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COATE'S CUTTINGS

"The Chelmer Canal Trust's " Newsletter January 2001, Issue 15

John Ellis

John Ellis - Heybridge Basin Lock Keeper


In This Issue

Colonel John Frederick Cramphorn 1910-2000
The New Company, the Logo, and Charitable Status
The Millennium Book
Boyhood Adventures in Great Baddow
New Members
Anglia Television Visits the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation
Landscapes along the Chelmer and Blackwater
Enjoyable rally at Springfield
Blackwater Rose - Trip Boat
NEWS of the NAVIGATION
Lock Ladders
Nitrates
Pennywort Update
Flooding
Working parties
Rolling Calendar




Colonel John Frederick Cramphorn 1910-2000

Dudley Courtman

With the proposed millennium publication in mind I arranged to visit John Cramphorn recently at his home in Tolleshunt Knights as I wanted to hear about some of his experiences during his long association with the navigation. It was with great sadness that I learned, within a few days of our meeting, that he had died.

I thought that an account of our conversation would serve as a tribute to him and help to convey his deep affection for, and his knowledge of, the canal.

Colonel John Cramphorn, "The Colonel," the name by which John was generally known, led a varied and active life, serving his country gallantly in the Second World War, working for many years in the family company, and taking an active part in many local social and civic organisations.

The progress and well being of the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation Company was only one of his many interests. He followed in the footsteps of his father in becoming, first a director, and then, in the late 1950’s, the chairman of the company. He lived at Cuton Hall in Boreham, from which he could view the broad sweeping Chelmer valley below and the lock gates at Cuton and Stoneham’s.

As Chairman of the Company he greatly enjoyed presiding over the annual inspections of the line of the navigation by the directors, proprietors and their guests. The day would be organised with great precision and was accompanied by a splendid lunch with traditional toasts and speeches.

Inspections of the navigation were not without incident it seems. Before the days of the motorised river cruiser, the "Victoria", which arrived in the 70’s, horse drawn, covered barges were used. John chuckled with amusement at the memory of the day when the horse fell into the river. It seems that the usual horse, the Chelmsford Duke, was not available and a replacement had to be found. Reg Spalding, a riparian owner at Baddow, volunteered to find a suitably experienced horse from one of his chums in the London Docks. All went well on the journey down the canal, with the directors, proprietors and guests aboard, until disaster struck just below Rickets: the horse missed its footing on some rough ground and fell into the river! The poor animal finished on its side, semi-submerged, struggling and thrashing around with its head under the water. John, a modest man, did not go into great detail of his part in the rescue, but needless to speculate that an ex colonel of the Parachute Regiment and a holder of the Croix de Guerre would sit idly by in such a situation .One could imagine how he ordered his troops into action.

Led by himself and closely followed the Reverend Philip Wright, the rector of Roxwell, and Henry Marriage, they managed to lift the horse’s head clear of the water; he then cajoled a nearby fisherman into stripping off and plunging in to free the horse’s traces and to attach a rope around its neck. Some combined pulling and a good thwack persuaded it to seek dry land. The Colonel convened a high level emergency conference on the spot and decisions were taken: the horse was to escorted home in disgrace, and all able bodied proprietors and guests were to tow the barge the rest of the way to Heybridge Basin!

One legendary story told by John concerned the special dispensation granted to the Victoria by the Admiralty, namely, permission to fly the White Ensign. (As any sailor will tell you this is a privilege exclusively reserved for ships of the Royal Navy.) I had already heard him tell this story with much pleasure when taking lunch aboard the Victoria on one "inspection day". It would appear that at a previous luncheon one of the honoured guests was a high ranking naval officer. Evidently appreciating the importance of the voyage, the quality of the wine, and the fact that the Victoria was unlikely to stray into foreign waters, granted the vessel the right to fly "the White Duster" on "inspection day" every year. Since then the white flag has commanded pride of place on the Captain’s table accompanied by an eloquent and proud explanation of its presence by John.

