Friends of the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation

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C&BN Friends



Being instinctively curious I am sure we all wonder from time to time where today's accelerating pace of progress is leading us and what life will be like in years to come. Time to relax, time to absorb and appreciate our surroundings and time to reflect on past achievements is gradually becoming a luxury even in the relatively rural areas of Essex - the County of folklore, history, talent and hidden treasures.

I never fail to be amazed at the legacy our ancestors left behind them and the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation is no exception. About 200 years ago, when businesses around Chelmsford were expanding and diversifying, local landowners, merchants and investors joined together to lobby and lay plans for producing 14 miles of inland waterway with locks, a basin at each end and various crossing points. In its heyday the Navigation was in daily use by horse-drawn barges delivering cargoes for local use and distribution. Today, however, the Navigation is used mostly for private recreational purposes by a flotilla of small boats, the licensed mother-barge "Victoria", anglers and those on foot - rambling and jogging.

The decline of sustainable commercial activity has, over the years, allowed small unattended pockets of the Navigation to revert gradually to a natural state and habitat for a variety of plants and wildlife.

The Friends of the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation is a Society that was launched last June as a forum for the stimulation and exchange of ideas about ways to support and nourish the general well being, enhancement and enjoyment of one of Essex's best hidden treasures.

The Society, which has an increasing number of members. organised a river trip in July on the licensed barge "Victoria". A "fun day" in September, with sponsored walks ended with a barbecue at Paper Mill Lock. Plans for a series of future events which will include a talk in February, about the planning and development implications of the Chelmer Blackwater Valley Conservation Area. Also, a talk about the natural habitat and wildlife along the Navigation in April. Other events planned for 1997 include a Boat Rally, River Cruise and lectures on the willow industry; the use of reed wand and willow in basket, cloth and tool making and any other relevant topics that the members of the Friends' Society might like to suggest.

Fund raising is an on-going activity of the Friends' Society with the objective of carrying out certain key tasks concerned with improving access, enjoyment and appreciation of the waterway whether afloat or on foot.

The Society is always interested in recruiting as new members - Friends - anyone who shares an interest or concern for the future enjoyment of the waterway and its surrounding habitat. If you know anyone who would be interested in joining they should be asked to contact either William Marriage on Chelmsford (01245) 442094 or Dudley Courtman on Maldon (01621) 892231

Bill Andrade. Chairman of the "Friends"

Editors Column

Ron Abbott For the Christmas issue of our newsletter a similar format has been used. But it's your Newsletter so please let me know if you feel there is room for improvement I'm sure there is. In the meantime there is lots of news in this issue and events to look forward to. One important event being planned is the celebrations next year to mark the opening of the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation nearly 200 years ago. There's more details to follow so you must make a note for your 1997 diaries. The Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation is a unique feature of Essex, being the only fully navigable waterway within the county, with a distinctly important history and an equally important piece if heritage to be enjoyed for the foreseeable future.


After last years very enjoyable cruise downstream it has been decided to go against the current and ascend on a Saturday afternoon to view Little Baddow Mill House, Stoneham's Lock and depending on cargo and streams beyond Cuton Lock, site of the World War II pill box, and the most recent lock to be restored (1995). The date to keep clear for this relaxing, scenic Saturday afternoon is 20th September 1997. Details to follow in future issues of the newsletter.


part II Leaving Springfield Lock, going downstream, you pass under the old bypass bridge which was built in 1932 to carry the original Chelmsford bypass over the waterway. It is quite an elegant structure for its period, and now much quieter thanks to the new bypass. There are quiet moorings above Barnes Farm Lock, alongside the greensward on the right. From here you can see Barnes Farm, but to reach it you should walk past the lock and follow the footpath, rather than trespass across the meadow. It is possible to moor just below the mill pool. The towpath is on the left and a footpath leads from it, past the 18th century weatherboarded mill, to reach Barnes Farm Beefeater Restaurant, which is a recommended place to stop overnight. A public footpath also follows the right bank above the lock, and a number of paths branch out across the water meadows towards Great Baddow. The next part of our journey will take us to Sandford Lock. (By courtesy of Blackwater Boats)

STOP PRESS - Roy Chandler,

Conservation Planning Officer, Chelmsford BC and Simon Marriage, Director. C&BN., will talk on Tuesday 11th Feb. 1997, 7.30pm Moulsham Mill. Subject: "Implications of the Conservation Plan for Chelmer Valley and Navigation"

Extracts from The Executives Committee Meeting Held on 11th November 1996


The Friends are planning to join the Chelmsford Museums Service and others in providing a permanent information board at Springfield Basin as part of the commemorative events at the Bi-Centenary of the Opening of the Navigation in 1797. The contribution of Richard Coates the Chief Engineer of the construction who was a resident of Springfield and his achievement will be noted especially. His tomb is currently undergoing restoration at Springfield Parish Church.


