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Monday, February 28, 2011

NABO Roadshow — K&A Canal question time

The NABO road show is coming to Pewsey with a panel of experts to answer your questions about our waterways.
This free event on Sunday 27th March is being hosted by Pewsey Wharf Boat Club in the Bouverie Hall, Pewsey from 2pm to 4pm.
The meeting will be chaired by Richard Carpenter, General Secretary of NABO and on the panel will be:
  • NABO Chairman, David Fletcher
  • Waterways World Editor, Richard Fairhurst 
  • BW, K&A Waterway manager, Mark Stephens 
  • A representative of the K&A Canal Trust 
For more information contact: 
Kay Wardle on 07973 718129 or email: info@pwbc.co.uk
PWBC website: www.pwbc.co.uk

EA waterways to join new 'national trust' for the waterways — but not until 2015

The Government has announced plans for a phased transfer of all state-owned waterways in England and Wales into a new waterway charity. The British Waterways’ canals and rivers will move in 2012 and the Environment Agency (EA) navigations move will be delayed until 2015 so that sufficient funding can be found for the charity to take on the liabilities associated with the EA navigations.
BW Chairman, Tony Hales said, “We welcome the Government’s continued commitment to the planned ‘national trust for the waterways’ and hope the EA navigations may be able to benefit in the future.  
"While there will be some who are disappointed by the decision not to include all the state-owned waterways from the outset, we appreciate the Government’s caution in ensuring the considerable issues of financial sustainability for the EA navigations have first been fully addressed.”
Consultation on the proposal to establish a ‘national trust’ for British Waterways’ canals and rivers in England and Wales is expected to begin in March.  
The setting up of the new charity will be enabled by the Public Bodies Bill later this year and the new waterways charity is expected to be up and running by April 2012, subject to Parliamentary time and consent.

The full government statement can be read at: http://tinyurl.com/defra-statement

Friday, February 25, 2011

BW leisure boat licence prices for 2011-2012

You can see the new British Waterways licence fees for leisure boats that come into effect from 1 April 2011 at: boat-licence 2011/12

Come and work for no pay on the K&A

British Waterways is recruiting a team of local people to be volunteer lock keepers on the Kennet & Avon Canal to work at Caen Hill, the Bath Flight, Bradford on Avon, Crofton, Seend and Kintbury. 

K & A Canal Waterway Manager,  Mark Stephens, said: “This is an exciting opportunity and we are expecting there to be a lot of interest. The role of a lock keeper is arguably the most iconic and colourful role on the waterway and by opening it out to volunteers we’re hoping to tap into the great wealth of knowledge and passion that we know local people have for their canal.”

For potential volunteers to find out what is involved there are guided walks on:
Friday 4th March 10am at Bradford and 2pm at Bath
Friday 11th March 10am at Crofton and 2pm at Kintbury
Friday 18th March 10am at Devizes and 2pm at Seend

Volunteers will be required to work from March until October and able to offer at least one day a week, although this is flexible.  

BW say that the ideal volunteer lock keeper will have an interest in the waterways, enjoy meeting people and like the sound of spending time outdoors in beautiful surroundings.  

No prior experience is necessary and successful applicants will receive full induction, training and a uniform to equip them for their role as ‘the face of the waterway’. 

For more information contact Sarah French on: 01827 252097 or email:  volunteer@britishwaterways.co.uk  

K&A Canal update: Great Bedwyn pump-out now working

Repairs to the Great Bedwyn pump out are completed - it is now fully functioning.

Cards for BW pump-outs can be bought for £10 each from:

  • Aldermaston Wharf Canal Centre
  • Frouds Bridge Marina
  • Bev & Geoff's Pitstop, Newbury
  • The Dundas Arms Hotel, Kintbury
  • The Tutti Pole Tea Room, Hungerford 
  • Great Bedwyn Post Office
  • The Waterfront, Pewsey Wharf
  • The Canal Centre & Shop, Devizes Wharf
  • The Caen Hill Café, Devizes
  • Foxhanger Canal Holidays, Devizes 
  • The Boatyard, Trowbridge
  • ABC Leisure Group, Trowbridge
  • Sally Boats, Bradford On Avon
  • The Bath and Dundas Canal Co., Somerset Coal Canal
  • Bath Narrowboats
For contact details for these businesses go to:  www.kacanaltimes.co.uk where they are listed under canal services.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

BW engineers taken for a ride by Avon Vale workboat group

Volunteers of the Avon Vale group who refurbished a former British Waterways workboat used it this week to take a group of BW engineers on a two day inspection trip along part of the Kennet & Avon Canal.

