The Inland Waterways Association (IWA) History

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River Great Ouse

Plans for the Cut-off channel that was to take flood waters from the tributaries of the Great Ouse were examined in 1949 and found to have little adverse effect on navigation. The question of pollution of the Grand Union Canal from the waters of the River Gade were highlighted. The new Blue and Yellow colours introduced by the Docks & Inland Waterways Executive to replace the traditional narrowboat painting were opposed by IWA, a view that was soon echoed by most of the national press.

In October 1949 the IWA Fenlands Branch was inaugurated covering the Middle Level, Welland, Nene, Great Ouse and its tributaries.

In 1951 IWA Vice-president Peter Scott addressed the inaugral meeting of the Great Ouse Restoration Society with the aim of restoring navigation of the river to Bedford. In 1973 Bedford Corporation gave a grant of £100,000 towards the restoration of the Great Ouse. (see article below).

The 1973 IWA National Rally at Ely on the River Great Ouse was attended by 255 boats and visited by about 30,000 people.

The Great Ouse Restoration Society reported the completion of Castle Mills lock on 28th April 1978, thus fully restoring navigation to the river.

The following article by Alan H Faulkner was first published in Waterways number 193 in August 2001 and is reproduced here by kind permission of the author.

THE GREAT Ouse had been navigable since the earliest times with Danish invaders penetrating as far inland as Bedford, but later the river was neglected and became impassable. In the 17th century a series of locks and sluices were built and these enabled the river to be re-opened to Bedford in 1689. Most of these locks were rebuilt in the mid 19th century but owing to railway competition they were again in poor condition when the river was acquired by the Simpson brothers in 1893. They were wealthy stockbrokers and, led by the eldest brother Leonard, they spent a large sum of money on repairing the locks and introducing a fleet of tugs and barges to boost trade. Castle Staunch in 1976, with the boat hauling winch on the right

At the time there were only limited powers to levy tolls on boats and Simpson applied to the Board of Trade to sponsor an Act of Parliament to introduce a more realistic schedule of charges and to be able to charge pleasure craft. This application was strongly opposed by Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire County Councils who wanted to close the navigation and establish a conservancy to improve land drainage. Faced with their opposition Simpson was eventually forced to withdraw his application.

Meanwhile, during the winter of 1894, Godmanchester Corporation, claiming powers under an ancient right, forced open the gates of three of the locks to release floodwater and in doing so they severely damaged the structures. Simpson took them to court where he lost his case; he went to appeal and lost again and the dispute ended up in the House of Lords where he lost for the third time. Faced with not being able to charge a remunerative toll and with his locks liable to be damaged he closed the navigation. This then incurred the wrath of Huntingdonshire County Council which claimed the river was a public navigable highway that Simpson was bound to keep open. More court cases followed, again ending up in the House of Lords where, in 1904, Simpson won and the navigation remained closed. Tempsford Staunch, built to provide depth over where the Great North Road forded the river. All traces of both have now gone.

Lock restoration starts

In the early 1930s the Ouse Drainage Board started to restore the locks, working upstream from St. Ives. Guillotine gates were installed to enable the locks to act as sluices in flood times but the work also enabled the board to move its maintenance craft around more effectively. The boardís successor, the River Great Ouse Catchment Board, acquired the navigation rights from Simpson in 1935 and carried on the restoration work. By the outbreak of the Second World War the river was open from the sea at Kingís Lynn to Tempsford in Bedfordshire but the remaining 101/4 miles through seven derelict locks and two derelict staunches up to the original head of the navigation at Bedford remained impassable.

Immediate post war austerity prevented a resumption of the work, but in October 1949 the Fenlands Branch of the IWA was formed, followed in April 1950 by the Bedford Boat Club. These two, aided by the Ouse Valley River Club at St. Neots, were instrumental in launching the Great Ouse Restoration Society on 20 February 1951 at a meeting in Bedford addressed by Robert Aickman and Peter Scott.

In 1952 the restoration was estimated to cost £77,000 and it was agreed that Bedford lock would be dealt with first, to be followed by Cardington, the combined scheme costing £10,000 to which the GORS agreed to contribute £2,500.

