February 2014 Volunteer Work Parties

Created on 12/03/2014

Having had a few warmer days at the beginning of March it is easily forgotten how wet it was at times in February. Despite the poor weather, volunteers still turned out across the country and bar the occasional change of task, rain put a stop to some painting plans, branches and WRG groups were as busy as ever.

Dee Branch of the Shropshire Union Benefits from a Further Twenty Hours of Volunteering

Photo: Volunteers at IWA Chester & Merseyside Branch's February work party

Twenty more hours were given by IWA Chester & Merseyside Branch volunteers on the Dee Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal on the 1st February. This led to a productive, albeit cold, day during which volunteers managed to complete works to unearth some buried mooring rings at Tower Wharf. As well as this, the group cut back overgrown vegetation that was obscuring towpath moorings close to Bridge 126 and after lunch undertook a very successful litter pick, bringing in ten bags of rubbish.

Offside Vegetation Clearance at Hatton

IWA Warwickshire Branch Volunteers at HattonPhoto: Some of IWA Warwickshire Branch tackling the offside vegetation on the Hatton flight (Photo by Greta Russell)

On Sunday, 2nd February, twelve members of IWA Warwickshire Branch worked on the offside of Hatton flight on the Grand Union Canal, above Warwick. This was part of the plan to re-instate the path on the offside to allow boaters' crews passage on either side of the middle section of the flight. Vegetation on the offside lock approaches to Locks 32 and 29 was cleared to allow two boat lengths of clear space. The vegetation below Lock 30 was also removed, thus completing the first stage of this operation. The soil, which obstructs this lock landing will be removed and a retaining wall built by future work parties.

On Sunday 23rd March, the branch plans to raise the level of the offside path using material from the demolition of parts of Lock 40 on the Wilmcote flight of the Stratford Canal. The rubble will be removed from the boat using a barrow lift and then spread on the sunken path. The soil embankment alongside the lock landing below Lock 30 will be loaded onto the boat which will transport the soil and off loaded to cover the rubble. If you fancy an exciting day in the countryside do come along. We shall be meeting by the Ugly bridge, just above Lock 30, at 10:30am. Full details can be found on the Warwickshire branch web pages.

A Wet Work Party for IWA Lichfield Branch

Volunteers laying chicken wire at At Augustine's FieldPhoto: Volunteers laying chicken wire at St Augustine's Field, Trent & Mersey Canal (Photo by Margaret Beardsmore)

Valentine's Day must have been one of the soggiest on record for IWA Lichfield Branch's work party at St Augustine's Field in Rugeley. Nevertheless, a small but intrepid band of volunteers duly arrived and worked hard all morning next to the Trent & Mersey Canal.

There were two main tasks to complete at this work party. Firstly, the canal-side decking needed to be cleaned and chicken wire laid to make the decking safe to walk on. Secondly, the area next to the canal needed litter picking and scrub clearing.

By lunchtime, these objectives had been completed and it was decided to call a halt to work in view of the weather!

Well done to all who braved the weather, and big thanks to the cake makers and tea suppliers.

Alternative Valentine’s Weekend for WRG’s Forestry Team on the Cotswold Canals

Twenty-eight volunteers from WRG's Forestry Team spent three days, from the 14th-16th February clearing trees and vegetation on the Cotswold Canals near Stroud.

The original aim of the weekend was for volunteers to work on two separate sites – pollarding trees at Ryeford Swingbridge and felling trees at Wallbridge Lower Lock. Unfortunately, due to heavy rain and winds the team could only carry out the enabling works at the more sheltered site of Wallbridge Lower Lock. The purpose of this clearance work was to allow for restoration of the lock to continue. Experienced chainsaw operators from the WRG Forestry team felled self-seeded sycamores from the narrow towpath close to the lock and other volunteers cleared vegetation.   

See photos (by Alan Lines) from the weekend.

WRG Bit In The Middle Volunteers Brave the Wiltshire Weather

The third weekend of the month, 15th-16th February, means that wrgBITM (Bit In The Middle) is back out on a project to help restore one of Britain’s abandoned canals. During February’s work party, ten of the group’s regulars spent Saturday and Sunday on a project to widen and improve access to the existing towpath along a stretch of the Wilts & Berks Canal near Dauntsey Lock in Wiltshire. More manpower came on site on Sunday, with the arrival of a team of volunteers from the local canal restoration society to supplement BITM’s efforts.

