volunteers restoring waterways
navvies waterway recovery group
Issue No 243 241 Oct-Nov 2010
Navvies Production Editor: Martin Ludgate, 35 Silvester Road, East Dulwich London SE22 9PB 020-8693 3266 email@example.com 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.
Printing and assembly: John & Tess Hawkins, 4 Links Way, Croxley Green, Rickmansworth, Herts WD3 3RQ 01923 448559 firstname.lastname@example.org
Waterway Recovery Group is part of The Inland Waterways Association, (registered office: Island House, Moor Road, Chesham HP5 1WA). The Inland Waterways Association is a non-profit distributing company limited by guarantee, registered in England no 612245, and registered as a charity no 212342. VAT registration no 342 0715 89. Directors of WRG: Rick Barnes, John Baylis, Mick Beattie, James Butler, Spencer Collins, Christopher Davey, George Eycott, Helen Gardner, John Hawkins, Judith Palmer, Michael Palmer, Jonathan Smith, Harry Watts.
ÂŠ 2010 WRG
Visit our web site www.wrg.org.uk for page 2
Contents In this issue... Editor Martin talks a load of Bow Locks 4-6 Coming soon reunion and Christmas 7-10 Dig report London WRG at Eisey Lock 11 Camp reports on the Basingstoke, Montgomery and Cotswold canals 12-21 WRG at 40 interviewing Tim Lewis 22-25 Diary canal camps and weekend digs 26-28 Letters leaders, Basingstoke and covers 29 Progress restoration roundup 30-35 Camp reports 3 weeks at Eisey Lock with KESCRG, WRG and NWPG 36-42 A history of the WRG in 40 objects as told at our birthday party 43-45 Vans please look after them 46 The Survey favourite WRG pub picked 47 Above: Boating on the Droitwich at last - our Navvies news including boat club update 48 49 Chairman is greeted by Bill Walton at Ladywood Noticeboard Navvies price rise shock Infill whose beard is it anyway? 50-51 Top Lock on a trip following the opening of the Droitwich Barge Canal in September. We’ ve just Contributions... heard the Droitwich Junction Canal’s final funding is in place ready for a full opening of the through route next year. Left: KESCRG volunteers at ...are always welcome, whether handwritten, Eisey Lock: see report, pages 38-39. Below: typed, on CD-ROM, DVD or by email. Photos also welcome: digital, What’s been happening at Langley Mill lately? See pages 34-35 for a progress update. Cover slides, prints. Please state whether you photos illustrate all 40 items in August’s WRG want your prints back. Digital pics are 40th birthday party entertainment ‘A History welcome as email attachments, preferably JPG format, but if you have a lot of large of the WRG in 40 objects’; see pages 22-25 files it is best to send them on CD-ROM or DVD or to contact the editor first. Contributions by post to the editor Martin Ludgate, 35, Silvester Road, London SE22 9PB, or by email to email@example.com. Press date for issue 244: November 1st.
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all the latest news of WRG's activities page 3
Editorial Martin Ludgate
What a load of... OK that’s rather harsh, but it does seem to me that there has been more than the usual amount of ill-informed comment recently on various subjects related to the waterways. Firstly, on the proposal (probably more than a proposal by the time you read this) to turn British Wateways from a public corporation into a charity or similar body. I won’t go into the ins and outs of whether it’s a good thing (we’ve done a bit of that already), but I can’t resist mentioning a meeting held to discuss whether the Environment Agency’s waterways (such as the Thames) should be included too. To which I gather the responses from one or two Thames boaters were along the lines of “We don’t want to end up under BW because if we do, the IWA will persuade BW to spend all our licence money on restoring derelict canals which we won’t want to cruise, rather than on maintaining the Thames”. I kid you not! All of which (apart from illustrating my point about ill-informed comment) suggests that we may have a challenge ahead of us as we try to get the Thames boating communities to support the IWA Inglesham Lock Appeal. And that, in turn, gives me an excuse to mention that the Appeal has already raised almost £17,000 towards its £125,000 target, and that we’re planning some wacky WRG fundraising events in the not-too-distant, plus a distinct possibility of some early work on site doing the initial scrub-bash. Watch this space. The second not-too-accurate comment was on the subject of the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation, where I recently spent an enjoyable weekend with London WRG, installing bank protection at Heybridge Basin. This being one of the many tasks involved in the programme of work by IWA subsidiary Essex Waterways Ltd (who took over to save the isolated Essex navigation from closing when the old canal company went bankrupt) to put the Chelmer & Blackwater back in good order. And it’s having to rely on a lot of volunteer input, from IWA / EWL’s own team as well as visiting groups, because unlike most of the main national waterways network it has no regular public funding (although EWL has been successful in attracting support from local authorities on a one-off basis). IWA is equally determined that it won’t be a drain on its national finances which are needed for general waterways campaigning (such as supporting WRG, and lobbying for what it sees as the best future for the BW and EA networks). And indeed, no such funding is needing to be transferred to EWL from IWA. How frustrating, then, to hear the Chelmer cited as a case of IWA wasting its members’ subscriptions getting involved in running an isolated navigation that none of them want to boat on, and which is likely to cost IWA dearly. On the other hand it’s nice to hear the soonto-be-scrapped Goverment advisory body IWAC using the Chelmer as an example of how to run a waterway on a much smaller staff budget per mile of canal than British Waterways. I just hope they appreciate how much that small budget organisation relies on volunteer assistance - and how hard it would be to scale that up to something the size of BW. But meanwhile, my ulterior motive this time is to find an excuse to mention to you that we’ve got the London WRG and KESCRG Christmas party dig on the Chelmer & Blackwater on December 4-5, so see page 6 and book your place now! Thirdly and finally in this list of uninformed gossip is the selection of comments I’ve heard recently along the lines of “It’s pointless trying to restore more canals, given the poor economic situation”; “the waterways movement should concentrate all its efforts to trying to keep most of the existing network open”; “IWA and WRG should be pulling volunteers off
restoration and onto maintenance work”; “There won’t be any money for restoration for the next decade anyway” and even “We should be helping BW draw up a list of canals to close down because they can’t afford to run them all properly”. I’ll deal with the last one first because it’s easiest. Firstly, think of the signals it would give to the powers-thatbe if it appeared that the waterways community was prepared to tolerate canal closures at all; secondly, think of how the waterways movement might tear itself apart with infighting if it ever came to debating which ones to close; thirdly, consider the Government’s reaction - it might be anything from “No chance: we pay BW to run the canal system, not three-quarters of it” to “Fine: Reasons to be cheerful 1: City Mill Lock opens you go ahead and shut them, and we’ll cut your grant again”; finally imagine what would happen if we allowed one canal to be closed down to save money, and Sod’s Law dictated that a parallel one would then suffer a major breach, cutting off a chunk of the network... As regards the ‘no money for a decade’ theory, I just don’t see how anyone can be that sure. It would have taken quite a visionary to have predicted that the Rochdale and Huddersfield restorations would be kick-started in the 1970s by Government funded job creation schemes, or that there would be a national lottery giving out cash to complete those canals three decades later, or that in the meantime companies would be paying good money to the canals to avoid being taxed for putting rubbish into holes in the ground, when 20 years earlier those same folks could well have been using old canals to get rid of their rubbish! Or that canal restoration could be seen as a key to regeneration. (speaking of which, are you coming on the Manchester Bolton & Bury New Year Camp?) Yes, it’s going to be tough, and yes, the restoration movement needs to remember some hard-learned lessons about maintaining restored canals - and if that means having other local bodies running them and boaters having to buy the odd extra licence at least in the medium term, then so be it. But to write off any hope of funding? The most likely way that will come true is as a self-fulfilling prophesy from a restoration movement hell-bent on descending into gloom. Is that us? The ‘put all your effort into maintenance’ argument is less easy to dismiss, especially when we seem to be doing a fair amount of it on the Chelmer & Blackwater, Basingstoke and so on. But remember that we’re volunteers: IWA or WRG can’t just move us to other tasks like an army commander moving divisions about. If folks joined to restore things, they might decide that if there aren’t any canals being restored then they’d rather restore railways, or old buildings, or whatever. Even more so for those in the local restoration societies, many of whom joined up to support a local project. Do you fancy telling folks in the Wey & Arun Canal Trust that they should be helping to maintain the Oxford Canal instead? And the same applies to the money too - if grants from HLF aren’t used for canal restoration, it’s not like they’re going to give the money to BW to keep the Grand Union open instead. And we shouldn’t think that ‘putting restoration on hold’ for a few years and picking it up when things get better is the answer, because once work stops, it very quickly slips into reverse as part-completed work begins to decay. We need to keep making progress, even Reasons to be cheerful 2: Droitwich opens if it’s slow.
Ashby Canal Trust
Then there’s the timescale: despite my comments above about not writing-off restoration for the next decade or whatever, it is true that many of our schemes are very long term - they’re not likely to be finished in 10 years, and they never were, even without the recession / credit crunch / whatever. In the context of a halfcentury canal restoration, the current problems may seem like a very shortterm issue from a long time ago by the time it’s finished - and a very strange reason to have given up restoration work. And let’s just be thankful nobody Reasons to be cheerful 3: Ireland’s Royal Canal opens thought that way about giving up restoring the Kennet & Avon or the Montgomery (speaking of which, are you coming to the Bonfire Bash?) in 1970 when the waterways network faced an uncertain future with the possible abolition of BW. Or if they did, that nobody important listened to them. Finally back to ‘Bow Locks’ and the real reason for the picture, which shows boats on the reopening convoy heading for the restored City Mill Lock in East London. And they’re going to restore Carpenters Road Lock too. And the Droitwich Barge Canal’s finally opened - and we’ve just had confirmation that funding’s in place for the Droitwich Junction Canal to open next year. And the first short length of the Ashby Northern reaches at Snarestone’s just opened, while at the other end of the scale the 90-mile Royal Canal in Ireland is finally complete. So look at the reopening pictures on these pages, celebrate the achievements, and let’s not descend into gloom just yet. Or as the Sex Pistols might have put it if they’d visited the lower Lee Navigation, NEVER MIND THE BOW LOCKS! Martin Ludgate Reasons to be cheerful 4: 1st bit of Ashby opens
The Montgomery Canal on last year’s Reunion. Will you be helping us finish the job this time?
Can we tempt you with the Mont in November? Or the Chelmer & Blackwater in early December? Or the Manchester Bolton & Bury in late December and early January?
Coming soon Reunion and Xmas digs
Book now for the WRG Reunion, 6-7 November This is what we used to call the Bonfire Bash - a big working party and get-together where everyone’s welcome, whether you’re a new recruit from this summer’s canal camps, an old hand, a regular with one of the regional groups, or someone who’s never been on a dig before. Let’s hear from Alan Jervis, one of the leaders: This year, the WRG Reunion Dig returns to the Montgomery Canal to do more essential work on the dry section of the canal. More than half of the canal (which runs from near Oswestry in Shropshire to Newtown in mid-Wales) is already restored and the remainder of the canal is intact, so there are few serious problems involved in restoration: with enough money and support, it could be com-
waterway recovery group
Montgomery Reunion 2010
I would like to attend the WRG Reunion on November 6-7 Forename:
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 £13 for the weekend based on £3 breakfast and evening meal, £2 lunch) How will you be travelling to the Reunion? 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:
Signed: Please send this form to: Reunion Bookings, WRG, Island House, Moor Road, Chesham HP5 1WA
pleted in only a few years. The canal is a uniquely unspoilt waterway which winds through spectacular scenery and has a very large number of listed ‘heritage’ structures. The canal is already open for the first seven miles and the current focus is on the next section: four miles of dry canal which, when restored, will take the navigable section to the Welsh border at Llanymynech, an important historic site with a wharf, limekilns and a quarry - plus a couple of pubs. The section of canal in Llanymynech is already navigable and has a trip boat operating on it. Our task for the weekend is to complete the clearance of the dry section which will allow engineering inspection and some restoration to begin. We had a fantastic Reunion there last year but there’s lots of ‘traditional’ jungle left to bash and (perhaps – depending on the weather) some restoration of a historic wharf. Accommodation is positively luxurious in a local school which we’ve used a number of times previously, and catering is in the hands of the legendary Lou Kellett whose team can be relied on to produce an excellent meal. So why not come along on 6th-7th November and make a real difference to one of the country’s most important canals? Fill in the booking form opposite or see www.wrg.org.uk. The Reunion is also traditionally where we plan the programme of canal camps for the next year and begin appointing leaders. This year we’ve got something a bit different: Feedback from the Leaders’ Training Day this year included discussion around the fact that some people may be thinking of volunteering to assist or lead on a canal camp but don’t know what they are letting themselves in for. Some are apprehensive about the possibility. Helen Gardner will be running a session (post shower/site and pre dinner) at the reunion and the aim is to enlighten the audience and give some idea of what leading is about and how much blood is expected. Helen is occasionally entertaining and will probably be armed with a beer so it is worth grabbing yourself a beer and popping along even if you never have any intention of leading - you may surprise yourself - and you may have suggestions. The title is yet to be defined but will be something along the lines of ‘What do WRG Leaders do?’ / ‘Insert sexy title’ / ‘The art of propping up a shovel’ / ‘Is Leading a Canal Camp for me?’. Time to be confirmed but it will probably run for about 45 minutes - or two pints. For the record - blood is not expected but sweat is often a side effect (hand wipes are provided in the overhead lockers).
