January 2014 Volunteer Work Parties

Created on 17/02/2014

This month we are catching up with our volunteers who were out in January on branch clean-ups and WRG weekend digs, have an autumn/ winter update from the River Gipping and take a look at IWA Lichfield Branch’s volunteering throughout 2013. First, we will begin with a look at what IWA Northampton has achieved since it adopted the Northampton Arm last year.

Volunteers on the Northampton Arm

Photo: IWA Northampton Branch volunteers lock painting

Since IWA Northampton Branch adopted and began work on the Northampton Arm of the Grand Union Canal, it has run seven work parties, attracted twenty-seven different volunteers and amassed 246 volunteer hours. To help in its work the Branch has purchased two strimmers for vegetation clearance and seven volunteers have been trained by CRT to operate them. CRT has also allocated a secure storage area at Gayton yard for the Branch’s equipment.

With these resources the Branch has managed to litter pick about two-thirds of the Arm, which has yielded around 100 bags of rubbish plus larger items such as a boat toilet, vehicle tyres, cable insulation and wood pallets. Vegetation has been cleared from around the sanitation station at Gayton Junction and from around Lock 17, including from the lock landing on the riverside and back to the narrows. Finally, locks 14 and 17 have been painted and Lock 1 has been prepared ready to paint later this year.

The Branch now has a plan in place for the rest of the year. On the next two work parties, it hopes to complete the vegetation removal around Lock 17 and complete the litter picking from Lock 17 back up to Bridge 14. This is an urban part of Northampton so there is a lot of litter to be collected. This will probably be a job much like painting the Forth Railway Bridge, once a pick of the whole arm is complete it will all have to be done again.

From March/April, weather permitting, volunteers will start painting from Lock 1 and work down the flight to Lock 12. Once the lock painting is under way in April/May, volunteers will start to paint the sanitation station at Gayton Junction. This is in a prominent position at the Junction and is the first structure boaters see as they go past. This will be treated as a stand-alone project and be managed by Mick Butler.

Finally, to add to the growing numbers of trained volunteers, two volunteers will be trained by St John Ambulance in emergency first aid at work to provide cover on the task parties.

It looks to be a busy year for Northampton Branch as it continues to look after the Northampton Arm of the canal.

IWA Lichfield Branch 2013 Work Party Report

IWA Lichfield Branch logged more than 700 volunteer hours on the Trent & Mersey Canal in 2013, about double the hours of 2012. Over the year the Branch and volunteers renovated and widened the path from Wolseley Road, made improvements at Brindley Bank, began to restore the old tramway, restored the pathway at the bottom of the 'Bloody Steps', began work at the canal bank on St Augustine's Field, maintained and kept tidy the new visitor moorings at Brindley Bank, and two branch volunteers are now fully authorised to use CRT strimmers.

Plans for work to be carried out during 2014 are being developed and several jobs have already been identified. Old British Waterways signs need to be replaced, access at Leathermill Lane needs to be improved and work on the canal wall and towpath at Brindley Bank needs to be continued. So plenty to keep everyone busy – extra help is always welcome, and tea and cake often provided!

River Gipping Work Party Report – Autumn/Winter 2013

Work parties on the River Gipping happen on a weekly basis, organised by the River Gipping Trust (RGT) and supported by IWA Ipswich Branch. This autumn the volunteers were once again blessed with a run of decent weather, which lasted right up to the storm at the end of October. Since then the persistence of cold and damp weather has slowed the group down a bit and caused them to call a very early halt to one session at Pipps Ford.

However, the timber for the bridge at Pipps Ford was milled at the end of October, and the members of the work party meeting at White House Farm have been able to make significant progress undercover, while the Pipps Ford group have had to deal with the weather and the after effects of the storms.

The volunteers are near completing the first of the two side frames for the bridge and have prepared the laminations for the four curved bearers. The work party used remarkable wood glue that set in minutes in spite of the very low temperature.

