North Staffordshire & South Cheshire Branch News

News Archive Page

For older news, see the branch 'News Archive'.

Work Party News

For write ups of the monthly work parties at the four locations in the branch area, as well as other news, see past copies of the branch newsletter, Knobsticks.

Help us bag £4,000 from Tesco for family volunteering weekend

The branch, in partnership with Waterway Recovery Group, have managed to get through to the in-store voting stage of the Tesco ‘Bags of Help’ programme. We applied for funding towards the cost of a WRG Family Canal Camp which will be held on the Uttoxeter Canal and hosted by Caldon and Uttoxeter Canal Trust. It is the first time WRG have held a camp of this kind, which will enable families with children aged 8 – 14 to take part in a weekend of canal activities in a fun and safe way.

The project could receive one of three grants - £1,000, £2,000 or £4,000.  The voting will run throughout May and June, in two Tesco stores in Uttoxeter; every customer making a purchase in these stores will receive a token to vote for their favourite project. The projects with the most votes will receive the most funding, so we would encourage all local members and volunteers to head in store and get involved!

The Tescos stores taking part in the scheme are:  Tesco Superstore, Brookside Rd, Uttoxeter ST14 8AU and Tesco Express, New Road, Uttoxeter, ST14 7DH.

2016 Living Waterways Awards

Our IWA branch was “Commended” in the “Community & Volunteering” category at the 2016 Living Waterways Awards ceremony, held at Birmingham Town Hall on 14th September.

Although a relatively new and small group, since 2012 our IWA Branch has completed a massive amount of work, raising 162 work parties to carry out a wide range of improvement projects, with 1,217 volunteer days and over 200 volunteers involved. Work parties are open to anyone and are widely advertised in local communities. They take place at a variety of locations. A central store for equipment has been set up and a good network has been established with other organisations willing to help.

The work carried out has included: painting lock gates, lock furniture, railings and fences; pulling submerged rubbish out of the canal; litter picking towpaths and removing waterborne floating rubbish; hedge planting and hedge laying; vegetation clearance and weeding; clearing historic cobbles and lock quadrants of weeds and soil; painting historic mileposts; painting a cast iron historic Listed junction bridge and laying a replacement stone surface on it; soft bank protection; and clearing invasive plants.

Alison Smedley, Campaigns Officer for The Inland Waterways Association, said: “We are absolutely delighted to receive this prestigious award, which recognises the dedication and commitment of all our volunteers in our North Staffordshire & South Cheshire branch, who have completed a staggering amount of work on their local waterways in the last four years.

“The wide range of work parties being organised by this one IWA branch demonstrates a commitment to the maintenance, regeneration and restoration of the local inland waterways. From the beginning it has been very much about working in partnership – with the Canal & River Trust as the navigation authority for most of the work party sites, and with local canal societies and local community groups.”

    Himalayan Balsam 2016

    A series of Himalayan Balsam work parties, to help control this invasive non-native plant which is a problem in the Staffordshire Moorlands, took place on the Caldon Canal again in 2016. The work parties were jointly organised by our IWA branch and the Caldon & Uttoxeter Canals Trust. These work parties contributed to the final year of the Churnet Valley Living Landscape Partnership’s Big Pull Project, as well as nationally to IWA’s invasive species campaign.

    On Monday 27th June an evening session with half a dozen people saw all the Himalayan balsam on the towpath between Denford and Cheddleton removed, along with quite a lot from the other bank, courtesy of the use of a locally based day hire boat to access the offside.

    On Thursday 30th June volunteers met at Consall Lime Kilns to work upstream on the river section, and on this occasion were grateful to have the help of Barry from CRT, and also of CRT’s trailable aluminium work boat to access the offside bank.

    On Monday 11th July the young people from Cheddleton’s Light Seekers youth group enjoyed their annual outing to pull up Himalayan balsam along the canal in Cheddleton.

    On Saturday 16th July a family volunteering day saw all the Himalayan balsam along the towpath between Stockton Brook and Endon cleared, along with much of what was growing on the John Emery Land near Endon.

    And finally, on Sunday 17th July, a group of half a dozen volunteers took time out from enjoying the successful Froghall Canals Fun Day to clear Himalayan balsam between the basin and the tunnel.

    In all locations an improvement on previous years was noted. As the Himalayan balsam is late in developing its seeds this year, July/early-August is not too late for it to be pulled. All walkers, anglers, boaters and anyone else using the waterways are encouraged to pull it up, where safe to do so.

    Froghall Fun Day

    The Froghall Canals Fun Day, held on Sunday 17th July 2016, was a successful event with a steady stream of visitors throughout the day. It was a good opportunity for us to make contact with the local community, and there were many useful conversations during the day. Julie Arnold was the organiser with the Caldon and Uttoxeter Canals Trust (CUCT) the lead organisation, and our IWA branch supporting the event. There were two gazebos side by side, housing the IWA and CUCT displays, including the Churnet Valley Living Landscape Partnership photographic exhibition, celebrating the 4 year Heritage Lottery funded project in pictures.

