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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Claverton Pumping Station Family Fun weekend

Picture by Bob Naylor©
This weekend (May 29th and 30th) not only will visitors to Claverton Pumping Station near Bath on the Kennet & Avon Canal see the amazing water driven pump in action — but there will also be a host of other activities to suit all ages.

There will be a canal artist at work and you will be able to:
  • learn to tie knots and lasso
  • learn about canal life and history
  • learn more about wildlife
  • learn how to build model railways
There will also be homemade cakes and refreshments to enjoy on the lawn as you take in the beautiful scenery.
Pictures by Bob Naylor©
Entrance fee: £5 for adults. Children under 16 are free if accompanied by an adult.
Open: 10am until 5pm (last admission 4:30pm)

Fact file:
John Rennie had the waterwheel powered pumping station built at Claverton to supply water to the Limpley Stoke valley length of the Kennet & Avon Canal. 

It was completed in 1813 and it operated continuously until 1952. It then lay derelict for 15 years until a group of enhusiasts restored the waterwheel, beam engines and pumps to full working order. 

It re-opened in 1978 and the Claverton Group continue to maintain and operate the Pumping Station.

The waterwheel and pumping machinery which are housed in a pump house built of Bath stone use the river's own power to pump water 48 feet up from the River Avon.

It burns no fuel and makes no waste — it is the ultimate in environmentally friendly technology.

Savage attack on Thatcham angler

An angler was attacked, beaten, bound hand and foot, robbed of £5,000 of fishing tackle and left in a ditch at Thatcham last week. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

K&A Canal re-opened after fallen tree blocks navigation

Boats could not navigate through the Bath Valley on the Kennet & Avon Canal for much of today (Tuesday 24 May 2011) because of a tree that had fallen across the canal near Claverton. 
     British Waterways contactors were called in and they quickly dealt with the problem. The canal was re-opened by late afternoon. 
Pictures by Bob Naylor©

Friday, May 20, 2011

Mikron Theatre bring two plays to the K&A

The busy tour schedule of Mikron Theatre brings them back to the area to perform their new show, 'Hell and High Water' and 'Beer Street' that was written to celebrate their 40th Anniversary, which coincided with the Campaign for Real Ale 40th Anniversary. 

Beer Street, described as 'a fast-paced production, full of fun, music and lively bar room chat' asks if the traditional pubs have managed to survive as the social centre of communities in an age of pubcos, trendy wine bars and chilled out café bars and if they have been affected by the smoking ban and the new generation of 'binge drinkers' and the associated health problems. 

Mikron Theatre's play Hell and High Water goes back to 1700s when in the turbulent times of the Industrial Revolution, Manchester's demand for coal was insatiable.
     There was an urgent need to get it there quickly and cheaply and three men had a vision and hundreds of others toiled to make it a reality.
      Over rivers, under rock, through "Hell and High Water", they proved that determination can literally move mountains and in 1761 the first boatload of coal was carried smoothly along the Barton Aqueduct over the River Irwell on the Bridgewater Canal — it was an engineering marvel that was the wonder of its age.
     The Guardian said of the Mikron Theatre Company: "The skill, ingenuity and vitality of the troupe is out of all proportion to the modesty of the settings in which they appear and their combined ability to create effective entertainment and instruction from minimal resources and basic techniques" 

Tuesday 28 June 2011
The Trout Inn, Lechlade: Beer Street
Collection after show
7:30pm: The Trout Inn, St John's Bridge, Lechlade On Thames, GL7 3HA. Tel: 01367 252313
Friday 1 July 2011
The Rowbarge, Woolhampton: Beer Street
Collection after show 
8:00 pm: The Rowbarge Station Road, Woolhampton, Reading, RG7 5SH. Tel: 0118 9712213 
Saturday 2 July 2011
Caversham Court, Reading: Beer Street
Collection after show
7:30pm: Caversham Court, 13-19 Church Rd, Caversham, Reading, RG4 7AQTel: 0118 9390771 
Monday 4 July 2011
The Rowbarge, Woolhampton: Hell and High Water
Collection after show
8:00pm: Rowbarge, Station Road, Woolhampton, Reading, RG7 5SH. Tel: 0118 9712213

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Aldermaston Lift Bridge closures

Aldermaston Lift Bridge (28) on the Kennet & Avon Canal will be closed for repair from noon on Monday 13 June 2011 until 6pm on Thursday 16 June 2011 — and again from noon on Monday 20 June 2011 until  6pm on Thursday 23 June 2011.