First campaign success

The first success came in March 1955 when what had become the Great Ouse River Board started on the work at Bedford. A guillotine gate able to pass floodwater was installed at the head of the lock with wooden mitre gates at the bottom and the chamber was refurbished. The first boat passed through on 24 September 1955 and there was a formal opening ceremony the following Easter. Financial stringency prevented the River Board from moving on to Cardington and the GORS paid over half its promised contribution to cover the work performed so far.
Bedford Lock: The first boat on a trial run through on 24 September 1955; with GORS council members and the Great Ouse River Board District Engineer aboard. Roxton Lock: Members of GORS surveying the derelict chamber on 1 September 1968.

There followed a lull until June 1961 when the GORS launched a series of voluntary working parties at Roxton, just upstream of Tempsford, and at Great Barford that created considerable publicity and may have prompted the announcement soon after of a £15,000 scheme for Cardington. In September 1962 contractors W. & C. French Ltd. started on the work. Here the lock walls were repaired by lining them with steel mesh covered with a thick sprayed-on layer of concrete, making the lock the narrowest on the river. A guillotine gate was installed together with a pair of steel bottom gates and some dredging was carried out. Eleven boats from the Bedford Boat Club participated in the formal opening ceremony on 17 May 1963 and the GORS paid £1,000 to cover the installation of the steel bottom lock gates, which were not required for what was essentiallya land drainage scheme, and for fitting safety chains and ladders in the chamber.

The GORS now campaigned for future work to be at the downstream end of the closed section, but it was not until January 1968 that what had become the Great Ouse River Authority announced a land drainage and water-measuring scheme at Roxton. This included a new lock close to the site of the original structure and the GORS agreed to contribute £5,000 towards the costs. In June 1971 the Dredging & Construction Co. Ltd. of Kingís Lynn moved onto the site and the new lock was opened by the Duke of Bedford on 12 August 1972. The lock, which was fitted with two pairs of steel mitre gates, was alongside a large weir and was crossed by a new footbridge. The scheme cost just over £80,000 and included removing the derelict staunch at Tempsford, deepening the river up to the new lock and some dredging up to the next lock at Great Barford.

Funding dilemma

The prospect of any work at Great Barford presented major problems as it was deemed there would be no land drainage benefit in restoring the lock and hence none of the cost could fall on the land drainage budget that had funded most of the cost of Roxton. The dilemma was eventually solved when Bedford Town Council offered a £100,000 contribution from the sale of aggregates from riverside land at Bedford, the IWAís Cambridge Branch in collaboration with the GORS offered to provide volunteers to carry out part of the work and the GORS offered to contribute another £5,000.

Great Barford Lock: Volunteers demolishing the sluice island on 25 May 1974. Work party leader Alan Rowe on the left.

In May 1974, volunteers moved onto site and began to demolish the former navigation structures as, again, a completely new lock was necessary owing to the lowered water levels envisaged. The Anglian Water Authority had taken over responsibility for the river in April and built a bypass canal to take the flow of the river to enable the worksite to be drained. With the loan of equipment from the Waterway Recovery Group, the volunteers completed the demolition of the former lock and sluice islands in September with the bricks being salvaged and laid into gabions to form a new river wall. One wall of the old lock was retained to serve as a landing stage.

By now the authority, using its own workforce, had started on the new lock just downstream of the original structure. This work took nearly two years to complete with the construction site being flooded twice; but it was eventually finished to a high standard as this was deemed a special conservation site.

Last locks restored

Meanwhile in June 1975 contractors, May Gurney & Co. Ltd, started on a new lock at Willington, the next but one lock upstream, and on 8 May 1976 the GORS and the IWA had the pleasure of seeing the formal opening of both Great Barford and Willington locks with a flotilla of boats passing through both and the GORS paying over £10,000. The former lock at Old Mills, between the two, was not restored, with the river being deepened up to Willington instead. The work at Great Barford cost some £190,000 and that at Willington £245,000.

This just left the derelict Castle Mill Lock and Castle Mill Staunch to be dealt with to complete the restoration through to Bedford. At the end of August 1976 French Kier Ltd. started on this final project that involved the staunch being eliminated and the river being dredged up to a new deep lock built close to the original. The new lock was formally opened on 28 April 1978 and once again the GORS paid over £5,000, most of which had been raised at a highly successful raffle and an equally successful boat rally held at Great Barford in 1976.

