Kent and East Sussex Canal Restoration Group
“Oh, you didn’t?!” KESCRG on the Chichester Canal, January 7-8th 2006
Report by MK2
I’d like to start this report by reminding all those who didn’t even know it in the first place that I lived in Bournemouth for three years, and one of these years was the first in which I owned my own car. For this reason, selecting the correct exit from the bottom of the M3 in order to proceed west on the M27 is indelibly stamped upon my memory.
That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it.
So there we were, Eddie Jones, Jenni Copeland and I, in SAD, headin’ on down the M3, forgetting to make the requested burger stop for Jen (that’ll teach her to be able to sleep in a moving Transit) when we came to the Automatic Pilot Moment. “M27 West,” said I. Eddie made acknowledging noises. It wasn’t until the sign which reads “no right turn at Rufus Stone” that I realised we were staring the New Forest in the face, and that for Chichester, you need M27 East, and that the next sign reads “no right turn for 10 miles”.
Eventual arrival at the 12th Chichester Scout Hut (I assume the previous 11 had no hot water and one tiny basin as well) revealed two couples already abed (didn’t stop Brian giving me the traditional greeting of a killer handshake and big grin!) but a fair few motors in the car park. A quick call to Stephen and we were hot-footing it down the Swan, which has these new-fangled extended hours. And we’d made ‘in’ by 2 minutes. Stephen, Bushbaby, Clive, Ralph, Mark and Spence awaited us at the bar.
The next morning was grey and very cold. We emerged from our blue ‘you have failed me, No9; you will pay the ultimate price’ chairs after breakky and drove to site, flooding an unsuspecting residential street with strange (you’ve seen Clive’s Land Rover?) vehicles and even stranger (you’ve seen Spencer’s chainsaw-wear?) hi-vis clothing. Loudly announcing fact-finding visits for the new bypass, supermarket, branch of IKEA, etc, we headed down to towpath level.
Ian and Dr. Liz went to Chipping Norton for the Panto on Friday evening, so after breakky at Oakham Café (top of the A3 – v. good butties) followed by trips to Travis Perkins, HSS and (successfully) Honey Brothers for “men at work felling” signs and various chainsaw bits, they arrived on site an hour or so before lunch.
We started taking the brambles out in order to get to the trees which were to come out. We started the Burco. Clive and Spence started their engines. Everyone else started shivering so Bushbaby started a fire. Everyone started when things started to drop in every direction (including into the cut) and the ever-present pedestrians and cyclists started and stopped all at once when they realised their right of way had just been blocked by a large tree.
Meanwhile, Di and Rachel (with adorable new puppy, Meena, in tow) did some excellent hedge-laying further up the site and the locals went out to play with their tug and barge.
That evening, we all enjoyed what just happens to be my favourite winter dig dinner: lasagne, broccoli and garlic bread, the caterers (Brian, Maureen and Kaz) having excelled themselves yet again. Sorry, I should say Aunty Maureen’s Lightly-Breaded Garlicly Garlicness. This was followed by a creative session, in order to get our new promotional leaflet designed and some words for it drafted.
Then, it was off to the Swan again, and sprawled across the big, brown leather sofas with pints of London Pride, it was a treat for the single blokes as around 20 (could have been more) girls arrived, all dressed as golfers and out for someone’s 21st. Occasionally, one shouted “fore!” and everyone (except the amazingly tall and long-legged Nordic-looking one) sat on the floor.
Site the next day was different only in that is was even colder and WET, so we had two fires. One fire was so hot, there was no rain around it. Bushbaby invented a KESCRG version of pre-lunch canapes – recipe below. The rain eventually did us in, so it was back to the scout hut for lunch and, sadly, the end of my earplugs, as I was forced to stick them up my nose in order to go into the gents’ toilet before leaving. The previous occupant will remain nameless.
Eddie, Jenni and I stopped in at MKP’s on the way back to drop off some logs for their fire. I have to say it all felt like a very long weekend crammed into the usual two days, but then it does say “Kent & East Sussex Canal Restoration Group” on the side of the trailer. Say no more!
Winter Dig Pre-Lunch Canapes, KESCRG-style.
You will need: 1 keb, 4 skewers with ring-type ends, 2 packets supermarket own-brand marshmallows, 1 packet supermarket own-brand ginger nuts, roaring fire.
Directions: Place 2 marshmallows on each skewer, and hang them on the tines of the keb. Place the marshmallows in the fire using the keb to ensure that you don’t get too close to the fire and melt your hi-vis. Once the marshmallows catch fire (oops), retract the keb, remove them and place them on a ginger nut. Eat. Repeat. Slightly lose appetite for lunch.