Monday, August 10, 2015

A new canal crime novel from Leo McNeir

Leonard Pearcey reviews the latest canal based book in the Marnie Walker series from the pen 
of Leo McNeir

I’ve just looked up my previous Leo McNeir writeup, which began like this: ‘The last time I reviewed one of Leo McNeir’s Marnie Walker books I wrote: I throughly enjoyed it and hope my review of the next adventure won’t be three years away. Well, that was published in Autumn 2009 and here I am writing about the latest in the Marnie Walker series in May 2011. So some hopes do come true.’

But now it’s Summer 2015 and the latest Marnie adventure has just landed on my desk for review, and not only is that over four years away, there’s been another Leo in between ‘Stick in the Mud’ and I didn’t get to review it which is a shame as I know Docklands well. The explanation is sadly a simple one: Leo has not been that well. The good news is that he’s now a great deal better and has already got several chapters of his latest under his belt.

You too can now visit his website and read all about him and his books and his wife, the cookery writer Cassandra McNeir. He is we now learn a distinguished linguist and lexicographer and has edited twelve dictionaries, a thesaurus and a spell-checker over the last two decades (I could have done with his Catalan work during twenty-five years in Deià Mallorca).

And his latest book ‘Smoke without Fire’ — all I need say is that yet again it’s a great read as Marnie Walker learns that a man of considerable eminence has arrived in her village. Soon, inevitably, tragedy strikes, and I’m left wondering once more why nobody has yet picked up Marnie for TV… and yes - she solves that one as well while still carrying out the day job!

Published in paperback by Enigma Publishing
384 pages
ISBN 9780992964214

From airways to waterways

by Di Harris

A former head of customer operations for British Airways at Gatwick who joined the Canal and River Trust (CRT) earlier this year as Head of Business Boating will now take responsibility for all boating matters with his job now including the private boating role of Sally Ash until her recent retirement.

Mike Grimes: 
The new Head of Boating for the Canal & River Trust
Mike Grimes is no stranger to building and maintaining relationships with customers and his new team will work on plans that will meet the needs of the entire boating community — ensuring consistency in processes such as boat licensing and communications to all boaters.

Ian Rogers, executive head of customer services at CRT said: “Boaters, of all types, contribute so much to the waterways and it’s important that we listen to them and meet their needs. It makes sense to have both private and business boating under the same banner, so any improvements are for the general good for all.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Honour recognises a lifetime of canal work

Sally Ash
Former head of boating with CRT
Picture by Bob Naylor: WaterMarx©
by Di Harris

Sally Ash, who received the MBE in this year's Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to Britain's canals, has had a life-long passion for the waterways.

Whilst studying in Reading she became active in the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust’s battle to get the canal restored. She was involved in the Trust’s Reading Branch and she became the K&A Canal Trust’s sales officer, traveling to shows most weekends with a stall selling canal merchandise, recruiting new members and spreading the message that the canals should not be allowed to die. She was also busy raising money for the restoration by collecting and selling old newspapers — what she calls “grass roots stuff”.

A post-graduate research project introduced her to British Waterways (BW) and she applied for a researcher’s post when it became vacant in 1975, That was the beginning of a life-long career working with the waterways. Sally stayed with BW until she retired as Head of Boating for the newly formed Canal and River Trust (CRT) earlier this year. 

Sally’s love of canals began at a very young age. Her father had been in the Navy during WW2 and he retained a love of the water, which he passed on to his daughters. They took regular family boating holidays as soon she and her sister could swim. Sally was nine. For Sally, these family boating holidays were the highlight of the year – always an adventure because nothing ever worked and the canals were very run down. But they were having such a great time that she thought, we can’t let the canals die. So she and her sister got involved in the campaign to keep them open.

When she was 17 she read one of her father's books, written by Robert Aikman, where she saw an advertisement for the K&A Canal Trust, and she joined straight away.

After a life-time of enjoying the canals it is not surprising that Sally feels passionately that young people need to be introduced to the waterways or that she would do something about it, so when she retired she immediately started volunteering with a community boating organisation close to her home. 