John enjoyed a close working relationship with all of the canal company staff and wanted to be involved in the minutiae of their tasks and problems. He recalled, with the ever present twinkle in his eye, how George King, for many years the navigation foreman, would visit him every Monday evening at Cuton Hall where they would discuss the previous week’s progress and plan a schedule of works for the next week. George’s keenness was exceptional, almost to a fault, as he could never bear to end the discussions and would linger at the front door for upwards of half an hour as he thought of other things that needed attention. John’s wife on one occasion wondered if something serious had happened because John was so long in returning from the front door. He spoke kindly of George as being "a bad go-er", adding " He was such a lovely man, I was very fond of him".

Harry Gowers, George’s co–worker, was also held in high esteem. He mentioned Harry’s marvellous garden in Boreham, which was some compliment from a man who had been the chairman of the Cramphorn Garden Centres! He mentioned with evident pleasure that Harry had been awarded a medal at the Essex Show for 50 years service to agriculture. Harry especially endeared himself to John with his immortal remark when first trying to take the newly delivered Victoria from Heybridge Basin to its proposed berth at Paper Mill: "That goo so sloow that warnt staar (steer)!" John recalled the moment and accent as if it was yesterday and conceded that certain adjustments had to made to the engine!

At the close of our conversation we talked about the plans and progress for producing the millennium book of canal stories. John was very interested in our research and proposals. He offered to write an introduction and asked, as I left, when a draft would be ready and whether he could have a preliminary look. Alas it was not to be! And we will not be sharing his pleasure in discussing the final details; for certain he would have had a lot of constructive suggestions to make – plus lots of encouragement.

John Cramphorn, "The Colonel", will be fondly remembered as someone who loved the navigation and who appreciated its importance as a unique historical, natural and living part of Essex for all to appreciate and enjoy. Despite his many commitments he worked tirelessly to preserve and improve it. His leadership will serve as an inspiration to those who follow him, of which the Chelmer Canal Trust is but one. The navigation has lost a kind and understanding friend and we must use his memory as an inspiration to continue his dedicated work.




The New Company, the Logo, and Charitable Status

The Chelmer Canal Trust Limited was registered on June 13th 2000 and the necessary administrative measures are being taken to change from being The Friends of the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation. It was fortuitous that the registration day nearly coincided with the end of our accounting year, which should make for a seamless transition.

We have adopted a logo which will appear on the new information boards that we are having made for the navigation. The logo will also feature on our note -paper.

Our application for charitable status is now almost complete and will shortly be sent to the Commissioners. Hopefully all will be satisfactorily resolved early in the New Year when we should finally become a charitable company limited by guarantee.




The Millennium Book

The response to our public appeal for stories about the navigation produced some twenty replies and we are currently working our way patiently through them. As you may well imagine although it is very interesting it also is very time consuming!

The final form of the book has yet to be decided. John Marriage and Dudley Courtman. have identified some interesting stories about past canal lock keepers, people’s recollections, the craft used after the horses were retired, and the effect on the navigation of World War II. It’s early days yet and fascinating leads are still arriving – for example the story of the circus seal which escaped at Chelmsford and swam all the way to Maldon and freedom! Also an eye witness account of a UFO over Baddow Meads.

If you have any stories, old photos or ideas, or know anyone who has then please get in touch. Ring Dudley on 01621 892231.




Boyhood Adventures in Great Baddow

Dudley Courtman

Maurice Hyde and Mark Harrison were ten years old and lifelong friends. They grew up in the village of Great Baddow where they explored the local countryside together. Often they would walk from the village down through "the tunnel" made by the tree lined footpath, known locally as Lovers’ Lane, to the Baddow Meads. There, they paddled in the stream that emerged from Meadgate Farm, they peered through the shuttered windows of the deserted pumping station to marvel at the hundreds of sleeping bats; they watched the rising skylarks in the meadows and the swift flight of disturbed snipe; they performed somersaults in the piles of hay drying in the meadows; they balanced precariously across the lock gates at Barnes Mill and sometimes they swam and fished .in the river.

