Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year

A very short report this week to thank all the WBCT team  for all the hard work during the year - another busy one  moving the restoration forward .
Here's to 2016 and even more success!
Perhaps over the Christmas break you might like to take a look at the current Trust invitation to join the new Executive and suport teams- emails are currently being sent out - please contact  Jonathan Till  for more information email:
The next blog will be in a couple of weeks time in the first week of January.

Merry Christmas

Ken Oliver

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Some serious stuff – but a reminder of why we do it

At the AGM in October we laid out the plans for the re-organisation of the Trust’s structure, with the objective of streamlining our management, and making a clear distinction between the governance of the Trust, to be in the hands of the Board of Trustees, and day-to-day management, which will be looked after by the Executive.  Since that time we have been working on the details of those plans.  Part of that has been planning an Extraordinary General Meeting of the Trust, at which we will update you on the final shape of the re-organisation, and members can give formal approval to any necessary changes to our Memorandum and Articles resulting from the steps we are taking.  At a meeting of the Board of Trustees last week we confirmed that the date for that meeting will be:

Saturday 5th March 2016, and it will be held at Ellendune Community Centre, in Wroughton at 2.00 pm. 

Full details will be circulated with the next edition of Dragonfly.

We will also be circulating shortly our proposals for the structure of the Executive team.  Very importantly, there are a number of posts to fill, so we will be inviting expressions of interest from all members for any of those posts.  Now is your chance!  If you would like to help carry forward the work of the Trust in any capacity, please make that known to us.  We are looking to build strong, active and effective support teams for the members of the Executive; if you have been unsure about becoming involved before, this is an ideal opportunity to explore how you can make a contribution.

We will be giving more details through the branches, and on the website, but contact us if you would like to learn more.

By way of contrast, last Sunday I had the pleasure and privilege of crewing on nb Dragonfly for the Santa trips.  It was a joy to see how much fun the children (and the adults too) had on the trips.  The amount of work that the boat team puts in to organising and running these excellent trips is phenomenal; the results in terms of publicity and goodwill are outstanding.  Well done the team.

Chris Coyle


Friday, 4 December 2015

Studley Grange canal construction now due to be completed in the New Year and tow path planting will take place in the Spring.

What has happened so far  at Studley Grange:
As you all know we have been talking about re-instating the 1.2km stretch of canal at Studley Grange for some years but it was only last year that we managed to complete the environmental impact study around the adjacent landfill site, and also conclude our discussions with BIFFA who own the route and who have been most supportive. BIFFA have agreed to lease the canal route to the Trust at a token rent for the foreseeable future.
The subsequent construction tendering process resulted in Land and Water Services (LAWS) starting work in June, with a completion date of 9th November 2015.  Despite ecology studies and a pre-commencement walk over the site   the unexpected discovery of a Great Crested Newt resulted in the requirement for further ecologist input and investigation prior to undertaking site clearance and excavation.   
LAWS were back at work in July but since then two additional issues have emerged:
First, land slippage may require an element of re-design following discussions between WYG and Land and Water. Second, LAWS have determined that the site conditions have had an impact on the construction process and they have therefore taken the decision to postpone further works until the winter weather has passed.
We are all disappointed that this work could not be completed this year but you will see what looks like a completed canal . Unfortunately as the towpath works have yet to be completed it is not yet possible to access this section of canal. 
Next year: So the new stretch is not going to be completed until sometime in the New Year. I know everyone will find this frustrating  but we are hoping that work will re-commence in April/May, the exact date dependent on how wet this winter is. The towpath surfacing will be one of the first jobs and that will allow the planting of the banks, marginal areas and hedgerow infilling to be done. Kate Jones, our project leader for the Wildlife Trail, is organising some brilliant interpretation boards and leaflets with local students doing a lot of the illustrations. 

Elsewhere on the canal I hear the Santa trips on Dragonfly are going really well and are fully booked now.  329 children will have travelled to find Santa and there is a rumour that he may appear at the Waitrose store at Wichelstowe this coming Saturday to switch on the Christmas lights at about 4pm. Swindon branch will have a stand there and you could sign up to join the Trust or support us by buying some Christmas cards or a calendar.

