November 2014 Work Parties

Created on 22/12/2014

November was a busy month for IWA and Waterway Recovery Group (WRG) Volunteers. Lots of big events happened including big canal clean-ups in Warwick, London and Bournville, as well as WRG’s annual reunion on the Chesterfield Canal and IWA Lichfield Branch’s week of work parties! In addition, Branch’s also held their regular work parties and it appears few volunteers were put off by wet weather as many enjoyed great support. Take a look at what everyone got up to.

IWA Chester & Merseyside Branch Out Twice in November

Photo (top): IWA Chester & Merseyside work party, Cow Lane Bridge, Shropshire Union Canal, 8th November 2014

On Saturday 1st November, volunteers with IWA Chester & Merseyside Branch were at Tower Wharf on the Shropshire Union Canal for the Branch’s regular work party. The group was busy and cleared weeds and vegetation from the Turnover Bridge and around the Graving Lock, as well as taking time to plant spring bulbs at Northgate Locks. Work parties have proved a huge success for the Branch and it again squeezed in an extra date this month and on Saturday 8th November, completed a much needed litter pick at Cow Lane Bridge.

Over 80 Volunteers at Canal Clean-up in Warwick

Photo: Rubbish collected from the Grand Union Canal on the IWA Warwickshire Branch clean-up

Despite the damp conditions on 2nd November, over 80 volunteers turned out to clean the stretch of the Grand Union Canal between Emscote Road and Wedgenock Lane, Warwick.

Organised by IWA Warwickshire Branch, with the active support of CRT, the event saw many tons of abandoned ironmongery dragged from the canal using grappling hooks. The predominant items retrieved from the canal were bicycles and shopping trolleys, but also retrieved were three motorcycles, lengths of carpet, electronic equipment and a safe.

For those wanting a less strenuous task, litter pickers and black bags were supplied. The recent strimming of the vegetation adjoining the towpath had exposed numerous plastic bottles and cans. These were gathered up and loaded onto the hopper boat driven by Steve Lambert, CRT Volunteer Leader.

IWA Warwickshire Branch would like to thank the students from Warwick University, the Army cadets who had travelled from Stourport, plus the local residents and families that gave their assistance to IWA branch members. The next IWA organised canal clean-up with be in Leamington Old Town on 1st March 2015. If you would like to help or would like details of other similar events please email info.warwickshire@waterways.org.uk.

IWA Lichfield Branch's Week of Work Parties

Photo: Margaret Beardsmore opens re-surfaced towpathPhoto: Margaret Beardsmore opens re-surfaced towpath

Local Volunteers helped IWA Lichfield Branch to lay a complete new towpath in Rugeley during the week of 10th to 14th November. CRT kindly provided the equipment and materials.

The new towpath runs between Brindley Bank Aqueduct on the Trent & Mersey Canal, as far as the Rugeley Bypass Bridge on the Canal – some 200 metres. This is part of a popular circular walk for Rugeley residents, but previously became very muddy during the winter months.

A total of twenty-seven volunteers put in 340 hours labour, sometimes in appalling wet weather. Some came for the week, some for a day or two, some fitted in hours between paid work or babysitting, but everyone worked extremely hard to get the task finished.

The new towpath has now been lined, and one layer of aggregate has been laid and compacted. The final layer will be installed in early Spring, when hopefully the weather is better.

100 Volunteers in the Chesterfield Canal

On the 8th-9th November, IWA's Waterway Recovery Group (WRG) held its Annual Reunion Weekend on the Chesterfield Canal. Despite the inclement weather, over ninety WRG volunteers from across the country, joined by volunteers from the Chesterfield Canal Trust and students from Chesterfield College, carried out major vegetation clearance along the line of the Canal at Renishaw, Spinkhill and on the Norbriggs Cutting.

Using chainsaws, brush cutters, bow saws, tirfors, along with some brute force and determination, volunteers removed trees, stumps and brambles from the canalbed and tow path. A small group of volunteers also worked at Staveley Town Lock, back filling a block wall with concrete.

It is hoped that this work will play an important part in helping the Trust show how much support there is on the ground for the restoration project as plans for the continued restoration are under threat from HS2 High Speed Railway – Phase 2.

