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Shroppie Fly Paper The Newsletter of the Shrewsbury District & North Wales Branch Summer 2011

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Children try out the new life-jackets Ready for a trip on the AUDLEM LASS

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Audlem and the Audlem Lass

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ost of us know of Audlem because of the flight of 15 locks on the Shropshire Union Canal and the two to three hours hard work needed to take a boat through them or for the pleasant walk on a sunny summer's afternoon. Tom Rolt paused here in 1939 on his famous cruise which inspired his book "Narrow Boat" published after the war and which led to the formation of the IWA. He described Audlem as "a group of old houses, inns and shops clustering about a church perched on a mound" — still factually correct today but the present boater would find the implication of a sleepy village hard to recognise. The leaflet enclosed with this magazine and the Audlem Online web-site describe the lively, active and vibrant village it is today. The walks, shops and the many organised events are of particular interest to visitors. Naturally the canal, which is central in the village, has always played a major part. The building last year of the delightful Overwater Marina, one mile to the north, with its island of wild flowers, restaurant and spacious layout has added to the opportunities to extend village activities. The tow path to the marina has recently been improved, with grants from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and Defra through the Northern Marches Leader scheme and matched funding from Cheshire East, Audlem Parish Council, British Waterways and Overwater Marina. It provides walkers with splendid views over the infant River Weaver, and boaters with rather nice visitor moorings albeit with a little walk into the village centre. There have also been improvements to the steps leading from the busy wharf area to the playing fields providing an alternative route into the village centre for those who moor between the locks as well as walkers and visitors to the popular Audlem Mill and Shroppie Fly Inn. The easy access to the playing field will be particularly useful this year at the time of the Transport Festival on the week end of the July 30th and 31st. In addition to the many vintage and veteran cars there, about 20 old historic working boats, organised by Peter Silvester from the Audlem Mill will be moored between the locks. The improvements to paths will bring the road and water transport aspects of the event closer together. This year has seen the introduction of the AUDLEM LASS — a trip boat run by a dedicated team of volunteer helmsmen, which operates a regular service at weekends between the bottom lock and the new Marina. It has been provided by Rod Cottrell with financial help in fitting out from the Overwater Marina and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development. Our Branch of IWA have also helped by allocating a donation from Miss Jean Evans to the provision of life jackets mainly for children. In the first two weeks alone over 800 people were carried; the profits from fares collected will be donated to the RNLI. The Branch Committee is particularly pleased to encourage and see so many children on the boat — their interest in and knowledge of the canal can only auger well for the future. Denis Farmer Page 3


The Branch Committee President

Michael Limbrey, Greenfields, Weston Lane, Oswestry SY11 2BD 01691 654081

Region Chairman Secretary

michael@limbrey.net

Alan Platt, Argoed, Pen y Cefn Road, Caerwys, Flintshire CH7 5BH 01352 720649 alanplatt@hotmail.co.uk Dawn Aylwin, Wyndcliff, Pen y Garreg Lane, Pant, Oswestry SY10 8JS 01691 830403

Treasurer

shrewsandnwales@waterways.org.uk

Denis Farmer, 8 Kingbur Place, Audlem, Crewe CW3 0DL 01270 811157

janden1@btinternet.com

Heritage and Planning Officer Peter Brown, 34 Waterside Drive, Market Drayton TF9 1HU 01630 652567 Social Secretary

iwa@peter-quita.demon.co.uk

Janet Farmer, 8 Kingbur Place, Audlem, Crewe CW3 0DL 01270 811157

Membership Secretary Web-master Newsletter Editor Committee Members

Branch Web-pages

janden1@btinternet.com

Dawn Aylwin, Wyndcliff, Pen y Garreg Lane, Pant, Oswestry SY10 8JS 01691 830403 shrewsandnwales@waterways.org.uk Alan Wilding, Priory Lodge, 154 Longden Road, Shrewsbury SY3 9ED 01743 359 650 alan.wilding@waterways.org.uk David Aylwin, Wyndcliff, Pen y Garreg Lane, Pant, Oswestry SY10 8JS 01691 830403 shrewsandnwales@waterways.org.uk Gerallt Hughes (General Secretary Committee for Wales) Ty’n y Coed, Arthog, Gwynedd LL39 1YS 01341 250631 gerallt.hughes@waterways.org.uk Carolyn Theobold carolyn_t@mac.com

waterways.org.uk/shrewsbury

Shroppie Fly Paper The Shroppie Fly Paper is the newsletter of the Shrewsbury District & North Wales Branch of The Inland Waterways Association with a membership of about 390. Nationally the IWA has about 18,000 members and campaigns for the conservation, use, maintenance, restoration and development of the inland waterways. For further information contact any committee member. Copy for the Shroppie Fly Paper is welcome in manuscript form, on disc or by email. Photographs may be in any common computer format or as prints. Please supply a stamped addressed envelope if you require photographs to be returned. ‘Letters to the Editor’ intended for publication are invited, as are comments for the Editor’s private guidance. The Inland Waterways Association may not agree with the opinions expressed in this Branch newsletter but encourages publicity as a matter of interest. Nothing printed may be construed as official policy unless stated otherwise. The Association accepts no liability for any matter in this newsletter. Any reproduction must be acknowledged. The Inland Waterways Association is registered as a charity No 212342.

Next Copy Date: 1st November for the Winter edition Page 4


Editorial

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hank you to everyone who sent in photographs for the branch calendar and particular thanks to all the canal-side businesses that have sponsored a month. Unfortunately there are only twelve months and we have nearly 100 pictures to chose from so some of you will be disappointed. The winning picture will be chosen independently by the calendar designer and printer and will be announced in the next Shroppie Fly Paper. The calendars will be ready in July and will be on sale at the Branch stand at the IWA, Ellesmere and Whitchurch Festivals. They will also be available from any committee member at the bargain price of £4.50. Several sites in Mid Wales have been identified as suitable locations for wind farms. These will need to be connected to the National Grid via substations and 400,000 volt lines carried on pylons. Two connection points are being considered — at Legacy near Wrexham and Shrewsbury. Whichever route is chosen the impact on the Montgomery Canal will be considerable with pylons close to the Vyrnwy Aqeduct and Carreghofa Locks or Queens Head and Frankton. The project is still subject to consultation but for more information visit www.midwalesconnection.com where you can also register your comments. The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct has recently featured in Julia Bradbury’s Canal Walks and BBC’s Countryfile. The front cover shows Dr Mark Robinson, British Waterways ecologist and Jules Hudson from Countryfile abseiling over the aqueduct in search of bat roosts. On page 21 Maggie Rowlands from ‘Aqueducks’, explains how you can get involved in monitoring bats and other wildlife along the World Heritage Site. This edition features Audlem. Miss Jean Evans agreed to her donation being used to provide life jackets for the AUDLEM LASS which she described as ‘a wonderful idea’. In June Miss Evans is coming to Audlem for a cruise aboard LEO. Audlem Mill is now a craft shop and art gallery and on page 10 Peter Silvester, the present owner, outlines a brief history of the mill. At the Branch AGM it was suggested that Branch meetings should be held in different locations so the 8th August committee meeting will be held at 7.30pm at the Bridge Inn Audlem. All are welcome but please let us know if you are coming so we can look out for you. Last year Peter Brown’s talk on the Plas Kynaston Canal, which ran from Trevor Basin to Cefn Mawr, had to be cancelled due to ill health. I am pleased to say that all is now well and that Peter will give the talk on 14th November at the Narrowboat Inn. More details page 17. David Aylwin Front Cover: Dr Mark Robinson, British Waterways ecologist and Jules Hudson from BBC Countryfile abseil over the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in search of bat roosts. May 13th 2011. Courtesy of Maggie Rowlands Acknowledgements: photographs by Dawn Aylwin, Janet & Denis Farmer, Alan Platt, Peter Silvester, Bernice Slater,

