bonfires. This year it will be a case of a lot of small teams, with a lot of small jobs all over the 13 miles - and we will try and make them enjoyable. The Leader is myself (‘Moose’), my assistant is Chris (‘Geezer Chris’) Rowell, and accommodation is at the Plume School, Fambridge Road, Maldon, Essex CM9 6AB (Directions will be sent when you book in). The work might not sound quite as exciting as a slash and burn weekend, but it’s every bit as important. This is our own waterway and it is a chance to help to do as many maintenance jobs, big and small, as possible. The Chelmer and Blackwater is in a very nice part of the country, running through attractive Essex countryside and ending at the Sea Lock and Heybridge Basin. And unless you normally dig with one of the roving groups , this might be your only chance to come and work on it. Saturday night will have barrels of beer on tap, so we can enjoy ourselves on site and then have a enjoyable evening - perhaps Mr Ludgate can be persuaded to entertain us? Then on Sunday everyone out on site, to finish the weekend’s tasks. Due to the nature of the work it is even more important that you book in advance - so fill the form opposite (photocopy it if you don’t want to cut your mag up) and send it in today. Dave ‘Moose’ Hearnden

London WRG / KESCRG Christmas dig, Wilts & Berks, December 6-7 Christmas will be upon us far too soon, and that means the London WRG and KESCRG Christmas party dig - with WRG SW joining the fun as well this time. The site is the North Wilts Canal: the branch of the W&B that heads north from Swindon to Cricklade. Yes, that’s right - the one we went to for last year’s Bonfire Bash. But never fear, they’ve found us a mile of prime heavy scrub to bash, with some seriously large stuff to chop down and the promise of big bonfires. The accommodation is likely to be in the school that we used last year. Once again we’ve got Eli and her team putting on a super Christmas dinner on Saturday, and by the time you read this we’ll have come up with an appropriately imaginative / challenging / silly theme for the Saturday night party extravaganza. So book now using the form overleaf.

WRG New Year Canal Camp, Wilts & Berks, December 26 - Jan 1 After being named leader for the Christmas camp 08 and realising that there aren’t many Navvies coming out before Christmas, I thought it be best to add something about the camp! I will be leading it and my partner-in-crime will be Ju ‘Ju-from-Crewe’ Davenport. We will be somewhere* on the Wilts and Berks and have been promised some serious bashing to be done! I have a cook lined up in the wings. I just need to get Maria merry on Scrumpy at the Bonfire Bash. (I have heard that is how most cooks are recruited!) Rachael Banyard will also be running the WBCT Christmas camp (see over) so you have a choice of 2 camps but 1 canal! The fancy dress theme this year for the New Year party will be “Annual.” So that could be an annual event, an annual flower, or a Blue Peter Annual! Anything that happens once a year. Loads of scope and no excuses not to join in the fun! Have a good Christmas and I’ll see some of you on the camp - please book via the website or a normal canal camps booking form to Head Office. * I have been told ‘not far from Swindon’. Narrows it down by not much! James Butler

page 7


Coming soon

No, we really mean it. Book NOW!!!

For details of all forthcoming events see our website www.wrg.org.uk

Wilts & Berks Canal Trust New Year Camp, 7 Locks, December 26 - Jan 1 Not to be confused with the WRG New Year Camp on the Wilts & Berks (see p7), the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust will be holding their own camp, working at Seven Locks. With Lock 4 now complete, work is moving on to Lock 2 where there will be bricklaying work (weather permitting) at the top end of the chamber, plus some clearance around Lock 5. The accommodation will be at the ever-popular Foxham Reading Rooms (handy for the Foxham Inn), the leader is Rachael Banyard, and Di Smurthwaite will be in charge of catering so there will be plenty of cakes and sticky puddings. Contact Rachael on 07767 895244.

And then what? As I write this in mid-September it seems a bit early to be thinking about 2009, but here are some dates for your diary: on Saturday February 28th we will be repeating the highly successful Leader Training Day. Any canal camp or weekend group leaders or anyone interested in leading will be welcome. See next Navvies or contact Mike Palmer for details. On the evening of the same day Saturday February 28th we will hold our annual WRG and KESCRG Barn Dance at Benson Village Hall in Oxfordshire. Bobby Silverwood will be selling tickets at the Bonfire Bash. And March 28th-29th is the BCN Cleanup. At this very moment the worthy citizens of the Black Country are throwing their bikes, prams and old tyres into the Tame Valley Canal to make our weekend more interesting. More next time!

London WRG KESCRG and WRG SW

Wilts & Berks Xmas party dig I would like to attend on December 6th-7th Forename:

Surname:

Address:

email:

Phone

Any special dietary requirements? I enclose payment of £16 (please make cheques payable to ‘WRG’) for food If you suffer from any illness about which we should know, or are you receiving treatment or medical supervision please attach details on a covering letter. Signed:

Please send this form to:

WRG/KESCRG Xmas dig bookings, Island House, Moor Rd, Chesham HP5 1WA

page 8


Our Camp Reports section kicks off with a report from what is probably our youngest ever contributor. Unless you know otherwise...

Camp reports

KESCRG at Seven Locks

pubs around Bushton. Some nights they remembered to take Nic. The beer in or Bushton was so good that the other camp “My first canal camp” came over to sample it and play skittles one by Sophie Williamson, age 5 months evening – mummy proved that she is still Mummy & daddy decided that I wasn’t rubbish at skittles. No-one seems to know old enough to be left at home alone (probwho won the match. I blame the beer. ably worried about wild late night parties) so Despite my best efforts at needing to they took me on holiday with go to bed at their supper them to Wiltshire. The actime, everyone ate lots of commodation was best delovely food cooked by scribed as a chintzy caravan Rowena, with mummy in an in the car-park of the village advisory & occasional auxilhall. Mummy said she would iary stirring role. Note for help cook & Rowena said any other babies contemplatshe’d cuddle me but hand ing coming on a canal camp me back when things needed – the blue brew box makes stirring, or changing! I don’t an excellent bath. See photos mind the cooking but nofor details. It even has BB body said anything about written on it – for Baby Bath! going to supermarkets every Apparently when they day. Boring!! did get to site and weren’t Lots of other people sitting in the tea hut drinking turned up, some of them tea they did some bricklaying The author enjoys a bath were quite muddy, most of on lock 4, Digger shifted a lot them were men, and they of clay, and they started the spent quite a lot of time talking about beer – chamber clearance at lock 2. Daddy says he’s I think I need to know more about this. I going to write a bit more about that, it was too had hoped that daddy would take me to site muddy for me to want to do a site inspection. & let me drive the digger, but apparently See you all soon, lots of love & dribbles Digger was welded to the seat and wouldn’t Sophie let anyone else play. It rained. A lot. So KESCRG, the next generation! Rowena & mummy made cake and wished that all the boys would go to site and get out ...and from ‘Daddy’ Ian... from under their feet so that they could get on with some knitting. KESCRG vs Lock 4, Round 5 On Wednesday it rained so much they and didn’t go to site at all, but we did get to learn KESCRG vs Lock 2, Round 1 more about beer, by going on the tour of the Wadworth brewery. They had never had a The major objective of the week was to fill in baby on the tour before – no-one in the risk the gaping hole behind the offside of Lock 4 assessment department had heard of parents and in doing so remove the clay mountain in carrying their baby in a sling, assuming that the adjacent field. they wouldn’t be able to get their buggies up We were armed to the hilt with Adam ‘Digger’ Morris at the helm of Rachel’s JCB, the stairs! We all enjoyed the tasting session at the end, but I think I’ll stick to milk for and the crew with a roll of sheep’s feet... now. The boys all enjoyed the beer so much We also needed to complete the coping bricks on the wing walls of lock 4, quite a they spent all the other evenings in various

Camp 08: Wilts & Berks Canal

page 9


Camp Reports

“The one factor which would dictate progress was the weather... the rain only stopped for one day...”

Wilts & Berks Canal

page 10

Richard Worthington

This camp had the highest variation in working hours completed per day I have ever known. We also had more than our fair share of illness with a new recruit, the leader and the chairman all being taken down for at least 2 days each. In the end the clay got squished, the wing walls got coped, lock 2 forebay got stripped and had the near side refitted. All in all a great result in the face of… water, mud & Rachael’s JCB. Final Score: Weather 2, KESCRG 3 (late winner in extra time!) Ian Williamson

Above: work starts on Lock 2 Below left: backfilling Lock 4 walls with clay Below: rolling the clay by remote-controlled roller It was taken from the excavator cab so guess who took it...

Kate Penn

challenge with them being on a 45 degree incline. The main chamber walls’ copings required laying soldiers. On top of this we had the chance to make a start on lock 2 now that it has been agreed the road will be moved sideways. (We couldn’t tackle this part of the job this time as Ralph was not available for wrecking bar action). Lock 2 required the coffer dam we started last year to be completed across to the retaining wall. Digger got to work and much to his surprise moved part of the remaining wall towards him but failed to get the machine to climb up it. This resulted in the partial chamber clearance being completed from the towpath -after we had moved the WCs, which the hire company had brought back eventually, the truck driver having thought they were only out for a weekend. The one factor which would however dictate the progress was the weather. Now weather has become a bit of a theme in recent years both for weekend digs and our camps. This week was particularly weather afflicted, we lost 2 half-days and a complete day. This was unheard of for the last 3 years, sunstroke being the more likely ailment than trench foot. The rain only stopped for a day when Eddie’s waterproof erection was completed. At least it then acted as a sunshade for the brickies.


But meanwhile, the sun’s shining on South Wales, and the Sloppy Silt Sloppers are gathering under the M4...

Camp reports

Monmouthshire & Brecon Canals

Camp 12 at Fourteen Locks:

A sunny week on the Mon and Brec When our organiser and dirt fiend extraordinaire, Ms Jenny Black, asked me to be assistant leader on camp a few months back, I jumped at the chance. 16 WRGies at my beck and call, a week of glorious sunshine and the prospect of some seriously sloppy mud, delicate pointing and my personal favourite: the destruction of any plant life which threatened my canal. From the outset it sounded like a perfect combination, and when the WRGies began to turn up it Leader Rob and I realised what a dream team we had been given. Our primary aim was to clear a badly fouled aqueduct of sludge, water and stolen goods so as to be able to get at the leaks in the stonework which were threatening the rather large section of the M4 which roared above our heads. Other tasks included scrub bashing, re-pointing a lock, clearing a lock and finding its leaks, and hanging a new lock gate. After our walkabout with local canal lover Richard we divided into smaller working groups and attacked the canal with gusto. My ‘A Team’, Charley and John, helped me clear the middle lock of sludge, water and pond lilies, and then began the game of ‘Crouching WRGie Hidden Leaks’, which took several days more patience and perseverance than Charley and I had – congratulations to John and Justina for sticking with it and finally detecting and plugging the numerous leaks. Meanwhile, Team Sloppy Silt Sloppers were getting filthy. Allegedly, they were removing the mud, filth and various items of stolen goods from the aqueduct to expose the leaks which were damaging the motorway bridge. What appeared to be going on was a contest between Louise and Gemma to be the muddiest person, with Ralph and Martin frequently stopping to dig Ali (but not her wellies) out of the mud. Team Mike began some serious weeding of lock 2, something of a trust exercise as they were precariously balanced on a

pontoon which was moored by a piece of string to Justina (and somehow she resisted the urge to leave them floating there)! Weeding of the top lock also began in preparation for its re-pointing. Monday started with a bang as Rob’s constant supply of baked beans threatened to pollute all of Newport’s air; fortunately a quick-thinking Mike plugged the hole with clay and no-one was injured. The sloppy sloppers began re-pointing their leaky viaduct, to the interest of Newport’s charming local drunks. In the evening, James ‘Camp Whore’ Butler turned up for chauffeur duties and also to get his fix of Toby’s delicious cooking. We went to the worst-kept bowling alley in all of Wales, and despite the lumpy lanes Justina triumphed over the rest of us and Charley demonstrated some creative/novel/flukey trickshots! Tuesday was another scorchio day of blue skies and sunshine, and James began to ‘mow the grass with an excavator’, trimming the edge of the canal and redefining it. Justina was on dumper duty and soon turned a fabulous shade of ‘lobster bisque’, sitting in direct sun all day. The sloppy sloppers reached new lows of filthiness, with Ali and her boots needing rescuing numerous times. The days of digging began to pay off, as they could now see the leaks and so began filling them in.

“Come on in - it’s lovely!”

page 11


Barbara and Charley and I learnt the joys of mindless destruction, laying waste to a densely weedy area of wood alongside a picturesque bridge over the canal. Frank and Gemma continued trimming bush also, clearing hedges, trees and weeds so as to reveal the beautiful canal to the drivers of the ugly M4. The theme of vegetation clearance was continued on the top lock, where Team Mike began raking out the more dubious looking mortar. In the evening we combined the glorious outdoors with Toby’s glorious quiche, of which there were TWO delicious varieties and even a vegan breed of quiche, and excuse me if I get a bit over excited here but it was VERY good quiche… ahem. Wednesday was distinguished by being a day in which Ali did not get stuck in the mud. On the top lock, Toby cast pads in the sill, and inserted a new beam. Martin and James helped Toby put retaining boards along the newly re-dug section of canal, during which Martin proved his worth as a human dipstick by testing the depth of the canal. Dave, Charley and Gemma helped fill these retainers in later in the week with aggregate. The scaffolders promised to come and remove the scaffolding (and so release the trapped pontoon) but they didn’t. Horrified by the revelation of what a donkey punch was, we went to see Kung Fu Panda instead, and our not-so-hidden inner child(ren) were delighted. Our penultimate day of work saw a frenzy of pointing continuing in the lower chamber of the top lock, where the cool shade attracted large crowds of WRGies who previously had been unconvinced of the joys of lime and pointing. Above their heads, an elaborate system of skyhooks lowered Toby’s new lockgate into place before Taz and Louise began painting it. The sloppy slappers suffered considerably the saddening loss of

‘All our own work’ - a well-hung lock gate

page 12

Shifting slop and stolen goods under the M4 star slopper, Ali, who was struck sick by a mysterious bout of sloppyitus, and sent to sleep it off. Nonetheless, they battled on against the silt, filling in the cracks and repointing. The scaffolders still did not arrive. I finally achieved my personal dream of driving a dumper (and nobody was injured)! On our last day, James continued training David, Martin and I on the dumper, fashioning a dumper assault course for us. Later James dug out a drainage trench in the clay dam to allow the water back into the aqueduct. The rain made a short but dramatic appearance, hammering down before we could start on site then suddenly disappearing. The scaffolders never showed up, but we had accomplished so much...the tow paths were clear of weeds and trees, the crumbling cement had been removed from the stonework and fresh lime mortar put in its place, the top lock looked beautiful with its smart new gate and the second lock was free of weeds and sludge and no longer leaking. Best of all, the silt sloppers had managed to dig out all that mud and tackle the leaky brickwork which was threatening the structural integrity of the motorway above – quite an important task! Friday also saw a breakthrough in the hardest puzzle known to man – Where’s Wally was finally completed! Many thanks to all who turned up and made it such a successful week; Toby’s immense cooking, Sam and Taz’s supervision of both shopping and Toby, Rob’s organised leadership and the support of our esteemed drivers Mike and James. Special recognition must also go to our Best Newbie, Ali and Best Camper, Ralph, who both threw themselves into the tasks with style and enthusiasm, and thanks to all the people who had to be forced out of the kitchen and prevented from washing up! Rachael Bowers


Weed-planting, weightwatchers, semi-naked WRGies in the graveyard, and lots of jokes about pants... Camp 17, Montgomery Canal Saturday had started reasonably well. The Basingstoke camp the previous week had to be out of their accommodation quite early, so James and Jen were going to bring the vans up at a reasonable hour. I’d also heard from Stephen Lees, local BW guy, that the portable showers were at the Church Hall. Things went a little downhill from there. I got a call from James about lunchtime - “Which church hall are we staying at?” I was sure I’d told him, so in a slightly confused way I confirmed it was Llanymynech. “Well, we’re here now, there are no showers outside, and there is a wedding at 3pm.” “Oh ****” was my reply, as I had visions of getting the completely wrong hall, and expecting to have several urgent calls to make. Fortunately, it turned out that we had the right place, but no-one had been expecting two converted portaloos as the shower units! These had to be plumbed in and connected to a power supply, but some sterling work from Stephen and Malcolm meant they were up and running by the evening. Malcolm was the guinea pig, and described them as ‘adequate’. The only problem was that there wasn’t a lot of room to get changed, which meant semi naked bodies prowling round the churchyard for the rest of the

