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volunteers restoring waterways

navvies waterway recovery group

Issue No 244 Dec-Jan 2010-11


Navvies Production Editor: Martin Ludgate, 35 Silvester Road, East Dulwich London SE22 9PB 020-8693 3266 martin.ludgate@wrg.org.uk Subscriptions: Sue Watts, 15 Eleanor Rd., Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester M21 9FZ

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.

Mike Chase

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

Waterway Recovery Group is part of The Inland Waterways Association, (registered office: Island House, Moor Road, Chesham HP5 1WA). The Inland Waterways Association is a non-profit distributing company limited by guarantee, registered in England no 612245, and registered as a charity no 212342. VAT registration no 342 0715 89.

ISSN: 0953-6655 Š 2010 WRG

Alan Lines

Directors of WRG: Rick Barnes, John Baylis, Mick Beattie, James Butler, Spencer Collins, Christopher Davey, George Eycott, Helen Gardner, John Hawkins, Judith Palmer, Michael Palmer, Jonathan Smith, Harry Watts.

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


Left:WRG BITM and WRG NW volunteers on the Lichfield Canal at Tamworth Road. Below: London WRG at Deepcut Locks on the Basingstoke. Below left: WRG BITM clearing locks on the Somerset Coal Canal. Front cover: the Reunion on the Montgomery (see report on p38-39, pic by Martin Ludgate). Back cover: Helena points walls on the Mon & Brec camp (see camp report, p11-13, pic by Mike Chase). Inset top: WRGFT on the Grand Western Camp (see p367, pic by Alan Lines). Inset bottom: Chesterfield camp (see p14-5, pic by Mike Chase)

Contents In this issue... Chairman You wait ages, then two come 4-5 Coming soon Barn dance, cleanup 6-7 Camp reports on the Mon & Brec (twice) and the Chesterfield 8-15 WRG at 40 Roger Burchett and Bill Nicholson answer the questions 16-23 Diary canal camps and weekend digs 24-26 Pete Richards an appreciation 27 Letters and the latest Navvies survey 28 Progress a roundup of news from restoration projects around the country 27-33 Camp reports October on the Grand Western and Chelmer & Blackwater 34-37 Reunion report from the Montgomery38-39 Boat Club WRGBC crosses the Mersey 40-41 Navvies news and leaders’ update 42-43 Noticeboard Navvies price rise shock 44 Infill How much of a WRGie are you?45-47

Contributions... ...are always welcome, whether handwritten, typed, on CD-ROM, DVD or by email. Photos also welcome: digital, slides, prints. Please state whether you want your prints back. Digital pics are welcome as email attachments, preferably JPG format, but if you have a lot of large files it is best to send them on CD-ROM or DVD or to contact the editor first. Contributions by post to the editor Martin Ludgate, 35, Silvester Road, London SE22 9PB, or by email to martin.ludgate@wrg.org.uk. Press date for issue 245: January 1st.

David Miller

Subscriptions A year's subscription (6 issues) is available for a minimum of ÂŁ3.00 to Sue Watts, 15 Eleanor Road, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester M21 9FZ. Cheques payable to "Waterway Recovery Group" please. This is a minimum subscription, that everyone can afford. Please add a donation.

all the latest news of WRG's activities page 3


Chairman’s comment

The last Navvies comment that never made it:

I don’t do the Facebook thing - like many middle-aged blokes I’m convinced I’m far too busy for it. However, last week I very nearly signed up – no, not for the unrestricted access to the Tim Lewis photo album but for the extreme pleasure of setting my status to: “MKP is having a pint in the Railway public house and is about to go boating on the Droitwich” Yes - the Droitwich Barge Canal is open and that is worthy of great celebration. Because these things don’t happen so often it is possible to forget just how fantastic it is to go through locks you thought would never be completed*. One of the most poignant moments of the 40th Birthday party at Beale Park was reading a letter to Navvies from Arthur Page after DIG95 that said “I don’t suppose I will ever cruise on the Cotswold Canals - but in my lifetime I have walked in despair along the Basingstoke canal in similar condition, and in 1994 I cruised along it. That sort of experience spurs us all on to keep trying. We know it can be done.” So whilst perhaps an actual re-opening is a fairly rare occurrence there are many, many smaller successes – I implore you all the enjoy and recognize the importance of every one of them, and if you get the chance to use that bit then let nothing stop you – it’s is a wonderful feeling and you are entitled to it. [Subsequent note - I’ve just been to Droitwich and watched the excavator break through the last section of the Junction canal into the River Salwarpe. - very nearly as good as cruising it] The great “what are we going to do with British Waterways” discussion is still rumbling on, and one of the many concerns is how will the key staff be retained (and perhaps the unspoken question about losing the rubbish ones!) during the transition. So how do you do it? Well there is no guarantee of course - the only thing you can do is create an even better organisation for them to move to. And this is what is really perturbing me about the current situation - there is lots of talk about mechanics of transition, funding models, representation, consultation and such, but I have yet to hear the one thing I would hope is key - what is the “cause” of this new organisation? What will it stand for, what does it intend to do? Now I know I’m usually rather disparaging about mission statements and that sort of thing, but without a banner for everyone to sign up to there are just too many people involved in this for me to be sure that everyone has grasped the same idea. In the same way I would have hoped that there would have been a suggestion about who would be driving this transformation forward. Real progress for waterways has always involved a charismatic leader who can successfully communicate a vision. It’s missing and that concerns me far more than such mundane issues as where the funding is coming from. Another move from our new government is not so inspiring – the imminent demise of the Inland Waterways Advisory Council. I’ve been involved with IWAC for many years now and I have always been proud to contribute to it. Yes, it is a quango, but unlike many others IWAC is fundamentally volunteer run and with just a couple of staff, manages to produce two or three quality reports a year for little more than the cost of writing the things. These reports should have been useful to you in your schemes – if not then you are missing a trick. I was involved in producing IWACs penultimate report the snappily titled “How to attract, integrate and retain volunteers”. It’s not really about the waterways sector – that’s the point ! It’s full of examples of non-waterway organisations who have beaten down the barriers that we usually encounter. So, if you are struggling to get a local authority to see things your way, then give it a read – it may have an example you can use. See www.iwac.org.uk. You may have heard the National Waterways Festival is moving to the last weekend in July next year and we will, of course, be running our usual Publicity stand combined with the bricklaying bit of the WOW experience. One of the usual issues with the WOW bricklaying is that it is all very well showing six year olds how to bricklay, what we need is to encourage people who are a bit older to come along. Well, a small team are putting together a plan to do just that with some taster days during the build-up for the festival. The advantage being that if we do get any recruits there is still a month or so of camps to send them on

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before the end of summer. If you are interested in helping out then drop me a line. And just because the National has moved dates please don’t think that the August Bank Holiday is free – we have big plans for a national event that everybody can take part in that weekend so don’t go booking your holiday in Acapulco yet. We are spending the long autumn nights doing our usual annual assessment of all the H&S reports that came into us. We are pleased to say nothing earth shattering has been reported but one point that has cropped up is the importance of making sure your belle mixer is properly set up on a stable base. Because when they do fall over they tend to (literally) run away. Whilst this may seem hilarious it’s not so funny when it actually happens and it runs into your new wall or knocks a volunteer over. So, no propping it up or wedging with a brick, etc. Take time to set it up properly on a firm level base. Additionally, my thanks to Adam ‘Digger’ Morris who pointed out that the brick-saws were being used a lot more these days and many were suffering from ‘nasty choking syndrome’. As a result next year the brick-saw flight cases next year will have a spare set of filters with them. The idea being that you can swap filters when you need to and then take the dirty ones back to the accommodation to wash them and dry them out properly (probably best not do this as part of the evening meal’s washing up!) . *mainly because the previous weekend someone had nicked all the coping stones to do another lock further up!

OK that’s the last one. Now this Navvies comment... This edition of Navvies will have our Canal Camps 2011 brochure with it. Those with long memories may remember that it used to be the case that if everything looked disorganised at this point in the year then a brilliant summer resulted and, conversely, a nicely sorted schedule used to fall apart when everybody actually got to site. Fortunately, we seem to be getting the hang of running Canal Camps so I am reasonably confident that this rule no longer holds true. This is good news because, after a very successful Bonfire Bash, we are looking at a cracking 2011. Not only have we a splendid schedule of Camps but we have leaders and even bookings for many of them!! Martin generated a lively discussion with his editorial last edition and I think it is appropriate to give my thoughts: We may well, as we have often done, dip into canal maintenance BUT when we do the idea is not that we take on all the job - just that we give it a kick start to give the owners an idea of how to work with volunteers, or at least generate enough publicity to create and inspire a local volunteer group. It’s pump priming - just like we always do. Graham Palmer deliberately used the word ‘recovery’ when he set up WRG - that might be recovery from a derelict waterway to a restored one, but it might equally be recovery from a struggling navigation to a successful, sustainable one. How much of this maintenance pump priming is likely? Well that will entirely depend on the quality of the projects offered (one of my favourite things at the moment is to say to people who reckon they are setting up third sector orgs “by all means - get good enough to nick my volunteers”). And no-one should feel guilty about volunteering elsewhere - WRG is not that sort of organisation. It’s my job and the job of the Board to make sure that we are able to offer good work that people believe is worthwhile, and we will continue to do so, but if you believe that someone else’s project is worthy of support then who are we to object? More than anything it is the beliefs of our volunteers that have driven us through the last 40 years - I’m not going to interfere with it now! But, unless someone is going to make me a better offer, the principal purpose of WRG will remain as the restoration of derelict waterways - not least because it is what we are very, very good at. So who are the volunteers who are going to join in and make the existing waterways sustainable? Is it the existing users or the wider public? A very good question. Whoever solves that question is going to be a very great leader. Perhaps that person is reading this now. What is more sure is that everyone who is reading this does have a part to play in the next few years. It may be as leader, it may be as supporter, it may even be as opposition! But we should all be taking the time to see the challenge clearly and engage with it. Mike Palmer

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Coming soon Barn Dance, BCN Cleanup

Christmas Camp, February Camp, Barn Dance, Cleanup, Easter Camp, Little Venice... does the fun ever stop?

Final call for the Christmas Canal Camp, 26 Dec - 1 Jan As we go to press, we’re not quite sure whether this issue will come out in time to remind you that there’s a better way of spending the ‘cold turkey’ days between Christmas and New Year than fighting with your relatives or picking Christmas tree needles out of the carpet. But just in case it does come out in time, don’t forget that we’ve got an excellent week of scrub-bashing with proper bonfires on the Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal lined up for you this year, the accommodation is in a nice cosy school with a decent real ale pub just far enough away for you to work up a good thirst, and your leaders for this week are the ever popular Paul Shaw aided and abetted by Ju Davenport. The worksite is called Nob End, and if you know the leaders then you won’t need telling that mud, booze and innuendo are likely to feature in equal quantities in this year’s festive camp. We’ve already got a good team of volunteers booked in but any extras will be welcome whether for the whole camp or just a few days. Just one thing, though: if you do make a last-minute decision to go, please do tell the leaders by calling the camp phone 07850 422156 or 422157 (not sure which phone will be on the camp) before you turn up.

Camp 201101 on the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation, 19-26 Feb Once again we’ll be doing our best to support Essex Waterways Ltd (a subsidiary of WRG’s parent body the Inland Waterways Association) as it works to put this waterway back into a good state of repair after rescuing it from bankruptcy and the threat of closure a few years ago. We’ve got three camps on the C&B in 2011, and the first one is in February. As usual we’ve got the Haybay, a converted barge fitted out for residential use, as our luxury accommodation for the week - complete with beds! The work for 2011’s camps isn’t entirely planned yet, but is likely to involve bank protection, towpath improvement and repairs. This is a ‘normal’ camp booked via head office, so use the booking form in the brochure which should be included in this issue, book online via www.wrg.org.uk, or call 01494 783453.

The Navvies Barn Dance, 5 March (aka Bush’s last waltz!) Planning is well in hand for the 2011 Barn Dance: as usual it will be at Benson Village Hall, Sunnyside, Benson, Oxfordshire OX10 6LZ, we’ve got our regular band Tumbledown Dick doing the music, and Adrian Crow is selling tickets at £12 including supper - plus an extra £2 for overnight accommodation and another £2 for breakfast. Just contact Adrian on barndance@kescrg.org.uk or 07807 456235 to book. On the subject of the Barn Dance, some words from organiser Helen ‘Bush Baby’ Gardner: This is just to let you all know that this will be the last barn dance that I organise at that hall in Oxfordshire. No gripes, no signs of it coming to a natural end, I’m not fed up – it’s just that sometimes you should stop things when they’re on a high. I’m not precious about it – if anyone would like to take over the co-ordination then that would be fine and they can work with me to learn the ropes if that’s what they want. It’s also an opportunity for someone to do something different – after all, the original reason for the location was that it was local to some of the people involved, who have now moved away. So I’ve no qualms about someone organising something else to fill the space in the social / fundraising calendar left by the barn dance. So I guess I should say thanks to everyone who has supported the barn dance with their time and money over the years – it has been great fun. And if this does prove to be the last one, that’s even more incentive to get your tickets soon...

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BCN Cleanup, 9-10 April That’s right, it’s already time to start thinking about the annual trolleyfest on the Birmingham Canal Navigations. For the uninitiated, the BCN Cleanup is a weekend spent dragging bikes, prams, old tyres, plus lots of supermarket trolleys and a fair amount of stuff that defies identification) out of one of the more rubbish-filled sections of what is supposedly a navigable canal. And we usually find a couple of surprises too: over the years these have included safes, washing machines, computers, a rocking horse and a coffin (empty). It’s all part of an ongoing campaign to get the locals to care a bit more about their canals, and to encourage boaters to use the less-frequented parts of this fascinating network, without having to worry about whether they’ll get out again with their propeller intact. Believe it or not, it’s also actually rather good fun - when you sling your grappling hook in, you never know quite what you’ll find! As usual it’s being supported by the local IWA branches and the BCN society as well as the local British Waterways team who will be providing workboats to take the rubbish away, plus grappling hooks and work gloves for the volunteers. This year the work site is around Salford Junction - that’s the canal junction in the shadow of the Spaghetti Junction motorway intersection not far from central Birmingham. We’re not entirely sure where our overnight accommodation will be, as rumour has it that our regular accommodation for the last few years has been demolished, but rest assured that we will find somewhere suitable. More information in the next issue, but in the meantime feel free to send in the booking form below, and if you’d like to find out more (or even to offer your help in organising the Cleanup), contact the WRG organiser Aileen Butler on 07703 567764 or aileen.butler@btopenworld.com.

