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

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

K&A Celebrations, Peterborough Arms Open Day and a thank you

It was a beautiful sunny day for the Kennet & Avon Canal’s 25th Anniversary celebrations last Friday and a lot of people turned up to celebrate with them on Caen Hill, Devizes. The Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire, Mrs Sarah Troughton, was aboard the K & A Trust boat Kenavon Venturer and they passed through the same lock as the Queen did 25 years ago, breaking through a ribbon in a similar way as when the canal was opened  in 1990.  The Wilts & Berks Canal was not forgotten though – Mrs Troughton spoke in her speech about the opening of the landing stage at Wichelstowe and Richard Parry, CEO of Canal and River Trust spoke of taking inspiration from the K&A story to grasp the opportunity of  restoring the Wilts & Berks.  Our Events team had a stand and there was a steady stream of people the whole of the day who were interested in hearing about the Wilts & Berks and our progress.  BBC Radio Wiltshire covered the event and in the afternoon invited our Chairman on to talk about the economic benefits resulting from canal restoration. Rod spoke of the substantial progress that he hoped would be made in the next 10 years and the benefits for all the communities along the route especially in Swindon.
This coming Saturday 15th August, the Peterborough Arms team are holding an open day at the pub, from 10am to 4pm, for members, investors and supporters to see what progress has been made and the plans for the future.  We also hope to display some details of the proposed new management structure of the Trust and Chair Rod Bluh will be present some of the day. A chance to meet the new Chairman!  Refreshments will be available as last time including some beer I believe ( Donations much appreciated).  I am told that a dedicated team have being painting the community room and Engineering office. Others have been cleaning and dusting ready for Saturday. Hope to see lots of you.  

The Trust received a small legacy last week from a member who lived in Chippenham all her life and was very interested in the canal. This is extremely welcome, as it provides some vital funds to carry out some restoration in the area that she knew and we will be able to acknowledge her contribution by providing some lasting memory for her family like a bench with a plaque. 
I promised a breakdown of the raffle ticket sales to date but I can just tell you that we have received around £2000 so far which is great. Please keep them coming – every penny counts!

Kath Hatton

Monday, 3 August 2015

Studley news, management changes, & draw tickets on sale

 Well at long last I can report that the ‘big machines’ are on site and starting to excavate and profile the canal at Studley Grange Royal Wootton Bassett. (see Facebook ). If you  have followed progress on this you  will realise  that  there have been a number of delays with the project  and directors of WBCT have had to  make some difficult  decisions to keep things on track. Perhaps a good time to remind you of the continuing need for funds- see details about the appeal at
You may have read in the last few months that  management changes are being planned for WBCT. The proposals will be announced shortly with a series of ‘road shows’ to gauge members views before the final changes are proposed for ratification at the AGM on 17th October .

One of the issues that is being addressed is maintenance. A new policy is being devised by Derek Flexer in consultation with Branch Chairs . Making the canal look good after restoration is an essential part of the project. It is the ‘shop window’ to encourage further support so getting this aspect right is taking high priority.

Apart from the obvious publicity surrounding the opening of the Wichelstowe landing stage, it is good to know that further positive things are coming from the event. Following looking at the canal and housing at East Wichel one of the guests, a major developer from Chippenham, met the Swindon Borough Council Wichelstowe team last week to learn how they might use the same idea of a canal for water management in their proposals.

Finally Kath reports a good response so far to the purchase of draw tickets by members since the recent issue of  Dragonfly – she received £1100 in the first week and some coming back into the office too.  She will give a fuller update in the next blog. Draw ticket monies are always very useful to fund those small tasks that other funding sources can’t help with.


Ken Oliver