No 32 Summer 2005

Barge Workshop
Bude Canal Regeneration Project
Rolle Canal Society Visit Bude Canal
Bude Gig - at the championships
Visit to Blagdon Water & Blagdonmoor Wharf
Virworthy View
New stock available - Canal Scene Illustrations & Canal Map
Leaking Embankment





Barge Workshop Re-Opening

With completion of the restoration work on the basin at Helebridge, the Barge Workshop will now be open and manned by Trustees and friends from 2 - 5pm each Sunday until the end of September. A further opportunity to view the tub boat and other exhibits.

Bude Canal Regeneration Project

NCDC have been given approval for the stage 1 bid of a 2-stage application to H.L.F. for the canal project.
Stage 1 is the development stage and funds have been released by H.L.F. and the other funders to develop the project so that it will qualify for the Stage 2 grant. Part of Stage 1 is the employment of a Project Manager and a Project Technician to ensure that the Stage 2 bid will be successful. The Development Phase will last for 6 months.
Whilst a successful Stage 1 does not guarantee success with the Stage 2 bid it is a very positive sign from H.L.F. and means that the total amount agreed for the project from H.L.F. has been set aside.
A successful Stage 2 bid would unlock the door to the other funds pledged for this £4.6 million project which will revitalise the watered section between Bude and Helebridge and bring opportunity to the canal corridor as better access, interpretation and walking routes come on line.
Chris Jewell

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Rolle Canal Society Visit Bude Canal

With some common roots and features, not to mention their relatively close proximity, it is, perhaps, not surprising that the two canal societies are on more than just nodding terms. It was, therefore, a pleasure to be able to show the more recently formed Rolle Canal Society some of James Green's great engineering achievements, still preserved along the lengths of the Bude Canal.
The weather was kind, i.e. DRY, on the day and members of your Committee welcomed the group from the Rolle Canal Society at 10 a.m. on the Lower Wharf area where Mr. Chris Jewell gave a brief outline of the day's schedule and issued the visitors with individual information packs, so that they would have a better idea of the geography of the trip.
The journey through time started at the breakwater and it was explained how this had achieved sheltered waters for the harbour and enabled the canal to lock directly into the Atlantic Ocean.
The tide being out, we were then able to walk along the beach back towards the sea lock of the canal along the bank of the River Strat, which had been diverted to provide a deep water channel to the sea lock. Viewed from this level, the sea lock and its gates are quite dwarfing to us mere humans.
On climbing up to the lockside, we were able to look down into the lock and appreciate its depth, width and length and imagine the size of the ships that plied their trade during the canal's heyday: the Elizabeth, the Agnes, Wildpigeon, Ceres and many more; bringing in their cargoes of coal and timber etc. and exporting oak bark and scrap metal etc. It was then explained how the canal was originally conceived: to transport sand from Summerleaze Beach by barge and tub boat to farms inland, to enable the farmers to treat their poor, heavy soils with mineral rich sand, which improved the condition and the drainage of the farmland when once they had had to collect the sand themselves on packhorses. This is one of the reasons why the Bude Canal is historically so important, being founded for agricultural purposes and not heavy industry.
Initially it had been intended to sail the empty barges out through the sea lock, beach them and load them with sand and then sail them back into the canal. This method was superseded by sand wagons that ran on a network of rails across the beach, crossed the river on the iron bridge and then along an embankment, between the river and the canal, on rails along to the wharf, where they were emptied into waiting barges or, later, tub boats. The remains of the sand rails and the turntable are still visible to this day.
Once the tub boats / barges were loaded, they were towed up the Canal by horse and this was the route which we now followed, stopping at points of interest along the way, such as: the Blacksmith's shop (now the Museum); The Bark House, where oak bark was stored awaiting shipment out; wharf warehouse, now The Brasserie Restaurant; the old Lifeboat House, now holiday flats; the Granary warehouse, now private apartments; Stapleton's shipyard, where many of the Bude sailing ketches were built and launched directly into the Canal, now home to the Bude Band and the Scouts; the Castinghouse works, where chains and other iron foundry work was carried out.

