Editorial This issue of Sou’Wester has been delayed for which I apologise: I hope to catch up and return to our regular quarterly edition in the New Year. This issue is one of congratulation for recognition of achievements, some over many years and I will start, once again, with Fred Blampied. Fred’s organising skills whilst running the Bristol Waterways Festivals over many years were recognised last year with a “Bristol Thanks You” award from Bristol City Council. This year his achievements have been recognised nationally with the award of an MBE. His citation is an inspiration to us all and is well worth reading. The next set of congratulations goes to the Stover Canal with the award of the Christopher Power Prize for the significant contribution to the restoration of an inland waterway. This award also recognises the achievements of the Chairman of the Stover Canal Trust, Roger Harding and his leadership over the years. The Stover Canal has always been a popular venue for the West Country Branch’s AGM's and last year’s meeting was also attended by some IWA members from the Midlands. Margaret and John Gwalter also deserve some congratulations for their attendance during the Jubilee Pageant where they fought the elements during that awful weather. I was watching the Pageant in the comfort of my home and I admired the crew of Nb Earnest and their ability to remain cheerful throughout. The next issue of Sou’Wester will be published at the end of January so contributions by 15 January 2013 please. There can be no late entries as this edition carries the various AGM’s and we have to get them out on time in order to give the appropriate notice. It only remains for me to say have a Happy Christmas and a brilliant New Year. Best wishes Peter Kelly
Fred Blampied, MBE Fred Blampied has been an active campaigner for inland waterways for well over 50 years. He joined The Inland Waterways Association in 1955 after becoming involved with the campaign against a Bill to abandon the Stroudwater canal. His principal involvement has been in the South West where he became the inaugural chairman of the Association’s South West Branch when it formed in 1960. Subsequently he has been part of, or worked closely with, its successor committees, the South West Region and Avon & Wilts Branch of which he was recently made honorary President. Photograph by Alan Aldous
As chairman of the South West Branch Fred became closely involved in waterway restorations with communities around the Brecon, Abergavenny & Monmouthshire canals in South Wales, with the Bridgewater & Taunton Canal in Somerset and the western half of the Kennet & Avon Canal. As well as being a key contributor to local waterway causes for more fifty years, Fred co-ordinated and led visiting work parties further afield in the 1960s and 1970s – including the Ashton Canal in Manchester and Stratford-on-Avon Canal. He also built a paddle-boat that operated on the Kennet and Avon Canal outside Bath, this being the only form of craft able to operate due to the amount of weed growth. Fred’s greatest achievement was his work with other like-minded organisations in resisting proposals of Bristol City Council to partially infill and restrict navigation in Bristol City Docks. The objectors took their case as far as the House of Lords, and although the Council actually obtained the Docks Bill in 1971, it was heavily modified, and the plans were never enacted. At the same time as fighting the Bill, Fred proposed a gathering of pleasure craft to demonstrate the leisure and amenity potential of the docks after they closed to commercial traffic and the IWA South West Branch was instrumental in organising the first Bristol Water Festival. This took place in June 1971 with resounding success.
Fred was deeply involved with further Festivals in 1972 and 1973, and although these were run entirely by volunteers, some large ships from HM Navy were invited to attend, creating a spectacle of what could be achieved within the docks. By this time the Council had reconsidered its view of the Docks as a problem, and began to see it as a potential asset, and later in that decade Bristol City Council took over full organisation of the growing event. Apart from being actively involved in the organisation of the events, it was Fred’s vision of what could be achieved within an old commercial dock that has set a precedent that has been widely copied around the UK. Apart from housing development, Bristol is now home to ‘The Great Britain’, Brunel’s iconic craft, in the dry dock where she was built, and many of the old warehouses which were due to be demolished have found new uses, one being ‘M’ shed that houses Bristol’s newly opened Industrial Museum. Of note is that the 4 classic Stothert & Pitt cranes that are still outside the Museum is down to Fred, who with others formed a company and put up the money to purchase 2 back from scrap dealers and inspired Bristol City Council to save the other two cranes. The Bristol Water Festival has become one of the largest tourist attractions in the West Country today, is a highlight of the Bristol City calendar, and generates considerable income for the city. Through the 1970s Fred continued to work with the City Council on ways to improve the waterways in the City – for example organising a team of 130 local people to clean-up Totterdown Basin and tree planting on the Feeder Canal in Bristol. Without this work, the full restoration of the Kennet & Avon Canal as a sea-to-sea through route might well have been frustrated through closure of Navigation in Bristol. At the official opening of this year’s festival in 2011, Bristol City Council presented Fred with a unique trophy of Bristol Blue glass, engraved with the words “Presented to Fred Blampied on the 40 th anniversary of the Bristol Harbour Festival. Bristol thanks you”. As honorary President of the IWA Avon and Wilts Branch, Fred continues to work on waterway projects in his home area, inspiring newer committee members and the local community to preserve and develop their waterways for greater public benefit. It is fitting that the Stroudwater Canal, once due to be abandoned, and which attracted Fred to join the IWA is now being restored.
