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The Inland Waterways Association

Ouse News - Summer 2011 The Cambridge Branch Newsletter covering the Great Ouse area Contents: Branch Committee p2 Chairman’s Corner p3 Book Review




Fen Lighter


Campaign Rally


Keil Canal


Branch News


Accident Report p13

Boat Gathering at Reach Fayre Photo: Jonathan Mead

Campaigning for the conservation, use, maintenance, restoration and development of the Inland Waterways.

Reach Fayre


The views expressed in this publication are not necessarily those of the Inland Waterways Association or of the Cambridge Branch. They are, however, published as being of interest to our members and readers.

Ouse News Page 2 Branch Committee Chairman: Keith Alderton Holly Cottage, 57 Globe Street Methwold Thetford, IP26 4PQ Tel. 01366 727236

Sales Officer: David Anderson 21 Cambridge Street St Neots PE19 1JL Tel 01480 477227

Secretary: John Hodgson 9 Beaufort Way, Brickhill Bedford MK41 7XQ Tel 01234 344884 e-mail:

Membership Officer: Peter Webb 35 Norfolk Road Ely, CB6 3EJ Tel 01353 658581 e-mail:

Treasurer: Enid Hodgson 9 Beaufort Way, Brickhill Bedford MK41 7XQ Tel 01234 344884 e-mail:

Member: Stephen Foote 14 High Street, Chrishall Royston, SG8 8RP Tel 01763 838936 e-mail:

Programme Secretary Stephen Smith 20A Green Street Willingham Cambs CB24 5JA Tel. 01954 202967 e-mail:

Member: Derek Bradley 24 Witchford Road Ely, CB6 3DP Tel 01353 661601 e-mail:

Ouse News Editor: Carole Alderton Holly Cottage, 57 Globe Street Methwold Thetford, IP26 4PQ Tel. 01366 727236 e-mail:

Ouse News Page 3 Chairman’s Corner Following the election of the branch committee at the AGM in March, you may be pleased (or perhaps not!) to note that I have the dubious honour of being elected Branch Chairman. Needless to say, I will do my best to be a worthy successor to Stephen Foote and further progress branch activities. Stephen has kindly offered to take up the role of Web Master with a view to developing the branch website. We were also very pleased to welcome Steve Smith to the committee as Programme Secretary and look forward to him presenting the 2011/2012 programme in the next edition of Ouse News. Please do not hesitate to contact either myself or any other committee member if you would like to make any suggestions as to what the branch should be getting up to, or require help with any related matter. The last formal meeting on the current programme was the branch AGM, followed by the usual annual report from Nathan Arnold outlining the year’s activities carried out on the river by the Environment Agency. I must say that personally, I was impressed by the amount and depth of improvements carried out by the Agency on a very limited budget. Whilst there is always a demand for money to be spent on additional 48-hour mooring facilities (particularly on the tributaries), the on-going programme of improvement to the condition of locks and other structures has quite rightly taken precedence. Let’s hope that the navigation budget does not take too much of a mauling in the coming years! You will no doubt have read that the proposed transfer of British Waterways to a ‘New Waterways Charity’ is planned to go ahead in 2012, followed by the waterways controlled by the Environment Agency in 2015. All this is subject to protracted consultation with all parties concerned and the outcome of the 2015 spending review.

Ouse News Page 4 Whilst the proposals have been generally welcomed by waterways organisations, there are still worries over the long-term funding arrangements which have yet to be defined. Much has been made of consultation with bodies representing walkers, cyclists, anglers, environmental and community groups, raising fears that the new body will forget that the primary function of a waterway is to enable the passage of boats. Those with long memories will recall the situation on the Basingstoke Canal, when just as the canal was about to be reopened after 20 years of restoration work by volunteers, an SSSI was imposed prohibiting the passage of boats because of the presence of rare water weeds. We must make sure that the NWC considers environmental issues in the context of their applicability to working navigations and not as the prime objective of the organisation. It has amazed me just how high the water levels are in the local rivers despite it being the driest spring on record. I hope that wherever the water is coming from, it keeps flowing throughout the summer. Enjoy your boating.