The reopening was celebrated at the Bedford River Festival at the end of May 1979, attended for the first time by many boats from down river. With its task completed, the GORS did consider carrying on to campaign for a link with the Grand Union but it eventually decided this was outside its laid-down objectives and so held its final meeting on 25 January 1979.
Great Barford opening, 8 May 1976, with volunteers who worked on it aboard the boat. Willington opening, 8 May 1976. Castle Mill, 27 May 1978.


Grand Union Main Line

In 1949 the question of pollution of the Grand Union Canal from the waters of the River Gade were highlighted.

In March 1955 the Board of Survey reported and recommended the disposal of 771 miles of waterway including some canals that had already been abandoned and closed to traffic. These were called "Group 3" waterways "Group 2" was 994 miles of waterways that were to be retained but if traffic did not increase they were to be downgraded to Group 3. "Group 1" at just 336 miles was the smallest group. These were waterways to be developed and consisted of the Aire & Calder Navigation (including the Ouse Lower Improvement), Gloucester & Berkeley Canal and the River Severn, Grand Union Canal below Berkhamsted, Sheffield & South Yorkshire Navigation, River Lee (below Enfield Lock), River Trent and the River Weaver.

In response IWA advocate a National Waterway Conservancy to look after all our waterways and point out that it is cheaper to restore and use waterways than to eliminate them.

In 1963 it was reported that the Warwick (Saltisfield) Branch, or the upper part of it, was probably to be closed. According to British Waterways: ĎThis part of the Branch is now of no practical use and the banks leak. It is expensive to maintain and the Board feel it would be best closedí. There is talk of the lower portion, below the railway bridge, being converted into pleasurecraft moorings. The Warwick Council add that closure of the upper part would enable them to make a new entrance to the racecourse. This case and that of the threat to the Regentís Canal demonstated how closely the pleasure boating community is concerned with the survival and recovery of waterborne trade.

The Grand Union Canal Society was formed in 1967.

The British Waterways maintenance backlog was made worse in 1977 by several major structural failures including closure of Blisworth Tunnel on the Grand Union Main Line, which was opened again later in the year.

In 1978 Braunston Tunnel on the Grand Union Main Line was closed for major engineering works.

In 1981 Blisworth Tunnel on the Grand Union Main Line was closed because of major problems with the tunnel lining.

In 1982 British Waterways undertook several major engineering projects including the works on Blisworth Tunnel.

IWA Council Members were taken in a truck through Blisworth Tunnel in 1983 to see the new concrete cylinder lining that was being installed.

An event was held in 1985 on the Grand Union Saltisford Arm to mark its restoration (see photograph) and formed part of what was known as the "National IWAterways Summer" of over 150 events, as well as a series of IWAalk sponsored walks across the country all held to publicise the waterways.

A total of 514 boats and nearly 30,000 people attended the 1985 IWA National Rally held at Milton Keynes on the Grand Union Main Line.

As part of a Milton Keynes facelift the IWA mural at Wolverton was painted by local Artist Bill Billings - both shown in the photograph.

As befits the fortieth anniversary year there was an 1986 IWA National Festival (instead of the usual rally) held at Brentford on the Grand Union Main Line. Around 450 boats attended and on the previous weekend about 70 boats cruised the London Ring.

The 2001 IWA National Waterways Festival was held at Milton Keynes on the Grand Union Main Line and attracted 25,000 visitors, 347 boats and 320 caravans.

Middle Level

In October 1949 the IWA Fenlands Branch was inaugurated covering the Middle Level, Welland, Nene, Great Ouse and its tributaries.

In 1959 a proposal to fill in of part of Well Creek in the Middle Level for road widening was also opposed.

1960 saw a three week cruise through the Middle Level in the boats Blue Peter and Maid Mary-Sonya led by Captain Munk and Robert Aickman. Following this cruise a meeting with the Middle Level Engineer was held at which various improvements to navigation were discussed.

The restored lock with an electrically operated guillotine gate was opened in 1962 at Salters Lode on the Middle Level. The Middle Level Commissioners planned to follow this with the dredging of Well Creek.

In 1968 Captain Munk led an IWA inspection cruise of the Middle Level - see article below.

