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Thursday 13 June

Today's news from the web

  • Edinburgh church honours wartime nurses who transported wounded by canal scotsman.com

    A Peace Garden is being dedicated today to the Scotland’s First World War ‘barge sisters’, the nurses who transported seriously wounded soldiers in ‘hospital barges’ along canals in France, Flanders, and later the Nile. The garden, by the Union canal at Polwarth Parish Church in Edinburgh, is complemented by a display of photographs in the kirk’s Drennan Hall. ...


Tuesday 11 June

Today's news from the web

  • Gift of coal for Lancaster Canal's 200th birthday thewestmorlandgazette.co.uk

    A lump of coal to mark the 200th anniversary of the Lancaster Canal has been presented to the chairman of South Lakeland District Council on a stretch of towpath. The unusual gift was given to Cllr Stephen Coleman by Alan Roberts, of Lichfield Cruising Club, as a nod to the fact the waterway was known as the "black and white canal" for its cargoes of coal from Wigan and limestone from Kendal....


Friday 7 June

Today's news from the web

  • Garden with canal tunnel to feature at BBC Gardeners World Live cravenherald.co.uk

    Award winning garden designer, Chris Myers, has teamed up with The Canal and River Trust and volunteer lock keepers to create a garden for next week's BBC Gardeners’ World Live. The ‘Making Life Better by Water’ garden aims to bring to life an authentic canal experience that captures the beauty and diversity of the nation’s historic waterways and also to celebrate the ways in which they can be enjoyed for keeping active, sharing time with family and friends or for enjoying some peace and relaxation....


Wednesday 5 June

Today's news from the web

  • Halesowen in Bloom goes international with narrowboat floral display herefordtimes.com

    Judges from America and Canada have jetted into Halesowen this week as the town seeks to win international honours for its floral displays. The Halesowen in Bloom team are showing John Lohuis, from Ontario in Canada, and Alex Pearl, from Ohio, USA, around the town from yesterday (Monday) to tomorrow. They will be taken to the canal at Hawne Basin, Leasowes park, Leasowes walled garden, Halesowen Golf Club and then to the town centre and St John's Church. Scores of hard-working volunteers have been grafting across the town and a model narrowboat, constructed by Coombeswood Canal Trust, at the bottom of Mucklow Hill, is one of many spots which have been planted up....


Thursday 30 May

New Montgomery extension takes shape

The Canal & River Trust has taken a major leap forward this spring in the mammoth task of restoring the canal which closed in 1936 due to a breach.

Now the trust has been working with volunteers from the Shropshire Union Canal Society (SUCS) and contractors to upgrade nearly 8km of towpath, restore 2km of the canal to navigation from Maesbury to Crickheath and create a dedicated turning point for narrowboat, known as a winding hole.

David Carter, restoration project manager of SUCS, said there is just 390m of the stretch left to restore before boats can take to the new section of canal near Oswestry.

The aim is to have it open next year, but Mr Carter said there is a lot of work to be done to be finished on schedule.

"When it does reopen there will be an enormous surge of interest," he said.

"When it's finished it will be very popular as it's linked to the Llangollen Canal. This is just as beautiful and rather longer.

"Montgomery is one of the great causes of canal restoration. Lots of people have got behind the project and can't wait to see it open.

"We've had hundreds of wonderful volunteers helping and they come from all over the country. Most of them give up three days a month and do everything from operating heavy machinery to smaller tasks on the ground."

This latest major phase is being funded by the National Heritage Lottery Fund and the European Regional Development Fund.

The canal trust's project manager, David Hennessey, said: "Completion of the winding hole is a particular milestone as this will allow boats to travel another 2k along the beautiful canal.

"Slowly but surely, we are achieving the major goal of connecting the mainline Montgomery down to Welshpool."

The next stretch of the canal is dry at Llanymynech and fundraising is underway to rebuild Schoolhouse Bridge - the last blockage in Shropshire.

