Registered Charity No. 702429


Once again it is my pleasure to welcome you to the Annual General Meeting of the Trust and to celebrate the year ending December 31st 2003. For the first time in several years I can confine my remarks almost entirely within the proper time frame. Although we are still involved in many ongoing and important projects 2003 can stand alone as, arguably, the most momentous in the history of the L&H.

The Chairman's report must try to present a balanced picture of the year which has passed: Its triumphs and its tribulations, its challenges and its successes. As ever, finance must lie at the heart of all we do. The last three years have seen us raise very large sums of money both in single large donations and also from a huge number of personal donations. I must again pay tribute to everyone who has helped us. It has been humbling to see just how many people have considered our work worthy of support. In a very short time the Trust became famous for the enormous tasks it took on, gaining a very high national profile. In this context we must record our thanks to our Finance Director, Bob Williams, who has taken on an enormous workload single-handed. His work has covered the whole range of financial operations from the fund-raising itself through to the final spend. Now, he has also taken on the administration of VAT for which we are now registered. VAT is a jungle of enormous depth and complexity and, although registration should be of great benefit to our balance sheet, the load it throws on Bob is very heavy indeed. If anyone feels they can offer any help in this area I know it will be greatly welcomed. The year ahead in finance is full of great challenges and we must continue to address the ongoing task of fund-raising with great vigour.

In this connection I should say how grateful we are to a very wide range of people and organisations who have supported our work through donations, sponsorship, practical help and in many other ways too numerous to specify. Among those especially worthy of mention are donations to the David Suchet Appeal from the Staffordshire Environmental Fund, the Inland Waterways Association, Lichfield District Council, Staffordshire County Council, Ownerships, Braunston Marina, Dudley Canals Trust, Stafford Boat Club and many individual contributors. In-kind donations have included loan of an excavator from Chasetown Civil Engineering and the aqueduct signs from British Waterways. Tamworth Cruising Club provides the Trust Council with a meeting room and the University Campus at Lichfield does the same for our Marketing Group meetings. We are also grateful to those businesses which advertise in Cut Both Ways and those which sponsor the Trust stand at the National Exhibition Centre. Commercial sponsorship has come from Alvecote Marina, for two moorings, and Teddesley Boat Company, Waterways World, Streethay Wharf and others have provided prizes for draws and competitions. The Trust has also received very welcome support from our newly appointed Patrons: Chris Coburn, Dr David Fletcher, who conducted the aqueduct inauguration, and Sir John Smith for the Manifold Trust grant.

Membership is our most important source of regular income as it ensures that we can address our routine tasks. In the league of waterway restorations organisations we rank in the premiership. We have a membership of over 1400 and that adds to both our income and our campaigning strength. All of us are voters and our voices must be heard. This high level of membership is a tribute to the hard work of all those involved in Marketing who take our message to so many shows and events and to Bob and Sue Williams who take their media road-show to an impressive number of locations, talking to the committed waterways organisations and to the WIs, Rotaries and church groups. Trevor Morris, now boldly going into the internet, administers our membership files, chases up the lapsed supporters and keeps us all on our toes. If we all recruit one new member this year what a difference this would make.

Closely allied to recruiting is marketing and our team has worked amazingly hard for us in 2003. We were very happy to welcome Marketing Group Chairman, Mike Brown, as a co-opted Director and we thank both him and May for all they do. Of course, there are many others who offer invaluable support too numerous to name here. Even so, we are always looking for more help to ease the burdens and anyone who would like to offer a few hours please let us know today or contact Mike (email

While mentioning new Directors I must also welcome Mike Battisson who has been leading our environmental team and Peter Magee who has ably and generously supported our engineering work on the Lichfield Canal. While not strictly within 2003 I must also pay tribute to Rob Davies who is standing down as a Director today. Rob has supported us strongly for many years and has been active in fund-raising and policy development. I am delighted that he will continue to help on the marketing side and as secretary of the Trading Company. We will miss Rob's thoughtful and sometimes wry contributions to discussions.