The work involved trimming back the overgrown hedgerow over a 100m-long stretch of the canal, which in this area is already back in water. A further 200m length of the towpath was cleared using a brush-cutter, while the branch of a willow tree that had broken off in the recent storms and was in danger of rooting itself in the canal bed was pulled out using hand-operated Tirfor winches.

The weather conditions could not have been more different between the two days. On Saturday, the BITM volunteers worked in full waterproof clothing, which was shed on Sunday as the sun shone all day.

Cheshire Locks Work Party Tuesday 18th February 2014

Volunteers painting railings on the Cheshire LocksPhoto: Volunteers paint railings on the Cheshire Lock Flight (Photo by Roger Evans)

A bright and sunny morning greeted eleven volunteers for this month’s IWA North Staffordshie & South Cheshire Branch Cheshire Locks Work Party at Lock 63, Malkins Bank on the Trent & Mersey Canal.

Because of the recent wet weather, it was not possible to finish painting the lock gates, however the group were kept busy painting metal railings and continued vegetation clearance at both Lock 63 and Lock 64. The team finished all the metal work, leaving just a small amount of wood painting to finish next month, before work can begin at Lock 62.

The work of the group is consistently noticed by locals, and this month new volunteers came forward as a result of having witnessed the work party’s progress, a trend that it is encouraging to see grow. In addition, local residents are getting increasingly involved in helping to monitor the state of the locks the group has already worked on.

CRT again provided good support and Edd Moss, CRT National Volunteering Manager, joined the group for the day.

The Cheshire Locks work party continues throughout 2014 and new volunteers are always welcome.

Students Join IWA Manchester Branch Work Party

Students at IWA Manchester Branch Work PartyPhoto: Students from The University of Manchester help to lay the towpath (Photo by IWA Manchester Branch)

IWA Manchester Branch
and the local CRT Towpath Taskforce faced a change of location to the opposite side of Manchester for the work party on February 22nd. This change also brought about a similarly opposite change in the type of location.

The new location was Bridge 15 on the Manchester and Bolton and Bury Canal, a canal under restoration with a well-used towpath. This footfall, coupled with the recent prolonged rainfall had lead to a muddy deterioration of the path. The plan was to reinstate the towpath to its original condition with some six tons of stone. CRT’s Hazel Mayow had managed to source a stone with high grit content, hoping that this would help to bond the surface. Manchester Branch and CRT were pleased to welcome a group of twelve students from The University of Manchester's Student Development & Community Engagement Division and over the fine sunny day some five tons of stone was laid.

Damp weekend on the Wey and Arun for London WRG

London WRG volunteers erect new fence on the Wey & Arun CanalPhoto: London WRG volunteers erect fencing along the Wey & Arun Canal (by Martin Ludgate)

Over the weekend of 22nd-23rd February, thirteen volunteers from WRG’s regional group London WRG visited the Wey & Arun Canal. Travelling from London, Cambridgeshire, Derbyshire, Essex, Wiltshire, Hertfordshire, Hampshire and even as far away as Devon, volunteers spent the weekend erecting 120 meters of fencing along the common land boundary between the canal and Dunsfold Aerodrome. The original machine work planned for the weekend had to be put on hold due to the muddy conditions on site but this did not dampen the volunteers' spirits and other tasks were completed instead. Volunteers cleared vegetation and debris left over from channel improvement works, carried out by contractors, and London WRG’s chainsaw operator also created wooden bollards, which will be installed once ground conditions have improved. The work done by contractors will enable the Wey & Arun Trust to run a second trip boat operation on the summit pound.

Hopefully weather conditions will be better next time London WRG heads out. On the 15th-16th March London WRG will be working on the Thames and Severn Canal at Griffin Mill Lock, concreting the upper cill and brickwork. They will also be helping to set up the Bowbridge Lock site in time for WRG’s Easter Camp.

Interested in getting involved as a volunteer with IWA? Take a look at IWA’s information on volunteering or get in touch with Stefanie Preston.

Having had a few warmer days at the beginning of March it is easily forgotten how wet it was at times in February. Despite the poor weather, volunteers still turned out across the country and bar the occasional change of task, rain put a stop to some painting plans, branches and WRG groups were as busy as ever.

Tags: IWA Work Parties