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Region Chairman

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s I write this we are in something of an interim period politically; the trial Local Partnership in BW North West Area has been appointed and is due to meet soon. We will be watching its activities with interest. The DEFRA Consultation has been widely advertised in Bulletin etc; at 80 pages it is a rather daunting document, but if it was much shorter it could have been guilty of trivialising the issues. Responses are invited to 29 questions and it will not surprise you to learn that many of the important ones are not asked. Respondents are most welcome to reply to these or make comments on particular or general aspects as they think fit. The deadline is June 30th and I urge those of you with points of view to make them, but please privately and not under an IWA heading. Details are on the IWA website. The official IWA response is in preparation as I write and I thank those who responded to my invitation for input; all your comments have been passed on. A widely circulated Press Release broadly welcomes the outlined approach to the New Waterways Charity but expresses concern, particularly about the inadequacy of the current funding proposals. I know many of you share my concerns on this point and the IWA will be forcibly making this point to the interim Trustees, as well as to DEFRA and through political channels. IWA Trustees are also currently very concerned on the topic of membership; there are of course two aspects to this. We need more members and we need existing members who currently are somewhat sedentary to become more active. If you think that the IWA could be doing more, you are correct, but to do more it needs more people to do it. So please if you value the waterways and are concerned for their future, get in touch to see what you can do to help. And finally, the current weather is encouraging all of us to get out and about on the waterways, on foot with our dogs, or baby buggies, on boats of all types, with our bikes or fishing rods or however the fancy takes us. I am concerned about the lack of rain, and especially fearful of a repetition of the restrictions in the northern part of the region but let’s hope it rains at night and the sun shines in the day to make it a good summer. Have fun. Alan Platt If anyone catches sight of Alan out with a baby buggie or on his bicycle a photograph would be much appreciated. ED. Page 6


Waterways Top Pay Scandal!

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n 1836 a small committee reviewed the senior management of the Ellesmere & Chester Canal. They laid down two basic principles: everybody employed should work solely for the Company, and no allowances beyond the salary should be paid for services on the line of the canal. Thomas Stanton, the General Agent (equivalent to Chief Executive now), who was being paid £400 a year plus allowances of £240, escaped criticism. ‘No company can possess an agent who more ably or zealously performs his duties.’ They criticised the fact that he no longer lived in the rent-free accommodation provided for him at Ellesmere and that he was paid 18 shillings a day if he attended anywhere other than Ellesmere. When he saw the report he threatened to resign; a compromise was reached whereby his salary was increased to £500, officially in recognition of the carrying business which was then being set up, but he would only be paid expenses when working away from the line of the canal. He retained his apartments at the Ellesmere office, though it was agreed that there was no requirement for him to live there. George Stanton, Thomas’s younger son, was Assistant General Agent, being paid £200 a year plus £120 allowances. He had been appointed to this post in 1833 when the Middlewich Branch was completed and the opening of the Birmingham & Liverpool Junction Canal was thought to be imminent — both events which would considerably increase the trade of the canal. He had a special responsibility to superintend the works of the canal generally and those of the Middlewich branch in particular, and to make arrangements for the new trade. He had previously been supervising the construction works on the Birmingham & Liverpool Junction Canal. There was no criticism of his work or attendance but he resigned in order to concentrate on his engineering profession. This is odd, as despite being Thomas Telford’s god-son he was never elected a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, nor is it known what engineering work he subsequently did. George Edgecumbe was Clerk to the General Agent, with a salary of £120 a year and minimal expenses. The report stated, ‘He is very little employed and has various and extensive business of his own’. The committee thought he would probably resign, but in fact he did well out of the review, being appointed Resident Engineer at a salary of £300 plus accommodation at Ellesmere. He had to provide his own horse — but more importantly, he had to work full time for the Company. Thomas Crimes, the Superintendent with responsibility for Ellesmere Port Docks and the canal up to Whitchurch, was paid £120 a year but had no expenses. He was referred to as ‘an old servant of the Company’, having been appointed back in 1806 as wharfinger at Chester, but for the last few years he had been unable to undertake any work because of a paralytic affliction. He Page 7


was retired and granted a pension of £31.4s a year. Francis Lock, Works Assistant, was promoted into the vacant position, at a salary of £100 a year. William Jones was the Superintendent with responsibility for the canals from Frankton Junction to Llanymynech and to Llangollen, and also for the Ruabon Brook Railway. His allowances and expenses of £97 exceeded his salary of £80. The committee found that he also worked for William Provis, managing the latter’s fluxing stone business at Trevor. (Provis, a protégé of Thomas Telford, at that time owned forty £100 shares in the Company, had been the contractor for the Middlewich Branch, was shortly to be the contractor for works at Ellesmere Port, and was Thomas Stanton’s son-in-law.) To make matters worse, his accounts were confused, mixing up income from the limestone and canal businesses. This was a particularly responsible job, his section of canal including the two great aqueducts, two tunnels, the deep cuttings and high embankment, and the water supply to the whole canal, ‘the key of the navigation’. Thomas Stanton thought highly of Jones, stating that he had been in the situation for thirty years and was ‘an exceedingly trustworthy and suitable person’. He was duly appointed at a salary of £100 including expenses. John Tilston was Principal Tonnage Clerk with a salary of £80 and additions of £56. He had private businesses as a carrier and a timber merchant. In the latter capacity he had supplied much timber to the Ellesmere yard; there was no criticism of the rate charged, but the committee thought that employees should not also be suppliers. He was the only person dismissed but the Company stressed that this was done with regret, and they had no concerns about his fidelity or efficiency. He was replaced by his former deputy, Richard Beddow. Peter Brown Page 8


A Day Out In Ironbridge

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eats have been provisionally booked with Ironbridge Scenic Cruises for 12 noon on the 6th August. We will meet at the Museum of the Gorge, Old Severn Warehouse at 11.45 and, assuming that water levels permit, leave for a 45 minute trip soon after. If we are unfortunate enough for the river to be in the wrong mood the Museum will be an alternative where, with any luck, they will serve coffee if we want it! After the cruise we will make our way to The Bucks Head Pub in Long Lane for lunch and from there our historian Peter Brown will guide us on a tour of Wappenshall Wharf and the Longdon Aqueduct. The charge for the boat trip will be £6 per head (payable in advance and refunded if the trip doesn't take place) and any costs such as coffee and lunch will be "pay as you go" Please let me know on 01270 811157 or e-mail janden1@btinternet.com if you want to book and payments need to be sent to 8 Kingbur Place, Audlem, CW3 ODL. We hope to see as many of you as possible. Janet Farmer

