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Welcome to the latest edition. If you read on you'll find exciting news about Crick Boat Show, an invite from the head of boating and more of your views on waterside Graffiti among others
Another month has flown by and here we are on the doorstep of spring. The strange thing is that there are two ‘official’ start dates for spring. Meteorologically speaking, we’re a mere four days from spring – it starts next Tuesday (1 Mar).
The other ‘official’ one is astronomical and spring kicks off with the equinox on 20 March. After this we’ll get more day than night. But the short winter days haven’t held us back, or lots of generous volunteers and donors, from continuing to tackle the aftermath of the Boxing Day floods.
We’ve been cataloguing what it’s been like to be involved, in one way or another, with such a monumental task. The regional waterway manager, David Baldacchino, has given his perspective and we’ve also talked to boaters who were there when it happened.
While the huge job of repairing the affected sections continues, the rest of the network is buzzing with activity, some of which is covered in this edition:
If there’s something you’d like to share with the boating community via this update then please drop me a line.
Since the last edition you may have heard, or seen, that:
Before the next edition is published you might like to know that:
Of course, there are plenty of other activities around the network so please visit the events section of the website to find the perfect one for you.
Now in its 17th year, the Crick Boat Show will mark the birth year of James Brindley (1716–1772), pioneer of the development of England's inland waterway network, with a range of activities, displays and special talks.
Although many readers are passionate about waterways and their history, I thought it would be interesting, for those new to the waterways, to give a potted history of this remarkable man.
Brindley was active at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, when the new waterways were pivotal in removing transport constraints that were holding back the growth of commerce. He was the key figurehead of eight canal schemes including the Coventry Canal, the Oxford Canal and, his crowning glory, the Trent & Mersey Canal.
Brindley is particularly well known for the building of the Bridgewater Canal, which was regarded as the first modern British canal and led to an explosion of canal building. His achievements as an engineer and surveyor of significant skill are well documented but many of this year’s Show features will reveal that he was also an influential and trusted business man capable of securing support, funding and finance for what was, at the time, an unproven concept.
If you’re going along to the Show you’ll be presented with opportunities to find out what the self-made pioneer, also known as ‘the Schemer’ was really like, including speaking to Brindley himself!
A costumed interpreter will recount some of Brindley’s most famous stories, such as his use of a Cheshire cheese to demonstrate to a Parliamentary committee how the Barton Aqueduct might be built, as well as lesser-known insights such as the crucial meeting between Brindley, the Duke of Bridgewater and Josiah Wedgwood which made it possible to create the network of canals we all enjoy today.
There will be an opportunity to hear author and Brindley expert, Christine Richardson, speak and offer her perspective on why there would be no network of canals in England without Brindley. It’s not all high-brow history though - children will be able to participate in bridge-building activities and learn about who James Brindley was and what he did.
The commemorative celebrations taking place at Crick will run alongside a number of national exhibitions, events and activities which will happen throughout the year and have been collectively termed “Brindley300”.
Visit the website for more information on the UK’s biggest inland waterways festival (28-30 May 2016).
Mike Grimes’ monthly article continues the Crick Boat Show theme…
“I was asked, earlier this year, what I was doing during the late May Bank Holiday weekend. Due to my relatively recent arrival at the Trust I suspected that the question was designed to catch me out but, no, Crick Boat Show is already cemented in to my digital calendar as a recurring feature.
“In fact, it’ll be my second one. I did get along to last year’s show (which was great) but this year, rather than a slightly bewildered visitor – in my defence I had literally just joined the Trust – my team and I will have our own stand to welcome you to.
“Of course, we’ll have a mooch about the show as well – there’s so much to see and do – but, primarily, we’ll be on hand to answer any questions, talk about our aspirations for boating or, if you just fancy a natter, that’s fine too!
“Combined with the ongoing Boat Owners’ Views Survey that I talked about in my last article, we’re hopeful that as we head in to summer we’ll have a really good handle on what we can do to help make your boating experience as pleasurable, stress-free and rewarding as possible.
“And, in case you didn’t know, for the first time there’s also ‘kids go free’ so there’s never been a better year to get along to the show – we hope to see you there!”
The Canal & River Trust is relocating its North West office to Trencherfield Mill from the beginning of March.
The canal-side former cotton spinning mill dates back to 1907 and is Grade II listed. More recently it has been converted to a mix of office space and homes.