The London WRG/KESCRG Xmas dig: Chelmer Blackwater, 4-5 Dec
The 2010-11 Christmas and New Year period for us kicks off with a major working party and Christmas celebration led by London WRG and KESCRG, but to which everyone is welcome. This year we’ve got a new site - the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation, where Essex Waterways (another part of our parent organisation the Inland Waterways Association) has been working hard to revive a waterway which nearly closed down five years ago when the canal company went bankrupt. There will no doubt be scrub-bashing to be done, but hopefully a variety of other tasks too including bank protection work. As usual we’ll be having a Christmas party on the Saturday evening, and given the choice of site it’s not terribly surprising we’ve chosen ‘Essex boys and girls’ as the evening’s theme - we’ll have the usual silly games and prizes for the best outfits. Just use your imagination! To book your place, simply write a cheque for£16.00 made payable to KESCRG and put it in an envelope together with your name, any dietary requirements and an email address for your directions to be sent to (or if you want a hardcopy of the directions, please enclose a SAE), and post it to Christmas Party Dig, Eddie Jones, Altamount, London WRG on the Chelmer & Blackwater Coventry Rd, Fillongley, Coventry CV7 8EQ
Christmas on the Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal
Bolton Evening News
This year for our festive canal camp we’re heading up to the Manchester Bolton Canal at interestingly-named Nob End, site of our 1996 Reunion, and what looks like an oppor- Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal tunity for some serious scrub-bashing, big bonfires, and (knowing our lot) plenty of innuendo. But first, for those who aren’t familiar with the canal, we’ll fill you in with a little background information in the hope of tempting you out…. The history: The Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal begins near the centre of Manchester, where it leaves the River Irwell and climbs a flight of locks through Salford. It follows the Irwell valley north westwards to Nob End, at which point it splits, with one branch continuing north west to Bolton while the other heads north east to Bury. It carried a busy trade in coal, until it burst its banks spectacularly in 1936 at a point where it runs high above the river. The breach was never repaired, the little remaining local traffic died out over the next couple of decades, and much of the canal fell was completely derelict – although several very impressive features survived including two large aqueducts and the staircase locks at Nob End. Now over to Paul Hindle to bring the story up to date: The restoration: The Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal Society, formed in 1987, held regular working parties during its first ten years, including dredging much of the canal in Bury, principally on both sides of the lowered Water Street Bridge in Radcliffe. British Waterways announced in 2002 that it would be supporting the restoration of the canal, and we resumed working parties in 2006, working alongside BW and WRG North West. At first we had two weekends a year with up to 20 volunteers. This year the programme has expanded to ten weekends, and we hope to have self-supervised status soon. Steve Dent took over from myself as Working Party Organiser in 2009. We began from the central point of the canal at Nob End (where the three arms of the canal meet; here they are all largely still in water). We have concentrated on clearing the towpath, including cutting down overhanging trees and trees in the towpath wall, and cleaning the coping stones and setts, generally making the canal more visible, and keeping it clear as a valuable route for walkers and cyclists. The increased use of the canal, especially on Sundays, has been very noticeable. From Nob End we first cleared the ¾-mile length on the Bolton arm to Hall Lane in Little Lever, parts of the towpath here were heavily overgrown by trees on both sides. Next we tackled the ¾-mile length on the Salford arm from the bottom of Nob End locks to
The breach which closed the Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal in 1936, and the same site today
John & Margaret Fletcher collection
Ringley which had become very overgrown. The six Prestolee (or Nob End) Locks (a magnificent double staircase of three locks each) had much attention, though they still disappear under Himalayan Balsam in summer! Finally we tackled the Bury arm to Radcliffe, a length of over 2 miles. This length begins with the famous breach in the canal wall which happened in 1936 and was never repaired. This dry length is followed by a short infilled length, but within half a mile the canal is in water most of the way to Bury, and we have almost completed the cleaning-up job as far as Radcliffe, beyond which Bury Council resurfaced the towpath several years ago. A group of local volunteers in Radcliffe have also been working to clean up the towpath in the town centre, and we have been working with them too. Meanwhile the first half kilometre of There’s a lock somewhere in there for us to find! canal was fully restored from the River Below: Nob End Locks before they were derelict Irwell at the Middlewood site in Salford by BW and opened in 2008. It includes a new tunnel and the third deepest lock on the whole canal system, replacing the original staircase Locks 1 & 2. The Christmas camp proposes to concentrate on the area around Nob End, clearing and cleaning the locks, and clearing the overgrown canal bed between the top of the locks and the breach. There is a length of wash wall to be rebuilt too. Plenty to keep WRGies busy! And speaking of keeping us busy, let’s hear a bit more from Helen Gardner about what’s planned for the camp… The Camp: The work for the Christmas camp is clearing a good 500 yards of decent scrub between the top of the locks at Nob End and the breach. The towpath is heavily used by locals to walk on and clearing just the first few feet in has encouraged locals to become more active in the canal society. It’s classic Xmas Camp material with bonfires and meaty scrub to get your teeth into - even a bit of tirforing if you fancy. If you finish that bit (and it will be a challenge) there is scrub clearance to be done down the impressive flight of locks. The accommodation: a school about 5 minutes drive from site within walking distance (just over a mile) of a nice quiet pub selling real ale. It’s cosy, warm school with plenty of sleeping space, an industrial kitchen, shower on site and secure parking. What to do next: book your place on the camp. You can book online via www.wrg.org.uk or contact head office on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01494 783453.
The Barn Dance The Navvies’ Charity Barn Dance, will take place on Saturday 5th March 2011 at 7.00pm. At the usual place of Benson Parish Hall, Sunnyside, Benson, OX10 6LZ. The price is £12 and includes a stew and baked potato supper. Proceeds are going towards the Inglesham Lock Appeal. Tickets will be available at the Bonfire Bash and the LondonWRG/Kescrg Christmas Party. See Adrian Crow, email email@example.com or ring 07807 456235
This summer we had three weeklong canal camps at Eisey Lock on the Cotswolds - see p36-42 for the reports. But first, London WRG spent a week preparing the site...
on the Cotswold Canals
Due to van-hungry camps, London WRG didn’t have our usual transport available at our recent Cotswolds dig. Tim and Ed threw some of the more important tools in the back of their cars and everyone else made their own way to site. We also didn’t have a proper leader as Martin was in charge. (For clarification Martin would like me to add ‘…and had to leave half way through the weekend’.) Our goal was to make final preparations for the onslaught of summer camps at Eisey Lock. Although a smaller working party than we’ve had for some time, we completed a milestone concrete pour at the beginning of the weekend and made steady progress laying bricks the rest of the time. Arriving late on Friday night we enjoyed an al fresco drink at the Rat Trap pub in Stratton St Margaret (Swindon). Everyone appreciated the Summer Ale on tap. Being the only girl on the weekend, I was the sole recipient of all the innuendo, which was a bit wearying by Sunday. RAF Martin turned up Saturday morning with several bags of donuts which went down very well. We completed a lightningquick concrete pour before lunch. Local John Pontefract turned up with a bag full of rusty TV aerials which he arranged over the sill. I think these might be steel reinforcers. We added about 6 cubic metres of concrete and raked it energetically between the reinforcers. Bob got the vibrator going (cue more innuendo) to encourage the flow before we tamped it to get a nice smooth surface. Before we went home we hauled some old bits of foul-smelling carpet out of the lock chamber and flung those over for protection. Some of the aerials were still sticking out; this area will later become a kind of ledge where the gates hang. Pour complete, our work detail for the rest of the weekend was more open ended and we just got on with bricking the remaining wall. Ed attacked the ladder recess with an electric drill to cut back the old brickwork. Brickies led by Nigel started their own work whilst everyone admired the completed opposite wall.
Talk at lunchtime was of the idiosyncratic approach of local authorities to badger culling. John described to us the method of investigating a badger’s territorial reach (you scatter red food and blue food around an area and see if you find purple badger poo!). Ed talked wistfully of driving tanks on his stag outing. I noticed for the first time what a creepy place Eisey is: the deserted farm with rat-infested outbuildings, the crows cawing in the empty fields and the abandoned lock cottage which is definitely haunted. A free WRG t-shirt to anyone who dares spend the night there. That evening we made use of Stratton scout hut’s huge back garden to have supper outdoors, annoyingly our grilling hamburgers set the smoke alarms off but Tim managed to override them. I completed a lifetime ambition by cooking deep fried mars bars. London WRG quite sensibly treated them with huge suspicion but I thought they were absolutely terrific. Later we all headed back to the Rat Trap just as the light was falling. One of the best things about staying at Stratton is having your own private entrance to the pub via a secluded path. We spent an evening in the pub making plans for future London WRG news publications. Nigel took the opportunity to give newly wed Ed some sage advice on marriage, my favourite point was when he urged him to acquire written permission from his wife before signing onto a camp this summer. Frank took the opportunity to tell us he’d driven for two years without a licence when the Suez crisis suspended all driving tests. On the Sunday, work continued apace on the re-bricking of the wall. Absent on a site visit elsewhere, I didn’t return to Eisey until late afternoon when I was surprised how much progress the bricking team had made. The concrete sill was already dry enough to walk on and the surface was impressively smooth. Thanks to everyone who came along and contributed to organising this dig, especially those who helped transport people and tools. Sophie Smith
Camp report Basingstoke Canal
Ed, Gordon & Co spend a week taking down and rebuilding walls on Lock 17 of the Deepcut Flight
spent enjoying roast chicken (courtesy of Basingstoke canal st Camp 201012: 24-31 July 2010. Harri B) in our new large gazebo (courtesy of Saturday: After a traffic jam at the end of the run over from Goughs Orchard to Mytchett with the cooker (cunning logistics part one for the week) Adrian and I finally arrived to find the accommodation for the week, a small cluster of Portacabins containers at the edge of the Basingstoke Canal Centre’s campsite. Volunteers started to arrive and we unpacked to the accompaniment of the sound of aero engines as various interesting aircraft flew overhead (Farnborough air show was on, we even saw the Vulcan). The safety talk and dinner was carried out al fresco, note to the wise – safety video projector isn’t bright enough for outside use. Evening entertainment was down the pub as it had enough space for everyone to sit down and get to know each other.
the Surrey & Hants Canal Society) and generally comparing notes on the day. Monday: Major digging day, Adrian took over from Elanor as excavator driver for the day and with Alyssa still dumper driver number one, a huge amount of spoil was dug out of the offside wing wall for the foundations. Pressure washing of the lock chamber was completed by Elanor and Thomasina while Suzie, Chris, Laura and Tim cleared some of the weed from the canal below the lock to encourage the water level to drop a bit. Pressure washing was followed by raking out of the damaged mortar using angle grinders, a rotating team of Elanor, Thomasina, Laura and Chris donned the Darth Vader dust masks and took angle grinders to the more knackered brickwork in the lock chamber. With this ongoing, a crack team of Anne, Tony and Marinda completed the
Photos by Gordon Brown
Sunday: First day on site and we carried on with the demolition of the upper wing walls of lock 17 of the Deepcut flight (the task for the week was to start rebuilding these) Gary, Matt, Laura, Tim and Andy soon had this under control while Anne, Marinda and Suzie did some more controlled demo work on the bywash. Adrian had a rather long wait for the pressure washer bowser to fill with water (he reached the stage of reading the instruction manual for one of his many radios) but soon made up for time by cleaning half the lock on his return with Thomasina. Mk2 spent most of the day walking up and down the towpath, training Alyssa in dumper driving. “Pointing beyond the call of duty” Sunday evening was
reinforcing cages they had started on the previous day and then changed gears and made a concrete chute for the blinding pour. With most of the digging done a start was made on the formwork for the foundations. We headed off in the evening to the Foresters Arms in Bagshot which did Mk2 approved beer and had a skittle alley – a great evening ensued where the RFB team just beat the SAD team two games to nil. Tuesday: Gary, Andy and Tim carried on with the hole prep, while everyone else got the gear ready for making concrete – we were going to set a starter pile in the end of the wing wall but in turned out to be too short and would have had to have been set in mid air! With the trench and shuttering ready Elanor led a crack team of concrete mixers (well Alyssa and Matt anyway) to keep a large team of barrowers busy shifting the blinding concrete across the lock bridge and up the lockside to the hole. Lunch followed concrete, and led easily into a relaxed afternoon of lock wall pointing for most (we even managed to persuade Harri to show them how it was done!) while Adrian and Gary started the bulk excavation on the towpath side and Mk2 was again found following a new volunteer around on a dumper, this time Laura was being trained up. Evening entertainment was fish-andchips and a boat trip at Odiham with the Surrey & Hants Canal Society. Wednesday: By this point in the week our village of containers had been christened “Little Grantham” (a reference to where the camp would have been) and we’d settled into a routine on site and at the accom. Further excavation was carried out on the nearside hole by excavator and then hand digging, Gary and Adrian were sent on a shopping scrounging expedition to the SHCS store and came back with a trailer, some piles, steel reinforcing mesh, Acrow props and wood for shuttering – who said men don’t like shopping? These materials were fallen on by the volunteers back at site, who soon used the piles and Acrows as shuttering supports on the offside wall. With these supports in place the reinforcing cage could be lowered into place and wired together. With most machine work finished for the week and the spoil heap having grown to a suitable size I took the opportunity to introduce the new volun-
teers to the brick game in the excavator, they did pretty well 5:2 pass:fail, with the nondrivers doing significantly better than the drivers. Gordon suffered from a moderate case of “Assistant’s Wednesday” and managed to lose his keys/phone/marbles regularly all day, everything turned up quite quickly though. Evening entertainment was the cinema, The A-Team proved popular but as it was the first night we had to spread over two showings. Thursday: Further polishing of site, steelwork on the offside was finished off (some comments about Turner prizes and Damion Hurst were mentioned about Anne and Tony’s steelwork constructions) more pointing and raking out was done, excavation on the nearside hole was finished, shuttering was assembled where we found that Alyssa’s ability to get through a 20cm gap was very useful! Andy led a small team of Tim and
“Controlled demolition work”
“Pete stood out on the main road stopping every concrete wagon he saw... the fourth one to go past was ours!”
Basingstoke Canal Marinda in building a series of cunning concrete chutes to allow us to pour concrete from dumpers straight into the holes. The last job was the blinding pour, with this done we headed back to base for the evening activity – lazing in the pool in Woking. Friday: Conrete pour day! The blinding having gone off Anne and Tony assembled the last of their steel cages, holes were cleaned out of any loose mud, final pointing of the lock chamber was done (we decided that the escape ladder was a good place to stop!), tools were packed into the kit trailer, plant was collected, tested and dry runs were carried out by the dumper drivers (Elanor and Adrian). With everything ready for the pour by midday and the concrete not due to arrive until 2pm we had a lazy-ish lunch and set up the concrete time sweepstake. 2.45pm saw most of the camp asleep as Pete stood out on the main road stopping every concrete wagon he saw, the fourth one to go past was ours! Everyone swung into action, banksmen went out to control cyclist/ pedestrian traffic and guide loaded dumpers and the gangs of people on the various holes got ready. 45mins of frantic activity saw the lorry unloaded, the nearside hole filled and final vibrate in progress, dumpers being cleaned and a few people starting to make the final barrowloads of concrete needed for the offside. The 5pm saw site
pretty much packed up, and we headed back to base for the traditional end of camp BBQ, beer and silly prizes. Prizes went to:
.` .` .` .` .` .` .`
Concrete time sweepstake winner: Tim Heineken award – for reaching parts other volunteers couldn’t: Alyssa Pointing beyond the call of duty: Laura and Thomasina Driving and Trailering award: Adrian Artist award for creative steelwork: Tony and Anne Apprentice Duracell bunny: Matt Duracell Bunny award: Gary and Andy.
Overall a good camp, great bunch of volunteers, I couldn’t have done it without all of you! Thanks particularly to Pete (as ever) for sorting out pretty much anything we asked for, Harri B. for cooking and Gordon for being my assistant – see you all next year somewhere? Ed Walker
concrete pour in progress
In the last Navvies we reported on the first three ot this summer’s camps at our major work site at Goughs Orchard. Paul and Tom take up the story for week 4...
