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Issue 476 - September 2012

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Chairman's Column

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This evening

We welcome Chris Coyle, the Secretary of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust. Chris will be updating us on the progress of their various ongoing projects.

Looking through our Newsletters I see Peter Oates, our editor, has included many articles on the WBCT. Last month: "Melksham- a Canal Town again?" plus details of leaflets detailing walks along the Wilts & Berks Canal.

Next Month's Meeting

On 4th October, a "Magic Lantern Show" will be presented by Alan Brindle. Victorian humour, comic strips, American railroads, maybe waterways, Suez Canal, etc, if Alan has the chance to sort the plates out from his vast collection.

Day-Star Theatre

Thursday 1st November will see Pete & Jane Marshall presenting "A Night at Blackstone Hall". Details about the play can be found below.

Tickets available at £8 each from Gill or Angela. If you can't get to a meeting, you can find contact details here.

An American Supper will follow the performance.

Your Society

Our next Committee meeting is in September. If anyone has any matters or questions they wish to raise please speak to one of the Committee members. Contact details are on the last page of this and every edition of the Newsletter.

Thank you all for supporting the Society

Alan Rose

Canal trust launches £1m campaign to update HQ

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The Kennet and Avon Canal Trust is poised to launch a campaign to raise £1million to renovate and reorganise its headquarters building at Devizes Wharf.

After many years of struggle and negotiation, the trust has a lease for the former warehouses beside the canal which house the trust's visitor shop, museum and newly reopened café and is looking to spend many more years there.

Last year the trust had to consider moving out of the 200-year-old building when they were faced with repairs totalling £500,000 but, following discussions with Wiltshire Council, which owns the property, an agreement was reached.

Mike Rodd, chairman of the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust, said: "We now have a ten-year lease on the building under which we can leave without penalty if it continues to deteriorate."

The trust has already spent more than £100,000 attending to major structural problems, including a cracked beam and rotten floors. Volunteers solved one of the major problems, the deteriorating wall facing Couch Lane, which has now been repaired by their own efforts. But the uninsulated roof is now a problem.

Mr Rodd said: "It will have to come off so we can put in insulation. All our heat is going straight up through it. So we have decided in the next week or two, to launch a £1million campaign to completely renovate it.

"We have had a lot of support from Devizes Canoe Club, who are based here, so we want to install facilities for them, including changing and shower facilities."

There are also plans to upgrade the canal museum, one of the best in the country, and possibly even switch it with the café. The café reopened last week under the management of Tarkan and Victoria Kisioglu and is regularly packed out with visitors and local people.

An unexpected problem for the trust has been the morphing of the quango British Waterways into the Canal and River Trust, which was launched in July.

The Canal and River Trust now undertakes the activities of British Waterways in maintaining and improving the waterways of the UK but the well-being of canalside properties, such as the Crofton Pumping Station near Marlborough, is the responsibility of the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust.

Mr Rodd said: "The CRT has a 15-year contract with the Government to work for the waterways of Britain. It is not a membership run organisation like the KACT. The two organisations are very different and I hope there will be no confusion between the two." 20 August 2012

Sold up the river

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Thanks to member Laurie Pearce for spotting this in August's Private Eye.

WHAT luck for the Canal and River Trust (CART) charity - attracting one of the world's biggest companies as corporate partner just as it takes over care of the canals from the defunct British Waterways (BW) this month.

Google will be helping by "literally putting towpaths on the map - Google Maps", according to CART (never mind that towpaths have been on Ordnance Survey maps, and online service OS getamap, for years, as well as on specialist map sites like canalplan and walkit).

Perhaps quangos like BW would not have been so cash-strapped in the first place if some mega-corporations had paid their fair share of tax. Google is estimated to avoid £100m in UK corporation tax by channelling its revenue offshore (Eyes passim).

Nevertheless newspapers responded to the announcement with a slew of feel-good tales about how nice it was of Google to support summer days out on the waterways.

So how much has Google coughed up for access to CART's extensive geographical data of the canals, bridges, locks and towpaths to add to its Google Maps system? Er, not a penny.

The charity proudly told technology website the Register that Google was paying for the information simply by, er, "promoting the waterways", while promising there would be unspecified "exciting and beneficial initiatives" to follow. None of which appears to be the most effective way to use its valuable taxpayer-funded assets to raise funds to pay for the massive maintenance backlog on the waterways.

Wildlife surveys on the Itchen Navigation

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Thanks to many dedicated volunteers five species groups were surveyed in 2011 as part of ongoing monitoring of the Itchen Navigation Heritage Trail following essential management and restoration work.


Although there were significant tree works carried out in 2008/9 bats continue to use the Itchen Navigation for feeding, commuting and possibly roosting. Trends remained similar to previous years with few noctules or serotines detected and frequent passes of Daubenton's and pipistrelle species. First detection times were early, suggesting the presence of roosts nearby. Whilst there was a decrease in the numbers of some species detected, there is currently not enough data to determine a population trend.