Stephen advises on which plants to pick

Camp reports

Montgomery Canal

week. At least we didn’t get any complaints from the permanent residents! The site visit revealed one of the longest access roads ever to get from a road to the site. With a speed limit of 10 mph, it seemed to take ages to get along the track. This wasn’t helped by cows blocking the track, and flocks of red-legged partridges that insisted on running along in front of the vans. We adjourned to the pub after Lady Essex’s first ever camp meal – a delicious stew. The pub’s under new management since the last time I’d been there, and the choice of beers has vastly improved. On Sunday, we needed to clear the Church hall fairly early in the morning, so we got an early start on site. The work for the week was going to be transferring plants from existing locations to the new reserve at Aston bottom lock, installing gates and fences there, and also building some blockwork canal bank walls at Redwith. However, the materials for the fences, gates and blockwork hadn’t arrived yet, so most people set to work on digging up plants and digging them back in again. Stephen was on hand to give the occasional botany guidance, so that we knew what was good and bad for the transfer. The plants were dug up from Crickheath Wharf and loaded into BW’s plant trailer (sic) to take to the reserve. We also took the opportunity to clear the areas where the gates were to be installed. Meanwhile, a small team went along to Rednal to raise the sunken WRG workflat for what I believe is the 4th or 5th time. The site where it was parked had become very overgrown, but a bit of scrub bashing the night before had revealed the extent of the problem, which turned out to be hardly any problem at all. The front of the boat was lifted with a couple of tirfors, then the hold pumped out, all before lunchtime. For Monday, there’s not much different to report on the work front. There were no materials for the gates and walls, so replanting continued apace, with plants this time coming from the existing reserve at Aston as well as

page 13


Crickheath. We also installed three benches. Driving through the village of Pant gave everyone the excuse to recycle all the old jokes – well, WRG is known for its green credentials. The Pant Accident Repair Centre became the butt of a few jokes – especially useful when skid marks have been made. However, proper recycling came to the fore that evening. We had been told that the hall needed to be vacated by 6.30 pm so that the Weight Watchers could use it. As it happened, we’d planned a boat trip across the Pontcysyllte aqueduct that night, so we’d leave about 6.15 and have fish and chips. Their organiser arrived about 5 pm, and got into a bit of a tizzy as we weren’t ready. People were still waiting for showers, we hadn’t moved the tables, and worst of all our food was uncovered! She flipped straight into panic mode and refused any offer of help setting up. When we returned from the boat trip, we found that several teacloths had been put over our crisps etc. What she hadn’t covered though, was the stack of beer bottles and cans ready to go for recycling. Hmmm, strange... Tuesday morning started well, at least for everyone except Louise. She stretched while still in bed, and put her hand on something slimy, which turned out not to be part of someone’s anatomy, but a slug. Nice preparation for breakfast! More replanting at the reserve, plants today coming from the dry Pant section. (That’s the section of canal, not the people.) At least the gates finally arrived, and Louise got her wood. There wasn’t time to start anything with them, but we were able to do the measuring up. Lesley really came into her element there. Comments on Naomi, with a mouthful of rice: “‘She can’t eat all that”. “Oh yes she can. She’s from Essex – of course she’ll swallow!” The evening’s entertainment consisted of bowling at Shrewsbury. I think it’s fair to say extreme bowling has now been invented. Wednesday - Hooray! Not only did we have the gates and fencing to play with, we also had the blocks delivered at Redwith. With a team let loose on each of those, it didn’t leave many for replanting. We’d also discovered a use for the Pant Accident Repair Centre, who happily fixed our bonker for us. For some reason, the receipt said Pant Motor Repair Centre. Ah, that’s what they do! We trundled off to Ironbridge that night to meet the guys from the Droitwich camp. Poor old Ironbridge! It’s probably still reel-

page 14

ing from the shock. At least we won hands down in the pool challenge (they won hands down in the vomit stakes). Quote of the week came from Raj, after spilling beer on my foot. “I’m a WRGie. I shovel shit. But I will NOT lick your boots!” Thursday arrived, and the work was much the same as the day before, but most people were in a rhythm by now, so it all progressed very nicely. In the evening, we went for a picnic to Lake Vyrnwy. It would have been nice, if it wasn’t for the bloody midges! Various methods were tried to lose them, including smoke, sitting in the van, covering yourself from head to foot and swimming, but none really worked. You just had to keep moving, so we went for a walk round the chainsaw sculpture trail. Amazing what you can do when let loose with the right piece of kit. On Friday, work continued on the replanting, filling in gaps and trying to give a random appearance to the new area. The gates and fences were finished off, and blockwork continued. All in all, a good weeks work. The week was topped off by a barbecue at Alan Jervis’ house, carefully cooked by Lady Essex, Ju, Craig and Matt. We had a fantastic week with a fantastic team of nutters. I’d like to thank them all individually, but instead I’ll just say a great big thanks to Louise, (first time assistant) and Lady Essex (first time cook), helping me (first time leader). Not bad for a bunch of first timers! But especially I need to thank Stephen Lees – we couldn’t have done it without him! Paul Shaw

George tests out one of the new benches


Another week on the Mont, and Helen makes a bid for the” most unusual first word of a camp report” award... Camp 19, Montgomery Canal Banoffeepie: Freya makes the best banoffee pie in the world... Teaching John lip reading: Holly is a veterinary nurse – unfortunately in lipreading language, nurse came out as ‘arse’, while Philip the Priest was ‘Beast’... This was John’s second camp. Some of the benefits of being profoundly deaf are that you don’t hear yourself snoring and you don’t need ear defenders when the concrete mixer is going! Gavin was superb at practising his sign language... we invented a little more – try and guess how we signed ‘weight-watchers’! Most of the funny stuff didn’t actually involve work on site; however, Martin Ludgate did impress upon us that really the camp report ought to mention some of the site work at least once, so.... “We built some great walls and planted some plants.” Right, where were we??? Helen burnt the porridge on Thursday, Lisa wasn’t impressed, but it cleaned her fingernails. Viv finally got to see Mamma Mia (third time lucky) and could hear Joyce from the other side of the cinema singing away... we laughed lots... Oh ok, we did lots of work stuff too. Err... oh yes, Aston nature reserve extension had been planted up by the previous week’s camp but we made it more beautiful. There is physical evidence of the girls doing all the fencing work and the boys standing observing – the camera never lies! There was some bonking but the camera broke..! We then moved onto the Redwith Bridge site, re-sited plants from elsewhere to the banks of the canal. Oh we also went through 10 tonnes of concrete......3-2-1 concrete as Jessica and Freya reminded me! Bob the builder and the Brickettes did a mighty fine job of concreting, breeze blocking and the like, building up the canal wall. When digging up plants, points to note: (1) Dig up bulrushes, they are much

Camp reports

Montgomery Canal

easier than glyceria and green bobbly stuff (see Stephen for correct botanical name). (2) Joanne advises not slipping up the slope with a loaded wheelbarrow (3) Avoid falling into the holes that you have just removed the bulrushes from (comedy holes) (4) Persuade BW (who are really cool in this area – amazingly) to loan you a boat for planting the offside. Hope that you will get the aluminium float. However due to the high price of scrap metal these days, rubber dinghy with slight puncture will appear. Install one Holly (not the plant!) who will row like a mad thing. Then install one tall Philip to use his patented welly technique to insert plants into pockets (dans la poche). This was A-level results week...Jon and Faye ran back to Swansea to get their results – the rest of us missed them terribly. Lisa and Amy got superb results so we celebrated with bubbly stuff and were all suitably impressed.

Above: girls fence while boys watch Below: the block wall under construction

page 15


And on a more sober, post camp note...

First you pick your plants...

...put them in the ‘plant trailer’ for transport...

...then in the boat for final delivery to site...

Martin Ludgate

The diggers and planters were suitably sustained with holy squash courtesy of Philip (oh ok, he’s a curate not a priest), who was guilty by association. Steve did a fantastic job of keeping the mixer going, despite lamenting the loss of last year’s heritage wall. At least it will be preserved behind the newly built modern retaining wall. Perhaps in years to come, an archaeologist will discover the preserved wall and think it an original. Comedy trailer reversing – well we won’t mention the drivers but we did appreciate Martyn doing lots of van driving for us... also thanks to all the back seat drivers – that’s everyone else! Posh catering was brought to you by the ultimate rain God himself Alan “AJ” Jervis and Mala – fantastic curry experience and chilled out BBQ venue. Thank you, it really was ace! Viv Watson Helen ‘Bush’ Gardner xx This camp report would have been brought to you by the medium of interpretative orange glove dancing courtesy of Faye and Jessica, but this page isn’t big enough. PS. Huge thanks to Chris for stepping up to assistant leader he did a great and reliable job and lots of comedy added value, but Mk2, we did miss you. PPS, comedy leadership and cooking skills brought to you by Bush and Viv productions...always lead a camp with your best mate – ESP works much better that way PPPS, Viv broke her second cooker in 17 years (post camp note – it was mended again). PPPPS, This was the first camp where we had to hide from a huge funeral...!

The volunteers worked extremely hard, we ...and plant them in the pockets. Simple! planted the newly re-watered section between Gronwen Wharf and Redwith Bridge. We finished the off-side from where North-West got to last time and got quite a long way down the towpath side. Digging up plants is much, much harder than you would think but we managed to get lots of reed mace, irises, meadowsweet and other stuff from Crickheath and Pant - it’s free and local. Thanks to everyone for helping with everything including the cooking of the Green and Blacks book recipe ‘Ginger Tipsy Tart’ – yummy yummy - and not moaning too much about how hard digging up plants is. Finally, thanks to Stephen Lees and his colleagues from BW for their hard work, help and pragmatic approach. The team are a prime example of how BW should be working with volunteers (apart from them stealing one of our hard hats and me sending the key to their luxury welfare unit to the National – we’re quits). Love, Ginger Blathered Tart (Bush or Helen to the rest of you) xxx

page 16


Camp reports

Meanwhile down in Devon, work is progressing on rebuilding the entrance lock to Lord Rolle’s Canal

Lord Rolle’s Canal

Camp 10: Lord Rolle’s Canal “More tasks with Tarka”

John Hawkins

I arrived early at Sea Lock Barn - soon to be followed by Spencer with van D16SAD and a trailer. Victoria had stopped in Bideford to get some supplies. Unfortunately the road out of Bideford had “Road Closed” signs across it; but it was still usable for a short distance-which included the entrance to the Barn. Whilst Spence met Jen and Steve at Barnstaple station, signs were hastily put out to direct people as necessary to the Canal Camp. Everybody started to arrive during the afternoon and the kit was checked through. The Barn usually sleeps 12 people, but 15 had booked onto the camp and so the original plan was for Maggie, Derek and myself to sleep in locals Adrian and Hilary’s caravan (they own the land that the Lock and Barn are situated on) a short walk away; I ended up sleeping on the lounge floor in the Barn. All formalities, including the Camp Safety video were dealt with, dinner cooked, eaten and cleared away - so some people walked to the local hostelry to sample the local brews.

Eat your heart out Bungle, here’s a real crane!

The “on-site safety” was highlighted to all and fences erected where necessary. Since our last visit Adrian had bought a Ruston Bucyrus RB22 dragline crawler crane. Victoria and Jen started to prepare this for painting later in the week. Rob and John Heywood laid the top layer of stone in readiness for some of the copers to be laid. Carys, Rhian and John H boarded out some of the scaffold and made sure all was safe to use. Meanwhile James put his skills to use checking the heights and sizes for the new quoin stones (the hollow stones that form the ‘hinge’ post for the lock-gates) to be put into place. These were positioned using he 3600 excavator that was on site. Carys and Rhian used the angle grinder to remove the lifting eyes so that the next block could be put in place. The ‘team’, with Andy assisting, then proceeded to place the remaining copers along the wall - all levelled and mortared in place. After dinner we all went down to Bideford for a look around, and then walked back to the Barn along the Tarka Trail - a cycleway converted from an old railway line - with some glow-worms showing in the grass. The next day proceeded with more of the same jobs - but also the need for the old wooden top cill to be removed; it was rotten in places and needed to be replaced. Ian, Janet, Steve and Jen set to work, but after a while it was decided that other means would be required: the timber wasn’t quite as rotten as first thought. Some of the old wall was cleaned with the pressure washer in readiness for its rebuild. After dinner some people went with Adrian and Hilary to a Jazz Club in Appledore. Work was progressing on all jobs; panels of the crane had been rust-treated and undercoated, all quoins in place - with Rob and John Heywood starting to build the gate recess wall. All copers in place, stone being laid along the wharf wall, and rubble moved with the 3600 excavator and dumper to the lower area by the lock. With all of the copers in place along one part of the wharf

page 17


John Hawkins

John Hawkins

wall it was decided to take down the scaffold, Meantime, after some more work on site we in readiness for it to be rebuilt further along went to Appledore to meet with the others for the other wall. The main part of the scaffold a fish and chip meal - very tasty. was removed and stacked, but as for some On a few mornings we had a visit from of the verticals... they were Tarka - or at least one of a different story. They his relatives; prints were were eventually removed seen in the silt as the tide by various means; some receded. being buried nearly a third Other evening trips of their length in the silt. included visiting various Derek and Maggie arranged structures along the line of for a chilli for that evening’s the canal and also a visit to dinner using pulses that Clovelly - a village on the they had grown and dried coast that is totally traffic from their own allotment. free. A very steep walk Janet sorted the apples and down the cobbled streets blackberries for sweet where all the residents use using blackberries from my a sledge to bring their garden. Some were feeling furniture, shopping, etc the effects of an active down the steep slope. outdoor life and only Andy Because the vans had to be went with Adrian to parked at the top it was a The completed gate quoin Appledore for a musical walk down and back up ‘jam evening’. after a drink the harbour-side pub. Some As usual everybody was on site in good people decided to walk back through the time, having eaten a very enjoyable breakvillage and others up the only street that fast, eaten outside (as were the majority of certain vehicles were allowed to use - a very the meals). Work was continuing on all tasks steep climb back up to the vans. with Derek and Maggie on mixing duties, All tasks had progressed throughout keeping a plentiful supply of mortar and conthe week, with extra work on the wooden crete to the various jobs on site. Some panels lock gates that had been removed by BW of the crane were getting their gloss coat of from the Caen Hill flight. They are in need paint. Luckily the weather was holding out; of some tlc. Old planks were knocked out. although not very sunny, at least the rain was The rails were prepared for painting by Ian staying away. After lunch Spence took four of and Janet - who had kindly bought everythe group to Appledore, to meet with Barry for body a tub of the local ice cream… very tasty. a trip up the river in his boat. They arrived, Friday saw more work for the 3600 and right into the lock later in the afternoon and dumper which was being used to dig out the after a “cuppa” the second group of four got silt at the base of the wall in readiness for into the boat for the return trip Appledore. the scaffold to be extended. The rain started late morning and so lunch was eaten under the wooden barn. As usual, later in the afternoon the site was slowly cleared of all the wrg tools and kit checked into the trailer. Because of the continuing rain the evening B-BQ was held indoors. A final sort of the kit on Saturday, and people started to make their various ways home. Yet another very successful week on the Lord Rolle Canal. Thanks to Spencer for leading the week, and to Victoria for the great food. Stones being laid on the wharf wall John Hawkins

page 18


Camp 08: Cotswold Canals ‘The Battle of Gough’

Martin Ludgate

A few weeks after BW unconditionally surrendered on the Western Front, WRG’s army decided to take on Gough and his Orchard... Sunday: 0-eight hundred hours…the rain begins. Forecast was not good but morale was high with the troops. Led by Major Christopher Pardon the troops left base camp at Selsley and headed towards the trenches of Gough, freshly dug the week before ready for action, and set about establishing camp. Unfortunately the troops were called away from their first job because of logistical support problems… i.e. Major Pardon got the van stuck! Once all the commotion had dispelled and the van was free the troops got a brew on! As the rain poured the trenches filled with water and work soon squelched to a stop. Urgent action was required and Major Pardon went off in search of floating pontoons. On his return a crate raft was constructed and the troops set to work carefully demolishing the lock wing walls. First they removed the coping stones before moving on to the rest of the wall, working hard to remove the mortar without damaging bricks. Soon a brick-cleaning crew was established, lead by Second Lieutenant Babs. Meanwhile we’d decided that we needed a safe way to get down into the lock. So under instruction by Captain White the troops cut some stakes and dug a little to create a beautiful staircase to the muddy water below! After a tiring day battling the mud, mud and, yes, mud of Gough’s Orchard the troops returned to Base Camp to a feast prepared by Mrs Barnes, wife of Lieutenant Colonel Richard Barnes. Quiet descended over the mess hall whilst the troops devoured their dinner.