Camp report Cotswold Canals
Cotswold Canal, Gough’s Orchard was to get the scaffold checked (then amended) and the chamber pumped out. We Camp 201009, July 17-24 As we arrived on Saturday, leaders Bex & Nikki were on site with Rick, the token local for the week. Nikki had taken her little red book, in which she wrote all the jobs that needed doing to finish this last week of four on the lock. I’m sure she ended up with 2 red books – there were many ‘last little jobs’. Big Tom arrived and advised that ‘he was the one they’d managed to squeeze in’ so was immediately christened Squeezy. The camp could only go uphill from there – couldn’t it? Famous last words! We all had trouble finding space for our beds in the cramped accommodation that was an industrial warehouse, progressively reduced as the echoing from Chippy Paul’s snoring rendered parts of the building structurally unsafe. The sleeping space was vastly reduced by our setting up the five-a-side football pitch and the tennis court. Looking back it may have been better if we only had one of those at a time… The jacuzzi didn’t help either. The safety briefing (“don’t die!”) over and the evening meal eaten, we thought it would be a good plan to do the camp backwards, by having the last night party on the first night. There was much rejoicing and celebrating - it was time for cards. Not just any cards, this was a game of Uno. It’s amazing how raucous this game can get when fuelled by a little (ahem!) alcohol, and it turned out to be a fantastic Saturday night ice breaker when everybody got to know each other (or at least their recently acquired nicknames) really well. At the time, we didn’t realise how Chad was managing to win so many games, but he admitted later in the week that he’d been cheating and stuffing cards in his back pocket! We must have been well lubricated. Sunday, and we were all introduced to the site. Nikki’s red book came out, and it was lunchtime before we’d had the full list of jobs detailed… but the first thing as usual
got the main pump up and running – eventually – and the water level receded imperceptibly. Squeezy and a couple of others started waving at trains passing on the adjacent main line. There were lots of trains, and it seemed to most of us that this was a poor excuse to stop work every five minutes. In the meantime, one of the main jobs for the week – finishing the brickwork around the gate recesses – got under way. Gorgeous George, Frank, Jen and Gemma were the nominated brickies for the week – and a sterling job they did too, with both sides finished! Spare coping stones were moved but Charlie didn’t like moving them, so made some lame excuse about developing a sudden allergic reaction to stone, and had to leave the job… John (the Hawk) started to prod about in his hole, a job which was going to keep him occupied for several days. Big Chris got attached to the mixer, which became his best friend for the duration of the camp. He and Howard were churning out mortar mixes and concrete mixes by the wheelbarrow full, oh, and the scaffolding got amended again. Uncomfortable in their masculinity, Steve and Squeezy felt the need to grab some power tools by the horns and demonstrate their complete control over them by giving them girl’s names. Doris the bricksaw has never been so well handled. Fantastic Max and Big T got in on the toy fun, and cracked on with the Kango hammer in the ladder recesses. Sunday night turned out to be a bit of an anticlimax– we were all so shattered after Saturday that we couldn’t get together the enthusiasm for anything, not even another game of Uno, but we did manage to make it to the pub (no surprise there then). For some reason, the conversation descended into bestiality, and as usual the whole pub went quiet just as Chad was explaining how to secure a sheep while the deed was performed… Big T (also known as young Tom)
Camp report Cotswold Canals
“Friday saw a crack unit overcoming dawn hangovers and playing follow the leader for an early start on site...”
went to the toilet, and didn’t come out for amended, again, and by now Claire had ages. No-one wanted to go and see what he become an ace scaffolder. was up to, just in case it was something we Nikki and Squeezy were happily using didn’t really want to know about. Eventually the jack hammer by now, but poor Nikki he did return, with a sheepish (sic) grin on developed vibration white breast. This led us his face, and his excuse for being so long to consider inventing the steel tipped bra for was that it was dark and the lights didn’t added protection. Subsequent discussions on work. We all believed him immediately and various sizes have been censored to protect the conversation returned to our usual delithe guilty. In the meantime, Nikki had found cate subjects of flower arranging, cake baka new use for her ample cleavage – it made ing etc. a perfect place for holding a lump hammer On Monday, the work was similar to when not in use. She’s now patenting the Sunday, although the pump now seemed to idea as a tool chest (or rack for the American be making more of an impression and the market!) mudlarks were able to get into the bottom of Again, it was felt that we’d save ourthe chamber and start clearing some of the selves for the previous Saturday night’s party silt etc from the bottom. This allowed the and the evening was fairly quiet. However, scaffolding to be amended again, and the people started talking about tattoos, and cleaning and repointing of the brickwork at there was a lot of practicing of body art the lower levels got under way. F**k off courtesy of Mr Crayola. Steve finally took the hint and f**ked off. It was a quiet Wednesday, apart from a Monday evening’s entertainment started bit of work on site, including amending the with whipping the cream for the Eton mess. scaffolding (again). Frank & Alan started Apparently it’s all in the wrist action, but work on the holes under the bridge at the most of the males couldn’t manage it for bottom end of the lock. Back at the rather more than a few seconds. After the mess had small accommodation, Claire, Jen, Gemma been eaten, there was no enthusiasm for any and Squidge had found that one of the setgames, except for the tees folded down into a odd game of Jenga. Rod sofa bed. They managed tried to claim the to squeeze four of them Grandad chair as his onto it at once (every own, but without much man’s dream!) and success, even though he Squeezy just couldn’t spent most of the rest of resist living up to his the week in it. name and getting in The work on Tuesthere! day continued as before, Bastard Thursday but unfortunately turned into f**king Charlie’s stone allergy Thursday. We needed to meant he had to leave get the water level the camp early. However, down, and the main a late substitution by the pump wasn’t up to the lookalike Squidge meant task, so finally decided that camp was able to to swap it. However, continue apace and the we’d swapped an ineffirest of us hardly noticed cient centrifugal pump the change. for an even more ineffiTom cuts a ladder recess The scaffolding was cient diaphragm pump.
There’s just that last little bit of scaffolding that eluded us because it was getting dark and we were getting tired. One more camp should do it… Following on from the theme of doing the camp in reverse, Friday evening was a sedate (well, as near as WRGly possible) affair with people being a bit reticent and not getting to know each other very well, refusing to participate in games (even Jenga stayed in the box!), but a time for reflecting on a great team effort (napping). Saturday was the usual pack up and go home, with one or two emotional goodbyes. The girls cleaned the gents toilets, and after several minutes of trying were finally informed how to flush the urinal…(for any of you girly types who don’t know – it does itself automatically every few minutes!) During the week, Steve had earned the nickname Horse. He would argue that it’s not just because of his enormous… appetite, but the ladies that he surprised in the local leisure centre showers may not agree with him. Whichever, he was certainly a match for Chad (his cooking that is)! All in all a brilliant week. And as Bex said on the Friday night, ‘the work we did, couldn’t have been achieved without each and everyone of us – a massive effort and smiles all round’. Thanks very much Bex & Nikki for doing a great job leading, and to Chad for cooking. Grandad Paul & Squeezy Tom
It was just about managing to keep the water level level, but then it rained heavily and the water level started rising. Adrian is now on the Christmas card list at TP….. Lots of the ‘last little jobs’ were starting to get finished, and we were seeing that the while project could be finished within the week. Squidge had been spending a lot of time filling and raking her lady garden and it was getting to the point where access for the general public would be free and easy. Squeezy went into raptures of delight when he finally got a wave back from a train passenger. The jumps for joy were useful in tamping down the copers we’d just laid. That night, we went off to the Tunnel Inn, where Bex had persuaded the landlord (by fluttering her eyelids and other womanly wiles that we weren’t made party to) to reduce his normal high cuisine standards and feed a hungry bunch of WRGies with his finest fish and chips. During the post-prandial drinking Big T advised of two strange things. Firstly, his party trick was that he could get his whole fist in his mouth. Of course he was asked to demonstrate this unusual feat and failed miserably. However, Claire showed that it could be done and promptly almost swallowed her fist! This led to talk of gag reflexes, and Big T informed us that you could suppress this by squeezing the end of your finger for ten minutes. Too long for most of us!! Friday saw a crack unit overcoming dawn hangovers and playing follow the leader for an early start on site. Having made the A-team line up look somewhat tame we were however relieved to see reinforcements arriving with passion, determination and most importantly bacon sandwiches. The ‘Last Push’….A monumental effort to clear the red book of tasks saw the team pumping, shoving, thrusting, heaving, forking, raking, sweating, (and that was just around Squidge’s lady garden), with a bit more traditional fencing, mixing, laying, pointing, coping, cuttting, levering and you guessed it – scaffolding like never before on the rest of the site. All the ‘last little jobs’ were being ticked off in the red book, and most people were determined to finish the job, so a late finish capped off an exhausting but hugely productive day and a fitting end to the week.
Manoeuvring coping stones into place
Camp report Montgomery Canal Montgomery Canal Jun 26-Jul 3 Mont 04/2020 - It’s all about the run up. The esteemed Mr Jervis reckons that there’s no original way to write a canal camp report, because there’ve been so many that everything has been done before. A camp report is thus either a tedious rendition of the work carried out (“and then we demolished a wall, and then we made foundations, and then we poured concrete, and then we started rebuilding...”) which is understandable to the wider readership of Navvies; or it’s a list of in jokes incomprehensible to anyone who wasn’t there, and some of those who were (“3 minutes ?!”) Leaving aside the twin arguments that (a) AJ is wrong and (b) over a summer of camps there will be enough of a mix of these two styles to both keep the armchair supporters keen and make new volunteers feel included and reminded of the fun enough to come to the Reunion and hopefully get hooked, Mr Jervis is, of course, forgetting a number of styles of reporting. The one which I’d like to share with you today is a vivid, witty and enthusiastic method of mak-
In which Lou Kellet goes in search of a truly novel way of writing a canal camp report... ing you, dear reader, feel that you were really on our camp, and/or remember the highs and lows and glory in the experience. I have had to suffer for my art ladies and gentlemen, and now it’s your turn. I am speaking, as you have no doubt concluded, of a canal camp report through the medium of modern interpretative dance. Imagine my distress as I realised that the technology available to Navvies was not up to the task of re-creating the arm gestures necessary to fully convey a week of demolition and concreting on the beautiful Montgomery Canal. Imagine my even greater distress at the delay in my ability to prove Mr Jervis wrong once again. So, until Navvies is available in animated 3D, here are some before and after photos... Thank you to everyone for their continued commitment to the Mont, and to the general cause of canal restoration being a laugh. Thanks especially to the two people who made my top five list of Best New Volunteers in 13 Years of Doing This. They’re at it again this week at work - fear not, I have my stopwatch ready to check. Lou Kellet
If you go to the quarry to choose your own stone, you get to admire the giant bearings outside the workshop
...but ends up talking a load of tripe... and pigsâ€™ ears...
Camp report Montgomery Canal
Lift bridges, who needs lift bridges? Canoeing south of Maesbury
Twenty something metres of foundation just lacking concrete
Tripe and pig ears: disappointingly edible after three days of boiling
Never let it be said that the evening activities on my camps arenâ€™t varied...
Camp report Montgomery Canal
“...pastimes include potato stabbing, boiling lemons in the Burco, and comparing shades of toast to tans from different holiday resorts...” - sounds like an exciting week!
Montgomery Canal 3-10 July
1 Everybody arrives at the Llanyblodwel and Porthywaen Memorial Institute (Village Hall). Start with a safety talk and a site visit then get on to the really important stuff i.e. celebrating Sarah and Steve’s Birthdays which were on the first night. Cake and pass the parcel – what more could you want?
...for a great week and a fantastic heritage stone wall.
. 1 group of willing and able volunteers . . . . . .
(Andrea, Ben, Chris A., Derek, George, James, Kieran, Linda, Mike, Phil, Richard L., Richard I., Rob, Sarah, Tracey, Tony) 2 brilliant and slightly mad cooks (Andy & Claire (Dippy)) 1 very helpful assistant leader (Chris C.) 1 nervous first time leader (Steve) 1 ‘grumpy local’ (Alan) 60 tonnes of mixed stone 16 tonnes of ‘compo’ – for those not up on such technical terms a mortar of 2.5 sharp sand to 1 lime
2 Get everybody to site in the mornings and build on the foundations built by the previous week’s camp. The wall gets higher each day, as you would expect, and the rocks get heavier. The enthusiasm for mixing the ‘compo’ is not shared by all and Chris A. in a very fetching amount of PPE does a great job, others share this task as well but it is not a favourite pastime. 3 Ask Alan to take us on a tour of bits we’ve done before, everybody suitably impressed with Frankton locks and the Aston nature reserve. The hump backed bridge white knuckle ride was a bonus. 4 Discover very quaint 14th century pub in Llanyblodwel (make up your own pronunciation) and on one occasion nearly start a fight with the landlady. By the way Mike, they haven’t taken ‘gullible’ out of the dictionary yet but are planning to soon. 5 Take everybody to see Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. All impressed but no one able to pronounce it. Hunt round Llangollen for fish and chip shop where dinner had been ordered, only to find out it had changed its name from the phone book entry! Eat fish and chips by river. 6 Go to Maesbury Marsh and borrow canoes so we can actually use the restored length of canal up to Redwith for a pleasant time messing about in boats; no one fell in but several damp pairs of jeans ensued.
Trying out a restored length of canal at Maesbury 7 At the end of each day’s work take grubby
volunteers to Oswestry Leisure Centre for showers. On one occasion actually go swimming in the pool, pay an extra charge for this even though we had paid for showers every day for 2 weeks. 8 Eat many superb meals produced by the hard working cooks including Beef Stew & Dumplings, spicy chicken, chilli, homemade pizzas, very garlicky garlic bread, spicy barbecue prawns, banoffee pie, Brian, and very tasty and filling breakfasts and lunches. To produce these culinary masterpieces the cooks had an intimate knowledge of all the items in every supermarket in Oswestry. 9 Take a few volunteers who have ‘anoraks’ to see the Cambrian heritage railway at Llynclys, shown round by very keen railway restoration gentleman and made Richard’s week, if not life, by letting him stand on the footplate of a real steam locomotive. 10 Other pastimes include potato stabbing, boiling lemons in the Burco to try and descale it (this does not work), comparing shades of toast to tans from different holiday resorts, getting ‘arty’ with the Jenga blocks, knitting (actually watching Andrea knitting a monkey), talking to hall caretaker about light switches and drains, walking ‘up the hill’ to get a mobile phone signal (note to any future users of the hall: Virgin / TMobile OK, other networks not). 11 Pack tools in trailer using new improved kit list, pictures on list very good, especially if you don’t know what the difference between a mattock (grubbing) and a mattock (pick) is, or what on earth a keb is, but no pictures yet of how everything goes in trailer, so George took control and got just a little
Mixing up the lime mortar upset when everyone walked off with the already counted items so they could do the camp photos for Alan. Same applies to how catering kit fits in vans. New fridge and freezer much easier to move. Also purchased plastic mugs as china mugs do not appreciate being transported in a box to and from site every day and there were several casualties. 12 Stand back and admire a gorgeous stone wall which should easily outlast its predecessor which only lasted 200 years (very poor workmanship). 13 At Alan’s kind invitation descend on his house and have a very pleasant evening barbecue in his riverside garden. 14 Get thanked by leader for being a very enthusiastic, hard working, non- arguing, friendly and helpful group of volunteers. 15 Go home to normal life and proper bed with a feeling of a job well done and some new friends, plan next WRG camp and look out for bonfire bash details. Steve Harmes
The ‘gorgeous’ stone wall which will outlive its predecessor
WRG at 40
Continuing our interviews with WRGies from four decades, Helen Gardner asks Tim about London WRG, photography and a few ruffled feathers...