 Kath Hatton

Friday, 20 November 2015

Many unknowns -working on the answers!

I think it is fair to say that we have now got to the really difficult stage of the Studley  Grange project! Winter weather has set in and the work is not yet complete. A number of options are being examined to see if any further progress can be made . It is particularly frustrating with probably only a week’s worth of excavation remaining and financial and external pressure to complete

Next week the WBCT team are attending Wanborough Parish Council meeting to outline the work being carried on the canal design as part of Swindon’s Eastern Villages development.

A new section of the canal line has become available  for potential purchase north of Melksham. It is not a straightforward sale and apart from the obvious  finance required  a number of other issues are being closely considered before any progress can be made.
Don't forget you can always donate to the 'land fund' from which purchases like this are made.
The question of office accommodation and location  for the Trust is also being considered in relation to current reorganisation and other factors.

Finally the Melksham Link project team led by Paul Lenaerts  are making final reviews of plans  and reports for the planning application. The current estimate is that this additional information which includes the long awaited  and lengthy Environment Statement will be submitted to Wiltshire Council in a few weeks time

Ken Oliver

Friday, 13 November 2015

Boat trips back to normal route and winter weather approaches

The boat team is pleased to advise that Skew Bridge is now passable again, after the necessary maintenance work by Swindon Borough Council.  The scaffolding has all been removed and the canal is clear.  Robert Yeowell has done the full trip, and went under the bridge in both directions without a problem.  However we are going to treat navigation of the bridge with some caution just in case the contractors have left something nasty below the surface. And in addition Robert had no passengers on board and the water level was up for the trial run.

All in all, however, great news as Santa Trips are getting closer.  Bookings are well up, so if you want to treat children or grandchildren, contact the boat team on

Our contractors continue to make progress at Studley Grange, although the recent downpours have caused some slippage in the bank at one point, which will have to be sorted out.  And of course, the heavy rain makes work on excavating the main channel impossible, so inevitably delays are occurring.  On the other hand, that has meant that they have been able pretty much to complete putting in the gabions needed to strengthen the bank in some places.

Chris Coyle

Thursday, 5 November 2015

November News

Keep a look out for the December edition of Waterways World. Andrew Denny, Assistant Editor at the magazine came down last month for a couple of days to have a look around at our current projects. The end result will be a four page feature on the Wilts & Berks Canal.

Speaking of publicity, Justin Guy, our local PR volunteer, has written a piece with Val Melville about the Living Waterways Awards and it has appeared on the Index Wiltshire and Flic Wiltshire websites. Thank you, Justin – great work. In addition, Business Voice, the Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce magazine, has featured the canal under their Charity Spotlight section with an article under the banner “Wilts & Berks Canal restoration picks up momentum”.

Autumn has really arrived!  Amazing colours in the trees and hedgerows along the canal, misty mornings and shortening days. Opportunities for taking some photos – we are always looking for good ones for the calendar each year. You can order the 2016 Trust calendar from Diana – as well as Christmas Cards.

I will be able to send out all the cheques for the winners for the Restoration Draw this week. I would like to thank everyone for their support in purchasing tickets and for those extra donations that some people added to their cheques. We made around £3000 profit which will go to several different projects along the line.   

420 young trees (whips) arrived here today for Studley Grange courtesy of the Woodland Trust. I see that they were actually funded by Sainsbury’s, Yorkshire Tea and the People’s Postcode Lottery so many thanks to all the funders.  I must say they were very well packed. They are now standing out to catch tomorrow’s rain and we hope will be planted by local Scout and Cub groups and many other volunteers  from Royal Wootton Bassett in a few weeks time.

Fundraising is underway for Top Lock Pewsham. This will be a volunteer-led project. The MCC brick-laying team that did some sterling work on that Cocklemore Brook culvert is keen to get on to the next project and we are hoping that we can find the funds to start next Spring. 

