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navvies volunteers restoring

waterway recovery group

waterways

Issue No 238 December-January 2009-10


Navvies Production

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

Navvies is published by Waterway Recovery Group, Island House, Moor Rd., Chesham HP5 1WA and is available to all interested in promoting the restoration and conservation of inland waterways by voluntary effort in Great Britain. Articles may be reproduced in allied magazines provided that the source is acknowledged. WRG may not agree with opinions expressed in this magazine, but encourages publication as a matter of interest. Nothing printed may be construed as policy or an official announcement unless so stated otherwise WRG and IWA accept no liability for any matter in this magazine.

Martin Ludgate

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

Directors of WRG: Rick Barnes, John Baylis, Mick Beattie, Malcolm Bridge, Spencer Collins, Christopher Davey, Roger Day, Neil Edwards, George Eycott, Adrian Fry, John Hawkins, Jennifer Leigh, Judith Palmer, Michael Palmer, Jonathan Smith. Secretary: Neil Edwards ISSN: 0953-6655 Š 2009 WRG

Mike Chase

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.

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


Contents In this issue...

Editorial sign the petition - or don’t 4-5 Coming soon Chelmer camp, Barn Dance, Easter camp, BCN Cleanup 6-7 Camp reports Chesterfield, Mon & Brec and Grand Western canals 8-17 WRGBC what’s our boat club up to? 18-19 Diary canal camps and weekend digs 20-22 Survey best and worst dig sites revealed 23 Progress a roundup of restoration progress on projects around the country 24-26 Reunion report from the Montgomery 40th anniversary weekend 27-30 40 years on Mike Day looks back 31-33 National IWA Festival camp report 34-35 News leaders needed - and interviewees 36 Noticeboard how many more kids? 37 Infill Deirdre, dogs and diggers 38-39

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 239: January 1st.

Above: a boatload of clay heads up the Chelmer & Blackwater for bank protection - see p6 Left: clearing the Mon & Brec on the October camp - see report, p1417 Below: concrete wall under construction on the Chesterfield - see p8-10 Front cover Working on the sluice chamber on the Grand Western camp - see p1113 (John Hawkins) Back cover: “Timber!” - chainsaw in action on the Reunion - see p28-30. (Martin Ludgate)

Mike Chase

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

all the latest news of WRG's activities page 3


Editorial

“If BW is stripped of its property, the waterways lose £40m a year of income”

Should BW be stripped and flogged?

A boating issue or a voting issue? Yes, it’s that time again - or it will be in a few months’ time. The time when politicians of all colours are after our votes in the General Election. And once again, the waterways seem to have become something of a hot topic politically. Last time it was the Conservative opposition who were proposing to strip British Waterways of the property portfolio which currently provides rental income that pays for a fair slice of the waterways’ maintenance budget, and flog it off to help balance the country’s books. This time, it’s the Labour government that’s considering doing the same thing - except that they’re quite likely to do it before the election’s even been called, so it’s not like anyone can stop them by voting them out. Life begins at forty Of course, that assumes that waterways supporters actually want to stop them. InBy the time you read this we will be deed, there’s a school of thought that says very close to welcoming-in the year BW should never have built up a commercial 2010 - which in case you hadn’t property empire in the first place - and that realised, is WRG’s 40th birthday year. the income from this property simply encourages the Government to cut its grants We will no doubt have an approprifurther. Wouldn’t it be better to concentrate ate celebration, of which there will be on fighting for a decent grant from the Govdetails in future issues of Navvies. ernment (and whatever other sources of And we’re open to suggestions. grants there might be), rather than the present situation where BW can defend all On a more serious note we are also sorts of unsympathetic office and housing planning to interview 40 people who developments all along our historic waterhave played a role in WRG’s first four ways on the grounds that “we need the decades, and publish the interviews income from them to keep the canals open in a series of Navvies articles. See because we don’t get enough cash from the page 36 for more information. Government”. On the other hand, some believe that a steady income from property investments (and the rental might actually be fairly steady, despite the value of the property having been anything but steady recently) is better than being at the mercy of any Government - and the dead hand of the Treasury - especially when money’s tight and you’re up against ‘deserving’ causes like health or education. But those arguments are for the long term. In the short term, if BW is stripped of its property, the waterways lose £40m a year of income. And in the present climate no Government, whether Tory, Labour, Liberal, UKIP or Monster Raving Loony Party, is likely to make up that shortfall in extra grants. Without that income, the canals will start to suffer badly from lack of maintenance. And folks will start to ask (indeed they are already starting to ask) what the point is in restoring derelict canals when we can’t maintain the ones we’ve got. So what can we do about it? Well, quite possibly by the time you read this the decision will already have been made - but decisions can be changed, right up until it actually happens. So in the short term you can start by adding your name to the online petition at http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/protectourcanals. Sure, there’s a lot of scepticism about how much effect these petitions have - and sadly I can’t see Gordon Brown looking at it over breakfast and saying “Bloody hell, there’s five hundred WRGies just signed the petition - we’d better drop our plans right away!” But however little notice the Government actually take, there are a couple of important points in favour. Firstly, a rather negative point:

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Martin Ludgate

perhaps even a well-supported petition might not do much good, but a poorly-supported one could do a lot of harm. So given that it’s already been started, we need to support it to avoid giving the impression that nobody cares what happens to BW. And secondly, the more signatures it gets, the more likely it is to make the national media and put canals in the limelight. So for the short term, we need your signatures - and letters to your MPs. But for the slightly longer term, what we need is the level of support that might actually push the waterways permanently onto the political agenda as rather more than something to flog off when you need some dosh. And that’s a tall order. Because impressive though it might be if we can get thirty or forty thousand boaters and waterways enthusiasts to sign their names, and to support organisations like our parent body IWA in lobbying politicians, it’s still pretty small beer compared to (say) the National Trust’s 3.6 million members. But if we’re going to get anything like that sort of numbers supporting the waterways and making it clear to the politicians that our issues can’t just be swept away, then we need the support of more than just the boaters and waterways enthusiasts - hence the heading at the top of this article. We’re going to have to become friends with the anglers, the towpath cyclists, the casual visitors who just like a stroll along a towpath, and - heaven forbid - the nature conservationists! How do we do that? And can we manage it without selling-out on everything we believe in? Is it something that will fit in with BW’s ‘2020 Vision’ proposals to take itself out of direct Government control and into the charitable ‘third sector’? The much-vaunted ‘National Trust for the waterways’, or something completely different? I know Mike Palmer will be A model for the future of British Waterways? The River expanding on this in his next Wey Navigation is already run by the National Trust. Chairman’s Comment (either included in this issue as an insert, or in the next issue) so I won’t go on any further. In the meantime, I would urge you to sign the petition if you haven’t already done so. Unless, of course, you don’t agree with it. Perhaps you think it would be for the best if BW lost its property now. If so, feel free to write a letter to Navvies putting forward an alternative view. Seriously. It’s what our letters page is for.

Speaking of writing to Navvies... Thank you to those folks who responded to my appeal for more camp reports. Not only have we got reports in this issue from both of the week-long October canal camps, but two more from the summer as well, plus a report on the Monty 40 Reunion dig. Hopefully in the next issue we’ll have reports from all the Christmas and New Year weekend digs and canal camps - so get writing them and sending them in while you still remember it all.

...and on the subject of Christmas... I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all our readers the very best for Christmas, New Year, the Winter Solstice or anything else you might be celebrating around this time of year. My thanks to everyone who supported Navvies in 2009 with dig reports, letters, articles, photos or anything else (yes, even Jane & John). Hopefully I’ll see some of you on the WRG New Year Camp, otherwise I look forward to hearing from you in 2010. Martin Ludgate

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Coming soon Chelmer and what?

The Inland Waterways Association is Britain’s newest navigation authority. You can help IWA to put the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation back into good order

Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation, that’s what!

Roy Chandler

That’s the Essex waterway which our parent body The Inland Waterways Association took over in late 2005, to save it from closing down after the original navigation company went bankrupt. And while the IWA subsidiary company Essex Waterways Ltd has made some good progress towards putting the 13-mile river navigation back into good order, there’s still plenty to do. And on a waterway that’s on a tight budget and doesn’t receive any regular government support grants, volunteer support can make a big difference. Which is where we come in... This bridge near Heybridge needs dismantling and rebuilding WRG volunteers have already put in a lot of work on the Chelmer & Blackwater, in particular with weekend visits from our London WRG and Essex WRG regional groups plus the 2008 Bonfire Bash weekend. But this year we’re planning to expand that support with three whole weeks of canal camps and the first of those is on February 13-20. One of the main jobs for the week will be dismantling a bridge over the waterway so that it can be rebuilt (see picture, above right). Camp leader is Dave ‘Moose’ Hearnden, ably assisted by Alan Whiffen, with Maria Alderman cooking. Please book using the form enclosed with this Navvies or via the WRG website www.wrg.org.uk. KESCRG barn dance on March 6. Usual location (Benson Village Hall, Oxfordshire), band (Tumbledown Dick) price (£12 including food; extra charge for overnight accommodation / breakfast). And, we’re quite sure, the usual good time will be had by all. But as usual, the hall’s fire regulations mean that we have to put a strict limit on the number of people coming, so you’ll need to buy your ticket in advance - contact Adrian Crow by email at barndance@kesrcg.org.uk or on Tel: 07807 456235.

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Martin Ludgate

Take your partners for the 2010 WRG and

“When I nod my head, you hit it” London WRG on the Chelmer


Book now for the 2010 BCN Cleanup: a chance to play your part in the taming of the Tame Valley Canal

Then what?

Easter camp and BCN Cleanup

Easter at Steppingstones The second of 2010’s week-long canal camps is at Step-

pingstones Bridge on the Wilts & Berks Canal. Well, when we say week-long, it’s actually just over a week as it runs from Good Friday April 2 to Saturday April 10. More details in the next issue of Navvies.

Are you ready to grapple with the BCN’s worst? The annual Birmingham Canal Navigations Cleanup returns to the Tame Valley canal, which despite its name proved to be not terribly tame at all last time, with some fairly exciting rubbish lurking under the surface of the inky waters to snare the propeller of the unwary boater. So in our neverending quest to make the less-frequented parts of the Black Country’s canals a place for folks to enjoy rather than a linear scrap-heap, we’ll be dipping our grappling hooks into the section of the canal between Tame Bridge railway station and the top of Perry Barr Locks, on the weekend of April 17-18. Once again Aileen Butler is the WRG organiser for this joint event also supported by the BCN Society, the local branches of the IWA, and the local British Waterways team who provide lots of grappling hooks, plus workboats and skips to take away all the trash we find. The accommodation is probably going to be the same school that we stayed in last year (but see the next Navvies for confirmation) we’re busy sorting out team leaders and cooks, your editor might just be persuaded to provide another quiz to entertain people on the Saturday evening, and all we need now is for lots of you to offer your services as volunteers. So please fill in the form below, and we’ll see you on the Tame Valley Canal in April.

waterway recovery group

in association with BCNS, BW and IWA

I would like to attend the 2010 National Canal Cleanup on April 17-18 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 (£11 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

Reporting from Renishaw, where Camp Leader Mike Chase is talking a load of blocks...

