Welcome to number six of The Oriel.

The work programme of Wessex Waterways continues – visible work on the line of the canal, and lessvisible work preparing for the tasks we’re doing on the ground and interacting with related organisations. We also have conversations with people who stop and take a look at what we’re doing and want to understand a bit more.

Follow-up from the IWA Festival of Water

Our conversations with IWA people at the Festival last year included with each of Paul Rodgers and Verna Smith. Luke met up with Verna a few weeks later for a longer conversation and tried to re-open the conversation with Paul. The last we heard was that Paul has resigned as National Chair of IWA, and at least one friend at IWA Headquarters has resigned her job – a disappointment for us as we were hoping to secure some help from there.

Thames Bridges Trek 2023

Luke, having received promises of on-the-ground support from his trusty team from last year, has booked to participate again on the Trek this September. More details will appear in the next issue, but this is to mention that it’s an opportunity for those members who don’t want to take on a more active involvement to each add their contribution towards a bigger total to go into WWRT funds. Right now, please don’t try sending a donation via the WWRT website as the ‘Donate’ button has not been fixed following Virgin Money Giving’s decision not to continue to provide the vital bits of IT to enable it to work. We will soon have a similar arrangement via Charities Aid Foundation, but there are a few tasks to be done by the company that hosts our website, and a bit of preparation we need to do, before we book a session with one of their people to get the website updated. In case you don’t remember, the Thames Bridges Trek is a professionally organised sponsored walk on a route of about 16 miles and including crossing sixteen bridges over the Thames including Putney Bridge and Tower Bridge.

Weekly workparties

We have recently resumed work on the lock chamber wall at Dauntsey. Work paused for several months while we kept on top of the necessary mowing of the towpath from Bowds Lane westwards and at Foxham.

We now have site signage in place at the crossing with the lane to Waite Hill Farm and at our easternmost extremity where the towpath walker crosses from or to WBCT-owned land. In recent weeks a local Ecologist who has done Protective Species Surveys for the canal in this area has met up with Luke to take a look at Lock 1 (all a bit hidden by the grass).

Our sign at the head of Lock one of Seven Locks – a short distance west of where the canal line crosses Bowds Lane, Lyneham

Our sign on the gate from the lane leading to Waite Hill Farm from Sodom Lane, Lyneham.

Waterways Recovery Group – BITM team

Rachael (WWRT Chair) and Matt (WWRT Treasurer) are regular participants in weekend workparties organised by the WRG BITM group. The team has been back to help us, again, recently, with a bonfires and stump-pulling weekend just above the lock at Dauntsey.

Photo by Dave Wedd – the area above Dauntsey Lock, showing the back of the Peterborough Arms, Wharf House and a few of the BITM people taking a break

Photo by Stella Wentworth

Our plant repair facilities at Dauntsey

Previous issues of The Oriel have mentioned our rather elderly demountable truck body that gave us many years of reasonably dry covered storage and space for maintaining tools and machinery for our work. The door was replaced recently over several days of work involving Therese, Rachael, and Luke. The replacement door remains serviceable, but the floor is mostly not fit for purpose. The obvious best way forward was a second-hand shipping container or two. The opportunity emerged to buy two 20-foot-long containers, and with the great help of Phil Smith and his telehandler plus the determination and creativity of delivery driver Russ, the two containers were landed in the desired locations on 27 April. Luke’s employer allowed him to take a complete day off (though he did join an important meeting using MS Teams during the day). Michael Knight attended for a while to direct traffic while the big truck was reversing down the slope into the field and while Phil was giving the necessary tow to the unloaded truck back onto the tarmac of the B4069.

The first container came off the truck fairly easily. The telehandler, expertly operated by Phil Smith, was vital to help unload the second container and move them both into position.

The two new containers in position alongside the old Toybox

The annual arrival of cygnets

Almost every year since the canal west of the B4069 was re-watered there has been a pair of swans and a nest and the hatching out of a brood of cygnets. This year there were nine, as shown in the photo.

Another annual event, for our Trustees, was meeting physically – this year we were welcomed by Mr and Mrs Handford to their home in Leicestershire. The meeting was good. Therese joined us remotely via Zoom to give her first report as Membership Secretary. The lunch, expertly prepared by Mrs Handford, was excellent – many thanks to her and to Mike for hosting us.