Forty views for forty years
40 Views for 40 Years The fifth in a series of articles to celebrate WRG’s 40th birthday by capturing the views of various people who have been involved in various capacities. Tim Lewis: the man behind the lens, the beard and the occasional controlled bonfire. I caught up with the London WRG Chairman at the National Waterways Festival and found out about his photographs, techniques on bonfires and information on me.
Q: How and when did you first get involved in canal restoration? A: I was given some free tickets for the London Boat show by a lady at Martin Ludgate
work and I went along to the IWA stand where I got talked at, at length, by Jeremy Frankel (who’s no longer in this country) and he persuaded me to come along to a WRG social. That would be 1982. I went along to the social and it was quite frightening actually because it was obvious who the people were. I was standing at the far end of the bar plucking up the courage to go and talk to them. It was London WRG – there were a lot of beards. I did go and talk to them and I think I went to three socials before I actually went on a dig. They were a great bunch of people: the likes of Jeremy Frankel, Martin [Ludgate] and Bob Keaveney.
Q: Can you remember your first dig? A: My first dig was lock 17 on the Wey and Arun. It was a very hot day, in the middle of the countryside and we worked like stink but it was fun.
Q: What made you come back after that first dig? A: I’d just done my first canal holiday, so I knew what canals were about, they were a great bunch of people and the work was great and I had nothing else to do!
Q: What got you on your first canal holiday? A: I used to do voluntary work on the Severn Valley Steam Railway and I was at home once in Stourbridge, I heard on the radio there was a national boat festival at Titford. I went along and the weather was appalling; there was mud up to the ankles but I bumped into some old friends from the steam railway who were just about to go on a canal holiday. They had a spare space and I went along on it.
Q: What kind of work was involved [in those early days]? A: In those days we dug on the Basingstoke and the Wey & Arun; very few others, maybe occasional trips to the Droitwich. We basically did locks on the Basingstoke, started at St Johns on lock 10 and worked our way all the way down to lock 2. I don’t think we did locks 5 and 6. Every 18 months we’d finish a lock and move on to the next one. Very satisfying. It was demolition, London WRG had a reputation in the early days of being demolition boys but towards the end we were doing more brickwork and we specialised in coping stones.
Q: Did you go the reopening of the Basingstoke? A: I certainly did back in 1991. It’s still actually the only time I’ve boated through a lock I helped restore. It was quite annoying actually, other people were sharing our lock; “we built that lock and there’s people boating through it”. We boated over lock 3: ‘where’s the compound?’ - it used to be in the middle of the
canal with the dumper and pumps. You hardly recognised it but it was very, very satisfying.
Q: How does it feel to be going back and doing more work on the Basingstoke? A: It’s sad that it’s got to the stage it has but we opened it, it’s there, it’s not going to close again. It needs a lot of money spending on it and it might close every year for a few years but one day it’ll be back into a proper state.
Q: Is the back pumping helping? A: It certainly is – it’s the locks more than anything. They have a water supply problem but it’s ... the whole area is just sand and when it was restored there were a few wing walls that really weren’t built big enough so we’re having to go back and rebuild those.
Q: The Basingstoke - what kind of people were around? A: Obviously the organiser was Mike Fellows – the legendary Mike Fellows. He was with us all the way through the lock restoration. The London WRG’ers: Bob Keaveney, Martin Ludgate, various people over the years.
Q: From the Basingstoke and Wey & Arun - presumably things changed over time? A: They did. When we left the Basingstoke we found we were wasting a lot of time on digs: going along – moving bricks from here to another and not doing very much. So London WRG, KESCRG and Newbury set up the Dig Deep Initiative. We made the canal societies bid to us to come. We said we wouldn’t come to you unless you had proper projects, properly funded, properly programmed. I think that’s the biggest change, what we were doing in the south of England.
Q: What’s your involvement with London WRG at the moment? A: I’ve got the title chairman. The other big change in London WRG - we had one organiser who did everything and it put them off – we’ve made the decision to share all the work. You have 1 or 2 people, myself and Martin doing the actual organising: where we’re going, where we keep the tools but we share organising of the digs. You never have to organise more than 2 in a year and it gets people involved. It brings along people; like Ed – they organise London WRG then they go on to do camps.
Q: How long have you been chairman for? A: Probably most of that time! [laughing] we don’t have a formal chairman. Because Bob Keaveney was lumbered with all the work he gave up quite quickly so I’ve been doing this part for over 20 years now.
Q: What would you say were the main characteristics of London WRG? A: London WRG is probably unique in that we’ve always met socially and went off in the van together to digs. It’s changed a bit now because very few people in London WRG live in London now – we’re spread all over the south of England (and the north).
Q: What was the story behind the underground t-shirt? A: We wanted some fundraising and had a very good artist in Huw Davis. It was even before the days of PCs, he had an obscure bit of university software he used to produce it and it’s been very popular since. We’ve revised it once and keep on meaning to revise it again because pubs keep on closing and changing names. It’s always been a unique piece of WRG kit.
Q: The London WRG Awards? A: We have a Christmas party every year and we give out awards for various activities: catering, driving, the lame excuse award (for not coming on a dig). Unfortunately we’re getting a bit professional recently – very few catering or driving disasters whereas they used to be fairly common. The lame excuse award is a crutch which Martin knocked up out of a couple of bits of ply, once. It’s always fun when people have to take it home on the tube – they tend to get seats. The driving award was a bent steering wheel off a dumper that got wrecked by an excavator. The new recruit award tended to get a beard if they’re not bearded just to make them feel welcome. We are doing very well with new recruits.
Q: What about the London Canal Museum? A: I was involved from the very early days and I got WRG involved; we had 2 weeks and 2 weekends cleaning out the old ice pits which everyone appreciated in the winter – it was a nice indoor job. The London
Canal Museum is an old ice warehouse where, before the days of refrigeration, ice was imported from Norway and kept in big underground pits and distributed in the summer. We’ve still got 2 of those pits – they were filled in with rubble during the war. WRG assisted in digging them down about 10 feet.
Q: Have you had much involvement with the IWA? A: Yes unfortunately [laughing]. I’ve been going to the IWA ever since [I started]. One of the early people I met was Eric Garland who was a digger and was very heavily involved in the IWA. So that’s how I got going. I’ve been going to IWA meetings for 30 years and I’ve always been the youngest person there. Well it seems like it. I’m now branch chairman for my sins.
Q: What are you most proud of about your involvement? A: I’m most proud of keeping a mobile group going – we had some not bad phases, but phases in the late 80s where work wasn’t very interesting, it was difficult to motivate people and we got to the stage where 6 people on a dig was good. But we’ve slowly built up now and if we go away with less than a dozen now it’s disappointing. That’s my proudest thing – keeping the group going.
Q: What would you say WRG’s greatest achievement was? A: It’s keeping the profile of restoration going. The canal societies do great work but they’re not very good at publicising and WRG is very good at coordinating – we keep the profile of canal restoration high – at festivals everybody knows us.
Q: What would you say WRG was not quite so good at? A: I wouldn’t like to say anything in particular. Sometimes we get a bit of a reputation for drinking and that but I don’t really think so.
Q: What’s the most useful skill you’ve learnt and who taught it to you? can lay bricks but very slowly. I find I’m a lot more productive making mortar. I mean the biggest skill is getting on with people and encouraging people to work and encouraging people to come out with us.
Q: Who has inspired you? A: [laughing]. I’ll have to come back to that one. London WRG
A: I don’t know about skills because I prefer the labouring side. I
Favourite canal: Tim at Eisey have always had some very good leaders. I wouldn’t have said they’d inspired me but certainly encouraged me. The likes of Martin, Jeremy Frankel, Mike Palmer – I admire them. Anyone with good leadership.
Q: Alison Smedley in her recent interview said that you had inspired her A: I’m glad because Alison came along in the days when we weren’t getting that many new people and it was so nice to see an 18 year old person turn up at an IWA meeting and be really enthusiastic. She jumped headlong into the IWA and WRG.
Q: What is your favourite derelict canal and why? A: I suppose it’s got to be the Thames and Severn because it goes through some very nice countryside – it’s not too derelict and we can see a future for it.
Q: What has changed for canal restoration for better and worse? A: For the better is the professionalism. When we first started digging we’d do lock chamber clearances by hand using a knackered old barrow hoist, now you’ll go on a site and see modern dumpers and excavators. The dumpers we used when I first started were death traps. It’s the professionalism, the attitude to safety.
Q: Your nickname – you have a couple – the Timmy Ducksquasher one: can you recount the story? A: I think it was the Big Dig in 1991 and I was driving a Landrover in a stunningly pretty village in Oxfordshire and some ducks walked across the road. I’m used to London ducks who are traffic savvy, unfortunately these ducks weren’t. Even with a WRG Land Rover at 30 mph we still managed to create a few feathers.
Q: And the Timmy Trainspotter one? A: I was a trainspotter when I was young and I suppose it came out in conversation once. It was mainly down to Tory – that was her nickname for me.
Q: Do you have particular techniques or opinions on bonfires? A: I do have techniques, unfortunately they do tend to be different to everybody elses techniques. But my fires do get going – they do get big. Many days we’ve had the lunch time bonfire which gets going just as you go for lunch and is gone out when you get back. We used to specialise in those.
Q: What is your classic ‘do you remember the time when’ story? A: There’s always the one involving you. Late one night, we all were about to go to bed and we noticed there was a space where there should have been a Helen Gardner on her first camp. And we had to send out a search party throughout Watchfield. And Mike Palmer found you under a bush. I had to carry you back via dropping you in a compost heap. And it’s the people. The people you miss like Tory. Amazingly lovely girl, just so full of enthusiasm for the canals.
Q: The photography side of things - your photos? A: I’ve always loved photography and one of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t take many more photos on the early digs. Certainly in the early days a weekend away and it was £3 for food, another £3 for diesel and it would cost me £6 or £7 in photography – it was an expensive thing to do. As I say it is annoying that I didn’t take so many in the days of film but now with digital it’s brilliant. I don’t keep a diary so my diary is my photo collection. Last week Mike asked me to look up some pictures for this 40th birthday bash and I spent 3 hours going through all the pictures I’d forgotten I’d taken – it’s just so nice to see all the old faces. That is my legacy I think – all my photographs.
Q: Where do you see WRG’s future? A: I think WRG’s future is in encouraging people to get involved with canals because I don’t think the likes of the IWA do it very well. I wanted to say how much enjoyment WRG has given me over the last 30 years. I’ve been involved in other societies and you don’t get the breadth of people. You just as likely to be talking to an 18 year old as an 80 year old out in a field in Berkshire. The work is great, the work is satisfying but it’s the people. Introducing WRG Views on the Web: Due to the multitude of canal camp reports after the main camp season we’ve run out of space in Navvies so we’ve only included one interview this issue. However, feedback on these interviews has been positive so we are launching WRG Views on the Web. You will find the write up (and audio) of one Spencer Greystrong on the WRG website as Navvies lands through your door. Spencer of Suffolk has done camps and also focused on the restoration of the River Gipping – he is a local feature on ‘The Ipswich’ as WRG leaders like to refer to it. He has a reputation for holding opinions and was keen to express them in print. Here are some snippets from the interview to encourage you to go and read more. “My first contact with WRG was Mick Beattie. You can imagine what that was like.” “Our main task was to get the River Gipping underway. We were unique the only IWA branch in the country that had our own restoration project going.” “One mustn’t forget Sue’s cooking” “Young Ed – when we were working down on the Wey & Arun. He put me down in the bottom of the lock putting the re-bar together for a concrete pour. I hadn’t finished it. I was trying to put it all together and he’d ordered the concrete....” The original plan had been to include 6 or 7 interviews in each Navvies. However given the size of them, posties would be breaking their backs delivering bible-sized objects. Now, at two interviews per edition we are going to struggle to finish before WRG’s 50th birthday. The intention is to get more interviews on the web and give you some snippets in Navvies. Helen Gardner
Navvies diary Your guide to all the forthcoming work parties Oct 23/24
Grand Western Canal: Start of week-long camp
Grand Western Canal: Scrub bashing, tree felling, restoration work in t
Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation: Bank protection, painting, towpath c
Oct 24 Sun EAWA/NWDCT North Walsham & Dilham Canal: Briggate Nov 5-11
Wendover Arm: Seven-day weekend. Stage 2 pipe capping and moorin
Reunion Bonfire Bash: Montgomery Canal. Book using form on p7
WRG Reunion Bonfire Bash: Montgomery Canal
WRG Reunion Bonfire Bash: Montgomery Canal
WRG Reunion Bonfire Bash: Montgomery Canal
Wey & Arun Canal
Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation
Nov 6 Sat
Committee & Board Meetings: Saturday at the Bonfire Bash
Nov 7 Sun
EAWA/NWDCT North Walsham & Dilham Canal: Bacton Wood area
Nov 13 Sat
‘Paper Chase’ waste paper collection
Somerset Coal Canal: provisional
Nov 21 Sun EAWA/NWDCT North Walsham & Dilham Canal: Honing Lock Dec 3-9
Wendover Arm: Seven-day weekend. Stage 2 pipe capping and moorin
Lancaster Canal: (including Xmas Dinner)
Xmas Party dig with London WRG, Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation
Foxton Inclined Plane: Accom at Robert Monk Hall. Christmas Dinner.
Xmas Party dig with KESCRG, Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation
Dec 5 Sun
EAWA/NWDCT North Walsham & Dilham Canal: Honing Staithe Cut
Wilts & Berks Canal: Pewsham. Xmas work party.
Thames & Severn Canal: Eisey Lock. Dig Deep project
Dec 18 Sat
‘Paper Chase’ waste paper collection
Dec 19 Sun EAWA/NWDCT North Walsham & Dilham Canal: Ebridge Dec 26-Jan 1 Camp 201023
Christmas Camp: Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal. See pages 9-10
Dec 26-Jan 2 WBCT
Wilts & Berks Canal Trust Camp: Working at Seven Locks, Accom: Foxh
To be arranged
Jan 22 Sat
‘Paper Chase’ waste paper collection
Chesterfield Canal: Chamber clearance at Hollingwood Lock. Provisiona
Feb 7 Mon
Dig Deep committee meeting
Feb 26 Sat
‘Paper Chase’ waste paper collection
Canal Camps cost ÂŁ56 per week unless otherwise stated. Bookings for WRG Canal Camps (those identified by a camp number e.g. 'Camp 201020') should go to WRG Canal Camps, Island House, Moor Road, Chesham HP5 1WA. Tel: 01494 783453. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org 07745-752045
he main chamber.
clearance and general repairs to navigation.