Volunteers are attempting to raise £300,000 to buy materials, hire machinery and ultimately build the new bridge.

Michael Limbrey, chairman of the Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust, said if the project can attract more funding, the ambition is to restore the canal to Llanymynech within five years.

Further up the canal at Queens Head, two nature reserves have been constructed parallel to the canal channel at Aston Locks to provide a protective home for rare aquatic flora and fauna removed from the water.

Wildlife such as damselflies, dragonflies, otters and water voles, and rare aquatic plants including floating water plantain will be preserved.

Mr Hennessey added: "The Montgomery is a very special canal and its restoration has required a unique solution.

"The absence of boat movements over the last 80 years has allowed the man-made channel to become colonised by a wide range of rare flora and fauna.

"By creating a new three hectare wildlife habitat, we will be able to protect and conserve these species for generations to come, while enabling boats to return by excavating the main channel into navigation."

The trust sent specialist cameras including an underwater drone into the reserves on Friday afternoon to see the wildlife in its new location. 

Andrew Denny  | 2.36pm | add a comment


Thursday 23 May

Union Canal embankment protection project completed

A major all-winter project by Scottish Canals to protect the canal embankment at Linlithgow was completed in late April.

Around 3 miles of the canal was drained last year to check on the condition of various embankments, but in the end the work focused on a 1/4-mile length between bridges 45 and 46, overlooking the playing fields of Linlithgow Academy.

The stone bank was reinforced with piling and a new cycle-quality towpath laid on what is Sustrans route NCN 754, in a £1m project that came in close to time and budget.

Precautionary works to maintain embankments can be tough calls to make, as the high cost of repairs must be balanced against the consequences of failure. The embankment here was overlooking a school, and a breach could have been catastrophic.

In this, Scottish Canals was luckier than the Canal & River Trust in what looked like a roughly similar engineering decision on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. The two projects started at the same time last November, but the English one has overrun considerably.

 
The Union Canal at Linlithgow. 

Andrew Denny  | 2.53pm | add a comment


Appeal to restore Cromford cottage

A crowdfunding appeal has been launched to help restore a familiar derelict cottage on the Cromford Canal.

The ruined 19th century Aqueduct Cottage, at Lea Wood Nature Reserve, must be one of the most photographed features of the beautiful canal, but for 50 years has been slowly crumbling. It was built in 1802 by the industrialist (and one-time partner of Richard Arkwright) Peter Nightingale. The cottage was finally abandoned in the 1970 and has been allowed to fall into ruin since.

The Derbyshire Wildlife Trust owns the cottage, and has now been granted planning permission to restore it 'with a light touch' as a visitor interpretation centre.

Spokesman Kate Lemon said: “We are working to repurpose the cottage as part of our efforts to help as many people as possible understand why Lea Wood and the wider Derwent Valley is so special.

“We’ll make sure the work will remain true to the original façade and we’ll ensure people feel welcomed in so they can learn why the building and its location are so distinct and then go on to discover the magic and beauty of Lea Wood and its wild surroundings.”

A ‘buy a brick’ campaign is aiming to raise £10,000. For more information, go to www.crowdfunder.co.uk/aqueduct-cottage.

Pictures show the slow decline from when the canal was still open in the early 20th Century through to 1977 and then quite recently.

 
Aqueduct Cottage, Cromford old picture


 
Aqueduct Cottage Cromford 1977 
 
 
Aqueduct Cottage more recently 

Andrew Denny  | 2.51pm | add a comment


Today's news from the web

  • Man proposes in Chelsea Flower Show's medal-winning canal lock garden itv.com

    A couple have celebrated their engagement after using Welcome To Yorkshire's garden, at this year's Chelsea Flower Show, as the setting for the proposal yesterday. Landform, the garden consultants who created the canal-themed design, tweeted that it was "a first for us". "Congratulations to Adam and Rosemary who just got engaged on the @Welcome2Yorks garden! She said yes!"...


