We are IWA Chester & Merseyside Branch which reflects the wide area that we cover, from the Wirral, across to Middlewich, up to the Bridgewater Canal in the north and much of Merseyside including the Leeds & Liverpool, south of Lydiate and the Liverpool Link.
Throughout the year branch members raise funds for the waterways through lockwinds, rallies and local events supported by our superb Branch Sales stand. We also organise waterway clean-ups, work parties and educational events.
We actively support waterways heritage projects and our festivals are designed to raise awareness about the waterways in a particular area. We also raise funds and show civic leaders how a vibrant waterway can boost the local economy.
For details of Work Parties and Waterways Walks please see the appropriate pages.
The Holiday Inn has been a great venue in recent years but commercial pressures on their pricing mean that the Waterways Museum are now able to offer us more competitive terms - so we look forward to seeing you at our first meeting on the 9th October when Derek & Jeanne Smith will be telling us all about their trailboating with their Wilderness boat "Olive". For full details see the Social Events page.
Just a year ago the Branch lost one of our most active and passionate waterway supporters when Mike Carter died (see below). Your Branch Committee was delighted when IWA Head Office awarded a Richard Bird medal to the Carters at the last AGM in September 2017. This was recently presented, at a private ceremony, to Christine by Alan Platt, the previous IWA North West Region Chairman. If ever a medal was well deserved - it has to be this one!
Your committee was deeply shocked and saddened to hear that Dave Smallshaw had died suddenly on the 20 December. Dave had joined the IWA Chester & Merseyside branch committee after the two branches merged and had proved himself to be an invaluable member. He was also a member of the IWA North West Region Committee and 18 months ago accepted a position on the CRT North West Partnership Committee.
Dave had joined the Sankey Canal restoration group in the mid 1990's, becoming a regular on the monthly work parties and also helping on the Sales & Exhibition stand at the various events the group attended. Later he was elected to the SCARS Executive Committee and took over as Chairman about 8 years ago. Dave was also a keen walker and belonged to the Towpath Action Group.
Dave's considerable knowledge and expertise on the waterways in the North West was put to good use during our Festival at Eldonian in 2016 when he gave presentations on the history of the L&L as well as leading walks for visiting boaters along the old canal route into the heart of Liverpool. His walk details were also printed in the Souvenir Programme.
Above all else, Dave was a gentleman. Always cheerful, kind and unfailingly helpful, he will be very sadly missed by all his waterways colleagues. We send our heartfelt condolences to all his family.
Your committee were also saddened to hear about the death of Ann Brown in February. Ann had been Sales Officer for many years and along with her husband, Peter, she had been a stalwart member of the branch, working tirelessly at our rallies and lock winds. They had both stepped down from branch committee duties some years ago, due to ill health, but had managed to attend some social meetings before it became too much for them. Ann was a lovely lady, always welcoming and wanting to help. She had been a devoted member of the Girl Guide movement as well, rising to a high level in the local area whilst both Ann and Peter had also been committed members of their local church. A life given over in service to others. Several members of Chester Branch attended the funeral and gave our condolences to Peter and the family.
At a prestigious ceremony in Birmingham on 27th September, the Branch was awarded the Living Waterways Award (for Community and Volunteering) for organising our Campaign Festival in Liverpool in 2016. As members know, the event celebrated the bi-centenary of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal as well as successfully campaigning to increase the numbers of boats able to use the Liverpool Link. Our Chairman, Jim Forkin - accompanied by his wife Helen - and our Treasurer, Jim Mole, attended the dinner in Birmingham and went up on stage to receive the Award. George Evans, Chief Executive of the Eldonian Housing Association, also attended the event.
The Living Waterways Awards are managed by the Canal & River Trust to celebrate the achievements of those groups working to highlight the benefits of canals and rivers.
The dinner on the Daniel Adamson on September 20th was very well attended and thoroughly enjoyed by all those taking part. During the evening our Chairman, Jim Forkin, was able to announce that the long awaited Tidal Gauge has now been installed on the River Lock in Chester. Those who attended the Festival in Chester in 2014 will know that monies were donated at the time by groups including the Historic Narrow Boat Owner's Club to pay for a gauge to be installed. The gauge itself was manufactured over two years ago and has been awaiting installation by EA/CRT since that time. However, success at last!