Chesterfield Canal

for use on Sunday turned out to be four half packs. After using up the remaining blocks, The work for this week was to build a large the site was closed up, and everyone graviproportion of a new towpath wash wall to tated towards the scrub bashing, helping out connect the recently restored section of canal Jonathan’s team who had made about 40 at Renishaw with the damp (I can’t say dry, yards progress into the dense scrub. Having because it isn’t) section south of the main vented our frustration, we packed up about road. Having seen the site at the start of May, 4ish and made our way to the showers. when the ground had not been touched, it Afterwards, I conducted a tour of canal was pleasing to visit the site two weeks prior hotspots – Mill Green, Staveley (end of navito the camp and see the middle third of the gation on the restored length from Chesterintended length dug out, concrete footing field), Hall Lane (new bridge built as part of poured and block-laying started. bypass), Hollingwood Lock (lock house Saturday morning arrived on time, but conversion plans), Tapton Lock (the first lock my lift didn’t. Being over half an hour behind restored), and the new basin marking the (to schedule, a mad dash needed to be made to be) head of navigation in Chesterfield. Our Chesterfield. Unfortunately, half way across number was boosted that evening by the the Peak District, we became stuck in a long arrival of James with the (almost empty) kit line of traffic behind a tractor, which we trailer – most kit having been packed into the followed for fifteen miles into Chesterfield. vans for transport. Needless to say, I missed my train. FortuExpecting an early delivery of blocks, I nately, by way of a later train, and a smart took the first van down to site for 9, whilst connection at Peterborough, my arrival in St James went via Chesterfield to collect Terry. Neots was only an hour late. “But I thought Backfilling of the section already laid took us the camp was in Chesterfield?” I hear you to (an early) morning brew, at which point say. It is, only I had to travel to St Neots to we discovered that the delivery had been put collect one of the vans used on the Ipswich back to mid-afternoon. In order to start camp the week before. By the time I arrived laying blocks sooner, van SAD was emptied, at the accommodation (6¾ hours after leav- and James took a small posse off to the ing Manchester) most of the volunteers had builders’ merchant, returning an hour later already arrived. The usual start of camp with 30 blocks. In the meantime, the scrub tasks were carried out prior to dinner, folbashing was progressed another 20 yards or lowed by the safety briefing over pudding, then the pub, which is conveniently upstairs. Sunday morning we were on site an hour before the locals, so I conducted a short tour of the works carried out during the preceding 2½ years. We then split into two groups, Jonathan taking a group reclearing the section culled at Christmas 2006, whilst the others were led into the trench to commence laying blocks (after moving them all down from above). We were lucky in that several volunteers had previous bricklaying experience, so tuition of those that didn’t was made so much easier than last year. By lunch time disaster was looming – we were runBlocklaying in progress ning out of blocks! The four packs ordered All photos by Mike Chase

Chesterfield Canal 15-22 August

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so. All the blocks were moved to position, and the mix was about to be started, when Cameron arrived with lunch. Another stop. Were we going to lay any blocks today? Block-laying finally commenced in earnest after lunch, though after four mixes we were a couple of blocks short of running out when the delivery finally arrived, and 14 packs were soon unloaded. Several of these quickly disappeared down into the trench, and finally everyone was involved in laying. Despite the delays, we still managed to lay approximately 120 blocks, with first course at half distance, second at one-third, and third course started. No one fancied the cinema that evening, so some went upstairs to the pub, whilst Rob hooked his laptop up to the large flat-screen TV in the noisy room to play DVDs and others made for the outdoor basketball court. All facilities included at this accommodation – that’s why we like it so much! Massive progress on site on Tuesday. Whilst waiting for the locals to arrive and set up for mixing, our first hour on site involved additional backfilling behind the first course along the main straight run, and major block distribution to positions ready for laying. Once Terry (the human ready-mix) arrived, the mixes began to be produced, and teams gradually formed to continue laying from specific points, led by Keith and Jonathan at the canal end on course 3, Chris on course 1 at the bridge end (working round the corners), Andrew on course 2 working towards the mid-trench ramp, and Steve on back headers on course 2. James and Richard ensured everyone had a constant supply of blocks and mortar. Block-laying progressed steadily during the day, punctuated by shouts of “MORE MUCK” from Jonathan every 45 minutes or so. Cameron stayed on site after lunch, scrub bashing with young James and Steve, whilst I took over fourth station alone. At close of play at 4-15, we had laid almost 300 blocks – much more than was ever achieved at Miner’s Crossing last year. The early finish was to facilitate a brewery trip to Peak Ales near Bakewell, with a fish & chip supper in Bakewell afterwards. As a bonus, they filled one of the water containers for us – for free! Another early start on Wednesday, as

Time to fetch some more blocks we were expecting a large delivery of sand and cement. Block-laying continued from yesterday, with the fourth course being started. Whilst progress during the morning was as steady as previous, mortar production came to a grinding halt just before lunch, as we had run out of cement. With no sign of the delivery (despite assurances that the driver was on his way), James and Terry were dispatched whilst we finished lunch. In accordance with Sod’s Law, they arrived at the merchant’s as the cement arrived with us! Job cancelled, they were dragged back whilst Steve and Richard attempted to get a mix on. We were soon up to speed again, as laying progressed in anger, with just one pack of blocks left at the end of the day. The wall was looking good now, with first course completed, second at two-thirds length, third at half length, and fourth a quarter done. As the afternoon had progressed, the heat had increased – if it wasn’t for the occasional breeze, the heat would have been unbearable. Because of this, we were off site before five. We didn’t manage to lay as much as previously, though without delays we could quite easily have topped 300. Evening entertainment was bowling. Whilst the first round was very competitive, the second was more fun, with many different styles of bowling displayed – the torpedo, the aeroplane, lawn bowling, sideways, backwards. In fact, everything but over-arm (we were a little too close to Reception to try that!) Cameron continually attempted to reach a 20mph bowling speed, achieving 19.95mph before breaking the

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speed recorder. The scoreboard then had a fit and tried terminating the game. Afterwards, Vince was challenged by Leanne to have a go on the dance machine, with pathetically woeful results. Back at the hall, Leanne was challenged by Jonathan to a race with the rowing machines in the gym, though she was at a distinct disadvantage against his much taller frame. Hurtling up the M1 at 70mph on Thursday morning, a frantic call was received from Terry to advise that the blocks had arrived. During the major block relocation exercise that followed, yesterday’s sand delivery arrived. We were in business now! Blocklaying progressed apace during the morning, getting another 170 down before lunch, by which time the water supply was running low. After lunch, the last four mixes were produced. We were just downing tools when Mick arrived with more water, allowing one last sloppy mix to joint up what had been laid. An early finish saw us away by 3-15. Jonathan took a group swimming in Mansfield, whilst I took the non-swimmers to Shireoaks where some of us walked up the restored Turnerwood and Thorpe Lock flights to the summit. Back at the hall the twins (Poppy & James), who had received their Alevel results earlier, received a surprise visit from their parents, bringing cake beer and balloons. Whilst waiting for dessert, some of the locals came across for a socialising session, for which almost everyone retired upstairs. I declared a much more leisurely start fir the final day on site, allowing time for some to have a kick-around after breakfast, before taking the scenic route to site via the Bolsover escarpment. The sand and cement was replenished around 10am, whilst blocklaying progressed, though we didn’t start on the sixth course, giving Keith and Jonathan a change of scenery (they had started each course at the canal end for the previous four days). Vince’s rain dance on Wednesday now took effect, as the rain that had threatened on and off all morning now struck with a vengeance, everyone taking shelter inside the container, though this soon stopped and the sun came out. The rate of laying slowed down after lunch as people were pulled off for other duties. I taught Poppy and Leanne the basics of surveying, in an attempt to get a rough idea of the ground levels for the locals to work to, whilst the remaining above

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ground blocks were moved into the container, then the tools were checked back in as the final few blocks were laid. After a couple of group photos, we were off site and heading to the showers by 3-30, then back to the hall to clean the vans and pack the tools. Dinner was an anything goes buffet, after which we retired to the pub for the pub-quiz, interspersed by rounds of bingo. Saturday morning I’d decreed that noone should be up before 8 (we had so many early risers on this camp), which almost worked. Breakfast at 9, trailer packed and hall cleaned by 10-30. Both vans and trailer were consequently at their next camp before lunch – the National Festival, which was just 35 miles down the M1! As my first camp as leader, I was pleased that everything went so smoothly. I would particularly like to thank Jonathan Todd, for agreeing to assist, and ensuring everything ran smoothly at the hall in the mornings, and to Cameron for cooking for us. Also to my fantastic team of block-layers – Keith, Chris, and Andrew, and their apprentices James, Poppy, Leanne, Robert, Vanessa, Vince and Keith, and to Steve and Richard for ensuring the supply chain ran smoothly. Despite losing a day and a half awaiting materials, and another half day of early finishes, we still managed to lay a grand total of 1,238 concrete blocks, bringing the project back on track. (Daily totals were – Sunday 96, Monday 120, Tuesday 291, Wednesday 276, Thursday 230, Friday 225) A visit to site six weeks later revealed courses 1-5 complete, and 6 requiring just 15 more blocks. Mike Chase

Good progress by the end of the week


October at Nynehead: Kirsty reports from a week of chainsawing, scrub-bashing, shed-building and leaving bits of the brew kit behind....

Camp report

Grand Western Canal

brew kit all packed and ready and in the van this time thanks to Richard aka Tyler, we or “Diary of the Virgin Leaders Assistant!” arrived on site, checked fire and as promised (well, Kirsty’s first attempt at being assistant by the man upstairs it didn’t take too long to leader!) get going again. All today involved was felling and burnDay 1 Saturday: Technically, I hadn’t ing trees while Martyn and the riff raff (chain started being assistant leader yet as it was sawers) went about logging. Lunch arrived, Saturday morning, on the WRG South West with the biggest birthday cake ever for Phil weekend, not camp! so when somebody who really is 30 this year!! MK2 formed a said “kirsty can you pack the brew kit”, pack special friendship with ‘Scoop’ and constantly the brew kit i did. No one ever mentioned had to keep trimming his bush! Its not every “put the brew kit in the van”! So technically... day the leader falls in love with a small yelTECHNICALLY it wasn’t my fault that the low tractor with a bright blue trailer!! But brew kit was left on the table in the newly Scoop isn’t like any other small yellow tracrefurbished Burlescombe hall (complete tor: he is beautiful! with shower!!) Only when a polite but slightly Now the best part about coming back patronising text message from Mitch arrived, from a hard day’s work and a hot shower is kindly reminding me that it’s supposed to be arriving back at the accommodation to the taken on site, did i realise - ooops - time to smell of Mitch’s meat! And BOY is it a good delegate Martyn who then fetched it! smell! Full roast with all the trimmings just Site tour done, jobs sorted, down to oozing out the door! Lush! Lots of beer business, I made amends however by manlater, time for bed. aging to light my first bonfire, not made any easier by the lack of dry wood - and when we found dry wood, the heavens opened and soaked it all JUST as i managed to get a decent flame... I wasn’t an air cadet for nothing you know!! Lots of tree felling and embankment clearing later, it was time to pack up and return to accommodation to await the arrival of Beaver, Bungle, Blue and Two!!

Grand Western October 2009

Day 2 Sunday: after a pleasant social gathering at the public house literally 200 yards down the road the troop descended back to the hall with an hour’s lie-in due to the clocks going back. Next morning, breakfast out of the way,

‘Sir Clive’s erection’ - can you guess what it is?

