The new chairman of Ashby Canal Trust tells us about his involvement with canals, both professionally and voluntarily
Ashby Canal Trust Chairman Geoff Pursglove
1 What first attracted you to the waterways? I have liked the idea of being on water since I was young, but never put it into practice except as a passenger on the occasional family river trip. I remember a cruise on the River Medway when I was around seven or eight, downstream past the old derelict factories (long gone now), and I found that much more interesting than the countryside we passed on the upstream trip.
2 Tell us about your boating experience. My first proper boating was on the Hostel craft horse drawn narrowboat Pamela. I had a week’s holiday on the boat, for £25. I did three weeks later on in the year as horse boy, and was paid £12 a week. I decided boating was fun, and have had a succession of boats since then, including the ex-FMC steamer Vanguard for over 20 years, and, by contrast, my current boat is a 27ft trailable Sea Otter.
3 Which is your favourite waterway? I suppose I have to say the Ashby. Failing that the Stratford Avon takes a lot of beating, and the ultimate aim of connecting to the Grand Union past Warwick has got to be worth pursuing.
4 What do the waterways have to offer the country? A chance to get away from it all. It is an excellent tourism and leisure resource which all can enjoy – you don’t have to have a boat to enjoy the towing paths and the sights and sounds of the waterways.
5 What do the waterways need most? Well, investment I suppose, or at least the certainty of a stable income for the foreseeable future.
6 How long have you been involved with Ashby Canal Trust? Since it was formed in 2000.
7 What work have you done with the Trust? I’ve acted as Minutes Secretary since the beginning, formed the ACT committee which organises the Moira Canal Festival ( I am currently Events and Publicity Officer) and, until I retired, I acted as liaison between the Trust and Leicestershire County Council. I am now an ACT Director, and Chairman.
8 How did you first get involved with the Trust? Working with others involved with the Ashby Canal, particularly the Moira Furnace Museum Trust, which owned a length of canal bed at Moira, and the Ashby Canal Association.
9 Tell us more about the work you did with Leicestershire County Council. As Ashby Canal Project Officer, initially it was all about raising awareness of the possibility of restoration of the canal, a lot of locals feeling it was a lost cause ( some still do). After that it was a question of keeping everything simmering, and getting legal approval by way of the first Transport and Works Act ( TWA) Order for a canal, land acquisition, applying for grants, and restoring a length of canal at Moira, and shorter lengths at Snarestone.
10 What do you think of the Canal & River Trust? From a restoration point of view, I can’t fault them. From a “what has that got to do with us?” attitude from a few British Waterways officers in the early days to positive and constructive support now.
11 Any embarrassing moments on a waterways journey? In my youth I was out on a friend’s boat from Brentford to Teddington. The Thames was in flood and the boat developed a fuel leak which reduced our speed to little more than tickover. It wasn’t dangerous, there were plenty of places to tie up and wait the tide, but we flagged down a river police launch and got towed into Teddington Lock.
12 Have you ever fallen in?
I stepped off the boat across a 2ft gap once, picked up a full jerry can of diesel and stepped back on – and fell between the boat and the bank.
13 What did you want to be aged 12? A television cameraman.
14 Where do you hope to be in ten years’ time?
Still boating – on the fully restored Ashby Canal.
15 What do you think of the people on the canals? Generally great, we all have something in common, and it is easy to strike up a friendship working up a long lock flight.
16 What is your proudest achievement? Steering the TWA Order through.
17 Where would you choose to do a dream cruise? From Moira on the Ashby to the Gloucester & Sharpness via the Thames and Severn and Stroudwater canals.
What are you reading at the moment? The Ball in a more and Bally connel Canal by P.J. Flanagan.
19 Tell us about your spare time interests. I like listening to most kinds of music. I also own a 1954 Morris Minor split screen Traveller.
20 What superpower would you like to possess? Possibly not a superpower, but being a better reader of body language.
A restored length of the Ashby at Moira Furnace