We are delighted to report that Derek & Jeanne Smith have kindly offered to lead some waterways walks in the near future. The next one takes place on Thursday, 19 October so please see our Walks page for the full details.
We are delighted to report that Mike Carter - through his wife Christine - was awarded a Richard Bird medal at the National AGM on Saturday, 30 September. Mike's volunteering efforts were second to none and we are delighted that this sterling work along with Christine's support has been recognised.
Mike died on 22 February 2017 in St John's Hospice on the Wirral. Many members will know that he had been ill for some time but continued working on waterways matters until very recently. Mike has been a huge influence on the local waterways scene and in particular on the Merseyside area, fronting the Eldonian Village Festival in June last year and making a big difference to the canal environment there with his frequent work parties. He has also worked tirelessly for the Region and his knowledge and passion for all things canal-related will be very sadly missed.
Mike was, of course, the prime mover in engaging with the Eldonian Housing Association, leading to the branch taking our 2016 Canal Festival to Liverpool. Working with the Eldonian community and engaging with other local groups ensured that the Festival was a huge success with many locals telling us that it was the best thing that had ever happened there. We are delighted that the Eldonian Village group were so pleased with the Festival that they held their own event on 1 July 2017.
We are saddened to report the death of Paul Mills, a long time waterways supporter and incredibly hard worker. We first met Paul in the 1990's and helped put in mooring rings on the Shropshire Union Canal. Paul had taken on the role of fundraising officer for the society and raised thousands through his innovate approaches to obtaining goods for the legendary sales stand which used to appear at lock winds and other events!
He then moved on to organising work parties - later called the Small Tasks Team - for CRT. Some of the tasks he organised were far from small however and their most recent success was a whole stretch of towpath at the top of the Hurleston Locks including refurbishing the water taps and mooring rings.
Paul was a strong character, not afraid to speak his mind and tell the powers that be what they should be doing, but he made a huge difference to the SUC and brought many people along with him into his waterways activities. He had been ill for some considerable time but still continued with his work for his waterway projects and will be sadly missed. We send our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Irene and their two sons.
IWA is campaigning for the Bridgewater Canal over various issues which threaten its continued use by boats. Read the latest on the Bridgewater Canal.
Our National Campaign Festival in June 2016 at Eldonian was awarded the CRT North West Partnership Chair's special AWARD at a glittering ceremony in Blackburn last night (19 October 2016). The Award was one of several that were created to celebrate the Bicentenary of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal.
During this Bicentenary year various events have been held along the Canal to celebrate the success of this amazing waterway during its history - in its early days bringing prosperity to both Leeds and Liverpool and many of the villages and towns along its length and later becoming a major leisure resource. Our Festival at Eldonian Village was one of the first events to take place. IWA also awarded us National Campaign Status due to the partnerships that were being created to bring the event into being.
The branch was then invited to attend the Awards Ceremony in Blackburn - having being advised that we had been nominated in two categories.
Evening suits were required for a "fun and entertaining evening that included a drinks reception, dinner, music, costumed characters, Awards, silent auction, displays and an opportunity to network" (according to the ticket.) Jim Mole, Branch Treasurer and Peter Bolt attended on behalf of the branch and were delighted to be called up to receive the special award from the Chairman of the CRT North West Partnership (see picture below, courtesy of Julie Turner, Liverpool Culture).
Les Dundon, a CRT work party organiser who worked tirelessly with our volunteers to tidy up the site before the event also received Volunteer of the Year Award. So a great end to a busy year.
Thousands turned out to join us for our Eldonian Village Canal Festival (June 11 & 12) which proved to be one of our best community events ever. Over 80 visiting boats joined us including three historic Leeds & Liverpool workboats - Kennet (who has just been given a Historic Ships Award), Ambush and Ribble so the moorings were a fantastic spectacle with the bunting, flowers and brightly polished brasswork.
Our Festival had been given the title of IWA's National Campaign Festival 2016 as we had several significant aims when we began the planning: the first was to encourage CRT to increase the numbers of boats which could travel down the link into Liverpool. They have now doubled the numbers! The second was to improve the towpath and canal environment leading down into the city and with many volunteer work parties beforehand, the canal had never looked so good. The third was to engage with the local community and foster positive attitudes towards 'their' canal and the amazing asset they have right on their doorstep. From the responses we had during the weekend, we achieved this aim as well. For the full report on the Festival click here.
