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Coates' Cuttings

The Chelmer Canal Trust's Newsletter August 2003 Issue 23
Registered Charity No 1086112.

STEEL MOTOR BARGE AT BROWN'S WHARF, Springfield Basin - circa 1960

STEEL MOTOR BARGE AT BROWN'S WHARF, Springfield Basin - circa 1960

In This Issue

Information Board Unveiling - Dudley Courtman
Notice Board
C&B Navigation Update
Blackwater Rose Boat Trips
Weil's Disease - John Marriage
New Chelmsford Canoe Clubhouse - John Marriage
Recollections of Brown's Timber - John Woods
Dusk at Rushes Lock - Don McCort
Nature Notes
Other Waterways Clippings - Ian Petchey
AGM Report
Chelmsford - The Next 10 Years - Dudley Courtman
Alien Weed Clean up - Update - Dudley Courtman
Flytipping Along the Canal - Dudley Courtman
CCT Calendar, phone numbers etc

We welcome members photos, articles & contributions to Coats Cutting. Please e-mail them to Ian before 30th August for the September edition or mail to 16 Roots Lane, Wickham Bishops, Essex, CM8 3LS.

Unveiling of the Sandford Lock Information Board on Wednesday 21st May

Our president, Lord Petre, unveiled the new information board at Sandford Lock on May 21st. He was supported by our trustees and his worshipful the Mayor of Chelmsford, Councillor Maurice Hurrell, Councillor Freda Mountain, Martin Easteal, the council's Chief Executive, Dr Geoffrey Bowles, the head of the Sandford Mill Education Centre, Christopher Morris, the Projects Manager of the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation Company, and Ron Abbott, the Managing Director of Blackwater Boats.

Dudley Courtman, Chairman of the Chelmer Canal Trust and Councillor Maurice Hurrell, Mayor of Chelmsford look on whilst Lord Petre, the Canal Trusts President unveils the information board at Sandford Lock.

The occasion was blessed with a passable day after a sustained windy and rainy period -not quite sunny but acceptably overcast.

Our president reminded us of the delights of the canal and of our wish to encourage people to visit and appreciate a remaining piece of relatively unspoilt countryside. Even at Sandford, so close to A12 and urban Chelmsford, one can still feel caught up in the time warp that is so special to canals.

The new information board has been sited discreetly beside the black wooden shed that is a survivor from George King's days, the one time lock keeper who probably built it. One could always be guaranteed a cheery welcome from him, and its nice to think that in his absence helpful information is still available. With the siting of the new notice walkers and boaters will be able to locate exactly where they are on the navigation. We might be accused of spoiling the adventure aspects for some young hikers on their Duke of Edinburgh's Award now deprived of finding themselves in unknown territory! Perhaps we are making things too easy for them? It is a little ironic that during World War II the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation Company's name was removed from a notice on the shed so that unwelcome visitors could not use it to guess their whereabouts!

Sandford Lock is the home of Blackwater Boats, the canal boat hire company. Ron Abbott, the General Manager, kindly invited all the officials and guests aboard the company's trip boat, the Blackwater Rose, for refreshments, followed by a short trip upstream to Barnes Mill. John Marriage was able to indicate various points of historical and topical interest en route: the dock for the barge Susan, the Sandford Mill education centre, Bundocks bridge, the Baddow Meads water meadows, the cricket bat willows, the first growths of water weed (not much pennywort, thank goodness) and the stately Barnes Mill.

An early turn about before the mill was made in order to avoid shallows and a mud bank which had appeared since the winter floods. The environmental interpretation was significantly enhanced by the generous provision of 'Bucks Fizz'and sumptuous sandwiches- sufficient to sustain the crew for several days in the event of an unscheduled shipwreck

It was the Mayor's last engagement of his term of office. We were grateful that he chose to sail on to the very end of his tenure and that he would remember his last official visit as a canal boat trip on the navigation. We learned that one of his shipmates, Councillor Freda Mountain is to be the next Deputy Mayor, and that the new Mayor would be John Hunnable. Both give us, and the navigation, their strongest support and encouragement. On debarkation the day was brought to a fitting conclusion with the presentation by Lord Petre to Judith Abbott of a gift in recognition of her loyal services to the Trust since its foundation and in particular for editing Coates Cuttings. It was apposite that her efforts on our behalf were rewarded on the canal that she devotes so much of her time to support. She was also awarded life membership of the Trust.

Lord Petre's presentation to Judith Abbot with Dudley Courtman looking on

Very many thanks are due to Judith, and her husband Ron, for hosting such a splendidly memorable and enjoyable afternoon.

