April 2016 Work Parties
Photo: Volunteers grappling items from the Grand Union Canal near Milton Keynes
The emphasis of work parties during April has been on Spring Clean-ups - removing rubbish and debris from the towpaths and water before the boating starts in earnest with the warmer weather. Read on to find out more about what IWA volunteers have been doing across the branches:
Tackling Invasive Species Early
At the end of April twelve volunteers from IWA West Country Branch spent a day removing the young growth of the highly invasive plant, Himalayan Balsam. With the help of an expert volunteer and thick gloves to prevent nettle stings the volunteers were able to remove the plant from along a stretch of the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal. This early action should allow native flora to become established before the invasive Himalayan Balsam crowds it out. There are more Himalayan Balsam bashes planned by the Branch this summer.
Photo: Early Himalayan Balsam Bash
Luddington Locks Given New Lease of Life
Over the weekend of 2nd & 3rd April ten volunteers descended on Luddington Lock on the River Avon each day with the intention to bring this iconic structure bank to its former glory. Luddington Lock is the site of the old footbridge over Bancroft Basin Lock which was built by prisoners in 1963 at their workshops in Wormwood Scrubs, London. It was then placed in position by the Royal Engineers, Long Marston in 1964 and installed by prisoners from Winson Green in Birmingham.
The volunteers spent the weekend rubbing down all the old paint on the lock and bridge railings and applying two coats of paint to the white areas and one coat to the black. The lock notices were also cleaned and the whole lock area given a fresh look for the summer.
Photo: Luddington Lock's bridge gets a fresh lick of paint
Volunteers Learn Step Building
April's work party at the Cheshire Locks on the Trent & Mersey Canal concentrated on two activities; construction of the Red Bull garden and planting whips to fill in gaps in the hedgerow. Canal & River Trust provided support for two work teams. One team was taught how to build steps in the garden area including some useful joinery tips for future reference. The other team planted whips along a 100m length of canal by the locks filling in gaps in the hedgerow. This was a specific project requested by the CRT ecologist; a job that needs to be done in spring just before the growing season. Seven volunteers worked hard to complete these valuable tasks in time.
Photo: Before and after constructing the steps
Milton Keynes Branch is Spick and Span for the Summer
IWA Milton Keynes Branch resumed their spring/summer run of work parties, concentrating their efforts on maintaining their adopted Fenny Stratford Lock. Work parties during April concentrated on preparation and repainting of the lock's structures. Volunteers completed repainting of the lock gates and balance beams, metalwork such as handrails and lock gear. Bollard tops and the towpath bench were repainted and the bridge prepared for a complete repaint. The Pump House gardens were also weeded. The volunteers have kicked off their work parties with a flurry of work and the lock will be looking fantastic for the summer.
IWA Milton Keynes Branch also held the first of their bi-annual large scale Canal Cleanups over 15th & 16th April along the Grand Union Canal from Fenny Stratford to Old Wolverton. The event was sponsored and supported by Wyvern Shipping Co Ltd and supported by CRT.
IWA members and other local volunteers were joined by seven CRT executive and bankside staff who gave much appreciated assistance on the workboats, and litter-picked from the towpath and hedges. A CRT dredger accompanied the convoy to help lift heavy items from the water. Rubbish grappled from the water and collected from the banks was piled into the work-boats towed by Branch members' boats. Boaters moored on the stretch were offered a one-off chance to put out rubbish for collection. Items retrieved included a fridge, microwave and other electrical items, bicycle, motorcycle, wheelchair, sledge, car battery, and assorted timber and other refuse amounting to an estimated six tons. One volunteer even bagged a small Christmas tree to take home and plant in his garden!
IWA Milton Keynes Branch will be staging its next Canal Cleanup on 14th & 15th October, and will be clearing the canal and its banks from Fenny Stratford Lock to the south side of Leighton Buzzard.
Photo: Grappling from one of the work boats
Ashby Canal gets Cleaned for The Queen
On Sunday 10th April volunteers from IWA Lichfield Branch, Ashby Canal Association and other local people joined forces to litter pick between Bridges 15 and 17A on the Ashby Canal at Hinkley. The day, organised by the local council, was a Clean for The Queen event aimed at bringing local groups together to clean the streets, footpaths and towpaths in preparation for the Queen's 90th birthday this year. A total of 25 bags of rubbish, including a carpet and a suitcase, were collected in the space of a morning.
Photo: Lichfield litter pickers out in force
Sheffield & Tinsley Canal Clean Up a Success
On Sunday 3rd April a total of 40 volunteers in all from IWA South Yorkshire & Dukeries Branch, CRT, Adsetts Canal Project, Woodseats Explorer Scouts and The Abbeydale Rotary Club joined forces to work on cleaning up the Sheffield & Tinsley Canal. The groups split into three with one group heading up the Sheffield Basin to work down to the Don Valley Arena. Another group worked up to the Arena and the third group worked down the Tinsley Flight. A large amount of rubbish was collected, to be picked up by the work boat and volunteers. The work was hampered by the wet weather the previous week making the towpaths wet and muddy. However at the end of the day all the volunteers enjoyed a pie & pea meal at the Tinsley Boat Club and the next clean up has been arranged for Sunday 30th October.
New Adoption Means Improvements on Ashton Canal
On 17th April IWA Manchester Branch set about repainting Lock 4 on the Ashton Canal after officially adopting the stretch from Locks 4 to 11. They had a good turnout with both new and old members attending and they completed numerous tasks. First and foremost, Lock 4 got a full repaint by their very own lock painting specialists. They also did the usual litter picking and vegetation clearing, all in preparation for establishing a patch for Incredible Edible, a charity devoted to bringing communities together by turning unused land into growing space for vegetables. A total of twelve black bags of rubbish were collected which was greatly appreciated by the local people who stopped to thank the volunteers.
Photo: Painting Lock 4 on the Ashton Canal
In addition to these work parties, in April, IWA Lincolnshire Branch supported the Sleaford Navigation Trust, IWA North Staffordshire & South Cheshire Branch worked on the Uttoxeter Canal, Maccelsfield Canal and the Burslem Arm. IWA Birmingham, Black Country & Worcestershire Branch supported Worcester Birmingham & Droitwich Canals Society at their monthly work party weekend at Tardebigge Lime Kilns and held their own work party on the Staffs & Worcs Canal. IWA Northampton Branch held their twice monthly work parties on the Northampton Arm. IWA Chester & Merseyside Branch continued their IWA National Campaign Festival preparation at Eldonian Village, and IWA Ipswich Branch supported the River Gipping Trust at their regular work parties throughout the month.
Interested in getting involved as a volunteer with IWA? Take a look at IWA's information on volunteering. To see if there's a work party planned near you take a look at the IWA Events Calendar.
Sign up for email updates
Keep up to date with all the latest waterways news.
We will never share your email address with anyone else and you can update your subscription preferences at any time.