Wednesday 22 May

Today's news from the web

  • Yorkshire lock gate garden wins gold medal at Chelsea Flower Show thetelegraphandargus.co.uk

    This year’s award-winning Welcome to Yorkshire garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show has drawn inspiration from the county’s numerous canal and waterway systems, including those here in Bradford. The garden celebrates Yorkshire’s canals and rich industrial heritage, and this is the tenth year Yorkshire’s tourism board has entered the flower show. This year’s garden is the most ambitious to date features a canal with two genuine lock gates, donated for the garden by the Canal and River Trust....


Tuesday 21 May

Milestone appeal for Lancaster 200th

An appeal has been launched to buy replacements for 24 missing milestones from the Lancaster Canal.

Milestones - or mileposts - are a key feature of almost all old canals, and many have had campaigns to restore or reinstate missing ones - for example, the Trent & Mersey, the Macclesfield and the Leeds & Liverpool Canals. 

The Lancaster Canal was 57 miles long, from Preston to Kendal, and had around 56 mileposts (the exact number is uncertain, as the canal had been shortened and they aren't sure if there was a milepost at the start in Preston anyway) 

Only 32 remain.  A local stone mason, Alan Ward, will be making and installing the replicas as part of a school education project, the new ones will be made of a local sandstone, and they will closely replicate the original designs.

There were two types of milestone. Those to the south of Lancaster had an oval plaque, probably cast iron, with a town name (either Lancaster, Garstang or Preston) and distance. None of these original cast iron plaques remain today, and a few in place are restorations.

The milestones between Lancaster and Kendal simply had mileage engraved into the stone.

The Trust is looking for sponsors to donate up to £200 to restore each mile marker.

Legend has it that many of the milestones were removed during the Second World War, when part of the canal formed part of an official stop-line to contain an invasion of the Lancashire coast, but canal historians have found no evidence for this. 


 
A replica plaque on a Lancaster Canal milepost near Galgate.

 
An original Lancaster Canal milepost near Sedgwick.

 

Andrew Denny  | 4.52pm | add a comment


Union Canal reopens after big embankment repair

A major all-winter project by Scottish Canals to protect the canal embankment at Linlithgow was completed in late April.

Around 3 miles of the canal was drained last year to check on the condition of various embankments, but in the end the work focused on a 1/4-mile length between bridges 45 and 46, overlooking the playing fields of Linlithgow Academy.

The stone bank was reinforced with piling and a new cycle-quality towpath laid on what is Sustrans route NCN 754, in a £1m project that came in close to time and budget.

Precautionary works to maintain embankments can be tough calls to make, as the high cost of repairs must be balanced against the consequences of failure. The embankment here was overlooking a school, and a breach could have been catastrophic.

In this, Scottish Canals was luckier than the Canal & River Trust in what looked like a roughly similar engineering decision on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, which started at the same time last November but has overrun considerably.

 
The Union Canal at Linlithgow.

Andrew Denny  | 4.16pm | add a comment


Pull, Snap, Stomp, 2019

The Inland Waterways Association has launched this year's 'Pull Snap Stomp' Campaign, which aims to bring out families during June and July to slow the spread of Himalayan Balsam.

The invasive plant grows so fast that it suffocates native wildflowers. But has no root stock, so when it dies back in the autumn it leaves the ground naked and susceptible to erosion.

IWA branded it ‘Pull Snap Stomp’ because you PULL up the stems, SNAP off the root and STOMP it down on a pile.

It needs to be done when the stems are big and easy enough to pull out, and they leave the ground with a satisfying ‘pop’. It must be done before the flowers turn to seeds in late summer, or you'll simply spread the seeds.

For all its nuisance it is otherwise remarkably benign and beautiful. The flowers can be foraged for flavouring gins or jellies. Ideally, harvest them on a dry, hot day and use them quickly. Put the petals in a muslin bag and pour boiling water over them to extract a subtle floral bouquet.

