Reports of Talks

Past Talks are listed “most recent first”

2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20
2020-21 2021-22 2022-23 2023-24

2023-24 Season

Friday  19th April 2024 Our final meeting of the season was the formal celebration of the Society’s 50 years. After an excellent meal 25 attendees enjoyed a number of short presentations covering key aspects of the Society’s work. First David Clegg read out Steve Guest’s words describing how the Society was formed in response to the closure to navigation in 1973 of Harecastle Tunnel because of a roof collapse. [Steve was unwell and unable to attend.] Then Margaret English read out Michael Priest’s memories of the very early days of the Society [Michael was unavoidably in sunnier climes.] Roger Evans described our Milepost Campaign (using some of the late Harry Arnold’s material). The project started in 1977 and was completed in 1985. It involved a search for original mileposts, commissioning replacement posts and installation and painting.

After a break, John Tackley turned our attention to the Anderton Lift and the early campaigning days. He paid tribute to those involved including (with apologies to anyone he had missed): Peter and Christine Smith, Gordon and Betty Diprose, Christine and Ted Thompson, Harry and Sue Tomlinson, Richard Drake, Ted Wickens, Malcolm and Angela Turner, Mike Cooksley and John Morin. John also reported on the current “Engineering the Future” project which comprises the urgent work to prevent the Lift from falling into disrepair and facing possible closure. John shared with us his vision for how much more could be done to improve the financial situation including attractions that encourage repeat visits.

A very enjoyable evening concluded with information from John Lawson on the highly successful Cheshire Locks Working Parties read out by Margaret English (who added some of her own memories which seemed to revolve around getting more paint on her than the lock gate!). [John was unwell and unable to attend.]

Friday 15th March 2024 Malcolm Bridge described the second part of their trip on Irish Waterways. From Enniskillen they explored Lower Lough Erne before returning through Enniskillen to revisit Upper Lough Erne (including this time the River Erne to Belturbet). Then they retraced their route through the Shannon-Erne Waterway before travelling down the Shannon (across 2 big lakes) to Killaloe. Sadly, there was no time for  a visit to Limerick via the 100′ staircase lock at Ardnacrusha.

Returning upstream they then passed through the Grand Canal (with a side-trip to Naas) before exploring the Barrow navigation and River Barrow as far as possible (although a broken lock stopped them from reaching Waterford). Finally they returned to Sallins (on the Grand Canal) and were lifted out for their return to England.

A lively talk with lots of questions and added bits by the audience.

Friday 16th February 2024 Malcolm Bridge described the first part of their exploration of  the Irish waterways system on Ampère (an all-electric narrowboat), prompted by her getting trapped in Hebden Bridge by the Calderdale floods on Boxing Day, 2015. Having had earlier Irish ambitions thwarted when they were unable to trail their Sea Otter there, Malcolm and Barbara took the opportunity of needing a crane and low-loader to do any boating in 2016 to have Ampère lifted to Ireland, spending a year there during which time they managed to cover almost all the system before the Winter closures.

After photos of the Calderdale floods, Malcolm (with interjections from Barbara) showed the massive (and very expensive) crane which dropped them into the Grand Canal about 20 miles West of Dublin. They were then accompanied by Waterways Ireland staff through the worst areas of Dublin to a safe mooring in the central Grand Canal Dock. Next they had to use a small part of the River Liffey to reach the Royal Canal at exactly the right time to get under a lifting railway bridge (which only rises once per month). Another “dangerous” area of Dublin followed, but once they were on the summit it was very peaceful. Their route then took them the full length of the Royal Canal to Richmond Harbour. After a trip on the upper Shannon to Lock Allen, they used the Shannon-Erne Waterway to reach Lough Erne and Enniskillen (which completed this part of their journey and this talk).

Friday 19th January 2024 – Alan Chetwyn showed films of 3 of his cruises in the 1990’s. First came “Erewash 1993” which actually started in Stoke and finished in Braunston, but majored on the Erewash Canal. Next was the advertised film of “Mon & Brec 1997” which was exclusively about that canal and gave rise to many questions as few people had experienced this route. After the break was “Oxford 1998” which started there, did a circuit of the Thames in Oxford and then progressed through Foxton (as already seen in 1993) back to Stoke. Lots of comments were added by the audience causing Alan to have to pause the films several times to explain and elaborate. 

