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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Head hunters seek transition trustees for BW's move to charity sector

Leading head hunters Saxton Bampfylde have placed an advertisement in today's newspapers looking to recruit the further four Transition Trustees that Defra need to join three trustees from the board of British Waterways to oversee BW's move to what is being called a 'national trust' for the waterways.

The advertisement says, "The new organisation, which will combine the passion and commitment of a charity with the business acumen of the private sector, will come into being in Spring 2012."

And it goes on to say that candidates should "bring significant board level experience in large and complex organisations (in any sector). Specific areas of expertise that are particularly sought after include business and finance, heritage, sustainability and the environment, civil engineering, volunteering and community engagement, fund-raising and navigation and boating."

Chair today . . . gone tomorrow — yet another new Chairman for the K&A Canal Trust

Pictures by Bob Naylor©
In the seemingly never ending game of musical chairs that is being played by the troubled Kennet & Avon Canal Trust the music has stopped once again and it now has another chairman. The fourth in four months.

After the disclosure late last year that the Trust has no cash following another disastrous year of falling membership, ineffective fundraising  and poor results from its trading arm, the Trust first put its General Manager onto part time working and then finally terminated the post.   

The latest twist in this saga is that Mike Rodd, who until December 31st was the Trust's paid General Manager, brought in to fundraise and improve the performance of the Trust and its trading arm, has now been co-opted onto Trust Council and been elected as Chair by the board of Trustees to replace David Inight — who replaced Neil Lethby — who had replaced David Rees. It was David Rees who had been brought in from outside the Trust after a very lengthy recruitment  process to improve the fortunes of the organisation following a period of more than two years with no Chairman after Brian Poulton was ousted from the Chairmanship with a vote of no confidence by Trust Council.


K&A Canal pubs win beer quality awards

Ginny Long and Barny Baulu of the Kings Arms, 

All Cannings: Picture by Bob Naylor©
The Kings Arms in the canalside village of All Cannings won the Wadworth Tenanted Cellar Master award for 2010 as well as gaining the gold award in the brewery's perfect pint competition.

It is the third time that Ginny Long and Barny Baulu have won the award for the quality of their beer.

Visit their website: The Kings Arms

Adrian and Nikki Softley of the Bridge Inn at 

Horton: Picture by Bob Naylor©

And just down the canal at the Bridge Inn at Horton Nikki and Adrian Softley are celebrating being awarded the Beer Master award for the quality of their beer.

Their website is at: The Bridge Inn

Night time rescue from K&A Canal in Reading

A woman was rescued by firefighters from the River Kennet at County Lock last night (Saturday).

County Lock Reading: Picture by Bob Naylor©

Firefighters from Reading Wokingham Road Fire Station and a water rescue unit from Caversham Road were called to County Lock in Reading shortly after 7pm where they found a woman in the water clinging on to a ladder.

They quickly pulled out the woman in her twenties who was very cold and shocked but otherwise unharmed.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

New waterways charity ‘transition trustee' appointment panel chosen

The British Waterways move from a public corporation to a charity (in England and Wales) will be completed by 2012 and the panel who will appoint the ‘Transition Trustees’ has been announced by Defra.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

K&A Canal: Planned stoppage at Bradford on Avon

Bradford on Avon Lock will be closed on Monday 7th and Tuesday 8th March 2011 for lock and pump repairs.

This is the stoppage originally planned for November last year.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Take part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

The Big Garden Birdwatch is next weekend and the the RSPB are calling on canal users to help in the survey.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

K&A Canal nature reserve delay

Plans for a nature reserve on land at Fobney Island  on the River Kennet on the K&A Canal on the outskirts of Reading will be delayed because of lack of funds.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

K&A Canal John Gould award winner for 2010

John Gould Award winner, 
Richard Snook
Picture by Bob Naylor©
Richard Snook who is tireless in his support of the Kennet & Avon Canal has been awarded the John Gould Trophy for 2010.

The trophy was donated by British Waterways and has been presented annually by the K&A Canal Partnership since 1997 to a group or individual for "noteworthy actions or deeds for the Kennet & Avon Canal" in memory of the canal's restoration pioneer John Gould. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

K&A Canal Angling Matches: January

Sunday 23 January 2011
Kintbury Angling club have a fishing match to the east of The Dundas Arms at Kintbury.