And then what? It’ll be time for the Easter Camp at Eisey Lock on April 16-25 April and then the Canalway Cavalcade festival at Little Venice the following weekend. We’ll have more about these in the next issue, but see Liz Wilson’s appeal on Page 43 if you fancy helping at Little Venice.

waterway recovery group

in association with BCNS, BW and IWA

I would like to attend the 2011 National Canal Cleanup on April 9-10 on the BCN Forename:

Surname:

Address: email: Phone:

Any special dietary requirements?

I require accommodation Friday night / Saturday night / both nights I enclose payment of £

(pay 'WRG') for food (£13 for whole weekend)

Do you suffer from any allergy or 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) In the unlikely event that you should be injured, who should we contact? Name:

Phone:

Signed: Please send this form to: National Cleanup bookings, WRG, Island House, Moor Road, Chesham HP5 1WA

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Camp report

Looking back to the summer, and two weeks of work on the Mon & Brec. Mike Chase describes the first week...

Monmouthshire & Brecon Canals Camp 15: Mon & Brec Week 1 Saturday: Leader arrives last at camp – blames local There was a rather convoluted plan in place for getting vans kit and leadership team to Crosskeys Church Hall, which involved me getting a lift to Crewe, then Ju driving us both down to Eisey, for me to then drive a van to South Wales. Meanwhile, James had gone to Eisey on the Friday night, and he and George would move the other van and trailer. Added to this was the arrangement with Richard Dommet to carry out a site visit on our way through Newport (diverting en route to pick David up from the station), which took a little longer than expected, which meant that all my volunteers had arrived before me! Complications in obtaining the services of a cook (pulled out less than a week prior) meant James and George cooking the evening meal, which had been largely preprepared by Mandy at Eisey. Whilst this was cooking, I took everyone for a site visit, which this year was at Ty Coch Locks, about a mile south of Cwmbran, which again took rather longer than expected, with dinner ready to be served on our return.

and Lower Brake Lock. The youth team was detailed to Bottom Lock, where the bywash apron was hidden beneath several years of vegetation growth, though progress here was very quick, with all growth cleared and the brickwork cleared by day’s end. Shop Lock was more difficult, as this had suffered from some serious grass growth, which had rendered the apron all but invisible from a distance. A concerted effort by Jan and her team saw the bulk of this removed by the end of the day, to the surprise of a regular local walker, who hadn’t seen the bywash in thirty years. On Lower Brake Lock, work commenced on the bywash outfall, which was exposed and cleared in little more than an hour, Ju carrying out an inspection in her own inimitable way, and the ivy growth around the entrance wing-walls and footbridge were tackled. At what would have been brew time, I located the spillway and channel and then set Dave’s team on clearing away all the obstructing tree growth, the bulk of which was removed by the end of the day. Monday: Camp drowns in mud (or was it just Ju?) Monday, and the plant arrived, which cheered James up as he was able to play

Sunday: Bywash exposed after thirty years! Local shocked. Meanwhile back on site, the group had been divided up into teams to tackle the bywashes of Ty Coch Bottom Lock, Shop Lock,

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Photos by Mike Chase

Sunday: Crosskeys in Lack of Gas Shocker! Arrival at site on Sunday, and setting up the Burco revealed a minor problem – the gas bottle was empty! Apparently James had picked up the wrong bottle at Eisey, leaving the part-full one there, so he was sent off in search of a replacement, all known sources having none available.

Clearing Lower Brake Lock bywash


set in whilst we were loading a freshly delivered supply of sand and lime into the dumper for transfer up to site. My arrival on site proper was greeted by the sight of 15 volunteers huddled together beneath the gazebo. There was only one action that could be taken and, giving up on waiting for the Burco to boil, we pulled off site around 11. Tuesday: Jan in jigsaw-related break-down Back at the ranch, plans were discussed for afternoon entertainments, eventually Olly taking a vanload into Newport to go swimming. Sarah clears the culvert entrance at Shop Lock Those left at the hall indulged in with the digger, loading clay into the dumper, some extreme jigsawing (we really must put and then using it to create a dam across the an RSI warning in the camp introductory head of Tredegar Lock (about midway bespeech, if not in the next safety video), tween Pentre Lane and Ty Coch Locks). A though Jan’s attempt at putting together walk-round with Richard, and Heidi from George’s impossipuzzle had her close to a Torfaen Council, clarified some aspects of the breakdown, having managed to fit just eight work to be done, based on our previous pieces in four hours! day’s investigations, and obtained the use of Newport Council’s workboat to better faciliWednesday: New WRG record! First tea tate access to the wash walls within the break declared at 10:30 on day FOUR! intervening pounds, and the lock chambers A mutiny was avoided as, with the themselves, to remove the offending ivy burco now operational, no time was wasted growth. One dirty job was to remove the in making sure we had a proper tea break reed growth blocking the canal channel to today, your leader bagging the first cup the spillway of Lower Brake Lock, a task Ju before heading for the digger. The ramp at was quick to launch herself into, assisted by Tredegar lock was advanced, though a trial another trainee mudlark, Jan. run with the excavator revealed much more The bywash clearance progressed furmaterial being required to create a solid ther, with the completion of Bottom Lock, as ramp. An attempt was also made to stem the did the wash wall clearance. With the departure of James after lunch, the task of digger driver fell to me, the main task being the loading of hardcore to be dumpered to Tredegar Lock and tipped to form a ramp into the lock chamber. The arrival of Andy that afternoon resolved the cooking situation, but with plans already in place, Olly and David cooked up a curry for dinner. Tuesday: Hopes dashes as Burco not quick enough The search for gas reached a successful conclusion on Tuesday, as Olly located a supply in Morrisons en route to site. Unfortunately it wasn’t transferred to the brew station quick enough, as rain

Attacking the chamber walls at Lower Brake Lock

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morning. Olly meanwhile took charge of the repairs to Shop Lock, with the weir crest broken out and reset, some bricks in the apron reset, and then the whole apron repointed. Thursday: George tries out new WRG health spa on the Mon & Brec With an idea of work required at Tredegar Lock, George was so muddied that he decided a hose-down was required, so David set the pump up above the lock, and hosed George down on the towpath. And yes, he enjoyed it. Olly rebuilds Shop Lock bywash weir

Friday: Slashers let loose in bushes With Ju back on form, Friday saw a leakage through the clay dam at Tredegar change in impetus on site. Lower Brake Lock Lock, though this was ultimately unsuccesshad been cleared as much as possible, so the ful. Clearance work on the bywashes was boat was slipped below Shop Lock, and completed, whilst a start was made on atactivity concentrated in there. David and tacking the lock chambers. John worked on rebuilding the weir crest at Lower Brake Lock, whilst Ju, Jan and George Wednesday: Forget Bowling – Try CORKS! went below Bottom Lock to expose the In the evening, a pilgrimage to the bywash outfall and the offside wall. Gizzy Philanthropic became a regular event, and on and Sam repainted the footbridge at Bottom Wednesday, the regulars were given an Lock, whilst I had brought the digger up to introduction to the local pub game – Corks. the locks, and dredged the channel to Lower This, as the name suggests, involves the Brake Lock bywash. tossing of corks (as found in wine bottles) at An earlyish finish was followed by a other corks laid out on a board. This is all visit to Fourteen Locks (though we were subject to proper rules and regulations, and unable to view the work being carried out on is played as part of a league. the locks), and a chippy tea. Later most retired to the ‘Phil’ for another Corks match, Thursday: David ecstatic after which George undid at arrival of new his triple-decker jigsaw in rubberware the shape of a Union Jack. In an attempt to find out how much work was Saturday: Jan impresses required to complete the campers with automatic ramp at Tredegar Lock, bed George assembled a team to Saturday, and time for pump out the chamber and everyone to leave. Jan had do some investigative digone final show to perform, ging at the base of the ramp when she wowed many of in its current form. During the other campers by demthis Ian the local turned up onstrating her automatic Ju does an in-depth study of with some brand new wadLower Brake Lock bywash culvert camp bed, which folded ers, which pleased David away at the touch of a no end, as he was into a pair and into a lock button (might be dangerous if asleep on it at chamber faster than you can say “Ju – Mud!” the time!). A group photo was taken before Ju Thursday: Ju doesn’t go in mud – Is she ILL? departed early, then final clearing and packI’m afraid she was. A bad night saw me ing was done. It felt strange packing everydown an assistant, the brief period she spent one off but leaving all my gear in place, as I on site in the morning being confined to would be staying on for a few days into the supervising people at work, though the need second week to act as the local to Sophie. for rest saw her taken back to the hall midMike Chase

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Camp report

...then Sophie Smith goes all high-tech and digital for week two, bringing us the first ever Twitter Camp Report...

Monmouthshire & Brecon Canals of almost equal value – letting people know what’s in WRG sandwiches! Before you all wet your pants with excitement, let me remind you all what Twitter is... Twitter is a social networking website that allows you answer the question, “What are you doing right now?” by sending short text messages of no more than 140 characters in length, called “tweets”, to your friends, or “followers.” What better way to instantaneously share with the world fascinating sound bites such as: Tim surprised by egg and tuna roll Crosskeys village was chosen as the white-hot epicentre of the revolution. At the Methodist church hall I addressed my troops on day one. “We’re the first ever tweeted camp!” I could tell they were really excited from the way they shrugged and switched the kettle on. “What the hell’s Twitter?” asked Frank our cook, but I saw the wild glint of enthusiasm in his eye. “It’s the future!” I told

Camp 18: Mon & Brec week 2 In a bold and unprecedented experiment, Navvies has embraced the digital revolution and proudly presents the FIRST EVER Twitter dig! Previously deployed to let everyone know what colour nail polish D-list celebrities were choosing to wear on any given day, Twitter has now been proved another benefit

Photos by Tim Lewis

Mon & Brec Canals showing the section of the Monmouthshire Canal Main Line to be restored from north of Cwmbran to Newport

Lock chamber clearance

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independent but everyone just got on with things. The younger members of the team were especially good at sorting themselves out.

Day Two

Dismantling a bywash for repair him. “Can you taste it?!” From the way he spat on the floor and shuffled off to the kitchen I could see he felt inspired. I invited everyone to contribute to the feed, but none did. Maybe they’d left their iphones at home. I’ve used the twitterstream as the basis for the camp report below: tweets are in italics.

Saturday Drawing a very complex plan of work. We’re working across FIVE locks!! Our organiser Richard has given us a wide range of tasks over multiple locks, ranging from using a digger to clear out a silt and water-filled Tredegar lock, to clearing a forest of brambles, to re-pointing bywashes and clearing out spill weirs. It was a beautiful verdant site, with lots of sudden steep drops into empty lock chambers: edge protection featured heavily in my site plan. Noswaith dda (good evening) Just had a Welsh lesson! Thanks to Local Jenni Annetts for giving us a language lesson with some useful words and phrases on our first night. Walked into pub just as a fight’s finishing - but it cleared us a table! Ah the good old Philanthropic. We enjoyed many nights here as well as one memorable trip to Cardiff bay where we all enjoyed fish and chips.

First day on site Sun all day! Spent afternoon in waders waist deep in canal clearing ivy roots out of brickwork Work consisted of lots of relatively small jobs spread over a wide site. People worked in small teams and had to be pretty

Feeling quite emotional now Helena gone, luckily lots of support from experienced hands like Tim, Frank, Jonathan etc Unfortunately a very sudden bereavement meant my assistant leader Helena had to leave before site on the second day. Helena had been invaluable in planning the worksite at the start of the week and getting a handle on all the jobs we had to do: I was very sorry to lose her. At that point I was grateful to have the support of experienced WRGies such as Tim Lewis, Pete Wilson and Mike Chase. It was a difficult site to manage as we worked across five locks and about half a mile of towpath so having reliable people around the site was invaluable. We found the special button that gets the digger out of the muck - wish we’d found it 3 hours ago. Hurray! Crates of free beer donated by a local who supports the restoration Pork and apple casserole with dumplings: Frank the cook now most popular person on camp

Day Three From day three there’s this tweet, which is almost a haiku: Rain stopped, sun out: pump being a bastard We lost quite a few people over the course of the week, and when I say ‘lost’ I mean ‘went home’ i.e. not anything that involved an accident report form. Those of us who hadn’t succumbed to family tragedy, wasp stings or exhaustion worked twice as hard to make up for it, and some real stars began to emerge. Pete kept everything working smoothly, Anthony trained people in lime mortaring and towards the end of the week James Butler and Welsh Phil turned up to lend a hand.

Day Four SNAFU: no adaptor for the pump, no diesel for the digger, no chain for the tirfor adaptor. What HAVE we? Uh... spades?

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Camp report

“ ‘What the hell’s Twitter?’ asked Frank our cook, but I saw the wild glint of enthusiasm in his eye”

Monmouthshire & Brecon Canals

Pete’s in a boat in a lock chamber, forking ivy into the boat from the walls Running around site like a blue arsed fly... Good news is the lock’s now dry enough for the dumper to get in James Butler and Welsh Phil both nowhere, planning on using their expertise on Tredegar lock to pump and excavate. As the week carried on, I encouraged everyone to concentrate on the more vital tasks and we had to accept that some of the other work wasn’t going to be completed – there was one lock we’d not even managed to touch. At this stage in the week I was seriously concerned that we wouldn’t be able to complete Tredegar lock, where we were tasked to clean out knee-deep mud and silt, as it was a tricky job for the digger drivers and the pumps were being capricious. Everyone put their heads together and by the end of the week we finally began to see some results. In the last hours of the week a huge (and hugely muddy) team effort meant that the lock was finally cleared and practically polished clean.

jigsaw of stones to their proper places. The last day was mostly drizzle and counting tea spoons, but a small team did astonishing work digging out another bywash in record time in the last few hours of the day. I’m really grateful to everyone who assisted on this dig, it wasn’t easy with people having to leave at various points but everyone rose to the challenge and we still completed a good job of work. Mike Chase, who led a dig at the same site the previous week, was extremely generous with his support. Richard Dommett was a very supportive Local and I’d really recommend this site; I’d certainly go back there myself. Sophie Smith PS If you are versed in the art of Twitter, you can see all tweets using trending topic #MB2, or by following @cassava. They are only stored for so long though. Although it’s derided as vacuous, Twitter does have some use in enabling you to post short progress updates in situations like a dig so I don’t think we should entirely discount it.