Friday 17th November 2023 – Patrick Marks gave another of his interesting talks to a very appreciative audience.  The main portion of the talk was a series of pictures showing locations (mainly on our canal and midland canals) which looked different in years gone by. This involved a lot of audience participation in guessing the locations shown and then talking about things that the pictures reminded us about. Much hilarity ensued. After the interval there were a collection of random signs and notices to make you smile. Some of these signs contained foreign words that were  also English words with very different meaning. Others highlighted the hilarity caused by mistranslation of signs into “almost” English.

Friday 2oth October 2023 – Neil Barnett of IWA Lichfield told us about taking a narrow-boat through Cambridge and taking a cabin cruiser along the Caledonian Canal. First Neil explained that cruising from Jesus Bridge Lock to the centre of Cambridge can only be done in the Winter when there are less punts, and that you will have to apply for permission to go onto the Backs. On his trip there were still some punts moving and lots moored, plus several low bridges. The pictures showed us that Jesus Lock has curved balance beams both ends, the Bridge of Sighs (St John’s College) looks like something out of Harry Potter, and that Kings College looks just like it does on “Carols from Kings”. To end the first half he showed a few shots of recent trips: Sharpness to Bristol which needs a pilot because of sandbanks and rocks; Manchester Ship Canal onto the Mersey and 4 miles to Liverpool docks; Ribble Link and the side-arm to Glasson Dock; Central London in the quiet of the early morning; York where the river goes up and down a lot making mooring difficult; Lincoln shooting the Glory Hole.

After the break, Neil explained that Queen Victoria went on the Caledonian Canal in 1873 which started tourist traffic. You can hire cabin cruisers but not cheaply. His round trip took 6 days. Pictures showed us that there are several large passenger ships;  Lock Ness is enormous (no monster seen); the 5-lock staircase at Fort Augustus has to be navigated with the engine off  and bow-hauling between chambers. It was a wonderful trip, very quiet with no light pollution. The highlight was mooring below Ben Nevis.

2022-23 Season

Friday 21st April 2023 – Andy Perkin talked about the Potteries Heritage Society. They are the local civic society for Stoke-on-Trent. Their aim is to stimulate an interest in local heritage and engage with local people to help protect and enhance their unique urban environment. They have a particular interest in the bottle kilns dotted around the area, of which 50 remain on 29 sites. He also touched on the 20+ conservation areas within the area and discussed the importance of the canals that pass through. They encourage good new buildings as well as helping to preserve the past.

Friday 17th March 2023 – John Potter gave us an insight into the scheme to relink Stafford to the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal. Stafford Riverway Link are making very good progress with rebuilding the basin, which is  adjacent to the Staffs and Worcs Canal. They hope to start work soon on building a replacement towpath bridge, which will enable them to then excavate a link to their new basin. They have also done a lot of work to show the floor-plan of the old lock house. A new lock will have to be built leading to a new short canal-link to the River Sow, with dredging of the river and excavation of a turning basin in Stafford to follow. 

Friday 18th November 2022 – Malcolm and Barbara Bridge travel the country on their all-electric narrow boat “Ampere”. Malcolm gave an interesting and thought-provoking talk about “More sustainable boating”. The first section of the talk was about what you could do on an existing boat by making small behavioural changes. For example, cruising at 3mph instead of 4mph, and turning off the engine whilst locking could, between them, halve your fuel consumption. Next came “new builds” where hull shape and using waste heat for background heating were amongst the items discussed. Finally, “the future”, where some exciting possible new products were mentioned. He also discussed things that the navigation authorities could do to reduce the environmental impact of boating. 

Friday 21st October 2022 – Bob Cannell and Les Green (both volunteers from the Daniel Adamson Preservation Society) gave us a fascinating talk about the history of the Danny – “The Tug that Survived to Sail Again”. Several members were so enthused by the talk that they decided to book trips on her. 

