Branch News

WRG Volunteers Clear River Parrett Slipway at Langport

May 2018

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.

IWA Volunteers Clock Up 5,408 Volunteer Hours

May 2018

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.

Steve Bulgin receives citizenship awardPhoto: IWA volunteer Steve Bulgin receives citizenship award from Mayor of Taunton

3,500 hours donated to help the local waterways

December 2017

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

We are number one in the country!

November 2017

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.

West Country Branch - IWA Branch Award

(Photo: IWA West Country Branch with the Branch Achievement Award)

An Uplifting Walk

October 2017

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.

west country branch cheque Oct 2017Photo: Mike Slade from the IWA West Country Branch handing over a donation to Robert Hodgeson and Hugh Dalziel (Friends of the Grand Western Canal)

Stover Canal Trust Bag a Share of Tesco Plastic Bag Fund

24th March 2016

Stover Canal(Photo: WRG Canal Camp working on the Stover Canal)

Stover Canal Trust are delighted to announce they have been awarded a £10,000 grant from the Tesco Bags of Help initiative. These funds are raised from the 5p bag levy and are awarded to environmental and greenspace projects.

The Trust will now begin work on bringing their project, the Graving Dock Lock restoration, to life.

John Pike, Chairman of the Trust, said: "We are enormously grateful to Tesco and Groundwork for setting up this initiative and to all the people locally who voted for our project. It is heartening to know that our endeavours are supported by the local community who are the beneficiaries of all our hard work. This significant grant will enable us to progress the restoration of the Graving Dock Lock as a feature for everyone to enjoy."

You can find out more here about the work of Stover Canal Trust and Waterway Recover Group on the Graving Dock Lock.

Newly Repaired Firepool Lock Gets A Summer Tidy-Up

1st August 2015

Photo: Work Party Clean-Up and Tidy, Before the Rain Arrives (Photo by Mike Slade)

On August 1st, 17 volunteers attended an IWA West Country Branch Work Party at  Firepool Lock on the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal.

The volunteers were divided into groups, some being tasked with painting the newly replaced lock balance beams and other lock machinery items, whilst others litter picked and tidied the area adjacent to the lock.

In addition, volunteers cut and trimmed back some of the vegetation and brambles which were encroaching across the towpath towards Taunton Town Centre in one direction and Firepool towards Bathpool in the opposite direction.

Altogether volunteers worked a grand total of 65.75 hours!

Mark Betson, local CRT Team Leader was present and helped organise the work carried out.  He also gave a comprehensive safe working briefing to our teams, helping to make the day a success!

Firepool Lock Re-Opens After Successful Emergency Repairs

29th & 30th July 2015

Photo: Emergency repairs at Firepool Lock on the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal (photo by Ken Bussell)

On Wednesday 29th July and Thursday 30th July, a team from CRT and Hewden Crane Hire arrived at Firepool Lock to make emergency repairs, following its recent damage by vandals.

One balance beam had sheared off completely and after an engineering examination it was found that two more beams were in a very poor state and might as well be changed out whilst the heavy lifting gear was in place.  The same crane also made itself useful by changing the rotted side sluice at the top of the lock (that controls the feed of water from the River Tone into the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal).

Whilst waiting for the lock beams to arrive, the sluice was changed over and the remnants of the broken balance beam removed, along with the other life-expired top gate beam – the top gates then presenting a rather strange sight.

By the end of the day both top gates had smart new beams.  The Thursday was spent swapping out the beam that was to be changed on one of the lower gates.

On the following Saturday, a substantial team of volunteers from IWA’s West Country Branch applied more paint to the new lock beams and carried out other activities to smarten up the lock area.  The lock has now re-opened.

Firepool Lock Closed After Vandals Break Balance Beam

8th July 2015

Broken balance beam at Firepool Lock on the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal (photo by Ken Bussell)Photo: Broken balance beam at Firepool Lock on the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal (photo by Ken Bussell)

Firepool Lock on the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal has been closed until further notice. Vandals have broken off one of the balance beams on the lower lock gates leave it non-operational. It is thought that the balance beam has been thrown into the lock. 

