Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Views sought on Aldermaston Wharf Regeneration

H2O, the joint venture company between British Waterways and specialist developer Bloc, is seeking views from local people on its regeneration proposals in Aldermaston Wharf on the Kennet and Avon Canal.

H2O has prepared proposals to develop a small number of new houses on under used brownfield land at Aldermaston Wharf, adjacent the Kennet and Avon Canal. The site includes two grade II listed buildings, the Visitors’ Centre and the Toll House.

Following initial discussions with the Parish Council the proposals for the scheme will provide:

· 13 new contemporary designed homes ranging in size from 2 – 4 bedrooms

· Enhanced landscaping and public realm for the site and canal side

· Significant investment to restore and upgrade the Grade II listed Visitors’ Centre and Toll House

· Improvements to the Visitors’ Centre / tea room gardens

· Upgrading the public car park.

Aiden Johnson Hugill, development manager for H20 said: ‘H20 is keen to hear from local people and canal users on our proposals. They present an excellent opportunity to regenerate Aldermaston Wharf and bring some much needed additional investment to support the canal network and restore the Wharf’s historic listed buildings. Profits from the development would be enough to fund five sets of new lock gates, or maintain over 85 miles of towpath for a year.’

The public consultation events will be taking place on 12 and 13 July at the Aldermaston Wharf visitors centre, between 5pm -8pm.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

BW Press Statement

29 June 2010

Last Tuesday morning, 22 June, a private boat travelling through lock 24 on the Caen Hill Flight alongside a hire boat, struck the lock gate. Unfortunately the damage caused by the impact of the boat caused irreparable damage to the gate. The boats did not suffer any substantial damage, and all crew were safe.

One of the boaters reported the damage to British Waterways on-site. The lock flight was closed and the damaged gate was assessed by British Waterways' engineers on Wednesday 23 June. Notifications were sent to boaters via and waterway businesses alerted. The towpath from Lock 22 to Lock 25 will remain closed for the duration of the works.

The gates at Lock 24 were scheduled to be replaced in the winter 2010 maintenance programme, this work has now been moved forward and the British Waterways team is working to remove the old, damaged gates and fit new bespoke gates as soon as possible. At this stage we anticipate the lock flight reopening to the public on Friday 9 July.

Lock gates are all hand made, and this process can take two weeks. Fortunately a pair of lock gates intended for another lock on the flight was being stored in water in the side ponds at the flight. This set of gates is close enough in size and dimensions to the affected lock, and after some alterations will be fitted to lock 24.

Today a fish rescue will be taking place as the water is drained from the lock, safety equipment put in place, and a crane set up on site. The damaged gates will be removed and the new gates fitted. The work is expected to cost approximately £45,000.

British Waterways’ waterway manager, Mark Stephens said: “The British Waterways team are working very hard to minimise disruption to boaters and other waterway users by completing the repair works as quickly and as safely as possible. By moving equipment and staff from other planned works we will be able to complete the job and get boats moving again. We have amended our works at other locations such as the Bath Flight to enable boaters to enjoy other sections of the canal.

“This winter we have undertaken a number of lock gate replacements on the flight and our team will take the experience they gained from these works to enable them to complete the lock gate replacement at lock 24 in a swift and safe manner.

“This year the Kennet & Avon Canal is celebrating its 200th anniversary. Incidents such as this remind everyone that the canal really is a piece of our industrial heritage, almost like a working museum piece, that needs constant care and attention, particularly by those using the locks, travelling over the bridges or even walking along the towpath. I urge everyone to remember how we all need to be careful and think about our safety and that of others when using the waterways.

“The damage was not in any way malicious. In the meantime, thank you for your patience whilst the damage is repaired.”

Monday, 28 June 2010

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Emergency Stoppage - Caen Hill Flight

Caen Hill Flight

Tuesday 22 June 2010 until further notice

Due to a boat strike to the bottom gates of lock 24, the Caen hill flight of locks is closed from Lock 22 to Lock 44 until further notice.

An assessment of the structural stability of the gates will be carried out in the next 24 hours, and an update will be issued on Waterscape.

British Waterways apologise for any inconvenience caused

Enquiries: 01380 722859

Last day of the schools celebration

Staverton School

Photos by Elaine Kirby

Friday, 18 June 2010

Safety Matters - Safety V Security. Spot the difference!

