Welcome to number seven of The Oriel.

The days are growing shorter and the Work Party Organiser now has an even longer drive to and from Wiltshire to lead the work on the canal.  There is a plan to live much closer, but that has had some delays to the implementation.  Home, for now, is in Bedfordshire.

The Oriel number 6 went by post or internet early in July and it now feels like there’s sufficient material to fill number 7.  The work parties have taken place every Saturday, except for two consecutive Saturdays when Luke was taking part in the London Bridges Trek, and when he was on holiday in Yorkshire on various canals and river navigations.

Luke on a boat on a canal in Yorkshire – old canals aren’t just for restoration – many are still in operation and provide an excellent way to have a slow-paced holiday.

Luke on boat in Yourkshire

Work party progress

Mowing of towpaths has been less of a demand on our time in the recent months as the drought made its impact, but other vegetation, particularly bramble, has done rather well.  Time has been spent walking the towpaths armed with leather gloves, safety glasses, and secateurs.  What we hoped would prove to be the last mowing day of the season was on Wednesday 21st September, but recent rains have led to significant numbers and lengths of green shoots on the section between Laura’s home and Bowds Lane.

We’ve done some strimming on that section in preparation for surveyors to visit and produce a drawing to which further information will be added in due course, for a planning application to restore Lock 1 and for engineering drawings to be done so we know how to tackle the restoration work.

 The big area of positive progress has been the improvement of the lock area alongside the driveway that leads to Wharf House and onwards to the towpath and to Waite Hill Farm.  This was work we wanted to do many years ago when there was a highly effective work party team in Foxham Branch, WBCT.  The work on the canal at Dauntsey was funded by Rachael directly, until we were very close to completion.  When Rachael requested some financial support from the WBCT Trustees to complete the work, they weren’t positive.  A big block of stone, needed to complete the lock chamber, could not be bought, and the area behind the coping remained something of an eyesore for the people of Dauntsey Lock and their visitors.

There was an attempt during 2019 to persuade the then Trustees of WWRT to release some funding for this work, but they appeared unable to decide to support the work without a drawing – and they offered no funds for a drawing to be produced – so the lock chamber remained incomplete.

The Oriel number 4 reported that work had started, but progress was slowed by the need to keep the towpaths and hedges under control.  In more recent weeks we’ve made regular progress – to be more precise Larry has made good progress – and we can now publish a photo of the finished appearance.

Block laying

Towards the end of the first day of block laying – Larry had been watching the professionals when they extended his driveway at home.  The sharp sand is in place and rammed to form a good base for the blocks

At the end of last Saturday, the fence panels had been tidied away and the paving is all in place.

Finished block laying

We are grateful to the Cotswold Canals Trust for the lump of stone which was surplus to requirements at Weymoor Bridge – Rachael’s trailer and a small tirfor winch were used to move it to Dauntsey Lock some months ago.  Ray Bond allowed Larry to borrow his small excavator to place the stone into position – thank you for that, Ray.

The compactor plate, as expertly repaired by Luke’s former neighbour in Evesham, was brought into real service for the first time and has enabled Larry to give the job the fine professional finish.  It is a very heavy item to move into a wheelbarrow and move up the hill to the worksite, so we are grateful to Rita for allowing the use of a small area of her garage for storage during the weeks between the Saturdays when we were not using it.

Our website

The website has received a much-needed extensive update.  Old copies of The Oriel are now available there to view, and this issue will appear there a few days after we’ve emailed it to our members and friends (and posted a small number of copies).   Our Website Administrator does this role for another waterways restoration in the southeast of England and we were put in touch with him by a friend in that canal society.  Many thanks for your good work so far, Alan, and welcome to our readership.  The button that makes it really easy for members and supportive people in the wider public (worldwide) to contribute financially is now working.  If you click on that button you are taken to an area of the Charities Aid Foundation website, where we have posted some information about Wessex Waterways, then you can click through to donate online, sign the Gift Aid declaration electronically if you are eligible, and then click back into the Wessex Waterways website.

Thames Bridges Trek

 As mentioned in The Oriel number six, Luke participated in the Thames Bridges Trek on Saturday 10 September.  The event had to be adjusted slightly on account of the crowds of people who had travelled to London following the death of our gracious Queen Elizabeth II.  The route was kept clear of the Whitehall and Westminster area by not going across Lambeth or Westminster Bridges.  This is a professionally-organised big fund-raising event at which we are represented – possibly the smallest charity with a participant on the route. Luke takes part to create an annual opportunity for supporters and our members to make a donation to help Wessex Waterways continue its work on the Wilts & Berks Canal. By making a donation you also give Luke a bit of encouragement for the work he puts in on a regular basis throughout the year.  If you prefer to write a cheque and pay it in by hand at a convenient branch of Barclays, the information about our bank account is on our website.

The address to go to is www.wessex-waterways.org.uk

A photo of Luke at Tower Bridge – the last bridge over the River Thames he crossed that day.

Photo by Therese Groves

Luke at Tower Bridge

News of the wildlife on the canal

Swans and Cygnets

The Oriel number six included a photo of the family of swans and cygnets at Dauntsey.  This is a more recent photo – all the cygnets have survived and grown – nine of them.

Arising from the AGM on 22 January 2022

 Some of our members joined a Zoom session on Saturday afternoon, 22 January – there were sufficient for it to be quorate under our Constitution.  This session included the concluding business for the AGM for the year ended 31 March 2020, specifically confirming that the Financial Accounts for that year had been distributed to members as required by the relevant legislation, given our status as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation.  The session went on to cover most of the formal business for the year ended 31 March 2021.

 There was then an opportunity to discuss points raised from the floor, and out of that discussion came a suggestion that Wessex Waterways organises occasional meetings of a more social and less formal nature, to bring members up to date with plans and progress and to enable ideas to be put forward and discussed.  The plan is to hold the first of these on Monday evening, 7 November starting at 7:30 and any member (i.e. anyone receiving a copy of The Oriel sent directly to them by post or email unless you’ve never completed a membership application) is welcome to attend.  If you wish to attend, please contact Dave Wedd at [email protected] so he can email you the link or send you the numbers so that you can join on a normal push-button telephone.  If you wish to attend the meeting and can’t email Dave, please call Rachael on 01249 892289 – you can leave a message there if necessary.  Rachael will chair the meeting, and Dave will host it on zoom.  Members attending the meeting should come with a willingness to contribute positively to the discussion.  Help would be welcome with publicity, work parties, fundraising, maintaining the restored sections, and maintaining our mechanical kit.