On other pages

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Timely celebration of the K&A Canal's 200 years

There was a day of celebration for the Kennet & Avon Canal's bicentenary on Saturday when a massive sundial was unveiled on the Widcombe Flight of Locks in Bath.

By Bob Naylor

People flocked to the canal to see the new piece of artwork commissioned and funded by Bath and North East Somerset Council as part of the K&A 200 celebrations.

A host of celebrities paid tribute to the piece, which is calliibrated to Widcombe Mean Time.

Bath and North East Somerset Chairman, Sarah Bevan read a quote from Toad in 'The Wind in the Willows' about the worth of 'simply messing about in a boat' before thanking artist Alan Dun saying, "You have produced an imaginative sundial – you have enhanced the public realm –and we appreciate your work with the children of Widcombe Junior School and the students at the City of Bath College".

Bath and North East Somerset Council Chairman, Sarah Bevan, left with Bath Mayor, Shaun McGall and artist Alan Dun cutting the ribbon to unveil the K&A Bicentenary sundial. 

The Mayor of Bath, Shaun McGall, said, "As someone who grew up enjoying canal boat holidays all across the country I think it’s really great that we can celebrate 200 years of this quite wonderful canal, which is a wonderful community resource that we can all use whether on the water or on the towpath". 

The artist chosen to create the monument, Alan Dun said, "I would like to say thank you on behalf of the artist community because projects like this give artists an opportunity to increase their reach to a new audience, to increase the visibility of art and hopefully to add something to the cultural life of the city."

"Alan paid tribute to Project Manager, Kate Orchard and Ann Cullis the BANES Senior Arts Officer for their work behind the scenes and to Nigel Bryant and his students from Bath City College who worked remarkably quickly to have the stonework in place in good time. He also thanked BW who prepared the ground and provided the foundations.

The sundial was cast in iron by Richard Bowditch using the same traditional methods as canal builders would have used 200 years ago. 

Alan explained, "Richard works on his own and he made the ironwork in three separate sections each weighing one and a half hundredweight — and that meant pouring molten iron at 1100 degrees C — on his own ... H&S look the other way! 

Lady Margaret arrives at the event onboard Lady Lena, the oldest electric launch in the world — skippered by its owner, Jenkin Knill.

Lady Margaret, who arrived at the event on the classic electric launch, Lady Lena, said, "I got an email last week with a song about the K&A canal — it's quite a few pages long so you’ll be grateful that I’m not going to sing it. It was written in 1990 and starts:

The Widcombe Mummers brought an 
element of chaos to the procedings.

In 54 a Bill was raised to close the old cut down,
But people fought in Parliament and won the crucial round,
The fight’s gone on as you can see this year’s a year of victory,
So take a glass and raise it high to the K&A Canal,
The race is won and we’re all here to raise a great and mighty cheer 
And drink a pint or two of beer to the K& A canal.

"And I’ve found a much older poem:  
The K&A runs from A to B,  
The towpath we are treading,  
Although it is a great pity,  
It only goes to Reading!

She added, "We’re all here today...  the dignitaries, the sculptor, the Widcombe Mummers and the people of Widcombe as well as the boat people and everyone else. And we hereby declare the sundial well and truly open. God Bless her and all who tell the time by her — and what time it is I have no idea!

Crowds flocked to the canal in Bath to join in the celebrations.

Bath Valley boaters protest against BW plans

by Bob Naylor

The unveiling of the sundial to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Kennet & Avon Canal in Bath was seen as an appropriate and timely occasion to remind British Waterways of the important role that people living on boats have always played in the life of the canals since the birth of the canal system — and that they continue to be an important part of the culture and colour of the canal today.

Boaters from the Bath Valley joined with other users of the canal to celebrate its bi-centenary on Saturday and during the unveiling ceremony they held a quiet, polite and dignified protest at what they see as an unreasonable approach by British Waterways to 'continuously cruising' boaters.