Day Five Getting bramble root crowns with mattocks... Back breaking work 6 very muddy boys digging crud out of Tredagar lock Soldiering on in the rain... Going to get these stones back in the bywash if it kills us Our final effort was restoring the stones in the bywash after hoicking them out to clear out a tree root. At the end Antony and a small team were working under a gazebo to keep the drizzle off the mortar but managed to restore the

Repointing - from a boat if you’re lucky!

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about 30 yards. With the new towpath bank now being effectively ‘made-up’ ground, it was felt that it was not strong enough to support the pressure of water involved, hence the construction of a new wall - and that was our work for the week. The target completion date for this section is late 2011, by which time the new Staveley Town Basin should be completed (work is due to start on this imminently). Camp 08 Chesterfield Canal The Accommodation: In another The Site: In a change to the advertised prochange to the advertised programme, the gramme, the site for this year’s camp was to be usual luxury accommodation at Doe Lea was at Staveley, building a concrete block wall unavailable this year, an alternative being (similar to last year), on a pre-prepared confound in The Stables Complex at Staveley crete footing (which was only completed days Hall. In terms of sheer convenience, the hall before the camp) south from Hall Lane Bridge. overlooked the site, was within walking A Little History: With the ending of distance of Morrison’s, which itself was just the canal’s use as a water supply channel for across the road from the local leisure centre Renishaw Ironworks, the canal through where we were to shower. The accommodaStaveley was officially abandoned, and tion itself was a little awkward, having a largely filled in. Hall Lane Bridge was sleeping area (which was somewhat cosy) culverted and lowered, and a large proporacross a courtyard from the main building tion of the towpath between there and Mill which contained the kitchen, toilets, a small Green Bridge (the current head of navigation room for eating, and a large hall, which was from Chesterfield) was bulldozed towards the booked most evenings precluding our use. nearby River Rother, effectively creating a Despite negotiating access requirements rain/floodwater run-off. In previous years, during the site visit a month earlier, when we the Chesterfield Canal Trust had succeeded in arrived on Saturday at 5:30 (the late arrival extending navigation for around a hundred due to an Armed Forces Day being held in yards beyond Mill Green Bridge, following the grounds of the hall precluding access) we which the trust had continued to construct a had to renegotiate our requirements all over replacement towpath wall to the site of Con- again, the first being the highly restrictive stitution Hill Footbridge, some hundred and times we were being offered access to the fifty yards further. And there work stopped, kitchen in the as they were forced to close the site down morning (an for the duration of the construction of the hour to Staveley Northern Relief Road in late 2007. With this site unavailable, work had been carried out at Renishaw instead, to progress work on the ‘Renishaw Mile’ project, which saw previous camps build the narrows for a footbridge at Miner’s Crossing (2008) and a section of towpath wall to the north of the road bridge in Renishaw itself (2009). Work continues at the latter site on the first Sunday each month. Back to the road scheme – this saw three new The Chesterfield bridges constructed over the course Canal of the canal, plus the channel excavated over the length of the showing the affected section. At Hall Lane, ‘missing link’ unin order to gain navigable navigable length height without overly from Kiveton to humping the road, the canal line was Staveley moved sideways

Camp report Chesterfield Canal

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back and progress their section of wall on Thursday, when the rest of us went to Bakewell, via a tour of Peak Ales Brewery, and also on a couple of evenings they returned to site to get their section set up with blocks for the following day. Conclusion: Although this camp had its problems, we had a good week. Due to the overall inexperience of the volunteers, progress was not quite as good as last year, though we did manage to lay over 1200 blocks during the week. The weather was mostly kind to us whilst on site, going against the advertised forecast most days, though on Wednesday we did lose about half the final mix when the heavens opened about 5pm, forcing a quick abandonment of the site. Overnight rain on the Sunday did make ground conditions slippery for vehicles, and with the little extra during Monday, I took the decision not to allow any WRG vehicle on site, parking on Hall Lane instead. The brew station also moved from the site container to under Hall Lane Bridge, which guaranteed shelter without having to erect the gazebo each morning. In the absence of a dedicated cook, I was extremely grateful to Mandy Morley, who cooked for us for half the week. The locals were impressed with the work we did, despite the inexperience, and laid on a barbecue for us on the last night. Cameron received a birthday surprise that night, although his birthday wasn’t actually until the next day. As Saturday dawned, all that was left was to write nine DofE reports, and pack up the kit to head to the next camp… Mike Chase

Mike Chase

cook, eat and clear up breakfast!). Another issue was the lack of storage available for the kit, as with some bookings in place for the small room, the council representative was opposed to us storing anything there. As a result, the bulk of the catering kit spent the week in SAD, as only one van was required to ferry tools to/from site. Due to the late arrival, steps had been taken to pre-prepare dinner, which produced another problem under cooking when it was found that the oven was only capable of keeping food warm, not cooking. Luckily the microwave saved the day – nuked lasagne anyone? All credit to my assistant, Cameron, here, for he was extremely successful in negotiating access, and obtaining a key for the main building, even if it did involve me kipping over there each night (for security reasons), and moving my bed by day. The Campers: With ten campers under 21, including nine on the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, this was quite a young camp. There were six regulars/returnees with varying experience, only one of whom (Chris) had done this work before, coincidentally on the Chesterfield Camp last year. The first day on site did not have the same local input as last year, as the locals were involved in extending their existing wall at Constitution Hill, although Dave the local had built the bulk of the corners the previous day. A slow start saw everyone shown how to mix mortar, then Chris taught the first group (the Chester Boys and Guernsey Girls) to lay the blocks, with me then teaching the remaining youngsters (Em’s group). Martyn was useful in driving the van to/from site each day, mucking in with Em’s group whilst on site. George was keen to expand his skill base, and proceeded to lay some very good blockwork, as did Cameron, though both tended to work alone. Daniel and Rachel were the main mixing team early in the week, until the locals, Terry and Mick, joined us on Tuesday and took over mixing duties, the two then dropping on to laying blocks. Daniel was keen to work alone, though some one-on-one teaching was required before he started to lay blocks consistently level. Midweek, young James took it upon himself to ensure a continuous supply of blocks from where they had been delivered, by the site cabin 200 yards away, doing this constantly for virtually two days solid, what a trooper! The Chester Boys hit it off with Dave and Terry very quickly, and were keen to stop

Blocklaying in progress

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WRG at 40

Continuing our interviews with WRGies from four decades, Roger Burchett recalls a story of Bill Crockett and a wind-up gramophone...

Forty views for forty years

40 Views for 40 Years The sixth 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. Roger Burchett – Dad – Father Christmas. Once a director of transport. Still married to the Ayatollah (well – not The Ayatollah exactly). We caught up with him on a rare spell off his boat. No amount of ‘[chuckles]’ is going to get across just how much Roger laughed during this interview and once we’ve edited all the bits out that he shouldn’t have said we’ll make it available and then you’ll hear for yourselves.

Q: How and when did you first get involved with canal restoration?

A: It was 1984. In February. And it was due to a barmaid [chuckles]. She was a barmaid at a club that a friend of mine was in and he didn’t want to do it so he referred her to me. And I had this charming young lady saying ‘would you like to come on a dirty weekend next weekend?’. So we did. That was when we did the Basingstoke ‘narrow’ canal which was a drainage ditch at the bottom of an embankment to see where the canal was leaking. All the water drained out of there into a drain – that was on the Sunday. On the Tuesday all the gardens flood because the drain had blocked. We didn’t hear too much about it but I understand there were one or two not very happy householders around the area. It was a good weekend.

Q: Was that KESCRG? A: Yes – when I first met Ken Parish. That was the first time I met Gales HSB beer. Ken said be there in the pub at 8 o’clock – so I was. No one turned up till half past ten. They only sold two beers – one of which was rubbish and the other I’d never heard of and it seemed OK. I had a few and Brian Gale said “what you drinking?” so I told him. He said “oh – you got the aspirins?”. And I thought “that’s funny – what’s up with him? Good pint this...” I had about 6 or 7 and when I went to bed that night it was fine – got up during the night to go for a pee and all I could do was walk in right hand circles [chuckling]. I went in every bed space on the way there. The next morning I didn’t feel very well.

Q: What made you come back then? A: I enjoyed it. It was good fun, good people, good beer – that was very important in those days, it was good work as well. Basingstoke was well organised down there. I don’t think Mike Fellows ever really got the credit he deserved for what he did there. The next thing was the work camp later on that year – that was [dramatic pause] interesting. That was on the Basingstoke again. We took over a disused derelict bakery and barber shop. The barber shop was used for eating in and we slept in the rest of it. The washing facilities were rather seldom – 7 washing basins on a trestle table and a Burco and that was it. It was a fortnight’s squalor and it was wonderful. We all stank like hell at the finish. We were digging out lock 7 and then I started doing some piling. That really sealed it as far as I was concerned – I had such a good time there.

Q: How did Sue get involved – your wife? A: Precisely – my wife. She got involved because I did (and our two daughters did as well early on). Sue

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found that physically she couldn’t do the work and she wasn’t too impressed with the catering arrangements so she decided to do that. We used to go down the pub at lunchtimes, some of them were students and couldn’t afford it so Sue started knocking up sandwiches. That’s really how it started – numbers on the work parties went up – we were getting 40 on a weekend. Sue decided this was it – she’d have to do the catering for them.

Q: When did you get involved with WRG? A: In 1988 I’d already met a lot of WRG and I’d been out once or twice with some of the groups and it just sort of progressed over. I stopped going out with KESCRG and went out with WRG.

Q: What sites were you involved in? A: The thing that really stood out was that nature reserve on the Montgomery. I worked on most of the canals at one point or other with most of the groups. The name of my boat is named after a weekend with North-West on the Chesterfield. We were digging out a lock; the first one down from Chesterfield and it looks very much as though instead of the invert being level with the bottom cill they’d dropped it another 7 foot to act as mud trap. Everyone thought the invert ended at the level of the bottom cill – we dug and we dug and we dug. Eventually Baz and someone else (think it was Bob Dewey) dug a shaft down to the invert to find out where it was and it was about 7 foot down. I got back on the boat which I was then fitting out and we were living on it while we were doing it (not to be recommended) and I’d no idea what to call this boat; I sat in the chair at the end of that weekend and I was absolutely shattered and I suddenly thought ‘Nackered Navvy’; and I was.

Q: There’s lots of photos of you in diggers? A: When we did the Aston Nature Reserve, Not Welsh Tim was going to drive the digger and the day we started work on the nature reserve was the day that Not Welsh Tim started working for Middlewich Narrowboats; we were left looking at this bloody great machine thinking “I wonder how that works?”. But in fact I had had a training session in a machine for about 10 minutes on the Basingstoke and so I got a vague idea of what things did and it just went on from there. After you’d dug all those holes – ’cos Garry Alderman came in later on and he had a machine and he was doing the profiling – I was just doing the digging out – and after you’d been doing that for two and a half months you just know how to work a machine. I used to enjoy the old bendy toys. I do remember once Just Jen [at Over] driving a bulldozer and scooping up a great big pile of shit in front of her and I had to stop for some reason in this dump truck and she just laughed and kept coming and I finished up with this pile of shit right on the front of my dump truck. It pulled through alright – once I’d got rid of some of it out the cab.

Q: How did you get more involved in the running of WRG? A: Cos I was asked to. I supposed I’d concentrated on WRG work parties for two or three years and someone said come along to a committee meeting so I did. I enjoyed that side of it too. You realise what sort of planning and everything that does take part in it. I just got drawn more and more into it and then they said would you like to come on the board and I thought “different”. In fact it wasn’t – it was virtually the same but it was just a bit more into it still. Because I knew a bit about vehicles I got put in charge of transport.

Q: What’s your connection with BITM? A: None. Sue goes out with BITM – she’s always been a member of BITM. I found I was doing enough with WRG itself. I did used go out with BITM now and again – I still do now and again. I think I’ve gone digging with North-West more than I have with BITM. London WRG was too many hangovers.

Q: What are you most proud of with your involvement with WRG? A: Aston Nature Reserve – I understand they’re winning awards for dragonflies or something. I learnt to drive a machine there but that was something that if it hadn’t have been done the Mont, as it is now, wouldn’t have been there. There was a lot hanging on that nature reserve and I’m really pleased I was involved with that. That really was hard graft, I’m just glad it didn’t rain a lot because conditions were bad enough as it was, it [the nature reserve] meant so much to the Mont. What really means a lot to me is when I go along a canal that I’ve worked on. The other year we was up on the Wendover, on the new section. After the festival we went down, winded and came back along the canal and I suddenly thought – last time I was here I was sitting in the bottom of this canal in a machine – and now I’m floating on it.

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Q: What would you say WRG was good at? A: Giving youngsters encouragement and confidence. When I was working I used to see a lot of kids and a lot of them had no confidence in anything they did; whether it’s the education, whether it’s just them, their upbringing I don’t know, I’m not going to go into that. You see kids, especially Duke of Edinburgh, they come on the camps and you can see them growing during that week. At the end of the week you can see them looking and thinking “I did that and it’s good”. It must be good because if it wasn’t you’d make them go back and do it again. I think we’re very good at that. I also think we’re very good at proving to outsiders what can be done. Just what volunteers can do. There’s a lot of expertise in that organisation and I don’t think outsiders, especially British Waterways, know what we got. They really don’t appreciate what we can do.

Q: What is WRG not so good at? A: I don’t think they’re so good at self publicity. One of the reasons that outsiders don’t realise what we can do is because we don’t tell anybody. We’re not very good at listening to officialdom which is good [chuckles].

Q: What’s the most useful skill you’ve learnt and who taught it to you? A: I never learnt to lay bricks – I was deliberate about that. I was taught to drive a dumper by Mike Fellows and Mike was good at it. He was a born instructor was Mike. Once he taught you you didn’t forget.

Q: You’ve had a couple a dogs – what dogs have you had and what kind of trouble have they caused?

A: Blue didn’t cause any trouble at all – he was absolutely marvellous. This one [Ben], he regards people and dogs as friends; sheep and cattle are not there; everything else is food. He acts accordingly and he also acts as though he’s bloody starving too. When you see him at Worcester Racecourse when you’re preparing for the National, and there’s a horse race on, and he’s going after the horses and he’s clearing the hurdles better than they are; there’s a big balloon over his head “there’s a good steak on that” and it’s on the finishing straights and you’re screaming your lungs out thinking “I hope he hears me” and he did actually – he heard me and came back – just before he caught up. There used to be a bloke called Fritz who was a German One of many pics of Roger in a digger bloke went digging and Fritz could snore for Germany. The first time Blue ever heard him he was laying besides Sue and I, in a village hall obviously, and Fritz starting snoring and Blue stuck his head up and looked; he got up and he started walking across the hall (we’re trying to call him back and not wake everyone up), went over to Fritz, looked at him, he stuck his nose in Fritz’s mouth. At that point Fritz woke up. He never snored again – he completely cured him. BITM nearly folded at one point and because they had money in the bank we [the WRG board] had to keep it going until the money was taken care of. We decided that Jonathan Smith would be chairman and Carolyn would be treasurer just to wind the thing up and then the few that were left decided to reform [instead]. No one wanted the job [of chairman] and someone said “how about the dog?” so Blue was chairman. Funny thing was the next year when they had their annual meeting it got round to the chairman and they said “right we’ve got to discuss the chairman” and Blue got up and walked out. Got re-elected – called him and he came back in again.