Safety and security go hand in hand. Both help to keep us free from harm, and both depend on using common sense to protect us.

Take household security; you lock your doors, leave some lights on and tell the neighbours when you go away. It’s common sense, looking ahead, recognising the possibility of burglary and taking precautions to protect yourself.

It’s exactly the same when you tackle a job either at work or at home. When you approach a new task, you need to look ahead and assess the possible risks, then to decide how to avoid them, and how best to protect yourself and others. You take precautions.

So, Safety V Security? No difference! End result; happy householder, undamaged worker!

Just use the same thought process when starting a task as when leaving your home. Take precautions to avoid danger. Call it common sense or call it risk assessment, it’s the same thing!

Top Tip for narrow boaters.

Lock your fore deck cabin door when in crowded areas or when locking or mooring up. A thief could be in and out with your valuables while you’re busy at the helm before you could get to the sharp end to stop him!

Keep safe, keep secure.

Ben Woodman.

Time to Celebrate

British Waterways together with Bath & North East Somerset Council, the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust and the Widcombe Association, are delighted to announce the appointment of the Bath artist, Alan Dun, to create a commemorative artwork to celebrate the bicentenary of the Kennet & Avon Canal this year.

Artists were invited to submit their proposals and ideas for a suitable artwork to reflect the unique canalside environment of the Bath Flight of Locks and provide a lasting legacy to celebrate the 200 year anniversary of the Kennet & Avon Canal.

Alan Dun with stone mason Nigel Bryant from City of Bath College took part in the Widcombe Rising community event on Sunday 13 June to share the design idea for the commemorative artwork, which will be a working sundial in cast iron mounted on a plinth of Bath stone with references to the history of the canal and its trades.

The choice of materials and design will be sensitive to the surrounding environment, using materials which are part of Bath’s architectural industrial and cultural heritage. City of Bath College will fabricate the Bath stone plinth and letter cutting, in turn promoting local skills and talent. It is proposed that the sundial, which is yet to receive planning permission, would be located adjacent to the Kennet & Avon Canal towpath near the Horseshoe Walk end of the Widcombe Flight in Bath.

Artist Alan Dun said: “It’s a great pleasure to be able to work on the project and help celebrate this sometimes overlooked corner of Bath. The Kennet & Avon Canal is a green route through the city and a showcase of industrial heritage. I hope that the piece I am creating, which incorporates the sundial, will be a welcome addition to the towpath and help people appreciate the canal now and in the future.”

Photos Courtesy of British Waterways

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Schools Week Celebration - Day 3

Nurstead School enjoying themselves in traditional costume

Photos by Elaine Kirby


British Waterways is delivering a week long series of events on the capital’s towpaths during National Bike Week, Monday 21 to Sunday 27 June, in a bid to educate speeding cyclists to slow down and share the towpath amicably.
British Waterways, working with Transport for London, runs the Two Tings campaign that aims to tackle the issue of conflict between speeding cyclists and pedestrians who have right of way on the towpath.

The campaign was started over three years ago following an increase in the number of complaints received about incidents of conflict on the towpath between cyclists and pedestrians. Cycling, walking to work and free outdoor exercise have all seen a surge in popularity in recent years, and the towpaths, as traffic-free, green routes through the city, have, in-turn, seen an increase in the number of users enjoying the scenic, and normally tranquil waterside routes.

British Waterways’ Towpath Ranger, Joseph Young explains: “The canals in London are brilliant routes across the city, without the usual hassles of cars, traffic lights and pollution. There’s a towpath Code of Conduct, which advocates common sense and courtesy that we expect users to abide by to make sure everyone enjoys their time by the water.

“Unfortunately a minority of speeding cyclists give the majority a bad name with other users, particularly pedestrians. We run education and safety events on the towpath at peak commuter hours to remind all users of the towpath Code of Conduct.”

Throughout National Bike Week, British Waterways’ Towpath Rangers are running a series of events from live music to gallery rides and towpath information events, to help remind people about the need to share the towpath and travel safely with consideration for others.

The culmination of the week’s events is a boat tour, with bikes allowed on-board, through the Islington Tunnel. Cyclists and pedestrians normally have to follow an above-ground route over the tunnel, so these trips offer canal users the chance to get a rare glimpse of the inside of the tunnel from the water.

