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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Failed canalside community pub to re-open with new tenants

The Barge Inn at Honeystreet. Picture by Bob Naylor: WaterMarx©

The Barge Inn at Honeystreet on the Kennet & Avon Canal that had been run by the Barge Inn Community Project since August 2010 using a hand-out of £430,000 from the Big Lottery Fund suddenly shut its doors and sacked all its staff recently following successive years of trading losses.

Their Chairman, John Brewin admitted to the local paper that they had not registered for VAT saying: "We did try to register for VAT but we had the most awful problems." He did not deny rumours that the VAT debt was more than £100,000.  

The pub's owner, Ian McIver, says that new tenants have been appointed and the pub will re-open its doors on Friday December 14th.

Read: Canalside Community pub calls last orders

K&A Canal chosen by national charity for boating holidays for people with disabilities

The Disabled Afloat Riverboats Trust (DART) are working with the Bruce Trust based at Great Bedwyn on the Kennet & Avon Canal to make boating holidays possible for more people with disabilities.

A Bruce Trust holiday boat passes Pewsey Wharf on the Kennet & Avon Canal. Picture by Bob Naylor: WaterMarx©
The Bruce Trust is well known for organising holidays for people with disabilities and their carers on their purpose built wide beam boats — but their boats must have a minimum of three experienced and non-disabled adults on them. And they provide training for groups who need it before the start of each season.

Unfortunately this means disabled people who are not part of a group cannot take a holiday with them — which is where the Disabled Afloat Riverboats Trust (DART) come in.

They have been working with the Bruce Trust for many years and they hire boats from them and fill them with people who are unable unable to find a group to bring them on a holiday.

Rebecca Bruce of the Bruce Trust said: "It's brilliant as it means individuals don't have to miss out on a holiday just because they cannot get a big enough group of family or carers together and also enables them to mix with other individuals which they thoroughly enjoy." 

If you have not been on a canal boat before then why not look at their programme of holidays. Paul Treble of DART said: "The trust welcomes anyone who would like to come. The difference is that if you have a special need DART can cater for it and allow you to participate as much or as little as you fancy in the activities on offer."

Paul said: "DART passengers travel in comfort on a wide beam boat visiting local towns such as Hungerford, Pewsey and Bath and guests are welcome to take part in activities such as steering the boat, operating locks and helping with shopping."

So, if you are disabled in any way, a carer or anyone else for that matter why not investigate what DART has to offer you as an individual or your family or small group of friends. All you have to do is book up and get to the base. After that just relax and let the DART crew look after the details of catering and activities. 

This year they have a choice of 13 holidays on offer ranging in length from three to seven days — and all based on the Kennet and Avon Canal. 

Contact DART 
Tel: 07778 842 358 or go to www.glosdart.co.uk.

Fact File

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 have received many generous donations to the Trust which have enabled the fleet to be increased to four specially-designed, purpose-built, wide-beam canal boats.

The extra width of the boats give 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, toilets, etc. 

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 someone 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 voluntary helpers also get involved with crewed day trips and this year more that 500 people from day centres or residential homes for the elderly were able to come out for a day of peaceful cruising on the canal.  

Email:  rebecca.bruce@brucetrust.org.uk
Address – PO Box 21, Hungerford, Berkshire, RG17 9YY
Telephone – 01264 356451

Friday, November 16, 2012

K&A Canal Stoppage

The Kennet & Avon Canal is closed to navigation at Woolhampton Swingbridge (31) until further notice because of a hydraulic failure.

For more information call: 03030404040

The bridge has been repaired and the stoppage notice has been lifted.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Boat dwellers and canalside villagers agree... they all want peace — and quiet

Canalside residents and boaters at Honeystreet on the Kennet & Avon Canal are working together to overcome a noise and litter problem there.

A 'Quiet Zone' sign has now been put up near to the 
Barge Inn at Honestreet.
The inconsiderate use of generators by some boaters at Honeystreet on the K&A Canal has brought boat dwellers, the waterways manager and the parish council together to try to bring peace and quiet to the area — and it has resulted in a section of the canal through the village now been designated a quiet zone.

