December 2013 Volunteer Work Parties
December was a slightly quieter month for volunteering as everyone was busy preparing for Christmas. IWA and Waterway Recovery Group (WRG) volunteers also deserved a rest having given over 10,000 days of their time in 2013, an incredible achievement that will undoubtedly have had a positive effect on the waterways. Thank you to everyone who volunteered with IWA’s branches, committees, WRG and Head Office in 2013, we hope you continue to enjoy doing so in 2014. For those readers who may be thinking of joining IWA as a volunteer, take a look through our Work Party and Volunteer of the Month blogs as well as our volunteer pages to see what it’s all about - we hope to see you soon!
IWA Warwickshire Branch – Sunday 1st, Monday 2nd, Wednesday 4th, Thursday 19th, Saturday 21st
IWA Warwickshire Branch was very busy throughout December heading out to volunteer on the waterways five times. On Sunday 1st, fifteen volunteers held a work party on the Hatton flight on the Grand Union Canal. Work was carried out to clear vegetation on the offside of the flight, continuing the work started in October. The remaining trees between locks 31 and 30 were cut back to allow access to the offside and lower vegetation was cut down so that it can be strimmed at a later date.
Warwickshire Branch members also continue to support the twice-monthly Canal & River Trust Towpath Taskforce work parties at Hatton and the twice-monthly CRT Towpath Taskforce work parties at Lapworth. Whatever the weather they always have something interesting to do and have a great time.
Photo: Volunteers with IWA Warwickshire at Hatton
IWA Chester & Merseyside Branch - Saturday 7th December
On Saturday 7th December, IWA Chester & Merseyside Branch was met with good weather as volunteers gathered for the monthly work party on the Dee Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal. The volunteers split into two groups and litter picked along the Dee Branch before working back along the main line. At the same time, the gardeners tackled the overgrown flowerbeds clearing brambles and planting bulbs ready for spring. Thank you to the nine volunteers who joined the morning session and the five that worked in the afternoon.
WRG North West Weekend Dig – Saturday 7th-8th December
WRG North West held a weekend dig on the Lancaster Canal over the weekend of 7th-8th December to help the Lancaster Canal Trust carry out work in the Stainton Bridge area. On the Saturday volunteers cleared overgrown vegetation at Hincaster Tunnel and Horse Path as well as carrying out re-pointing at Stainton Bridge using lime mortar. The following day saw the company grow to over twenty volunteers, fifteen of which fitted stop planks across the canal at Stainton Bridge whilst the remainder continued to clear vegetation. The installation of stop planks is an essential step in the re-watering of this stretch of canal.
The area had to be cleared of debris before the planks were put in place building up a wall across the canal. Once the last stop plank was in place, the heavy topping beam had to be rolled into position on top of the planks. Original metal King Posts, which had been located at the old British Waterways Depot at Galgate, were then pinned into place to keep the planks secure. The posts will also increase the strength of the structure, which is important as the structure will have to prevent any water from passing that point. The volunteers had worked through rain and mud but were encouraged throughout the weekend by the visitors who came to view the work having learnt of the project from local press coverage.
Photo: Stop planks at Stainton Bridge on the Lancaster Canal
IWA Chelmsford Branch & Essex WRG – 7th-8th December
On Saturday 7th December, volunteers from IWA Chelmsford Branch and Essex WRG started a weekend of work on the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation. The group cleared and levelled an area alongside the towpath so that vegetation could be more easily managed in the future. This task took all weekend and was aided by the use of a digger and skilled operator. Part of the group left this task in the afternoon and went to lay a woodchip path on the opposite bank. All the woodchip had been locally sourced coming from trees that had fallen on the Chelmer & Blackwater during bad weather in previous months.
On the Sunday, the group finished clearing and levelling the area of bank before locating and clearing a new spot for bonfires. These areas are always sort after as volunteers and staff need places where they can responsibly burn vegetation without negatively affecting nearby residents or the environment.
Photo: Volunteers lay a wood chip path along the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation
IWA North Staffordshire & South Cheshire Branch – Sunday 8th December
Sunday 8th December saw a group of volunteers with IWA North Staffordshire & South Cheshire Branch returning to the Caldon Canal near Cheddleton to continue hedge planting that was started last winter. Mild weather meant good progress was made and over 250 hedging plants were planted alongside the towpath. The background sight and sound of steam trains running alongside the canal added a further dimension to the day.
Different species of hedging plants, supplied by CRT, were planted to blend in with the existing hedge and in time, this will hopefully produce a good quality hedge along a significant stretch of the canal. Along with previous planting, the planting now carried out means that the entire stretch from Basford Bridge to the lift bridge is now complete.
This part of the canal is very popular with walkers and cyclists and a number stopped to chat with the volunteers and all expressed congratulations to the volunteers for the work that contributes to the Churnet Valley Living Landscape Partnership.
Photo: Volunteers hedge planting alongside the Caldon Canal (photo courtesy of Bob Luscombe)
WRG Cotswolds Camp – Friday 26th December - Wednesday 1st January
WRG's main Canal Camp programme ends in October but this doesn’t mean that their volunteers go into hibernation for the winter. From 26th December – 1st January a team of 30 volunteers from around England spent a week working on two sites in the Cotswolds. The first site was at Weymoor Bridge on the Thames & Severn (T&S) Canal carrying out enabling works for the Cotswold Canals Trust’s bridge re-building project. After rising water levels on the River Thames curtailed works at the second site, Inglesham Lock, volunteers productively cleared vegetation at an alternative site on the adjacent North Wilts Canal where it meets the T&S at Latton Basin.
Weymoor Bridge originally provided an access to the historic Latton Basin trans-shipment site between the Thames & Severn and North Wilts Canals. Volunteers constructed a temporary hardstanding for the site compound, assisted with the installation of a water main diversion, carried out excavation work around the remains of the bridge, and went on to expose more of the original brickwork and coping stones. It is hoped that considerable progress with rebuilding work will be made in 2014 by the Cotswold Canals Trust together with assistance from WRG volunteers. Other volunteers spent the week exposing the canal bed near the Basin and successfully cleared around 350 metres of vegetation and hand winched out numerous tree stumps.
Despite some inclement weather it was a successful week and a lot of progress was made at both sites. The New Year was seen in with a fantastic 4 course meal prepared by the canal camp cooks and celebrated in the appropriate WRG style!
WRG volunteers are back out this weekend at Meretown Lock, on the Shrewsbury and Newport Canals carrying out lock excavation work and vegetation clearance. The specialist WRG Forestry Team is also out, working on the Wey & Arun Canal downstream of Loxwood clearing overhanging trees that obstruct navigation.