And she still proudly owns the book by Robert Aikman that originally led her to the K&A at the tender age of 17.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Queen’s Birthday honour for K&A Canal restoration stalwart

by Di Harris

Mike Wyatt. Picture by Bob Naylor: WaterMarx©
Forty years of unstinting voluntary work on the restoration and promotion of the Kennet & Avon Canal by Mike Wyatt of Reading has been rewarded with the award of the BEM (British Empire Medal).

Mike, who is a member of the Reading Branch of the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust, caught the inland waterways bug in1969 when an army friend asked him to crew his boat to Worcester. The following year Mike hired a boat and he joined the K&A Canal Trust shortly afterwards at a time when the canal was in a very poor state – and the towpath no better.

He recalls numerous work parties clearing saplings from along the overgrown towpath — and sponsored walks that needed special signage for participants to navigate their way safely. He helped restore Bulls Lock near Newbury and Garston Lock (one of K&A’s two remaining turf-sided locks). More recently Mike has been Harbour Master for the Reading Water Fest, working with other Reading Branch members to plan and organise the water-based activities. 

Mike was Vice Chairman of Reading Branch for many years and he tried hard not to become Chairman, but the calling came in 2005 and he was Chair of Reading Branch for two and a half years, standing down in 2008 at the ripe age of 79.

It was Mike’s idea for the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust to celebrate the completion of the £29 million HLF canal restoration project by presenting the Queen with a Declaration of Gratitude, thanking her for her support in the past and reflecting the wording of the original petition sent to her 50 years before. 

Mike and his wife Audrey, along with Gerry and Maureen Thorne, took the framed Declaration of Gratitude by boat from Reading to Devizes collecting signatures to be bound into a book to present to the Queen. K&A Canal Trust President at the time Sir Anthony Durant, who had been Vice Chamberlain whilst he was MP for Reading and knew the Lord-Lieutenant of Berkshire, arranged a 15-minute audience with the Queen for himself, Mike and Peter Crawford, the Reading Branch Chair at the time. Mike remembers the Queen speaking easily and knowledgeably about the canal. He told her that the original petition appeared to have been lost by the National Archive and as they were leaving Mike recalls hearing a voice say “Don’t lose this one”. A royal command if ever there was one. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

New man at the top on the K&A

by Di Harris

The Kennet & Avon Canal now has a new manager in post — and following the recent re-organisation of the charity his role is now customer focussed and substantially different from that of the previous engineering-focussed waterway manager.

Kennet & Avaon Canal manager, Mark Evans. Picture by Bob Naylor:WaterMarx©

Mark Evans joined the Canal and River Trust as the new Waterway Manager for the Kennet and Avon and Bridgewater and Taunton Canals in April and he is responsible for the day-to-day running of the canal. He will be working with all users of the canal as well as the waterside communities and various other organisations that are concerned with the canal.

Mark said, “I’m set a strategy by CRT and I‘m working out how that strategy will work locally on the K&A as well as how I can deliver what I need to deliver to everyone who uses the canal.”

He added, “My responsibility as Waterway Manager is to make sure the canal and the towpath is there for everybody to use. The canal needs to have the right amount of water in it, all the locks working and all the pumps working. If there are problems, people need to know why and it’s my role to make sure they do.”

But in his first few weeks Mark has discovered that there is more to the job than just keeping a canal running. There are several other issues that need to be addressed and he is developing a strategy to deal with them.

Mark has an Estates Management background, but his experience covers much of what he expects to meet in his new job.  He has worked with Scheduled Ancient Monuments and managed restoration projects, including refurbishing a canal lock. His previous work has also included community-based environmental projects and engaging young and unemployed people.

Since arriving in Devizes, Mark has started to explore the canal and visited both Bristol and Reading, meeting people along the way. He plans to spend a weekend cruising on the K&A and has already been out meeting CRT volunteers in Bradford on Avon and on the Caen Hill Flight in Devizes.