Keith Alderton

Cambridge Branch brass plaques available from David Anderson at ÂŁ5.00 (plus p & p)

Ouse News Page 5 ‘L-Plate Boating’ by Geoffrey Lewis and Tom McManus Book review by Stephen Foote At the Blisworth Canal Festival last year I was approached by a couple of amiable-looking coves sporting beards and hippy haircuts. ‘Why not buy a copy of our book?’ said the first. ‘We’ll sign it for you if you want – no extra charge’ said the second. ‘As it’s us that wrote it, by the by’ explained the first. ‘Sounds like a deal’ said I and parted with £7 for a copy of L-Plate Boating signed by the authors. It was a good move; this is a lovely little book. Geoffrey and Mac are what I would term ‘professional boaters’ on the inland waterways. They have skippered passenger trip boats, cargo-carrying vessels, historic boats and more, but have catalogued some hilarious tales of how even the most experienced among us can (and do) make a complete hash of things. A great comfort to those (like me) who think that making a mess of even simple manoeuvres is something reserved exclusively for them and only when the whole world seems to be watching. I particularly liked their ‘Hints and Useful Tips’ chapter which is ominously sub-titled ‘12 Ways to Kill Yourself with a Narrowboat’; I had great empathy with their tale of headlights that go out in tunnels (mine went out in Harecastle Tunnel) and of the cassette toilet that everybody thought that somebody had emptied but nobody had. And more besides… This is a lovely mixture of anecdotes and reminiscences that you can dip in and out of as the fancy takes and is guaranteed to make you chuckle. I thoroughly recommend it. Published by SGM Publishing, Milton Keynes ISBN 978-0-9564356-0-0

Ouse News Page 6 Have you seen CHYPPS? Chypps is a bright red wide beam boat which passed us on the Old West and we caught up with at Westview Marina where they were refuelling “the cheapest locally”. The Chypps play boat is the first of its kind in the country and offers a unique experience for children and young people, schools, community groups and families to play on the River Cam. The lead officers Paula Bishop, Karl Wilks and Dan Mitchell have worked hard since 2008 to launch the custom-designed, 60-feet-long, 10-ftwide boat, which was delivered to Cambridge at the A well stocked Inland Chandlery with friendly and end of January 2011. knowledgeable staff catering for Cruisers & Narrowboats Come and see us (you'll find us 2 minutes walk from Ely waterfront), or have a look at our easy to use mailorder website Boat Safety Scheme Examinations

A group of children - the Vikings - have been heavily involved in the development of the project, meeting regularly and working hard to help with design and activity ideas and develop their confidence in and around water. The play boat’s internal space is open plan to enable lots of space for play. Peter & Jean Webb

Ouse News Page 7 A Fen Lighter Revealed Those members who attended the February meeting were treated to a fascinating account by John Wilson of the heroic efforts made by a group of volunteers to raise and preserve one of the few surviving fen lighters. The tale began in 1972 when it was learnt that the sailing wherry Albion would be making passage around the Norfolk coast from the Broads in order to attend the pivotal IWA campaigning rally in Ely. The group thought that it would be nice to show a native craft as well and they knew that one was lurking in the mud in Roswell Pits. A plan was therefore hatched to build a mud and timber coffer dam around the hull, pump out the water to re-float the craft and sail it away for restoration. Unfortunately all did not go well and despite spending every spare moment like mud wrestlers in a watery grave, the boat could not be raised and members of the salvage team gradually became disillusioned and began to drift away. After some two years of hard graft, a dedicated few at last managed to raise the vessel and found it to be in remarkably good condition. With the help of a few tarpaulins it was in good enough shape to be floated away. However, as the rally at Ely had long since gone, it was decided to tow it to the Museum of Technology at Cambridge, where it was lifted out onto chocks, detailed measurements taken and drawings made for posterity. It has been described as mid-1800s carvel-built fen lighter with a beam trawl – apparently a most unusual craft. It then seems that nobody knew quite what to do with it and it languished there for some 5 or 6 years until for some strange reason it was decided to cut it into 3 parts so that it could be transported by lorry to the Norfolk Punch at Upwell. The plan was for a shipwright to stick it back together again, but needless to say this never happened. The story ends this year when part of one remaining section was found at Collectors World and moved to Streatham Old Engine where it will be put on permanent display. Hopefully it will remain there as a tribute to the original craftsman who built the vessel and the valiant efforts made by John and the many others who fought so hard to save it. Anybody interested in learning more about it would be welcome to borrow a DVD from Peter Webb showing archive footage of the raising of the craft and the subsequent journey to Cambridge. Keith Alderton