They claim that BW's plans to impose a new mooring strategy on the K&A that will put them in the impossible position of having to choose to travel away from their jobs, children's schools and healthcare or risk being made homeless and losing their boat — which for many is their only asset.

Panda Rainabow talks to Sarah Bevan at the event.
BW have all the legal powers they need already say boaters
Panda Rainbow said, "We are calling for BW to use it's current legal powers to regulate mooring by enforcing the 14-day rule. We do not understand why BW wish to invent and enforce new rules which are not contained in its
legal powers, rather than use the existing law, which we are prepared to comply with."

She continued, "If boaters obey the BW's own new rules that they are imposing they will have to travel away from their jobs or their childrens’ schools — they could be forced to choose between giving up their jobs and taking their children out of school — or giving up their homes and having to register as homeless.

"If boat dwellers do not comply with these rules that make it impossible for them to keep their jobs or send their children to school then BW is likely to terminate their boat licence. 

BW rules go beyond their legal powers
And if a boat does not have a licence — then BW has the legal power to seize that boat. So not
only would they become homeless, they would lose the only asset that they have when BW take their boat away for not complying with rules that are beyond what the law requires.

At the event on Saturday BANES Chairman Sarah Bevan spoke to the demonstrators and she has arranged to meet them to learn more about the problems they are facing.

A dignified protest about BW's plans.

If you want to learn more about the views of boaters go to their website at: 

George Inn Bathampton

Temporary closure
The George Inn at Bathampton is closed from tomorrow, 
Monday 1 November 2010 until Monday 11 November 2010 for refurbishment.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Caen Hill Flight navigation restricted by low water level

Because of extremely low water levels passage through the Caen Hill Flight in Devizes on the Kennet & Avon Canal is restricted today.

So double up through the locks and single boats will be allowed through on the hour, every hour, with the last passage at 3pm.

Water shortage closes K&A Crofton Flight

The  Wilton water supply for the K&A canal is now exhausted and British Waterways has closed the Crofton Flight for today Friday 29th and Saturday 30th October 2010.

Crofton Top Lock (55)  to Crofton Lock (60) are closed in the hope that water levels will recover enough for the flight to be opened on Sunday to allow boats to pass before the winter stoppage that closes Wootton Rivers (51) to Cadley (54) from Monday 1st November 2010 until Friday 17 December 2010.

K&A Canal Stoppage
Bath Locks Thimble Mill (7) to Washhouse (10) 

Today, Friday 29 October 2010 until noon

For the removal of an underwater obstruction in Deep Lock (8/9) Bath. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

K&A Canal navigation restriction

Padworth Swingbridge (27)
Thursday 28 October 2010 until further notice

Due to power supply problems the bridge will be operated manually at by 12pm and 3pm by BW staff until repairs are completed.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Picture by RNLI Dover
Would you go to sea in a canal or river boat?
By Bob Naylor
Arthur Ransome's 'We didn't mean to go to sea' is one of my favourite books ... but the crew of a 65ft converted river barge did mean to go to sea — and they were trying to get from Belgium to France with no VHF radio and only one lifejacket between the four people onboard in what were clearly very doubtful sea conditions.

They got into difficulties and were taking on water and drifting towards the Goodwin Sands but luckily for them a coastguard station was monitoring their progress and realising there was a problem they alerted the Dover Lifeboat who went out to the troubled vessel in the Dover Straits yesterday (Tuesday 26 October 2010).

In a force 8 gale the life boat crew managed to get a line onto the vessel and took her in tow ... and three hours later she was safe in Dover Harbour. 

The owner is now planning to get the vessel to France — but this time by by road.

Picture by RNLI Dover
RNLI Coxswain, Stuart Richardson said, "I would advise anyone undertaking such a journey to have the correct equipment on board and ensure that each crewmember has their own lifejacket. 
     "It is always advisable to check the weather conditions before setting out to avoid what could have been a catastrophe. 
      "The barge was drifting towards the Goodwin Sands and if the RNLI hadn't come to its rescue the end result could have been a lot different."