The following article was published in Bulletin 84 in July 1968

MIDDLE LEVEL ADVENTURE

Chairmanís Inspection Cruise

Capt. Lionel Munk, Association Chairman, in action at Horseway Sluice, clearing a winterís accumulated refuse from the lock gates. Seven hours after arrival, both cruisers taking part managed to pass through to the lower level.

FOR THE first time in eight years, an I.W.A. inspection cruise was made of the Middle Level Navigations last May by a party led by Lionel Munk and including Council Members Pamela Cobb and Hugh McKnight.

Starting from Ely, in one of Messrs. Appleyard Lincolnís new Elysian cruisers, a trip was first completed via the Old West River and the Great Ouse to Godmanchester. In recent years, the Great Ouse River Board has made considerable progress in rebuilding locks on the waterway. Although only reopened for traffic at Easter, the new Hermitage Lock had been used by more than 300 boats by the time that Capt. Munkís party arrived. We look forward to eventual reinstatement of the Ouse as far as Bedford. It is a superb navigation, and one which is justly popular.

After cruising the Cam to Cambridge, and investigating the River Wissey to Hilgay, the party - by now transferred to two smaller cruisers - locked through Denver Sluice and into Well Creek, one of two means of entering the Middle Level at Salterís Lode. Many of the Middle Level routes - the system totals more than 100 miles - were constructed primarily as drainage channels, with navigation regarded as of secondary importance. Well Creek was formerly a well-used Fen-lighter waterway, connected the now disused Wisbech Canal with the Ouse. Being more elevated than much of the Middle Level it provides the pleasure boatman with wonderful wide open views. The account the Associationís 1960 Middle Level voyage published in Bulletin 62 said of Well Creek:
"The existing statutory navigation from Salterís Lode via Well Creek through Upwell and Outwell to the junction with New Pophamís Eau. . . is at present in very poor shape indeed, and totally unnavigable."

Introduction to the Middle Level at Well Creek was in the form of towing both craft by lorry from the towpath, on account of the lack of water for these comparitively deep draught cruisers. Below: Rounding the notoriously sharp bend at Whittlesey, calling for expert boat handling. The wooded cutting comes as a surprise in a predominantly flat area.

Conditions have certainly changed for the better since then, for, even using two broad beam cruisers drawing at least 2 ft. 9 ins., no inordinate difficulties were experienced. True, the entrance from the Ouse is badly silted for perhaps a mile and this necessitated hauling the boats from the towpath by motor truck. Great help was provided in this connection by Mr. Lou Doubleday and his enthus-iastic friends of the Middle Level Watermenís Club. Lou operates a boatyard at Outwell, the only one on the entire Middle Level. He hopes to introduce a hire cruiser fleet there, and nothing else could do so much to deter plans for closing the Creek in connection with road-widening proposals about which we heard some months after the cruise. Such closure would be a tragedy for the waterways and for Fenland in particular. We are preparing to do all possible to avert this catastrophe.

Continuing through Whittlesey and Ashline Lock, apart from some troubles caused by rotten blanket weed and the need to wait for more than an hour for water levels over the lower cill of Stan-ground Sluice to be raised, a fairly normal passage was made. Certainly, any boats drawing under 2 ft. would encounter little trouble, especially early in the season.

The return from Peterborough and the Nene was made via Whittlesey to Angle Corner, Floodís Ferry, Benwick, and Welches Dam, joining the Ouse once more at Salterís Lode. Chief tribulation of this portion of the journey was the condition of Horseway Sluice, between the Forty Foot and the Old Bedford River. More than seven hours was spent in negotiating many tons of dead vegetation clogging the chamber and approaches. Certainly no boat had been through for many months.

Typical Fen country: the wide open spaces near Whittlesey

We found the Middle Level Commissionersí Engineer Mr. Fillenham very helpful in contriving to make the whole passage as easy as possible. It appears that the Commissioners are lacking powers to raise funds necessary for navigational (as opposed to drainage) improvements. They have, in fact, asked the Association to use its influence to find a solution to the difficulty. While in Peterborough, Capt. Munkís party met Mr. L. Critchley of the East Anglian Waterways Association, who was able to offer much advice and information on his own Associationís work to improve local conditions.

