Monday, 26 June 2017

The bigger picture

On Thursday this week I have been invited with others to attend an Inland Waterways Association 'task group' to see if we can find a way to persuade decision makers at a national level to look at why canal restoration might be important enough to invest resources and finance.
My involvement with waterway restoration (and the Wilts & Berks in particular) came about in what now seem like 'heady days' of major works on several waterways at the turn of this century . Fuelled by the enthusiasm and persuasiveness  of the then Chief Executive of British Waterways ( and now Vice President of WBCT) Dr David Fletcher, the Government  and more specifically the Secretary of State backed a number of major schemes via the Millennium Commission.
Up to that time I was somewhat of a non believer about the Wilts & Berks  but it was certainly the delivery of an ' impossible canal' - the Rochdale - that convinced me that the undoubted challenges of the W&B were just that, not insurmountable problems.
So what will we talk about to make the prospect of a further extended canal network a reality?
Well I can't pre-empt where the meeting might lead but I shall be certainly asking that we consider looking at what we might like to achieve over 10-20 years.This vision would certainly include from my perspective completing a southern canals network (Cotswold, The Wilts & Berks and North Wilts Canals) with Swindon at its centre.
Perhaps a summer's Saturday in Swindon might be like the one I have just seen in Birmingham- alive with interest and activity both on and out of the water.


Finally a word of congratulation to Sam Anderson-Brown who has just been appointed as Canal & River Trust's Restoration Manager - we look forwarding to welcoming him soon to see the Wilts & Berks - and of course sincere thanks to Jason Leach who has been carrying out this role for a number of years and has been a great supporter for the project.

Ken Oliver

Monday, 19 June 2017

Partnership & a trip to Wales

The Wiltshire Swindon & Oxfordshire Canal Partnership met this week to discuss strategy and to get updates on projects and progress. The Partnership has been discussing for the last 6 months how it could be more effective in helping the WB Canal Trust to deliver restoration. Based on advice from other organisations the Partnership intends to progress by continuing its quarterly  meetings to discuss strategy and to consider setting up teams by inviting relevant organisations to form 'mini partnerships' to work on specific projects.

Getting out to see other restorations is always interesting and last week I was invited back to the Mon& Brec Canal Ty Coch lock flight to be part of the visiting team looking at the modular steel lock gates. In conjunction with the K&A Trust and Swansea University the gates have been developed to considerably reduce cost of installation and maintenance 

The Wilts & Berks team has decided in principle to use this type of gate construction and we are working on some initial designs for gates at Chadington Lock.
If you are ever in the area its well worth a walk along the towpath to see the work being carried out ( and its a lovely canal side walk!)

Ken Oliver

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Boating on the Wilts & Berks

I am not sure if it was my mother or granny who told me about that road paved with good intetions  but  I certainly  had intended to  write this blog at least a week ago!
The reason/excuse has been the oportunity for some 'serious boating' taking our narrowboat from Wiltshire to Birmingham. A rather ambious journey given the time available but  nevertheless completed on schedule last Saturday . One of the 'stops' en route was the Wilts & Berks Canal (or Jubilee Junction to be precise).

 Lets  hope this will be the way home to Wiltshire in the not too distant future!

Just before we set off on this 'voyage'  I was pleased to be invited to the official reopening of the Claverton pumping station on the Kennet & Avon Canal. Some magnificent restorration work carried out by the volunteers to bring this eighteenth century engineering back to life - the ultimate 'green power' source using the River Avon's flow to turn a waterwheel which then pumps river water into the canal.
So having now spent some considerable time on the K&A River Thames,Oxford Canal, Grand Union and Birmingham Canal Navigations I am even more convinced that the Wilts & Berks will be a major asset for the communities in Oxfordshire Swindon and Wiltshire- so what are we waiting for...??? This is what Swindon should look like

And just as a footnote this boat is moored up in central Birmingham just waiting to get back to home waters.....

Ken Oliver