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Wantage Waterway

Restoring for the Future

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September 6th 2017

Templars Firs
Royal Wootton Bassett

     Another day, another visit.  This time to one of my old favourites; the mile long stretch of water at Templars Firs.  The longest accessable stretch of clear canal we have.  It was of no surprise to find the local workparty hard at it, and this time assisted by a group from Ameys. They were busy at clearing weed from the canal and tidying the towpath; two jobs that need constant attention.  Everything was as a canal should be, except, of course, the lack of narrowboats.  There was wildlife in plenty, ducks, moorhens, swans and even the dreaded watervoles.  The flora is varied and abundant.  There were also ramblers, dog walkers, cyclists and fishermen.  This is exactly the image the restoration project needs.  This length of the canal has been in use since the 1990s, with the original tripboat, Pioneer, running up and down for several years.  It has also been the site for several water festivals. 

     We will be back here on the weekend of  the 16th/17th of September when 'Nonsuch', the boat recently donated to WBCT by Vic Miller, will be taking members for trips.  I believe light refreshments will also be available.

                                                                         Click here for pictures

September 2nd 2017
Steppingstone Lane Bridge

      We thought it was time to revisit Steppingstone Lane Bridge as we hadn't been there for a couple of years.  It was not a good idea.  The towpath, which had been re-instated on the correct side, was almost totally overgrown and very difficult to walk; apparently only the intrepid dog walkers were keeping it visible. Between Station Road and Steppingstone Bridge the canal is practically invisible.  The bridge itself is also somewhat disappointing, only oneside has its coping stones in position and the deck of the bridge appears unfinished.  This cannot be a good advertisement for the restoration; when was this project first started? 

Click here for photos

 

August 30th 2017

Remembering – HARRY BROMLEY 1926 – 2017

Former Corporate Fund Raiser for W&BCT

A personal tribute from Janet Flanagan

    Back in the 1990’s Harry turned up at a Swindon Branch meeting and later persuaded me to take him on a tour of the restoration sites in North Wilts.  I bought his lunch, this proved to be money well spent as he offered to try to raise funds for what was then the largest restoration project in Swindon, namely excavation of canal and rebuilding of Lock No3 at Moredon.  It was only later that I discovered his considerable business acumen and promotional and fund raising skills.  He was modest about his past achievements.

    Harry had an illustrious military career and after his retirement he was involved in a wide number of organisations in a promotion capacity such as the British Olympic Association and Imperial Cancer Research Fund and locally through his work with the Old Town Business Association running the Christmas Lights event.  He took the view that it was better to make personal contacts with companies for funds rather than writing endless begging letters.

    He quickly secured funding for the Moredon Project from Crapper & Sons.  This family firm have been generously funding our canal restoration ever since!

    Buoyed by the success of the Moredon Project, Swindon Borough Council secured Heritage Lottery funding for the canal restoration at Westleaze, including the rebuilding of Bevans Bridge.  Once again Harry secured a significant financial contribution from The Hills Group for this project.  Swindon people now woke up to find two stretches of lovely canal that at some point needed to be joined.


‘Harry Bromley, and Swindon Branch Chairman Henry Smith,
receiving a cheque from members of the Crapper family in 1998 at Moredon Lock’.

    In 1998 the National Trail Boat Festival was held at Royal Wootton Bassett and Harry persuaded Dr David Bellamy to open it, (having sat outside the latter’s office in London for many hours).

    David Bellamy and his family had originally planned to only spend two hours at the event but stayed the whole day and visited again the next day.  In 2002 Harry raised £9000 from various sponsors to fund the Wiltshire Waterways Festival also held at Royal Wootton Bassett.

    Harry was incredibly driven and tenacious with boundless energy in pursuing his objectives.  Business people in Swindon were known to hide in doorways if they saw him approach in the lead up to Christmas as he was seeking contributions towards the lights!

    He was polite, respectful and a stickler for detail, a true professional and above all that a true friend.