A nine-page illustrated serialised account of the two week cruise appeared in Motor Boat and Yachting for 23rd August and 6th and 20th September. More than anything else, the Middle Level needs boats and more boats. The scenery is very fine in places, indeed the waterways atmosphere is unique in Britain. This is Englandís nearest approach to Holland. Any Members who do take their craft to the area will find local assistance and enthusiasm to be phenomenal


The Well Ceek Trust was founded in 1970.

IWA issued two writs in 1981 against the Middle Level Commissioners one relating to the closure of Horseway Lock and the other to the obstruction of Bevill's Leam.

In 1983 Legal action on the Middle Level started in 1981 met with success with the Commissioners agreeing to restore Horseway Lock and to build a new lock near Ramsey.

River Welland

In October 1949 the IWA Fenlands Branch was inaugurated covering the Middle Level, Welland, Nene, Great Ouse and its tributaries.

River Nene

In 1948 IWA Honorary Consulting Engineer, Mr.Cyril Boucher, F.S.E., M.Inst.C.E.,M.I.Struct.E., assisted fellow Member, Mr.W.B.Hatherley, in opposing upon behalf of the Association the proposal to draw a further vast quantity of water from the River Nene at Northampton. The Northampton Corporation were understood to be offering to return the water as filtered sewer effluent at Ecton.

In October 1949 the IWA Fenlands Branch was inaugurated covering the Middle Level, Welland, Nene, Great Ouse and its tributaries.

A downturn in the economy meant that the 1976 IWA National Rally held at Peterborough on the River Nene did not have a sponsor and the drought caused an entry of 382 boats to translate to just 142 arrivals. Despite this 33,000 people attended the Rally.

The 1993 National Festival was held at Peterborough on the River Nene where 78,000 people and 487 boats took part.

National Festivals and Rallies

The Highlight of 1950 was undoubtably the National Festival and Rally of Boats held at Market Harborough. A hundred boats attended. An event that would soon become a major annual gathering and showcase for the IWA.

Early in 1951 it was decided the IWA did not have the resources to mount another Festival & Rally of Boats at Market Harborgh (or elsewhere) but that they may hold the event again in 1952. However, the Association were successful in ensuring that narrowboats were moored on the Thames at the Festival of Britain and that their arrival obtained publicity for the cause.

In 1952 it was decided to hold another National Festival and Rally of Boats at Market Harborough but difficulties in raising funds and oppostion from the Market Harborough Advertiser caused the plan to be dropped. The Inland Waterways Association held a rally at Brecon.

Although no National rallies were held in 1955 the Midlands Branch organise a Rally at Banbury and the North-Eastern Branch a Rally at Skipton.

A National Rally of Boats was held at Coventry in 1957, the first to be called a "National" since 1950. This was run by David Hutchings and other Midland Branch Members.

In 1960 IWA National Rally was held at Stoke-on-Trent and a protest cruise was held at Dudley Tunnel to counter proposals to close it.

The 1961 National Rally held at Aylesbury was a great success and attracted more publicity than any other rally for many years. Boats attending received a duckling plaque specially drawn by Peter Scott.

IWA 1962 National Rally held at Stourbridge to draw attention to the poor state of the Stourbridge Canal and to oppose plans to close the waterway. The rally was held in defiance of British Waterways claims that the participates had no right to use the canal or to clear the obstructions to navigation. The result was that a record number of boats attended the rally and much favourable publicity was obtained.

In 1963 IWA National Rally was held at Little Venice on the Grand Union - Regent's Canal.

The restored Stratford-upon-Avon Canal was the venue for the 1964 IWA National Fesival at Stratford-upon-Avon to mark the reopening of the canal by HM Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. The Festival was held from 9th to 15th July, instead of the normal August time, to coincide with the Royal opening.

The deteriating state of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal and concerns for its future led to the 1965 IWA National Rally being held at Blackburn. Mr & Mrs Joe Skinner were awarded the Alfred Ritchie Challenge Cockerel for the best working boat.

IWA 1966 National Rally was held at Marple on the Peak Forest Canal and on the threatened Cheshire Ring. It attracted a record attendance of 250 boats.

About 350 boats attended the 1967 IWA National Rally at Leicester (see photograph) which was offically opened by the Lord Mayor Sir Mark Henig.

To counter the exclusion of the Aintree to Liverpool section of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal from the designated "Cruiseways" and to improve the image of the canal in Liverpool IWA held their 1968 National Rally in the city. Around 170 boats attended.