Q: Who has inspired you? A: Mike Fellows one of the early ones – I keep coming back to him but he really was a huge influence. I saw him the other day and he still looks like Jesus. I didn’t have a lot to do with him really but John Baylis was another one. I had a lot of time for John. If we was having a meeting and John was there he used to smoke this pipe and sometime during the meeting the pipe would go out and he’d want to knock it out to put some more tobacco in; you’d hear “knock knock knock knock” and we all reckoned he’d been a buddy of Graham Palmer’s and he was asking Graham “are you there – are we doing it right?”

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...while a young Bill Nicholson bunks off from boarding school to go canal digging...

WRG at 40 Forty views for forty years

And then there was a young whipper snapper who turned up on the Basingstoke Camps and he’s chairman of WRG now – Mike Palmer. I’ve got a lot of respect for him too. When we were doing the 1989 National at Waltham Abbey, Ken Parrish was in charge of it and he basically got knackered and lost it at one point. For 2 or 3 days Ken really wasn’t functioning and Mike Palmer took over and Mike was only 21 – I thought someone of that age that’s good. I have a lot of respect for him – and Jude.

Q: Do you have a favourite derelict canal? A: Thames and Severn – the Cotswolds. Also the Mont. The Mont has got some lovely country – I’m not a town person and some of the scenery that the Mont goes through – I like that I really do. The Thames and Severn – it’d be nice to get from the Gloucester and Sharpness through to here [Reading] without having to go all the way round the bloody Midlands, Hatton and all that. Alternatively you’ve got Caen Hill. Some of the Cotswolds scenery’s nice too.

Q: Do you have any ‘do you remember the time when?’ stories? A: [laughs out loud] Mike Fellows sitting on the stool in the bar saying ‘I’m perfectly sober’ and falling on the floor. That was after about his 7th pint of Marston’s Pedigree. Bill Crockett – my lovely old mate Bill Crockett – pebble dashing the front of Jude’s brand new BMW. He, Pete Cardy and I had done a litre and a half of scotch and Bill didn’t feel too well. That was at Worcester. Bill Crockett waking Mick Beattie up at twenty-five past seven in the morning. At half past seven Mick used to wake everyone up with the Pogues on his tape recorder or something and Bill produced a wind up gramophone and Jimmy Shand. At twenty-five past seven he put this thing on and he hadn’t wound it up [sounds of a randomly playing gramophone from Roger]. I’ve never seen Mick wake up so fast in me life... Now for Bill Nicholson – long connected with the Newbury Working Party Group – usually referred to as plain old ‘Newbury’. Who are they – what do they do? How did the Kennet and Avon Canal get restored?

Q: How and when did you first get involved with canal restoration? A: My first dig was at Bath locks in about 1974. I was at boarding school in Dorset. I was a canal fanatic before my first dig. The first involvement with canals was back in 1969 when my father hired from Shropshire Union cruisers at Norbury. We hired a boat, a centre cockpit job, and I was captivated by canals even though I’d lived by the Bridgewater Canal up until the age of 10 – it was still a completely new experience. We moved from Cheshire down to Berkshire and we moved to a house only half a mile from the Kennet and Avon which was derelict at that time. My first proper interest in canals was when my mother decided it would be a good idea if I joined the junior division of the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust. That was 1972 – 3 something like that. The junior division were fine if you were living in Devizes but it wasn’t a lot of good if you were living between Reading and Newbury especially if you were only 12. I took some general interest in that but it was only when I went to school and I started getting slightly more adventurous (this was boarding school) that I decided that on Sundays, which were terminally tedious days at school, that I’d take myself off on the train from Sherborne, up to Salisbury, then change trains and then go up to Bath and work with them on the restoration of Bath Locks. I did that on a couple of occasions until I eventually got caught doing it. At which time my house master did the only charitable thing he’s ever done in his life: “Next time Nicholson let me know and I’ll take you to the station myself”. After that, finished at school, and about ’75 the Trust got its first and last ever proper restoration job

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which was the rebuilding of Bulls Lock near Newbury. I got involved with that and they were working 2 weekends out of every month and as it was during the interregnum between leaving school, making a mess of my A-Levels and then going to work for a year that kept me both enthused in canals and busy. We got involved in making lock gates to a reasonable amount of brickwork to construction work. It had to be supervised – BW insisted that every work party had to be supervised by a qualified civil engineer. We got the lock rebuilt. We did everything from cleaning out the brickwork to making the gates and fitting them. The whole job from derelict lock to restored lock was done by volunteers.

Q: You said that you made the lock gates and fitted them – that seems like quite a big task?

A: It was. The bloke who co-ordinated the construction was a chap called Chris Genge who was a Newbury Branch member and was a carpentry teacher and he took this task on. We made them in and outside the Stone building, which if you know Newbury and the Stone building is not a particularly big building. You could just about get a quoin post or a heel post in the building but you certainly couldn’t erect a gate. I remember cutting the mortise and tenons either in the building or outside – they were all sort of preassembled around there if I remember rightly. Then a bit more work was done on the lock side but it was done with hand tools – no power tools. We got given these hand auger things from British Waterways from some old lock gate making workshop. If you imagine big mortise joints and lock gates – not small – you had to drill about 20 holes in oak – by hand – six inches deep and then chisel it out. It would take you the whole day to do one of those. It was a team of people involved in it. They’ve been replaced now – that’s the trouble with canal restoration that by the time the canal’s opened to boats it’s been restored 2 or 3 times. After that we moved onto the next project which was Widmead Lock we did about 2 or 3 working parties on that clearing out tonnes of silt with buckets and ropes up sliding piles and it was just clearly a total waste of time. Then at that time we had the time (’77) of the big upheaval with British Waterways and the trade unions about volunteers working on the canal and the whole thing was brought to a crushing stop. My view is that it was a convenience on both sides from the management of British Waterways and the Unions to put a stop to it; because the managers didn’t want to have to turn out on Saturdays and they didn’t want the responsibility of it, and clearly the trade unions didn’t want people working on the canal doing jobs they thought were theirs.

Q: The very first dig you went on – what were your expectations and what made you go back? A: Nothing would stop me going back because I was absolutely fanatic about seeing the canal restored. It’s funny because I still feel the same way about the projects I work on now. It’s what drives me – that end ambition. I was fanatical about the Kennet and Avon Canal at the time and the reason the Newbury Working Party Group was set up when it was in ’81 when I left university was to try and get volunteers back working on the Kennet and Avon. We spent the first five years trying to change the name to something that sounded good as an acronym and failed dismally. Eventually we became known as Newbury Working Party Group or NWPG or as we are known outside, so I gather, Newbury. Our first working party was working with John Gould at Newbury Lock, who asked us to do a bit of bricklaying, I can still remember it to this day – he wanted two courses of bricks laid on top of his garden to his rose garden on the offside of the lock and a bit of tidying up. So we went down there and tidied it up and that was our first working party. Our second work party was filling in rabbit holes on the Thames and Severn somewhere in the Lower Wilmoorway area and scrub bashing – we came back from that thinking why on earth are we filling in rabbit holes?

Q: It wasn’t just the Kennet and Avon you were working on in the early stages? A: No – we knew that we were going to have to broaden out. Ken Halls and Pete Redway had just won this competition on the Basingstoke to restore lock 11, I think it was £5000, so I rang them and said could we help with their work parties and they said yes please come down. Just before Christmas of ’81. So we went down to lock 11 and it was snowing and it was miserable and we still worked breaking out the bottom cill – something we probably wouldn’t do now. We did some crazy things in the old days. Mike Fellows got to hear about this and said ‘you’re a visiting working party – you shouldn’t be working with them – you should be working with us’. By that time London WRG and KESCRG were busy working on lock 10

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having transferred from Deepcut. He suggested that he wanted us. People always sing the praises of canal restoration groups but actually you spend a lot of time trying to be wanted around the place trying to find work. We said whilst we’re trying to get work on the Kennet and Avon we’ll come and help you. That lasted for the next 8 or 9 years. During that time on the early days we built up our membership, we built up skills and really I suppose became essentially the group we are today – obviously with different people. Got one or two original people. We learnt brick laying and dumper driving – all of those sort of things during that period. We did work, in the 80s, on quite a lot of other projects; we did try and persuade British Waterways to let us restore Mitcham Lock which was of course local to me, it was where my parents lived and it was a brick sided lock and a sensible lock restoration. We got British Waterways, Roger House and Cyril Rogers, persuaded them to come out on a Saturday and look at the work we were doing on the Basingstoke. They went through the motions and said ‘very interesting, you’re doing a great job, carry on doing it on the Basingstoke’. It makes me sad when I read in Navvies on a regular basis over the years that British Waterways have gone the brink about wanting volunteers doing work and then pulling back – each time I’m thinking back to my experiences in ’84. Something I’m proud of and WRG are proud of because I know WRG helped us with it and that was the building of the footbridges at Devizes. It’s probably one of the photographs you see again and again and every time it comes up I say ‘I organised building those footbridges’. A lot of them have been replaced since; we project managed and needed something like 22 bridges which during a 2 or 3 year period we built and we had great fun building them. Apart from Bull’s Lock and that – that’s probably the biggest input of volunteer work that’s ever gone onto the Kennet and Avon.

Q: How did it get restored in the end? A: Well it was restored essentially by money by the Trust’s exceptional fundraising abilities. It’s a wealthy

Lesley McFadyen

part of the world. It was restored by contractors, British Waterways did all the work on the brick locks and they re-gated the locks. Caen Hill locks were done initially by Manpower job creation scheme who did the brickwork. They then set up a different one nearer the time of reopening to make lock gates which was done in a workshop somewhere near Shrivenham and they made all the bottom gates. The top gates were made by British Waterways in Worcester – I’m sad that I remember all this – they were made out of steel in one job lot. That’s why all those gates are steel. I remember the long debates about the silly balance beams they had on them. They put bigger ones on eventually but they had these tiny little things on. We put the bridges in after the top gates went on.

Devizes Locks, Kennet & Avon: footbridges built by volunteers, organised by Bill Nicholson

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Q: What other sites were you involved in? A: We didn’t get involved in the Wey and Arun until about ’89 where we helped at Brunswick Lock. Then after that, on completion of the Basingstoke, John Ward of the Wey and Arun came up and said got Lee Farm Lock that needed restoring and would we be interested in doing it. I’m trying to remember whether KESCRG and London WRG went down there as well. It was the pre-runner of the Dig Deep projects in that it was dedicated to us, no other locals had time to work on it and it was a decent job – really that’s what started off Dig Deep, it was a natural follow on from the Basingstoke. We’ve had digs on and off on the Wilts and Berks as well. Newbury’s always had a slightly strained relationship with the Wilts and Berks. Every group has their favourite canals – I know that – apart from the Thames and Severn which we all like. We know London WRG like the Wilts and Berks. It’s all about experiences people have and how involved you get involved. It’s about relationships between the organiser and the local canal society. Sometimes those relationships work really well other times, they’re not strained as such, but they just don’t fire up. At the moment on the Thames and Severn we’ve got a very good relationship because we’ve got Jon Pontefract who I think is a very good local organiser at Eisey Lock. I think it’s getting an organiser on the ground for whatever Trust you’re working for, that understands how volunteers work, understands how visiting groups work; that they do like a degree of independence to make decisions based on the experience they’ve got – but they also like to be told when they’re doing a crap job as well. There’s nothing worse than finding someone comes and undoes the work you’ve done.

Q: Dig Deep? A: It was sort of spreading the word of what we’d done on the Basingstoke. We hadn’t given the opportunities to the other societies for a start. The other societies weren’t as well advanced in terms of programme and funding. It was putting those things together and saying we shouldn’t be wasting what we’ve built up over the last 10 years and more. We should be going to the canal societies and saying ‘we’ve got a resource here’. We can offer you something if you can offer us. We can offer you a reasonably skilled labour force who know what they’re doing, come in on a regular basis. In return for that – you put your thinking caps on and come up with a project that will encourage our members to keep coming back. That concept will always stand the test of time in terms of volunteer work. We like to have sites where people can turn up for a day. Groups grow old with their volunteers. NWPG was full of young, fit active 25 year olds in 1983 of course it’s now full of much less fit 50 year olds in 2010. Having said that we are trying to grow our own because you can’t just easily import or persuade young volunteers from wherever to go and join a group of 50 year olds. It’s difficult. And it’s very difficult for a group like ours to think how are we going to carry on into the future? Started a bring your own policy by bringing your son along and getting him to bring his mate. In return – people like us have got to let go a bit.

Q: NWPG as a group – has it been consistent for the last 30 years in terms of 10 digs a year?

A: Graham Hawkes, who stood down as working party organiser last Christmas, having told us he’d been doing it for 21 years, we said ‘fair enough – you probably deserve to stand down’. I took it back over – I was working party organiser until 1999 and sort of had the luxury of swanning around going to digs. How many digs a year? I’m trying to reduce the number, just a little bit, by one or two. To ease the pressure. You get the feeling if you try and run them 4 or 5 weekly in a group our size where our active membership is probably only about 30 people. We’ve got a big social membership of people who used to go digging and have now retired. I’m trying to run them every 6 weeks. It has made a difference with people prepared to turn up.

Q: What is your relationship with WRG? A: That’s an interesting question. It’s sort of a distant partnership. I’d like to be more involved with WRG in some ways but I know I’d be very unlikely to bring anyone in my group with me. Our relationship is as an independent group but I like to think we ought to be supporting each other – which is what I think we do in a funny sort of way. I’d like our group to support WRG a bit more openly in some events but I try and then sort of give up!