100 Club

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n the last two issues we have invited members to join a ‘100 Club’ in order to provide the Branch with additional income. Unfortunately there have not been enough takers to justify the cost of running the scheme so reluctantly the Branch has had to abandon it. We would like to thank all those who were willing to support the scheme. Denis Farmer Page 9


Audlem Mill, A Brief History

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ingbur Mill, an animal feed mill, was built about 1916 for H Kingsley Burton, a local miller. Being canalside, it was easier to receive raw materials and despatch finished products. A covered gantry at first floor level straddled the roadway to the canal, so that goods could be loaded in or out of narrow boats. Within only 10 to 20 years, the canal trade fell away, and by the early 1930s, most incoming and outgoing goods were transported by motor lorry.

Audlem Mill circa 1960, showing the covered gantry Many visitors assume that because the Mill is alongside the canal, it was water powered. The flow of water in canals is not adequate, and canalside mills were all powered in some other way. Audlem Mill had an oil-fired Crossley engine housed in the single storey building at the rear, which drove all the machinery via a series of belts and pulleys. The belts entered through the rear wall, and power was distributed throughout the building. H Kingsley Burton (died 1947) and his family lived at Copthorne House in Audlem, near the now closed railway station. He was buried in Audlem cemetery, close to the canal that had featured so much in his life. He was succeeded as Miller by his son, John Burton. John Burton and his wife had two daughters, Margaret and Sheila, who remember playing in and around the Mill as children. A pig was kept in a brick Page 10


shed where the car park now is, and it was fed with animal feed from the Mill. Broken biscuits from Huntley & Palmer went into the feed, though the girls remember eating some of the pink wafers! John Burton ran the business until the early 1960s, when he sold it to Paulls of Newcastle upon Tyne. They kept him on to run the Mill. After a few years, Paull’s sold the business to a local man. But by this time, competition from large animal feed firms was evident, and Audlem Mill, the last of several old mills in the Audlem area, finally closed by 1970. Audlem Mill was taken on by John and Philippa Stothert in 1974. The ground floor became a canal shop, with a range of canal related products and giftware, the first floor became a workshop and art gallery, and they converted the top floor into a flat to live in. Chris and Peter Silvester took over in 2007, after they had completed a further renovation of the building. They have been careful to ensure that the original building and fixtures have been retained. Peter had his first canal trip in the mid 1960s, well before the end of commercial carrying, and Peter and Chris ran the canalside shop at Hassall Green on the Trent & Mersey Canal in the mid 1980s. Peter Silvester

The Union Canal

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eing a Regional Chairman takes me to some unexpected places and twice last year I found myself in Scotland, once at Falkirk and soon afterwards in Linlithgow; it looked interesting up there so in the last week of April I found myself booking onto a Black Prince hireboat for a week’s cruise. What was different was that I’d never boated on the Scottish lowland canals before, and the last time I hired a boat was in 1982. The party consisted of Gilly, her sister Pat who lives in New York State and me so we were not cramped for space on a 58ft boat. The dogs stayed at home. Hireboats have moved on since I last hired one, the beds were comfy, the ablutions and kitchen very acceptable and the saloon was comfortable even if the furnishings were a tad tired. The Ebersbacher worked well and mechanically it was a novelty to be in the situation where if anything went wrong, you rang the yard up rather than fixed it yourself; this was just as well as there were no gauges or dials, just a couple of warning lights. The downside was the thing steered like a brick, and it actually did go better backwards. First we had to get up into the basin and go up on the Falkirk Wheel. This is great fun and I recommend anyone near there to go to Falkirk and do it in the trip boat. The unit of electrical power up there seems to be what it takes to boil a kettle, and I was told variously it took 2 or 8 kettles worth to make it work; I Page 11


The Falkirk Wheel was also reliably informed the emergency kit is a man with a crank. Unlike Anderton you go round, not up and down, and the views are fantastic; at the top it can be a little breezy and I’m told a favourite angle of approach to the caisson is sideways on. Once up at the top you are faced with a short tunnel, a sharp left hand turn, involving a bit of contact as this is where I discovered the boat’s idiosyncratic steering habits, and a staircase lock, the only one on the Union Canal. This is manned, as they all are, as well as the swing bridges etc. On the heavily locked Forth and Clyde this could be irksome to the experienced boater, but we never got to find out. This was to be a relaxing cruise with no hurry and no pressure; we averaged about 10 miles a day, for reasons which will be explained. We quickly learned the first thing about the Union Canal, mooring is at regular places where there are rings, the canal has sloping sides and mooring by the bank involves planks and more athleticism than I am suited for these days. The first evening we made Linlithgow, the second Ratho and the third day we got to Edinburgh. This was no hardship as Linlithgow is a historical town with a palace and Ratho has a very decent pub by the canal. Page 12


The weather, always a worry in Scotland, was excellent but we were perplexed by the scarcity of several things. There were very few animals or birds around, either cows in the fields or ducks on the water; the latter was partly explained on the way back when we encountered a few clutches of very new ducklings, but we met maybe half a dozen swans and only one heron on the whole trip. The second scarcity was boats; Easter week, especially a late one, is primary hiring time, but there were about 8 out from the base and we didn’t pass more than a dozen moored private boats. The canal is very pleasant, excellent views to the hills in the North, a glimpse of the familiar Forth road and rail bridges, and two fine aqueducts, that over the Avon being 85ft high and 810 ft long; as one nears Edinburgh the cut goes through some tower block estates but nothing that looked like bandit country. The moorings at Edinburgh Quay are excellent and the 15 minute walk into the city takes you past two cinemas, the Usher Hall, Traverse and Lyceum theatres and two lap dancing clubs, so all cultural tastes are catered for. You then arrive at Princes St with shops on one side and fine gardens and the Scott memorial on the other. Beyond is the Royal Mile which takes you through the Old Town with the Castle at one end and Holyrood Palace and the spectacularly ugly Scottish Parliament building at the other. The ladies hit the shops and I mooched round the Art Gallery and then enjoyed an ice cream in the gardens. So a shopping trip in Edinburgh was one reason for not getting very far. The other was that our last full day was April 29th. We spent the previous night in a quiet arm just by where there used to be a flight of 11 locks connecting the two canals, now built over (hence the Wheel). In the morning we came down the staircase and the Wheel and moored up in the basin. I then set the telly up and left them to it while I went off to find the Antonine Wall, not very spectacular and more like Offa’s Dyke than Hadrian’s Wall but a pleasant walk. Back at the boat we went down the lock connecting the basin to the Forth and Clyde and moored the boat up to clear most of the packing back to the car. A speculative trip into Falkirk in the evening located an excellent Italian restaurant alongside a F&C lock which rounded off the holiday nicely. In general a most enjoyable trip on a well maintained canal with some excellent stops; next time we might hire a cruiser and try the Cally! Alan Platt Page 13