Away from the farm, the regular work party have been completing the replacement of the earth fill behind the new bridge abutments at Pipps Ford, so that the fill has time to settle before the bridge components are fitted into place. One of the next jobs will be to prepare moulds and cast new coping stones for the abutments. The stones will then be put in place once the bridge is in position.

Luckily, the October storm came and went without causing any structural damage to any of our active sites, though we had to clear fallen trees from the lock site at Baylham, and we are aware of a number of other sites where trees have been weakened and are leaning over the river.

IWA North Staffordshire & South Cheshire Branch Plant Over 300 Trees

Photo: Volunteers hedge planting on the Caldon Canal

Volunteers from IWA North Staffordshire & South Cheshire Branch and the Caldon & Uttoxeter Canals Trust met at Basford Bridge on the Caldon Canal for a hedge planting work party on Thursday 9th January. After loading up wheelbarrows with spades, stakes, protective sleeves and a variety of hedge plants, the volunteers walked down the towpath to Woods Lock, where they then started working back towards Cheddleton filling in the gaps in the existing hedge. Some gaps just required two or three plants, but some of the longer gaps took twenty or thirty plants. Such good progress was made that a return trip to base for further plants, stakes and protective sleeves was required. Over 300 trees were planted in total.

WRG Volunteers Spend a Dirty Weekend on the Shrewsbury and Newport Canals

On 11th and 12th January over a dozen volunteers from WRG's Regional Group, London WRG spent two days helping the Shrewsbury and Newport Canals Trust carry out restoration work at Meretown Lock.

The main task for the weekend involved removing infill from Meretown Lock on the Shrewsbury & Newport Canals. The lock had been completely filled in, and volunteers removed around 3ft of topsoil from the entire length of the chamber, using an excavator and two dumpers. The volunteers then transported the materials 90 metres to build a dam at the far end of the length of canal, above the lock, that is going to be restored and re-watered. As well as lots of soil and some rubble, the chamber excavation job produced an interesting assortment of old iron – parts of the paddle gear including a rack and a distinctive Shropshire Union type jackhead, both of the top stop-plank grooves, and parts of the gate reinforcing ironwork – plus many reusable coping stones.

The second task of the weekend consisted of digging a 100 metre long trench (by hand and with an excavator) to install a water supply pipe that will be used with a pump, which is currently keeping the length of the canal between Meretown Lock and Newport town centre in water, to re-water the new length of canal.

WRG Forestry on the Wey & Arun Canal

London WRG was not the only WRG group out between 11th-12th January as members of WRG’s specialist Forestry Team continued their work on the Wey and Arun Canal. Twelve volunteers, with support from the Wey and Arun Canal Trust, spent two days working between Brewhurst Lock and Baldwin’s Knob Lock carrying out selective tree removal and tree pollarding. Their work was aided by the purchase of a new pole saw funded by WRG donations and with a team working from a boat they cleared a good amount of vegetation that was obstructing navigation, for the Trust’s mid week team to burn.

WRG Forestry is able to carry out work from a single tree removal to major scrub and tree clearance, for canal restoration projects throughout England and Wales. The Team has a firm belief in safe working practices; all chainsaw operators within the team have undergone training and gained LANTRA & NPTC qualifications.

Cheshire Locks Work Party - Saturday 18th January

Photo: Volunteers work on Lock 63 of the Cheshire Lock flight (by Steve Wood)

IWA North Staffordshire & South Cheshire Branch and the Trent & Mersey Canal Society met on Saturday 18th January for a further work party at Malkins Bank on the Cheshire Lock flight of the Trent & Mersey Canal.  

It was a mild day, but the threat of rain prevented any painting being carried out.  Instead, the team concentrated on exposing the cobbles at Malkins Bank locks 63 & 64. All eight bottom gate quadrants (both locks being paired) were exposed, although there is more work to be done on the towpath ramp below lock 64 at the next work party, due to take place on Tuesday 18th February.  

Feel inspired and want to know more? Take a look at IWA’s information on volunteering or get in touch with Stefanie Preston.

Tags: IWA Work Parties