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

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Water water everywhere

If I am feeling slightly frivolous, when I am asked where the water is coming from for the restored Wilts & Berks Canal, I say " out of the sky"!. 
The subject of water supply for the canal is complicated and the simple answer is to reduce potential canal leakage, reuse as much as possible, and provide adequate storage for the balance required- if only!!.
This has all been brought into focus by noting the long and continuing public discussion of how Thames Water intend to keep providing an adequate supply for an ever growing demand in their area.
For years the plan was ( and maybe still is) to build a reservoir near Abingdon. The consequence for the Wilts & Berks Canal if this scheme were to go ahead in its original form  would be a significant restoration of the canal from the reservoir site to the River Thames . For a number of years an alternative scheme of water transfer from the River Severn has seemed to be preferred . The Cotswold Canal team have been lobbying for Thames Water to consider using the restored Thames & Severn Canal as the conduit for the water- Thames Water are still assessing options but still seem to prefer using a pipeline;
This is an illustration of options being considered in 2015:

Thames Water are currently  holding a series of meeting on their plans and a number of the  team attended one of these in Cirencester last Thursday . The next local presentation is in Abingdon on June 15th. Full details of how to register to attend are on the Thames Water web site 

The rain in the last few days will have been welcomed by gardeners and canal water resource managers equally- my wish is that precipitation is limited to the hours of darkness especially when I am boating!

Politics is everywhere at  the moment and with under four weeks to the General Election. WBCT has just issued a statement about the election urging all voters to seek the views of candidates about waterways restoration  

Finally just a reminder that if you would like to be a guest editor of the blog  let me know

Ken Oliver 

Monday, 8 May 2017

False News !

I have mentioned before in this blog that its very frustrating to read in social media some things about canal life that just are not true!. The latest example came from someone who should have known better suggesting that it would be a waste of money to restore the canal in Swindon as boating was only for rich people.
The problem is that these ideas, once rooted, take more than a systemic campaign to remove them! For those of us who do understand that waterway use is mainly about those on the towpath (who sometimes simply come to enjoy the view) there is still much more work to be done to change the perception that canals are all about boats. 
This is what Canal & River Trust show in their Annual Report (15/16)

Who uses the waterways

So the challenge is to better engage with those not actively involved in canal restoration and this was one of the topics extensively discussed at last Thursday's meeting of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust Executive. If you have some ideas of how we widen the appeal of the Wilts & Berks project please get in touch.
On a personal note our summer narrowboat cruise is now planned and weekends are already afloat heading east on the Kenner & Avon Canal  and we hope to be enjoying canal life in Birmingham in a few weeks time

Ken Oliver

Monday, 1 May 2017

Back from holidays

So having spent some time in the Mediterranean sun I guess I can only claim maƱana  as an excuse for taking a couple of weeks off from the blog.
Getting back to work is always a challenge but as ever plenty to  do on the canal front now I am back in action.
I was delighted that Wiltshire Widllife Trust were able to help with getting much of the planting done at Studley Grange - the wildlife trail will certainly get a good start when all the all the plants start to mature. Still some work to do as the dry spring has meant that the final planting has to wait for rain!
The canals in London have been alive with boats at the annual IWA Cavalcade at Little Venice - nice to see the Wilts & Berks logo among the moored boats

We have just started our own canal summer cruise and have heading east on the K&A hoping to get to Birmingham this year.
But my mind has wandered again from work!. The Melksham Link team is still working hard on trying to get the planning application progressed- a significant meeting held last week with Environment Agency and we hope we know now what further information is required.
The consultation on the latest stage of the Vale of White Horse DC Local plan closes on May 4th - you might want to support the proposed policy to protect the Wilts & Berks Canal Route 
And finally well done to the Dragonfly boat trip team now back in action in Swindon.

Ken Oliver

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Fit for purpose

Firstly apologies that this weeks blog is published a little next later than usual but  I was attending the annual CRT/IWA Restoration Workshop in Wolverhampton on Saturday.
Fit for purpose was the theme of the workshop and as ever a wide range of topics covered and of course a great opportunity to meet others working on canal restorations plus a number of senior CRT team.
Richard Parry Chief Executive Canal & River Trust
The whole point of the event is to share best practice so the recent reorganisation of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust was one of the morning sessions.
Jonathan Till Chief Executive WBCT
The presentations made during the day will be available shortly- well worth a read  
The preceding part of my week had fewer meetings than usual (hooray!) however with an important new connection for the Wilts Berks to be invited to be part of the Upper Thames Partnership where we will have an opportunity to interact with a number of other organisations who deal with issues in the catchment.
All other work has been of completing the response to latest Swindon Borough Council's New Eastern Villages consultation and to work with the Melksham Link project team to try to advance the planning application.
There may be a pause in the blog for next week as I am intending to take in a few days of Mediterranean sunshine but will be back in time for Easter and a chance to get our boat of the moorings for the first time this year.

Ken Oliver

Friday, 24 March 2017


Firstly thanks to Steve Bacon for last week's blog - I hope you liked  another view of the Wilts & Berks - let me know if want to be a guest editor for the week.
Working in partnership was the theme for my week-
On Monday I joined some of the team to meet up with colleagues from the Cotswold Canals Trust . We met at their not so new headquarters building at Brimscombe Port - long since the deserted by industry it is eventually scheduled for demolition as part of the massive redevelopment plans for the area to rebuilt the port so its final meanwhile use is by CCT. We looked at the obvious parts where we might work more closely - Cricklade to Inglesham which will be the route to the River Thames from the North Wilts canal and heard about the CCT efforts to persuade Thames Water to use the Cotswold Canals for water transfer from the River Severn. We will obviously continue the dialogue and look at area of common interest..
I am a member of the Kennet & Avon & Bridgewater & Taunton Canals Partnership so was 'on duty' on Wednesday evening in Bath where the Trustees of Canal & River Trust had been spending the day seeing the newly restored Claverton Pumping Station and had invited local guests to meet them to talk about their work .
Allan Leighton Chairman of CRT welcomes guests
Finally  Thursday  was the quarterly  meeting of the Wiltshire Swindon & Oxfordshire Canal Partnership where among  other items we discussed how our Partnership  could be more effective . Some really interesting ideas came out of the meeting and we hope to take them forward to help deliver the canal.

Ken Oliver