Kath Hatton

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Clocks go back -restoration marches on

With autumn well upon us  the Land & Water  team are now working towards the finishing line at Studley  Grange reporting works 80% completed. Kate Jones (project officer for the wildlife trail) is lining up a big team of local volunteers to start work on planting and installation of bat and bird boxes and interpretation boards as soon as the towpath surface is completed  and the site  is handed back  to the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust.

The Project Board met this week  to review progress on current projects and this time to  appoint Sheila Wade as Project Manager for 7 Locks and to approve the scope for  a project  that  will initially manage the current site and go on to  seek planning permissions to complete Locks 1-5.

Following the AGM approval for the change in management structure for WBCT details of the proposals are being discussed  with an aim to create an executive team as soon as possible.

...and finally – great news from the Boat Team -this year’s Santa trips are 80% booked already  and the work on skew bridge is due to be completed shortly, the scaffolding removed  and the canal reopened to allow trips back to Kingshill.

 Ken Oliver

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Annual General Meeting 2015 – Biggest yet

On Saturday the Trust held its twenty-seventh AGM at the Memorial Hall in Royal Wootton Bassett.  And it has to have been the biggest yet.  In the morning Members had the chance to visit the local work sites at Templars Firs, Chaddington, and Studley Grange.  The general reaction was delight at the progress being made in these areas.  In particular there was a surprised sense of how big the project at Studley Grange is – this is real engineering on a real canal!

When it came to the meeting itself, the hall was packed.  We had 162 members signed in, plus guests.  When you think that last year we had 123, it makes you realise how much support the members want to give, and how much interest they are showing in what is happening.
The Mayor and Mayoress of Royal Wootton Bassett were kind enough to visit us for the start of the meeting, and the mayor made some very encouraging remarks, recognising the canal as a great example of community involvement.
We then had most interesting presentations from our new Chairman, Roderick Bluh, and new Chief Executive, Jonathan Till.  Both recognised the scale of the task facing us, but set out how they intended to go about moving the project forward.  After a brief summary of the principles behind the proposed re-organisation of the Trust from me, Ken Oliver introduced the revised Restoration Strategy that the Trust has adopted.  He emphasised that it should become the essential guide to what we are doing and how we do it, but also that it has to be a living document, changing to take account of changing circumstances.  Finally Jock MacKenzie gave us an update on his overall progress in Masterplanning the canal, with particular reference to the very substantial progress on the Melksham Link.  He also gave some hints of some very exciting new projects in the pipeline.
With those talks done, we moved on to the formal business of the meeting.  Apart from the routine business of approving accounts etc, the meeting was asked to approve some changes in the Memorandum and Articles.  Some were ‘housekeeping’, but a number were necessary to enable the planned re-organisation to go ahead; members listened carefully to the explanation of the reasons behind this.  We moved on to the elections, and while the votes were being counted members had an opportunity in ‘Open Forum’ to ask any questions they liked, about the Trust and the canal.
Those directors retiring in rotation, and co-opted during the year, were all re-elected with substantial majorities.  Similarly the changes to the Articles were all accepted with large majorities.  That enables us to go ahead with the necessary changes, but we did emphasise that having accepted the principle of the re-organisation, there is still a great deal of detail to be worked out.  For that reason we are planning to hold another General Meeting some time early in the new year at which further changes to the Articles will be made if necessary, and members will have the chance to endorse overall the final shape of the re-organised Trust.
A large selection of Trust merchandise was on sale at the venue including new Christmas cards and calendars and a total of £907 was taken on the day. For anyone else wishing to buy cards and calendars contact Diana Hunter on  or see details in Dragonfly magazine.  
The winning tickets for the Restoration Draw were drawn by our Chairman Roderick Bluh and all winners will be notified this week.
I would particularly like to thank Jenny Stratton and the members of the Wootton Basset branch for hosting the event, and for the smooth organisation of the day, as well as the Administration team who worked hard in the background.
In the meantime of course the business of the Trust continues, and good progress has been made in a number of areas in the recent past, but I will leave it to next week’s blogger to bring you updates.