Taking the wall down...

Camp reports

Cotswolds - in the rain

Monday: More rain. The troops were on site early again and continued prepping the wing walls for rebuilding later on. The brick crew set to work chiselling and scrubbing the bricks back to their former glory. Another team set up the pump to clear the chamber of water so the troops could work safely on the walls. As the wing walls were being taken down we realised our supplies would run low despite the best efforts of brick cleaning crew. A reconnaissance team went on a mission to borrow bricks from a nearby site held by CCT at Eisey Lock whilst the brick crew kept on cleaning the exposed brickwork ready for action tomorrow. After a thirsty day’s work they all then headed to the pub to spend some of our hard earned beer tokens. Tuesday: More rain … and even more mud. Another day in the battlegrounds of Gough and work was going well despite the weather’s best attempts to stall progress. Private J ‘where’s my fag’ mie set about improving mess conditions for the troops in the trenches. Site now seriously bogged down after days of rain, the gazebo alone wasn’t enough to protect us. Fortunately we now had a supply of old bricks. Carefully Private J-mie and Lance Corporal Curtis set about using them to create a fancy crazypaved patio for the troops to lunch and relax. Whilst the mess area was being improved the rest of the gang started repointing the lower brickwork of the wing walls. Squadron Sergeant Major Arthurs worked tirelessly mixing mortar for the willing workers and soon an efficient production line was established. Corporal Pardon took a team down the canal to try and fix a breach. Although they did a good job with the clay and stemmed the flow, serious rebuilding is needed in future. Further improvements to site were made by fresh-faced ...and putting it back up

page 19


Martin Ludgate

squaddies Tom and Paul who built a set of steps so superior we were surprised they didn’t install a staircarpet and banisters! Entertainment on Tuesday night was a hard fought game of skittles against a 5th Battalion KESCRG Light Infantry Division who were entrenched in the dangerous southern enclave of 7-locks. It was a damned close-run thing but thanks to our squaddies who played with great skill and bravery we won and journey home was filled with ‘songs’ of victory! Wednesday: 0-seven hundred hours…. Rain. 0-eight hundred hours… Still raining. 0-nine hundred hours… even more bloody rain. 0-nine hundred hours and 2 seconds… day on site abandoned. Weather severe, roads around base camp flooding. Major Pardon decided it would be dangerous to head down to Gough’s Orchard and a nice day at the canal museum was in order. The troops descended on the museum and soon found their level… the children’s dressing up box. Five minutes later Corporal Pardon, Army Photographer Ludgate and Lance Corporal Curtis were cross-dressed in traditional boatmen and boatwomen outfits. The troops left the museum to head back to base camp. Although they assembled at the front entrance and were marched back to the vans, on arriving back to base camp it was soon discovered that Private Rolt had gone AWOL. Major Pardon assembled a search team and set out back to Gloucester. Meanwhile Private Rolt used his army training found his way back to base camp ahead of Major Pardon, much to the relief of the troops and acting charge Captain White. Without Mrs Barnes’s fantastic cooking abilities the battalion were left to fend for themselves. Officer Cadet Ethel took on the role of kitchen wench and she soon learnt the art of potato mashing and crumble making under the instruction of Captain White. A simple meal of sausage and mash followed by crumble was given to the troops followed by a few cheeky shandies in the pub. Thursday: Oh yeah more rain…and a little sunny fencing action! Today’s job was A most superior set to secure the territory

page 20

gained after days of toiling in the mud and water. Fencing supplies arrived and the day was spent building and securing the lock with new panels, clips and blocks. The women of the battalion worked hard and within 4 hours the compound and lock were secured with new fence panels. We all retired to the patio for a well earned brew and cake break. Meanwhile the lads of the battalion had continued rebuilding the wings wall of the lock and despite the weather had made good progress. After another hard day’s graft CCT naval wing invited us land based souls for a boat trip on the Gloucester & Sharpness. Afterwards the troops were rewarded with fish and chips. Friday: It was kinda sunny and dry…. I think! Corporal Pardon disappeared off site and left the troops to their own devices….. With strict instructions to dig exploratory trenches to discover the condition of the brickwork in the lock chamber the troops were soon distracted and fighting broke out between rivals’ ditches… mud was flying in every direction, other troops took to the safety of the gazebo. The battle went on for what seemed like an age… but in the end it was an honourable muddy draw (OK maybe the boys won!) Despite the distractions of flying mud both sides of the wing walls were nearly finished and repointing work continued. Sadly time and the bad weather prevented both wing walls from being fully completed and it was left for another brave battalion to finish off a few week later. In the evening, not being deterred by the weather Corporal Pardon decided the troops needed a morale-boasting BBQ on the last night. Inevitably as soon as it was lit, the heavens opened, so Pardon continued barbecuing indoors...with predictable results! The smoky atmosphere did little to dampen the troops spirits and Army Photographer Ludgate organised a slideshow of the week’s work. Thanks to everyone for all their hard work especially Harri B for helping out with the cooking and Barbara and Warwick for putting the ‘younger generation’ to shame!! of temporary steps Jenny Black


Camp reports

...while a few miles further east, NWPG are working on another project on the Cotswold Canals: the Dig Deep site at Eisey Lock

Cotswolds

arch. Both walls were close to completion by the end of the camp. Receiving no offers (again!) to write up this The clearance of the lock chamber was year’s NWPG summer camp you will have to essentially a one man task – Pete Bunker and put up with my inevitably rather factual and a 14 tonne digger. Because of concerns about dull script. I will try however to give you the the stability of the chamber sides, the Cotsflavour of what in my totally impartial view wolds Canals Trust had sought out a special was an excellent camp. grab extension fitting to the machine that Eisey Lock located near the eastern end enabled it to reach into the lock without the of the Thames & Severn Canal is our newest machine being too close to the lock side. Dig Deep project. Work began in earnest in This turned out to be a useful piece of kit February and the aim of our summer camp (only two exist in the country apparently) but was to do all the work that cannot be done at quite difficult to operate and, on occasions, weekends to enable the productive use of the got itself into a tizz by swinging uncontrollafuture Dig Deep weekends through the rest bly! We soon had the trees and scrub out and of 2008 and into 2009. burnt followed by the silt which was deposThe critical tasks were to clear the lock ited direct into a lagoon dug parallel to the chamber of trees and silt, clear the lower lock chamber. This avoided double handling forebay, install the stop plank channels and and sped the process considerably. The last beam and re-build the lower wing walls that of the silt was left for Wednesday morning are normally submerged under water. Hope- and the arrival of a reporter from BBC Oxfully we could also demolish the outer single ford News who were doing a series of pieces skin brick facing that had been added to the on cheap holidays – WRG camps fitting the lock walls as part of a botched repair job bill once the beer money has been deducted. th sometime in the early 20 century. This Then, of course, brick cleaning – how brickwork which in places was hanging by a could I forget it? The method of rebuilding thread made any working in the chamber involves new bricks for the front 9 inches potentially dangerous. and then reclaimed bricks for the wall behind So thanks to a re-working of the WRG – i.e no concrete pours behind the walls – Gough’s Orchard Method Statements and lime mortar rules OK. This requires a copiwith Graham Hawkes’ expertise in the field of risk assessments, detailed assessments were put together, plant and materials ordered and volunteers assembled. Our team of 21 comprised a 50:50 mix of experienced and new volunteers. Actually when the number of previous camps attended was taken into account, most of its members could be counted as experienced. At the top end of the lock we progressed the work started in the spring by LWRG in rebuilding the wing walls. Pete Turville and David Smith tackled the off-side wall and soon found that in order to align the walls properly a number of key stones had to reset before the wall could be re-built. Phil Cardy was tasked with the other wall – inRebuilding begins on the lower wing walls cluding the brickwork above the paddle hole Billl Nicholson

Camp 20: Cotswold Canals

page 21


Camp Reports Cotswold Canals

“Demolition of chamber walls... I remember on the Basingstoke it took many weeks. At Eisey Lock we did one wall per day”

Billl Nicholson

Billl Nicholson

ous supply of cleaned filled in many years ago. bricks – a demand that we CCT will now have to just about kept up with decide whether to restore thanks to the fantastic this feature or divert the efforts of Sally Greenhalgh bywash into the adjacent who cleaned bricks all stream which could easily week - lasting until Friday do the same job. The morning when the will towpath wing wall is now finally cracked! Can anyone ready for copings with the beat this record? Other off-side about 50% comteam members helped of plete. course but at least they had Finally, the demolidifferent jobs at various tion of those chamber times to break the mowalls. On the Basingstoke notony. Canal I remember this At the bottom of the took many weeks. (I also lock we played with remember standing on pumps. To cast a stop the walls with Kango plank beam you need to hammers and no scaffoldget the chamber as dry as ing!) At Eisey we did one One of only two in the country: the wall per day! The techpossible to cut the chandigger with its special attachment nique was to dig a trench nel, set up the shuttering and finally pour the conbehind the coping stones, crete. Until Thursday lunchtime this seemed pull them back into it and bury them. A track like an impossible task as the pump inlets was placed across the top of the now buried would keep getting blocked with twigs and stones from which the digger could safely small fish. However we stuck at it and by reach both the lock walls and the bottom of using a combination of the digger bucket (the the chamber. Next the digger bucket was put grab gadget having been removed by then) behind lock wall and pushed outwards. The shovelling and pumping we got the invert clear lock wall duly fell into the chamber and the enough to start cutting the channels. Friday, rubble was scooped out in the digger bucket. the last day, and the inevitable slog to comThe whole process was then repeated on the plete the task – not helped by the Dig Deep other side. The result: two 90ft chamber poker refusing to do its bit to help level the walls demolished in two afternoons. concrete. To mention names: George, Steve, The camp met all its objectives and Rob and Graham S brought the job to a means that visiting groups will have plenty to successful conclusion at do over the autumn/winter around 6pm and the pumps months. That we did is were shut down. thanks to all the hard work The lower wing walls of the volunteers, one of made steady progress whom said that he had under the leadership of never worked so hard in all Graham Hawkes and prohis life! Thanks also to Jon vided opportunities for Pontefract and Ken Burgin some bricklaying training. for ensuring that we had As part of this work we the kit and materials on site found the outfall for the and on time to do the job. Favourite job - brick cleaning bywash which had been Bill Nicholson.

page 22


Droitwich Barge Lock: All uncredited photos courtesy of Mike Palmer

start to finish a Navvies special feature

You want it finished by WHEN? The front cover of our last issue showed Mike Palmer operating a hoist in Vines Park, Droitwich, as chamber clearance began on the Barge Lock in late June. And the same magazine mentioned a completion celebration planned in late September. Some simple maths will tell you that that gave us three months to restore the lock. A tall order, you might think. That’s why we made it our major project for the summer and allocated four weeks of canal camps. And this wasn’t any old lock. It had English Heritage keeping an eye on us, as it’s a scheduled Ancient Monument. And it had the River Salwarpe running past, meaning dams, pumps and the like. And at times, given the appalling ‘summer’, it had the River Salwarpe threatening to flood us out. On the plus side, the chamber was fairly sound, with some repairs done in the early stages of the Droitwich restoration before efforts were concentrated elsewhere. On the negative side, at some time it had had a particularly stubborn concrete dam installed across the chamber. And as it was full of water, with an indeterminate amount of silt at the bottom of it, we couldn’t even tell to begin with exactly what work was needed. So how did we get on? Let’s hand over to Di Smurthwaite for an account of the first week’s camp, whose main task was to pump out the water and clear enough of that silt to be able to work out exactly what we had let ourselves in for...

Camp 08: 21st-28th June The idea of the first camp of the four planned on this lock over the Summer was to remove enough silt from the upper gate recess area of the lock so British Waterways could assess the condition and how much work would be needed to restore the lock. A dam had been put in at each end, but Mike Palmer estimated that there was about 3ft of water and 3ft of silt in the chamber. BW had arranged for a large pump to clear the

page 23


Special feature: Droitwich Barge Lock Week one: clearing the s**t out of the lock chamber water, but unfortunately it was impossible to stop a leak in the top dam flowing back into the lock. We blocked it off as much as possible, and also operated a second smaller pump, but initially only Martin Thompson (who had his own chest waders) could get in, sinking in up to his waist. WRG thigh waders were the only type which we can legally supply under current H&S laws. In view of the magnitude of silt to be removed, MKP naturally assumed that BW would have made arrangements for a regular turnaround of the four skips provided at the start… Meanwhile it took most of Sunday morning to get set up and get pumped out - as the leak refilled the lock each night, but by the end of that day the first two skips were filled. Halfway through Monday morning we had only one empty skip left, and MKP telephoned to find out when we could expect the turnaround The Barge Lock: what is it? of full and empty skips to start, only to find out There are two Droitwich Canals. The first one, originally simply that no arrangements called the Droitwich Canal, was opened in 1771 to link the salt had been made with works town of Droitwich to the River Severn. It was built to take the skip company, and 14ft wide trows, the sailing barges that plied the Severn. they could only take Eighty years later, right at the end of the canal-building era, a orders from BW. Soon second canal was built, in the hope of staving off competition from after lunch on Monday, the new railways. It was 1 3/4 miles long, and linked Droitwich to we had no option but the Worcester & Birmingham Canal at Hanbury Wharf. And as the to pack up for the day – W&B was built for 7ft wide narrow boats rather than 14ft wide which was a shame as barges, the six locks that carried the new canal down into Droitwe had been planning wich were also built to narrow beam dimensions. It was the Droitto work late because wich Junction Canal, and the old canal became known as the Droitthe Little Witley Village wich Barge Canal. Hall had a regular In the centre of Droitwich, the new canal joined the River booking for a “Music Salwarpe at the tail of Lock 6, then a hundred yards or so further and Movement” class west, a short length of canal connected this to the Barge Canal in until- 7.30pm. Fortuwhat is now Vines Park. This length included one lock: there wasn’t nately, the hall had a much change in level to be overcome, but it kept flood water out of nice balcony at the back the canal. It originally had two sets of gates, one facing each way, with splendid views to allow for the river level to be either higher or lower than the caover the countryside, so nal. Unlike the other locks on the Junction Canal it was built to 14ft Jude served us up a barge width, so wide craft which still used the Barge Canal could great meal to eat on the get to wharves on the river section. So as the only barge size lock balcony in the evening on the Junction Canal, it became known as the Barge Lock. sunshine. The skip situation and the amount of water continuously flowing into the lock made life pretty frustrating, not only for Mike but also for the rest of us, who were itching to get on. At last, on Tuesday a regular skip run was set up, several collections operating that day, and for the next three days we had a delivery/collection starting at 7 a.m. The skips had to be taken to Wolverhampton for emptying, which involved a turn round time of 2 to 2.5 hours, so although we were filling four skips a day, only 3 journeys could be fitted in, with some of the full skips being taken round to the Droitwich Canal Trust yard to be collected the following week. Communication wasn’t all that could be desired… BW (on mobile): Good news. 3 empty skips are on their way to you. MKP: Would you like me to tell the skip man? He’s standing next to me. BW: Oh. Well, they soon will be on their way to you.

page 24


Special feature: Droitwich Barge Lock “We collected more fish in 10 minutes than his mate had caught in 10 years” Mike had a pretty experienced team, averaging 12 on site, just three of whom were new to WRG, and even the newbies worked extremely hard. A regular teamwork structure was set up, as is usual on MKP’s camps, with 3-4 shovelling s**t down in the lock, 2 operating the barrow hoist, at least 3 barrowing it to empty into the skips, and any others available fetching and carrying, moving fences around, guiding the skip man in and out of the compound, and rescuing fish from the chamber as it emptied and rushing them across the bank into the river, probably about 40 of all sizes over the week! The man in charge of the dams, who was initially nicknamed Dan-The-Dam-Man, but turned out to be called Brad (thereafter named Brad Pitt instead), was fascinated at the number of fish being rescued. He reckoned we collected more in 10 minutes than his mate had caught in 10 years. Lucy, who was in charge of BW volunteer projects, turned up every day and tried to cater for our needs and arrangements, and even bought us cream cakes on our last day. The silt was extremely sloppy and smelly, and showers were very much the order of the day when we finished work. Several people got stuck and bogged down and had to be rescued (it wasn’t just a problem for the fish), WRG logos on T-shirts became unreadable, and the pumps had the odd problem of trying to cope with sucking up as much silt as water. The lock splits into three sections – the upper gate recess, main chamber, and lower gate recess – and although we all worked incredibly hard, only the first of these sections was emptied of most of the silt to Main job for week 1: shifting silt out of the chamber the extent that the old gates could be almost fully opened. That left at least as much again to be cleared out of the other two sections. The final job on the Friday was to knock down the concrete wall which had been built across the chamber about 25 years ago, using a jack hammer, mostly operated by Martin T. and Paul Shaw. We had a visit to the restored Hanbury Three Locks one day, and then to see the contract work being done by Morrisons to divert the line of the canal and build the four new locks needed to get the canal under the M5. Lucy had given BITM a tour of that area back in February, before work was started, and it was staggering the amount that had been achieved since then. Locks 4 and 5 are dug out and ready for facing, but unfortunately money is so tight that they can only afford to provide a concrete facing with coping bricks, and possibly sandstone quoins. We managed to fit in several pub visits - the one furthest away being the best, with a wide choice of real ales, and Jude cooked us some great meals to keep our strength up. Di Smurthwaite

page 25


Special feature: Droitwich Barge Lock Week two: more of the same s**t We asked Mike Palmer what had happened during the second week’s Canal Camp on the Droitwich Barge Lock. In the absence of a camp report so far, his response “more of the same shit” - appears to be backed up by the photos on this page which kind-of make his point. Although to be fair, there also seems to have been some breaking-out of the concrete dam across the lock chamber, plus some serious damage inflicted on the old lock gates.

