CHICHESTER Ship Canal’s season of anniversary celebrations will start on Saturday April 9 – 200 years to the day from its formal opening in 1822.
Alison Golt, 200th Project Team, said: ‘We’re inviting the community to the Basin, where the event will begin at 11am with short speeches followed by a gunfire salute from the Fort Cumberland Guard.” The day will culminate in a flotilla along the canal arriving at the basin at 3pm.
She added: “The Chichester Ship Canal Trust is hosting a day of live music, stalls, food, entertainment, children’s activities, water-based displays including the 1950s vintage tugs, canoe club and model boats, and land-based exhibitions which will feature knitted bunting, volunteer stories and our heritage centre display.”
Events will then run through the spring and summer and will feature a historical talk by local author and historian Alan Green at the West Sussex County Record Office, a year-long curated exhibition at the Chichester District Council Museum ‘The Novium’, hosted boat trips along the canal, a photography competition and a pub quiz.
A new sign to mark the location of the famous view painted by JMW Turner will be installed and there will be family-friendly activities through the school holidays, a guided walk with the Friends of the Old Ford to Hunston Canal and an art partnership with a contemporary art group ARTEL.
Trustee Catherine Cannon said: ‘Recognising the canal’s position at the heart of the cultural, leisure and heritage sector in Chichester city, the Trust is really pleased to be a host venue for Chichester District Council’s ‘Spark Culture’ opening event and a partner host for Chichester University and the Fringe performers through the summer’.
The trust, which is a self-funded charity, will further mark 20 years of formation in September 2022, which coincides with the second formal opening of the canal and Heritage Open Days.
Volunteers at the trust have been busy making sure everything is shipshape at the canal ahead of the celebrations.
Every January one of the canal trip boats is removed from the water for inspection. Because the trip boats Kingfisher and Richmond carry passengers they must each have an inspection every two years. This time it was Kingfisher’s turn to be lifted out of the water. It is the job of the Marine and Coastguard Agency (MCA) to make sure that everything is in order.
Volunteer director Ian Jackson said: ‘It was not just Kingfisher that was removed from the water. This year saw an extra three boats lifted: Frisky, a 1950s built tug was removed to repair her prop shaft; Cygnet, a glass fibre work boat required some much-needed TLC and finally the canal’s newly acquired 1960s built tug was moved to the water after having its hull restored and repainted by canal volunteers.”
Preparation for the lifts started before Christmas and there was much activity on January 4 with the removal of the canal’s popular Christmas lights and decorations. Lifts were performed on January 5.
Kingfisher was lowered on to land supported trestles and sleepers brought up from Hunston. Specialist Hampshire company Coussen’s Cranes used a 160-ton crane with an attendant lorry, all the necessary equipment and skilled manpower.
Ian continued: “The Trust ensured that there were two experienced volunteers on hand to make sure any question they had were answered. The boat lifts created a lot of interest and members of the public stopped to watch the work as it was happening and canal volunteers were on hand to make sure the spectators were safe.”
Once remedial work has been completed the trust expects to have all the boats back on the basin by the end of January, within plenty of time for the start of the boat trips, anticipated to start again at the end of February.
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