Stroud on Water – the event – revisited!
Reflections after the event
Well the IWA Trailboat festival, which this year was part of the Stroud on Water Jubliee event, is all over for another year. Whilst the weather wasn’t as foul as on the Neath & Tennant at Resolvan near Swansea last year, it had its moments. Below is the blog that was mainly written at the time on an iPhone WordPress app together with some pictures taken on the iPhone. Some additional ones taken on a digital camera have been posted for the first time with this update. Some sections of text have also been added with this update and have a heading coloured in red. Note that all photos can be clicked on for bigger version.
Trailboat arrival – Friday evening
Almost all live aboard trailboats were requested to launch at the temporary slipway constructed on Cotswold Canal Trust land near Upper Mills. This slipway was not positioned as agreed during a previous visit by WBOC, IWA and Sea Otter representatives and consequently was much steeper in approach and the ground, at the top of the slipway, appeared to have the ability to turn into mud bath should the forecast rain arrive over the weekend. The slipway was a earth bank partially covered with a roll out aluminium trackway. However, the steepness did put off one boat who left for the Mon& Brec. All the rest did launch successfully on to this attractive waterway, however throughout the weekend most of the boaters were concerned about getting out again.
It is understood that the Trust did have planning permission for a permanent slipway on the other side of the new Upper Mills bridge, adjacent to this site, and the builder of the bridge was going to provide it FOC but an agreement to allow access to this across a small bit of land owned by a local school was subsequently withdrawn and so the slipway could not be built.
The boats then proceeded to travel east towards the festival site, passing through, along the way, the impressive and newly restored Ryeford Double Lock.
Around 30 boats attended and the majority were moored below Dudbridge locks, about 10 minutes walk from the festival site. Between these moorings and the festival site, Dudbridge locks are in the process of restoration, with the addition of a new hydro electric generation scheme. At the time of writing it has an earth dam across the top allowing the River Frome to pass through. More on this later.
Apparently the only live aboard boat not asked to be launched at the temporary slipway was Grey Owl, which was a bit strange as it’s the same size as all other Beavers at the festival. It launched at the freshly built and completed Strachans Close permanent slipway.
Time for an early morning “tick over” cruise down the canal to the Ocean newly installed but not yet commissioned, swing bridge, before everyone wakes up. At Ryeford lock we met a gentleman who lives in the lock cottage. He says he never thought he’d live to see boats passing through the lock and that the local council at one time proposed running the by-pass along the line of the canal and was getting building rubble tipped into the canal. They were also going to knock his house down until he got a preservation order on it.
The lower 3.5km approx canal section of the canal from Dudbridge to the new but uncommissioned Ocean swing bridge and through the Ryeford double locks is nothing short of beautiful with deep water, most of the way. Even the housing adjacent to the canal has been well designed and faces the canal. The eight year old estate at Ebley wharf, near the Stroud Council offices, is outstanding and should be used as a model for other canal side developments across the country.
The welcome from the local population has been warm, with many coming out especially to say how nice it was to see boats on the canal.
Saturday day time was cloudy but bright, with even a spot of sunshine. Loads of people on the festival site on the first day, must have pleased the organisers. Unfortunately, the forecast rain arrived to dampen the tail end of the evening.
On WBOC matters, the AGM was held in the library of Marling School at 6pm. The reports had already been circulated and were accepted and the committee was re-elected en-bloc. The new IWA Keith Hadden Memorial Trophy for meritorious cruising, which has been designed and carved by member John Burbery, was shown to the meeting and was much praised. The top and bottom trophies were awarded. Following the meeting Ian Graham, designer, builder and owner of Wilderness Boats gave a very interesting illustrated talk on the history of Wilderness boats. Following this he was presented with a photo album from the Club to celebrate how much the membership thought of owning one of his boats.
The amount of work that was completed on the canal in the 3 weeks before the event was outstanding. With work creating a canal from a 300 or 400 metre long ditch below Dudbridge locks by dredging, creating and laying a towpath and removing or re-routing some barriers like bridges, power cables, at the last possible moment. Diggers were still in evidence in their compound as were piles of weed, mud, building detritus. The contractors did a sterling job.
Sunday early pm.
The SUN came out with only a couple of showers. Lots of people about wandering up and down the towpath. Lots of comments from locals saying things like “I never thought I’d see boats on this canal in my lifetime”. Some have been seen with tears in their eyes. Around this time, following a test of getting a car and trailer moving at the temporary slipway, the CCT quickly realised that boaters concerns voiced since Friday, about ground conditions at the top of the temporary slipway were correct and they obtained and laid hardcore and arranged for mud coated wheels to be washed off with a high pressure hose on the Monday.
