2019 Lichfield Branch News

Lichfield Canal cheque presentation - November 2019

Pete Gurney presenting cheque to John Bryan of LHCRTIWA Lichfield Branch has donated a further £500 towards the restoration of the Lichfield Canal.  Branch Treasurer, Pete Gurney presented the cheque to John Bryan, Commercial Director of Lichfield & Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust at our public meeting on 20th November.  On this occasion we have asked that it go towards supporting the Trust's marvellous work party volunteers for materials or machinery expenses.

Following our contribution of a £1000 legacy in July (see below) and an earlier donation, this brings to £1,600 our support in 2019 for this transformational local restoration project.

(Photo by Phil Sharpe)


Pat at IWA Volunteers Day in 2018 (MB)It is with great sadness that we record the death of our member and friend Pat Barton, who passed away peacefully on 21st October at Katharine House Hospice in Stafford in the presence of her family, just after her 81st Birthday.  Pat had enjoyed generally good health until a few months earlier, when diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer.  With typical bravery, she turned down chemotherapy that would have only prolonged the illness, and calmly explained to her friends why she would not be able to continue doing all the things we had come to appreciate her for.

Pat joined Lichfield Branch committee in 1997 as Meetings Secretary, taking a break as an active Social Secretary from 2001 to 2003, and returned to the Meetings role until 2006.  In the position of Speaker Liaison, Pat continued to look after the speakers at our public meetings until 2015, also serving as Deputy Chairman from 2011 to 2017.  Pat resumed recruiting our speakers in 2016 and, despite standing down from the committee briefly in 2017, continued to arrange many interesting talks for us until a few weeks before her terminal illness.

Pat at Brindley Bank Aqueduct in 2012 (MB)But this summary only hints at the voluntary work that Pat has done for the Branch over two decades; not only finding and making arrangements with speakers, and for years producing the Branch Programme Card, but in so many other ways.  Over the years Pat has organised various social events, visits, barbecues and many Christmas meals.  She has helped with catering at numerous meetings and socials, and provided home-made cakes for many work parties and committee meetings.  She has helped on Branch stands at countless events and with recruitment and publicity, walking many miles around Penkridge distributing flyers in the days when we held annual jumble sales there.  Her cheerful, energetic and thoughtful presence has enlivened so many occasions, and greatly enhanced the reputation of Lichfield Branch as a friendly and efficient group.

Pat’s wider involvement with IWA has been truly notable; being a key member of the organisation of National Rallies, Canalway Cavalcade and Festivals of Water for more than 30 years.  Her good humour and efficiency in managing the Water Space office dealing with volunteers and with boaters’ and campers’ bookings and questions at IWA’s showpiece annual events was legendary, and took a great deal of organisation behind the scenes.  Festivals should be fun and Pat always made sure that children were well provided for with her WoW trails and activities.  Always generous with offers of accommodation and catering, several VIP events were catered from her boat.  Pat’s forte was catering and for some years she ran the café at Norbury Junction and provided the catering for the trip boat there, and her professional skills were put to good use at many festivals.  Pat’s many and major contributions to IWA were recognised by the award of a Richard Bird medal in 2012.

Pat with Phil and Helen at Rugeley in 2016 (MB)Pat’s early life was in Kent and Sussex where she went to school and then had a variety of different secretarial and managerial occupations.  She started volunteering with the Wey & Arun Canal Trust in the 1970s and found a passion for waterways, buying her narrowboat Quercus in 1982.  Pat also joined IWA in 1982 and became a committee member of Guildford & Reading Branch, where she handled boat entries for the Guildford Boat Festival for many years.  She was much involved with the Basingstoke Canal restoration, as Secretary to the Canal Director and Manager of the Canal Centre.  In the summer of 1990 she undertook a 2,600 mile sponsored cruise round most of the connected inland waterways system, raising nearly £6,000 for the Boats for the Handicapped charity.  After moving to Gnosall in 1997, Pat’s involvement with waterways restoration continued with social and financial support for Lichfield & Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust.  She was also a great supporter of the BCN, and when the organisers of the BCN 24 Hour Challenge retired she volunteered to organise a BCN Treasure Hunt which she successfully did for 2 years from 2003.