Dudley Courtman Chairman of The Chelmer Canal Trust

Notice Board

Langford Cut

As reported in May's edition of Coates Cuttings our plans to restore Langford Cut have received a set back. Essex and Suffolk Water confirmed that they were unable to re-site the main trunk effluent pipe which dams the Cut about 100 meters from its junction with the canal.
At the last meeting of our trustees it was decided to arrange to meet with the water company and the Museum of Power so that a possible way forward could be found.
As well as us, the museum, sponsored by the water company and occupying the former pump house buildings at Langford, stands to gain immeasurably by a water link to the canal.

Planning Permissions involving the Trust in the Conservation Area

An application submitted to Chelmsford Borough Council to extend the present tearooms at the lock side at Paper Mill and to offer post office facilities was welcomed.
A proposal to develop the gas works site at Chelmsford was examined. It was suggested that the development should be in accordance with the current local plan, that a condition be made requiring an archaeological survey, and that the preservation of the lattice structure of the older gasometer as an architectural and heritage feature be considered.

The Newsletter's Editor

The resignation of our long serving editor, Judith Abbott has been amply compensated by the impressive efforts of Ian Petchey who has taken over the reins temporarily.
Mike Lewis, a former committee member, has kindly answered our plea for a new editor. Such good news! Mike and Ian will be working together on the next edition so as to ensure a smooth transition.
Ian has done a first class job at short notice. Our grateful thanks to him!

Grant for landing stages and steps

The proposed landing stages and steps for canoeists at Hoe Mill lock have been discussed and agreed with the Canal Company. It is hoped that work will start on them as soon as possible. Similar plans for steps and stages for boaters at other locks are in the pipeline and progress will be dependent on the progress of the Company's own improvement plans.

New information boards

Three new boards are in the course of preparation for the 'Feeder Ditch'at Chelmsford (opposite Tesco and Office World), at Springfield Lock and at Barnes Lock.
The information format will be similar to that used previously -location and historical maps and photographs with explanatory text. Most of this material has been completed and the only work remaining is to find a suitable map to show the route of the former the feeder ditch in relation to the present road layout.
The Trust's new information board at Hoe Mill Lock is now in situ.

Charity Walk

As per last year the Trust provided a drinks' station at Beeleigh for the Broomfield Hospital Sponsored Charity Walk. It was organised by Bev O'Neil from Heybridge in recognition of the specialised treatment that the hospital provided for her young son.
Some fifty walkers of all ages took part. The Waterfront Restaurant treated them to breakfast at Springfield Basin and the Navigation Company to lunch at Paper Mill.
It was a hot walk and drink stations were provided along the way: the Trust's contribution at Beeleigh was especially welcomed because by then some of the walkers were beginning to feel a little weary!

The Opening of Marina 1 at Springfield, together with the planned boat rally, has had to be deferred. It is now planned for September.

Heybridge Basin's annual Round the Island Race (sponsored row) takes place on Saturday 13th September A good fun event competitors dress up in costume. Some take it very seriously, others not!!

The Museum of Power's 'Olde Tyme Rally' takes place at Langford on Sunday 19th October, with Maldon District Vintage Tractor & Engine Club

Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation Update

Paper Mill Tea Shop. The Tea Shop continues to be open seven days a week from 10am until 5.30pm. It is very popular, due as much to their hardworking and friendly staff and delicious home made cakes. Toilet facilities and fish bait vending machine on site.
The Victoria (a purpose built wide beam cruising barge licensed to carry 48 passengers) is looking very good after her spring service with some nice fresh paint and a refurbished interior.
She will be doing 1 hour public trips on each bank holiday and the Sunday prior. Her 2 hour public trips to Ulting Church run every Friday to the end of September - '6 for adults; '4 for children/concessions. Tel 01245 225520 for further details.
Paper Mill Boat Hire. Dinghies (with oars or electric motor) and a 4 person day-cruiser are available for hire from Paper Mill.
Tel 01245 225520 for further details.

Barnes Mill Lock gates are due for refurbishment and the lock will therefore be closed until the end of August. Sandford Mill Lock will be next.

Blackwater Rose Boat Trips

Ron and Judith Abbot of Blackwater Boats are running Blackwater Rose for short trips on the first Sunday of each month. The next trips will be run on Sunday 3rd August. Prices will be '2.50 per adult and 1.50 per child.
They are also running "Coronation Cruises". Departing Sandford Lock by arrangement, for parties of 6 to 10 people per trip (daylight hours only). Prices start at '10 per person for 2 hours. Cheese and biscuits and liquid refreshments available.
Further details from Ron or Judith on 01206 853282 or 07802 514400

Weil's Disease and Leptospirosis


Weil's disease is a condition which all those involved in water recreation particularly on rivers and lakes need to be aware of and take precautions against. We hope the following notes will draw attention to the condition. In addition to the precautions set out under the heading Prevention, it is always sensible to wash thoroughly with soap any areas which may have come into contact with river or lake water. Nevertheless, you should not allow it to spoil your enjoyment of water. It is a quite rare disease, as the notes indicate.


