Friends of the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation

Home FAQ Forthcoming Events Work Parties Library About us Contact Us Join Us!



In This Issue

Membership Survey
Drama at Ricketts Weir
Diary/Events Calendar
Constitutional Issues
Short Cuts part 6
CAPS on the Chelmer & Blackwater

Membership Survey

William Marriage

A big thank you goes to everyone who has taken the time to return our membership survey. If you havn't sent yours in yet, don't worry, there is no deadline as such. All responses receive our attention

Having analysed the responses recieved so far, it seems that we are going in broadly the right direction. Three quarters of you seem content with our subscription rate. On the frequency of events, there was in all cases a majority view that the frequency was about right. However 46% of respondents would like to see more organised walks, and 19% would like more evening talks.

Looking at our objectives, there is most support for wildlife conservation, followed by protection of the historic infrastructure. Only three of the objectives recieved "not important" responses; the most (16%) going to improvements for walkers, followed by incentives to navigate (11%) and improvements for boats (5%).

If you ticked any boxes offering your help, especially with the working parties, you will see we have quite an ambitious programme this year, so please put the following dates in your diary!

Drama at Ricketts Weir

Dudley Courtman

It is not since 1797 had there been such concentrated engineering activity at Ricketts weir, one mile above Beeleigh. The original navvies mercifully, had dry sunny weather when they dug the 800 yard cut and built the bridge, lock and weir. Vestiges of stathes and rotting posts below the bridge suggest that the workforce arrived by barge.

This time the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation Company first used access from the southern adjacent meadow. Then by crossing the bridge, from the island meadow and in desperation, and many sinkings, they drove along the high bank of dredgings on the south side of the cut.

The difficulties of access were matched by those of construction. Foundations and shuttering were put into position and building work started, only to be washed away by a series of exceptional floods. A brainwave saved the day! Surplus dredgings from the top of the bank were pushed across the gap above the weir creating a very effective dam allowing work to continue.

There was still a snag as the Chelmer now roared (at high water levels) on its way down the cut and through the open lock placing great strain on the old gates, one of which broke off at its heel pivot and had to be removed. The estimate (9/2/99) is that everything will be complete in one month, barring acts of God. Who would be a navigation manager!

Diary/Events Calendar

This calendar gives dates of forthcoming events etc, to enable members to plan ahead. Full details of events will follow in Coate's Cuttings nearer the time. Note, some events are at planning stage and the diary is subject to change.

Working Party Dates:-
Little Baddow Lock27th Mar 99
Beeleigh Lock24th Apr 99
Cuton Lock22nd May 99
Paper Mill Lock26th June 99
For more details ring Chris Coppin 01376 521188

Events Diary:-
IWA Chelmsford - A Trip Round the Essex & Kent Coasts8.4.99
Regatta -Heybridge Basin12.6.99
Waterways Festival - Bishops Stortford20.6.99
Paper Mill Waterway Event26/27.6.99
Victoria cruise to Heybridge Basin6.6.99
Barge Susan - Visit to Springfield Basin3.7.99
AGM - Moulsham Mill7.7.99
Boats at Springfield for Chelmsford 80018.9.99

Boat Rallys/Events:- This year we hope to arrange a number of events and boat rallys along the navigation leading up to a boat rally at Springfield Basin on the 18th September 99.
Some events are in the very early stages of planning. If any members or boat owners would like to help plan or help at the events please let us know, without members support we will be unable to stage these events.

Working Party

Last October ( see last issue of Coate's Cuttings) you may recall that we carried out some work at Little Baddow Lock. Another working party is planned for 27th March 10am, to compete the work, why not come along with your garden tools and join the fun.
Other working party dates can be found in the Diary/Events Calendar. If there is any other work along the Navigation that any member feels needs our attention, let us know and we will see what can be done.

Coate's Cuttings copy dates:-
Summer edition31st May
Autumn edition15th August
Winter edition30th December

Constitutional Issues

(by Mike Lewis)

In connection with our desire to become a registered charity, it has been suggested that the Friends should adopt governing document similar to those used by the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust and the River Stour Trust in place of our present constitution. I believe that the two trusts differ from the Friends in two important ways.

  1. The objects of the trusts are drawn in a much wider way, to define all sorts of activities outside what might be considered their core purpose.
  2. The two trusts are limited companies while the Friends are an 'unincorporated association'.