Joy Yeates

7th May 2015

Those of you who knew Joy Yeates will be sad to learn that she passed away in hospital on Tuesday 28th April after suffering from ill health in recent times.

She had been a long time member and supporter of IWA serving on the West Country Branch committee for many years and also as Treasurer before handing over the role in 1995.

Joy was always there to support Jean Hall when presenting slide shows and lectures together and they attended many events on behalf of IWA raising funds and awareness via their sales stall over many years.

Also a member of the Bude Canal Society, and later the Bude Canal & Harbour Society from its early days, she attended many society events over the years.

Joy will be sadly missed and fondly remembered by many.

Arrangements have been made for the funeral which will be at Exeter Cathedral on Tuesday 12th May at 1.45pm.

IWA West Country Branch Adopts Part of the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal

6th May 2015

IWA West Country Branch has formally adopted a large stretch of the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal under Canal & River Trust’s (CRT) volunteer scheme and accepted the certificate from CRT at Bridgwater on 6th May.

IWA West Country Branch has held regular work parties along the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal for more than year, with volunteers giving over 1000 hours of their time to help maintain and improve the waterway for all users. The volunteers can often be seen out and about completing a variety of tasks from painting and litter picking to bulb planting and hedge laying. The Branch has now taken the steps to adopt three sections of the canal under CRT’s adoption scheme, and looks forward to increasing its efforts to help maintain and improve these particular areas - the planning of potential projects is already underway.

IWA West Country Branch Volunteer Co-ordinator, Mike Slade said “This a great step for IWA West Country Branch, which has really increased its activity on the Canal over the last year. This has now been formally recognised and we look forward to continuing to help look after this great local asset. Our thanks goes to both the volunteers that have given so much of their time and CRT staff who have supported our efforts with equipment, materials and training”.

Mark Evans, waterway manager at CRT, said “The Bridgwater & Taunton canal is a beautiful waterway, and we’re delighted IWA West Country Branch has chosen to formally adopt these stretches of it. IWA volunteers have already made a huge difference to the canal, and we look forward to working with them over the next few years to see how else we can improve it. We’re hugely grateful to everyone who comes along and gives up their time for the benefit of all those who use the canal.

The stretches that the Branch has adopted are Bridgwater Docks and the Canal length from there to Bridge 6 Taunton Road Bridge; the stretch of Canal from Old Taunton Road Bridgwater Bridge 7  to Huntworth Bridge 12; and Bridge 29 near Bathpool to  Firepool Lock Taunton, including the adjacent lockside areas.

If you are interested in volunteering with IWA West Country Branch to support its adoption of part of the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal, please contact the Branch Volunteers Co-ordinator at

IWA West Country Branch Launches Campaign to Improve Use of the Proposed Tidal Surge Barrier on the River Parrett at Bridgwater

26th February 2015

IWA West Country Branch is campaigning to make the best use of the proposed Tidal Surge Barrier which is expected to be built on the River Parrett at Bridgwater in Somerset.

Following the severe flooding that occurred last winter on the Somerset Levels and Moors proposals are now being made to bring forward by several years the construction of a barrier on the River Parrett, principally for tidal flood defence purposes.  An earlier report, completed in 2009, envisaged that a barrier would need to be built at some point between 2030 and 2050 in order to protect Bridgwater and its environs from rising sea levels.

The updated report issued by Sedgemoor District Council and the Environment Agency in late 2014 suggests that the barrier could now be built within the next 10 years.  IWA fully supports the construction of a barrier and the accelerated timeframe.  However, the proposals currently envisage that the barrier will only be brought into use when it is necessary to prevent a spring or high tide from surging upstream on the river.  IWA believes that the proposed Tidal Surge Barrier could be used to greater effect and benefit to the community if it is operated differently and incorporates a lock.