To see where Balsam Bashes are happening go to waterways.org.uk/himalayanbalsam, or follow the hashtag #PullSnapStomp on social media.

 
Himalayan Balsam flowers. Once they turn to seeds, pulling them out only serves to spread the seeds. Photo: Erica Martin.

 
Pull Snap Stomp is a fun family game. Photo: Alison Smedley.

 

 
Himalayan balsam infographic – all you need to know. (IWA) 

Andrew Denny  | 4.14pm | add a comment


Leeds & Liverpool Burnley closure overruns to mid-June

The all-winter works to repair the Finsley Gate embankment and reopen the Leeds & Liverpool Canal at Burnley have been delayed again, until mid-June at the earliest.

CRT says it is working 12-hour days to finish the job. The work began on 12th November last year and was expected to take until mid-March. It involved removing over 1,200 tonnes of silt – almost double the amount originally estimated – before CRT could even start relining the canal bed, and the work then overran to early May.

It then found the existing towpath was unstable and needed to be rebuilt. The canal wall was also in a worse condition than thought, creating further headaches.

The project has now cost over £1.7m but CRT hopes to reopen on 18th June.

CRT has met serious difficulties in repairing the Finsley embankment. Photo: CRT

Andrew Denny  | 4.14pm | add a comment


Gifford and Harry Arnold are centrepiece of sunniest Easter Boat Gathering

This year's Easter Boat Gathering at the National Waterways Museum in Ellesmere Port turned out to be the hottest and sunniest ever, and also the most popular, with around 2,500 visitors and around 40 boats and barges attending.

A special visitor was historic horse-boat Gifford, towed by Lynx, and ceremonially welcomed back the museum after 18 months of work by Ade Polglase.

Gifford is a favourite of Di Skilbeck MBE, the chair of the Waterways Museum Society and an early member of the museum in 1976.

“She looks magnificent now and it was thrilling to see the response when she sailed back into the museum,” said Di.

Di has herself worked on the boat over many years and describes an unwelcome secret revealed during the refurbishment: fungus had developed between the outer and inner planks. Ade has replaced and repainted all the timbers, with signwriter Phil Speight supplying the decorative paintwork.

 

Harry Arnold remembered

Harry Arnold, the legendary waterways photographer – and first editor of Waterways World – is being remembered in an exhibition of his photographs at the National Waterways Museum until the end of October.

Harry was also one of the five founders of the museum in 1976, and in a 60-year career seems to have been simply everywhere and at every event on the Midland and North West canals with his camera.

Michelle Kozomara of CRT said: “Harry’s photographs show the transformation from disuse and dereliction to regeneration over the years.”

Harry’s wife Beryl and daughter Julie curated the selection and were special guests at the opening of the exhibition on 19 April.

 
Di Skilbeck and Ade Polglase at the National Waterways Museum Ellesmere Port Easter 2019.

  

Harry Arnold's photographs are on show at Ellesmere Port until October.

Andrew Denny  | 4.12pm | add a comment


Stone and iron aqueduct rebuilt in brick

A model of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct made from 15,000 Lego bricks was the star attraction at the Trevor Basin Visitor Centre over the May Day bank holiday.

Professional Lego maker Steve Guinness got visitors to help him assemble the model.

“It took me a couple of weeks to design and prototype,” Steve told WW. “The actual build can be assembled in a day, and I get visitors to help in the repetitive work of the 18 pillars.”

Earlier this year he built a cross section of a broad-beam lock for the National Waterways Museum, and it was such a hit he was hired again.

How can someone get his job? Is there a Lego College or something like that? Steve says he was a secondary school design and technology teacher for 18 years, and simply a Lego fan.

“It was all quite informal. My friend Nate and I won the first series of Channel 4's Lego Masters competition and this really gave us the confidence to give our business venture a go.”

They are repeating the aqueduct-building exercise at Trevor on 7th-8th September. More information is at thebrickguys.co.uk.