Ouse News Page 8 The IWA 2011 Campaign Rally – Northampton This year we forsook the Branch Annual Gathering of Boats at Reach and on a blustery Friday morning boated from our Blisworth mooring down the 17 locks of the Grand Union Northampton Arm to the IWA 2011 Campaign Rally.

This event was organised by our friends in IWA’s Northampton Branch to celebrate 250 years of navigation on the river Nene; to bring to the attention of a wider audience the unspoiled, tranquil and slightly remote quality of these waters and to try to encourage Northampton to take a more proactive interest in maintaining and enhancing its waterside amenity. Sponsors of the event were Northampton Borough Council, the Environment Agency, British Waterways and the Association of Nene Cruising Clubs. Co-incident with the event was the opening of the new 82-berth Northampton marina, constructed by the Environment Agency just downstream from Northampton Town lock.

Ouse News Page 9 The rally was attended by more than seventy boats and such was the use of the Northampton Arm that we were held up for an hour at Rothersthorpe Top Lock on our outward journey while BW let more water down the lockflight to maintain depth. The rally opened on Saturday morning with a very good address by Tim Coghlan (who owns Braunston Marina). Many organisations and trading companies were represented with stands and displays on the festival site at Becketts Park.

On the lock island, the organisers provided a boaters’ bar and a marquee where quizzes and evening entertainment was laid on. We particularly enjoyed the live music on the Saturday evening and the ‘fish and chip’ supper on the Sunday evening. This was followed by a boaters’ quiz where the audience formed itself into a series of random teams to compete. Our team didn’t win – but we sure had a lot of laughs. We left the rally after breakfast on Bank Holiday Monday morning after a most pleasant weekend. IWA Northampton Branch hold a boat gathering every year at this spot so we may very well be back in the future. In the meantime we thank our Northampton colleagues for all their hard work in organising the 2011 Campaign Rally. You did us proud! Stephen Foote

Ouse News Page 10 The Widest, the Deepest and the Mostest There are many canals and artificial waterways in Europe, but one has an extraordinary claim – that of being the most heavily-used artificial waterway in the world. The Keil Canal, which runs for 93 kilometres (or, if you prefer, 57 ¾ miles) from the mouth of the river Elbe near Hamburg to Keil in northern Germany thus linking the North and Baltic seas, makes this claim. In 2009, it saw the passage of 30,000 commercial vessels, an average of 83 ships per day. Container ship Veersedlik This was down from over 42,000 in the previous year. These ships carried over 71 million tonnes of cargo (again, down from an all-time high in the previous year of almost 106 million tonnes). It is said that every ship that uses the canal shortens its journey by 288 miles on average - so last year alone the Keil Canal saved the owners of the ships that used it more that 8 ½ million miles of sea passage The Keil Canal was built at the end of the last century. In 1794 the Eider Canal was opened, which was intended to provide a short cut across the Cimbrian peninsular. It could handle ships up to about 300 tonnes but proved inadequate for the demands of commerce 100 years later.

