July 2014 Volunteer Work Parties

Created on 06/08/2014

Photo: Barry Keight awarding Certificate of Strimmer Competence to Richard Curtis (photo by Margaret Beardsmore)

This July has seen IWA volunteers really focus on the removal of the invasive plant Himalayan Balsam. Eleven Himalayan Balsam pulls were run by various IWA branches across the country bringing the total number of volunteers involved in IWA’s 2014 Himalayan Balsam Campaign in June and July to 166. In addition to Himalayan Balsam Work parties, IWA Northampton hosted employess from Santander for a volunteer day and IWA Warwickshire Branch unveiled a project they had been working on.

IWA Northampton Branch Works With Santander

Santander employees on Northampton Branch work partyPhoto: Santander volunteers lock painting with IWA Northampton Branch, Lock 2 Northampton Arm (photo by Stefanie Preston)

On Tuesday 1st July, IWA Northampton Branch’s regular work party was joined by employees from Santander.

The work party decided to make the most of the sunny and warm weather and chose lock painting as the task for the day. The group split into four teams, three of which were assigned to Lock 2, 3 or 4 on the Northampton Arm of the Grand Union Canal, whilst the fourth team undertook a litter pick around the locks.

By mid-afternoon, the locks were looking significantly improved having received a fresh coat of paint and a general tidy-up in the surrounding area. This was largely possible due to the combined efforts of the Santander employees, IWA Northampton Branch Volunteers and CRT, who achieved a great deal by working together.

IWA North Staffordshire & South Cheshire Branch Holds Six Himalayan Balsam Pulls

Light Seekers youth group on Himalayan Balsam PullPhoto: Light Seekers youth group on a Himalayan Balsam pull (photo by Alison Smedley)

On Monday 7th July, IWA North Staffordshire & South Cheshire Branch kicked off its July Himalayan Balsam pulls on the Leek Arm of the Caldon Canal. Volunteers joined forces with Light Seekers youth group, run by St Andrew’s Methodist Church in Cheddleton, to tackle the invasive plant. The work party took place on a delightful summer’s evening, where the young people enjoyed removing the Himalayan Balsam growing on the canal embankment in the vicinity of Horse Bridge.

Later that same week on Thursday 10th July, the Branch was out again with Caldon & Uttoxeter Canals Trust and young trainees from the Churnet Valley Living Landscape’s youth engagement project. The volunteers cleared Himalayan Balsam from between Oakmeadowford Lock and Consall Lime Kilns on the Caldon Canal. Some of the volunteers had cleared Himalayan Balsam in this area over the previous three years and were extremely encouraged by the reduction in the spread of the plant.

The trainees joined the Branch again on 24th July along with volunteers from the Churnet Valley and Caldon & Uttoxeter Canals Trust. This work party tackled Himalayan Balsam on the embankment between the Caldon Canal and the Churnet Valley Railway downstream of Consall Station.

On Monday 21st July, IWA members were joined by local residents for an evening stroll to pull up Himalayan Balsam along the Caldon Canal from Denford. Volunteers ranged in age from nine to retired, and some of the Himalayan Balsam was up to 10 feet tall. A mile of towpath was cleared of Himalayan Balsam during the two hours, and the thirsty volunteers had a well earned drink at the canalside Holly Bush pub at Denford on their return.  

The Branch teamed up with Support Staffordshire on 30th July, to host a family volunteering day of Himalayan Balsam pulling. On the Wednesday, the families who had signed up for the day gathered at Consall Nature Park for a health and safety briefing before walking down to Bridge 51 where they cleared all the Himalayan Balsam. The families really enjoyed the activity, and IWA plan to hold similar events next year.  

The Branch’s final Himalayan Balsam work party was on Thursday 31st July. Thunder and rainstorms earlier in the day did not deter twelve volunteers from meeting in Denstone for an evening work party at Bridge 70 on the Uttoxeter Canal.  The work followed on from a recent Waterway Recovery Group Canal Camp, and the main task to be carried out was Himalayan Balsam pulling. Other tasks carried out included trimming sprouting vegetation from previously felled trees, and moving some of the bridge coping stones that had been found on the bed of the canal during the Canal Camp. 

IWA Warwickshire Branch Restores Kingswood Fingerpost

Fingerpost at Kingswood Junction unveiledPhoto: IWA Warwickshire Branch volunteers beneath restored Kingswood Junction fingerpost (photo by Ian Fletcher)

In 1989, in conjunction with British Waterways, IWA Warwickshire Branch installed a fingerpost at Kingswood Junction on the northern Grand Union Canal where it links to the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal.

Subsequently, spring bulbs were planted at the foot of the fingerpost in memory of Doug Smith who co-ordinated the installation of the signpost. Doug also created the iconic Lockmaster maps of the canals and waterways of England and Wales while living in a barrel-roofed cottage beside the lock at Dicks Lane on the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal.

