Wessex & Dart Branch Newsletter – Spring 2014

Supporting the preservation and operation of paddle steamers Waverley and Kingswear Castle

Wessex & Dart Branch Newsletter – Spring 2014

(This is an abridged version of the Newsletter circulated to Wessex & Dart Branch members)



The branch winter programme of meetings is now drawing to a close. I hope, those of you who have attended, have enjoyed the various film-shows and talks. The committee always endeavour to seek new and interesting subjects complemented by a range of relative historical matter. You will find a copy of the Wessex & Dart branch 2014-2015 syllabus here. Once again, a varied and interesting programme of meetings, cruises and events has been arranged. Hopefully, the membership will support in good numbers.

PS Monarch – Re-arranged Celebration Cruises

Following the frustrations and delays of 2013 I am delighted to advise the PSPS day of celebration cruises aboard the Monarch has been re-arranged for Thursday 1st May.

PS Monarch – Support Group

If you have ever hankered to be part of a paddle steamer operation, this could be the answer! The owners of the Monarch are seeking volunteer assistance in marketing, managing and operation of the Monarch. This, of course, would be totally independent of the PSPS but welcomed by the operators. Any member, or otherwise interested party, is invited to attend the above meeting.

Conveniently based at Wareham, Monarch is easily accessible by road, bus and rail. If you would like to find out more about the objects, aims and likely practical application of the volunteer group. you are invited to a meeting, to be held at the Old Granary Restaurant, Wareham Quay on Monday 28th April at 1100.

If you are enthusiastic to support and unable to attend this meeting, please advise your secretary. A summary of the meeting will be sent you in due course.

PS Kingswear Castle – Onboard Meeting and Nominated Sailings

The committee have arranged for two days of nominated sailings aboard KC. It is hoped many members will support these cruises giving the opportunity to make new acquaintances and meet members of the committee in an informal atmosphere whilst enjoying the delights of, both, the steamer and the stunning Dart scenery.

It should be noted, these are public sailings and members should book their tickets through the usual channels.

Tuesday 20th May 2014 – The Institute of Mechanical Engineers is presenting PS Kingswear Castle with an award on Tuesday 20 May as a mark of her unique place in British maritime history. KC is 90 years old this year and her engines, built by Cox and Co Falmouth for her predecessor, are 110 years old.

The presentation will take place on board the ship with invited guests at 1100 on 20 May. Afterwards the steamer will make her scheduled River Cruises at 1200 and 1400.

All PSPS members, especially those in the Dart area, are very welcome to join the steamer as fare paying passengers with PSPS discount fares on the two sailings after the presentation.

Do please come aboard and meet the trustees of PS Kingswear Castle Trust, the legal owner of the steamer on behalf of the Society, and members of the PSPS Wessex and Dart Branch Committee. This is an opportunity to get to know more of our Dart area members, many of which have joined the Society in 2013. It is also an opportunity to talk further about a very interesting proposal from DSRRBCo that during busy days in the coming summer, PSPS members might act as hosts on board KC talking to passengers about the history of the steamer and the long tradition of sailings on the River Dart, which she represents.

Thursday 21st August 2014Kingswear Castle is due to sail up river for Totnes, leaving Dartmouth at 1200, arriving Totnes at 1330, and returning down river from Totnes at 1345.

Other Events

Swanage Railway – NEW FOR 2014!

Saturday 5th & Sunday 6th April
Spring Steam Gala
Visit www.swanagerailway.co.uk or telephone 01929 425800 for more information.


Southampton & District Transport Heritage Trust

Sunday 1st June
A free vintage bus service will operate from from Alton Railway Station on the Mid Hants Railway ‘Watercress Line’ to Chawton for Jane Austen’s House.
Visit www.sadtht.co.uk/main/2014events for more information.


Kennet & Avon Waterways, Canal & River Trust

Sunday 27th July
Bath Road, Devizes,SN10 1QR
Waterside Event, Free entry
Email kact.newbury@btinternet.com or telephone 01635 580356 for more information.