Q: What are you most proud of? A: I think I’m most proud of things that come out of the ground – the projects – the end result. Very

page 22


proud of the footbridges at Devizes. Very proud of Haybarn Swing bridge on the Wey and Arun. Graham Baird and myself masterminded the project planning. I love the project planning and things – feeling very frustrated at the moment because I’m haven’t got anything to keep my mind at work. We all get bored at work and need something to take our minds off things and planning a canal project is something I used to do for the last 20 years and I haven’t got one at the moment.

Q: What’s WRG’s greatest achievement? A: I don’t think any of us would probably exist without the background of WRG. As much as we might say we like or love or hate WRG. Without the national restoration body being there, providing all the backup we quietly take on when we like, I don’t think we would be able to operate as an independent group.

Q: Who has inspired you? A: Kennet and Avon people. Jack Dalby (who used to be the editor of the Butty from Newbury). He spotted me as a youngster down on the Kennet and Avon, lovely Irish guy who enthused me to get involved. John Gould. Mike Fellows – he came back on our camp to help do the coping stones – he’s been an inspiration to the group over the years and we still quote his sayings to this day: “Why did you the job that way?” was his way of saying you’d done it wrong. “There’s no substitute for gravity” was another. Graham Baird on the Wey and Arun. He doesn’t so much inspire me but he was great to work with and have tremendous respect for. Admiral Sir William O’Brien – he masterminded the last 20 years of restoration on the [Kennet & Avon] canal. He had the influence and the power to get the thing moving. He was the first to talk about partnerships with British Waterways. Q: What’s your favourite derelict canal? A: The Wey and Arun. I was fanatical about restoring the Kennet and Avon and I’m fanatical about restoring the Wey and Arun. I worked on the Basingstoke because I couldn’t restore the Kennet and Avon. I can’t explain why I like one canal against another. Logic should tell me to be fanatical about the Thames and Severn. I’m probably not fanatical about that because I’ve been fanatical about a cross country canal and I’ve already done one. Q: Where do you see WRG’s future? A: I hope it carries on much as it is. What it’s got to do is still make volunteer work appealing not just for the people turning up on the camp but for the people who do all the work organising it. It’s so easy for these activities to get subsumed in regulations and rule, and be put off by people building resistance to your activities. Provided WRG can strike that balance, and it seems to have done successfully so far. It’s got to remember what it’s there for and what people turn out to do and that’s to enjoy people’s company; they’re getting away from work, and a lot of them like drinking beer, as I do. Providing WRG, on the volunteer side, can keep ahead of that game it will carry on very successfully.

NWPG

Interviews on the web: well Spencer Greystrong’s interview has made it online (though not necessarily when I said it would – admit it - you’d all Favourite canal: NWPG at Brewhurst, Wey & Arun have been surprised if it had) – you can find them on our website at www.waterways.org.uk/wrg/about_us/wrg_at_40 . Interviews coming up soon in either the next addition of Navvies or on the web will include Mike Fellows (I took the hints and interviewed him), John ‘The Hawk’ Hawkins and Ian ‘I can talk for days’ Mac. Helen Gardner

page 23


Navvies diary Your guide to all the forthcoming work parties Dec 18 Sat

wrgNW

‘Paper Chase’ waste paper collection

Dec 19 Sun EAWA/NWDCT North Walsham & Dilham Canal: Ebridge Dec 26-Jan 1 Camp 201023

Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal: Christmas Camp at Nob End. Leaders

Dec 26-Jan 2 WBCT

Wilts & Berks Canal Trust Camp: Working at Seven Locks, Accom: Foxh

Jan 15/16

wrgNW

Hollinwood Canal

Jan 15/16

NWPG

Basingstoke Canal: Clearance on the summit

Jan 15/16

London WRG

To be arranged, possibly Chelmer & Blackwater

Jan 22/23

wrgBITM

Basingstoke Canal: Cutting back off-side overhanging trees on summit pou Access by boat.

Jan 22 Sat

wrgNW

‘Paper Chase’ waste paper collection

Feb 5/6

wrgNW

Chesterfield Canal: Chamber clearance at Hollingwood Lock

Feb 5/6

London WRG

Cotswold Canals (Thames & Severn Canal): Dig Deep project at Eisey L

Feb 7 Mon

Dig Deep

Dig Deep committee meeting

Feb 19/20

wrgBITM

Chichester Ship Canal: Removing overhanging trees on the towpath ne

Feb 19-26

Camp 2011-01 Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation: (To be confirmed)

Feb 26/27

NWPG

Thames & Severn Canal: Eisey Lock

Feb 26/27

London WRG

To be arranged, probably Inglesham

Feb 26 Sat

wrgNW

‘Paper Chase’ waste paper collection

Mar 5/6

wrgNW

To be arranged

Mar 19/20

wrgBITM

Cotswold Canals: Eisey Lock. Stump removal between lock and bridge.

Mar 19/20

London WRG

To be arranged, probably Hereford & Gloucester

Apr 2/3

NWPG

Wey & Arun Canal: Northlands Lift Bridge (may change to Apr 9/10)

Apr 2 Sat

wrgNW

‘Paper Chase’ waste paper collection

Apr 9/10

wrgNW

To be arranged

Apr 9/10

wrgBITM

Hereford & Gloucester Canal: Over Basin - towpath surfacing and bridg

Apr 9/10

London WRG

B.C.N. Cleanup: Spaghetti Junction area. Centrally booked using form o

Apr 16-25

Camp 2011-02 Cotswold Canals: Eisey Lock (To be confirmed)

Apr 30-May 2wrgNW

To be arranged: Joint dig with Essex WRG?

Apr 30-May 2London WRG

Little Venice - Canalway Cavalcade

Apr 30-May 2wrgBITM

Little Venice - Canalway Cavalcade: BITM Sales Stand

Apr 30-May 2IWA

National Campaign Rally: Northampton (River Nene)

May 7 Sat

wrgNW

‘Paper Chase’ waste paper collection

May 14 Sat

WRG

Leaders Training Day: Canal camp and work party leaders training.

May 14/15

NWPG

Cotswold Canals (Thames & Severn Canal): Dig Deep project at Eisey L

page 24


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: enquiries@wrg.org.uk David McCarthy

0161-740-2179

David Revill

01603-738648

davgis@live.co.uk

01494-783453

enquiries@wrg.org.uk

s: Paul Shaw

ham

Rachael Banyard

01249-892289

David McCarthy

0161-740-2179

nw@wrg.org.uk

Bill Nicholson

01844-343369

bill@nwpg.org.uk

Tim Lewis

07802-518094

london@wrg.org.uk

Dave Wedd

01252-874437

bookings@wrgBITM.org.uk

David McCarthy

0161-740-2179

David McCarthy

0161-740-2179

nw@wrg.org.uk

Tim Lewis

07802-518094

london@wrg.org.uk

Bill Nicholson

01844-343369

Dave Wedd

01252-874437

bookings@wrgBITM.org.uk

01494-783453

enquiries@wrg.org.uk

Bill Nicholson

01844-343369

bill@nwpg.org.uk

Tim Lewis

07802-518094

london@wrg.org.uk

David McCarthy

0161-740-2179

David McCarthy

0161-740-2179

nw@wrg.org.uk

Dave Wedd

01252-874437

bookings@wrgBITM.org.uk

Tim Lewis

07802-518094

london@wrg.org.uk

Bill Nicholson

01844-343369

bill@nwpg.org.uk

David McCarthy

0161-740-2179

David McCarthy

0161-740-2179

nw@wrg.org.uk

ge building.

Dave Wedd

01252-874437

bookings@wrgBITM.org.uk

on page 7

Aileen Butler 01494-783453

enquiries@wrg.org.uk

David McCarthy

0161-740-2179

nw@wrg.org.uk

Tim Lewis

07802-518094

london@wrg.org.uk

Dave Wedd

01252-874437

bookings@wrgBITM.org.uk

und in Hampshire

Lock

ear the tramway.

.

Lock

John Pomfret

john.pomfret@waterways.org.uk

David McCarthy

0161-740-2179

Mike Palmer

01564-785293

mike.palmer@wrg.org.uk

Bill Nicholson

01844-343369

bill@nwpg.org.uk

page 25


Navvies diary Canal societies’ 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

page 26

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 Martin Bird 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 01394-380765 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


“As Pete was never one for sitting about, the money in lieu of flowers will not be buying a canalside bench”

Obituary Pete Richards

Pete Richards of WRG Northwest Pete died at home on 1st.October,within sight of the mooring on the Macclesfield Canal where he used to keep his boat. He was born on The Wirral and after an electrical engineering apprenticeship he served for four years as a ship’s electrician with the Blue Funnel Line. Most of his working life was spent in or near The Potteries, well away from the sea, but it must have stayed in his blood as he developed an interest in canals, owned and cruised his own boat, joined Stoke IWA, and later WRG. Always practical, he was also a Citroen 2CV car enthusiast, and attended his first national festival, at Waltham Abbey, just for a day from Stoke in his 2CV of the time. As a regular Northwester, he came to weekends, paperchases and festivals, including in recent years as an ‘early camper’ at nationals with Kath Horrocks. Helping on the fencing team was one of his regular jobs, but the Northwest sales stand will always be grateful to him for his invention of a quick, easy and cheap plumbing system to divert the rain from our books! Terminal cancer was diagnosed as recently as May 2010,and rather than prolong life by only a short time, Pete declined further active treatment. Instead he started (and completed) a programme of visits and holidays with Kath and the family, including a great family reunion in Cornwall - one son coming home specially from Thailand for the event. It was a real pleasure for Pete to be at Beale Park for the National, as he thought he wouldn’t make it. Although often tired and unwell, he got around site as much as possible by electric buggy. The funeral had a fine turnout of red shirts (Pete’s request), many worn by family members. This gesture was much appreciated by WRG attenders. As Pete was never one for sitting about, except with a pint of real ale, the money in lieu of flowers will not be buying a canalside bench. We have asked Bungle and others to think of some piece of really useful quality electrical kit for use at camps, festivals etc. Pete didn’t like fuss, but we hope he would have approved of this. From his friends in the Northwest, and everywhere.

page 27


Letter

What’s happened to all the folks we used to get stroppy letters from? Surely you don’t all agree with everything in Navvies these days, do you?

...to the editor

Dear Martin Two mentions of the 1971 Ashton Attack in the last edition of Navvies reminded me of the experience. I don’t think most of us realised at the time what a significant event it was, just that it was cold, extremely wet and very tiring. I don’t think I have ever enjoyed a shower so much as those we took at the swimming baths: and I can’t remember a drive as long as the one home to London in my Mini van. Most vivid memory? Seeing a car (less engine) being hauled out of the cut. For a few days afterwards I suffered mild flu-like symptoms. If that happened today I would be wondering about leptospirosis (what we used to call Weil’s disease). Colin Isaacson

A couple of pictures by Chris Griffiths of Ashton Attack (Ashtac) from 1971 to stir the memories

Coming soon: the survey We’ll be bringing you the full results of the latest survey ‘What’s your WRG tip?’ in the next issue, but in the meantime here’s a taster... WRG tips submitted by experienced diggers range from the succinct: “Beer.” …to the obvious: “DON’T bring your favourite clothes.” …to the practical: “Take a little tiny torch and leave it, illuminated, next to your bed if you get out to go to the loo in the silly hours. When you return it will help guide you back to your bed!” …to the smutty: “Always have ear plugs and an eye mask so you can hide from what is going on in the next bed!!” …to those learned through bitter experience: “Volunteers who have been digging multiple times may not necessarily know everything.” Thanks to everyone who submitted their tips. Have you anything to add? We’re still interested in hearing your advice, so keep on submitting at tiny.cc/WRGtips or using the full URL http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/H85NXWG

page 28


Progress

Our regular roundup of restoration progress around the country kicks off in Lincolnshire...

Sleaford Navigation

passing beneath the raised lift bridge. Canoeists from Boston and Sleaford canoe clubs Congratulations and Celebrations followed while visiting trailboats Olive and (Apologies to Cliff Richard fans!) Bobbles brought up the rear and gave Sleaford a glimpse of the variety of boats the The sun shone and the band played and it slipway will attract. felt as if most of Sleaford had turned out to A series of stalls gave Eastgate Green a help us celebrate the opening of the new lift positively carnival atmosphere and there bridge and slipway in the town on 3 July. It were cookery demonstrations and even a was wonderful to see so many well-wishers duck race to round off the day. It truly was a lining the banks of the Slea and to hear all community event with a hog roast, food the encouraging, positive comments. Local stalls, face-painting and canoeing. support for any restoration is vital and we Chris Hayes were very grateful to Sleaford Town Council for allowing the use of Eastgate Green for the event. I heard many comments throughout the day on how good it was to see boats back in the town again, and that unsolicited enthusiasm is really important to the Sleaford Navigation Trust. The culmination of 5 years’ work, this new Head of Navigation project was completed thanks to continued support from Mary Powell and funding from the Lincolnshire Waterways Partnership, WREN (Waste Recycling Environmental) and the Inland Waterways Association. The slipway and bridge allow Boats pass the new liftbridge in Sleaford (above) and small boats to access the top pound reach Cogglesford, current limit of navigation (below) but are also a statement of the Trust’s ultimate aim of full restoration to navigation of the remaining 4½ miles needed to connect the top pound to the restored section of the Sleaford Navigation. The slipway was formally opened when Lincolnshire County Councillor Eddie Poll and I cut the ribbon. John Lower’s boat Shandelle was then launched with due ceremony down the slipway and took Eddie Poll and David Pullen, SNT project manager of the slipway installation, on an inaugural trip down to Cogglesford Lock, SNT

SNT

Sleaford Navigation

page 29


Progress Lancaster and WCBS Lancaster Canal

Wooden Canal Boat Society The major boat work at present is on Southam which is having a large part of the left hand gunwales and conversion side renewed as they were going rotten. Work is also progressing on fitting Elton out as a floating workshop/store, now that the porous qualities of her bottom have been dealt with. The Bolinder engine, destined for Forget me Not, has had all the gunge removed from its lubricators and the engineers are looking for a way of replacing the absent reversing mechanism. Work at the Heritage Boatyard in Stalybridge has concentrated on fitting coping stones and building a

page 30

Pictures by LCT

Following a recent decision taken by the Lancaster Canal Trust, working parties have been busy during the summer repairing the Sellet Hall Bridge, the first bridge north of Stainton along the dry bed of the canal towards Kendal. A further working party is planned for the weekend of December 4th and 5th where a party from WRG North West will spend the weekend digging out the canal bed between Stainton and Sellet Hall. This work forms part of the short term plans devised by the Trust for restoration of the Northern Reaches to bring back into water the stretch of dry canal bed from Stainton up to Well Heads Lane (adjacent to Hincaster Tunnel) initially. If you are interested in helping our restoration, visit our website at lancastercanaltrust.org.uk or contact Paul Shaw on 0152435685. Photos (right) show the “before” and “after” views of Sellet Hall Bridge, Summer 2010. Trisha Buzzard

wood shelter. At present the vulnerability to vandalism prevents us leaving boats at the boatyard. CCTV equipment has been ordered so that it will be possible to monitor the land remotely. The charity shop in Ashton is crucial for funding the Society’s work. This has been developing steadily and it will be necessary to keep expanding this business in order to keep funding future boatbuilding and maintenance. Chris Leah