Leptospirosis is an animal infection. After recovery the animal may continue to excrete the organisms in the urine for a long period of time. The bacteria can survive for days or even weeks in moist conditions, but only for a few hours in salt water. The infection is caught by direct contact with the urine or polluted environment. Bacteria enter through skin abrasions or via membranes around the eyes, nose or mouth.

The Illness

The usual incubation is 2 to 12 days. Usually a 'flu' like illness occurs which resolves in 2-3 weeks. There may be fever, severe headache, pains in the back and calf and prostration. A few cases develop jaundice, when the condition is known as Weil's' disease.

In England and Wales fewer than 50 cases are recorded each year of which only around 10 are associated with recreational use of water. Most cases recover uneventfully and many recover without specific treatment, death following infection is rare.

What to do.

If you think you may have the infection, go to your doctor and tell him/her that there may be a risk of leptospirosis. The diagnosis is by clinical suspicion. Blood tests can rarely confirm the illness in time to affect treatment. They may subsequently confirm infection.

The microbiologist at the local hospital is the best source of advice


  1. Cover all cuts and abrasions with waterproof plasters.
  2. Always wear footwear to avoid cutting the feet.
  3. Avoid capsize drill or rolling practise in suspect waters.
  4. Where possible, shower soon after canoeing.
  5. If In doubt, contact your doctor early.
Leptospirosis is very rare, and its deterioration into Weil's' Disease even more rare. Weil's' Disease is however a very serious illness, and must be swiftly diagnosed and treated.


These notes are based on advice issued by the British Canoe Union

A new Clubhouse for Chelmsford Canoe Club

Members of the Chelmsford Canoe Club have recently announced proposals for a completely new clubhouse to replace their small wooden premises whose facilities have become totally inadequate for modern requirements.

Currently the Club have planning permission and plans prepared and have received quotations which lead them to the opinion that the new premises will cost something in the region of '400,000 pounds. The British Canoe Union have intimated that they would contribute up to 50% of this amount. With only '40,000 in the coffers for rebuilding, the Club has now launched an urgent appeal for funds.

Members have been invited to undertake fund-raising schemes and local firms are to be invited to contribute.

Club membership is open to all and is currently the largest in Eastern England, though smaller than those in west London and the Midlands. Although its presence in Chelmsford is not always obvious it is well known throughout the country with members regularly competing in many national and international events. In the past members have represented Britain in the various Olympic Games.

In addition to attending the various forms of racing, members also take part in slalom activities whilst many members enjoy cruising, water polo and surfing. It has a large youth membership and, as far as possible in the present premises, provides facilities for disabled paddlers.

Offers of help in organising fund raising activities would be welcomed. Contact is Pete Moule.
John Marriage

Some Personal Recollections of Brown's Timber Merchants

John Woods, a Chelmsfordian now resident in Cornwall, writes about his early life in Springfield and his vivid memories of living next door to, and working at, Brown's Timber Merchants in Springfield.

I was born in April 1934 at number 1 Navigation Road, the end house of a terrace of old weather-boarded cottages, long since disappeared. I lived there until the age of four or five.

We were surrounded by the firm of Brown's, timber merchants. On the Springfield Road side were the offices and some storage areas. Behind, I believe, were the stables for the barge horses. Across the road was the lorry depot, and extending along Navigation Road to the east was the main timber yard.

My earliest recollections are almost entirely of Brown's and their various activities. As a toddler I used to sit at our front window and watch the comings and goings of the green lorries at the depot, of great interest to a child at that time when there was much less traffic.

Every Friday, a weekly treat, we walked along Navigation Road to the shop on the corner of Queen's Road to buy Lyons cup cakes. Even today they are among my favourites, although they no longer make the strawberry or butterscotch varieties. Of course we went to the shop most days and a big thrill was to see the huge crane which ran parallel to the road in operation.

This crane was mounted on a gantry composed of two overhead rails twenty or thirty feet high (an estimate). Spanning these rails was a large crossbeam on wheels at each end, which travelled along the rails. The rails were about 20 yards apart (another guess). The crane itself was mounted on the cross beam, again on wheels, and could traverse from one side of the beam to the other. So the crane driver went up the fixed ladder to enter the crane and could then travel along parallel to the road and from side to side.

He could thus pick up a tree trunk from the huge lorry and then stack it wherever in the "English Timber" yard it was required. At some later date he could retrieve the log for debarking and sawing. Most of the logs remained in the stack for many years; the old saying for hard wood to mature ready for use was "seven years in log and seven in plank".

The timber yard was guarded by a high, close boarded timber fence so that although you could see the crane you could not see what was happening in the yard except for what you could glimpse through the gateway. There were lorries loading and unloading, men carrying planks and pushing barrows, and the noise of the saws. The mystery and excitement must have impressed itself on a small boy's mind as the fascination has stayed with me.

