Herbert Eppel - Volunteer of the Month November 2013
Herbert Eppel has been interested in the English canal network since 1988 when he first moved to Britain. As is often the case a trip along the canal, this time by foot, inspired him and his wife to purchase a Narrowboat in 2002. From here Herbert became an IWA member and then joined IWA Leicestershire Branch’s committee in 2011; he is now the Branch Website Editor and Treasurer. Read on to find out what Herbert gets up to as an IWA volunteer.
When and why did you first become interested in inland waterways?
The amazing English canal network has always fascinated me (ever since I came to Britain from Germany back in 1988), not least in view of its vital role in the Industrial Revolution, which gradually dawned on me over time.
In 2002 my wife and I went on a week-long towpath walk from St. Pancras to Leicester, staying in B&Bs and small hotels along the way – an experience that was both relaxing and exhilarating. One unforgettable moment was in the Milton Keynes area, when a young chap walking the other way asked us: “Are you explorers?”
Seeing all the boats along the way made us want one, and the following year we spotted ‘just the thing’ in a waterways magazine, in the form of an advertisement for a suitably priced 36 ft Narrowboat. The boat was moored at Aldermaston at the time and was called ‘Chipmunk’, but we changed the name to ‘Happy Cranker’, which we thought was more fun. The subsequent ‘cruise’ over several weekends up to Crick Marina, where we then had the boat moored for several years, was quite an adventure. The fact that we were boating novices at the time certainly added to the excitement!
What’s your favourite waterway?
Difficult to say! All the waterways we have seen and experienced so far have their own interests and charms. Ask me again in a few years time, after we’ve extended our cruising range a little!
One of our favourite ‘themes’ is the sense of remoteness, blissful solitude and connectedness with nature one can experience along large stretches of the waterways.
When did you first become involved with IWA?
I think we joined IWA around 2004, just after we had bought the boat, but I didn’t become actively involved until some years later. Active involvement initially consisted of attending some of the meetings, talks and Christmas events organised by the Leicestershire Branch. In 2011 I was invited to join the IWA Leicestershire Branch committee.
As Website Editor for IWA Leicestershire Branch what do you do?
Essentially the job involves keeping the Branch site up-to-date by adding reports and photos from our volunteering events and talks by guest speakers. Fortunately the reports and photos are invariably contributed by other branch members or the speakers, so I don’t actually have to write them myself. I also add information on our campaigning activities, such as our current campaign for a new mooring site in Leicester. Plus I add other pertinent information, such as the recent consultation on the Central Shires Waterway Partnership 10-year Strategic Plan, as well as pertinent links.
Why did you choose to take up this role?
As part of running my translation business, I spend a lot of time on the computer anyway, so it made sense for me to offer to take on the role when the previous website editor expressed a wish to hand it over. It also offered an opportunity to interact more closely with fellow Branch members and indeed the helpful staff at IWA Head Office.
Why do you think it’s important for branches to have their own pages on the IWA website?
In this day and age, I regard a Branch website as an important part of the Branch’s overall ‘presence’ and as a key means of sharing information on the Branch’s activities with its own members, with members of other branches, and of course with the wider public. It should also help to attract new members and encourage existing and new members to become more actively involved.
You also run the E-group, which many branches don’t have, what’s the purpose and benefits of this group?
The purpose of the e-group is to share news and information and to facilitate discussions among branch members. All branch members can post messages, and all the messages and attachments are stored in a convenient online archive for future reference. Our e-group works very well, although it is relatively new and hasn’t quite reached a ‘critical mass’ yet. We would certainly encourage all branch members to join the group. I would also encourage other branches to set up their own e-groups, and I would be happy to offer advice, if required.
As well as looking after your branch web pages and E-group, you’re also the branch Treasurer. How do you keep on top of all the roles?
To be honest, once the associated procedures and ‘routines’ have been established, none of these roles are particularly demanding in terms of ‘time input’, although in addition I actually wear several other (non-IWA) hats. Come to think of it, I save quite a lot of time due the fact that I don’t have to commute to run my translation business. This is time I can ‘invest’ in volunteering and campaigning.
What do you enjoy most about volunteering with IWA?
The inland waterways are a great source of enjoyment, relaxation and ‘adventure’, so it seems only right to ‘do my bit’ and give something back. Active involvement with IWA is one way of doing this. What’s more, I find that the more one ‘invests’, the more one gets back in the form of new friends, a sense of waterways camaraderie, and indeed practical boating advice from fellow members.
Thank you to Herbert for this interview. If Herbert's expereinces have inspired you to get involved, take a look at our many volunteer opportunities to find one that suits you.