Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Two Big Announcements

Kath and Ken have only just returned from holiday, so I have again been asked to provide a short blog.  I am very pleased to do so, because the Trust has a couple of big things to announce.
First, the Trust has a new President.  The Hon Sir William McAlpine Bt FRSE  has kindly agreed to become our President with immediate effect. 

Sir William was a director of Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd for more than fifty years.  He is Chairman of: The Railway Heritage Trust - The Dart Valley Railway - Romney Hythe & Dymchurch Railway - SS Sir Walter Scott on Loch Katrine – Railnews - SONE (Supporters of Nuclear Energy).  Sir William is a Governor of Shiplake College and is President of the Transport Trust and other organisations.   Sir William has served for several terms on the ZSL Council (Zoological Society London) and is now on the Development Committee.  He has accepted the Presidency of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust as an extension of his interest in historic transport.
We are looking forward enormously to working with Sir William, and benefitting from his very extensive experience and expertise in the field of heritage transport.

We are very grateful to our previous President, Dr David Fletcher CBE, for his great support over many years, and are pleased that he has agreed to become one of our Vice-Presidents, so that we can continue our connection with him.
Second, we will be having a visit from our Patron in about two weeks.  Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall will inaugurate the new Wichelstowe landing stage alongside Waitrose at West Wichel on the afternoon of Monday 13th July at 2.30 pm.

Her Royal Highness will arrive at the event on our trip boat Dragonfly, and will unveil a commemorative plaque.  The unveiling ceremony will be attended by local dignitaries, Trust volunteers, sponsors and supporters, and we hope by a large number of Trust members.

Chris Coyle



Wednesday, 24 June 2015

A brief update

This week’s blog will again come from me, as both Kath and Ken are still on their holidays. I will make it brief.
The landing stage at Wichelstowe is making good progress, and Rod Hacker and the team tell us that it is on track for completion by the end of the month. We are working on plans to make its inauguration something of an event for the Trust, so watch this space for details of that.
Elsewhere, we are making progress on the same projects as before, with one or two new ones beginning to appear over the horizon.
This is the time of year when most branches are busy with events and publicity for the Trust, and this is invaluable in promoting the restoration and gathering public support, so we wish them every success with that.
Chris Coyle

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

A Holiday time postcard

My apologies for the late appearance of this blog – we are in holiday season, and the various holidays of Kath, Ken and me have managed to throw the rota out of sequence, and it slipped my mind that it was my turn again. So a postcard to give you some news.
What has been happening? We have now had a couple of meetings under our new Chairman, Roderick Bluh, and he has thrown himself whole-heartedly into it all. He is obviously keen to get to grips with the issues and challenges we face, and we are already benefiting from his experience.
We continue to make progress on the Melksham Link, with background discussions going on with key partners. Now that Swindon Borough Council’s preferred partner for the next phase of the Wichelstowe development is known, we are keen to begin working with them on firming up the route for the Wichelstowe Link; we look forward to meeting them once all the formalities of their contract with SBC have been sorted out
Very good progress is being made on the landing stage at Wichelstowe; Trust volunteers are doing an excellent job, making a big contribution to the work, in co-operation with the contractor. We are hopeful it will be completed by the end of the month. The boat team of Rob and Sue have been giving thought to how the trips will operate once we can start our trips from there, so we expect that any necessary changes will have been sorted out by then.
Elsewhere, the Cocklemore Brook culvert is nearing completion. What a great job the team has done there. I am glad I have seen it while it is being done – it is one of those things that we do quite a lot of, which is to put a huge amount of effort into something that we then bury, and hope not to see again for another two hundred years.
On Friday there was (yet another) site meeting at Studley Grange, and we are now confident of starting work next week – but then we have felt that before. Everybody involved – the Trust, Biffa and Land and Water Services - are putting everything into making it happen. We have also identified a project leader for the development of the Wildflower Trail, and she has started work.
All in all another week of progress.
Chris Coyle

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Progress but still looking for more funding ......

