June 2014 Volunteer Work Parties

Created on 16/07/2014

Photo: Himalayan Balsam banner on IWA Leicestershire Branch volunteer's bike - an ingenious form of mobile publicity and way to transport Himalayan Balsam pull equipment whilst working down the towpath (photo by Alison Smedley)

Himalayan Balsam was the focus of many of the IWA branch work parties in June, which culminated in the first of two Himalayan Balsam focus weeks. During this week the profile of Himalayan Balsam was raised through social media and the publication of resources to compliment the work parties taking place and to raise public awareness of the invasive plant. It was not all about Himalayan Balsam, however, as other work parties litter picked, prepared for festivals and took part in wider community initiatives. Take a look at this month's blog to find out more.

Bathpool Focus of IWA West Country Volunteer Efforts

IWA West Country Branch volunteers at Himalayan Balsam pull on the Bridgwater & Taunton CanalPhoto: Volunteers at IWA West Country Branch Himalayan Balsam work party (photo by Stefanie Preston)

On Saturday 7th  June, IWA West Country Branch were at Bathpool. In between the showers fifteen volunteers with the support of CRT managed to clean-up the area and improve the stretch of the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal. There was also time for a planning session to consider branch activities in the coming months. This included two Himalayan Balsam pulls, the first of which on Tuesday 24th June was a great success.

Volunteers were once again at Bathpool and covered about a mile checking for and pulling out Himalayan Balsam, which was growing in large quantities at points on the bank. It appears to be spreading from a tributary of the Old River Tone that runs parallel to the canal. This shows just how easily the plant can spread from area to area with up to 800 seeds per plant that are explosively released over a radius of up to 7 metres. Volunteers removed a variety of sized plants that had stems that ranged from being millimetres thick all the way up to 8cm.

Himalayan Balsam Pull at Falling Sands

Volunteers at Himalayan Balsam pull on the Staffordhsire & Worcestershire Canal (photo by Julio Lopez)Photo: Himalayan Balsam pull at Fallings Sands, Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal (photo Julio Lopez)

On Wednesday 11th June,  IWA Birmingham, Black Country & Worcestershire Branch held a Himalayan Balsam pull at Falling Sands Lock near Kidderminster on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal.  Having spotted the plant at a work party the previous month, volunteers had then worked to remove this early growth – a technique that had clearly worked as the bare patches of ground they had left were now showing signs of other plant growth. This spurred on renewed efforts to work both sides of the lock and the adjoining riverbank and the removal of this later growth was completed.

Joining the branch on this occasion was a Spanish architect, Julio Lopez who is visiting the UK to explore English systems in both the professional and voluntary sector and enjoyed the day - so he may be seen at forthcoming events! 

IWA North Staffordshire & South Cheshire Branch in the Churnet Valley

Photo: Volunteers of all ages turn out to pull Himalayan Balsam in the Churnet Valley (photo by Alison Smedley)Photo: Volunteers of all ages turn out to pull Himalayan Balsam in the Churnet Valley (photo by Alison Smedley)
In June, IWA North Staffordshire & South Cheshire Branch was out three times to tackle Himalayan Balsam in its branch area. Its first event was on Thursday 12th June on the Caldon Canal.  A good turnout of volunteers met at Cheddleton Top Lock to remove Himalayan Balsam from the canal in the Churnet Valley between Cheddleton Locks and Basford Bridge. This was the third year that volunteers have tackled the Himalayan Balsam along this stretch, which they cleared in a day. In previous years it had taken two work parties to remove all the Himalayan Balsam, which demonstrates that the campaign is having an effect. It also emphasises the importance of returning to Himalayan Balsam sites on an annual basis, as seeds can remain dormant in the soil for up to three years.

On 22nd June, volunteers met at Froghall Tunnel to work upstream towards Cherry Eye Bridge. The embankment down towards the line of the Churnet Valley Railway was the area that was tackled. The age range of volunteers on this session went from two and a half to sixty something, proving this really is an activity that volunteers of all ages can get involved with!

IWA North Staffordshire & South Cheshire Branch was out for the third time tackling Himalayan Balsam on Wednesday 25th June. Rather than a day work party the branch trialled an evening event to make the most of the longer evenings and to provide opportunities for those who work and are busy at the weekends but want to have a go at volunteering.

