Welcome to number eight of The Oriel.
It’s been too long since the last issue of our e-newsletter for which I apologise. Things should be better from now on for various reasons.
Lock chamber at Dauntsey with the completed paving
Canal channel at Dauntsey
Perhaps the biggest bits of good news for Wessex Waterways in the months since last October are the progress with a house purchase in Calne and the acceptance by the members of the Wiltshire Swindon and Oxfordshire Canal Partnership that the information the Partnership had received about us was misleading and there was no reason for us to remain outside. The next meeting of the Partnership was early in March but there was an IT issue which stopped Luke (and a few others) from joining the MS Teams call which connected participants from further afield with those in a conference room at Wiltshire Council’s offices at Monkton Park in Chippenham. Geraint Coles (one of our foundation trustees from 2017) and who has a great track record of achievement with Derbyshire County Council and on the Chesterfield Canal reached out to us recently and waited longer than Luke to join that Partnership meeting early in March. He gave the Trustees a report of that part of the meeting that he attended.
Geraint has agreed to attend Trustees’ meetings as he is able, will generally keep in touch with us, and has offered his expertise to WBCT with the Benefits Statement which would have been written in the early 2000s if we’d realised that it was the necessary sequel to the Scott Wilson Feasibility Study. That was the Study which demonstrated that our canal (including the branch to Calne and the North Wilts Canal to Latton) was a deliverable project and showed the route solutions for those parts of the historic lines which had been lost.
Now that we are back in the Partnership, John Allan who attends the Partnership meetings for the Cotswold Canals Trust has helped us with access to a pillar drill at his home, with which Luke was able to do some metalwork. The output of that task is now part of the electrical installations in the two shipping containers beside the Toybox at Dauntsey Lock.
We’ve also been able to re-open dialogue with the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust. Some time ago it was their trustee Steve Bacon who was willing to have an unofficial communication channel with Luke – they met on afternoon in May 2021. By May 2022 the view was that, with the report that had been received at Partnership, it would not be appropriate for him to talk to Luke. Having now all been told the report was totally unjustified, Steve facilitated a lunchtime meeting in March with Rachael (who was WWRT chair at that time), Luke, Martin Holliss who is Chair of WBCT, and Mike Gibbin who is the Chief Exec of WBCT.
It was a wide-ranging and very positive and useful discussion. There was a follow-on action for Luke to produce a document covering points where WWRT would benefit from some additional help.
Luke’s document will be useful as we need to bring more human resources into WWRT. There are some more ideas about how we will do this, and any positive outcomes will receive coverage in future issues of The Oriel. Luke has had a second meeting with Martin Holliss to discuss the future (with necessary explanations about some events of the past) and a further meeting will have taken place by the time you are reading this. When there’s news to announce from these discussions, it will appear in The Oriel.
WWRT had its AGM on 23 March, and immediately following that meeting (as is done in other waterway restoration charities such as WBCT) the trustees met (by staying on the zoom call) and agreed for Luke to take over from Rachael as Chair. Rachael will be Vice Chair to chair any meetings where Luke is not able to attend. The correct reporting process for this change is that we record it on the Charity Commission website within two days, which Rachael and Luke did.
Sue Paine raised an issue within the AGM regarding an arithmetic error in the Annual Accounts. This was checked-into by Matt and an updated (corrected) set of accounts were uploaded to the Charity Commission website on 17 May.
Work party progress
Mowing of towpaths is a recurring theme of many of our Saturdays since the last issue of The Oriel. We had one Saturday morning when we needed two working lawnmowers but the string in the recoil starter of one of them had snapped. This meant Larry was able to make a start with one mower while Luke visited our excellent local machinery store at Greatfield. Steve, who works there, helped Luke to fit a new length of the relevant nylon cord (so now Luke can do this next time it’s necessary) and mowing with two mowers continued for much of the rest of the day.
Anthony has been able to join us in recent weeks, and having three of us means the mowers can be kept moving while (usually) Luke is swinging the strimmer or doing something else that needs to be done. A new fixed-shaft strimmer with a nylon line cutting head was bought with the Awards for All grant we received in January 2019, but had yet to be brought into service. The perfect opportunity for to try this machine was two Saturdays ago when Luke and Larry went to the Elephant Lift bridge at Foxham. Larry did some mowing and then some strimming around the bridge while Luke was working on Rachael’s excavator. In the few days following that, Rachael took the long trip up the green lane, did some expert application of a suitable spanner in the relevant places on the engine, turned the key in the ignition, and the engine started to run. Photos were taken of the steady stream from the exhaust pipe as evidence of this highly significant success – please see below. Now that Luke and his fiancée Therese are living in Calne, a trip to the canal for a work session doesn’t involve more than two hours of travel – which it did when Luke was living in Worcestershire and when he and Therese were living temporarily in Bedfordshire.
Inside the digger cab
The exhaust from the digger
Now that we have a digger we are confident will work for us to form bunds so we can pump the water out under Oriel Bridge, and we also have a mixer and a pump we can take to site, we are making real progress towards starting work on that bridge. We did apply to the committee that distributes funds from the local Solar Farm for the costs of some materials but did not receive an award. We’ve now reapplied in the light of the reasons for their rejection of our initial application – news about that in a future issue of The Oriel.
Luke has now exchanged emails with John Sreeves who is the Civil Engineer who has done most of the work for the design of what we’ll do to repair Oriel Bridge. There is some more design work to do, but with the benefit of the response from John a few days ago, Luke feels confident we’ll have a good estimate of the total cost for the repair work within a few weeks. If we make further applications for grants from funding organisations they generally need us to tell them how much the job will cost – and to have good details of how we’ve arrived at that figure..
The Oriel number 7 mentioned Alan and his good work on our website. He’s done more work on it in recent weeks, and there are now links to videos of the sites we’re working on. The videos are the work of Steve Court. Those of us who live in the Chippenham/Calne area might be aware of a professional plumber of that name – it’s the same gentleman. His wife has an ancestor who was involved with the canal while it was still in operation – and he’s a member of WWRT and of WBCT. He’s also good at producing videos with his drone – do please visit our website and search around for them.
Below are some photos of the kit we have around us to do the work we do. Several of these items need some attention. Rachael has agreed to help with this but having a second volunteer who can work with her would be welcome. If you wish to become part of our team, with a focus on this, please contact Luke.
Luke’s small tirfor winch, used for pulling tree stumps, which now has a new cable
A cement mixer provided to us by friends in Wilts & Berks Canal Trust
A lift-and-force pump provided to us by friends in Wilts & Berks Canal Trust
Rachael’s tug boat in the canal at Dauntsey Lock