A big thank you goes to everyone who has taken the time to return our membership survey. If you havn't sent yours in yet, don't worry, there is no deadline as such. All responses receive our attention
Having analysed the responses recieved so far, it seems that we are going in broadly the right direction. Three quarters of you seem content with our subscription rate. On the frequency of events, there was in all cases a majority view that the frequency was about right. However 46% of respondents would like to see more organised walks, and 19% would like more evening talks.
Looking at our objectives, there is most support for wildlife conservation, followed by protection of the historic infrastructure. Only three of the objectives recieved "not important" responses; the most (16%) going to improvements for walkers, followed by incentives to navigate (11%) and improvements for boats (5%).
If you ticked any boxes offering your help, especially with the working parties, you will see we have quite an ambitious programme this year, so please put the following dates in your diary!
It is not since 1797 had there been such concentrated engineering activity at Ricketts weir, one mile above Beeleigh. The original navvies mercifully, had dry sunny weather when they dug the 800 yard cut and built the bridge, lock and weir. Vestiges of stathes and rotting posts below the bridge suggest that the workforce arrived by barge.
This time the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation Company first used access from the southern adjacent meadow. Then by crossing the bridge, from the island meadow and in desperation, and many sinkings, they drove along the high bank of dredgings on the south side of the cut.
The difficulties of access were matched by those of construction. Foundations and shuttering were put into position and building work started, only to be washed away by a series of exceptional floods. A brainwave saved the day! Surplus dredgings from the top of the bank were pushed across the gap above the weir creating a very effective dam allowing work to continue.
There was still a snag as the Chelmer now roared (at high water levels) on its way down the cut and through the open lock placing great strain on the old gates, one of which broke off at its heel pivot and had to be removed. The estimate (9/2/99) is that everything will be complete in one month, barring acts of God. Who would be a navigation manager!
Working Party Dates:-
|Little Baddow Lock||27th Mar 99|
|Beeleigh Lock||24th Apr 99|
|Cuton Lock||22nd May 99|
|Paper Mill Lock||26th June 99|
|IWA Chelmsford - A Trip Round the Essex & Kent Coasts||8.4.99|
|Regatta -Heybridge Basin||12.6.99|
|Waterways Festival - Bishops Stortford||20.6.99|
|Paper Mill Waterway Event||26/27.6.99|
|Victoria cruise to Heybridge Basin||6.6.99|
|Barge Susan - Visit to Springfield Basin||3.7.99|
|AGM - Moulsham Mill||7.7.99|
|Boats at Springfield for Chelmsford 800||18.9.99|
This year we hope to arrange a number of events and boat rallys along the navigation
leading up to a boat rally at Springfield Basin on the 18th September 99.
Some events are in the very early stages of planning. If any members or boat owners would like to help plan or help at the events please let us know, without members support we will be unable to stage these events.
Last October ( see last issue of Coate's Cuttings) you may recall that we carried out some
work at Little Baddow Lock. Another working party is planned for 27th March 10am, to
compete the work, why not come along with your garden tools and join the fun.
Other working party dates can be found in the Diary/Events Calendar. If there is any other work along the Navigation that any member feels needs our attention, let us know and we will see what can be done.
Coate’s Cuttings copy dates:-
|Summer edition||31st May|
|Autumn edition||15th August|
|Winter edition||30th December|
In connection with our desire to become a registered charity, it has been suggested that the
Friends should adopt governing document similar to those used by the Kennet and Avon
Canal Trust and the River Stour Trust in place of our present constitution. I believe that the
two trusts differ from the Friends in two important ways.
Following the successful award of a £300,000 Conservation Area Award Partnership Scheme (CAPS) to the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation from the National Heritage Lottery Fund and local Councils last autumn, a 3 year programme of comprehensive improvements and restoration works to the waterway commenced last year and will continue throughout 1999 to March 2001.
The work will entail major repairs to most of the 13 locks, including re-gating, as well as the replacement of defective brickwork on locks, bridges, and weirs. It is also intended to repair and replace the towpath clap-gates, which are a particular feature of the waterway.
All the new lock gates will be built to the traditional design, using high quality hardwood using mainly hand tools. They will be carried out by the Canal Company's own workforce, who are noted for their high standards of finish. Also proposed are various initiatives intended to improve the canalside environment, for example, planting native trees to screen the intrusive Chelmsford bypass which at one point parallels the water for about a mile.
CAPS contribution for these works will vary between 65% towards repairs to locks, with the remainder being funded by the Navigation Company, to 100% in the case of repair and reinstatement of clap-gates, installation of safety ladders, landscape enhancement schemes and repairs to most of the bridges.
Independently of CAPS, redevelopment of the old wharf areas surrounding Springfield Basin, Chelmsford are currently taking place with appropriately designed buildings incorporating shops and cafes and facilities for visiting boaters.
All these developments will make the navigation more attractive for both privately owned craft based on the waterway and the hire narrow boats which operate permanently on the canal as well as making the towpath of even greater interest to ramblers, historians and conservationists. Unfortunately, on the down side, through navigation from Chelmsford to Heybridge Basin will not be possible for much of the next two years (except by canoes) whilst the locks are being repaired. This could cause problems for our members, Blackwater Boats, who specialise in promoting short break holidays and it may temporarily discourage boats to visit the waterway. However, the company are doing their best to mitigate cruising problems for boats based on the canal as much as possible by repairing locks in geographical groups, rather than physical priority arising out of their state of repair.
With the completion of these works the Navigation will be well placed to face the challenges of the next Millennium and provide a continuing source of enjoyment and relaxation for local people as well as preserving a unique part of our heritage.