LCT Trustees Report July 2017

LCT Trustees Report July 2017

Our volunteers are achieving so much…Researching available materials, visiting other restoration projects around the country and collecting ideas from the network of canal societies has provided our Project Manager Peter Joneswith a busy but interesting year. It has also brought us, as reported recently in Waterwitch, to the point where materials can be chosen, sourced and costed and a work programme for the relining of the First Furlong put in place. All being well, work will be starting shortly and will keep our ‘navvies’ gainfully employed for a good while!

We are also planning well ahead. The first major obstacle going north that requires major funding is where the A590 severs the canal at Wellhead Lane and we are soon to be seeking consultant engineers to draw up a design brief for this work. Although it will be a number of years before our own volunteers, and with help from Waterways Recovery Group, will have opened up the canal from Stainton to Wellhead Lane, we aim to be as ready as possible for that major work to be able to start once we are there. Linking the watered section of the canal through to the important listed structure that is Hincaster tunnel, is believed to be the sort of project that can attract the necessary funding.

A good core of our volunteers have beavered at regular weekend work parties over the year. Although much else has been done, including a delightfully muddy weekend building a new bund on the FF, the concentration has been on the areas around the portals of the Hincaster tunnel which had become badly overgrown. Now this magnificent structure is being cleaned down, the stonework revealed and viewing areas made accessible. There are discussions and early plans that could see the tunnel re-watered to a depth that could allow a shallow draught boat to take visitors through the tunnel in time for the Bi-centennial celebrations and perhaps subsequently as acontinuing feature of the Towpath Trail project. This back end we hope to be able to clear out the mass of vegetation that has built up in the canal bed at either end and C&RT engineers will be repairing the portal’s coping stones and inspecting the tunnel itself.

Alongside the tunnel we will be working with C&RT and Historic England in an archaeological studyof the Horse Path with a view to taking back the ground surface to its original depth and rebuilding the low dykes on either side.

Our volunteers have also aided C&RT in combating the invasive Himalayan Balsam. The Peasey Beck feeder, which takes from the Killington reservoir to supply the canal with a constant source of water, was in places choked with the plant. If allowed to flower its seed are taken into the canal andcarried far south. Volunteers recently contributed over 50 hours work clearing the feeder and accumulated over 20 ‘dumpy’ bags of this invader in the process.

A different example of volunteers at work is on another aspect of the canal heritage, milestones. Working closely with the C&RT Richard Trevitt and colleagues have put a lot of effort into searching out milestones and tethering posts from the overgrowth that hides them along the length of the canal. The milestone project, which plans to be ready in time for the Bi-centenary celebrations, aims to restore or replace all the stones along the length of the canal. Recently our volunteers recovered a tethering post from down an embankment, hauled it back on to the towpathusing techniques the ancient Egyptians would have been proud of, and re-instated it. There will no doubt be more work like this for us to do.

John Laws has made a sterling job of bringing the Lancaster Canal Guide Book up to date, meticulously checking details ensuring the accuracy of this popular source of information for boaters and canal enthusiasts alike. Graham Agnew worked on the design and layout to give the Guide a fresh new look. We are grateful to both of them for this work. Plug - the Guide Book can now be bought online directly from our website!

Speaking of which, the website is also the place to go for reports on what our volunteers are doing and achieving, what is being planned and is a mine of other information about the trust. The new site, built by Helen Thomas’s son Colin is now superbly managed by Cameron. It’s great to have a site that reflects what the Trust is about and where we are going. The site, together with Cameron’sother pet project the Facebook page, are is generating ever increasing interest and bring in new members and volunteers which can only augur well for our future.

The NB Waterwitch continues to play an important role in raising the Trusts public profile. The boat was taken out of the water over winter and given a thorough overall by its dedicated crew. There wasn’t much in the way of barnacles to be scraped but non the less the hull got a good cleaning and red leading. As well as the regular Sunday trips throughout the summer there are an encouraging number of charter groups booking trips all of whom spread the word about the wonders of the Lancaster canal. Thanks must go to David Joyner our boat manager and the intrepid crew and clerks who make it possible.

Whilst on the subject of the public face of the trust we can report achieving good and positive pressand media coverage over the last year, including full page spreads in the Westmorland Gazette and Lancaster Journal and good coverage over the course of the year. The BBC’s ‘Inside Out’ programme attracted a lot of interest and brought us new members. We are grateful to be able to call on the skills of a canal enthusiast who is also a professional public relations person for help and advice when need arises.

Membership currently stands at 373, down on last year. However, the new revitalised website, the new Facebook page and increasing awareness of what we are achieving is attracting significant interest and bringing in new members and volunteers. Of the 23 new members who have joined usthis year 15 came via the website.

And finally, we have ambitious and entirely realistic plans for the future. We are moving from being a group of canal lovers tinkering with the Lanky to a group committed to achieving the original aimsof the trust – to eventually see a navigable canal from Preston to Kendal. As said in the last edition of the Waterwitch magazine - a huge THANKS to all those who are making the Trust a growing success. Boat skippers and their ‘clerks’, our own band of ‘navvies’ and those volunteering and supporting us in so many other ways. We wouldn’t exist without you.

Robin Yates, Chairman