CRT takes volunteering very seriously, and Mark says that his experience of watching volunteer lock keepers interacting with the public made him proud to be the Waterway Manager. “They are great PR and ambassadors for the canal itself and for CRT”, he said.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Waterways Marathon fundraiser

David Edwards-May 
by Di Harris

Veteran waterways enthusiast David Edwards-May will be running in his first marathon at the age of 65 to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the Inlands Waterways Association and raise money for the Waterways Recovery Group.

David said: “Running in the London Marathon is also a celebration of my 50 years of involvement with inland waterways — and it will raise money to help to buy essential plant and machinery for the WRG.”

David’s enthusiasm for the waterways began at a young age. He was  16 when he went to the London Boat Show and bought Stanford’s Canoeing Map of England and Wales — which led to him exploring hundreds of miles of canals. He joined the IWA in 1968.

He volunteered with Operation Ashton to help restore the derelict Ashton and Lower Peak Forest Canals before moving to France in 1976 where he helped on the restoration of the Rivers Lot and Baïse, and the re-opening of the Canal de Roubaix.

Over the years David has been a researcher and consultant on many waterways restoration and protection projects. His maps have been a ‘must have’ for all users of mainland Europe’s navigations and his submission to UNESCO resulted in the Canal du Midi achieving World Heritage status in 1996.

David is a vice president of  Inland Waterways International (IWI)which runs the annual World Canals Conference — this year to be held in Ghent, Belgium and in 2016  Scotland’s five canals will be celebrated when the confernece is held in Inverness.

David aims raise £5,000 for the WRG and you can sponsor him by going to: 

or send a cheque payable to ‘The Inland Waterways Association’ to Toby Gomm, IWA Head Office, Island House, Moor Road, Chesham, HP5 1WA

Canal worker saved from drowning on Kennet & Avon Canal

A canal worker’s first day on the job almost ended in tragedy when he plunged into a lock on the the Devizes flight on the K&A Canal on a quad bike on Wednesday Evening.

The Caen Hill on the Devizes Flight of locks on the K&A Canal. Picture by Bob Naylor: WaterMarx 

An eye witness said that the man in his 60s was having problems with the quad bike and after being given advice by a colleague he careered off and crashed into the canal. 

He was rescued by Barry Reed who’s house overlooks the lock witnessed the incident and rushed to the canal and found the rider face down in the water. 

Sergeant Vince Logue of Devizes police said: "Barry was a real hero. The outcome could have been much worse if he had not been there."

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Coal boat run on the K&A

Victoria and Spencer Collins are making a fuel run from Hilperton to Wootton Rivers on the Long Pound on the K&A Canal this weekend.

They were at Foxhangers today — up the Devizes Flight tomorrow and along the Long Pound over the weekend and back to Foxhangers on Tuesday.

Give them a ring on 07790 017418  or stop them them on the way.

Diesel 77p a litre
Coal (all 25 kg bags)
Wildfire £7.70, Stoveglow £8.50, Excel £9.35, Supatherm £9.30, Homefire £11.05, Taybrite £10.65, Anthracite (small nuts) £8.60 

Calor gas: £27.25 

They can take card payments over the phone.

Saturday — at Pewsey Wharf

Monday, September 01, 2014

No boaters' rubbish disposal for busy Devizes Wharf says CRT Contracts Manager

The return of rubbish bins to Devizes Wharf seems unlikely to happen in the near future — if ever — following a statement from the Canal and River Trust Contracts Manager Richard Harrison who claims that the bins were pushed into the canals ‘on occasions’ and that the ‘vast majority’ of the rubbish was from the general public and not from boating customers.

