Last weekend (14- 16 June), up to 20 volunteers including five families took part in a Waterway Recovery Group (WRG) Family Camp on the derelict Uttoxeter Canal at Alton in the Churnet Valley.
Despite the inclement weather, the families had a busy weekend looking at the heritage site and structures by the canal. The Uttoxeter Canal was built in 1811 but closed in 1849 and has been derelict ever since. As part of their work, the young volunteers explored the remains of an old spill weir, lock and bridge, and discovered a previously undocumented section of stonework.
Helen Gardner, Family Camp Volunteer Leader, said, “It was lovely to see both the youngsters and adults getting stuck into the excavation work with so much enthusiasm. We weren't sure exactly what we would find, which really added to the sense of discovery. We documented everything and provided all the information to the Caldon & Uttoxeter Canals Trust.”
The volunteer families, including eight young people aged between 8 and 14 years old, and three generations of one family, all came from different parts of the country but were joined together by a common interest to help research and restore the derelict Uttoxeter Canal.
As well as learning about heritage recording techniques and uncovering historic stonework, volunteers also helped to clear weeds and vegetation and learnt how to help control the spread of the invasive plant ‘Himalayan balsam’, which causes damage to canal and river banks. They also developed woodworking skills when they made “bee hotels” as habitats for insect life.
Waterway Recovery Group Family Camps are a great way to introduce young people to volunteering whilst getting them out in the fresh air and meeting new people. There are two more Family Camps due to take place this year – on the Grantham Canal and the Wendover Arm.
Waterway Recovery Group is part of The Inland Waterways Association (IWA), a charity that works to protect and restore all 6,500 miles of inland waterways in the UK. IWA has branches operating across the UK. If you are interested in joining IWA North Staffs and South Cheshire branch or volunteering on canal work parties, please contact: email@example.com.
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