The stream that flowed down the hill to join the flat meads from Reg Spalding's farm at Meadgate Farm was a compulsive attraction for any small boy; the combination of mud and water was irresistible. This stream was crystal clear, just about wide enough to leap over (if you were lucky), and it had a hard sandy bottom that encouraged paddling and general larking around. The grassy banks were high enough to permit dam building, another absorbing activity for small boys who would gather sticks, stones and sods of earth to stem the flow. The pool thus formed would lead to more extreme wet fun and games before the dam’s inevitable collapse.

On one visit to their favourite spot Maurice and Mark decided that, even though their dams had become longer lasting and grander, they could, with the assistance of some properly cut sods, as opposed to the prefabricated ones that they were hand made on the spot, vastly improve the dam’s dimensions, durability and capacity, and, thereby, prolong their enjoyment

The following day they returned armed with spades and a few planks borrowed illicitly from their Dad’s garden shed. They proceeded to build a really comprehensive barrier. The waters rose, the dam held, they built higher, the water’s rose. What an achievement! They admired the small lake that steadily accumulated, and splashed excitedly around in it until tiredness, wetness, cold and hunger told them that it was time to go. The pride in their own workmanship somehow overcame their natural inclination to unleash the floodgates, for this was not like a temporary sand castle that would eventually be reclaimed by the sea. It was a symbol of their ingenious creativity and to judge its real potential they would have to return tomorrow.

The next morning they could hardly contain their excitement as they hurried along Lover’s Lane to inspect their handiwork. Imagine their amazement when they arrived at the adjoining meadow to discover that now it was now a small lake! A further shock was in store for them at the dam where they were met by the farmer, Reg Spalding, in his wellies, trying to rescue his field. He was not pleased and made his point in no uncertain manner about the damage and inconvenience he had suffered. The boys were scared! They had no idea how a little dam could have such dire consequences. They, needless to say, mumbled " Sorry Mister", and slunk off home to contemplate their predicament. Would their parents find out? What about the police? Would they be sent to prison? What could they do about it? How could they make amends?

Somehow the farmer had to be placated and as soon as possible. "We must pay for the damage" was their joint verdict. The compensation figure was easy to calculate because it consisted of the entire contents of all their pockets, their savings and the quick sales of some of their prized possessions. They raised the grand total of 10 shillings. The next step was how might they deliver it to the aggrieved party. Posting it with an apologetic note would be a more formidable task than building a dam. There was nothing for it; it had to be delivered by hand.

They arrived at Meadgate Farm, caps in hand, money at the ready. At the critical moment their courage deserted them and they hurriedly stuffed sundry coins and notes through the letterbox and made a run for it!

It would have been nice to have heard Reg’s version of the events.




NEW MEMBERS

The "Chelmer Canal Trust" welcomes our new members

Tim and Vicky Gallaghmer from Chelmsford

Ian and Leigh Petchy from Chafford Hundred




Anglia Television Visits the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation

John Marriage

A TV film crew spent a week in early December filming the canal, visiting Heybridge Basin, Paper Mill Lock, Sandford Mill and Lock. It was unfortunate that they arrived during the period when the river was still partially in flood, which prevented the movement of either any of Blackwater Boats vessels or the barge "Susan". However "Susan" was filmed with the engine running and holding its own against the swift current at its moorings in Sandford Mill millrace, with the presenter shown starting the engine! Both Ron Abbott and myself were film explaining the workings and history of the navigation, whilst on a subsequent day the presenter was filmed apparently cycling the length of the towpath ( I waited in vain to see him fall off and on to the soggy towpath) I was able to loan then a number of historic illustrations, which they copied and some will be incorporated within the film and I understand that William Marriage is also going to let them have some footage. They expect to give the impression that they traversed the entire canal. I personally thought it a pity that they had not come in spring or summer, when the scenery would have been so much nicer and the water itself was not a muddy brown!

Anglia TV are apparently producing a series of programmes about East Anglian rivers and "ours" is likely to be the first to hit the silvery screen. The have apparently already "done" the Orwell and I passed on details of the River Stour, which I think they will be visiting very soon.