Shift it out of the lock chamber...

...and dump it in the skip. Exactly as MKP described it

Dismantling old gates: the subtle approach...

Breaking out the old concrete dam

page 26

...and the not-quite-so-subtle approach

Gradually the bottom of the chamber starts to appear


Special feature: Droitwich Barge Lock Week three: some different s**t Come the third week’s camp, and while it might be a slight exaggeration to say that we were on to anything actually constructive, we had at least finished clearing out silt and graduated on to the more technical work of cutting out ladder recesses and putting up scaffolding ready for the rebuild to begin. One of the volunteers takes up the story...

Camp 16: 2nd - 9th August I couldn’t believe what was in front of my eyes. After calling the whole family into the front room the report started, and sure enough, on Midlands Today, there was the lock which I had spent the previous week restoring. However tradition dictates that the report should be written from start to finish, and not the other way around, so... It began on a very sunny Saturday afternoon, with a very nice cup of tea. After all the volunteers had arrived (and we did look like a crack team of personnel), Mike Palmer went through a hamper that was supposedly the food for the week: “Half a Bird’s eye view of the new ladder recess bag of pasta, baking soda, 3 tins of tuna...” thankfully he was joking but it did make me wonder what kind of a week I’d let myself in for. The first task of the week was to move some tools from the trailer into the back of the vans. The team, who were quite clearly the SAS of volunteer crews made light work of this and it was soon time for the health and safety talk. Sigh... After being educated in the importance of not chopping your hand off (or someone else’s) with a saw, it was time for the site visit. You could tell from everyone’s expression that we were itching to get in there, but with the time getting on for beer o’clock, we all agreed that it would be more important to raid Morrison’s and head back to the accommodation. Once we got there, Chris (who was the leader, of sorts, for this camp) came up with the ‘icebreaker’. A very interesting half hour ensued, in which we learnt that some members of the group have never had a problem with a polar bear, personally I can’t get rid of them. No sooner than everyone’s head hit the pillow it was Sunday morning (quite literally for the younger members). Our first breakfast was prepared and we all ‘filled our boots’ (not literally of course; that would be a waste of good boots) ready for a hard day of lock refurbishment. The morning started at a run, with some people far too eager to get into the hoist harness (mentioning no names). The crack team lead (usually in the wrong direction) by Chris made short work moving all the fences around quickly work began on breaking up the concrete in the bottom of the canal. Throughout the afternoon, the youngsters, or team D of E learnt how to use the breaker, and with mechanical precision concrete was broken, shovelled, hoisted, barrowed and skipped. After much breaking, tea, hoisting, tea, barrowing, tea and a giant group effort to convince Richard it really was too dark to continue breaking the concrete, we packed up the site and loaded up ready for a good night’s drinking at the Red Lion. Monday went well but on Tuesday the old lock bit back. The weather was utterly miserable and only Ready for the rebuild to start the completely hard-core (nutters) ventured onto the

page 27


Special feature: Droitwich Barge Lock “Chris turned up with what looked like the power station for Droitwich” site. Then, the diesel generator packed up. Not a problem though, because we still had a petrol one. Next, ironically, the breaker broke. Things really started to slow down now, until the petrol generator broke. Not only did this lead to the perplexing situation of plenty of diesel with a broken diesel generator, and a working petrol one but no petrol, but it also caused work to cease completely. Progress resumed with a new breaker and plenty of delicious petrol after a very long lunch, and at 5 o’clock the Droitwitch leisure centre showers had never looked more appealing. Wednesday afternoon played host to the first Vines park cricket match played with a golf ball and piece of wood found in the canal. Top run scorer- John Allen. In the evening the camp met up with the camp from Montgomery in Ironbridge for a pub crawl (of sorts) and what was a hilarious night, despite Droitwitch being shamed on the pool table. Unsurprisingly, half the group decided to stay back at the accommodation on Thursday Morning to ‘help’ Alice do the lunches. The generator problems were solved when Chris turned up with what looked like the power station for most of Droitwitch, and with the scaffolding up and the concrete gone; attention was turned to breaking a ladder recess out of the brick wall of the lock. Also the small trench in the sludge down the side of the lock was turned into a fully fledged river in an effort to drain one end, and after a 3 day struggle the lock gate was removed. That night the villagers dropped in for our BBQ, and after the last days work breaking up the lock gate and cutting out the ladder recess, we had the event of the summer on Friday night: Party on the Patio 08!! Which, thanks in part to Alice’s delicious cooking, was a great end to a great week. with support from the Dig Deep Initiative helped get things going again, and the IWA supported Restoration began in the 1970s when Droit- it with the Neil Pitts Legacy award enabling wich Canals Trust was founded. Although talk WRG and DCT to complete Hanbury Locks of getting the canal open in three years proved on the Junction Canal in 2002. over-optimistic (it was more difficult than most This helped to bring the Droitwich to the that had been tackled up to that time, includ- point where BW began giving serious backing, ing new bridges needed under the A449, M5 and a £10m completion package involving Hermotorway and a railway) the scheme got off itage Lottery Fund, Advantage West Midlands to a good start with the Barge Canal summit and local authorities was assembled. This has pound reopened by the early 1980s and work enabled contractors to begin work recently on a progressing down Ladywood locks. diversion involving four new locks to get the JuncThe supportive local authority had bought tion Canal through an existing culvert under the the lease on the canal, an infilled length in Droit- M5. Later this year they will begin the new A449 wich had been re-excavated, and the missing crossing and restoring locks 7 and 8 on the rail bridge reinstated. The future looked bright. Barge Canal, with reopening planned for 2009. But there was still a £1m shortfall. So the Unfortunately the project then went through a ‘bad patch’ and the Droitwich lan- Appeal and our work on the Barge Lock are guished for some years. But an increased helping to fill this funding gap, as well as restorcommitment from mobile groups in the 1990s ing a key structure where the two canals meet. The Barge Lock Diversion arpe The Droitwich Canals w l a rS e v i R Droitwich New Locks 7 M5 N Dro 6 65 itw 4 Hanbury al ich n R Severn a J C Locks u nct 5 Ladywood rge a 6 B i 4 1 3 o Old route 7 nC 21 4 2 ich ana itw bypassed o r l D 6 3 5 8 Worcester & Birmingham Canal A449

Droitwich Canals restoration

page 28


Special feature: Droitwich Barge Lock Week four: the rebuild begins in earnest And so to the fourth camp, and into the rebuilding phase - once the final bits of cutting out of old brickwork had been finished. Over to Rachael Banyard to find out how they got on...

Camp 20: 9th-16th August This was the fourth and last camp this summer on the Droitwich Barge Lock. Di, Martin and myself were also on the first camp in June, and it would be nice to say that we saw the project from the beginning to the end, but unfortunately we didn’t quite manage to finish all the work required. I estimated that we probably lost 3-4 days over the four weeks, mostly through bad weather, but also half a day on the first camp when BW cocked up the changeover of fill to empty skips. With those extra few days, we might have been able to finish. MKP was also disappointed of course, this project being his baby and he has put heart and soul into it this summer, but he enticed five from this camp to stay on and work through the final Saturday. There was also a weekend arranged in early September for regional groups, plus possibly one or two extras! Sunday: There were four square holes in the lock wails which were prepared for bricklaying. And a lot of pointing was Cutting out damaged brick on done on the chamber wall on the ‘river’ side of the lock, our the chamber walls... new WRGies making quite a good job of it. Where a recess had been cut in at the top end of the lock, this was also prepared for repairs to be carried out. The lock ladder recess on the ‘park’ side of the canal was cut out Two of the square holes were filled. Monday: All systems go today: - TV, radio interviews set up, and we were overrun with BW staff nearly outnumbering WRGies. Question: How many BW staff does it take to decide how to fit new gates? Mina the dog was tied up round the corner of the bridge, supposedly out of harm’s way, complete with ...and the gate recesses... my coat to lie on, and a bowl of freshwater – what more could a dog ask for? But then she discovered that her bit of string was just long enough for her to greet prospective new friends as they arrived at the bridge. One BW man, whilst reciprocating the affection offered him, told her that she was A Small Hairy Trip Hazard. One BW man lost his white hard hat, and borrowed a WRG red one which he proudly wore for the rest of the week. The new lock ladders, bollards and bullnoses all arrived precisely at the promised time -- a first for BW? BBC Midlands Today interviewed Kate, Harriet and myself in the afternoon, and then asked if they could come back and film us live for the local news programme between 6.30 and - 7pm, so we all had to work a bit later than planned. Within minutes of the programme being ...and where the concrete dam was broadcast, Kate and Harriet received texts from friends

page 29


Special feature: Droitwich Barge Lock Camp 20: stars of screen and radio who’d seen them! A new volunteer arrived for the day, Lawrence, and worked with Christina repointing, and he is coming back on Wednesday. We continued chasing out old brickwork, cleaning old bricks, and the curved wall at the bottom end of the lock was cleaned out and repointed. All the square holes are now bricked in. Russell and John continued preparing the recesses where the old concrete blockwork wall had been, and Kate and Harriet set to work with the Kango hammer chopping out the remainder of the blockwork wall and preparing for the lock ladder recess. Lizzie Lane of Radio Hereford and Gloucester said that she would come to the accommodation at 7.30 am. on Tuesday to interview us, so we promised her a bacon butty. The skip lorry got stuck and had to be towed out by another skip lorry… Phew, what a day! 12 hungry navvies returned to The Big WRGie House and quickly demolished a large pan of spag. bol. and a lemon meringue. Tuesday: Lizzie Lane actually didn’t turn up until 8.15am, by which time we had nearly finished the washing up and getting ready to go to site, so the promised bacon butty ended up being taken down to site by Di for lunch. Kate and Harriet were interviewed, and became Radio Stars as well as being Television Stars yesterday. Lizzie was puzzled why perfectly sane people, possibly Brickwork repairs in progress with ordinary jobs, would want to travel miles to stay in basic accommodation and do dirty heavy work all day for a week. We, on the other hand, can’t understand why more people don’t realise what they’re missing. Rob started bricklaying (did I hear you say “At last!”, Rob?) on the river side wall, and he completed seven courses, John H. and Russell nearly finished chasing out the damaged brickwork from the recesses on the same side. John then, with the help of Richard, continued preparing the brickwork on the park side for the lock ladder recess. Martin tidied up the previously dismantled gate into a tidy stack by the top stop planks, and the accumulated brick rubble was moved to the barrow hoist and tipped into wheelbarrows to be ferried along to the skip by Kate, Harriet and Richard. Peter had a go on the barrow hoist in the afternoon. The weather forecast for the day had been pretty grim, but it was fine enough to put in a full day. Tuesday was cinema night. Most of us watched Mamma Mia, which I thought was the funniest film I’ve seen in ages. Peter and Martin saw The Dark Knight with the weird Joker. Wednesday: Martin apologised to the assembled throng at breakfast that there would be no media work that day, so their moments of stardom were over for this camp. Really heavy rain arrived lunchtime, so we got all close and friendly in the small welfare hut with Mina tucked under the table. The effect of the rain was felt later, about 4.30 p.m., when the river rose alarmingly, and flooded over the dam, and there was an orderly exit with everybody clutching their tools to get up the two ladders. Before this, we were able

page 30


Special feature: Droitwich Barge Lock “One BW man told us the our work was better than their own!” to get all the repointing on the chamber wall finished, and the cutting-out of the ladder recess on the park side completed. MKP worked with us today. Thursday: We made an early start today, on site by soon after 8am. We had kept the pumps running all night, and Rob actually trotted down to site before he’d even had breakfast to check that the water hadn’t damaged his lovely new brickwork. Later on site, he bricklaid to within five courses of the top, and John within 9 courses, filling in the recesses in the river side. On the park side, BW asked Martin to take the ladder recess down another two courses, and he then laid the first 3-4 courses of new brickwork. More silt was taken out of the lock chamber. The final bit of pointing was completed in the gate recess by Russell. BW arrived in the afternoon to start setting up for next week’s installation of the new gates. They also brought down the last of the old gates into the lock for us to dismantle tomorrow. One BW man, after watching us work from the bridge, told me that he thought the standard of our work was better than their own!! Deserved recognition at last. Certainly Rob Brotherston’s and John Hawkins’ brickwork was superb, and blended in beautifully with the surrounding wall. WRG are lucky to have such skilled artisans. We then went off to have a tour of the Morrisons construction site where the new rerouted section of the Droitwich Junction Canal is under construction. One or two of our crew were very envious of the Big Boys’ Toys. Can you get a WRG ticket for operating a tracked 60ft crane? Summer 2008 does its worst: the water in Jack had his A-level results: - five A’s! the River Salwarpe floods over the dam... Friday: BW had promised us a large extra pump to put in above the top dam, which would have given us the chance to dig out the remainder of the silt with no water flowing in all the time. However, it didn’t materialise, so we had to work in the sloppy wet silt to dismantle the gate, which basically involved knocking out the large rusted tie bars with a sledgehammer, undertaken by Martin, Russell and Richard. The metal parts could be put into the barrow hoist bucket for removal, and the remaining large bits of timber were left in the lock, to be lifted out with BW’s crane next week. Question: how come they’re allowed to bring in a large crane, when we were told at the beginning that no machinery was allowed near the lock, a heritage site? They will apparently have to re-coppice several trees by the lock and put down large planks to make a road through for the crane. I went off to the Trust yard to bring back more bricks and bullnoses, while Richard and Harriet were mortar mixing. Christina was getting nice and muddy down in the lock helping move the large bits of gate timber, and digging out more silt Rob and John had reached a point in their bricking where they had to knock out more old bricks before they could tie in the new. The old ...but despite this, rebuilding is very mortar turned out to be made with cement rather nearly finished by the end of the camp than lime, and was so hard (as were the bricks)

page 31


Special feature: Droitwich Barge Lock After the camps: the first of two weekend digs to try to get it finished... that it took Rob several hours to get out one brick without damaging the wall next to it. Kate and Jack were barrowing off the silt and old gate fittings to the skip. Must have been a hard day, 22 pieces of fruit cake, carrot cake, and chocolate biscuit cake disappeared lunchtime between 13 people. Di’s good planning and financial control allowed us to go off to a nice ‘olde worlde’ pub in the town for a meal. Only problem: 6’4” Richard had to remember to duck under the low oak beams! This has been a great project in which to be involved, and it will be good to see the opening of the finished lock on 26th September. We appreciate all Mike’s incredible hard work, with all the BW-type frustrations, and were glad we were able to contribute. Without his drive and determination to keep pushing the project forward, we would not have got so close to completion Thanks to Martin Thompson for assisting me so ably on this camp, and to all those who have been on the camp - and the other three! Rachael Banyard But that wasn’t the end of it. In late August BW put the new lock gates in. Then, with the September 26th date already chosen for a ‘completion celebration’ looming ever closer, we had to finish our work. Over to John Hawkins for the next instalment...