Over the years, the fingerpost had suffered at the hands of the weather. In particular, the post was rotting at its base and the paint in the lettering needed renewing. IWA Warwickshire Branch members dismantled the post and concreted in a new ‘godfather’ with the help of CRT Towpath Taskforce volunteers.

IWA members repainted the post and fingers, which were then re-attached to the post on site.

The 1989 plaque was repainted together with a new one that was unveiled at a ceremony on Wednesday 9th July, exactly twenty-five years and twenty-five hours after the 1989 ceremony.

IWA Birmingham, Black Country & Worcestershire Branch Tackles Himalayan Balsam on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal

Birmingham, Black COuntry & Worcestershire Branch Himalayan Balsam PullPhoto: Volunteers at Himalayan Balsam work party on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal (photo by Alison Smedley)

On Wednesday 9th July, volunteers from IWA Birmingham, Black Country & Worcestershire Branch met at Falling Sands Viaduct on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal south of Kidderminster. The volunteers were very pleased to note the reduced growth of Himalayan Balsam in the area around the viaduct that had been cleared by the branch the previous year. The volunteers tackled the three quarters of a mile between there and Round Hill Bridge.

IWA Shrewsbury District & North Wales Branch Support Local Himalayan Balsam Pull

Over a dozen people tackled the Himalayan Balsam on the Shrewsbury & Newport Canal on Saturday 12th July at a work party supported by IWA Shrewsbury District & North Wales Branch. The area to the east of Town Lock was cleared of Himalayan Balsam, as well as some work being carried out along the banks through Victoria Park. Body harnesses were used to access the area immediately below Fishers Lock where the bank dropped away and the Himalayan Balsam was hard to reach. Two boats were used to take people across the canal to access the offside and other difficult areas and to transport vegetation across the canal for disposal.

In the afternoon the volunteers helped members of Shrewsbury & Newport Canal Trust who were taking part in a "Dinghy Dawdle" along the full length of the canal. Participants paddled when they could and manoeuvred the boats around obstacles like infilled locks by hand. Three canoes took part and it was fantastic to see pleasure boats on the canal in Newport again.

Himalayan Balsam Pull on the Lancaster Canal

On Saturday 19th July, IWA Lancashire & Cumbria Branch held a Himalayan Balsam pulling work party in partnership with the Friends of Haslam Park and Preston City Council on the Lancaster Canal. Fourteen 1 tonne builders sacks were filled with the pulled up Himalayan Balsam and emptied by the park wardens to rot down in their yard. 

IWA Leicestershire Branch Starts to Tackle Second Invasive Species

Volunteers off to tackle Floating PennywortPhoto: Volunteers head off to tackle Floating Pennywort (photo by Alison Smedley)

IWA Leicestershire Branch combined its Himalayan Balsam pull on the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal on 22nd July, with a work party to remove Floating Pennywort. Eighteen volunteers met at Leicester Rowing Club where two work boats were available. The Himalayan Balsam was cleared from the towpath side above Freeman’s Meadow Lock, and the Floating Pennywort was removed from the river above the weir.

IWA West Country Branch Add 56 Volunteer Hours to Himalayan Balsam Campaign

IWA West Country Branch had another successful Himalayan Balsam work party on 24th July on the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal. Thirteen volunteers and two CRT staff turned out and contributed fifty-six volunteer hours to the Himalayan Balsam campaign.

With the help of the Branch’s volunteer work party coordinators, Somerset Waterways Development Trust, Bridgwater & Taunton Canal Association and a Branch member for use of her boat the work party managed to tackle the Himalayan Balsam from towpath and water. All of which would not have been possible in the heat without water, sun cream and a local resident's contribution of tea and biscuits, delivered by bicycle.

IWA Lichfield Branch Clears Himalayan Balsam from the Trent & Mersey Canal

On Saturday 26th July, ten volunteers from IWA Lichfield Branch turned out to continue the good work at the “Bloody Steps” and this included the removal of Himalayan Balsam on the Trent & Mersey Canal. The team made an early start on mowing and strimming the area from the Steps up to the Bypass bridge and during the morning another volunteer was trained with the CRT strimmer and presented with his certificate. The morning also saw painting the railings on the aqueduct over the River Trent, litter picking and Himalayan Balsam pulling, with the obligatory break for tea and the usual excellent cake provided by Pat and Margaret.

The Himalayan Balsam had reached a height of about eight feet and was removed just in time before the seeds had spread. After lunch the afternoon saw the completion of the painting work and more Himalayan Balsam pulling. Overall a hot and tiring day but with the satisfaction of several jobs well done.

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.

Tags: IWA Work Parties