North Staffordshire & South Cheshire Branch News

We won the Branch Achievement Award 2019!


Our Branch volunteers receiving branch achievement award at AGM

IWA National AGM – Stoke on Trent, Saturday 28th September

The branch had offered to host the Association's national AGM this year, and the venue of St Thomas More School in Longton turned out to be very suitable for the event. After some morning presentations the AGM itself included updates on IWA's events and campaigning over the last year. The branch was well represented by local branch and committee members, including our President Chris Skelhorne. We were all very proud of each other when it was announced that we were being awarded the branch achievement award.

To support the AGM being held in the branch area, we had organised some local activities for members who were able to make a weekend of it. In the afternoon there were guided walks of the Burslem Arm and a heritage tour of Middleport Pottery on offer. Several dozen members took up each of these activities and learnt about the Burslem Port regeneration project from Steve Wood who led the walks, and about the history of the pottery industry and its relationship to the Trent & Mersey Canal during the Middleport Pottery visit.

On the Saturday evening the branch organised a social evening for members who were staying in the area, where they joined local branch members and visitors for a pie and peas supper followed by an illustrated talk about the Uttoxeter Canal from Steve Wood (wearing his other hat, as Chairman of Caldon & Uttoxeter Canals Trust). With a couple of quizzes to keep people entertained in between eating and listening, a good sociable time was had by all.


Steve Wood, Dept. chairman leads a guided walk on the Burslem Arm after AGM

Hazelhurst Garden Fete – Sunday 29th September

On a very wet Sunday the day after the AGM, which saw sporting and other events cancelled around the country, IWA NSSC volunteers carried on regardless with our experiment for a new type of fundraising event. This was a garden fete beside the Caldon Canal, with local canal society and IWA sales stands, historic vehicles and boats, and information about local canal projects. There were a number of fundraising games and activities, although given the weather it's not surprising that the most lucrative activity was the indoor refreshments room in a cosy converted stable (once home to the last horse pulling boats laden with coal on the Caldon Canal) where people enjoyed hot drinks, delicious homemade cakes and Staffordshire Oatcakes. Despite the atrocious weather (rain and wind) putting many people off from attending, about £250 was raised for the local waterways. It was great to welcome many visiting IWA members who were in the area for the AGM the previous day, as well as local residents and people who had travelled from further afield. A total of 14 volunteers were involved on the day – IWA and also CUCT and T&MCS volunteers. Thank you to everyone who braved the weather – either to help or to spend some money.

As an experiment it was deemed successful, despite the worst weather we could have anticipated, and the committee may well decide to repeat the event. Watch this space!

WRG Family Camp on the Uttoxeter Canal

IWA’s first Waterway Recovery Group Family Canal Camp of the year took place on the Uttoxeter Canal in the middle of June.  8 young people from around the country, aged between 8 and 14, took part with their families, including two grandparents, and in one case 3 generations of one family. 

The young people learnt about and experienced a range of different skills and activities over the weekend – including heritage recording techniques, how to help control the spread of invasive plants, and woodworking skills when they made “bee hotels” as habitats for insect life.  The work carried out included vegetation clearance, Himalayan balsam pulling and some careful excavation of a lock site which revealed some previously undiscovered stonework. 

This is the third year that Caldon & Uttoxeter Canals Trust has hosted a WRG Family Camp in our IWA Branch area, with the Uttoxeter Canal having been the site for the first ever WRG family camp in 2017. 

While half of the young people taking part had been on previous WRG family camps, the weekend was the first introduction to volunteering on the waterways for the others.  The families all had a great time learning from each other and making new friends, demonstrating that WRG family camps are a great way to introduce young people to volunteering whilst getting them out in the fresh air and meeting new people. 

IWA NSSC hosts young people for annual Himalayan balsam bash

IWA North Staffordshire & South Cheshire Branch hosted the Light Seekers, a Cheddleton church-based youth group, for their regular Himalayan balsam bash on the Caldon Canal, on a warm evening of Monday 3rd June 2019. Some of the young people have been taking part in this annual event, tackling different sections of the Caldon Canal each year, since 2012. This year they returned to the stretch of towpath between the bottom of Cheddleton Locks and Basford Bridge and commented on how free of Himalayan balsam it was compared to previous years, with the whole length being cleared in one session.

hbb 2019 church gang

Some of the young people from a Cheddleton youth group on their annual Himalayan balsam bash on the Caldon Canal

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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.