Boat-hire charity founder will be new K&A Canal Trust President

David Bruce
Picture by Bob Naylor©
With the resignation of former MP Michael Ancram after two years as President of the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust his place will be taken by David Bruce who founded the Bruce Trust so that people with disabilities could enjoy holidays on the waterways.

David has been an active supporter of the Canal for many years and he was the Chair of the 'Last Lock' Appeal, which raised money for the restoration of the grass-sided Widmead Lock (89) before the official re-opening of the canal by the Queen in 1990. He was made a Vice President of the K&A Canal Trust in 2008. 

David's love of the K&A Canal began in 1966 when he was a trainee brewer at Simonds Brewery in Reading where the River Kennet raced through the brewery site in what was known as Brewery Gut.

After selling a chain of London pubs he and his wife Louise formed the Bruce Trust in 1988 so that people with disabilities and their friends and families could take a holiday on the waterways.  

They based themselves at Great Bedwyn with their first specially adapted boat, which they named Rebecca, after their four-year-old daughter.  Rebecca became the Trust's administrator in October last year when she took over from Danese Rudd who had done the job for 21 years.

Fact file
The Bruce Trust now operates four specially-designed wide-beam canal boats on the K&A Canal from bases at Great Bedwyn and Lower Foxhangers.

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. 

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

Rebecca, Hannah, Diana and Rachel 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 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 woman commented: “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 Bruce Trust has an enthusiastic, active volunteer force of more than 70 who help to maintain the boats do the turn-rounds between hirings. 

Some volunteers are now crewing day trips on the K&A Canal and last 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

Monday, May 16, 2011

Future of the Purton Hulks to be debated

The Purton Hulks with the River Severn 
on the left and the Gloucester and 
Sharpness Canal on the right: 
Picture by Hamish Fenton©

Supporters of Britain's largest ships graveyard, The Purton hulk site, in Gloucestershire on the banks of the River Severn, will come together at the Sharpness Dockers Club next month to debate its future.

The site which is the last resting place of Harriett, the only remaining Kennet Barge, is also the graveyard of 80 other vessels that were beached there to protect the banks Gloucester and Sharpness Canal from the ravages of the tidal Severn.

The Friends of Purton are concerned about the risk from vandalism and their Chairman, Paul Barnett  says that  despite assurances given in 2007 by English Heritage and again in March 2010 by the Culture Secretary, Margaret Hodge, that the site was adequately protected from vandalism by SSSI legislation, the hulks do not in fact have the legal protection needed to ensure their preservation for future generations.

Kennet Barge, Harriett beached on the banks of the
Severn at Purton:
Picture by Bob Naylor©
Last year British Waterways claimed ownership of the site and BW Heritage Advisor, David Viner said, "It has become increasingly important to ensure that this site, which has 81 derelict vessels, has an owner to look after it properly. 
     "BW owns the canal alongside the site and a staff presence will raise awareness and help to tackle vandalism — our first responsibility is to make sure the site is protected.
     "A lot of the vandalism is because people don't realise the significance of the boats," he concluded.

Stroud MP and Cotswold Canal Vice President, Neil Carmichael with Paul Barnett, Chairman of the Friends of Purton
beside one of the hulks at Purton.

Local MP to Chair meeting
Chairing the meeting will be Stroud MP Neil Carmichael who is a Vice-President of the Cotswold Canal Trust and a member of the The Commons Environmental Audit select Committee that considers the extent that government policies contribute to environmental protection and sustainable development and among those taking part in the debate will be representatives from English Heritage, Natural England, British Waterways, Stroud District and Gloucestershire County Councils and Hinton Parish Council.

Paul Barnett said, "Everyone with an interest in the future of the site should attend to participate in the ongoing debate to protect the regions diminishing maritime  archaeology."

The meeting is at the Sharpness Dockers Club, The Docks, Sharpness, Berkeley , GL13 9UN at 7pm on  Wednesday 1 June 2011. 

Related stories: 

Friends of Purton website:

Treasure Island play takes to the streets of Bristol

Bristol is said to have given Robert Louis Stevenson the inspiration for Treasure Island and this this summer Bristol Old Vic is taking to the cobbles of King Street to present the classic pirate adventure in a specially designed open air theatre in the form of a 50ft (15 metre) ship surrounded by tiered seats.

The show is suitable for 6-years-olds and upwards and you can go along in fancy dress if you wish. The performances will go ahead come rain or shine — so take appropriate clothing — but no umbrellas are allowed although rain macs and sun hats are permitted.

£10 Mutineer Mondays 
On 11, 18 and 25 July there will be Mutineer Monday performances where every ticket is £10 which will be sold on a first-come first-served basis.