John Hawkins

After some people had left the last camp for their homes, a few folks went back to the site in Vines Park. Various tasks were continued with, including giving the “hospitality cabin” a very through clean. It looked really smart after the heavy use of the “Camp” weeks. Other jobs were undertaken, including how best to set the bricks for the ladder recess. Water was continually leaching through the old brickwork. A few courses were laid and these were giving problems because of the water. The fabric dams at both ends of the lock chamber were due to be removed in a few days: the fact that the brickwork wasn’t ready was causing concern. After careful thought it was decided that an ‘extra’ long weekend would be needed in order to move things along. Because we are sharing the site with BW, Mike had to get the weekend arranged so that we could work along with them. Walls nearing completion after the ‘extra’ Two of the three people involved - Mike weekend - and BW have put the gates in Palmer and Martin Thompson - took the Friday off work and I joined them later in day having driven down from visiting my daughter and her family near Kendal. Mike and Martin had pumped out the lock and a few courses of bricks had been laid. It had already been established that BW had supplied us with the wrong type of lime for the mortar, this had given rise to the earlier problems. Martin and I continued laying the bricks, whilst Mike built a scaffold tower for us to work on, interspersed with moving bricks and mixing mortar-with the correct materials, and many other numerous jobs. Work continued for Saturday and Sunday, with Jude also on site helping out. (Thanks Mike and Jude for the accommodation and food.) We managed to get the ladder recess to within a few courses of the copers. And, luckily at least for that weekend, the rain largely stayed away from Droitwich. However the next weekend, with London WRG in attendance it was a very different situation. At least the brickwork for the ladder for the ladder recess was now above the water level… but I guess that there is a report about that weekend elsewhere in this issue. John Hawkins

page 32


Special feature: Droitwich Barge Lock And finally: London WRG’s drowned rat squad are in at the death John’s quite right: we have a report from London WRG. Here’s Sophie to continue the story...

London WRG weekend, September 6th - 7th

Martin Ludgate

“Bugger this for a game of soldiers – let’s hole up in a Travelodge for the weekend. Droitwich can finish its own sodding canal.” Harsh words and the dig hadn’t even begun. With severe weather warnings and rain lashing down so hard Martin had to slow down to 70mph on some stretches of road, morale was low in the van as we made our wretched progress out of London. Only the thought of Mel sitting in a lonely village hall surrounded by bags of cheap mince and sliced white bread encouraged us to press on. She’d been trying to persuade us for months to come on her dig and we all felt too guilty to drop out just because of some silly flood warnings and Helena’s fast-approaching dissertation deadline. Conditions on site were bloody awful. “Look, it’s clearing up!” lied Mike, striding through the driving rain in a bin bag jerkin. The flood waters didn’t peak until the Saturday night but on Saturday morning the water was an inch from the top of the lock gates and even the ducks wouldn’t go in the rushing waters. Brickies worked on a scaffold platform only inches above the water and on day 2 we found wavy patterns of silt where the waters had covered the platforms overnight. We slung a tarpaulin over the bricking platforms and made a den in the compound to keep the rain off the brick cleaners and Burco but site was Bricklaying under tarpaulins to keep the rain off, deep in mud and conditions were pretty and (inset) Krzysiek digs a manly bollard hole grim as the rain fell relentlessly. Veterans of the St Ives 2007 National, or Hurricane Katrina, may feel some sympathy. On the face of it, there didn’t seem to be all that much work left to do (funnily enough, it still seemed that way at 6pm on Sunday when finally we left site). “Slap in a bit of cement, toss on a few coping stones, and whack in a couple of bollards,” Mike said cheerily. Despite two long days we didn’t finish off everything that was scheduled. I’m not quite sure what happened: we did seem to get a lot of work done over the weekend. It just wasn’t quite enough. A decision was taken to head back to the hall for a dry lunch and the chance to pee more romantically; in a real toilet rather than a grim site portaloo. Fortified by bakewell tarts, we resumed bricking in our makeshift shelter in the afternoon. “It’s definitely cheering up,” said Mike, in defiance of all the evidence. To provide some light relief, Martin dropped his camera in the flooded lock as the rain continued to lash down and the ducks moped on the banks. As the working day drew to a close, Mel and I headed off to the nearest supermarket, which unfortunately happened to be Waitrose. Whilst I stood in the fruit and veg aisle dripping mud and sobbing over bramley apples we couldn’t afford, Mel counted and recounted her pennies, wondering how she could manage garlic bread for 15 when french sticks were more than £1 each. In the end we accepted we couldn’t afford cannelloni and it would have to be spag bol instead. Saturday night saw us wringing out our clothing back at the hall under WRG founder Graham Palmer’s benevolent clay gaze: someone had found his bust and brought it along to lend gravitas to the London WRG AGM. We voted to increase food and diesel subs in the

page 33


Special feature: Droitwich Barge Lock “ ’It’s clearing up!’ lied Mike, striding through the rain in a bin bag jerkin.”

Martin Ludgate

wake of rising prices and recruit new members as some of our group move away (Helena and Krzysiek to Southampton, Mel back to Birmingham). Chuckling maniacally, Mike told us his plans to kidnap KESCRG from their Cotswolds dig the following weekend and force them to do his bidding in Droitwich until the damn thing was completed. He bought wine for everyone and became somewhat over-refreshed, calling Helena a ‘vulva-hunting trollop’ before falling asleep in a nest of bottles. With free wine from Mike, we were all in good spirits but decided not to go to the pub after a disappointing visit to a favourite pub the previous night. Blaring dance music in the Railway Inn on Friday evening had precluded all talk of tractor engines, favourite lock gates and other London WRG conversation staples. We awoke to more rain on the Sunday morning. Mike was fine apart from occasionally bumping into the furniture. Work was a bit harder to come by on site; although there was plenty to do not everyone could do it at the same time. Helena and I stood and watched Krzysiek digging a hole in a manly way until Mel sent us off for a bag of nails. I’m still not sure if she needed nails or if she just wanted to give us something to do. We walked all round Droitwich, which fortunately didn’t take very long, until we found nails and donuts. Our 11am donut break was so successful that I think it might have to become a London WRG tradition. Paul Ireson pushed wheelbarrows of mortar until near-collapse and the brickies soldiered under their dripping tarps, but come 3pm those of us not involved in bricking had run out of useful things to do, and we headed back to clear up the hall. This worked pretty well as it meant we could all make a quick getaway when work finally finished on site at the late hour of 6. It would have been nice to say we’d completed the Droitwich canal but we’d come pretty close. Despite the dismal conditions we all had a good laugh and accomplished a lot with a brilliant working party, especially the brickies who did a sterling job. NB: If anyone from KESCRG reads this in time, please be on the lookout for a red van driven by a man wearing a bin bag with a crazed look in his eye. Sophie Smith Notwithstanding Mike’s apparent failure to kidnap any KESCRG volunteers during the following weekend, we really did get the Barge Lock to a state close enough to completion to avoid embarrassment at the ‘completion ceremony’ on September 26th. And the small amount of remaining work - gate quadrants and the rest of the bollards - must await the completion by the local authority of landscaping to adjust the ground levels around the lock. Once they’ve done this, we hope to schedule one last work party in the new year to put the finishing touches on the Barge Lock, and finally bring the curtain down on WRG’s 35-year contribution to the Droitwich. Or as MKP would say: “I Nearly there: London WRG completing the bricklaying reckon one more camp will do it”.

page 34


Some thanks to those who had to deal with a lot of crap at this year’s National Festival... in more ways than one... Dear WRG - and particularly WRG Boat Club My National Festival’s Sunday evening, twixt a hard day’s pouring, and tending a candle in the illuminated Boat Parade, was one of those undeniable invitations to drinkson-the-towpath - which, they all said, was more important than eating. The assembled masses of WRG-Boat-Club members kindly provided several glasses of wine - and even more unexpectedly presented me the club trophy - the bowl - pronounced, Helen said, ‘bowel’ for Services to the Lavender Boat. May I, through your columns, express my thanks to the members of the WRG Boat Club both for the great honour, and for the appropriate lavender decoration and toiletries (were they suggesting I smell?). Had I had tea rather than those glasses of wine I might have had a better go at a speech along the lines of... “I accept this great honour, and bowl, not only for myself, but for all those devoted hands without whose help I couldn’t have emptied anything into anything during a wonderful 16 years of Lavender boating. It is impossible to mention them all by name (coz I’ve forgotten some of them) but specially come to mind: My first Director, Chris Davey, who introduced me to the art of emptying and helped my aim. The crew who pulled me out of the Calder & Hebble that first year at Wakefield. BW for guarding the gentlemen’s showers from intruders, providing blue (bw) overalls. EA for giving us the BIGGEST funnel ever (Henley and BealePark). The various BW & EA crews who have helped us. Our present crew Helen, Bob, Tim, Steve, Ed & Suzie. The boaters who provide us with cups of tea & coffee. And of course all our wonderful customers who work so hard at eating sweetcorn and other more digestible things to empty particularly those with real buckets. And I couldn’t have done it without my friends, family, parents without whose encouragement (“you empty WHAT?”) I could never have....“ Love and kisses to you all and see you next year. Elaine, Lavender Boat

Letters

to the editor Dear Martin, Can I once again use the pages of Navvies to express thanks, especially to the team at the National Festival? Asked while at the festival how we managed to cope with the weather I replied, “I have a wonderful team of volunteers who not only love mud; they know how to manage it constructively!” I often wonder if the depth of mud is in direct proportion to the enjoyment had by the WRGies. Great team! Loads of smiling faces! So profound thanks on behalf of the rest of IWA to you all. As it is my last National it is perhaps also appropriate to give praise and thanks for all the support which WRG have given over the last six years. I have been particularly pleased with the way the outside world has come to better understand the relationship of WRG being an essential part of IWA. Some of you I will see at Droitwich Barge Lock completion ceremony; a very few I will see at IWA AGM, but I think the next time I see a significant bunch of you together again will be at next year’s National, when, who knows, Kate’s ‘bump’ might have grown enough to be wearing its very own red T-shirt! John Fletcher, IWA Chairman Dear Martin As a one time (part time) Navvy and now an OAP Festival Volunteer, I cruised away from the Festival site on the Tuesday morning with a mixture of gratitude and guilt. Gratitude for the huge amount of work that apparently untiring Wrgies put into the event, before, during and after. Guilt because I was leaving the site without making any contribution to the clear-up, or even saying “thank you and good bye”. As I crept down the Staffs and Worcs during the preceding week, my concern for those on site grew as every mm of precipitation fell. I should have known that with a strong WRG contingent on site all would be well. From a humble boater here’s a huge “Thank you” for a job well done... and I just hope you had a lot of fun doing it! Best wishes to all. John Evans, n.b. Element

page 35


Navvies diary

Your guide to all the forthcoming work parties Nov 1/2

WRG

Bonfire Bash: Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation in Essex - please book

Nov 1/2

London WRG

WRG Bonfire Bash on Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation

Nov 1/2

KESCRG

WRG Bonfire Bash on Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation

Nov 1/2

wrgSW

WRG Bonfire Bash on Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation

Nov 1/2

Essex WRG

WRG Bonfire Bash on Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation

Nov 1 Sat

WRG

Committee & Board Meetings: on Saturday at the Bonfire Bash

Nov 8/9

NWPG

Basingstoke Canal: Dig Deep project

Nov 8 Sat

wrgNW

‘Paper Chase’ waste paper collection

Nov 15/16

wrgBITM

Wey & Arun Canal

Nov 15/16

wrgNW

Hollinwood Canal

Nov 22/23

London WRG

Basingstoke Canal: Dig Deep project

Dec 6/7

London WRG

Wilts & Berks Canal: LWRG/KESCRG/WRGSW Xmas Party dig - see p6

Dec 6/7

KESCRG

Wilts & Berks Canal: LWRG/KESCRG/WRGSW Xmas Party dig - see p6

Dec 6/7

wrgSW

Wilts & Berks Canal: LWRG/KESCRG/WRGSW Xmas Party dig - see p6

Dec 6/7

Essex WRG

Foxton Inclined Plane: General work (probably the hedge) and Christm

Dec 6/7

wrgNW

Montgomery Canal

Dec 13/14

wrgBITM

Grantham Canal: Christmas Work Party

Dec 13/14

NWPG

Wilts & Berks Canal: Seven Locks flight. Accom hopefully at Devizes.

Dec 13 Sat

wrgNW

‘Paper Chase’ waste paper collection

Dec 26-Jan 1 Camp 200823

WRG Christmas Canal Camp: Wilts & Berks Canal, near Swindon (see p

Dec 26-Jan 1 WBCT

Wilts & Berks Cana Trust Christmas Camp at Seven Locks / Foxham (se

Jan 10/11

London WRG

To be arranged: a Dig Deep project

Jan 17/18

wrgNW

Hollinwood Canal

Jan 31/Feb 1 London WRG

To be arranged: a Dig Deep project

Feb 7/8

wrgNW

To be arranged (possibly Lichfield or Chesterfield)

Feb 21/22

London WRG

To be arranged: a Dig Deep project

Feb 28 Sat

WRG / KESCRG Barn Dance - details in the next issue, tickets available at Bonfire Bash

Feb 28 Sat

WRG

Training day for canal camp and work party leaders: see next issue

Mar 7/8

wrgNW

To be arranged (possibly Chesterfield or Lichfield)

Mar 28/29

WRG/IWA/BCNS BCN Cleanup on the Tame Valley Canal: more details next time

Mar 28/29

London WRG

BCN Cleanup on the Tame Valley Canal

Apr 18/19

London WRG

Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation

Please send updates to Diary compiler: Dave Wedd, 7 Ringwood Rd, Blackwater,

page 36


Canal Camps cost ÂŁ49 per week unless otherwise stated. Bookings for WRG Canal Camps (those identified by a camp number e.g. 'Camp 200823') should go to WRG Canal Camps, Island House, Moor Road, Chesham HP5 1WA. Tel: 01494 783453. Email: enquiries@wrg.org.uk using form on p7

mas Dinner

01494-783453

enquiries@wrg.org.uk

Tim Lewis

07802-518094

london@wrg.org.uk

Eddie Jones

0845-226-8589

eddie@kescrg.org.uk

Harri Barnes

07745-752045

John Gale

01376-334896

essex@wrg.org.uk

Mike Palmer

01564-785293

mike.palmer@wrg.org.uk

Graham Hawkes

0118-941-0586

grahamhawkes@btinternet.com

David McCarthy

0161-740-2179

Dave Wedd

01252-874437

bookings@wrgBITM.org.uk

David McCarthy

0161-740-2179

nw@wrg.org.uk

Tim Lewis

07802-518094

london@wrg.org.uk

Tim Lewis

07802-518094

london@wrg.org.uk

Eddie Jones

0845-226-8589

eddie@kescrg.org.uk

Harri Barnes

07745-752045

John Gale

01376-334896

essex@wrg.org.uk

David McCarthy

0161-740-2179

nw@wrg.org.uk

Dave Wedd

01252-874437

bookings@wrgBITM.org.uk

Graham Hawkes

0118-941-0586

grahamhawkes@btinternet.com

David McCarthy

0161-740-2179

p6)

ee p6)

01494-783453

enquiries@wrg.org.uk

Rachael Banyard

07767-895244

Tim Lewis

07802-518094

london@wrg.org.uk

David McCarthy

0161-740-2179

nw@wrg.org.uk

Tim Lewis

07802-518094

london@wrg.org.uk

David McCarthy

0161-740-2179

nw@wrg.org.uk

Tim Lewis

07802-518094

london@wrg.org.uk

Bobby Silverwood

barndance@kescrg.org.uk

Mike Palmer

01564-785293

mike.palmer@wrg.org.uk

David McCarthy

0161-740-2179

nw@wrg.org.uk

Aileen Butler

07703-567764

aileen.butler@btopenworld.com

Tim Lewis

07802-518094

london@wrg.org.uk

Tim Lewis

07802-518094

london@wrg.org.uk

Camberley, Surrey GU17 0EY. Tel 01252 874437. email: dave.wedd@wrg.org.uk.

page 37


Navvies diary

Mobile groups' socials (please phone to confirm before turning up)

