South Staffs Burgee
South Staffordshire Sailing Club
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© Neil Hawkins

From Calf Heath to Gailey 1964 - 1974

Gailey Lower Pool

by Antony Darbey

At the Club's annual dinner in 1967 the guest speaker was John Coghlan, then the chief executive of the Sports Council, and we had an opportunity to explain our problems to him and to carry out some lobbying. He was very sympathetic and gave us useful advice and support. By this time it was clear that the only course remaining was to concentrate our efforts on Gailey Lower Pool, which comprised about 62 acres, an ideal size for dinghy sailing, but that to make any progress we would have to overcome or win round the local planning authorities, the Nature Conservancy, the Council for the Preservation of Rural England, the various ornithological societies, the wildfowl shooting interests, the anglers...............(and Uncle Tom Cobley ?)
 
The attitude of British Waterways was neutral: evidently the prospect of substantial revenue from the Sailing Club was attractive to them, but only if the various opposing interests could be reconciled. Clearly the heronry was the major obstacle, and some lateral thinking was called for. We came up with the idea of accepting that the island and a considerable area around it, designated by buoys and a floating rope, would be completely out of bounds to the Club members. A visit to British Waterways headquarters at Marylebone was arranged, and this proposition put forward. After lengthy correspondence and negotiation, it was agreed that the idea would be considered, subject to obtaining the approval of all the other interests.
 
We came to the conclusion that there was no prospect of defeating the opposition, but ..... if you can't beat ‘em, join ‘em.... Realizing that these various organizations were run by individuals, we decided upon a policy of meeting their representatives face to face, to persuade them that we were not vandals intent on wrecking the countryside, and at the same time we were able to appreciate their serious concerns about the interests they were anxious to protect - concerns which we shared. We were able to enlist some support, to a greater or lesser extent, from the West Midlands Sports Council, the local Sports Councils and the Royal Yachting Association.
 
Our policy of patient attrition continued, necessitating reams of correspondence, and numerous meetings, some involving wining and dining.