Navvies diary Canal societiesâ€™ regular working parties Once per month: pls check 2nd Sunday & alternate Thurs Anytime inc. weekdays Every Mon and Wed Every mon am Thu pm Various dates Every Sunday Every Tue & Wed Every Saturday 4th Sunday of month Second Sun of month 2nd weekend of month 2nd Sat of month Tuesdays Weekends Wednesdays Weekends Every Sunday if required 2nd Sunday of month 1st, 2nd, 4th Sun + 3rd Sat 3rd Sunday of month Last weekend of month Two Sundays per month 2nd & last Sundays Every Wed and 1st Sat 2nd Sunday of month 1st Sunday of month Most weekends Last weekend of month 2nd Sunday of month 1st weekend of month Every Tuesday morning Every Sunday & Thurs Mondays (2 per month) Wednesdays Wednesdays Wednesdays Thursdays Various dates 1st w/e (Fri-Tue or Fri-Wed) 2nd Thursday of month Every weekend
BCNS BCS BCT CCT CCT CCT ChCT C&BN DCT ECPDA FIPT GCRS GWCT H&GCT H&GCT H&GCT H&GCT IWPS LCT LHCRT LHCRT MBBCS NWDCT PCAS RGT SCARS SCCS SHCS SCS SNT SUCS TMCA WACT WACT WACT WACT WACT WACT WACT WAT WAT WBCT
BCN waterways Buckingham area Aqueduct section Cotswold (W depot) Cotswold (E end) Cotswold Phase 1a Various sites Chelmer & Blackwater Droitwich Canal Langley Mill Foxton Inclined Plane Grantham Canal Nynehead Lift Oxenhall Over Wharf House Over Wharf House Hereford Aylestone Bugsworth Basin Lancaster N. Reaches Lichfield Hatherton Creams Paper Mill N Walsham Canal Pocklington Canal Stowmarket Navigtn. Sankey Canal Combe Hay Locks Basingstoke Stover Canal Sleaford Navigation Newhouse Lock Thames & Medway C varied construction tidying road crossings Tickner's Heath Depot maintenance work Loxwood Link Winston Harwood Grp Hedgelaying (Oct-Mar) Drayton Beauchamp Drayton Beauchamp Wilts & Berks Canal
Abbreviations used in diary BCNS BCS BCT ChCT CBN CCT DCT EAWA ECPDA FIPT GCRS GWCT H&GCT IWPS K&ACT KESCRG
Mobile groups' socials: phone to confirm London WRG: 7:30pm on Tues 11 days before dig. 'Star Tavern', Belgrave Mews West, London. Tim Lewis 07802-518094 NWPG: 9:00pm on 3rd Tue of month at the 'Hope Tap', West end of Friar St. Reading. Graham Hawkes 0118 941 0586
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 Kent & E Sussex Canal Rest. Group
LCT LHCRT MBBCS NWPG NWDCT PCAS RGT SCARS SCCS SHCS SCS SNT SUCS TMCA WACT WAT WBCT
Mike Rolfe Athina Beckett Gerald Fry Ron Kerby John Maxted Jon Pontefract Mick Hodgetts John Gale Jon Axe Michael Golds Mike Beech Colin Bryan Denis Dodd Brian Fox Maggie Jones Wilf Jones Martin Danks Ian Edgar Paul Shaw Sue Williams Denis Cooper Steve Dent David Revill Paul Waddington Colin Turner Colin Greenall Bob Parnell Peter Redway George Whitehead Mel Sowerby Mike Friend Brian Macnish Eric Walker John Empringham John Smith Peter Jackman Peter Wilding Tony Clear Keith Nichols Roger Leishman Pete Bowers Rachael Banyard
07763-171735 01908-661217 01288-353273 01453-836018 01285-861011 07986-351412 01246-620695 01376-334896 0121-608 0296 0115-932-8042 0116-279-2657 0115-989-2248 01823-661653 01432 358628 01452 618010 01452 413888 01432 344488 0161-427 7402 01524-35685 01543-671427 01543-374370 07802-973228 01603-738648 01757-638027 01473-730586 01744-731746 01225-428055 01483-721710 01626-775498 01522-856810 01948-880723 01732-823725 023-9246-3025 01483-562657 01903-235790 01483-772132 01483-422519 01903-774301 01403-753882 01442-874536 01255-504540 01249-892289
Lancaster Canal Trust Lichfield & Hatherton Canals Rest'n Trust Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal Society Newbury Working Party Group North Walsham & Dilham Canal Trust Pocklington Canal Amenity Society River Gipping Trust Sankey Canal Restoration Society Somersetshire Coal Canal Society Surrey & Hants Canal Society Stover Canal Society Sleaford Navigation Trust Shropshire Union Canal Society Thames & Medway Canal Association Wey & Arun Canal Trust Wendover Arm Trust Wilts & Berks Canal Trust
Dear Martin I have just been reading a report of an interview with Sophie Smith in Towpath Talk Issue 58 July 2010 regarding a camp she’s leading on the Mon & Brec. I’m not criticising Sophie as I don’t know the background, and because she might have been misreported, but I find the article a bit worrying from the point of view of attracting prospective volunteers to camps. As regards the social life on the camp, it was stated that there was a pub within walking distance, a big advantage, but otherwise all that was suggested was one cinema run. Six evenings in the local pub does not sound very exciting. On a camp I was on this year, we did something different every night. The problem seemed to be that Sophie said that she was also the camp cook, and was planning some quite interesting meals. I find this quite alarming - the leader has to be the last to leave site, so by the time all were back at the accommodation, she had washed and changed out of possibly dirty clothes, prepared and cooked a meal, it would be unlikely that the meal would be ready before 8 - 9 p.m. By the time it was eaten and washing up done, the chance of a social life would be pretty difficult. I know there’s a shortage of camp cooks, but if the leader can’t persuade someone else in advance to fill that role wouldn’t it be preferable, if necessary, to draw up a rota amongst the campers whereby two could leave site early each day and go back to prepare the meal? Personally, I don’t think it’s fair to expect volunteers coming back pretty shattered each night to have to sit around 2 - 3 hours before they get fed. Di Smurthwaite I never saw the TT piece so don’t know exactly what they wrote - the interview was done when we were very much at the start of the planning process for the camp. I thought it worth replying to Di briefly: in the end a camp cook was found and Frank did a great job on the 2009 camp I assisted at, I sorted out a load of outings and everyone was too knackered to do them. On the M+B I did manage to get people out to Cardiff bay for fish and chips and also we did a scenic drive but most nights people weren’t interested even in going to the pub at the end of the road, let alone the cinema (which was offered). Maybe I worked them too hard... Hope that answers your concerns, Di. Sophie
Dear Editor The members of the committee of the IWA Stoke on Trent Branch would like to thank every Navvies reader who has supported our ‘Campaign Draw 2010’. Particular thanks are due to a number of people who sent an additional donation. Thank you all. As a token of our gratitude a cheque is enclosed as a donation to WRG (£100). Hopefully it will not be too long before we have more work for WRG to do, similar to the camp at Burslem and Church Lawton, last April. Yours sincerely Alan Chetwyn Dear Martin, Congrats on the ‘new’ old cover. Never being particularly observant, and anxious to get reading, I had not noticed but the eagle eyes of ’Er Indoors did. “What’s that you are reading? Navvies! Have they changed the cover? I like it!” Being a slow reader when trying not to move my lips I had by then made it to page 4 and was able to inform the lady what it was in all in aid of. I turned back and actually noticed for the first time it was “Notebook” and not just “Navvies”. I said I was bloody unobservant. (it’s one thing we have both agreed on for 47 years. Not you an’ me, ’Er an’ me!) So can I be among the first of the many letters you will no doubt get asking that this “new” style be adopted for the next forty years? After that you can change it back as all the canals will be done, or at least I will be. To a crisp. Keep up the good work. Fred Hodgson Dear Martin I am sure Ed Walker has arranged a report on the Basingstoke Camp (vice Grantham), [He has - see p8-10 ...Ed] so I will be brief. Firstly my thanks for an excellent weeks work on lock 17, restoration for the second time around. The upper wing walls have been demolished and new reinforced foundations cast. The chamber has been pressure washed and a start on re-pointing the brickwork made. Some training on Dumpers and excavators was also possible. A very good week thanks to Ed, Gordon and the team. Pete Redway Chairman, Surrey & Hants Canal Society
Progress Wey & Arun Canal Wey & Arun Canal
Our regular roundup of progress around the country begins this month with ‘London’s lost route to the sea’... While awaiting this development preparatory work has keep the navvies busy rebuilding a culvert, and a select summer camp created the necessary access ready to move plant and materials on site. The other permission was granted for the proposed new parapets for the Loxwood High Street crossing. Now, at last, all the authorities have agreed that we can have much less intrusive brick-faced parapets of more traditional appearance, and the ‘buy a brick’ campaign organised by the locals with WACT’s backing takes on a new relevance. Getting the detailed plans approved, and scheduling the work, means work won’t start immediately, but it’s good to know that it will happen. The Loxwood crossing continues to win plaudits, the latest being runner-up in the RICS South East Community Benefit awards, where the judges were particularly impressed by the volunteer input. IWA South East has made a £4,000 grant towards improvement work at the summit level, scene of a number of small boat rallies. The length in question happens
The Wey & Arun Canal Trust is pleased to report that Chichester District Council has now approved its planning applications. The first went in at the beginning of 2010, for the rebuilding of Southland Lock. Southland is the next lock towards the River Wey from the restored section at Loxwood, a kilometre or so from Devil’s Hole, which was reopened earlier this year. It is the first of the locks originally built in brick; the bricks having been ‘recycled’ long ago we have to start again from scratch. This will allow the replacement lock to be situated a bit further along, avoiding a sensitive conservation site occupying the approximate position of the eastern abutment of the former lock bridge. It was this site that was mainly responsible for the protracted approval process. Although WACT’s draft plans had been drawn up in conjunction with the local experts, who were, in the main, satisfied with the proposals, the mere realisation of this sensitive issue was enough to send other well-meaning but, in our opinion, misguided individuals into semi-panic mode. The right outcome has been achieved, though, as expected, with a long list of conditions attached. Whether we will be able to maintain the ‘one more lock per year’ schedule on the restored section remains to be seen, though project manager Eric Walker remains his usual confiIWA’s Paul Roper presents £4,000 to WACT’s mid-week working party at Dunsfold dent self.
“We haven’t yet seen an appearance from The Stig to speed up restoration...”
