No Surprises Living in Devizes Pruning or Putin?

Somewhere in the job description of “spy” must be the fortuitous clause that someone might try knock you off; James Bond lived for it. I reckon such occurrences as which happened in Salisbury are best left to intelligence bureaus, not local Bobby, and especially not blubbering buffoon Boris who hardly defines the term “intelligence.” Still he pursues revenge on accused Russia with that trigger-happy psychopathic President giggling at him.

How does he suggest we retaliate? Boycott the World Cup; that’ll show ‘em. Oh my years, at least give us a chance to fail the group stages Boris, or you’ll have patriotic football nutters cursing your name and giving it, “this was the year we could’ve won too!” Good, you go for it Boris.

boris meme
As the eyes of the world stage rest upon our nearest city, makes one wonder that living in our humble little town isn’t so bad; the only thing fuelling our bleats is the mass clearing of trees and vegetation from the banks around the pounds of the Caen Hill Flight, which contractors of the Canal River Trust were instructed to undergo this week.

Mind you, they’ve certainly swept the place to the point it now resembles the Suez Canal running through the Sahara. Has Putin dropped the big one on lock 23? Chris Greenwood asked bods of The Devizes Debate Facebook page if, “this the correct time of year for such a drastic measure to be taken, regarding wildlife habitat?” and so became a plethora of sad and sorrow-filled comments.

Chris himself took to stating, “To completely remove a huge tranche of cover like this is little short of vandalism.”

Was this necessary, I asked, I mean to remove everything, and why? I messaged the Kennet & Avon Construction team. They replied, no they really did. They said, “we are booked in to repair the bank in this location [the offside bank between locks 23 and 24.] The water in this pound is overtopping and we have been tasked to raise the bank to prevent the water washing out over the footpath.”

So there we have it, I responded with another question; “So in order to do this it needs to be stripped of all the bramble and trees first?” wondering if perhaps they could work around the odd tree or two. Obviously our conversation ended there, that is after all, what they were told to do.

Or were they? Waterways Manager, Mark Evans emailed me thus: “I appreciate that any work we do around vegetation management causes concerns and I can assure you we are doing everything we can to manage our estate in the best possible way for all to use, whether you are enjoying the towpath as a walker or cyclist, enjoying the water as a boater or taking in the wildlife.”

“Canal & River Trust is passionate about protecting both the built and natural heritage of our canals. What makes the canals so special is that these two aspects can complement each other. However there has to be a balance to ensure both are adequately protected. Our heritage advisers and ecologists always work together on managing the projects and maintenance programmes, we have very robust processes to ensure there is proper consultation between all the professionals involved.”

“The Caen Hill Flight of locks is an outstanding engineering achievement and one of the Modern Waterway Wonders of the World. It is over two hundred years old and designated as a scheduled monument which is the highest class of heritage protection in the UK. This gives it legal protection and also places an obligation on us to maintain and repair the site appropriately. All work within the scheduled monument including tree felling requires approval from Historic England.”

“Historically there were no trees around the side ponds or locks – the old photos show it completely clear of large vegetation. One of the spectacular attractions of the site was being able to look up from Marsh Bridge at Lock 28 or down from the lock cottage at lock 44 and see the whole flight in all its glory. However, since the restoration sapling growth has not been adequately controlled, resulting now in some substantial groups of trees. These are threatening the monument in several ways. Firstly, they obstruct the wonderful long views of the locks and side ponds. Secondly tree roots near the locks have penetrated their approach walls causing severe damage to the masonry. Thirdly tree growth along the spine road embankments is so dense in places that it is destroying the shape of the side ponds.”

“The recent tree felling does appear rather drastic but this is only because they had been allowed to get so dense in recent years. In fact we are just returning the site to a properly balanced state where both the structures and the environment can work in harmony for a sustainable future. We want people to be able to go on visiting and enjoying the Caen Flight for the next two hundred years.”


Kennet & Avon Canal, yesterday

Oh I don’t know, maybe we had to be brutal to be kind here. But two things about this longwinded response don’t add up; historically the canal was a working artery, purely functional, whereas today it’s a leisurely pursuit and a tourist attraction, which surely needs to be aesthetic as well as functional. Despite the amazing feat of engineering involved in this “Modern Waterway Wonder of the World,” I think some wildlife and vegetation kind of suits the place. To return it to its original use would mean, by today’s standards, we tarmac the darn thing and allow McDonalds and Little Chef’s to sprig up rather than bramble, bunnies and kingfishers.

The other issue I have with the response is that nowhere in it does it explain about the repair to the pound’s bank. They’re not singing with the same song-sheet, leading me to think Putin maybe in charge of communication; “could you clear a few trees from the banks of the Canal please?”

Putin rubs his hands together, “What’s that you say? Trump has a longboat moored there? Okay, I will see to it.”


Honestly, I feel something has gone amiss here, it’ll take decades for the wildlife to recover. I expected Art Garfunkel to be singing “Bright Eyes” on the edge of the towpath, not forgoing anything about the effect on the wildlife residing there, like I asked; seems it’s their property and people come see it for the awesome feat of engineering rather than it’s simply “a nice country walk.” You, the user decide.

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