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Issue 488 - September 2013

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Chairman’s Column

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September 2013

This evening on behalf of our members we welcome Adam Comerford, Hydrology Manager of the Canal & River Trust & fellow SCS member Gordon Osborn, a modeller with ABP Mer.

They are presenting a joint talk about the science of managing water, when there is too little water and when there is too much water.

This is just what we all have been wanting to know, when our boats run a ground.

October Meeting

“Why archives?” is the subject of the October presentation by Elaine Kirby, who is Archivist for the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust based at Devizes.

Elaine will explain why records from the last 200 years have been kept for the future. A selection of photographs will finish the evening.

November Meeting

Our November meeting will feature Day-Star Theatre with their play “ The Making of Geoffrey Phelps.” For details of this production see page 3 of this Newsletter.

Tickets can be booked tonight for the price of £10.


Well, the Summer has been excellent, warm and sunny just as it should be.

Alan Rose

French take the axe to canal views

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Canal du Midi near Agde

The Canal du Midi near Agde

The 17th century Canal du Midi in southern France is often portrayed as Europe’s most beautiful waterway, and a unique symbol of harmony between Man and nature.

Now, however, it is the source of discord and anguish after a decision to fell the plane trees that line its banks; a move prompted by the spread of a devastating fungus, but denounced by critics as “ecological genocide”.

Villages along the 150-mile canal, opened in 1682, during the reign of Louis XIV, fear that the tree cull could drive away the 50,000 tourists who use the waterway every year. There is also the matter of who should stump up the ?200 million (£170 million) for new trees to be planted. With national and local government reluctant to pay, Voies Navigables de France (The Waterways of France) has appealed for private donations, but the first three weeks brought in only 30 cheques, for sums as low as ?20.

As so often when things go wrong in France, blame is being pinned on the US. Specialists say that the fungus, ceratocystis platani, arrived in the country in the munitions boxes used by GIs during the Second World War. It was first detected along the Canal du Midi in 2006, and 4,200 trees have been chopped down since then. Another 10,000 will be felled under the latest programme, which got under way this month [August], and officials believe that all 42,000 trees along the canal will have to come down in the next 20 years.

“It is an ecological genocide,” said Jean-Paul Delachoux, Mayor of Pommevic, a village on the canal near Toulouse. “It will take at least 20 years for the canopy to rediscover its splendour.”

Cetev, a company in Toulouse, says it has developed a fungicide that may work - and Yves Basti?, Mayor of Sall?les-d’Aude, another village on the canal, is furious with Voies Navigables de France for apparently refusing to test it. “Nothing’s certain, but it’s worth a try, rather than sitting back and watching the trees fall,” he said.

Adam Sage, The Times, Saturday 31 August 2013

Itchen Navigation Footpath Closures

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Further to last month’s news about the Itchen Navigation Footpath, the following information appears on the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust website:

At Brambridge, bank erosion between Kiln Lane and Highbridge Road has resulted in the footpath being closed. The Friends of the Itchen Navigation Volunteers, working with HIWWT and Rights of Way staff, are working on a repair, but work is not yet complete.

At Withymead Lock near Bishopstoke, a footbridge made dangerous by vandalism has been removed. Working with the Environment Agency and HIWWT, HCC Rights of Way are redirecting available financial resources to facilitate its replacement.

Further information can be found at

Iguana found on Kennet & Avon Canal

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An iguana has been found on the historic Caen Hill Lock Flight in Devizes, Wiltshire. The discovery was made just in the nick of time too, as a lawn mowing team were working in the area at the time.

Members of the public discovered the reptile by lock 44 of the Kennet and Avon Canal and reported it to our staff, who rescued it from an untimely end.

A local vet has given ‘Lucky’ the iguana a clean bill of health, as he was suffering from dehydration and it was not known when he last feed. ‘Lucky’ has now been adopted by a staff member from the Trust and is enjoying his new vivarium with a heat pad for warmth and is tucking into a special treat of strawberries, watercress, asparagus, peas and pods.

Alan Giddings, a lock keeper from the Trust, who helped to rescue Lucky, said: “It was quite a shock to see him amongst the vegetation, but if we had left him where he was, he could have been killed by the grass cutting team who were working on the flight at the time.”

