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 https://www.facebook.com/wiltsberkscanal 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 www.wbct.org.uk 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 http://www.wbct.org.uk/about-the-trust/trust-news/1382-studley-grange-progress-video 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 http://www.wbct.org.uk/about-the-trust/trust-news/1383-appointment-of-jonathan-till-as-interim-chief-executive

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. http://www.wbct.org.uk/about-the-trust/trust-news/1373-trust-agm-preliminatary-notice


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 roderick.bluh@wbct.org.uk or to me chis.coyle@wbct.org.uk
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: www.wbct.org.uk
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