Sellet Hall Bridge before and after volunteer attention

LHCRT

LCT restore Sellet Hall Bridge, while WCBS work on Elton, Southam, and a Bolinder engine


Progress

Meanwhile in deepest Sussex, rebuilding of Isfield Lock on the Ouse continues

Sussex Ouse enced this year. If you think you can help please contact Ted on 01444-414413. We are also always pleased to welcome new members to the Trust, so if you wish to join us in any capacity then ring Bob Draper on 01825 763857, or e-mail him at membership@sxouse.org.uk. Terry Owen

Sussex Ouse

Pictures by SORT

With a successful summer now behind them the Sussex Ouse Restoration Trust’s working parties have closed down the site at Isfield Lock on the River Ouse for the winter. The previous report spoke of the great progress being achieved in the latest phase of restoration, the west chamber wall, during a dry early summer. That progress was maintained throughout the season and the target set for 2010 was reached before the autumn and the rain arrived. The restoration of the west chamber wall requires the removal of large quantities of soil from behind the damaged wall to a depth of 3m and replacing with reinforced concrete. The damaged and unstable chamber brickwork then requires demolition before being rebuilt with a mix of reclaimed and new bricks and tied in to the reinforced concrete. Back-filling the lock The completed section of chamber wall and (below) scafbank completes the work. The folding in place ready for the next length to br rebuilt 2010 target was to complete about 5m of the wall and this has been achieved. The next section of chamber wall now awaits the volunteers in the spring of 2011 when it is hoped to repeat the progress made this year with another 5m length of wall. Scaffolding is already in position in readiness for the work to begin. That progress will once again require the regular attendance at the site of the restoration team led by Paul Morris and co-ordinated by Ted Lintott, as well as a repeat of the fine weather experi-

page 31


Progress W&A and Wendover Wey & Arun Canal As we go to press, we are able to announce that the Wey & Arub Canal Trust has reached agreement with the National Trust to lease a piece of NT land known as ‘Guns Mouth Island’. This, for anybody with local knowledge, is the area between the river at Stonebridge and the A281, along the first part of the original Wey and Arun Canal. WACT regards this as a highly significant development - the first part in bringing to fruition its stated desire to begin work at the northern end of the canal, where it joins the River Wey, and thus the rest of the waterway network. Initial work will involve preliminary surveys and site investigations to enable plans for a landing stage to be prepared for approval. Another great piece of news is that a generous donation will allow WACT to further progress its plans for a new, highly ecofriendly visitor centre building which will be sited at the wharf at Loxwood, West Sussex, to supersede the infamous ‘black shed’ which provides the present base for the trip boats and public inquiry/sales stall. Initial designs for the new building had already been drawn up, aided by a further donation (via the chairman of the Wiggonholt Society, which provided much of the funding for the electric 50-seater boat named after the society). The new building will be fabricated by Fordingbridge Engineering of Fontwell. Work continues on the ground, of course. There is never any shortage of maintenance and improvement work on the navigable section and elsewhere. Much of the physical effort has concentrated on the summit level at Dunsfold, aided by an IWA SE grant. The canal there is in water, and doesn’t look too bad, but could do with being a lot deeper - as the recent small boat rally participants will confirm. Following the granting of planning permission, the next major project is Southland Lock (the next one to extend the navigable section towards the Wey). There’s plenty of preparatory work still to do, and as

page 32

expected, the permission granted by Chichester District Council includes many conditions, which will govern exactly what can be done and when. With the planning constraints in mind, the application for rebuilding the next lock towards the summit is now in preparation, although this is expected to be rather less sensitive than Southland. Bill Thomson

Grand Union Wendover Arm On the Wendover Arm Trust’s September work party, work continued on capping the pipeline in the canal bed with concrete (as preparation for reinstating the canal above it) including the capping of two manholes, one of which was only discovered when excavating for the pipeline capping as its cover was at a very low level. On the October work party, once again pipeline capping continued and 281 metres out of 350 metres of Stage 2 (the second of six stages into which the current project to rebuild the channel from Drayton Beauchamp to the current limit of navigation at Tringford has been divided) are now complete. The capping caught up with the bulk excavation completed at the July working party and this was extended ready for more pipe capping at the November working party. Vegetation on the towpath bank was removed up to the end of Stage 2. The major part of the excavation for the Stage 2 mooring wall was completed leaving the last 8" depth to be excavated prior to laying the blinding concrete. It has been suggested that the next temporary bund (enabling the rewatering of another length) should be in the narrows at Bridge 4A. This makes good sense as long as care is taken to position it so that a waterborne dredger can remove it in due course from the Little Tring side without being obstructed by the bridge span. On examination of the site this is a practical proposition. The intention is, therefore, to continue with the present Stage 2 pipe capping for 100 metres into Stage 3 which will take it some 13 metres past Bridge 4A and then close to the towpath bank where there is a manhole some 28 metres further on. The logical position for a further temporary bund is Bridge 4 where the grooves for stop planks have already been cast into the narrows. This would be a further 450 metres of rewatering, the same length that is now proposed for the extension of Stage 2 to Bridge 4A. Roger Leishman


Finally we head over to Suffolk where Baylham Lock on the Gipping (aka the Ipswich & Stowmarket) is seeing some progress

Progress Ipswich & Stowmarket

River Gipping

Photos by River Gipping Trust

Much progress has been made over the summer by the River Gipping Trust on our current main project, the restoration of Baylham Lock near Needham Market. The early part of the summer was spent in clearing brickwork from the east wall. The extent of the area to be demolished was extended when we discovered the brick facing upstream from the already demolished section had separated from the main wall. The bulk of the summer work then involved the rebuilding of most of the east wall. As well as our regular work parties, we undertook one intensive week of work in July with dumpers and an excavator on site which increased our progress tremendously. Using the Baylham Lock: the completed east side wall (above) and the retaindumpers we were able to backfill behind the re-built ing wall below the lock being prepared for rebuilding (below) wall and also cart away the cleaned rubble from the site. Thanks to JT Few for providing a free tip facility By September we were in a position to rebed the coping stones and grade the earth bank so that the east of the lock is now back to its original condition. October has seen us working on the upstream cill apron to rebuild lost brickwork, and on clearing a retaining wall below the lock chamber, ready for rebuilding. Away from Baylham, we have finished clearance work on the bank at Hawks Mill, Needham Market and replaced a commemorative bench nearby. As water levels rise through the winter, we will be working on bank clearance at Bosmere Lock and work to the bridge structure and path clearance at Pipps Ford Lock, subject to Environment Agency consent.

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Camp report

Two October Camps this year. First Tasterella brings us the Grand Western in her own inimitable style, and the inimitable styles of three dogs...

Grand Western Canal

perspective of one of those other groups, but let’s take the dogs’ eye view first. Hazel, Got there. Got lost on the way, obviously and Molly and Barnie. Spelt Barnie. ludicrously, but it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t. Molly: Day One; we arrive at a very Met them; banjaxxed them... vanquished splendid new accommodation, all sparkly scrub and tended bonfires; slashed and and clean. *shudder* We soon rectified that burned, weeded walls, walked and carried anomaly! Nice floors... now christened! Wonand scraped a caravan for two days, or was it derful aromas soon took over with boots, three? Found frogs and newts and got bitten socks and muddy trousers aplenty. There by midges and ate delicious meals (thanks was one shower which was luvverly but the Mitch and Phil the kitchen b*tch)... peeled a floor got very wet... we loved making paw ton of apples! The caravan scraping was one prints. All the humans made a nice comfy of Dennis’s Unexpected Tasks, which formed cushion for us and petted us nicely. Some of the ‘Subverted Plan’ Aspect of the camp. them objected to having their heads sat on Persons on camp: Squeezy and his when they were snoring, but we did it for the harem, Lines and his camera, the chain saw good of the group as a whole. gang, the caravan crew, the leaders, the Not much in the way of morsels offered locals, the Scoop Meister, the kitchen gang; as the greedy lot scoffed every scrap - espeand the Unpigeon- holed. This last bunch cially the one they call Rob, who ate about included me, Rob the ever hungry, Sarah the 50 sandwiches in 5 days... but who’s countEssex girl, Richard Tyler from Droitwich and ing? Same bloke decided to WALK back to various Others who floated in and out of my the village hall after work instead of having a orbit. Interestingly you would get a quite shower, which was a bit of extreme soap different view of the whole week from the dodging even by our standards. Seven miles!

Photos by Alan Lines

Camp 21: Grand Western Canal

...and the hard way

page 34Pulling stumps out the easy way...


Took him 3 hours. John Camp report, said he was lucky not to the official thingy: be arrested as a vaPersons on camp grant, seeing as he was included Gary from East wearing a bit of yellow Anglia, Paul from plastic tied with string Dartford, Harry from and a gaping hole near Slough, Barry under one arm, wellies (Exeter), Squidge, natch. Mark2 said Squeezy and their soon Compo was better to be born Squeedgee; dressed. Kirsty was person called Bungle going for the same who upset Bex with a award with the whole fire extinguisher, the ‘bandages round ankles Tweedles, Martyn with holding up trousers’ a la a ‘y’ who belongs to West Country rat catcher, Barnie, Jo and Clive but obviously this was who belong to Hazel post modern irony. and Molly; John, Barry, Barnie: Spent most Rob (Compo); Gavin of week tied to a gruesome with scoop and peeling metal box they Frailloop; Nikki and Bex, called the ‘caravan’ and and the ‘silky big boys’. getting covered in scrapings Frknose who belongs to The tree-felling crew do some aerial stuff Tyler, Richard, who of yellow, grey and white bits. Nobody took me for a actually prefers to be W.A.L.K. as they were ‘too busy’ with the grinding / called Richard, let it be noted. Sarah who sawing and scraping - and swearing - the task responded to Dennis “I bet you’re not used to seemed to necessitate. Dennis says this ‘caravan’ will heavy work” with “I lift fat people for a living”; replace the ‘chicken shed’ where a disproportionate which for my money wins quote of the week, amount of hours is spent sitting, eating and larriking trumping “you only get 6 points for a shag” or about. the whole ‘Pork’ thing, *nod to Mitch*. Hazel: What a lot of trees! And what a Leaders: Mark and Kirsty. Complelot of doing things with trees! Not just weeing mentary leading styles with Kirsty ‘Good up them either, but chopping, dragging, climb- Times’ Wallace being very Yin and Mark 2 the ing, throwing ropes into them, dragging Yang. Did I get that the right way round? stumps out with a thingy that broke and needs Mark assures me we all did magnificently and a lot of men standing around while it hapexceeded our daily targets. We were told pens... buzzing ferocious things that require *exactly* what to do by Mark every day and three men all kitted up in gear and looking then Dennis... would play at Cilla Black and very intense, and great whumps as they come surprise us. Clive tells us that Robin the crashing down... very landowner was sufficiently satisfying and macho and impressed with our work oooh and crowds of onethic to allow us onto his lookers. land; and hopefully we Tracy at leisure will be clearing the line of centre: Every day a very unfit the canal next camp! looking bunch of tramps Fingers crossed. This year trooped through reception we cleared the route for shedding leaves and clods of tractor access and demud and bunged up the showtreed most of Harris’ ers with detritus; on the way Moor, or it certainly out they dripped out and really, seemed that way. Much you simply couldn’t tell who AND many huge hugs to were men and who were all, once again the wrgies women. Not a pony tail, bit of continue to impress, lippy or scrap of pink joggers amaze and inspire me. Mark ‘Mk2’ on the brushcutter between them. Tasterella Taster

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Camp report

...then Alan Wiffen reports from a week of towpath laying, sleeping on a barge and watching the sun to down over Essex...

Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation

deck with weather station. With the exception of the cooks and Jayne who would not arrive until Sunday Leader: Rob Daffern most gathered on the sundeck to observe the Assistant: Helen (Purple Fairy) Dobbie. mother and father of all sunsets over the vast New Comers: Mrs Pat Crawford, John mudflats auguring well for Sunday’s weather. Tickle, Peter Lindsay, Liza Bennett. Sunday Saw us all at Hall Bridge toDofE-ers : Jenny Hooper, Hannah Murton, gether with Roy Chandler, Chairman of Essex James Archer, William Childs, And Ashley Waterways and Colin Edmonds their General Clarke-Walkin. Manager as a team building get-together Old Sweats: Maggie & Derek Eaton, Jayne getting to know each other on a giant scrub Donovan, Andy Helm, Adrian Sturgess, Alan bash along the offside clearing an almost Wiffen and Adrian Crow ( W/end ) impenetrable mass of briars, hawthorn, elder, Cooks: Sarah & David Patey. willow and rowan. Work started in earnest with Roy and Colin actively engaged feeding their The Task: After Dave (Moose) Hearnden’s new toy, a trailable chipper, to provide chips to team had demolished the Hall Bridge in cover the new footpath on the offside, come February it had been rebuilt by the nearby the end of the day the heap was about six feet housebuilders and we had to lay approach high. However, one thing we did learn was paths from the towpath to the new that none of the team had ever been on the bridge, build new ones on the offside to Moose School of Arson because it took an Freshwater Close on the new housing eternity to get the fires going. estate and clear a new footpath down the Returning to the Haybay we were offside toward Haybridge Basin to link with greeted by another sunset and a delicious an existing footpath behind the moorings in chicken and leek casserole courtesy of Sarah the Basin which eventually led to the next followed later by a few samples in the Jolly river crossing over the sealock. Sailor. Another task was at Little Baddow Lock Monday We all assembled again at Hall where the coping stones on one side had Bridge but now with the addition of a Kubota been pushed forward by land surge from mechanical spoon and a tracked mini behind to a point where they were about 3-4 dumper. Scrub clearance continued on the inches proud of the lock wall and an obvious offside and pathways began to be dug out. catch point for vessels locking up. This work We returned to Haybay but this time without had previously been attempted by contracthe sunset and very soon to be without tors who had given up on the job. power as the whole ship’s electrics fused. Saturday 23rd October 2010: Adrian went searching and sometime later Parked in the Jolly Sailor carpark to look for power was restored although dinner of cotthe barge Haybay which turned out to be a tage pie was late. During the evening some huge London lighter belonging to London of the group went bowling in Maldon. borough which had been converted into a Tuesday The day started grey and floating hostel for visiting youth educational overcast which was to lead to steady incesgroups. The hold had been converted into 8 sant light rain all day. Roy, Colin ,Rob and four-bunk dormitories, complete with matAlan went across to Little Baddow to assess tresses, pillows and even sleeping bags, plus the job that needed to be done and sort out two shower blocks and a huge drying room. what tools would be needed. The superstructure on top consisted of Back at Hall Bridge shuttering began for a foyer, fully equipped galley and a large the new paths onto the housing estate. Alan open lounge and on top of that an open roof and Ashley were sentenced to a period of