2021-22 Season

Friday 18th March 2022 – Margaret Ingham is chairman of the “Friends of Warrington Transporter Bridge”. She began by explaining that the transporter bridge in Warrington was the last one to be built (it opened in 1916) and the only rail-equipped one. It was built to carry cement in railway trucks (up to a maximum weight of  18 tons) in a movable “gondola” from the cement factory to the main railway system, and later adapted with a larger gondola to carry up to 30 tons (and also to carry road lorries). Only 8 transporter bridges are left in the world, and this is the only railway one, the others are either pedestrian or road transporters. Currently it can’t be crossed on foot, nor can the gondola be moved, but the bridge can be viewed by following either of the 2 signposted paths to reach it. Finally she discussed what the future might hold for this local little known Scheduled Monument which is currently leased by the local council.

Friday 18th February 2022 – Talk postponed to next month because the speaker couldn’t get there (Storm Eunice!). 

Friday 21st January 2022 – Ian Wilson showed a fascinating selection of pictures about “The changing scene and history of the Shropshire Union Canal”. Many of the pictures dated back to the 1960s and were originally taken by Ian or his father as slides. These had all been digitised by Ian himself and they looked very good with excellent colour rendition and sharp pictures. First he took us along the Chester Canal from Nantwich basin to an extensive tour around Ellesmere Port (with images from 1967 to 2019 of buildings that no longer exist or have a new use). After the break we journeyed from Nantwich basin to Autherley Junction, with a side excursion down part of the Shrewsbury & Newport Canal. As an encore he showed us a few pictures from some of his other talks. These old images included views of our own canal (Anderton Lift before and during restoration, Thurlwood Steel Lock in use, inside Harecastle Tunnels old and new) as well as the Kennet & Avon and Montgomery canals before restoration.

Friday 19th November 2021 – Peter and Elaine Scott presented “More Spot-the-Locks”, another miscellany of pictures, stories and oddities from 50 years of navigation of the Waterways; some light-hearted and some more serious. It was very interactive throughout with the audience competing to be the first to recognise the location. This time it was more wide-ranging than their 2014 visit with bridges, basins, signs, etc being “spotted” along with locks. This was our first talk for 21 months, and everybody was very glad to be back together again.

2020-21 Season

Friday 16th October 2020 – Friday 19th March 2021 – Our entire 2020-21 season of talks was postponed to 2021-22 because of Covid-19 uncertainties!

2019-20 Season

Friday 20th March 2020 – Talk postponed because of the Covid-19 outbreak. It will be rescheduled for a future season of talks.

Friday 21st February 2020 – In a change to our advertised talk Patrick Marks presented “Crossing the Wash by Narrowboat”. In the first half Patrick introduced us to some of the delights of the Great Ouse, including Ely Cathedral. He then touched on the planning need for crossing the Wash, before leaving us safely moored at the new pontoon at Kings Lynn. After the break we set off (on the ebb) at a steady canal speed into the Wash, before beaching the 3 boats on a sandbank to wait for the tide to turn. Then it was a full-speed run on the incoming tide and up the River Witham. Arrival at Grand Sluice in Boston was just a few minutes before the tide made a level, so that the boats (which were too long for the lock) could pass straight through the lock and tie up safely in the CRT moorings. We are very grateful to Patrick for stepping in at short notice.

Friday 17th January 2020 – Phil Clayton’s talk “Down South” was a very interesting look at his cruises along the waterways of London. It was particularly instructive to see the changes between his 2003 and 2015 cruises. He finished the very professionally illustrated talk with a trip from Limehouse through London on the tidal Thames and along the River Wey.

Friday 15th November 2019 – Patrick Marks gave us an entertaining evening with the showing of his film “Down the Tidal Severn by Narrowboat”, accompanied by lively explanation as the film played. Their route was from Sharpness to Portishead with a (very necessary) pilot on a beautiful calm day, followed by their journey up the tidal Avon from Portishead to Bristol the following day. As an encore he showed an amusing short film about preparing a chicken dinner on-board a boat on the Canal du Midi! [This meeting was also held at Kidsgrove Town Hall, as refurbishment of the Red Bull Hotel was running late.]

Friday 18th October 2019 – Ros Todhunter talked about “Billinge Flashes– A brine run with an ice age legacy”. She explained that melting glaciers and salt extraction have both left their mark on the Trent & Mersey canal at Billinge Flashes and The Lion Salt works in Northwich. After an extremely detailed talk, she finished by saying that both these locations are sites of past and (highly probable) future bank collapses. [Despite this meeting being held at Kidsgrove Town Hall as our usual venue was closed for refurbishment we had a good, and very interested audience.]

