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Coates' Cuttings

The Chelmer Canal Trust's Newsletter June 2007 Issue 36
Registered Charity No 1086112.

A pair of Dragon boats racing upstream towards Paper Mill during the competition on 20th May.

A pair of Dragon boats racing upstream towards Paper Mill during the competition on 20th May.

In This Issue

Report from the Board of Trustees
Publicity Officer
Pennywort for Sale !
English bat makers in fear as Kashmir cultivates fine willow
Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation (from the IWA Reports)
Volunteers Trained for Work Boats
Report to Chelmsford Borough Council up to 05 April 2007

The River Users' Group
Nature Watch
Boat Watch
HMS Chelmer's 'hedgehogs'
Celebrating Chelmsford at Springfield Basin with Chelmer Canal Trust
Events Diary Page

Report from the Board of Trustees

The Board of Trustees is a small group of volunteers charged with looking after the Chelmer Canal Trust's activities and finances. We are responsible to the membership and the Charity Commission for making sure that the Trust looks after its affairs properly and furthers its charitable objectives. The formal meetings take place four times a year, with contact by phone and email in between as needed. At the time of writing, the most recent meeting was in February. The treasurer reported healthy funds in the bank with a useful surplus remaining after the funds required for paying contractors and other administrative expenses. The trustees are all mindful of the importance of careful examination, transparent procedures and consultations before the Trust commits itself to spending any significant sums of charitable money.

The Environment Agency are planning a series of meetings in the east of England to work out a strategic plan for water related sport and recreation. It was decided to approach these jointly with Roy Chandler of Essex Waterways Limited.

One of the many areas where we will be working closely with Roy is the Chelmsford Raft Race. This will be held on 22nd July in conjunction with our exhibition and boat rally at Springfield Basin on that weekend. The boat rally is part of the Celebrate Chelmsford Festival. Souvenirs will be presented to those who come by water. The Susan Trust and other organisations involved with the Chelmer and Blackwater, are invited to contribute to the exhibition.

After the success of last year's event, a Summer Fun weekend and Boat Rally will be held again at Hoe Mill during August. A small group would meet to discuss the organisational details.

Jackie Longman of Maldon District Council will give a talk on 'The Roman occupation of Heybridge'at our AGM on July 12th

It was reported that Neil Frost had met with Peter Spurrier, of Essex County Council, and Roy Chandler of Essex Waterways Limited to discuss a plan for invasive weed removal from the canal and any grant aid implications. The meeting was productive and a strategic approach was agreed to set up three weed buster teams along the canal, based at Paper Mill, Hoe Mill and Heybridge Basin. There will be three operational boats on station and training will be provided for the volunteers who will crew them. It was agreed that CCT would fund any volunteer training needed. In addition a purpose built weed cutter and rubbish cleaning boat was to be purchased in conjunction with other partners, principally Essex Waterways Ltd. The Chelmer Canal Trust will apply for a grant for '10,000 from the lottery fund. Neil reported that he had attended the last meeting of the Essex Waterways Ltd Advisory Group; they are making a small profit and planning a work programme to include renovations of locks at Sandford, Hoe Mill and Paper Mill.

Although we are a small group, we are always on the lookout for others to join us. So if you are a member, and think you may be able to help, you should let your name be known to our chairman, Dudley Courtman.

William Marriage

Publicity Officer

In our previous issue of Coates cuttings we reported the need of the Trust for a Publicity Officer. Now we are pleased to inform our readers that Nick Ridgway, who lives close to Paper Mill Lock, has volunteered to take on the task.
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Pennywort for Sale !

When our Chairman, Dudley Courtman, was visiting a Garden Centre (Endsleigh Garden and Leisure) in Devon, in January, he saw an aquatic tank that contained some Floating Pennywort (a familiar though unwelcome plant to all Chelmer and Blackwater Users). Dudley wrote a complaint to the Store Manager about this unwelcome product and received an immediate apology. It appeared that the pennywort had become installed in the tank accidentally and the garden centre management did not know how it had happened, although they were aware of it being an 'invasive species'. They asked the tank suppliers to be careful to avoid it happening again, so that Dudley then felt relieved.