There was another link with the canal as I had an uncle who also lived in Navigation Road and he worked for the Gas Board whose offices were round the corner in Wharf Road.

Circa 1965

I left the Grammar School in September 1952 and had a few months to wait before starting my National Service in April 1953. During this time I was taking Civil Service exams and awaiting results. Therefore I needed a temporary job and, rather than fill in forms at County Hall, the usual arrangements, I fancied working in Brown's timber yard. My uncle, Bill Woods was yard foreman, and, as he and I were good friends, I asked him if he could get me a job: this was duly arranged.

My main impressions were of the noise, the dust, the smell and the cold. The saws were in open timber sheds with roofs but no sides, presumably to dispel the dust. The noise was considerable with the large vertical and horizontal band saws, in addition to the circular saws, screeching away. No earmuffs in those days!

The band saws were used to reduce trees to planks and worked mostly on English hardwoods - oak, beech, ash etc; these trees arrived by lorry and were off-loaded by the big crane. There were large stacks of them and in those days they spent a long while in the yard before the timber was properly seasoned; this was long before the days of pressure curing. The logs were de-barked with huge axes before being put through the band saws but occasionally nails would be encountered and once even a gate bar had completely grown inside a tree: this caused considerable damage, noise and swearing. There were past tales of cutting through a live hornets' nest, which cleared the sawmill in double quick time!

I remember that some timber had a beautiful scent when cut. I wish I could say I remember the names but I can't.

I do not know if that winter was particularly cold but my abiding memory is of being frozen as the sawyer pushed away and wearing gloves as I received the wood as it came through the saw.

The softwood arrived by barge along the canal and I am fairly sure that by this time the barges were motorised. The wood, already in planks, came by ship from Scandinavia into the Blackwater and was transferred from the ship to the river barges at Heybridge Basin. (How was it transferred from mid-channel to the Basin? I do not know). On arrival at Brown's yard at Chelmsford it would be unloaded by hand and stacked in open sheds alongside the canal. It was transported by long barrows which had a pair of wheels about the diameter of a lorry wheel in the middle of the barrow. For unloading the timber and carrying it the men wore special thick shoulder pads, tied with string under the armpits.

I remember several of the characters in the timber yard. I was put on a circular saw with Jock who was regarded as the best sawyer, which he was, but also a bit of a rogue. Why he was called Jock I don't know as he was Essex bred and born. He wore a large, very tall battered old hat rather like the preachers in the American Wild West. He had a profitable sideline making television tables from the firm's best oak. TV's were just becoming affordable for ordinary people. Only Jock knew where he had hidden this wood and it would be cut precisely into lengths, which fitted into his lunch haversack. I was sworn to secrecy as Jock would produce this timber when no one was about and touch his finger to his nose.

Jock was also the only person who could operate the old gas engine which powered the sawmill when the electricity supply failed, which it did several times that winter. Whether the electricity came from the mains or their own generators I do not know.

The gas engine was a terrifying machine as, until it warmed up, it made a fantastic noise and vibrated madly. As I was Jock's mate I had to go with him to the engine shed to get it started. He did various things to it to get it primed up but it usually refused to start on the button and all the time Jock would be swearing at it violently, adding to my trepidation. Then the men would be called from the yard and would have to push the massive flywheel round by hand. To my memory this was about 8 feet diameter with thick curved spokes. After a few turns and more swearing it would burst into life. Once going it was fine and Jock would encourage it and talk to it kindly and lovingly as if it was his sweetheart.

I think Brown's must have been a very go-ahead firm in their time with their massive crane and their huge engine. The managing director and his son were quite strict and would appear in the yard from time to time very smartly dressed. It was still the day of master and man and due difference was observed. However, it must be said that there was great loyalty among the men, most of whom spent their whole working life there. It obviously suited them as they could have earned more in the local factories.

Looking back they were very kind to the grammar school boy who came to work with them for a few months and looked after me very well. I particularly remember a giant of a chap call Dick who was a farm boy who arrived on a motorbike. He was very placid and could lift and carry enormous weights of timber but was quiet and good humoured.

One further thing I remember from Navigation Road was when a fire broke out in the horse stables, which were close to our house. The horses were led to safety and the wooden houses escaped. My own recollection is vague but my sister, who is four years older, told me about it later in life.

John Woods

Nature Notes


In mid May all the wintering swans, some fifty of them on the meadows below Hoe Mill, upped and went, to where we know not. Our star attraction, the whooper, went with them, and is now, we can only imagine, nesting somewhere in Iceland. We'll be keeping a keen eye open for their safe return in the autumn.

