Worcestershire waterways champion remembered at launch of Avon Navigation Trust guide

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Mr Avon - Dudley CB Matthews MBE - would have been delighted that his memorial event is being used to launch his beloved Avon Navigation Trust's new guide. In fact he planned it.

The lifelong promoter and protector of the river left strict instructions to his son, ANT General Manager Clive Matthews, to make sure the celebration of his life would also embrace the new River Avon Navigation & Visitor Guide, which helps raise much-needed funds for the Trust's work.

'Dud' knew what he was doing. Clive has already had over 100 - and rising - requests to attend the event.

The lengthening list includes ANT Patron Timothy West, river users who are grateful for the work he did and representatives from national organisations including the Inland Waterways Association and the Canal & River Trust.

"It is a great comfort to know that my father was so well thought of and that his work and reputation reached so far," says Clive, whose father passed away peacefully on August 12, aged 95.

Long-time volunteer Dud and his late wife Enid were also behind the original Trust Guides. This year's, which includes the new feature Avon Canoe Trails, was the first he'd not been involved with.

Ever since he helped a friend build the 24ft motor cruiser Gauntlet in the 1940s, Dud has been a champion of the waterways.

He joined the IWA and the Lower Avon Navigation Trust in the 1950s, was involved in the restoration of the Lower Avon and then the Upper Avon.

Dud's long list of achievements include being ANT's founder member, director, President Emeritus and Chairman of Reach Masters & Associates.

Tony Hales, Chairman of CRT, commented: "Dudley Mathews was a giant figure in the movement for saving our waterways for future generations. The people around the Avon owe Dudley a particular debt. His influence lives on through his work and his family. We are all thankful for, and celebrate the life of, a great and loved man."

The October 3 Memorial and Celebration event will be held at the Wyre Mill Club, which he helped to found and where his boats were moored.

The River Avon Navigation & Visitor Guide, which includes a foreword by Canal Laureate, Jo Bell, is available from ANT (email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) and local bookshops and visitors.

Avon Navigation Trust plans next history-making splash

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Mighty celebration  

AS the crowds enjoyed the joyous celebration of two history-making pioneers, whose Stratford Canal and Avon restoration sent ripples round the country, the event organisers were already working on the next big splash.

The Avon Navigation Trust (ANT) and the Canal & River Trust (CRT), which marked the achievements of Charles Douglas Barwell OBE, David Hutchings MBE and an army of volunteers with two special plaques, have teamed up with Stratford & Warwick Waterways Trust (SWWT) to make history again.

The teams are conducting a feasibility study, with the support of the Inland Waterways Association (IWA) for the Avon Extension, which will clear the way for navigation right up the Avon to Warwick, providing a whole new visitor-pulling cruising loop that will benefit town and businesses all along the river.

"In 1635, when the river navigation was first planned, and authorised by Charles 1, the intention was to get as near as possible to Coventry, which was a major city then too, but they only got near to Warwick," says Avon Navigation Trust Trustee and Engineering Director Roger Clay, who is also SWWT's Company Secretary.

"When David restored the river to Stratford, the intention was to press on to Warwick. We aim to realise that dream, and as years ending in four seem to resonate on this stretch, we'd hope to have it completed by 2024."

Prompted by a family boat trip that was halted by the choked Avon, Charles Douglas Barwell bought the navigation rights and restored the river from Tewkesbury to Evesham.

David Hutchings spearheaded the drive to reopen the southern Stratford Canal with the National Trust, and restored the river from Evesham to Stratford for the Upper Avon Navigation Trust, which combined with the Lower Avon Trust to become ANT in 2010.

They were helped by hordes of volunteers, some of whom were there on Friday July 4, when the two men's sons, Job Hutchings and Nick Barwell, unveiled the plaques at Bancroft Lock to mark the 40th and 50th anniversaries of the official opening of the Canal and River by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.

The event, which recreated the 1964 and 1974 Royal boat trips with the help of Bancroft Cruisers, also featured members of Orchestra of the Swan on board ANT's floating pontoon as a reflection of David's Royal event, which included the entire Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.

VIP guests this time included long-time ANT Patrons Timothy West and Prunella Scales, civic leaders from Stratford, Wychavon and Warwickshire, and representatives from the National Trust, RSC, The Stratford on Avon Canal Society, the Inland Waterways Association and the CRT.

Also there were representatives from the the Royal Engineers and HMP Winson Green, which sent teams to help with the restoration.

"It was inspiring to see so many boats assembled at the Festival from both river and canal to celebrate the two anniversaries," says Clive Henderson, of The Stratford on Avon Canal Society, one of the town groups who supported the event.