Inevitably, we draw attention to our work sites and there is the opportunity after this meeting for you to visit some of them. I hope that what you see there will impress you. Yet, our access to our sites conceals one of our greatest challenges. We have a great need to acquire land. Many restoration schemes can work on land which is freely available in that it belongs to British Waterways or is in some kind of other public ownership. In those areas the formation of partnerships with a variety of bodies enables work to go forward. Here on the L&H we have very little land in our ownership - just a few hundred metres of track.

On the Hatherton Canal about a quarter is owned by BW with the rest in a considerable variety of ownerships. We are making progress in buying some of what we need but there is still much to be done. Our ERDF grant has enabled us to move towards completion of the purchase of land on the diversion route towards Little Wyrley. Staffordshire County Council has signalled that it will sell us land at a very favourable rate. Even so, we will need considerable sums to secure the route we need. On the Lichfield Canal both Lichfield District and Lichfield City Councils have been helpful in licensing us to work on areas they own. We are negotiating to buy some small areas but well over half this canal is in a plethora of private ownerships and we need large sums to buy the track. All this presupposes that owners wish to see to us and that is far from the case in every instance. With this basic need very much in mind we have a land purchase fund and this is in important area in which we must encourage donations.

I must pay tribute to Mike Smith who is the Director in charge of the land portfolio. He is responsible for liaising with all our landowners. He puts the case for restoration and encourages owners to consider selling. He then deals with the valuation and legal aspects of any purchases and follows through to completion. I have to tell you that this is a very onerous and time-consuming task and we are most grateful to him for this work and for his and Penny's hosting of so many meetings.

I have already referred to the practical restoration work which has gained momentum since the completion of the aqueduct project last summer. As we noted at the 2003 AGM, John Horton stood down after many years as engineer supervising our work on the Lichfield Canal. This left a large gap to be filled. Our Vice-Chairman, Phil Sharpe, who already shoulders many burdens for the Trust stepped in to restart our practical work. He has been ably assisted by Peter Magee. Peter has a wide range of equipment and skills which he uses to the full. Mike Battisson, also co-opted during the year, has done some sterling work on the environmental side dealing with tree removal and replanting and many other things. Peter Matthews and his team have continued to put in endless hours around Locks 25 and 26.

We have had our setbacks and our successes on the practical side. At short notice we were evicted from Lock 26 when the land was put up for sale. Our attempt to put together a deal to secure access to the site failed when the land was sold at a price far beyond reasonable expectations. Fortunately, the new owner is a supporter of the Trust and we have regained access. The focus shifted back to Lock 25 and the area towards Lock 24. We are grateful to everyone who works on our sites and to the work parties which come from afar to help at weekends.

I am very pleased that we have now the services of a small team of relative newcomers to our work who have offered their services on the Darnford Lane site. John Langley, Lindsay Barnard and David Piggott are looking at some of the issues which have affected the section of trial re-watering; supported by Peter Magee they should soon have some suggestions for us to consider. We see it as a priority to progress work at Darnford Lane.

There have been two major developments at the eastern end of the Lichfield Canal. We have opened a very promising dialogue with Lichfield Cruising Club which both parties hope will lead to the Trust gaining access to the route through the Club's moorings. Meanwhile at Cappers Lane there have been exciting developments which should soon lead to the rebuilding of the bridge which was flattened soon after the canal closed. Using match funding from the aqueduct construction, ERDF money has become available for this work, although the Trust still has a considerable additional sum to find. There is still some way to go in finalising design in land purchase and concluding very detailed discussions with all interested parties. There is a good prospect that work will be underway before we next meet here.

I cannot finish reviewing work on the Lichfield Canal without mentioning the aqueduct. This has been a major preoccupation for the Trust for very many years and to see it safely installed last August was rightly seen by many as a crowning achievement. This has been very fully reported elsewhere but I must pay tribute to all my fellow Directors for their resolve in seeing this through. I must also stress our gratitude to John Horton, as our supervising engineer, for all he contributed to this achievement.

