Thursday, 31 March 2011

A new era for the Waterways

A consultation on the Future of Inland Waterways in England and Scotland.

At a meeting hosted yesterday by our ex-Vice President Richard Beynon, the Waterways Minister, Defra (the Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs) formally launched a consultation on proposals to replace British Waterways in England and Wales by a New Waterways Charity. Navigable waters controlled by the Environment Agency could be incorporated at a later stage.

The objective is to secure a sustainable future for our waterways. The proposed new charity would be similar in size to the British Red Cross or Save the Children. To give this charity a good start, Government funding is guaranteed until 2023, at the level of the agreed 2012 grant of £39 Million. BW’s present extensive property portfolio, which already accounts of about 40% of BW’s income, will be transferred to the new charity as well.

The results of the consultation will have a huge and fundamental effect on the way in which our waterways are run in future years. We urge all those interested in any aspect of our waterways to read the consultation document in full and to make their views known to Defra, either by responding to any (or all) of the 29 questions that they pose in the document and/or by sending other comments that you consider appropriate.

The consultation document can be downloaded from:

Impact on the K&A Canal Trust

Clearly, the establishment of this new charity will have a direct impact on the way your own Trust operates in the future. There are, for example, many areas in which we might end up in a competition for funding, volunteers, commercial activities, etc. Your Trust will be making a formal response to the proposals in due course. To do this properly, we need the views of our members.

The Trustees will therefore be holding three consultation meetings over the next few months, to discuss the Defra proposals and to review any possible impacts on the way that the Trust operates. We will also be undertaking a parallel web-based survey. These activities will ensure that the Trust has enough time to prepare a well-reasoned response reflecting member views, and will also assist us in ensuring that we are in fit state ourselves to face this new era!

So please respond to the Defra consultation yourselves, but do also send a copy of your response (photocopy or e-mail), plus any other comments you think relevant, to the Trust Office at Devizes ( We will not be able to answer detailed questions about the Defra proposals but we will ensure that your views are taken into account when preparing the Trust's response. (Please also remember when responding to Defra that you are giving your own views. By all means mention that you are an active member of a well-respected canal society, but please don't state or even imply that you are responding on behalf of the Trust. That response will be prepared by our Trustees, only after we have received the views from as many of our members as possible. Please help us by making your views known to us in good time!)

Timescale? The Defra consultation opened on 30 March and responses can be submitted any time before the closing date, the 30th June 2011.

Mike Rodd

Chair of the Trust Council

Trust Council Minutes

February Council Minutes: click here

March Council Minutes: click here

Tuesday, 29 March 2011


British Waterways is relocating over half a tonne of fish from the side ponds of the famous Caen Hill Flight of Locks on the historic Kennet & Avon Canal, near Devizes, to improve conditions for aquatic wildlife including dragonflies.

The relocation follows a successful trial project in 2009, which saw a tonne of fish, including large tench, carp, bream, roach, perch and pike removed from the ponds.

The significant numbers of boats that move through the locks at Caen Hill stirs up silt and so do, perhaps surprisingly, large fish feeding on the bottom of the ponds. This stirring of the silt causes the growth of algae due to the subsequent release of nutrients in the water. Over recent years, the water in the side ponds has, therefore, become less suitable for invertebrates such as dragonflies and damselflies, as well as scarce aquatic plants that rely on clear-water environments. By removing the large fish a more natural balance will be created in the ponds, as there will be reduced excessive predation from these larger fish on the younger and smaller fish and other invertebrates.

British Waterways’ ecologist, Oda Dijksterhuis said:

“In 2009 we removed the first batch of big fish from the ponds and installed silt screen curtains. The results of this habitat management work have been fantastic with aquatic plants, such as the rare potamogetons and hornworts returning to the ponds that we haven’t had in the waterway for years. In addition to these plants we have seen an increase in dragon and damselfly populations, the ponds are now teeming with diverse dragonfly larvae and other invertebrates such as the water scorpion.

“The fish relocations happening this week will help to improve the habitat of the other ponds on the flight, so hopefully we’ll see more plants and invertebrates appear in the coming months around all of Caen Hill’s ponds.”

British Waterways has employed a specialist fisheries team to co-ordinate the relocation of the fish, and initial works have suggested that there will be many large pike relocated from the ponds.