BW engineers, from left to right are, John Ward, 
David Berezynskyj, Howard Wilcox, and Mark Stephens.
Picture by John Kirby©
On Tuesday they took them from through the 502 yard long Bruce Tunnel on the summit pound and on to Honey Street.  Yesterday they completed the journey to Devizes.

The team inspect Wootton Rivers Farm Bridge (109)
Picture by John Kirby©

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Last surviving Kennet Barge is in Britain's biggest ships' graveyard says report

A report to be published in the summer recognises Purton, the final resting place of the only surviving Kennet Barge, Harriett, and another 80 hulks as the largest ship's graveyard in the British Isles.

The Purton Hulks with the River Severn on the left and the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal on the right: Picture by Hamish Fenton©
The Historic Environment Enabling Programme conducted on behalf of English Heritage surveyed all known 'vessel assemblages' (a term used to define two or more hulks which lie within 50m of each other) puts Purton's 81 hulks at the top of a list of 200 known hulk locations in the British Isles.

Harriett's sister vessel, Unity, after she was launched at
Honey Street on the K&A, c1885
As well as the Purton site on the River Severn in Gloucestershire other sites surveyed include the 26 barges on the Barksore Marshes, Kent, the 25 Mersey Flats at Sutton Locks on the Weaver Navigation, Cheshire and the 22 hulked vessels at Holes Bay, Poole, Dorset.
Friends of Purton Chairman, marine historian and tireless campaigner for the protection of the Purton Hulks, Paul Barnett, was jubilant at the news saying, "This report will go a long way to protecting the site which is a beacon of our glorious maritime heritage."
Harriett as she is now at Purton: Picture by Bob Naylor©
Links to other Purton Hulks stories:

Friends of Purton website:

Wilton Windmill News

Wilton Windmill: Picture by Bob Naylor©

Wilton Windmill, overlooking the Kennet & Avon Canal near Crofton, has a busy season ahead — beginning with a volunteer recruitment day on the 19th March, followed by the start of public open days at Easter and then the annual May Food Fair.

Volunteer Recruitment Day
Saturday 19th March 2011 starting at 10.30am at The Swan Inn, Wilton
Guides, millers and shop volunteers are needed and lapsed volunteers are very welcome to go along for a refresher.
     Meet for coffee at The Swan in Wilton and then walk or drive up to the Windmill where, weather permitting, milling will be taking place. Members of the Windmill Society will then give a taste of what being a volunteer involves.
Finish back at The Swan by 1pm. 

Young Millers club
For parents or grandparents who want to volunteer there will be a Young Millers’ Club for children or grandchildren over 5-years-old at the same time as the training. There will be paper-based activities for the children, stories about the mill and activities with flour — weather permitting.
     If you are interested, please contact Susie Brew on 01264 731404 or at susie.brew@hotmail.co.uk by Friday 11th March to reserve a place.  
Website: www.wiltonwindmill.co.uk for more information.

Public openings in 2011 
The Windmill Open Season starts on Easter Saturday – 23rd April – and will close as usual at the end of September. The Mill is open on Easter Saturday, Sundays & Bank Holiday Mondays from 2pm - 5pm for guided tours and refreshments.  
     If you would like to organise a special group tour, then please contact Sue Challen on 01672 870202 or email groups@wiltonwindmill.co.uk
May Food Fair — the Mill's big event of the year 
Saturday 14th May 2011 – from 12 noon to 5pm 
A May festival of local delicacies from local suppliers, seafood to support the Hugh's Fish Fight campaign, windmill-milled bread, hot local sausages, real ale and much more. There will be bread making and star chef cookery demonstrations, Punch & Judy, Music, Children's Games and lots of family attractions.

BW appoint film location management agent

British Waterways has appointed Itasca Locations as its national  agent to the film and photographic industry to promote the use of its waterways and properties.
British Waterways is the third largest owner of listed structures in the country, behind the National Trust and the Church of England.  And BW cares for a wide range of locations ranging from toll houses and lock cottages to warehouses, garages and office buildings, as well as more than 2,000 miles of canals, river, historic docks and reservoirs.