2018-19 Season

Friday 15th March 2019 – Chris Leah talked about the “Wooden Canal Boat Society Story”. He started with his own background and how he became interested in canal boats. This led to the society being founded and various very decrepit boats acquired. Over many years they managed to restore some of these boats (with more still to do) and create a boatyard from scratch. 

Friday 15th February 2019 – Patrick Marks showed 2 fascinating films he had made about Indian Hill Railways. The first was a 20 minute film about his journey along the 29 miles of the metre-gauge Nilgiri Mountain Railway. The highlight of the trip was the 12 mile long rack section (the only one in India) whose vintage steam locomotives have a very strange wheel arrangement as the 8 driving wheels are separated into 2 groups of 4 with a large gap between for the rack drive. The second 40 minute film was a journey up the narrow-gauge (2 feet) Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, which is also still steam hauled and criss-crosses the mountain road as well as passing up the main street of one of the towns en-route. Its 55 mile long journey last a full day and climbs over 7,000 feet.

Friday 18th January 2019 – Mike Walton talked about Murgatroyd’s Brine Pump in Middlewich. First he explained the history of salt extraction in Britain, and then moved on to discuss Murgatroyd’s. Middlewich Heritage Trust now own the site and are busy working to preserve it for all to visit. Apparently it is the last remaining hand-dug brine shaft, and is over 200 feet deep. The original steam pump is unfortunately long gone, but there are still 3 later electric pumps in situ (2 inside the building + a submersible one down the shaft). They hope to remove the gantry this April for restoration (and later return to the site). 

Friday 16th November 2018 – John Pomfret talked about “Braunston – Canal Age Transport Hub”, looking at the history of canals in and around Braunston, Northamptonshire, in the wider context of the history of transport – From Roman roads to early river transport, through turnpikes, the canal age, and the railway age to the motorway age. He explained the effects on Braunston of the arrival of the Oxford Canal and the later Grand Junction Canal and the many subsequent changes arising from the rise and fall of freight traffic and the development of leisure use. A thoroughly interesting talk.

Friday 19th October 2018 – Steve Wood talked about the Uttoxeter Canal Restoration. First he explained how (and why) the Uttoxeter Canal was proposed [to stop a rival canal] and built [reluctantly once the rival had failed]. Then he briefly took us through its active life and closure. Next he explained how the Caldon Canal Society was born, its achievements and how it morphed into the Caldon and Uttoxeter Canals Trust. After the break he talked about their proposals for restoration, and then discussed several of their recent projects on the Uttoxeter Canal. One particularly interesting subject was how they keep on finding built relics that they didn’t know the location of, or didn’t even know existed. Finally he talked about the future, including their involvement in a new salmon ladder at Crumpwood Weir.

Friday 21st September 2018 – Mark Thomas talked about “Three things you don’t know about the RNLI” in our first talk at our new home of the Red Bull Hotel. First he showed an interesting film about a 1914 shipwreck, which convinced the RNLI to speed-up the introduction of powered (as opposed to 8-oared) lifeboats. Then he showed us round their new lifeboat factory, explained the reasoning behind their introduction of Lifeguards, and finally discussed their education section and their “Respect the Water” campaign.

2017-18 Season

Friday 20th April 2018 – Phil Clayton introduced us to that wonderful network of waterways known as the Birmingham Canal Navigations. He spoke about their beginnings, development, working life, decline and renaissance; together with a little about the work of the BCN Society. His talk was accompanied by pictures, words and music. We thoroughly enjoyed this last talk of the season.

Friday 16th March 2018 – Derek and Jeanne Smith, keen trail-boaters, shared their experiences in this illustrated talk. They looked at cruising on remote waterways, mainly those unconnected waterways that are under restoration. A highlight of their talk was their trip to Ireland which included the River Barrow and Upper Shannon as well as the recently reopened Royal Canal.

Friday 16th February 2018 – Bill Walker talked about Fly Boats (mainly those of the Shropshire Union Company) and Fly Boating. He also showed a film “Towpath Encounter” about horse boats working locks, and passing other horse boats.