Pat at Fashion Show in 2016 (PG)Pat’s knowledge and understanding of the waterways came from a lifetime’s experience of boating, and she travelled the system far and wide to attend festivals.  One of Pat’s little quirks was that she would never moor under trees overnight; not surprising as her husband was tragically killed in his car by a falling tree in the Great Storm of 1987.  She had several favourite mooring spots with open views along the Southern Oxford and Grand Union canals, which she often travelled to Cavalcade and other southern events.

Pat preferred working the locks to steering, but coped well with the many challenges that boating throws up and was always on for an adventure.  In 1995 she took her boat Quercus to Belgium as part of a sponsored flotilla of narrowboats at the Ghent Festival, typically sharing the experience with the highest number of crew members and also taking visitors on trips between the places visited.  In 2012 Pat applied to take part in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the Thames and Quercus was one of the narrowboats selected to be on show to the world that day.

Pat and Terry at Aynho Weir Lock in 2010 (PS)For many years Pat has lived at Gnosall with Terry Robertson, well known in his own right as a much respected trainer of boaters through TR Boat Handling, for which Pat provided the administration.  They made a good team whilst still keeping their own interests, and their own boats.  Terry with his training boat Shropshire Lass and Pat with Quercus would often travel in convoy to Festivals, with crew drawn from a wide circle of friends and family.  Our thoughts go out to Terry and to all Pat’s family and close friends.

Pat loved organising things, was hard-working, persuasive, inspiring, fun to be with and above all generous, with her time and her support.  She will be sorely missed by so many of us in the waterways community.

The funeral on 18th November at Stafford Crematorium was very well attended, and Pat had requested donations to IWA instead of flowers.

(Compiled by Phil Sharpe with contributions from her family and many waterways friends)
(Photos by Margaret Beardsmore, Pete Gurney and Phil Sharpe)

Stafford Riverway Link cheque presentation - October 2019

PS presenting cheque to John Potter for SRL 2019.10Baswich Basin towpath wall reconstructionAt our public meeting on 16 October, Lichfield Branch Chairman Phil Sharpe presented a cheque for £200 to John Potter, work party organiser for Stafford Riverway Link.  John had updated members on recent progress with the project to restore the link into Stafford from the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal at Baswich.  This includes a recent aerial survey, being granted a long term lease on the site of the basin by helpful landowners, and discussions with CRT engineers about plans to connect it back to the canal.

Work on the first phase of reconstructing the basin walls was on display at two Open Days held in early September.  Impressive progress has been made by a small but dedicated team of volunteers, and the donation will go towards materials needed to continue building the walls on the other side of the basin.  Ultimately, a lock will connect the basin down into the River Sow which will once again be made navigable for just over a mile into Stafford town centre.

(Report and photos by Phil Sharpe)

HS2 High Speed Rail Update – September 2019

On 21 August the Government announced a comprehensive review into the whole HS2 project, including its benefits and impacts, affordability and efficiency, deliverability, scope and phasing, with a report due by “the autumn” and a decision on whether or how to proceed expected by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, various preparatory works continue, including archaeology, demolitions and utility diversions, and changes to Phase 2b have been announced.

Phase 2B Design Refinement Consultation

The HS2 Phase 2b (Crewe to Manchester and West Midlands to Leeds) Design Refinement consultation was announced in June with a closing date of 6 September.  It proposes 11 major changes or additions to the route or infrastructure, of which 3 affect parts of the Coventry Canal, the Erewash Canal and Nottingham Canal, and the Aire & Calder Navigation.  IWA has consulted internally and with CRT in finalising our response which includes the following main points.

The consultation document describes the major changes at each of the route refinement locations, but does not refer to or adequately explain many of the other consequent or associated design changes, which is a major deficiency.  These other changes are apparent only by comparing the Design Refinement plans with the previous Working Draft Environmental Statement plans, but the reason for some of these changes is not always apparent.

Realignment of the route at Junction 10 of the M42, North Warwickshire

The change to a bored tunnel under the M42 affects the vertical alignment northeast to Polesworth.  Although not mentioned in the consultation document, the section of HS2 through Pooley Country Park will now be in a shallower cutting and the realignment of Pooley Lane has been changed from an overbridge to a crossing under the end of Polesworth Viaduct close to the Coventry Canal.  Whilst this reduces the overall visual impact of the road realignment on the Park, it would create additional disturbance to the canal and the boat moorings so the road should be designed to be set back from the canal edge under the viaduct, if necessary by moving back the viaduct abutment or providing an additional span.  It should maintain access to the moorings and minimise impacts on the heritage of the canal and the country park.