Waterway manager Chantelle Seaborn comments: “Our lease on the existing office in Wigan had come to an end so we’ve taken the opportunity to look at the office space and facilities needed.
“Our new office is smaller and cheaper to run but has bags of character. Next to the Leeds & Liverpool Canal towpath, it’s a good location for visitors to pop in and say hello.”
The office move will take place in the first week of March. The Trust expects to move out of its existing office at Waterside House on 4 March and be open for business as usual at Trencherfield on 8 March. The offices will be closed on 4 and 7 March because of removals and changes to phone lines.
The new address is: Trencherfield Mill, Heritage Way, Wigan, WN3 4BN. Other contact details remain the same. Telephone: 0303 040 4040, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @CRTNorthWest
In the last of the series, South Wales & Severn heritage advisor David Viner explores the mystery, and forthcoming restoration, of Saul Junction Old Lock on the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal:
“Eight miles south of Gloucester near the little village of Saul is a unique example of a canal ‘level crossing’, forming the intersection of two very different canals. Here at Saul Junction can be found an old lock with a fascinating history, unused for the last 65 years but about to be restored to its former glory.
“The junction connects the pioneering 1779 Stroudwater Navigation with the 1827 Gloucester & Berkeley Canal, conceived in the heat of ‘Canal Mania’ and for 67 years the widest and deepest canal in the country.
“The revolutionary later canal, now renamed the Gloucester & Sharpness, was designed with a depth of 18 feet, four times deeper than the Stroudwater, to carry sea-going ships to the port of Gloucester. To cater for these differences and keep the canal crossing on one level, the engineer, William Clegram, raised the Stroudwater with the addition of a new lock in 1826.
“In the following years Saul Junction gained a bridgekeeper’s house and stabling for the towing horses and then a boatyard. It became a busy location, conveniently half way between Gloucester and Sharpness, with boat traffic from Stroud diverting to these destinations as well as onward to the River Severn junction.
“Eventually the Stroudwater Navigation went out of use and was officially abandoned with its junction lock in the 1950s. The Gloucester & Sharpness however has continued to thrive and now carries leisure craft and trip boats as well as sea-going tall-masted ships heading for the dry docks in Gloucester.
“Saul Junction remains a busy scenic location and a very popular heritage destination although its principal historic structure, the old lock, is in a poor state. Fortunately this is just about to change.
“What gives Saul Junction Lock its special interest, and its Grade II listed status, today is a design all of its own, typical of neither canal. Canal companies were fiercely independent and developed their own characteristic design styles.
“This individual use of materials and patterns gave each canal a local distinctiveness still visible in their bridges, locks and buildings today. Mysteriously at Saul Lock the pattern of the lock gates and the gearing mounted on them is completely out of character.
“The Stroudwater Navigation and Gloucester & Berkeley Canal have significantly different styles but this lock appears to have avoided both. The only other examples of the Saul design are found in Yorkshire and Lancashire but there is no explanation as to why or how it transferred to Gloucestershire.
“After languishing unused for many years Saul Old Lock is now entering a new phase. The Stroudwater is already under restoration and a recent grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund has enabled refurbishment of the lock.
“By the end of 2016 it will proudly display brand new gates, accurately matching the original unique design. Visitors will be able to stand on the footbridge carrying the Gloucester & Sharpness towpath across the middle of the lock and enjoy this wonderful historic location.”
Thanks David. Now our heritage advisors have all shared their favourite pieces of waterways history, what’s yours? Do please drop me a line and let me know – I’ll do a roundup of the feedback in the next edition or two.
Why not venture west and cruise some of the networks deepest and widest rivers and canals?
Over the last couple of editions we’ve featured your views on graffiti in response to heritage advisor Florence Salberter’s article. It seems this topic has grabbed the attention of quite a few readers – more of you have written in with your thoughts.
As before, there’s too many to replicate them all here so I’ve compiled them into a handy PDF (227KB). I did, however, think it worthwhile sharing the images and thoughts of one boater who has captured what most of you have said – some can be good (if done artistically and with appropriate permission) but most is bad.
“I've had my boat for 10 years and have taken her over much of the southern waterways network, including central London. I think some graffiti can be beautiful and a case in point is this photo (right) which I took at the junction of the Hertford Union canal and the River Lea navigation in 2008.
“However, my narrowboat has the unfortunate distinction of being the only boat I have ever seen that has been "tagged" by a vandal (below). This spray paint tagging is not art, I think it is the human equivalent of a dog peeing on a lamp post to leave its mark.”
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