For more information go to the Bristol Old Vic website: Treasure Island - Old Vic

Sunday, May 15, 2011

K&A Canal Trust consults with members on its future

The second in a series of meetings along the K&A Canal at which The Kennet & Avon Canal Trust leadership will talk to its members about the future will be held tomorrow (Monday 16th May) in The Canal Centre on Devizes Wharf at 6pm

If you can't make that meeting there is still a chance to have your say on Tuesday evening (Tuesday 17th May) in Bradford on Avon when a similar meeting will be held at the United Church, St Margaret's Street,  6-8pm

Survey forms have been sent to all members or you can take part in the online survey at: Surveymonkey-K&A survey

President stands down as K&A Canal Trust considers its future

As the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust consults with its members about its future following its recent dramatic change in fortunes its President, former Devizes MP Michael Ancram, has decided to step down after being at the head of the organisation for two years after taking over from his former Conservative Party MP colleague, Sir Anthony Durant in 2009.

Michael Ancram, left with Wadworths Brewery Boss, Charles Bartholomew and the BW K&A Waterway Manager, Ian Jarvis
aboard the Trust workboat, Avon Vale as they set off from Devizes Wharf to deliver a special beer to the Bridge Inn at Horton
to celebrate the K&A's 200th Anniversary last year.  
Picture by Bob Naylor© 

Michael Ancram who is the 13th Marquess of Lothian was MP for Devizes from 1992 until he stood down at the last General Election. Before winning the seat in Wiltshire he had contested, won and lost seats in Scotland.

He was educated at Ampleforth College in Yorkshire and then went on to Christ Church, Oxford (BA History 1966, MA) and then the University of Edinburgh (LLB 1968).

He was called to the Scottish bar in 1970 and practised as an advocate until 1979 and he became a Queen's Counsel in 1996.

He was Chairman of the Conservative Party from October 1998 to September 2001.
In 2001, he stood unsuccessfully against Iain Duncan Smith, Michael Portillo, Kenneth Clarke and David Davis for the leadership of the Conservative Party, after which he was made Deputy Leader and Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs by Duncan Smith.

In 2005 he failed in a leadership bid against David Cameron and after that he stood down from the Shadow Cabinet. He was made a life peer in October 2010 with the title Baron Kerr of Monteviot.

“Posh, charming - but with a touch of ruthlessness - he seems to embody the charm of the British aristocracy without its snobbishness or aloofness” said Stephen Castle in The Independent on Sunday. He is known to many of his friends as Crum, a nickname he got in the 1960s when on arrival at a function he introduced himself as "Lord Ancram" and was duly announced as "Mr Norman Crum".

He is an enthusiastic musician and his rendition of the Ralph McTell song, Streets of London, accompanying himself on the 12 string guitar has delighted audiences at Conservative Party conferences and events in his Devizes Constituency. His extensive folk music repertoire comes from a time when as a student he spent a holiday busking in the South of France.

Michael Ancram came out of the MP’s expenses episode relatively unscathed, although he did hit the headlines briefly with the Daily Telegraph running the headline “Taxpayer charged for Michael Ancram’s pool” when it emerged that he had charged £98.58 for the servicing of his swimming pool boiler.

He agreed to pay that money back but he insisted that his claims for £1,117.43 for “cleaning up moss etc” on his canalside home in the Vale of Pewsey, Wiltshire, £3,000 a year cleaning costs and more than £1,250 for gardening cannot be considered extravagant or luxurious. He said: “I have always made sure that I did not claim for anything which enhanced the property.”

Saturday, May 14, 2011

BW press release is wrong in fact and law says boaters' website

The interpretation British Waterways is putting on the judgement handed down in Bristol County Court by Deputy Judge O’Malley in March in a 'continuous cruising' case is being challenged by boaters.  

K&A boater, Paul Davies
Picture by Bob Naylor©
A recent posting on the Kennet and Avon Boating Community website says that British Waterways is wrong to imply that the recent court decision in the case of K&A Canal boater Paul Davies sets a precedent and it also says that a BW press release about the Paul Davies case cannot be used by BW to 'threaten people across the canal network with homelessness'.

The story says that a complaint has been made to BW by a boater on the Grand Union Canal following advice from legal experts that says 'the press release is wrong both factually and in law as County Court judgements do not set precedent.'

And it goes on to encourage any boaters who receive a similar letter from BW to complain to the Waterways Ombudsman.

Waterways Ombudsman 
What can be investigated?
Complaints from people who believe that they have suffered injustice because of maladministration or unfair treatment by British Waterways. Maladministration includes:
  • doing something the wrong way
  • doing something that should not have been done
  • failing to do something that should have been done
Disagreeing with a decision taken by British Waterways is not in itself evidence of maladministration, though failure to consider a decision properly can be.