The Kennet & Avon Canal is no stranger to allegations of unacceptable behaviour by boat users, particularly aimed at people living on their boats in the Bath and Bradford on Avon area, and scurrilous stories have, save for a very few incidents, proved to be completely untrue.  

When the issue of boats and moorings at Honeystreet appeared on the agenda for Alton Parish Council earlier this year rumours quickly spread  anticipating a 'boater-bashing' repeat of campaigns waged against boats and boaters at the eastern end of the canal — and the fear that there could be an an attempt to try to stop boats mooring in the parish.

The Parish Council responded quickly to quash the rumours and Parish Clerk, Charles Reiss, issued a statement distancing the parish council from the prejudiced rhetoric of some of the critics of boaters on the K&A Canal. And he invited everyone interested to come the Alton Parish Council meeting in the Coronation Hall in Alton Barnes to give their views and discuss the issues. 

Parish clerk, Charles Reiss, front, left, talks to K&A Canal Waterways Manager, Mark Stephens during the fact-finding walk at Honeystreet. Picture by Bob Naylor: WaterMarx©

The afternoon before the meeting members of the parish council had walked the canal in the parish with Waterways Manager, Mark Stephens, Damian Kemp of the BW moorings team and Richard Birchall of the Residential Boat Owners Association and they were able to explain to Mark the problems they felt existed.

A packed meeting that evening  heard discussion that was mostly concerned with the affect that noise from the campsite at the Barge Inn and some boaters had on other canal users and local canalside residents. 

The Parish Council Chairman said that litter and boats overstaying on the moorings are also problems. He said that the village welcomes boaters, but that these problems need to be dealt with. 

A boater explained that most boaters routinely clear up after themselves and others, but she felt that it would be worthwhile to organise towpath tidies in the area a suggestion that found favour with everyone at the meeting.  Mark Stephens said that BW would remove large items of litter such as discarded ballast 

The meeting agreed that signs designating the canal through the village as a quiet zone, along with encouragement of quieter behaviour from campsite users and boaters would help to solve the problem.

Another problem that Mark Stephens identified was that because of the extremely poor condition of much of the towpath on the Long Pound in the winter boaters tended to moor in places like Honeystreet where it is less muddy and he promised to look for ways to improve the towpath.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Police ask for help to find missing Bristol man

Avon and Somerset Police are asking for help to find Steve Hamlin, a vulnerable 60-year-old man, who has gone missing in Bristol.  He was last seen outside Barclays Bank in the Horsefair in the city at 3.30pm today.

He is a white man, about 5ft 7ins tall of stocky build with close-cropped grey hair and he has a slight beard/stubble. On one of his knuckles there is a tattoo saying "love
". He is wearing a green mid-length green jacket, black jogging bottoms with a stripe down the side and was wearing a woollen black hat and he walks with a slight limp as a result of a former leg injury — he may appear confused. 

Concern is mounting because he is due to take his medication this evening.
Anyone able to help, or Steve himself, is asked to contact Trinity Road police station on the force number 101 or on-line using the following link: http://www.avonandsomerset.police.uk/contact/crime_reporting/

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Shock closure of K&A canalside pub