It was very interesting to watch the crew in action. The weather was pretty appalling but Brian, the presenter, was dressed for most of the time in summer attire, nevertheless, the producer, sound recordist, cameraman and gofer all had the appearance of being a bunch of gypsies, being dressed entirely for the weather and using battered old cars. Anyone arriving suddenly would have been very puzzled as to who they were there was absolutely no indication that they were representatives of a national multi million TV company!

Ed. This hopefully will be shown in April " Riddles of the River"




"LANDSCAPES ALONG THE CHELMER AND BLACKWATER NAVIGATION"

Dudley Courtman

On a very wet Tuesday evening at Langford and Ulting Village Hall, nearly forty members and friends were treated to a very detailed analysis of the many different landscapes that occur along the length of the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation. Peter Spurrier, from Essex County Council’s Planning Department, talked to us about his recent survey and made various recommendations for improvements. Watching the story unfold through the medium of his carefully selected slides was fascinating. It was enlightening to see a familiar landscape being interpreted through the eyes of an expert.

He suggested that the judicious planting of native trees along the banks and on the flood plain could greatly enhance the landscape view; that the encouragement of bankside vegetation, especially along the towpath, could increases the diversity of plants and animals, whilst adding to the sense of natural wilderness. He thought that large arable fields and "set aside" were a poor substitute for the former water meadows with their profusion of wild flowers, grazing animals and the intriguing wiggly lines of old ditches and hedges. He considered that the lines of bankside "bat willows" imposed a militaristic uniformity to the landscape although they did permit extensive views from beneath their branches

He identified some courses for positive action: the planting of trees to screen hostile features like the motorway, and the water and sewage works buildings; the control of he spread of new car parks and cycle paths in order to avoid the danger of destroying the tranquillity and wilderness aspects of the Conservation Area; the prevention of the spread of the intrusive American pennywort (the means of achieving this at the present is not clear), and the encouragement of pleasure boat moorings in purpose made basins at the ends of the waterway nearer to the centres of population

There was a lively question and answer session as one might expect with a subject bristling with such a conflict of interests. One questioner wondered whether it was desirable to bother to control a landscape that had evolved for economic reasons in the 18th Century and had subsequently been modified by more recent commercial imperatives.

One can only reflect that the industrial revolution, in its quest for raw materials and their transportation, rode roughshod over large areas of our countryside. It is only in more enlightened times that we feel secure enough to redress the balance. Our canal landscape has, to some degree, escaped drastic spoliation, but there are things that can be improved. To accomplish this, one has first to have a clear understanding, and appreciation of, what are the constituents of the landscape. Next, is to decide on the most effective changes that can be made. Then, one has to persuade all the users and owners involved of the desirability of making such changes. Peter Spurrier’s presentation helped us immeasurably in charting a way forward.




Enjoyable rally at Springfield

William Marriage

Our rally at Springfield Basin seems to be getting better each year. September 16th last year saw our best turn out of boats for some time, as well as a lot of interest from visitors on foot.

Susan, the restored traditional Chelmer lighter is always a splendid sight in the basin and once again, we are grateful to the Chelmsford Museums Service for bringing her. Araminta the steam boat also contributed to the sense of tradition, alongside more modern boats. We were particularly pleased to be joined by two visiting "Wilderness" boats who had come to the navigation especially for our rally! Being a fairly short, isolated stretch of water, all of the boats who attended the 1999 rally were only a day out from their mooring, but this was not the case with the wilderness boats. John Burbery had been cruising continuously for the some weeks (lucky fellow!), and was running low on some supplies. Fortunately we were able to arrange for Calor gas and hot showers as needed.

As usual we had our exhibition in the old warehouse on the quayside and after lunch the procession of decorated boats into the basin led by Susan.

New this year was Blackwater Rose, the new trip boat, and in the evening, the two Wilderness boats showed us how an illuminated boat display should be done! The barbecue was lit and the band set up in the old warehouse to round the evening off with music and dancing!