At a recent Canal Users’ Forum K&A Canal Waterways Manager Mark Stephens was asked about the removal of the bins from the wharf and he said that he hoped to re-instate rubbish collection on Devizes Wharf in cooperation with the local authority. 
  But in answer to an inquiry about progress on the return  of the bins to the popular and busy canal stop-over Mr Harrison said: “There are no current plans to replace these bins. These were continually abused while they were on the wharf with the vast majority of the rubbish being from the general public and not boating customers. The containers were also pushed into the canal on occasion.
  “We have rubbish facilities at both Caen Hill and Horton Bridge Inn which are a short travel distance in either direction.”

Boaters refute CRT claims
This claim of abuse of the bins has been robustly contradicted by canal users with a long association with the K&A  Canal — and Devizes Wharf in particular. 
Sandy Saddler, who moored his boat Kismet beside the slipway near the bins said: “I moored my boat there for 30 years or more and I do not know of a single instance of the bins being pushed into the canal or of the bins being used to any great extent by anyone other than by boaters.”
This was a view echoed by Bob Naylor who has kept his boat in the Devizes area for 25 years who added: “Abuse by Devizes residents is an easy excuse to make to justify removing the bins — but it just does not stand up to scrutiny.  I was moored near the bins over a weekend and I photographed people bringing rubbish to the bins by car — and they all turned out to be boaters — except for one person, the owner of a local cafe, who was putting commercial waste in the bins. When I spoke to her about it saying they were exclusively for the use of boaters she claimed she believed they were there for general public use — but I never saw her use the bins again — and to be fair I don’t recall seeing a sign saying they were ‘boater’s’ bins.”

Previous removal — and return — of the bins by BW
On a previous occasion when the bins were removed by a member of BW staff Di Harris, then the editor of The Butty, contacted the BW press office and she got a  statement from BW saying: “It is only 5 minutes down to the BW office on the Caen Hill flight — and there are bins there.” 
Di said: “It may be five minutes in a car. It is down three locks in a boat or a round trip walk of more than 3km, possibly in the rain, carrying rubbish bags. And, even more worryingly, the BW member of staff was suggesting a course of action that meant boaters carrying all their rubbish through the café garden. I can’t imagine that would be very popular. It is just another example of BW staff exhibiting a total lack of understanding and respect whilst effectively stamping their feet and saying, ‘We are BW, we can do what we want and we have no interest in what you tell us because that would make our lives difficult.”

CRT continue BW lack of understanding
Di Harris continued: “Since the inception of the Canal and River Trust what might seem to be a lack of understanding and respect for the needs of leisure,  live-aboard or hire-boat holiday makers have persisted.  At the recent meeting in Devizes when the new CRT Chief Executive, Richard Parry, was on his ‘meet the canal users’ tour a member of the audience who raised the subject of rubbish disposal was challenged by CRT K&A Patrol Officer Corrine Rotherham who said: “I must just ask a question of you. As a resident, if I want to dispose of something like a washing machine I am expected to take it to a tip — if I want to dispose of batteries I must take them to the tip.  Why should it be different for anyone else. That's my question to you?”
But the point at issue was the disposal of everyday waste — of the type that Ms Rotherham, or any householder would have collected from their home on a fortnightly basis. The fact is that all boaters will create a similar amount of waste each fortnight as any household — and with very little recycling opportunities along the K&A Canal they are likely to produce more.”
Ian Sharpe who operates White Horse Boats from the Wharf said: “There has been very little abuse of the bins by non-boaters — and a compound with a “BWB key “  would probably stop this — we really do need bins back with the number of boats stopping over in Devizes now.” 
“And” he said: ‘I regularly take bags of rubbish home from inside the Elsan Point left there because there is nowhere else to leave rubbish.”

The K&A Canal Trust had the bins removed
The latest removal of the bins was in November/December 2010 at the instigation of the then K&A Canal Trust General Manager, Dr Mike Rodd prior to the visit of the lantern parade to the wharf as part of the canal’s bicentenary celebrations.
He was quoted in the Wiltshire Gazette on 28th November as saying:” British Waterways knows nothing about them and Wiltshire Council at first said it wasn’t even their land, which is alarming as we have been paying them rent for many years.
“We have contacted the skip owners, Biffa, who said they had no details of any contract here. The skips have been here for months.”
Di Harris said: “If Dr Rodd was quoted accurately by the newspaper it is ridiculous for him to claim that neither BW or BIFFA knew anything about the skips because they had been previously removed and then replaced after complaints to BW by boaters.” 
"It is unfortunate that the K&A Canal Trust should have been instrumental in having the skips removed, but then Dr Rodd does not boat on the K&A and may have little understanding of local boater’s needs.” 