In recent times, canals and rivers have featured in everything from reality TV to James Bond movies.  

Big budget Hollywood favourites like ‘28 Weeks Later’ and ‘The World Is Not Enough,’ were filmed around the imposing cityscape of London’s Docklands, and recently the capital’s canal network has been used in the filming of Tomas Alfredson's ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’.

‘The Full Monty’ includes the famous scene where characters are marooned on the roof of a sinking car in the Sheffield & Tinsley Canal, and ‘This is England,’ features scenes on the Nottingham & Beeston Canal.  

Long-running TV classics like ‘Inspector Morse’ and ‘Coronation Street’ and productions including the adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s fantasy novel ‘The Colour of Magic’ and ‘Crusoe’ starring Sean Bean, have all utilised the waterway network as a location.

BW head of communications, Ed Fox, said, “British Waterways cares for a remarkable network of historic canals, rivers and docks across the country which we already know has a strong appeal for commercial photographers and film-makers.  Filming helps to raise public awareness of the waterways, attract visitors and contribute income for their upkeep.  We are delighted then to have Itasca Locations on board and look forward to working with them to promote our hugely diverse locations to the industry.”

Hydro electic project for K&A in Newbury?

Newbury resident, Mark Knight, has arranged a meeting next week to discuss the idea of creating a hydro generator on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Newbury.

See Newbury Weekly News story at: http://tinyurl.com/kaelect

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Replacing staff with volunteers increases flood risk to homes says BW staff union

British Waterways is to shed 100 of its 1,700 staff as it moves to become a ‘Big Society’ charity and an increased danger of flooding comes from its plans to recruit more volunteers to replace professional and skilled workers well-versed in maintaining the canals and reservoirs say Unite, the BW staff union.

Julia Long, Unite's National Officer for Docks and Waterways, says that staff are seriously concerned about suggestions that the long-term unemployed will be forced into replacing current staff on just £1 an hour under the coalition’s 'Workfare UK' project.
She said, "Some British Waterways regional managers have already started advertising for volunteers to fill roles previously performed by employees, despite agreements that this would not happen.
"The real impact of bringing in an unskilled workforce is an increased risk of flooding to people’s homes and businesses. The reduction in spending has already meant the network operating a so-called ‘managed retreat’, prioritising work on the basis of urgency."
"The management already have mobile teams racing round the network patching up breaches and it’s frequently the case that by the time the teams hear about a breach and get there, it is too late.
"A total of 2,200 miles of canals and over 70 reservoirs are maintained by these skilled professionals. And it is likely that the New Waterways charity, which will take over from British Waterways in 2013, will be looking after the waterways currently maintained by the Environment Agency - with no additional resources."
The union says that British Waterways aims to freeze the pay of its staff and reduce the funding for essential maintenance to ‘recover’ some of the £10 million ‘lost’ by the funding axe wielded by the  Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The management is hoping that this pay freeze will save up to £3m – which Unite say nearly equates to the £3.5 million paid to the nine company executives in 2009/10.
Julia Long concuded, "This sits very uneasily with the cuts to the staff, which we believe will lead to the deterioration of the canals and reservoirs, and to what that means in terms of the increased risk of flooding to homes and businesses. 
"British Waterways should not be abolished and turned into a charity, employing volunteers on ‘no’ or minimum wages.  It should employ professional and well-paid staff to maintain Britain’s waterways. Our canals are one of this country’s great heritages and should be preserved for future generations – for the many and not just a few well-paid ‘fat cat’ directors.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Former Waterman, Lightermen, Tugmen and Bargemen's Union leader dies

Sid Staden, who was the former Deputy General Secretary of the Watermen, Lightermen, Tugmen and Bargemen's Union has died aged 87.
Sid, like his father before him, was a lighterman, "driving" barges around the London docks. In this tough world he became an active trade unionist and later a full-time union official. Sid never missed an opportunity to relate stories of the Thames to his fellow trade union officials and the Thames became known to them as "Sid's river".

Read full obituary at: http://tinyurl.com/Sid-Staden

Friday, February 18, 2011

Fear for safety of missing Bristol man

Terrence Heiron
STORY UPDATE: (Saturday morning)  Mr Heiron has been found and is said to be safe and well.

