Monday, 24 February 2014

Half term events....Pewsham Locks ..looking east... partnership working... another busy week!

The Sharing Heritage project got off to a brilliant start last week at Chippenham Museum and Heritage Centre. Wilts & Berks Canal Trust volunteers teamed up with the Museum staff to provide half-term activities for children. There was tremendous interest and the children loved it. Activities included making model narrowboats from balsa wood, simple rope making and knot tying, canalware painting, archaeology challenge, colouring & word searches and a storyteller. There was an opportunity to talk to the children and their parents about the canal and its restoration. Many thanks to Heritage Lottery Fund for funding it and to all the volunteers that worked hard to make it a success. Many said they will attend the Open Days at Pewsham Locks on 20th and 21st June. Other good news at Pewsham – the planning permission for Top Lock and the Cottage has been granted subject to access agreements. And more .... a lease has been granted by the Bowood Estate for land either side of the A4.This will keep the MCC volunteers busy for some time! The team is taking advice from ecologists at Ellendale Environmental on the best way to clear the towpath and canal track with an eye to local wildlife habitat. A first meeting was held to discuss the strategy for the Eastern End of the canal now that the reservoir project seems to have disappeared into the long grass. It is important to raise our profile so that developers and land owners start to take the project seriously. We could do with more volunteers at this end to help plan and execute our strategies. A meeting between Wiltshire Wildlife Trust(WWT) and the Trust took place last week in the Swindon shop used by the Trust. It was arranged to discuss the possibility of sharing the shop premises but unfortunately there is not enough space. However the Trust offered to house a stand for WWT in the shop and various other ideas for working together are emerging. The Escape to the Country programme that included some footage of the Wilts & Berks at Pewsham went out as planned on 13th February. They described it as “an epic canal restoration”! However, I must admit that I have been a bit disappointed that the Trust has not received any feedback following the show. I’ll finish on a cheerful note - the slipway in Melksham is progressing well and now that the weather has improved and river levels gone down, it will hopefully soon be finished. Kath Hatton

Monday, 10 February 2014

Escape to the Wilts & Berks

This has been another busy period for the Trust. Following comments received from a number of sources, we have been trying to improve the ways in which we get information out to our members. Hence this blog; we would be interested to receive feedback on whether you the members find it useful. We are also keeping up our monthly online newsletter, On The Button. As part of the same initiative, we offered to give presentations to branches, giving an update on the latest position on the Trust's organisation and current projects. This seems to have been well received as an initiative - we gave three of them in one week. Again, comments on how useful they were, whether we should repeat them, and how often, would be helpful. I think this week has been unusual, in that for the first time for a long time we don't seem to have submitted an application for planning permission! All of the previous applications are working their way through, and we expect to be able to carry forward the work on a number of projects in the near future. Swindon Branch held an Open Evening at the East Wichel Community Hall on Saturday; it was well attended by local members, with a good number of visitors as well. Liz Payne gave a very interesting update on progress on the Cotswold Canals, particularly the work at the Western end around Stroud. Some useful pointers from a restoration trust which is very successful at gaining new members, as well as significant funding. The branch took the opportunity to hold its AGM, and new Chairman and Treasurer were elected. Good luck to Rod and Peter, and to Oliver as well who has recently become the Secretary. We have reached an important point in our discussions with Wadworth over the possible purchase of the Peterborough Arms. They have responded to our offer with a counter-offer; the Trust's Council of Management will be considering the next steps very carefully, weighing all the factors involved. One of our Directors attended a Thames Water forum recently, and reported that the proposed reservoir near Abingdon seems to be slipping back in terms of both priority and timing in their thinking. This seems to give the opportunity and the stimulus for the Trust to re-think the strategy in the eastern end. If we know that the reservoir will not be built for at least ten to fifteen years, what can and should we be doing ion the meantime to move our project forward? Remembering of course that if we do nothing in an area, the chances are that things will in fact slip backwards, as developments take place which take no account of the canal or our plans for restoration. And finally, the Wilts & Berks will be on TV this week! We understand that the episode of 'Escape to the Country' which featured the canal as one of the attractions of Wiltshire will be broadcast on BBC1 this Thursday 13th February at 3.45pm. Chris Coyle