IWA has suggested that construction of the Tidal Surge Barrier should be used to:

  • Facilitate sea-going craft travelling through to Bridgwater and further inland
  • Impound some water on the River Parrett during the boating season, thus enabling boating to take place in a relatively safe environment for approximately 20 miles upstream of the barrier, including to Langport and Muchelney
  • Facilitate the reopening of the link from the River Parrett to the Historic Bridgwater Docks and hence to the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal.

The effect of this would be to:

  • Make Bridgwater and its waterways a destination of choice for sea-going craft
  • Enhance the use of the existing waterway corridors for leisure and sporting activities
  • Enhance the tourist potential of Bridgwater and the Somerset Levels
  • Open up the market for short boating holidays, including the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal which runs for some 15 miles through the countryside to Taunton, the County Town of Somerset.

The enhanced attractiveness of the River Parrett would bring:

  • Greater community involvement and benefits
  • Increased leisure and sporting use of the waterway, for example:
    • Running, walking and cycling
    • Fishing and bird watching
    • Canoeing, kayaking and boating
  • More tourism including the potential for trip boats and other boating activities.

Gren Messham, IWA Navigation committee Chairman said “After last year’s floods, major investment is needed to avoid future tidal floods damaging Bridgwater and surrounding areas.  With little additional work Bridgwater’s role as a historic meeting of sea and inland waterways can be reinstated to everyone’s benefit – both economic and recreational.

IWA West Country Branch Volunteer Keep Attracting New Volunteers

14th February 2015
IWA West Country Branch Work Party at Lyndale Avenue, Bridgwater & Taunton Canal, 14-02-15 (photo by Mike Slade)Photo: IWA West Country Branch Work Party at Lyndale Avenue, Bridgwater & Taunton Canal (photo by Mike Slade)

Volunteers with IWA West Country Branch spent Valentine’s Day showing their appreciation of the waterways and environment. Ten volunteers were on the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal Towpath at Lyndale Avenue on 14th February cutting back vegetation to improve towpath access and help maintain a healthy hedge. In the group were four new volunteers who were working with the Branch for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. More and more of the regular volunteers are undertaking training with CRT to operate strimmers and some are now even moving on to operating work boats. The group’s skills are really growing and this all helps the Branch undertake important work along the Canal.

World War II Motor Torpedo Boat Lowered Into Bridgwater & Taunton Canal

31st January 2015Restored WWII boat lowered into Bridgwater DocksPhoto: Restored WWII boat lowered into Bridgwater Docks

On 31st January, there was a ceremony to celebrate the launch of the renovated 70ft 1941 Motor Torpedo Boat 219, which was lowered into the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal at Bridgwater Docks. In attendance was the Mayor of Bridgwater, Cllr Steve Austen, the Sea Scouts marching band and other dignitaries.

The 219 was involved in battles during the Second World War including an attack on the ‘Channel Dash’ German battle cruisers, Scharnhorst, Gneisneau and Prinz Eugen, as they tried to avoid bombing in Brest.

Within hours of the launch, the boat began to take on water. Thankfully the fire service and volunteers leading the rennovation project were on hand to deal with the situation and have announced that the leak has been located. They added that leaks were to be expected in such an old wooden boat and can often only be found once the craft is in water.

IWA West Country Branch Volunteers Complete Training

24th January 2015Volunteers build a dead hedge from cleared vegetation at IWA West Country Branch Work Party (photo by Mike Slade)Photo: Volunteers build a dead hedge from cleared vegetation at IWA West Country Branch work party (photo by Mike Slade)

IWA West Country Branch has had a great start to the year on the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal. On 24th January, twelve volunteers with the Branch turned out for a training and vegetation clearance session at Bathpool.

The volunteers were divided into two groups. One cleared excess vegetation growth and used this to make a dead hedge for the benefit of the local wildlife. Whilst the second group of six volunteers were trained by Canal & River Trust staff and successfully gained accreditation in the safe use of various power tools.

Over fifty volunteer hours were given by the group and two new volunteers were welcomed to the team. All in all the Branch was pleased with a very successful day!