The Studley Grange project is still top of the list in keeping us on our toes! The final permissions are taking shape and subject to one more this week, the machines will be on site next Monday.

I hope you will be able to help with another vote. There is currently an opportunity to secure £25k for the Peterborough Arms project. All you need to do is register and vote at https://foundation.onefamily.com/projects/peterborough-arms/ . Please ask your colleagues and friends to support this if they can.

The week ahead focuses on the Pewsham Locks project from two different perspectives.
A small team from the Heritage Lottery Fund will be visiting to further assess the suitability of the restoration proposals for a grant application.
Another visit the following day will be from the assessors in the Canal and River Trust Living Waterways Award scheme. There is no monetary aspect to the award but it would be a great achievement for the hard working team who made last year’s open days such a success and who continue to work with local community groups.
If you have visited the Swindon Wichelstowe Waitrose in the last week you will have seen (or at least seen from afar!) the excellent work that has been carried out by the WBCT volunteers in installing the piling for the new landing stage - it’s now over to the contractor to surface the landing stage and construct the path to the car park.
The business of WBCT continues with the monthly meeting of the Finance and Administration Committee (Fincom) on Wednesday. All Trust meetings are now held in the currently rather frugal setting of the community space at the Peterborough Arms where we are surrounded with the evidence of more hard work on the building refurbishment. Work is in hand to set up the engineering office for the Trust so all the project documentation can be held in a relatively central location.
On Thursday the members of the Wiltshire Swindon & Oxfordshire Canal Partnership will meet for their regular quarterly update and discussions. Less building work will be in evidence in the venue at Wiltshire Council Offices in Chippenham!  I am sure those attending will be congratulating, as I do, the Swindon Borough Council representative and WSO Partnership deputy chairman Cllr Andrew Bennett, on taking up his duties as Mayor of Swindon.


Ken Oliver

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Looking Forward, and a little bit of Looking Back

Our new chairman Roderick Bluh was officially appointed last Tuesday at the regular bi-monthly Council of Management meeting.  I think there was a collective sigh of relief from the Directors, firstly to have found someone to take on the role, but second and most importantly someone who already knows  a lot about the project and has the enthusiasm and drive to take us forward.  I am really looking forward to the next few years to see what can be accomplished.
I have just been writing some reports for the Trust’s official Annual Report that is being put together at the moment and these cover the year up to 31st March 2015.  When I looked back at that year and at all that had been achieved, I realised the full extent of what has been done by our volunteers all along the line.  Work parties, events, meetings, boat trips, publicity, merchandise, fundraising, engineering design, planning documents, giving talks, sending out our magazine, talking to landowners, administration, accounting and legal tasks, membership, dealing with Entrust and Gift Aid, and not least generally spreading the word about our canal.  The list is endless.  Well done everyone – we are a force to be reckoned with now.
I am pleased to say that the work on the landing stage outside of the Waitrose store at Wichelstowe has begun and we hope it will be finished by the end of June.  It will mean that we can run the trips from the store and I am sure it will result in more clients combining their shopping with a relaxing boat ride.  It will also be an incentive to try to extend the canal as soon as possible to join up with the East Wichel stretch.  As soon as we know who Swindon Borough Council has chosen as its preferred development partner, we can begin discussions.
Other projects are ticking over – Studley Grange is due to start on the 8th June – we have all our fingers crossed!  On the Melksham Link, Paul Lenaerts is still working steadfastly through the surveys that are required.  Fisheries Assessment and Archaeology are on the agenda at the moment.  Jock and his team are working on the Business Plan and agreements with the landowners.  Jock popped into Council of Management meeting last week and updated the Directors on the Link and future master planning.
I am off to spend a week in a quiet cottage on the coast in Brittany – hoping to recharge my batteries!

Kath Hatton