It has also been a year of achievement on the Hatherton Canal. We are now driving over the two culverts which have loomed so large in our lives for so long. During 2003 land acquisition has been a priority as I have already reported, and it is good to note the friendly attitude of local landowners. Maintenance work has continued, thanks to Denis Cooper, Phil Sharpe and the growing team of supporters. The hedgerow scheme has continued and the results are very pleasing. Of course, the ERDF grant has been highly significant and, thanks to the help of British Waterways, we have been able to commission a suite of reports which will enable us to present a fully documented case when we look for funding for the many projects which restoration of the Hatherton will require. We owe much to Bob Williams and Phil Sharpe for the incredibly detailed work which obtaining the ERDF money has required.

Publicity for our work is vital. We are frequently reminded that although we dedicated enthusiasts know all about the L&H the wider public remains in a considerable fog of ignorance. The message has to be sent out constantly, loudly and clearly. The installation of the aqueduct and the later ceremony of inauguration gave us marvellous exposure and the press and television turned out in force. We are grateful for the input of Harry Arnold, Laurence Hogg and many others on these high profile occasions. However, the day to day work still falls heavily on Jan Horton who cultivates the local press to such great effect and gets us coverage even when the substance is a little meagre. Meanwhile the web-site goes from strength to strength and Sue Williams keeps things up to date while maintaining an excellent archive of material. In this same area our quarterly magazine, "Cut Both Ways" plays a vital part in keeping the membership informed. We up-rated the quality of the magazine during 2003 and Steve Pitt now produces a magazine which is up there among the best of its kind.

In all modesty we can claim that 2003 was a year of great achievement and we are justified in proclaiming that far and wide. We must never forget the legions of small supporters across the whole country who have helped us along the way. However, your Council resolved that it was right and proper that we should bestow special honour on those who have played a special role in our great campaigns. The contribution of our Vice-President, David Suchet, has been outstanding and we are very pleased that he has recently stressed his continuing commitment to our cause. A heavy filming commitment to the Poirot series has limited his appearances recently but I know we can hope to see him again soon. To commemorate the input of our other major supporters we created the new honorary position of Patron. We were delighted that the first three candidates readily accepted our invitation. These were Sir John Smith, whose generous gift from the Manifold Trust kick-started the aqueduct project; Chris Coburn whose campaigning highlighted the Trust's needs; and David Fletcher whose help when Chief Executive of BW was of great, and still unchronicled, help when we most needed it.

Now we look forward to our continuing great challenges. Much has been achieved in 2003 but we must never delude ourselves into thinking that the task is over. While we have now achieved increased momentum and can be certain that the Trust will restore its canals, most of the work is still there to be done. In 1988 we set ourselves a target of 20 years to achieve re-opening. Clearly, this was an optimistic assessment. We must be realistic now and plan our work carefully and efficiently. When we have done that, as we have started to do, then we can come up with a realistic opening date. I have no doubt that the Trust will succeed but it will be a hard task. The general climate for restoration is less favourable than it was in 2003. Recent developments at the Waterways Trust and indeed British Waterways are not encouraging.

Let me end by both paying tribute and making an appeal. In front of you here today you see a small team of Directors who put in amazing hours to take the Trust forward. The work they do is truly amazing and I commend them to you today. Behind them are small teams of relatively unsung volunteers who work equally hard and I pay tribute also to them. Then comes the appeal. This small team has worked hard for many years and none of us gets younger or more vigorous with the passage of years - more's the pity! We must now look for and encourage a new generation of workers. Never think that we do not need your help or that of unknown supporters outside this hall. We cannot complete this restoration without that help. 2003 was a very successful year but we must now generate the enthusiasm to create a successful decade and probably two decades to take the Trust to the successful completion of its work. Ladies and gentleman I commend 2003 to you and invite you to raise your eyes to the far horizons.

Brian Kingshott

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