 

23rd August 2017

Harry Bromley

         We were very sad to hear that, after a long illness, Harry Bromley passed away on Saturday 12th August. Harry was 92 and throughout his life he had varied and interesting involvements in many unusual situations. He became involved with the canal many years ago and became the Corporate Fundraiser, raising, over the years, tens of thousands of pounds for the Trust.           Amongst other things he was instrumental in involving David Belamy in the 1998 Trail Boat Festival at Wootton Bassett 

 


Harry with David Bellamy and IWA Chairman Audrey Smith.


          Although I had known Harry for some time, my personal involvement with him was in 2006 at our first Latton Open Day.  Harry was so taken with the project that he approached Richard (Crapper & Sons Landfill), who he convinced of the projects value.  Since then Crappers have generously funded the Basin project and have enabled us to achieve a great deal more than we ever expected. 

A much fuller account of Harry's life will, no doubt, appear in Dragonfly and will be printed here as soon as possible.

22nd August 2017

Sad News reported by IWA

Mick Beattie

         'We are saddened to report the death of Mick Beattie of Waterway Recovery Group who had a major influence on WRG and its Canal Camps in the 1990s.  Mick first attended a Canal Camp, on the Pocklington Canal, in 1987 and his knowledge and skills, being in the building trade, were of immediate benefit.  The following year he established his abilities as assistant leader of a particularly successful Camp at Bugsworth Basin and then took on the logistics of organising all the tools, plant, catering kit and vehicles for running all of WRG’s Camps and more.  During his tenure as leader of WRG’s Logistics Group, and leader of the newly established ‘Navvies Anonymous’ regional group, WRG’s Canal Camp programme rapidly expanded and standards of both Health & Safety and provision of support kit at WRG sites improved beyond all previous recognition, and the pattern for WRG’s current regular programme of works became firmly established.  Partly on the strength of his achievements with WRG, Mick successfully took on a post with waterway contractors Land & Water but, sadly, suffered a protracted fight with cancer over the past seven years.'
                                                                                                                                                                           IWA Bulletin

     Older members of the East Vale Branch may remember meeting Mick at the 1991 Wrg Big Dig, where he and Navvies Anonymous were some of the 1000 that turned out that weekend for WRGs 21st Birthday Bash.

August 5th 2017

Better News about Latton Basin

At a recent meeting of the Board of Trustees in July the following Proposals were agreed.

  1. We make clear that Latton continues to be a WBCT project, subject to minimal cost to the Trust.
  2. The land team be requested to confirm with the landowners/agents that the Trust has continued permission to work whilst the future of the site is progressed so that health and safety procedures can be properly followed. Permission to work, however, must be granted in order for work to continue.
  3. The Land team are requested to try for ownership of the area at nominal cost.
  4. Otherwise, re-start the process of renewal of the lease. An attempt should be made to see if the land owners will agree to a longer lease as is our normal custom but for this time if three years is the maximum then on this occasion that will be approved.
  5. A display board should point out the involvement of the W&BCT.
  6. A committee be set up to report back to the BOT on the longer-term future for the project at the desired outcome at the end of the lease. A time limit of 6 months has been suggested?

       Since then I have had an email from Max (Head of WBCT Land Team) in which he says 'I have spoken again with Imogen Crookes (Savilles) and await her client's decision on various matters, but in the meantime work can continue on the same basis that it has done since the previous lease expired'.

      This is all very encouraging after the trauma of the last nine months and although there are still some obstacles to us getting back on track so we must not become complacent.

August 3rd 2017

Some VERY GOOD News and some not so good.

     First the Good News.  In 2016 WBCT won an award from the  Association for Industrial Archaeology for the Sack House at Wantage Wharf.  This was for ' Promoting the study, preservation and presentation of Britain's industrial heritage'.

   
Well done Brian, Mike and all the Team.