Sunday 30 January 2011
Newbury Angling Club have a match at Avington  midway between Hungerford and Kintbury

Navigation restrictions at K&A Canal gateway

Netham lock gate replacement work
Netham Lock looking towards the Avon from the Harbour Feeder channel: Picture by Martyn Pattison©

The 50 year old lock gates at Netham Lock at the junction of the River Avon and the Feeder Canal to Bristol Harbour are to be replaced at a cost of £400,000 as part of  an £11 million flood defence plan to protect Bristol's Floating Harbour.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Fishy headline resurfaces

One Tooth Free For Fife's Hicks, 
Sven Ate Nine Tench

This headline was allegedly used on a local newspaper story following a fish eating competition in Scotland that was won by a Swede after the local man lost a tooth.  It resurfaced yesterday in a continuing thread of fishy letters in the Guardian.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

British Waterways new name poll

BW are looking for help to choose a suitable name for the new charity that is to run the waterways from 2012.

You can have your say — until 5pm on Friday 4 February 2011 at: www.surveymonkey.com/s/YBGCVXF

Kennet & Avon Canal navigation warning

Because of high water levels on both the River Avon and the River Kennet on the Kennet & Avon Canal British Waterways advise that boats do not navigate these sections until the levels drop.

More information from:  01380 722859

Monday, January 17, 2011

Tom Rolt Narrow Boat Man - talk by Timothy West and Tim Coghlan at Bath LitFest

Actor and boating enthusiast, Timothy West joins with canal expert Tim Coghlan at the Bath LitFest to celebrate the acheivements of engineer, Tom Rolt, whose book Narrow Boat ignited the campaign to save Britain's inland waterways — transforming them into the network we are all able to enjoy today.

Tom Rolt at the helm of Cressy
The event is on Saturday 5th March 2011 in the Mission Theatre in Bath at 6.15pm

Tickets are £9. Contact the box office on:
01225 463362 quote the event code: H13

More information from: www.bathlitfest.org.uk

Timothy West is also inviting the audience to be the jury in the Council Chamber at the Guildhall on Sunday 6th March as he reads  some of John Mortimer's Rumpole stories. Event: J7 tickets are £15

Author challenges Brunel's 'heroic myths'

Canal revival pioneer, author and engineer, Tom Rolt is responsible for misrepresenting and glamorising the work of Isambard Kingdom Brunell claims a new book.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel - his 
genious is overstated says author
This book by Adrian Vaughan draws on previously unpublished material and is the work of former railway signalman, steam railway footplate man and author of scores of books on railways with such titles as "Railway Blunders", "The Greatest Railway Blunder", "Tracks to Disaster"  and "Signalman's Nightmare". 

This is Vaughan's third book about Brunel and in it he claims that much of the work credited to Brunel is either not his work or his involvement has been overstated.

He said, "People need to have another look at Brunel and be more objective. The idolatry is not justified". He goes on to argue, "Brunel's reputation today stems from "heroic myths" promoted in a 1950s biography by Tom Rolt, which he claims contained factual errors which glossed over the engineer's shortcomings and the contribution of others". And he concludes, "Modern commentators and television historians have perpetuated this view". 

The Intemperate Engineer: 
Isambard Kingdom Brunel in His Own Words 

by Adrian Vaughan, Published by: Ian Allan Publishing, 208 pages, Hard Back.
Available from the KAcanalTIMES Bookstore

Isambard Kingdom Brunel is one of the most celebrated men in British engineering history, his legacy reaching almost legendary proportions. Brunel's designs revolutionised public transport and modern engineering, and although his projects were not always successful, they often contained innovative solutions to long-standing engineering problems. 

During his short career, Brunel not only created the Great Western Railway and constructed many important bridges and tunnels, but he achieved many engineering 'firsts', including assisting in the building of the first tunnel under a navigable river and development of SS Great Britain, the first propeller-driven ocean-going iron ship, which was at the time the largest ship ever built. 

