TRENT and MERSEY CANAL SOCIETY
NEWS and EVENTS DIARY
 
Meetings and Talks
 
We hold regular monthly meetings in Middlewich during the winter, with a variety of speakers.
For news of future Talks see our Diary.
For Directions see Directions to The Big Lock 
 
Past Meetings (most recent first)

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.

Saturday 6th May 2017 - Our AGM at the Bluebell Inn, Kidsgrove. After the AGM Jon Honeysett took us on a very interesting guided walk to see both Harecastle Tunnel entrances and the railway station.

  
  

  

Turnover Bridge from Brindley to Telford Towpath            Group at Tunnel Mouth [Click on Photo to enlarge]

(Photos: Roger Evans, except group at Tunnel: Sarah Honeysett )

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 2017Peter 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 2nd December 2016 - Our Christmas meal at Red Bull, Kidsgrove.

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 29th October 2016 - Our second evening of "Going to the Dogs" again started with a delicious meal of Scouse followed by Apple Pie. Once again there were several "dog" races with members both taking part, and betting on the results (with 50% of the bets going to the society funds). The dogs are actually stuffed toys, and the races involve "twiddling" a piece of broomstick to wind up the string to pull the dog along. A thoroughly good time was had by all.

     
                    The Course                                      Getting Instructions from Eddie                   Under Starter's Orders
     
Twiddling in Progress                                 Semi-Finalists                                 The Winner
(Photos: Roger Evans)
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.

Saturday 14th May 2016 Our AGM at Stone Station. The building was completed in 1849 by The North Staffordshire Railway Company (previous owners of our canal) and is a grade II listed building. It was refurbished for community use in 2003.

   
Stone station now, and as it was in the days of steam (from a painting in the main hall)
(Photos: Roger Evans)

The meeting began with a short talk about Stone by David Dumbelton. Stone’s two major industries were brewing and shoe-making. The most famous brewery was Joules (pronounced Jowls). The town is attractive, socially active with beer and food festivals, and very much a canal town.


The Report on 2015 was then discussed. Highlights included :-

  • Milepost cleaning and painting continues in the North.
  • The Cheshire Locks painting project (joint with IWA North Staffs and South Cheshire) is going well, if slowly.
  • Our website is now totally maintained by ourselves. It is frequently updated (especially the news and events section) and can be found at www.trentandmerseycanalsociety.org.uk . This is a new address reflecting the fact that we haven't been a limited company for some years, but the old .co.uk address still works (being invisibly redirected).
  • Publicity and sales, now in the able hands of Paula Jackson and Eddie Kingswell, is very vibrant. The society stall can be found at all the main events in the North of our region. Paula hopes to arrange press releases for future events after an offer of help by Harry Arnold.
  • This season's talks all went well and were very enjoyable. The Society now has its own talk on the Trent & Mersey Canal from Preston Brook to Armitage Tunnel delivered by Gillian Watson. This means we can give reciprocal talks to other societies.

After the formal business (and an excellent buffet lunch) David Dumbelton led a guided walk along the towpath. For one member (John Tackley) this involved an emotional reunion with the cabin section of butty "Rebekah", used as a flower display below Star Lock. This was originally the stern of John’s butty "Axe" which was discarded after the boat was sold and converted to power.

   
(Photos: Roger Evans)

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 4th December 2015 - Our Christmas meal at Big Lock, Middlewich.

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 25th September 2015A fun evening of "Going to the Dogs" started with a delicious meal of Scouse followed by Apple Pie. We were then invited to bet on, and take part in, a series of dog races. As this event took place in the upstairs room at the Red Bull pub, there should be no surprise that the dogs were actually stuffed toys, and the races involved winding up their string leads onto a piece of broomstick to move them along. A total of 8 races were held with, with much encouragement of the volunteer winders. There were 3 ladies races followed by a winning ladies' race to decide a champion, interspersed with a similar men's competition

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.

Saturday 9th May 2015 - Our AGM at Lion Salt Works. After the formal business over 30 members had a tour of the site (even though it wasn't yet open to the public). This tour was excellent, especially for those of us who remember the works in its last working days. Our two guides were apologetic that it was their very first tour, but they worked hard to explain everything to us, and to answer our questions. Afterwards we had an excellent buffet lunch to round off a very interesting day.

     

The AGM                                           Old Pump                                        Old Salt Wagon

         
Old Pan with holes                      Display Pan                 Workers moving Salt Lumps              Packing the Salt
(Photos: Roger Evans)

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 5th December 2014 - Our Christmas meal at Big Lock, Middlewich.

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

Saturday 17th May 2014 - Our AGM at Middleport Pottery. After the formal business all 17 members had a tour of the site by Visitor Manager Teresa Fox-Wells which was very interesting, especially the inside of the bottle kiln. We were particularly impressed by the way the site had been kept looking "old and weathered" rather than too much new work being done. The site formally opens on July 1st, so do visit it yourselves. A buffet lunch followed (our thanks to Cynthia Dumbelton), then a visit to the factory shop, Finally David Dumbelton and Roger Savage led us on a walk along the line of the Burslem Arm, explaining their proposals and answering all our question. The weather co-operated, so we had a really enjoyable walk.

   
Presentation about Burslem Port                   Wedgwood Trophy presentation to Gillian                     Lunch           
 
   
Examining Ceramic Model of the Site                   By the Trent & Mersey Canal Wharf                  Outside of Bottle Kiln
   
David explains the Route of the Burslem Arm              A narrow bit !                     At the Junction with the Trent & Mersey   
(Photos: David Clegg [except Bottle Kiln: Bob Luscombe])           

Friday 11th April 2014Nigel 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.
See  HS2 Presentation (<== Click link to VIEW in a new window, or Right Click to SAVE to your computer)

Saturday 15th December 2013 - Our Christmas meal at Big Lock, Middlewich.

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. 
 
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.

Saturday 15th December 2012 - Our Christmas meal at the Moorings, Anderton.

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