The resident swans are modest in numbers by comparison: only a few pairs inhabit the waterway. Those spotted, with four cygnets each, nested on the upper Chelmer at Chelmsford and above Hoe Mill near Ulting church. Last year both pairs had six plus cygnets and one wonders why there are fewer this time.

Common Terns and Elvers

In late May and early June those intrepid global travellers, the terns, return to the canal from their winter quarters in South Africa; these 'the swallows of the sea'nest along the shingle spits of the east coast and can often be seen fishing along the canal- a slow flight with head and beak pointed down before a headlong sudden dive into the water. The number of tern sightings seems much smaller this year which could be due to the sudden unexplained decline in the elver (baby eels) population.

According to Environment Agency's recent monitoring exercises on local rivers the number of eels and elvers in the Chelmer and Blackwater rivers is showing a worrying unexplained decrease.

The eels live in our ponds and rivers and when mature they migrate in the autumn to breed in mid Atlantic in the area of the Sargasso Sea (evidently none has yet been caught making this Atlantic journey). In the spring elvers return, usually in their thousands: it has been common to see a black, steady, wriggling stream making its way up Beeleigh Weir in May: not this year though it seems.

As the Suffolk rivers do not appear to be similarly affected one wonders whether the cause is locally based. Their non-appearance could be linked to the high levels of toxin found in local otter spraints as reported in our last edition.

Moorhens- survival of the highest!

The moorhens seem to be slowly staging a come back along the canal after the mink invasion. (No sightings of these ferocious creatures have been reported to us recently. Let's hope that they have been recaptured but let us know if you see any!) Moorhens evidently like to start their courtship routine in the spring by constructing 'display'platforms among the reeds so that they can 'show off'to prospective mates. Once paired the wise moorhens build nests in the dense dark green clumps of cylindrical bulrushes that grow up to 3 metres tall in late May and early June*. They construct a type of tree house among the dense cylindrical stalks about 1.5m above water level. This will take some moving and will protect them from sudden changes in water level and offer shelter from the elements and prying eyes. Some success has been achieved already and numerous black chicks can be spotted at the water's edge

* These clumps of thick rush are the Bulrush (Scirpus lucustris) often confused with the False Bulrush (Typha latifolia) with has the characteristic dense, sausage-shaped chocolate brown spikes: this rush was used by the painter Alma- Tadema (1936-1912) to surround the infant Moses afloat in his basket and consequently has planted itself in the public's imagination as the 'real'Bulrush

Some summer plants and insects

It is always a wonder of nature to watch the wild summer flowers and insects emerge as if from nowhere.

The canal banks are soon showing off the tall yellow iris, or flag, the white comfrey, the tall dark green cylindrical bulrush, (once prized for basket-making), the blue nightshade or bitter sweet; then the purple loosestrife, willow herb and Himalayan balsam, the cream meadowsweet, and the yellow and white floating water-lilies.

As for insects, frenzied gnats there are a plenty (re- read our spring poem), and many blue damsel- flies and dragonflies. (You have to wait for them to settle to tell them apart - the damsel flies carry their wings over their heads while the dragonfly puts its out at right angles!)

Some members' personal observations: mink, birds and dragonflies

Our members have responded magnificently to the invitation to send in their wildlife sightings.

Terry Peters, owner of narrow boat, Mister Badger, regularly sees kingfishers gold finches and woodpeckers in the vicinity of Hoe Mill, and last year watched a barn owl hunting over the water meadows nearby.
Ian Petchey, Isabella, narrow boat owner, in some quiet moments spent near Rushes Lock, spied several bullfinches, and has also frequently seen kingfishers between Paper Mill and Beeleigh - 'they fly from their perch as we approach and land about 100metres upstream before repeating the performance'. Last year at Beeleigh Lock he saw a mink run along on the lock wall. This year three people with dogs seen hunting mink at Rushes.

Roger and Diane Edwards from Chelmsford Canoe Club recently paddled their canoes from Beeleigh Weir down through Maldon. It was low tide and among many feeding birds they were amazed to see several little egrets. These small white herons, mainly of Mediterranean origin, are summer vagrants that have ventured north to the British Isles, maybe in response to global warming. Member, Myriam Eborall, a Maldon resident, confirmed that they these birds were present last year. She also remarked on the small numbers of terns this year!

Rare Dragonfly at Heybridge - 'Diamonds Are Not Forever?'

The Maldon and Burnham Standard reported the sighting of a very rare dragonfly in the Heybridge area where it is thought it might be breeding. It was spotted by a country park ranger, Nigel Wood, close to Elms Farm Park which borders the canal. The ranger said that it is so rare that it is in the Red Data Book which is reserved for species threatened with extinction.

The Scarce Chaser has a golden brown body and a black diamond back line along its abdomen. This dragonfly has not been seen in this area for 40 years. It flies between the end of May and mid July near to rivers and open water. Residents of Oak Avenue, Heybridge, were treated to the sight of the dragonfly, especially noticeable because of its distinctive diamond pattern. Let's hope that diamond- patterned dragonflies are forever!