Each year the challenge is to make the event a little better than the one before, and we are now looking to this years rally. Put it in your diary! 15th and 16th September 2001. As well as lots of boats to attend, we will be looking for volunteers to help with the organisation and on the day, either manning the exhibition stand for an hour or two, perhaps being our lock-keeper or harbourmaster for the day or arranging competitions and entertainment.

If you think you would like to help out in any way then we are waiting for your call!

Dudley and Judith in the canoe. Just some of the fun and games we had. This was the blindfold canoe obstacle course with Judith in front wearing a blindfold.

Our entertainment for the evening - Richard & Rupert who perform under the name of "Tawny". We enjoyed them so much we have invited them to come back this year.




BLACKWATWER ROSE -TRIP BOAT

Last year the trips from Springfield Basin crewed by volunteers raised £50 for the"Friends of the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation" (now Chelmer Canal Trust). Thanks to all who helped out last year.

This year we will again need volunteers to run the trips. We are offering a variety of trips again, slightly different from last year so passengers can see another part of the river.


Departing from:
Sandford Lock £ 2.50 adult/£1.50 child
Downstream to Cuton Lock or upstream to Barnes Mill and return
lasts approximately 1 hour - Saturdays 10am - 4pm

Coates Quay £2.00 adult/£1.50 child
(Wharf Road) Chelmsford To Moulsham Mill through Springfield
Lock, and return approximately ¾ hour - Sundays 12 - 4pm

Coates Quay £3.00adult/£2.00 child
(Wharf Road) Chelmsford To Barnes Mill via Moulsham Mill and
return approximately 1½ hour - Sundays by arrangement

One way trips £3.00 adult.£2.00 child
Between Sandford - Coates Quay by arrangement - approximately
1½ hours



NEWS of the NAVIGATION

John Marriage

A stalwart of the waterways recently joined the staff of the Navigation Company as the Manager of Chelmer Cruises He is Hugh Turner, who about 10 years ago founded "Blackwater Boats" now owned and operated by Ron and Judith Abbott.

He is planning an ambitious programme of activities for the company in 2001 and in a recent circular letter says that "Victoria" has been joined by an ex-Admiralty launch 1'Hampshire" which now plies between Heybridge Basin, Maldon and Beeleigh.(ed note: If they can get through the weed)

The company have also restored a classic wooden Broads cruiser, "Broadland Swan", with which the Company apparently intend to supplement their "Hampshire" service with ticket trips to Paper Mill at weekends. Hugh is also hoping to arrange for select groups on Dinner Cruises with a return journey by minibus. The Company also reveal embryonic plans for another launch to operate a flexible programme of excursions on other parts of the navigation.

Hugh provides the news that "Victoria" will be operating a few whole day cruises along the entire length of the navigation with accommodation, if required, at "The Benbridge Hotel", now managed by the Company to 3 star standards.

Further details of all these new ventures are available from Hugh Turner at Chelmer Cruises Booking Office, Paper Mill Lock, Little Baddow, Chelmsford, CM3 4 BS Tel 01245 225520




Lock Ladders

John Marriage

In 1997 the then "Friends of the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation" were invited by the Essex County Council to comment on their proposal to establish a "Conservation Area Partnership Scheme (CAPS)" for the entire Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation . Members will recall that in supporting the main objectives of the initial proposals, which envisaged tackling the wider aspects of conservation, such as repairs to locks, bridges and other historic structures, the "Friends" also suggested measures to make the navigation safer and more "user friendly" by carrying out various improvements, including the installation of safety rails on lock gates, construction of landing stages above the head and below the tails of each lock, more bollards adjacent to the locks and, finally, the installation of metal escape ladders within the actual lock chambers.

Not all of out ideas were well received, by the professional conservationists working for the local authorities. Their idea was to restore the canal exactly to its original appearance. The canal company were concerned about the likely expense of these additions. Initially, therefore, the installation of safety ladders was particularly contentious issue but now they seem to have been accepted as a necessary addition, essential for the safety of the amateur boatsmen now using the waterway.