Friday 19th January 2018 – Ray Johnson (from Staffordshire Film Archive) talked about Brindley and Wedgwood – Chalk and Cheese. First he gave us a flavour of Brindley from contemporary correspondence and the writings of his great friend Josiah Wedgwood. Next he showed us a film about the early history of canals. After the break he treated us to video clips of some of the Brindley 300th Anniversary events in 2016 (including our own celebration of the cutting of the first sod). One of the clips was of a play specially written for the event with songs, and we were invited to join in with the chorus of “Chalk and Cheese”. A thoroughly good evening was had by all.

Friday 17th November 2017 – Ann Pollard is secretary of the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal Society. She told us about the history of the canal and the society, during an illustrated trip up the canal from Stourport to the junction with our own canal.

Friday 20th October 2017 – Our first talk of the new season. Ian Rogers talked about the International Guild of Knot Tyers, He also demonstrated how knots are tied and used, both in boating and decoratively.

2016-17 Season

Friday 21st April 2017 – Ray Butler (of the Manchester, Pennine and Potteries Waterway Partnership) gave a very entertaining and informative talk about what Waterway Partnerships are, and what our local Waterway Partnership does for the local waterways.

Friday 17th March 2017 – Peter Brown (from RCHS – the Railway and Canal Historical Society) took us through a treasure-trove of 106 Trent & Mersey Canal official posters and notices, mainly dating from the 18th century. These had been found carefully pasted into a scrapbook, but with a printed Index at the back. The posters give an impression of the canal company’s management practices and worries, in a way which doesn’t emerge from a study of minute books (although these are missing anyway for our canal) or other sources. Subjects covered included warehousing, instructions to captains, wanted posters and punishment of offenders.

Friday 17th February 2017 – John Pomfret explained the development of waterways in Northern Belgium and the Netherlands from the 13th century. He then looked at the canal networks of trading towns which grew up around waterways (Bruges, Gent, Amsterdam, and Groningen). Next more recent developments were explained, including waterway enlargements and new waterways for freight use, as well as the Zuider Zee and Delta Projects. Finally he talked about the development of recreational use and two restoration schemes. The lecture was accompanied by a large number of very interesting photographs, and was much enjoyed by those present.

Friday 20th January 2017 – In the 1950’s Britain’s waterways were still full of commercial traffic and lined with the mills, factories and ports of a then leading industrial nation. This was the era recaptured by Andrew Hemmings in words and photographs of the Lytham Sea Cadets’ voyage in 1958 from Lytham on the west coast to Hull on the east coast by canal, rivers and estuaries on “Training Ship Queenborough”. He made the journey come alive, and several members bought copies of his book “from Lancashire to Yorkshire by Canal (in the 1950s)” afterwards to read more about the trip.

Friday 18th November 2016 – Steve Wood entertained us with another evening of historic films about the local waterways. The longest film was about the history of the Caldon Canal. There were also several short films from various sources including both TV and amateur footage. Steve entertained us as usual explaining the background to many of the films. We must thank Steve for stepping in at a few hours’ notice when Jo Bell (Canal Poet) had to cancel because she had pharyngitis and couldn’t talk.

Friday 21st October 2016 – Richard Parry (Chief Executive of Canal and River Trust) reviewed the progress that the trust has made since its inception in 2012 and outlined its plans for the future, both operational and financial. The information was well received and attracted much interest and interaction with discussions throughout the evening. It was apparent on Richard’s arrival that he was already familiar with some of our members and his easy manner encouraged the flow of questions. There was particular interest in the way that finance is allocated from government to the trust compared with allocation and retraction of funds in the days of BW. Richard took away some questions for further investigation and, since the presentation, I have been advised that Richard has raised the issue of Hurleston Lock that was highlighted by Jim Macdonald. (Gillian Watson)

Friday 16th September 2016 – Our first talk of the season was in 2 parts. First we had Malcolm Turner (ex-Chairman of our society) showing his film of a T&MCS trip on Nb Christina, with Chris Thompson from Anderton to a Society Rally at Shardlow. Captured along the way were Pat & Millie Osborn. Trophies were awarded at the rally by Mike Mitchell to Peter Coppuck (and occasionally to others). Chris & Peter Smith, Alan Bates, Gordon & Betty Diprose, and a number of other stalwarts (either no longer with us or moved away) were also visible. This was a real trip down memory lane for many and an insight into the earlier days of the society for others.

