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Wednesday 6 July

Waterways Trust Scotland encourages 'canal custodians'

Concerned at the relative lack of awareness of the Caledonian Canal by people who live near it, the Waterways Trust Scotland has recruited a dedicated canal officer, Stephen Wiseman, to increase involvement and knowledge of the waterway. 

Stephen Wiseman's first task will be to recruit and train local people to be 'Canal Custodians', encouraging them to create practical conservation projects, including helping other local people to research and record the history of the canal.  

He says he wants to get many more local people to explore, use and care for the 60-mile waterway, which stretches from Inverness to Fort William. 

Over the next two years Stephen Wiseman will be running a series of projects and activities to help people in the area discover more of the canal’s heritage, scenery and wildlife.
 
He says: “The Caledonian Canal is relatively unknown locally. While visitors come from far and wide to cruise along the waterway, there are few opportunities for people living in its vicinity to experience the canal.”
 
"The canal created the fortunes of the region, and while we now have different ways of getting around, it can still play an important role in the way we live today,” he says. 


Stephen Wiseman, Caledonian Canal Officer, appointed by The Waterways Trust Scotland  

Andrew Denny  | 4.25pm


Stroud canal at Wallbridge finally in water

The channel underneath the largest current project of the Cotswold Canals, in the centre of Stroud, has finally become navigable - for the first time in many decades. 

The Stroud Brewery Bridge, which carries the A446 over the canal in the centre of the town, is close to completion, and on Monday 4th June the feeder pipe which carried Slad Brook through the construction works was removed.  


[Photo: courtesy Clive Field, CCT]

It's only a short stretch, a limited pound between the upper and lower Wallbridge locks, but it's been the biggest barrier to opening up the canal in the whole six miles of this first stage of the restoration. 

At this point we would be saying something nice about the construction company doing the work, Carillion, but their PR people haven't returned our phone call.  We were hoping they would explain why the project is several months behind schedule, although there are good reasons for the delay.  

By next year, if there are no more delays, this could well be the upper limit of navigation for the National Trailboat Festival 2012, to be called Stroud On Water.

Andrew Denny  | 12.29pm


Today's news from the web

  • Boats, beer, music and cheer at first ever Alrewas canal festival burtonmail.co.uk

    Details have been released about the first ever Alrewas canal and music festival. More than 20 musical acts from across Staffordshire, a choice of real ale, historic boats, canoes, angling and ukulele lessons will be on offer during the weekend of July 22 to 24. To mark Alrewas Village Hall’s centenary year, a group of individuals and village organisations decided to launch the first Alrewas canal and music festival to raise money for the village hall building fund and to raise awareness of the canal heritage in the village....


Tuesday 5 July

Today's news from the web

  • Lucy Cavendish takes her family for a swim in the Thames telegraph.co.uk

    We are swimming in the River Thames, [me,] three of my children...and my husband, when a man swims towards me pointing madly behind me. I am in the middle of the river accompanied by eight-year-old Leonard and no one else as far as I am aware....


Monday 4 July

Droitwich Canals open for business!

The first through traffic on the new Droitwich Canals took place quietly on Sunday 26th June, when the working boat motor Atlas and butty Malus travelled from Hawford Junction on the Severn, through to Hanbury Top Lock, testing the new Droitwich Junction Canal for the first time.  

Following close behind was IWA Chairman Clive Henderson in his boat Nanshe.  He declared himself “deeply honoured” to be on the first leisure boat to make the full passage.  



It was a tight fit in places, with little more than an inch of headroom to spare in the culverted tunnel under the M5 motorway, and some grounding in the mud for the deep-draughted Atlas on the way up, something that will be addressed by dredging teams later. Nevertheless, the working pair made the trip to Hanbury easily, and the canals were declared officially navigable for the first time in nearly a century.    

Town and boaters celebrates their new resource at happy opening ceremony


The official opening ceremony was on Friday 1st July, in a day of perfect weather.  It seemed as if everyone in Droitwich had finally become a canal enthusiast, turning out to enjoy the sight of a functioning waterway for the first time in over a century, and forgetting the conflict that has dogged the restoration over the years.

By the time the VIP guests had arrived we counted 70 boats clustered in and around the town’s Netherwich Basin and Vines Park. The atmosphere was every bit the traditional canal festival, with bunting from most boats and the feeling that the boats had never been away.  