More recently confirmation of the soundness of our stance came to light when Dudley Courtman ( our Chairman) passed me a copy of a newspaper cutting he had received giving details of the unfortunate death, in 1942 by drowning, of the then Heybridge Basin Lock Keeper, John Ellis, one evening. At the ensuing inquest, when a verdict of accidental death was recorded, it was suggested, by the canal foreman, Bill Siggers, that he had fallen into the lock chamber and sadly had been able to escape. His body was not discovered until the following day.

Mr Ellis was a well experienced waterman, having been a seaman of some 30 years and had travelled extensively, during which time he had had the misfortune to be shipwrecked. In 1914 he was the skipper of a boat called "The White Fox" which made an expedition to Spitzbergen under the command of Capt. Barnes, the famous explorer.

During his appointment as Lock Keeper, Mr Ellis had become a popular figure with both the villagers and local yachtsman.

In addition to relatives and friends, his funeral at Heybridge cemetery was attended by Mr. Francis Cramphorn, then Chairman of the C&BN, together with fellow canal employees, Bill Siggers, George King and Harry Gower. Brown and Son was represented by Mr Woodcraft.

A safety ladder was installed in the Lock chamber at Heybridge Basin in 1999

John Ellis the skipper of The White Fox




NITRATES

John Marriage

At a recent sitting of the Commission of the European Communities versus the United Kingdom, it was held that the UK had failed to fulfil all its obligations under the Community Clean Water Directive 1991. Under the Directive member states were obliged to identify all freshwater which contained excessive nitrate concentrates or could do so, but, in fact, the UK identified only water intended for drinking purposes. The United Kingdom accepted that the Commission's complaints were valid and said that it had now adopted or was adopting appropriate measures to comply.

The Stour and the Chelmer are both known to hold high levels of nitrates, presumably the result of over zealous use of fertilisers by riparian farmer and from sewage effluent residue. Within the last few years the Essex & Suffolk Water Company are known to have installed equipment to remove nitrates from drinking water presumably as a result of identifying the presence of nitrates in the water their abstract.

The ruling gives no indication as to what action should be taken to improve the quality of water not abstracted, but remaining in the watercourses concerned, however, this would be the responsibility of the sewage authority (in this part of the world, Anglian Water) or the Environment Agency.




PENNYWORT - UPDATE

Our chairman, Dudley Courtman, has bee in contact with Peter Spurrier of Essex County Council regarding the problem in the Long Pond (Beeleigh to Heybridge Basin. He informed him of the dozen or so patches of Pennywort, some measuring 10 x 15 mtrs and has blocked the navigation in two places making the passage of boats impossible. He told him "unless measures are taken to remove the weed or treat with herbicide soon there is no doubt that this stretch will become irretrievably blocked, also various craft have had to abandon proposed trips during the summer".




FLOODING

John Marriage

Chelmsford town centre’s recent narrow escape from flooding was a salutory reminder that the town is built at the junction of two rivers which drain a large part of Essex and may go into spate at any time after heavy rain.

Traditionally, flooding of the adjacent fields and meadows used to occur, to a greater or lesser degree, at least once a year. One serious summer inundation was recorded by Fred Spalding, the Chelmsford photographer in the 18801s, but the last major flood occurred in the early 1960's, when High Street, Moulsham St, Springfield Road and Baddow Road, were all under water and the Chelmsford and Essex Hospital, in New London Road was out of action. Much damage was done. As a result of this disaster a major flood prevention scheme was quickly designed and implemented This involved the widening and deepening of both the Chelmer and the Can and the construction of a huge 3 sluice control structure in Kings Head Meadow. As designed only the central self adjusting sluice is in constant use, with the other two coming into action with excessive water flow. The structure is designed to maintain the town centre waterways at a constant level, whilst quickly discharging any surplus water onto the Meads below.

The concreting of the banks - and bottom - of both channels through the town centre was carried out at the same time, as was the infilling of The Gullet and the Horsepond, two unusual water features which could have added interest to the expanding town. A major shortcoming was the lack of foresight concerning the potential use of the river for recreation or of the danger posed by deep channels next to busy pedestrian routes. However, despite these various shortcoming the works have proved themselves remarkably effective, albeit being visually rather dour.

