www.barrowvoice.co.uk - First Publised 1975
3,000 copies published quarterly and delivered FREE to all households in Barrow upon Soar

The new village map at Barrow Deep Lock

Have you walked passed it yet? Good, isn’t it? The original idea was to encourage boaters, slowed down by the lock, to learn more about Barrow. As the village is out of sight from the canal many narrow-boaters on the ‘Leicester Ring’ sail through oblivious of its existence. I realised this in the spring of 2014, when writing an article for Barrow Voice about boaters, so passed on the suggestion for a towpath sign to the Parish Council. Now here it is! But who did it and how?

The answer is local artist Chris Bates. Chris started work on the map in the spring of 2016, and although it involved a vast amount of work, even perfectionist Chris was pleased with the result. So what was involved in its creation?

The first steps were to decide on the places of interest to be depicted and the nature of the background map itself. Chris painted many watercolours of Barrow’s landmarks, more than the actual number finally used, whilst at the same time researching the map. Chris looked at other village signs, such as those at Quorn, and consulted a wide range of maps including the ordinance survey as he was keen to produce something just right for Barrow. As the village is growing daily, decisions had to be taken about which new developments should be on the map as some were started but far from finished. To solve this problem Chris turned amateur surveyor, riding his bike around the embryonic estates making pencil drawings of the roads. And he checked all the footpaths too! He really showed an amazing concern for accuracy.

Then came the decisions about colours: which colour should represent the built up areas, which the spaces, which the roads? Well, at least you’d think spaces would be easy. You colour them green. But then which shade of green? There are dozens on file! And how do you try to get the sense of the houses lining the streets having gardens behind them? The urban area isn’t uniformly dense. Chris did this by deciding on a yellow/orange wash to indicate the built-up areas then with a damp brush removed some of the colour in the middle to give the map a slightly 3D effect. Look carefully or you don’t notice this artistry, but it makes such a difference.

Whilst considering details like this Chris would often discuss matters with councillors and parish council staff so that he kept everyone in the picture and could receive feedback. But once the map was finished - descriptive text in the key at the bottom copy-checked, named roads correctly named and the plesiosaurus compass-point found a good position in the top right hand corner, the work was scanned and sent off to the printers. There was still some toing and froing even then but eventually everything was completed to Chris’ satisfaction. It’s a super map and a wonderful achievement. Thanks a lot Chris.

The sign was erected on June 11th by the Canal and River Trust’s Steve Taylor, a Volunteer Leader, together with Trust Volunteer Gordon Fowkes. They both thought the sign of superior quality, one of the best they’d seen, and said it should last for at least twenty years. But durability doesn’t come cheap and it cost £3,090 less £1,000 grant funding obtained years ago. They found it easy to install, it only took about 90 minutes, although definitely a two man lifting job. Steve was keen to point out that The Canal and River Trust is always looking for more volunteers. Gordon enjoys being one as it’s a sociable life and keeps him fit. The work they do often involves schools or universities or is practical, such as restoring old 1890s mile-posts and improving towpaths.

So contact the trust < www.canalrivertrust.org.uk > if you’d like to help.

Gaynor Barton