On balance IWA has no objection to this change, subject to the Pooley Lane realignment being designed to limit its impact on the Coventry Canal and the boat moorings, improved noise fencing around the Polesworth Viaduct crossing of the canal, and minimising disruption to the boat moorings during the construction phase.

Realignment of the route at Trowell, Nottinghamshire

The change of alignment to avoid diverting the M1 motorway will have both benefits and dis-benefits for the environment and users of the Erewash Canal.  It will be beneficial to users to avoid the disruption of having to demolish and replace the M1 bridge over the canal.  However, there are further changes not explained in the consultation document that affect the canal.

At Stanton Gate the road is to be realigned over a new canal bridge, presumably due to limited headroom under the new HS2 viaduct, although there is no explanation or details of the dimensions or design of the bridge.

Between Stanton Gate and Sandiacre the Stanton Gate Viaduct along the Erewash Valley will be a very prominent and visually intrusive feature, crossing the Erewash Canal twice.  It is not clear why the viaduct is so high in the middle and a change to smooth out the vertical alignment and reduce its maximum height above the valley floor would lessen its visual impact and reduce construction costs.

The viaduct crossing of the canal at Sandiacre is at a very skew angle and the change now proposed moves the crossing point further south where it is even more tightly constrained between an existing railway and housing.  As the canal could not practically be realigned here, the viaduct design will have to accommodate the very skew canal crossing, and should as far as possible follow the CRT design principles accepted for HS2 Phase 1.

An auto-transformer station will be visible from the canal around Pasture Lock and screen planting should be provided.

Nottingham Canal

The Design Refinement substantially changes the elevation of HS2 where it crosses the route of the Nottingham Canal from being on embankment to being in a cutting.  Although the Nottingham Canal is abandoned and not currently proposed for restoration, much of its towpath remains used as a footpath and a long section of the canal between Eastwood, Trowell and Wollaton is capable of restoration as a local amenity.  Severance of the canal should be avoided by providing an aqueduct here in order to maintain the continuity of the well-used public footpath that follows the towpath and of the canal channel itself for future restoration.

On balance IWA supports this Design Refinement change subject to: reduction of the maximum height of Stanton Gate Viaduct and the inclusion of effective noise barriers; the detailed design of Stanton Gate Erewash Canal Underbridge; screening from the canal of the Stanton Gate Auto-transformer station; and maintaining the continuity of the Nottingham Canal towpath and channel.

Leeds corridor, Woodlesford to Leeds Station

The change of alignment to avoid diverting an existing railway line will have both benefits and dis-benefits for the environment and users of the Aire & Calder Navigation.  From the Woodlesford Tunnel to west of the M1 motorway crossing HS2 will be further away from the canal although more elevated on a viaduct.  The overall balance of visual impact is difficult to assess without more information including cross sections.

West of the M1 crossing, the alignment converges on the canal and runs directly alongside it adjacent to the major bend in the navigation at Rodhill Corner, but is on a high viaduct crossing over the motorway and the railway which will significantly increase the visual impact on the waterway.  The very skew alignment of the Hallam Line crossing will require extended spans with more intrusive viaduct piers which should not intrude into or restrict the navigation for larger commercial vessels.

As well as a commercial navigation, the Aire & Calder is increasingly being used for recreational boating which will be more sensitive to noise disturbance from both the construction and operation of HS2.  The noise impact of a surface route would have been mitigated by woodland planting but will now depend on noise barriers along the viaduct, on which no information is offered.

Consideration should be given to using the Aire & Calder Navigation for transport of construction and demolition materials for this and other sections of HS2 that are close to the navigation to help reduce road congestion and environmental impacts.

For these reasons, IWA cannot support this change unless every effort is made at the detailed design stage to minimise the physical, visual and noise impacts on the Aire & Calder Navigation, including sensitive design of viaduct piers alongside the canal and extensive use of noise barriers along the viaduct.

To download the full text of IWA’s response see IWA-HS2-PHASE2B-DR-2019-text


IWA Donation to Lichfield Canal Restoration – Saturday 20th July 2019

Cheque presentation for 'Fosseway Queen' (MB)'Fosseway Queen' planter (MB)The steel 'oss at Fosseway Heath (MB)At a garden party held at Gallows Wharf in Lichfield, Phil Sharpe, Lichfield Branch Chairman was pleased to present a cheque to Peter Buck, Engineering Director of Lichfield & Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust (LHCRT) for £1,000 towards their restoration of the Lichfield Canal.