] 
The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in Lego.  Photo: Steve Guinness 

 

Close up of the intricate detail.

 

Andrew Denny  | 4.09pm | add a comment


Yorkshire Waterways Museum closes

The Yorkshire Waterways Museum, which celebrated the history of coastal and inland shipping in the Humber estuary, closed its doors on 15th May after its parent charity also closed, saying it was unable to cover its costs.

The museum was founded in 1980 as one arm of the Sobriety Project, which helps people in rehabilitation from drug or alcohol dependency, as well as other vulnerable adults and children. The charity also ran boat trips, engineering and woodwork shops, and a range of community events. Located in Goole Docks, the museum held a wide collection of historic artefacts and archives related to waterways and boating, mainly from the Humber, Ouse and Aire & Calder Navigation.
 
The charity's name came not from its purpose, but from its flagship boat, Sobriety, a Humber keel built at Beverley in 1910. Still in good condition, it has became a floating venue and exhibition space.
 
The charity acquired four other boats, using them as trip boats or static venues in the docks; Whedale, a tug for Tom Puddings, Service, a 1957 Sheffield-class keel, Telethon Louise, a 1965 converted lifeboat used for dock trips, and Waterstart, a modern broad-beam canal-boat for day trips on the Aire & Calder.

The charity's high point was possibly in 2012, when Sobriety itself was one of the flagships in the Thames Diamond Jubilee pageant.

Members of the public who had loaned exhibits to the museum will be contacted to collect them, but no decision has been made on the future of the boats.


 
The Yorkshire Waterways Museum.
 
Sobriety at Goole Docks.

Andrew Denny  | 4.07pm | add a comment


Abingdon celebrates 'Dad's Navy'

A crowd estimated at 17,000 flocked to Abingdon riverside on 14th April for a nostalgic celebration of the Upper Thames Patrol, the river equivalent of the Home Guard during WWII.

The inspiration for the event came from Richard Hawkins, the Abingdon lock-keeper. He was creating an information panel about UTP and looking for a way of officially unveiling the memorial.

After talking with Thames boater Bret Wiles, who has been researching the history of the UTP, Richard suggested staging ‘Thames at War’.

Bret and his wife Karen, who live on a barge on the river, are themselves enthusiastic 1940s re-enactors, and have an extensive travelling exhibition for such events.

They persuaded others with military and civilian vehicles, period boats and two Dunkirk Little Ships to make it viable, along with numerous other enthusiasts. A final touch was the appearances from professional Winston Churchill actor Steve McTigue and two WWII-period singers, May Blossom and Jilly Melodies.

“Abingdon Lock was a beautiful setting for the event,” said Karen Wiles. “It has a small island between the lock and the weir for the memorial, and Richard got permission from the Environment Agency.”

Karen also said there was no official budget and everyone gave their services for free. It's been suggested that Thames at War becomes an annual event, but no decision has been made yet.

Bret and Karen are seeking more information on the Upper Thames Patrol, which is much less well known than the Home Guard. You can contact them at info@thamesatwar.co.uk. A brief history of the UTP is on their website thamesatwar.co.uk.


 
Rear Admiral Sir Basil Brooke takes the salute from the UTP at Wargrave, near Henley in 1940.

 

 
The new memorial panel on Abingdon Lock Island. Photo: Karen Wiles.

  
Churchill arrives on EA launch Evenlode. Photo: Karen Wiles.

 
'Winston Churchill' inspects the local home guard at Abingdon Lock's Thames at War.

Andrew Denny  | 4.05pm | add a comment


Obituary: P.J.G. Ransom

Obituary: P.J.G. Ransom: Canal and railway historian, Waterways World contributor and author who wrote over 25 books on transport.

Born in 1935 and growing up in rural Northamptonshire, not far from Crick, P.J.G (John) Ransom never took to farm life. But he did develop a passion for railways and would regularly cycle 5 miles to the West Coast Main Line to watch the fast steam trains coming through. His interest in trains evolved into an interest in all things connected with steam power, and eventually with canals.

