Monday, 29 September 2014

AGM -Funding -Volunteer Co-ordinator-Studley Grange- Peterborough Arms

Kath, Ken and I seem to have got out of rotation with this blog, what with holidays and accidents, so I find it is over to me again a bit earlier than I expected.
The week kicked off with me having to visit our lawyers to discuss some aspects of the lease we are negotiating with Biffa for the Studley Grange site. In fact there was a certain symmetry to the week, as I spent Friday afternoon with them as well, working on the plan that is attached to the lease. During the week we issued the invitation to tender documents to four contractors, inviting them to tell us how they will do the work of restoring the canal, and how much it will cost. They are on a very tight timescale to respond, but they are already familiar with the site and the job so we are hopeful of good responses.
The evening was spent at the Peterborough Arms; sadly not drinking, but hearing about the first results of the detailed condition surveys. It seems that the basic structure of the building is sound, but the services will require a lot of work to bring them up to acceptable standards.
On Tuesday we had a very interesting Council of Management meeting, with a very full agenda. We are looking forward to updating members at the AGM in a few weeks time on the rapidly developing situation in relation to what is happening at Melksham, in Swindon, and elsewhere. There are also some developing thoughts on how we best organise ourselves to meet these busy times.
Wednesday was partly spent in Melksham, getting a better idea of what is being planned for the Melksham Link.
Thursday was a full day event at which I was representing the Trust; this was followed in the evening by an interesting and useful meeting of some of the branch chairs. It was an opportunity to explore some of the issues we are facing, such as the growing need for maintenance of the bits of canal we have restored, and how we tackle it.
I am particularly pleased to welcome Sam Allen, who has volunteered to be our Volunteer Co-ordinator. We are only too aware that we need to improve the ways in which we find, induct and train our volunteers, as well as making sure that we make the best use of the wealth of skills and experience that is available from them, if only we can find the right way to tap into it. Sam attended both the Council and branch chairs meetings; at the moment she describes herself as a 'sponge', soaking information up, but I am certain that before long she will be making a real contribution.
In the short term we are looking forward to the AGM, where we want to give you a picture of the many positive ways in which we are moving forward. Slightly longer term, there are plans for a significant fund-raising event in November, where every single member (and friends!) can help. More details to follow at a later date..
Finally a reminder from Kath that time is running out to sell and return this year’s draw tickets- the winning tickets will be drawn at the AGM
Chris Coyle

Friday, 26 September 2014

Better late than never

Or perhaps better never late! My apologies for not getting myself together earlier in the week - my only excuse is preparation for some (well deserved !) leave.
Before downing keyboard there has been much going on to progress the Studley Grange (Biffa site) at Royal Wootton Bassett. Work is in progress to complete the lease negotiations and tender documents should be issued this week to a number of contractors . Several funding applications are also in progress
The Trust Council of Management met this week with a busy agenda.
Work also continues on the land assembly masterplan for Melksham- we were pleased to have some help with this from Kate a student placement who is now off to complete her final year at University.
Hopefully normal service resumed next week - I am off for a ice cream and some sunshine!

Ken Oliver

Monday, 15 September 2014

A Quiet Week

At least, that is what it looked like on the surface, but of course there was a lot going on.
The feedback on the Melksham River Festival continues to come in, and is universally supportive and appreciative of the Trust's efforts in putting on the event. We have had favourable comments from the IWA, local authorities, neighbouring canal societies, and members of the public. And of course from our members. So well done everyone. Probably time for a pause to catch our breath before taking on any more events.
What the event did emphasise is the need for a second trip boat. Clearly our minds are on another boat similar to Dragonfly, but Ian Graham of Wilderness boats has raised an interesting suggestion about obtaining a second-hand boat for use as a trailable boat for isolated sections. We will explore this idea very carefully, making sure of course that any boat we acquire meets all the appropriate safety standards.

