Over 6,000 volunteer hours have already been logged for this year by IWA West Country Branch volunteers, who work tirelessly to protect, maintain and restore many of the rivers and canals across the region. Waterways covered include the River Tone, Bridgwater & Taunton Canal and the Grand Western Canal. There are plans to hold 220 work parties by the end of 2019.
As well as taking part in work parties and events, volunteers also provide expertise, with many of the volunteers having in depth knowledge of specific areas of canal restoration.
The Branch holds three work parties each week along the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal. In May, volunteers removed reed cuttings from the Canal with the use of a work boat towards Bridgwater Docks.
IWA West Country Branch and Langport Town Council organised a weekend visit to Somerset on 21st - 22nd April by Waterway Recovery Group's 'Bit in the Middle'.
WRG volunteers spent the weekend removing a number of saplings and clearing several years' worth of silt, mud and grass from a slipway on the River Parrett at Langport. The Town Council had acquired the slipway from the Environment Agency in 2016 as one element of its programme to increase the use of the non-tidal "Upper" Parrett for leisure and recreation purposes and to thereby bring more visitors into the town.
The weekend was a great success and paves the way for a second phase which is to repair some damaged elements of the slipway that are currently submerged underwater.
The photographs show the 'before' and 'after' slipway and show the enormous difference made by the volunteers. IWA West Country Branch and the Town Council thank WRG for their work and also Langport resident and IWA member Ian Macnab for all his help and also for taking the volunteers on a trip on his wooden heritage boat "The Duchess of Cocklemoor" on the Sunday.
The waterways of Somerset have benefited from 5408 hours of attention from volunteers from IWA’s West Country branch. Over the last twelve months the branch has organised an impressive 201 work parties, on average attended by around 8 volunteers who each manage at least 3 hours of support.
Their massive contribution to the area has been recognised by way of a citizenship award for top volunteer Steve Bulgin who leads the work parties in the Taunton area. Steve received his award from the Mayor of Taunton on behalf of Taunton Deane District Council in the name of his work and that of all the local IWA volunteers. Congratulations to Steve and his volunteers.
Photo: IWA volunteer Steve Bulgin receives citizenship award from Mayor of Taunton
IWA West Country Branch support Canal and River Trust throughout the year - in the last eight months we've helped to the tune of 3,500 hours to improve the canal between Bridgwater Docks and the village of Fordgate and from Creech St. Michael to Taunton. We've helped to help keep the waterway an attractive place for visitors and boaters, trimming hedges, picking up litter and repainting lock gates. CRT have done a nice write up that we can be proud of:
Volunteer donate 3,500 hours to help us look after Somerset canal
IWA West Country Branch has been awarded the Branch Achievement Award for 2017. This Award comprises a silver plate engraved with the name of the winning branch, together with a citation, which recognises the commitment by all the our volunteers and the campaigning undertaken to regenerate the River Parrett and Bridgwater Docks.
An event was held at Bridgwater Docks to receive the award, honour our volunteers and promote our ongoing efforts. Mayor of Bridgwater Graham Granter was there to thank them for their contribution to the town and other Town Councillors turned up to discuss mutual interests and taking their campaigns forward.
(Photo: IWA West Country Branch with the Branch Achievement Award)
Over the August Bank Holiday weekend, 23 members joined IWA West Country Branch on a five mile walk along the proposed route of the new Silk Mills “Park and Glide” project in Taunton.
The project will see eco-friendly electric boats shuttle passengers between the car park and the town centre. The site of a planned boat lift and visitor centre at Silk Mills was a highlight of the walk. Robert Hodgeson described how the lift would link a disused part of the Grand Western Canal with the River Tone in Taunton. The new vertical boat lift and visitor centre will offer opportunities to experience 19th century life on Somerset's wetlands and canals and will form a lasting tribute to the engineers who built the world's first commercial boat lifts here in Somerset.
The walk was organised in collaboration with the Friends of Grand Western Canal, which is trying to raise sufficient funds to finance a route feasibility study.
Photo: Mike Slade from the IWA West Country Branch handing over a donation to Robert Hodgeson and Hugh Dalziel (Friends of the Grand Western Canal)
For news from the South West & South Wales Region, take a look at the Regional Newsletter Sou'Wester.