It’s been raining since around 3pm. The illuminated boats started to shine through the gloom at around 9.30 by which time the rain had decreased to drizzle but very few people came to see the lights perhaps due to the inclement weather or perhaps because the festival programme strangely omitted to point out that it was on!
THEN just as The Apprentice finalist was announced and they were starting to interview the ones who were unsuccessful, a loud knock on the boat and the festival team were warning that the water that had been flowing down through pipes in the bund (temporary earth dam) above Dudbridge top lock had risen due to the rain and was now flowing over the top of it and the bund was in serious danger of collapse, which if it did could cause a wall of water to rush down on top of the moored trailboats.
As crews were alerted, they started to gather up mooring pins etc, some having to get out of bed and put on clothes, to move their boats down past the weirs and flood lock at Ebley to a place of safety.
Some boats without crews were towed down by others with the help of CCT volunteers. And when all were safely moored up, lots of the boaters were saying how it just showed how boaters just coped in a crisis and made sure everyone else were OK.
Now to bed at 11.30pm probably to dream of surfing but I hope not!!
The morning after the night before. Broken clouds and intermittent sunshine. The fleet quiet at their new moorings in Ebley after last night’s excitement. Some photos. At the time these were taken at 7.30am, there were 3 other local people out taking photos also saying it was great to see boats on the canal.
And here the flood control lock, not closed we understand due to a coots nest on one of the lock gates. In the distance, on the right, a new weir, which at this time still hasn’t been commissioned as it has temporary metal sheet piling in place on the river Frome side. Further up is a operational weir, next to a park, which can freely flood to protect adjacent properties.
Well the offending bund held and CCT organisers invited us to return to our moorings in time for the awards ceremony at 10.30. Many Ebley locals out taking photos to see us off.
Here is the offending bund or earth dam.
The awards ceremony was held and here are the successful winners, together with (kneeling) CCT volunteers, Linda and Simon Cannon, who worked exceedingly hard all throughout the weekend to ensure boaters needs were met. A BIG THANK YOU to them from all the boaters.
The award winners were:
|Oxford and South Bucks Rose Bowl Best Illuminated Boat using electricity
“Windrush ” (Wilderness) Carol Medhurst.
|Ashby Canal Trust Shield Best Illuminated Boat not using electricity
“4 Pause” (Sea Otter) John Last.
|BWB Trail Boat Cup Men’s Boat Handling
“Sloe” (Wilderness) Adam Pilgrim.
|Grand Western Award Lady’s’ Boat Handling
“Sloe” (Wilderness) Jane Pilgrim.
|Keith Haddon Memorial Award Most Enterprising and Meritorious Trailboat Cruising
“Bobbles” (Wilderness) John Parker.
| John Heap Rose Bowl Boat most ship-shape & Bristol fashion
“Helter Skelter” (Caraboat) Neil McGarry.
| John Ogley Cup Highest Number of Journey Points
“4 Pause” (Sea Otter) John Last.
|Pewsey Wharf Boat Club Trophy Best Fitted Out
“Princess Estrith” (Cabin Cruiser) Ron Glover.
|Grace Bell Best Storyboard
“Helter Skelter” (Caraboat) Neil McGarry.
Whilst the event went on at the festival site throughout Monday, to conclude with a Jubilee fireworks display. A number of boats had to leave and started to make their way down the canal to pull out. Luckily, the Sea Scouts were on hand to help by washing away the mud on the slipway with brushes and a high pressure hose. They did a great job and thank you to Mal for his help too!
There is also a video on YouTube of Navi coming out on the Tuesday, which can be seen here. Not an easy slipway to recover from with no staging around the bottom to hold on to a boat, and slippy mud on the sides. This was not the end of the tale, as we understand that along with the two trip boats, the three Sea Otters who had attended, had to be recovered using a crane during the following Thursday, due to insufficient depth and the steep slipway.
A significant successful trailboat festival, which whilst it had some issues for the boaters, these issues were overcome with the hard work of some of the CCT volunteers. Even with the mixed weather, the festival must have been a success with the large number of people attending. The Festival MUST have had a positive impact in the local area, with lots of people now knowing about the canal, its leisure benefits and money making potential for local businesses. In addition, the CCT has another navigable stretch in water well and truely completed. We applaud the Cotswold Canal Trust and Partnership and all the people who have donated their time and effort to help in restoring this important waterway to this point.
We wish the Cotswold Canal Partnership every success as they try to complete Stage 1a and move on to try and secure funding for Stage 1 B and with it, the connection of Stroud to the main canal network via Saul junction on the Gloucester & Sharpness canal. If, no, WHEN this happens then many more boats will, we are sure, take time to travel up and down this picturesque canal to visit this historic and interesting town. We look forward to returning in the future.