CRT boat Usk Valley is Removed From Bridgwater Docks

November/December 2014
CRT boat Usk Valley is removed from Bridgwater Docks
Photo: CRT boat Usk Valley is removed from Bridgwater Docks

Canal & River Trust (CRT) recently removed its workboat Usk Valley, from the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal. The workboat was in need of repair and will be out of the water for the foreseeable future.

IWA West Country Branch has in the past used this workboat to tackle floating litter on the Canal. With the removal of the boat and no suitable substitution available, the Branch is no longer able to carry out this important task as part of its regular work parties. There has already been an increase in the floating litter at Bridgwater Docks since access to a suitable craft was lost. This illustrates how important the Branch’s work parties are in helping to manage the situation. The Branch has issued an appeal for a suitable rowing boat, an engine would also be useful, that could be donated or loaned to the group for use in this task on a fairly regular basis. The craft does not have to be in top condition as volunteers are happy to carry out minor remedial works and could be of a number of styles. The Branch could collect it from within a reasonable distance and have arranged secure storage for the boat when not in use.

If you are able to help in any way or would like more details of what the Branch is looking for, please contact IWA West Country Branch Chairman, Bob Abbott at

Painting Project at Bridgwater Docks

23rd August 2014Photo: Painting at Bridgwater Docks (photo by Bob Abbott)Photo: Painting at Bridgwater Docks (photo by Bob Abbott)

On Saturday 23rd August, IWA West Country Branch continued work to paint the large amount of metal machinery, bollards and rings at Bridgwater Docks on the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal. Eleven volunteers gathered at the Docks and collectively gave fifty hours, getting the task of painting over fifty objects off to a good start. The group plan to continue the work, weather permitting, over the next few months and once finished will have given everything from bollards and rings to winches and sluice paddles a new lick of paint. 

IWA West Country Branch Contributes to National Himalayan Balsam Campaign

24th July 2014IWA West Country Branch volunteers with Himlayan Balsam bannerPhoto: Volunteers at West Country Branch Himalayan Balsam work party (photo by Stefanie Preston)

IWA West Country Branch
held two Himalayan Balsam pull as part of IWA's national campaign against the invasive species. The first was in the heat of Tuesday 24th June at Bathpool on the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal. Volunteers covered about half a mile in each direction checking for and pulling out Himalayan Balsam, which was growing in large quantities at points on the bank. It appears to be spreading from a tributary of the Old River Tone that runs parallel to the canal. This shows just how easily the plant can spread from area to area with up to 800 seeds per plant that are explosively released over a radius of up to 7 metres. Volunteers removed a variety of sized plants that had stems that ranged from being millimetres thick all the way up to 8cm.

The Branch's second successful Himalayan Balsam work party was on 24th July, again on the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal. Thirteen volunteers and two CRT staff turned out and contributed fifty-six volunteer hours to the Himalayan Balsam campaign.

With the help of the Branch’s volunteer work party coordinators, Somerset Waterways Development Trust, Bridgwater & Taunton Canal Association and a member for use of her boat the work party managed to tackle the Himalayan Balsam from towpath and water. All of which would not have been possible in the heat without water, sun cream and a local resident's contribution of tea and biscuits, delivered by bicycle.

Work Party at Bathpool

7th June 2014
On Saturday 7th  June IWA West Country Branch were at Bathpool. In between the showers fifteen volunteers with the support of CRT managed to clean-up the area and improve the stretch of the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal. There was also time for a planning session to consider branch activities in the coming months. A further clean-up, two Himalayan Balsam work parties and branch support at a Waterways Explore and Sea Scout event were confirmed, details of which can be found at the branch web pages.

Volunteers Continue Hard Work on the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal

3rd May 2014Photo: Rubbish collected during Bridgwater & Taunton May work partyPhoto: Rubbish collected during Bridgwater & Taunton Canal May work party (photo by Bob Abbott)

It was another success story at IWA West Country Branch's Bridgwater work party on 3rd May with good weather and the help of twenty volunteers plus two CRT staff all there to tackle the littler along the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal. The volunteers split into four groups who started between bridges 6 and 7 and worked along the tow paths in all directions. Another four volunteers worked from the CRT motorised flat workboat. The volunteers collected about thirty black bags of rubbish, three bikes, five road cones, a new Aldi shopping trolley, plastic sheets, carpet underlay and some traffic safety barriers, which the group managed to return to their original work sites!