Ouse News Page 11 Count Otto von Bismark was interested to build a canal to link the German Imperial navy’s dockyards at Keil with the Elbe and thence Hamburg but political divisions of the day prevented the project from getting off the ground. In 1878 a businessman and ship-owner called Dahlstrom presented the government with a plan for a canal between the river Elbe and Eckernforde. Both the military and commercial benefits of the venture were stressed and in 1886 the government agreed the construction of the canal from the mouth of the Elbe to Keil. The foundation stone was laid by Kaiser Wilhelm in June 1887 and construction was completed in 1895. It was named the KaiserWilhelm Canal, a name which lasted until 1948 when it was re-named the Keil Canal. The canal quickly proved too small and in 1907 it was widened. The widening cost half as much again as the original construction. The Keil Canal is 162 m (530 ft) wide at the waterline reducing to 102 m (334 ft) in places. It is 11 m (36 ft) deep and 55% narrower at the bottom than at the top. The canal has two sets of two entrance locks side by side at each end. The original (old locks) are 125 m (410 ft) long and 22 m (72 ft) wide with an average 10 m (32 ft) cill depth. These locks have mitre gates at each end.The newer locks are considerably larger; 310 m (1020 ft) long and 42 m (138 ft) wide with a 14 m (46 ft) cill depth. These locks have three gates per chamber with one set in the centre so that smaller vesels can transit more quickly using the shortened chamber. Transit time through the main chamber is usually about 45 minutes. One of the two ‘new’ lock pens at Brunsbuttel

Pleasure craft are permitted to use the Keil Canal but as might be expected, the regulations are rigorous and it would hardly be a trip for the faint-hearted. Better to view the canal from a nice big cruise ship with someone else at the Stephen Foote helm. It’s a fascinating experience.

Ouse News Page 12 Branch News Winter Meetings are at 8 pm. on Thursday evenings at the Cole’s Road Community Centre, Milton (North Cambridge) CB24 6BL. Members & Visitors welcome.

Our October meeting will be a talk about ‘Lakenheath Fen nature reserve’ and will be held on:


Our November meeting will feature the ‘Half Cut Theatre’ and will be held on:

THURSDAY 24TH NOVEMBER 2011 Ouse News Advertising • • Do you want to contact boating enthusiasts? • • Circulation 350 within 30 miles of Cambridge • • Adverts cost £30 (+ VAT) per half page for a year • • Three editions a year • • Contact The Editor

We welcome the following new members to the branch and hope they will introduce themselves to us when coming to an event or meeting.

Mr I Cornish & Ms A Alderton, Newmarket Mr K Fountain & Mrs H Ellerton, Burwell Mr V Price, Littleport

May we remind members to send any changes of e-mail addresses to: tracy.higgin@

Ouse News Page 13 Near Fatal Accident on the Hanwell Flight By Di Warner (reprinted from the ‘Stort Reporter’ courtesy of The Stort Boat Club) I had an accident on 10 August 2008 and cannot believe I survived. I was operating the lock for us to go up hill at the Hanwell Flight, Lock 93 on the Grand Union Canal . The boat was in the lock with the bottom gates closed. I had raised the ground paddles on both the north and south sides of the canal to fill the lock with water. At this lock there is no bridge - there is a walkway attached to the upstream side of the top gate. I was walking from the south side to the north to raise the gate paddles on that side. I was actually looking down at the walkway thinking it was unusual as it has 3 planks - most have 2. Suddenly I was in the water upstream of the gates. I swam away from the gate to get to the side but after two strokes I felt my feet being dragged backwards. I was sucked down into the culvert. I got stuck as I was wider than the hole. I calmly accepted I would die and thought ‘Cliff, I have been so happy but I won’t see you again’. I thought how it would be ages until they would find my body. I brushed my hair from my eyes and relaxed. I thought how similar to scuba diving it was - with the bubbles rushing past. Suddenly I moved on and thought ‘hooray! I’m going to live!’ Then I braced myself for the landing. I shot out of the culvert into the lock and I was so happy that I would not die - but only for a split second as I realised I then had to contend with the turbulence of a filling lock. As I was at the bottom of the lock, I saw that the bubbles of air were sparkling in the sunshine. The effect of this was like two catherine wheels, one clockwise and one anti clockwise so I used this to help me. Instead of trying to swim up and to the side, I used the current to help lift me to the surface by aiming for the middle of the two ‘circles’. When I popped up I quickly noticed that the nearest ladder was on my left, the side Axe was moored to, but Axe had been forced over to the other side of the lock so if she moved back I would be crushed. I decided to swim to Axe.