Southampton Maritime Festival

Friday 22nd & Saturday 23rd August

Can you help ?

Owing to a clash of dates with the Isle Of Wight Railway, our ‘show stalwart’, Geoffrey Ryder, is unable to represent the branch at this years Festival. We are, however, indebted to Nigel Philpot for offering us space and facilities aboard the Shieldhall to promote the visit of, both, Waverley and the PSPS.

Our very busy experience at the Maritime Festival last year serves to suggest the Wessex Branch & “WAVERLEY” would substantially benefit from a presence in 2014. We are, therefore, seeking volunteers to represent the branch aboard Shieldhall dispensing publicity material and, generally, answering questions regarding the Society and its ships. If you feel you are able to donate a few hours on behalf of the branch fulfilling this important role, please contact your secretary without delay.

For details of the 2014 festival visit www.southamptonmaritimefestival.com.

Waverley Excursions – A visit by David Kells

Photographed on Swanage Pier (l to r) are: Swanage Pier Treasurer and Wessex & Dart Branch committee member Frank Snart, Chairman of Waverley Excursions David Kells and Wessex & Dart Branch Chairman Chris Wood.

Photographed on Swanage Pier (l to r) are: Swanage Pier Treasurer and Wessex & Dart Branch committee member Frank Snart, Chairman of Waverley Excursions David Kells and Wessex & Dart Branch Chairman Chris Wood.

On Tuesday February 25th, we were delighted to welcome Waverley Excursions Chairman, David Kells, on a flying fact-finding mission to the south coast. Branch Chairman Chris Wood and your secretary spent the day showing David the calling points and facilities at Poole, Bournemouth and Swanage before David moved on to Southampton. The opportunity was taken to discuss a variety of local operational issues, both old and new, with a view to developing a more harmonious ongoing relationship between the branch and the operating company.

Poole in World War I – All input welcomed!

Poole Harbour Commissioners are compiling a record of the role of the Port of Poole during the First World War. Available information is sketchy and photographs almost non-existent. If any member has any memorabilia, information or photographs they would be prepared to make available to the Commissioners, please forward details to your secretary.

Swanage Pier

Following the major storm damage in March last year leaving a mid-section of the Victorian Pier on the verge of collapse, repairs have now been completed thanks to the incredible efforts of the local community, the amazing generosity of the public and a grant of £39,900 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

“We owe a huge debt of thanks to all those who helped us to get the damage repaired” said Derek Tarrant, Chairman of the Swanage Pier Trust.

Work concluded towards the end of 2013. The Swanage Pier Trust reopened the repaired section of the Pier on Friday 28th February at 12pm. The Trust also celebrated the completion of other repairs which concluded just prior to the storm damage.

As part of the repair project, activities have been developed to allow local people and visitors alike to learn about and engage with the heritage of the pier, which was constructed in 1859/60. A team of volunteers have been specially trained to document, extract and replace the many brass plaques from the pier as part of the process. A display has been produced to illustrate the heritage and the progress of the repair work; this is currently visiting several local venues. An area of the site has also been improved specifically for Pier education purposes.

“Swanage Pier is an important part of our heritage and the local community, we are committed to education and helping our visitors to learn about the structure and its restoration” said Ben Adeney, General Manager, Swanage Pier.

Commenting on the grant award, Nerys Watts (HLF’s Head of South West) said: “Throughout its history, Swanage Pier has been of great significance to the town and its community, first as an important commercial asset and more recently as an essential part of the leisure activities available in the area. We were therefore delighted to be able to support the Swanage Pier Trust in their work to repair the pier, ensuring that it can be preserved for and enjoyed by future generations.”

Wessex & Dart Branch Christmas Weekend


I am delighted to advise we are able, once again, to offer a weekend of events based around the, now traditional, Saturday lunch at the Suncliff Hotel, Bournemouth. For the fourth year the cost has been pegged at a reasonable £19.50. We are fortunate and delighted to welcome PSPS Chairman Iain Dewar as one of our after-dinner speakers and, subject to working commitments, the very popular figure of Captain Ian Clark who will be relating tales of his life at sea and his commands, particularly, of Waverley and Balmoral.