Many of the fish will be relocated along the Kennet & Avon Canal, where local anglers will be able to fish for them, and a proportion will go to Toddbrook Reservoir in the Peak District which needs restocking following works at the site.

The Caen Hill side ponds were originally designed 200 years ago as ‘holding tanks’ to store the water needed to operate this extraordinary flight of locks, due to the steepness of the terrain. Together, these side ponds represent one of the largest stretches of open water in this part of Wiltshire and are a great wildlife habitat for species including grass snakes, various birds and water voles.

Once the water in the side ponds has been drained down to a level of about two feet, a the fisheries experts will use 100m seine nets to trap fish before wading in to scoop up the largest. The fish will be carefully transferred into aerated tanks before being transported to their new home.

John Ellis, fisheries manager for British Waterways, says: "We take great care of the fish throughout every part of the process and local anglers will welcome the release of some of these larger fish into the canal."

Wednesday, 23 March 2011


After years of campaigning by the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust, the Kennet &Avon Canal will soon be fully reclassified as a ‘Cruiseway,’ raising its legal status and securing its future.
Mike Rodd, Chairman of The Kennet and Avon Canal Trust Council, said: "The Trust is delighted to have been advised by British Waterways that they have received confirmation from DEFRA’s Parliamentary Section that the re-classification Order to redefine the sections of the K&A Waterway which are presently classified as “Remainder Waterways” as “Cruiseways”, will definitely come into force on 18 April 2011. This is wonderful news that begins another chapter of the history of our Trust and our Waterway.”
British Waterways (BW), supportedand cajoled by the Trust and the K&A Trade Association, has campaigned for many years to achieve this important change. In the long term, it will ensurethat BW (or its proposed successor, the “National Waterways Charity”) will maintain the canal in its entirety as a fully operational waterway, available for cruising.
In practice, BW has been maintaining the waterway as a Cruiseway since the restoration was completed in 2002, with the substantial additional funding required currently coming from direct financial contributions from the relevant riparian Councils (Wiltshire, West Berkshire and Bath & North East Somerset).
For all those who love, play or boat on, or make their living from the waterway, this announcement is the best possible news!!

You heard it here first!

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Newbury Branch AGM - please note change of date

The Newbury Branch AGM 2011 has a new date:

Wednesday 4th May at 7.45pm

Branch Annual General Meeting followed by a discussion:

The Kennet & Avon Trust - the Way Ahead
with Dr. Mike Rodd, Trust Chairman


Thursday, 10 March 2011

The K&A Canal Trust and the Devizes Wharf Building

The past few years have brought mounting problems for the 200-year old Devizes Wharf Building where the K & A Canal Trust has its headquarters. Repairs and maintenance, for which the Trust is responsible, are already costing some £40,000 a year. Those costs are certain to rise. More important, the state of the building (which is not listed) is such that patching-up is no longer a sensible option.
The Trust is seeking additional funding to tackle the problem. If that cannot be found, Trust Council has decided, with great regret, that we must terminate our lease before the end of this year and look for a base which will not be such a massive drain on our resources.
It should be remembered that the building was derelict before the Trust took it over. The premises were originally leased from Kennet District Council in 1982, following restoration, largely by Trust volunteers. The lease, currently under re-negotiation, is now with the unified Wiltshire Council but the Trust remains responsible for all repairs and maintenance.
Two years ago a loo fell through the floor, and repairs revealed structural problems resulting from water entering from the adjoining outside wall. Nearly £20,000 was required to provide new facilities. A crack in a beam above the shop, supporting the museum, was then discovered and the resulting professional survey required immediate action and temporary supports had to be installed. A 5-yearly electrical inspection reported that the wiring was both non-compliant with present regulations and there were public safety issues. Vital work cost nearly £10K, with further work still required to ensure full compliance.
Then, about a year ago the radiators started failing – and by the start of 2011 about 20 had been replaced. A few weeks ago the boiler cracked and the subsequent inspection showed that not only had it to be replaced, but that the ageing installation required a full replacement and completely changed venting requirements to meet new regulations. But it also showed that much of the present pipework had to be replaced. Estimates are in the region of another £20,000.
Finally, the back wall which partly supports Couch Lane, and is made of the original Bath stone, has deteriorated badly. Complete repointing is required, with initial estimates in the region of £50,000. Serious cracks have also appeared in the front wall, requiring urgent attention.
The Trust Council has taken professional advice and the conclusion is that a very large investment is required to completely refurbish the building – any more patching up will be of little point and continue to be a drain on the Trust’s limited funds.
The Trust will, of course, continue to seek a funder to restore the building but it is felt unlikely that this will be successful in the present climate. Trust Council has therefore, with great regret, decided to prepare to vacate the building by the end of September this year. A working party, led by Trustee David Copley, has already begun to seek alternative accommodation for the activities presently run from the building.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Boat owners urged to complete their census questionnaires in March