If you have ever thought of going to see in a canal or river boat you must watch this film: RNLI river barge rescue in the Dover Straits

The river barge in tow by the Dover Lifeboat. Picture by the MCA

Bradford on Avon canalside clean-up
A second clean-up in the quest to restore the glory of the area around Bradford on Avon Lock has been organised by the K&A Canal Trust Bradford on Avon Branch.

Pictured at this month's clean-up are, from left to right, 
Dave Wells, Isobel Geddes, Pete Dunn and Derrick Hunt.
Picture by Edward Ody
So get your boots on and join Derrick Hunt's work party. 

Sunday 7th November 200  

Meet at the Tea Rooms by the lock on Bradford on Avon Wharf — for what Derrick describes as 'mostly light gardening'. 

For further information contact Derrick Hunt on 01225 863066 or email:

See previous story at: BOA clean-up


River Avon drowning victim named
The man, who's body was recovered from the River Avon near Locksbridge sluice on the morning of Tuesday 19 October 2010, has been named by the Police as Saul Thompson, 29. 
He had been missing since he was last seen at the Hillview Lodge mentall health unit at the Royal United Hospital in Bath on the evening of Wednesday 29 September 2010.
Cotswold Canals ENews available online
You can read the latest issue of the Cotswold Canals ENews at: Enews 20-10-19

And if you want to keep right up to the minute with the work on the new new road bridge over the canal at Wallbridge in Stroud you can go to a live webcam view of the site at: Wallbridge live feed

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fabulous free firework party
There will be a firework display and BBQ in aid of the K&A Canal Trust Avon Vale Group at the Bridge Inn at Horton near Devizes on Friday November 5th.

Bonfire lit: 6.30pm
Fireworks: 7pm

Free entry
Fire damaged cruiser removed from K&A Canal at Newbury

cruiser badly damaged by fire, vandalised and then abandoned had been causing some concern as she lay partially submerged on the Kennet & Avon Canal near to Ham Bridge in Newbury.

The cruiser, True Story, described as being fire damaged beyond repair and structurally very unstable, was finally broken up and removed by British Waterways staff yesterday.

The latest issue of the WRG magazine 'Navvies' can be read online.

Go to their website at: Waterway Recovery Group

Turning the clock back on the K&A Canal

A new working sundial calibrated to ‘Widcombe Time’ next to the canal towpath near the Horseshoe Walk end of the Widcombe Flight in Bath will commemorate the Kennet & Avon Canal's 200th Anniversary. The sundial commissioned Bath & North East Somerset Council is the creation of local artist Alun Dun.

As part of the art project Alan visited Widcombe Junior School near the canal in Bath last week. He talked to pupils about the history of sundials and how he created the piece for the canal. Alan and canal museum archivist, Elaine Kirby also worked with pupils to explore the history of the canal and the people who worked on it. During the day the children created their own working sundials, which will be on show at the unveiling of the canal-side sundial on Saturday 30 October.  

Artist Alan Dun, canal museum archivist Elaine Kirby and art project manager Kate Orchard worked with Widcombe Junior School pupils on a canal history and sundial project. Pictures by Bob Naylor

Sarah Brice of British Waterways said, “It’s great to see that local children are getting involved with the celebrations to mark the Kennet & Avon Canal’s bicentenary. The canal is a great local resource and offers a link to the area’s past as well as being something for everyone to enjoy today.”

Alan said, “It’s a great pleasure to be able to work on the project and help celebrate this often overlooked corner of Bath. The Kennet & Avon Canal is a green route through the city and a showcase of industrial heritage. I hope that the piece I am creating will be a welcome addition to the towpath and help people appreciate the canal now and in the future.”

Previous story about the K&A 200th anniversary sundial at: Planners OK canalside art

Monday, October 25, 2010

K&A Canal: stoppage update
Monday 25 October 2010
West Mills Swingbridge (62) Newbury

The swingbridge has now been repaired and is open for boat traffic.