Defra minister Caroline Spelman officially unveiled the plaque that will be embedded in the park to record the day. She duly paid tribute to everyone involved in the 50-year restoration, perhaps stressing the concern for environmental impact more than the effect on navigation and business in the town: 

“Reconnecting and reopening the two canals is a great engineering achievement. I’m delighted by the environmental sensitivity of the work. The new Coney Meadow reedbed is a marvellous example of ecological offsetting.”

“The Droitwich Canals Restoration Partnership shows what can be achieved when local communities and national bodies come together and share responsibility for the waterways, generating support and volunteer efforts, with funds from varied sources”, she added. “Localism and partnership of this sort show that the future of the waterways in the charitable sector will be bright.”



The heavy work of the restoration is comparatively recent, since lottery money, charity fundraising and a final vote of the board of British Waterways brought £12million to the project. 

But its genesis was over 50 years ago, when local waterways enthusiast Max Sinclair and his wife Jocelyn began writing letters to local newspapers proposing the restoration, and organising teams of local people in clearance and digging, often against the abuse of other local people who saw no use for a waterway.   

“I suppose it was an impossible dream”, he said at the opening.  “At times I never thought I’d see this.”   

If Max Sinclair himself was the highest profile volunteer – gaining a round of applause when BW Chairman Tony Hales mentioned his name – he himself singled out Jason Leach of British Waterways, the restoration manager, as the one who drove the restoration to its triumphant reopening on 1st July.  

“Jason has been wonderful”, said Max.  “He’s brought all the partners together, and fought his corner to keep it going whenever there was disagreement.  It couldn’t have happened so quickly without him.” 



Looking at the new visitor moorings in the town canal basin, Max Sinclair remembers: "The first half-mile of the canal out of town was the local sewage works. The reeds were supposed, 'Dutch style', to purify the water. Unfortunately poisonous chemicals from the town's industry meant it didn't work. 

“When some boaters arrived and said 'What a lovely canal!' my pride was tinged with the sadness that this could have happened many years earlier if we had received more support in the early years.”

"It's especially rewarding to see all the diverse efforts of groups and individuals coming to fruition after decades of planning and spadework," said Jason. "This £12m project to restore the canals is an economic generator, a green waterway corridor for communities and a magnet for visiting boaters. I want to place on record our gratitude to the dedication of the collective partnerships and individual volunteers." 

On the Saturday – as the town’s annual music festival got underway, now newly renamed the Droitwich Waterways and Music Festival - another plaque was unveiled in Vines Park, to the ‘unknown volunteers’.   This plaque honoured thousands of ordinary volunteers who have laboured over the years in scrub bashing and amateur digging to keep the canal alive, before the professional hard hats and hi-viz jackets took over. 


Andrew Denny  | 10.36am


Today's news from the web

  • Controversy over 'Sainsbury's or marina' choice at Tordmorden todmordennews.co.uk

    More members of the public took the chance to look at designs for a marina in Todmorden last weekend. Members of Todmorden Pride’s board, including architect Ivor Dibble who drew up the proposals, were on hand to give more detail about them. They will only have the chance to go-ahead should plans submitted by Sainsbury’s supermarket for the key Halifax Road site be refused. There is a developer interest in a marina, say Todmorden Pride....

  • Repairs to historic railway aqueduct [sic] bakewelltoday.co.uk

    A towpath along a historic aqueduct will close while Derbyshire County Council carries out essential repairs. Work on the aqueduct which carries the Cromford Canal over the Derby to Matlock railway line will start on July 11 and will finish in November. The existing towpath will be removed and replaced with a new steel path and the route over the railway will be closed during this time....

  • Water festival marks end of £12m canals project worcesternews.co.uk

    People flooded into Droitwich this weekend for the town’s first water festival. The Droitwich Water Festival celebrated the completion of the £12m project to restore the canals to their former glory. As we reported on Saturday, the three-day festival was launched with an opening ceremony on Friday during which a plaque was unveiled by Defra minister Caroline Spelman....


Thursday 30 June

Daventry canal arm project becomes high-profile

After the sudden formation earlier this year of the Daventry Canal Association to push forward a long-proposed canal arm into the town centre - complete with six locks and a large waterspace-centred development - you'd probably assume its energy would evaporate quickly. Most such efforts do. 

Surprisingly, no it hasn't; not in this case. Planning applications are already in the works, including an application for detailed planning permission of the canal arm from the junction with the Grand Union Canal through to the edge of the town, and outline permission for the development that will surround the basin. 
 