Dudley Courtman goes hunting
for Pennywort near Paper Mill

English bat makers in fear as Kashmir cultivates fine willow"

(headline in 'The Times'of April 20th)

Essex has long been renowned for its willow trees. It is a low lying county with numerous rivers with wide flood plains and it has a temperate climate. The cricket bat willow, Silex alba coerulea, a hybrid willow species, thrives in Essex but is much more difficult to grow in other parts of the country. Attempts to cultivate it were made in Australia but the grown timber was too dense and lacked the essential springiness that is required for cricket bats.

Many Chelmer Canal Trust members have visited the cricket bat factory at Great Leighs which was established by the Wright family in 1894, and have enjoyed one of Nick Wright's conducted tours. J.S. Wright & Sons is the world's biggest producer of English bat willow, 400,000 clefts are produced annually; but threats to its future were mentioned a news article in The Times of 20th April 2007. Evidently the Indian government is sponsoring research into growing cricket bat willows in Kashmir. Sixty-six samples of willow are currently being cultivated at the Sher-I-Kashmir University of Agriculture. Once a sample has been found which will produce fibrous, straight -grained blemish free wood it will be propagated around the region of the Dak lake where willows were first introduced by the English in 1927 as a fast growing wood for packaging and wickerwork. Their hopes are that the new 12ft seedlings (we know that they are really called 'sets'!) could, in ten years, produce the first Kashmiri cricket bat to be wielded in an international game; and that it will feed an industry which will break England's monopoly as the producer of high grade bat willows

Over the last 30years the Kashmiris have used willow to make bats, albeit inferior quality ones with knots and kinks. It is thought that if the variety used for bat making is the same as in England then there is no reason, if grown under similar conditions, why grade one bats could not be produced on a large scale. The cricket bat industry in Kashmir is already employing over 10,000 people and could easily be expanded. Improved bats made from home grown timber could earn ten times the present price.

Nick Wright has no worries that such a scenario will in fact occur. He visited Kashmir some twenty years ago and found the management of the willows there very poor, and recent reports that he has received confirm that there has been little improvement. Even if the right variety is found it is doubtful whether the soils and growing climate will be as favourable as those of Essex. He is pleased to confirm that J.S. Wright and Sons is currently busier than ever and the labour force has had to be increased to cope with demand both at home and abroad.

When we admire the seried lines of cricket bat willows along the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation we must thank the uniqueness of the Essex climate and the years of careful management by our local experts .Willows have been a significant part of our Essex landscape for over 100years and long may they remain so. We can do our bit by encouraging our schools and our children to play more cricket!

A Swans' nest beside Rushes Weir pool.

Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation

(from the IWA Reports)

Following the article in our last issue (February 07) of Coates Cuttings, here is some extracted information from a more recent reports by IWA Chelmsford Branch and Head Office, about the Navigation and Essex Waterways Ltd.

It is nearly 18 months since IWA's subsidiary company, Essex Waterways Ltd, took over management of the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation, and the operation is working well. Improvements have been made to the navigation and visitor facilities, the waterway continues to be much enjoyed locally, as well as by visitors from further afield, and with generous support from local authorities, Essex & Suffolk Water and a small army of volunteers (including WRG, local IWA branch members and Chelmer Canal Trust), the running of the navigation has just about broken even. Local press coverage has been very supportive.

IWA Head Office has undertaken the major task of bringing waterway users' records up-to-date and has issued new moorings contracts. Most boat owners on the Navigation now paying by direct debit and have returned a signed revised mooring contract, which has helped to reduce overheads and ensure a regular income for the maintenance of the waterway. As there are no privately operated moorings on the waterway and no scope for continuous cruising, Essex Waterways makes a single charge for moorings for each boat which also includes use of the navigation, without the need for a separate boat licence. For visitors, there is an entrance charge through the Sea Lock, or a modest charge for trail boats using the slipways.

