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Issue 487 - August 2013

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Chairman’s Column

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August 2013

What glorious weather! It allows us to enjoy outdoor life at home and boating on the canals is wonderful if not a little warm working the locks.

There will be NO August meeting as the hall is closed for maintenance.

July Meeting

The 2013 Annual General Meeting in July, was attended by 19 members. A few interesting items were brought up for discussion. Full details will be available shortly.

June Meeting

For technical reasons, we are unable to bring you a report on the talk in June by Nick Grundy on the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations on the River Thames. Hopefully, next month will see these problems resolved.

September Meeting

Our meeting on September 5th will hear all about Water Management and Modelling.

Adam Comerford, Hydrology Manager of the Canal & River Trust, and Gordon Osborn, SCS member and Modeller with ABPmer, will present a joint talk about the science of managing water on the waterways, both when there is too little water and when there is too much.

This is just what we all have been wanting to know. So please put a note in your diary and find out.

IWA National Festival July 19th /23rd

As I write this, we are just on our way back from the festival held at Cassiobury Park, Watford on the southern Grand Union.

There was plenty of sunshine (luckily the park had a splash pool) and plenty of activities for the children with WOW (Wild Over Water) learning about the canals, people, boats and nature.

There were boats moored north and south of the Iron Bridge Lock and, on site, old fairground rides, music, Morris dancing, many IWA branch restoration projects. Indeed, all the normal paraphernalia of festival goings on.

On the social side, along the towpath everything was very jolly too.

Finally, but not least, Enjoy the Summer.

Alan Rose

Defra: ‘There's no money left for EA navigations’

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Defra has announced the postponement of plans to transfer control of the River Thames and other EA navigations to the Canal & River Trust, calling it ‘unaffordable’ in the present climate.

The news comes after the Treasury told Defra to make extra savings in next year's government spending round.

The transfer to CRT control was originally planned for 2015-16, but was dependent on the EA waterways coming with a ‘dowry’, sufficient to ensure they could be properly maintained independently of the government.

However, in a written statement to Parliament on 3rd July, waterways minister Richard Benyon said the government’s view was that CRT taking control was still the most sustainable long-term solution, and it would review the situation ‘after the next Spending Round.’

The announcement comes as a blow to CRT, whose chairman Tony Hales immediately responded:

“This is disappointing news and a missed opportunity. In less than a year, the transfer of British Waterways to the voluntary sector has begun to revolutionise the way that our canals and rivers are cared for, opening up improved engagement and new opportunities for volunteering and fundraising.

“There is no reason that we could not have seen the same benefits on the EA’s navigations. We remain ready to look at these plans when the Government is next able to proceed.”

But the response from some quarters was more enthusiastic, as the idea of the transfer is disliked by many EA waterways users. This is especially true on the Thames, where the River Thames Society says a very different culture pervades the ‘royal’ river.

“It's great news for everyone on the Thames,” said one source from the River Thames Society. “Let's hope this ‘postponement’ turns out to be permanent.”

The IWA was quick to line up with CRT, calling it a ‘missed opportunity’.

IWA chairman Les Etheridge said: “We understand that 65% of the income for the Agency’s navigations comes from government grant in aid, and this has already been substantially cut. Worse still, there are clearly prospects for further cuts which could impose additional financial burdens on users of the EA navigations, and in particular boaters. Inclusion of EA’s navigations within CRT offers many benefits, but especially surety of income once a deal with government is achieved.

“IWA will now redouble its efforts to support and lobby for the earliest implementation of this policy.”

Itchen Navigation Footpath Closed

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It has come to the attention of the editor that the footbridge over the Navigation at Withymead Lock near Bishopstoke has been vandalised and is currently impassable. This means that there is no through route along the footpath between Bishopstoke and Allbrook. In addition, part of the Itchen Way footpath through Brambridge was badly affected by erosion over the winter.

Land Fund Appeal for Seven Locks is launched

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Purchase of land at Seven Locks

Appeal launched by the Trust Fundraising Director

A great opportunity that has arisen concerning Seven Locks near Lyneham to the west of Wootton Bassett. This flight of locks is the most spectacular on the Wilts & Berks Canal and is set in beautiful countryside. The locks lift the canal 17.9 metres in total up to Trow Lane. There is a permissive path giving public access to walk up from Bowds Lane alongside Lock 2 to Lock 5.

The Wilts & Berks Canal Trust has had a licence from the Nichols family at Bowd’s Farm for several years enabling work at Seven Locks, and the basic restoration of locks 3 and 4 has been done. The Trust is about to submit a planning application to complete this by building wing walls, by-washes, wharf walls, putting the pipe work in for back-pumping and improving the towpath.

Planning permission is also ongoing for Lock 2 – to move Bowd’s Lane away from Lock 2 with a new bridge and to restore the lock chamber. Bowd’s Farm is now for sale and there is the chance to buy the land that includes Locks 2, 3, 4 and up to the top of Lock 5. The Trust estimates that with the legal costs they will need £25,000. Once purchased, volunteers can press on with the restoration work.

They hope you can help to raise this money to secure this site for the future and ask for your support by making a donation.

To make a donation you can download a form from send it with a cheque made payable to the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust to:

Seven Locks Appeal, Wilts & Berks Canal Trust, PO Box 3630, Swindon, SN4 4AN.

Further information, including alternative ways of giving, can be found at

The Making of Geoffrey Phelps

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Geoffrey Phelps (aka Pete Marshall)

In November, our friends at Day-Star Theatre will be paying us another visit. This will be their fifteenth visit to Southampton since they helped us celebrate at the Society’s 30th Anniversary party in 1997.

They will be presenting their play, first performed this year, entitled “The Making of Geoffrey Phelps.”