Tugboat Ted

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ould you have known how old Rupert Bear was? As an adjudicator at the Quiz in January I noticed a few perplexed faces but there were some good guesses too. The room at the Narrow Boat Inn was pretty full and it was a pleasant evening, details just made it into the last magazine. Next up on the social calendar was the Skittles on April lst. There had been misgivings as to whether there would be enough humans to play but in the end the alley was packed and a team of 8 from Audlem played as an adjunct to the Shrewsbury District & North Wales Branch team opposing the Chester and Stoke-on-Trent teams who ended up with identical scores. Both SD&NW teams did well and ended up with the cup. One of our Audlem team has described the evening elsewhere so I won't say more here. The humans (acting for the Branch) have also enjoyed being involved with the setting up of AUDLEM LASS — more details elsewhere but we bears think it is a great idea. We missed the inaugural trip during the Easter Celebration at Overwater Marina but understand that it was very successful — the weekend raising more than £700! Profits go to the RNLI. Following the usual touching up of paintwork, we all set off in LEO for Norbury and the Shrewsbury and Newport Canals Trust May Day Rally looking pretty smart. It's always a good feeling to be properly boating again after the winter and there was plenty of sunshine. The Trust together with the Junction Inn looks after things very efficiently these days but, reminiscing, we remembered that the Branch was heavily involved in setting up the first one 8 years ago. It is good to see it continuing so successfully.

The sand game at Norbury

There are ups and downs to boating, apart from locks. The ‘ups’ of our trip were many, the sun on our backs, beautiful trees and wild flowers to admire en route, ducklings just having hatched — we heard that a family of 19 live in the vicinity of Overwater Marina! The ‘downs’ are sadly mostly human failings. We arrived at Norbury to find our allotted space taken by a boater who ‘had rights’! Having hung about for an hour for his return to the boat, we were none too happy, neither were fellow ralliers who were expecting us but, for the sake of everyone involved we accepted his ‘concession’ for us to moor next to the bank while he stayed on the outside — blocking our light of course! We were able to operate the sand game which was the main aim of the weekend but had to accept that the strong winds had a detrimental effect on takings and that the mooring fracas Page 14


wasn't good. Anyone who has been involved with organising an event will recognise the term ‘there is always one’! Hard on the people who work to make sure that things run smoothly. The second ‘down’ was on the way home, a hire boat leaving all bottom gates open! When you have a limited crew who isn't quite as young … it’s irritating to have to deal with an extra set of gates at each lock. A later friendly discussion between the crew with a hirer, we think the right one, revealed that they had received very little instruction and thought they were doing a favour to the next boat coming up! The people we spoke to promised to report back to the hire company. Elsewhere in the magazine there are details of the proposed day out in the Iron Bridge Gorge. Do try and come. These get-togethers are usually fun and, in this case informative with Peter Brown telling us things we didn't know about the Wappenshall Wharf and the Longdon Aqueduct. Tugboat Ted

Lock Wind at Quoisley 23rd and 24th July 2011

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s several of you pointed out, we got the date wrong in the last edition of this magazine; we were a day adrift! I blame a confusing new calendar but it could possibly be old age! The Lock Wind will be held over the weekend Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th July although we will be setting up on the Friday and will be helping boaters through the locks while we erect the Branch marquee. Last year we collected quite a few donations while doing this. However all the other details are correct and can be checked on the Branch website www.waterways.org.uk/shrewsbury So far three boats have booked in and we have had three more offers of help complete with promises of cakes from members arriving by car. However we still need more produce for the ‘bring and buy’ stall so please remember us when you are wondering what to do with all that surplus fruit and vegetables. Just in case you are unable to join us on the day but still want to bake us a cake the following people have volunteered to act as drop off points: Market Drayton Audlem Oswestry Shrewsbury

Peter Brown Janet Farmer Dawn Aylwin Michael Limbrey Alan Wilding

01630 652567 01270 811157 01691 830403 01691 654081 01743 359650

Hopefully the weather will be kind to us but come rain or shine the Lock Wind provides a great opportunity of meeting and talking to people. As well as spreading the gospel according to IWA it is a lucrative way of raising funds and is a good day out. A couple of hours winding locks, then a brisk walk along the canal followed by lunch in the local pub. What could be better? Page 15


Shrewsbury District & North Wales Branch

Diary 12th June Dinghy Dawdle Paddle your canoe from the Weston Arm to Maesbury on the Montgomery Canal (See page 28 in the spring edition for details. Further information from Peter 01691 831455 13th June Branch Business Meeting 7.30pm at the Narrowboat Inn, (Maestermyn Marina) Whittington. Members are very welcome to join us but please confirm time and date with a committee member before attending. 23rd - 24th July Lock Wind at Quoisley A fund raising weekend; windlasses can be provided but please bring along produce for the ‘bring and buy’ stall. More details on page 15 and in the spring edition. Please contact Dawn 01691 830403 if you plan on joining us. 23rd July Discovery Day Stalls, crafts activities and guided walks at Llanymynech Heritage area. Please note the change of date which unfortunately clashes with our Lock Wind but if anyone would like to organise a branch stall please get in touch with Dawn 01691 830403 as soon as possible. 24th July Open Day at Aqueduct Marina on the Middlewich Arm 29th - 31st July The IWA Waterways Festival More details on page 19 and if you can help with the Branch stand please contact Dawn 01691 830403 31st July Audlem Festival of Transport Including old cars, motorcycles, lorries, buses and of course boats including SATURN. For further information please contact Audlem Mill 01270 8111059 6th August Day Out in Ironbridge Enjoy a boat trip on the Severn, lunch at a pub and guided tour of Wappenshall Wharf and the Longdon Aqueduct. See page 9 for details and contact Janet 01270 81157 if you wish to join us. Page 16


8th August Branch Business Meeting 7.30pm at the Bridge Inn Audlem. As requested by members we have changed the location of this meeting so please join us but let us know you are coming so we can look out for you. 20th - 21st August Friends of the Montgomery Canal If you can help with their lock wind please contact Peter 01691 831455 27th August IWAlk - A sponsored walk on the Montgomery Canal Details on page 22 9th - 10th September Ellesmere Festival The Branch book stall will be up and running so please come along and ‘bring and buy’. 12th September Branch Business Meeting 7.30pm at the Narrowboat Inn, (Maestermyn Marina) Whittington. Members are very welcome to join us but please confirm time and date with a committee member before attending. 17th -18th September Whitchurch Rally. The theme this year is ‘Forest Fairy Tales’. For entry forms contact Whitchurch Waterway Trust 01948 830837 wwt@mican.co.uk 14th November The Plas Kynaston Canal A talk by Peter Brown the Branch historian, at the Narrowboat Inn, (Maestermyn Marina) Whittington. The talk will start at 7.30pm and is open to all. Why not join us for an informal meal at 6.30pm? Please contact Peter 01630 652567 for more details. 7th January Winter Walk at Shrewsbury Details in the winter edition but please contact Peter 01630 652567 if you want details earlier. 14th January Branch Business Meeting 11.30am - 1.30pm at the Narrowboat Inn, (Maestermyn Marina) Whittington followed by lunch. Yes this is a Saturday as requested at the AGM last March. Members are very welcome to join us but please confirm time and date with a committee member before attending. Page 17


Reminiscences of Whitchurch

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y grandfather Harry Talbot was born in February 1867 at Newport, Shropshire, where his father was the gas works manager.

