Volunteers Helping Others

Created on 04/06/2015

It’s Volunteers Week and we’d like to say thank you to all volunteers whether they are out on the waterways improving and restoring them, members of committees organising campaigns and events or at Head Office lending a hand. All their hard work is really important in helping to keep our waterways alive! Our volunteers use their expertise and experience to help other groups as well. Take a look at our two stories below to find out how working with other volunteer groups has had great outcomes for all involved.

WRG and Cotswold Canals Trust

Work nearing completion at Bowbridge Lock on the Cotswold CanalsPhoto: Work nearing completion at Bowbridge Lock on the Cotswold Canals

IWA's Waterway Recovery Group holds Canal Camps around the country every summer and its regional groups carry out restoration work parties at weekends. The work undertaken by WRG volunteers is usually part of projects being led by local waterway restoration groups that welcome the expertise WRG can offer.

Cotswold Canals Trust is one such group that WRG has supported for a number of years. Dave Marshall, the Canal Project Manager at Stroud District Council, explains how the Trust’s relationship with WRG has benefitted the restoration of the Cotswold Canals:

“It is fair to say that without WRG, our project would struggle! To us, WRG has two main strengths – the ability to do a lot of work in a short time and the ability to do specialised tasks. Coupled with a ‘can do’ attitude and a high degree of professionalism, this makes them invaluable. One weekend of WRG work enables our own volunteers to carry on for a few more weeks. We regard WRG as part of ‘Team Cotswold’ – our grateful thanks and long may it continue!”

It’s not just the Trust that benefits from the relationship as WRG volunteers are always keen to have sites to visit so that they can develop and learn new skills, as well as embracing the opportunity to work with other volunteers that share their passion for waterways restoration. Through partnerships like this, the restoration of waterways is more achievable, an important factor considering the benefits a restored waterway can bring to its locality.

Inspired to get involved? WRG Canal Camps are open to those aged 18-70 regardless of experience, find out more.

Churnet Valley Living Landscape Partnership

IWA North Staffordshire & South Cheshire Branch Himalayan Balsam Work Party, Caldon CanalPhoto: IWA North Staffordshire & South Cheshire Branch Himalayan Balsam Work Party, Caldon Canal

Local IWA branches work with other organisations across the country to make the most of opportunities to improve the waterways. Perhaps one of the biggest collaborations a branch is currently involved in is the Churnet Valley Living Landscape Partnership (CVLLP). IWA North Staffordshire & South Cheshire Branch is a partner in this Heritage Lottery Funded project, which covers an area of approximately 200 square miles of North Staffordshire. The project runs until 2016 and involves twenty partners from the private, public and voluntary sectors with the overarching objective to conserve the heritage of the valley, working with the local community to help them engage, appreciate and protect where they live.  

Helen Anderson, Participation Officer for the project, explains how the Partnership has benefitted from IWA’s input:

“The project activities in the CVLLP include addressing threats posed by erosion, invasive species, loss of habitat, footpath disrepair and lack of maintenance of built heritage. The local IWA volunteers have been invaluable in achieving all of these activities. Volunteers led by IWA, with numerous work parties, over many hours have cleared stretches of Himalayan Balsam from the canal system running through the area - especially in specific locations on the arms of the Caldon. Volunteers have also helped in work we have done on improving the canal towpaths and access footpaths onto the system. The local IWA volunteers are valuable members of the partnership and are always ready to assist in helping to publicise the partnership and its activities especially at local events and shows.”

Benefits are felt by all partners who can pool resources and call on each other’s experiences to tackle big projects, which could take much longer to achieve by a single group or may even prove unfeasible. For instance, being a part of the Partnership has really helped IWA’s national campaign against the invasive species Himalayan Balsam. Tackling the plant is a big project and extra help is always welcomed. As Helen says “The practicalities of working together have seen the sharing of equipment, knowledge and above all enthusiasm…” which undoubtedly helps achieve more.

Interested in getting involved with IWA North Staffordshire & South Cheshire Branch? It holds a number of monthly work parties at Congleton on the Macclesfield Canal, the Cheshire Locks on the Trent & Mersey Canal, on the Burslem Branch Canal and on the Uttoxeter Canal. Volunteers with the Branch also carry out work on the Caldon Canal. Find out more about the Branch work parties and how to get involved or look at IWA’s calendar to find a work party near you.

So once again, thank you to all IWA and WRG volunteers this Volunteers Week but also to the volunteer groups we work with across England and Wales, all with the common aim of restoring, maintaining and improving our waterways.

Thank you to Dave Marshall and Helen Anderson for their input in this blog.
Photo (top): Volunteer at Bowbridge Lock (photo by Bob Coles)