During the past 12 months there has been an unfortunate carbon monoxide-poisoning incident, a boat fire and three boats have sunk on the Navigation. Although there have been no injuries, these incidents have helped illustrate to users the reasons for the requirement for all boat owners on the waterway (excluding moorings below Hall Bridge, Heybridge) to have Boat Safety Certificates for their vessels and proof of insurance. The moorings below Hall Bridge are much used by sea-going vessels, some over-wintering and the Boat Safety Scheme is not in operation for such vessels. Essex Waterways has taken safety as the top priority on the waterway, has reviewed its procedures and risk assessments on the Navigation, has had all plant and equipment inspected and tested and hosted a visit from insurance risk assessors to ensure best-practice is adopted.

IWA has obtained planning permissions for two residential boats for caretaker / security staff at each of our mooring locations at Sandford, Paper Mill and Hoe Mill. It is a condition of these permissions that the occupants are involved with the caretaking and security of the Navigation.

During 2006, with the assistance of Maldon and Chelmsford councils, Essex Waterways has improved the refuse collection arrangements from all sites and introduced recycling facilities at Sandford and Paper Mill, in addition to those existing at Heybridge. Waterway users are encouraged to take the trouble to recycle their refuse, not only for the benefit of the environment, but also because recycling is removed free of charge by the local authorities, whereas the disposal of unsorted rubbish has to be paid from moorings fees.

Bank repairs, weed cutting and maintenance have continued. Throughout a dry summer of 2006, Essex Waterways was able to maintain navigation due to constant monitoring and adjustment of water levels. During the very wet winter there were flood conditions on several occasions, which required much monitoring and controlling the levels to help to reduce the impact of these. Dredging however remains necessary in some sections to remove flood silt. Winter storms meant the removal of twenty-eight trees felled by high winds. The cricket-bat willows along the Navigation are being cared for and 500 new willow sets were planted over the winter. Substantial tree surgery has been carried out on the large Ash trees that overhang the Hoe Mill moorings.

Work at Cuton Lock
The major project in 2006 was the repair and fitting of new lock gates to Sandford Lock which was completed on time and on budget. A similar project at Cuton Lock is now taking place. Essex Waterways has been offered grant funding from Essex County Council ('25,000), Essex Environment Trust (Lafarge Aggregates through the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme), Chelmsford Borough Council, with the balance of funds for the '55,000 project being provided by IWA (funds raised via IWA's Chelmsford Branch) and Essex Waterways operating income. Work has been carried out to repair and replace sluices at Little Baddow Mill. The footbridge at Barnes Mill has been re-decked and bridge repairs carried out at Little Baddow and Paper Mill by the Highways Department of Essex County Council. Chelmer Canal Trust has continued its monthly 'weed busting' sessions to remove the invasive Floating Pennywort and has done such a good job that the weed is currently difficult to find. The volunteers have been assisted by a team from the Environment Agency, funded through Essex County Council (Aggregate Levy Sustainability Fund). Unfortunately, experience has shown that the Pennywort will return and Essex Waterways is working closely with Chelmer Canal Trust upon a new scheme to continue the effective removal of this problem. Essex Waterways is particularly grateful to Chelmer Canal Trust and its volunteers for the help during the year.

At Heybridge Basin, the facilities block has been underpinned by courtesy of Essex & Suffolk Water. Work by volunteers here has included the construction of a dinghy rack. A new Elsan disposal point has been installed next to the lock which together with a pump-out facility was funded by Maldon District Council with European funding. Major repairs have been undertaken to the outer sliding caisson gate to the Sea Lock at Heybridge Basin. Use of the caisson gate extends the lock length and accommodates several more boats on each locking. IWA and Essex Waterways gratefully acknowledge the support from Essex & Suffolk Water for funding these works at Heybridge.