And the initial flurry of press coverage hasn't died down. Last weekend the Association held fort at the Braunston traditional boat show (picture shows the man on the stand pointing out the entrance to the proposed canal basin), and yesterday the Daventry Canal Arm project featured as a five-minute segment on the Radio 4 PM program:

BBC iPlayer link (direct to the start of the segment): http://www.bbc.co.uk/i/b0124nv0/   

The Association really has done very well to get this far, and although it's still nowhere near home and dry, they are very close to getting detailed planning permission for the arm itself, and outline planning permission for the 20-acre development that will justify it all.

Residential, commercial, leisure - a good balance of city-centre waterside development that should breath new life into the town centre. We wish it well. 

For news, follow the blog on www.daventrycanal.org.uk/news-blog.html



Andrew Denny  | 9.37am


Wednesday 29 June

Today's news from the web

  • Hereford & Glos canal restoration plans for abandoned railway bbc.co.uk

    Plans have been unveiled to turn the route of an old railway line at Newent back into a canal. Originally built as a canal, the route was turned into a railway in the 1880s. The railway was then abandoned in 1964. The Herefordshire and Gloucestershire Canal Trust proposal to restore the waterway would see it running between the platforms of the old station. The plan is part of an ongoing project to restore the entire 34 mile canal between Gloucester and Hereford....

  • 'Go somewhere else' says Maidenhead council to illegal moorers on Thames maidenhead-advertiser.co.uk

    'Go somewhere else' was the message to boat owners illegally mooring their vessels on the River Thames at a Royal Borough council meeting last night. Cabinet members of the Windsor and Maidenhead council agreed to a crackdown on unlicensed and illegal craft on a stretch of the river in Maidenhead during a cabinet meeting at Windsor's Guildhall....

  • Maffi's blog: Braunston and the Milly M narrowboater.blogspot.com

    It would seem that Braunston was a runaway sucess this year with around 120 historical boats taking part. I am led to believe this is a record. I was thinking I might enter Milly M next year, she is after all a historical boat. ...

  • The Droitwich - a historic waterway unlocked independent.co.uk

    The Worcester & Birmingham Canal forms the backbone of a new triangular itinerary that allows the unconverted to test the appeal of a narrowboat holiday on the waterways that helped build our nation. The key is the revival of the eastern stretch of the Droitwich Canal, which had, like so much of the inland waterways network, long been abandoned. "Unnavigable," warns one chart, while on the latest Ordnance Survey map, drawn five years ago, a stretch of it has simply vanished – dried up and filled up in the name of progress. Yet such is the imagination and dedication of enthusiasts, not to mention the power of £12m, that on Friday the full length of the Droitwich Canal officially re-opens – 240 years to the day after its original opening....


Monday 27 June

Droitwich Junction Canal officially open today

British Waterways has announced that as from today, 27th June, the Droitwich Junction Canal, from Hanbury on the Worcester and Birmingham Canal to Vines Park at Droitwich Town, is now open.  

'Delighted' is a much-overused word in PR-speak, but BW can be justifiably delighted today.

The opening of the Junction canal completes the through route to the River Severn and opens the 21-mile Mid-Worcestershire Ring. 

BW says that initially operation of the new locks will be slow, due to 'nesting birds'.  They have also issued a notice that in places these locks are indeed narrow, with a maximum beam of 7ft (many historic working narrowboats are wider than this)  and that the maximum draft is presently only 2'6".  

Please note that there is a festival in Droitwich from Friday 1st July until Sunday 3rd July and boats will only be able to moor in Droitwich if they have booked with the Droitwich Canal Trust.  http://www.worcs.com/dct/

There are also 
currently no water points or sanitation facilities on the Junction and Barge Canals - boaters will need to fill up before entering the Droitwich canals. 

Finally, BW warns that the canalised section of the River Salwarpe between Vines Park and Lock 7 on the Junction Canal is subject to rapid rises in level and flow following periods of rain; therefore no overnight mooring on this section is allowed.

Happy boating! 

Andrew Denny  | 4.48pm


Waterways projects in People’s Millions finalist awards

As we went to press, the People’s Millions Grants Programme was close to deciding on the recipients of a series of £60,000 grants to worthy causes in various ITV regions. Four waterways projects were in line for awards, three on them on the same day:

Mon 27th June:
The Grand Union Iron Trunk Aqueduct at Cosgrove, near Milton Keynes 
200 years old this year, the Iron Trunk Aqueduct needs funding to give it a well-deserved ‘makeover’. This will involve draining the aqueduct, cleaning and repainting it, and removing vegetation. Other initiatives to be funded include a community recording project as an educational resource and the use of the recording project as an educational resource for school activities. 