In 1969 he took his first boat to Ireland, on which he wrote his first book, Holiday Cruising in Ireland. Tinkering with steam boats, he came to observe that they enjoy unrivalled freedom compared to steam engines which must stick to short sections of track.

He was an Inland Waterways Association member for more than 60 years. For 20 years he also owned a succession of hire cruisers operated by Swan Line of Fradley, along with steam boats on the canals.

He wrote widely on canal and railway history. His books included Waterways Restored (1974), The Archaeology of Canals (1979), Scotland’s Inland Waterways (1999) and
Bell’s Comet: How a Paddle Steamer Changed the Course of History (2012), and he regularly contributed to Waterways World.

One of John's more recent books, Iron Road, was shortlisted for the Saltire Society Scottish History Book of the Year award. 

 
P.J.G. Ransom.

 

Andrew Denny  | 4.04pm | add a comment


Andrew Bridgen named IWA Parliamentarian of the Year 2019

At a reception in the Houses of Parliament on 13th May the Inland Waterways Association named Andrew Bridgen, MP for North West Leicestershire, as its Parliamentarian of the Year for 2019. He was nominated by the Ashby Canal Trust for “unwavering support and assistance regarding many difficult issues that have arisen on the restoration”.

The 8 miles of the restoration are all within Bridgen's constituency, and ACT is the main organisation working to restore the route. It especially praised him for supporting them in the fight to limit the damage that would be caused by the planned HS2 high-speed rail route, particularly within a section of the restoration planned for Measham.

The nominators said: “Andrew Bridgen deserves to win this award. He is fully committed to seeing the completion of the Ashby Canal for the benefit of the local community.” They added he was also instrumental in persuading Leicestershire County Council to continue its support of the restoration.

This is the tenth year of the awards, hosted by IWA at parliament, and the best-attended yet, with 45 MPs and five members of the Lords, along with over 30 waterways restoration societies.

The event also saw a speech by Ros Kerslake, chief executive of the National Lottery Heritage Fund who said that the fund is keen to support waterway restoration and urged societies to apply.

 

IWA Launches £100,000 Legacy Grant

The most surprising news was after IWA trustee Mike Palmer introduced MPs to the new Waterways in Progress report (News, WW June). He announced that IWA would be offering grants of up to £100,000 to pay for restoration projects that promote the Waterways in Progress aims, with the funding coming from legacies left by supporters.

The grants would not necessarily fund more navigable miles; the main requirement is that they give wider benefits with immediate results.

More information is at waterways.org.uk/waterways_in_progress_grant.

 
IWA chairman Ivor Caplan (l) presents Andrew Bridgen with the IWA Parliamentarian of the Year award for 2019.
 
The IWA's Waterways in Progress report

Andrew Denny  | 4.02pm | add a comment


Slough basin ready for redevelopment

Plans have finally been announced to redevelop the canal basin at the end of the Grand Union Canal's Slough Arm.

For decades the canal has been hidden behind a builder’s yard, neglected until a recent ground clearance by the Canal & River Trust. Although dredged recently, the arm has been a dull straight 4-mile cruise and the basin an uninviting destination.

Slough Borough Council has now announced a plan to work with CRT's specialist waterside developer, Waterside Places. They will regenerate the basin, install 240 homes, a public open space, shop, café and community hub overlooking the canal.

The site, formerly just 'Slough Basin', has now been called Stoke Wharf after the nearby road. No announcement has been made about moorings, although the nearby Bowyer Field playing field, owned by the council, will be kept as an open space.

[caption id="attachment_13904" align="alignnone" width="300"] 
Slough Canal Basin – finally set for redevelopment. Photo: Iridescent@wikimedia.com cc-by-sa 

 

Andrew Denny  | 4.01pm | add a comment


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