Sunday, January 20, 2013

K&A Canal ice skating... continued

The recent archive picture we ran of ice skating on the K&A in Devizes prompted a response from Dave Cleaver. His comments referred to a story we ran last winter — of a lone skater on the same pound.  Dave said: "I'm not sure if we are talking about the same year but sometime in the mid or late 1970s BWB had an excavator on that pound to break the ice to prevent the skaters enjoying themselves".

The picture was taken by me after I moved to the South West in 1980 after working in Derbyshire and South Yorkshire — where we used to have 'real' snow. So the picture would have been taken in the early 1980s. 

Dick Van Klavren skating on the K&A Canal in Devizes in the 1980s: Picture by Bob Naylor©

Dutchman, Dick Van Klavren, who ran the Pygmy Pinetum nursery in Devizes at the time  had been skating on the canal for a couple of days when I took this picture which was published in a number of papers. It must have attracted the attention of British Waterways bosses because they brought in Devizes Cranes to smash up the ice.  

The boss of the company, Howard Hewitt, was at the controls when shortly after he had started smashing the ice the machine slid down the bank and into the canal and Howard had to jump to safety — getting a soaking in the process. The crane lay on its side in the water for some time before it was safe to recover it.

The machine had done enough damage to the ice to prevent anyone skating on that pound — but that wasn't going to stop Dick from practicing his speed skating.  Tony Adamson, who was the landlord of the Bridge Inn at Horton, said: "After BW smashed up his rink in Devizes, Dick was not thwarted and he would skate out on the canal from Devizes to the Bridge Inn at Horton where he would have a chat and glass of lemonade — and then skate back to town."

BWB had not always taken such a dramatic approach to people going onto the ice. Dave Cleaver who had worked for BWB said: "When I worked on the cut during a big freeze our ganger encouraged us to walk on the snow-covered ice rather than on the rough towpath (they were all rough then!) but we had to get off before any bridges because the ice was thinner there — and  we had to brush the ice and snow off the hedges before we could cut them. And for that we were paid only about £10 a week!”

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