Since the festival, the legacy continues in that Tony McGann, of the Eldonian Housing Association, is now funding canoeing sessions this summer for the local children to keep their interest in their local waterways alive. A great result.
At an Awards Ceremony, held at the Anderton Lift on Tuesday 12 April, Mike Carter, Branch Vice Chairman and NW Region Chairman, and Derek Smith, Branch Member, received Volunteering awards from Richard Parry, CEO of the Canal & River Trust.
Derek received a Bronze for his work on identifying accessible launching places throughout the North Wales & Borders CRT region, including taking all the necessary measurements, depths and associated sites for launching canoes. Mike's was for the work parties he has organised in Chester and presumably another will be following for all the work done in the Liverpool area during our preparations for the Eldonian Village Canal Festival in June.
Very well done to both of them.
The Sankey Canal is a restoration project in the Chester & Merseyside Branch area with its own Restoration Society. The canal is 17 miles in length and largely owned by Halton, Warrington and St Helens unitary authorities, with small parts owned by Canal & River Trust and Pilkington plc.
Although its construction was authorised by Act of Parliament as a river-navigation, the Sankey Canal was constructed as an entirely new channel, opening in 1757 and therefore predating the Bridgewater Canal - making it the first ‘modern’ canal built in England. The Sankey Canal Restoration Society has undertaken isolated projects on the Canal, including the restoration of a double lock on the outskirts of St Helens and continues to carry out occasional maintenance work on the Canal, to keep-up its appearance and to reveal and interpret lost evidence of its infrastructure, such as the locks and associated cottages.
A fantastic new project, collectively promoted by Halton, Warrington and the Sankey Canal Society aims to open the southerly part of the canal to navigation by linking the sea lock at Widnes to the other river access at Fidler’s Ferry. At the same time this will improve the environment for all canal users by the addition of new pathways, educational and recreational centres at both lock sites.
Three new moveable bridges and a refurbished sea lock at Widnes are part of this project which is on going.
On Tuesday, 13 October, our Branch Chairman, Peter Bolt, presented a cheque for £500 to Jim Brett, Chairman of "The Pride of Sefton" community boat group.
The boat is probably now best known for carrying HM The Queen and Princes Philip and Charles on their trip to Burnley in 2012, but she also featured in John Sergeant's recent programme "Barging round Britain" when he travelled down the Leeds & Liverpool into Liverpool Docks, passing the old Liverpool Echo building where he had been a young reporter.
In between these excitements, The Pride of Sefton carries groups and school children up and down the canal, enabling them to Get Afloat and experience the waterways at first hand.
As IWA Chester & Merseyside branch - we will be holding our 2016 Eldonian Canal Festival on the Leeds & Liverpool at Eldonian Village so The Pride of Sefton will be playing a big role in the festivities. It seemed only fair then that we should make a contribution to her annual maintenance costs!
The picture below shows Peter Bolt presenting the cheque to Jim Brett, Chair of the Pride of Sefton group.
The first Regatta was held in 2014 and proved to be a huge success, due to the River Weaver Navigation Society (RWNS) working in close partnership with Winsford Town Council who ensured that access into Winsford Bottom Flash was improved whilst also creating better moorings for visiting boaters. Since last year, recognising the value of their riverside location as a great potential boating destination, the Council have spent a further £40,000 on improvements to the moorings and the installation of a water point.
To help the Society promote local waterways issues to key personnel at the Regatta, the branch decided to donate £500 towards promotional activities run by the Society during the event.
John Tackley, Chairman of the RWNS said “With the new mooring pontoons we wish to establish Winsford as a boating destination in its own right. Our long term aim is to promote a connection from the upper Weaver to the Middlewich Branch and this project is gaining momentum. In thanking the IWA I feel that their welcome donation will be helping us to achieve our aims.”
Mike Carter, Vice Chairman of the Branch, presented the cheque and - on behalf of all the members - wished the Society a successful Regatta weekend.
A good crowd gathered at Eldonian Village for this annual get-together and the morning opened with a quick pictorial review of things that had happened around our Region in 2014. Then Mike Carter threw in "controversial" topics for discussion - things like canal services, towpath sharing and continuous cruisers! Following some lively moments, the Region Awards were presented with the Kenwin Trophy being given to David Smith of East Lancs & Cumbria Branch. Audrey & David joined the IWA in 1970 and he has been a tireless worker and supporter of the waterways since then. The Region's Tetlow Trophy went to the Small Tasks Team Volunteers, organised by Maurice Ward and Paul Mills. The team have undertaken many projects to improve our Region, notably the water points at Hurleston and elsewhere and their competence has resulted in their being asked to improve the towpath there too! The team is another worthy recipient.