Then, after the break, we had Bill Walker outlining fly-boat Saturn’s planned May 2017 fly trip from Ellesmere to Castlefield, and explaining what support they will need to help make it run smoothly. A fascinating talk and an indication of just how much work is involved in organising such an event.

2015-16 Season

Friday 15th April 2016 – Ian Edgar took us through the history of his involvement with Bugsworth Basin for over 40 years. We saw the original volunteer restoration work, the various sections openings, and the re-restoration work (both volunteer and professional) as problems were found. Finally we saw the Basin’s present magnificent status and concluded with “Where do we go from here?”.

Don Baines then gave a short, illustrated talk on the various types of stone traffic from the Basin including the boats used. One of the destinations was the Brunner-Mond Alkali Works at Malkins Bank, which was discussed in detail.

Friday 18th March 2016 – Unfortunately John Morin had to cancel his planned talk on “President’s trip to take part in the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant in 2012” at the very last moment. Unfortunately, the message only reached us after the meeting had already started! Luckily John Tackley was on hand to explain the River Weaver Navigation Society’s newly published plans for an inclined plane between the river and the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union. Roger Evans then talked about our planned events over the Summer. After a break Roger Savage gave an impromptu talk about how President’s trip came about, and all the work which went into her send-off from Staffordshire (with events at Etruria, Stone and Fradley). He injected plenty of humour into his talk and there was much laughter along the way. Those present (over 30 in total) told us that they had enjoyed the evening, even without the planned talk.

Friday 19th February 2016 – Steve Wood entertained us with an evening of historic films about the Caldon Canal. They included two locally-made films dating from before (Caldon Canal – A Cut Above The Rest – 1970) and after (Caldon Canal Restoration – 1978) the restoration of the canal. There were also several short films from various sources including both TV and amateur footage. Steve made the evening even more interesting with his explanations of the background to the films and by pointing out shots of a very young Roger Savage, who many of the audience know well.

Friday 15th January 2016 – John Pomfret gave us a fascinating visual tour around river navigations (with the odd big canal thrown in) from the Tyne and Tees to the Yorkshire Ouse, Humber and Trent and their tributaries. He even included a few “open” rivers where there is no navigation authority but navigation isn’t actually prohibited. As well as pictures of navigations and boats (old & new) we got a short history and navigation advice. A good evening all round.

Friday 20th November 2015 – Mike Bonson spoke about the long history of the many attempts to get the Macclesfield Canal built, with much opposition in Parliament from the Duke of Bridgewater and the Trent & Mersey Canal. After the break, he took us on a brief cruise along the canal highlighting interesting historical facts. We must thank Mike for stepping in at very short notice when Jo Bell (Canal Poet) had to cancel her talk. His talk was well worth listening to.

Friday 16th October 2015 – Mike Walton brought us historical information, maps, and pictures of Croxton Flint Mill; of which the only remnant that now remains is the path leading from Croxton Lane towards the site of the long-gone buildings. He told us of the mill’s association with the Trent and Mersey Canal; the reasons for there being a flint mill in that location; where the flint came from and how it was transported; where the milled flint was delivered to. and its use and the reasons for the eventual decline and dilapidation of the mill and its associated buildings. All thoroughly interesting to the audience of around 30 people.

Friday 18th September 2015 – Our first talk of the new season was by our own Gillian Watson on unusual and interesting aspects of our canal. She stressed that this talk was still being developed (ready for giving to other organisations) and asked for our help in making it even better. Starting at Preston Brook and working slowly South much extra useful information was supplied by the audience. Despite this being very much a “prototype” talk, everybody seemed to enjoy themselves greatly.

2014-15 Season

Friday 17th April 2015 – Rob Maddock gave us a fascinating talk, illustrated by his own unique photographs, of the painstaking work that he and his team carried out to dismantle and rebuild the Anderton Lift.

