No 33 Autumn 2005


Exeter Idyll - part 1
Exeter Idyll - part 2
Bude Canal Regeneration Project
Intereg Walking Routes Project
Virworthy View
August Weekend
Trafalgar Weekend
Blagdonmoor Wharf
Forthcoming Events

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Part 1 Walking round Exeter

On July 16th an almost full coach left Bude arriving at Exeter Wharf at 10.25am. Two volunteer City Guides took us in two separate parties round this historic part of the city which is Roman in origin so this was a history lesson made the more interesting by the enthusiasm of our guides. We were reminded that serge wool was exported to Holland, that the mill on the Exe was once a paper mill, and that the weir was built so that small boats could go through.
Standing in front of the Custom House we were told that its history links with the Great Fire of London. After that event no wooden buildings were built and the Custom House was the first commercial brick building in the city of Exeter.
The River Exe has its source about 35 miles away on Exmoor and the flood defence system was built after the floods in the 1950s. We walked over the iron bridge built in that period. The green iron lamp standards along the riverside have been restored after being dumped and are the only items now remaining after several centuries.
The arches in the wall by the river which now house various shops are 60ft deep and during the second world war were used as air raid shelters and for storing petrol. We were reminded that James Green of Bude Canal fame lived in Exeter.
In 1831 the basin was constructed so that barges could wait for the river level to drop and then unload their cargoes. As we walked over the suspension bridge above Trews weir we stopped to look at the flood defence system. If the river overflows, the water escapes over the concrete wall into marshland.
On the other side of the bridge we walked through Belle Isle park, originally a sewage works, noting that no games or dogs are allowed therein!
A large house dating from the 18th century was pointed out to us further along and above the river. This had been Trews Mill, a woollen mill and then a cotton mill employing over 300 people when it was busy. In the 20th century it became a paper mill and among the items it printed were tickets for the London Underground.
Moving on again we were enthralled by the story of a typhoon which swept the area on the 14 September 1850 taking boats from the river into nearby fields - and the Illustrated London News of the time printed photos of the event (our guide produced photocopies for all to see)
The ferry was re-built in 1990 by public request for it to be re-instated. Now Butts Ferry is a very popular way to cross the river - at a cost of 20p - so if your Shanks' pony wants a rest, this is the answer.
A big thank you to our volunteer guides for making this historic walk so very interesting. Lunch followed at various venues round the Wharf.
Jill White

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Exeter Tour Guide and BCHS Committee

Part 2 To Exmouth By Water

The Exeter canal is England's oldest locked canal. Built between 1564 and 1566, it predates the canals of the great canal - building era by about 200 years and Bude canal by more than 250 years!
In common with many other later canal enterprises, the need to by-pass a difficult river navigation was the spur to the creation of a canal on which trade could pass unhampered by weirs, shoals and tiresome landowners. Exeter's rich trade was in wool so easy access to the sea was all-important.
The first canal, running as now, parallel to the river, was 16ft wide by 3ft deep, but in the early 18th century was enlarged to the ship canal dimensions we know today, approximately 14ft deep by 30ft wide. The engineer commissioned to dredge, straighten and generally enhance the canal in 1818 was none other than our own James Green whose improvements included extending the canal to Turf where his entrance lock from the Exe estuary, 131ft by 30ft 3ins enabled ships of 14ft draught and 400 tons to navigate up to Exeter; the canal having previously terminated at Topsham lock. The canal today is much as James Green left it in 1832, further testimony to his canal-building genius.
The wonderful trip on which we were now about to embark was the second half of the day in Exeter, the first half of which you have just read about. After lunch, partaken at various venues in and around the old docks, we set out to find our boat. It wasn't difficult. Confronting us at the river's edge looking more like an open-topped, double-decker London bus than the modest river trip boat we expected, was our vessel for the voyage to Exmouth; the colour was right too! This enormous craft, the Pride of Exmouth, had travelled up from Exmouth earlier that morning with passengers Exeter-bound, as it does regularly on a few permitted occasions during the summer. Exeter City Council not being renowned for their enthusiasm for usage of their canal, these occasions are few & far between and well worth enquiring about. Despite the presence of the return passengers there was still room for our mob (just), all vacant seats inside and on top soon taken and an extremely top-heavy looking vessel cast off from the river side for the passage down river and canal to Exmouth.