Broad or narrow objectives

I think that it is fair to say that our existing objectives allow us to do anything that we might reasonably contemplate in connection with the Navigation itself. One point is that practical maintenance and restoration work on the navigation is specifically limited to 'assistance to the Company' (Object Number 2). Since the Company are the owners of the Navigation, it does not seem likely that we could consider any work on it independently of the Company. Another possible restriction is that there is no mention of the possibility of work on land or water adjoining the navigation but not forming part of it (Langford Cut would presumably come in this category ).

Limited Company or Unincorported Association

Converting the Friends into a limited company would have the obvious advantage that, if we embark on a major capital project and it all goes wrong,the committee members (or directors as they would become) would not be financially liable.
On the other hand, limited liability carries with it an administration overhead that might be burdensome for a small organisation like ours. A charitable company has to prepare accounts under the Companies Act and must file accounts and reports with Companies House.


I think that it might be advisable to remove the reference to 'the 'Company' from our present Object Number 2 and perhaps widen it to include land adjacent to the navigation.Beyond that I can't see any restriction in our present objects that are likely to inconvenience us-they are briefly and simply stated and, generally, what is not mentioned is not prohibited.
I don't know enough about company management to offer an opinion about whether company status would make our life significantly more complicated. From my position of ignorance (and timidity ), I think that I would feel more comfortable if we could affiliate ourselves to some existing organisation with charitable company status (the IWA?) for the purpose of any major projects that we want to undertake.
In connection with the possible Langford Cut restoration, I wonder if we would expect to acquire ownership of the land over which it runs or would we pass it over to the Company or some other organisation such as Essex and Suffolk Water?

Short Cuts on the C&BN - Part 6

Little Baddow Lock

Just a mile further on is Little Baddow Lock, situated by a millpool. This lock was also known as Kings Lock. The Mill House, which belongs to the Navigation Company is on the site of Johnson's Mill (which burned down in 1893), was used for filming of 'Just Good Friends'. The house was turned into a public house for the occasion. This could become a reality as planning permission may been given for a public house and restaurant. Just past the lock is a footbridge this will take you to the road. Along Church Road you will find the 12th-15th century Little Baddow Church of St. Mary's. Opposite stands Little Baddow Hall built in the 14th century. A footpath to the north leads up into Boreham, entering the village near the church and Queen's Head public house.


John Marriage

Following the successful award of a '300,000 Conservation Area Award Partnership Scheme (CAPS) to the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation from the National Heritage Lottery Fund and local Councils last autumn, a 3 year programme of comprehensive improvements and restoration works to the waterway commenced last year and will continue throughout 1999 to March 2001.

The work will entail major repairs to most of the 13 locks, including re-gating, as well as the replacement of defective brickwork on locks, bridges, and weirs. It is also intended to repair and replace the towpath clap-gates, which are a particular feature of the waterway.

All the new lock gates will be built to the traditional design, using high quality hardwood using mainly hand tools. They will be carried out by the Canal Company's own workforce, who are noted for their high standards of finish. Also proposed are various initiatives intended to improve the canalside environment, for example, planting native trees to screen the intrusive Chelmsford bypass which at one point parallels the water for about a mile.

CAPS contribution for these works will vary between 65% towards repairs to locks, with the remainder being funded by the Navigation Company, to 100% in the case of repair and reinstatement of clap-gates, installation of safety ladders, landscape enhancement schemes and repairs to most of the bridges.

Independently of CAPS, redevelopment of the old wharf areas surrounding Springfield Basin, Chelmsford are currently taking place with appropriately designed buildings incorporating shops and cafes and facilities for visiting boaters.

All these developments will make the navigation more attractive for both privately owned craft based on the waterway and the hire narrow boats which operate permanently on the canal as well as making the towpath of even greater interest to ramblers, historians and conservationists. Unfortunately, on the down side, through navigation from Chelmsford to Heybridge Basin will not be possible for much of the next two years (except by canoes) whilst the locks are being repaired. This could cause problems for our members, Blackwater Boats, who specialise in promoting short break holidays and it may temporarily discourage boats to visit the waterway. However, the company are doing their best to mitigate cruising problems for boats based on the canal as much as possible by repairing locks in geographical groups, rather than physical priority arising out of their state of repair.

With the completion of these works the Navigation will be well placed to face the challenges of the next Millennium and provide a continuing source of enjoyment and relaxation for local people as well as preserving a unique part of our heritage.


New Members -

We would like to welcome Mr. T Gilby from Billericay to the 'Friends'who joined in January

Attention Boat Owner/Crew

If any Boat Owners would be willing to offer a lift on their boat or needs crew at any time. Let us know so we can put together a list.

Previous Next

Home FAQ Forthcoming Events Work Parties Library About us Contact Us Join Us!