Avon Navigation Trust's River Watch a big hit

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AVON Navigation Trust has dramatically increased its high-tech protection for boaters, and it’s proving to be a big hit with nature lovers and fretful riverside dwellers too.
The innovative Trust’s has doubled the number of Avon-watching webcams for its River Watch service, which has become a must see for thousands of river users who want to check conditions before setting out.
But thousands of boat watchers - and people who just enjoy the pretty views - from all over the world are also clicking on to the live videos, together with more local residents keen to check out the water levels in heavy rain.
The service, via www.FarsonDigitalWaterCams.com, has also been boosted by additional useful information and functionality.
“River Watch is already a fundamental and crucial tool for us and for our boaters, and the new website makes it even better,” says Avon Navigation Trust (ANT) General Manager Clive Matthews.
“As well as the extra cameras, it is a much more integrated product that gives you rainfall, pressure, temperatures, levels and much more... and if people sign up for the paid for version, it makes money for the Trust too.”
Anyone can log onto the cameras via the website and get information for free. But signing up to the paid for portal removes the sponsored rolling adverts, offers many useful extras and ANT gets a donation for each of its spotlighted cameras.
The Trust now has webcams at Tewkesbury, Avon Lock, Strensham, Eckington, Wyre Piddle, two at Evesham, Offenham, Bidford on Avon, Welford on Avon and Stratford Upon Avon. The top watched, including Bidford and Strensham, are now averaging 100,000 unique visits a year. 
ANT also provides screens streaming the action at its HQ in Wyre Piddle and at its visitor centres at Stratford and Tewkesbury.
West Country-based photographer and avid fisherman Glyn Howells, put up his first HD camera locally in 2009.
Now there’s a fast growing network of 120 across the UK and Republic of Ireland, and what started out as a boon for fishermen eager to check out their favourite perches before packing the waterproofs, has become an invaluable service for everyone. 
“There are cameras on most roads, but roads just carry traffic. Rivers can run through people’s homes and livelihoods, so it is critical and a growing network,” says Glyn, whose service logs nearly two million visits a year.
Clive and he joined forces when the ANT man put up his own camera outside his head office in 2009, and soon realised he needed a lot more, and an expert to manage them.
“Just after I joined ANT, someone called up to ask whether the river was in flood.... and we had to look out of the window and phone contact downstream to find out. That’s when I thought of cameras,” says Clive, whose team runs a 24/7 support hotline for boaters.
“Now we have a full picture, literally, and all the statistics we need to  give advice, and we can react quickly at any time if we see problems or people in trouble.”
Clive checks his camera network as soon as he gets up every morning, and regularly through the day, even when he’s on holiday, and yes, he’s hooked too.
“I’m addicted to River Watch, like many of the people who use or love the Avon.”

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.