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Monday 20 June

Droitwich Barge canal officially opens today

Here's something you don't see every year, let alone every day: A complete waterway reopening for business. 

Today The Droitwich Barge Canal opens officially for boats.  It's the first full, historic waterway to reopen in almost nine years, since the Rochdale in 2002. 



Contractors are now racing to complete dredging of the short stretch remaining, to link it to the 1 1/2 miles of the narrow Droitwich Junction Canal in time for the official reopening ceremony on Friday 1st July. 

So by next weekend you'll have a whole new cruising 'ring' - the Mid-Worcestershire Ring - the first full ring since the 1970s. 

We've done our homework, and the July edition of Waterways World - on sale now - has a brand new pull-out 8-page cruising guide to the new ring, written by our editor Richard Fairhurst.

Andrew Denny  | 11.54am


Today's news from the web

  • Russell Newbery engine company sold russellnewbery.co.uk

    Many people dream of owning a Russell Newbery engine. However, RN enthusiasts, boatyard owners and hire fleet operators David and Deborah Bixter have gone one better - they've bought the company that makes them!

    It was announced at the annual Russell Newbery Register rally in Stourbridge this weekend that the Bixters - owners of Grantham Bridge Services at Hillmorton and the Willow Wren hire fleet in Rugby - had bought the engine manufacturer.

    "We are delighted to have been able to acquire the last truly British vintage-style marine engine manufacturer", said David Bixter.

    "We can now complete all aspects of installation, from initial engine selection through modifying existing installations to all maintenance, servicing and repairs. We also provide bespoke boatbuilding, and this is now available with RN power."


    [David and Deborah Bixter, pictured above, with Brian Jarrett's DM2-powered tug Kyle]

    As a flagship demonstration of his confidence in the Russell Newbery name, David Bixter says that one of his first acts will be to build a new DM2-equipped hire boat for his Willow Wren fleet, aimed at enthusiasts.

    Bixter said that one of his priorities was to find ways of bringing down the cost of the new engines. The price of a new DM2 has been reduced by more than £3,000 and he is exploring more ways of making it more competitive without compromising quality.

    All new Russell Newbery engines will now come with a five-year warranty, along with his own range of RN-designed accessories.

    While the Russell Newbery Register get stronger and more active each year (57 boats attended last weekend's Stourbridge rally), the engine company has been having a lean time recently, with few new DM engines sold - and none at all so far this year.

    At Hillmorton the Bixters will be setting up a showroom and demonstration facility, something that the brand lacked until now.

    The decision to sell was taken by a closed meeting of the Russell Newbery Register Property Company, jointly owned by 60 members of the Russell Newbery Register. The meeting was chaired by directors Clive Henderson, Steve Burt and Rob Davies (pictured L-R below).

    Rob Davies said that David Bixter, a former Rolls Royce apprentice, could continue in the spirit of the founders, who themselves were early Rolls Royce employees.

     

    ...

  • How to make a roof garden on a narrowboat permaculture.co.uk

    After down-shifting to live on a boat, Alice Griffin then had to decide how to grow her vegetable garden in such a small space. With a bit of cunning, she managed to make raised beds light enough to grow vegetables on ...

  • How BW can start a new funding stream thirdsector.co.uk

    Individual fundraising will be the main focus initially, says Ruderham. British Waterways will attempt to build a strong supporter base, either through membership or by asking people to give by direct debit. It also hopes to have corporate partnerships in place in time for next year's launch....

  • Frogs for Devizes still looking for home gazetteandherald.co.uk

    A frog sculpture commissioned at a cost of £13,000 for Devizes millennium celebrations 12 years ago has still not found a proper home but will go on show at an exhibition in Worton . The Ball of Frogs that was supposed to be installed by the Kennet and Avon Canal in the centre of the town has been lying in the garden of sculptor Judy Boyt at Easterton Sands ever since....

  • A breath of fresh Aire yorkshirepost.co.uk

    It was once embarrassing, but the river front in Leeds is [now] trying to become the city’s centre of gravity says Roger Ratcliffe. ...


Saturday 18 June

Today's news from the web

  • Purton Hulks still face uncertain future gazetteseries.co.uk

    The debate over the protection of the Purton Hulks remains unresolved despite attempts made to settle it by all those involved. Maritime heritage campaigner Paul Barnett said a public meeting held to discuss the future of the Purton Hulks recently was a ‘farce’....


Friday 17 June

Today's news from the web

  • Illegal moorings 'ruining' Boulters Lock in Maidenhead bbc.co.uk

    Illegally moored boats are spoiling one of the prettiest stretches of the Thames in Berkshire, according to Windsor and Maidenhead Council. The authority wants boats which blight the Boulters Lock area cleared away. The council has said it will work with the Environment Agency to remove unlicensed craft from its property....

