IWA West Country Branch members have for some time been aware that the 21-year lease of Bridgwater Docks from Somerset County Council (SCC) to Canal & River Trust (CRT) comes to an end in July this year. For more than five years now the Branch has been lobbying both parties to the lease about the future of the Docks and has argued that, inter alia, restoration of the Barge Lock and the Bascule Bridge (which straddles the Docks) to working order should take place.
The Docks are an integral part of Bridgwater’s history and heritage and were awarded Grade II listing in 1973, following the closure of the Docks to shipping a few years earlier. The Docks once provided valuable connections from the River Parrett to the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal through both the Ship Lock and the Barge Lock; however the first of these closed following the closure to shipping and we understand that the latter has been unnavigable since 2002/3, when stop planks were inserted following a spring tide that overtopped the Barge Lock gates and allowed saline water to enter the Docks and the canal.
At the annual user group meeting for the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal last December, CRT informed those present that it would not be renewing or extending its lease of the Docks upon its termination date and that any of the boat owners whose mooring agreements ran beyond the termination date would receive a credit or a refund for the unexpired period. CRT also reported that they would be undertaking dilapidation works at the Docks, as required under the terms of the lease and would be working with Somerset County Council to secure the future of the Docks.
It was therefore a surprise to learn that not only had the lease been temporarily extended but that CRT had written to boat owners in May not only stating that their mooring agreements would be terminated in advance of the eventual termination date of the lease but that they should prepare to remove their boats from the Docks, in the event that nobody is found to take the Docks on for the future. We have pointed out to CRT (and to SCC) that the Bridgwater & Taunton canal is an isolated waterway, the secure moorings on the canal are fully occupied and that removing the 30 or so boats moored in the Docks will be both inconvenient and costly to the boat owners. CRT has responded that it will continue to extend the mooring agreements for 3 months at a time for the foreseeable future but will not make any contribution to the costs of removing boats from the Docks.
IWA West Country Branch continues to lobby the local authorities and others within Somerset about the future of the Docks and we are working in particular with Somerset County Council and Bridgwater Town Council. At the moment discussions need to take place on the dilapidation obligations that CRT has under the terms of the lease and our view is that until these are agreed it may be premature for any parties who might have an interest in the future of the Docks to get fully involved.
Last week, IWA West Country Branch distributed a press release which highlighted the refusal of the Bridgwater Tidal Barrier Scheme Project Board to agree to the reservation of land within the bypass channel of the barrier for the future construction of a lock and approach channels.
Please click HERE to read the full press release. We welcome your support in pushing for the reversal of this ruling. If you have any questions, please contact: Ray Alexander, Chairman, IWA West Country Branch, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone: 07786 176875.
Over 6,000 volunteer hours have already been logged for this year by IWA West Country Branch volunteers, who work tirelessly to protect, maintain and restore many of the rivers and canals across the region. Waterways covered include the River Tone, Bridgwater & Taunton Canal and the Grand Western Canal. There are plans to hold 220 work parties by the end of 2019.
As well as taking part in work parties and events, volunteers also provide expertise, with many of the volunteers having in depth knowledge of specific areas of canal restoration.
The Branch holds three work parties each week along the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal. In May, volunteers removed reed cuttings from the Canal with the use of a work boat towards Bridgwater Docks.
IWA West Country Branch and Langport Town Council organised a weekend visit to Somerset on 21st - 22nd April by Waterway Recovery Group's 'Bit in the Middle'.
WRG volunteers spent the weekend removing a number of saplings and clearing several years' worth of silt, mud and grass from a slipway on the River Parrett at Langport. The Town Council had acquired the slipway from the Environment Agency in 2016 as one element of its programme to increase the use of the non-tidal "Upper" Parrett for leisure and recreation purposes and to thereby bring more visitors into the town.
The weekend was a great success and paves the way for a second phase which is to repair some damaged elements of the slipway that are currently submerged underwater.