Other Waterways Clippings

British Waterways Annual Report 2003

British Waterways annual Report was published on the 10th July, it records the continuing revival of the inland waterways. It stated that in 2002/03, its commercially earned income increased by 20% to almost '82 million, that waterways throughout Britain have benefited from an investment of '237 million over the past decade, with 220 miles of waterways being reopened or built, and that with continued investment they aim to double the number of visitors to British waterways over the next ten years.

An invite from The Waterways Trust to Chelmer Canal Trust members

'Walk on Water'

We have been advised that this years national sponsored walk along Britain's inland waterways is taking place between August to October. Thousands of people are expected to take part in the event, many in fancy dress and other outrageous costumes. There are 9 walks scheduled, each walk varies in length from 3 to 10 miles. If you wish to participate please telephone 0151 373 4387, visit Entry is free and walkers raising '50 or more will receive a free limited 'Walk On Water' T-Shirt.

Walks take place as follows:-

Sat 9 AugGrand Union, Leicester - starts Foxton inclined plane (3&7 m)
Sun 7 SeptThames & Severn Canal, Cotswolds, starts Cricklade (6 miles)
Sun 7 SeptRiver Thames, starts Reading (10 miles)
Sun 7 SepLancaster Canal Cumbria starts Crooklands nr Kendal (8 m)
Sat 27 SepDroitwich Barge Canal, , starts Salwarpe nr Droitwich (4m)
Sun 5 OctUnion Canal, Scotland, starts Winchburgh nr Edinburgh (8m)
Sun 5 OctGloucester & Sharpness Canal, starts Gloucester docks (6m)
Sun 26 Oct    Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal, Radcliffe nr Bury (8m)
TbcMonmouthshire & Brecon Canal, Wales

The Waterways Trust launches

VOLE grants

A Volunteer Training Grant Scheme, nicknamed VOLE (VOlunteer Learning & Experience) is available to volunteers wishing to undertake training in support of work on Inland Waterways. Various courses are available. Successful applications will receive grants of up to '100 to undertake the course of their choice.

If you wish to receive an application leaflet telephone 01926 626124

Discount Waterways Trust Museum Tickets

The Waterways Trust have given us a few discount ticket entitling the holders to 25% off entry to their three canal museums at:

If you would like a couple of tickets, email Ian and they will be mailed to you, subject to availability.

For more information visit

IWA National Waterways Festival

This year's festival is on the River Thames at Beale Park, over the August bank holiday weekend (22nd to 25th). Beal Park is eight miles up river from Reading.

There will be over 600 visiting boats and 200 exhibitors including new and & used boats, clothing, boats for hire and craft fair'. Probably the best inland waterways show in the UK.

For more information visit

World Canals Conference in Edinburgh

Visitors from around the world will converge on Edinburgh between 24th and 26th September 2003 for the eighth World Canal Conference, hosted by British Waterways. For more information visit

What Can We Learn From The Midlands?

I was recently told that British Waterways were proud of what had been done at Union Wharf in Market Harborough so when I found myself in the town with time to spare recently, I just had to take a look. My aim was to see what the Chelmer & Blackwater could learn from how they do it in Leicestershire.
There are a number of interesting historic parallels with our own Springfield Basin. Both were authorised by 1793 acts of parliament. Each is the terminus at the end of a rural waterway. They were formerly derelict, surrounded by a timber yard and dilapidated industrial premises. New developments have made the basins attractive features of both towns. Waterside residential developments share the quayside settings with Italian restaurants. This all seems like too much of a coincidence, but then there are important differences too. Most strikingly, while Springfield basin often seems like just a patch of water, Union Wharf basin is always full of boats - demand being so great that the visitors' moorings are all in the cut approaching the basin! As well as the needs of boaters being served by first class facilities, no doubt the connection to the main canal system also helps!

Waterside residential developments at Union Wharf, Market Harborough

Not immediately obvious is the fact that the basin at Union Wharf has been extended considerably to almost three times its original size. This is no longer an option for Springfield basin proper because the new buildings are too close to the water's edge, but there will no doubt be interest in building more new marinas in the wake of Chelmsford's attractive Marina One.

Of course it is not just boaters who enjoy waterways and the surfacing of the towpaths in this area is notable for the way it combines a good all weather surface, with a gravel-like appearance in keeping with a rural location. Perhaps the designers of 'that cycleway'at Maldon could pick up a few tips here.

All weather gravel-like tow path
Wouldn't it be nice to have a few stretches like this along the Chelmer & Blackwater''I wonder if it looked like this when the canal was build 200 years ago, I think it probably was''what do you think?. Please let us know, (Ed).