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Day 3 Monday: Hmmm!! Well the day started off marvellously until i had an issac moment where I turned to Roz in the showers (separate showers!!) and said “bugger, where’s the camp phone?” And as a good assistant does, I liaised with my leader then Mitch! (because Mitch always knows what to do - it’s her job!) i decided that my excuse for losing sorry ‘misplacing’ said phone was because I was concentrating really hard on learning how to tow a trailer. First lesson... reverse down a steep hill and round a tight corner, with the added excitement of having to dodge a wall on one side and the canal on the other whilst reversing towards an old canal boat lift chamber with an excavator teetering on the edge. Simples! After tea Bungle and I went for a midnight phone search with no luck, but on the plus side we did lock local Dennis’s house for him as he’d left his back door unlocked when driving to the hall! Once back, I do remember entering a room and overhearing a conversation of which the only words I made out were: Bungle: “’how are you doing there Mitch?” Mitch: “I’m all right, i just need another 2 inches”. It appeared that Mitch was on her hands and knees with Bungle standing over her! Hmmmm... if only we knew... Day 4 Tuesday the quote of the day arrived at 0820 this morning during break-

...it’s a shed!

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fast from Robert Brotherston: “I really shouldn’t eat too much!”. And that from the man who gets his own pasta dish (a small tray in fact) and yet still goes up for seconds at every opportunity! We arrived on site, (yes we forgot the teapot this time), went on a search for the lost phone, and having made an executive decision that a new one needed to be purchased I only went and found the chuffing thing! Although admittedly it had been run over a few times and was, to put it bluntly, knackered! So it has ended its days in the foundations of a new log shed, or Sir Clive’s Erection as its now known! Barry also decided to break ‘Blue’ (the excavator) as well as digging a huge hole in the middle of the footpath, thereby triggering a huge search of hazard tape. All in all it was a good day, full of innuendos (the best being “could you stick your tool down my deep, dirty brown hole...”) Showers done, tea done, then a night in the bar playing skittles. And still the double entendres went on... Tyler: “hang about, I have to moisten my hands because these are the biggest balls I have ever played with!” On that note, time for bed. Day 5 Wednesday Well, the morning seemed to start off the way yesterday ended, with MK2 requesting a set of butt plugs in the PPE kit!! hmmm! Other interesting facts we learned today are that Ben doesn’t have anything medically bizarre, John Hawkins is an expert on vibrating Jessica Rabbits, and Sir Clive’s erection is going up nicely with the help of his good lady!! Scoops big brother was on site today, Tylers Tours is increasingly becoming more popular, the tree fellers became four fellers as Clive (and Jo) turned up, Bungle found his loose logs needed a strap on and Mitch remembered the butter for the potatoes this year for the campfire tea!! Good times!! Today has been a success, I am very proud of my team and my team leader, roll on tomorrow for more fun and frolics, with


The tree fellers... or is it four? the game just getting underway for another round of ‘fart tennis’ with the score being 30love to Phil-the-bitch! Day 6 Thursday Topless Thursday, or this year, ‘no biscuits Thursday’ due to a flaw in the brew kit plan! So a quick hop to Asda with £1.50, gingernuts, bourbons, custard creams and cookies were served with 29p change! We all came to the conclusion that John Hawkins may have been on one too many camps catered by the rationing Queen of WRG! One task: the brew kit - no biscuits, and we ran out of milk and coffee at lunch time! The tree sorry four fellers tree felling team managed to crack on up the embankment whilst Tyler and apprentice finished digging a wall trench, Barry managed to keep Blue intact this time and stumped his way through site while it took me a while to figure out that butchers dont actually do vegetarian sausages separately! Day 7 Friday Friday was a great success. Yes, I am actually writing this on Saturday because keeping with tradition (and it seems to be a trait this year), I forgot to write it yesterday! But what was not forgotten on

Friday was the fantastic camaraderie of this camp; the chainsaw boys and Jo continuing their quest of felling with Clive actually in the tree this time; Sir Clive finishing his erection with the help of a few others. Oh, and as far as the sluice is concerned... well, MK2 asked as soon as I came on site “kirsty, do you think we have to write an incident report for emptying the canal?” “Errr I don’t know that one Mark, but its OK - it will rain soon”. Lunch time arrived and I must say this year egg mayo has been the favourite, everyday lunch has been fantastic even with Bungle’s mustard (spread like jam) and baked bean sandwich on day 3! So a big thank you to our queen of the south west for providing an excellent array and range of sandwiches, always catering for everyone’s need, may the Lord look down on your patio with great approval! Kit cleaned, packed and locked into the trailer and as per usual, to continue with tradition, the trailer registration plate was forgotten! So due to the sudden swap of vans for the drivers, the back reg plate of the van had to be taken off and put on the back of the trailer!! but shush! dont tell anyone! Mitch’s 7 layer lasagne was a big hit as usual as was the presentation evening in the pub. (I can honestly say, in the 20 years that i have known Mitch, I have never seen her laugh that hard before, tears were rolling down her face, but you will all have to ask her why as it’s not able to be published in Navvies!) All in all good times were had all round, and I’m looking forward to next year already - as I’m sure are many others. little Kirsty Wallace

“‘Scoop’ isn’t like any other small yellow tractor!”

page 13


Camp report

Monmouthshire & Brecon

Meanwhile in South Wales, Mike Chase reports from a week of canal clearance and trouser-painting...

revolve around Dongles. Ian wasn’t familiar with the concept of sticking one in to make a Somehow I found myself leading this camp connection, and we came up with many almost by default. What happened? Well, I different ways of describing them. Use your booked on about a week or so after the imagination! The clocks went back an hour national, then a few days later received a overnight, which seemed to screw up many plea from James to lead. At least I had an peoples’ body clocks, especially Frank’s, who experienced number two in the shape of Paul was up long before he needed to be! Shaw. Then the logistical problems kicked in. Sunday we met Richard at Fourteen Between us, in the five weeks leading up to Locks for an introduction to the canal, and a the camp, we were struggling for a convenbrief look around Fourteen Locks, before ient date in which to do a site visit, which heading for site. Things didn’t run totally to would have involved a 500 mile round trip plan, as we set off without Mark, and Paul for a half-hour visit, so reluctantly had to had to return to the hall to collect him. We liaise long-distance with Richard Dommet, arrived at Tamplin Lock, our site for the the local. Then there was the van issue, week, around 11.15, and after a tour of the which was only sorted the weekend before at worksite, parking both vans onto the towthe reunion. Paul was to collect/return SAD path, unloading tools, and setting up the and trailer from/to Tom’s, which would reburco etc, we finally started work around quire an early start for him on the Saturday 11.45! First brew was 12.15 – that’s quicker morning. Meanwhile, I couldn’t get away than WRG northwest!! Most people were defrom Manchester until mid-afternoon, as I tailed to uncover and clear the lock bywash of was committed to leading a guided walk that growth and debris, with a couple creating morning (planned pre camp booking), and access to the offside bank from the adjacent didn’t have my own transport, which caused field through the extra-large bramble patch. problems in collecting the second van, which Despite the late start, and the heavy showwould have been in Newbury! Then it was ers, work progressed rapidly enough to discovered that London WRG had a dig on the make a start on clearing the offside above weekend our camp ended, and their van was the lock, with the bywash largely cleared by required for the Grand Western! With some the time we packed up at 16.00. To the reshuffling of the plans, London WRG kept showers, and whilst the girls took their time, their van, the Grand Western had our second us blokes took no time at all, as the boys’ van, whilst I borrowed GCW from WRGNW. showers were running cold. We just hoped it With my late arrival, Paul was left to do was because it was their first use of the day… the meet and greet, having done a diversion On Monday, we split into two groups. I via Crewe to collect a load of cheese from Ju. took a full GCW up to Ty Mawr Lime for a (Bush had promised us this after the Reunion course on working with lime, whilst Paul and it became well travelled. I think it would took the remaining few back to Tamplin Lock be fair to say it was very mature by the time to further the bywash clearance. They were we got to use it). Although it was 18.00 joined by a couple of locals who helped when I arrived, I wasn’t the last, as a couple tackle a rather large fallen tree that was a of the girls had taken a wrong turning on the potential obstruction to debris carried down motorway and found themselves quite a few the bywash. Our respective timings on the miles away. Nonetheless, the safety talk was return were good, as we all met up back at done before supper, and catering kit counted the showers, which were still cold. After in after (tools had been done in my absupper, Paul took a group off to the cinema sence), then most retired to the pub for an in Cardiff to see Fantastic Mr Fox. hour or two. The conversation seemed to Paul took the first van down to site a

Camp 24: Monmouthshire Canal

page 14


All photos by Mike Chase

little earlier on Tuesday morning, as we had an excavator and a couple of dumpers arriving to enable us to commence channel dredging. One of the dumpers needed a dongle to get it going – cue further innuendo. Paul and David took charge of the dumpers, with Lexi being trained up later that morning, whilst I took charge of the group clearing the offside in advance of the excavator, whose first task was to create a bunded area to tip the dredgings in the field. Within half an hour, I had disturbed a wasps’ nest, and been stung several times, including both ears. Ouch! Luckily there were no ill effects, though Marion then got stung a few minutes later as she was recovering the tools I’d dropped when I ran. During the course of the day, the channel was cleared to within a few yards of the dropped bridge, with the offside also cut back to a similar point (the offside was abandoned mid-afternoon). After lunch I took Lucy and Amy on an exploratory mission to investigate the offside below the lock to see what was accessible from the bank. The answer was not a lot, as the builtup ledge below the lock soon became rather narrow, so we moved down to Ash Tree Bridge with a view to working back. The growth here was only marginal, though we did discover the overspill channel trying to hide under the brambles, so an access route was cut for the next day. Back at the showers, whilst most of the lads used the public changing area, as advised to us the day before, some of us were prevented from doing so. The upshot of this was the outdoor showers were attended to, and were made just a little bit hotter. Scalding hot!!! Then as we were getting dressed, the fire alarm went off! Thanks to Ian’s observation of the staff outside, none of us panicked and rushed outside half-dressed. Back at the hall, Cameron had arrived, and then things started to go wrong… Always known as ‘Two for One Wednesday’, we renamed it ‘Two in One Wednesday’. The dredging crew left for site at 8:15 to take delivery of the plant again, and get site set up.

The final section by the road was being tackled as I arrived with the stragglers, having cleared up after breakfast. Paul supervised the dredging operation which now moved below the lock, with David and Lexi on the dumpers, and Ian and Paul as banksmen/lookouts. John, Joanne and Cameron were tasked with finishing the offside, whilst Mark and Rachel commenced painting the lock gates, and Lucy, Amy and Marion were sent spillway clearing. Barely had dredging started below the lock when Lexi ran into trouble with her dumper. Or rather slid. In an attempt to reduce the time the excavator had to wait for an empty dumper, it was felt that a wider section of the towpath could be used for the two to pass. However, as Paul was directing Lexi onto what seemed firm ground, the bank had other ideas, and gave way beneath the wheels, tipping the dumper sideways towards the canal bed. Totally unflustered, Lexi nonchalantly alighted as if she had just parked normally at the side of the road. Unable to drive out of that position, the excavator was summoned to assist, easily getting it back onto the towpath. Incident number two happened as Frank arrived with lunch. The towpath ramp beside the lock was not overly wide, and in an attempt to avoid the stonework, David slightly over compensated whilst reversing the other, well loaded, dumper back up the

Learning about lime mortar

page 15


Camp report

Monmouthshire & Brecon slope, slipping off the far side, his fall arrested by the tree line. His load was tipped there and then, and the excavator again summoned to assist. From then on, the banksman on the lock side was instructed to give directional signals to prevent a reoccurrence. Down at the spillway, I had partially unblocked the entrance to the under-canal culvert, so after lunch Cameron, Paul K and Joanne were detailed to assist the girls and clear the culvert fully. With the machines now being left at a local farm overnight (if you call a mile away local), the dredging team was detailed to close up the site whilst I took the DofE’ers on a short tour of the recent restoration works, starting at

Clearing the overspill channel

page 16

“The evenings entertainment - a cinema trip - attracted just two takers. I think I was starting to wear everyone out...”