Camp 22 Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation For Essex Waterways

page 36


penal servitude smashing large lumps of concrete down to a more manageable size for the paths. Work began putting road planings down from the bridge to the original towpath where our youngest and slightest member, Hannah who is far from being a size 8 showed her mettle by manoeuvring the Wacker plate around like a supermarket trolley. Back at base everyone was glad to be out of the weather only for the fuse to blow again leaving us all in the dark and Rob in nothing but a towel. The offending item was traced to one of the mens showers which was isolated but of course it did make our dinner of Pork and Apple casserole late again. Wednesday Alan, Peter, John, Lisa and Jenny headed off to Paper Mill lock to transfer their tools onto the EWL workboat for onward transmission to Little Baddow lock. John immediately set to with brush cutter and strimmer to clear the site of a forest of teasels which grew to a height of 5 feet. The rest of the party started to dig out a trench behind the coping stones to ascertain what lay behind and beneath them. We discovered that the lock walls extended about 9 inches beyond the stones and the walls looked to have been built by Boadicea. The coping stones ranged from 3' x 2' x 1' to 5' x 2' x 1' and were laid on a bed of mortar from half inch to 2" thick some with granite space/levellers as in dry stone walling and the vertical pointing consisted of mortar together with mud and buttercup or twitch grass roots which we tried our best to clear. At the bridge site work continued on the pathways and the original mooring pins got a scrub up and a coat of paint courtesy of James. Thursday Weather dull and overcast, later to become warm and sunny. At the Bridge site another load of 18 tons of road planings was delivered right to the foot of the bridge. Alan, Peter, John, Lisa and Pat returned to Little Baddow with John and the ladies continuing with the site clearance and regeneration. Peter and Alan took to the boat in the lock with a lowered water level. Having prepared the ground the previous day and confirmed that all the stones were loose they attempted to shift the first stone, the big 5' job and after much heaving with two six-foot prybars and much degree-level swearing managed to get back to within an inch of where it was wanted. Trying to shift stones

weighing tons from a workboat, which squaddies refer to as tea trays, whose displacement is measured in ounces, is not easy. Going on to the second stone, again a big one, we were able to remove about 2" bed of mortar giving access to the frog of the top brick in the wall giving much more leverage to push up and back at the same time giving the impetus to get it right back and likewise free up the first stone to get that into finished position. The remaining five stones being smaller were easier and by the end of the day they were all back in place ready for re-pointing. Their return journey to Paper mill was somewhat more eventful as the tea tray was not used to having 6 adults, 6 bags of aggregate various and all the tools in it so the little outboard decided to overheat and only just made it back home.. During the evening several of the party journeyed to Braintree to the cinema. Friday Day broke with quite strong winds 8/10 knots on the Beaufort scale and threatening clouds. After some overnight maintenance the workboat just about made it back to Little Baddow. After authorisation from Roy and Colin, Alan and Peter set about pointing the coping stones back into place. The trench behind the coping stones was filled in, the turfs replaced and the surplus soil used to repair some holes around the site and fill in behind a recently installed canoe portage landing stage which was landscaped with grass taken from the paths used by the lock gate pushers. Three large bags of refuse flytipped by anglers and boaters was removed from the site. The party then returned to Paper Mill lock breasted up to a trip boat because the outboard by now had given up the ghost. At the bridge progress was excellent; the wood chips created on Sunday were laid along the new offside footpath and all the road planings spread onto the new footpaths, wackered into place smooth hard paths. All the tools were accounted for, cleaned and returned to the trailer. On returning to Haybay the wind had got up to 18/22 knots so most stayed indoors after enjoying an absolutely delicious meal of roast pork and all the bits. Saturday Saw Haybay get a thorough spring clean and we all left happy after a well led and surprisingly warm and sunny October camp. Alan Wiffen

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Dig report Reunion on the Montgomery

“An unheard signal will cause the herd to leave their toil and troop to the watering hole...”

animal kingdom for their strimming device and their harsh cries, as one after another fine tree is felled and left for dead. The rest [in the voice of David Attenborough] descend and strip the carcass using their claws; and very soon little remains of the Crickheath and the Marches school are the vegetation. habitat of choice for the Autumnal flocking of An unheard signal will cause the herd the wergs. to leave their toil and troop to the watering In their distinctive red fronted plumage hole, where much pumpkin soup is dewith flash of the ‘’high vis’’ yellow on their voured, and the Martian droppings are tasted backs they make a fine sight as they descend and snaffled. on the willow,hazel and brambles. Their unuNocturnal noises and squeakings and sual peaked head crest can be seen all along snufflings can be heard emerging from their the towpath as they denude the thickly covered quilted sleeping nests; many odd and inexsward and leave only ashes, embers and the plicable activities defeated our camera team occasional redmarked stump in their wake. Not as it is only with night vision cameras that unlike the locusts they arrive, strip and transthe truth of certain rumoured but unsubstanfigure the landscape of the canal bed... and tiated activities can be recorded and verified. they can’t half scoff the grub an’all. The silverbacks of the herd were full of The alpha males are unique in the trumpetings about ‘800 yards’ and ‘leaking

Photos by Martin Ludgate

6-7 Nov 2010 BBC4 and the WRG reunion

page 38


sections investigated and surveyed’ and ‘Best canal in the Uk’ as well as boasts about ‘within 5 years’ but these and other mutterings have yet to be fully understood by anthropologists, and certainly not by the BBC camera crew. Meanwhile Nic the Beer King and other Ale Enthusiasts could be heard extolling various brews and getting agitated about sludge or some such malarkey. The BBC team were most keen to interview the younger more photogenic members of the WRG; and also were exercised by enigmas such as: WHY are you doing this? And you PAY to be here and get splinters,back ache, eyes smarting from smoke, deafened by the loudest toilet flush in history - Was this the Harrier Jet of all flushes? - and sleep on the floor in a gym full of snoring? Only the true WRGs can really answer these questions, but there were 120 members present (or as Lou and Harry and Jude and the rest of the kitchen magicians said ‘I actually have no idea how many of us there are!’). 120 wrgs can’t be wrong, can they? Tasterella Taster But seriously folks... as alluded to in the above report, around 120 volunteers descended on the Montgomery Canal for the Reunion Dig, and made a great deal of progress continuing our work from last year clearing the next length of canal beyond the current limit of navigation. This is very important work, as we need to prepare for re-lining this length of canal, which appears to have suffered from leakage problems, so that it can be reopened as the next stage towards bringing boats back to the Welsh border at Llanymynech, then to Welshpool and beyond. We have two camps there next summer - book your place now! Finally, thanks to the the leaders, the cooks, Nic for beer, Mr Mac for tea, Mole for t-shirt design, all the volunteers for turning up and working so hard, and anyone else we’ve forgotten.

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WRG BC News from our own boat club

Some of WRG’s boating contingent are crossing the Mersey and waiting to cruise the Droitwich Canals

Most of the replies I have had so far are in favour of continuing to hold the AGM at The National but no final decision has been made yet. Finally, congratulations to members Bernard and Ann Hughes, who won the A P Herbert Trophy for the longest journey to the National at Beale Park this year. The route they took was over 400 miles and goodness knows how many locks. Well done. xxx Sadie Dean

WRG Boat Club News

Martin Ludgate

Not much news at this time of year – all the subs we are going to get have been paid in and so we have been able to make the agreed donations towards Inglesham and The Mont. News of the Droitwich canals, from ‘our man on the spot’ is that, as I write, the Barge Canal is closed because the water level in the Selwarpe is too low to enable water to be taken from it in Droitwich. If it rains, the canal may open but if it rains a lot the Sev*by email, phone, text, snail mail all grateern will be closed anyway! Luckily there are fully received! sadiedean@msn.com now some pontoons on the Severn for boats 07748186867 or 01733 204505 waiting for the lock landing. In times of Severn floods, the first lock will be under water and the silt will have to be cleared away before lock use. The only water supply to the locks east of the M5 on the Junction Canal will be whatever comes down the Worcester and Birmingham Canal. If lots of boats ‘do the ring’ (Worcester – Hanbury – Droitwich – Severn back to Worcester), there won’t be much water at Hanbury. The M5 culvert is very low (so you’ll need to clear the boat roof). A brook enters the canal in that pound so water levels will vary. If there are flash floods it could become very tricky! The good news is that work has actually started on the remaining blocked section. I agree that this is a waterway that we, as a club, would like to visit and help at any working party or works in progress. As for cruising we must tackle it as soon as possible – if we can find it open. It will be our Club Cruise for 2011. Usual cruising rules apply – start when and where you wish - begin at the beginning - go on to the end – when you have finished, stop, then let me know how you get on, photos too if possible.* I have written to all members asking if they require an AWCC handbook in 2011, few have replied. It is possible to download it, which will save us postage. Cruise it next year? Bottom lock on the Droitwich

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WRG BC members head for Liverpool Nackered Navvy being wrapped in a WRG flag! ...and cross the Mersey

Departure on 21 June was at dawn, which heralded glorious sunshine and light winds. We left Brunswick lock about an hour before the top of the tide, but it was pretty exciting to see water dashing past buoys and identifying the 8 boats of the first locking-out which by this time were well up-river. Rather disturbing was to be instructed (by VHF or shouting!) to wait. Figures-of-eight can only be done on the Mersey in such benign conditions at the top of the tide and under fhe control of a river pilot! When we saw two large ships enter the river and head up to Eastham lock (the entry to the Manchester Ship canal) the reason for this magical dance became clear. We followed the ships up to Eastham, passing under the stern of a large tanker (registered in Georgetown) and into the barge lock prepared for us. We waited a little while to see two more tankers come through, and then we were off up the Manchester Ship Canal. Some boats continued on to the River Weaver whilst we enjoyed the delights of the Ellesmere Port Boat Museum. Two days later we cruised on to Chester to join the other 92 boats gathered there for the Tom Rolt Centenary celebration, which was another splendid occasion, superbly organised and in glorious weather. Many thanks to BW for making access to Liverpool so good these days and to IWA’s Ian Fletcher and Mike Carter for organising such a wonderful cruising event. Heather and David Howarth NB Wild Otter

Heather Howarth

This report begins at Bridge 9 of the Leeds & Liverpool canal, where Wild Otter was part of that day’s convoy of eight boats to be escorted into the Liverpool docks. (This must be booked in advance by ringing BW’s Wigan office) The 4 hours to the top of the Stanley flight include 2 busy main road lift bridges, so BW staff operate these to get the convoy through quickly. Memories of rubbish and weed-strewn canal passing through scenes of dereliction were erased as we chugged through mainly pleasant surroundings with delight; never once visiting the weed hatch! The four wide Stanley locks lead into the docks, turn left for the UK’s newest canal with stunning views of the Three Graces buildings and the Liver Birds. Two more locks set by BW friendly staff and into Canning and Albert docks to arrive at Salthouse dock. Here BW have provided pontoons, water, electricity and regular rubbish collections, but as yet no sewage disposal. So good luck with the public loos! Boaters’ opinions were that Liverpool is now the best city centre mooring in the country with museums, art galleries, two cathedrals, Beatles memorabilia, and a full range of excellent shops, cafes and restaurants all within easy strolling distance. Brilliant! Wild Otter and the Sue and Roger Burchett’s Nackered Navvy were part of the 29-boat convoy to cross the Mersey and we made an impressive sight in the boat parade for a mile or so through the dock system,

Nackered Navvy carries the banner for WRG in Liverpool Docks

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Navvies News Canalway Cavalcade needs you! Legionnaires Disease A recent press release from the Health & Safety Executive reminded us all that, although the real risk for Legionnaires disease is enclosed water systems such as air conditioning systems, the bacteria are present (and usually start) in ordinary water courses such as reservoirs, rivers and canals. Yes, you could catch it while digging! The symptoms are similar to Weil’s disease in that they resemble the symptoms of flu, but of course that means it has the same problem as Weil’s disease in that, without any other clue, a doctor will just diagnose it as flu. So if you do go to your doctor with something a bit fluey best remind him about the sort of thing you do at weekends! Full details on HSE website (we will be adding it to our safety briefings next year). Mike Palmer

...on avoiding nasty diseases, the Birmingham Canal Navigations and Little Venice...

Titford Canal work parties From the BCN Society magazine...

At the Birmingham Canal Navigations Society Summer rally this year held at the BCNS headquarters at the former pumphouse on the Titford Canal, a number of boats had difficulty coming up the six locks to the pumphouse because some of the gates were difficult to open fully, due to debris behind the gates. Our work party organiser Mike Rolfe and I thought that cleaning out the lock chambers and pounds would be a suitable project for this winter’s work parties. The work will involve draining each pound in succession and removing rubble & rubbish, which will be loaded onto workboats. In addition we would clear culverts and remove reeds from around them and cut back vegetation. Under New Management!! One lock and pound would be drained on each workparty. The work on each lock Little Venice Canalway Cavalcade and pound will have to be completed and the Camp – Volunteers needed. canal refilled, in one working day so we shall After many years of dedicated service, Dave ‘Moose’ Hearnden has stepped down as need a large workforce. ‘wrg1’ at Canalway Cavalcade. I’m sure many As well as labourers and vegetation cutters we shall need volunteers to act as of you will join me in thanking Moose and Maria for all their time and effort in helping to banksmen to keep the general public away make the event a success year after year. from the work area, canteen staff for the workforce and someone to net the fish in the But now the hefty torch has been passed on, and to that end I am looking for pound, so there is something for everyone. some bright, enthusiastic volunteers (to join Personal protective equipment (PPE), including thigh waders will be provided but you the bright, enthusiastic volunteers I already have!) who are available between Wednesday will need your own Wellingtons or stout 27th April and Tuesday 3rd May 2011 (i.e. boots. We’re attracting you by providing snacks including bacon butties and the usual over the extended May Day bank holiday). Even if you can only do a day or two your teas and coffee. help will still be much appreciated! All workparties will be held on a SaturThe work involves providing site services day. The dates are: 8th January 2011, 22nd to this small, friendly festival near Paddington January 2011, 12th February 2011, 26th in London. It’s my favourite waterways event February 2011. If you would like to help with and if you’ve never been before, I’m sure you’ll this work, please contact the BCN Society’s love it too! If you’d like to register your interwork party organiser, Mike Rolfe, on 07763 est or find out more, please drop me an email 171735 or alternatively myself by email to – ejw@giantwasp.co.uk. Thanks! candgwhorton@btinternet.com. Liz Wilson Graham Whorton, BCNS Chairman

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Leaders and cooks update

And on the subject of leaders...

