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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Newbury narrowboat blaze was 'arson' say police

A fire on a narrowboat at New Mills, Newbury on the Kennet & Avon Canal 0n Saturday evening is being treated as arson by Thames Valley Police investigators.
Two appliances from Newbury Fire Station were called to the blaze shortly before 7pm on Saturday and soon had it under control. There was no one onboard at the time and police are now trying to trace the owner.

It is believed the fire was started deliberately after a window on the boat was smashed.

If you have any information about the fire contact the police on 101 (the police non-emergency number)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Top pie title goes to K&A Canalside pub

The Barge at Seend beat 26 other Wadworth pubs that entered the brewery's annual pie competition to win first place with Chef Paul Haynes' beef, stilton and stout creation.  

Paul Haynes, chef at The Barge Inn at Seend 
After the cook-off at Wadworth's new cookery school Paul said: "After coming runner up in last years competition it feels fantastic to have gone one better this year and been awarded the top spot. The pie has been a huge success in our pub and we have sold more than 200 in the last month. 

"I make it using home cooked steak tenderly stewed to give it a delicious tenderness with pieces of Stilton allowed to melt into the pie during cooking — it gives a nice creamy flavour with the subtle hit of the blue cheese. 

"We also used Corvus to make the gravy because of  its deep and rich flavours that perfectly complement the tasty meat and cheese flavour — we serve it with hand cut chips and a side of curly kale. It is a real heart-warming dish on our menu.”

George Stoneman, chef at The Crown, Devizes
Devizes canalside pub is runner-up
Second place went to another canalside pub — The Crown in Devizes. George Stoneman created his 'Jewel of the Crown Chicken & Fennel Filo Pie'. He said: "In the kitchen one day I was making a chicken soup and after adding the fennel to the recipe it occurred to me with a bit of adjusting the dish would taste really nice in a pie.

"With the addition of smoked bacon and the lightness of filo pastry the dish tastes great — and we had some excellent feedback from our customers over the past month."

Scott Ferguson, Wadworth's Food Development Manager was very happy happy with the turnout and said: “With 26 pubs entering this year it was one of the biggest we’ve run.

"Each pub had to create an innovative and unique recipe for a pie and have it on sale for a month before the cook-off to allow for customer feedback — and for a secret inspection by one of our judges... the short-list was then invited to the cook-off at our new Cookery School where the winner was decided."

Friday, March 23, 2012

K&A Canal Pump-outs — Pewsey & Dundas

Pewsey Wharf pump-out is back in action and BW have agreed to install a temporary pump-out at Dundas Wharf in April. 

The Dundas wharf building is in a dangerous state and the facility there has been out of action since the beginning of November last year. Because of heritage considerations repair work is not likely to begin before August 2012.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Car driver dies in Devizes canal bridge plunge

The driver of a car died and his two passengers were injured when his Volvo S60 car crashed through Prison Bridge in Devizes and into the Kennet & Avon Canal at 11.45 on Thursday night.
Tributes beside the K&A Canal in Devizes for the driver from Wales who died in the canal on Thursday night: Picture by Bob Naylor©

Wiltshire firefighters recover the car from the Kennet & Avon Canal on Thursday night: Picture by Wiltshire Fire and Rescue©

The driver, who died at the scene of the accident, has been named as Stuart Hughes, 26, a shopfitter from Tredegar in South Wales. 

His passengers were rescued by police and ambulance staff and taken to hospital. 

Wiltshire Firefighters including a specialist water rescue team from Chippenham were soon on the scene and the car was pulled from the canal. 

Police are now investigating the cause of the accident and witnesses should contact PC Kevin Fry of the serious collision investigation team at Amesbury on 101.

Prison Bridge, Devizes: Picture by Bob Naylor©

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

How credible are IWA council members of the Canal and River Trust?

The Inland Waterways Association swept the board in the election for the boaters' seats on the Canal & River Trust Council and this has not found favour with many boaters who question how an organisation which represents such a wide range of canal and river users can represent the specific interests of boaters. 

"IWA members’ interests include boating, towpath walking, industrial archaeology, nature conservation and many other activities associated with the inland waterways" says its website.