Other projects intended during 2007 include repairs to the trailer park bank and dredging the slipway at Paper Mill. The small bridge on the towing path below the lock here is being replaced thanks to assistance from Essex County Council. Work to the upper gates and lower cills at Springfield Basin are also proposed to repair damage and reduce leakage. A closure is likely but a date has yet to be agreed. Projects currently at the planning stage include rebuilding Hall Bridge, Heybridge and a major proposal to replace the chunkers beneath the Navigation between Elm Farm and Heybridge Mill. This is a timber culvert known to be problematic. Thrust boring or pipe jacking is being

investigated in conjunction with the Environment Agency to avoid closure to navigation. A donation of '1,000 from IWA London Region has been received for overhaul of a formerly inoperable mini-digger, so that it can be used by volunteers to lay ducting for electrical services and for other work. The wish list of works includes improvements to boaters' electricity and toilet facilities. You will see from the foregoing that they are very reliant upon help and funding from many sources and the assistance received is acknowledged for many of the projects Help comes in many forms. Following a visit from the Southern Canals Association for their Autumn Conference, they were delighted to receive a donation of '1,000 from IWA London Region. This is being spent on an overhaul of their mini-digger so that it can be used by volunteers to lay ducting for electrical services and for other work.

A couple of requests to help maintain water levels. Due to leakage at Springfield Lock would users please close the top gates and both upper paddles at this lock. At Beeleigh flood lock would users please close these after passing through. Thank you.

Volunteers Trained for Work Boats

With the developing role of volunteering on the Chelmer and Blackwater, training courses have been taking place so that certified working party volunteers can make the best use of the work boats on the navigation. With the present investment programme in new equipment underway, it is important to ensure that all the people who will be using it understand how to look after it properly and safely.

As the workboat volunteers tend to be experienced boaters, the boat handling element was largely a certification exercise, but it was useful to explore the correct way to tackle some of the more unusual activities a workboat skipper might have to tackle such as rescuing a person in the water or towing a larger vessel.

It is hoped to develop this work further with the provision of a new specialist workboat for use by both volunteers and paid workers.


Report to Chelmsford Borough Council up to 05 April 2007

(The Susan Trust is devoted to preserving the last surviving barge that was used in the working days of the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation.)

Advice on fund-raising was obtained from Chelmsford Borough Council Corporate Strategy Officer and from Chelmsford Council for Voluntary Service ( CVS ). The Chelmsford CVS also arranged for trustees to attend training courses on fund-raising and on keeping accounts for charities.

The Money Marketplace, organised by the Chelmsford CVS also proved to be very helpful as trustees were able to meet representatives from major grant giving trusts and from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

It became obvious that The Susan Trust needed a website before applications to grant giving trusts were made. Grant giving trusts want to know who they are giving their money to and they invariably use the internet to find this information. The Chelmsford CVS gave advice and assistance and as a result an impressive website has been built at zero cost.

Grant applications were sent out and a grant of '9,500 was received from Essex County Council and one of '3,000 from the Essex Heritage Trust. These, together with the dowry of '25,000 from Chelmsford Borough Council and in excess of '1,000 collected or donated locally, demonstrate the strong local support for the restoration of Susan. This local support is important as the trustees are now applying to national grant giving trusts for funds. Applications are currently being completed for the Heritage Lottery Fund and for the Esme'Fairbairn Foundation.

Expenditure has been limited to essentials - insurance, trustee training printing materials and a new bilge pump. The Sandford Mill group of the Friends of Chelmsford Museums have since repaired the faulty bilge pump which is now available as a spare.

The trustees have arranged for the Chelmer Lighter Preservation Society to carry out general maintenance work on Susan to reduce further deterioration of the timbers. Approximately half of the gunwales have been repainted and the remainder will be completed as the weather improves.

David Goodridge

The River Users' Group

The River Users' Group meetings take place twice yearly and are supported by local councils, water and environment authorities, together with the main users of the local rivers. The meetings, hosted by Chelmsford Borough Council, were started in 1997 at the initiative of the Chelmer Canal Trust as part of their campaign to combat invasive floating pennywort.