Helen Gardner ran a session at the Reunion weekend to explain a bit about what is involved in being a leader. She managed fairly successfully to ignore the barrage of heckling and abuse and deliver a presentation before dinner was served, covering such subjects as paperwork, accounts and planning. If you missed it and want to find out more then the content is all in a document entitled ‘Leaders Guidance Notes’. Jenny Black will be able to supply you with a copy if you ask nicely. One of the concerns that cropped up was that some leaders worried about finding a cook. So we’re collating a list of people who are prepared to cook on a camp whether you are part of a cooking team, or you’re someone who would just do dinners or you’re a full blown ‘cakes ahoy’ week-long cook; whether you’re a regular camp cook or just think you might fancy it at some point we’d love to write you down on our list. We promise not to hassle you - it’s just that sometimes it’s difficult to think of people who are actually happy to cook and if we had a list to refer to it would make the appointment of cooks much easier. Please email helen_gardner@hotmail.com or James Butler on whoami@youngcaravan.org. Note that WRG will pay for aspiring cooks to do a basic food hygiene course (and of course any of our cooks who need a refresher). Finally, the leaders’ training day has been booked for 14th May 2011 at Corley Village Hall, near Coventry. More information about it and how to book next year.

Thank you to new leader Sophie Smith for the following... Seven things I learnt as a first-time leader 1

Yes, bee stings DO need an accident report form

2

Whatever end of site you’re at, you always feel like you should be at the other

3

Never query why WRG volunteers personally own kit like pumps, tirfors etc. They think it’s perfectly normal.

4

Camp leadership is 90% scrounging kit to get the job done.

5

Don’t despair if things are accomplished despite rather than because of your leadership .

6

What seems unachievable on Tuesday morning can sometimes be completed by the end of Thursday

7

Pro-active people are worth their weight in gold

If you have any tips on leading digs or just digging in general, please share them at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/H85NXWG or tiny.cc/WRGtips.

Apologies... ...for an error in the last issue. When we said that the minimum Navvies subscription rate would be going up to £3.00 from the start of 2012, we actually meant the start of 2011.

Martin Ludgate

And speaking of Navvies...

From Helen’s presentation: can you work out who Chris is supposed to represent?

As this is the last issue for 2010, the editor would like to thank everyone who has contributed words, pictures or anything else to the magazine this year; also Dave Wedd for compiling the diary; Robert Goundry for collecting the canal society progress reports; John Hawkins for printing (plus the team of envelope-stuffing volunteers); Chris Griffiths of Stroudprint; Sue Watts for subs; Head Office for their help; and to the readers for being so appreciative. Have a good Christmas, all the best for2011, and I hope to see some of you on the New Year Camp. Martin Ludgate

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NOTICEBOARD Navvies price to increase

NAVVIES DIRECTORY UPDATES River Gipping Trust The contact details given in the Diary (regulars) section in recent issues have been out of date. The contact is now Martin Bird, Restoration manager,Tel: 01394 380765 Friends of the Cromford Canal Apologies for giving a wrong phone number in the last Navvies for new contact George Rogers. It should read 07789 493967 instead. The next issue of Navvies will contain the full directory of WRG and canal society contact details. Please send any additions, deletions or updates to the editor by the press date 1 January 2011. Thank you.

We have reluctantly decided to increase the Navvies minimum subscription price to £3.00 per year with effect from the start of 2011.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.

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 £22,390 towards the £125,000 target as we went to press - and we hope to schedule some weekend work parties there in February and March. 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)

Stamps wanted

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

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

Moving house Ian and Liz Williamson have moved to Lock House, 545 Canal Bridge, Semington BA14 6JT. Phone 01380 870654 They say “We look forward to seeing any WRG boaters who are passing on the K&A”.

Congratulations to Emma and Mark Scoble on the arrival of Louise Megan Scoble on 31 October to Rachel & Tom Jeffries on the arrival of Ruben George Kendrick Jeffries on 27 October and to Maria Alderman and Dave ’Moose’ Hearnden on getting married

page 44 Louise Megan Scoble born 31 Oct 8lb 12oz to Mark and Emma Scoble


Backfill Featuring ‘Dear Deirdre’ Dear Deirdre I love digging with WRG and by joining various different groups around the country I’m able to dig every weekend. Much as I enjoy my hobby, I’m a bit worried my sense of perspective has become a bit skewed. For instance, when I was made redundant recently my first thought was “oh good, I’ll be able to do more camps now”. When my house was repossessed I thought it was an excellent opportunity to buy a caravan and enjoy a better night’s sleep on camp, and when I was diagnosed with drug-resistant tuberculosis last month my main concern was that it might affect my bricklaying. Am I normal or am I developing a monomania? PS Also, what is a monomania? My wife shouted something about it last week just before she slammed the caravan door behind her and she hasn’t yet come back for me to ask her. - Bill, via email

Deirdre answers your questions on developing a monomania and helping out the polar bears... Deirdre writes: Being honest, I think your monomania is probably the least of your worries right now. Rest assured that it won’t stop you fitting in with WRG and the sound of your coughing at night will have the added bonus of drowning out the snoring. Dear Deirdre When washing clothing after a dig, my inclination is towards a hot wash with extra rinse cycle. I’m aware however that we’re all meant to be washing at 30 degrees now to help out the polar bears. What’s your advice? Oh, and also - how do I remove diesel stains from brushed cotton? - SP, Sodding Chipbury

Deirdre writes: I solved this problem years ago by just burning all my clothes as soon as I get back from a weekend. Sure, it’s expensive but I find it saves hassle in the long run. That diesel will help get the flames going.

The WRG 40th birthday party games: the answers Last time we reported on A History of the WRG in 40 Objects - the entertainment at our 40th anniversary party in August. Three of the ‘objects’ were the basis for games at the party, and we included the three games in Navvies. So over to Helen ‘Bush baby’ Gardner for the answers, the scores, and a selection of the entertaining entries... Firstly the Vanagrams game. There was a little confusion over this exercise – maybe it was too much of object number 1 [beer]. The idea was to see how many words you could get by using some or all of the letters on the registration plates of the vans listed: PFD JDB BAM RAK VRK AOD CFT ADX VOJ LRY NUH GCW FEH SAD RFB EHP DPY NEM (or any other WRG vans past or present) – anagram using vans – vanagram - gettit?? They didn’t have to be canals. There was no ‘i’ – and sneaking in a 1 did not fool us. Some teams thought the idea was to make up three letter acronyms – no – but the attempts were amusing: Red, Fat and Bearded. Really F***ing Broken. Frazzled Exhausted Horny. Got Cold Wellies. Everywoman Had Palmer. Very Ordinary Journeys. Perfect For Digging. Team Bogs Assets tried to be clever by fitting in the registration plates into words so ‘antioxidant’ was allowed as it contains A, D and X. Nope. But inventive none the less. An anonymous team came up with: supercalafragalisticxpalidocioius (that’s how it was written). A special mention to team Ellen’s Audience for sucking up with ‘Graham feeds dream for canal work’. But the results: In first place by miles: Grandad’s Angels. And second: Elanor’s Team but I’ve completely lost control of the others. Finally – in joint third for ‘getting it’: Rhiannon and Niv, AJ & Crew, and The Mike Steven’s Memorial Misprints. And some of the words made by the winning team: ‘Rough poof Bungle cranks saucy floodgates hunter’.

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The next game was called Whose Beard is it Anyway. Eight pictures of WRG girls (OK one of them wasn’t a girl) had facial hear from wellknown WRG blokes superimposed on them. Contestants had to name the beard-wearer as well as the beard-owner. We gave you the pictures last time, so here they are again, but with the answers this time...

2: Ali Moore with Roger Burchett’s beard

3: Jude Palmer with Mike Palmer’s beard

6: Kate Penn with Roger Burchett’s beard (again) 1: Alice Bayston with Steve Morley’s beard

5: Adam ‘Digger’ Morris with a fake Eddie Jones beard

4: Ju Davenport with Martin Ludgate’s beard

7: Suzie Walker with Daddy Cool’s moustache

8: Viv Watson-Day with Harry Watts’ beard

Answers we particularly liked were: From Peter Smedley the ‘girls’ included Mummy, Tim, Daddy, James, Cath and Nick, while the beard-owners included Helen and Liz. Team name that deserved a mention was ‘More Beard’, whose answers also referred to ‘Dirty Ju’. The Winners: all three got all the ‘girls’ (including Digger) right; it was the owners of the beards that proved trickier. In third place: Gintoxicated with 13 points; runners up: Suzie’s Not a WRGie with 14; winners Mike Steven’s Memorial Misprints with 15 out of a possible 16. Well Done to everyone who took part. Finally the nicknames round: a simple one, this - all you had to do was give the real name of everyone in the list of nicknames. Again, we included the questions in the last issue so here they are with the answers: Sparky Graham Robinson Teacher Chris Chris Blaxland The Hands Ian Williamson Fast Eddie Mark Jones Harry Watts Chris Watts Flash Harry Harry Arnold Welsh Phil Phil Scott Phil the Bitch Phil Rodwell Moose Dave Hearnden Bush Baby Helen Gardner Flood gates Martin Ludgate Tenko Dave Johnson Fagin Alan Jervis Boreham Colin Butler Rising Damp Brian Haskins

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Piggy Graham Palmer MK2 Mark Richardson Bogs John Baylis The Tweedles Alex Bibby Helen Purple Fairy Helen Dobbie and Lucas Bibby Geeza Chris Chris Rowell Digger Adam Morris Nightmare Ed Ed Walker Bookend Ken Goodwin or Graham Dizzy Lizzie Gittoes Palmer (aka ëa pair of bookends) Daddy Cool Dave Worthington Brahms John Heap Sleepy Dave David Miller Colonel Mustard Darryl Foster Bungle George Eycott Sweet pea James Hodgson Acorn Neil Edwards Ali Mac Alison Mackender Palmer John Palmer Womble Alison Bottomley Palmerette Mike Palmer Smudge Joanne Tarrant Mac Ian McCarthy Dr Steve Steve Wyatt Mr Mac David McCarthy Taz Dave Tarrant Timmy Ducksquasher Tim Lewis Steve Bloody Johnson Steve Johnson


Lady Essex Naomi Harger Gav Gav Gavin Moor Jude's Dad Dave Moore Muppet Sean Connor Stevie Bollox Steve Paice Butch Rachel Parr

Navy Brian Brian Edwards KP Ken Parish Long Tall Sarah Sarah MacNee Long Tall Helen Helen Temple Cookie Craig Craig Greenaway Ernie Brian Hearne

Andi Girl Andi Kewley Mole Paul Cattermole Nel Ian Nelson Mitch Michelle Gozna Marshmallowman Nic Bennett Just Jen Jen Leigh

My marking has been fair – you needed the first name and surname to get the point (or both Tweedles for that particular one) but I awarded half points here and there. But not for the obvious e.g. for Helen the Purple Fairy an answer ‘something Dobbie’ would have been awarded 1/2 point – but ‘Helen something’ would not. We were also allowing Tamarisk Kaye or Dave Tarrant for the name ‘Taz’. And I was a bit lenient on the spellings. In first place: Ellen’s Audience with a clear 53 (which is good because we’d all forgotten to put Dr Liz’s nickname in the original quiz). In second with a nice use of a nickname in the team name: Bogs’Assets with a generous 52. Finally anonymous were third with 49 (but to identify them they said Steve Plaice and not Paice – and they had very nice writing in block capitals. A very clean quiz sheet – no rambling, abuse, scribbles or made up rubbish). I don’t know who won overall. Mike and Jude I think. The judge’s decision is final and all the answer sheets have now gone to the paperchase so there is no room for querying the results. Helen Gardner

How much of a WRGie are you? Answer the questions below and count your scores at the end. Sunday nights are for A Songs of Praise followed by A Touch of Frost B catching up on the ironing C a heavy soil wash and putting arnica cream on bruises Tesco Value Mince is… A the devil’s own excreta B about 1 or 2% ‘animal derived product’; 98% soy, breadcrumbs and cardboard C food of the gods: cheap, nourishing and makes a smashing lasagne A Scafspan is… A something you need to see a dermatologist about B maybe some kind of screwdriver? C in my pocket right now just in case How do you sleep best? A after a hot bath, a milky drink and on an edge-sprung mattress B after a busy and productive day outdoors C anywhere really if I just drink enough first

Bed hopping is... A a disgusting activity practiced by the French B not very sensible, with all these diseases you hear about C all part of the fun Give yourself 1 point for every ‘A’ answer, 2 points for every ‘B’ answer and 3 points for every ‘C’ answer. Fewer than 10 points: You’re not much of a WRGie at all really – what are you even doing reading this magazine? Why don’t you go and have a lie down before the pictures of people working make you feel dizzy. 10-15 points: Good effort but you are a long way from becoming a real WRGie. Why don’t you go on a few more digs and try and toughen up a bit? More than 15 points: Congratulations, you are a fullyfledged WRGie. It’s likely you remember Graham Palmer, married or are dating a fellow WRGie and are the veteran of many digs and camps. You could whip up a lasagne for 17 blindfolded, drive an excavator with both hands tied and work a tirfor with just your teeth. As a final step towards enlightenment you might consider signing up for one more camp, as your expertise will come in handy.

Scenes you seldom see on a dig No 3:

Your favourite and most practical item of clothing is: A nearly 2 years old B more than 4 years old C seventeen years old and they don’t even make them like that anymore Safety regs are… A for, like, nuclear power plants and stuff? B probably a good thing C a matter of life and death. Want to see my scars?

“I really don’t see any point in taking my Land Rover to site today”

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Profile for The Inland Waterways Association

Navvies 244  

Navvies magazine for volunteers restoring the waterways

Navvies 244  

Navvies magazine for volunteers restoring the waterways