The "Pride of Exmouth" awaiting departure from Exeter Quay
The entrance to the Exeter canal is situated downstream of the river docks adjacent to the canal basin and accessed through a narrow flood-lock and swing bridge. From the canal and our vantage point on the top deck of our huge boat, we had excellent views behind us of Exeter Cathedral atop, as-it were, the city itself, the canal basin choc-a-bloc with moored craft of all types, and the old river docks from which we had just cast off. To the right were old buildings of the trading era, among them the Welcome pub, much beloved of the boatmen of an earlier age and still patronised by today's more affluent younger generation. To the left were the comparatively recent flood defences between river & canal, an enormous concrete over-spill weir for when the river is in full spate and channels alongside to disperse the water into the wide valley.

Lift and swing bridges at Countess Wear
After a further swing bridge or two, we approached Double Locks (once three locks before the 18th century widening) and now a single large lock designed to act as a passing place. This lock is electrically operated and here it became apparent to those of us high above the towpath, that Exeter City canal employers were accompanying us on our trip downstream in order to swing the bridges and operate the mechanism for the locks; prominent among them being Mr Nott the canal manager.
Not long after leaving Double Locks, we saw ahead, the canal's most famous (or notorious) obstacle to navigation (or motoring) according to one's viewpoint! This is the impressive Countess Wear Bridge - two of them actually, one, the newer, a massive lift bridge and the other, the original swing bridge, both electrically operated. As we approached we could hear the warning siren sounding, saw the traffic lights turn red, the heavy traffic slow to a halt and the barriers descend. Almost simultaneously one bridge began to lift and the other to swing allowing our boat to pass majestically through. All aboard waved enthusiastically to the line of stationary cars disappearing into the far distance but strangely, no one seemed disposed to reciprocate our friendly signals.
Double locks negotiated, we resumed the journey through green fields and soon ahead, could see the vast span of the M5 motorway crossing everything in sight, river, railway, canal, valley, the lot from East to West. Before long, Topsham was visible across the ever-widening river and it was possible to see signs of the links between Topsham and the canal, in particular Topsham Lock, James Green's 18th century contribution before the lengthening to Turf. The lock is in a parlous state, alas, but its original toll house is still in place on the lockside.

Turf Lock
On then to Turf and into the lock and down into the estuary, water, sand, boats, birds and beautiful scenery all around. The Exe estuary, in places a mile & a half wide, reaches the sea through a narrow opening between Exmouth and Dawlish Warren. The weather conditions granted to us for this marvellous voyage ensured good visibility and sunshine throughout and the brisk sea breeze which sprang up in mid stream was quite a bonus. The channel was marked throughout by coloured buoys which enabled one to appreciate the winding course of the river hereabouts. Boats of all description abounded though ours was the largest by several feet in all directions!
We docked near the esplanade in Exmouth, dispersing briefly for refreshments and exploration before meeting at 6.30pm for the coach trip back to Bude. This had been an outstanding outing, well attended in good company and marvellous weather to boot. What more could one ask for? All congratulations and thanks to Betty Moore and Chris Jewell for the impeccable organization and hard work that went into it all.
Audrey Wheatley

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Bude Canal Regeneration Project

Funding has now been secured for the Development Phase of the project which is due to be completed by the end of April 2006. South West England Regional Development Agency, Heritage Lottery Fund, and Objective 1 have contributed a total of £248,100. SWERDA & HLF funding for the final phase of implementation has been "ring-fenced". Objective 1 funding has not been secured and will have to be bid for, competing with other projects in Cornwall.
However, progress is being made by the appointment of a Project Manager, Ian Mander, a civil engineer with a wide range of experience, and an assistant Project Manager, Andrea Vaillancourt-Allder, with experience of canal regeneration and HLF projects.
The Development phase requires detailed work on design as required by planning permissions and specific work as required by HLF. Additionally, work has to be done on developing the strategy for bridges, locks, dredging, building work, roads, flood profiling, interpretation, education, marketing, and access. Briefs for this work have been sent out to various consultants and it is hoped that by the end of October 2005 the appointments will have been made.
Other work has to be done in relation to abstraction licence, fish pass and pond, business data, agreements i.e. acquisition of or access to canal associated historic structures, development of canal partnership, training plan, and long term management plan.
The Development phase is due to be completed by the end of April 2006. The implementation phase, subject to the receipt of the second stage funds, has to be finished by May 2008.
Throughout the Development Stage the project time will ensure that as wide a consultation as is possible will take place.
There is a lot of work to be done but I am sure that this project will be implemented for the benefit of residents and tourists alike.
Chris Jewell

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Intereg Walking Routes Project