Avon and Somerset Police are concerned for the safety of Terrance Heiron, 64 , who is missing from his home at Highridge, Bristol.
Mr Heiron has health problems and may be in urgent need of medication.
He is thought to be driving a dark red Ford KA reg: WV07CMU.
He is 6 ft tall, has short grey hair with a grey goatee beard and moustache. He has a large gap to the side of his upper front teeth where two teeth are missing. He was last seen wearing a blue jacket, black trousers, a grey jumper and a maroon shirt.
If you see Mr Heiron or his car please contact Avon and Somerset Police immediately on 0845 4567000.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

K&A Canal boater information

Great Bedwyn Wharf 
Pump out — out of order  
British Waterways have not given a forecast of when it will be useable again.

Contact BW on: 01380 722859

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Canalside clean-up at Bradford on Avon

This Thursday: 17 February 2011 
Meet at the Wharf at 10am.
The tea room is not open on a Thursday at this time of year so please bring a drink.

Derrick Hunt describes it as 'mostly light gardening' and he recommends you come with stout boots and warm clothing — tools will be provided.

For more information contact Derrick Hunt on: 01225 863066

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

K&A Canal navigation notice

Oakhill Down Lock (68)

This lock is open by appointment and now only at 9am daily until Sunday 13 March 201.  Work will begin on replacement lock gates on 14 March.

To book passage ring Alistair Ogden on: 07711 403471 at least 24 hours in advance.

K&A Canal navigation notice

M4 Motorway Bridge (18)
Wednesday 23, Thursday 24 and Friday 25 February 2011 

Bridge inspection work will take place overnight between 7pm and 7am. 
Navigation will not be possible between those times.

More staff jobs to go at British Waterways

Jobs to go — and BW call for more volunteers
British waterways is planning to sack up to 60 of its office based staff in a bid to save £3.5m a year. Consultation with the staff unions has begun and BW is asking for volunteers for redundancy and part time working.

BW also say that a pay freeze will be imposed for 2011/12, there will be reduced spending on maintenance, a stop to most recruitment and offices will be consolidated.

Today's statement says that the cuts do not impact on the number of bank staff but it is looking at "operational efficiencies including further outsourcing of vegetation works and a review of bank staff allowances".  It goes on to say, "The organisational structure put in place in 2009 will remain unchanged."

BW chief executive, Robin Evans said, “We knew the next three years were going to be difficult and, in preparation, we have already done a lot to control our costs.  However the impact of the financial climate on our commercial income, the pressures on our pension scheme, and now a cut in our public funding mean that we have to reconsider our plans. This means making the difficult decision to reduce numbers of staff and spend less on major waterway repairs." 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Crowds flock to see work on the K&A Canal's million pound makeover

More than 200 visitors went to the British Waterways 'winters works' open day at Caen Hill in Devizes yesterday and they were able to watch a lock gate being craned into position. Many took a guided walk down the flight to Lower Foxhangers where there was a coach on hand to take them back

Draining canal reveals bank stability problem

Visitors have a guided tour of the bank damage: Pictures by Derek Milner©
Draining the canal on the Caen Hill Flight has brought to light serious stability problems with the banks which BW's contractors are tackling and Saturday's visitors were able to see just how much work is involved in keeping the world famous flight of locks in good condition.

Bicentenary year
200 years ago on December 31st 1810 saw the dawn of a new through route from Bristol to Reading when the first commercial vessels, two coal barges, ascended the Caen Hill Flight.  Unfortunately the 200th anniversary celebration year saw a very high number of unscheduled stoppages, so this winter BW are spending more than a million pounds on lock gate replacement and bank maintenance.

The replacement programme includes 12 sets of lock gates along the canal, including seven sets of bottom gates on the Caen Hill Flight.

Other maintenance work in progress is on Martinslade Embankment between Sells Green and Foxhangers, installation of weir booms on the River Avon, dredging work around Hungerford and Newbury and works to the iron bridges in Bath.

British Waterways operations director, Vince Moran, said, “Opening up some of our lock gate replacements and other repairs will give people along the Kennet & Avon Canal a chance to see the scale of the work we do to ensure that the waterways are preserved for today’s users and future generations, as well as gain an appreciation for the magnificent industrial heritage in our care.”