A couple of the boats in the basin are static. You can tell because they are too big to fit through the entrance channel, however their appropriate design ensures that they do not look out of place. A self-drive dayboat, rather similar in design to Springfield's Blackwater Rose operates out of the basin, and is fully booked throughout the summer season.

A few miles away, you can find the Foxton Locks Country Park. Here the canal drops by more than the equivalent height of all the locks of the Chelmer combined in a single flight. Visitors in cars are diverted to a pay and display car park, containing a huge information board detailing the delights in store with a map showing the locations of key points of interest like the locks, the museum and the site of the inclined plane. This is just as well because the car park is a 'healthy walk'away from the top lock of the flight. The pub and shops are at the bottom!

The partially restored site of the inclined plane gives a tantalising hint of an even more glorious past. Most of the machinery was sold for scrap when it fell out of use, however just enough remains to give an idea of the amazing scale of what once was here. Nothing in Essex can compete with Foxton's sheer engineering audacity, but what has been done here to encourage visitors in a sensitive way, does demonstrate that we in Essex could still make much more of our waterway heritage, without spoiling it's essential character.

William Marriage

Note: Foxton's inclined plane, opened in 1900, but closed in 1911 with the machinery sold for scrap in 1928. Boats entered wheeled tanks of water - 'caissons' measuring 80' x 15' - which were then transported sideways on rails between the two levels of the canal - a 75 feet (22m) difference. It has recently been announced that the lift is to be re-build, with completion planned for 2010. The two Photos above are circa 1900. Directions; From the M1 junction 20 take the A4304 towards Market Harborough and follow the brown tourist signs to "Foxton Locks" (Ed)

Foxton Inclined Plane Trust

This years national sponsored walk along Britain's inland waterways 'Walk on Water' starts at Foxton inclined plane on Saturday 9th August. Choice of 3 or 7 mile walk. See page 18 for further details

Report on the Annual General Meeting of the Chelmer Canal Trust Limited held at Langford and Ulting Village Hall on Thursday July 3rd 2003

On a pleasant summer's evening some twenty members gathered in the village hall at Langford on the occasion of the Trust's annual general meeting. In the absence of our president Lord Petre, who was detained on Lord Lieutenant duties, Dudley Courtman chaired the meeting. The minutes of the last AGM held on July 5th 2002 were approved.

The Directors' Report for the financial year ending on March 31st 2003 was distributed at the meeting and noted: the Report had been formally approved by the trustees at their meeting of 25th June 2003.

Dudley Courtman presented the 'Chairman's Statement 2002-3': this had been previously circulated to the membership, and comments were invited. Paul Archer, our Treasurer, presented the accounts for the financial year which revealed accumulated funds of nearly '6000. He paid tribute to Robin Jones who had 'drawn up'the accounts and to the assistance of Richard Allen of Barclays Bank, who had 'independently examined'them. The accounts were approved by the meeting nem. con.

There were no nominations received for new directorships.

Three Directors resigned as required by the Trust's Memorandum and Articles of Association: John Marriage, William Marriage and Ian Petchey: they were re-elected by the meeting nem. con.

There being no other business, and no items raised for discussion, the meeting was closed at 8-30pm.

Copies of the 'Directors' Report'and 'the Income and Expenditure Accounts'for the last financial year will be sent to all members in due course.

Chelmsford's Waterfront - the Next Ten Years

After the Trust's AGM, Roy Chandler, Senior Planning officer at Chelmsford Borough Council, described how Chelmsford's built landscape evolved from the 1950's to its present day configuration, and how he thought it might look ten years from now. Dudley Courtman reports.

Chelmsford, essentially a market town, emerged from World War II as a centre for industry and commerce. It has since shed its industrial image and changed itself into an attractive provincial city of the highest class. Such a transformation has been achieved through Chelmsford Borough Council creating a planning vision and doggedly adhering to it.

Consequently the planning of Chelmsford shows as much concern for linking the spaces between buildings as the buildings themselves.

Chelmsford has managed to achieve high approval ratings amongst its residents by developing its planning vision in partnership with the local community; local needs and concerns have helped to shape decision making.

It was significant that Roy during his talk was able to refer to all the main community partners, and that he knew the names and viewpoints of many of those in the room at Langford village hall.

Roy showed us how the courses of Chelmsford's rivers have provided an environmental foundation for all planning briefs. Whereas in the past planners turned their backs on rivers, regarding them, to a degree, as dangerous menaces, in today's more enlightened times they have been used as a unifying natural skeleton.

The early concretisation of riverbanks in the town in the late 1950's, when the flood prevention channels were built, has been recognised as a missed opportunity and every effort has been made to improve things.