Malpas Aqueduct, and heading up alongside the M4 to Waen Lock, scene of the complete bywash reconstruction. From here, the group continued up the canal to Fourteen Locks, whilst I brought the van round from Crindau Park, meeting them surprisingly two-thirds of the way up the locks. The evening’s entertainment (another cinema trip) attracted just two takers – Paul and Lexi. I think I was starting to wear everyone out. For the dredging team, Thursday required an even earlier start on site, heading off before 7:30, with the rest en route by 8. We were still setting up lock side when the leader of Torfaen Council arrived around 8:30 for a photo-call. Before we could tell him about the white paint on the balance beam which was still wet he decided that would be a good place for him to sit for the photo. He ended up with a white stain on his pants… oh dear. We didn’t laugh – at least not until he was out of earshot. The dredging continued apace, with John being trained up on the dumper. The previous day’s short length was easily surpassed, the excavator reaching the culvert near Ash Tree Bridge. The spillway clearance was completed, and culvert unblocked, whilst painting progressed around the lock, with Paul K and Cameron in the channel painting the top gate. Using the small work boat that was launched the day before, Lucy and Amy with initially myself, then Paul, undertook offside clearance below the lock, leaving trees in the channel to be grappled out later. The need for an observant lock side banksman was emphasised at lunchtime, as Lexi tried getting intimate with the trees on her dumper. This time though, the machine was easily driven away. Keeping a watch on the path the next couple of dump-


“Before we could tell the council leader about the wet paint, he decided that would be a good place to sit...”

Camp report

Monmouthshire & Brecon

ers were taking led David to lay cut-down branches along the towpath edge to fill the rut and avoid any reccurrence. In discussions with Richard during the week, we had agreed a lunch-time finish for Friday. This meant another early start, with the dredging crew departing even earlier at 7:20.The dredging was all but completed by the time the plant hire guys arrived to collect the dumpers (we probably had another three or four loads to shift), though this was just as well as the dumpers were getting bogged down in the dredgings tip. The painting was largely completed, with mainly the outer face of the bottom gates to be done (Cameron and Rachel were both eager to get down into the lock chamber with a paintbrush), and the offside below the lock completed and all hauled out. Time was even found for the lock chamber to be cleared of bramble growth before the council guys arrived to take their boat away. The excavator scraped the mud off the towpath on its way out, but then Paul could not get SAD back onto the towpath to collect all the tools due to the sheer mud-pack surface of the roadside verge, so everything had to be carted up to the road. Our scheduled 12:00 photo-call with the leader of Torfaen Council (he of the white painted trousers) was delayed by his non-arrival, in the end we had our own with the trust Painting the lock balance and plant hire

guys, and then departed at 13.15 for lunch back at the hall. I’m sure we passed the councillor’s car as he headed back to the main road… After a pit-stop lunch, we said our goodbyes to John and Joanne, our Geordie friends who were making an early dart, and headed up to Big Pit mining museum for the afternoon, returning via the showers. Saturday morning we were all packed up and gone by 11:15, despite no packing / kit counting being carried out the night before. We had a good group, who gelled well and got stuck in to every task. Many thanks to Paul for being a great assistant, and Frank for cooking for us. To David for eagerly being number 2 dumper driver. To Lexi who took to WRG like a duck to water, to Ian for acting as chief lookout, to Mark – sorry about leaving you behind. To Lucy, Marion, Amy, Rachel and Paul, our DofE’ers who became an ace culvert clearing team. To John and Joanne – you brightened up the week, and to Cameron who enjoyed himself in the lock. Mike Chase

beams (which are hinged to let vehicles past)

page 17


WRG BC

Boat Club report Wrg bc news November 09 Goodness look it is November already! Well probably December by the time you get to read this. What have we been up to this year and what are our plans for the future? Since the AGM in August we have sent donations of £100 each to:

. . .

The Derby and Sandiacre Canal The Friends of the Cromford Canal The Grantham Canal.

It was agreed at the AGM that we would make these donations - when we had enough money. We could go ahead with payment because most people have paid their subs! I hope it is only communication troubles that have held up the last few overdue payments. By now you should have this year’s

“Give someone you love a concrete block or a barrowload of boulders for Christmas” says Sadie membership card. All clubs affiliated to the Association of Waterways Cruising Clubs (AWCC) need to issue new cards to members annually. Any club will ask visiting boaters for current membership cards before allowing moorings or other concessions. Members have experienced problems when using AWCC handbooks, mostly because the information on the clubs is out of date. The problems arise because clubs have their elections at different times of the year, or their secretaries don’t inform the authors of the handbook of changes. The AWCC’s National Communications Officer, Brian Rich, plans to get the records up to date. He aims to have all the information in one place and then authorised people will be able to access the information and up date it on line. Ultimately, clubs and individuals will be able to access information on the AWCC and its members via an electronic handbook on

WRG Boat Club’s ‘Commode Door’ presenting the club trophy to Roger Evans, for outstanding services and all the many and various activities he has does and has done for wrg (and IWA) over the past 35 years, with WRGBC’s unique nomadic clubhouse in the background

page 18


Martin Ludgate

Club cruise here in 2010? The Droitwich restoration is finally nearing completion line. Most of the website is in the public domain. AWCC’s Alert magazine is accessible via the website, and it is hoped that members do access it. (If you don’t have internet access then it is easy to get it at any library anywhere in England.) When it is up and running, the handbook and members’ details will only be accessible to club members, they will need a password to read these. Now onto the canals: It seems (and not only to me) the narrowing of individual bridges and locks, referred to as ‘Pinch Points’ is becoming more of a problem throughout the system. British Waterways needs to know of any you notice. Tell us, tell IWA, tell AWCC and BW – we get told that we only have problems because of the size of the boat. It is only 7ft wide. Shallow water also causes ‘Pinch Points’: we are deeper than most but surely canals should be at least 3ft deep! Future events: It has been suggested that we have a club gathering and cruise along the newly reopened Droitwich Canals next year. Please contact me or Lynne with suggestions for suitable dates. [I suggest you

wait until we know for sure that the canal is opening in 2010. ...Ed] As I said at the beginning, it will be December when you get to read this. Stuck for Christmas present ideas? Why not make a donation to restoration as a ‘virtual’ gift? There are many. Here are two:

.

.

A ‘Barrowful of Boulders’ for the Montgomery Canal Restoration Channel Works Fund £5 a barrow load. (www.shropshireunion.org.uk/ BuyaBarrow/donationform.pdf.) Explain with the form that it is a gift and include recipients name and address. A gift card and details will be sent to them. BLOCKAID for the Wendover Arm Trust, blocks to be bought in multiples of £2. (www.blockaid.org.uk/ Downloads/BlockAidSponsorForm.pdf)

A good way to work off Christmas excesses can be found elsewhere in this magazine! Seasonal Greetings and happy boating in 2010 to all xxx Sadie Dean

page 19


Navvies diary

Your guide to all the forthcoming work parties Dec 26-Jan 1 Camp 200925

Wilts & Berks Canal: Scrub bashing. Accommodation: Watchfield. Lead

Dec 26-Jan 3 WBCT

Wilts & Berks Canal Trust’s New Year Camp at Seven Locks. Accommod

Jan 1 Fri

Navvies

Press date for issue 239: including Canal Societies directory

Jan 9/10

wrgNW

Lancaster Canal: (possibly Tewitfield)

Jan 9/10

KESCRG

To be arranged (including KESCRG AGM)

Jan 9/10

NWPG

Basingstoke Canal

Jan 9/10

Essex WRG

Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation

Jan 10 Sun EAWA/NWDCT North Walsham & Dilham Canal: Bacton Wood / Wherry Inn Jan 16/17

London WRG

Thames & Severn Canal: Eisey Lock

Jan 16/17

wrgBITM

Chichester Ship Canal: Scrub bashing on towpath near Donnington

Jan 16 Sat

wrgNW

‘Paper Chase’ waste paper collection

Jan 24 Sun EAWA/NWDCT North Walsham & Dilham Canal: Ebridge Feb 6/7

London WRG

To be arranged: possibly H&G or Mon & Brec

Feb 6/7

wrgNW

Chesterfield Canal

Feb 6/7

KESCRG

Thames & Severn Canal: Eisey Lock

Feb 6/7

Essex WRG

Foxton Inclined Plane

Feb 7 Sun

EAWA/NWDCT North Walsham & Dilham Canal: Ebridge

Feb 13-20

Camp 201001

Camp: Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation

Feb 20/21

wrgBITM

Grantham Canal: To be confirmed.

Feb 20/21

NWPG

Thames & Severn Canal: Eisey Lock

Feb 20 Sat

wrgNW

‘Paper Chase’ waste paper collection

Feb 21 Sun EAWA/NWDCT North Walsham & Dilham Canal: Honing Staithe Cut / Walk Feb 27/28

London WRG

Basingstoke Canal

Mar 1 Mon

Navvies

Press date for issue 240

Mar 6/7

Essex WRG

Wilts & Berks Canal

Mar 6 Sat

WRG/KESCRG

Barn Dance: Benson Village Hall. Possibly publicity workshop beforeha

Mar 13/14

KESCRG

Basingstoke Canal

Mar 20/21

wrgNW

Hollinwood Canal

Mar 20/21

wrgBITM

Hereford & Gloucester Canal: Llanthony Lock

Mar 27/28

London WRG

Thames & Severn Canal: Eisey Lock

Mar 27/28

NWPG

Basingstoke Canal

Mar 27 Sat

wrgNW

‘Paper Chase’ waste paper collection

Apr 2-10

Camp 201002

Easter Camp on the Wilts & Berks, Steppingstones Bridge. Cost:£56

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

page 20


Canal Camps cost ÂŁ49 per week unless otherwise stated. Bookings for WRG Canal Camps (those identified by a camp number e.g. 'Camp 201001') should go to WRG Canal Camps, Island House, Moor Road, Chesham HP5 1WA. Tel: 01494 783453. Email: enquiries@wrg.org.uk er: Moose, Asst: Ian Bunn, Cook: Maria.

