An excerpt from Wind in the Willows

Nice? It's the ONLY thing, said the Water Rat solemnly, as he leant forward for his stroke. Believe me, my young friend, there is NOTHING - absolute nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing, he went on dreamily: messing - about - in - boats; messing----'
From 'Wind in the Willows' by Kenneth Grahame.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Basingstoke progress

Lock 12 with the stop boards in
place on 17-September-2012
As some of you will know I am passionate about the Basingstoke Canal.  It does have the issue of 'give a dog a bad name' but it is beautiful (especially up through the Deepcut flight of locks). It has, as is well known, suffered from a chronic lack of investment by its owners (Surrey and Hampshire County Councils) over the 21 years since its reopening in 1991.

Parts of the canal are built on what can only be described as 'difficult' geology (Bagshot sand) but the County Council owners and the riparian Borough Councils have invested a considerable sum over the last 12 months and progress is being made.  I would argue that the work has been a bit 'back-to-front' with the contractors starting in the middle of Deepcut with their repairs rather than starting at the lowest point on the canal requiring remedial action (Brookwood bottom lock), repairing that and thereby enabling plant and machinery to be moved progressively up the canal to address the larger issues in Deepcut.  To coin a phrase I am not particularly fond of - we are where we are.

However worked started on Brookwood bottom lock on 17-September (some three weeks late). The estimate to repair Brookwood is 2 weeks which will then enable those three locks to be added to the already open St John's and Woodham flights (yes they are open despite what the Basingstoke Canal Authority - BCA - may say) and at the same time enable the BCA to bring their work boat onto the mile pound at Brookwood to cut back the offside growth.  Brookwood being open will also mean that the plant and machinery required for the final repairs in Deepcut to be made easily available.

The work at Brookwood bottom lock means that the towpath between Sheets Heath Bridge and the Total Service Station on the A322 (and adjacent to Lock 12) will be closed between 08:00 and 16:00 each weekday.

The BCA are planning to put Deepcut back into water this week (w/c 17-September) and check for leaks.  They have not got much water to spare despite such a wet summer - they seem to have run too much off!

We are working on an 'Open Navigation' policy which will allow a certain number of boats to use Woodham (where the houseboats are), St Johns and soon Brookwood.  Of necessity it will be controlled (in the same way the summit of the Rochdale is) with the current proposal to be up to six boats (3 lockings) up though Woodham on Mondays and Fridays (allowing a weekend or week long trip to Brookwood).  This is the initial 'starter for 10' position which we would look to expand over time; when Deepcut is opened it will enable all of you who have told me they want to 'do' the Basingtoke that opportunity.  We'll need to see if we can do a deal with a combined National Trust (River Wey)/Basingstoke licence in the not too distant future.

I'll try and keep my blog up-to-date with Basingstoke progress now we have seen the whites of the contractors eyes!


  1. At last, it looks like progress is being made, even though it's from the centre outwards! Any progresss is better than none.I have met several boaters in my travels who worked on the Bassie in the 70's and they were heartbroken at the state of disrepair that had been allowed to happen since then. I always paid a visit to the Brookwood flight when I was travelling in that neck of the woods and can remember how muddy and uncomfortable it must have been for those volunteers for such a short lived reward. Some will only get their reward in heaven, but the grateful few are still here to enjoy it. Congratulations to all who have pulled together recently for such action.

  2. Good to see the Basingstoke being cared for. We'll come back as soon as we can travel a bit further along.
    We met the canal ranger the other week, he was looking round Ellesmere Port museum as we were working through the locks. We kept expecting him to get up on the gate to caulk them behind us!