Here are some of the issues which were discussed at the last meeting held on March12th:

Concern was expressed over the position of a warning sign for canoeists on the walkway bridge over the River Chelmer about two hundred yards upstream from the Victoria Road weir. This was to be investigated further and changes made if necessary.

A new boat trip facility is to be provided at Springfield Basin. The trips will be pre-booked and will be concerned with the scientific study of the freshwater environment. (Further details will be made available to CCT members in due course)

It was mentioned that anglers were not represented amongst the group and that efforts should be made to obtain representative from Maldon and Chelmsford anglers

The boat rollers adjacent to Essex Record Offices: these were provided by the Environment Agency in order to bypass their new flood gates. Since then the condition of the rollers has deteriorated so that they have become unusable. The connecting landing stages above and below the roller also need attention. Chelmsford canoe club requested that in future no chicken-wire should be used. The EA is still considering whether they will be able to carry out these repairs

The Chelmsford Borough Council's development plan envisages applying a roof tax on new buildings. The money raised by this will be applied to flood relief for Chelmsford. It was submitted that it should also fund flood management along the Navigation

The New Cut from Springfield Basin to the River Chelmer. Several river users including CCT expressed support for this scheme which seems to have been omitted from recent borough plans. The Inland Waterways Association has also supported this initiative. Safety lines along the concrete banks in Chelmsford are in the course of being maintained.

White clawed crayfish are native species and are now locally rare. Some have been recorded on the River Can and in order to carry out bank repairs downstream of the railway viaduct Chelmsford Borough Council are going to conduct a survey to see if any are present.

Steps need to be provided for a landing stage at Victoria Road weir in Chelmsford together with a defined footpath between the upstream and downstream landing stages.

River Events. It was suggested that events on the rivers could be co-ordinated by passing information on to Colin Edmund, the canal manager at Heybridge Basin. To be published in various magazines, CCT newsletter included, in 'Chelmsford Events,'and relevant web sites.

Current works along the navigation: some 28 storm felled trees have been removed; work to start on Cuton Lock ( new bottom gates, brickwork repairs, camp shedding below lock to stop erosion); repairs to be carried out on cills at Springfied lock apparently damaged by the compression of items thrown into the water; new chunkers (pipes under the canal- the original 200 year old elm ones having collapsed) to be constructed at Elms Farm Heybridge - EWL are trying to-do this without closing the navigation; after the recent floods dredging work needs to be carried out at Barnes, Little Baddow and Paper Mill.

The Pennywort Report was presented by Peter Spurrier ( ECC) project manager. He reported that volunteers and contractors had succeeded in reducing pw to a low level and long term plans were being put into place to maintain this. EWL are proposing to promote three working teams to be based at Hoe Mill, Paper Mill and Heybridge Basin: these to be equipped with a boat, outboard and life jackets, training courses will be provided with the possibility of opening them to other boaters. He told the meeting that the pennywort project had been judged highly by inspectors from the Waterways Renaissance Awards and that representatives from the group had been invited to attend the prize giving in Manchester on 21st March. Congratulations were offered to Peter for his outstanding work in managing the project.

It was reported that the small pond adjacent to the cycle track at Springfield is full of pennywort. Evidently this was cleared last year by the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers. It was decided that its removal was not suitable for the international scouts attending the World Jamboree and that Countryside Properties be approached for assistance as they owned much of the water meadows.

Pennywort has also been reported on the Stour at Sudbury and at Langham Ponds, a well established fishing water. The infestation has been cleared on the Stour by volunteers but work remains to be done on the ponds.

The scouts attending the International Jamboree in Hylands Park in the summer would be carrying out community projects around the park area. Groups of 46 with a leader will work with old people, carry out gardening and conservation projects, and clear litter generally especially from beaches.

Concern was expressed at the lack of warning that was given to footpath users in times of flood. This was not seen as a health and safety issue rather one of inconvenience. It was decided that if this was considered a serious issue then warnings could be obtained from the Environmental Agency's Flood Line and warning notices could be placed at strategic points.

