Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Canal life, Looking for a new Chairman, and the spruced up Peterboorough Arms

A late posting this week mainly due to my Bank Holiday weekend away enjoying some boating on the Kennet & Avon Canal. Sitting watching the bustling activity on the towpath in Devizes I continue to be mystified by the resistance to bringing the Wilts & Berks into Swindon. Why would you not want to create the atmosphere of waterside activity mixed with the tranquillity of canal life as a centrepiece for Swindon?
Focus on the Wilts & Berks is now switching to Melksham where trip boat Dragonfly is now taking up temporary residence on the River Avon ahead of the River Festival in ten days time. You can sample the River Avon this weekend 30/31st with special trips starting adjacent to the Adventure Centre on King George V playing fields.
I have now walked the Studley Grange section of the canal several times with a number of contractors who are preparing to price the excavation of the canal- it will be an impressive piece of restoration and we hope that work will be able to commence before winter sets in.
The Wilts & Berks Canal Trust is doubling its efforts to find a Chairman- the work shared by Chris & Kath for the last two years needs the attention of a someone who can concentrate on the job - do you know anyone who might take on this challenging role?
The Peterborough Arms is now looking tidied up both inside and out thanks to the team co-ordinated by Dave Maloney- a fantastic effort in a short space of time- much praise to all who helped. Now the hard work starts to make a future for the site as the Dauntsey Lock Canal Centre.....

Ken Oliver

Monday, 18 August 2014

Peterborough Arms Purchased- River Festival at Melksham- Membership soars-AGM details

The Wilts & Berks Canal Trust now officially owns the Peterborough Arms at Dauntsey Lock. What an exciting moment it was on Friday to receive the keys from Wadworth Brewery. Looking back at my emails, we actually started the process of trying to acquire the pub in February/March last year. Thanks to the generosity and conviction of our members, we have done it. A team from the local community is starting a tidy-up of the garden and outside areas today. Soon we will carry out an initial assessment of the inside. A lot of people have come forward to volunteer – we now have to focus all that enthusiasm into solid plans for restoration.

Plans for the Melksham River festival continue and the Trust is very grateful to Leekes of Melksham who have agreed at the last minute to step in to sponsor the event. I understand that there will be electric boats in attendance as well as the Wilderness Trail Boats and Steam boats. The new slipway looks very good and will be well used. Do come along on 6th or 7th September, it is free admission although we hope lots of people will buy a lucky draw programme. The prize will be £100 of vouchers each day for the new pub “The Milk Churn”, courtesy of Hall & Woodhouse.

I have really good news about membership. The Trust now has 2511 members. 2500 was my target by AGM this year so we are ahead of expectations. I think we should go for 3000 by end 2014 and 4000 by AGM 2015. If anyone would like to help with a recruitment drive or join a team doing that please let me know.

Speaking of the AGM this year, members will have received the details in the last Dragonfly. We have decided that instead of inviting an outside speaker, we will have several short presentations from the Trust to update you on the ongoing projects of which there are many.

Finally please be careful when going down to feed your chickens in the early morning! I wasn’t and have ended up with an ankle broken on both sides, now with screws and plates. It will quite a few weeks yet before I can put weight on it or drive. I shall still be at the River Festival though.

Kath Hatton

Monday, 11 August 2014

Challenges and Opportunities

The summer speeds on and hopefully we have all survived the remnants of 'Bertha' , but the full extent of the ravages of the last major weather event in December are just being discovered at Pewsham where the a culvert was badly damaged. This original brick arched structure is typical of a number that still survive and give the team somewhat of a dilemma as they are probably all much in the same condition with little of the original mortar remaining meaning the structures are held together by gravity!. It is believed that the damage was caused when the excessive flow of the stream completely filled the culvert and pressurised it to the extent that the arch blew apart. So the challenge now is to decide whether to patch up the damaged section, completely rebuild the whole culvert as there are signs of similar weakness elsewhere,or replace it with a new 'pipe' made with 21st century materials.

The meeting last Monday at Royal Wootton Bassett attracted over 60 to hear about the plans for the Peterborough Arms.If you could not attend, the proposals for refurbishing the building will be available shortly on the Trust web site. Friday 15th is completion day and when we have all drawn breath there will be an open day for all to have a look at the new acquisition. In the meanwhile there were a number who volunteered to make a first attempt to tidy up the site which looks rather unloved. The most important role to fill is a project manager to start to work on the next stage plans.

This year's draw for the Trust is to help fund the next trip boat 'Dragonfly 2' so if you have tickets please get selling! The Dragonfly team continue to provide a great showcase for the project in Swindon with regular public trips and private charters. Shortly the boat will be moved to Melksham to be part of the Melksham River Festival where the team are continuing to put the finishing touched to plans for 6/7th of September -so I hope you have the date in your diary.

Finally to report Kath is now back in action but mostly at home somewhat limited in mobility by a plaster cast! Chris is taking a well earned break catching up with non canal related activities.


Sunday, 3 August 2014

Things are Moving! (Or in one case less so)

As Ken Oliver mentioned last week, there will be a meeting tonight (Monday) at the Civic Centre in Royal Wootton Bassett to talk about the Peterborough Arms. This meeting is open to all members of the Trust. We feel that this is the right time to inform members, now that we have exchanged contracts and are moving towards Completion.
The purpose is threefold. We want to bring members up to date on progress so far, ie what we have done in terms of outline plans for what we want to do. Again, once we have the pub in our hands, it will be time for much more detailed planning. Second, we want to listen to your thoughts and ideas about what you would like to see happen as we go forward with the project. I am sure we will not be able to do everything you want, but we do want to respond to your thoughts as much as we can. And finally, we would like to get an idea of how many people are prepared to help, and in what ways. However don't be put off coming to the meeting, if you feel that you won't be able to do anything specific - there is no compulsion!
If you cannot make it to the meeting, but have questions, comments, suggestions or offers of help, please let us know.
The other big thing that we are moving on is the Melksham Link. We are only too aware that the planning application is moving through the system, and we have to be ready to take the project forward. Because it is so much bigger than anything the Trust has ever done before, we feel that we have to change our approach to managing it accordingly. The Directors have therefore agreed to set up a separate company, to be the 'delivery authority' for the project. Essentially it will be responsible to the Trust for making the project happen, so it will have to be staffed and resourced to meet that task. The details are to be worked out over the coming weeks.
And the thing that is not moving so well? Kath Hatton! We were very sorry indeed to hear that she slipped and fell at home, breaking her ankle in the process. She will be in plaster for at least six weeks, and severely restricted in her movements. However she has gamely offered to write lots of bids for funding! We wish her well.

Chris Coyle