Wendy Humphreys - Volunteer of the Month
Wendy Humphreys has been volunteering with IWA since the mid 1980s, joining the Association after she and her husband Derek started going on canal holidays and visiting waterway festivals. With a wealth of volunteering experience, Wendy is now Chairman of IWA Lancashire & Cumbria Branch and organises social meetings. Previously she was treasurer of the branch for over 20 years and has had a brief stint as editor of the branch magazine...
How did you first become interested in inland waterways?
I was born in Hull which doesn’t have canals! I was familiar with deep drainage ditches but we were told to keep away from them. There are also docks in Hull as well as the river and estuary. As a child I remember journeys on the ferry from Hull to the other side of the Humber but apart from that as children we didn’t go to the dock areas, they were more or less out of bounds, unlike now when a lot of them are a tourist feature of the city. That was in spite of a lot of my family working on the docks or in the fishing industry.
So my first encounter with a canal was when I lived in Radcliffe and the canal towing path was a good place to walk the dog. The canal was tranquil and a few minutes away from the bustle of the town. I suppose that is when I first became interested.
What is your favourite waterway?
Difficult question, there are so many, I suppose if pushed I would have to say the Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal, as it was my 'first' canal, closely followed by the Lancaster with its many contrasts and the Northern Reaches , desperate to be re-watered and the Leeds & Liverpool more or less on my doorstep now.
How and when did you get involved in volunteering?
This was in the middle eighties, my husband and I started getting involved with doing more on the canals, we started to have holidays on the canals and to go to festivals and then we joined IWA. My husband was more involved than me in the IWA and the Ribble Link Trust and I went along to keep him company and then he said I had accounting/financial experience and I was asked to help out with the accounts.
What do you do as an IWA volunteer?
Lots of things! I was the treasurer of our branch for over 20 years but had to give it up when I became chairman. I had a brief stint doing the branch magazine and now as well as being chairman I organise the social meetings. Now I am retired I have more time for IWA and I get involved in going to meetings, communicating with people and promoting inland waterways as much as I can. I help out at festivals and have been 'finance manager' for a number of events. I have been on work parties and Balsam Bashing. I also represent the branch on the Lancaster Canal Restoration Partnership and on the Lancaster Canal Trust.
What do you enjoy about volunteering?
Well I certainly enjoy being near canals, I enjoy seeing children learning about the waterways and I enjoy the idea that I might be making a small difference in promoting inland waterways and the IWA.
As the branch chairman of an active branch it would be interesting to know what you feel the most important role is of an IWA branch within the wider Association?
I think the most important role is in helping the activities of IWA stay locally as well as nationally focussed. The branches keep people involved at a local level and at the same time support IWA in its national campaigning. Without the branches I don’t think IWA would have such a strong campaigning lobbying voice and would not be heard as well where it matters.
There are one or two IWA branches which cover a very large area with a broad mix of waterway types. Your branch is one such example. How do you manage to keep up to date and on top of all the different campaigns and activities underway across your branch waterways?
Well it certainly isn’t easy, you are correct the Lancs & Cumbria Branch covers a large area and it is not always easy to keep in touch with members, the internet helps of course and I try to send emails to our members, (via HO), whenever there is something to say of importance or an event going on. That said only just over 50% of branch members have given their email address, I wish more would. We also have the branch magazine which helps keep members in touch with what we are doing. As far as keeping in touch with campaigns and activities then we only know what we know and we try to keep up to date with what we know and get involved where we can. For anything else we are reliant on our members who keep us informed and HO of course which alerts us to some things. I wish we could do more but for that we need more active members in the branch.
You will have heard of the Capercaillie hire boat announcement a few weeks ago and the changes being proposed to the Falkirk Wheel? Have you ever boated through the Falkirk Wheel? If so, what was it like? Were you travelling in a hire boat?
The announcement was very disappointing and at this stage we don’t really know if their plans will be carried out. I can still remember the huge excitement when the Falkirk Wheel was opened and it feels so wrong that these changes are being made. I have been on the Falkirk Wheel only on one occasion. That was many years ago when the branch organised a trip to Falkirk and a number of us went there and stayed a couple of nights. We were welcomed by the Forth and Clyde Canal Society and had a trip on the wheel and a cruise on the trip boat. It is a magnificent piece of engineering and I hope to arrange another trip on it for the branch before too much longer.
How is the branch currently involved in the Lancaster Canal Partnership and what are your future plans?
The Branch has had a long association with the Partnership and a keen interest in the Lancaster Canal and the Northern Reaches. Over the years the branch has held many events there and raised money towards the restoration. We have always sent a representative to the partnership meetings and I have been attending for the last couple of years. In that period I have seen the partnership become more active, especially since a project officer has been employed. It’s not going to be easy in this financial climate and there are a lot of obstacles and storm Desmond didn’t help with the damage it caused to Stainton Aqueduct. But I sense a real sense of enthusiasm, determination and hope for the restoration. Future plans include working for and promoting the restoration of the Northern Reaches for all users of the canal, the immediate short term goal is to open a Tow Path Trail from Kendal to Natland and work on that is well underway.
What is your proudest IWA moment?
This was when I received the Richard Bird medal at the AGM last year. I had no idea that I had been nominated so it was a huge surprise and I was very proud to be presented with the medal.
Find out more about volunteering with IWA or search our volunteer directory.
Sign up for email updates
Keep up to date with all the latest waterways news.
We will never share your email address with anyone else and you can update your subscription preferences at any time.