National 'Hug a tree day'will take place on June 9th and Chelmsford's Central Park has been selected for this. This could be an opportunity for CCT to display its exhibition.

Nature Watch

Moorhens have started building their nests and some have eggs in them. One nest below Hoe Mill (see photo) has been built with last year's bulrushes in mid stream - the pair must have been eager to get going! Some weeks have passed and already new growth has provided good camouflage. Moorhens usually nest above the water but sometimes on floating branches where they are at the mercy of unexpected floods. So as to protect themselves from predatory foxes, they always nest well out from the bank.

Another pair upstream of Hoe Mill have built their nest with this year's bulrushes. They have pulled and twisted the outside rushes to form a domed roof, not very waterproof but secure from the prying eyes of birds of prey. It is unlikely that the celebrated Hoe Mill eagle will return but recently buzzards have been seen - they are coming back to the east of England now that rabbit population has recovered from myxomatosis. The moorhens' most likely attacker though is likely to be the farmed mink which were released by animal rights protesters some years ago in Norfolk. There have been sightings of these on the navigation recently and they have taken a terrible toll on the vole and water bird population. The two species which seem to have survived their attentions quite well are the swans and ducks.

Two pairs of swans have nested this year above Hoe Mill; usually only one pair is to be found there. They choose very protected and inaccessible sites and take some time to build very large nests on the bank. How they are able to select such unexposed sites is one of nature's mysteries, but they always seem to. One exception to the rule occurred last year when a pair built their nest opposite Tesco store's car park at Heybridge, where their activities created a lot of interest. They probably realised that there would be an inexhaustible supply of food and they were right. It could be they had too much of a good thing, or preferred a more healthy diet, because this year they have reverted to a more traditional site some 800 metres downstream opposite Heybridge Mill. Nesting swans work as a team. Both choose the site of the nest (I'm guessing, the female probably does it!) and assist in its construction. While she sits on the eggs the male stands guard and chases off anyone, or thing, that comes near. Chasing canoeists is his favourite sport - the heavy beating of the wings on the water as he pursues you from behind is frightening. Sometimes he even tries to get on board! It is interesting that once the cygnets have appeared he seems to calm down a little but it is wise to give them a wide berth if you are in a tippy boat.

Ducks have been nesting along the banks from March onwards, although they are renowned for nesting in the most unlikely places. Ducks sit so tightly on their eggs that you could easily pick them up, hence the name given to any easy target - 'like a sitting duck'. Once the ducklings are hatched they are able to swim, and dive if they have to - a useful natural defence mechanism. If a boat approaches recently hatched ducklings, or someone walks along the towpath, the female will display its classic distraction tactics by flying low across the surface for a few yards ahead and trailing one wing in the water. They will do this for several hundred yards until the intruder is thought to be at a safe distance then they will fly off to rejoin their brood.

Swallows arrived at Paper Mill bridge on, or before, April 23rd- the first ones were at Abberton Reservoir at the mouth of the estuary a fortnight or so before this .They gradually make their way inland along the navigation which they favour because of the abundance of low flying insects, and because it is an ideal source of mud which they need for their nests. At Paper Mill they nest under the road bridge and in the remains of the turbine tunnel of the former mill.

My Hoe Mill wildlife informant has made some exciting observations during the past few weeks. Amongst the birds recorded coming to visit bird feeders have been: chaffinch, jay, pheasant, moorhen, greater-spotted woodpecker, greenfinch, and gold finch. A barn and tawny owl have been seen hunting at dusk, and a green woodpecker arrives regularly to feed on the grass verges. Two rather spectacular sightings, although one is audible than visual, have been a nightingale singing through the day- and night apparently! - and the sighting of an otter playing on the bank. These are two firsts in the Hoe Mill area for a long time as neither have been seen - or heard! - in the area for some time. In the case of the otter they disappeared during the 1960's with the advent of pesticides.