Fred will be presented with his MBE by the Lord Lieutenant of Bristol, Monday 10th December 2012.
The Pageant Having initially been refused a place in the pageant we were delighted to accept a place representing Bedfordshire. Our passengers included the Deputy Lord Lieutenant and her partner and two members of the Bedford and Milton Keynes Trust plus our sister and brother-inlaw who were crew.
Rehearsals for the narrowboat squadron took place on the three weekends prior to the pageant. Boating on the tidal Thames is different from being on the canal especially dealing with the large craft that cause quite a wash. We practiced boating in line ahead and line abreast and trickiest of all, getting on and off our buoys at Chiswick where we would wait for our turn to join in. Not all boats took part in the rehearsals but many of the skippers came down to get their hands in. There were forty canal boats, reflecting the use, past and present of our canal system; President, the steam boat from the Black Country Museum, Fulbourne, an ex working boat, Pirate Prince, Red Watch and Tarporley all boats working with community groups, Mountbatten Crusader , the St Johnâ€™s Ambulance boat and Blackjack the floating hairdresserâ€™s salon. Alongside us was Diamond, manned by the Sea Cadets from Northampton, one of whose passengers had been the captain of the Ark Royal.
The boats gathered at Limehouse on 31st May ready to go down to West India Dock on the 1st June. An interesting passage as part of the Olympic site was opened for us to get on onto the river, there being too many to go out through Limehouse and Bow during the tidal window. The 2nd of June was spent decorating our boats and being scrutinised as fit to take part. We put up decoration for Bedfordshire and surmounted the top with a string of dragon bunting. The big day started early with engine started and passengers on board by 7am. We locked out onto the river around 9am to begin the 16 mile trip up river to Chiswick. At that hour people were out cheering us on and waving. We were able to see all the boats getting ready including the Queenâ€™s boat, Gloriana, the belfry and all the small craft including the dragon boats. At Chiswick we moored up in our formation on the buoys and settled down for a rest, some lunch and to be examined yet again. This being satisfactory we were given our pageant flag. At 2.15pm the call came and we cast off and got into formation very easily (all the practice paid off) and were on our way only to have to stop as the historic boats in front were not ready.. We were soon off again and back in formation. The weather worsened but it did not dampen the spirits; the atmosphere was tremendous and is almost impossible to describe. We were cheered and waved at, the dragon bunting raised the odd chorus of Cwm Rhondda and many Iechyd Ddas and when we appeared on TV every mobile phone on the boat rang with folks telling us they had seen us. We passed the Queen with the Sea Cadets to our right saluting and giving three cheers and raising their hats in true naval fashion. We had to wait our turn to get back into West India finally reaching our mooring about 9.30pm, thoroughly exhausted but having had a day to remember. Last but not least I would like to acknowledge the work of the CRT staff in easing our passage both in the locks and in Limehouse and West India Dock. They were great.
The Christopher Power Prize Criteria: For a person, society or trust who has made the most significant contribution to the restoration of an inland waterway. Nomination: Stover Canal Society would like to recommend Roger Harding of the Stover Canal Trust/Society for the Christopher Power Prize Award: Roger called a public meeting in 1999 to find public support for restoration of the Stover Canal near Newton Abbot in Devon. 150 attended the meeting, There was great enthusiasm, and shortly afterwards the Stover Canal Society was set up. The canal was owned by Railtrack (to become Network Rail), and ran beside a single track railway, no longer in use. We thought that it would be straightforward to persuade them to hand it over to us, as two of the locks were Grade II listed, and they had not maintained them. Initially this was agreed, and we never thought that it would actually take 11 years before we actually obtained a lease from Network Rail, as they changed their minds so many times, each time starting negotiations again from scratch. Members of the Stover Canal Society Committee have come and gone, support has waxed and waned, and it was only Roger's stubborn perseverance and hours and hours of his own time that enabled us to eventually achieve our aim. Since he retired from work two years ago, he has devoted up to 50 hours a week to the project, setting up and attending meetings, forging helpful liaisons, lobbying anyone who might be able to help, emailing, telephone calls, giving talks, etc. etc. His health is now suffering, and he has recently resigned as Chairman of the Stover Canal Society, although he has agreed to remain as Chairman of the Stover Canal Trust until the necessary planning application has gone through. Diana Smurthwaite Hon. Sec. Stover Canal Society
Roger was unable to attend IWA’s National AGM to receive the prize and instead came down to Bude to receive it from Bob Abbott, Chairman, West Country Branch, at a luncheon hosted by the West Country Committee.