He worked at the Canal Wharf and about the time of his marriage became Wharf Manager with the use of the house known as Canal Wharf Cottage. Harry married Martha Ashley in February 1898 and they had four children: Robert, Harry, Mary and Alice, who was my mother. During the late 1890s and early into the next century the canal here was very busy with goods of all descriptions being transported by barge. Whitchurch at that time was the centre for the Cheshire Cheese industry. Large cheese shows were held here and cheese was auctioned and various cheese markets held. Most of the cheese would find its way into the town by barge.

The Talbot family (Alice is seated)

By the early 1930s canal trade was limited and eventually ceased and my grandfather was then transferred to work at the station as the canal and the railway were linked. He still looked after the store as holiday relief and I can remember being taken into the store where he would take a special tool from his pocket and extract a sliver of cheese for me to taste. My Grandfather always had a large boat hook handy to hook children out of the canal who had fallen in, and although many did he never mentioned any fatalities. My mother used to tell me of her Sunday School outings which always took the form of a trip on a barge down the canal, mooring by a field for a picnic and games, and then home on the barge. They got to know many of the regular canal users with their decorated boats and although very large families were reared in cramped conditions they were always kept neat and tidy. I was born in Smallbrook Road so the canalside played a part in my life until it was filled in when I was eight years old. Winters were harder then and the canal would freeze and people would skate on it in their lunch hours. We also had regular visits from the circus that would stay on the Jubilee Park and the elephants would be taken to the canal for washing. The Wharf Cottage was demolished in the 1960s. Bernice Slater [First published in Plane Sailing, the journal of the Whitchurch Waterway Trust.] Page 18


Shrewsbury Charity Christmas Card Shop Friday 28th October to Saturday 3rd December

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he shop, which was supported by 39 charities last year, will be set up in the Trinity Chapel in St Mary’s Church, St Mary’s Street, Shrewsbury SY1 1ED which is fairly near to The Old Market Hall. This is a new opportunity for the Branch which we hope will provide much needed funds. We will be selling our fabulous new calendar and various Christmas cards (national IWA packs as well as local scenes designed and created by Alan Wilding). If you plan to visit Shrewsbury to do some early Christmas shopping why not pop into St Mary’s Church, it’s the perfect place to buy your cards. Apart from visiting the card shop St Mary’s Church, which was made redundant in 1987, is worth visiting in its own right. It has a wonderful and unique collection of stained glass with examples of different styles from the 14th century to the present day. Look out for the huge spectacular east window depicting the Tree of Jesse, and filled with figures of Old Testament kings and prophets, in brilliantly vibrant colours. The amazing 15th century carved oak ceiling in the nave with its profusion of animals, birds and angels is also worth a second glance. The shop is run by volunteers from the various organisations taking part and the Branch has agreed to provide 2 helpers on the following days and times: Saturday 12th November 1.00pm to 4.15pm Saturday 26th November 10.00am to 1.00pm So do you live in or near Shrewsbury? Are you willing to spend a morning or afternoon helping at the Charity Christmas Card Shop?

The IWA Waterways Festival 29th to 31st July

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re you going to the IWA Waterways Festival by boat or camping out in the field? If so would you be willing to help out on the Branch stand?

The Branch has been offered and accepted space in the Staffordshire marquee and will be taking the display boards and a small table from which we will sell our wonderful new calendar and the ever popular ‘Brain of Monty’ quiz amongst other things. We have Friday and Sunday covered although it would be good if someone could do an hour or so, to give volunteers the opportunity to get something to eat or just wander round the festival ground. More importantly we need members to man the stall on Saturday – say for a morning or afternoon? If this is too long for you and we get enough helpers we could break the day down into 3 sessions.

If you can help at either of these events please contact Dawn on 01691 830403 Page 19


Aqueducks (Friends of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Llangollen Canal World Heritage Site)

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queducks was established in August 2010 as the community offshoot of the World Heritage Site Steering Group. Previously there had been a community subgroup of the steering group, one of 5 subgroups, which fed information, concerns and plans up and down the ‘chain of command’ as one of the main parts of implementing the WHS management plan. The local community was a key factor in the nomination process in 2009, and the development of community involvement was a priority. Therefore we have been lucky to have had a funded project, with project officer (Piers Warburton) for the last 2 years, which has paid for walks, talks, and fun days etc; much of which I am certain many local IWA members have enjoyed, along with lots of other local people. All of this work by Piers has paid dividends in the numbers of people who are interested in the heritage of this area, and Aqueducks now need to move forward with this! Somewhat difficult without any new funding and it’s proving to be a big learning curve for us. It’s rather different to any other community group I have been involved with because of the huge interest in it from around the world, coupled with such a fledgling organisation. For example, our first rudimentary attempts to get a web site up immediately attracted a Japanese Film Crew, who we then helped in March in their efforts to make a programme about the World Heritage Site. One of the themes that Piers developed, and which has proved a very popular way to draw in the local villages, was the exploration of the trade routes which brought products down to the canal. So, for example, we have organised walks along the route of the slate transport down to the top end of the WHS above Llangollen, and have made links with the Glyn Valley Tramway group, to look at how the tramway developed originally because of the canal at the bottom end of the Glyn Valley (or Ceiriog Valley to be more accurate). From all of these developments we can see that what interests local people most is more about the context, stories and people around the canal in a much wider area than simply the structures and heritage of the World Heritage Site. In parallel with the main steering group, we are beginning to separate out subgroups with specialist interests. In April we launched our Heritage subgroup, and are developing contacts and interest for a Biodiversity subgroup. In May we were filmed for the BBC Countryside programme looking for bats in Trevor Basin. Where we are now is an exciting, but scary place. We have a website www.aqueducks.org.uk a logo and name, designed for us by local schools. Page 20


We have lots of friendly contacts with local groups and people and parish councils, (and core to our establishment is that we represent their needs to the steering group). We have a few more months of Piers Warburton before the funding runs out, And we have a newsletter. The first one is an e-newsletter but we are looking for some funding to print it in future and to bring it out every 3 months. To find out more or to get involved download the newsletter from the website, or contact me directly. Maggie Rowlands maggierowlands@talktalk.net 01691 773197