First Spring Clean-up a Success for IWA West Country Branch

1st March 2014Volunteer at Firepool Lock, Bridgwater & Taunton CanalPhoto: Volunteer at Firepool Lock, Bridgwater & Taunton Canal

On Saturday 1st March, IWA West Country Branch held its first canal clean-up of the spring. Throughout the day around thirty volunteers visited Firepool Lock on the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal, Taunton, to lend a hand and improve the area ready for the cyclists, walkers and boaters that will shortly be venturing out more as the weather improves. Many were already using the towpath as the day was lovely and sunny and readily showed their appreciation of the volunteers’ work, proof that work parties like this are valued within the local community.

A group of volunteers cleared rubbish from the car park adjacent to the lock, before cutting back the overgrown vegetation. More vehicles can now be parked and the safety is improved as any vehicles can be seen from both the road and towpath.

A second group gave the lock gates some much needed attention. Firstly, the volunteers rubbed down the gates, handrails, iron work and mooring bollards to remove old flaking paint. All of these were then repainted, giving the lock a much improved appearance. It was lucky that the sun shined all day so that this work could be done.

Finally, a third group litter picked the towpath in both directions. Over thirty bags of rubbish were collected. The group also removed a large pile of debris from the far side of the lock. This was a difficult task as it involved moving many heavy barrow loads of wet vegetation along the lock, over the bridge and back to the car park.

Thanks to all volunteers who came to lend a hand. Thanks also to CRT, Bridgwater & Taunton Canal Association and Somerset Waterways Development Trust.

Call For Volunteers and Branch Activities Continue to Expand

27th January 2014

IWA West Country Branch is seeking more volunteers to support its on-going programme of work in conjunction with CRT on the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal in Somerset to benefit all communities and canalside users.

If you would like to know more about how to assist for a few hours carrying out work such as litter picking, painting, vegetation clearance, boat crewing, liaising with public, and even helping to organise these increasing activities and groups, contact lead coordinator Mike Slade via email at or phone 07977 263840. Mike is compiling an interest register and will give more details of what is planned throughout the coming months.

Our work parties are fun and friendly, a brilliant way to get outdoors and fit in some exercise (without realising it!) and a chance to meet new and old friends. All are welcome to help in this important work to ensure the canal is kept enjoyable by all of its users whether waterside or landside (under-18s must be accompanied by an adult).

Take a look at our latest work party dates on the Branch landing page and see if you can come along.

An Unexpected Forty-six People Attend Branch Open Meeting

28th November 2013
The IWA West Country Branch Open Meeting at Sampford Peverell, Devon on 28th November was a resounding success! The branch had not held such a presentation for several years but concerns about the possible uptake were quickly dispelled by forty-six people who did not want to go home! Our very own Jean Yates and Joy Hall conveyed us back in time as we toured almost every Waterway, both dead and alive, in the four counties of the South West for over one and half hours without pausing - and no one fell asleep! We have much to thank them for.


Work Party at Bridgwater Docks a Success

26th November 2013
IWA West Country Branch’s Bridgwater Docks Work Party on Tuesday 26th November, supported by CRT, was successful with fourteen volunteers collecting over fifty bags of rubbish. The  group also dragged, fished and grabbed one motorbike, tyres, cones, and other items from the water over an enjoyable four and a half hours. At least four Bridgwater & Taunton boating organisations and local businesses were represented including IWA West Country Branch, the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal Association, CRT and the Environment Agency, many thanks to them all.

IWA West Country Branch will be holding a second Work Party, supported by CRT, on Saturday 1st March 2014. The Work Party will take place at Firepool Lock in Taunton where volunteers will be concentrating on clearing and cutting back trees, brambles, and general debris. Time and weather permitting, the group may also make a start working on the lock and adjacent area. More information will be available from the branch web pages nearer the date.

Regional News

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