Butterflies, Dragonflies and Damselflies

Despite the adverse spring and summer weather, 2011 was an average year for butterflies along the Navigation with 13 out of 20 species increasing their range from 2010, 8 species increasing in abundance and the Chalkhill blue was recorded for the first time.

Dragonflies and damselflies fared less well with a decrease in range for 10 out of 16 species or species groups, however 10 species groups increased or remained level in overall abundance. Poor weather in previous years combined with that of 2011 is a likely influence. Southern damselflies were recorded on one section during the official survey and a further five sections outside the official survey. These were observed in the main channel, adding to evidence that it is not just small channels in the flood plain that are important sites for them.


Eight target bird species and a target bird family, the warblers, have been surveyed on the Itchen Navigation since 2006, selected as they require high quality riparian habitat to breed and flourish. The whole of the Navigation channel and 25m from each bank was surveyed. So far the results from 2006-2011 show that trends for target species have been similar on sections of the Navigation both subject to and not subject to project works. More detailed analysis will be undertaken after the 2012 survey is completed in order to establish a reason for these trends.


Otter signs were found at 26 locations along the Navigation. This is consistent with the results of the previous 4 surveys since 2008. Whilst surveys of otter signs cannot give an indication of population size they do show which areas of territories otters are using. The results show that the Itchen Navigation and nearby channels are consistently providing good habitat for the otter population.

Water Voles

Water vole signs were found in all survey sections which had undergone engineering works, including those which had no records previously. However in some sections there was decrease from previous years. There is naturally a high level of fluctuation in the number of water vole latrines from year to year, so further survey seasons will give a clearer picture, however grouping survey sections into larger metapopulations suggests a more stable population overall. There was a large decrease in water vole signs in one area which has had no disturbance from restoration work and has good vegetation cover. Predation by mink may have been the cause, however there were no confirmed signs of mink along the Itchen in 2011.

More surveys are being carried out this year in order to add to the data set and provide more information on population trends. Full survey reports for each species group are available on our website:

Itchen Navigation News, June 2012

Hand sanitisers are polluting world's waters

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A NEW study has revealed that people's zest for hand-cleansing products is polluting the world's waters.

Scientists at Arizona State University warned that the multi-million pound industry in hand sanitisers is fuelling a rise in the use of personal care products, which end up filtering into lakes and rivers - causing potential harm to the environment, wildlife and people.

In the first statewide analysis of freshwater across Minnesota, researchers found widespread evidence of the presence of triclosan and triclocarban, both active ingredients commonly found in sanitisers, anti-microbial soaps and disinfectants.

Experts traced the products from homes to sewers to wastewater treatment plants and eventually, downstream into natural waterways.

Both triclocarban and triclosan have been scrutinised by public health bodies over concerns about their impact on environmental and public health.

Professor Rolf Halden, director of environmental security at the ASU's Biodesign Institute, said: "This study underscores the extent to which additives of anti-microbial consumer products are polluting freshwater environments in the US."

The Food and Drug Administration in the US has previously said that research shows "valid concerns" about triclosan, including the risk that it can disrupt the body's endocrine system and help create bacteria which are resistant to antibiotics.

Hand sanitiser sales have been growing in recent years in the US and the UK, where Superdrug reported a 12 per cent increase in sales this summer compared to the same time last year.

Several studies have shown that a sanitiser is no more effective than soap and water, however. 17 August 2012

Day-Star Theatre

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Poster for A Night in Blackstone Hall

When Clarissa De Vere, Britain's popular T.V. psychic medium is accused publicly of being a fake by an old adversary, Dr Thomas Cruickshank who has written many books de bunking all things paranormal, the trouble is only just starting.

They agree to spend a night in Blackstone Hall, the second most haunted house in England. With their careers and reputations at stake each intends to convince the other that they are right. But neither is going to leave anything to chance even if it means a little bit of cheating.

Clarissa's personal assistant and brother and Cruickshank's charming wife are reluctantly drawn in to the conflict and as the night in the infamous Hall unfolds so do the doubts and misgivings of the visitors as well as the secret and troubling events that were taking place with the occupants of the hall during the second world war.

A story of loyalty, devotion and principles... and a bit of cheating.

Another off beat comedy from Day-Star Theatre.

One reviewer of this play wrote:

"This particular drama is their best so far. There's no way of predicting what will happen in this tale of challenge and cheating, ghostly episodes and expositions of a horrible past. The audience was completely mesmerized and charmed."

And a comment about Day-Star Theatre:

"There are many small, fine touring companies now, offering original plays or new interpretations of classic drama. Day Star with its new work and stylistic acting and staging techniques is one of the most intriguing companies around. If they come your way, don't miss them."

The Granary Theatre, Wells -Next-The Sea

-- 000 --

So this is one meeting you MUST attend. Tickets are available from Angela Rose or Gill Herbert (contact details here). Tickets cost just £8.00 - where else will you get to see live theatre at such a bargain price? Members are asked to bring food for an American Supper afterwards.

Send your comments to the Web Site manager (Peter Oates)

© Southampton Canal Society 1999 - 2012. 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 7 September 2012 - archived 30 October 2012.

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