to be next to the BBC Top Gear race track, but we haven’t yet seen an appearance from The Stig to speed up the restoration. Maybe Clarkson & Co can be persuaded to mount a JCB-based challenge? We have also just been notified of another IWA grant, this time from the Restoration Committee for £2,000, to be put towards the preliminary study, including the essential flood risk assessment, on the Bramley Link project, where the canal joins the River Wey. By the time you read this, WACT will have celebrated 40 years of restoration, the meeting setting up the original canal society having taken place on 20 August 1970. The present restorers are holding a Ruby Anniversary celebration at Loxwood on 11 September, at which we hope the surviving founding members, and many others from the early days, will be present. Bill Thomson
Wey & Arun Canal
Loxwood High Street road crossing, with the none-too-subtle metal railings demanded by the highway authority. Top: The glasshouse girls: some out-of-the-ordinary tasks undertaken by the summer camp included adjusting paddock fencing and moving horse troughs and a small greenhouse, all part of creating access to the next major project of Southland Lock
Progress Lichfield and Wendover
Meanwhile up in the Midlands, LHCRT have just finished building a new lock bywash
Lichfield & Hatherton Canals
Another milestone event occurred recently when our mid-week team completed construction of Lock 25 bywash which has taken 18 months to build right through from Pound 26. We are most grateful to all those who have worked on this from Jan 09 [above] to Jul 10 [below] to create something very distinctive for Lichfield to a standard that could never have been afforded commercially. An excellent example of volunteer commitment and ability. Now, whatâ€™s next? Bob Williams
manpower in August was needed for the pipeline capping, the planting of the edges of Stage 1 with aquatic plants has been postponed – it will probably be necessary to convene a special working party for this work. Milepost 3 is sited where the new Aston Clinton By-pass crosses the Arm and was removed by BW for safe keeping prior to construction of the by-pass. I have now retrieved it from BW and it is in the hut at Tringford Pumping Station. The post looks as if it has been cut off with an oxy-acetylene torch and needs to be extended to give sufficient depth in the ground and then cleaned and painted ready for us to reinstate it at the three mile point. For more information see our website http://wendovercanal.org.uk Roger Leishman
Above: the memorial bench is soon in use Below: pipe-capping in progress in August
The Wendover Arm Trust ran a very successful working party in July, a further 175 metres of bulk excavation for Stage 2 of the Phase 2 project to line the canal from Drayton Beauchamp to Tringford was completed, enough reinforcement bent for the Stage 2 mooring bay (and more) and enough reinforcement cut to complete the pipe capping (concreting over the pipe in the canal bed which has fulfilled the canal’s water supply function since it closed to boats) of Stage 2. The main task for the August working party was completing as much as possible of the remaining 250 metres of Stage 2 pipe capping and backfilling the offside bank ready for it to consolidate during the coming winter. A further 100 metres of pipe capping was cast as well as a base for the mooring wall at Bridge 4 where the formwork had been assembled by KESCRG at the May Working Party. A reinforced concrete slab was cast ready for capping the manhole just past the Stage 1 bund. Excavation for the pipe capping revealed another, hitherto unknown, very low manhole at chainage 3906. Another reinforced concrete slab was cast and both manholes were due to be capped permanently at the September Working Party. This needs doing so that backfilling of the off side can be completed over these manholes. While ready-mix concrete was being poured in the vicinity, the opportunity was taken to fix the bench seat at peg 40 in memory of Ron Palmer that is being sponsored by his widow. As you can see, it was very quickly in use by the public after being finished on the last Sunday morning – it was hardly vacant all day! In all 40 cubic metres of ready-mix concrete were poured during the working party. Another task completed was pegging out the line and levels for Stage 2 including the mooring bay. Because all our
Grand Union Wendover Arm
...and in the East Midlands, ECPDA’s volunteers fight with officialdom for 13 years and finally complete 60 metres of new canal
I will explain: in 1997 we were approached by a coal extraction and development company called Shire Developments I know it has been a long time since I have who wished to extracte 14,000 tons of coal reported on progress on work done at Lang- and a similar amount of clay and stone from ley Mill at the top of the Erewash Canal beneath the next section of the infilled where it used to meet the Cromford and Cromford canal which used to continue north Nottingham canals; even more so these days from Langley Mill. The length of canal is as we now work every Friday instead of approximately 300 metres, almost up to site monthly and have done for the last ten of No 13 Strutts Lock. After the 15 weeks coal extraction years. During those ten years we have knocked in £20,000 worth of 3 metre piles, period, the canal will be reinstated – being 120 feet wide at one point and with a basin laid £10,000 worth of stone copings reon the west side of the canal with facilities trieved from Portsmouth station, near Todmorden, and poured 200 cubic metres of and mooring space for over 70 boats. After 3 years of meetings and discussions, Shire concrete, rerouted water pipe and electric cable from one side of the canal to the other, developments put in their planning applicamany square metres of stone paving, laid 60 tion to Derbyshire County Council. This has metres of access road alongside the canal, an taken 10 years to process: now at this awful lot of excavation and many other present time we believe that planning perfinishing off jobs. We have just completed mission has been given, but the whole procapproximately 60 metres of new canal iness over the last thirteen years has been cluding a 70ft by 14ft stop lock which has most frustrating for everyone involved in the been constructed to take a swing bridge to project. give access from one side of the canal to the It has taken 13 years to get this far; it other. only took five years originally to build the full length of the Cromford Canal. Going back to the beginning, we discovered within the project planning documents that no existing canal walls on either side were to be reinstated; they were to be stone pitched at an angle of 45 degrees, the same as the new basin. We objected to this and they said “if you want walls, you build them” and this is what we did. So with £35,000 from East Midlands Development Agency which our local council got for us, and the remaining £40,000 coming out of the ECP&DA funds, we started in 2000 and over the last 10 years we have completed the 60metres of the new canal: there is still more to do but we cannot continue working until the coal Tamping the concrete stoplock base extraction is completed. All pictures by ECPDA
Erewash Canal Preservation & Development Association
Additional to the new work, we also continue with limited maintenance work around the Great Northern basin for British Waterways as we have attained self assessed safety status with BW. We continue to maintain a pumping station owned by the ECP&DA which we use for back pumping during water shortages, we also maintain plant and moorings, we have recently constructed a new joiners shop, and installed 3 phase power in the ECP&DA/WRG metal workshop and continued maintenance of Sandiacre lock cottages which is our headquarters. Also two years ago we completed the restoration of the Nottingham Canal Toll House for which the association won an award. So you can see over the years we have been very busy and still are. New volunteers are welcome on our work parties, which take place every Friday summer and winter. Mick Golds, Work Party Organiser 0115 9328042
Above: new windows for the former Nottingham Canal toll house Top: installing fendering Above right: completed length of wall Right: the finished job
Camp Report KESCRG at Eisey Lock
We report on three back-to-back weeks of canal camps at Eisey Lock on the Cotswold Canals. The main task for the summer: rebuilding the offside lock wall
what we did last summer and what we were working on this summer. Everybody was A couple of weeks before the camp was due then split into small teams and allocated jobs to start, camp leader Adam ‘Digger’ Morris for the first day. Some began to prepare for received the news that Cook 1 was not going the bricklaying on the towpath side wall, to make it. Is it time to panic? Yes, no, while others moved materials and another maybe, but not right now! A late night phone team began work recasting the gate stop on call (or early morning depending on your the cill. On Sunday night the site was left set perspective) from the side of the A14 to our up ready for some productive brickwork on saviour Eli meant that Cook 2 was found and Monday, the profiles were in place and the first couple of days were sorted! Then, marked, the brick coursing had been worked sensing Digger’s desperation, Kate and Jen out, the scaffold loaded out and the mixing offered to step in even though they had been area setup. After Eli’s spaghetti meatballs we looking forward to a camp outside the kitchen! adjourned to the Horse and Jockey to play So, all was back on track until a couple of skittles. In an epic nail-biting, Premier days before the camp when Cook 3 decided League style match, Charlotte beat all of the to reshape her car! Fortunately it was only “experienced” players and was crowned cosmetic damage and she managed to get champion of champions after a suddenher mum to arrange insurance for her on her death-by-monkeys knockout round. car whilst they were on their annual holiday Monday started with an early alarm for trekking across Croatia – good old Tesco! our remaining cooks to get up and prepare So, Kate dropped her stock car at the breakfast. After everyone had been fed and garage on Saturday mornleft for site they made all ing for straightening and of the sandwiches and then set off to Ashton started to plan the meals Keynes Village Hall, arriving for the rest of the week. at about 4.30pm to find Eli, After delivering lunch to Stephen and two DofE’ers site they went to Tesco and already set up! After some prepared dinner – this was introductions Kate started to be their life for the next to wonder where Digger few days! On site, the was… a phone call later and bricklaying got underway she found out his sat-nav with Nigel and Mick taking had somehow entered the helm and Nic providNic in carge of lime mortar Spanish Mode and taken ing the lime mortar supply him to Steppingstone (yes with his trainee James. it is singular) Bridge instead! So, slightly later A little further along the cut, Rachael than planned, Digger arrived after most people and Bobby started to carve their way along and it was time to get the new-style kit check the bed with a dedicated team behind them under way and the health and safety talk done to stack the Woody and burn the rest. After a ready for our evil Doctor Porkchop and apple hard day on site there wasn’t much time to stew. After dinner we adjourned to the White get everybody back to the hall, through the Hart, which on this occasion had beer and showers and out to the cinema before the cider readily available! bridge club arrived! We’re sure that we don’t Sunday was the first day on site and for need to tell you what film we went to see…! Cooks 3 and 4 it was to be their last. Digger Tuesday brought another large Tesco showed everyone around site so those that receipt, a lot of felled trees and fires, but, hadn’t been to Eisey Lock before could see most importantly, bricks on the wall. Emma
The Camp With Four Cooks…
surveyed the wall for us and found that it had a different type of cruise on the Cotshad the same 70mm fall along the length of wold Canal Trust’s trip boat from St John’s the lock as the offside wall. An interesting Lock in Lechlade upstream to the Round design feature some may say, but don’t House at Inglesham. Due to a limit on numforget that water worked differently centuries bers we had to have two sailings so Jen and ago. James constantly mixed mortar all day Kate had prepared two lots of picnic tea without a sign of tiredness and Digger was complete with smoked salmon canapés and getting worried that he wouldn’t be able to Pimms! The boat trip was a great way to see break him before the week was out! Inglesham lock, whose restoration is the To give everybody a break from the target of IWA’s current fundraising appeal. hectic schedule, we had an excursion to Friday was the last day on site and Gough’s Orchard to see what a restored lock bricklaying continued with Alex now doing a looks like and assure the newbies that this IS sterling job as chief mortar supplier after Nic how Eisey will look by the end of next year! had to retire through injury – nothing to do With the light fading we headed for Sapperton with the camp, we’d like to point out! The tunnel where those that were interested went afternoon was spent finishing off our final to find it whilst the rest of us partook in that course on the wall and tidying up the pointwell known activity of “sitting at the pub”! ing. This gave the brickies time to stand back Work continued on site on Wednesday and admire their wall, the forestry crew to with many people switching roles to try look along the cleared bed and imagine it full something new but we were now getting into of water and the material moving crew time to the swing of things and functioning like a well- stock up the scaffold and mixing area ready for oiled machine. In the evening a small group the next camp. A quick shower and kit check went swimming to Swindon Oasis while some and then straight into our last night BBQ courhad an early night and the hardcore continued tesy of Nic who was now on lighter duties. We to drink Ashton Keynes dry. Thanks to Sophie finished off with a number of awards to our carrying 5 bricks at once, compared to everyDofEers and those that really helped the body else’s mere 2 or 3, we made it with only leadership team out of a muddle at the last seconds to spare before the closure of “The minute; we’re not going to name you all just Domebusters”. Bobby got us in trouble for in case we forget somebody! This was folshowing off on the slide but Digger did check lowed by a final trip to the pub to ensure that with the lifeguard that there was absolutely no there really was nothing left for the subsequent chance of death by doing so – I’m not sure he camps to drink. Even James had to admit appreciated our humour! This all meant a that he felt a little bit broken after a week of rather late dinner of chicken pie and then hard graft but he was happy to have found a catching up with the new friend in the form hardcore at the Horse of a pint of Tribute! and Jockey as we’d drunk Saturday morning the White Hart dry by was a very relaxed affair, Monday and they still passing the torch over to couldn’t get us any more the following camp and beer or cider! heading home. After On Thursday Jen dumping the kit trailer and Kate got to pretend and a quick shower, it they were on site by tying was off to the Penn in their Tesco trip with a residence where Digger van cruise over to treated his remaining Brimscombe Port. They cooks to a curry because had to collect the lime and he felt mean making all the leftovers from the them cook for him Gough’s Orchard camps again! We hope that you such as fire extinguishers, all had Lotso fun and chairs and a sofa… obvistories to tell when you ously! Some random got home. things make their way Until next year… onto a WRG camp! Adam ‘Digger’ Morris The brickies get cracking on the wall In the evening we Kate Penn (Cook 3)
Next it was the turn of RAF Martin and his WRG team to take over where KESCRG left off. By way of a change we’ve got two camp reports from them...
WRG at Eisey Lock
might have got the wrong idea at one point, when he innocently asked ‘What time are we Apparently, an Assistant writes reports. That going back to the hotel?’. Having enjoyed the was the view of ‘RAF’ Martin Thompson, our frivolities of the KESCRG end-of-camp knees esteemed leader for camp 13, and so (having up, and having shooed them all out of the now looked in the dictionary and found that door the following morning, we started the gullible has not, in fact, been removed) I find process of setting up. It wasn’t long before myself staring at a computer screen some 3 the kitchen welcomed its master for the weeks after camp ended, mind crowded by week: the excellent Mandy Morley, and the memories (though all from the wrong other volunteers were starting to arrive. camps), desperately wondering how to tell Just as the train to Swindon has so the tale of Eisey Lock. Well here goes… often delayed me in the past, so too did it For me, this camp started with the cause further delays again. The train pickup rather innocent statement ‘I’m looking for an turned from a 5 minute wait to an hour long Assistant’ back on a rather wet weekend sit-in, but eventually the group was complete pouring concrete in November. I confess (when I say complete we did have to chase that, at the time, I thought Martin was talkdown two who had innocently gone to check ing to someone else. It seems he was not, out the local hostelry….), and we gathered and when the list comes out in Navvies there for the normal round of briefings and introis the scary realisation that the camp is not ductions. A quick trip to site (following the far away. somewhat uncertain directions of our resiHaving braved the Friday evening train dent from the previous week, Filippo) endown to Swindon, Martin and I headed off to sued, and then it was time to tuck in to the our home for the week, Ashton Keynes first culinary delight of the week. village hall. I think one of our volunteers Now, reading past issues of Navvies, I find that at this point people now start a dayby-day commentary of the work carried out. Presumably these people either have startlingly good memories or were organised and kept a diary. I, of course, did neither – but then with the work we did there was probably little point. Ultimately, for the next 6 days, we laid bricks. In the 6 days we did lay a lot of bricks. In the end, a conservative estimate put the achievements for the week at 360 sq ft of brickwork, incorporating 15 courses of the towpath side and approximately 2700 bricks. This meant the lock wall rose by about 1.2 m (sorry – 4ft) and left NWPG with only 7 or 8 courses remaining. Of course, no brickwork is achieved without the brickies – and so to Steve Baylis and Alice Cordwell (together ‘Team Lightning’), Teacher Chris, Martin Carrick (he of hotel innocence), John Hawkins, Sleepy Dave, Steve Morley and Filippo Zaraga – Rob trims the coping stones along with the occasional assistance of All photos by David Miler
Camp 13: the assistant’s view...
Andrew Thorp, Cameron work on and off site (I’ve Abercrombie (occasional never met anyone else in so much as he arrived who is always up before I on Tuesday), Valerie am, cleaning tables), Goodwin and Claire Claire for the entertainSarrat: THANK YOU! ment her English lessons Everyone did such a good provided and most of all job that I hardly needed Martin. You made a great the tape measure. leader and it was a joy. To Throughout the everyone involved: week Kimm Wainwright Thanks, and see you next and Navy Brian were our year!! stalwarts on the mixer, PS Valerie: the rules churning out barrow after of scrabble run too long barrow of fine quality to fit in Navvies, but I will lime mortar. For this they send you a copy by post. needed materials, and so PPS When I wrote the job of fetching sand, this I had intended to get more sand, lime, more my own back on Martin lime, bricks, more bricks for his derogatory comand even more bricks fell ments regarding my Martin the leader “wielding the to my fantastic crew of levelling at Easter in brickcutting gizmo with gusto” Michelle Baylis (and dog Navvies 241. I seem to Millie – no walks needed for her!), Barry have forgotten, and now doesn’t seem the Arthurs and throughout the week various time – but I will respond… other members who needed a break from George Rogers brick cleaning, laying or barrowing. For the rest of the group – predomiOK that’s the ‘official’ report, but now nantly Rob Brotherston, Richard Thomas and let’s hear about the same camp from our leader – the offside paving needed layone of the new volunteers... ing. From a rather scrappy pile of stone at the beginning of the week emerged a gloriTasterella Taster ‘a bit bricked out’ ous area of paving around the paddle gear and blowhole. The final job of the week was As a total newbie to canal restoration it was concreting over the overflow culvert – and with a mix of emotions - not unlike the with that, our work was done. cement mixer’s rumble that I was to hear During the week various entertainment pretty continuously for the next week - that I was on offer – thanks to the guys at CCT for arrived at Ashton Keynes and introduced the boat trip, to Swindon Speedway and the myself to John H and co; Martin T appeared cinema for entertaining some of our number, and put me at my ease straight away, as he but also a big thanks to those who made life continued to do for the entire seven days. so enjoyable for those remaining at the The accommodation was a pristine village accommodation. hall and the showers were at the nearby As Saturday morning dawned, with the cricket ground, so both were certainly better kit all checked, BBQ cleared, and James than I had put up with back in the ’80s on champing at the bit to take the van and NT volunteer camps. Admittedly I have also trailer (and me) off to the following camp, had nicer berths on other NT camps where there remained just one job – DofE reports. we had bunk beds and showers in the conThankfully Alice was our only DofE’er this verted stable block, but the WRG company week, and it was a pleasure to write – if only and the sort of work we were getting stuck they all worked so hard there would be no into were simultaneously of a better canals for us to restore… The next two quality and of long lasting value..! I shall be weeks’ camps for me certainly proved that saying more about dear old Rob later, but I we are a long way from achieving this! personally wanted to adopt him as a gent To finish just a few personal thank and a hardworker second to none. yous: Mandy for the superb cooking, Rob for The week was devoted to bricks. Fetchbirthday entertainment, Alice for the hard ing bricks, loading and unloading, stacking,
scraping, sorting and laying. I mastered all of these varied brickcentred activities and particularly the scraping, as I was on it for three days, and earned myself an award for my labours. It was a dear little pink ‘Dirty Dancing’ keyring, since you asked. What we achieved: I have it on reliable authority that we got 17 courses of bricks up, plus the backing and infilling, and the scaffold was raised twice; and the blow hole and the coping stones ( I think they’re called) was immaculately restored. Raising the Kimm was a constant at the mixer and Bryan and Richard ferried enough buckets of mortar and piles of sand to rebuild the walls of Jericho. As the pics on FB reveal George was examining the inside of his eyelids when he wasn’t remonstrating with me about cheating at Scrabble and jigsaws. No; I jest! He was an admirable leader. it was just one of those extra long blinks that the camera captured. Other characters: Alice (our future Kelly Holmes) was a tireless surface wiper as well as part of the lightning team along with Steve B. Michelle and Millie were not only beautiful but endlessly cheerful and constantly on the lookout for crumbs. And the same goes for Rob of course. Chris was the joker of the gang and his exhortations of ‘Milk me’ met with bemused incomprehension from our French “I look like I am disman- M’selle from Bortling the pyramids brick deaux, the lovely by brick and scrubbing Claire. each one. Which I was” Fillipo, - Tasterella cleans bricks Andrew, young
Martin and Barry as well as t’other Steve (M) and John were our meticulous ’A’ team for the brickwork, and Martin our leader was to be found wielding the brickcutting gizmo with gusto, particularly when we were trying to eat our sarnies of a lunchtime. I know I’ve missed someone out, but I mustn’t forget Mandy back at base feeding the 5 thousand on excellent scran; George regaling us with Jesus Christ Superstar, Kimm pontificating on ales, and the most difficult jigsaw on Earth keeping Richard up scaffolding until 2.30 am! Trips out included visits to Gough’s Orchard to gaze in wonder at a completed project; and Inglesham... same open mouthed faces but ‘OMG look at what’s got to be done’ instead. I could see everyone mentally girding their loins and rolling their sleeves up. My abiding and over whelming feeling was ‘what a great bunch of wrgs and I hope I get to meet similar and have many happy returns’, which oddly enough was what we said to Rob as he celebrated his birthday with us. Lovely cake, Mandy. I wonder what he wished for as he blew those ..x number of candles out? Tasterella Taster
Concreting over the overflow culvert
Finally it’s over to NWPG for the third week of three. Will they finish the chamber wall?
