Monday, 28 July 2014

Always room for more skills and talent !

There has been quite a stir of excitement about the prospects for the Peterborough Arms becoming a viable pub and restaurant alongside the proposed visitor centre and restored canal. It will be a long haul from here to there so the Trust is urgently seeking to put together a team led by a project manager with suitable skills to mastermind the scheme. If you think you might be interested, or have other skills to offer, please contact Chris or Kath. There is an open meeting about the next steps for the scheme on Monday 4th August at 7pm in the Civic Centre at Royal Wootton Bassett-please come along and find out more.

The Trust Council of Management met on Tuesday and unusually will meet again next Saturday to consider proposals for a Special Purpose delivery company to carry out major construction projects.
The Trust has been without a Chairman for a long time now and the strain is starting to tell on the other directors - do you know someone who could fill this important role?

Last week Ainscough Strategic Land held two public meetings/exhibitions about their plans for part of the proposed Eastern Villages in Swindon. A number of the Trust team attended and further meetings are planned to discuss design opportunities to build the canal as part of the development.

If you are a Trust Member you will have received the latest copy of Dragonfly - congratulations to the new editorial and production team.

As part of my role with Wiltshire Council I attended the Cotswold Canals Partnership meeting last week. It was good to hear of the continuing progress in and around Stroud.


Monday, 21 July 2014

Canal Centre at Dauntsey moves a step closer

On Friday, contracts were exchanged between Wadworth and the Trust for the purchase of the Peterborough Arms at Dauntsey Lock. This very exciting purchase has been made possible by loans and donations from members and supporters. Now that contracts have been exchanged we will be finalising all the legal documentation relating to the loans that members have made. As many of you know, the pub has been closed for about 15 months and is looking rather sad. Work has already been started on the plans for a complete refurbishment to turn it into a community-based canal centre whilst retaining it as a pub. The next stage is to set up a team to carry forward the project and we would welcome volunteers with experience or just enthusiasm to register an interest in that – contact Chris or myself. There will be a lot of money to be raised and priorities to be established, but this is a great step forward.

Rumours have been circulating in the media lately about possible funding for building a road tunnel under the M4 to link up with the Wichelstowe development. I can confirm that we are in touch with the team from Swindon BC about our long-held ambition to put the canal under the motorway, by co-siting it in a tunnel alongside the new road but decisions are not likely yet, as the money is only allocated at the moment, not awarded. Be assured, we are watching it closely.

Staying at Wichelstowe, the interpretation boards that Ken mentioned in his blog on 7th July outside the Waitrose store are proving to be a great success with everyone, including the staff at the store who are not having to answer endless questions about “what canal is that?” or “I didn’t know Swindon had a canal”.

Plans for the River Festival at Melksham on 6th and 7th September are continuing apace following the news of the support from Leekes that Chris reported in the last blog. We now also have some support from Hall & Woodhouse, the Dorset based brewery and pub operators, who have just opened a new pub, the Milk Churn, on the A350 at Melksham. (only a short walk from the new route of the Melksham Link at Berryfield when it is built). They will support the music and programme prizes. We are very grateful to them. For all Melksham traders - we are just seeking advertisers for our Festival programme so please get in touch if you are intereste- Email Paul Lenaerts:

And finally, membership is now standing at 2457 – getting close to my target of 2500 by the AGM.

Kath Hatton

Monday, 14 July 2014

A cunning plan?

For some time now Canal and River Trust (CRT) has been showing much greater interest in restoration than its predecessor, British Waterways. There was further evidence of that last week with the announcement that CRT, together with the Inland Waterways Association, is launching a national restoration campaign, drawing attention to our lost waterways. It is supported by the well-known TV presenter Sir Tony Robinson who said: “The waterway network is part of the fabric of our nation but it’s easy to forget that not so very long ago some of our most popular canals were almost lost forever”. We were already in touch with CRT to find out about their new approach to the question of restoration, and have been visited by Richard Parry, their Chief Executive, and Jason Leach, Restoration Manager. We are thinking about how we can follow these visits up, as well as how we can build on the campaign to help move our own canal forward.

We had some very good news about the forthcoming Melksham River Festival during the week. This is a very important event for us, marking the centenary of the Act of Abandonment in 1914, but with the strong message that a hundred years later we are back, restoring the canal. It is also intended to publicise the Melksham Link, and acknowledge the support of the town of Melksham for the project. Such events do of course cost money, and we were worried that we had lost our original intended source of funding. Fortunately, thanks to the efforts of event organisers Paul Lenaerts and Ian Simpson, they have persuaded Leekes of Melksham to step into the breach and support the event. We are very grateful indeed to Leekes for their timely and welcome help. The event will be on September 6th and 7th, so make a note in your diaries!

This week we are meeting Derek Gow, one of the country's leading experts on water voles, to see how we can enlist his help in two ways. First, we need his expertise to be available to us as we have to deal with any water vole colonies along the canal when we are carrying out our restoration tasks. Second, we want to make the canal an environmental asset for the community, so we want to find out how we can make a responsible contribution to the protection of this endangered species.

Chris Coyle

Monday, 7 July 2014

CRT and restoration ,Studley Grange, Peterborough Arms and a trip to the supermarket

In May the Canal & River Trust and IWA held a workshop on the theme of Water Adds Value. As a follow up to that event we were pleased to welcome Jason Leach, CRT Restoration Manager, to Chippenham last week to have a look in more detail at the Wilts & Berks restoration. CRT is very clear about what it can (and perhaps as important cannot) do to help. It is certain that there is a will to help all restoration projects and we look forward to further discussions on what assistance might be available in the future for the Wilts & Berks.

It has taken a little time but I am very pleased to report that the proposed restoration at Studley Grange Royal Wootton Bassett now has planning consent. Its not quite time to either pop a cork or to send in the diggers but it is a significant step forward albeit with the 'strings' of having to satisfy a number of planning conditions. Significantly the consent is a trigger for the site owners to move forward on a lease for the Trust. Final construction drawings are being prepared by consultants in preparation for a tendering process to seek a contractor to do the work. This all subject to raising a further significant amount of funding. One of the features of restoration of this section of the canal will be the wildflower planting plan as one of the funders is seeking to make the corridor attractive for bees and other pollinators.

Wednesday evening saw a number of Trust Directors assembled in the beer garden of the Peterborough Arms . The open air meeting was to discuss some of the details of the proposed contract to purchase the site- the only thing missing was a supply of beer! We expect to make an announcement imminently on progress.

Finally another trip for me to canal side Waitrose in Swindon on Sunday morning -not only to replenish the household supplies but to install two new information boards. This is possibly the most viewed section of the Wilts & Berks so we are keen to promote the project as much as possible. If you pay a visit look out also for the new (currently experimental) QR coded signs for the Wilts & Berks Canal audio trail.

Ken Oliver