Following an excellent lunch provided by the Eldonian catering team, Dave Smallshaw gave a short pictorial presentation of the history of the Leeds & Liverpool, Liverpool section. This was fascinating and he then led a walk down Stanley locks and through onto the Dock Road, pointing out the historical features. All in all an excellent day was had by all.
At our Branch AGM on 10 March we were delighted to donate funds towards a team that is making a real difference to our local waterways. The Small Tasks Team - started by Paul Mills - works on specific projects, using the engineering skills of his team of volunteers. One excellent example is the work done by the team at the water points above Hurleston Locks. As many users will know, to fill up with water inevitably meant standing in deep muddy puddles, some of which invariably ended up back on the boat! A generally quite unpleasant experience. However, the Small Tasks Team recognised the need and have totally transformed the area, putting in proper drainage and sets around the water points. They will also be relaying the towpath in the area in the near future. The team also did extra moorings in Northwich for our Rally there in 2012, have improved the amenities at Barbridge Junction and undertaken many other tasks.
Peter Bolt welcomed Paul Mills to the branch meeting and was delighted to present him with a cheque for £200 which will be used towards much needed equipment. An indication of how popular the team has become was shown when Paul told the meeting that 24 volunteers had signed up for the next project!! A real achievement.
Following our National Campaign Festival in Chester last June, we discussed what kind of legacy we could leave and the idea of installing a tidal river level gauge was agreed. This would help craft to navigate safely when travelling to the upper reaches of the River Dee, beyond the weir at Chester.
After discussion with CRT the first step was to locate a "waypoint" on the side of the River lock to help us accurately calibrate the gauge. Thanks to the services of L P Archaeology of Chester this has now been installed (the picture shows the preparation work needed).
We will shortly be manufacturing the gauge itself and our Chester work party group will be preparing the lock wall and surrounds prior to installation. All the markings will be AOD (above ordnance datum). This will be our first steps towards achieving safe navigation to the upper reaches of the Dee throughout the cruising season. (For more information contact Peter Bolt, Chairman of IWA Chester & Merseyside Branch, firstname.lastname@example.org)
At IWA's Annual General Meeting in Leek on Saturday, 27 September, Chester & Merseyside Branch were presented with the BRANCH ACHIEVEMENT AWARD 2014 for our Campaign Festival in Chester during June. The Festival was described by Les Etheridge, IWA's National Chairman, as "an ideal example of what a Campaign Festival should be" describing how we engaged with all the local politicians, attracted a large number of visiting boats and made a big feature of the campaign to get the River Lock onto the Dee operational again and incorporate a lock into the old mill race at the end of the Chester Weir.
Our colleagues on the Sankey Canal have been working hard applying for grants and Ineos Chlor contributed £11,424 for four interpretation panels at Spike Island. The panels have now been installed (see pictures in the right hand column) and as there was some funding left over, this has been used to produce a leaflet about the history of the area. A really good result but there's even more.
The Coastal Communities Fund has awarded a grant of £654,000 for the Fiddlers Ferry area, of which £375,000 is for a new electrically operated lift bridge. Work is expected to start in October whilst another bid to WREN has resulted in £32,450 being made available for the restoration of the lock gates, cill ground paddles and desilting of the lock chamber. Work is continuing on the pre-application to the HLF for the restoration of the canal between Spike Island and Fiddlers Ferry. This will be for a grant of £5 million with both Halton and Warrington adding a further £1 million each. So things are really happening in our Merseyside area.
Check out our What's on Page for other events planned and be sure to come along to our regular Social meetings which are open to everyone. These are held on the second Tuesday of the month, October to May, in the Tom Rolt Conference Centre at the National Waterways Museum, Ellesmere Port, starting at 7.45 pm.
A varied programme of speakers ensures an interesting evening for everyone whilst the branch Sales Stand has a wide variety of things to satisfy the most discerning shopper. Come along and meet us - you can be sure of a warm welcome.
If you would like to get involved in IWA activities but don't want to join the committee, please get in touch. Extra hands are always needed.
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For further information about any of the walks, please contact the branch Social Secretary on 0151 608 6487.