The money was a generous legacy left to IWA Lichfield Branch last year by the late Peter Chandler, a former Branch Chairman and an early director of the Trust.

The contribution will help fund ‘Fosseway Queen’, the brick narrowboat planter and its steel towing ‘oss (horse) sculpture which the Trust has constructed on the new canal bank at Fosseway Heath, close to the railway bridge over Falkland Road.  This striking addition to Lichfield’s landscape will help publicise the Trust’s ambition to restore the canal whilst brightening up the local environment.

As acknowledgement of the donation, the boat’s cabin side will carry a plaque in memory of Peter Chandler who did so much for the waterways, including designing the Trust’s logo that is still in use today.

The garden party was held to celebrate the award to LHCRT of the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service and, in accepting the cheque, Peter Buck also presented Phil Sharpe with a QAVS badge, one of many being presented that day to volunteers who have helped the Trust physically or organisationally over the past 30 years.  As a former director, vice-chairman and one-time work party organiser, Phil has also assisted with planning matters in recent years, but receiving the badge was an unexpected surprise.

Fosseway towpath wall repairs (PS)The building of Fosseway Queen was completed during two weeks of Canal Camps when volunteers from IWA’s Waterway Recovery Group were working on canal channel excavation, waterway wall repairs and landscaping at the Fosseway site, with impressive results.

More information about the remarkable progress of the Trust’s restoration and reconstruction work can be found on their website at  https://www.lhcrt.org.uk  where the Very Latest News link to their Facebook page provides daily updates and photos.
(Photos by Margaret Beardsmore and Phil Sharpe)

HS2 High Speed Rail Update - April 2019

Phase 2A (West Midlands – Crewe) Additional Provision 2

IWA has responded to a consultation on the HS2 Phase 2a, Additional Provision 2, Environmental Statements.

The AP2 changes include reduction in the height of the Kings Bromley and River Trent viaducts and the intervening Bourne Embankment, as requested in IWA’s consultation response in September 2017 and our petition in February 2018.  This will reduce visual impact and to some extent noise propagation.

Other changes include moving a balancing pond access track away from the canal at Fradley, which will be beneficial, and at Great Haywood including some additional land for construction on the north side of HS2 between the canal and the existing railway, which will marginally increase construction impacts on the canal.  Changes to the track layout at the Handsacre junction to connect HS2 with the West Coast Mainline slow lines instead of the fast lines may have minor additional visual impact on the canal.

Community Impact Assessments are provided for various locations including Ingestre Park Golf Club, and we have suggested these should include the community of moorers at Great Haywood Marina where there are over 200 boats many of which are occupied residentially for varying periods of time.

However, the main concern with AP2 is the possible impacts from dewatering of 3 large ‘borrow pits’ lowering the water table beneath the Trent & Mersey Canal from Wood End, Fradley to Handsacre.

HS2 think the canal is lined with a metre of puddle clay based on very limited historical references.  No detailed records survive from the construction of the canal in this area in the 1770s.  However, clay lining is probably limited to the towpath bank and elevated sections across embankments, culverts and aqueducts, with much of the bed and offside bank being just cut into the original ground where it is relatively impervious, without much or any clay lining.

The ‘threatened’ section of canal between Wood End and Handsacre is largely at ground level and, apart from where is crosses a few streams, may well be largely unlined.  It is likely that the canal water level and local groundwater have been in balance for centuries, and lowering the water table now by several metres could therefore significantly increase leakage and seepage.  Whether this would be marginal or catastrophic is uncertain.

HS2’s main solution is pipelines to discharge treated water pumped from the borrow pits back into the canal, but that could cause local scours or overtopping unless very carefully controlled.

IWA has requested installation of a series of canalside water table monitoring boreholes with regular readings taken from before and throughout the period of borrow pit operations, along with monitoring of canal water levels at intermediate locations and flow measurements at each end of the affected section.  This would provide early warning of any issues and enable appropriate avoidance or mitigation measures to be taken.

It cannot be assumed that recirculation of water to compensate for increased leakage will be practical at the indicated locations without detailed hydrological and engineering design work.  This should therefore be regarded as a last resort and the priority should be to avoid causing significantly increased water loss from the canal in the first place.  The suggested alternative measures include wet working of the borrow pits that avoids the need for dewatering or the installation of groundwater cut-off structures, presumably deep piling.

IWA’s full Phase 2a AP2 response can be downloaded here.