Pontcysyllte Stars in Television Programme

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ildlife enthusiasts had the opportunity to be part of an exciting evening by the canal at Trevor Basin. Not only a wonderful evening of bat detecting but also to be part of filming for a future Countryfile programme for the BBC. Members of the Aqueducks – Friends of the World Heritage Site were asked by Piers Warburton, the Community Development Officer, if whilst out doing a survey for bat activity they would agree to be part of the programme. There was an enthusiastic response and we were introduced to the presenter, Julian Hudson, and the rest of the crew. We were also very lucky to have Dr Mark Robinson on site too as he is National Ecology Manager for British Waterways and a passionate promoter of BW’s Wildlife Survey 2011 which is focussing on bats. Everyone had a fantastic evening and the stars didn’t disappoint. Although not always arriving on cue, they gave a wonderful display, which we could follow by using detectors which pick up the bats echo locating calls as they flew and fed over the canal. The crew were very pleased with the filming and we will have to wait to watch the programme to see how much footage makes it passed editing! Filming was also made during the day on Friday with Mark Robinson and ‘Jules’ abseiling off the aqueduct to look at bat roosting sites under the arches (see front cover). Under professional supervision Mark and Jules were ‘dangling’ from a boat on the aqueduct and filming took most of the day and again the crew were thrilled with the location and efforts of all involved. This was an entertaining day for locals and visitors with many people having an unexpected and unusual photo opportunity. The Aqueducks Biodiversity Group would welcome contact from users and visitors to WHS for any sightings or information relating to otter and mink, giving details and dates please, we would also be interested in other usual as well as unusual flora and fauna so that we can build up a database of species along the canal. Please contact Lesley Richards on Lesleyllangollenwhs@hotmail.co.uk Everyone can take part in the Wildlife Survey by visiting the Waterscape website www.waterscape.com Page 21


IWAlk – A Sponsored Walk on the Monty Saturday 27th August 2011

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he ideal opportunity to see the Montgomery Canal in all its glory and to see how much more work is necessary to join the English section down to Wales at Llanymynech. There are two work sites on route: The first is south of Prices Bridge where the Waterways Recovery Group (WRG) will be working for the whole of August but unfortunately Saturday is a changeover day so you will not be able to watch them in action. However a volunteer will be on site to answer questions. The second is the section of canal between Prices and Redwith Bridges where the Shropshire Union Canal Society (SUCS) work on the first weekend of every month. And finally the route will take walkers along the newly restored section down to a well-deserved rest at Canal Central at Maesbury. Unfortunately this route is not suitable for wheelchair users or pushchairs as there are stiles and fences to climb over and the tow path is non-existent in places. Money raised by this sponsored walk will be split 50/50 between the IWA National Campaign Appeal which is raising money for Inglesham Lock and to kick-start the next Maesbury Canal Festival which is being organised to highlight the need for restoration. All profits from the Festival will be given to current restoration projects; in 2010 over £2,000 was donated by the Festival committee to the SUCS ‘Buy a Barrow of Boulders’ campaign. Option 1 - Llanymynech to Canal Central at Maesbury and back (8 miles) Sign on: 10.15am at the Llanymynech Wharf Information Centre SY22 6EA north of the canal bridge on the A483 (the centre will be open from 10.00am for use of the facilities). Parking: There is a small car park at the Information Centre, a village car park west of the crossroads on the B4398 between the shop and the Dolphin Pub and further parking at the Village Hall on Station Road east of the crossroads. Start of walk: 10.30am Halfway rest: Canal Central will be serving soup and roll but please let us know in advance if you wish to take advantage of this service (Iain and Fiona would like to know if they are catering for 10, 100 or 1,000 people). Sign off: The Information Centre at Llanymynech will re-open again at 2.00pm to 3.00pm when light refreshments will be available. Option 2 – Llanymynech to Canal Central (4 miles) For walkers who do not have the energy to walk 8 miles, there is the opportunity to park your car at Canal Central, Coed-y-Rae Lane, Maesbury Marsh SY10 8JG and be taken by mini-bus to Llanymynech (a kind offer from WRG) so you can walk back to your car; however due to limited space you MUST book your seat in advance and donations to cover fuel will be gratefully accepted. The mini bus will leave Canal Central at 10.00am so please arrive in plenty of time. Page 22


The route goes through farmland and walkers are likely to be sharing the path with horses, sheep and cattle so please keep dogs on a lead at all times. Thanks go to the Friends of the Montgomery Canal, the Duchess Countess Trust, the Waterways Recovery Group and Canal Central for their help and support. To get a sponsorship form, to book the minibus or to let us know if you require soup and a roll please contact: Dawn on 01691 830403 or shrewsandnwales@waterways.org.uk

New Captain at the Helm of the SNCT

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t this years AGM four of the Trustees decided to step down and four new Trustees were elected to the Shrewsbury & Newport Canals Trust (SNCT) Board. A meeting was then held to elect the Trust’s officers and Bernie Jones was voted in as the new Chairman. Paul Havell was also elected as the new treasurer, replacing Keith Lewis who has been the Trust’s treasurer since it was started. Bernie succeeds Chris Chambers who has stepped down after six years leading the Trust. During his time Chris successfully re-aligned the internal structure of the SNCT, giving it a clearer direction and a more “joined-up” approach to the project. He worked tirelessly to represent the Trust and its views to all its stakeholders including landowners, local authorities and the communities along the canal. Under his guidance the Trust firmly established its credibility and proved that its aspirations are achievable. Bernie has been a very active Trust volunteer for some years. He chaired the Norbury Junction Festival Committee this year, after doing the Harbourmaster’s job at the event in 2010. He has also been a member of the SAT (a key sub-group of the Trust) and has organized many work parties over the past 8 years. In this new position he plans, with his fellow Trustees, to review and update the Trust’s Strategic Plan. He wants to take a new approach to help increase involvement and commitment from all those who will be affected by the canals’ restoration. He firmly believes that the Trust should firstly concentrate its current efforts on three key sites along the canals, as these will act as a catalyst to prove that the SNCT can deliver, which will generate confidence that the whole project can be completed. Bernie’s appointment has occurred at a key point for the Trust, as the Options Appraisal Report for the Wappenshall warehouse buildings, which the trust occupies on a peppercorn rent from Telford & Wrekin Council, has now been completed and the Trustees have made a decision as to the option that will be pursued. This means that the Trust can now apply for the grants that it needs to repair these Grade 2 listed buildings and bring them back into use. They will then become a Headquarters for the SNCT and provide a focus for the restoration of the Shrewsbury & Newport canals. John Myers jma2@onetel.com Page 23