This project is well under way. The Bude Valley Walks (Bude - Helebridge and adjoining walks) has been signed and the booklet produced.
The Canal & Coast circular walk is progressing. The footpath along the feeder arm (Bude Aqueduct) has become a public right of way (PROW) through an agreement between Devon County Council and the owners, Bude Canal Trust. The complete circular route, except for a short section at Burmsdon, Launcells is basically agreed. The lack of the Burmsdon section means the feeder arm section remains a linear route and the Bude end may have to be a shorter circular route returning via Launcells and Stratton.
The progress on the Launceston arm down the Tamar valley is more difficult.
Landowners are reluctant to agree in sufficient numbers to achieve a continuous route. There are no PROWs in the Tamar valley which would allow some alternative routes to link with sections that could be accessed.
The Holsworthy area is also difficult as much of the canal no longer remains. It is hoped that some circular routes can be achieved by using PROWs with other agreed access. Efforts are also being made to create walking routes from Tamar Lakes to Bradworthy and Holsworthy. If achieved these routes would link into existing 'Ruby Country Trails'. These are part of a massive initiative by Torridge District Council and Devon County Council to revitalise the rural economy by creating new routes combined with existing routes for walkers, cyclists, and horse riders.
A key cycling route is the use of the former railway from Holsworthy to Bude. This route would pass two important canal sites at Merrifield, near Bridgerule and Helebridge, near Marhamchurch. To highlight the value of the walking routes on the tub boat canal sections and give greater awareness of the significance of the tub boat canal, NCDC's Coast and Countryside service, with Bude Canal Trust and this Society are working on a Tub Boat Canal Exhibition, "The Hidden History" which will be held on 19th-21st November 2005 at the Parkhouse Centre. It is hoped also to take this exhibition to rural areas in the weeks to follow but this has yet to be finalised.
Chris Jewell

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Virworthy View

Looking back on my 19 issues of Virworthy View I seem to be preoccupied with the weather. Well I'm not going to bore you with it this time, suffice it to say after a wet warm winter and a fairly dry summer the flora is bigger and better than before! There is also an abundance of berries, so much so that I have been tempted to pick sloes and make some sloe gin. I am told that after the gin is siphoned off, adding brandy to the remaining sloes makes a good brew!
One day I engaged three walkers in conversation who told me they had just seen a turtle in the lake! I smiled and nodded politely and continued my walk with the dogs. Being a sceptic, I proceeded to the lake and scanned the water around the bridge and to my surprise there was a turtle. It was about ten inches across its back and twelve inches long. It had bright orange and yellow stripes on its head and what looked like a light coloured underside. I have not yet had a positive identification. I have seen it several times since but only when the water is calm with the sun on it. With the extensive blue/green algae on the water just now it may be lucky to survive.
Progress is being made on opening the towpath as a public right of way (PROW). This means that maintenance work to keep the path open will be carried out by Devon County Council. Work has now started on repairs to culverts and the renewal of gates and stiles. This will make an uninterrupted walk from one end to the other and allow unimpeded progress for mowers.
Geoff Lowe

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Bude Canal Day on 24th July in conjunction with Bude/Stratton Town Council's Gurney Day, was on the whole a success although the weather was not as kind as it might have been at times. It allowed us to set up the marquee and sales gazebo, transport tables and chairs to the site, and set up displays and goods for sale. The musicians performed and the canoeists played polo and other participants did their 'thing'. The canoe competition for the BCHS shield was won by Bude Canoe Club 'A' team and the runners-up were the same club's 'B' team. The trophy was presented to the winning team by BCHS Chairman, Mrs Audrey Wheatley.

Leigh Gething of Bude Canoe Club being presented with BCHS Shield by  Audrey Wheatley
Unfortunately, several heavy showers accompanied by a chilly wind discouraged passers-by and damaged some of our stock of leaflets and books.
My thanks to my fellow trustees and members Barry Garvie, Deputy Mayor of BSTC, and Paul Finn for their valuable assistance with the erection of the marquee, and to Rolle Canal and Northern Devon Waterways Society, Grand Western Canal Trust, Old Cornwall Society, North Devon Maritime Museum, SW Lakes Trust, Environment Agency and North Cornwall Coast & Countryside Service for their participation in this event.
Plans are afoot even as I write for Canal Day 2006. Further details in the next edition of "The Tub Boat"
Chris Jewell

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Carnival Day and RNLI Weekend

In addition to the above your committee erected and manned our stall on the Castle green on Carnival day, and on the Bark House green on the Saturday and Sunday of RNLI weekend.
The Saturday was overcast and sales were sporadic but the Sunday was warm and sunny all day and sales were much better. We also manned a stall provided by the organisers of a general charity day on the triangle in August.
Overall, about £450 was made from these projects. It is worth doing not only for the money made towards Society funds but for making the Society's name known.