Roy showed us several slides depicting the 'before and after'syndrome. Depressing, drab, back gardens, soulless concrete banks, and ugly industrial units, have been transformed into attractive green walks and waterways, with river-side flats, apartments and restaurants: all overlooking reflective water space. In Chelmsford there are ample facilities for dining, relaxing, shopping, walking, canoeing and fishing. A network of landscaped walkways and cycling paths link open spaces, shopping and recreational areas. Throughout the town you can enjoy the calming influence of greenery and waterways.

It was a very detailed picture that Roy painted; he seemed to know, and care about, every little corner of the town and how it might be further improved. His personal interest in waterways shone through his perceptions, and in the future we can expect the town to be made more attractive for recreational boats and boaters. Comparisons have been made with Bruges, Cambridge and Venice. And why not? Raising a few bridges and connecting the River Chelmer to the canal via a new cut next to the new Essex Records Office could easily achieve this change. Already we have a floating restaurant, an attractive waterfront area at Springfield Basin, a new marina next to Springfield Lock, and further marinas in prospect.

The town's planning brief's has generated its own dynamic, Roy told us that many people who had lived through the changes had been inspired with imaginative development ideas themselves. One is reminded of one of Winston Churchill's observations: 'First we create the buildings (environment) then after the buildings create us'.

For the future he sees a more efficient use of the present private and public outdoor parking places and loading bays to provide space for apartments, shop units and covered parking

Roy's audience raised various questions: how can one reconcile the effects of reducing parking places with visiting the town? Or combat the traffic congestion on the Army and Navy roundabout? Or justify the pedestrian crossing at Parkway to link the main town with Moulsham? Or reconcile the dangers of adjacent cycle and pedestrian paths? Coming to terms with the use of the car is going to be one of great planning challenges ahead not solely in Chelmsford but nationally.

Roy shared with us all, in his uniquely friendly way, the town's planning achievements and what remains to be done. By clearly charting a way forward for the next ten years, by acknowledging the difficulties, and by involving the community in the decision-making, he gave us just cause for considerable optimism.

Dudley Courtman

Alien Weed Removal and Clean Up Proposal

The Trust has been trying to alert everyone to the dangers to navigation and to the environment posed by the American pennywort. Coverage by the local press about our concerns has been excellent.

There has been an interesting natural development on the Long Pond. One of our native plants is fighting back against the pennywort! The large rafts of the American pennywort are being taken over by British watercress. The native plant is colonising the pennywort beds at a considerable rate, completely smothering them. 'The pennywort has made its bed and the watercress is getting into it!'What this means in the long term only time will tell but one can assume that the pennywort, once starved of light, will die out - the plant's preferment of good sunlight is shown by its distribution pattern along the navigation: there is little in the shady areas. Maybe we shall finish up with a watercress problem instead?

Native watercress growing on top of the pennywort

Meanwhile we are drawing up plans with the Canal Company and others to clear the pennywort from the lock cuts at Ricketts and Beeleigh in late August. A community help-group from Ford Motor Company have offered to help us with this. It will be combined with a litter pick from Ricketts Lock to Heybridge. You are very welcome to come and join in. (see diary dates) Details will be distributed in due course.

Dudley Courtman

Flytipping at Beeleigh and Ricketts Lock

Persons unknown have dumped rubbish at Ricketts Lock and Beeleigh, although it would appear to be someone local who is familiar with the area. The consequences are that these areas are in danger of becoming eyesores, and that, eventually, the rubbish will find its way into the navigation. At Beeleigh the meadow between Langford Cut and the River Blackwater has also been used as a dumping ground for stolen cars.

The last edition of 'Environment', the Environment Agency's national newsletter, carried an article on the scourge of flytipping and how the Agency have teamed up with local councils and the police to combat it.

On one day in 'Operation Cleansweep'in Birmingham, officers from all three organisations stopped and interrogated all trucks and pickups carrying rubbish. Over fifty per cent were found to be illegal! In Leeds the public are being encouraged to report flytippers.

With regard to Ricketts and Beeleigh the Trust is talking to the landowners, Maldon District Council and the Environment Agency about the problem.

Members can help by reporting any vehicles seen flytipping in the Conservation Area although it probably occurs at night.

To report a suspected flytipper, or tipping incident, call the
Environment Agency on 0800 80 70 60.

Dudley Courtman

CCT Rolling Calendar:

Closure dates for submission of articles for the newsletter:
30th September for the October edition
30th December for the January edition
Please send any contributions to Ian
or mail to 16 Roots Lane, Wickham Bishops, Essex, CM8 3LS

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

New Members:

Nick Ridgway and Julie Agland from Little Baddow

The Chelmer Canal Trust welcomes you.

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 572095

No articles may be copied or reprinted without the author's consent. The Chelmer Canal Trust may not agree with opinions expressed in this newsletter. Nothing printed may be construed as policy or an official announcement unless stated otherwise and no liability can be accepted for any matter in the newsletter

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