IWA Birmingham Branch volunteers cleared a considerable amount of accumulated rubbish on the short length of canall in Selly Oak Park on Saturday morning 22 April 2017. The project took place ahead of a local festival in this Park in June.
by David Struckett
The year has brought a range of IWA traditions and issues into focus for me, and I thought it time I recorded them for you, at this time of sharing.
The Annual Members Meeting - of which the AGM is a mere half-hour or so of formalities, allowed us to show the wider membership a potential project on our patch - the site of Bradley Locks. We do hope that the intended local group will form to carry this forward, and we are grateful to Steve Burt for chairing this latest series of meetings to this end. Of course the project does pose some serious issues such as 'the bridge' (over Bradley Lane), water, development, usage, etc, but on the plus side it appears that we now have all three local authorities discussing the implications and proposing support. The presence of the Bradley Workshops is a huge benefit - in potential focus, CRT connection, and possible help with co-operation with any work to be done.
The other project on our patch which is of interest is of course the well-established movement towards re-opening some at least of the Dudley No. 2 canal. The Lapal Canal Trust (in particular Hugh Humphries) has been working overtime in drawing together all the strings for the eastern end. As you know the principal dichotomy has been the Harvest development for Sainsbury's. Whist the development has raised the possibility of restoration and connection - it has also been extremely difficult to tie them down to a completed channel across the site. The great news is that the Dudley No 2 possibilities can now be regarded as two smaller projects - which have every possibility to succeed. LTC are formally concentrating on the eastern end, to complete the length past Weoley Castle to California, whist at the western end a consortium of LTC members, Coombeswood C.T., Friends of Halesowen Abbey and the Leasowes Park Rangers are embarking on a series of work-parties to clear and maintain the length of canal in Leasowes Park with a view to restoring this length (or at least some of it), so that boats may once again cross the largest embankment in the Birmingham area.
Meanwhile in Worcestershire there has been some interesting happenings both in Droitwich and Worcester city. With the help of other members of the Worcester Forum (currently chaired by DWS) such as Margaret Rowley, a meeting was set up to discuss the reeds problem in September. This was followed by an inspection cruise in October, and an announcement on the 1st of November that reed cutting had started! Of course other stages to the work are required as well - such as eventual dredging, and repair of the mitigation field of Coney Meadow (water levels, maintenance and education locally are proposed), which will take time, but next year's passages down the Barge Canal might be a little more pleasurable with more space, more mooring possibilities and wider views. Anglers, canoeists and walkers will also notice improvements, one of the advantages of a joint approach to problem-solving.
In Worcester City, the City Council have been busy consulting on the idea of a designated 'riverside park' - from Gheluvelt Park in the north down to Diglis footbridge in the south. One aspect of this is that many river users have had a say on improvements that they see as important or are concerned about - and of course the balance of facilities for people and wilderness for wild-life such as swans is paramount to achieving 'park' status. I have represented the boater's principal vision of more and improved visitor moorings, and also the idea that the Pitchcroft area (by the Racecourse) might be improved for mooring for festivals - but at other times be clear for anglers. This may take some time, but if the various areas are discussed and balanced - again more than one interest benefits.
In IWA, Head Office staff and Trustees are debating future marketing, Association objectives and finance etc, and questionaires and polls will be used to understand both members views and to seek possible improvements for the future. IWA's committees have had better coverage of their work in the Association's 'Waterways' journal, and the web-site revisions are looking good. You will have heard of our influence on HS2, the Parliamentary Waterways Group, the Boston Barrier and many other navigation and other waterway issues.
Meanwhile our Branch Committee is going through rather a 'lean' time, with seven members, and future Branch work-parties and other activities are under discussion. I commend to you the work party activities of the Worcester Birmingham & Droitwich Canal Society (esp. at Tardebigge), and the work-parties recently announced at Leasowes Park Halesowen. Some of our members also volunteer with CRT - which is an admirable thing to do if you have the time. Rather than find a different task to help with each month as our Branch w/p, we may choose a particular area of CRT territory to develop a more permanent assistance.
We have represented Branch members at various CRT, local authority and Society meetings during the year, and feel that this should be reported in a better way than hitherto. We are aware that our Newsletter has fallen astray recently. Anyone out there who can help us with 'communication' ? please get in touch!
One topic which is exercising the minds of waterways organisations of all sorts - from angling to boat clubs, our Association and canal societies, wild-life groups etc, is the retention of membership. Somehow, the modern adult has less time and resources to devote to organisation - they may take up the interest - but tend to leave others to do the organising. Inevitably this has resulted in an aging organisation - we need to recruit not only younger people, but also ensure that the objectives and involvement is passed to them. The young shall inherit the Earth... or at least we hope they will inherit the waterways with enthusiasm and commitment to justify the investment and vision of the previous generation. We must do our best to educate and pass on our inheritance, and there are plenty of good examples to quote - and we have one in our Branch - the splendid 'Portal' of the Dudley Canal Trust. Other ideas are from paddle-sports to get the young people involved - RYA and Canoe Britain for courses and qualifications, bell-boats and stand-up paddling as innovations - we must broaden our boating activities to make the waterways fun and exciting, and encourage building, maintaining, filming, competing, judging... as well as doing the splendid thing that IWA does well - campaign for waterway navigations!