London WRG: 7:30pm on Tues 11 days before each dig. Usually at 'Star Tavern', Belgrave Mews Canal SocietiesÂ’ regular monthly or West, London. Tim Lewis 07802-518094 weekly working parties NWPG: 9:00pm on 3rd Tue of month at the Please send amendments to Dave 'Hope Tap', West end of Friar St. Reading. Wedd (address on previous page) Graham Hawkes 0118 941 0586 3rd Sunday of month BCNS Jeff Barley 01543-373284 2nd Sunday & following Thurs BCS Buckingham area Athina Beckett 01908-661217 Anytime inc. weekdays BCT Aqueduct section Gerald Fry 01288-353273 Every Sunday ChCT Various sites Mick Hodgetts 01246-620695 Every Tue & Wed C&BN Chelmer & Blackwater John Gale 01376-334896 Every Saturday DCT Droitwich Canal Jon Axe 0121-608 0296 Last Sunday of month EAWA N Walsham & Dilham David Revill 01603-738648 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 Colin Bryan 0115-989-2248 2nd Sat of month GWCT Nynehead Lift Denis Dodd 01823-661653 Tuesdays H&GCT Oxenhall Brian Fox 01432 358628 Weekends H&GCT Over Wharf House Maggie Jones 01452 618010 Wednesdays H&GCT Over Wharf House Wilf Jones 01452 413888 Weekends H&GCT Hereford Aylestone Martin Danks 01432 344488 Every Sunday if required IWPS Bugsworth Basin Ian Edgar 01663-732493 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 2nd & last Sundays PCAS Pocklington Canal Paul Waddington 01757-638027 Every Wed and 1st Sat RGT Stowmarket Navigtn. Colin Turner 01473-730586 2nd Sunday of month SCARS Sankey Canal Colin Greenall 01744-731746 1st Sunday of month SCCS Combe Hay Locks Bob Parnell 01225-428055 Most weekends SHCS Basingstoke Peter Redway 01483-721710 2nd Sunday of month SNT Sleaford Navigation Mel Sowerby 01522-856810 1st weekend of month SUCS Newhouse Lock Mike Friend 01948-880723 Every Tuesday morning TMCA Thames & Medway C Brian Macnish 01732-823725 Every Sunday & Thurs WACT varied construction Eric Walker 023-9246-3025 Mondays (2 per month) WACT tidying road crossings John Empringham 01483-562657 Tuesdays WACT Tickner's Heath Depot Colin Gibbs 020-8241-7736 Wednesdays WACT maintenance work Peter Jackman 01483-772132 Wednesdays WACT Loxwood Link Peter Wilding 01483-422519 Thursdays WACT Winston Harwood Grp Tony Clear 01903-774301 Saturdays WACT Conservation Group David Jessop 01403-269384 Various dates WACT Hedgelaying (Oct-Mar) Keith Nichols 01403-753882 1st w/e of month (Fri-Mon) WAT Drayton Beauchamp Roger Leishman 01442-874536 2nd Thursday of month WAT Drayton Beauchamp Pete Bowers 01255-504540 Every weekend WBCT Wilts & Berks Canal Rachael Banyard 01249-892289

Abbreviations used in Diary BCNS BCS BCT ChCT CBN CCT DCT EAWA ECPDA FIPT GCRS GWCT H&GCT IWPS K&ACT

page 38

Birmingham Canal Navigations Soc. Buckingham Canal Society Bude Canal Trust Chesterfield Canal Trust Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation Cotswolds Canals Trust Droitwich Canals Trust East Anglian Waterways Association 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

KESCRG LCT LHCRT NWPG PCAS RGT SCARS SCCS SHCS SNT SUCS TMCA WACT WAT WBCT W&BCC

Kent & E Sussex Canal Rest. Group Lancaster Canal Trust Lichfield & Hatherton Canals Rest'n Trust Newbury Working Party Group Pocklington Canal Amenity Society River Gipping Trust Sankey Canal Restoration Society Somersetshire Coal Canal Society Surrey & Hants Canal Society Sleaford Navigation Trust Shropshire Union Canal Society Thames & Medway Canal Association Wey & Arun Canal Trust Wendover Arm Trust Wilts & Berks Canal Trust Wilts & Berks Canal Company


Whatever Happened to the

Wooden Canal Boat Society

WCBS

Once upon a time there were intermittent reports of people renovating a motley collection of wooden narrow boats on the Lancashire borders. Suddenly all went quiet. No news filtered out from the Ashton Canal. Had the boats all sunk without trace, taking their no time to do much more than the bare foolhardy conservators with them? Had the merry band of woodpeckers taken everybody minimum on the boats. December 2006 brought the second else’s advice and given up? Not a bit of it. In great windfall of the year. A grant of £9661 fact everything has been going so well that from the Awards for All lottery fund to excano-one has had the time to get round to vate the Heritage Boatyard. Tameside Council writing about it... had let us move into the Heritage Boatyard It was in the autumn of 2006 that site in 1999 on the understanding that we things started to change. For years we had would make it into an interesting heritage used a room in Mildred’s spare house as an office. As our benefactor approached her 90th site. The main difficulty with it was that the land was 2 metres higher than the adjacent year her abilities declined to the extent that Huddersfield Narrow Canal. There had been a her nephew took over her affairs. He didn’t long saga of trying to get the funding to excasee the point of having a non-paying tenant vate and develop this site, but it wasn’t going and so gave us notice. This sparked a hunt anywhere very fast and the Council were startfor a new shop, one with some office space ing to ask awkward questions like ‘Is it nearly attached. For a couple of years we’d had a finished yet?’ The lottery money would only be charity shop in Stalybridge, but it was tiny enough to make a very basic side slipway, but and only made tiny amounts of money. with income from the shop we might be able Perhaps, if we could get one in the great to get the whole boatyard dug out. metropolis of Ashton, great fortunes could An arrangement was made with O’Shea be earned with which to buy oak trees and the sticky smelly stuff necessary for to build & Sons, excavation & haulage contractors, wooden boats. Estate agents were contacted that they would take away the muck very and many shops examined. They all seemed cheaply if we could dig it out ourselves and work round the availability of their lorries. A to have little space and large rents. venerable Hymac was One day the boss of moved on to the site and one of the estate agents began steadily digging its rang up to offer free use way across the boatyard. of a shop for as long as As the ground was lowthe owner didn’t want it. ered, so everything in the This seemed like a nice boatyard, including containidea , so off we trooped ers full of tools and things to examine the premises. that might come in useful, It was enormous, and so had also to be moved to we said ‘yes please’ and the lower level. ‘thank you very much’ We had become an and soon were moving in organisation to run a shop with all the goods and and dig holes. Despite this chattels that the people of some people were still Droylsden had donated to determined to do some our recycling boats. work on the boats. The shop was a Concern was growing great success from the over the state of Southam’s start, but we seemed to cabin conversion. This boat have become a society for is a 1936 Grand Union running a charity shop Mr O’Shea’s big digger makes butty that was motorised rather than for restoring light work of the old viaduct pier and converted in the 1960s. boats. There was simply

Wooden canal boat society

page 39


The plan is to keep her in this guise to repre- school for temporary storage, and a small sent the form in which working boats surtemporary shop in Ashton town centre. vived after the traffic finished. With a leaky In the Spring of 2008 Southam was taken roof, tatty paint and non functioning engine to Ashton Canal Carriers for docking. We didn’t she had become neither use nor ornament, use our own nice new slipway because however. The race was on to get Southam into Southam is heavy and, though the best of the service in time for the Middlewich Boat & Folk unrestored boats, relatively weak. There was a festival in June 2007. In the longer term she danger of doing more damage than we wanted would take on the role of promoting the WCBS to repair by using an untried slip. around the canal system, and provide slightly Over a couple of months the boat had more comfortable accommodation than a her most porous plank replaced along with back cabin. The boat made it to Middlewich, huge amounts of strengthening, plating and though the interior was a bit Spartan. The sealing with copious quantities of chalico. journey showed up some weak spots in the Unfortunately this meant ripping most of the hull however, and plans for docking Southam interior out of the boat, which was mostly were hatched. rotten anyway. This is now A man from Granada being put back. (the TV company, not the For many years the idea place in Spain) came to see has been around that we us. It seemed that the Platt could do with a paid develfamily so much enjoyed opment worker to do all the being driven into Portland clever bits that us simple Basin a couple of years unlettered furry boat gnomes back that one of them can’t manage. After the usual would like to do it again, amounts of faffing about we this time with him at the managed to get some fundsteering wheel. Non Coroing for this by using the nation Street watchers will current magical buzz words now be completely mysti“Social Enterprise”. Apparfied. Suffice it to say that a ently we are one and that’s soap opera episode revery good. As from June quired a big splash with a 2008 one Fiona Jones has car in the middle of it, and been our part time developLilith shows off her cabin in our boats were in the way. ment worker. Her main job Lock 6W, Huddersfield Canal That was not really a probat the moment is to try to lem as boats can be find more money so that we moved, though of course, it had to be excan get more leaky old wooden hulks transplained to the Grenadian man that this is formed into lovely pretty and useful historical very expensive. craft. In the way that things happen, the filmAbout 20 years ago we started building ing of the soap episode co-incided with Mr a forecabin on Lilith, the butty that we use O’Shea having a big powerful modern excavaon recycling trips. As occasionally happens, it tor available to finish off the bits of excavation never got finished. Over the years it has that the aging Hymac couldn’t handle, like started to deteriorate and sorting it out had breaking through the foundations of the railbecome a priority. Tony Forward is a chap way viaduct that used to march across the site. who travels the canals on his boat doing odd After a few days work, and juggling of time jobs and fitting out under the name Extra between worksite, TV location and shop, the Hand. Many years ago he fitted out Forget whole site had been levelled out and surfaced me Not’s back cabin as a volunteer. Now, in crushed brick to form a useful slip. with a bit of money left over from our big With happiness and self congratulation shop, we were able to offer him a real job ringing in our ears we retired to the shop for renovating and completing Lilith’s forecabin a brew, only to find a letter from the estate to provide useful extra accommodation for agent saying that they’d like their shop back trips and for boatsitters. in 11 days and could we shift all our stuff Talking of boatsitters, these have beplease. Much ringing around and grovelling come more important since some local resiproduced, with days to spare, an empty dent has discovered fulfilment in watching

page 40


boats burn. So far the tally is 6 within Tameside, including some of BW’s nice new ultra safe workboats (with fibreglass cabins and wheelhouses). Long long ago, when we first kept boats at Portland Basin in Ashton, there was a problem with people climbing over the wall and damaging things. We solved this by having people stay on board every night. As the area got re-developed the problem diminished and we reduced the amount of boatsitting, which saved an awful lot of organising. With the rise of the Tameside firebug the boatsitting cover had to be geared up again as 6 wooden boats would make an attractive target. For 30 years the Tameside Canals Festival has been the main annual event on the local waterways. Originally conceived to promote the restoration of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, it was taken over in 2001 by Willow Wood Hospice. The 2007 event wasn’t a huge success because of the weather and so the Hospice withdrew its sponsorship and there was no festival in 2008. The job of running the Tameside Canals Festival has now been taken over by the Wooden Canal Boat Society in aid of the “Hazel” project- the restoration of a 1914 wooden narrow boat to provide waterway holidays for people recovering from depression etc. At the time of writing this, we’re poised (or is that unbalanced) to move into a huge shop on one of the main shopping streets in Ashton. Unlike the last big shop this one will involve paying rent, but it is another step in building the regular flow of funds that restoring and maintaining a fleet of historic wooden boats long term will require. Contrary to the views of our great detractor on t’internet , who claims that we’re a bunch of sad and decrepit people with a lot of sad and decrepit boats, there’s really been a lot going on. The big problem that we

Lilith’s cabin - needing attention

always have though is that a lot more could be achieved with more people. Jobs on offer are as follows:-

. Boatsitting: come and stay in a back every now and then. . cabin Boat guide, showing museum visitors Forget me Not. . round Shop/flea market/car boot worker, stuff collected on recycling trips. . selling Van driver, mostly collecting and deliverfor the shop and boatyard. . ing Volunteer organiser, to take the chaos of things. . out Heritage boatyard organiser, to sort . . . . . .

out all the useful things that are there and get rid of things that we’ll never use. Hazel sponsorship promoter, to get more people to support this important project. Tameside Canals Festival Committee members, to make sure that we get a successful event next year. Boat maintenance person, each of the 6 boats really needs someone to spend their spare time keeping it fettled and tidy, not to mention afloat. e-sales person, to sell donated stuff on Ebay and set up a sales site on our website. Wooden boat spotters around the country to try to keep us up to date with what’s happening to boats around the network and keep the relevant bit of the website updated. etcetera...

Recycling trips for the rest of 2008 will be on October 5th, October 6th, November 2nd, November 3rd, December 1st, December 7th. Sunday trips start from Portland Basin, Portland St South, Ashton under Lyne, OL6 7SX at 9.30 AM and usually finish at about 4PM. Monday trips start from the same place at 6 PM and usually finish at about 9PM. The WCBS email address has recently changed because the BBC switched off its service. It seems that the likes of Google and Microsoft were complaining about unfair competition! Anyway, you can now email at wcbs@live.co.uk. The old fashioned paper mail goes to 33, Beauchamp St, Ashton under Lyne, OL6 8LF and you can ring 07931952037. Website www.wcbs.org.uk is always worth a look and now has links to facebook and Myspace. Chris Leah

page 41


Camp reports

There are camps where all goes to plan, and there are those where everything seems to conspire against you. Ed reports from unlucky camp No 13...

Basingstoke Canal

Saturday A small bunch of volunteers rocked up at Knaphill football club on the Saturday morning, gear was unpacked and we headed to site to see what Pete had planned for us: rebuilding a lower lock wing wall at Deepcut Locks. Site was underwater – this proved to be a recurring theme during the week. Back at the hall volunteers were starting to turn up and Nigel set them working on unpacking the vans, putting up a gazebo that would be a kitchen for the week and moving the KESCRG cooker in. After the safety talk and site visit we retired to the local pub to get to know each other. Sunday First complete day on site (why did I volunteer to lead a camp over my birthday?) and three of the dumper drivers (Bernd, David and Elanor) spent the day driving up and down the towpath with loads of roadstone to construct a ramp down into the canal (20 mins each way plus loading time!), by lunchtime James was brave enough to try it out in the excavator. Andy “Kate” had volunteered to lead the steelwork gang and spent a constructive day with Rex and Russell making the reinforcing cages we would need later on in the week. Everyone else got the pumps going before starting to pull apart the “temporary” (ie more than 10 year old) lower wing wall on the offside of lock 22. Suzie and Mel went fishing, we decided it was much easier to fish if you remove most of the water first; somehow they managed to not fall in although they got close. After a great birthday dinner from Harri B. we headed over to Loxwood on the Wey and Arun canal to look at the progress and to have a pint in the Onslow Arms – unfortunately the pub closed before we could get to it. Their loss not ours!!! Monday The plan was to get the blinding pour done today, the canal conspired against

page 42

us – as usual for the Basingstoke, the ground is shite; dig a hole and it fills up with water/ sand/mud/all three! The faster you dig it out, the more it falls in. Therefore the blinding pour was put on hold; the full size dumpers not turning up until 3pm didn’t help! Andy Helm led a crack group of Bill and Rex to Tirfor out some of the coping stones on the nearside wing wall, ably assisted by Russell the human Tirfor when needed. We also managed to train Suzie to drive vans and part trained Chris to drive excavators. Evening entertainment was meant to be swimming but everyone had done so much swimming in the mud that lazing around the accommodation seemed more preferable and we didn’t even make it to the pub! Tuesday Planning to get the blinding pour done we hit site at 8am, Nigel and Andy “Kate” headed down early to start the pumps, the rest of the camp got there to see the bank behind the piling had collapsed: better get more piling in then! After replacing the piles Elanor managed to get the excavator stuck in a pile of dredgings– we managed to extricate it in the end but not before the BCA guys had noticed it and commented that “they had got one stuck there a few years previously and had had to hire a 20 ton excavator to pull the 5 ton excavator out”. Due to having to replace the piles we ran out

Nigel Lee

Camp 13, Basingstoke Canal

Putting together the reinforcing


of time to get the blinding pour done – still had enough time to get the excavator stuck (again) when trying to track out of the canal though. The evening was spent on the Surrey and Hants Canal Society’s trip boat at Odiham, fish and chips and a few beers proved very popular.

planning to go to laserquest we decided that lazing on the sofas in the accom was far more preferable.