An estimated 500 boats attended the 1969 IWA National Rally in the centre of Birmingham.

IWA National Rally in 1970 was held at Guildford on the River Wey partly to give a boost to the campaign to restore the nearby Basingstoke Canal. 380 boats attended and 50,000 people visited the site prodicing good TV and press coverage.

In 1971, IWA Silver Jubilee year, the National Rally was held at Northampton on the River Nene. As part of the campaign to save the "remainder" waterways rallies were also held at the Tame Valley Canal on the Birmingham Canal Navigations, the Rochdale Canal in Manchester, the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal, Caldon Canal, River Ouse (Yorkshire), Erewash Canal, Bidford on the Upper Avon, Bristol Docks and at Sheffield on the Sheffield & South Yorkshire Navigation.

Over 500 boats attended the 1972 IWA National Rally at Lymm on the Bridgewater Canal.

The 1973 IWA National Rally at Ely on the River Great Ouse was attended by 255 boats and visited by about 30,000 people.

IWA National Rally held at Nottingham on the River Trent in 1974 and attracted over 600 boats. Drawing attention to the nearby Grantham Canal restoration was one of its objectives.

IWA 1975 National Festival at York on the River Ouse was sponsored by Shell. The first year since 1964 that the event was called a Festival rather than a Rally.

A downturn in the economy meant that the 1976 IWA National Rally held at Peterborough on the River Nene did not have a sponsor and the drought caused an entry of 382 boats to translate to just 142 arrivals. Despite this 33,000 people attended the Rally.

The 1977 IWA National Festival was held at Reading on the River Thames had over 370 boat entries.

The 1979 IWA National Rally was held on the River Weaver at Northwich attracting a record 622 boats and over 30,000 visitors.

IWA National Waterways Festival was held at Lea Bridge on the River Lee in 1980. About 500 boats and 25,000 people attended.

IWA National Rally and Waterside Arts Festival for 1981 was held on the Aire & Calder Navigation at Leeds with 410 boats, including many commercial craft, in attendence.

In 1982 around 40.000 people and just under 500 boats attended IWA National Rally at Titford on the Birmingham Canal Navigations. The "National" had been held here in 1978 and this is the first time it had returned to a previous venue.

IWA National Rally was held at Wigan on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in 1983. Around 50,000 people and 428 boats attended.

A total of 514 boats and nearly 30,000 people attended the 1985 IWA National Rally held at Milton Keynes on the Grand Union Main Line.

As befitted the fortieth anniversary year in 1986 there was an IWA National Festival (instead of the usual rally) held at Brentford on the Grand Union Main Line. Around 450 boats attended and on the previous weekend about 70 boats cruised the London Ring.

After 3 years the 1987 IWA National Rally returned to Hawkesbury on the junction of the Oxford and Coventry canals. It attracted around 50,000 people and 530 boats.

The 1988 IWA National Boat Rally and Carnival was held at Castlefield at the junction of the Bridgewater Canal and the Rochdale Canal in the centre of Manchester. The Waterways for Youth "Waterways Passport" scheme was introduced.

The photograph shows the 1989 IWA National Festival at Waltham Abbey on the River Lee was sponsored by Volvo Penta. It attracted 525 boats and 50,000 visitors. The National Trailboat Rally was attended by 125 boats at Glasson on the Lancaster Canal. This highlighted the campaign for the Northern Reaches and the Ribble Link.

IWA National Festival was held at Gloucester on the Gloucester & Sharpness Ship Canal in 1990 and was sponsored by Volvo Penta and had Sonia Rolt, Charles Hadfield and Sir John Knill as Patrons. The National Trailboat Rally was held at Falkirk on the Forth & Clyde Canal.

In 1991 IWA National Festival was held at Windmill End on the Dudley Canal. 768 boats arrived and the police estimated that 385,000 people visited. A Campaign Festival, attended by 118 boats and around 10,000 people, was held in June at Sheffield to promote the Sheffield Canal and to get it upgraded from a "remainder" waterway to "Cruiseway" status. The National Trailboat Festival was held at Malthouse on the Norfolk Broads.

