Monday, 24 November 2014

Keeping CRT and IWA up-to-date on the Wilts & Berks Project

The Trust has always known that it cannot complete this project alone which is why our Partnership was set up for support.  Now that Canal & River Trust (CRT) is a charity itself, it has become much more interested in canal restoration and has linked with Inland Waterways Association (IWA) to give active support to groups tackling such projects.  The Wilts & Berks Canal is definitely of interest as it forms such an important part of the future Southern Canals Network.

One morning last week Chris and I met with two senior representatives from IWA to discuss a wide range of current Wilts & Berks issues. Several helpful suggestions came out of those discussions including introducing a maintenance policy for restored sections – something that we have wanted to do for some time and have been looking for a person to organise it. Another topic was the setting up of an asset register, listing all our structures and their current state.  This has already been discussed within our branches as a branch inventory and would be very helpful for the future Masterplan of the canal. The Scott Wilson feasibility report done in 1998 was a comprehensive study of the whole canal and will form the backbone of any Register.

I also attended an evening event at Newbury along with Ken and Jock. This was a reception organised by the Kennet & Avon Waterway Partnership for CRT. It was a chance to meet CRT Directors and Trustees and tell them all about our plans and current projects. It was all very well received and very interesting to meet the Trustees who come from a wide range of business backgrounds.

Just two days to go to our People’s Millions final on Wednesday 26th November. Please vote for the Studley Wildlife Trail to secure £50,000 for the Trust.  The telephone numbers (one landline and one mobile) will be on ITV West Country news bulletins, in the Daily Mirror, the People’s Millions website  and on our own website in the morning .

I have the final figures for the Grand draw – we made  over £4000 from tickets and associated donations this year which will go towards  our second trip boat. A great effort and many thanks to all those who bought and sold tickets.  I now have to look for the rest of the money for the boat!

This week we have our bi-monthly Council of Management meeting with a full agenda as usual. Other meetings planned include one for the fundraising team to start the process of a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for full restoration of Pewsham Locks complex that includes the Dry Dock,
an outdoor classroom in the old carpenter’s workshop, saw-pit and lime kiln. 

Kath Hatton

Monday, 17 November 2014

This week has naturally had a lot of attention devoted to our forthcoming appearance on ITV, and the chance for the Trust to win £50,000 in the popular vote. This is really important to us, in two ways. First we stand a chance of winning a significant contribution to the cost of transforming the landfill site at Studley Grange into an amenity for community as the Studley Wildlife Trail – and second it will be great publicity for the project overall, whether we win or lose (though we want to win!).
Please, this a low cost way of supporting the Trust, so we would ask you to please make yourselves familiar now with what will happen on the day –
Wednesday 26th November.
All the details are on or website and you can find out more on the People’s Millions site:

Jenny Stratton has been building the publicity campaign. We have been very encouraged by the support we are receiving in this from other waterways organisations. Our friends and neighbours the Cotswold Canals Trust and the K&A are putting their members’ weight behind it, and both IWA and CRT are publicising it on our behalf.
Put the date in your diary, for telephone voting on the day - Wednesday 26th November.
And the behind the scenes work? Well it started on Monday with a day’s filming for the programme. Kath and I were interviewed for the film, talking about the project in general and the Studley site in particular. We are very grateful to Val Melville and Stewart Parsons for organising a group of children from a local school to come to Pewsham, and be filmed finding out about the wildlife that our canal already supports. We are also grateful to the work party teams at Pewsham and Royal Wootton Basset, who responded to a call for a special work day, so that the restoration activities could also be featured in the film.

On Tuesday, a very strong team consisting of Trust directors plus Jock Mackenzie, Ken Oliver, and representatives of Visit Wiltshire, Land and Water Services Ltd, Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and Barker Langham, presented our ideas for the very exciting Melksham Link development to councillors from Melksham Town Council and Melksham Without Parish Council. The purpose of the meeting was for us to inform them of our plans, rather than for them to give any formal opinion, but it seemed to us that their reaction was very positive.

On Wednesday I went to visit IWA Warwickshire branch in Coventry, to bring them up to date on what is happening on the Wilts & Berks; they were very impressed by the scale of what we are now aiming to achieve.