Dudley Courtman

Boat Watch

The boating season got off to a flying start over the Easter weekend, with plenty of owners underway over the four-day holiday period. In addition, the various hire boats were busy in and around Paper Mill. Some Sandford crews found themselves moored at Heybridge overnight, and at one point here were simultaneously no fewer than eight boats at Rushes Lock and three moored at Ulting Church, none of them being 'Victoria', indicating the throughput.

A crowd of boats at Rushes Lock during Easter weekend.

Major repairs are planned for Cuton Lock over April and May. The towpath-side lower gate mechanism is almost unworkable and the gate did not open fully over the Easter weekend. A stoppage is planned for four weeks starting on 23rd April to replace lock gates and repair brickwork. Bank protection work and dredging will also be carried out in the area, which may be completed after the stoppage period with only minor hindrance to navigation. The works are being funded by a grant from Essex County Council, another from Essex Environment Trust, and another from Chelmsford Borough Council, the remainder being contributed by the IWA's Chelmsford Branch and Essex Waterways Ltd's [EWL's] operational income.

In an effort to standardise recreational boat use upon the waterway, EWL is bringing all its moorings into line by requesting Mooring Permit Applications from all users of permanent mooring points adjacent to Navigation land. An approved Mooring Permit is a contract that entitles the user to base the craft long term at a spot adjacent to Navigation land over which the user passes to gain access to the boat. With this arrangement EWL is in a better position to allocate berths for users wishing to base their vessels upon the Navigation, and to notify prospective users of the availability, or future availability, of an unallocated, non-private, mooring point. Clearly, in order to sustain a mooring regardless of licence type, a long-term moorer must apply for and renew a Permit occasionally, so that the distribution and allocation of moorings to boats is managed long-term so as to maximise the potential of each mooring. EWL is currently in correspondence with a small minority of boat owners regarding the status of their licence, mooring arrangements, and whether they are applicable for their individual needs. Defaulters and non-responders are likely to have a limited time left to enjoy the use of this very special waterway, and understandably, as it is understood that there is a waiting list for individuals wanting to bring additional boats that are in compliance.

Also to come, driven by the need to provide a high level of confidence in the safety features of vessels, is the Boat Safety Scheme [BSS], aimed at educating, persuading and promoting the safe use and enjoyment of boats. Already applied to the British Waterways main system, this scheme is aimed at providing a regular assessment of the safety compliance of the structure and fittings of boats, much as in the same way as the well-known MoT Test does for vehicles on public roads. The assessment is carried out by qualified inspectors looking at such things as:

Fuel systems and ventilation arrangements for propulsion
Fuel and ventilation systems for refrigeration, cooking and heating
Electrical systems
Fire extinguishing and escape
Pollution prevention
A BSS examination is not required for any privately-owned, open vessel (i.e. a vessel in which all of the accommodation is completely open to the elements) if it has no domestic cooking, heating, refrigerating or lighting appliances installed, and it is propelled solely by an outboard engine. If yours is otherwise, you can get ready for it now by following the guidance on the 'net, starting at:

The steam-powered 'Olive' , moored at Paper Mill
A new arrival to the Navigation is an oil-fired steam-powered vessel of some character intended to be based at Sandford.
And later in the year another broad-beamed vessel similar in size to 'Victoria', which is expected to provide the facilities at one of the designated residential moorings.

"Yellow Ensign"

How the HMS Chelmer's 'hedgehogs' helped win the last war.

I was reminded by member Henry Marriage that the armaments on HMS 'Chelmer', (River Class Destroyer), as reported in our last issue, made a significant difference to our winning the Battle of the Atlantic and subsequently the last war. As Winston Churchill recorded in his memoirs it was the war's most decisive battle. In the early years of 1941-42 U boats were sinking our merchant shipping at an alarming rate and thus depriving us of food and armaments from America.

In 1943-4 Henry served on a Flower class corvette in the Indian Ocean, and recalls the great advantages of using ATW's (advanced throwing weapons).

