I am writing this towards the end of November, but as you are likely to be receiving it in January I will avoid belated Yuletide greetings and head straight to best wishes for a successful 2007.
Last weekend we had friends over to stay and took the opportunity to take ourselves and the children up White Horse hill, near Uffington. As the kids were flying their kites and, in my son Andrew's case, watching the kite disappearing over the hill towards the Manger, I looked through binoculars across the wonderful Vale of White Horse. Apart from watching the trains travelling across Brunel's "billiard table", I did my usual trick of following the route of the canal from the edge of Swindon all the way through the Vale towards Wantage.
If anyone is unsure why the canal should be restored I can only suggest that they take a trip up to Uffington Castle and look at the Vale. Take in the beautiful scenery, lovely villages to explore and imagine the ability to cruise or walk gently through the countryside. In the last edition of Dragonfly Geof Austin waxed lyrical about an imaginary future journey. I like to picture myself' on the back of a narrowboat, mug of cocoa in hand, cruising through the Vale, waving at the walkers on the towpath and generally watching the countryside changing through the tree-lined banks....
The talk season has started again. In the last month I have trekked over from Grove to Caversham to speak to a meeting of the Reading Transport Group. This proved to be one of my most enjoyable rambles: lots of intelligent questions and general interest. This week I talked to the Wantage Industrial Archaeology Group (a much shorter journey) and over the next few months I already have a few more in the diary, including Grove Horticultural Society in September. I really must get some to date photos of other sections of the canal.
Work continues apace. Thanks as usual to the stalwart group of Fast Vale volunteers who get out in all weather. We are continuing to work at West Challow completing the fencing and footpath.
The branch is also working at Childrey New Road. Our thanks, as usual, go to the landowners involved. Their cooperation and patience as work Sometimes takes longer than we would originally want is much appreciated. There is still lots to do, so it you fancy joining our merry crew please contact Roy for more details. Plans are also afoot for more restoration projects.
Since the last edition information boards have gone up along the canal around Wantage, Grove and the Challows. Thanks to Martin Buckland and WRG for the organisation of this.
Unfortunately one of the hoards at Grove was vandalised shortly thereafter but, touch wood, the other two on the Elm Farm Section are still there and unsullied by vandals.
Our local parish magazine in Grove had a very interesting letter in the last issue, mentioning the boards and bemoaning the vandals who seem to be able to put heaps of effort into destructive actions but nothing positive! Last weekend, with assistance, I managed to extract the two Sainsbury's shopping trolleys and a very nice bike from Grove Top Lock. The latter has now been collected the Police and I hope gets reunited With its owner.
Our social meetings were recently enlivened by a visit from Luke Walker who gave us a warts and all description of the Seven Locks restoration so far. Very interesting for us at the east end and we wish the branch all success.
Other speakers are being arranged for the 2007 season so East Vale members should watch this space.
All the best for 2007
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