On Thursday we welcomed two senior members of the management team from Hall and Woodhouse to the Peterborough Arms. They spent the whole morning with us, having a look at the pub and our plans for what to do with it. It was extraordinarily helpful to be able to benefit from all the years of practical experience that they brought with them. Lots of good ideas (and a few bad ones that we all had a laugh over), leading us to modify our current thinking in one or two important ways. We are grateful to them.

And Friday? We all went back to pile of emails and other tasks that awaited us after all the activity. Looking forward to whatever next week brings which includes some further key technical meetings on the Melksham Link and an opportunity to meet the Trustees from CRT when they visit Newbury.

Chris Coyle

Monday, 10 November 2014

People's Millions Melksham Link & Planning

All eyes are now focussed on the next target for funding the Big Lottery Fund People's Millions television vote on 26th November. As I write this on Monday morning the sun is shining which we hope is a good omen as ITV are filming today for the programme where school visits will be guided by Stewart Parsons of Ellendale Environmental . Jenny Stratton and the Royal Wootton Bassett Branch team are swinging the local publicity machine into action and the press release has just been sent out. You can help by alerting friends and colleagues that they can vote on 26th – the telephone number will be announced on the day on ITV South West (East) news bulletins and in the Daily Mirror, and of course on the Wilts & Berks web site and social media.

Tomorrow (Tuesday) as specially convened joint meeting of Melksham Town Council and Melksham Without Parish Council will be seeing a presentation from Jock Mackenzie and the team working on the MasterPlan for the Melksham Link. This follows a similar presentation made to the Wiltshire Council Area Board members a few weeks ago where, subject to the usual constraints of planning policy, they approved in principle the exciting ideas for the area.

The Melksham Link will get further exposure this week at the annual meeting of Canal & River Trust’s Waterways Partnership (Kennet & Avon/Bridgewater& Taunton) . The project is part of the Partnership’s business plan as it will extend the K&A to Melksham.

I have been working today with CRT's restoration team trying to provide some background knowledge of how restoration projects can interface with Local Authority Local Plans- its a big quantity of work, mostly unseen, but essential to preserve the route of the waterway.

Ken Oliver

Monday, 3 November 2014

Open day at the Peterborough Arms and Important Funding News

What a great week! The Open Day at the Peterborough on Saturday was a real success – a lot of members and investors came along to have a look at the pub before any restoration is started. The car park was full! All the ground floor rooms and cellar were open for inspection (our guardians were living upstairs so we did not disturb them). Our plans for the restoration and extension were on display, there was beer, tea, coffee and cake on offer and Trust merchandise and bric-a-brac (that came with the pub) on sale. Everyone was really positive about the venture and the team of volunteers kept everything running smoothly. Many congratulations and thanks to everyone who helped on the day. Thanks to Kennet & Avon and Castle Coombe breweries who supplied the beer. Thanks to Di and Rachael for the loan of their hot water boiler, to the Bell Inn who bought the tea and coffee and to all those volunteers who made cakes and biscuits. A real team effort all round. I can reveal that donations on the day totalled over £680 and that will all go towards the restoration of the pub. We received another loan of £1000, four new applications for membership and some useful new volunteers came forward.

Earlier in the week we were able to reveal that the Trust had qualified as a finalist for the People’s Millions competition that could be worth £50K to the Trust. This is a grant made available by the Big Lottery and ITV. Our project is in Royal Wootton Bassett and is called Studley Wildlife Trail. It will be on ITV West Country East news on 26th November. The winner is decided on telephone votes on that day, but the telephone numbers where you can cast your vote are not released until that morning. We will be working on a campaign to alert as many people as possible over the next three weeks. You can see the details on

Down at Pewsham, our “new” workboat Boswell was launched into the canal on Tuesday. This was an old BW boat that a team of volunteers have cut in half and reformed into a Motor and a Butty, courtesy of a grant from Hills Waste. Because of the breach that occurred last winter, the section of the canal just down from the locks is not in water at the moment so Boswell will have to wait at the Wharf until the culvert is rebuilt in the Spring.

Speaking of the culvert, up to the 31st October you have all been voting for the Wilts & Berks on the Yorkshire Building Society website for £10K to do the rebuild. Thanks to everyone who voted. I hope that we will hear the result next week.

Keep watching this space for more news about voting for the People’s Millions on the 26th.

Kath Hatton