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North Devon Maritime Museum - Trafalgar Weekend

This will be held on 21st to 23rd October with an exhibition at St Mary's Church Hall, Appledore.
Commodore Noel Preston-Jones will open the exhibition and sea cadets will carry out a gun drill with a full-scale replica of a ship's cannon. There will be many other activities, including talks on Nelson and Napoleon, a Marine War Game, a CD containing biographical details of all 21,000 men serving in the Royal Navy at the battle.


Blagdonmoor Wharf
The following is a slightly edited version of an article published in "Waterways World", reproduced with their permission.

After years of working in the very demanding field of management accounting, Dermot O'Neill decided he had had enough of the rat race. In 1991 he thought it was time to fulfil a lifelong dream and he sailed the Atlantic singlehanded. In the Virgin Islands he met Caro, who became his wife, and they sailed back across the Atlantic together and settled in Spain.
After ten years, and with two growing boys, the couple decided to move back to the UK to be near Caro's parents who farmed in Cornwall. Looking to invest some money towards a pension, the couple looked for a project that was environmentally attractive and settled on buying 35 acres of what Dermot describes as "some of Devon's less sought after land" near Blagdonmoor Wharf which was the terminus of the Holsworthy Arm of the Bude Canal.
"We planted 15 acres to woodland and realised that a wet hollow simply cried out to be flooded" Dermot told WW. "That's why we created the 3-acre 'Blagdon Water', which we stocked with fish. One day we were looking at an old Ordnance Survey map and discovered that the Bude Harbour & Canal Company had built a trail from Blagdonmoor Wharf to our land for the purpose of transporting mineral-rich sand from the canal tub boats to improve the farm land."

"North west Devon reminds me of parts of my native Ireland. The peace and solitude of the area is wonderful, and we thought it would be a good idea to start a small holiday business. The local council were not keen on wooden chalet-type buildings and so we put Bude Canal plus lake plus boats together, and came up with the idea of a static house boat." With their wide experience of boats, and after scouring the pages of WW, the couple approached a boatbuilder in Falmouth who built them Painted Lady, a 50ft x 8ft 6in barge. "Without the engine room and stern gear we were able to incorporate two very comfortable cabins, both with en-suite toilet and shower. The aft cabin offers a double bed while at the other end of the boat the twin cabin has two full-size single beds." Coincidentally the boat is a similar size to the barges, which traded on the two-mile section of Bude Canal between Bude and Helebridge Wharf until its closure in 1891. The other 35½ miles of the canal used inclined planes rather than locks and was therefore only accessible by tub boats.
Funding has just been approved for the first stage of the Bude Canal Regeneration Project, which envisages reopening the two inland locks on the barge section to allow navigation from Bude to Helebridge. The Bude Sea Lock was refurbished in 2000 to give sea-going boats access to the lower basin of the canal.
"This really is a dream come true for us" Dermot continued. "I am in a hurry to see the site mature, and I want my woodland now, but that's not possible of course. In the meantime the lake and the rapidly evolving environment are proving to be very rewarding. One day spent working on the land is worth a hundred spent cooped up in a corporate office!"
For further details of this unusual holiday opportunity in the West Country call 01566 779830, or visit: www.blagdonwater.com.
Mike Moore

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Visiting boats from the Severn Motor Yacht Club on 3rd August

Membership Report

We welcome the following new members who have joined since the last Tub Boat, Mr B E Leonard, Efford Down House, Bude and Mr G Howes, Belle Vue Avenue, Bude.
As many of you will realise, this is the time of the year when I have to remind you that subscriptions were due on 1st September for all members except those who joined after 1st May. Renewal forms (where appropriate) are included with this newsletter. Members are encouraged to return the standing order form to me as it is a more efficient method of payment for the society and avoids your renewal being overlooked. Membership cards will automatically be sent to members who have already completed standing order mandates. May I also remind those members who are taxpayers and who have not completed a Gift Aid declaration that they can obtain a copy from the Treasurer.
Mike Moore, Membership Secretary

Forthcoming Events:

Tuesday 18th October
Presentation by James Griffin, 'The Voyages of "Ocean Princess" 7.30pm Parkhouse Centre, Bude

Fri 21st - Sun 23rd October
North Devon Maritime Museum - Trafalgar weekend

Sunday 12th November
Charity Bazaar Parkhouse Centre, Bude - 11 am to 2 pm

Sat/Mon 19th/21st Nov
"The Hidden History" Exhibition, Parkhouse Centre, Bude

Sunday 18th December
It's A TRADITION - THE MINCEPIE WALK - 11am at the Sea Lock to Barge workshop

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