May 2014 Volunteer Work Parties

Created on 19/06/2014

Photo: London WRG volunteers on the Chesterfield Canal dig

Volunteers have been busy throughout May and this month has seen a number of IWA branches working alongside other organisations. This includes IWA North Staffordshire & South Cheshire Branch who have been involved in starting canal work parties in Congleton as part of a wider improvement initiative. A volunteer from IWA Guildford & Reading Branch also shared their expertise with a local Guide group on the Kennet & Avon, an important part of inspiring future generation to engage with their local waterways. Read on to find out more about what has been going on across the country.

Volunteers Continue Hard Work on the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal

Rubbish collected by IWA West Country BranchPhoto: Rubbish collected during Bridgwater & Taunton Canal May work party (photo by Bob Abbott)

It was another success story at IWA West Country Branch's Bridgwater work party on 3rd May with good weather and the help of twenty volunteers plus two Canal & River Trust (CRT) staff all there to tackle the littler along the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal. The volunteers split into four groups who started between bridges 6 and 7 and worked along the tow paths in all directions. Another four volunteers worked from the CRT motorised flat workboat. The volunteers collected about thirty black bags of rubbish, three bikes, five road cones, a new Aldi shopping trolley, plastic sheets, carpet underlay and some traffic safety barriers, which the group managed to return to their original work sites!

Towpath Works at Hatton

Towpath works at HattonPhoto: Embankment works by Lock 31 (photo by Greta Russell)

Over the last two years, IWA Warwickshire Branch has been clearing the vegetation and obstacles from the offside path between the locks in the middle of Hatton flight on the Grand Union Canal. The next step to restore a safe pathway was to pair back the embankment alongside the lock landing at Lock 31.

On Sunday 4th May, the work to complete this task began with the removal of the sticky clay from the embankment at Lock 31. The clay was bagged and loaded onto a CRT hopper, which was then transported to the other end of the pound, above Lock 30.  Here it was unloaded and spread over the rubble on the offside towpath. The rubble had been previously laid as a new towpath surface by earlier IWA work parties on parts of the path that had subsided. To prevent the embankment at Lock 31 encroaching on the lock landing in the future, a retaining wall of posts was driven into a trench, which was then filled with concrete.

Preparations for Caldon Canal Work Party Tool Storage Shed Begin

Pouring rain on Thursday 8th May meant that the planned work to continue painting the cast iron bridge at Hazelhurst Junction on the Caldon Canal could not take place. As a number of stalwart volunteers from IWA North Staffordshire & South Cheshire Branch and Caldon & Uttoxeter Canals Trust turned up despite the rain and the forecast, two useful alternative activities were found.

Firstly, a litter pick was carried out between Bridge 38 at Denford and Hazelhurst Junction, and along the Leek Arm as far as the aqueduct. A surprising amount of rubbish was found, for such a peaceful rural location, including discarded oil cans and other larger items. Following that a session was held clearing vegetation and preparing some ground for a new storage shed that will be used for the storing of work party tools.

IWA Guildford & Reading Branch Volunteer Helps Guides

Guides at Garston LockPhoto: 1st Wargrave Guides at Garston Lock (photo by 1st Wargrave Guides)

On Sunday 11th May, IWA Guildford & Reading Branch volunteer, Verna Smith, joined a local Guide group to help at their first work part at Garston Lock on the Kennet & Avon Canal.

The Guides have adopted both Sheffield & Garston Locks on the K&A Canal, which are both near Theale. Garston Lock, is one of only two surviving turf-sided locks in Britain. This early lock design was most often used on river navigations in the early 1700s, before the advent of canals. The sides of the turf-lock are sloping so, when full, the lock is quite wide. Consequently, this type of lock needs more water to operate than the now more common brick or stone-sided variety.

The Guides’ first work party since their adoption was spent cleaning, weeding, removing graffiti, putting up bird boxes and painting Garston Lock. Passing boaters were impressed to see the work that was being completed.

Second Wardle Lock Work Party Continues Good Work

Painting at Wardle LockPhoto: Volunteers painting railings at Wardle Lock (photo by Bob Luscombe)

Wednesday 14th May brought a bright sunny day as sixteen willing volunteers gathered for the second Wardle Lock work party in Middlewich. Volunteers from IWA North Staffordshire & South Cheshire and IWA Shrewsbury and North Wales Branches, together with members of the Trent & Mersey Canal Society continued the work started two weeks earlier at their first Wardle Lock work party. The aim of this series of work parties was to work on the lock and surrounding area so that they once again resembled the days when the late Maureen Shaw lived in the former lock cottage acting for many years as unofficial lock keeper.