Although much has been written about Brunel, this new book by Adrian Vaughan looks in depth at his letters and writings, revealing much about the real person. Through Brunel's own writings the author aims to portray his worries, his difficulties and tensions and ultimately to realise his humanity - his genius and his fallibility. 

With an ocean of research to draw on the author has chosen to concentrate on Brunel's early diaries and his work in planning and constructing the Great Western Railway. It also reveals his relationships with assistants and contractors, his enemies and close friends and relations. 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Historic K&A ice skating picture - more information

This picture of a lone skater on the K&A Canal went online yesterday with a request for more information about the date it was taken. 
Picture by Bob Naylor©
The first response with information is from Tony Adamson the former landlord of the Bridge Inn at Horton who has filled in some of the details:  The skater is Dick Van Klavren who Tony believes still lives in the Devizes area.  

Tony also 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."

Tony has also put a name to the crane driver of the crane that went into the canal.  He was Howard Hewitt who was the owner of Devizes Cranes — but Tony isn't sure of the date of the freeze.  So more information and/ or pictures would be welcome.

See previous story: Caen Hill skater
Email: news@kacanaltimes.co.uk

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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Ice skating on the K&A Canal - historic picture

I came across this picture of a lone skater on the Kennet & Avon Canal on the pound below Prison Bridge on the Devizes Flight in a box of scrap pictures today.  I remember the story very well ... well up to a point.  The guy skating round the pound was, I am pretty sure, a Dutchman — and a speed skating enthusiast. 
Picture by Bob Naylor©

He had been hurtling round the pound practicing for a couple of days before I took pictures of him. The pictures were used in a few newspapers and they must have been brought to the attention of someone at British Waterways who thought it unsafe and must be stopped.  

To stop people going on to the ice BW hired a crane from Devizes Cranes to break up the ice with a huge weight. Unfortunately as the crane was smashing the ice it slid down the bank and into the water - and the driver had to leap to the bank to avoid a soaking in the icy water.  The crane lay in the water on its side for some time until it was safe enough to retrieve it. (I don't have any prints of that - but I am still looking).

Because the picture is out of the scrap box it is not date stamped and has no caption — but there are a few clues that might help a knowledgeable person to identify the approximate date:
It was before the Caen Hill flight was re-opened in 1990 by the Queen.
There are no bottom gates on the locks. 
The top gates have the experimental 'cranked' balance beams — all of those had to be removed to be replaced with the lock gates with straight balance beams that are still in use.  

It was after  1979 — because I had been working in Derbyshire and South Yorkshire before then — where we had real snow in the Peak District. 

Any information to: news@kacanaltimes.co.uk

Friday, January 14, 2011

Man rescued from large puddle by firefighters

Firefighters from Temple Fire Station in Bristol rescued a van driver after he drove into a large puddle, stalled his engine and was unable to restart it.
When crews arrived at the puddle yesterday evening (Thursday 13 January 2011) they found the man sitting on the top of his van — which was surrounded by almost a foot of flood water.
Using slings and chains they were able to tow the vehicle to safety. An Avon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: "Fortunately no one was hurt".

K&A Canal: Crofton waterpoint out of use

The water point at Crofton is out of use because of contamination — until further notice. 

The nearest water points are at Great Bedwyn Wharf or at Wootton Rivers.

For more information ring: 01380 722859

Canal Trust's 'financial nightmare' year

2010 was a 'financial nightmare' for the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust according to an email they have sent to members.  
by Bob Naylor

The Trust now has no immediately accessible cash although on paper it has reserves of nearly £500,000 in the value of property and its trip boats.

The email goes on to explain: "Submissions to award-making Trusts and businesses have been an absolute washout in 2010. Each few weeks has seen yet more rejections to applications for support for projects." And continues, "All this has occurred as warnings about potential cash-flow problems, made five years ago, have come home to roost… The situation had been predicted, but it was not until this year that the impact became evident in terms of a need to dip ever more deeply into a bank overdraft to get the Trust through the difficult low income-generating months of January to April."

The email explains that crisis meetings of the Trust Council and the Enterprise Board in November and December recognised that the Trust needed to take action to try to handle the financial position and examine the role of the Trustees. 