It is, of course, totally impossible to design a scheme to withstand EVERY possible future flood and I seem to remember that the Chelmsford scheme was intended to cope with any flood which might occur within a 90 year cycle, accepting that, following really very exceptional storms, water might once again overtop the banks. I find this is now quite worrying as abnormal weather conditions, not considered in earlier decades, now seem to becoming the norm, possibly the result of climatic change.

Elsewhere in Britain persistent heavy rainfalls took place, resulting in water flows totally exceeding those envisaged when defences were prepared near the Severn, Trent, or the Sussex Ouse, etc, although the problems have undoubtedly been compounded by the authorities allowing development to take place on traditional water meadows and flood plains.

However, last autumn, in mid-Essex, we were apparently very fortunate to escape the worst of the storms and water flows were well within the capacity of the Kings Head Sluices. The recent flooding of parts of the Meadows Shopping Centre, the premises of the Sea Cadets, the Canoe Club and various car parks, were caused by the unfortunate malfunction of one of the three sluices. Water levels rapidly subsided when this was raised - at the eleventh hour - by a crane, fortuitously on site. However, it does appear that the resulting surge of liberated water on to the already saturated Baddow Meads created a wall of water racing down towards Sandford Mill, where the smaller sluices and adjacent restricted area of flood plain, resulted in sudden deep flooding to several properties near the Mill.

We do not know, of course, whether this type of weather is likely to continue or whether it is merely an aberration and that the normal, more benign conditions, will return. Nevertheless, I think precautions should be taken. What then should be done both nationally and locally in the future ?

I believe that the Environment Agency, created by an earlier Government, has been grossly underfunded and understaffed, particularly on the manual side and that these problems should be rapidly addressed, enabling them to play closer attention to routine maintenance. This should include removal of fallen trees, clearance of watercourses and destruction of the fast growing American pennywort, which blocks many stretches of our local rivers.

I also think that it is essential that there should be a strict embargo on development in areas known in the past to be liable to flooding. Where possible riparian owners should be encouraged to return this land including some land currently under plough - to more traditional water meadows thereby acting, where necessary, as a sponge to absorb excess water. Locally, I think this should include virtually all the fields adjoining the Chelmer, Can and Wid. Fortunately little of the land downstream has so far been built on, even though in places house builders and others are known to be interested. Balancing areas and sumps should be created.

I do not think that any of the latter suggestions are revolutionary. They merely revive the good sense of our forebears. Events seem to prove that science, technology and mechanical devices are not always enough to beat Mother Nature. She operates on a different time scale. Despite mankinds wonderful inventions and know-how she is always waiting to reclaim her territory.




Working parties:

Saturday 12th May: Working Party, " Tackling the Pennywort (possibility of joint action with other user groups)

Tel No:01376 521199 for information




Rolling Calendar:

Tuesday 20th February 2001 Terry Fleet has been invited to talk about how he set up The Museum of Power in the old Langford Pumping Station; venue Langford and Ulting Village Hall.

Thursday April 26th: "The River Stour Trust" by Ted Pearson - Langford and Ulting Village Hall

Monday 7th May, Trip Boat Rally

Saturday 9th June - Victoria Cruise upstream to Stoneham's Lock and return

Thursday 5thJuly, Annual General Meeting, - Langford and Ulting Village Hall

Saturday 14th July - Exhibition at Sandford Mill(unconfirmed)

Saturday/Sunday15/16th September - Springfield Basin Rally

Closure dates for submission of articles for the newsletter:

29th February for the March edition
31st May for the July edition
15th August for the September edition
30th November for the December edition.

Please note that if articles for inclusion are not received by the dates listed above they will be held over for the next publication.

Some useful phone numbers:

Chelmer Canal Trust - 01621 892231
Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation Company - 01245 222025
Ron and Judith, Blackwater Boats - 01206-853282
Environment Agency - 01376-57209


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