We are continuing to work on the studies and other documentation needed to support our planning application for the Melksham Link. We are also developing our thoughts, with Jock Mackenzie's help, for a masterplan for the whole canal, and for the Melksham Link in the short term. In a similar vein, we continue the dialogue with Swindon Borough Council about developments at Wichelstowe and other parts of the canal.

We are now looking forward to the Trust's AGM, which will be held on Saturday 18th October at Old Mill Hall, School Lane, Grove, Oxfordshire OX12 7LB. It will be interesting to learn from the East Vale branch about progress in their area. In addition, there is so much going on in the Trust generally that we want to give members an update on progress on a number of aspects. We look forward to seeing as many of you there as can come.

Chris Coyle

Monday, 8 September 2014

A glimpse of Melksham's future this weekend -the River Avon an asset for everyone !

The fine warm weather brought out the crowds at Melksham River festival this weekend. Boat trips were fully subscribed as everyone wanted a better look at their local river. There were Wilderness narrow boats and steam boats on parade and canoe and scuba diving demonstrations. Onshore there was plenty of entertainment for the children and a variety of food stalls. There was excellent music from local bands on both days. The Wilts & Berks stands were giving out information, selling raffle tickets in aid of a second trip boat, lucky programmes, merchandise and signing up some new members. The general feeling seemed to be that it was lovely to see boats on the river and that the new navigation will bring great benefits to Melksham. Congratulations and thanks to all those volunteers who worked so hard to make it a success and many thanks to Leekes for their support and to Hall & Woodhouse for their lucky programme prizes and for supporting the music. Ken has put together a short video of some highlights of the day – see
As I have not been going to so many meetings lately due to being rather immobile, it has been suggested that I am sitting around in the sunshine or reading books! Admittedly I spent my time in hospital re-reading “Narrowboat”, the Tom Rolt epic that inspired us all, but the rest of my spare time is spent in front of the PC working on various bids for money. There is a constant stream of projects at the moment that need funding, all urgent of course. One at the top of the list is a second trip boat like Dragonfly – her popularity in Melksham has underlined that. Projects also vying for the top places are Studley Grange, Melksham Link, Wichelstowe landing stage, the breach at Pewsham and the land fund.
This week a small team will get together to see how the short-term plans for the Peterborough Arms can be progressed- and some good news- the missing signs have been located and we hope to be able to reunite them soon with the Pub. Also the Wiltshire Swindon & Oxfordshire Canal  Partnership will  hold their quarterly meeting on Thursday.
Must get on and raise more money – enjoy the sunshine
Kath Hatton

Monday, 1 September 2014

Picking up the Threads

Just back from a family holiday in Canada, and picking up the threads, they seem to be pretty much as they were before I left, but with good progress on all of them.
The Peterborough Arms is looking much better for its 'wash and brush up', both inside and out. My thanks to the many enthusiastic volunteers from the Trust and the local community who participated so willingly in that effort. We are starting the process of detailed planning for the next stage; this will include involving our members and the local community in the plans by having them involved in the steering group for the project.
On that theme, I was asked at very short notice to give a presentation on the whole Dauntsey Lock project, including the Peterborough Arms, to the Rotary Club of Royal Wootton Bassett and District, so it was an excellent opportunity to give them an update on where we are, and our plans.
The Melksham River Festival is almost upon us - next weekend in fact. I am hugely impressed by the hard work being put into its planning and organisation. This is a Trust-wide event, but a lot of the work is being done by the members of MCC branch, and we are very grateful to them for taking this on. I am sure offers of help would still be welcome, and in any event we would love to see as many members of the Trust and the general public there as possible.
Meanwhile, work goes on as usual on a number of projects. The breach in the culvert carrying the Cocklemore Brook under the canal at Pewsham Locks is turning into a major reconstruction task, which is well under way now that water levels have dropped enough to allow the team to start work.
The team in Swindon are making progress as quickly as they can on a number of projects, including the landing stage at Waitrose. In the meantime we continue our dialogue with the authorities in Swindon, trying to persuade them of the merits of restoring the canal back through the town centre.
So, as always, a lot of enthusiastic support and effort, on both short and long term projects.
Chris Coyle