'Strong Leadership' calls for Trustee resignations
A closed meeting of the board of K&A Canal Trust Enterprise Ltd (the trading arm of the Trust) was followed by an extra-ordinary Trust Council meeting on 4th December 2010 which was described by a Trustee as: "A very stage managed event, preceded by discussions behind the scenes."

The email describes 'strong leadership', from Enterprise Board members, Alan Whitewick,  Mike Rodd, David Inight and Neil Lethby, who asked that most of the K&A Canal Trust Board of Trustees resign — with the threat of the board being reported to the Charity Commission if they did not.

New Trustees
A Trust Council member has said: "The Board was basically given no choice about the election of three new board members without going through the normal and accepted procedures. We were told that we could not even wait for six days to be given full information on the candidates."

Of the three new Trustees voted in at that meeting, Pauline King who is an active member of both Pewsey Wharf Boat Club and the Kennavon Venture trip boat team and Suzanne Gaia who is the new treasurer have now joined the board. The third person put forward and voted on to the Board of Trustees is said to be Amy Whitewick, the Trust Webmaster, who with her father Alan Whitewick is the joint Editor of the Trust magazine. She has since decided not to take a place on the board. 

Kennet & Avon Canal Trust Enterprise Ltd
Trust Enterprise Ltd is wholly owned by the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust membership through its Board of Trustees who are elected by the membership. It was created with a loan from the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust with the sole purpose of raising money to enable the Trust to fulfil its aims of protecting, enhancing & promoting the canal.  

Currently the Enterprise Board has only one member elected by the membership of the Trust. Neil Lethby was until very recently in charge of the Trust finances as its Treasurer and the 'stand in' Chairman of the Trust following the departure of David Rees. The other members of The Enterprise Board of Directors are:  Mike Rodd who because of the Trust's financial crisis ceased to be its paid General Manager at the end of the year; Alan Whitewick, the joint Hon Editor of the Trust newsletter 'The Butty' who is the Managing Director of the board of Enterprise; Tim Jones who is the voluntary Human Resources advisor to the Trust; and new Directors, David Inight who is the Director of Boats and Acting Chairman of the Trust and Suzanne Gaia who both joined the board in December 2010.
Latest Trustee resignations include former Treasurer/Chairman
With many comings and goings from the Trust Council since the AGM and the secretive nature of the organisation it is difficult to be sure of the make-up of the Board of Trustees now but it has emerged that Tim Coleman who was brought in as Director of Marketing and Membership for the Trust left very shortly after joining the Board and long-time Board member John McIver has stood down. 

The Charity Commission website currently lists the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust Board of Trustees as David Copley, Bill Fisher, Terry Kemp, Terry Mundy, Pauline King, David Inight and Suzanne Gaia — Neil Lethby is no longer on the list so he has also resigned.
Peter Dunn resigns from Trust Council
Peter Dunn, the highly respected chairman of Claverton Branch, has very recently resigned. It is understood that he will continue as Chairman of the Bath Branch and Chairman of the group at Claverton who operate the Pumping Station.  

Pete Dunn has been the most publicly active member of the Canal Trust Council and there are few events on the K&A Canal that he has not attended as an effective ambassador for the Trust.  

Behind the scenes Peter was the Trustee responsible for health and safety for the Trust — a vital role for an organisation that invites the public into its working industrial heritage sites as well as onto its trip boats.

Current Chairman who replaced the 'stand-in' Chairman is only temporary
Alan Whitewick said in a seperate email to members that following the end of the General Manager post and the ending of Mike Rodd's paid employment he will be co-opted onto the Board of Trustees as soon as possible.

Trust insiders believe that at the next meeting of Trust Council on the 25th January,  David Inight, who has been chairman since 1st January 2011, will stand down and Mike Rodd will be elected Chairman of the Board of Trustees. 

General Manager
Mike Rodd was Director of Learned Society & External Relations for the British Computer Society until he was employed by the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust in March 2009 to turn its fortunes around.