We continued, past one of the Castinghouse products, the 1 mile marker. This is one of the few remaining markers which used to stretch along the whole of the 36 miles of the canal to enable the boat owners to charge their customers carriage by the mile. Eventually we reached the first disused inland lock at Rodd's Bridge Farm. This, at present, has no gates, the inner ones being replaced by a brick overspill wall. It was explained that the intention is to restore this lock and the one further on at Whalesborough and thus have the whole 2 miles of canal currently in water, open to boat traffic again, once the Canal Project obtains its funding and gets the go ahead. Something to relish for the future.
Pangs of hunger were now evident, so we retraced our steps to the Falcon Hotel for some needy refreshment and to digest the morning's facts and figures.
Suitably refreshed we eagerly made ourselves ready for the afternoon excursions. In an effort not to congest the Cornish lanes too much, we "sardined" ourselves into as few vehicles as was safely possible and set out for the Barge Workshop at Hele Bridge. This is beside the pound situated at the end of the water section approx. 2 miles from the sea lock. It is at the foot of the first inclined plane, Marhamchurch. Inside the workshop is an original tub boat, which had been rescued from the depths of the canal some years previously. The tub boat is in remarkably good condition and allows one to imagine better, how they would have operated and traversed the incline planes.
After the Barge Workshop and tub boat, it was back into the cars and off to view Hobbacott Inclined Plane.
This is the largest of the inclined planes. It raised the tub boats a height of 225 feet from one level of watered canal up to the next level of watered canal. This was achieved over a distance of 935 feet. The means of propulsion was by two large iron buckets, each holding approx. 15 tons of water. There were two vertical shafts 225 feet in depth. Each shaft housed one of the buckets. Whilst one bucket would fill with water at the top of one shaft, the other bucket would be automatically emptying at the bottom of the other shaft. When the bucket was full, it would descend to the bottom of the shaft whilst, simultaneously, the empty bucket would be rising in the other shaft. When the full bucket reached the bottom of the shaft, a valve in the bottom of the bucket was activated and the bucket would empty. Meanwhile, the other bucket, now at the top of the other shaft, would be filling with water, thus allowing the whole cycle to repeat itself. It is said that the loaded tub boats ascended the inclined plane in approx. 4 minutes.
With the consent of the present landowner, we were able to view the whole length of the inclined plane, which is in a very good, intact condition. The views obtained allowed one to appreciate more fully the scale of the operations that would have taken place there.
The next stop was the wheelpit at the top of the Merrifield inclined plane, where we were met by the present landowner, who welcomed us and, as with the Hobbacott landowner, very kindly allowed us access over his land.
The Merrifield inclined plane allowed the tub boats to descend to the next level of water. In total the drop was 60 feet over a distance of 360 feet. Unlike Hobbacott, the method of propulsion here was by means of a 30 feet diameter water wheel. The wheel was housed in a wheel pit approx. 30 feet deep and 30 feet across and 10 feet wide. To either side of the wheel pit, were areas for access and for the machinery gears to be housed. The whole structure is in such remarkably good condition, apart from the absence of the wheel and its associated machinery, that we were able to gain access and see quite clearly the structure and how it would have operated. It is a tribute to the engineers and builders of the time, that this brick built structure still remains almost intact, after all these years. From the vantage point of what would have been about axle level of the wheel, the sheer scale of the structure is overwhelming. Looking up at the brick built, domed roof felt akin to being in a cathedral. A truly, wonderful experience.
The next port of call was to be the Lower Tamar Lake. This lake was the water supply for the canal system. We then walked along the Bude Aqueduct feeder channel to Virworthy Wharf, where this section of the canal starts/terminates.
The feeder aqueduct is, by and large, in good condition but very overgrown with weed. The embankment, by its side, is kept open to walkers by the owners, Bude Canal Trust (no connection with The Bude Canal and Harbour Society) and is generally well mown and passable.
At Virworthy Wharf we were met by another of our members, who lives nearby, Mr. Geoff Lowe. The Wharf building is in a good state of repair and houses a display of the canal and its workings. In the past, the building would have stored coal and sand etc., which had been off-loaded from the tub boats.
This, then, was the end of our day of exploration, a very successful occasion indeed and a privilege to have been able to view some of the lesser accessible features of the canal. A warm and very well deserved, round of applause was given to our guide of the day for organising and arranging the visits. We all then departed, contentedly tired, back to Bude for some refreshment.
All in all, a very successful day, which demonstrated clearly how much of interest there still is on the ground, along the whole route of the Bude Canal system. It surely deserves to be restored and preserved for all to enjoy, both now and in the future. Let's hope that the, long awaited, Canal Regeneration Project soon achieves some of the lesser accessible features of the canal.
David Phillips