On this second work party, the lock gates were finished off with a fresh coat of paint and with the use of a CRT work boat, the team were able to make significant impact on the offside vegetation that had become very overgrown over the years restricting navigation below the lock entrance. So much vegetation was removed that the work boat was left full at the end of the day. In addition, volunteers collected and removed over ten bags of rubbish that had been deposited under the road bridge at the junction of the Trent & Mersey Canal and Wardle Canal.

Boaters approaching the locks from the Trent & Mersey at the end of the day commented that it was like arriving at somewhere totally different from what they were used to. A great example of IWA branches working together with both local canal societies and CRT.

Work Party at Falling Sands

Painting at Falling SandsPhoto: Volunteer Chris Osborn painting at Falling Sands

IWA Birmingham, Black Country & Worcestershire Branch's monthly work party on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal on Wednesday 14th May, saw a good turnout of volunteers returning to Falling Sands Lock, just south of Kidderminster, to finish the painting on the footbridge across the tail of the lock. As well as completing the footbridge, one volunteer litter picked along the towpath between Falling Sands Lock and the railway viaduct above Falling Sands Bridge, collecting four bags of litter.

Work Party at Brindley Bank, Rugeley

Painting at RugeleyPhoto Volunteer painting the aqueduct railings at Brindley Bank (photo by Margaret Beardsmore)

On 16th May, fourteen volunteers joined IWA Lichfield Branch’s work party at Brindley Bank on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Rugeley.

CRT’s Barry Keight was there to support the work party with a welfare van, supply truck, cement mixer and the rest of the gear from the branch’s extensive ‘wish list’.

Lots of work was completed over the day. The bricklaying team built the canal wall to within one brick height of the level needed, the aqueduct and ‘Bloody Steps’ railings were painted by a second team, one of the steps which has been wonky for years was straightened, undergrowth was cleared, grass cut and litter picked. At the next work party the volunteers should be ready to complete the wall with blue heritage bricks to match up to the existing heritage wharf, and give the railings a second coat of paint.

As ever there was plenty of home-made cake for the volunteers, one of which, a passing boater, was attending his first work party. Other boaters put the kettle on for the branch and stayed for a chat. The day turned out to be very productive and sociable.

First IWA Work Party at Congleton

First work party at CongletonPhoto: Volunteers at IWA's first Congleton work party (photo by Bob Luscombe)

Friday 23rd May started as a very wet morning and the weather did not look promising for the first IWA work party at Congleton alongside the Macclesfield Canal near Congleton Station. However as the start time approached, the clouds broke and the sun shone through and sixteen volunteers, mainly from the local area turned up to undertake, litter picking, step clearance, cutting back overhanging vegetation on the towpath and other vegetation work around the area.

This was the first work party planned as a new venture between IWA North Staffordshire & South Cheshire Branch, CRT, Congleton Town Council, Congleton Sustainability Group, Cheshire East Council and Northern Rail as part of a broader project to enhance the whole area around Congleton Station and the canal. It is hoped that this will encourage use of the canal as it becomes a more attractive destination for boaters, cyclists and walkers, visiting the local town or using the railway station.

The initiative was originally started up following a meeting with the local MP Fiona Bruce, a local IWA member who presented her ideas to a small group some months ago. IWA North Staffordshire & South Cheshire Branch, working closely with a number of local Town Councillors, responded to the challenge by setting up a first ‘tester’ work party to gauge local interest in such a project and the number of local residents who turned up showed that there was indeed great local support for such an initiative.

At the end of the first work party that focused on clearing the somewhat overgrown steps between the canal and the station and also cutting back overhanging branches along the towpath, the results spoke for themselves.

With endorsement from those volunteers who supported the idea of further work parties, further dates are planned in what is expected to become a new series of regular work parties working along the Macclesfield Canal between Congleton Wharf and Buglawton.

London WRG Volunteers on the Chesterfield Canal

Fourteen volunteers from IWA’s Waterway Recovery Group London Regional group spent two days, from the 31st May -1st June, working on the Chesterfield Canal at Staveley. The aim of the weekend was to build part of a retaining wall, on the section of canal below the Staveley Town Lock using concrete blocks. Volunteers laid over 100 blocks during the weekend as well as adding brickwork sections for drainage. The dig was a great opportunity for London WRG’s experienced volunteers to refresh their bricklaying skills whilst other volunteers got the chance to learn new skills.

London WRG volunteers also assisted Chesterfield Canal Trust with earthworks, using excavators and dumpers to create a path over the bund in preparation for the Chesterfield Canal Festival on the 28th and 29th June.

The camp was led by George Rogers who has been selected as one of thirty Volunteer Ambassadors for Volunteers’ Week, which runs from 1st – 7th June.

See more photos from the weekend.

In addition to the work of these branches IWA Ipswich Branch continues to support River Gipping Trust, IWA Chester & Merseyside Branch continued work along the Dee Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal ahead of the IWA Campaign Festival, and IWA Northampton Branch continues with its improvements of its adopted Northampton Arm of the Grand Union Canal.

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