Ouse News Page 14 I managed to grasp the chain at the bow of the boat and made one loud shout ‘CLIFF!!!!’ It was then that I saw my right foot was floating by my right shoulder. Cliff called from within the boatman’s cabin ‘Where are you?’ I shouted ‘at the bow’ and as he knelt on the side I told him ‘I came through the channel and have a broken leg’. He threw the life ring in and told me to get in it or at least hold it. I did NOT want to let go of that chain! I did get in the ring and doggy-paddled to the ladder. Cliff pulled me the last bit with the boat hook. A passing cyclist called Tim helped pull me out. That’s when I screamed. My leg was at a 45 degree angle from the knee down. Cliff asked how many times I called his name, as he had heard me twice. I had only called out once but he had heard me ‘call’ him from the bottom of the canal. I really cannot believe I am alive. My body was forced through a tube smaller than me - my abdomen, arms & kidneys are severely bruised and have a large lump on the back of my head. I have broken ribs and have torn most of the ligaments in my knee. But I would like other people to know that if they stay calm they too may survive in a lock. In the present tense: One year on I had 7½ hours of surgery to have donated and artificial ligaments put in my leg. The long wait was due to a very large deep vein thrombus requiring me to be on warfarin for 6 months. My knee will never be what it was, but I’m alive and can walk!

Lock 93 on the Hanwell Flight where Di had her accident

Ouse News Page 15 Fun & Games at Reach Fayre 2011 The annual gathering of boats at Reach Fayre over the Mayday bank holiday weekend appears to be gaining momentum as the years go by. This year the weather was relatively kind to us for a change with sunny days, slightly marred only by howling winds. However we did find some shelter in the lee of the trees to have our barbeque. Some 11 boats attended this year, providing good numbers for the weekend activities. The programme started on Saturday evening with an excellent meal at the Dykes End pub. Sunday morning saw the ladies off on the now traditional walk through the fields to Swaffham Prior and back to Reach along the Devil’s Dyke whilst the men drank beer, peered at their engines and lit the barbeques in the equally traditional manner! At the subsequent barbeque the food proved to be good and the beer and wine flowed in ample proportions. On Sunday afternoon, those attending struggled somewhat to answer the very difficult quiz questions set by last year’s winner Keith Would. Your Chairman and family somehow managed to win with a pitifully low score. Watch out for next year’s questions!

Ouse News Page 16

An enjoyable Sunday evening was spent with two teams entering yet another quiz on the village green at Reach with both teams achieving a reasonably respectable score.

Early Monday morning David Anderson arrived with the gazebo and four grown men made fools of themselves trying to erect it, only succeeding when shown how by a team of young ladies from the adjoining National Trust stand. The IWA stand at the fayre generated a good deal of interest with visitors wanting to know more about the waterways. Many thanks are due to David for his efforts attending this and other such local functions. All in all, it proved to be a great weekend – why not come along and try it next year? All are welcome, with or without a boat. Every so often, the viability of maintaining the Cambridgeshire Lodes for navigation purposes is questioned and it is, therefore, vital that we use them both to keep the channel clear and to prove that they are used on a regular basis. The Inland Waterways Association is a non-profit distributing company limited by guarantee. Registered in England no 612245 Registered as a charity no 212342 Registered Office: Island House, Moor Rd, Chesham, HP5 1WA. Phone 01494 783453

Ouse News Summer 2011  

The Magazine of the IWA Cambridgeshire Branch

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