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World Pilot Gig Championships

Having seen Bude Gig society's first gig, "Bedehaven", launched on to the canal last summer, I was pleased to see the Ladies section rowing her in the annual World Pilot Gig Championships at St Mary's Isles of Scilly on Sunday May 1st to as creditable 68th place out of 81.
We should have flown from Newquay airport (St Mawgan) on the Saturday but thick fog blanketed the islands from about 11 am and so we were sent home. We rose at 5.30am next day to drive back to St Mawgan where we boarded a coach to Penzance for a special sailing of Scillonian III to St Mary's. Sad to say I was seasick for the last half-hour of the two and a half hour journey.
We did not see the men's race in which Bedehaven came 65th out of 92. I am happy to say we were able to return in a Twin Otter to Newquay on Saturday 7th May after a most enjoyable week spent exploring the islands
PS: My daughter-in-law rowed in Lyonesse to 45th place

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In answer to Geoff Lowe's question in "Virworthy View" in the Spring edition of The Tub Boat about the mill on the Lower Tamar lake Bill Young has sent a copy of the OS map of 1891 (surveyed in 1881-84) used by Monica Ellis (and himself later) in writing her book "The Bude Canal", and the notes on numbered places in the map written by her in 1969.
Geoff's query referred to a mill on the edge of Lower Tamar Lake. This is shown as "New Mill" on the map and numbered 8 by Monica Ellis. She says it was a corn mill and was last worked in 1929 by Sid Bond. It was taken down in 1949.

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Visit to Blagdon Water & Blagdonmoor Wharf
On the 28th May an invited group of Trustees visited Blagdon Water courtesy of Dermot O'Neill who is a member of the Bude Canal and Harbour Society. Blagdon Water is a man made lake created to provide a location for a static replica barge as a holiday facility available for hire. The whole site covers an area of 35 acres which includes 3 acres of lake. The boat, the Painted Lady, is being fitted out to accommodate four persons in two cabins. The creation of the lake has increased the biodiversity in that area.

Adjacent to BlagdonWater is a "Sand Trail" which was one of the tracks from Blagdonmoor Wharf used by farmers to carry sand brought by canal from Bude to use on the land as a fertiliser.
The group walked along the Sand Trail to Blagdonmoor Wharf where we were met by Robert Montague, a resident and chairman of the local history society. Blagdonmoor Wharf was the terminus of the Holsworthy arm of the canal. Whilst most of the wharf area is now built on, the original wharf building remains and some of the canal channel, which is overgrown, can still be seen. However, there are remains of the initial workings in a deep channel beyond the wharf where it was intended to build a tunnel to extend the canal further into Devon. This was never achieved because of lack of finance.
After the guided visit, the group had an interesting discussion about the Bude Canal and its future.
Our thanks to Dermot O'Neill, Robert & Rosa Montague and to Nick Shadrick for permission to use the Sand Trail which is on private land.
Betty Moore

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Virworthy View

Halfway through the year and summer has come in odd days, some hot, some cold, some wet! I swear that the flora is bigger and better this year as a result of the very wet spring. Cow parsley is now reaching over six feet in height. The canal basin is too overgrown to see the water now, to the consternation of the dogs that try to walk on the top grass. Our new dog is slow to learn this and consequently spends much time under the tap.
I do believe there are fewer birds about this year, judging by the lack of bird songs in the mornings. There is also a scarcity of honey bees, probably due to the bee mite 'aerroa destructor'. The swallows are few and far between too, although we do have one pair nesting in the garage. Usually there are at least two pairs and sometimes three. The first brood of five have flown and I am sure they are sitting again. We have now been blessed with a pair of squirrels. There is often one hanging upside down eating the peanuts on the bird feeder together with a greater spotted woodpecker - our peanut bill is rising rapidly - perhaps the squirrels will stock up with the usual abundant crop of acorns in the autumn.
A recent addition to the landscape is the Don Quixote backdrop to the lower lake. The wind farm at Bradworthy dominates the landscape from most angles although here at the wharf they are not visible. I think there are mixed feelings about the aesthetic nature of the giant 'fans'.
As an afterthought, I think we must build an aqueduct to satisfy the curiosity of the number of people who come looking for one!
Geoff Lowe