NWPG at Eisey information passed on from the previous week and on site inspection seemed to confirm this. I had already sought out a team of budding bricklaying trainees and following the site safety talk, Alan set about explaining how it all worked. The rest of us set to collecting and sorting loose bricks for cleaning (the cleaned bricks stack was at critical level red) whilst Pete planned his movements with the 14 ton digger that had been delivered to Alex Farm, the new and convenient CCT eastern site depot. By the end of the first day ‘new’ Robert had decided that perhaps bricklaying wasn’t for him – and joined ‘old’ Robert on the ‘B’ team - mixing and shifting. Monday – Jon Pontefract, local CCT organiser, advised that there weren’t enough new bricks on site to last more than a couple of days but there were plenty in an old industrial unit at Brimscombe Port – if we would like to go and collect them. So over the next week those wanting a change of scene had the chance to traverse the route of the canal by road in return for loading a thousand or so bricks into the two vans. We also took the opportunity of visiting Gough’s Orchard Lock which looked very smart and nearly complete following WRG’s attentions. Back on site Pete and his machine started to clear the canal below the lock of tree stumps. I can see boats mooring up here to use the lock... Monday night was spent at the Horse
One of the problems of being Camp Leader or Assistant for nearly 20 years is how to write a camp report in a different, amusing or interesting way. The easiest solution to this is to ask someone else to do it and last year Martin, my brother in law, kindly obliged. No such luck this time; as soon as the camp date was published last autumn, he quickly booked the same week for a family holiday in Guernsey. So it’s me again I’m afraid. I am slightly disadvantaged as ours was the last of a three week sequence of camps at Eisey Lock and I have to report on it not knowing what others may have said about their camps. However, I do know that we all had to lay and clean a large number of bricks and also that we had taken over Ashton Keynes Village Hall for three weeks of the summer holidays. This was our third year at Eisey Lock – a project run under the Dig Deep banner with very little local CCT input to the physical work but with key planning and project management support. This and the method of reconstruction has meant that it is taking us longer to restore the lock than would normally be the case. Mind you, we are in no great rush and hope to finish the job in time for a seamless transfer east to Inglesham Lock where another similar restoration job is awaiting our attention. So what about our camp? Well it was made up of around 20 volunteers of whom 7 were new to canal restoration with a well balanced mix of ages and a slightly less well balanced mix of sexes. Saturday afternoon into evening and the team introduced each other over a cream tea followed by the safety video. After that our now habitual first night barbeque and a trip to the White Hart across the road and we were all thoroughly well met. Transport to the site for our first working day was courtesy of the WRG vans/ minibuses – generously made available following a camp cancellation and a rescheduling of the August programme. “About 8 courses left to complete the wall” was the
Camp 15: NWPG at Eisey
Rebuilding the upper gate recess wall
& Jockey – the other pub in the village – for a tournament of skittles and table football. This PH was closed two years ago during our last camp here and this year was about to change landlords again in early September. I hope that it survives until our next visit but there must be doubts. By Tuesday the brick laying was well underway – these 90ft long walls can accommodate at least 8 brickies at any one time. The 14 ton excavator had been hired to help in the lifting and repositioning of the large quoin stones at each end of the main wall. Bricking up to At the bottom end, four stones had to be removed to enable a lower stone that had been moved out of position to be realigned and one of the disintegrated stones had to be replaced entirely. All this damage was the result of tree growth in the lock chamber walls during the long years of abandonment. By the end of the week all but one of the quoin stones had been put back and mortared in and nobody would be aware of the work done. Tuesday evening and the camp visited Lechlade. Half the group took a boat trip on the Trust launch - enjoying the evening sunshine down to Buscot Lock and then back to Inglesham to look at the future work needed there. The other half adjourned to the Trout for a game of Trivial Pursuit after which we met up for a pleasant, if rather expensive, meal (this is Gloucestershire!). Wednesday brought about the realisation that we were not going to finish the planned bricklaying. It had not been helped by an afternoon of heavy rain the day before. So when have we ever fulfilled our optimistic ambitions? The problem (if it is a problem) of restoring the walls the way we are is that is as the wall rises, the number of bricks to be laid increases very significantly. So for each facing header there are two or three recycled bricks to be laid behind. At this rate it is a real push to lay two courses a day on a 90ft wall even with everything running smoothly. Thursday and our final collection of bricks from Brimscombe – there are no more
to steal! To this we added a large collection of WRG scaffolding as we had decided to scaffold out the lower gate recess and return walls so that work can progress on their dismantling during the winter months when bricklaying is ruled out. It just fitted in and on top of George’s van. At the site we numbered and removed the coping and return wall quoin stones. The digger was used to demolish the front 4½” facing course of bricks that were a bodge repair sometime early in the 20th Century – we didn’t fancy large sections just dropping onto the scaffold later. More the gate quoin stones went back on the chamber wall quoins. Later that evening we contemplated a trip to the cinema but fatigue, a perceived lack of decent films and indecision led us across the road to the White Hart. Friday morning and Mike Fellows completed his work on mortaring in the upper wing wall coping stones – most of which had been selected and placed in position by the previous week’s WRG camp. The chamber wall team added another 1½ courses before the closes leaving we think about 2 to 3 courses to complete – plenty at least for the Dig Deep weekends to work on before the weather turns cold. Pete took the digger down to Rucks Bridge to pull out some more tree stumps. The scaffolding gang put up the scaffold to find that there were three bits missing – inevitably! ‘New’ Robert pulled a neck muscle whilst moving scaffolding – the pain got no better as the evening wore on so a trip to the Great Western Hospital and some serous pain killers followed. (He is better now I’m pleased to report). The rest of the camp wound down in the White Hart and contemplated another successful camp and the strong possibility that by this time next year we will be celebrating completion. Thank you to all those that helped make it a very successful week. You all made it a very easy camp to manage this year. We really do hope to see you back next year or, even better, during one of our regular weekend digs. Bill Nicholson
In August WRG held a birthday party to mark its 40th anniversary with an evening entertainment on the theme “A history of the WRG in 40 objects”. Here are some of the highlights...
WRG at 40 The Birthday Party
A history of the WRG in 40 objects What do mattocks, Uncle Joe’s Mintballs, a sense of humour, mud and beards all have in common? The answer is that they were all among the 40 things chosen to sum up Waterway Recovery Group’s 40 years of history. This being the theme of the evening’s entertainment at our 40th birthday party at Beale Park. (Regular listeners to Radio 4 might notice that this drew its inspiration from (or to put it another way, was a shameless rip-off of) the series A History of the World in 100 Objects.) We hope to be able to put the entire text and all the pictures on the WRG website or on a CD at some point in the future (although capturing the flavour of the spaghetti bolognaise electronically might be more of a challenge), but in the meantime for benefit of those who couldn’t make it to the evening we hope that this random assortment of excerpts will capture a little of the flavour of the evening. Similar proviso about the spag bol, though... The clue is in the name – WATERway recovery group. As can be seen with the Mary Rose warship; water is a great PRESERVER of heritage, unfortunately our band of intrepid navvies do NOT possess gills and so for the restorer of waterways heritage the number one enemy is always the water. IF you can get rid of the water then the silt will become shovel-able (eventually), your socks will dry out (eventually), and, just possibly, the mortar will actually stay where you put it rather than ooze back out onto your boots. The effective navvy needs a real-life King Canute to save them from a slurry based embarrassment. But as with all things WRG it took a while to master the art of mechanical pumping, leading the great mystic Michael Handford in Navvies 107 to predict: “I suspect WRG will have a critical pump priming role for decades”. And, as any boater will tell you, there is only so much capacity in a bucket ! If WRG were going to get serious we were going to have to get mechanical. As this early shot of Ashton [below] shows the pump has always been crucial. Writing in 1970 Graham Palmer said that “the pump was the one thing that can make or break a working party”. I would like to think we have improved on that. Pumps have always exerted a mystical pull on certain types of navvy – not everyone can gain pleasure from spending all day up to their crotch in dark, brooding water gently caressing the end of a hose, only popping out every half an hour or so to make careful adjustments of tiny brass knurled screws and valves while tapping gauges and quietly whistling through any teeth they have. - Object No 2, the pump The ACE barrow-hoist could, stripped to its component parts and, with the help of five or six very stupid people, be moved by wheelbarrow onto site. It could be assembled quickly and moved around the lock chamber to suit the conditions encountered. The barrow-hoist also fitted in the back of a van, or even a Morris Minor pick up, making it ideal for the surprise dirty weekend. It was simple to operate and although the results of the operator cocking it up were spectacular and unforgettable it could usually be laughed off by all concerned. Once they had spat the lumps back out, of course. Without the barrow-hoist our legendary ability to clear ANY lock, ANY where of just about ANY thing in a weekend would not have existed. It is truly an icon; difficult to start, not completely stable, liable to take lumps out anything that comes near it and only pilotable by someone with no fear of falling - the barrow-hoist is WRG in miniature. - Object No 3, the barrow hoist In a very real sense, life consists of dealing with the shit that is thrown at you - Object No 4, the dumper truck
“Our other big do of the year was Castlefield Carnival - just as well as we are saving up to replace our faithful Transit Gloria who is getting a bit thin in the floor. We sold a massive number of books and three van loads of carpet squares and have now another £400 in the bank and less stock in Mr Mac’s cellar”: NW news, Navvies - Object No 15, the sales stand Festivals have always raised strong feelings amongst the waterways community. Critics are convinced of two things: (a) that it is genuinely helpful to point out the bleeding obvious just after the opportunity to do anything about it has passed and (b) they could do a much better job than the current lot. But, and this is the crucial bit, they say this while making it quite clear that this is just a philosophical point. There is no way they would actually spend a year in meetings and then spend three weeks in a field wishing they were the other side of a fence that wasn’t there a minute ago. However, GKP’s organisation didn’t feature that sort of “waster”. - Object No 16, the National Festival lavender boat So what have we ended up with? Here are two differing views from the old guard. “But as WRG got sucked into the IWA dustbag, as it lost its benevolent dictator and gained a board, it seemed as if its lifeblood was being sucked away, and our beloved group turned into a mere IWA subsidiary doling out physical labour and plant hire”: Bill Thomson. “But in the end the organisation and style of leadership had to change, and WRG got its board and (sort of) rejoined the IWA. And in this form it has gone from strength to strength under leadership which has excatly reflected the needs of changing times. Still, I wonder if it’s quite as exciting now as it was when we unveiled WRG at Guildford all those years ago”: Nigel Stevens - Object No 17, going legal “Turned out nice again”: Alan Jervis, on site (never) Object No 19, humour Archimedes said “Give me a lever and I can move the world” - this pillock clearly had never met the coping stones on the Droitwich junction Canal. - Object No 25, the mattock
“It also features on site whre people have been known to pray to it” - Object No 26, the Burco
Over the past 40 years WRG has constantly adapted to fit the huge increase in legislation around health and safety in order to comply, but still enable complex construction work by volunteers across the canals of the UK. Whilst WRG has done this in order to enable its own volunteers, the quality of implementation has meant WRG is seen as a standard bearer – and taking its coordinating role seriously, has provided guidance and structure on this subject to enable local groups to embrace the H&S message. - Object No 24, Health & Safety Object 18: nicknames. We now invite you take part in the nicknames quiz. Here is a list of nicknames – all you have to do is fill in the real name of the wrgie against each nickname - and if you are feeling really brave the incident, accident or character trait that spawned it. Answers in the next issue. Piggy Sparky Teacher Chris Bogs The Hands The Purple Fairy Fast Eddie Geeza Chris Harry Watts Nightmare Ed Flash Harry Dizzy Daddy Cool Welsh Phil Phil the Bitch Sleepy Dave Moose Bungle Bush Baby Acorn (2) Flood gates Palmer Tenko Palmerette Mac Fagin (1) Mr Mac Boreham Rising Damp Timmy Ducksquasher (3)
MK2 The Tweedles Digger Bookend Brahms Colonel Mustard Sweet pea Ali Mac Womble Smudge Dr Steve Taz Steve Bloody Johnson Lady Essex Gav Gav
Jude's Dad Muppet Stevie Bollox Butch Navy Brian KP Long Tall Sarah Long Tall Helen Cookie Craig Ernie Andi Girl Mole Nel Mitch Marshmallowman Just Jen
(1) or the Harrogate Rain God (2) or Captain Canal Camps (3) or Trainspotter
The 40 objects and the cover pictures The front and back covers of this issue of Navvies illustrate the 40 items which we came up with as summing up the essence of WRG during its 40 years of existence. Here is the key to what aspect of WRG is represented by which picture. Our thanks to the various people who have supplied pictures that were used here and as part of the evening entertainment, including in particular Chris Griffiths and Harry Arnold. 2 Pump
3 Barrow hoist 4 Smalley excavator
8 Woolworth’s 22 Training Poppy Red paint
5 Rear-steer dumper 6 Land Rover 7 2-way radio 10 Wellies 11 Beards 12 T-shirt 15 Sales stand 16 Lavender Boat 17 Going legal 19 Nicknames
9 Bobble hat 13 Mud 26 Burco 27 Kit trailer 14 Spag Bol 28 Kit store 18 Work Party organiser
31 Cake 21 Appeals and fairies 20 Humour fundraising 34 Accommodation
Front Cover Object No 29: the Transit van. The VANAGRAM’ game: What words can you make from WRG’s van registrations?