Unusual animal sightings

Laura Plenty, ecologist at the Trust, added: “The canal has hundreds of different species of wildlife living on it, but never have we known it to be home to an iguana. It’s exciting to find it, but also concerning because we can only think that he must have been someone’s pet. Maybe the owner had enough and just let him go, or maybe Lucky made a dash for freedom and is being sadly missed. Either way, the canal isn’t suitable habitat for an exotic animal which needs specific looking after.”

An iguana is the latest in a line of unusual animal sightings on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Wiltshire this summer, with bearded dragons and grass snakes cooling off in the water, also being spotted.

Canal and River Trust News, 27 August 2013

The Making of Geoffrey Phelps

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Geoffrey Phelps (aka Peter 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.

Government invests £10 million improving canal towpaths

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Walkers, cyclists and boaters are set to benefit after it was announced that the Department for Transport will be investing £10 million into improving over 37 miles of towpath along the canals in Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester.

The improvement will allow easy access along the canal for the thousands of people who visit the waterways each year and include resurfacing worn out towpaths, installing easy access ramps for pushchairs and mobility users and upgrading signage along the canals. There will also be some repairs made to canal bank walls making it easier for boaters to moor along the many miles of canal in city centres.

Funding was secured through the Department for Transport’s City Cycle Ambition Grant scheme. We supported funding bids submitted by Birmingham and West Yorkshire Metro and Transport for Great Manchester for improvements to cycle ways and towpaths.

The project is due to be completed by 2015 and will involve the towpath being improved along the:

Tony Hales, chairman of the Canal & River Trust, said: “This is a tremendous outcome and I am delighted we have been successful in helping to secure this huge amount of money which will go directly into upgrading our canal towpaths, making them easily accessible for everyone to come and visit.

“The canals are used for a wider variety of uses today than at the height of the industrial revolution, with ever more people boating, walking and cycling along them. Towpaths provide wonderful green routes, linking busy towns and cities with the countryside, and this investment will improve them for everyone who enjoys them.”

Canal and River Trust News, 14 August 2013

Google Trekker to capture our canals and rivers

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Google Trekker in use in London

For the first time the Google Trekker, which enables the capturing of Street View imagery via a backpack in remote locations, will start to capture the country’s 200-year old canals and rivers. The Trekker will be on loan for the first time in the UK, to document our canals and rivers.

Starting on the Regent’s Canal in London this week, we'll spend a month walking the Trekker over 100 miles to capture footage of some of the country’s most scenic waterway locations.

With the Trekker designed to capture 360 degree imagery in public locations, which the Street View car and Trike can’t typically reach, the narrow waterway footpaths and bridges are ideal places to trial the Trekker. Some of the previous locations it has captured include the Grand Canyon, the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa and a few of the world’s highest peaks.

21st-century technology

A 4ft, 40lbs backpack, fitted with a 15-angle lens camera, takes 360 degree pictures every 2.5 seconds, which are then added to Street View, available through Google Maps.

With more organisations all over the world loaning out the Trekker, armchair-explorers, travellers and history enthusiasts will soon be able view many remote and hard-to-reach places, which they may never have discovered on their own.

Some of the locations we're going to capture include:

Wendy Hawk, corporate partnerships manager of the Canal & River Trust, said: “We’re delighted to be the first people in the UK to get the Trekker on our backs ? it’s fantastic that our 200-year old network is being given a different lease of life thanks to cutting edge, 21st-century technology. The footage we get will allow millions of people from all over the world to see our canals, rivers and towpaths, and will hopefully encourage some people to make a trip to see them.”

Bingley Five Rise The Grand Union Canal at Stoke Bruerne

Pascale Milite from Google, said: “We are thrilled to be collaborating with the Canal & River Trust on such a fun project, and we hope to help boost the discovery of and make these historical canals accessible to more people in the UK and across the world through Street View technology.”

The Trekker loan follows work last year to enable people from around the world to see some of the wonders of Britain’s canals, rivers and towpaths, when the Google Trike mapped Caen Hill lock flight in Wiltshire and the Grade I listed World Heritage Site around Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in North Wales.

Canal and River Trust News, 14 August 2013

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

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