The main character, named in the title of this production, had lived all his life with his mother, Edith until, with increasing dementia, she moved to the Journeys End Retirement Home where he dutifully visits her four times a week.

He is a quiet, unassuming man who has worked in the post room of a firm of solicitors since he was 16. He has never had a girlfriend, a computer, a mobile phone or an email address. He has no particular friends and has never travelled more than a few miles from his home.

He is content with his uneventful and mundane life.

On his 53rd birthday his mother dies, he is made redundant from his job and he learns he is to be evicted from his flat. These life changing events awaken Geoffrey to a new and cynical world, but, with the unexpected appearance of his long lost aunt Winifred who appears to live on a boat in the garden of a hotel, he also discovers a hidden truth about his family as well as a burgeoning friendship, and a taste for real coffee.

Another bitter sweet look at everyday life from Day-Star Theatre.

Tickets will be available as from the September meeting from Angela Rose (contact details on page 4) or from other committee members, priced £10. The show will be followed by the customary American Supper.

The editor has already seen this play and he can assure readers that it is well worth putting a note in their diaries to see the play on Thursday 7th November at 7.45pm.

Annual Subscriptions

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Many thanks to those members who have already paid their 2013/14 membership subscriptions which became due on 1st April. I would be grateful if other members could please send me their cheques (to my address on the back page) as soon as possible to avoid the necessity of sending out reminders. The Society has ongoing monthly expenses and the prompt payment of subscriptions, our main income stream, helps our cash flow. Many thanks.

Gill Herbert, Treasurer & Membership Secretary

First canal ‘Quiet Zone’ in Wiltshire hailed a success

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A unique ‘Quiet Zone’ on a stretch of canal in Wiltshire has been hailed a success, with the charity responsible for introducing it now considering other areas along the Kennet & Avon Canal that could benefit from similar arrangements.

The ‘Quiet Zone’ was introduced last November by the Canal & River Trust – the charity that cares for 2,000 miles of waterways in England & Wales – and Alton Parish Council, to deal with disturbance created by mooring boats. It covers approximately 150 metres section of the canal near Pewsey, between Honeystreet Bridge and the Barge Inn.

Signs welcoming boaters to enjoy the area also ask that they avoid running generators and playing loud music, as well as being considerate to neighbours.

It is the first time a Quiet Zone has been trialled on the 200 year-old Kennet & Avon Canal, which is one of the most popular stretches of canal amongst boaters in the country.

Mark Stephens, waterway manager at the Canal & River Trust, said: “The zone is a new concept for us to try, it’s working well and the feedback from the parish council, residents and boaters has been positive. It works in a similar way to the signs you see in pubs, asking people to respect neighbours when they leave. It shows most people are happy to respect their neighbours – whether that’s people in nearby houses or other boaters – if they are made aware that they could be causing disturbance. Honeystreet Bridge is a lovely spot, relatively secluded, and in the past it wasn’t always obvious to boaters mooring there that their motors or music might be causing a problem. But with the zone in place, they now know. We’re now looking at other spots on the Kennet & Avon that could also benefit from a Quiet Zone.”

Charles Reiss, Clerk of Alton Parish Council, said: "This has been a cooperative effort, with parish council, boaters and the Trust working together to tackle a local problem. It's not a complete solution but it has certainly helped. I believe this Quiet Zone is the first of its kind anywhere on the waterway network. If the Q signs can be agreed and turn out to be helpful in other places as well, that would be great."

The Trust will consult with local people before proposing any new zones.

Canal & River Trust Press Release 11 July 2013

Axis of Weevil comes to aid of Somerset canal

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An army of 2mm-long weevils was dropped into the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal in Somerset on Friday, 26 July, as the charity that cares for the waterway battles against a problematic North American water weed.

The Canal & River Trust – which cares for 2,000 miles of waterways in England & Wales – released the creatures into the water at Maunsel so they can eat the invading Water Fern (Azolla filiculoides).

Azolla is a voracious grower and can multiply rapidly, covering the surface of a waterway with thick mats in a matter of weeks. This reduces light and oxygen levels in the water, killing fish and other wildlife, as well as affecting how boaters and anglers can use the canal.

Individually the weevils (Stenopelmus rufinasus) consume a relatively small amount of Azolla, however they breed to produce very large populations which as a community will feed extensively, until sections of Azolla start to die and sink, where it is further broken down by other feeders. Given time to reproduce and spread throughout a mat of Azolla, the weevil is capable of clearing entire lakes or canals within a matter of weeks.

Richard Haine, environmental scientist at the Canal & River Trust, explains: “Azolla might look attractive, but it’s actually a serious threat to water wildlife across the country. With the warmer weather there’s a danger that it can completely take over sections of the canal, so the weevils are our pre-emptive strike.

“The weevils breed really quickly and only eat Azolla, so should be extremely effective. We’ll monitor their progress but we back them to do the job.

“The Bridgwater & Taunton Canal is a great place to visit at this time of year, excellent for boaters, walkers, families and people with an interest in wildlife – I encourage anyone in this part of Somerset to take a look for themselves.”

Each year the Trust typically spends a huge amount of time clearing species of aquatic weed from the nation’s canals, rivers, reservoirs and lakes. Many of these invasive weeds are freely available to buy as ornamental water plants in garden centres across Britain.

For more information about the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal, and how you get involved in the Trust’s work there, visit

Canal & River Trust Press Release 24 July 2013

Send your comments to the Web Site manager.

© Southampton Canal Society 1999 - 2013. Except where otherwise indicated, information on these pages may be reproduced provided permission is obtained from the Web Site manager beforehand and due acknowledgement made to the Society.

Page created 5 October 2013 - last updated 6 October 2013.

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