Friday, April 04, 2014

Damsels in distressCommon Darter dragonfly: Picture by Ian & Gill McColl

Common Darter dragonfly: Picture by Ian & Gill McColl
The wettest winter since records began could have damaged dragonfly and damselfly populations for years to come say the Canal & River Trust — and it is asking people to monitor the insects as part of its annual Great Nature Watch which starts today. 
 Fluctuating river levels and fast currents are known to wash away dragonfly larva (or nymphs) an as larva live underwater for up to three years, the recent floods may have a long-term effect on dragonfly populations.

Canal & River Trust group environment manager, Peter Birch, said: “Dragonflies, and their sister damselflies, flourish in clean water which is rich in bankside vegetation, such as reeds. This makes them a fantastic indicator of the health of a canal or river. While this year’s floods have had an obvious impact on larger animals, birds and fish, we are also particularly concerned with the impact on invertabrates, which form the foundation stones of a healthy water environment. We would expect to see an increase in numbers of mosquitoes and midges which prefer stagnant and isolated water, but we may also see a drop in the numbers of dragonflies emerging this Spring."

Dragonflies are an ancient species, whose ancestors were around before the dinosaurs. While many of us recognise them as beautiful flying summer insects, they spend most of their lives as underwater larva. They emerge ‘on the wing’ for a few brief months to mate and lay their eggs before dying.

The Great Nature Watch asks you to record your sightings of all wildlife you see on a canal, river, reservoir or lake. Records can be submitted by downloading the Trust’s free mobile app or online at

Anyone can take part, and record as many sightings as they like between now and September.
Damselflies mating: Picture by Ian & Gill McColl

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Wiltshire Radical History Day

White Horse (Wiltshire) Trades Union Council will be running its second Radical History Day on Saturday at The Cause in Chippenham. 
 Entry is free and the event runs from 10am to 4pm.  

The speakers during the day will be:
Jeremy Corbyn MP
From Wiltshire to Westminster

Professor Steve Poole from the
University of the West of England
The gallows, the gibbet and the rural poor

Melissa Barnett
Curator of Chippenham Museum on
Dame Florence Hancock

Nigel Costley
South West TUC Regional Secretary on
West Country Rebels

Rosie MacGregor
The life of Angela Gradwell Tuckett

Saturday 29th March 2014 10am-4pm

The Cause, 42 The Causeway, Chippenham SN15 3DD
● Free entry ● Bar and buffet lunch ●

For more information and to register in advance email:

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Continuous Cruising Judicial Review claim withdrawn — but gives 'no comfort' to CRT

Any hopes the Canal and River Trust (CRT) had that a judgement in its favour in a Judicial Review claim brought by the National Bargee Travellers Association (NBTA) would give the force of law to its interpretation of the rules governing ‘continuous cruising’ were dashed yesterday (Wed 19 February 2014) when the action was discontinued.

Nick Brown, Legal Officer of the NBTA
Nick Brown, claimant in the judicial review proceedings against Canal & River Trust (CRT) to decide whether the Guidance for Boaters Without a Home Mooring is lawful, yesterday afternoon discontinued the action. He said “During the hearing it became apparent that this case could not after all decide on the lawfulness of the Guidance because I am not facing any enforcement action myself. Therefore the case should not continue”.

In his judgment Mr Justice Lewis stated:
"During the course of argument I raised a problem that is that the Courts are reminded of the undesirability of deciding an issue absent a proper factual context... the Court has warned against abstract actions and needs a proper factual matrix to assess cases... In the light of that there is very little purpose to this hearing as it would not resolve anything. CRT would prefer, as a responsible public body, to have a judgment that would allow it to discharge its duties in the right way but any judgement that I could give would be very little use on the ground.”