As part of the Friends campaign to encourage use of the navigation along its entire length: plans are being made to provide plaques to those boaters who journey the complete 13.5 miles either way up or down the line!

The actual design of the plaques is still under consideration so if any members are artists who feel able to utilise their talents please get in touch.


With great regret we have had to accept the resignation of our Treasurer, Martin Hale whose work responsibilities have changed thus taking trim away from the centre of Chelmsford. He has responded to our problem by kindly persuading his colleague and successor Andrew Clarke at Barclays to take his place. A warm welcome to Andrew who has already started wrestling with our accounts on the Sponsored Walk!

Many thanks to Martin and also Barry Ryder for their most valued services to the Committee and members.


We are in the early stages of planning to enter Springfield Basin in the 1797 tradition or as close as we can get to it. The original wooden barge lighter Susan could lead the way carrying selected period cargoes to Chelmsford. Suitable support vessels will be in attendance along with a silver band to add an authentic festive air to the occasion. Working group to be formed.


Key tasks that would form a basis for projects of improvement of the navigation are being identified and their feasibility explored with the relevant controlling agencies. Ideas being considered are:

  1. Provision of steps below Sandford Mill Lock to improve access for boat users.
  2. Steps or similar improvements to the public footpaths at Bundocks Bridge Sandford Mill Road.
  3. The provision of mooring posts for boat owners on appropriate sections of the waterway.
  4. Some trees to be planted on appropriate sites in commemoration of me Bi-Centenary.
Members are encouraged to make comment on any of these proposals and to suggest other Key Tasks that may occur to them. Contact: Dudley Courtman 01621 692231


Some ideas are being developed for historical environmental and conservation presentations through the good offices of land experts and approved agencies.

Members will be circulated when details are available.


For the Friends to achieve our aims we need to enlarge our workforce - there is a danger that heavy loads have to be carried by too few people and we are familiar with the possible outcomes! So we are trying to harness the energies and expertise of our membership most efficiently. The first step was to draw up an appropriate friendly questionnaire. You should have received one with this newsletter. (All Completed returns appreciated)


At the moment these are taking place at about six week intervals at Paper Mills Lock. Offices kindly loaned by the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation Company. The next meeting is to be held on the 6th January 1997.


Dudley Courtman

We watched the weather patterns anxiously prior to our first open air event. If it rained we would be definitely exposed to the elements! On the day the sun did not fully shine but the strong N.E. wind dropped in favour of the twenty or so canoeists who started from Sandford Mill on Sunday 22nd September at 11.00 hours - these participants some of whom were members travelling on the water as opposed to alongside it! They were joined by a dozen land based starters at Springfield, Sandford and Ulting. Everyone was to converge on Treasure Island Paper Mill around 1300 hours to enjoy a barbecue lunch on the lawn. This somewhat flexible arrangement worked very well with small groups of people arriving at irregular intervals thereby matching the capacity and temperament of our large furnace and volunteer chefs. Slight bottle necks occurred when two jolly boats arrived - one steam powered - laden to the gunwales with sponsored members from Ulting and Sandford. Any hunger pangs were amply compensated by the welcome refreshments specially provided for the event. A very successful raffle raised '36.00. The final success of the event was underpinned by the charms and selling ability of a very junior canoeist Rebecca Dains whose great accomplishment was acknowledged by the Mayor of Chelmsford. A photograph of them appeared later in the Essex papers.

Everyone who came said how much they enjoyed the day. Indeed the sun even appeared briefly to crown our achievements.

When all the pledges have been finally collected we should have raised over '600. The monies will be spent on a project to enhance the waterway and several ideas are under consideration and it is intended to consult our members before a decision is made.

Special thanks to our catering team including my wife Pam Rebecca and Robert Loader and Daphne Davies they were well supported by our chairman Bill Andrade and our president Lord Petre along with the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Chelmsford Councillors Freda Mountain and William Lane.

Finally (at least for this year) a footnote. on behalf of the Friends of The Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation Executive Committee, A HAPPY CHRISTMAS IS WISHED TO YOU ALL

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