01494-783453

dation: Foxham

Rachael Banyard

01249-892289

Martin Ludgate

020-8693-3266

martin.ludgate@wrg.org.uk

David McCarthy

0161-740-2179

nw@wrg.org.uk

Eddie Jones

0845-226-8589

eddie@kescrg.org.uk

Graham Hawkes

0118-941-0586

grahamhawkes@btinternet.com

John Gale

01376-334896

essex@wrg.org.uk

David Revill

01603-738648

davgis@live.co.uk

Tim Lewis

07802-518094

london@wrg.org.uk

Dave Wedd

01252-874437

bookings@wrgBITM.org.uk

David McCarthy

0161-740-2179

David Revill

01603-738648

davgis@live.co.uk

Tim Lewis

07802-518094

london@wrg.org.uk

David McCarthy

0161-740-2179

nw@wrg.org.uk

Eddie Jones

0845-226-8589

eddie@kescrg.org.uk

John Gale

01376-334896

essex@wrg.org.uk

David Revill

01603-738648

davgis@live.co.uk

01494-783453

enquiries@wrg.org.uk

Dave Wedd

01252-874437

bookings@wrgBITM.org.uk

Graham Hawkes

0118-941-0586

grahamhawkes@btinternet.com

David McCarthy

0161-740-2179

David Revill

01603-738648

davgis@live.co.uk

Tim Lewis

07802-518094

london@wrg.org.uk

Martin Ludgate

020-8693-3266

martin.ludgate@wrg.org.uk

John Gale

01376-334896

essex@wrg.org.uk

nd.

enquiries@wrg.org.uk

barndance@kescrg.org.uk Eddie Jones

0845-226-8589

eddie@kescrg.org.uk

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

Graham Hawkes

0118-941-0586

grahamhawkes@btinternet.com

David McCarthy

0161-740-2179 01494-783453

enquiries@wrg.org.uk

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

page 21


Navvies diary

Canal societiesÂ’ regular working parties Amendments to Dave Wedd (see previous page) Once per month: pls check 2nd Sunday & alternate Thurs Anytime inc. weekdays Every Sunday Every Tue & Wed Every Saturday 2nd & last Sunday of month 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 2nd & 4th Sundays 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 ChCT C&BN DCT EAWA ECPDA FIPT GCRS GWCT H&GCT H&GCT H&GCT H&GCT IWPS LCT LHCRT LHCRT NWDCT PCAS RGT SCARS SCCS SHCS SCS SNT SUCS TMCA WACT WACT WACT WACT WACT WACT WACT WAT WAT WBCT

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

page 22

Mobile groups' socials (please 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

BCN waterways Buckingham area Aqueduct section Various sites Chelmer & Blackwater Droitwich Canal N Walsham & Dilham 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 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

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 NWPG NWDCT PCAS RGT SCARS SCCS SHCS SCS SNT SUCS TMCA WACT WAT WBCT W&BCC

Mike Rolfe Athina Beckett Gerald Fry Mick Hodgetts John Gale Jon Axe David Revill Michael Golds Mike Beech Colin Bryan Denis Dodd Brian Fox Maggie Jones Wilf Jones Martin Danks Ian Edgar Paul Shaw Sue Williams Denis Cooper David Revill Paul Waddington Colin Turner Colin Greenall Bob Parnell Peter Redway George Whitehead Mel Sowerby Mike Friend Brian Macnish Eric Walker John Empringham John Smith Peter Jackman Peter Wilding Tony Clear Keith Nichols Roger Leishman Pete Bowers Rachael Banyard

07763-171735 01908-661217 01288-353273 01246-620695 01376-334896 0121-608 0296 01603-738648 0115-932-8042 0116-279-2657 0115-989-2248 01823-661653 01432 358628 01452 618010 01452 413888 01432 344488 01663-732493 01524-35685 01543-671427 01543-374370 01603-738648 01757-638027 01473-730586 01744-731746 01225-428055 01483-721710 01626-775498 01522-856810 01948-880723 01732-823725 023-9246-3025 01483-562657 01903-235790 01483-772132 01483-422519 01903-774301 01403-753882 01442-874536 01255-504540 01249-892289

Lancaster Canal Trust Lichfield & Hatherton Canals Rest'n Trust 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 Wilts & Berks Canal Company


The Survey

What makes a popular work site: good work, helpful locals, a supply of cakes... or gold taps?

Favourite and least favourite sites

What’s the best and worst dig site?

David Miller

Interesting results from this latest survey. Many respondents couldn’t think of any sites they don’t like, which shows a nice sunny optimism. The main factor which made any site popular or unpopular seemed to be how helpful the locals were - but remember, they’re volunteers too, and there’s nothing to stop you volunteering for your local canal society if you think you can help to make it a more welcoming project for visiting navvies. For most popular site, the top one (pictured, right) was Baylham Lock on the Ipswich & Stowmarket (“Best site hut ever - gold taps!”; “great site, beautiful location, great locals, great work”), followed jointly by Eisey Lock on the Cotswolds (“Because nothing bad ever happens on the Cotswolds - the weather’s great, the countryside is lovely, the accommodation’s good in Ashton Keynes and the pub does the excellent Stowford Press cider.”), the Lichfield (“Best cakes, a range of work, might actually get restored, handy for everyone in the country to get to”) and the Droitwich. People mentioned that scenery and accommodation were important to their appreciation of these sites, as well as having a variety of interesting work and supportive locals. Also favourably mentioned: the BCN, The Wey & Arun (Loxwood New Lock and Brewhurst Lock), Valley Lock on the Cotswold, the Chichester Canal, the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation and the Grantham Canal. On the other hand, sites on the Hereford & Gloucester (“that barren sports field up somewhere on the H&G where the cold wind blows, the rain pours, the sun never shines, and the dementors steal your happiness”) and the Wilts & Berks were both mentioned as ‘worst site’, with the Seven Locks site coming in for several mentions - but see below. People mentioned mud and brambles but it was unhelpful locals who really seemed to make sites unpopular. Also receiving unfavourable mentions were Hollinwood and Wendover. And perhaps we’d better keep quiet about which particular site merited the description “A nasty damp pit of a site, darkly shaded by trees, spat on by tramps and surrounded by hooligans. Accommodation’s not good either.” However, just to show how subjective this is, some ‘Marmite sites’ appeared as both ‘best’ and ‘worst’ including the Grand Western and Seven Locks: this love/hate relationship probably depends on who has had a memorably good or bad weekend there - and the weather! Continuing the ‘best and worst’ theme, the next survey will be:

What’s your most and least favourite WRG accommodation - and why? Vote online at http://tinyurl.com/WRGaccomm Editor’s disclaimer: While the (sometimes robust) responses to the survey are no doubt in most cases based on genuinely held opinions, we should point out that the survey sample is not particularly large or representative, that folks tend to remember the bad things, and that it therefore probably shouldn’t be taken too seriously. If people keep coming to your site for more, they clearly can’t hate it too badly. (or maybe they’re masochists!) On the other hand, if fitting gold taps in your site hut, having a word with the weather gods, and trying to be just a tad more welcoming to visiting WRGies means you’ll get far more volunteers coming back next time, then surely that’s got to be a good thing.

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Progress

Our regular roundup of progress on restoration projects around the country begins in the south west

Somerset, Lichfield, Wendover... Somersetshire Coal Canal

Lichfield & Hatherton Canal

There has been much activity with the SCCS work group in the six months since we last reported. In no particular order: One of our most useful work party members, Richard Hignett, was elected to the Committee at our AGM. Richard is a civil engineer by training and a mechanical engineer by nature. His first action was to acquire for the work party an Allen Scythe, a rather more robust version of the lawn mower which can tackle bramble and even small bushes. The model purchased through eBay was one of the last built, in 1973, and is four stroke with differential. On its first outing one person cleared four pounds at Combe Hay of a year’s growth, a task that would normally take four work parties. We are now making our first clearances to a higher standard to ensure that the Allen Scythe can be used to maintain them after initial clearance. We have also had the ‘phantom work parties’. As Chairman, out for a (non-SCC) walk with my wife, I was surprised when one land owner (who didn’t recognise me) told me that the Canal Society had cleared locks 21 and 22 of the Combe Hay Flight. I was fairly certain we hadn’t and a subsequent walk revealed that the scale of clearance was beyond our capabilities in such a short timescale. When we finally made contact with the landowner, it transpired the land had changed hands and the new owners wished to tidy the canal up. They are also apparently keen to see the canal restored and we are now focusing our attention on schemes to restore this length of canal. And finally, on the lesser known Radstock Branch, we have been approached by the executors of one land owner, recently deceased, to see whether we are interested in acquiring a paddock with a canal structure in it. It all depends on price and liabilities, but suddenly, things are happening. I only hope we can keep pace, and would ask that anyone who feels they can help contacts me or another member of the SCCS committee. Patrick Moss, Chairman SCCS lazydaysafloat@yahoo.co.uk Tel: 07736 859882 www.coalcanal.org

The Lichfield & Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust has been heavily focussed on the launch of the Atkins Feasibility Study of the Lichfield Canal. The main event was the presentation held in Lichfield Guildhall in June before an invited audience of councillors and officers. The Hall was full and the response was very positive and encouraging. The Trust has decided to press ahead with Phase 1 of the scheme from Huddlesford Junction, through Cappers Bridge to Darnford Lane. The first step is to reach agreement with Lichfield Cruising Club about the relocation of its moorings, currently in the first length of canal. Our Huddlesford Gathering of boats in September was a great success and further strengthened our relationship with the Club and its members. Work continues at Tamworth Road locks where the weir, drop shaft and bywash have taken shape and look very impressive. Meanwhile we are sourcing a replacement for the stolen 804 excavator. The insurance has not covered the full cost but this is machine was vital to the volunteer team and a purchase must be made. All attempts to recover the stolen one failed. Relations with local councils are improving and the Trust is confident that the scheme will be included in the Lichfield Local Development Framework. Walsall Council is taking a close interest especially regarding Brownhills. Although neither of our canals runs through Brownhills it is increasingly recognised that the restoration must bring in more boats and more trade. There are still some legal issues to be addressed before we can ensure inclusion in the Walsall LDF which we will need if we are to connect the Hatherton to the Lord Hay Branch of the Wyrley & Essington. We have launched a new tranche of the David Suchet Appeal which is already bringing in some useful revenue. This is headlined as the £30 note appeal. We have 30 miles of canal to regenerate, starting at Huddlesford. Those contributing can receive a £30 note carrying an image of our patron David Suchet.

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September Working Party: The Wendover Arm TrustÂ’s work was concentrated on bulk excavation at Drayton Beauchamp and successfully completed to the end of Stage 1, leaving only the banks to be profiled. The first two base sections of the mooring wall at Drayton Beauchamp were poured with readymix concrete and the surplus readymix used to lay about 8 metres of Stage 2 pipe capping (this is being laid to cover the metal pipe that was laid in the canal bed to carry water supplies past the dry section). Two rolls of the Bentomat lining material which is being used to waterproof the restored channel were also cut to lengths ready for laying.

WAT

Grand Union Wendover Arm

The two plaques on Little Tring Bridge

October Working Party: This was the first time we tried a monthly seven-day working party and was very successful. I am pleased to say that our volunteers responded well to taking days off and we still had ten to eleven volunteers every day. The extended working party, already scheduled for November and December, has enabled us to keep on schedule for completing Stage 1 so far. In January we will revert to the normal Friday to Tuesday unless we are seriously behind and a spell of weather in the New Year enables us to complete any major unfinished work. Ron Pittaway and Mike Wright fixed two plaques onto Little Tring Bridge, one commemorating the bridge opening (replacing the temporary board); the other commemorating the funding of the section between the lock and the bridge by IWA Grand Junction Region local branches.

WAT

November Working Party: The plan was to complete Stage 1 profiling of both banks, extend the Bentomat lining and blocking as far as possible, place spoil on the banks above the coir rolls and extend the bed lining and spoil cover. Spoil from the profiling will be used to cover the lining to start with but when profiling is complete spoil will be taken from excavations to extend the Stage 2 pipe capping. December Working Party: The aim will be to complete Bentomat lining and blocking of both banks to the end of Stage 1 and complete placing spoil on the banks and line and cover the bed with spoil as far as possible. Should progress be good we might even be able to construct the bund at the end of Stage 1 but this may well have to wait until the January Working Party. Roger Leishman, restoration director Nearly there: looking back towards the relining work from the site of the bund that will form the end of Stage 1.