    There was also an octagonal gazebo beside the lock housing the WoW children’s activities – there was brass rubbing, lace plate making and a quiz which took children on a hunt for clues throughout the site. WOW activities were run all day by a small team including a family who had travelled from Hertfordshire to help at the event. The whole area was enlivened with Churnet Valley Living Landscape boards and the “Vision of the Valley” exhibition attracted much interest. Members of the public were invited to take part in the consultation process regarding future plans for the area. This was staffed by Steve Wood and Julie, supported by Simon Papprill together with Glyn Parkes from the Canal & River Trust.

    NB Beatrice was kept busy all day doing boat trips through Froghall Tunnel, loading in the nose of the lock which was kept full with the top gate open unless the lock was being used.

    Indeed, the highlight of the day was when Rupert Smedley brought historic narrow-boat Skylark up through the lock: it had been on display in the basin throughout the day. A good crowd watched as it worked up through the lock with the noise of its engine reverberating as the boat moved away towards the tunnel, giving a glimpse of what a working boat looked like in the heyday of the canal. The highest point on the boat was the tiller, with only a few inches between it and the tunnel roof.

     We were pleased to see Emma Atkinson, who had just taken the lease of the Froghall Wharf building. Although the building has yet to be commissioned, she brought her gazebo and mobile home and did a steady trade all day with a barbecue and other refreshments. At the end of the day, she generously donated her takings (in excess of £300) to be shared between CUCT and the Beatrice charity. It was good to see the start of this venture, and we wish her well.

    Bells for Brindley

    Canals, pottery, boats and bells came together on Saturday 23rd July at Middleport Pottery to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the start of work on the Trent & Mersey Canal, along with the 300th anniversary this year of the birth of James Brindley.  

    “Bells for Brindley” was jointly organised by IWA North Staffordshire & South Cheshire Branch, the Trent & Mersey Canal Society and North Staffordshire Association of Change Ringers. Crowds gathered on the banks of the Trent & Mersey Canal for a re-enactment of the original sod cutting ceremony which had taken place in nearby Brownhills on 26th July 1766.

    Her Majesty's Lord-Lieutenant of Stafford-shire Mr Ian Dudson, CBE CStJ, attended the event and told the gathered crowds how important the Trent & Mersey Canal was to the industrial revolution and the pottery industry. Local historian and actor Ray Johnson recreated the 1766 speech as Josiah Wedgwood, with Duncan Bourne taking the part of James Brindley and preparing the ground for the first sod to be cut by Josiah Wedgwood. The 50 year old ceremonial spade (kindly loaned by Stoke-on-Trent Boat Club), had originally been presented by the then Lord Wedgwood at an event in 1966 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of work starting on the canal. 

    Our branch, the Trent & Mersey Canal Society and Caldon & Uttoxeter Canals Trust had sales and publicity stands. The North Staffordshire Association of Change Ringers gave bell ringing demonstrations throughout the day on the Lichfield Diocesan Mobile Belfry. Historian and author, Victoria Owens, had books on James Brindley for sale. Live music included local bands Steamhead, The Boat Band and the Clay Chorus. There were also four locally based historic narrow boats at the event (Lindsay & Keppel, Skylark and Sudbury).  

    Crowds gathered again later in the afternoon to hear a full performance about James Brindley from Josiah Wedgwood (again with Duncan Bourne and Ray Johnson in their respective roles). The bell-ringers had also organised a wider geographical event, with bells being run for special “quarter peals” at 27 churches to mark the celebration along the whole length of the Trent & Mersey Canal during the day.


    Clean for the Queen

    On Saturday 5th March 2016 our branch volunteers joined forces with a community group, Middleport Matters, the Burslem Port Project and CRT volunteers to undertake a Clean for The Queen along the towpath and canal, plus the streets of Burslem Port.  CRT supplied a small boat and trained volunteers who used it to remove floating rubbish along the Trent & Mersey Canal whilst Burslem Port volunteers picked litter along the line of the Branch Canal. A group of young people from the YMCA were dispatched along the towpath and the local Boys Brigade worked outwards from Middleport Park. A total of 53 volunteers collected around 70 bags of rubbish in a very busy and successful day.

    CftQBurslem

    Clean for the Queen in Burslem, Saturday 5th May 2016

    Going the Extra Length

    The Hazelhurst Junction Bridge Project was announced as the winner of a CRT Central Shires "Going the Extra Length" award at their volunteers annual Christmas event on 4th December 2015.  This project, carried out jointly between the branch and Caldon & Uttoxeter Canals Trust had taken a lot of prior planning as the bridge is a Grade 2 Listed structure. A 1930's BCN Motor Boat "Ben" was used as a work boat so the underside of the bridge could be painted at the same time. The preparation was particularly time consuming as the scrapings from the old paintwork had to be prevented from dropping in the canal. Patience was also needed when wire brushing the scalloped design of the parapets. The work was completed in just over a week with 14 different volunteers totalling 26 days work.