 

    Not so good news. We had a walk down Jubilee Junction on Wednesday (2nd August) and we were very disappointed to find it very badly overgrown.  It is just about impossible to see, let alone identify, the winding hole and the footpaths a seriously encroached upon by shrubs, weeds and brambles. Around the winding hole there are many trees growing along the edge of the water, and a mass of reeds has started to take over.  Unfortunately this is what happens when a completed project has no proper maintenance system set in place.  The Trust is aware of the situation and hopefully it will be remedied in the near future.  We were not surprised to find that our regular moorer was still there, taking advantage of a free and secluded spot.
                                                                                                  Click here for pictures

June 24th 2017

Grove Extravaganza

     The Wantage Events Team were out in force on Saturday showing the flag on the Grove Rugby Football Ground which is adjacent to the Elm Farm section of our canal.  This is a surprisingly big event and was very busy with plenty to entertain both young and old, with entertainments carrying on until late at night.

Pictures

June 6th 2017

    Great news for Latton: today we received a magnificent donation from Wayland Estates.  This continues their support for the project which is not only preserving the historic site but also enhancing the area for Cricklade residents and the many visitors attracted by the circular walks and North Meadow every year.  We are very grateful for their trust in the project which now secures our work for the next year. Next Latton Work Party is Thursday 18th June 2017.

May 15th 2017

A bit better news about Latton Basin today.  Work can still carry on until further discussions between WBCT Chairman and representatives of the LBP have taken place.

May 9th 2017 

     A Black Day for the Latton Basin Project.  We were informed today by the CEO of WBCT that they are withdrawing their support for the project and, therefore, insurance cover has been removed. This means that all work at the Basin has to cease.  After working there for over eleven years this is a great blow to the Team.  If this decision is ratified by the WBCT Trustees then the site will revert to its original very overgrown condition. All the goodwill with the local residents and various groups who have funded the work will be lost.

We await a final decision.

For up to the minute news from around our Canal and River system visit

Narrowboat World

April 25th 2017
Pewsham


click for photos

     Another sunny day and John Minns and I were out with our cameras again recording the canal for posterity!  Top lock is still sealed off. I noticed that the old lock cottage has had some more excavating undertaken; I assume that a local archaeologist is recording the detail.  Between the locks and Double Bridge all is looking good. We came across a workparty removing the last bund, leaving the complete stretch clear until just before the bridge. The spoil from the bund is being used to reinforce the bank. Beyond the bridge the route to the Reybridge draw bridge site is straightforward (given landowner permission) and then it's on towards the Bell Inn.
   Plenty of wildlife, fish (Rudd?), moorhens and ducks, with an abundance of wildflowers. I have always said that this will be one of the most attractive sections of the canal, especially where it has views over the Avon.

click here for photos

April 23rd 2107
Friends of Foxham 


Click for photos

    It had been several years since I had last walked the complete length of the Foxham section of the canal, so on Sunday, along with Jan Flanagan, I decided it was time to rectify this.  It would also give us an opportunity to see the state of the section now that the Foxham & Lyneham Branch of the canal trust had been disbanded by the WBCT (the reason for this is still unclear).
    Initially the canal appeared much as before with plenty of water, and, surprisingly, many hundreds of fish (Rudd?).  Past the two rebuilt bridges and on to Jack Dalbys Memorial seat all was much as expected. Jacks memorial milestone on the opposite bank is in a sorry state, the stone is crumbling and the inscription is unreadable.  And then, unexpectedly, a boat in the water and a group of workers.  It turns out that these were several of the old F&L Branch members who were unwilling to see all their efforts going to waste.  They are now called the 'Friends of Foxham' and they are working with the local landowners and are continuing with their restoration work.
    After an informative chat with with them, we carried on for a short distance, and after passing a obstructing hedge we were stopped in our tracks...............
                                                  Last time I had to almost fight my way to the end.  This time it was a fully dredged and profiled length of canal with an excellent towpath, and a good depth of water all the way up to the next bridge, and even several metres beyond.

    Looking beyond the end of the section towards the site of Woodcommon Lock one realises just how easy it would be to connect to Dauntsey; there are no roads, only tracks and no major obstacles.
     Just to complete a perfect visit the hedge from Foxham Bottom Lock to Top Lock had been trimmed and for the first time I was able to view the remains of Bottom Lock and the canal bed.