Bob Abbott presents the trophy to Roger Harding
The all important £960 cheque from IWA
The Stover Canal has always been a popular venue for the West Country Branch’s AGM's and last year’s meeting was also attended by some IWA members from the Midlands. After the presentation Roger expressed his thanks to all the people who have assisted himself, the Society and Trust, over the years. He expressed particular thanks to SIBELCO for the money, materials and land that they had made available. All photographs in this article were taken by Mike Moore
Avon & Wilts Branch I rather think I wrote too soon last time in looking ahead to summer: we seem to have had every season except summer in the last few months, apart, perhaps, from the last week in late July. Certainly the river Avon was at winter levels and speeds during May and has risen higher than normal on more than one occasion since. You don’t somehow expect to find river locks submerged at this time of year, but it has certainly happened here on the Avon. Whilst on the subject of bad weather, we might also mention the River Pageant on River Thames at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee weekend at the beginning of June. It started, as you may recall, dull and dry-ish, but deteriorated thereafter. I’m not aware if any of the narrowboats, or wide-beam boats, of the Leisure Section of the Pageant belonged to Branch members, and if anyone of this Branch did take part, please do let Peter Kelly, the Editor of “Sou’Wester” have any thoughts and reflections you may have on the experience of that day, as well as the preceding days during which the rehearsals were being held. Other IWA Branches had members with boats participating, most notably the national chairman, Clive Henderson, and my opposite number in South Wales, Margaret Gwalter, and her husband, John. I saw Margaret at a Region Committee meeting a few days later, and she was still trying to dry and thaw out, and recover her land-legs. Another of the narrowboats in the leisure squadron was one of the six from Cotswold Canals Trust which came down the estuary and into the Avon, through Bristol, on up to Bath, and along the K & A to Reading, before turning up the Thames all the way to Lechlade last summer, to mark the centenary of the last commercial through passage of the Thames & Severn Canal before it was abandoned. The “Matthew”, (the replica, not the original) from Bristol, was moored in the line of sail below Tower Bridge, and Bristol Museum’s floating exhibit, “Pyronaut”, a fire-fighting boat, was in another section of the pageant. It was such a shame that the television coverage by BBC ignored the boats on the river so much, although I understand that ITV’s coverage of the event was much better balanced. A & W Branch decided the outstanding AGM dates at our committee on Wednesday 10th Oct:
We have just had the 41st Bristol Harbour Festival, and may that continue for many more years yet. It is unfortunate that the emphasis has moved away from boats and water-based activities to land-based entertainments, both for adults and children, extending so far as Castle Park above Bristol Bridge, but there was a decent number of craft of all shapes and sizes there – would that there had been more, and not all of them ‘gin palaces’. There is a move – if it works out – to resurrect an event of some years ago with a harbour-based procession of lighted boats, nearer Christmas, perhaps in conjunction with the carol concert afloat given by the Male Voice Choir of Avon & Somerset Police. I’ll post the details here if I get any more. On the restoration front, we heard during the past month that a planning application has at last been made to Wiltshire Council for the proposed scheme to create a new stretch of the Wilts & Berks Canal from a junction with the Kennet & Avon Canal slightly west of the old junction at Semington, to join the river Avon around Melksham, and then to return to the original line of the canal to the north-east of the town on the way to Foxham, Dauntsey, Royal Wootton Bassett and then Swindon. When the application will be decided hasn’t yet been indicated, and there may well be supplementary information required in support of the application, but after several years’ hard work, the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust team have got further in this process than has been achieved until now. Our congratulations to them all, with good wishes for a successful outcome to the planning process. When the Branch’s social meetings programme, both venue(s), speakers and topics, for next autumn and winter is finalised, it will be published here in “Sou’Wester”, and also on the IWA website (www.waterways.org.uk ) and in the various monthly waterway publications, so please do support these gatherings as best you are able. In addition to the round of meetings in or around Bristol and Bath, don’t forget, if you live in Wiltshire, that there are similar meetings outside of Salisbury, at The Green Man, Alderbury, and you will be welcome there. The sun, currently hidden, must be over the yardarm by now, so I’ll end there.