David Miller

David Miller

Friday Headed to site slightly later with no new plan for the concrete problem. After deciding that we couldn’t get a bigger excavator to site and with no other ideas Wednesday Blinding we decided that a hand pour day at last! Nigel mix was the only option. and Gordon arrive on site Pete got on the phone just before 7am to get and arranged a 26 ton Pouring the blinding layer the pumps running. ballast delivery for 11am Retaining piles survived the same morning and the night so we pumped the canal down Pablo (Pete’s local assistant) was despatched again, dug the sand out of the trench and to get another 30 bags of cement. The ballined it with plastic. 5 tonnes of hand mix last finally turned up at 2pm – so much for a concrete later and it was done. hand mix then! The evening was spent at Woking cinWith BITM heading to site the next day ema – “Hancock” was very popular, could with fresh volunteers we decided that discrehave done with him on site at times! Bungle tion was the better part of valour and after also made an appearance to fix the tow tidying the site we left by 5.30pm – earliest electrics on RFB (apparently you shouldn’t all week! wash the vans out with a hose and NO it was We did manage to get some useful not us that did it!). He also drove us to the training done though; Martin had arrived and cinema, the other van had Andy “Kate” getspent the day walking up and down the ting van trained by Gordon. towpath training Mel and Andy “Kate” to drive dumpers. Thursday Main pour day! Nigel again arUsual end of camp party followed – rived on site (with Bernd this time) before BBQ and prizes for the guilty from the week. 7am, to get the pumps running. With conWe also looked at all the photos that we had crete due at midday, the rest headed down to all taken over the course of the week. site relatively early. Started Many thanks to eveto assemble shuttering and ryone who helped with the reinforcing. By 1pm the camp: the volunteers who concrete still hadn’t arrived worked so hard at what and the dumper drivers seemed like an impossible were asleep on the train task at times, Harri for bridge. When the concrete keeping us fed and supplyfinally arrived we found ing cake at opportune the hopper supplied by the moments, Nigel for being hire company was too a great assistant on only heavy for the excavator his second canal camp, when loaded (also supplied Pete for always being by the same hire comcheerful and looking on pany). With no way to get the bright side of things the concrete into the and the local groups trench before it went off (BITM, KESCRG, London, we had to dump the conSW) who loaned us kit – crete and rethink. we couldn’t have done it Everyone having had without ALL of you! The base of the new wall a very hard day so despite Ed Walker

page 43


Camp reports Basingstoke Canal

Week two at Deepcut, and BITM are - quite literally - building on Ed and Nigel’s achievements

Camp 15, Basingstoke Canal This was the second week of consecutive WRG camps on the Basingstoke, this one being run by BITM and led by Graham Hotham. This was BITM’s first WRG camp, and we had five newcomers booked, four of them D of E’ers, who proved to be very capable, very willing, and very hard working. Even better from BITM’s point of view, two hope to join us on future digs! The non D of Eer - Paul - unfortunately cut his thumb quite badly while sawing wood on the first day, and after having 2 stitches in it in the local hospital decided it would be wiser for him to go home. Anyone reading this, take note, always wear a glove on the hand you’re not sawing with - Paul didn’t, hence the result! There had been a number of problems on the previous week’s camp, and Pete Redway was a bit discouraged, but we promised we’d do our best to achieve all he hoped for. We were working on Lock 22 (part of a flight of 14 locks), and over a period of time the discharge of water from the lock had damaged the lower wing walls quite badly; indeed it had all but demolished the offside wall. In fact, we found several large blocks of concrete and brick in the cut, which had to be cleared out. There is no natural clay, and the soil tends to be sandy. Our first objective was to construct a new concrete base for the offside wall, using the shuttering erected by the previous week’s camp. Once this had set, we could start building up the new wall, using concrete blocks up to water level, and then lay bricks up to the finished height. We did not have time to get much above the first row or two of blocks, because we then had to concentrate on the main job of the camp, which was to concrete right across the cut, from the bottom cill to the end of both the wing walls. This, Pete hoped, would prevent the scouring which had taken place over the years. The main problem was that, while the pound below the lock had been drained, some water was still getting through from above, and while two or three pumps struggled manfully to cope with the water, they kept getting blocked up. It might have been better if we had had sludge pumps, but there was a lot of silt right across, and piled quite high below the area intended for concreting, thus holding the water in the basin. Rachael collected a 5-tonne digger from the depot each morning, and trekked it down the towpath to the site, over 1.5 miles and taking 45 minutes minimum (and back again each evening, but Mina enjoyed the walk, being Banksdog, accompanied by Di) but by the time the others got down to site and started the pumps up, it was nearly lunchtime before sufficient water had been cleared for Rachael to get down into the cut and start scraping back the silt. Consequently, by Thursday, when the readymix started arriving, and with only a few hours available to work down there each day, it had only been possible to clear most of the sludge from the intended concrete

page 44

First, pour it from the readymix

...then deliver it to site and tip

...and finally track it across the


“The accommodation was amazing, with a large television... even if we never did switch it on...”

truck into the dumper...

it down the bank to the digger...

canal or placing on the offside

Camp reports Basingstoke Canal

area, and not further down, which might have helped more of the water to drain off. Most of the sludge which Rachael pushed towards the towpath side was hoicked out by Dave Wedd using a 3tonne digger, put into a couple of dumpers and disposed of on the other side of the towpath. The readymix (26 cu.m. of it!) arrived at the nearest road point, 600 yards up from our lock, from where it had to be dumpered down. We had set up a number of chutes down the bank, using steel piles, and David James (our Assistant Leader) controlled the tipping from the dumpers so it just filled the 6’ wide bucket on Rachael’s digger, and she then transported it across to spread it, starting from the cill, with the aim of pushing the water and sludge away down the cut. The intention was to put down a layer 3” deep, followed by reinforcing grids, and then a further 3” layer of concrete. Unfortunately, because of the water and sludge, it was impossible to tell how thickly it was going down, and the three layers of concrete/sludge/water almost brought it above wellie depth - indeed poor Ollie managed to get a bootful of concrete, which didn’t do his leg a lot of good. We had to start putting down the reinforcing grids on top of the first layer of concrete and stamp it in. It was a huge area to work in, probably at least 50-60 sq.m., and it was about 6 p.m. before we could get the machines cleaned down and start trekking back to the depot. We had a trip to Loxwood on the Wey & Arun to see the progress that has been made since we were last there, Pete had managed to set up a wonderful boat trip one evening, and most people went 10-pin bowling the following night. The accommodation was amazing. We stayed in the sports centre, where there was a large room with tables for eating, and several big couches to sink into to relax, not to mention a large television - even if we never did switch it on! There were two kitchen areas, the only disadvantage being that there was no cooker, so we had to borrow KESCRG’s big gas cooker and set it up in a marquee outside. There were men’s and women’s showers, and we slept in a series of changing rooms. The weather was amazing, if a little too hot on the first couple of days, and we got through gallons of squash. June cooked some fantastic meals, and of course there were her usual cookies and cakes, which were greatly enjoyed by everyone. We had a BBQ on the Thursday night, but the working day was so long that it was close on 9 p.m. before we were able to sit down to eat. There was going to be a football match there on the Saturday, so we were informed that the cleaners would be coming in at 7.30 a.m. that day, so it was decided that we would only be able to work half a day on the Friday, and then come back to check the kit, and most people went home that day. We hope that, despite the problems, the concrete will set strongly enough to serve the purpose for which Pete Redway was hoping. Di Smurthwaite

page 45


Festival camp

...on the Grand Western IWA National Trailboat Festival WRG received many, many pats on the back (and more importantly, free beer) for our assistance at the ‘A Grand Western Weekend’ canal and countryside fair which included the 2008 IWA National Trailboat Festival. This smashing event (literally in the case of some Gazebos) was really well organised and attended and organisers Devon County Council were clearly very pleased with how it went. The festival site at the mid-Devon showground near Tiverton borders the exceptionally well-maintained Grand Western Canal, which was restored from a pretty dismal state in the 1970’s to become the thriving (although somewhat isolated) waterway it is today. Considering the beleaguered waterways WRG usually visits, it’s a treat to be on a functioning canal which is properly looked after. The GWC is owned publicly, maintained by taxes not the IWA or BW, and has the status of a country park. It’s also the best kingfisher habitat in Devon and all types of freshwater fish thrive in it. Those in need of encouragement might do well to think of the Grand Western whilst pulling those stubborn tree roots out of the Cotswold Canal, or chasing rats out of the litter-clogged tunnels on the Mon and Brec. On this May weekend the Devonshire countryside was green and fragrant and the towpath was lined with watermint and yellow flag iris. One day all canals will be like this! Those arriving several days before the festival to begin set-up had a relatively uneventful time. That’s uneventful in comparison with last year’s National anyway! The weather was more or less with us throughout the 2 day festival, if you overlook the music tent blowing away in the middle of the night and the light drizzle on the second day of opening. This didn’t seem to impair the event in any way and those who remember St Ives 2007 will count us amongst the blessed. Early arrivals included Moose and Maria all the way from London as well as James

page 46

Butler who had an epic journey towing his caravan down. Locals including Dave Miller also pitched up as well of course as organiser Mitch. Adrian arrived later than planned due someone bombing something somewhere, his services being required in the fight against terrorism. Let this be the excuse against which all excuses are from now on measured. Although it wasn’t originally part of our remit, WRG ended up running the foot ferry for much of the weekend. I don’t think anyone minded as it was an enjoyable job and you got to talk to people, unlike being stuck on car parking which is a lot less fun. The sea cadets who were meant to be manning the ferry dropped out at the end of day one. When I asked why someone said “one of them fainted and another one had to go to hospital”. I thought it was quite amusing that anyone fainted doing a job which by WRG standards was a bit of a doss, but it should in fairness be said that the sea cadets were only youngsters and the fainting and going to hospital was due to their canoe demonstration in the “very clean water!” There was a really good selection of types of music and the quality of bands was pretty high: a lively samba band revived everyone on the Sunday morning. On a site only the size of a football pitch it was possible to hear music from wherever you were, which made even tedious jobs more agreeable. If anything it was a pity that there wasn’t rather more music and fewer gaps in between acts, and perhaps a bit less talking from the bloke with the mike. It was nice though to keep hearing over the intercom what a great job we were doing and how grateful everyone was. I felt like WRG was receiving a constant warm hug of approval from Devon County Council. Again the sea cadets were thanked for their hard work on the foot ferry. This is the first time I have heard WRGies being called Sea cadets!!! Those of us paying attention to his spiel would also have learnt: that kingfishers are seen on 3 out of 5 visits to the Grand Western Canal that the canal’s full of fresh water leeches (yeuch!) that the presence of fresh water leeches means the water’s clean that fresh water leeches don’t actually suck blood In the ‘main arena’ – an ambitious name for a patch of roped-off grass surrounded by haybales for seating – there were

. . . .


also some fun acts. A BMX trick biker who seemed very pleased with the attendance, dressed like an extra from a Keanu Reeves film which was largely good even despite the was actually really amazing. Some plump Sunday morning drizzle. I didn’t get the little girls waved cheerleaders pompoms in a impression that this event was run for profit fairly co-ordinated way. But it was the dog though as it seemed more of a celebration of agility which drew the largest crowd. The the local resource: the Grand Western Canal. over-excited dogs weren’t particularly good I had a fantastic time the year I lived in but some of them were very agile and like all Tiverton, although as a small town with not working dogs I’ve seen, they seemed to get a a lot going on we did have to make our own terrific bang out of it. It was an act which fun. Someone once told me it had the highest really bought a smile to everyone’s face. proportion of residents on income support in It seemed everyone was in a good the UK, although I don’t know if that’s really mood in fact, and Otter breweries treated us true. What I do know is that not many people thirsty volunteers to a free round in the beer round there have much money, and there’s tent on Saturday night. On Sunday they often frustration at the limitations of what the decanted what was left in the barrels into town offers. The canal is a real asset to the coke bottles and sent it over to the WRG community and when I was there we made compound in a wheelbarrow, which was very good use of it, mostly for cycling along to get welcome. Using a wheel barrow still doesn’t to the excellent Globe pub at Sandford Peverell beat Nic lifting beer out of his ambulance in but also for a bit of peace and quiet. It’s right the ‘strangest transport for beer’ competithat the community celebrates this asset and tion!! We also enjoyed a barbecue on the for the sake of the canal’s future preservation Saturday night after hitching lifts up the river it’s good that local people are being encourwith the Trailboaters. aged to take ownership of it. Luckily the show closed before the bank Bearing in mind how smoothly organholiday Monday, a day when other canal ised the event was (for which credit must go shows around the country were rained off. to Mitch) and how appreciative everyone was Tear down took place in strong winds and of it, I’d really support the idea of making lashing rain. At one point I heard a few this a regular event and be happy to lend voices say, “look, that marquee (the 6 metre myself to it in future. If our restoration by 3 metre one!) is rocking! OH now it’s projects go smoothly, in a few years time we rolling towards the campers...” This is the could in all likelihood be faced with many first time I have ever seen Moose run. He more towns who, like Tiverton, have a jumped on top of the wandering marquee freshly-restored canal on their doorstep and and stopped it doing another few rolls. We need to be encouraged to appreciate, use quickly dragged it behind a bigger marquee and maintain it. Tiverton’s Grand Western and dismantled it. That was when we looked Weekend would be a good place to start around and saw the beer marquee blowing learning how to achieve this. violently about. We decided then would be a Sophie Smith good time to take that down before it came down on its own. We had the fun job of reloading the hay bales back onto the tractor trailer. Maria stacked whilst we found out how many bales we could get onto a push-along hand truck. I forget the maximum number but it was a few! Helping the local organisers heave a huge bag of money into their van as teardown began, I asked them how they had done on the event. They certainly Trailboats in Tiverton for the festival felt they were quids-in and

page 47


Festival camp

..and the IWA ‘National’

It wouldn’t be a proper camps season if it didn’t end up in a muddy field with a load of boats - this year at Autherley Junction

pleasant and cheap beer. It rained – in fact it poured and poured and we all got a trifle wet “Wolverhampton Wanderings” on the walk home and the wrg bit of the So the sleep deprivation has been dealt with, compound turned into a quagmire. Sadly the my feet are (nearly) clean, and as far as I can sleeping compartment of my tent did likewise tell, the smell has gone. So what is left to although I didn’t realise this until I stepped into remember – well, there is still a large a large puddle when I eventually tottered off to amount of mud on the car and too many bed. (The tent is now in a skip somewhere – large and ugly caterpillars that appear to it served us well at Wakefield so retirement have stowed away in my kit. (And there was probably long overdue. appear to be snail / slug tracks across the Mike joined us with the last of the van / rooflining of my car – I’m glad I didn’t spot kit combos and discovered that the marquee the perpetrators while I was driving!) door had been propped open for a reason – Ah, yes, the mud. We thought we’d there was no handle on the outside and he seen enough of that at St. Ives, but no, was a little damp by the time he had engiWolverhampton had its fair share of equally neered his way back inside. We had left a smelly, sticky goo. medicinal brew so he didn’t suffer too badly. For some of us, the festival started on This year the site team were ahead of 8th August when we visited site to put up the game and we had large quantities of some fencing. It rained, although not all the tracking-on-a-roll. This came with a JCB time, as sometimes it only showered. accessory and could be rolled up, moved and Version 1 of the fence was erected – re-laid in the twinkling of a telehandler. double-skinned, hold-down brackets, stays This, together with a ‘no vehicle movements and fancy security clamps. This was mioff the trackway’ policy left the site usable. grated to Version 2, with the stays passed For the heavy gear, large catering units and through the inner row of blocks and the the fairground stuff, the plan was: lay tracksecurity clamps at the top (so much more sensible). Versions 3 and on were obviously variations of the line, not the method. While all this was happening I set to with a list of expected camping units, a tape measure, some white spray paint and a worried look. This was alleviated by the addition of a Moose and between us we decided that the site needed a rethink. By the end of Day 1 the ‘workers compound’, i.e. wrg, the workers’ boats, workers camping, Tardis and admin village, was all secure. Day 2 saw the fencing extended way across site (we only had 4km to erect in total) and at the end of the weekend most of us went home, leaving Bruce & Sheila and the North West stalwarts to finish the job. Back again on Thursday to settle in and meet folks. Friday another influx and Saturday yet more. Saturday evening we all went off for a Some of the 80 tons of woodchip BBQ at Wolverhampton Boat Club – very

