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News article created on 20 October 2014

An end to my cruising year

After a series of blogs, cataloguing his past few months of cruising, Trustee John Dodwell shares his final instalment.


Correction. I said in my last blog that the KEPPEL appeal had raised the money it was after but I was premature. It hasn't - yet (I hope!). For those who don't know much about the appeal, KEPPEL is a former working boat - a butty which works now with LINDSAY, a motor boat . KEPPEL was built as late as 1960 as part of a new design to increase the payload of boats and worked in the Potteries trades taking coal to Middlewich and bringing clay materials etc back from Weston Point Docks. Now the bottom is pretty thin and the appeal was launched  not just to to pay for the repairs but for other work to enable her to be used as an educational boat. We all hear about the need to interest the younger generation in waterways (and their parents) and the KEPPEL project fits into this.

What's intriguing is one of the fund raising methods being used. Andrew and Liz Watts (the people at the Eturria Boat Group Volunteers involved in the appeal) have just got married. Instead of the usual wedding presents, they asked for donations for KEPPEl - and they got over £2,500! What a brilliant idea and such generosity! If you feel like supporting an old working boat AND encouraging the next generation of canal lovers, then please visit the appeal page.

I can also update readers about the damaged parapet at the Meaford bridge on the T&M which I mentioned in an earlier blog as having been waiting for repairs after having hit by a vehicle. A Notice Alert of 14 October tells me that repairs will start on November 10th for two months.

On Saturday my wife and I went to Stourbridge (Richard Parry was there too) to the annual Bonded Warehouse Open Weekend. This brings alive the area around the Basin with lots of people looking at steam traction engines and listening to steam organ music (even if now electrified) and various stalls. Over 60 boats lined the towpath. As usual, there was the parade of VIPs from the Junction at the bottom of the 16 Locks and those present included the local MP, the Mayor and others including the Chief Executive of Dudley Council (into which area Stourbridge falls). As we came along the Arm, we saw where Trust staff have recently cut back offside trees - not just a trim but cutting right back to the main trunk.

It's well worth while diverting to go up the Stourbridge Arm - and not just because there is water and the other facilities at the end. And not even because it is so close to the centre of Stourbridge with its shops (my favourite is the 1797 founded Nickolls & Perks wine shop) or the boatyard/drydock. The real attraction is the Bonded Warehouse and the original Canal Company offices now run by the Stourbridge Navigation Trust (SNT) - and you pass some atmospheric cast iron towpath bridges on the way

This event has been organised for over 30 years by the SNT, aided by the Staffs & Worcs Canal Society. The Harbour Master was David Caunt, a much respected Dudley councillor (he's also a member of the Trust's West Midlands Partnership). It is so important that this type of event takes place as it enables the waterways movement to influence both local and national politicians. Left to me, I'd invite them to all such rallies and festivals. It's also important to draw in the public of all ages.

We know we owe a great debt to volunteers. Volunteer lock-keepers or those working on the towpath get lots of mention but we shouldn't forget those who organise the various festivals and rallies around the country. Nor should we overlook the editors of various canal society and trust magazines - and we should value the complimentary list of those local influential people who get sent the magazine. I ran into David Wheeler, chairman of the Worcester Birmingham & Droitwich Canals Society (and also a member of the Trust's South Wales & Severn Partnership). He told me they are organising FOUR rallies/festivals in 2015, including Droitwich in May (to which I might well take HELEN); Alvechurch (also May) and July at Kings Norton. Our thanks to organisers should extend to of all those events you see listed in the waterways press.

We ended the day by packing up clothing and bedding we don't leave on HELEN over the winter - it would only get damp - so it's the end of cruising for us this year. Unless we succumb to the temptation of a going out at New Year, as we did one year, breaking the ice on our return journey. But I know that continuous cruisers not taking up winter moorings will still be going through the winter so good luck to them.

About this blog

John Dodwell

John Dodwell is one of our 10 volunteer trustees, who carry responsibility for the charity’s policies and strategies. He owns Helen, a 51ft old BCN tug/icebreaker which draws 3ft and is based near Stourbridge, West Midlands. His waterways interest goes back to the early 1960s.

John’s been involved in the waterways since the early 1960s and he enjoys all aspects of the waterways. To pick out one oddity, he was pleased and surprised to see about a dozen herons this June around the BCN Main Line, including two under the M6 motorway!

See more blogs from John Dodwell