John Gornall, Bristol, Branch Chairman 11
Avon & Wilts Branch SALISBURY GROUP REPORT- October 2012
In the many years that Ron & Myra Glover have been cruising in Europe either trailing their 23ft Viking cruiser or on board their 42ft Dutch steel cruiser, they have encountered many different features for travelling up, down and through hills. The illustrated talk in May covered both historical structures, some of which are no longer in use, to those built in more recent times. Firstly locks. Today many locks in Europe are “do it yourself” but never having to wind paddles or push gates. Fascinating mechanisms are used, twist poles and lift poles, radar and electronic “zappers” all of which activate locks. Balance beams are rare in Europe, but there are many different systems for opening and closing gates. Some lock keepers have invented rods and linkages to enable them to open two gates from one side. The deepest lock is on the River Rhone, 26 metres! These deep locks fill and empty quickly and efficiently; the floating bollards make securing in the locks so easy. There are some fascinating staircases. The Rogny on the Canal de Briare, built in 1642, no longer in use, to the barrel shaped Fonceranne locks on the Midi. Some locks have been by passed by slopes. The Montech Slope (1973) and the Bezier Slope (1983) where engines were used to push the water up the slope. Neither of which were truly successful and they both reverted back to using the locks. There are plenty of tunnels, both short and long, including the 160 metre Malpas tunnel on the Midi, opened in 1681, reputedly built in six days. Both the Mauvage tunnel on the Marne au Rhin and the Saint Quentin tunnel have no ventilation systems and boats are pulled through by electric tugs.
Two inclined planes are in use, the Arzviller on the Marne au Rhin, opened in 1960, to replace seventeen locks and the amazing Ronquier inclined plain on the Canal Charleroi a Brussels opened in 1962 where boats travel 1,432 metres in a large tank on 236 wheels. Finally the famous lifts on the Canal du Centre in Belgium. Four hydraulic lifts built between 1885 and 1918. (They are like four Anderton lifts one after another.) Even though they are still in use, close to them is the highest boatlift in the world, Strepy Thieu, opened in 2002, which only takes 7 minutes to raise 73.5 metres. It is only by travelling through all these fascinating structures in Europe that one realizes what could have occurred in England had canals not been phased out in favour of railways. "We were so fortunate that our summer event was held on the first day of summer weather. Twenty of us enjoyed the balmy evening playing boules and sampling the excellent BBQ cooked by Jeff, landlord of the Green Dragon. Competition was fierce and Jacques, our French referee, was seen to be measuring to the nearest millimetre to judge the winning team."
Situations Vacant: Patrick Moss, who stood as chairman of IWA’s South West Region, was unable to take up the post for health reasons. Under IWA’s rules for the appointment, nominations for this post are invited to serve the remaining term of office, until the 2015 AGM, and should be submitted to the chief executive at head office by no later than Wednesday 2nd January. If you are interested in this post you will find more details at the top of page 31 in the winter 2012 edition of Waterways. The South West Region also needs a Secretary for its Committee. If you are interested in getting involved then this job could be for you. Any queries should be addressed to Peter Kelly (details on page 2 of this copy of Sou’Wester)
Cruising the River Tawe South Wales Branch have arranged a boat trip on the River Tawe on the Swansea Community Boat on Saturday 8th December. The boat will leave its mooring at 11 am for a 2 hour trip through the lock and up the River Tawe. Tea, coffee and mince pies will be served on board. There are several places for lunch nearby including the cafe in the Waterfront Museum which is adjacent to the mooring. After lunch we would suggest a visit to the temporary exhibition in the museum which is about the Newport Medieval Boat and/ or if the weather is clear a ride on the Ferris Wheel which gives splendid views over Swansea and the Bristol channel. This is on the green outside the museum in Swansea's Winter Wonderland. The boat is fully wheelchair accessible. Members, family, friends and supporters are all welcome. The cost is £10 per adult and £5 per child. This includes the boat trip, tea, coffee and mince pies on board and a donation to the Swansea Community Boat. Admission to the museum is free. The nearest parking is in the Leisure Centre LC2 a 2 minute walk and the bus station is a 10 minute walk. To book email firstname.lastname@example.org or ring 07973336097. Cheques should be made payable to IWA South Wales Branch and sent to the address below: Margaret Gwalter Chair - South Wales Branch, Inland Waterways Association Westlyn, New Road, Llanmorlais, SA4 3TJ. Home: 01792 851 271
Mobile 07973 336 097