We went to a Southern Canals meeting on Sunday at Halberton on the Grand Western Canal in Devon. Southern Canals Association brings together representatives of all the canal restoration societies in the south and meet at a different canal venue each year. A great opportunity to swap ideas and experiences with a visit to the Grand Western where we were able to see the scene of the huge breach that occurred in the winter of 2012. Devon County Council who own the canal were quick to respond to the problem and put up £3million for the repairs that have now been done. It is a beautiful canal and we managed to avoid the rain on our walk. In the morning we had several talks including one from Jason Leach, restoration manager for Canal and River Trust. CRT are definitely more supportive to restoration than BW used to be. An interesting day all round.
On Saturday Chris attended the official opening of the Sack House in Wantage. Right on time the blustery April showers came, but they could not dampen the enthusiasm of the large crowd gathered for the ceremony. The Wantage Silver Band played a selection of airs, all with a nautical theme, before the Mayor of Wantage, Fiona Roper, declared the Museum open.
The Sack House is a fascinating survival from the very busy days of the canal. It was on the edge of the wharf, and did what its name implies - it rented out sacks to farmers and others who needed to move their produce. There was a very strict control of the sacks rented out, and woe betide a farmer who lost one; the charge for replacement was a punitive ten shillings.
The building was due to be demolished as part of the redevelopment of the whole wharf site, but the Trust managed to persuade the developers to restore the building, and sell it to the Trust for a nominal amount. Since then Brian Stovold and his team have done a tremendous job in completing the restoration, and fitting it out as a museum.
Voles! – we have been moving the voles from the site at Studley Grange and now we have to clear the vegetation to discourage any new ones taking up residence. We have a digger in to do this job. Andrew Chapman has been leading the project with a lot of help from John Bower and his team. Well done and many thanks to them for all their hard work so far.