Champion of waterways receives Royal honour
THE man who led the campaign to save the Floating Harbour from closure and the Feeder Canal from being in-filled, who launched the city's first harbour festival and led the drive to restore the dilapidated Kennet and Avon Canal has been presented with an MBE in recognition for his work.
Fred Blampied, from Saltford, who was awarded the MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours list in June, was presented with the medal yesterday by Lady Elizabeth Gass, Lord Lieutenant of Somerset.
Lady Elizabeth, who was representing the Queen, visited Mr Blampied at his Saltford nursing home – poor health meant he was unable to attend one of the usual investiture ceremonies at Buckingham Palace.
The 86-year-old has been an enthusiastic volunteer on projects to restore the region's inland waterways for more than half a century.
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Mr Blampied joined the Inland Waterways Association (IWA) in 1955, to campaign against a bill to abandon the Stroudwater canal. He quickly became chairman of the IWA South West branch where his campaigning extended to canals in South Wales, the Midlands and the North, and organised working parties to give physical support to restoration.
He has been an active member of the Bath branch of the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust since 1960 and was involved with planning initial restoration work on the "dry" Limpley Stoke stretch in 1965-1966 as well as the restoration of the Bath Flight of locks, which were formally re-opened in 1976.
In 1961 he started regular boat trips, using a paddle wheel craft, on a section of the Kennet and Avon Canal near Bath, in order to demonstrate the leisure potential of waterways.
But his greatest contribution to the Kennet and Avon restoration was his work in stopping the partial closure and Right of Navigation through Bristol docks in the 1970s.
The first major challenge came in 1969 when Bristol Council announced plans to close the city's docks and fill-in the Feeder Canal leading from the city centre to the River Avon and then on to the Kennet and Avon Canal.
The Inland Waterways Association, with Mr Blampied as chairman, waged a campaign of opposition that included a petition of the House of Lords.
In 1971 Mr Blampied organised the precursor of the now annual Harbour Festival – which was initially known as the Water Festival. Mr Blampied realised the festival's success would demonstrate to the city's councillors the potential for growth in tourism and recreation offered by the city's docks.
The plan to abandon the docks and Feeder Canal was eventually scrapped – and as Mr Blampied predicted, the Floating Harbour has gone on to become one of the city's major tourist attractions – with the annual Harbour Festival attracting thousands to the city each summer.
Once known as "The Sleeping Beauty", the Kennet and Avon Canal – which had been dry for decades – was finally restored and formally reopened by the Queen in 1990.
The Heritage Lottery Fund then provided one of its largest ever grants – £25 million – to undertake additional work, ensuring that the canal is now a busy waterway for tourists and canal boat residents alike.
The former environmental health officer said he was "delighted and honoured" by the reception held for him at the care home yesterday.
"I am absolutely delighted to receive the MBE, it's a tremendous honour, and it has been a lovely occasion to have family and friends here to see me receiving this honour from the Lord Lieutenant.
"I've always believed the work we have done over the years to restore and preserve our waterways has been important, and it's wonderful that my contribution to the work of the trust has been given this recognition."
Alan Aldous, chairman of the River Avon Users Consultative Committee, said Mr Blampied's contribution to inland waterways had been "exceptional".
"He began at a time when politicians thought of inland waterways as dirty ditches that needed filling in," he said. "We have come a long way since then."