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    Royal Wootton Bassett

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    Templar's Firs, Wilts & Berks Canal

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  1. When we took the boat out this morning, I noticed that a steel plate on the stern was etched with an anchor on the left side and the name 'Marine and Power Engineering' on the right. I’ve found out that Nelson originated as a 60-ft Springer narrowboat built in 1970 (so less than 7ft wide) and named ‘Longbow’. It had been based on the Medway, registered as M120704, and was converted by Alex Vanstone of Marine and Power Engineering in Kent. The company is now based near Burton-on-Trent, and the website has a series of photos showing the conversion.
  2. There are slots in the lattice work that have been used to insert scaffolding poles, and we're continuing the tradition. They allow us to moor the boat away from the bank, which deters casual intruders. I think the knobs were to help with tying up; there are now only three. I measured the width of the boat including lattice work, and it does seem to be 7ft, so it should fit the locks when the time comes. We'll remove the bigger box sections when we reach that stage. By then, we should have steel pontoons that would give stability; they would also allow the HIAB to be taken to other stretches of the restored canal. If you visit the web-site wbct.org.uk, you'll find a link to a PDF that records the journey from Woking to Royal Wootton Bassett. We hope to take the boat all the way along the Templar's Firs stretch in the coming week; on Thursday on a training run we got to the first bridge where there was around 18 inches of clearance.
  3. Mark, Thank you for your recent posts and for the holiday photo. Mr Faulkner certainly logged his activity in detail at a time when few knew anything about the Wilts & Berks or North Wilts canals. He deserves recognition for his research and his photography. If you want to e-mail me directly, you can reach me on 'Steve dot Bacon at wbct dot org dot uk'. As a local member in the Royal Wootton Bassett branch, I have documented the restoration history within our area, while there is a growing volume of historical information being posted on the WBCT web-site. It has an interactive map showing both the original canal line and the proposed line when restored.
  4. I'm told that the beam including the normal lattice protecting the hull is within 7ft, but the two box-sections where vertical stabilisers are used when dredging take the width to 7ft 4in. For the next year or so, this won't matter - until after the next lock is restored. At that time, these box sections will be replaced by an alternative method of stabilising the boat.
  5. Rob Locatelli of River & Canal Services generously donated a 40ft converted steel narrowboat named 'Nelson' to the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust, and it was transferred by road from Woking to Royal Wootton Bassett on Saturday 15th May 2021. When lifted out of the water, the hull has the shape of a narrow-boat with a curved stern, although in the water this isn't obvious thanks to a square housing protecting the propeller and rudder. It is equipped with a Lister 2-cylinder diesel engine. Hidden behind a lattice of square-section steelwork, there are narrow-boat rubbing strakes. There is a wheelhouse that has the potential to be removed although R & CS have never needed to do so; it has a room for a cartridge toilet. The boat has a HIAB, purchased from R & CS, which will be particularly useful in dredging a shallow section of canal where a small river named 'Hancock's Water' enters from the north (and exits to the south 200 metres further east at Woodshaw spill-weir). We have no idea why the boat was named 'Nelson', so I wonder whether a working narrow-boat would once have had that name. Does anyone know the provenance of this boat?
  6. Thanks for the photo, which doesn't appear in C E Faulkner's collection. Here is the text from his field-notes, full of abbreviations: 10. Uffington Wharf, Bridge, SU300898; Visited:- 7.8.60; 10.9.60; 22.9.60; 13.5.61. Access:- from Uffington. Photograph Nos.:- 358 : 360. Observation:- Comparatively well-preserved spot. Traces remain of parapets of masonry Br. and distinct road bump. Embanking again in evidence:- to line E. for somd distance, but filling has taken places, and to W, where line and bank are very open and visible. NW curve to Rly. is very marked. Wharf Cottage remains apparently in inhabited condition; there is an ugly pre-fabricated dwelling on wharf-canal site. (13.5.61) walked about 400yd E. str. well defined line in high embankt. app 15'. quite dry & clear over distance, then dense growth and line v. narrow. Also wkd. abt. 300 yd. W, but more overgrowth, embankt. not so high: line further to Rly curve, v. difficult. Although C E Faulkner's set of slides does have some missing examples, in this case both are accounted-for. No. 358 is of the canal embankment, looking east from the wharf site, while 360 is of the wharf; both were taken on his last recorded visit, 13th May 1961. Comparing the two of the wharf cottage, I guess that the RCHS photo is more recent; the TV aerial seems to have been relocated from the chimney-breast to a free-standing mast behind the house, while the wall in the foreground has been rebuilt.
  7. Hi Athy, Good to hear that you're also a member of WBCT. I have the immense pleasure of regularly walking the restored sections at Templar's Firs, Chaddington and Studley Grange, connected by a short piece of public footpath on the former towpath. It's a haven for wildlife including cygnets hatched this week. C E Faulkner's photos and field notes show how dilapidated it was in his time; he must have been devastated to see the route severed by the M4 south of Swindon in 1970. Certainly around here it's become a very well-used linear park - and there's hope that there will be a tunnel under the M4 within a few years. Perhaps one day we can meet for a drink at one of our CAMRA 2020 award-winning pubs when they re-open! (Out of the six categories, the Peterborough Arms at Dauntsey Lock received an award for refurbishment while the H & W at Swindon got the new-build award).
  8. I am a local historian living close to the restored Wilts & Berks Canal at Royal Wootton Bassett. I'm interested in finding out more on C E Faulkner of Essex, who spent much time on and off creating field-notes of the then-abandoned canal around 1960. He intended to publish a book, but it never happened; his photos and field-notes were deposited with Wiltshire Archive in 1989. He died in Norfolk in 1991 and his widow Eve died in Halstead, Essex, in 2015. There's no evidence that he ever connected with the Wilts & Berks Canal Amenity Group that was formed in 1977. The photos and notes provide a good record of the state of the canal's remains 60 years ago, and they would lend themselves to being cross-referred to the interactive map of the canal on the WBCT web-site because most locations in the field notes include OS map references. Did anyone know anything about Charles Edward Faulkner apart from what I have retrieved on FindMyPast? It would be great to have at least a photo of him.
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