There will be a short stoppage tomorrow, 26th October, between 11am and 2pm for BW staff time to clean up debris and prevent polluted materials entering the canal.

K&A Canal low water level warning

From Bradford on Avon Lock (14) to Crofton Top Lock (55)

Craft should keep to the middle of the channel, share locks and moor with slack ropes to take into account falling levels.

There are very low levels on the Kennet & Avon Canal from Braford on Avon to Crofton Top Lock caused partly by an intermittent electric supply failure from the National Grid.

BW are manning the pumping station at Bradford until the water levels recover in each pound, working progressively from west to east.

East of the summit, Wilton Water is at a critically low level with barely enough water to supply the pounds east of Crofton. Heavy rainfall will be needed to improve the situation there.

K&A Canal Stoppage
West Mills Swingbridge (62) in Newbury has failed in the closed position and this section of the canal is closed to traffic until further notice.

Engineers are on site - more information to follow when available. 

Historic K&A Canal Pillbox listed 

A Second World War pillbox overlooking the Kennet & Avon Canal opposite Devizes Wharf will now be preserved thanks to a campaign by local blacksmith and historian John Girvan — and the voluntary efforts of students from New College, Swindon.

John Girvan by the second World War Pillbox beside the K&A Canal in Rotherstone, Devizes. Picture by Bob Naylor

John Girvan grew up in Rotherstone, Devizes and he has fond childhood memories of playing with his friends in the old pillbox next to the canal near his home. In recent years, though, the pillbox had become hidden by ivy and its important war-time role was at risk of being forgotten. In 2009 John set out to get the pillbox listed. He wrote to Elaine Pearce who was then the Minister for Culture, Media and Sport and he has now received a letter officially designating it as a Grade 2 Listed Building.

John said, "I am really pleased that it has been listed. I wasn't confident that it would be when I applied but this is an important part of our history and it would have been a great shame if it had been demolished as so many other pillboxes in the area have over the years."
The  structure was part of of the anti-tank line known as Stop Line Blue that included the Kennet & Avon Canal and pillboxes and 'dragon's teeth' anti-tank defences that were built in 1940 and early 1941 after the defeat at Dunkirk when Britain faced the threat of imminent invasion.  

Students from New College, Swindon at the pillbox beside the canal in Devizes. Picture by Bob Naylor

Getting the pillbox listed  is just the first stage in preserving the structure and John enlisted the help of Sarah Brice the British Waterways Regeneration Manager for the south of England who has organised volunteers to start to clear away the ivy and undergrowth from around it.

Last week a team of Health and Social Care students from New College Swindon working with the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers  supervised by Tracy Mackeddie spent a day opening up the area around the pillbox.

NOTE: Pillboxes were built all over Britain during the war to defend against an anticipated German invasion. The website:  Pillboxesuk.co.uk estimates that although 28,000 were built across the country, fewer than 6,000 of them still remain. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Bristol Council launches free Wi-fi network
Wi-fi hotspots have been switched on in council buildings and open spaces across Bristol.  

They switched on 37 yesterday and there are expected to be a further 15 available by early next year. 

To download a free map of the hotspots got to: 

For more information go to: www.bristol.gov.uk/wifi

Friday, October 22, 2010

K&A Canal: update for boaters
3.30pm: Friday 22 October 2010

Lock Restriction
The only lock restriction on the K&A Canal at the moment is Burnt Mill (65) closed overnight: 6pm - 9am until further notice.

Navigation warnings
Newbury between Town Bridge and Newbury Lock (85) — because of scaffolding on the offside of the canal — navigate with care.

From the west of Hungerford at Cobblers Lock(72) to Wire Lock(76) on the eastern side of the town: possible delays of up to 30 minutes and occasional drops in the water lever for dredging and bank protection work.

Boating facilities
BW report that all of their pump-outs are now in working order (including Kintbury).

There is no longer rubbish disposal at Hungerford — use Kintbury or Great Bedwyn.