Get Creative, Get Afloat – Peterborough Multimedia Barge
A floating multimedia barge for young people to learn new skills, to help them change their lives. Members of the local community will be involved converting and fitting out the barge, while volunteers will be trained in boat handling and maintenance. 

Electrically powered community boat for the Chesterfield Canal Trust
The Chesterfield Canal Trust seeks funding for a new electrically powered boat to be based at Kiveton. It will be fully accessible for the disabled, with an electro-hydraulic system to enable any user to steer the boat from anywhere within it.

Wed 29th June:
Stroud Canals Connections
This project will create a canal-side footpath connecting the town and the surrounding national and regional paths. The route will be signposted by traditional mile markers and podcast recordings made by the community that capture the spirit of the district through stories about its past and their vision for its future.

Andrew Denny  | 3.59pm


Today's news from the web

  • Minorca site battle ends in victory for UK Coal burtonmail.co.uk

    Coal mining will return to a former pit village in the heart of the National Forest — after campaigners lost their three-year battle to block a controversial opencast scheme. Phil Owen, from the Minorca Opencast Protest Group (MOPG), said he was ‘disappointed’ by the decision, but said the group’s efforts had not been in vain as they had led to a more satisfactory settlement from UK Coal than would otherwise have been offered, including £1.28 million for the restoration of the Ashby Canal. ...

  • The magician who can walk on water dailymail.co.uk

    Most magicians are capable of unbelievable feats, after all it's their stock in trade, but how many have unbelievable feet? Dynamo, whose real name is Steve Frayne, has showed some rather nifty feet as he walked on water for his latest jaw-dropping stunt. The Bradford-born illusionist, 28, made it half way across the stretch of the river in front of the Houses of Parliament in London before he was picked up by a River Police boat. ...


Friday 24 June

Official: The Waterways Trust joins new waterways charity

The Waterways Trust is to merge with the planned new waterways charity (NWC) in England & Wales when it is set up next year, it was announced today.

The Trust says this will ensure that the NWC can draw on its ‘enormous pool of experience and expertise, in disciplines ranging from engineering and conservation to marketing, fundraising, volunteering and education’. 

In Scotland, where the waterways will stay in public ownership, The Waterways Trust’s Scottish component will stay independent.

The Waterways Trust brings into the NWC its three key English waterways museums, in Gloucester, Ellesmere Port and Stoke Bruerne, along with their collections, and the National Waterways Archive, also under its custodianship. 

Incidentally, this news gives an interesting clue as to the likely name of the new body. It has already been said that the existing name of ‘British Waterways’ would have to disappear, or at least change. It now seems likely that the words 'waterways' and 'trust' could be included without confusion, when the NWC is launched next year.   

It is also likely to see Scottish nationalist pressure to rename the Scottish elements of both BW and the WT, to remove any 'English' influence. 

Tony Hales, who was last month appointed chairman designate of the NWC, said: “This is tremendous news and will ensure that a very large part of the country’s precious waterway heritage will be held in trust for the nation.  The joining together of NWC and The Waterways Trust will give the new waterways charity an enormous boost, not just by combining the physical structures and artefacts that make the waterways so unique, but through the collective knowledge and passion that each organisation’s staff and volunteers bring with them.” 

The current chairman of the Waterways Trust, Frances Done, added: “We are delighted to be able support the new waterways charity in this way.  Over the last 12 years we have learnt many lessons which will be important for the new charity.  We have also seen success in a number of key areas including fundraising, building partnerships and attracting and working with volunteers, and look forward to building on these as part of the new waterways charity.

“We are delighted also that the work of the Trust will continue in Scotland building on our considerable achievements and focussing on the needs of Scotland’s waterways.”

The exact nature of the merger will be worked out over the coming months.  The NWC is expected to launch in April 2012, or soon afterwards, and The Waterways Trust's existing fundraising and delivery work, and its role in building partnerships in England and Wales, will continue within the new charity.

Andrew Denny  | 1.57pm


Thursday 23 June

Today's news from the web

  • Maidenhead Waterways Restoration Group 'delighted' with public response maidenhead-advertiser.co.uk

    Waterways pioneers have held their final public consultation on proposals to create a network of canals through Maidenhead. Local Maidenhead MP Theresa May dropped in to view the exhibitions at the Nicholsons Centre on Saturday and gave her support to the improvement scheme....

  • Authorities in ‘Olympic Boaters’ warning pla.co.uk

    Visiting recreational boaters could be barred from using their vessels as a base in London during the 2012 Olympics if they fail to book moorings in advance. Officials on the tidal Thames are concerned that large numbers of private craft could arrive for next year’s event with nowhere to go....


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