The National Trailboat Rally was held on the River Tone at Taunton in 1992. 520 craft and 375 caravans and tents attended IWA National Festival at Wakefield on the Aire & Calder Navigation. This event is still remembered for the mud caused by the wet weather and for the efforts of the Waterways Recovery Group in keeping the site in a usable condition (photograph by courtesy of Waterways World).

The 1993 IWA National Trail Boat Festival was held at Chelmsford on the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation. The National Festival was held at Peterborough on the River Nene where 78,000 people and 487 boats took part.

The National Trail Boat Festival was held in May 1994 on the Grantham Canal and an Inland Waterways Association National Campaign Festival was held Pelsall on the Birmingham Canal Navigations. IWA National Festival was at Waltham Abbey on the River Lee.

The 1995 IWA National Trailboat Festival was held at Linthwaite on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. The Inland Waterways Association's National Festival at Chester on the Shropshire Union Canal.

The National Trailboat Festival was held near Welshpool on the Montgomery Canal in 1996. IWA National Festival was held at Windmill End on the Dudley Canal.

The 1998 IWA National Festival was held at Salford Quays on the Manchester Ship Canal. An IWA convoy of 27 boats crossed the Mersey on the way to the Festival.

The photograph shows the 1999 IWA National Festival was held at Worcester on the River Severn.

Two Inland Waterways Association National Trailboat Festivals were held in 2000; one at Monmouth on the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal and the other at Moria on the Ashby Canal. IWA National Festival was held at Waltham Abbey on the River Lee.

IWA National Waterways Festival for 2001 was held at Milton Keynes on the Grand Union Main Line and attracted 25,000 visitors, 347 boats and 320 caravans.

The 2002 Inland Waterways Association National Festival was held at Huddersfield on the Broad Canal. A lower than usual attendance of boats (191) reflected the size restrictions of the canal. The National Trailboat Festival was held at Tapton Lock on the Chesterfield Canal.

The National Trailboat Festival was held at Sunbury in 2003 on the River Stour. The Inland Waterways Association National Festival was held on the River Thames at Beale Park, near Pangbourne. It was visited by 32,000 people, 567 boats and 497 caravans and camping units.

The 2004 National Trailboat Rally was held at Newport on the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal. The Inland Waterways Association National Festival was held at Burton on Trent on the Trent & Mersey Canal and even with some wet days attracted 24,000 visitors.

The 2005 IWA National Trailboat Rally was held on the Chesterfield Canal and the National Festival at Preson Brook on the Bridgewater Canal where the restored Shroppie Fly boat Saturn was one of the hundreds of boats attending.

Grand Union - Leicester Section

In 1952 detailed and general waterway concerns continued to be pursued including those relating to the Grand Union - Leicester Section.

In 1953 problems of getting goods transported on the Grand Union - Leicester Section which had been raised in the previous year continued. The Docks & Inland Waterways Executive producing a list of pathetic excuses as to why goods could not be taken from Leicester to London by canal. Although generally cordial relationships with the Docks & Inland Waterways Executive have been maintained it has become increasingly apparent that their parent organisation, the British Transport Commission, were blocking investment and development of the waterways in favour of rail, but mostly road transport.

The Old Union Canals Society was formed in 1961 as a group concerned with the line between Norton Junction and Leicester.

About 350 boats attended the 1967 IWA National Rally at Leicester which was offically opened by the Lord Mayor Sir Mark Henig.

A Stoppage of several months during occurred during 1979 at Crick Tunnel on the Grand Union - Leicester Section.

Worcester & Birmingham Canal

In 1945 one of the many people who wrote to Tom Rolt in response to Narrow Boat was a literary agent and aspiring author called Robert Aickman It was he who suggested to Rolt the idea of the formation of a society to campaign to regenerate the canals. This was an idea that had not occurred to Rolt who was by nature a private man but he embraced the proposal enthusiastically. The two men and their wives Angela and Ray first met aboard Cressy at Tardebigge, near Bromsgrove on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal in August. The two couples quickly established a good working relationship that included cruising on Tom and Angela's boat and visits to Robert and Ray's London Flat in Gower Street.