For more information on Wendover Arm Trust work parties contact Roger on email: rleishman@ukgateway.net, Tel: 01442 874536 or see the trust website at http:// wendovercanal.org.uk

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Progress

...and the Wey & Arun Wey & Arun Canal: “We told you so…”

chairman of the Wey & Arun Canal Trust and as a result having sought some help in the press department – i.e. me) mentioned the next two locks – Devil’s Hole and Southlands – which will extend the navigable section in the Wey-ward direction. The great news is that Devil’s Hole now has a target reopening date: all will be welcome at the festivities there on 17 April 2010, at noon (and afterwards in the Onslow Arms no doubt). She also mentioned that the metaphorical nettle of re-connecting with the River Wey, is being grasped with a vengeance. This minor(?) problem, following a successful public consultation, will be taxing the corporate WACT brain cells in the coming months and to maintain a degree of sanity, WACT is pleased to welcome its very own chief engineer John Talbot. John comes with a longer list of qualifications than you could imagine, and years of experience with canals, rivers, dams, inland marinas, ports and harbours in the UK and worldwide. Can anybody be better qualified to take the canal from Loxwood up though more disappeared locks, around the Top Gear test track at Dunsfold, and under the main A281 to link up with the Wey? In the meantime working parties continue building and maintaining the canal, visiting parties continue to help out, trip boats (including the new electric 60-seater Wiggonholt) plough the waves, and behind the scenes the financial wizards consider how, in a global recession, the project can continue to be funded. More on these and other subjects next time. Bill Thomson

WACT

Once upon a time, in the year of nineteen hundred and seventy God-knows-what, in the Wrg-ly reign of High Priest Jervis and his many acolytes who included Palmer the Elder, some misguided individuals in the deep south started making serious noises about restoring a long-lost ribbon of mud that had many years before joined two rivers, the Wey and the Arun. The idea caused much merriment in the ivory towers of Regents Park Road (which was then the abode of the Eye-doubleyoueh) and the many wise men spluttered into their pink gins about things like multiple ownership, water supply, flattened road bridges, and the words ‘lost cause’ were much on their lips. Even though their messiah and prophet Robert the Aickman had writ: “If there had never been a Wey & Arun Canal then surely, in the 20th century, it would have been necessary to invent one”. Undeterred (or should that read ‘under turd’?) those southerly types beavered on, supported by a growing number from these wrg-ly ranks, and, out of nothing, locks and bridges mysteriously appeared. Marvelling at these miracles, your scribe was struck dumb for two decades or more and exiled to a place over the sea. On his return, he beheld a miracle. The prophecy of an owner of a long length in the middle of that canal, that “it will be reopened over my dead body” had been fulfilled. There, in the flesh, was more than two miles of waterway, with locks, an aqueduct, and trip boats operating. Most remarkably, at each end the canal was crossed by public roads where previously there had been nothing, with no headroom – arguably the two most difficult of the lost road crossings. The miracles continue. In the Devils Hole Lock top-end rebuild well on the way last Navvies, Sally (now elevated to

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Reporting from the Welsh Borders, where WRG’s 2009 Reunion work party formed part of the Montgomery Canal 40th anniversary celebrations Reunion Dig 17th/18th October

My journey down to Oswestry was going to involve several stages: first the station to get the train to Leeds, then a second train to Manchester, before going the final leg with Mike C and Stephen in the North West van. We arrived at Oswestry at about 9:45pm where we signed in, found the sleeping accommodation and started on the booze. This led to waking up on Saturday with a banging head, but luckily this was quickly cured by the full English breakfast so I felt human by time Helen ‘Bushbaby’ Gardner, one of the WRG leaders for the weekend, told us what we were doing.

...from the Montgomery After breakfast it was time to get going to site, detouring via the Shropshire Union Canal Society’s stores to get the lime for the mortar for the wall at one end of the site. We split up into teams on Sites One, Two and Three. I was on Site One, mainly with London WRG folk but there were plenty of others too.  By the time we got to site most people had started on the bush cutting, so a group of us moved down to a new section and started a second fire (this led to Tim Lewis leaving the first fire alone long enough for it to get going properly).  We started lopping trees down to feed our fire but it was taking its time to start and we had a good pile to burn by time it got going (this was during tea break - well, we called it tea break but there was a minimal number of tea bags so if you were last in line it was ‘slightly coloured hot milky water break’). We would have had a bigger pile to burn but Andi was keeping some separate so that she could pick the sloes; by the end of the weekend she had enough to make several litres of sloe gin.

Photos by Martin Ludgate unless stated

This year’s Reunion Dig was a bit different. For starters, we called it a Reunion rather than a Bonfire Bash. Secondly we held it in October instead of the usual early November date. Thirdly and most importantly, it wasn’t just a WRG thing - it was part of a big event involving the Shropshire Union Canal Society, Friends of the Montgomery Canal, WRG, IWA and others, all getting together to mark 40 years since the 1969 Big Dig organised to protest against the planned new bypass road which would have destroyed the canal through Welshpool. It was the event that kicked-off the restoration of the Montgomery Canal - and the rest is history. Quite a lot of history, in fact, as those who saw the Saturday evening entertainment will have realised. Anyway back to WRG’s main contribution to the event - a major scrub-bash in the Pant area, just south of the current limit of navigation and site of our recent summer camps near Crickheath. So it’s over to Tracy Howarth to tell us about it...

Reunion report

Volunteers get to work scrub-bashing on Site One

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After tea we returned to our (now blazing) fire and carried on until lunch when we discovered that a certain supermarket is using the phrase “now with less chocolate chips” to decorate its chocolate chip cake bar wrappers, like that’s a good thing!! After lunch some of us moved still further down and started a third fire which went up with no problems, Tim seemed to have got the knack by then. Bobby had cut down and chopped up a very big tree with his chainsaw and Gordon was his able banksman - so able in fact that when Bobby put the chainsaw down to climb over a stile and asked Gordon to pass the saw Gordon passed over a bowsaw rather than the chainsaw.  A definite blond moment for Gordon.

It wasn’t all scrub: stonework for Crickheath Wharf

regulars set to work with a vengeance, quickly making inroads into the growth. Meanwhile, Alan Jervis and Mitch arrived If even Tim has managed to get the fire going, I reckon we can safely leave Site One with one of the kit trailers, and Mr Mac arrived to set up his brew station. Lynne soon for a little while and hear from Mike Chase about how they’re getting on at Site Three... got our first fire going, using just one match. Steve Dent, trying to outdo her, tried to start the second fire under a huge pile of cut Down on Site Three, we didn’t have the brash, eventually succeeding after a longheavy growth that was prevalent on sites 1 and 2, though on first inspection on Saturday fought process. During the morning, several faces morning, all we could see from the road was the towpath burrowing into the accumulated appeared from the days of the Peak Forest Canal Society in the 1970s, including Ian growth. After dividing up the available tools McCarthy who stayed with us for the weekbetween us and Site Two, the North-West end (and provided some good commentary to some of the archive film footage shown on Saturday evening). Although it would have been quite feasible to clear all the tree growth down to the next bridge in the one day, the need to also clear the dense brambly scrub reduced our clearance rate somewhat, and the sixteen of us only reached halfway along our allotted length by the end of the day. With work well under way on Sites 1, 2 and 3, we leave the worksite and head over to Welshpool, where a Former BW Mont supremo Steven Less (right) receives his painting number of boats of all

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shapes and sizes have gathered for an event to mark the anniversary of the 1969 Big Dig. First was a surprise presentation (well it was a surprise for the recipient, anyway) to Steven Lees, recently departed main BW restoration man for the Montgomery Canal, who was given a painting depicting his own boat on the Mont by Michael Limbrey of the Montgomery Canal Restoration Trust in appreciation of his efforts over a number of years. Next, a plaque commemorating the anniversary was unveiled by four representatives of WRG, SUCS, the local community and the organisers of the 1969 event. This was followed by the Mayor of Welshpool being given a boat ride through the town (just as the then mayor was on the newlycleared canal in 1969) followed by a procession of boats of all sizes from canoes to narrowboats and a sizeable steam launch. We will leave the WRG catering team handing out refreshments to the invited guests in the VIP tent and return to Pant to hear from Tracy about what’s happening on site... After yet more tree cutting we went back to the accommodation early enough to have showers and get changed before a gorgeous roast pork dinner with a choice of desserts (big thanks to the cooks). Over the evening more beer was consumed, so much in fact that more had to be bought!

For the evening we were joined by various folks from SUCS and the other groups involved in the restoration, and many folk took the opportunity to watch the film show organised by Mike Palmer and Alan Jervis showing various archive footage from the Cheshire Ring restoration campaign of the late 1960s onwards. Alan Jervis provided a slide show of work on the Montgomery Canal over the last couple of decades, while your editor’s own contribution was a slide show of what we’ve been up to in WRG this year. There was much reminiscing, a certain amount of drinking, and then it was time for bed because there was still work to be done on Sunday - as Mike Chase reports: A small group returned to Site 3 on Sunday morning for another attack on the extra large bramble patch that remained on the cleared half of the site. This had resisted all attempts last thing on Saturday due to the bluntness of the slashers we were using, but Steve had brought some from the MB&B, and with these we quickly cut the brambles down to size. We also obtained the brush-cutter for the morning, though we were running

The Mayor gets a boat ride through Welshpool, where (inset) the plaque is unveiled

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around for a good hour in search of fuel before getting going with it. Gradually, people drifted off to work between sites 1 and 2, leaving three of us to tend the fires, eventually closing the site around 11.30. Heading over to the main encampment, I was pleased to see the progress on the wharf wall, having spent a week during the summer building it. Let’s hear a final word from Tracy about how things are getting on back at Site One...