  • Final voyage for owner of 'Chiswick' oxfordtimes.co.uk

    Canal boat lover Bob Wakely made his final journey down the river Thames yesterday. His coffin was carried from Abingdon Lock to his home village of Sutton Courtenay on the 1937 working boat ‘Chiswick’ which he had restored. Wife Esther, 64, said: “To come by boat to the church just seemed so right.”...

  • Portland reservoir urination raises few health or scientific concerns -- but it is pee oregonlive.com

    For the administrator of the Portland Water Bureau, the decision Wednesday to drain 7.8 million gallons of drinking water from a Mount Tabor reservoir comes down to six words: "Do you want to drink pee?" David Shaff asked. About 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, water officials say, a 21-year-old Molalla man was caught on camera urinating in one of Portland's uncovered reservoirs -- one that provides water to a majority of Portlanders. ...


Thursday 16 June

Today's news from the web

  • Victory after three years for Middlewich swan campaigners middlewichguardian.co.uk

    A THREE year campaign has finally ended in victory for animal lovers in Middlewich. The Swan Support Group has been fighting for a permanent fence along the Trent and Mersey Canal in Booth Lane since 2008. It is now being built after funds were unlocked by British Waterways and an agreement was reached with the town council and Middlewich Community Pride. The Swan Support Group formed in 2008 after five swans were killed and another three were injured in three months....


Tuesday 14 June

Saul-to-Lechlade Centennial Cruise

It's now exactly 100 years since the cargo boat Gem made the last full passage of the old Cotswold canals, from Saul Junction near Gloucester to the Thames near Lechlade.

On 12th August, in honour of this centenary, supporters of the Cotswold Canals Trust have organised a new Saul-Lechlade Centennial Cruise.

However, since full restoration of the original 36-mile route is still a long way off, the boats will be going in two separate convoys, the 'long way round'.

One convoy will go north via the Stratford, Grand Union and Oxford canals, a distance of 174 miles and 148 locks. Meanwhile the other will take the southern route, via the Severn, Kennet & Avon and the Thames, over 200 miles and around 135 locks.

They will meet at Oxford on 1st September, and together sail in a single flotilla up the Thames to Lechlade.

Here they will be greeted by civic dignitaries and draw attention to the IWA's Inglesham Lock appeal, which seeks to restore the lock and the first stretch going west from the Thames.

A series of events are planned along the way to raise awareness and support of the restoration, and the organisers are looking for sponsorship - whether from companies or individuals.

The cruise will take the boats over three weeks. Pause a moment and think: when the Cotswold canals are finally restored the 36-mile passage should take only three days!

Further information is available from the website on www.saultolechlade100.co.uk

Andrew Denny  | 3.59pm


Today's news from the web

  • 'Lucky escape' for boater after tree falls by Bath lock flight bbc.co.uk

    A holidaymaker narrowly missed being crushed to death when a tree fell on him as he was opening a lock gate on a canal in Bath. The 71-year-old man from Hull was travelling on the Kennet and Avon in a barge when the accident happened. A Great Western Ambulance Service spokesman said the man had been "extremely lucky". "It was a substantial tree... landing a few extra inches would have been fatal," he said. "The tree had come down and landed parallel to the lock gate the man was operating near Widcombe Hill. "Paramedics were called to reports of a man trapped under a tree... however it turned out he was under some of the outer branches and had narrowly missed being crushed. "He was extremely lucky," the service spokesman added. It is thought a combination of wind and heavy rain was responsible for causing the tree to topple on Sunday. The man was taken to Bath's Royal United Hospital for treatment to back and chest injuries. ...

  • More delays push Stroud canal bridge opening back another month stroudnewsandjournal.co.uk

    The opening of Stroud’s new Brewery Bridge will now not go ahead until mid-July after contractors admitted the latest in a catalogue of setbacks that have plagued the project. Last month it was announced the £1.8 million bridge over the A46 would be revealed by the end of June after icy conditions and flooding meant its originally scheduled opening in November had to be postponed. Now the project team say its opening will have to be shelved for a third time because of the ‘complexity of road surfacing’ work on site and other general delays putting the finishing touches to the structure. Project manager Nigel Edgeworth said they also wanted to allow the majority of canal works to be completed beneath the bridge before it is opened to traffic....

  • MP opens new Benwick moorings in Middle Levels cambstimes.co.uk

    The moorings were officially opened on Saturday by Steve Barclay, the MP for NE Cambs. Peterborough branch of the Inland Waterways Association gave £1,080 towards the cost of the creation of public visitor moorings in the village on the Middle Level system of waterways. Funding was also provided by the parish council and the watermen’s club. The work was undertaken by the Middle Level Commissioners’ own engineering team....