They were completely different from depth charge, which were very large explosive canisters set to explode at a predetermined depth under water. With them the attacking vessel had to approach the target at considerable speed to launch the depth charges in order to avoid having its own stern damaged. They rarely hit a U Boat but the blasts caused great pressure forces to the submarine's hull.

Whereas a depth charge attack was mounted by seeking out the submarine's position and dropping depth charges as close as was safe and possible - by which time the sub was able to escape - hedgehogs could be launched well ahead of the attacking vessel and were more likely to be successful.

The hedgehog bombs were mounted on stalks on a plinth on the ship' starboard foredeck. Fired electronically, they were trained up enough just to clear the ship's decks. A full broadside consisted of over a dozen hedgehogs. One disadvantage was that they took some time to reload whereas with depth charges it was much quicker.

Henry later joined HMS 'Jasmine', another Flower class corvette, one of over 300 in commission at the time, more than any other class in the navy.

The ATW's many protruding detonating spines, which exploded the bomb on contact, looked like a hedgehog. In the case of HMS 'Chelmer'they were obviously of the Essex variety! It's comforting to know that they were looking after us at a grim time in our history. We are indebted to them and more so to the bravery and ingenuity of those in charge of them.

Dudley Courtman

Celebrating Chelmsford at Springfield Basin with Chelmer Canal Trust

The Chelmer Canal Trust's contribution to this summer's Celebrate Chelmsford events will be a boat rally and exhibition at Springfield Basin over the weekend of 21st and 22nd July. These events are always an enjoyable way of reminding the people of Chelmsford of the town's waterway heritage. An added incentive this year for boaters is the promise of special offers for boaters from the Waterfront restaurant.

The Chelmsford Raft Race will also be taking place on the Sunday, so whether on the water or visiting on foot, Chelmsford will be the place to be if you want to see some fun on the water. People wishing to enter the raft race should call Roy Chandler on 01245 223732.

We will also be using this event to launch our Chelmer and Blackwater aural history project. We have noticed over all the years we have been staging exhibitions that there are any number of interesting stories to be told. Some of these have been documented in our book: Tales of the Chelmer and Blackwater, and others are mentioned in other publications, but we know from the stories we hear from the people viewing our historic photos, that so far we have barely scratched the surface!

We want to capture as many of these stories as we can for posterity. For example, were you or do you know one of the youngsters who hitched rides on the timber barges? Maybe you fished or swam in the navigation, or had trouble with floods. Did you have a pleasure boat on the navigation in the 1970s? If you have any interesting memories we will want your story.

If you just enjoy the water, but have no story to tell, we still want to see you, especially if you can come by boat.

We are also looking for volunteers to help out on the day. So if you think you might be able to look after the exhibition for an hour or two, or perhaps judge a competition for the best turned out boat, or just register your boat for the rally, please call William Marriage on 07791 615634. More details about the event and the Chelmer Canal Trust can be found on the Events Diary page on our website:

General Events

June 16th and 17th.'Sandford Lock Solstice' A set of boat trips, and other entertainments organised by Blackwater Boats.
July 12th: 8pm.Chelmsford Canal Trust Annual General Meeting at Langford and Ulting Village Hall. Followed by a talk about "The Roman settlements of the River Blackwater" by Jacquie Longman.
July 21st and 22nd.A Boat Rally and Canal Trust Exhibition will take place Springfield Basin, Chelmsford. (The Chelmsford Raft Races will also take place on July 22.)
(See the descriptive article)
August 18th and 19th.At Hoe Mill. Live entertainment, exhibition, barbecue, fun activities, displays and boat rally!
Welcome to new members:
Helen Dobbie of Colchester
Christopher Tutin of Heybridge
Carol Chalkley and Malcolm Rollerston of Colchester

Some useful phone numbers:

Chelmer Canal Trust - 01621 892231
Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation Company;-
Hugh Turner- 01245 222025
Colin Edmond- 01621 853506
Ron and Judith, Blackwater Boat Trips- 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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