Harry Arnold

Sunday was much the same as Saturday except the Site Three team slowly migrated over to Sites One and Two to join the attempt at linking the two sites in the middle. We nearly got them together but ran out of time as we finished at before lunch to allow those with long journeys ahead of them to get home at a reasonable time. We had lunch back at the accommodation and then some set to tidying up and packing vans. I however was going with the North West van so said goodbye and see SUCS boulder appeal is launched you soon. A fantastic weekend - thanks to Bushbaby (Helen) and Alan Jervis. Tracy Howarth Not quite the end of the weekend for everyone, though, because Shropshire Union Canal Society, who were also hard at work on another section of canal, took the opportunity on Sunday afternoon to launch their ‘buy a barrow of boulders’ appeal in support of their continuing work on the Montgomery Canal. Let’s hope it doesn’t take them (and us) another 40 years to finish it! Finally, let’s hear from Helen ‘Bushbaby’ Gardner and Alan Jervis, the WRG leadership for the weekend:

Lou announces the pudding Thank you to Tracy and Mike for writing the report, the catering team, the Welshpool contingent, the site leaders, the drivers, the washing up, clearing up, setting up and fish & chip fairies, anyone who brought anything (especially via a convoluted route), anyone who took anything away (especially via a convoluted route), BW, the landowners David and Hazel, the tool sharpening team, Mr Mac and your local weather god for his/her kindness. Alan and Helen

The canal emerges from the undergrowth

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PS Helen would also like to thank Nic for the use of the stillages and the glasses, and also for the helpful advice before the event, but would like it to be noted that she takes responsibility for ordering and specifying how much should be ordered


Forty years on

Greeting to all old friends who will remember us. We are reasonably well, even though Megan has been paralysed these past 20 years. Is it really 40 years since the Welshpool dig? My best wishes to all who managed to make the reunion. I was involved right in the middle of the photos that are always shown of the yard and shed by the bridge, just short of the lock as on the back page of Navvies No 236. I wonder what happened to all the other photos that Harry Arnold took? Thanks goodness he did, as we certainly took none, but had great fun telling him that he only took pictures to avoid getting muddy. My wife Megan was with me there, as she was at various places on the Upper Avon, and her favourite working party ever, Marple, where she got so disgustingly filthy that her father made her strip off before she was allowed back indoors when I got her home. She looked remarkably like the condition of Andy Millward on the cover of Navvies 69. Surprisingly he did not ban me, nor object much when we got married. Last year I was able to take a boat down the Frankton locks. I first saw these locks the year after the Welshpool dig. A small party of us called in for a recce on a circular tour that included going to Osbournby to have some training on our new Smalley excavator – but that is by the by. This was the beginning of WRG activity at Frankton, but the Shropshire Union Canal Society had been working there for some time. SUCS sensibly were keeping the vegetation out of the brickwork on the locks to prevent (as far as possible) further degeneration. A few years later WRGBrass were delighted to join a large working party rebricking the locks (1979). Mick Golds and John Baylis organised most of that, and whipped in every acquaintance they had to get huge amounts of work done in just a few weekends. See the cover of Navvies 76. Harry Arnold gives us photographic proof of our attendance! About this time (the active years of the 70s and 80s) we poured down copious

Mike Day looks back

draughts of ale in the Queen’s Head (when it was a real pub) looking out at the canal and imagining boats moored there in a stretch of water that, even at that time, needed no remedial work at all. In 2008 I took great pleasure in taking snaps of a very ordinary hire boat with that pub in the background, rather than from the pub of a derelict waterway. This year, once again in the company of John Felix, we boated over more past glories, this time to Stratford on Avon. One is always, on occasions like this, aware of the absence of WRG’s founder Graham Palmer who we boated with so often then; and Colin Butler, the last part of the WRGBrass of those days, who died in May 2008, and is so much missed. John and I were intent on seeing the state of the cut since British Waterways took it over, and what we could see of the old maintenance and restoration of both National Trust and WRG. With a mechanical inefficiency that I reserve for modern technology I managed to bin several photos accidentally, and only have 3 left that I shot on the compact camera. Firstly, the cut has never been so good. The whole lot appears to have gates all less than 10 years old, and the piling that we started with the National Trust workforce (Mike Bradford, Pete the Hook and German Pete) and spent so many weekends on,

Mike Day

As the Montgomery marks 40 years of work, and WRG looks forward to its own 40th birthday in 2010, one of our earlier volunteers takes a look back...

Signs of NT ownership still visible on the Stratford

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Mike Day

particularly on the long pounds either side of of canal that was worst built in the first Bearley to cover spot leaks, has been explace. 150 years ago the Stratford on Avon panded, and the whole length is piled now. Company was strapped for cash increasingly Consequently the levels are well up. Our as they worked southwards, and some of mid 70s work of making the Wilmcote flight their methods were questionable. operate properly shows quite a number of The main Achilles heel of the lower places where those bywashes that used to canal was the bywashes. There is practically leak away all the carefully husbanded water no other water supply to the canal other than are still doing a fine job after 35 years. what comes down from Lapworth. If there is Many have been rebuilt again over much of no transfer of water round the locks, then their length, but most of them have the tail there are major shortages of water lower part with pure WRG finger prints all over down. (hence our later work at Wilmcote) them. A bottom end wing wall had given up The original build provided open bywashes the ghost this year, and awaits rebuilding. for ¾ of the length of the locks. The byThis is not the first time this has happened, wash then dived under ground coming out and the one we rebuilt in con blocks with a below water level at the tail of each lock. cast capping is still there on lock 47. Unfortunately the underground part was built Our three winters of weekly work there, with a brick tube, only ½ brick thick and laid supported by groups from all over the coun- in lime mortar. 150 years on, the mortar try was most noticeable at the time in the had gone, and the tubes collapsed with no roadway we had to lay to get plant and warning, essentially putting the canal out of materials in. The towpath from the road and action and in danger of flooding. I rememup most of the locks was quite impassable, ber there being almighty rushes to dig out especially in winter. We moved many 20 ton both Birmingham Road bridge lock and loads of stone in and added to this many Maidenhead Road bridge locks right in Stratlorry loads of bricks salvaged from various ford after these incidents. In time all the places. Much of the week time presence, bywashes were rebuilt with concrete floors without which there would have been no and con block sides, mainly by weekend weekend work, was provided by the Stratlabour from WRG to get the base in and the ford on Avon Canal Society mostly in the first course or two of blocks (and thus workperson of Maurie Frost ably assisted by ing), with SONACS completing the work at a Arthur Beeston (Arfa). All that effort is not more leisurely pace completing the sides and evident now, but I know that under the neat bridging the top intermittently to prevent the tarmac of the present road, it is still there – wall being forced in by ground pressure. not that anyone would guess it. This was one of the first places where Why did we put in such effort, and why the notion of strategic help being given to a did SONACS and IWA, and come to that NT local group where a larger workforce could support us so much? It was seen that the initiate the big job, but the locals can do first major “volunteer” restoration must not fail. David Hutchings was ably leading the restoration in 1962/ 3 when suddenly he was faced with the Queen Mother coming to open it in one year’s time. He had only completed work on half the canal in over two years. He thus put on a spurt and charged his way to Stratford, so to speak, skimping the work as much as he dared, and laying concrete in the worst winter for years. He got there, and the Queen Mum did the deed as a consequence – and as a further consequence promised to reopen the Upper Avon, which indeed she did in 1974. However, the upshot was that less WRG’s work: Stratford Canal bywash still in use effort was expended on the section

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most of it given that good start. So far as I can see all the SONACS/WRG bywashes in the town are still there, exactly as left by Maurie and his merry men 30 years ago, and shown in one of my surviving photos. Another photo shows the towpath below Birmingham Road bridge (Why the Nicholsons guide calls it One Elm bridge remains a mystery. The “One Elm” is ¼ mile away). Following the restoration, spoil was stacked everywhere. In fact, many towpaths are still a bit higher than one would expect – and that is why. In this location the towpath was almost level with the road over 8 feet above water level. One of the first jobs we did on the Stratford as WRG (rather than the London WPG) was to excavate the old towpath, reform the bank and banish the dredgings enough to pass on foot at the right level. Our work seems to be much as we left it in 1969/70, but the addition of a piled edge in front of our crude sandbag wall is no doubt an improvement. It is worth saying, however, that I did see our wall about 20 years later and it was still doing sterling service, even if it did look like crap. NB NEVER use sandbags other than as an emergency fix. They are expensive in cash and labour, filthy to handle and difficult to use. We used them then, as light trench piling on canals was still in the future. We almost issued campaign medals for the poor buggers who did that one! We were reminded of the ground pressure problems in September when we walked over to “Hutchings’ monstrous erection” (The top lock of the Upper Avon just across the river from the theatre) after we moored up in the terminal basin by the Avon. On the Upper Avon, the method to build a lock became:

. . . .

Drive two lines of piles Dig out ground between the piles Hang gates at each end Connect to the navigation

This required methods of tying back the piling walls, but this failed in Stratford when the ground pressure forced the piles inwards somewhat unexpectedly. The ground conditions on the lock island resembled rice pudding. Dick Pearson who was working there at the time tells of grabbing telegraph poles and cutting them to length with a chain saw, then stuffing them in the lock to prop the sides apart. Unfortunately by the time the

pole was offered up the piles had come in even further than anticipated, and the pole had to be cut shorter… Eventually the walls were stabilised, and the piles jacked back into position, but to hold them apart the now only too obvious RSJ structure had to be inserted. (see photo) Hutch said it would be OK because he would paint them green, but the town council (allegedly) did not think much of this. Hutch (allegedly) said if you don’t like it you take it away; but you can explain to the Queen Mum why there is nothing for her to open in a few months time. Quite how true this is one cannot say – but I would have liked to be a fly on the wall! We were, quite a number of us, allowed to view the reopening between the ranks of the celebrating, but otherwise uninvolved Great and Good. I was upset to see that although there was a seat with Eric Pritchard’s name on it – the welder who welded just about every single weld on the Upper Avon, and died tragically – I saw no memorial to the man who drove the dragline for those years. Ernie was a great guy with huge skill, and Eric, Ernie and Hutch really did the job between them. Loads of people helped – the prisoners, the Army, WRG, individuals – the list is endless, but those three were the major forces, and I wonder how many people know of two of them? Eric was drowned in an accident on the river after reopening, and Ernie died shortly afterwards of prostate cancer, I believe. So raise a glass or two to the heroes of the canals, of not too many years ago: Graham Palmer and Hutch, both well known; and Eric, Ernie and Colin all three who gave so much and were not well known. Many today will not know either of the efforts of “Crick” Grundy the National Trust manager who had to look after the canal as well as Packwood House. He was a great guy and his canal knowledge encyclopaedic (He and his family boated with LTC Rolt in the 40s, and was an early stalwart of the IWA) and managed to keep the half restored canal in working order until BWB came along. He had to steer between not losing too much money for the National Trust, but still keeping the waterway open. I know that he went out on a limb for us many times, putting resources into providing for our working parties and thus trusting us to deliver. I think we did that. Mike Day

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Camp report

“It wouldn’t be a National Festival without some fencing duties, now, would it?”

Redhill IWA Festival

IWA National Festival at Redhill WRG site services camp

All photos by Martin Ludgate

On Sunday 23rd August Mike Harlock and I drove up to Redhill Marina, Ratcliffe on Soar, Nottinghamshire in Mike’s motorhome. After going through the Security gate we were met in the WRG compound by our leader Neil Collings who showed us to our camping pitch. We set ourselves up on our pitch and then joined others in the WRG compound marquee. Four team leaders were assigned along with individual team members. This year we stayed in these same teams for most of the week. On Monday morning there was some broken wooden fencing that needed tidying up and stacking neatly. Then some of the fencing around the rear of the IWA marquee needed repositioning. It just wouldn’t be a National Festival without some fencing duties now would it? On Monday evening there was a full health and safety talk in the WRG compound for all the red and blue shirts on site. Tuesday. More fencing needed moving. This time the fencing around the Main