The Barge Inn at Honeystreet.  Picture by Bob Naylor: WaterMarx©
The popular canalside pub, The Barge Inn, on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Honeystreet has shut up shop and sacked all its staff without notice.
When previous landlords, June and Adrian Potts, retired after running the pub for 17 years the pub was taken over by The Barge Inn Community Project in August 2010 using a £430,000 grant from the Big Lottery Fund in association with the BBC TV programme 'Village SOS'.
Popular with canal users and croppies
The pub has always been popular with local people and canal-users in general — and particularly with crop circle enthusiasts who have flocked to the pub from all over the world to study the creations in cornfields nearby.
Business sold as going concern
It has been repeatedly reported that the community buy-out saved the pub from closure — and the management team running the pub never did anything to correct that impression — but former Landlord, Adrian Potts, said that they sold the business because they were retiring — as a going concern.  "The community group offered to buy the business for the asking price which was a fair market price — so it was sold to them" he said. And he went on to say, "there was never a possibility of the pub closing."
Stills from the BBC news programme:
'How Clean is Your House' co-presenter
Aggie MacKenzie — and the ceramic sink.
How clean is your kitchen?
From the outset the community group committee worked closely with the BBC because of the Village SOS Project funding — and as part of this link the TV programme 'How clean is your house' came and filmed at the pub. Some film from the programme was shown on the local BBC TV station as a news item and portrayed the pub as being in a filthy and disgusting state. Mysteriously the actual programme never saw the light of day and Adrian Potts describes it as 'wholly innacurate'. "We paid a commercial cleaning company to come in when we moved out and they spent a whole day making sure that the kitchens were absolutely spotless before we handed it over " he said. "Yet the film that appeared on the local TV news showed a disgustingly filthy ceramic sink that they said was in our kitchen — but we have never ever had a ceramic sink in our kitchen — this was a total misrepresentation of the facts"
Community Project?
Although it was heralded as a community project the group ignored the massive local objections to a major music festival at the pub and they went ahead with the festival which was not a financial success — the following year the site for the music was moved many miles away to an isolated site on the Marlborough Downs — with festival-goers being bussed from the pub to the event.  Little is said of this event, but it is doubtful that it even covered its costs.
The project's first accounts declare massive losses
The accounts for the business while it was being run by the community project show a business that was failing from the outset. The accounts for the period ending May 2011 showed that the trading company's liabilities exceeded its total assets by £56,517. In a note lodged with Companies House with those accounts senior statutory auditor, Andrew Coombes, said: "The financial statements indicated the existence of a material uncertainty which may cast significant doubt about the company's ability to continue as a going concern'" and he warned that the financial statements did not include the 'adjustments' that would result if the company was unable to continue as a going concern.

"The financial statements indicated the existence of a material uncertainty which may cast significant doubt about the company's ability to continue as a going concern"
Andrew Coombes, auditor of accountants of David Owen & Co., Devizes
Community project still in deficit after busy summer trading
The accountants again expressed their concerns about the company's ability to continue as a going concern in a note with the accounts that covered the period to the end of September 2011 when they only showed a net profit of £19,676 after the busy summer period — and with the winter, which is always a quiet time for isolated canal side pubs, still ahead. At that time their current liabilities exceeded the total assets by £43,146 — and they had net liabilities at that time of £50,192.
£100,000 VAT debt?
The chairman of the buyout group, John Brewin, told the local newspaper, The Wiltshire Gazette & Herald,  that there was a large VAT debt but he would not confirm the £100,000 figure which is rumoured locally, He said, "We did try to register for VAT but we had the most awful problems." He also admitted to the paper that their running costs were far higher than those of the previous tenants and after a very poor summer their trade had fallen away completely.  It is alleged that their wage bill for a nine-month period was £166,000.  When asked how this compared with his wage bill former Landlord, Adrian Potts said: "Our total wage bill for a full year was between £60,000 and £70,000. I just cannot see how they could possibly afford to spend that sort of money on staff costs."
Newspaper comments
The story in the Gazette & Herald has attracted many critical comments including: "This is the second time a large sum of public money has seemingly disappeared down a black hole chasing a concept that many of us thought spurious anyway. The Pewsey PACT centre was bad enough but this is appalling. It is time that the Lottery Commission were instructed publicly to account for their actions and more notice was taken of whether the whole community were behind the project in the first place."
Pub to "remain closed pending stage two refurbishment"
While the pub is closed its owner, Ian McIver of Honestreet Ales is continuing work on the re-building of the adjacent barn to create an arts venue and a new sign has appeared on the door of the pub saying that the pub will "remain closed pending stage two refurbishment".