The photographs show the 'before' and 'after' slipway and show the enormous difference made by the volunteers. IWA West Country Branch and the Town Council thank WRG for their work and also Langport resident and IWA member Ian Macnab for all his help and also for taking the volunteers on a trip on his wooden heritage boat "The Duchess of Cocklemoor" on the Sunday.
The waterways of Somerset have benefited from 5408 hours of attention from volunteers from IWA’s West Country branch. Over the last twelve months the branch has organised an impressive 201 work parties, on average attended by around 8 volunteers who each manage at least 3 hours of support.
Their massive contribution to the area has been recognised by way of a citizenship award for top volunteer Steve Bulgin who leads the work parties in the Taunton area. Steve received his award from the Mayor of Taunton on behalf of Taunton Deane District Council in the name of his work and that of all the local IWA volunteers. Congratulations to Steve and his volunteers.
Photo: IWA volunteer Steve Bulgin receives citizenship award from Mayor of Taunton
IWA West Country Branch support Canal and River Trust throughout the year - in the last eight months we've helped to the tune of 3,500 hours to improve the canal between Bridgwater Docks and the village of Fordgate and from Creech St. Michael to Taunton. We've helped to help keep the waterway an attractive place for visitors and boaters, trimming hedges, picking up litter and repainting lock gates. CRT have done a nice write up that we can be proud of:
Volunteer donate 3,500 hours to help us look after Somerset canal
IWA West Country Branch has been awarded the Branch Achievement Award for 2017. This Award comprises a silver plate engraved with the name of the winning branch, together with a citation, which recognises the commitment by all the our volunteers and the campaigning undertaken to regenerate the River Parrett and Bridgwater Docks.
An event was held at Bridgwater Docks to receive the award, honour our volunteers and promote our ongoing efforts. Mayor of Bridgwater Graham Granter was there to thank them for their contribution to the town and other Town Councillors turned up to discuss mutual interests and taking their campaigns forward.
(Photo: IWA West Country Branch with the Branch Achievement Award)
Over the August Bank Holiday weekend, 23 members joined IWA West Country Branch on a five mile walk along the proposed route of the new Silk Mills “Park and Glide” project in Taunton.
The project will see eco-friendly electric boats shuttle passengers between the car park and the town centre. The site of a planned boat lift and visitor centre at Silk Mills was a highlight of the walk. Robert Hodgeson described how the lift would link a disused part of the Grand Western Canal with the River Tone in Taunton. The new vertical boat lift and visitor centre will offer opportunities to experience 19th century life on Somerset's wetlands and canals and will form a lasting tribute to the engineers who built the world's first commercial boat lifts here in Somerset.
The walk was organised in collaboration with the Friends of Grand Western Canal, which is trying to raise sufficient funds to finance a route feasibility study.
Photo: Mike Slade from the IWA West Country Branch handing over a donation to Robert Hodgeson and Hugh Dalziel (Friends of the Grand Western Canal)
WEST COUNTRY BRANCH NEW YEAR’S DAY WALK
IWA West Country Branch is organising a New Year’s Day walk on the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal, starting at Creech St. Michael near Taunton in Somerset. Members and guests including family dogs are most welcome to come along to this.
The intention is to meet at Creech St. Michael Canal Car Park, TA3 5PW, at 1.30pm and to walk from 1.45pm along the towpath to Cogload Junction and back, which should take approximately 2 hours. The total length of the walk is some 4 miles.
To get to the canal car park take Vicarage Lane, turn left at the end, continue over the railway bridge and then turn right towards the car park.
We have not booked a specific venue on this occasion for refreshments, however the New Mill Inn, 102 Bridgwater Road, Bathpool, TA2 8BE will be open both before and after the walk.
For further information please contact Ray Alexander on 07786 176875 or email@example.com or Mike Slade on 07977 263840 or firstname.lastname@example.org
For news from the South West & South Wales Region, take a look at the Regional Newsletter Sou'Wester.