|View from Pondtail Bridge, Fleet, 1972 after a dry summer|
|The same view after the removal of many shrubs in 1974|
|More shrub cleared, 1975. Note increased usage of footpath|
Over the weeks, I explored the whole of the Canal, and the section that survives east of the Greywell Tunnel proved to be a gem of a wetland site. West of the Greywell Tunnel, the western end of which has collapsed there is little water. Sections have been filled in and built on. Quite a length now lies beneath the M3 motorway. It is an exercise in archaeology and map reading to find the line of the Canal in Basingstoke itself where the wharf now lies beneath the bus station.
For anyone wishing to study the fauna and flora of an inland waterway, the Basingstoke Canal offered so much. In a short stretch close to Farnborough Aerodrome, the majority of the British dragonfly fauna could be found including the only site known then for the beautiful, and incredibly rare Somatochlora metallica, the Brilliant Emerald Dragonfly. Luckily this species has increased its range considerably in southeastern England since 1970. In the eastern Hampshire section, the range of aquatic plants was considerable and included many rare Potamogeton species (Pondweeds) as well as Hydrochaeris morsus ranae, Frogbit and Stratiotes aloides, the Water Soldier. The perfection of the zonation from a rich bank flora through to floating and submerged species was unique in my experience.
|Bridge before renovation, Winchfield wooded section, 1973|
|Junction with Wey Navigation photographed at dusk, 1974.|
What a very peaceful scene!
Planning meetings were held with the Canal Society to discuss the future of the canal. Gradually, it became apparent that the Canal Society’s ultimate goal was to restore the waterway as fully as possible as a resource for all types of river craft. It was strongly put forward that the canal should be fully opened through to Basingstoke. This would have involved the removal of many housing estates in the village of Basing, not to mention the M3 and the bus terminal in Basingstoke. Little support for the importance of the natural history was forthcoming. The then Nature Conservancy had little time for the preservation of man made sites, The fact that the site of special scientific interest was an arbitrary section in the middle of the Hampshire part, which was actually the least important stretch underlined this lack of interest.
|Beginning of restoration work at Odiham, 1976|
“Oh we’ll soon deal with that,” I was told, “We will be using a weed killer on that.” Whether I was being teased, I do not know.
|The fully restored, and much used Kennet and Avon Canal. Note the|
total lack of aquatic plants, and the manicured grass by the footpath