Nick Brown who was represented by Chris Johnson of Community Law Partnership and Martin Westgate QC said: “The arguments presented by my legal team will be of assistance to boaters who are subject to enforcement action”. 
“The more you look at the statute the weirder it becomes”
The judge raised a number of legal points that will be of no comfort to CRT. He found s.17 (3) (c) (ii) of the British Waterways Act unclear: “The more you look at the statute the weirder it becomes” he commented. He added that it would have been helpful if CRT had addressed this dispute by seeking new legislation. Mr Justice Hildyard also told CRT this in the Moore case in 2012.
"as far as 'bona fide navigation' was concerned, what was good for boaters with moorings was also good for those without. “An occasional trip down to the Dog and Duck” might very well be bona fide navigation whether this was from a marina or from a towpath spot."
Mr Justice Lewis agreed that as far as “bona fide navigation” was concerned, what was good for boaters with moorings was also good for those without. “An occasional trip down to the Dog and Duck” might very well be bona fide navigation whether this was from a marina or from a towpath spot.
 “Place” could be as small as an individual boat length”
Mr Justice Lewis also observed that “Place” could be as small as an individual boat length, by stating that the mooring or other “place” to keep a boat required by s.17(3)(c)(i) has the same meaning as the “place” used in s.17(3)(c)(ii).

Mr Justice  Lewis also stated that in his opinion, the Guidance took legislation that was already difficult to understand and did not make understanding it easier. Mr Brown observed that this means the Guidance is of little assistance to a boater seeking to ensure he is compliant with the British Waterways Act 1995. Contrary to CRT’s assertion that the Guidance remains “valid and applicable” it is now called into question.

Mr Brown was granted leave to proceed with the judicial review by Lord Justice Jackson in July 2013. Permission was confined to the issue of whether the Guidance accurately reflects s.17(3)(c)(ii) of the British Waterways Act 1995. This governs the obligations of boaters without home moorings. Non-compliance can result in the seizure and removal of the boat.

CRT attempted to claim costs in excess of £100,000 which could deter other challengers, but Mr Justice Lewis rejected CRT’s application and ruled that CRT would have to justify the amount claimed.

Fran Read the National Press Officer of the Canal & River Trust CRT said: “The Trust’s legal team has always viewed this claim as misconceived and confirms that the Guidance remains valid and applicable for boaters without a home mooring.”

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Kintbury panto to aid boating charity

The annual pantomime by the Kintbury St Mary's Drama Group this year will raise money for the Bruce Trust — a charity which provides boating holidays for disabled, disadvantaged or older people from its bases at Lower Foxhangers and Great Bedwyn on the Kennet & Avon Canal.

Bruce Trust Fact File
The Bruce Trust was formed in 1988 by Louise and David Bruce after they sold their chain of Firkin Pubs in London.

They were keen to plough some of the proceeds into a project that would benefit the community and they had become intrigued by the possibility of offering self-catering holidays to disabled, disadvantaged or elderly people cruising on the Kennet & Avon Canal.

After much research they initially put their own money into the project — and over the years they have received many generous donations to the Trust enabling the fleet to be increased to four specially-designed, purpose-built, wide-beam canal boats.

The extra width of the boats gives plenty of space for wheelchair users to manoeuvre and the boats have special built-in facilities, including hydraulic lifts, wide-access boarding ramps, low-level bunks, heating and specially fitted showers and toilets.

Their have been designed so that wheelchair users can steer the boat using the tiller and both Hannah and Rachel have been fitted with a remote steering device that enables people with less upper body mobility to steer from their wheelchair using a joystick.

The Bruce Trust has made it possible for more than 13,000 disabled, disadvantaged or elderly people — and their carers, friends or family — to enjoy participative canal-cruising holidays on the boats. As one family said:

“With increasing age and disability my father Harry’s days of enjoying canal holidays seemed to be over. But last week, there he was rising up on the lift to take the tiller once again and having a wonderful holiday with four generations of his family”.