Membership Matters

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very warm welcome to the following members who have joined the Branch since the last edition of this magazine: Mr & Mrs Byatt from Hinton, Mr Davis from Shrewsbury, Mr Evans from Llanrug, Mr & Mrs Fachiri from Bronington, Mr & Mrs Hannah from Audlem, Mr & Mrs Harris from Shavington, Mr & Mrs Jones from St Martins, Mr Jones from Llanfordn Mead, Mr & Mrs Keane with a postal address in Wem, Mr Peabody from Denbigh, Mr & Mrs Robinson from Mold, Mr & Mrs Rodgers from Shawbury, and Mr & Mrs Wagstaff from Rhosybol. It is good to see new people joining the Association and we look forward to meeting you all so please come along to one of our events and support your Branch. Please note that if you joined in May, details had not been received before this edition went to the printers. Two members have recently stepped forward (or did everyone else step back?): Helen Brockman is now the IWA representative on the Whitchurch Waterways Trust and Maggie Rowland has the honour of being an Aqueduck. That doesn’t mean the rest of you are off the hook, we still need your help. In fact you are one of 553 members; yet the Branch committee consists of only 10 people (although we do have a small group of willing helpers and we are very appreciative of the support they give). Unfortunately with the passing of time committee members are not getting any younger. At least one has joined the ranks of venerated octogenarians (fortunately he is more than able and willing to continue on the committee although I suspect he would like to retire and let someone younger take over). And the rest of the committee? The majority of us are well into our 60’s and some approaching 70 if not already there. So if you have the time and energy please come and join us, if not on the committee then at one of our events. There are no age restrictions and no qualifications are necessary, just enthusiasm for the waterways which is probably why you joined the IWA in the first place. So what does the committee do? What will be expected of you? We meet about 9 or 10 times a year depending on holiday and other commitments and discuss matters relating to the canals (sometimes we can make a difference and sometimes we can’t), organise events which we hope will be of interest, raise money so we can underwrite or make donations to various projects and support local events. And of course we take every opportunity to campaign for the canals and talk to MPs, Welsh Assembly members and Local Authority members. If you decide to join us there won’t be any pressure to take on a role; in fact roles are created round the interests of volunteers not the other way round. At least one branch is likely to close down soon due to the lack of interest from its members. Don’t let this happen to the Shrewsbury District & North Wales Branch. It’s your Branch so please make a commitment and join us. Dawn Aylwin

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Tyrley Tattle

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t is now becoming evident that the decline in boating numbers is not a consequence of the Shebdon breach in 2009 but reflects a general decline in the numbers using the waterways. A few years ago it was not uncommon to have long queues waiting at Tyrley to use the locks but, to my knowledge, that hasn’t happened for at least the last three years. It was explained at the last BW customer forum that lock gates are now only being replaced when considered category D in condition. This is certainly a logical approach to using available funds but it does mean that gates have to be left to deteriorate in the meantime. The locks at Tyrley are no exception and it is now very difficult to fill the top lock without using all three paddles as the bottom gates are leaking so much. This is causing some concern for new hire boaters who, for some reason, never seem to be told of the existence of gate paddles on top gates of locks. Having lived next to the lock for so many years we are always conscious of lock problems when we notice boats taking longer than normal to enter the lock. It always proves to be either sheer incompetence in knowing how to operate the lock, the use of only the ground paddles or having one of the bottom gate paddles marginally open because a previous user hasn’t bothered to wind it fully down. This year, of course, the very dry March has left the Belvide reservoir well below its maximum level and this is causing concern at BW as a shortage of water at the start of the season is a far from ideal situation. Curiously enough, using the locks at Tyrley, however badly, does not normally waste water as supplies always have to bypass the locks to keep the locks at Adderley and Audlem supplied from the summit at Autherley and the feeder next to Stretton Aqueduct. The saga of the services along this stretch of the canal continues. As I write there is still not an operating water point between Market Drayton and Norbury Junction — but by the time you read this the picture may very well have changed. A new treatment system has been installed at Tyrley but BW will only be permitted to supply the water through a tap situated in the proximity of the sanitary station. EU regulations again! A site for the outlet has been chosen and installation work is imminent I am assured. In addition the new water point at Goldstone should also soon be connected to the main supply there following the expected resolution of a long running dispute between BW and Severn Trent Water. As ever, the system would be in much better condition if boaters respected it. Yesterday I had to go to Audlem by boat and found a lock gate at Adderley almost impossible to shut because a boat had crashed into the footboard and distorted it so much that it fouled the bank when the gate was opened. Not a major repair job but it all costs money that could be spent elsewhere.

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I do seem to have digressed from Tyrley somewhat so back to the wildlife. This year has been the year of the pheasant. We have had up to twenty at a time in the garden since the cold weather in January. We are now down to about five but they have become so tame that they follow us around in the garden, much to the amazement of passing boats. I’ve had them follow me into both the garage and the greenhouse at times. The ducks have been having trouble with the mink which have reappeared since we thought that they had been chased off by otters. Denis Farmer tells me that he saw one running across one of the locks as he was working it. Presumably this was what caused the demise of the six ducklings which appeared in early May and then promptly vanished overnight leaving an injured duck sitting in our garden for over a week until it had recovered. We are now awaiting the appearance of young greater spotted woodpeckers with their little red crowns. The parents have been frantically pecking at the bird feeders for a couple of weeks although one of them was frightened by the sudden arrival of the postman and knocked itself out on my neighbours glass porch. It was very badly stunned but recovered sufficiently to fly off after about six hours. Finally, the sting in the tale so to speak! The warm weather in March and early April proved a real wake up call to my bees that started to collect nectar as though it was high summer. It has been a struggle to keep them supplied with frames of wax to build comb and fill it with honey but since starting this piece I have been able to extract the first batch and now have the empty frames available to reuse. Richard Hall

Rock-fall at Woodseaves cutting (now repaired)

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Surfing Our Waterways Web

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ack at the beginning of the eighties when Susan and I were selling our house and buying the one we live in now we had to decide whether to go away on our planned August cruise of the Four Counties Ring, or to abandon that in case a buyer showed up with a firm offer. We opted to go cruising and had to search out telephone kiosks from time to time in order to call our solicitor and find out if there were any decisions to make. That all seems decidedly prehistoric in comparison with today’s instant mobile communication. Keeping in touch is one of the most important needs of any individual or group and is vital for our Shrewsbury District and North Wales Branch with its wide geographical spread. Fortunately today’s internet provides us with an economical way of doing this which is immediate, graphic, and accessible. It can also be two-way. Within the IWA’s vast waterways.org.uk website are our Branch-specific pages which can also be reached directly by going to: waterways.org.uk/shrewsbury. These pages have been there for a long time and we regularly add diary information as well as reports on events. But now the site has been upgraded to make it even more versatile. I attended a seminar with other Branch Editors recently to catch up on the latest. We are, at last, going to able to use the Discussion Forum section and share views in an informal way. Easy postings will be possible on whatever waterway topics are being reviewed. We shall be able to share our pictures in a Photo Gallery and they can be at higher definition than any currently included within the editorial pages. We will also be able to share short videos by embedding them directly within our pages rather than our current method of providing a link which takes us away from our site. This is Stage Two of IWA’s web re-development and initially it presents a chicken-and-egg situation. I hope committee members will start the balls rolling and you can help by regularly checking to see what we have online and then adding something. Regular use on both counts will help develop acquaintanceships into friendships. It will make our widespread area seem that much smaller when we sit in front of our browsers. We will all get more from IWA and, importantly, it will also attract other like-minded people. I look forward to hearing from you on: alan.wilding@waterways.org.uk Alan Wilding