18 November 2010
2011 Census – helping to shape the future
Boat owners urged to complete their census questionnaires in March
Whether you live on a boat, are lucky enough to have a second water-based home or simply enjoy getting out on the water when you can, boating and yachting is a great way to leave behind everyday life, to venture out to enjoy new experiences. During March 2011, however, even if you are away on your boat, you will be required to take part in a decennial event, a national treasure, which has occurred throughout the world for many millennia, and in its present form in the UK since 1801.
The 2011 Census is approaching. With a 200 year record of tracking the patterns of our ever changing society the census is something of a national treasure. Shows such as Who do you think you are? have fuelled the explosion of members of the public searching through census records to find the heroes and the villains of the family, helping to raise the census’s profile.
Census statistics, in the present day, however, are used for a more serious reason, such as identifying the need for facilities and services in local areas - including emergency services, schools and hospitals. As a result everyone in England and Wales is legally obliged to take part.
Every household in England and Wales will be sent a 2011 Census questionnaire. You will receive a big white envelope with a purple C on the front, in March 2011. If you live on your boat it will be sent to the address you are moored at; if you do not receive a census questionnaire by census day (27 March 2011) you should get in touch with the census helpline 0300 0201 1010 (England) or 0300 0201 130 (Wales) to request your copy.
If you are away on holiday on your boat for census day, try to complete the questionnaire before you go if you can. For the first time in census history you can now complete your questionnaire online at, using the individual secure internet access code on the front of your paper questionnaire. If you are away on holiday during the census, please ensure you fill your questionnaire in on your return.
Deputy Census Director, Pete Benton said: “Census statistics are used by a range of people for a range of reasons, from local councils to charities and academia. It is important to make sure those who live on boats, are counted in the 2011 Census. Being counted means that your needs can be identified, as well as your friends, family and your community’s.”
For over 200 years, census statistics have been used to underpin national and local decision making. The census, which is run by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), obtains a comprehensive and consistent snapshot of the population. Census questionnaires are confidential and only group statistics are released into the public domain.
The census takes place on 27 March 2011, so watch-out for your questionnaire coming through the door. Alternatively, for the first time in census history, you can now complete your questionnaire online at

Wednesday, 2 March 2011


British Waterways has said a big thank you to a group of volunteers from the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust who has lent a helping hand with the waterway maintenance programme this winter.

Volunteers from the Trust have been getting involved out on the canal using the recently restored Avon Vale workboat. The boat was donated by British Waterways to the Trust, whose volunteers have restored the craft and are now using it to supplement the work British Waterways is doing out on the waterway.

Kennet & Avon Canal Trust volunteer, John Kirby said: “A dedicated group of volunteers from the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust restored the workboat Avon Vale. Now it’s up and running again it’s been very rewarding to get involved with the practical tasks of helping British Waterways out on the canal.

“Having an extra boat is a real help to British Waterways as it means we can get involved collecting any floating litter, and cutting back overhanging branches on the off-side which otherwise might affect navigation. We’ve also joined forces with British Waterways’ engineering team helping them to undertake their annual inspections along the canal.”

The Kennet & Avon Canal, which recently celebrated its bicentenary, requires constant care and attention to ensure the many listed structures, wildlife habitats, locks and bridges can continue to be used now and in the future. To date the volunteers have undertaken 39 days, or 800 man hours undertaking off-side tree cutting, and two full days helping to inspect a length of the canal.

British Waterways’ waterway manager, Mark Stephens said: “It’s great to work in partnership with the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust for the benefit of the waterway.

“The volunteers on the recently restored workboat, Avon Vale, deserve a special thank you. They have undertaken vegetation management works on the canal as well as getting involved with our annual inspection, skippering our team of engineers out on the water. Not only does this save time and money, but it also means we get to hear what the volunteers think and listen to their suggestions about managing the canal.”

Bradford-on-Avon Lock Investigations Continue

Pictures by Steve Bright