Friends of the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation

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COATE'S CUTTINGS

FRIENDS OF THE CHELMER & BACKWATER NAVIGATION NEWSLETTER ISSUE 5, January 1998

In This Issue

Editors Column
Museum of Power
Lottery Funding
Springfield Boat Trips
Weed on the Chelmer
Langford Cut
Short Cuts
Web Site

Editors Column

Ron Abbott
You will have noticed some changes to your Newsletter. This issue, a little late in order to include some important news, will I hope meet with your approval. But as always we would welcome your views. This issue highlights some positive moves towards funding much needed projects to help reduce the increasing backlog of works on the navigation and to carry out improvements. However, the annual weed problem is more urgent and needs to be addressed immediately. On a "Lighter" note, river trips and other outdoor pursuits are just some of the events being planned. So from a gloomy, cold, wet and windy period, look forward to spring and summer and join your Friends for some fun.

Have You Visited the Museum of Power?

Ron Abbott
Situated in and around the former water works building at Langford near Maldon this museum offers a unique experience for people of all ages to see various forms of power machines on static display and in action. There are fine examples of the original pumping engines and machines used at Langford, but also many more examples of steam driven engines and machines collected from far and wide. An emphasis will be given to "hands on" experience where you can start up some of the exhibits and make them work to convert energy to power and motion.
The potential of The Museum of Power is enormous, but it needs lots of help from enthusiastic volunteers and many many visitors. So don't just read about it, visit and see for yourself, and if possible talk to those already involved who have a wealth of knowledge and ideas for the future of the museum.
The museum can be reached easily via the B1019 Hatfield Peveril to Heybridge Road, and is just a short walk from the Rivers Chelmer and Blackwater at Beeleigh, normally open during the daylight hours each day (except Mondays), but during the winter months it may be wise to telephone beforehand. Contact Terry Fleet Manager/Engineer on 01621 843183

Heritage Funding for Chelmer and Blackwater

A preliminary bid for restoration work on the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation has been approved by English Heritage and consequently 150,000 has been provisionally allocated over a three year period from the Heritage Lottery Fund. This is dependant on significant partnership funds being made available from other interested parties. In addition to the owners of the waterway, the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation Company, they comprise of the Essex COunty Council, together with the three Local Authorities through which it passes. Already, Chelmsford Borough Council have agreed a sum of 10,000 a year. They recognise the canal as a "rare, perhaps unique local resource". The other authorities are expected to agree shortly.
The funding will be restricted to works within the 14 mile long Chelmer and Blackwater Conservation Area, through which the canal theads its way from Chelmsford to the Blackwater estuary and will primarily focus on repairs to the existing historic canal structures, mainly locks and bridges - designed by John Rennie - as well as works to eroded embankments.
Although the canal is currently fully navigable from end to end, some necessary repair works are behind schedule, due to lack of funds. This includes leaky and damaged locks and a backlog in dredging. A detailed Action Plan is currently being prepared and a three year programme of works will commence April 1998.
JOHN MARRIAGE

Dudley Courtman writes......

Springfield Basin Boat Trips

Our efforts to promote the use of Springfield Basin by boaters seem to be beset by events beyond our control. Our hope to hold another boat rally there in May could be upset by the proposed new development building works. So it looks as if our Basin Bash will now take place in September, when it will benefit from the new restaurant and improved surroundings.
Meanwhile, so as to keep the development of the site in the public mind we are planning a day trip on the barge Victoria - Little Baddow to Chelmsford return - in mid April. More details of the proposals will be sent out in due course.
Also in May, plans are afoot to visit the Basin with the historic wooden barge Susan.

Weed on the Chelmer

During the summer months the navigation above Little Baddow became impassable due to the growth of weed. In the past the frequent use of motorised barges and dredging kept the channel clear. As we think that recreationally and environmentally it is important to enjoy this section of the navigation in the best months of the year, we are lobbying the various agencies involved for help in solving the problem. Your help and support is needed if we are to be effective in finding a solution.

Langford Cut

If you walk along the tow path from Heybridge to Beeleigh Falls you will notice on your left hand side, just as you approach the Beeleigh/Langford brick bridge, a long channel in the golf course which runs for 100 yards until it meets the seawall opposite Beeleigh Mill House. This indentation represents the old course of the cut that connected the sea and the port of Maldon to Langford Mill. At the estuary side of the cut there are tantalising glimpses of the remains of old wharves which the Environment Agency and its forbears have largely replaced with their sewage outfall.
When you stop on the towpath to inspect the buried channel to the south, cast your eye to the north where the now greatly overgrown channel still exists. A very neatly raised 800 yard bank parallel and east of the roadway from the bridge to the Langford Road bears testimony to the engineers efforts to make the tidal waterway to Langford Mill, prior to the arrival of Coates and Rennie and the subsequent construction of the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation in 1793.
So it appears that Langford cut has been the victim of environmental aggression through the ages; the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation Company cut the channel in half; the Environmental Agency filled in and built a dam across the remaining northerly channel; the Essex and Suffolk Water filled in the old basin adjacent to Langford Road - you can still see the remains of the quays, but be quick!
As if enough has not been done to cut off the "Cut" for all time, someone, somehow managed to empty it completely of water for a period of about 6 weeks last year in the early summer causing considerable damage to the delicate watery habitats.
So Langford Cut needs friends fast. In 1998 the Friends of the Chelmer and Blackwater will be trying to redress the balance by campaigning for a restoration of this little known waterway to its former glory. Will we ever see it connected to the sea again?

Short Cuts to the C&BN

Sandford Lock

The artificial cut between Bundock's Bridge and Sandford Lock and bridge bypasses the site of Sandford Mill, an old water mill which had four pairs of stones that were later turned by steam. The present building on this site is owned by Chelmsford Borough Council and is used as a museum.

A12 Road Bridge

Opened in the late 1980's the A12 dual cariageway now bypasses Chelmsford, but adds nothing to the tranquillity of this otherwise peaceful canal. The roar of the traffic soon fades away as you pass round the left hand bend. Just beyond the road bridge a foot bridge crosses the canal and leads to Grace's Walk, a green lane which gives access to Danbury Hill with its views, walks, commons, nature trails and County Park. This hill may be approached from many points along the next few miles of Navigation.

FRIENDS ON WORLD WIDE WEB

William Marriage
A web site has been set up at no cost to the "Friends" as we have free space available to us. More details next issue. The web site is available on:
http://www.users.dircon.co.uk/~wmv/fcb.htm

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