The holiday makers are helped on their way by the dedication of more than 90 voluntary helpers who make sure that the Trust can operate in the best and most economical fashion.

Some volunteers also crew day trips — this year more than 400 people from day centres or residential homes for the elderly were able to enjoy a day of peaceful cruising on the canal.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Coal & diesel deliveries on the Long Pound on the K&A Canal

Spencer and Victoria Collins of The Boatyard, Hilperton will be delivering solid fuel, gas, diesel and some chandlery along 
the Long Pound between Devizes and Wootton Rivers on the Kennet & Avon Canal between the 3rd and 6th of January.

You can stop them and buy — or text them on 07790 017418 — and they will deliver to your boat whether you are onboard or away. You can pay by card or cash  in advance or on the day.

On board they have: 
Calor Gas: 13 kg Propane £25.49
Diesel: 82p per litre (domestic)


Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Coal Boat is coming

Spencer and Victoria Collins onboard their coal boat. Picture by Bob Naylor: WaterMarx©

Spencer and Victoria Collins of Hillperton Boatyard will be making a coal run to Wootton Rivers on their new workboat Aquilo — leaving  Hilperton on Saturday 23 November. 

They expect to be in Wootton Rivers on Tuesday and back to Hilperton on Thursday so give them a ring to place an order on: 07790 017418 or stop them along the way.

They are selling: Diesel @ 82p a litre, Calor Gas @ £25.49 and solid fuel from £7.95 for 25kg.  They carry Wildfire, Stoveglow, Excel, Supatherm, Homefire and Taybrite — and they accept card payments

Friday, November 01, 2013

Devizes Boat Club — talk on flying boats

John Blunden will give a talk on the history of flying boats and the impact they had on long-distance travel. 

John regularly gives talks on aviation subjects to the U3A, Probus and other organizations.

During his flying career John flew a wide range of aircraft from Spitfires to jet planes — and he flew helicopters for a while.

John joined the RAF and learned to fly during WW2 and towards the end of the war he transferred to the Fleet Air Arm and spent much of his time flying from aircraft carriers.

John founded the Aviation Group of the Devizes Branch of the U3A and he is still active in that group.  

Monday, October 28, 2013

Jail for K&A Canal boat burglar

A thief who had previously been spared prison for robberies from, caravans has been sent to jail for robberies from canal boats.

Allan Campbell whose robbing spree along the Kennet & Avon Canal left boaters devastated by the damage he caused to their homes, the loss of their valuables and the theft of items of sentimental value has been jailed for four-and-a-half years at Swindon Crown Court.

Campbell, 39, who was finally caught in Lincolnshire after a nationwide search and brought back to Wiltshire to stand trial had earlier this year been given a suspended sentence at Exeter Crown Court when he was found guilty of burgling more that 80 caravans on the south coast.

It was only days after this conviction that he began breaking into narrowboats on the K&A Canal and he broke into boats along much of the length of the canal. He pleaded guilty to five counts of burglary and he asked for 14 further offences to be taken into consideration.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

K&A Canal stoppage

The River Avon from Saltford to Hanham is closed until futher notice due to flood conditions.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Devizes canal death man named

The man who died after being pulled from the Kennet & Avon Canal in Devizes recently has been named as Gary Hedges.
Police reports say that Mr Hedges, 65, who was was looking after a boat (nb Marmalade) for a friend, suffered a heart attack as he jumped ashore to moor up the boat near Coate Road Bridge.
He was pulled from the canal on the afternoon of Wednesday 9th of October and despite being given CPR he was declared dead at the scene.
Police say they are satisfied that there are no suspicious circumstances behind Mr Hedges’ death.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Man dies in K&A Canal at Devizes

Police officers were called to the Kennet & Avon Canal between Devizes Wharf and London Road Bridge this afternoon (Wednesday) and pulled a man, believed to be in his 50s,  from the water.   