K&A Canal stoppage
advance notice

Aldermaston Liftbridge
Monday 15 November 2010 - Tuesday 30 November 2010

Aldermaston Lift Bridge will be closed to both road and boat traffic from Monday 15th November to Tuesday 30th November for West Berks District Council engineers to replace the worn main bridge bearings and ram bearings.

Enquiries: 01380 722859

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Claverton Pumping Station 
last run of the season

The Claverton water powered pumping station on the Kennet & Avon Canal is running on Sunday (24 October) for the last time until next Spring. It is a wonderful place to visit at any time of the year but with the autumn colours on the trees in the Bath Valley at this time of year it is a must. There is also the nearby aqueduct at Dundas, the Somersetshire Coal Canal and the American Museum nearby that are well worth a visit. Claverton is open from 10am-5pm).

For more information go to a previous posting on this site about this event at: Claverton open day

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

K&A Canal Navigation warning: Newbury

From Wednesday 20 October 2010 - Tuesday 30 November 2010

Scaffolding has been erected on the offside of the canal between Newbury Town bridge and Newbury Lock (85) for repair work on a canalside building.

Boats should proceed with care past the scaffolding and be aware of possible restricted headroom if the river level rises after heavy rainfall.

Body pulled from the River Avon in Bath
Police divers pulled a man's body from the River Avon in Bath near to Locksbrook Sluicegates at Twerton yesterday morning (Tuesday 19 October). 
Police are not treating the death as suspicious and the man has not yet been formerly identified. 
Church Lock, Great Bedwyn
Picture by Bob Naylor
K&A Canal stoppage 
Church Lock (64) Great Bedwyn
Today: Wednesday 20 October 2010  9am - 1pm 
Church Lock Great Bedwyn (64) will be closed for emergency repairs to the anchor plate

Enquiries: 01380 722859

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bruce Trust Administrator retires after 21 years 

The Bruce Trust, based on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Great Bedwyn, that provides boating holidays for elderly people and people with disabilities and their carers has just completed its 21st season and Danese Rudd who has been the Trust Administrator since it began has decided that it is time to retire from the role.

Bruce Trust founder, David Bruce, with Danese Rudd, left who has retired as Administrator after 21 years and 
his daughter, Rebecca who has taken over her job.

David Bruce said, "Danese has put her heart and soul into her work and she has achieved so much over the years. We are very pleased that she will continue with her voluntary work with the Trust."

Danese’s role evolved naturally as the Trust grew and her responsibilities have been many and varied: fundraising, design and building of new boats, marketing, bookings and administration, recruitment, organising a rota for voluntary helpers, weekend training courses, dealing with call-outs and winter maintenance are just a few tasks that the job entailed.

The Trust started with one boat, The Rebecca, in 1988, and the fleet has been increased to four boats through the sheer hard work and determination of Danese and the Trustees.  

And now ready to face the challenge of filling Danese’s boots is her replacement, Rebecca Bruce, who was only 4 years old when the Trust was created and after whom the first boat was named. 

Since leaving University Rebecca has worked in the charity sector and she pitched in as a volunteer this season — getting to know things from the bottom up.

Rebecca said, "I am really looking forward to continuing the efficient running of the fleet and we are also looking to expand the Trust. At the moment we are researching the feasibility of building log cabins and campervans, so that even more people with disabilities can enjoy holidays with The Bruce Trust in the future." 

The History of The Bruce Trust

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 Bruce Trust specially adapted wheelchair-friendly wide-beam trip boat 'Diana' passes Pewsey Wharf: Picture by Bob Naylor

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. 

Rebecca, Hannah and Diana 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 enabled more that 11,000 disabled, disadvantaged or elderly people together with their carers, friends or family to enjoy participative canal-cruising holidays on the boats - as one family explained, “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 over 70 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 that 500 people from day centres or residential homes for the elderly were able to enjoy a day of peaceful cruising on the canal.  

Contact Details
Address: PO Box 21, Hungerford, Berkshire, RG17 9YY
Telephone: 01264 356451