The Ombudsman can consider most complaints which:
  • are referred to her within six months of the completion of the Complaints Procedure; and
  • concern things that came to the attention of the complainant no more than a year before the complaint was made to British Waterways

For more information go to:  www.waterways-ombudsman.org

The Kennet and Avon Boating Community story is at : British Waterways act illegally

Previous related stories on KAcanalTIMES: 

Cobbler's Lock Cottage fetches £186,000

The cottage at Cobblers Lock on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Hungerford sold for £186,000 when it came up for auction in London with property auctioneers, Savills, on Thursday.
The cottage in an idylic setting on the edge Hungerford Marsh Nature Reserve and beside the Kennet & Avon Canal with the River Dunn behind it was put up for sale by British Waterways in October last year with a guide price of £110,000 as an investment property with a sitting tenant. 

It was bought before the auction by international property investment company, Regis Group, who following the death of the tenant put it up for sale again — this time with vacant possession and a guide price of £145,000.


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Hop on — hop off bus service for Wiltshire's ancient monuments

A new hop on — hop off bus bus service will link Stonehenge, Avebury the Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes, the Kennet & Avon Canal at Honeystreet and the canal museum on Devizes Wharf  — as well as other important historical sites in the area. 

The pilot service starts this weekend (Saturday 14th May) and it will run on weekends and Bank Holidays until summer 2011 when the aim will be to expand the service to more days each week.

The service will use minibuses owned by local community groups, and is run by the Wiltshire Heritage Museum which is a registered charity.

Your ticket will allow you to complete the journey over two days so you can explore the Wiltshire landscape at your own pace. You can walk in the rolling downland landscape, find a great place to have lunch, or stay in a country pub or farmhouse B&B.

The service links with buses, coaches and trains, so visitors can use the bus to explore the Wiltshire countryside and leave the car behind — and they will drop you off or pick you up from hotels or B&Bs near the route. Users of the service will get discounts at Stonehenge and Avebury and free entry to Wiltshire Heritage Museum.

For timetable information and fares visit their website at: henge hopper bus information

Does the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust have a future?

The K&A Canal Trust has suffered heavy financial losses in recent years and since the latter part of 2010 has struggled to pay the wages of its remaining staff. It recently decided to vacate its wharfside HQ in Devizes because it can no longer afford to stay there.

The leaders of the Trust have asked members to help decide its future and they are holding meetings along the K&A Canal to explain to members the full extent of the Trust's crisis and to discuss with them their ideas for its future.

Tonight's meeting (Thursday 12 may 2011) is at 6pm at the Stone Building on Newbury Wharf.

Related stories:

Crunch time for the K&A Canal Trust

Trust does little for canal admits K&A Canal Trust Chairman

Crofton waterpoint on K&A is back in action

The waterpoint below Lock 60 at Crofton on the Kennet & Avon Canal which has been out of action since early this year because of contamination is now useable again.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Man robbed and injured in Devizes canalside attack

A 35-year-old man was attacked and robbed of his mobile phone, wallet and cigarettes on the K&A Canal Towpath towpath between London Road Bridge and Devizes Wharf at about 7pm yesterday evening (Tuesday 10 May 2011) .

The man received facial injuries which were treated by paramedics at the scene.
Two men have been arrested in connection with the attack and they are being held at Gablecross Police Station in Swindon. 
Anyone with information about the attack should contact DI Simon Watson at Melksham Police Station on 0845 408 7000 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 where information can be left anonymously.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Gloucester Waterways Museum night-time experience

Gloucester Waterways Museum is joining hundreds of museums, galleries and libraries across the country in opening on Friday 13 May 2011 for a special evening event.
As part of Culture 24’s Museums at Night initiative, the Waterways Museum will host a unique evening event from 7pm – 9.30pm. In a talk by local author and historian Chris Witts' he will share his passion for the River Severn and there will be a torch-lit tour of the museum.
Museum Archivist, Caroline Jones, said: “This event is a great way for people to have a unique museum experience, especially those who work during the day and find it difficult to be able to visit museums and galleries.
“Chris’ talks are absolutely fascinating and will really appeal to anyone with an interest in the region’s rivers and waterways. The tour of the museum by torch light promises to be a really exciting way of exploring this historic building.”
Tickets cost £8 and include refreshments. Advance booking recommended call 01452 3218200 or email Gloucester@thewaterwaystrust.org.uk
Gloucester Waterways Museum is housed in a historic dock warehouse and tells the story of our canals and rivers. The museum is open daily from 11am – 4pm. For more information visit www.gloucesterwaterwaysmuseum.org.uk