Thursday, 07 July 2022

Caversham Heights Society

THERE were two meetings of the Caversham Heights Society in March.

The first talk, given to a full audience of socially distanced members by Sally Waterman, was entitled “Reading Hydro”.

Sally is a director of Reading Hydro, a community benefit society set up to build a hydroelectric scheme to harness the power of the River Thames.

She was accompanied by Tony Cowling, a founder director of the society.

The system was completed in August 2021. Volunteers were recruited to build and operate a hydroelectric power generation system at the Reading System Centre by the weir next to Caversham Lock.

Reading Hydro was formed in 2017 to finance, develop, build, operate and maintain the scheme.

An initial feasibility study involved geological studies, habitat assessment and flood risk.

Following a generation assessment, it was decided to press ahead with the development based on Archimedes screws.

Finance was raised through local grants and by a 2019 public share offer.

Preparation of the site began in May 2020, starting with clearing vegetation and rubbish.

The equipment, screws and turbines were ordered. Some delay was due to very wet weather.

By October 2020 the coffer drains had been built and a start made on the fish pass.

By February 2021, channels had been built and the turbine house constructed.

Then the cables were installed to the Thames link and a pontoon bridge was constructed for a 35-ton crane to lift the Archimedes screws.

By July much electrical equipment was installed, all checks had been completed and the necessary certificates issued. By August the equipment was commissioned and the opening ceremony held.

Power generation commenced in September 2021.

The new fish pass was able to accommodate pike, chub, barbel and eels as well as the salmon and trout which could use the old one.

A competition was held to design an attractive mural on the side of the turbine house, the winning design incorporating global climate stripes showing changes in global temperature over 100 years.

The success of the project was achieved through determination, engaging the local community, lots of volunteers and many skilled local people

The system is maintained by volunteers and more are needed. For more information, visit

At the second meeting a talk entitled “The history of the Victoria Cross” was given by Michael Naxton, former director of autionneers Sotheby’s, who ran their medal department.

He is now curator of the Ashcroft collection.

The Victoria Cross was initiated by Queen Victoria, who discovered that there was no recognition given to soldiers who performed acts of bravery or saved the lives of others.

A VC has no intrinsic value, though one was sold recently at aution for £400,000.

In 1854 the spread of the electric telegraph across Europe allowed immediate reporting of war and Victoria decided to create a medal, which was inscribed “For valour”.

Medals were created in bronze from bits of cannons captured during the Crimean War. The material ran out in 1914 and different material was then used.

The first investiture was in June 1857 and Lt Henry Raby was the first recipient. By the end of the Crimean War 111 VCs had been awarded as it was the only medal available.

Initially, medals were only awarded to personnel who survived.

Eleven VCs were awarded for action at the Battle of Rorke’s Drift during the Zulu War.

Edward VII allowed posthumous VCs and eight posthumous awards were made in 1907.

Initially, different coloured ribbons were attached to medals for the different services but since 1918 all ribbons have been red.

George V allowed VCs to be awarded to women but there have so far been no female VCs.

To date, 1,358 VCs have been awarded to 1,355 men, three of whom have been decorated twice.

This was a fascinating talk with far more information about various acts of bravery than can be included here.

The Caversham Heights Society meets every two or three weeks between September and April at Caversham Heights Methodist Church hall in Highmoor Road.

Talks are on a variety of interesting subjects.

The society welcomes new members and is open to anyone. Planning is now well advanced for the 2022/23 season.

If you are interested in joining, call the membership secretary on 0118 947 9970 or visit www.caversham

Alan Bradbury

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