Volunteers Continue Good Work on the Northampton Arm

Photo: Northampton Arm, Lock 17 Far Cotton (photo by Stefanie Preston)Photo: Northampton Arm, Lock 17 Far Cotton (photo by Stefanie Preston)

On 17th June, IWA Northampton Branch made the most of the dry weather and its trained volunteers and set to clearing the vegetation from Lock 17 of the Northampton Arm of the Grand Union Canal. Those with strimming and mowing certificates from CRT tidied up the area to improve access to mooring bollards and the Lock Gates. Meanwhile, a second group walked to Lock 15 litter picking the towpath, which was in a much improved state compared to the last litter pick of that stretch.

Beavers, Cubs & Scouts Help Prepare for Ware Boat Festival

Over twenty Beavers, Cubs and Scouts joined members of IWA Lee & Stort Branch on the River Lee on Saturday 21st June to help prepare for the Ware Boat Festival.

Tasked with the job of clearing the towpath of overhanging vegetation as well as an overgrown patch where stalls for the festival were to be positioned the group eagerly began work cutting, pulling, sweeping, raking and moving all the debris. It was a hot day but with plenty of breaks and refreshments the Beavers, Cubs and Scouts with the help of their leaders, local residents and branch members returned the towpath to its original size and removed the nettles ready for the stalls to be put up.

IWA Leicestershire Branch Tackle Himalayan Balsam at Aylestone Meadows

Volunteers from IWA Leicestershire Branch, CRT and the Aylestone Meadows Appreciation Society turned out on Tuesday 24th June to tackle the Himalayan Balsam growing along either side of the towpath of the Grand Union Canal Leicester Section as it borders Aylestone Meadows, south of Leicester. Most of the Himalayan Balsam along this stretch had been pulled or slashed by the time the heat of the hot sunny day made it sensible to stop. The IWA Himalayan Balsam Banner was used in a mobile fashion to alert passers-by to what was going on, on a volunteer’s bicycle, with work gloves and other equipment following in the bicycle’s trailer.

Congleton Work Parties to Become a Regular Event

Photo: Volunteers clear the Macclesfield Canal towpath at Congleton (photo by Bob Luscombe)Photo: Volunteers clear the Macclesfield Canal towpath at Congleton (photo by Bob Luscombe)

Despite a forecast of heavy showers and a dull overcast morning, fourteen volunteers from the local area arrived to support the second IWA North Staffordshire & South Cheshire Branch work party at Congleton Station on 27th June. This is a new venture working in partnership with a number of local organisations including Congleton Town Council and Congleton Sustainability Group as well as CRT, Sustrans and Northern Rail.

The volunteers continued the work started at the first work party with further litter picking and vegetation clearance along the Macclesfield Canal towpath edge. A highlight of the work party was the uncovering of the cobbles on Snake Bridge 76, which transformed the weed covered pathway.

Following discussion with the volunteers on the day, it has been decided that this will now become a regular monthly work party on the fourth Friday of each month. The work parties will initially focus on the canal area around Congleton Station with plans to look at improving the whole area from Congleton Wharf through to Buglawton at a later date. The combination of efforts from all organisations involved is hoped to enhance Congleton as a destination area for boaters, cyclists, walkers and all other users of the towpath and canal.

Over Fifty Bags of Rubbish Collected by IWA Middlesex Branch Work Party

Photo: Litter picking on the Paddington Arm (photo by Ray Gill)Photo: Litter picking on the Paddington Arm (photo by Ray Gill)

Maybe it was the predicted bad weather, the World Cup, Wimbledon or just a busy Saturday but it was a small party of four volunteers that turned out to help with IWA Middlesex Branch’s canal clean-up on the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal in Alperton on Saturday 28th June.

The day was not off to a good start as the CRT workboat operator was delayed in getting on site due to an early morning emergency call out. In addition, it was clear that the rain was there for the day and the volunteers would have the added challenge of dodging participants of the Grand Union Challenge who were running, walking and paddle-boarding 100km along the canal for charity.

The group decided to concentrate on litter picking and were surprised how much mess can be found on the canal towpath, beer cans, soft drink cans, beer cans, bottles (vodka seems a popular drink), and, of course, beer cans. Several full bags each later, the volunteers stopped for a short lunch and cup of tea, aboard the CRT workboat.

In the afternoon, the work party pushed on to the North Circular viaduct, which appears to be a popular stop to drink, eat and dump rubbish. By the end of the day, and despite the late start, an estimated fifty to sixty sacks of rubbish had been collected and the workboat was noticeably fuller. A good job done by all concerned and proof that even the smallest numbers can make a difference.

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