23 Canal Camps 24 H&S 25 Mattock
29 Transit van 30 Tea 32 Uncle Joe’s mint balls 33 Work sites 35 Big Digs 36 BW and other opponents
37 Navvies 38 Iconic images 40 You, the 39 The rallying cry volunteer
PFD JDB BAM RAK VRK AOD CFT ADX VOJ LRY NUH GCW FEH SAD RFB EHP DPY NEM If you know any other registration letters of WRG vans past or present you can use them – but you must declare them. See next issue for the winning entries Half a million years ago, our ancestors Homo Erectus got fed up of sheltering in caves or under trees, and started to create the first rudimentary shelters. Having invented buildings they had, by definition, also invented building sites. In the 14th century when the Roman-built Fossdyke Navigation had been allowed to silt up, John of Gaunt’s mistress Katherine Swinford organised a protest to repair it, thereby creating the first waterway restoration worksite – and becoming the first WRG girlie. - Object No 33, the work site “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer” - Object 36, BW and other opponents
Operation Ashton in 1968 aimed to “clean out as many locks and pounds on the Ashton Canal as possible”. It was planned against a background of scepticism about what volunteers could achieve, and open hostility from some local councils. It aimed to show that a canal could be an asset, and what volunteers were capable of. As Navvies Notebook put it, “This promises to be the biggest and best working party held so far”. Was it? Yes, 600 people turned up and worked in appalling weather to shift 2000 tons of rubbish. “Canal campaigning will never be the same again” said IWA’s Navigation magazine. “Last week I wanted the canal filled in” said a local man who’d joined the volunteers. Graham Palmer called it “a fantastic success”. The chief Public Health Inspector of Droylsden Mr VH Hallows called it “a publicity gimmick by ill-informed amateurs and of no help whatsoever to Droylsden residents.”So who was right? Are there are 200 people in a marquee in Droylsden commemorating the achievements of Mr VH Hallows? Object No 35, big digs
See page 50 for the final party game: “Whose Beard is it Anyway?”
WRG vans Please look after them As you may know we have four vans in the main canal camps fleet - FEH, SAD, RFB and EHP. Each of them cost around £25,000, so over the years it is clear we have invested a lot of money in them. We hope that each van will last us between seven and ten years before we have to replace them. This year seems to have been a particularly bad one for our vans: by the time of the Festival at Beale Park every single van needed body repairs because of damage caused by our volunteers when driving the vans and managing to hit stationary objects (buildings and walls!). We don’t know the exact cost of repairs yet, but it is estimated at around £4000. To put this into context this means we could have charged every volunteer on the camps before the national this summer another £15 to cover damage to the vans! Alternatively if we hadn’t had to repair the vans, the same money could have paid to hire two 8-tonne excavators and four 4tonne dumpers for over three weeks -which could have made a big difference to a restoration project somewhere. Put simply it is money wasted that we now can’t use for anything else such as training, replacing worn out kit or buying new kit (effectively whatever you thought might be useful for next year you now can’t have!). What about insurance? Well the vans are insured but the insurance excess on each van is £500, so making a claim for repair of dents and basic bodywork damage often is not worth doing (especially as it would increase our insurance premiums in the future). But this year we could not have made claims for at least two of the incidents as they were never reported - the dents must have miraculously appeared! For many years we have resisted having a driver’s log in the vans, but given the level of damage experienced this year, and the obvious lack of consideration being shown by some drivers, WRG has decided that we have no choice but to have driver logs in all the vans. They will be very simple: date,
A shiny Transit - please keep them that way name, start and end mileage, signature and a space for comments. Effectively by signing the log as the driver you are confirming that the van was in the same condition at the end of your journey as it was at the start. We know that most of our drivers are considerate and careful, and we appreciate that accidents will happen - that’s why we have insurance. However ALL of our drivers have a responsibility to take care of the vans and show due consideration and respect both to our vans, to any passengers and to other road users. Remember when you are in the van you are definitely not an anonymous white van driver, everyone can clearly identify the van with WRG. Each and every driver is authorised by WRG and has a driver authorisation card indicating they are permitted to drive the vans (and other plant etc.). WRG can and does revoke the authorisation of any driver that does not show the appropriate level of care (for the van), and due consideration (for passengers and other road users). To remind all drivers if you have an accident [ie one that involves damage to the vehicle or is likely to involve the insurers, the emergency services or HSE] in one of our vans you should report it immediately and your driver authorisation is automatically revoked (once you have completed your journey - if the van is safe to drive) until re-instated by the WRG Board. Finally while this seems like a moaning and complaining letter (which of course it is) WRG is very aware that most of our drivers are careful and considerate, and that WRG cannot function without you. But please be careful, and if the space looks too small or tight for a van then it probably is! Jonathan Smith
The Survey And the best WRGie pub is...
“Beautiful location... amazing view... great beer... nice atmosphere...” guessed it yet?
Survey results: the favourite WRG pub Navvies is delighted to announce the winner of our investigation to find WRG’s favourite pub. This discerning body of drinkers have voted The Bell Inn at Selsley as their favourite drinking establishment. Happy boozers commented: “Beautiful location...amazing view…great beer...nice atmosphere...lovely old Cotswold stone building” Nic Bennett’s touring bar also did very well in the poll. Nic goes to great personal effort to ensure large WRG events are properly lubricated with a range of fine ales and ciders, despite a demanding life outside WRG (yes, there IS life outside WRG apparently) and while selling ale at reasonable prices manages to make a surplus which he donates to waterway restoration. Comments from those who appreciate his exertions included: “Good mix of good beer” Please everyone raise a pint to both for their achieveOur favourite pub: the Bell at Selsley ments. Gilded certificates commemorating both winners will be inscribed in due course*. Also mentioned fondly were The Philanthropic Inn of Risca/Crosskeys on the Mon & Brec and The Forresters of Kirdford on the Wey and Arun. The Blue Boar Hotel at Maldon and the Foxham Inn were also thought worthy of mention by a number of people, and there were several other pubs which gained single votes. * Just as soon as Navvies staff purchase the crayons.
WRG tips wanted! Have you any advice for fellow WRGies, or for new starters? For instance, “always take twice as many dry socks as you think you’ll need”. We’re compiling top tips for our next survey and will publish the most popular pieces advice for fellow volunteers in the next issue. Share your tips with WRG at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/H85NXWG or try the shorter address tiny.cc/WRGtips
Do you have a handy hint for new WRGies? Share it with us at http://tiny.cc/WRGtips page 47
Navvies news Cheque out the M&B
WRG Boat Club news Well I wasn’t there so you can’t blame me! This refers to the club ACM held at Beale Park. Decisions made etc include:
. The officers keep to their esteemed posi. tions. We will make donations of £150 to both
. Following on from a successful weekend at the Welsh Waterways Festival WRG NW presented £250 from its fundraising efforts to Phil Hughes, treasurer of Monmouthshire, Brecon & Abergavenny Canals Trust at Fourteen Locks Visitor Centre on 13th August. Handing over the cheque, Mike said “WRGNW really enjoy our visits to the Mon & Brec, were pleased to attend the festival itself, and were delighted with the turnout and enthusiasm shown by the local population. It gives me great pleasure to present this cheque to the trust to further their aims to restore the canal back through Cwmbran, and look forward to providing further assistance to the push northwards over the years to come.”
...to our good friend Colin Turner the recently retired work party organiser on the Ipswich & Stowmarket, seen here (left) reciving the IWA’s Christopher Power Prize for restoration, jointly with SUCS, represented by Terry O’Neill
Pete Richards RIP We are sorry to have to bring you the sad news that Pete Richards of WRG North West has died. We will print an obituary next time.
the lnglesham Lock Restoration Appeal and the Montgomery ‘Barrow Load of Boulders’ appeal. This one was chosen because it is in line with our policy of giving money for materials and equipment. It is some time since the club had a boat gathering where we could do some nawying. It would be good if we could meet to do something that might aid the opening of the Droitwich canals. The club trophy was first awarded to Roger Jeffries. We would like to name it after him and at each ACM use it as a punch bowl to drink to his memory.
Now for the awkward bit, because the club officers make the final decision as to who should receive the ‘Bowl award’, it has been the unwritten rule that no serving officer could receive it. However Ann wasn’t aware of this, or was otherwise detracted from voicing it, so somehow it seems members considered that I (as in Sadie Dean) am a worthy recipient. I am most honoured and appreciative of your support dear members. I do what I do because I think that WRG boat club IS the best club on the cut, and I aim to keep it that way. Despite my dedication to our motto ‘Incompetence at its best’ you still put up with what I do, and encourage me to continue. Many Thanks for all your support and for awarding me this honour. Should any one out there be looking to join our amazing boat club, please send me your name and address and I will forward an application form to you. Just a reminder that SUBS remain at £10 per annum. There is also a ten pound joining / re-joining fee. (so don’t let your membership lapse i.e. PAY UP!) If you are worried that you will miss paying on time why not make a standing order. Let me know and I will send you a form. xxx Sadie Dean sadiedean@msn
NOTICEBOARD NAVVIES DIRECTORY UPDATES Cotswold Canals Trust Bell House, Wallbridge Lock, Stroud GL5 3JS 01453 752568. email@example.com www.cotswoldcanals.com Wooden Canal Boat Society 173, Stamford St Central, Ashton under Lyne OL6 7PS. 0161 330 8422 or 07931 952 037 firstname.lastname@example.org www.wcbs.org.uk Dorset & Somerset Canal Society has a new email address: email@example.com Friends of the Cromford Canal George Rogers, 2 Main Rd, Whatstandwell, Matlock DE4 5HE. 07896 493967 firstname.lastname@example.org www.cromfordcanal.org.uk
Inglesham Update The IWA Inglesham Lock Appeal to raise funds to enable WRG volunteers to restore this crucial lock where the Cotswold Canals meet the Thames had raised £16,893 towards the £125,000 target as we went to press. To support the appeal see: www.inglesham.org.uk
Dial-a-camp To contact any WRG Canal Camp: 07850 422156 (Kit ‘A’ camps) 07850 422157 (Kit ‘B’ camps)
Send used stamps, petrol coupons, phone cards, empty computer printer ink cartridges to IWA/WRG Stamp Bank, 33 Hambleton Grove, Milton Keynes MK4 2JS. All proceeds to canal restoration.
Contacting the chairman: Mike Palmer 3 Finwood Rd, Rowington, Warwickshire CV35 7DH Tel: 01564 785293 email: email@example.com
Navvies price to increase We have reluctantly decided to increase the Navvies minimum subscription price to £3.00 per year with effect from the start of 2012.This reflects the fact that £1.50 no longer even covers the postal cost, let alone any contribution towards producing the magazine. Please note that as before, this is a minimum subscription which still doesn’t cover all the costs, but is kept low so that everyone can afford to subscribe. Many subscribers add a generous donation. Please continue to do so - it is greatly appreciated.
Moving house Mel Parker has moved to: 4 Lewendon Road Newbury RG14 1SP Malcolm Bridge has moved to: 89 Rishworth Mill Lane, Rishworth, Sowerby Bridge HX6 4RZ. Tel: 01422 820693
Congratulations to Adrian Fry & Siw Johannessen on the arrival of Karsten Fry Johannessen to Karen & Garry Alderman on the arrival of Anna Mai Alderman to Spencer Collins & Victoria Westwood on getting married and to Helena Howarth & Krzysiek Rosiecki on their engagement
Infill Featuring Dear Deirdre
“In WRG, heterosexual male identity pretty much boils down to having a dirty beard”
Dear Deirdre I made the mistake of asking for peach-flavoured squash at a dig recently and now everyone thinks I’m gay. I’d like to correct this misunderstanding as I’m currently on the hunt for a girlfriend. What can I do? - Simon, Exeter
Deirdre writes: In WRG, heterosexual male identity pretty much boils down to having a dirty beard. Your best bet might be to grow one immediately, remembering of course that trimming it will be seen as a sign of effeminacy. If you are unable to bring yourself to cultivate ragged Thanks to Gillian Bolt for this pic of well-known TV personaliface fur, you might try ties Timothy West and Prunella Scales hitching a WRG van ride other badges of straight male identity. In WRG these include: belching loudly and without remorse, having an oddly intense relationship with a troubled dog, Land Rover worship and growing a beer gut large enough to rule out most male/female sexual positions. Unfortunately, all these measures are guaranteed to repulse women. Good luck resolving that paradox.
Dear Deirdre Two years ago I met the woman of my dreams and we recently got engaged. In the last few weeks a new girl has started digging with my local group. We immediately hit it off, one thing led to another and now we’re having an affair. I love my fiancé but my feelings for this new girl are overwhelming. I can’t sleep for worrying about this situation what should I do? - PJ, Burton-on-Trent
Deirdre writes: The dreadful burden of guilt you’re feeling can be resolved by giving £100 to the Inglesham lock appeal via tiny.cc/inglesham. Further penance can be made by reading through the Practical Restoration Handbook twice – and for God’s sake don’t let either of them get their hands on your mobile phone. Have you got a question for Deirdre? Just email firstname.lastname@example.org
Whose beard is it anyway? One of the 40 items in the ‘History of the WRG in Forty Objects’ entertainment at our 40th birthday party was beards, illustrated by this game. Can you work out which well-known WRGies’ facial hair features in these pictures? Answers next time.
“Thanks, I’ll have a lager”
And finally... Folks might think we sometimes take health & safety precautions too far in this country. But if you think Britain’s a nanny state, spare a thought for the users of Germany’s Obere Havel waterway, where not only do they feel the need for lockside fire extinguishers, but also these useful warnings to prevent misuse. Yes, it really does mean ‘not drinking water’. Martin Ludgate
Scenes you seldom see on a dig
Navvies 243. Latest news from the Waterway Recovery Group