The current route shows the track running on or close to the line of the Canal for much of the way from Staveley to Killamarsh. This would make it far more difficult and expensive to restore the Canal. The uncertainty behind the HS2 route and its effect on the restoration project has already resulted in the loss of Heritage Lottery Funding.

November on the Northampton Arm

On Sunday 9th November, IWA Northampton Branch’s work party at Gayton Junction Yard was attended by seven volunteers, all there to carry out the next phase of work on the Northampton Arm of the Grand Union Canal. The weather was ideal for the planned task – painting Lock 9. Under the guidance of volunteer Mick Butler, the group managed to not only achieve this, but to also paint the top gate of Lock 10. The Branch has now painted about three quarters of the 17 locks on the Northampton Arm.

The second IWA Northampton Branch work party of the month on Tuesday 25th November, was attended by twelve volunteers ready to undertake a variety of tasks. Roger Hasdell and Roger O’Dea spent their time on a search for the four mile posts that are down the arm. The discovery was that one cannot be accessed because of a towpath closure, one is half buried by Lock 15, one is completely buried by Lock 14 and needs to be located, the last one is accessible.

The rest of the group concentrated on work around Lock 17, where they litter picked the area up to the B&Q Bridge 16 and yielded eleven bags of rubbish, a large cushion, a tyre and a shopping trolley. The volunteers also opened up a view through the trees from the bottom gates of Lock 17 to the Environment Agency strong stream notice on the opposite side of the river bank. This was in response to concerns that the first time boaters would see this important sign was when they left the lock and were already on the river.

Rain Does Not Hinder Wolverley Work Party

Five volunteers were at IWA Birmingham, Black Country & Worcestershire Branch’s regular monthly work party on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal on the 12th November, in spite of forecasts of rain that put painting lock gates off the agenda. Volunteers still managed to spend a couple of hours litter picking and the group collected five full bags with plans for the cans to be recycled.

IWA North Staffordshire & South Cheshire Branch Work Party Moves to Leek Tunnel

Photo: Work party at Leek Tunnel on the Caldon Canal (photo by Alison Smedley)Photo: Work party at Leek Tunnel on the Caldon Canal (photo by Alison Smedley)

The joint IWA North Staffordshire & South Cheshire Branch and Caldon & Uttoxeter Canals Trust work party on Thursday 13th November took place at a new location, Leek Tunnel on the Leek Arm of the Caldon Canal. The volunteers spent the day clearing overhanging vegetation from the route that takes the towpath over the tunnel, as well as clearing grass and weeds from a section of cobbled towpath by the west portal of the tunnel and litter picking the area.

Report on Cheshire Locks Work Party, Saturday 15th November

Saturday, 15th November saw eight volunteers meet for the final Cheshire Locks work party of 2014 with IWA North Staffordshire & South Cheshire Branch and Trent & Mersey Canal Society. The group met at Lock 62 at Malkins Bank, Sandbach on the Trent & Mersey Canal to continue work started in previous months on this set of locks.

Although damp weather meant that painting of the wooden lock gates was not possible, there were a large amount of metal railings in fairly poor state. After some intensive rubbing down preparation, fresh paint was added and the results really transformed the lock area to a set of locks that hopefully everyone using the Canal and towpath will now admire and enjoy. In addition, long covered and somewhat slippery cobble setts were cleared of vegetation and restored to something like their former glory.

This work party marked the end of over two years of work party activity on the Cheshire Lock flight by volunteers from IWA North Staffs & South Cheshire and The Trent & Mersey Canal Society and the overall impact of the work is plain to see when one travels up or down the flight.

In January 2015, the volunteers start a new year of work party’s on the Cheshire locks flight and all the volunteers are looking forward to continuing to transform a much loved and well used section of our waterways.

IWA Manchester Branch November Report

In November, IWA Manchester Branch volunteers enjoyed a near perfect work party on the Rochdale Canal in Newton Heath. Eight volunteers came together and successfully filled 68 bags of rubbish. The weather was very kind and the words of appreciation from the passing public were the talking point of the day. One other striking point was the amenable attitude of the CRT van driver who was totally unabashed to be asked to stuff his van full of rubbish bags. Even more so, when the Branch realised he had only called to check Lock 74 sluices! Three of the volunteers were new to the group and had a pleasant initiation to the many possibilities of volunteering, marking the event as a very successful day!