Joseph Young adds: “We think that fun, sociable events on the towpath reminding people to slow down, look out for their fellow commuters and remember that pedestrians have the right of way are more effective than us shouting at people to slow down.

“More and more cyclists are remembering to slow down, ting their bells to warn pedestrians they are approaching and generally using the towpaths sensibly. It would be great to see a bit of self-policing with other users reminding those who give them a bad name to slow down or use an alternative route that’s better for travelling at speed.”

Wednesday, 16 June 2010


British Waterways has welcomed a share of a £10,000 grant from The Waterway Trust’s Small Grants Scheme to support a number of important wildlife habitat improvements. The annual awards support community-led environmental, access, education and activity projects taking place along the UK's waterways. This year’s grant will help projects focussed on the waterway birds that rely on our network of rivers and canals to live and breed, and will be shared between seven new projects:

· the installation of barn owl and kestrel nesting boxes at Naseby Reservoir on the Grand Union Canal;

· a volunteer project to create a floating island at Fradley Junction on the Trent & Mersey Canal to provide additional habitat for reed nesting birds, in particular the reed bunting;

· in partnership with the West Midlands Bird Group, the creation of floating reedbeds around the heronry at Gailey Reservoir on the Staffordshire & Worcester Canal to allow reed buntings to nest and to protect the heronry island from erosion;

· the installation of barn owl nest boxes at Tunnel End Reservoir, Marsden on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal;

· the creation of nest boxes for various species of waterway birds along the Kennet & Avon and Bridgwater & Taunton Canal;

· a project to lay hedgerow along the Rochdale Canal

· a grant to protect nationally scarce Magnesian limestone (or dolomite) grassland habitats along the Aire & Calder Canal, providing good nesting opportunities for ground nesting birds such as willow warbler and meadow pipit.

Joanne Darlington, Development Director (England & Wales) of The Waterways Trust, said: “Our canals and rivers provide excellent habitat and breeding spots for a wide range of birds, including some protected species. We are extremely grateful to everyone who donated so generously to our Waterway Birds appeal. Through these grants to British Waterways we are able to support a wide range of habitat improvement work, helping to ensure the survival of birds such as kingfishers, grey wagtails, barn owls and terns.”

All the funding for The Waterways Trust’s Small Grants Scheme is donated by members of the public. For more information on The Waterways Trust and their appeals, visit

To find out more about how British Waterways is supporting biodiversity, visit

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Schools Week Celebration - Day 2

Day 2 of the celebrations at Devizes Wharf with St Peters School
Pictures by Elaine Kirby

Schools Week celebration - Day 1

The first school to take part in the Schools Week celebration of the 200th anniversary of the opening of the canal was Rowdeford School. They did pond dipping at Caen Hill, activities on the wharf a trip on the Kenavon Venture and a visit to the museum. They all seemed to be enjoying themselves!

Pictures by Elaine Kirby

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Changes to boat licence fees 2010

In November 2009 BW published a short consultation paper on proposals for changes to boat licence fees for 2010. There were 57 responses to the invitation for feedback, including 14 from organisations representing boat licence holders. Based on this feedback, decisions have now been made on changes to boat licence fees and the payment process.

  • To encourage boating customers to pay by debit card or direct debit payments, which carry much lower transaction fees, from August 2010 a fixed charge of £7.50 will be introduced on payments for licences and mooring permits settled by credit card. The charge will only apply to payments by credit card, not debit cards.
  • From 2011, the Waterway Explorer Licence will be available only when purchased using the online system or by telephone to our national customer service team. This decision replaces the proposal to withdraw the Explorer Licence altogether but ensures that the enforcement process remains cost-effective.
  • From August 2010 an across-the-board increase in all licence fees of 1% will take effect. This change replaces the proposal to reduce the size of the prompt payment discount which was decided to be unfair to those customers who pay on time. The prompt payment discount will therefore remain at 10%.