Four IWA candidates have been elected for the four positions designated to represent boaters on the council of the Canal and River Trust. "But are they credible representatives of all boaters on British Waterways waters?", asks Peter Underwood, who founded the Boaters' Manifesto group and is the author of 'Living Afloat' a no-nonsense book about the reality of living on a boat.

To begin with they were elected by just a quarter of those entitled to vote - hardly a ringing endorsement.

Secondly they were backed by the IWA, the biggest waterways charity and the most able to influence boater members by producing recommended candidates.

That makes this result predictable (in fact I predicted it to John Dodwell when the Boaters' Manifesto group met with him) especially with the inevitable low turnout of a hurried election conducted in the winter season.

Thirdly there will be those who conclude that the IWA is a campaigning organisation of boaters so what does it matter that they have all four seats?

The answer is that the IWA is no longer a campaigning body but a collection of committee people happy to do business behind closed doors. It is run by and for often elderly hobby boaters and no longer represents the whole boating community. That is amply demonstrated by its hostility to full-time boaters, especially continuous cruisers.

So we now have the CaRT council with too few boater representatives and those handful that are in place completely controlled by just one view of boating - and that view hostile to thousands who boat as continuous cruisers.

Not only that, they were elected by just one in four voters in an election which allowed a single body to distort the result by jamming the list with nominees.

I suspect that some of the so-called apathy that led to the pathetic 25% turnout was a boycott by boaters who see the election and CaRT as a stitch-up between a Government anxious to offload responsibility, a BW management happy to take perks for as long as possible and 'trustees' from the 'great and good' unwilling to challenge or question the BW management propaganda.

That can only leave full-time boaters more wary and more suspicious of CaRT than we already were.

Here is a so-called charity that is being run by the same people as mismanaged British Waterways - Hales, Evans and the other bonus boys - being monitored by a handful of IWA yes-people who are, in any event, outnumbered on the council.

Of course, there are also increasing doubts about the power or relevance of the council as the trustees appear to be colluding in the establishment of commercial structures within CaRT that may end up making the financial and commercial decisions that will decide the future of our waterways.

Those IWA council members may be powerless to prevent Evans, Hales and co from awarding and collecting yet more undeserved bonuses, flogging off more key equipment, investing in more failing ventures as they spend what little funds there are available on anything except the waterways themselves.

I began the Boaters' Manifesto because I feared just such a stitch-up amongst the greedy BW bosses and the professional committee people of the trustees, the IWA and others. 
Along the way I met with, argued with and enjoyed the company of a lot of proper boaters.

As I have been politically active for nearly 50 years I never really expected to win, but it is always worth getting important truths an airing.

Boaters like me are now privately resigned to more bonuses, more financial failures, less spent on the network.

We can't look to the IWA council members to fight for our interests and we are reduced to standing on the sidelines once more keeping a beady eye on this ridiculously over-committeed structure that will probably become CaRT eventually. 

They are not our friends and we will to continue to question, criticise and complain when necessary.

Monday, March 12, 2012

K&A Canal will close this summer says national newspaper — it will not, says Waterway Manager

According to a story in a Sunday newspaper the Kennet & Avon Canal will be closed this summer and hire boat holidays for disabled people will have to be cancelled — and the story says that the River Kennet is now completely reliant on treated sewage for water supply in its upper reaches.

Writing in the Sunday Times, the paper's Environment Editor, Jonathan Leake quotes an unnamed Environment Agency source as warning that the current 'drought situation' will prompt a range of potential restrictions on activities such as angling and boating.  

He goes on to say: "The situation around the Kennet is certain to mean closure of the Kennet & Avon Canal to boating traffic, ruining holidays and damaging businesses that rely on boating traffic."
K&A Canal Trust President David Bruce
These alarming predictions are supported by the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust President,  David Bruce, who founded and is still active in running the Great Bedwyn based Bruce Trust that runs specially designed boats for disabled people and their families to take boating holidays — he told the paper: "The Trust's four boats, which provide holidays for 600 disabled people each year, may be forced to cancel all its bookings — this drought is a tragedy in the making." 