Volunteers Venture to Bottom of Regent’s Canal

Photo: Volunteers unearth a safe in the Regent's CanalPhoto: Volunteers unearth a safe in the Regent's Canal

Volunteers with IWA London Region took the chance to participate in an IWA canal clean-up in the dewatered Regent’s Canal on Saturday 22nd November.

CRT had recently drained a mile of the Regent’s Canal, close to Limehouse Basin, to carry out major works. IWA was able to collaborate with CRT and organise a work party to make the most of the improved access to the canalbed that enabled volunteers to more easily locate and remove rubbish that is often hidden underwater.

Around thirty volunteers from the London area, some from as far afield as Chelmsford, came together and managed to clear two sites close to Commercial Road Lock. Navigating sticky mud and uneven ground the group found and removed various items, including a safe, a motorbike, numerous tyres and a suitcase, that could potentially make navigation of the Canal difficult for boaters.

Throughout the day the volunteers were visited by various members of CRT staff including CEO Richard Parry and the CRT media team. Members of the public also stopped for a chat and to praise the excellent work that the volunteers had achieved.

This was a great opportunity for those involved who all had fun and through their hard work made a real difference to the waterway environment. It is hoped that more waterway events will take place in London next year. 

Successful Weekend at Bournville

Photo: Volunteers taking part in Bournville canal clean-up (photo by David Struckett)Photo: Volunteers taking part in Bournville canal clean-up (photo by David Struckett)

Over the 22nd-23rd November IWA Birmingham, Black Country & Worcestershire Branch was joined by members of Worcester, Birmingham and Droitwich Canal Society as well as some new to volunteering on the Worcester & Birmingham Canalfor a big clean-up.

Over twenty people assembled on the Saturday, and cleared the Canal to the north of rubbish and various objects, and to the south past Bournville Station. On the Sunday, another ten people worked further south, removing mainly industrial rubbish as well as some clothes and plastic guttering. Rubber tyres of a wide range of sizes were removed, and the grappling hooks also found a couple of machines, bikes, shopping trolleys, and various pieces of 'road furniture' including barriers, concrete blocks and drain covers.  

The weather was not too bad in the end with only a couple of showers on the Saturday morning, clearing away in the afternoon, and none on the Sunday. Overall, it was a successful clean-up and a chance to welcome several newcomers to canal work parties, all of whom enjoyed their day.

IWA West Country Branch Joined by Lloyd's Bank Employees

Photo: Volunteers from Lloyd's BankPhoto: Volunteers from Lloyd's Bank

IWA West Country Branch was out twice in November, firstly on Wednesday 19th at Bridgwater Docks on the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal to carry out a variety of tasks. A good number of volunteers turned out including employees from the Bridgwater & Taunton Branches of Lloyd’s Bank.

With such good support it was possible to split up and carry out work at four different locations along the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal. Tasks included vegetation cutting, litter picking the towpaths and footpaths, painting some of the dockside equipment and planting flower bulbs on a site adjacent to the canal towpath. The bulbs were planted on behalf of the Bridgwater Town Council and the location chosen by local residents, through a poll of potential sites.

The volunteers also managed to clear accumulated rubbish from the canal including two shopping trolleys, which belonged to the near by supermarket, traffic cones and a pushchair.

The second work party was on 29th November when CRT staff started the session with some training and instruction in the use of power tools. The volunteers then proceeded to carry out a deep cut of the excess vegetation along the towpath from Newtown Lock towards the Victoria Road Bridge on the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal. This team was followed by a group with secateurs who trimmed the Hawthorn trees. It was thought best to do this by hand to avoid loss of the red berries that birds and other wildlife feed on over winter.


As well as these busy Branches, IWA Ipswich Branch continued to support River Gipping Trust and IWA North Staffordshire & South Cheshire Branch held its monthly work party at Congleton.

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.

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