Sunday, 20 August 2017


No I am not going to write about leaving something in your will to the Wilts & Berks (but that would of course be much appreciated) however a recent visit to London put these thoughts in my mind.
Firstly its holiday time so I am afraid this weekly column is going to be on a more irregular basis until the middle of September.
The London trip was last weekend to watch an evening of athletics at the London (Olympic) Stadium -you may know that we took our narrowboat to the Queen Elizabeth Park last year when the waterways (what we used to call the Bow Back Rivers) were re-opened. It was fantastic to see how much the park- now a public open space - had matured since my first visits to some of the Olympic Games events in 2012. Last week it was back to the Stadium on foot .
Queen Elizabeth Park -view to the Swimming Pool
The trees and planting are fantastic - the natural wild flowers in the beds and alongside the waterways are a credit to the designer.
For canal fans like myself there was also an opportunity to see the recently restored Carpenters Road Lock with its unique sector gates 
You will know that there was much controversy about the cost of the Games however in my opinion the money was well spent on turning this derelict part of Hackney/Stratford into a wonderful place for the community to enjoy all the time plus the athletes village now social housing- plus a magnificent dual purpose football and world class athletics stadium plus swimming pool plus ... I could go on but sufficient to sayit was public investment in infrastructure that certainly is a huge benefit for all.
Just think what a fraction of the Olympic investment could do to put the Wilts & Berks back together again - as the social media says #forallofus. Perhaps Lord Coe you could work some of your magic for us ???

Ken Oliver

Sunday, 6 August 2017

The Wilts & Berks at the centre of Swindon life

I have written much about the ambitions to bring the Wilts & Berks back to the centre to Swindon but perhaps time just to pause and have a good look at where the canal is currently being built. When I first became involved in the Wilts & Berks there was a huge local protest campaign to stop development on Swindon's Front Garden- I am not sure who coined this phrase for what Swindon Borough Council called the Southern Development Area.and at the time work was just starting on the Northern Development Area (Taw Hill Abbey Meads, St Andrews Ridge..) so in an ever expanding town the SDA was scheduled to be next. The Wilts & Berks Canal Trust has always stayed neutral on whether such developments should go ahead but if they do the aim has been, and still is, to make the best use of any funding to construct the canal. The SDA was planned on ground known to need extensive drainage and protection from flood events so with the Wilts & Berks route running through the area the canal was an obvious choice to be a central part of the drainage works. I think we should all be grateful that the decision makers at that time embraced the canal concept, as the drainage could have been done in other ways. So started the story of what became Wichelstowe and the construction of considerable amount of infrastructure to facilitate a navigable waterway. 
Wind the clock on to 2017  and the first part of the new canal has been built at East Wichel, and the next phase of upgrading the existing canal at Middle Wichel is about to start. This will mean closure of a section of the canal for a number of months while extensive engineering works are carried out prior to construction of a new public house, school and housing.
As a consequence from some time in September until at least next spring the Trust's trip boat Dragonfy will be running from the old departure point at Kingshill instead of Waitrose.
Beyond this immediate work future phases of Wichelstowe will link the two section of canal and extend it to the point where it will cross the M4. 
I think what is important to understand is that Wichelstowe will have the canal as a central feature and this alone must be a convincing case for extension into the town centre and beyond to Cricklade .

Ken Oliver