Click here for pictures

 

April 18th 2017
Challow Lease

     In the last week after much effort by our gallant Land Team the Trust has acquired a 30 year lease over 1km of canal, representing almost all the pound between East and West Challow. Restoration of the canal here will take some years and will involve construction of a weir and at least one lift bridge. Much preparatory work remains to be done but this is the best news we have had in the Wantage area for many years!

April 10th 2017
Kath Hatton

Kath Hatton, pictured in 2012 receiving the 'Queens Award for Volunteers' on behalf of the Trust, has resigned and retired from the WBCT Executive Committee.  She will be a great loss to the restoration as she has been a tireless and prolific fundraiser for the Trust.

April 1st 2017

Weymoor Bridge

            Great News!  Weymoor Bridge has been completed. Thanks to an unexpectedly large party of Chinese volunteer 'WRGies' who are over here to investigate some our stranger activities.  They pitched in with typical Chinese enthusiasm, completing the work in record time.

click image for picture

March 22nd 2017
Swindon - New Eastern Villages

      You may have heard about this proposed development of up to 8000 houses on the flood plane east of the A419 and just south of the A420.  The new route of the restored W&B canal passes through this area and the Trust is keen to ensure that the flood protection benefits of the canal are fully understood.

A technical note, which was produced in 2016, explains in some detail how the canal can be integrated.


click image to open pdf

11th March 2017
Vale of the White Horse Local Plan

     Mike Matthews has found these policy statements from Vale of the White Horse that make re-assuring reading.

                                                                                       

Click image for full size view.

 

9th March 2017
Sack House

The Sack House, on Wantage Wharf, is open from April 1st to the end of October on the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays and Saturdays of each of month from 10 am - 2 pm,
Please contact the chairman for more information.
Brian Stovold (telephone 07946 524928 email brian.stovold@wbct.org.uk)

(They are always looking for more Sack House volunteers)

        This small building stood at the entrance to the canal wharf. It was used as a weighbridge, office, coal merchants and dates back to soon after the canal was built into Wantage around 1810. There are various canal artefacts on display  as well as information displays about the industrial archaeology of the wharf area, e.g. not just the canal but also the Wantage Tramway and the Mill. 

March 9th 2017
Resignation

        Luke Walker today announced his resignation from the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust, citing irreconcilable differences with the Trust management as his reason.  It is a great pity that the project has lost a member who has been, over very many years, a driving force behind the marvellous work carried out in the Foxham, Dauntsey and Seven Locks areas. Luke has also served as a director and Vice-Chairman of the Trust. With others, he had hoped to reform the suspended 'Foxham and Lyneham Branch', but this was not possible, and the branch remains suspended for the foreseeable future.

February 16th 2017
Latton Basin

        The "Latton Basin Restoration" project is now officially part of the East Vale Branch, although we are still awaiting the Lease renewal. This should make no difference to what is being done at the Basin. Our first work party of the year was very successful.  The area over the old River Churn Aqueduct was cleared of all the scrub to provide a much more pleasant experience for walkers. We also completely stripped out the cabin before installing new shelving and then neatly repacking everything.  The work on Weymoor bridge has not yet restarted.

Next Latton Workparty March 16th

11th January 2017
Canal bed either side of A4 near Chippenham


click image for slide show

Dickensian Evening
Friday 2nd December


Wantage Branch members out in force.
Click image for slide show.

11th January 2017
Templars Firs re-aligning track


click image for slide show

28th November 2016
Studley Grange update

It is looking good now, click the picture for a slideshow.

October 2016
Semington Mural is attracting interest at the old Junction.


Paul Lenaerts and his team have taken on the task of upgrading the W&B
profile at the junction. The mural is painted on the bricked up
entrance to the old canal.

10611

Santa Cruises on Dragonfly start in November.
Click image for details.


Santa Cruise is very popular on the restored Westleaze section of canal.
Trips now start from the new landing stage outside Waitrose, where
there is a very nice cafe.

25/10/16
Work to complete the Studley Grange
section starts this week.


The work on this high-profile project had to stop last year due to the
weather conditions and contractual problems.