Friday 20th March 2015 – Darren Green explained what Central Shires had been doing in the past few months around his patch, with special emphasis on the progress of the recent maintenance work on the Trent & Mersey and neighbouring waterways. It was an interesting talk and Darren was always happy to answer questions, explain in depth, or even suggest ways in which we could help him to prioritise problems by making sure that we report them to his enquiries team.

Friday 20th February 2015 – Brian McGuigan and his wife Anne-Marie live and trade on the waterways of Cheshire: Making fenders, selling fuels & oils, fenders & kindling and providing services to boats and to the bank side. Their talk gave us a fascinating insight into their world, and in particular NB Alton.

After a brief history of the early life of “Alton”, Brian talked in detail about her various owners post-BW (including clips of her featuring in a 1973 Childrens Film Foundation film “The Zoo Robbery”), and how she came to be bought by them. Then came a brief history of how he and Anne-Marie fell in love with the waterways and decide to make their living afloat. After the break he talked extensively about how they trade, and his passionate belief in the need for genuine trading boats to still exist. A really interesting talk with some wonderful pictures.

Friday 16th January 2015 – David Baldacchino gave a very detailed and useful talk about the work that CRT Manchester and Pennines are currently doing. He began with the “Hole” at Dutton. All they are sure of so far is that it would have been far worse without all the stone under the bed which had been put there as part of repairing the breach. They are currently investigating whether the hole was, at least in part, caused by the breach repair. Only once they understand how and why it happened can a repair plan be devised to help prevent another similar problem in future. Much equipment is now on site, and he is hopeful that the canal can be reopened before Easter.

The death in Harecastle was then discussed and the proposed recommended safety measures explained. Most of them are common sense to experienced boaters, but need to be explained to everybody before boats enter, as the cold (and the sudden darkness as the doors close if Northbound) come as a surprise to many.

Moving on to regular work, the good progress with vegetation clearance (towpath and off-side), and the extent of the bank repairs underway were explained. The proposed works necessary next winter to re-open the temporarily closed lock 63 on Cheshire Flight was also discussed. Finally how to find out about volunteering (and what opportunities are currently available) was outlined.

Friday 21st November 2014 – Andrew Watts, of the Etruria Boat Group, talked briefly about his life with boats. Then he told us about the history of the pair LINDSAY & KEPPEL, and how they came to belong to Etruria Boat Group. A fascinating series of pictures showed us the preparations to get them ready for carrying HRH Prince Charles from Etruria to Middleport Pottery this June. This was much more work than you would expect, as major steel-work repairs were being undertaken when they first got the news, so these had to be finished quickly and a complete repaint completed in record time.

Friday 17th October 2014 – Paul Hindle gave a fascinating talk about the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal. He started with a detailed description of the route of all three (Salford, Bolton and Bury) arms, then explained how the restoration was progressing. Pictures of the new works, especially the new section off the River Irwell and the “Meccano Bridge” were enjoyed by all present. His well-stocked bookshop of all things MB&B was very busy during the break.

Friday 20th September 2014 – Ted Thompson, who is a regular volunteer at the lift, showed us a series of pictures taken during the “Save Anderton Lift” years. This campaign was started by the Society in 1983 after Ted’s wife Christine (later Northern Chairman of the Society until her untimely death) raised the issue with the local MP, and carried to a successful conclusion by Friends of the Anderton Lift (of which T&MCS was a leading member) in 2002. The lift area before, during and after restoration was shown in much detail, and the presentation of our petition to 10 Downing Street was also included. Many of these photos were used in the slide-set which Christine used to illustrate her own talk about the lift and the society’s involvement with the campaign to get it restored.

2013-14 Season

Friday 11th April 2014 – Nigel Taylor gave a very interesting and informative talk about “Water Control & Movement in the 21st Century”.  What could have been a very dry technical subject, came alive as he described how BW, and now CRT, have slowly improved the way they monitor what is happening and make predictions based upon that information. This knowledge is then used to automatically open and close some of the most important sluices, and to manage the running of back-pumps. However much of the actual control is still manual, based on the data gathered, as total automation would be too expensive.  

Friday 21st March 2014 – Peter Scott, together with his wife Elaine, presented an informative and amusing talk covering historic and present day canal information using a miscellany of sets of pictures – some light-hearted and some more serious. It was interactive throughout and the audience appreciated the information and the humour.