His employment by the Trust at a new executive tier above the day to day administration was made possible by a grant of £75,000 from a local district council who agreed to 'part fund' the post for three years on the basis of an application that said that the post would be self financing within three years through the fundraising activities of the new General Manager.  

Because of the escalating financial crisis in the Trust he was put on part-time working in November and the post was finally terminated on December 31st 2010 when it was realised that the Trust finances were in an even worse state than had been previously thought.

With one year left of the grant funding and the post now gone Wiltshire Council is likely to ask for the £25,000 of charge payers money that has not been used from the grant to be paid back because it was granted specifically to part fund a new executive post of General Manager and not as a donation to the overall funding of the Trust.   

Fund raising 'absolute washout'
The Trust's fundraising under General Manager Mike Rodd is described in the email as 'an absolute washout'. Under his management the Trust embarked on a programme of 'outsourcing' its cafés and shops that had been previously staffed by volunteers with paid part time managers. Bradford on Avon, Newbury Wharf and Aldermaston Wharf cafés were all put in the hands of 'commercial partners'.  And the Trust says 'the outsourced cafés are all starting to generate income for the Trust, instead of continuing to haemorrhage funds out.' 

Another initiative under Mike Rodd's management was to lease an already operating commercial trip boat at Devizes Wharf. This is now run completely by volunteers with no wage costs — and the Trust says it has 'broken even in its very first year'.

But not only has the Trust failed to raise funds from its usual sources but the Trust's  'Membership Plus' scheme initiated to raise £100,000 by increasing membership of the Trust and general fundraising folded having raised no money. It was replaced in September 2010 by a scheme announced by Alan Whitewick who pledged to raise £1000 a month through increased branch fundraising activities and other initiatives with the help of a team made up of two members from each of the Trust's seven Branches.  

It appears that the committee has not been formed yet but fundraising activities so far have included the auction of two signed paperback books and a drawing workshop — with another drawing workshop planned for later this month.
Three new paid staff members sought for Crofton
Despite the Trust's perilous financial position recruitment still continues for the paid posts of 'live-in' warden and two part-time café managers for the Crofton Pumping Station

Tough times
The New Year message ends, "2011 will be a really tough time and many changes will still be required to ensure we are fit for purpose in a completely new environment. Following the staff restructuring described above, however, no further staff reductions are anticipated. This is the time for everyone — staff and members — to join the Trustees and Branch Chairs to ensure we are able to meet our prime reason for existing — to look after our unique and precious waterway."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

KA Boaters' Bulletin: 11 January 2011

The ice is now cleared on the Kennet & Avon Canal and traffic is  moving normally, subject to the following restrictions:

British Waterways report that because of the boat fire in Reading on January 4th County Lock (106) is still closed until further notice.

Devizes Flight (22-50)
Until 11 march 2011
The Devizes Flight from Lower Foxhangers (22) to Kennet Lock (50) in Devizes will be closed — along with sections of the towpath — for fitting replacement lock gates on locks: 24, 25, 26, 27, 35, 39 & 43. During this time embankment repairs will also be done at Martinslade. 
Dunmill Lock (75)
Monday 17 January 2011 - Friday 11 March 2011
The start of this stoppage has been delayed a week to allow the completion of the dredging works and the transit of delayed craft from the Wootton Rivers stoppage.

Navigation Restrictions: 
Oakhill Down Lock (68) near Froxfield is now open — but by appointment only. BW staff will operate the lock at 9am and 2.30pm until futher notice. Bookings must be made at least 24 hours in advance, call Alistair Ogden on 07711 403471. (Bookings for weekend passage should be made before 12 noon on Friday.)

Between Burghfield Lock (103) and Southcote Lock (104) until Friday 11th February 2011 the water level will be lowered by 250mm (approx 10 inches) so that fenders can be installed on piles set below normal water level. The work is on a river section so levels can be affected by changes in the river flow. Enquiries: 07920 824 310.   

From the west of Hungerford at Cobblers Lock (72) to Wire Lock (76) on the eastern side of the town there could be 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 working.
  • There is no longer rubbish disposal at Hungerford — use Kintbury or Great Bedwyn.
Enquiries to BW Devizes Office:  01380 722859

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