The negative attitude to canals, (and in this instance the Worcster & Birmingham Canal in particular) even among canal carriers, is illustrated by the following item from IWA Bulletin 13 in 1948:-

The Severn Carrying Company have very kindly sent a number of our Members an attractively produced brochure describing the facilities they offer to traders. Several Members wrote to us pointing out that neither in the text nor upon the map is there any reference to the Worcester and Birmingham Canal, the natural means of water transport between Birmingham and the Severn; and this despite references to such comparatively distant waterways as the Shropshire Union Canal and the Trent and Mersey Canal, neither of which enter the Severn. Our Chairman accordingly wrote to the Company as follows:

"Dear Sirs,
A number of our Members have enquired why in the attractive brochure of which recently you very kindly sent copies to Mr.Rolt and me, there seems to be no reference either on the map or in the text to the Worcester and Birmingham Canal? This Canal seems an obvious means of communication by water from the Severn to the Birmingham area; and has always been used as such. We should be much obliged if you could possibly send us a word explaining this omission; or perhaps it is an error to be rectified?
Yours very truly,
(signed) ROBERT FORDYCE AICKMAN.
Chairman."

To this the General Manager of the Company, Mr.E.W.Bayliss, who is also a Member of tho Association and a well known personage in the community of inland waterway carriers, replied thus:-

"Dear Sir,
Your postcard duly to hand, and we note what you write. We feel, however, it is quite unnecessary for us to give any explanation as a private Carrier to your Association for our actions.
Yours faithfully,
for Severn Carrying Company Ltd.,
(signed) E.W.Bayliss."

In 1950 campaigns for the canals were continued. In addition the Worcester & Birmingham Canal was threatened with abandonment and Tom Rolt made a strong case in its defence in Bulletin 24.

In March 1955 the Board of Survey reported and recommended the disposal of 771 miles of waterway these were called "Group 3" waterways. "Group 2" was 994 miles of waterways that were to be retained but if traffic did not increase they were to be downgraded to Group 3. Even within this group it was recommended that either the Staffordshire & Worcestershire or the Worcester & Birmingham Canal should be abandoned as two routes between the Severn and the Midlands were not required.

In response IWA advocate a National Waterway Conservancy to look after all our waterways and point out that it is cheaper to restore and use waterways than to eliminate them.

The Worcester & Birmingham Canal Society was founded in 1969.

Stoppages of several months during occurred during 1979 at Tardebigge and Kings Norton tunnels on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal.

In 1981 Kings Norton (Wast Hill) Tunnel on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal was reopened after a 2½ year closure for repairs.

River Avon (Warwickshire)

The Midland Branch, in 1949, turn their attention to the neglected southern section of the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal. Robert Aickman wrote to the Evesham Journal proposing the complete restoration of the Warwickshire Avon.

In 1950 fund raising was started for the restoration of the Lower Avon (see photo of Chadbury Lock).

In 1951 the recently formed Lower Avon Navigation Trust continued under the leadership of C D Barwell, who had purchased the navigation for £1,500 in 1949. IWA Midlands Branch organised a rally of boats at Tewksbury on the River Avon.

In 1952 the Royal Engineers work in restoring Chadbury Lock on the Lower Avon was an early example of enlisting new sources of labour for Waterway restoration.

In 1955 it was decided to build a new deep lock at Pershore to replace the exsisting watergate. It was estimated that this would cost £11.000 of which £2,000 was contributed by the Mrs Smith Trust, bringing their total contribution to the Avon Trust to £6,500.

In June 1962 the Lower Avon was formally reopened from Tewkesbury to Evesham.

In 1963 an Inland Waterways Association member offered £80,000 to help restore the Upper Avon navigationand in 1964 discussions started into the best way of restoring the Upper Avon.

The Upper Avon Trust Ltd was founded in 1965 to restore the river navigation from Evesham to Stratford.

1966 saw the first work towards restoring navigation on the Upper Avon and an appeal for money was launched.

The Upper Avon from Evesham to Bidford was reopened in 1971 and the IWA gave Robert Aickman, as Chairman of the Upper Avon Navigation Trust, a cheque for £3,500 as a final contribution to the restoration. The new Department for the Environment gave a grant of £25,000 for the restoration. The project manager for the restoration was David Hutchings, whose task it now was to open the river to Stratford.

On 1st June 1974 the Upper Avon was officially reopened by HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. In the photograph with her are Robert Aickman, David Hutchings and Crick Grundy.

In 1983 Robert Aickman New Lock on the Upper Avon was offically opened.

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