  • BW will continue to develop significant cost savings from use of the internet for transactions with customers and publishing information. Money saved in this way means more for maintenance and repairs to the waterways. However, BW will continue to maintain alternative methods for people for whom the internet remains inconvenient or unavailable. We are now consulting with boat clubs and local licensing agents over a new method of reward for their continuing support of licence enforcement, in an environment where renewals are conducted online.
Sally Ash, BW’s head of boating, says: “These decisions have been made after careful consideration of consultation feedback from our boating customers and their representative organisations. We regret the need to apply a small general increase to licence fees, but are now confident that this is what the great majority of customers would prefer to the alternative contained within our original proposals.

“When the financial climate was more stable, BW was able to offer longer term certainty over the level of licence fees. It is our sincere hope that more secure funding for the waterways will emerge from the proposed move to the third sector, helping us in time to return to more predictable licence prices.”

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Towpath Tales to Tell

British Waterways is asking the people of Bath to tell them their tales of the towpath this summer in a bid to record people’s memories of the area known as the Bath Flight of Locks as part of a proposed new scheme to restore this stretch of the Kennet & Avon Canal to its former glory.

The canal in Bath was built to reflect the Georgian splendour of the city, making the waterway not only a useful trade route, but also a pleasant place to look at. This was an unusual way to build a canal, as they were more often constructed with a more industrial design, as the ‘motorways of their day’.

A result of this decorative construction is that the 1,500m stretch of the canal which is home to the Bath Flight of Locks now hosts 19 listed structures along its length. These structures range from pumping stations and wrought iron bridges to an ornate stone chimney, Bath stone warehouses, wharfs and canal side cottages.

British Waterways is now working with local groups, including the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust, to restore this unique stretch of waterway heritage and secure the scenic canalside for the future.

British Waterways’ project manager, Sarah Brice said: “This is a really lovely stretch of the Kennet & Avon Canal, with fantastic views over the city and home to an amazing array of historic structures. British Waterways has put together a scheme to restore the listed structures, including the ornate chimney, along this section of the canal.

“Whilst we wait for our funding bids to be considered, we are working with volunteers to improve the towpath, cut back vegetation and make the place feel a bit more loved. We are also hoping to find out from people what their memories of the canal are, what they think is important and how the canal fits into the working heritage of Bath. I hope we’ll get a great response, already people have told me really quirky bits of information about the flight, and these little snippets really help to bring the history of a place to life.

“The canal is celebrating its bicentenary this year, so it would be very fitting if we could help restore one of the jewels in its crown to its former glory here in Bath.”

The memories and stories that people tell British Waterways will be recorded and used to inform an interpretation project around the canal, which is another element of the scheme to restore the area around the Bath Flight of Locks.

People can email their memories and information, or send them in writing to Project Manager, Sarah Brice, or Sarah Brice, British Waterways, The Dock Office, Gloucester, GL1 2EB. There will also be a British Waterways stall at Widcombe Rising, this Sunday 13 June, where people will be able to add their memories to a book of tales about the towpath, as well as finding out more about the proposed project to restore the canal’s industrial heritage.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Caption Competition

To celebrate the success of the BBC Radio Wiltshire week, we've come up with a fun caption competition. See if you can come up with a humorous caption for the photo below - either email to: with CAPTIONCOMPETITION as the subject, or post in the comments box below (you may have to click on the green header above first) We'll announce the winner on the news blog in the near future!

Update: see below for latest captions!
caption from Julie Dean: "Yes, it's a new exhibit at the KACT Museum at Devizes: preserved dung, circa 1810, from the very first towing horse on the Kennet & Avon Canal"

Caption from Edward Ody:
And they really do stop radio presenters talking rubbish

Caption from Jill Adamson: "Harry, do you seriously think that your Nan's ashes, contained in this cake, will seal a leaking lock gate?"

Captions from Mike Phillips:
So when did you discover that the deepest sludge from the bottom of the canal could be used as low-cost icing on the cakes in the tea shop?
2. So you’ve found a new use for puddling clay?
3. So, the new BW initiative to generate income is based on these?
4. That’s amazing! You reckon that he energy from just one of these is enough to work the whole Caen Hill flight!
5. So each boater is going to be given one of these so they can grease the paddle gear as they work the locks?

BBC Radio Wiltshire

The BBC Radio Wiltshire week aboard Avalon was a huge success! To view some photos of the week, visit our website:

With thanks to all the BBC team who made it a week to remember

Avon Vale - Volunteers Required!

Help take the Avon Vale to and from Beale Park between 26th July and 1st September, contact details: - 07748873280