Chris Coyle



Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Awards publicity and the AGM

A group of 10 from the Trust attended the Living Waterways Awards in London on Thursday night as we were shortlisted in the Education and Learning Category for the Heritage Open days that were run last year at Pewsham by Val Melville and the team from MCC.  Though we were not able to capture the top prize in the category, we were proud to be commended by the judges.  There was some disappointment, but we were honoured to be there and it was a very enjoyable evening in a superb venue at the Church House Conference Centre in Westminster.  It was particularly interesting to see details of all the projects that were up for Awards. Our sister restoration, the Cotswold Canals, managed to secure a well-deserved top prize in the category of Restoration and Historic Environment for the 5km around Stroud that has been transformed over the past few years.

Today Andrew Denny, assistant editor of Waterways World, came to visit the Wilts & Berks as he is writing an article on our progress for the next edition of the magazine. I showed him round some sites in the West and then he was meeting up with Ken for a look at Studley Grange and Wichelstowe.  Should be good publicity.

This week there will be lots of preparation for the AGM to be held next Saturday at the Memorial Hall, Royal Wootton Bassett. It promises to be a busy meeting with presentations by Chairman Rod Bluh, CEO Jonathan Till, Master Planner Jock Mackenzie and Ken Oliver. It will be a chance for members to meet the new people on the team and to hear about the plans for the next few years.  There will be an opportunity to buy Trust Christmas Cards and calendars and other merchandise. The actual AGM starts at 2pm but if you come in the morning there will be a chance to be driven round to Studley Grange for a look over the fence or to be dropped off for a longer walk from Templars Firs for those more energetic souls.

Hope to meet lots of you on Saturday


Kath Hatton

Monday, 5 October 2015

A Different Dragonfly Cruise – and an Event to Look Forward to

On Saturday I had the pleasure of acting as second crew on Dragonfly, on what was an absolutely splendid autumn day.  The canal looked very attractive, and the trees were beginning to take on their autumnal colours.  The first two journeys were in some senses quite ‘normal’, i.e. families out for an adventure, doing something that some of them had never done before, and enjoying a canal boat trip; for some of them it was a novelty to discover (as so many people do) that there is a canal less than a mile from the centre of Swindon.  So that was in itself very enjoyable, and a great success.
The second part of the day was something different, for me at least – a society or group chartering Dragonfly, to give a different setting to their activities.  Poetry Swindon had chartered the boat for the afternoon as part of their week-long Poetry Swindon Festival 2015, and invited their members to come along and listen to poetry being read as the boat cruised gently along.  They had invited a very well-known poet, Jo Bell, to read some of her poems.  She is the Canal Laureate of the UK, appointed by the Poetry Society and Canal and River Trust.  Jo also has the very great advantage of having lived for the past twelve years on a boat at Honeystreet on the Kennet and Avon Canal, so she was able to set her poems in a proper boating context. 
We reckon that we had something over thirty visitors to the festival come along, so we ran three short trips to make sure they all had a chance to experience the poetry and the canal.  Again, it was fascinating to see their reaction – first of all to the canal, the boat and the lovely surrounding, and second to the idea of actually living on a boat – they plied Jo with many questions, since for some it was a new idea.  So, all in all, a very successful day, and one that showed the value of Dragonfly, in a new way.

And the event to look forward to?  This coming Thursday, Canal and River Trust are presenting their Living Waterways Awards, and we have been shortlisted for the Education and Learning Category for the work organised by Val Melville and the rest of the MCC branch for the very successful Heritage Open days at Pewsham last summer and the February half-term activity days at the Chippenham Museum which are still continuing.  A number of us are going to the event, and we wish Val and her team every success.

Chris Coyle

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

A quiet week!

Probably reflecting late summer/early autumn weather, this week has been relatively  quiet  both in terms of meetings and actions.

The final revision for the notice of the AGM has now been sent to all WBCT members  and we are trying to finalise arrangements  for the day (Sat Oct 17th) . The site visit to the work at Studley Grange is proving particularly challenging and we will not be able to finally confirm what is possible until the day . If you  have seen the pictures regularly  posted on Facebook you will know that  the infill being removed  is clay and when wet  is almost impossible to walk on and stay upright!. So the working plan is that  if by some miracle it stays dry  then we will be able to get on the towpath but otherwise  it will be viewing from either end of the works.

