Phil Sharpe has been cam­paign­ing with the IWA since the 1960s and has re­ceived the as­so­ci­a­tion’s Cyril Styring Tro­phy

Canal Boat - - This Month -

Phil Sharpe on help­ing to save Marple Locks and on re­ceiv­ing the Cyril Styring Tro­phy

1 What first at­tracted you to the wa­ter­ways?

A trip on the Bridge­wa­ter and Trent & Mersey canals with a group of friends from school in 1965.

2 Which is your favourite wa­ter­way?

I’m torn be­tween the Trent & Mersey, at the bot­tom of my gar­den, and the Peak For­est where I mis­spent my youth help­ing to re­store Marple Locks.

3 What do the wa­ter­ways have to of­fer the coun­try?

A re­mark­ably com­plete 18th Cen­tury trans­port sys­tem with his­toric en­gi­neer­ing on a hu­man scale, and ac­tiv­ity hol­i­days with time to ap­pre­ci­ate coun­try­side and in­ter­est­ing towns.

4 When did you start work­ing on the wa­ter­ways?

I joined the Peak For­est Canal So­ci­ety in 1967 and helped on work­ing par­ties on the Ash­ton and Lower Peak For­est canals, but mostly at Marple. Trav­el­ling home on the bus splat­tered with mud seemed quite nor­mal in those days.

5 How did you be­come in­volved with the IWA?

Also in 1967, hav­ing dis­cov­ered canal boat­ing and canal restoration, I just had to join the only na­tional body cam­paign­ing to save and im­prove the canals. Manch­ester Branch meet­ings and their Norwester mag­a­zine, es­pe­cially when edited by the com­bat­ive John Green­way in the early 1970s, were a great in­spi­ra­tion to fight for what we be­lieved in.

6 What vol­un­tary roles have you per­formed?

I joined the IWA Lich­field Branch in 1988 and have since been Branch Chair­man, Re­gion Sec­re­tary and Chair­man, a na­tional Trustee and a mem­ber of Restoration Com­mit­tee. I was also Vice-Chair­man of Lich­field & Hather­ton Canals Restoration Trust.

7 What have you been in­volved in re­cently?

I’ve been Plan­ning Of­fi­cer since 1993 and Web­site Editor for Lich­field Branch since 2010, which has kept me oc­cu­pied since I re­tired.

8 How did it feel to be given the Cyril Styring Tro­phy?

Sur­prised, pleased and a great hon­our to be con­sid­ered wor­thy of join­ing the list of leg­endary past win­ners such as David Hutch­ings and Gra­ham Palmer, and such re­spected re­cent re­cip­i­ents as John Baylis, Harry Arnold and the late Tony Harrison.

9 What would you like to see hap­pen to the wa­ter­ways in your life­time?

Much of what we were fight­ing for in the 60s and 70s has since been achieved, the wa­ter­ways were saved from more clo­sures, many have been re­stored, they are mostly now in the safe hands of char­i­ties, with rea­son­ably se­cure fund­ing, and well used and loved by the pub­lic. But there are still many restoration schemes strug­gling to find fund­ing and I would like the Her­itage Lot­tery Fund to re­mem­ber that her­itage is bricks and mor­tar and earth­works as much as so­cial en­gage­ment, and to fully recog­nise the enor­mous po­ten­tial for re­in­stat­ing the early in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion her­itage of the wa­ter­ways as a liv­ing mu­seum and lin­ear na­tional park.

10 Which canal would you like to see re­stored next?

That would have to be the Lich­field Canal, which oc­cu­pied so much of my life, but on a na­tional scale the Cotswolds Canals will com­plete a ma­jor miss­ing link in the canal sys­tem.

11 What is your proud­est achieve­ment?

Help­ing save Marple locks and the Cheshire Ring; fronting the Birm­ing­ham North­ern Re­lief Road (now the M6 Toll) pub­lic en­quiry which changed Gov­ern­ment pol­icy on mak­ing pro­vi­sion for canal restora­tions; or the re­cent suc­cess with al­ter­ing the route of High Speed Rail ( HS2) route to avoid wreck­ing the en­vi­ron­ment of the Trent & Mersey Canal at Wood End near Fradley.

12 What did you want to be aged 12?

Prob­a­bly an en­gine driver as I hadn’t yet dis­cov­ered canals.


Have you ever fallen in?

A cou­ple of times, once on the BCN Old Main Line in the days when it was heav­ily pol­luted with phos­pho­rus and other chem­i­cals; for­tu­nately, I didn’t swal­low any of it!

14 What are you read­ing at present?

Derek Pratt’s Ur­banWater­ways, more pic­tures than text; bril­liant pho­tog­ra­phy.

15 Who would be your ideal cruis­ing com­pan­ion?

That would have to be my friend Bill, with whom I’ve shared fre­quent boat­ing ex­pe­ri­ences here and abroad for the past 50 years.

16 What’s the best time of day on the wa­ter­ways?

I’m not a morn­ing per­son so for me it’s the evening as the sun goes down and every­thing is bathed in a warm orange glow.

17 What do you think of peo­ple on the wa­ter­ways?

With very few ex­cep­tions, the re­laxed pace of the wa­ter­ways seems to bring out the best in peo­ple, and chat­ting with strangers and help­ing them at locks seems en­tirely nat­u­ral.

18 What do you in your spare time?

Think about dec­o­rat­ing and gar­den­ing but al­ways find some­thing more in­ter­est­ing to do with the wa­ter­ways.

19 Where would you go for a dream cruise?

A com­plete tour around the con­nected wa­ter­way sys­tem, tak­ing in all the parts that have so far eluded me such as the Great Ouse and York­shire Ouse.

20 What su­per­power would you like to pos­sess?

The abil­ity to time travel back to the 1770s to see how the early en­gi­neers sur­veyed and built the wa­ter­ways, and where they did and didn’t use pud­dle clay. But I’d like the su­per­power to ex­tend to bring­ing me back again to more com­fort­able times, please.


Phil helped to re­store Marple Locks

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