For the Sunday, we are indebted to Wessex & Dart Branch member Norman Aish who is freely offering to provide his delightfully restored, ex Hants & Dorset, 1967 vintage Bristol FLE6B double-deck bus for a Dorset Coastal Tour. Passengers will be asked to contribute to a collection with a suggested minimum donation. This money will be given to Norman’s nominated charity – Cherry Tree Nursery. The charity was set up to provide sheltered work rehabilitation, in a supportive but realistic working environment, for people with severe and enduring mental illness. There is no upper age limit or restrictions on the time that people can stay at SWOP. The charity’s aim is to create a loving community for people who often feel frightened, lonely, isolated and powerless. I am confident we can relay upon your generous support for this very worthwhile organisation. Full details and booking form will be distributed with the summer edition of ‘Paddle Wheels’.

Bus at Sandbanks during the Wessex Festival of Transport in the 1990's

Bus at Sandbanks during the Wessex Festival of Transport in the 1990’sAndrew Wood

Situation Vacant!

Having served as your secretary for a number of years, I have made the decision to retire from the role and the Wessex & Dart Branch committee at the end of this year. The Chairman, therefore, is seeking a replacement. If you feel you would be interested in undertaking this interesting and fulfilling role please contact me. In an ideal world it would be good to have the new ‘secretary designate’ in place as soon as possible to ensure a smooth transfer of information can be achieved.

Balmoral – Soon to Cast Off…

Great News for PSPS members and all lovers of coastal cruising is that preparations are now well underway for Balmoral to at last leave her berth in Bristol City Docks to sail under her own power to Sharpness Dry Dock. She is booked in for at least five days in early April. Here she will undergo her equivalent of an “MOT Test”. We are optimistic that she is still in “reasonable condition” but this is a 5-yearly survey and expensive work will still be required. One of the major items here being extensive “ultrasonic tests” carried out on her entire hull. Just getting her to Sharpness and dry- docking costs will be in the region of £50,000! Thanks to wonderful donations and pledges already received we are able to commit to this amount of work. But we already know that some re-plating will be needed and other things may come to light at dry docking. If we were able to pay for these while Balmoral is actually in dry dock it will save a huge amount of money. The cost of a second dry-docking to carry out these repairs before the August MCA deadline for re-certification could put the whole project in jeopardy. The bank balance of today will go some way towards the repair bill but isn’t enough. We need to raise at least another £30,000 by early April.

That is why your support is probably more vital now than at any time before. If we raise this money now today – it could prove our financial lifeline! Literally every penny counts and your generous financial donation could be the one that ensures Balmoral sails from a port or pier near you in 2015

For the very latest news please go to www.mvbalmoral.org.uk from where you can also download (print off) a donation form. Or the good old fashioned cheque is still fine by us – made payable to MV Balmoral Fund Ltd. Postal address for all donations is – MV Balmoral Fund Ltd, C/O 23 Adder Hill, Great Boughton, Chester, CH3 5RA

Balmoral really needs you now – please help.

And Finally

This has been a longer than usual newsletter. In the fast moving world it is not always possible to include the latest information in the body of ‘Paddle Wheels’.

In closing, I would thank you all for your valued support and look forward to meeting as many members as possible, at one or more of our events, over the summer and during the forthcoming winter.

Don’t forget to visit our new and much improved website that provides an abundance of information and photographs from all of the Society’s branches at, just, the click of a key!

Peter Lamb signature

Wessex & Dart Branch


One of the many modifications made to Monarch during her lengthy restoration. The once square paddle boxes have been replaced by the more traditional and eye pleasing oval design.

One of the many modifications made to Monarch during her lengthy restoration. The once square paddle boxes have been replaced by the more traditional and eye pleasing oval design.