Kate Jones has been starting to meet local groups to ‘recruit’ volunteers to carry out the planting when the main works are completed

Just another reminder from Kath to please get busy selling the draw tickets and to get money and counterfoils back to her as soon as possible before the  AGM.

The Vale of White Horse Local Plan Enquiry started last week  but listening to the opening session it is going to be quite some time before canals take to that stage . The main discussions and arguments are all about housing numbers- how many & where!

We were pleased to welcome the new Foxham & Lyneham Branch Chairman Ian Gilbert to the Seven Locks project meeting where Sheila Wade agreed to  pick up the planning and other issues to start to progress work again.

Finally little by little the Environment Statement for the Melksham Link is now being assembled by the consultants Nicholas Pearson Associates who believe that the work will be completed in November.


Ken Oliver


Monday, 21 September 2015

AGM Studley Grange and Seven Locks

Currently there is a lot of preparation going on to finalise the programme for the AGM  on 17th October  and all members will shortly be receiving a letter telling them about the proposed changes to the Constitution. This is to accommodate the re-organisation of the Management Structure of the Trust which will be presented to members as part of the proceedings.  It will be a busy meeting this year – there will be various talks on progress of different aspects of the restoration.  Our new Chairman, Roderick Bluh and interim Chief Executive, Jonathan Till, will both be there to greet everyone and hopefully in the morning, weather permitting, we can offer the opportunity to have a look at the work being done at Studley Grange.  Please bring your wellies in case.  There will be a chance to buy Wilts & Berks Christmas Cards and 2016 Calendars, fleeces and sweatshirts in the hall and we will be picking the winning draw tickets during the proceedings.  It is at the Memorial Hall, Royal Wootton Bassett.

Plans for the Wildlife Trail at Studley Grange are continuing apace. This week we are giving some talks to three different local Guide and Cub groups, which will help them achieve different badges as they will be helping later with planting or making bee hotels or bird boxes.  Kate Jones, who is project managing this aspect, is working on a nature trail with interpretation boards and leaflets and we have several offers of help including our ecologist, Ellendale Environmental, Friends of the Earth and Wiltshire Wildlife Trust. A local school is designing some pictures for brass rubbing posts and another making bird boxes.  The Woodland Trust is donating 420 small trees (whips) for planting along the hedgerow to fill it out.
The earthworks are progressing too and last week we actually saw the start of the canal itself being formed at the Eastern end.  Our appeal is slowly creeping upwards – standing just under £14,000 now. See on how to donate.
This week we will hold a meeting of the Seven Locks Steering Group to try to get that project moving again. A lot of the design work is already done for Lock 2 and the finishing of Locks 3 and 4 – just need planning permission and some funding!

Kath Hatton

Monday, 14 September 2015

Studley Grange really happenning and organisation changes

When you  spend as much time as I do planning the Wilts & Berks canal restoration it is truly exciting to see actual restoration happening.  Last Thursday Land & Water Services Ltd arranged a site visit for members of the Canal Partnership  to the works at Studley Grange.  You can get a  flavour of the current works on the WBCT website where there is also a link to images of the restoration progress.  It is hoped that work will have progressed sufficiently by the AGM for a site visit by WBCT members.
The work certainly comes into the category of ”a big job”!  Spurred on by this the engineering team is currently designing  the bridge required for Bincknoll Lane which, when built, will link Studley Grange to the Morningside Farm section.

The plans for reorganising WBCT structure and management have now been discussed at a series of members’ meetings and the final proposals will be sent to all members as part of the papers for the AGM where approval for the changes will be the main part of the formal business.  You may have just seen that as part of the route to these changes WBCT has had the opportunity to appoint Jonathan Till as an interim Chief Executive.  Please see the announcement from Chairman Roderick Bluh

Last week’s meeting with the Environment Agency was very positive and we hope that the issues that have been delaying consideration of the planning application for Mouldon Hill have now been resolved.
This week the Melksham Link project team will be meeting to review progress on the Environment Statement that will trigger the next stage of the planning application.

