Monday, 27 July 2015

An apology, Studley starts, and a restoration audit

Firstly an apology: due to completely unforeseen circumstances, some of the Dragonfly magazines went out last week without the promised Draw tickets inside. I am very sorry about this - I know some of you will be as disappointed as I was, as this is a great chance to support the Trust. I am very happy to send out tickets to anyone who lets me know on or by phoning the office on 0845 2268567 (leave a message if no-one there).  This year every penny of the profits will go to Restoration and the top prize in the draw is £500.

Work on the restoration at Studley Grange is progressing now and we will shortly be putting up an Interpretation Board on the fence at Chaddington Lane Bridge to explain the project. Kate Jones, who is working on the Community Engagement part of the project, has contacted local schools and groups and is busy compiling a list of interested parties who would like to be involved. This involvement  ranges from making and putting up bird and bat boxes, to planting trees, hedgerow whips and wild flowers and to just visiting a peaceful place.  We are also working with Friends of the Earth who will be advising on planting bee-friendly plants and putting up “bee hotels” and with Wiltshire Wildlife Trust who we hope will help us design a trail for young people to discover wild life and birds. We now have a dedicated email address for the project: so get in touch. 

Canal & River Trust (CRT) and the Restoration Committee of the Inland Waterways Association(IWA) have jointly issued a questionnaire to all canal restoration societies in England and Wales (and there are a lot!). It is a Review of Waterway Restoration and Restoration Opportunities which has not been done for 10 years. It will give an insight into the scale of the task ahead and will enable CRT and IWA to explore issues around the potential value of schemes to regeneration and development.  It will enable them to put the best possible case to communities, local and national government, sponsors and funders for the support of waterway restoration.  For the Wilts & Berks it is a massive task to collate all the structures, locks, bridges etc and record their current state, but when done will give us a much clearer idea of what we have to do to re-open this fabulous waterway. 

Kath Hatton

Monday, 20 July 2015

Moving On..

After all the excitement of the visit by our Patron to inaugurate the landing stage, life is coming back to normal.  Just a final word on it  First of all, thanks to the many people who helped to make it such a success, including of course the boat team, and Juanita Poulton for working so hard on the invitations.  The overall reaction has been very positive, we had good media coverage, and many of our guests have commented on how much they enjoyed it.  We are trying to work out ways in which we can capitalise with some of them on the goodwill generated.
One of the things that we are keen to move forward on as quickly as possible is Swindon Borough Council and their joint venture partner’s plans for the next phase of development at Wichelstowe. Incorporating our canal scheme for the Wichelstowe Link into these plans is now crucial to join the existing sections at Kingshill and East Wichel.
Talking of the boat team, they are working out the detail of operating Dragonfly now that we will be starting the public trips from the new landing stage. Details from
As Ken suggested might be the case in last week’s blog, our contractors Land and Water are mobilising this week at Studley Grange.  Due to circumstances completely outside our control, we have been delayed by a few weeks, and that puts a little more pressure on getting the work completed before the bad weather comes in,  We are hoping that they will be able to make up a little of the time lost.
The holiday season is on us course – many schools broke up at the end of last week – so that will have some impact on the pace of things, as it becomes less easy to get together for meetings, or contact people.  But it is a chance to restore batteries, and perhaps reflect on what we have achieved, and what comes next.

Chris Coyle

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

A Royal day, project recognition and an update

If only we could legislate for the British weather! -I heard these words many times on Monday when many of us were dodging the showers.  The day was very significant for  the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust as we were all delighted that the Trust’s Patron, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, made a visit to Swindon to officially inaugurate the new landing stage at the Waitrose store in Wichelstowe.  The event  is well recorded elsewhere on the Trust’s web site and social media but Roderick Bluh wanted to use this blog to record his thanks to  all who were involved:-

The visit by HRH the Duchess of Cornwall on Monday went off very smoothly and was a great success.   Even the rain couldn’t dampen the occasion.
The visit may have been all over in little more than an hour but that belies the huge number of hours and number of people involved in making it all happen.  Such a visit is a massive undertaking and my sincere thanks therefore go out to everyone who worked so hard.  In particular, I must mention Chris Coyle and the event team who have spent a huge amount of time ensuring that the arrangements were all in place.
We used the short time we had on Dragonfly, very effectively, to fully apprise our Patron of the current plans and work taking place to accelerate the delivery of the canal and she responded very positively and with great interest.

Well done everyone!

The Trust’s newly appointed President, Sir William McAlpine, hosted the event together with the ever supportive President of the Wiltshire Swindon & Oxfordshire Canal Partnership, Lord Lansdowne.  We were pleased that a large number of invited guests from Partnership organisations and sponsors of the project were able to attend to see this latest milestone in  the canal’s restoration.

Some more recognition for the Wilts & Berks this week as it was announced that the Pewsham Locks Centenary Celebration is a finalist in this year’s Living Waterways Awards. The awards ceremony will take place  in London at the beginning of October and is hosted by the Canal & River Trust.  Special thanks to Val Melville and the team - we will all be keeping our fingers crossed when we hear the winner is........

Finally a quick update on Studley Grange  -  I am sorry and frustrated  to report yet more delays in starting the actual excavation work but all other things being equal I hope that next week’s blog will confirm that work has started.


Ken Oliver



Friday, 10 July 2015

Topping out and a Royal opening

We are all looking forward to next Monday’s event in Wichelstowe, Swindon where we will welcome our Patron, Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall on to our trip boat Dragonfly for the journey  to the new landing stage outside the Waitrose store. The Duchess will then alight, meet invited guests, and unveil a commemorative plaque on the landing stage.  It is hoped that the visit will prove a boost for the “Wichelstowe Link” project, that is, joining up the restored section of the original line at Kingshill with the new length of canal that has been built through East Wichel. The link will include a junction where the main line will continue towards Royal Wootton Bassett.

Last Friday Melksham, Calne and Chippenham branch of the Trust celebrated the completion of the rebuilt culvert that carries Cocklemore Brook under the canal at Pewsham. This culvert was breached during the heavy rains in December 2013 and has been completely rebuilt by volunteers from the branch who received £10000 from Yorkshire Building Society (YBS) to buy the materials. The Rotary Club of Chippenham has also contributed £200. The last brick in the culvert was put in place by Lee Hathaway, Manager of the Bristol branch of YBS watched by the local MP, Michelle Donelan, the Mayor of Chippenham, Councillor David Powell, Trust Chairman Roderick Bluh and many volunteers from the branch.  The culvert will now be covered with clay over the next few weeks and then the canal will be put back into water over the top of it. This in turn will allow work boat Boswell and her butty to be moved along the canal.

The planned excavation at Studley Grange has suffered some issues that have caused a slight delay, but we are optimistic that it should be starting in a week or so. Graduate Kate Jones has started work on the community engagement programme for the Wildlife Trail. She would be very interested to hear from groups in Royal Wootton Bassett and Swindon who would like to be involved in some way –  or who would just like to visit the site in the Autumn when the towpath is open to the public.

Kath Hatton