    Photo: IWA North Staffordshire and South Cheshire branch volunteers with their 'Going the Extra Length' award

    Himalayan Balsam work parties on the Caldon Canal

    The continuing campaign against Himalayan Balsam in the Churnet Valley took place again in the summer of 2015, with a total of 6 work parties taking place during June and July on the Caldon Canal (as well as several on the Uttoxeter Canal at Bridge 70).

    The work parties, which are jointly organised by IWA North Staffordshire & South Cheshire Branch and the Caldon & Uttoxeter Canals Trust, contribute to the Churnet Valley Living Landscape’s “Big Pull” Project, as well as the national IWA Himalayan Balsam campaign.

    Work started in June with a summer evening’s work party between Froghall and Cherry Eye bridge.  This was followed by a week day work party with twenty-three volunteers working on the stretch between Consall Station and Flint Mill Lock, in partnership with the Churnet Valley Railway and with assistance from the Personnel and Payroll Department of Michelin, who are based in Stoke on Trent.
    On this occasion volunteers worked on both sides of the canal as well as from an aluminium work boat provided by CRT.  A Sunday session, again using CRT’s aluminium boat, saw the canal below Cheddleton Locks cleared of the plant. 

    A further evening work party saw the Himalayan Balsam between Denford and Cheddleton tackled, while a family volunteering day in the first week of the school holidays had young people as well as older volunteers joining forces to clear the plant on the river section of the Caldon Canal upstream from Consall Lime Kilns.  A further evening session, this time for the young people of Cheddleton’s Light Seekers Youth Group, saw the Leek Arm cleared of Balsam between Hazelhurst Junction and Horse Bridge. 

    IWA Himalayan Balsam work party at Consall on the Caldon CanalPhoto: IWA Himalayan Balsam work party at Consall on the Caldon Canal, working in partnership with volunteers from the Churnet Valley Railway

    IWA Himalayan Balsam work party with local Light Seekers youth groupPhoto: IWA Himalayan Balsam work party on the Leek Arm with local Light Seekers youth group

    Hazelhurst Junction Bridge Project

    Hazelhurst Junction Bridge Painting Project Day 1 (photo by Alison Smedley)Photo: Hazelhurst Junction Bridge painting project day 1 (photo by Alison Smedley)

    A week of fine weather in June saw the iconic cast iron bridge at Hazelhurst Junction on the Caldon Canal finally looking pristine in a new coat of black and white paint. The project had been quite a long time in the finishing, with a start having been made over a year ago on the IWA North Staffordshire & South Cheshire Branch and Caldon & Uttoxeter Canals Trust joint monthly work parties, but after being rained off a couple of times, and then having to move resources elsewhere due to other priorities (Himalayan Balsam and then Cheddleton Top Lock in readiness for the Caldon 40 celebrations), the bridge remained less than a quarter painted!  

    Therefore, IWA North Staffordshire & South Cheshire Branch decided to put aside a whole week for the project, and to arrange a work boat so that the underside of the bridge could be painted at the same time. The week commencing Monday 8th June was agreed with CRT, and it turned out to be a very good choice with gloriously sunny weather and just a few splashes of rain at the end of the day on Friday.  

    Planning, of course, had started some weeks earlier, with a site meeting with Mark Clifford, CRT’s Heritage Adviser, who advised about preparation methods and paint types, with the bridge being a Grade 2 Listed structure. A project plan, including method statements, risk assessments and other essential information was then drawn up and approved by CRT.  

    The preparation of the metalwork took a surprising amount of time, with careful scraping of the underside of the bridge (and collecting the scrapings so they did not end up in the canal) and wire brushing of the scalloped design of the parapets both being particularly time consuming. The first two days were spent in preparing surfaces and by day three, a start was made on the painting.  Firstly a zinc rich primer was applied where bare metal had been exposed, followed by white or black Hammerite, depending on which bit of the bridge was being painted.  As it is a Listed structure, all the paint had to be like-for-like according to the previous colour scheme, although it was interesting to note historic photographs showing it painted all white, and all black, and numerous variations of black and white, over the years.

    Canal Clean up in Stoke-on-Trent

    Images from an IWA work party on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Middleport on the 8th February 2015.

    Thick fog and an iced-over canal didn’t deter people from turning out to clean up the Trent & Mersey Canal through Stoke-on-Trent on Sunday 8th February 2015.

    Images from an IWA work party on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Middleport on the 8th February 2015.

    The event this year was hosted by Middleport Pottery, with the canalside wharf outside their café being used as the meeting point.

    There's links to larger size image files and more info. here.