Camberley Athena Women's Institute
For our July Zoom Meeting, we hosted Roger Cansdale, a Volunteer from Basingstoke Canal Society, who gave a fascinating talk on the 'Heroes & Villains of Basingstoke Canal.'
The Canal has had a long and troubled history. The construction contract was awarded to John Pinkerton in 1778 and after a decade's delay, construction began in October 1788. Completed only 6 years later in September 1794, it was initially built to transport agricultural produce. Over the centuries, it faced numerous challenges; such as tunnel collapses, bankruptcies, falling demand, bank breaches, lack of maintenance and limited water supply. It was interesting to note that several of the "villains" involved in the Canal's past were ironically... solicitors!
By the 1960s, the Basingstoke Canal was derelict. Luckily, the Surrey and Hampshire Canal Society led a lengthy campaign for public ownership. In 1974, dedicated volunteers started the extremely hard work to restore the abandoned canal. Over 17 years, they built 110 lock gates, repaired 29 locks, removed garbage and tall, thick weeds and dredged and cleared an estimated quarter of a million tonnes of mud.
The Canal was finally re-opened in May 1991 by HRH The Duke of Kent. It is a haven for wildlife and designated SSSI. Volunteers from the Basingstoke Canal Society – one of whom is also a member of our WI – continue to ferry passengers on their boats and maintain the 32-mile canal and its locks today.
To donate or volunteer, please go to https://basingstoke-canal.org.uk/