Friday 21st February 2014 – Bob Luscombe talked to us about “Volunteer work on Trent & Mersey Canal, past, present and future”. He covered the many reasons why we should all be interested in doing volunteer work, the types of work currently being undertaken and what might be possible in the future.  The talk was illustrated with pictures of volunteer work on not only our canal, but also other parts of the Cheshire Ring. There were plenty of questions from the 20+ members of the audience, who seemed to thoroughly enjoy their evening. If you are interested in helping, see the Diary page for the Cheshire Locks dates, or contact Bob direct if you want to join Towpath Taskforce Middlewich.

Friday 17th January 2014 – Peter Walker (Engineering Manager South – Canal & River Trust) gave a very interesting talk on “HS2 – Getting the best deal for the waterways”. After outlining the route an timings of the HS2 project, he concentrated on the 3 crossings of our canal, and showed how CRT were trying to influence HS2 to provide better crossings. He also discussed how anyone who cares about our waterway network can get involved and help the Trust in its work with HS2.

Peter gave us permission to reproduce his slides, so here it is : HS2 Presentation (opens in a new tab). Please remember that this presentation has NOT been updated since 2014!

Friday 15th November 2013 – Patrick Marks, assisted by his wife Angela talked about their trip from Burgundy to the Mediterranean down the River Rhone. The trip was undertaken in the Autumn to move their shared boat to the winter cruising area, and was made more difficult by the fact that many of the pleasure boat moorings had already been removed from the river. On one morning they were awoke to find a lorry and a crane had arrived, and were about to remove the very moorings they were attached to! The talk was full of useful hints and tips as well as being accompanied by some beautiful photographs.

Friday 18th October 2013 – Ivor Caplan talked about 50 years of the RBOA (Residential Boat Owners Association). He explained how and where they had been formed, and how they had grown to offer advice and help to people considering living on a boat (whether cruising around or stationary) anywhere on the canals, rivers, or estuaries. After the break he illustrated the tremendous range of boats which have been used as residential.

Friday 27th September 2013 – The first talk at our new venue (downstairs at “The Big Lock”). Steve Guest regaled us all with stories of the beginnings of  our Society; from early 1972 before it was even formed, to his resignation as Chairman after the society’s successful campaign for the re-opening of Harecastle Tunnel. He also told us of his love for bee-keeping, and how he started in the 1980’s.

2012-13 Season

Friday 19th April 2013 – Very many thanks to Steve Wood of the Caldon & Uttoxeter Canals Trust, who stepped in at 3 hours notice when the planned Cromford Canal speaker had to cancel because of illness. Steve took us through the history of the Uttoxeter Canal, from its inception by the Trent & Mersey Canal to stop a rival scheme for a route through Uttoxeter, to its closure by the North Staffs Railway. After the break he jumped forward over 100 years to explain in detail the reasoning behind the current scheme to restore the canal, with pictures of recent progress.

Friday 15th March 2013 – Three very interesting talks from Canal & River Trust employees at our new “White Bear” venue. First Paul Brown spoke about the breach at Garden Wood Embankment, near Dutton Hall (both the causes and how it is being repaired). Apparently rainwater drains from the field above the canal (owned by one landowner), underneath the canal bed and through the embankment (owned by a second landowner) into the field below the canal (owned by a third landowner). The canal neither over-topped, nor leaked, but the embankment itself failed as it became ever more waterlogged from the amount of rainwater draining through it. After the break Will Burnish told us of the work Central Shires has done on our canal in the past year, emphasising how much of it was preventative maintenance. Finally David Baldacchino explained what is happening in the Manchester and Pennines section of our canal as well as the work to fix the breach.

Friday 15th February 2013 – Chris Leah of the Wooden Canal Boat Society told us about their society and the work they do, in particular the rejuvenation of the narrow boat “Hazel” (with lots of amazing photographs of her in transition). He also brought along a selection of bits of wood which used to be part of Hazel, but which had now been transformed by being painted on, or turned into sculpture (bowls, mushrooms, etc). Many members left the meeting having bought one of these works of art.

Friday 18th January 2013 – Ivor Caplan talked about the joys and perils of living afloat.

Friday 16th November 2012 – Tony Hirst (former director of The Boat Museum) delved into hidden histories of the waterways.