waterways.org.uk/shrewsbury Page 27


Do the IWAlk

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am writing this before the Dinghy Dawdle and you are probably reading it after it. I am sure it will have been another good Dawdle, the 26th. But do you know that it is because of IWAlk that the Dawdle takes place in June? IWAlk was the IWA's national sponsored towpath walk and will be repeated this year. The first IWAlk was on 9th and 10th June 1978, dates chosen as being shortly before the start of the fishing season. So when we were planning the first Dawdle a few years later, that too took place in early June. 1978 was the third year of the Shrewsbury Branch and IWAlk was by far the biggest event we had been involved in. There were some mutterings in other parts of the country, but we saw it as an exciting opportunity to promote the waterways and to raise funds for them. IWA planned a series of towpath walks, all over the country, on the same weekend. We planned walks across the Shropshire Union system and our first step was to contact our colleagues who shared our interest in the SU canals: in those days, the Merseyside Branch (at Ellesmere Port) and of course the Shropshire Union Canal Society. Di Skilbeck of SUCS was responsible for walks to Ellesmere Port and Middlewich, and I organised the Llangollen and Queen's Head walks. Nationally, IWA produced a booklet, complete with cartoon character on the front (I have one somewhere), and we were left to insert four pages appropriate to our area. Our pages were sponsored by Custom Sound of Oswestry, who made amplifiers for pop groups: Barry Phillips was a member of the branch committee (in a past life he had lived on a boat at Tardebigge). The booklet set out the details for each walk, and these details were repeated on a walker's card which was checked off by marshals on the way. Our walkers were able to start at either end, and were offered the opportunity to get a bus back from a number of points en route. The driver was surprised when I took him on the first run to Lower Frankton — and I was quite relieved to see a Bus Stop sign at the bottom of the hill! The event was a great success. Over a hundred people walked between St Martin's and Llangollen alone and, as far as I am aware, none took the alternative routes offered over Chirk and Whitehouse tunnels. Over the years since 1978, the Branch has been involved in a variety of major events, campaigning for waterways in general, or for local restorations. The IWA has earned respect because of activities like this, and its contribution to the serious issues of the day. (This is more than membership numbers alone might suggest: the latest figures I can find suggest that the Liberal Democrat party membership is a quarter of that of the Conservatives, and more than a third of that of the Labour Party; IWA membership is 30% of the Lib Dems.) There are still challenges for our waterways: the conversion to charity status will bring changes; will the new charity be able to ensure it has sufficient funds to maintain the system properly, and to support enhancements like the Page 28


Montgomery restoration? While these are important issues, it is actually like IWAlk. Can we share that enjoyment with you, and run the next big event with your help? Michael Limbrey

The IWA Skittles Challenge

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here were many serious faces attending the Branch Annual Skittles Challenge at the Bickerton Poacher. IWA reinforcements had been called in from far and wide; indeed some members had travelled from as far away as Stoke! Eagle eyes could spot youngsters who had surreptitiously been in training for this important event warming up near the bar. Whilst oily handkerchiefs, usually saved for more important usage in the engine rooms, were mopping sweaty brows. Yes, it was time for the all-important Skittles Challenge! Denis and Janet Farmer had done a sterling job in managing to drag members away from their boats with the promise of a lamb hotpot supper, but unwittingly newer members, mainly from Audlem, had muscled in on the act under the pathetic guise of “living near a canal”. Gauntlets were thrown down, or should I say engine-greased gloves, and the thirty members were divided into four teams, all intent on preserving their reputations as IWA members extraordinaire! Denis vainly tried to maintain a semblance of order as skippers gathered around tables of wine and beer, instructing their teams on tactics, although the suggestion of ball tampering was immediately quashed, as each team would be using the same weather-beaten balls. Order was finally restored, and as Denis is well known for his adding up and organisational skills, the battle could commence! Out of the window flew the usual seafarer’s motto of women and children first, as strong-armed pensioners threw away their sticks and hurled the ball, and sometimes themselves, down the rickety wooden alley. This was war – who would win? Stoke-on-Trent were in fine form, as were Shrewsbury District & North Wales and Chester Branches. The Audlem team was far too busy drinking bottles of wine and it took them some time to realise that they were putting Denis and Janet’s reputation as stalwarts of the IWA at risk. However they soon managed to find where the balls were and dignity was restored. (Well almost) Congratulations to the Shrewsbury District and North Wales Branch who were the overall victors and were presented with a beautiful silver cup. All in all it was a thoroughly successful and enjoyable evening, many thanks to Denis and Janet for organizing the event. We will all look forward to attending again – bring it on! Stephanie Richardson Page 29


Skittles by Stephanie Richardson There's a breathless hush in the Bickerton Poacher Scores are close and the match still to win A bumpy wooden alley with a trembling bowler, Still an end to play and the last man’s in! And it's not for the sake of a moment's pride Or the selfish hope of an evening's fame, That the IWA skipper to his teammates cried "Play up! Play up and play the game!" The member’s faces are glowing red, Red with the wreck that time has wrought; The legs are cramped and the hands are dead, Numb with the cold that age has brought. The rivers of sweat form delicate pools, The glasses are empty, there’s no one to blame, But the voice of the skipper rallies the fools, "Play up! Play up and play the game!" These are the words that once a year Are heard in the place IWA members collect Lancashire Hotpot and wine for good cheer, But orders from Denis no one dares reject. The four teams battled, though it’s only a game The winners rejoiced, their faces a flame ‘Til next year if Janet will arrange it again "Play up! Play up and play the game!"

Ira Theobold , the highest scoring player, receives the trophy on behalf of the Shrewsbury District & North Wales team

A Boater’s Funeral

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eryl Ybarra, who lived on narrowboat ANAGRAM, passed away on 23rd March 2011. She had consoled herself in the last few weeks of her life in Denbigh hospital by making the arrangements for a boater’s funeral. So, on 31st — a very windy day — the wicker coffin was fastened securely by her friends and a rather bemused undertaker to the top of her boat in Chirk Marina. With Beryl’s daughter Laura and grandchildren in the glass cratch, ANAGRAM, driven by Anne Pilsbury and Fiona Pearson, led a procession of boats and friends on foot to Froncysyllte and then across the aqueduct. They moored next to the Thomas Telford Inn for the wake. Memories of Beryl’s life were shared and her friend, folk-singer Peter Coe, entertained the guests before her body was taken to Prion near Denbigh for burial. Beryl had lived on ANAGRAM with Vicky, her Welsh collie, for over 10 years, mainly on the Llangollen Canal. She was well known up and down this part of the cut, towing A GRANMA which she had built for a workshop. Her cosy boat was unusual in that her love of cooking (as an ex-café owner) had led her to install an Aga as well as the usual boatman’s stove. Visitors could always expect a warm welcome with tea and cake. Fiona Pearson Page 30


The funeral procession at Froncysyllte

Paddy Martin was joined by family and friends at Llanymynech Wharf for the dedication of a bench in memory of John Martin, founder member of the Duchess Countess Trust. Page 31


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Shroppie Fly Paper June 2011