From Down Under come these memories of Bude Fair on the wharf in 1939
All the heavy equipment: roundabouts, dodgems, etc was brought in on trailers towed by coal-fired steam traction engines and all the sideshows by lorries or sent to Bude by train.
In those days the Fair lasted a week and people came from all over North Cornwall and Devon. At this time the Castle was privately owned. The traction engines (six, I think) were parked in a line on the rail track beside Sampson boatshed and a generator on each one provided the electricity to power the rides and lighting.
At night the whole area became a fairyland of lights with music from the organ on the huge, brilliantly lit carousel. All the engines' canopies were outlined in lights, all the brasswork was gleaming and there was the wonderful smell of steam and coal.
The whole area was surrounded by sideshows and stalls. There was a boxing tent, a freak show, a shooting gallery over near the Scout Hall, Hoopla, Rolla Penny, fairy floss, and many other stalls. The swing boats were in the area where the Bude Light now stands as was - never seen before - an American 'Donut' machine - and the death defying motor cycles in the Wall of Death.
As it was 1939 and the clouds of war were gathering, the Army was starting recruiting and had sent a Vickers light tank and a Mark V heavy (for those days) to inspire the public.
Not long after that I was standing with a friend, Trevor Bate, in a garden in the Crescent. We were listening to the melancholy voice of Neville Chamberlain announcing a State of War, followed by God Save the King. Trev said, "We had better stand to attention. We may never hear this again."
Fortunately, he was wrong.
Pat Perry-Bolt, Hamondvale, NSW.

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New Stock available - Canal Scene illustrations

Patricia Greenwell, who did the illustrations for Bill Young's book, 'Emma's Life on the Bude Canal' has agreed to a suggestion by the Trustees that a selection of the illustrations be made available in different prints to members and the general public. (See rear cover)
It has been agreed that the illustrations in water colour and pen and wash will be available as follows:-
1 Note cards and envelopes:
a) The Lower Wharf, Bude - colour
b) Sir Thomas Acland's Wharf - pen/wash
Retail price 80p each or 60p each for three or more cards
2 A4 mounted prints: Retail price £8.00 each
a) The Lower Wharf, Bude
b) Waiting for the Tide
c) Offloading outside the sea lock
d) Sir Thomas Acland's wharf
e) Bridge over the River Strat
f) Ships in the canal at Bude
g) Acland's wharf
3 A3 mounted print: Retail price £10.75 each
The Lower wharf, Bude
Notecards and A4 mounted prints can be sent by post. Please add 50p p&p for each order of 5 notecards; please add £1 p&p for each order of up to 3 A4 mounted prints. Unfortunately the A3 mounted print is too large to reasonably send by post.

Bude Canal map 1904: Plan 2.
The redrawn plan 2 which shows the canal from the 1 mile post to Pinch Hill, Marhamchurch is now available from the Society as follows:
A4 mounted with notes £1.50.
A3 mounted with notes £10.75
A4 Plans 1 & 2 with notes in binder, £3.00

These are available by post A4 size only. Please add £1 p&p to each item. To order any of the above items by post, please send order and full remittance to: The Treasurer, 4a The Crescent, Bude EX23 8LE. Make cheques payable to Bude Canal & Harbour Society. Please allow up to 28 days for delivery. Members living in the EX22 and EX23 areas can have these purchases delivered by BCHS.

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Leaking embankment

Water is leaking from the canal through the embankment into the River Strat on the lower reaches of the canal just before the sea lock.
NCDC, the owners, are aware but initial efforts or excavation and infilling with clay have proved fruitless. Between the overflow at the rear of the Castle and the iron bridge there are 5 leaks, one of which is a substantial flow of water. NCDC have engaged an engineer to deal with this matter.
Chris Jewell