Registered Charity No. 702429


Welcome once again to Whittington for the Annual General Meeting of the Trust as we commemorate the work of the year ending 31st December 2004. This is the 6th time that it has been my pleasure to address our members and to record the achievements of the year past and to look forward into the current year. It is only a short time ago that I completed my column for the next Cut Both Ways and I am aware of the danger of “Chairman Overload”. You have already heard the summary of the work of the Trust in the Directors’ Report and I will try not to repeat too much of what was said there. After the tea break Bob Williams will be showing an updated version of his ever-popular road show at the end of which everything should be well and truly covered.

Our Marketing Group takes our shop and stand to a considerable number of events all across the Midlands. The income from these activities is a very valuable cash stream and I must pay tribute to all that they do. Especially today I express our thanks to Mike Brown who is stepping down as Chairman of the Group and as a Trust Director. Mike and May, they very much come as a team, have worked amazingly hard and I extend to them our deepest thanks. I am delighted that they will be continuing to support our sales and publicity efforts. Of especial note was our hosting of the Northern Canals Association conference during which we took delivery of a sales trailer donated by the Huddersfield Canal Society. I am sure we all welcome David Moore to the challenging role of Chairman of Marketing.

I am sure that you will all agree that our quarterly magazine “Cut Both Ways” goes from strength to strength. After the change of printer and of computer system the magazine has improved steadily. The quality of the photographs is now excellent. We are very grateful to Steve Pitt for editing the magazine and always getting it to us on schedule.

It is at the shows that we meet the general public, as well as the committed canal enthusiasts. They always want to know if we have done anything since we built the culverts and the aqueduct and, of course, when we will be holding our opening ceremonies. (I pause here for laughter) Of course, this year we cannot point to great projects completed, but we have much to celebrate as we look back at 2004. The most visible achievement has been at Tamworth Road where our Vice-Chairman, Phil Sharpe, has led the team which has done great work in exposing the canal channel between Locks 24 and 25 and has continued restoring both locks 25 and 26. The signing up to a “Dig Deep” project here has been a major step forward. There will be an opportunity at the end of our proceedings for you to visit the Tamworth Road site. We are grateful to all our members who have given up time for this project and especially to Director Peter Magee for his work with our plant.

Other progress has been less visible but equally valuable. At the NEC in February we signed up our 1500th member. This was a great moment and means that we continue to be a trust which has one of the highest memberships. Again, I must record our thanks to Trevor Morris for his work as Membership Secretary. Equally, we need all the publicity we can get and 2004 was another memorable year in this respect. Jan Horton has performed sterling work with the press in Lichfield and with the waterways magazines. Sue Williams, now Company Secretary as well as Web Mistress, has kept our website well up to the mark and we were delighted when it was selected as “website of the month” in the waterways press.

As usual, I will leave the financial side to Bob Williams but I must pay tribute to his hard work and achievements as Finance Director. The Trust accounts may once have been on the typical scale of a small waterways society but this has long ceased to be the case. The Trust now handles very large sums of money and is involved in the financing of major projects. Without the professionalism of Bob Williams we could do none of this.

Of course, after gathering the money and accounting for it we must then spend it. This is not always as easy as it might appear. We have to spend wisely and to the best effect but often we are constricted by the terms of the grants we receive. This has been especially true in 2004 when we came to spend the grants received from the European Regional Development Fund. As I noted last year, the buying of land is a major objective for the Trust and ERDF money was earmarked for land. Our Land Officer, Mike Smith, has been involved in the most extensive and convoluted negotiations imaginable. Through his efforts the Trust has completed the purchase of land at Norton Hall Farm and a small, but important, parcel of land adjacent to the aqueduct sold to us by the Percy Claridge Trust. We are close to completing the purchase of a kaleidoscope of small land areas at Cappers Lane to enable the bridge to be rebuilt. We hope to have good news on this project very soon but there are still some tricky details to be completed. I hope we will be able to arrange a celebration for the autumn if all goes as well as it should. Other discussions on land purchase remain on-going and are largely dependent on finding the funds.

A significant and happy development in 2004 was the forging of a strong and friendly relationship with Lichfield Cruising Club. We have worked with the Club over the rebuilding of Cappers Bridge and have continued discussing how to achieve the re-opening of their arm without in any way degrading their facilities. The holding of a small festival at Huddlesford last October and the forthcoming event over the May Day Weekend are very visible tokens of our co-operation. I look forward to the further strengthening of these bonds. I also hope that we will be able to build an alliance of waterways clubs and societies as the basis for a strong partnership which will campaign at all levels for the restoration of our canals.

We are very aware that these days restoration of canals must take due note of conservation. There can be very many problems, as other Trusts have found, if conservation issues are not properly addressed. Mike Battisson, who was elected a Director in 2004, leads a small team which looks at the conservation issues.

And so to the future. It would be foolish to suggest that there is not still a long way to go and much to do before the first boats come down from Ogley or up from Calf Heath. Yet the will and determination exist to ensure that one day they will. So much has been achieved this far and it is such an exciting project that the Trust must succeed. I have mentioned some of the work carried out by your Directors but there is far more being done than I can possibly set out here.

The Trust is like that old picture of the swan on the river – calm and quiet on the surface but with legs working furiously out of sight beneath the water. We have our problems and our set-backs but nobody ever said it would be easy. You see before you a small and dedicated team which is determined to succeed. Please give them all your support, encourage your friends to join us and spread the good news far and wide.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I commend to you the work of The Lichfield and Hatherton Canals Trust in 2004 and invite you to give it your continuing and unwavering support in 2005. Our strength lies in our members – need I say more?

Brian Kingshott

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