K&A Waterway Manager, Mark Stephens
The Kennet & Avon Canal Waterway Manager, Mark Stephens, responded by saying: "The implication of the article that the Kennet and Avon canal will definitely be closed for the summer is disappointing — and misleading." 

He explained that British Waterways has replaced pumps on the canal and done work so that 'off-the-shelf' replacement pumps can be brought into use in under 24-hours if the need arises.

However, Mark Stephens did sound a note of warning when he said: "The Kennet end of the canal will prove harder to maintain and is dependent on a groundwater supply that is at a very low level.  With everyone around the canal appreciating the importance of conserving water we fully intend to sustain the canal environment for the enjoyment of our visitors and to safeguard the important habitats that it supports."

Russell Fletcher a hire boat operator based at Lower Foxhangers and Chairman of the Kennet & Avon Canal Trade Association says that over the last few months their organisation has been monitoring and supporting BW in planning for any potential impact this year from water supply shortages. 

"The problem in a nutshell," he said, "is the overall low levels of aquifers that indirectly supply water for the K&A Canal."  

Russell is emphatic that the canal is very much open for business as usual, but  he calls on canal users to save water wherever possible by sharing locks and closing paddles after use.

The Trade Association also supports the use of volunteer lock keepers at Bath, Bradford on Avon and Crofton and they hope that there will be additional lock keepers at Seend, Semington and Kintbury if enough volunteers can be found.

He said that other waterways are already being affected by the drought — and  to reduce lock demand and conserve reservoir levels the South East Waterways are imposing 10am - 2pm and 10am - 3pm restrictions in some places including the Southern Oxford Canal and the Grand Union Canal.

Russell said: "Since Autumn 2011 BW has been working hard behind the scenes on the issue of low water supply both nationally and locally and identifying where the highest impacted areas are likely to be.

"The Winter maintenance programme along the K&A has included replacing pumps and lock gates as well as canal bank leak reduction work… and the Waterway Manager, Mark Stephens, managed to get an extra £250,000 for the K&A from a central BW fund this year."
A boat owner who moors his boat on the K&A on the Long Pound near Pewsey said, "We are no strangers to water problems on the K&A — we have suffered them for most of the 25 years I have kept a boat on the canal and BW must understand that boaters will always respond positively to realistic water conservation measures that will keep the canal open for private boaters and the many people who come to enjoy our canal as visiting boater owners or hirers. 

"Ask us to conserve water by sharing locks, accepting evening to dawn lock closures and we will be happy to cooperate — but BW have to keep us informed of the situation."

Canal & River Trust Council election results

The results of the elections for the private boater and boating business and employee members of the Canal & River Trust Council have been announced.
They are: 
Private Boating
Clive Henderson
Ivor Henry Caplan
Keith Vaughan Welch
Ann Farrell
Boating Business
Nigel Stevens
Anthony Matts
Christopher Alan Bailey

These elected representatives will join the following nominated representatives to make up the council
Peter Brown, nominated by Railway & Canal Historic Society
Martyn Brunt nominated by Sustrans
David Gibson, nominated by Ramblers Association
David Kent, nominated by Angling Trust
Ross Murray, nominated by Country Land & Business Association
Mike Palmer, nominated by Waterway Recovery Group
Tamsin Phipps, nominated by British Canoe Union
Peter Wright, nominated by Local Government Association
John Yates, nominated by Institute of Historic Building Conservation

Organisations still to confirm nominations:
Welsh Local Government Association
Society for the Environment
The Wildlife Trusts

The Waterways Partnership Chairs are:
Steve Broomhead, North West
Charlotte Atkins, Central Shires
John Best, South East
Danny Brennan, East Midlands
Brian Fender, London
Jim Forester, North Wales & Borders
Jack Hegarty, South Wales & Severn
Peter Mathews CMG, West Midlands
Walter Menzies, Manchester & Pennine
Laurence Newman, Museums & Attractions
Mark Penny, North East
Fleur Rhe De Philipe, Kennet & Avon

Chair still to be appointed:
All Wales

K&A Navigation Notes: 12 Monday March 2012

Pump outs
Pewsey Wharf pump out is still out of action — but rumours that the portable toilet emptying facilty is out of action are unfounded… well it was working yesterday.
Dundas Wharf and its water and toilet emptying facilities are out of action because of the unsafe state of the wharf building.
Tyle Mill Sanitry Station
The water point & pump out are now working but the portable toilet facility is still out of use. 