Camp 21, IWA National Festival

page 48


way to where the unit needed to be, drive unit off the end, consider it parked, take up trackway and repeat. The camp actually started on Monday and we were joined by a small number of Festival veterans, with just a couple of ‘virgins’ (although I only have their word for that). Tuesday night we had a bit of a do – the annual Cheese and Wine (although predictive text insists on the more apt ‘cheese and wind’) and Wednesday night we lent our tent for the Chinese takeaway evening. We planned another outing to the boat club, but were put off by the torrential rain. The wrg compound suffered still further – pouring rain and the passage of 150 pairs of feet and we were well into swampville. Thursday was theoretically a mass outing through Dudley tunnel – needless to say that all went a wee bit agley but a good number made it leaving the rest doing the usual stuff on site. To add to the usual Festival frolics, we rekindled our love affair with woodchip we scattered a bit about, and then some more, and then… well, 80 tons later we finally ran out. We also perfected the art of ‘boarding’. Sticking bits of wood under the wheels of a vehicle and forming a moveable roadway – it is impressive how far a vehicle can be moved in this way without getting stuck. Predominantly, getting stuck was our province – with telehandlers, tractors, Bradshaws, vans and our own vehicles to choose from we managed many and varied stickings, although matching Geezer’s spectacular bogging of two vans in quick succession takes some beating. Then there were the inevitable breakages – the Pasty Wagon went all Land Rover on Bungle and came apart in his hands and the main gate showed again how fragile these structures can be and formed an attachment to the plant trailer. We had visitors from faraway places – Matt Taylor dropped in having moored Fulbourne nearby, and all of a sudden we had a full set of Tweedles as Dum (or was it Dee) flew in from somewhere hot, dry and sunny to Wolverhampton which was none of the above. Thanks must go to Al, Neil and Geezer for producing spectacular meals from out of a hut in the middle of a muddy field in spite of wasp stings, burns and comedy wound dressings, and for reinforcing my earlier warning – ‘don’t wind the cooks up’. Also to

A festival’s not a festival without fencing Barbara for catering before Al arrived and Adam for preparing breakfast every day. To Elanor the kitchen fairy who spent nearly the whole of her time with us on compound duties, and to Sophie the houseelf who abandoned the compound only to work on WOW! To the gallant team leaders, particularly Moose for looking after the DofE lad (Ian West) and Bruce for working until he dropped – proving conclusively that you can spend 3 weeks at the National, or do a full range of wrg work, but not both. To Mitch for apparently doing all the complicated admin stuff (although she assures me that she didn’t) and for being a little haven of calm and sanity when it all went a bit wrong. To all the people who stayed until the bitter end (i.e., after I had left), and I will include Womble for volunteering to return, even though she was stricken and never actually made it back. But obviously the most thanks go to Miss Black. I have no doubt that she could have run the show without me, but I certainly couldn’t have coped without her. And to all the unsung heroes – everyone who just got on with it, in spite of the long hours and fairly grim conditions, and generally laughed their way through it – although that may have been hysteria. Any suggestion to ‘we’ in this narrative should not be taken as evidence that I was involved in any way. Dave Worthington

page 49


KESCRG

Bricks and bhajis KESCRG at Eisey Lock Our September dig was at Eisey Lock, the Dig Deep project on the Cotswold Canals, with Adam ‘Digger’ Morris as our able bodied leader. It was our second time at Eisey and this time we stayed in Stratton Scout Hut and visited The Rat Trap for our evening entertainment. We had the pleasure of being the first group to visit after the summer camp (see report p21-22) so we picked up the bricks and got laying, at least at the head of the lock. The tail was still several feet underwater, it wasn’t until after lunch Saturday we could start to tackle the lower wing walls and the stop plank base shuttering removal. We had a bevy of brickies and briquettes, consequently rapid progress was made until we ran short of clean old bricks! Nic pushed us to the limit with the rapid supply of lime mortar right to the end of Sunday. By the end of the weekend the towpathside upper wing wall was finished and last coping stone put in place for the stop plank groove, offside upper wing wall had several courses added, a good start was made on the towpath side gate recess, and the offside wall above the paddle culvert was nearing completion. Several courses were added to offside lower wing wall and Dave excavated a large hole which had previously been the by wash outlet, the first few bricks of the arch even got replaced and lastly (I think) the shuttering left in place at the end of the camp got removed. Many thanks to all who made it to the weekend, to Eli for the food and in particular to Digs for leading his first KESCRG weekend. No I won’t tell everyone about handbrakes and fuel cocks I’ll let Martin do that! I look forward to seeing the pictures after BITM who are there this weekend and after LWRG next weekend, a lot of progress for Dig Deep in the Cotswolds. Hopefully next year we’ll get on to the chamber wall rebuild! But digging isn’t all that KESCRG do, as anyone who’s seen their food stall at the National Festival will realise...

page 50

KESCRG and the onions ’Twas the night before the night before and it was raining again, the news from site was we’d have to carry lots of things across a bog to get to our pitch. There was also good news Nic and Kate had managed to get the ingredients delivered directly to site... After much planning and gathering of people and loading of kit we arrived at the National, trailer loaded with fryers, our camping kit and Sophie in our hurriedly modified Landie. Our instructions where to go to the end of the track way and stop, do not at any point try and drive on the grass! So we duly followed the instructions and came across our market stand nestled in the trees and up on blocks. How much more rain was anticipated? On closer inspection and having found an Eddie we wondered if he was trying to fit his new Land Rover axles to the stand ready for getting off site on Tuesday! We had assumed wrongly and apparently the ground was to blame for being somewhat inferior in the level department, it was however well sheltered and therefore unlikely to take off as it had threatened to do at previous events. The crew set about unpacking, lifting and shifting, and poggling to MK2’s happy words. During the weekend much fun was had a-slicing and a-frying, many regular customers returned to partake in the available fayre. We are very grateful to all who parted with cash in return for our spicy nosh, many for the 5th National in a row, and the team once again produced the goods sufficient to keep us going for another year. At nearly 7 months old Sophie was finally able to taste the Dahl her cousin Samuel had told her of. In the end the weather was much better than that which Dr Busker had written about some years earlier and in fact we only had one significant rain event during all the daylight hours of the weekend. Many thanks to all who contributed to the fundraising effort, in particular Phil who has never been digging before, he visited on Saturday (with two lasses from Viv and Helens camp) got stuck in and then came back for more on Monday on his own! We are very grateful and look forward to seeing you again soon, hopefully your 15 mile cycle ride home was a safe one. See you all for more spicy fun next year from the Onionette’s. Ian Williamson PS thanks to Bill Baileys Jazz band for the impromptu set behind the stand.


WRG’s own boat club presents its annual award for an outstanding contribution to WRG Boat Club News

WRGBC

Boat Club news ment and particularly from several members who either left boats or cars there safely before and after the festival. Lynne Cater, club Commode Door PS: a reminder that BOAT CLUB SUBS ARE NOW DUE - a bargain at £10 pa. Please Send to Sadie.

A social gathering of WRG Boat Club was held during the IWA National Waterways Festival at Autherley Junction. During the get together we presented the WRG Bowl for “Outstanding contribution to WRG”. This year’s recipient was enticed along the towpath on Sunday evening and was surprised to find a group of friends enjoying a drink and waiting to watch the parade of illuminated boats. Our recipient has a share in two boats and uses another during the festival. She is interested in campanology and tatting and appears quite traditional (have you guessed who it is yet?). The Boat Club is very pleased to award the Bowl this year to Elaine Scott. She has emptied Elsans and other types of portable toilets each day at every festival since 1993 at Wakefield, when she fell in the canal. Researching her background I learned she was well suited to the role she has adopted on the Lavender Boat. A previous job was designing sewers. Congratulations Elaine. The award was well deserved and filled with lavender toiletries and artificial lavender from where else but WRG NW stall. Our AGM is normally at the festival but because three quarters of the committee Elaine receives her award (see also letter p35) were missing it has been postponed until the Campaign Rally at Maesbury in September. We were thankful that the weather was fine because our “club house” is still in need of repair. Apologies to members who did no know about the get together as this information was omitted from the daily newsletter on site. Following the parade we continued our meeting at the Wolverhampton Boat Club just over the bridge. Many thanks to everyone at this Also presented at Autherley: a new brush-cutter for WRG South very hospitable and helpful West, donated by Alan Lines (centre) in memory of his father club for evening entertain-

page 51


Navvies news

Know where your towel is? Using workboats? Well you might be interested in the latest developments in the saga that at one point looked likely to involve you having to get yourself the same qualification as a tug skipper on the Rhine. Fortunately most of that nonsense has gone out of the window, and you may either need a much lesser qualification (including a new one to be administered by IWA) or possibly no official qualification at all depending on the circumstances. There will be more in the next Navvies but in the meantime see www.waterways.org.uk.

Dredging New guidance from the Association of Inland navigation authorities is available on the enthralling subject of Wet Dredgings - see www.aina.org.uk.

It’s a sign! Thanks to Bob Kearney for bringing to our attention a really useful make up your own safety signs website www.online-sign.com.

Volunteer funding

â There’s new government funding scheme aimed at small local voluntary groups. Sorry about the very long URL, but it’s... www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/third_sector/news/ news_stories/080904_grassroots.aspx

Lost Property Left in the WRG Marquees at the National: 1 Wellies: "Dunlop Safety" Steel Toecap, Black with Red Sole, size 12. 2 Wellies: "Dunlop", Green, size 9. 3 Fleece: "North Face", Black, XXL. 4 Fleece: "Trespass", Black, M. 5 Waterproof Jacket: "Regatta", Grey/Grey, age 11-12 (152 cm), faded name "Samuel Day" on collar.

page 52

6 Towel: Blue /White Striped, Bath Towel size. 7 Towel: Dark Red, Bath Sheet size. 8 Sponge Bag: Black Roll-up, 3 Compartments, Contents include CK-One/Razors. All items washed (even the Wellies got a dip in the Cut) and now at Middlewich. Please contact Roger Evans by email on rogermartinevans@hotmail.com or 01606 834471 to discuss repatriation by Post, at a future dig, or just disposal.

Camp reports... ...account for rather a lot of this bumper-size edition. My thanks to everyone who sent them in: I think this will be the first year we’ve ever had a report from every single camp, albeit a rather terse five-word one by MKP from the second week at Droitwich! My apologies to those who don’t enjoy reading them: I’m afraid it’s meant rather less of the other regular items. Normal service will be resumed next time.

Speaking of which... ...in place of the regular Plant and Logistics articles, Bungle (who was on the receiving end in both cases) has sent the two photos below which demonstrate (a) how much it is appreciated if those using the excavator clean the mud off before sending it on elsewhere and (b) the importance of packing the kit trailers securely. Please try harder!


NOTICEBOARD Online Navvies subscriptions Don’t forget: You can now take out or renew Navvies subs online at www.waterways.org.uk/Restoration/index.htm or at www.iwashop.com/ecommerce/ products.asp?cat=126

Sits. Vac. Still wanted: volunteers to join the WRG Publicity team. For more details see Mike Palmer’s Chairman’s Comment in the last issue or contact Mike - see below

Moving House Bobby Silverwood has moved to: 24 Colemansmoor Road, Woodley, Reading RG5 4DN Don’t forget to tell Navvies if you move house HEAD OFFICE ...of WRG and our parent body The Inland Waterways Association has moved to Island House, Moor Rd, Chesham HP5 1WA, Tel: 01494 783453. email enquiries@wrg.org.uk

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

Stamps wanted

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

Directory update Somersetshire Coal Canal Society's website is now: www.coalcanal.org Next full directory will appear in issue 233. All updates to the editor please.

Congratulations ...to Matt Taylor and Annette on their marriage ...to Mark Bennett and Jane on their engagement ...to Steve Wyatt and Jane Saxelby on their marriage ...to Mark Scoble and Emma Luddington on their marrage ...to Moose & Maria on their engagement ...to Abigail Jones and Anthony on their marriage ...to Karen and Garry Alderman on the arrival of Gemma Katie on August 10th weighing 8lb 11oz

Thanks... ...to Chris Griffiths of Stroudprint for his continued assistance with printing Don’t forget Get your Barn Dance 2009 tickets from Bobby Silverwood at the Bonfire Bash

Contacting the chairman: Mike Palmer 3 Finwood Rd, Rowington, Warwickshire CV35 7DH Tel: 01564 785293 email: mike.palmer@wrg.org.uk

page 53


Infill

...and the return of Deirdre!

“I suffer from uncontrollable flatulence at night. What can I do?” Can Deirdre help?

Dear Deirdre,

The men in my local group are a bit too happy to strip off in the communal sleeping area. I’m not a prude but I find overweight middle aged male bodies make me a bit nauseous. How do I tackle this? Deirdre writes: try and raise the issue sensitively towards the end of an evening in the pub. It’s probably best to have a few stiff drinks inside you before attempting to talk to them about it. Try and make them understand your position by using appropriate descriptive terms like ‘lard-white pockmarked flesh’ and ‘great wobbling beer Any captions (1) ... guts’ and make it clear who you’re talking about by pointing at the worst offenders. If you don’t feel that you can face addressing a group, try taking one individual aside and opening a conversation with something like “Hey, I notice you’ve put on weight lately!” Word will soon spread.

Dear Deirdre,

I’m running a camp over the summer and we’ve a heavy work schedule planned. How can I discourage the layabouts and piss-heads from coming? I’m not Liz by the way. Deirdre writes: that’s a tricky one, and less uncommon than you might believe. I feel a ‘scorch and burn’ policy is probably best in this situation. Start spreading rumours there’s no pub nearby. That should sort the men from the boys. In the time-honoured tradition of WRG camp leadership, you might also start ringing round your mates so the people you want to come fill up all the places (that’s unless your mates are the layabouts and piss-heads you were trying to avoid, of course).

Dear Deirdre,

...for this pic by Tim Lewis of Eddie Jones of KESCRG and a sink plunger? “Take the plunge with KESCRG” or “No wonder the bog was blocked! You wouldn’t believe what we found in the trap!” OK over to you for some suggestions...

I suffer from uncontrollable flatulence at night. What can I do about it? Deirdre writes: buy a pair of earplugs so you don’t wake yourself up. If anyone else has a problem, they’ll just have to buy you a caravan.

page 54


More on Homo WRGiensis ?? ????? writes: Being most intrigued by the In-fill article in Navvies 229 regarding the origins of Homo Wrgiensis (H. Wrg) I took up the challenge to find out more about their origins. I would now like to share my findings with your readers. Whilst the first official records show that H. Wrg was born of Palmer and Arnold, I have, using British Waterways records and trace DNA, been able to establish their existence at least one generation before this time. It would appear that at about the same time that Roltus Canalus was establishing his tribe of H. Iwa in Tardebigge there was amongst that number one Saddus Canalus who, though satisfied with Roltus Canalus’ verbal campaign to preserve the rural watercourses, was dissatisfied by the lack of provision of physical action. It is now thought that Saddus Canalus, Any captions (2) ... imbued with alcoholic beverage, sought relief of this physical tension in co-habiting with an itinerant Homo Kescrgis. The liason bearing fruit out of wedlock, it is now thought that this was the first H. Wrg to carry the gene now identified as Saddus Bastardsus. This hypothesis given credence some years later when a descendant of H. Kescrg, Luckius Eddius, digging in the region of a burial mound, unearthed the remains of a primitive form of water otter laid with body of this first H. Wrg. This discovery of their ancestor then prompting the present day H. Wrg into embarking on a much larger search of the region has, to date, as byproduct of this search, almost restored Wiltsus Berkus Canalus to its former glory. It is hoped that, by the time of the next edition of Navvies, the British Records Office will have been able to trace the development of the primitive water otter Our second photo features George to that of the current Omni-presentus Burcus. ‘Bungle’ Eycott, one of our equipNota Bene. Work is still in progress with ment storage containers, and... respect to how the Dualitus Toasterus (or should well... what exactly is it? that be Dualiti Toasteri) came to be associated Captions to the editor, please with H. Wrg.

WRGieotypes No6: The WRG ant It’s said that on a dig anywhere in the UK you are rarely less than 14 feet from a WRG Ant. A WRG ant is characterised by its cheerful hardworking personality and ability to lift up to seven times its own body weight. Naturally attracted to sugar, the WRG Ant subsists on a diet of Tesco Value biscuit selection and hot sweet tea. Noted particularly for its small stature the WRG Ant is nonetheless a stocky specimen, often nearly as broad as it is tall. Although often overlooked because of its small size and unassuming personality, the Ant is an essential part of the WRG ecosystem and performs an invaluable task in clearing away large rocks and tree parts from the dig site.

page 55


From this...

...to this page 56

Profile for The Inland Waterways Association

Navvies 231  

Navvies 231

Navvies 231  

Navvies 231