Attempts were made to resuscitate him but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Boat trafffic moving again on the K&A Canal between London Road and Devizes Wharf after a man died there this afternoon. : Picture by Bob Naylor: WaterMarx 

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Richard Benyon loses waterways post

Richard Benyon: Pic: WaterMarx©

George Eustace
Newbury MP Richard Benyon has lost his post at Defra as Waterways minister (parliamentary under-secretary of state for natural environment, water and rural affairs).

He will be replaced by George Eustace, MP for Camborne, Redruth and Hayle.

George Eustace said: “I spent ten years working in the farming industry and policies relating to water and the fishing industry are particularly important  to Cornwall.  I am really looking forward to working with colleagues within Defra to champion the interests of rural communities.”

Thursday, September 12, 2013

K&A Canal: Caen Hill Flight winter opening

Caen Hill Flight — locks 44 to 29

01 October 2013 – 31 October 2013 — 08:00 to 15:00hrs (to clear the flight by 19:00)
01 November 2013 – 31 March 2014 — 08:00 to 13:00hrs (to clear the flight by 16:00)

Caen Hill Flight, Christmas Closure
The flight will be closed on 25, and 26 December 2013 and 01 January 2014.  

Winter opening hours will operate on all other days.

For further information call: 03030 404040

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

K&A Canal swingbridge fault stops boat traffic

Padworth Swingbridge (27) at Aldermaston is currently open to road traffic and closed to boat traffic today (Tuesday 10  September) due to a fault — it should be re-opened tomorrow (Wednesday 11th September).

Saturday, September 07, 2013

K&A re-opened after fire at canalside industrial site

The Kennet & Avon canal and towpath have been re-opened at Sells Green near Devizes following a fire yesterday (6 September).

The fire destroyed two units within a 100m x 50m building. The building contained acetylene, propane and argon cylinders, which led to a safety cordon being put into place and the canal and towpath were closed as a precaution.

Fire crews stayed on site until after 10 pm yesterday.

A fire investigation is still taking place but initial findings suggest the cause to be accidental.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Industrial unit fire closes K&A Canal and towpath

The Kennet & Avon Canal and towpath at Sells Green, between Devizes and Melksham, has been closed today (Friday 6 September) because of a fire.

Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service was called to an industrial unit at Hillview Farm early this afternoon and found a number of vehicles and a workshop on fire.

The building contains acetylene, propane and argon cylinders, so a safety cordon has been put in place.

Six fire crews – from Devizes, Trowbridge, Calne, Bradford on Avon, Corsham and Ludgershall – are tackling the blaze, supported by a water carrier from Pewsey and an incident command vehicle from Devizes.

The cordon will remain in place until firefighters are sure that the cylinders no longer pose a risk.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Caen Hill Flight on the K&A Canal closed again

The Caen Hill flight of locks on the Kennet & Avon Canal has been closed for the second time in only a few days after two boats became jammed in a lock today (Tue September 3).

Two boats jammed in a lock on the Caen Hill Flight. Picture by Bob Naylor©
The boats had travelled together down the Devizes Flight with no problem.  They entered lock 41 on Caen Hill with no difficulty but as they emptied the lock they became jammed and ‘hung-up’ in the lock.  

The damaged coping stone.
The crews quickly refilled the lock and the boats were re-floated but they both became jammed under the coping stones on the edge of the lock. 

And there they stayed until Canal & River Trust (CRT) staff were able to assess the situation and bring in the equipment needed to remove the coping stones and to free the boats — a process that took more than five hours.

After the two boats were freed they were moved through the lock one boat at a time and CRT staff and volunteers helped to bring the queue of other boats trapped on the flight through the lock and to clear the flight.

The Caen Hill Flight is now open to navigation. Single boats only through Lock 41. Please take extra care around Lock 41, where the damaged area is fenced off.

A mini-digger was brought in to move the coping stone

Easing one of the boats out of the lock.

Free to travel on