Further discussions are being held with Swindon Borough Council to see how the long term ownership and management of the canal can be carried out, extending the agreement we already have for the section at Wichelstowe.

Finally just to remind you about the WBCT AGM which is on Sat 17th October at the Memorial Hall Royal Wootton Bassett.


Ken Oliver

Monday, 7 September 2015

A Great Festival, and continued progress

Over the weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Melksham Food and River Festival.  Following last year’s very successful River Festival organised by WBCT, this year there was a combined event, joining in with the Melksham Food Festival.  Everybody concerned seemed to feel that the combination worked well, reducing the organisation task for all concerned, and giving a variety of interest.  The sun shone gloriously on Sunday, which gave a real festival feel to it.  The Trust had invited a number of special guests, including local MP Michelle Donelan, who had also come along on Saturday as crew on our trip boat.  Some very useful contacts made and renewed.  Our thanks go to Waitrose for their help with the hospitality tent, and of course to MCC branch for their great efforts in organising the ‘River’ part of the event.
The series of meetings being led by Roderick Bluh to explain to members the purpose and effects of the proposed reorganisation of the Trust really got under way last week, with visits to two branches and an open meeting at the Peterborough Arms.  Some very useful comments and feedback coming in, which will be evaluated and taken on board.  The meeting continue this week as well, but if you cannot get to one, then have a look at the proposals on the website, and send your thoughts and comments to Roderick Bluh on or to me
As you know we receive valuable support and encouragement from the members of the Wiltshire Swindon and Oxfordshire Canal Partnership.  We meet them every other month to report on progress.  Normally that is a meeting in the usual form, but this time we want to take them out and show them some of the physical progress they are fostering, so our ‘meeting’ with them on Thursday will take the form of a brief visit to the Peterborough Arms to explain what our plans are there, and then a visit to the Studley Grange site to show them canal restoration in action.  We are taking the opportunity to invite the press along to Studley Grange at the same time to try to get coverage for the progress being made.  Just a reminder, we are planning that Trust members will be able to visit the Studley Grange site on the day of the AGM, Saturday 17th October.
Meanwhile we continue with the background work that is so essential to enable progress.  As an example, this week Ken Oliver, Rod Hacker David Cook and Eddie Thomas are meeting the Environment Agency to identify and try to resolve some of the issues surrounding further work at Mouldon Hill.  One of a number of small steps being made, to enable the big ones.
Chris Coyle

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Food and River Festival news and consultation events

Ken mentioned last week the Wilts & Berks contribution to the national survey being carried by CRT/IWA that he has been working on.   In addition to this, he has been working on an update to the Partnership Strategy Document – this is a very comprehensive look at the whole canal and how each section is to be tackled. It is in draft form at the moment but I am sure it will prove a very useful document for us all. It has detail on the whole canal restoration, including the North Wilts Canal and the branches. 

This coming weekend the Food and River Festival will take place in Melksham over both days the 5th and 6th of September. This event is being sponsored by Waitrose and organised by Melksham Town Council and the local branch of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust. Saturday being the LittleFest with tasting of locally produced food, some children’s entertainment, boat trips on the river and Try Canoeing. Sunday is the main day of the Festival with over 70 stalls selling a wide array of local food, drink and food related products.   Again there will be boat trips on the river, Try Canoeing and also demonstrations by Bradford on Avon Diving Club, and the Fire Service Water Rescue Team.  Both days the events start at 10.30am. It should be a great weekend, please come and support the MCC  team if you can.

We are hoping for drier weather this week for the Studley Grange project – in fact we need a month of dry weather! We are hoping to be able to show off the works for the next Partnership meeting and then again for the AGM in October. It is a really impressive project and brings the whole concept of the restoration alive.  The funding appeal is still open for donations large and small – all contributions very welcome. BT Donate offers an easy way to give money online or Just Text Giving from your phone.  See our website on how to give:
Last week there was a meeting of the Project Board where all current projects were reviewed and a couple of new ones added to the list. Top Lock at Pewsham was one of those – the team have now calculated the cost of materials for the volunteer led restoration – just over £100K. With the project now in place and the costs worked out we can now start fundraising in earnest. 