  • Bath canal court case campaigner has to move out of city thisisbath.co.uk

    A canal boat owner has had to give up his job in Bath to fall in with a legal ruling which has sent shock waves through the narrowboat community. But the law firm which fought his case is urging people living along the canal not to lose heart over confirmation that Government agency British Waterways has the right to keep moving on owners without a permanent mooring....

  • Milton Keynes MP backs Iron Trunk Aqueduct bid for restoration aboutmyarea.co.uk

    Milton Keynes MP Mark Lancaster is encouraging everyone to vote for the refurbishment of the Iron Trunk Aqueduct, which carries the Grand Union Canal across the Great Ouse just outside Old Wolverton. People will get the chance to secure £60,000 for the structure's restoration after Wolverton and Greenleys Town Council bid for a chance to take a slice of the Jubilee People's Millions, marking the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012. The Aqueduct will go head to head with a project in neighbouring Wellingborough on ITV's People's Millions on Monday, June 27 from 6pm, on the news show, Anglia Tonight....


Monday 13 June

Today's news from the web

  • Boris revives Pownall's Grand Contour Canal waterwaysworld.com

    Cycling to work in the rain on Friday, Boris Johnson got soaked. As he was drying off, he watched on TV as Environment minister Caroline Spelman warned we were in the middle of a drought.

    "Drought! I said bitterly," he writes in today's Daily Telegraph. "You must be joking. How can we tell people that they can't have baths, when they only have to step outside to be soaked to the skin? 
    "Then I listened a bit longer, and of course I saw her point. We have just had the driest spring for 20 years, and across the country rainfall has been down about 45 per cent. The crops are miserable and wilted; the brewers and the farmers have been so short of water that the price of food and beer is apparently set to rise even higher – exactly what people don't need in the current economic conditions. We ought to forget this June dampness and concentrate on the drought of the past few months."
    Boris Johnson goes on to ask why canals cannot be used to bring water to the Southeast from the wet north, and adds:  

    "I believe we might go even further, and retrieve J F Pownall's magnificent 1942 plan for a Grand Contour Canal, which would follow the 310 ft contour of the hills all the way from the Scottish borders to the South East."

    It's interesting to see this concept resurface. In WW2 Mr Pownall observed that there was a natural 'contour' down the spine of England, around the 300ft level, and put forward the idea that this could be used as a large (by British standards) ship canal. Pownall's Grand Contour Canal would have taken 300-ton continental-size barges from Teeside to Lancashire, Gloucester, London and Southampton, with no locks and just a boat lift at a few stopping points.

    It was pointed out that even at the time, such freight might be uncompetitive with road transport.  However, Pownall said that water transfer would be another benefit, and his draft map shows water-supply extensions, from Wales and through to Norfolk.    

    But in the 1940s Britain had more immediate, pressing problems. Waterways were seen as dying, and the energy for such massive projects was channelled into road transport. 

    It's interesting to speculate on the cost of reviving the Pownall project. It would likely come way under the cost of the new HS2 high speed rail project.  It could reduce the need for freight-carrying motorways and it could have long-term economic benefits. 

    On the other hand there's the H-word - Heritage. This ambitious scheme would destroy many of the more charming and historic aspects of our cute little peregrinating waterways, in a far more drastic way than the motorways did. 
     
    There's not a lot online about Pownall's Grand Contour Canal.  Wikipedia has a short outline article here, and Granny Buttons did a piece several years ago.  

    But I've been looking in the back issues of Waterways World, and there are two excellent,  detailed and interesting articles about it in the September and October 1975 issues, written and researched by Michael Baldwin, including a map specially drawn for the feature (below).  Currently these articles aren't available for download, but if there's enough interest we might be prepared to scan them.  


    ...

  • Oswestry marina plans suffer funding blow shropshirestar.com

    Plans to build a canal marina near Oswestry have suffered a set- back after a bid for vital funding was rejected. But bosses at Shropshire firm Morris Holdings, which had planned to build a marina and a five star touring caravan park on 25 acres of land at Queen’s Head, said today they were hoping to carry on with the ambitious project. The proposed development site is next to the A5. It is between Oswestry and Shrewsbury, adjoining the Montgomery Canal and Aston Nature Reserve....

  • Regent’s Canal 'a wasted freight-moving asset’ says waterway campaigner islingtontribune.com

    The Regent’s Canal, running through Islington, is a wasted asset that could be used to transport hundreds of tons of freight, according to a waterways campaigner. Gerald Heward told a packed meeting of the Friends of the Regent’s Canal that he has devised a scheme to make more use of the capital’s 150 miles of waterways, which he has submitted to London Mayor Boris Johnson....


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