Canal width restriction and towpath closures
Tyle Mill Lock (99) to Sulhamstead Lock (100)
Monday 19 March 2012 - Saturday 31 March 2012
Bank Protection work and Towpath resurfacing work will take place that will restrict the width of the canal.  Approach with care and allow time for equipment to be moved allow boaters to pass.  
Enquiries to: 07710 175417
Bradford on Avon canal bridge (171)
Until Thursday 5 April 2012
Scaffold erected under the bridge reduces the navigational width. A traffic light system is in place to control boat movements. Boaters are should approach the area with caution and observe the traffic light .
The towpath is closed during the works and there is a diversion.
For further information call 01380 722859.
Devizes London Road Bridge (138) to Coate Road Bridge (136)
Until 23 Mar 2012
The towpath closed while bank protection and towpath resurfacing work is done. This will close the towpath and restrict available canal width. Boaters should approach with care and allow time for equipment to be moved if necessary.
Enquiries: 01380 722859

Canal stoppages
Hungerford Marsh Lock (73)
Stoppage extended until Friday 23 March 2012
During lock gate replacement excavation of the downstream cill area revealed significant structural defects to the lock approach walls.  The walls require underpinning as the foundations have been washed away and this work must be done immediately because engineers are extremely concerned about the long term stability of the structure. 
Lock 72 and 74 have also been padlocked to maintain water levels and to safeguard personal safety on the lock stoppage.
For further information call: 01923 201120
Bath Flight between Sydney Wharf Bridge (188) and Dolmeads Bridge (194)
Stoppage for repair work to locks

Advice to boaters
Tyle Mill Swing Bridge(23)
To relieve local traffic congestion and  in the interests of 'getting on with the neighbours' boaters are asked not to open Tyle Mill Swing Bridge between 8am and 9am Monday to Friday.
Caen Hill opening hours
Until 29 Mar 2012
Last entrance to flight is at 1pm to clear by 4pm.
Enquiries: 01380 722859)
Hungerford Town Bridge (84)
Construction work on a new footbridge crossing the canal beside the road bridge is taking place.  Proceed with caution. Mooring is restricted along Hungerford Wharf.
Enquiries: 01380 722859

Tyle Mill Lock to Sulhamstead Lock — canal width restricted

Monday 19 March 2012 - Saturday 31 March 2012
Lock 99 Tyle Mill to Lock 100 Sulhamstead

Bank Protection work and Towpath resurfacing work will take place that will restrict the width of the canal.  Approach with care and allow time for equipment to be moved allow boaters to pass.  

Enquiries to: 07710 175417

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Canal Trust seeks professional caterers

Commercial caterers are needed to run a cafe in the historic former bonded warehouse on Devizes Wharf that is home to the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust.
The former bonded warehouse on Devizes Wharf, headquarters of the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust: Picture by Bob Naylor©

The canal trust had previously run a café in the upstairs meeting room in the building in 2007 but in common with the Trust's tea rooms and cafes at Bradford on Avon, Aldermaston and Newbury it was not profitable even with minimal staff costs using unpaid volunteers and part-time managers. 

The Devizes café was closed and these other cafés have since been put into the hands of what the Trust describe as 'commercial partners' who run them as private businesses with no involvement at all from the Trust.

Local newspaper, the Wiltshire Gazette & Herald,  says that that the Trust Chairman, Mike Rodd Devizes Wharf claims the café used to do a 'roaring trade' during the summer months and the paper goes on to quote him as saying: "The trust wishes to extend the range and availability of the services provided at its Wharfside cafe through a partnership arrangement with professional caterers who will share the trust’s passion and interests in the canal."

Anyone interested in this opportunity should ring the canal trust administrator Jean Cook on 01380 721279 or email: katrustadministrator@btconnect.com