The gathered boats also enjoyed the concert from Orchestra of the Swan, led by guest director Colin Touchin. "It was a fantastic experience, and shows what an incredibly flexible orchestra we are," comments Artistic Director David Curtis. "The weekend before we were at the Royal Albert Hall with Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel, on Friday we were on the river and last night we were in a beautiful church."

"It was a great day, a wonderful promotion of the waterways and a huge credit to the organisers, particularly to Roger Clay and ANT," says CRT Chairman Tony Hales OBE.

"It was important to mark the achievements of two men whose pioneering work was the precursor for the restoration and development of waterways across the country.

"It would be lovely to see Stratford connected to Warwick, which would be the ultimate achievement of their early dreams."

In his address, ANT Chairman John Tomsett paid tribute to a gentleman who was much missed at the ceremony.

"Our President Emeritus, Dudley Matthews OBE, now 95 years, was sad to miss the celebrations, due to doctor's orders. Dudley was one of the initial volunteers recruited by Douglas Barwell," John reports.

"Diane Brennan and Penny Clover, who were able to be with us, are both daughters of dedicated volunteers who were closely involved in the Avon restoration.

"Today every one of the Avon Trust's Council are volunteers. Along with the many other volunteer workers and boaters in general who enjoy cruising on the River Avon, we owe so much to the dedication and determination of those early pioneers Douglas Barwell and David Hutchings, and their loyal followers."

 *Photograph by Peter Wilkinson, courtesy of the Avon Navigation Trust and the Canal & River Trust.







Fanfare & Royal re-run at Avon Navigation Trust celebration

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Trust celebrates waterways rescue

THE Avon Navigation Trust and the Canal & River Trust will have a new handle on water music when, with Bancroft Cruisers' help, they recreate the late Queen Mother's two boat trips to relaunch the Avon and the Stratford Canal as navigable waterways.
Members of The Orchestra of the Swan's wind and brass section will play aboard two floating pontoons at the July 4 event to mark the 50th anniversary of the restoration of the canal and the 40th year since the river was reopened from Evesham to Stratford-upon-Avon.
Avon Navigation Trust's (ANT) VIP guests will include representatives of the Royal Engineers and Birmingham's Winson Green Prison, who both sent many teams to  help with the original work.
There too will be Job Hutchings, whose father led the drive to save the canal, and Nicholas Barwell, whose pioneering dad is the Avon's local hero. They will unveil commemorative plaques.
Young Midlands industrialist Charles Douglas Barwell OBE was prompted to act when a 1948 family boat trip from Birmingham was unceremoniously halted by the choked up route.
He and an army of volunteers moved heaven, and a lot of earth and mud, to reclaim the river from Tewkesbury to Evesham. Tireless Birmingham architect David Hutchings MBE, who had already spearheaded the successful rescue of the canal, went on to clear the way through to Stratford.
"They were both pioneers," comments waterways charity ANT's Engineering Director Roger Clay, who has organised the event with the support of town groups, including The Stratford on Avon Canal Society.
"The river and the canal became the life blood of the area's leisure and tourism industry. We owe a lot to both men, and to all those who supported them."
Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother travelled by narrowboat to officially open the canal in 1964, and to celebrate the river relaunch in 1974.
Some of the people who were there then will be among the guests, along with representatives of organisations who supported the restorations, including the National Trust, RSC, local authorities, The Stratford on Avon Canal Society, the Inland Waterways Association and the Canal & River Trust.
The Queen Mother's two journeys will be repeated to take the groups to the unveiling ceremony and concert at Bancroft Lock at approximately 3.30pm, before boarding Canal and River Tours' new full-size barge Jennifer May to hear the moving concert by the Orchestra of the Swan, pushed along the river by Eric the tug boat.
"We were keen to have a floating orchestra because David Hutchings had the whole of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra on a floating platform of barges in 1964," adds Roger.
The award winning Orchestra's Artistic Director David Curtis says performing on the river will be a first. "We've played on a train to London for Chiltern Railways, but never on water," says David.
He says the Orchestra was delighted to be asked to take part, not least because it's another opportunity to engage with the local community.
"We are keen to show everyone that we're not a stuffy bunch in penguin suits playing Mozart Symphonies. We do wear suits, and we do play Mozart, but this shows a different facet of what we do."
The ANT event, which will also include a specially composed poem by Canal Laureate Jo Bell, will be followed by the town's crowd-pulling July 5 and 6 River Festival, which is packed full of free events.