The chain ferry

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Public entrance and admin buildings was repositioned. A water pipe laying across the entrance needed burying in the ground. For this task we called upon the services of Ju on her tractor with plough attachment. Wednesday. Exit gate B was created by yes, you’ve guessed it, moving and adjusting some fencing. Wednesday was also craning day, as usual, when land-based boats arrive on flatbed lorries to be lifted off by crane and placed onto the ground. At one point the crane and a lorry repositioned themselves to nearby Redhill Marina where they lifted out one boat which had arrived by water and put it on the lorry. The crane and lorry then returned to the festival site, offloaded the boat and placed it onto the ground next to the others. There was then a lot of wood chip that was spread on the ground on several large damp patches around the festival site. The whole squad of WRGies appeared to be out on this task. On Thursday morning there was the Exhibitors car park to sort out. The first job was to take down the main gate into the field. Then we had to level the ground out at the entrance with hardcore and shingle and roll it flat with a heavy roller. The next task was to take some wooden fencing down to create an exit from the field. We managed to take down the horizontal boards OK but we could not remove the fence posts as they were really embedded into the ground. However, who should be passing by at that time but “Digger” on a digger so we flagged him down and asked him for his assistance. Using the “Right tool for the Right job” principle the posts were lifted out of the ground with no problem at all. There was going to be a Chain Ferry operating across the canal from the Festival site to the towpath side so that some of the boaters moored over that side could get back and forth to their boat moorings. This was to be operated by WRG personnel. When the call went out we all had to assemble at the ferry for the demonstration of how to carry


out our duties and to operate the ferry safely. Another task we did was to paint the wooden ramp entrances into the IWA marquee. On Friday most of the traders were arriving at different times throughout the day to get set up on site. Once they had passed through the checking-in point we assisted the Commercial Team by escorting the traders to their location on the Festival site by walking in front of their vehicles. Another Friday task was to paint the wooden ramp entrances into Lots of fencing to put up, and take down, and put up... the Hall A marquee. During the course of the week there was also the positioning of tables and chairs in the marquees for traders and the picnic table and chairs sets in the food court areas and in the beer tent etc. and also fire extinguishers to be placed around the site. On Saturday morning first thing carpet was laid on the entrance ramps into the IWA and Hall A marquees, ready for the festival to open. The previously forecast weather turned up over the weekend of the Festival with gusty winds on Saturday and a bit breezy on Sunday. However, there were plenty of people queuing at the gates to come in each day. The IWA and Hall A marquees were of a different construction this year with heavy duty staging type floor panels and no carpets. These floor panels required cleaning each day for which a very heavy special scrubbing machine was hired. This machine had a reservoir into which the liquid detergent was poured, a rotary scrubbing brush at the front and a large squeegee blade to wipe across the floor and an air sucker at the back to take away any remaining liquid. The WRG operational team carrying out this task were soon nicknamed “The Scrubbers”. This machine had its own pallet for ease of transportation between the two marquees and this was carried out by using a set of forks. The IWA marquee was also a new design concept and consisted of three sections all interlinked. One section had an open plan sales area with a till point equipped with bar code scanning. The centre section was a children’s play area complete with toy diggers and dumpers etc. to introduce the youngsters to the delights of canal restoration. This section also had a refreshment area. The third section was a recruiting and Restoration area complete with a WRG van inside. There was also a powerful WRG display and items of equipment and tools on show. Sunday evening after our evening meal was IWA marquee scrubbing floor time. Very early on Monday morning was Hall A scrubbing floor time. Then on Tuesday it was all over, and time to put it away again: the tasks included Craning, Fencing and more Craning. Part of the WRG display Robin Bishop

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Navvies news

WRG’s 40th birthday approaches First a “Thank You”... Another year has nearly passed us and by the time you read this the camps for 2009 will have been and gone except for the Xmas camp! I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has either led, been assistant leader, cooked, or volunteered to be a leader but didn’t get a camp this year. This has been the first year that myself, Suzie Pounce and Jenny Black have done the role of finding leaders. Although at times it has been slightly stressful when the clock is ticking down and no leader in sight, we got there in the end and all the camps have run successfully. We couldn’t have done it without you all. Thank you.

Would you like to be a leader? An assistant? A MUP? A cook? Or an interviewee?

40 years, 40 views

WRG is 40 next year and as part of the various things going on to commemorate it I’m undertaking a bit of a project: ’40 Views of WRG’. I’ll be conducting 40 interviews over the next 10 months and hopefully will get an article in each Navvies with the edited highlights.  The idea is to capture some of the memories from the last 40 years, look at how WRG has changed and what it has and hasn’t achieved and also try and air some of the more unusual views.  My subjects won’t necessarily have been digging for 40 years, or even been around 40 years ago (and I may interview more than one person at the same time); whilst the personal focus is recording history it is also about getting a wide range of views on WRG. ...and then a “Please”... Obviously a serious historical project So, as it looks like this will be a yearly thing for would do all the research, consolidate and myself and the team to find leaders and cooks, cross check the views as fact and then write with the new addition of Ju Davenport helping it up - I don’t have this luxury so the emphain our quest, I am going to make a request for sis and aims may change as the project goes on.  Anyone with strong opinions on this, or all you budding campers who fancy a go at anyone who wants to be interviewed, anyone leading, assisting or cooking to please come forward and put your name on my list. My with suggestions of interviewees and offers email address is james.butler@wrg.org.uk. of help should contact me by on Tel: 07989 And for those of you who volunteered last time 425346 or email helen_gardner@hotmail.com. but didn’t end up on a camp, please also make Helen Gardner yourselves known, before I come calling! 2010 looks to be another great selecSleep well! tion of camps with a wide variety of work going on, and it is also WRG’s 40th birthday WRG NW have been given two, barely used, so what better way to join in the celebrations fleecy sleeping bag liners to sell. They are the than being a leader! rectangular, zip-together type and are approxiSomething we would like to implement mately 5’10" long x 2’6" wide. As these are just in this year’s schedule is to find a MUP (Most the thing for beefing up a regular sleeping bag Useful Person) for as many camps as possiwhich is getting a bit thin we’re offering them ble too. This ideally would be someone who before the worst of the winter. We’ll accept the can help out with driving vans and have a two best offers received by a fortnight after the useful skill on the camp, for example brick publication of this Navvies. As a guide, new laying, but most importantly this person ones seem to be £10 - 20. Carriage will be would be able to support the leaders new or free if we can arrange in-house transport, old and help train up new volunteers. otherwise the cost of postage. I look forward to hearing from lots of Please contact Malcolm Bridge at you - meanwhile, have a merry Christmas malcolm.bridge@wrg.org or 01706-378582 James Butler to make an offer.

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NOTICEBOARD Online Navvies subscriptions

You can now take out or renew a Navvies subscription online via the IWA online shop website. The address is:

https://www.iwashop.com/ecommerce/ proddetail.asp?prod=nav1

Sign your name If you care about the future of the maintenance or our canal system, please consider signing the online petition at http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/protectourcanals ...and if you care about whether your canal camp accommodation has beds, showers, or a resident population of rodents, fill in the WRG survey at http://tinyurl.com/WRGaccomm

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

Thanks to Chris Griffiths of Stroudprint for his continued help with printing

Congratulations

to Chris Rowell and Monique Butler on their marriage to Paul Cattermole and Pamela on the arrival of Eleanor Alodie on October 5 weighing 9lb to Andy and Anna Burrows on the arrival of Jamie Alexander on October 20 weighing 7lb 8oz to Eddie and Jenni Jones on the arrival of Rebecca Marie on October 21 to Jo ‘Smudge’ and Dave ‘Taz’ Tarrant on the arrival of Amy Louise on November 23rd weighing 9lb 12½oz and finally to Nina Whiteman on becoming Dr. Whiteman

For the WRGie who has everything... Thank you to Dave Dobbin for drawing our attention to a possible last-minute Christmas gift for the navvy that you just can’t think of anything suitable for. It’s called a ‘sleeping bag with arms and legs’, and that’s exactly what it is. Ideal for when you really don’t want to get up, but have to shift to make way for the breakfast queue. It’s £89 at www.nauticalia.com, and clearly they can’t quite figure out exactly what it is either, as they’ve listed it in the ‘jackets’ subcategory of ‘clothing’ on their website...

Lost Property Found at the Reunion: a blue Fat Face hoodie and a wind-up torch. To claim them contact Helen Gardner helen_gardner@hotmail.com

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Infill

Don’t worry Jane and John are away on their hols again!

Rubber dogs, plastic diggers, cartoon vans Canine Corner

Three ages of WRG?

Following on from the correspondence in Navvies about dogs on site, Malcolm Bridge of WRG North West sent in this photo of a dog made entirely from wellies:

Malcolm writes: Barbara and I came across this fellow in the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow. There can be, I think, little doubt as to his WRG ancestry, though I don’t remember anyone complaining about missing wellies when WRG NW visited Maryhill.

This picture was taken during the evening archive film show at the Montgomery Reun-J ion by David Nash who says: Make what you will of this - museum piece or caption competition? The revered ex chairman, the knackered has-been, and Mr Mac. OK over to you: what’s Alan Jervis saying? What’s Mike Palmer saying? What’s Mr Mac Saying? Suggestions to the Editor.

Corrections

Afraid a couple of errors crept into the last issue, which several of our more eagle-eyed readers managed to spot. Our apologies to those who trawled through the editorial column searching in For plant spotters... vain for any mention of the Droitwich Canals, as promised in the headline at the top of the page. Any similarity to the headline at the top of the same page in the previous issue of Navvies is, of course, entirely coincidental. Thank you to the even more than eagle-eyed (albatross-eyed, perhaps?) Graham Fitt, who in addition spotted that the cartoon van in the ‘WRGieotypes’ sketch ‘The Duty Driver’ in the same issue of Navvies differed in one notable aspect from all other vans in the WRG fleet... It appears to have been drawn as a left-hand drive model. Congratulations - you win the Golden ...my thanks to Julie Arnold for this pic of WRG Anorak award for 2009, against stiff competition. to the rescue following a breakdown at Redhill

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Dear Deirdre, I’ve enjoyed dig-

ging for several decades now but I’m finding my 11 year old fox terrier is starting to find it a strain. He isn’t sleeping well on hard floors, he’s finding the long days on site a strain and I’m thinking of avoiding the winter digs as I fear the effect of the cold on his old bones. Should I abandon my beloved hobby or should I stay behind and make myself useful at the accommodation, so as to give him a break? Deirdre writes: I don’t think it’s your dog we’re talking about here, is it? There’s nothing to be embarrassed about; there are a number of ways to age gracefully within WRG. First and foremost you MUST bite the bullet and invest in the ‘princess-and-the-pea’¯ bed favoured by ageing WRGies. This consists of a top-of-the-range folding camp bed, on top of which you pile an orthopaedic mattress, two therm-arests, an electric blanket, fourteen pillows and a goosefeather eiderdown. Once on site, avoid doing any actual work by spending your time patronising and bullying younger WRGies and giving them lots of advice on brick laying, tool maintenance, driving skills, global politics and their love lives. Ignore any health and safety rules you think make things boring and just leave that poor dog in the car.

Dear Deirdre, I’m getting so tired of the constant bickering and infighting within my local group. I try to stay out of it but someone’s always trying to drag me into their rows. How can I make it clear I’m just not interested in whether black pudding is proof there is a benevolent god, or whether Saudi Arabia shows admirable wisdom in banning women from driving, or whether dogs should be permitted to sleep in the brew kit box?

Deirdre writes: These petty rows

can make life very tedious, really the best way to handle this is to pick a side and wade in with the most outrageous argument you can find. Eg: ‘women should be allowed to drive electric cars, but there should be legal measures against them reverse parking’ or ‘any dog found within 5 metres of the sandwiches should be speared with a pitchfork’ or ‘a dislike of black pudding is a clear indicator of homosexuality’. Once you’ve dropped one of those conversational bombs you can back away and leave everyone else to enjoy the argument, whilst you go and read a book in a quiet corner of the pub or whatever you can find to amuse yourself. Have you got a question for Deirdre? Just email deirdre@wrg.org.uk

WRGieotypes No 13: The rubbish instructor

“Done any bricklaying before? No? Oh well it’s dead easy. Just finish off this course with an English Bond and keep the frog up, I’ll worry about the quoins. You can ignore the pisspoor perps along the far edge. It’s a lime mortar 2:2:1. Fill in at the back with bats. Got that? Good. I’ll fire up the mixer.”       

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From this...

And from this...

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Navvies 238  

Magazine for volunteers restoring the waterways

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