Saturday, February 12, 2011

K&A Canal mooring strategy chair quits

Sally Ash, BW Head of Boating Business. Picture by Bob Naylor ©
Sally Ash, The Head of Boating Business at British Waterways, who has been Chair of the Kennet & Avon Canal Local Mooring Strategy Steering Group since its inception has stood down and future meetings will be chaired by Damien Kemp.

In an email to members of the steering group she said, "I am sorry to have had to miss the last meeting of the K&A mooring strategy group. I understand however that good progress was made which is excellent news and I’m delighted with the confirmation that I’m a dispensable member of the group.   I have asked Damian to chair future meetings and will only attend if any special need arises."
Ash has made herself particularly unpopular with the boating community in the Bath and Bradford on Avon area and with some members of the steering group.  Under the headline: "Mooring Strategy meeting runs smoother without its chair", group member,  Panda Rainbow, reported on the Kennet & Avon Boating Community Website: 

"The fifth meeting of the Local Mooring Strategy steering group took place on 28 January. It ran much more smoothly and constructively than the others due to the absence of the BW Chair, Sally Ash. The bullying atmosphere experienced by boaters’ representatives was conspicuous by its absence as BW’s Damian Kemp ran the meeting with a minimum of fuss."

Friday, February 11, 2011

Lust for canal knowledge

A tedious day of moving office has been lightened by finding this old cutting behind a filing cabinet — from The Guardian c.1991.

Kennet & Avon Canal — winter works open day tomorrow

Caen Hill: Picture by Bob Naylor©
Public hanging at Caen Hill 

British Waterways engineers are replacing seven pairs of lock gates on the Caen Hill Flight and a special open day has been set  aside in the schedule so that the public can come and see just what is involved in maintaining this important scheduled ancient monument.  
You can meet the British Waterways team tomorrow,  Saturday 12th February 2011, from 10.30am until 3.30pm. There will be guided tours on the hour from 11am to 3pm.

Park at the Caen Hill visitor car park which is off the B3101 near Rowde (look out for the brown Caen Hill Flight  sign).

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Avon Vale workboat group volunteers deliver on the K&A

Volunteers from the Devizes based Avon Vale workboat team have been busy this week moving the British Waterways work boat Kennet II from Hungerford to Wootton Rivers. The move, that took two days, freed up two BW members of staff for Winter maintenance work on the canal.

Along the way they picked up a 'chipper' at Great Bedwyn and the boat will be used by contractors in the coming weeks to cut back vegetation on the non-towpath side of the canal from Wootton Rivers to 

Above pictured with the BW K&A Canal Volunteer Leader, Rob Labus, centre are, from left, Adrian Softley,John Kirby, Rod Hannah and John Peters.)

And right are, from left,  John Peters Rod Hannah and Adrian Softley pictured by John Kirby shortly after they left Hungerford.

Anyone interested in taking part in the BW K&A Canal volunteering scheme should contact Karen Fishwick on 07917 424590 or email her at: karen.fishwick@britishwaterways.co.uk 

Body found in K&A canalside car park

Missing man, Richard Atwell
A body, believed to be that Richard Atwell, 74, who has been missing from his home in Bath since since Tuesday has been found in a car parked the near the Dundas Aqueduct at Limpley Stoke on the Kennet & Avon Canal. 

Police say that the body has not been formally identified yet.

Historic TV documentary of 1970s K&A Canal on line

 A feature on the Kennet & Avon Canal made by HTV in 1973 has been put on line by ITV West Country.

There is a lengthy  interview with General Sir Hugh Stockwell who was commander of the land forces during the ill fated Suez Canal campaign of 1956.

His subsequent, and final, campaign as Chairman of the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust (1967), during what was described then as the Trust's darkest hours, and of the British Waterways Board in 1971, led him to make the famous statement to the Queen, “ I lost one canal Ma'm, but I’ll be buggered if I’ll lose another”!

There is also footage of the famous paddle wheeler, The Charlotte Dundas, with a boat full members of the Ladies Guild of St Andrews Church in Bristol singing merrily — despite the rain — along with interviews with many of the stalwarts of the canal's preservation and restoration at that time.

Watch the film at: HTV 1973 feature