John Brighouse - Volunteer of the Month July 2016

John Brighouse
Created on 05/07/2016

John Brighouse is a member of IWA North Staffordshire & South Cheshire Branch and has been actively volunteering with IWA since 2013.  The branch hold work parties in four areas of their region and John is the work party organiser for Cheshire Locks. 

He is also involved in the "Ringing the Ring" Cheshire Mooring Ring Project.  It is hoped that this work will be completed by the end of 2016, as a fitting way to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the reopening of the Cheshire Ring.

Read on to find out more about role John plays in making a difference to our waterways.

How and when did you first become interested in inland waterways?

We bought a narrow boat 11 years ago which really focused my interest on inland waterways. I have however had a lifetime of interest as I grew up close to the Trent & Mersey Canal in Staffordshire and eventually moved close to the same canal in Cheshire.  I trained and worked as a Civil Engineer so have always been impressed by the work of the great engineers on canal building; and the Anderton Boat Lift just 2 miles from my home is indeed a true icon of engineering.

When and why did you start volunteering with IWA?

I started volunteering with IWA in 2013, shortly after I retired. The work of the volunteers was highlighted when I visited the Dutton breach repair open day and I decided then that I would like to become more actively involved with the canals. 

Part of what you do as a volunteer with IWA is organise work parties at the Cheshire Locks on the Trent & Mersey Canal.  What work have you been doing here?

The Cheshire Locks working party focuses on the locks from the Harecastle Tunnel as far as Wheelock. It is many years since these locks were painted so a lot of preparation has been required. The end result though is worth all the work.

As well as painting of the locks the team clears back overgrowing vegetation and undertakes a number of smaller ancillary jobs to improve the overall appearance of the area.

You are also involved with installing mooring rings on the Cheshire Ring.  How have the ones you installed at the Anderton Boat Lift improved the area?

There were many missing rings at Anderon and large spaces between existing ones. This limited the number of boats that could moor and resulted in damage to the towpath where boaters had to drive in pins.

The new rings are spaced closer together, which gives greater flexibility to moorers, and allows far more boats to moor at the same time to enjoy the Boat Lift and the adjacent country park. But I would encourage everyone to share mooring rings to allow as many boats as possible to enjoy the wonderful area there!

You’re installing more mooring rings at Middlewich this month.  Why are these necessary?

As at Anderton, there were big gaps between rings and some areas with no rings at all. Middlewich is a popular stop on the Cheshire Ring but there were not really enough mooring facilities. Repeated use of pins in a small location damages the towpath so with the new rings boaters can now moor all the way through Middlewich easily and securely but without impacting the canal edge.

What’s your proudest IWA moment?

It is always good to look back at a lock flight when the painting has been completed. It looks so impressive and we get so many positive comments from passing boaters; especially those on a holiday cruise.

I was also pleased when we got formal recognition by being nominated for a Living Waterways Award as part of the work done by the North Staffordshire & South Cheshire branch of IWA. Four work parties came together to make the presentation and it is incredible to see how much work is being done by volunteers in a relatively small area.

What would you say to someone thinking of volunteering at a work party on their local waterway for the first time?

Just come along and have a go. There is something for everyone to do, you will learn new skills and the feeling of satisfaction when you look back on the day's achievements is wonderful. There is also a great feeling of camaraderie amongst the volunteers; everyone working together just because they want to see improvement.

Thank you to John for this interview.  If you would like to join in with a volunteer work party in your area, check out the IWA Events Calendar.  Volunteers are needed to help with the installation of the mooring rings and if you would like to help, please contact Alex Melson at IWA Head Office.

Nominate a Volunteer

Do you have a volunteer in your branch who deserves to be featured in our "Volunteer of the Month" blog?

We would like to hear about the unsung heroes of IWA and WRG, the volunteers who give their time to support the waterways through one of the many different volunteer roles.  If you would like to nominate a Volunteer of the Month please contact the Volunteering Team at Head Office.

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Tags: Volunteer of the Month, IWA Work Parties