This week our Chairman and Company Secretary are doing the rounds of branch meetings to consult on the changes being planned to the management of the Trust and there will also be a non-branch event to try to include as many members as possible. They will be attending Swindon and MCC branches tonight, and Wootton Bassett branch next Monday, the 7th.  The two open meetings so far planned for members who are not affiliated to a branch, or are unable to get to a branch meeting, are at 7.00 pm on Thursday 3rd at the Peterborough Arms, and Thursday 10th at 8pm at the Royal British Legion, East Hanney.  We would welcome as many of you who can come.

Receipts so far for this year’s Grand Draw in aid of Restoration are just over £2000. If you have tickets to sell I would be very grateful if you could get your stubs and monies to me in September – gives me a chance to get them all folded ready for the AGM. 

Kath Hatton

Monday, 24 August 2015

Counting the assets – consulting on changes

The first draft of the Wilts & Berks contribution to the CRT/IWA national survey of waterway restorations is currently being checked and verified before being submitted.  The purpose of the survey is to capture what is the scale and value of waterway restoration, to see what progress has been made since the last report by IWAAC  in 2006, and to assess the current status of each project.  The statistics of the Wilts & Berks are not for the faint hearted! – 78 locks to be built, 163 bridges ... overall a cost in excess of £300m to fully restore the waterway.  We know we will not do it all at once but the strategy of restoring discrete sustainable sections with what is called in the survey a ‘meanwhile use’ seems to be very sound.
One significant meanwhile use is a trip boat and it is gratifying to see the new landing stage at Waitrose in Swindon is having a significant effect in boosting passenger numbers. It is now becoming a priority to  seek funding for another boat  and choose a suitable location to run it

Weather permitting the next few weeks will see very obvious progress at Studley Grange. The schedule has significant excavations at the eastern end (Butterfly World) by the start of September.

WBCT is moving forward with the significant management change proposals with the intention of consulting as many members of the Trust as possible before the AGM.  Meetings are being arranged with branches where possible, and we are planning on holding extra ‘non-branch’ meetings for those members who are not affiliated to branches, or cannot get to their branch meeting.

Otherwise as you can tell from the grey skies its holiday time so business as usual we hope will resume in September!

Ken Oliver

Monday, 17 August 2015

Open Day at the Peterborough Arms – and a good news on boats

We held a successful Open Day at the Peterborough Arms on Saturday.  There were two ideas underlying the day.  First of course was to show members the progress that is being made at the pub, and to discuss our plans for the next phase.  The second idea was to begin the process of consultation on the proposals for restructuring the Trust to make it better able to make progress on the big challenges we face.

At the pub itself, we were able to show people the work that has been done by hard-working volunteers in bringing the Community Room / Skittle Alley back into use.  The re-plastered walls, fresh paint, and most attractive colour scheme gave that area a whole new feel.  The temporary office looks as though it will be very useful, and we were able to reassure people that putting it up has had no effect on the fabric of the skittle alley, and that it can be taken down very quickly as well.

Naturally there was the inevitable question of when we plan to re-open.  It is still our intention to put in an application for planning permission for the complete renovation and refurbishment, and our target for that remains the Autumn of this year, with the hope that permission will be granted before the end of the year.  That would mean re-opening in 2016, subject as always to finding the necessary money.  However the progress so far, and a better understanding of what is involved, do make us determined to have another look at what can be done in the meantime to achieve at least some use of the pub.

We did give out some information about the proposed reorganisation of the Trust, and Roderick Bluh and a number of other Directors were on hand to answer any questions.  In general the initial reactions seemed to be positive.  We are intending to roll this out around the branches in the next few weeks, and to publicise it in other ways too.
All reports indicate that the new landing stage at Wichelstowe is a great success.  People very much welcome the idea of starting from there, and the boat team tells me that bookings have taken a big jump upwards.

Finally the diggers continue to work at Studley Grange and they should come into view shortly from Bincknoll Lane.  Kate Jones would still like more volunteer help for creation of  the wildlife trail in the autumn – please see the project Facebook page

Chris Coyle