Chelmer Canal Trust, formerly the Friends of the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation

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SOME CHELMER CANAL TRUST ORGANISED WORK PARTY 

REPORTS / PHOTOS TAKEN DURING 2008. 

Weedbusting Workparty

Saturday, 6th December 2008

The fifteenth work-party of 2008 and the last one (of 2008); the tradition of reporting on another month's work-party bringing the year to an end!

As usual, it was an early start at Heybridge Basin for some in order to get boats in place. And there was an extra challenge as one of the two boats had to be taken back to Hoe Mill.

the traditional 'sunrise' picture trying to prove an early start was made
(the traditional 'sunrise' picture trying to prove an early start was made)

The plan was to get two boats in place at Beeleigh Lock and then to split participants in to two groups, working in opposite directions. However, with fewer volunteers turning up, and ever able to be flexible about arrangements, a bit of re-planning was done.

A canoeist went round to Hoe Mill, to be joined by a second canoeist already operating there, a car driver went to Hoe Mill and walked back to meet the Raisder and three further volunteers took the Raider upstream, collecting weed as they went.

the traditional 'slight adversity' picture to show that we face challenges
(the traditional 'slight adversity' picture to show that we face challenges)

In the section between Beeleigh and Ricketts Lock there was only a small amount of weed to be dealt with, although growing between other vegetation as it is, it will probably continue to demand our attention. Having dealt with as much as possible the Raider crew headed further upstream.

the traditional 'smiling to prove we are enjoying ourselves' picture
(the traditional 'smiling to prove we are enjoying ourselves' picture)

Even if the weed-removal isn't too strenuous there is also the Locking to keep muscles in use.

a further traditional 'we are putting some effort in' picture
a further traditional 'we are putting some effort in' picture)

By the time the group had got the Raider through Ricketts Lock the fourth volunteer had arrived from Hoe Mill and it was a good time to stop for refreshments.

traditional 'coffee break' picture traditional 'coffee break' picture
(the traditional 'coffee break' pictures)

Then it was on to a section with which weedbusters are only too familiar - the American Pennywort mines between Ricketts and Hoe Mill Locks. This section never fails to disappoint in terms of availability of Pennywort, but ALWAYS manages to disappoint for the same reason - there is always Pennywort there. But the weed is not there in large quantities at present and careful attention to detail was needed to find the rogue weed hiding in the bank-side vegetation.

the traditional 'close up of weed' picture lest we forget what it looks like
(the traditional 'close up of weed' picture lest we forget what it looks like)

But our volunteers found enough weed to keep them occupied, and three worked from the Raider while one worked from the bank.

he traditional 'volunteer prepared to be in an uncomfortable position in order to get the job done properly' picture'
(the traditional 'volunteer prepared to be in an uncomfortable position in order to get the job done properly' picture')

It is team work, of course, with the weedclearers at the side of the boat being assisted by the volunteer at the helm.

the traditional 'boat operator taking the task very seriously' picture
(the traditional 'boat operator taking the task very seriously' picture)

Eventually there was nowhere else for our volunteer on the bank to go (apart from into the Ricketts Weir) so he was taken on board and the four volunteers worked steadily upstream, collecting an impressive (for the time of year) amount of weed which was eventually off-loaded at one of our traditional places.

the traditional 'teamwork as the boat is emptied' picture
(the traditional 'teamwork as the boat is emptied' picture)

It was a great pleasure, as the Raider got closer to Sugar Bakers, to meet up with our two canoeists, and especially Dudley who has been out on the water lots, but hasn't joined one of our work-parties for a while.

traditional 'canoeists with pennywort on the foredeck' picture traditional 'canoeists with pennywort on the foredeck' picture
(the traditional 'canoeists with pennywort on the foredeck' pictures)

The canoeists had done an excellent job tidying up under the bridges at Hoe Mill (such a pity that the fishermen there were short-sighted enough that they complained about their fishing being disturbed rather than expressing gratitude that someone was dealing with the weed that if left unchecked would stop them fishing altogether!).

Canoeists and the Raider finally made their way to Hoe Mill and it was almost the end of the day's weedbusting.

Except, that is, for the need to take Buster back down the Long Pond and return it to Heybridge Basin

traditional 'trying to be a smart photographer' picture
(the traditional 'trying to be a smart photographer' picture)

at least one picture of Buster
(the traditional 'make sure there is at least one picture of Buster' picture)

Another good day's (and year's) work!

Weedbusting Workparty

Saturday, 8th November 2008

It was another early start for some of us - in fact we think we might have heard a few larks snoring. But at least at that point it was a clear enough morning for us to see the sunrise.

The early start was due to us wanting get our newest workboat, Buster, in place.

The work for the day involved returning to our ongoing challenge of the section of the Navigation between Ricketts and Hoe Mill Locks. The fact that there is no American Pennywort on the north bank, tow path side, but weed growing in the bank, between the reeds and out into the river on the opposite side, led this workparty to surmise that the cattle in the fields on the south bank are mainly responsible for the problems we face here. The long term solution to eradication of weed on this stretch needs more input than a team of volunteers can supply, so our task along this stretch is to contain the weed and prevent it getting out of control and 'infecting' the river further downstream.

Buster, with a crew of two regular and experienced volunteers got equipped at Beeleigh Lock and they started their weedbusting at Ricketts Lock, working upstream.

It is mucky work, and hugely dispiriting because however much weed is removed there is always more a few steps away.

Nevertheless spending much time working from the bank (where were our bank-side volunteers when we needed them?) they made good progress, eventually meeting up half way with our other team of volunteers.

Our second team had met up at Hoe Mill earlier - a crew of three for the Raider and another of our experienced volunteers in his canoe (sorry we didn't get a picture of you, Mike).

The team didn't find quite as much pennywort as they had been led to expect would be there, but nevertheless had enough to do in removing as much weed as they could from between the reeds, and a significant amount that hides between the reeds and the bank.

The rain that had been threatening for the last hour finally started falling, giving a good reason to unload a boatful of weed and shelter against the bank for our mid-morning break. The scones with blackcurrant jam probably surpassed all previous hospitality, with the enjoyment being made even greater as a result of a really effective shelter from what was now pouring rain (and thanks to the tree-trimming work we had done earlier in the year.) Luckily the rain cleared and work could resume.

Eventually, and with both boats needing to be returned to Heybridge Basin, it was time for everyone to head off in different directions. Our canoeist, having put in a fine performance, had left earlier, our two Hoe Mill volunteers valiantly carried crones and rakes back, we dropped another volunteer off at Beeleigh and then headed for Heybridge.

Another good day's work!

Chelmsford River Cleanup

Saturday, 11th October 2008

The river clean-up is an event the Chelmer Canal Trust has supported over several years.

The first task is to get a workboat up to Chelmsford. This year two of our volunteers met early to take the boat from Sandford. Starting before sunrise, it looked like it really would be a beautiful day. In fact, as the sun rose there really was a bright golden haze on the meadow!

And the cattle were standing like statues!

Among the many people who turned up to support the event there were four Chelmer Canal Trust volunteers who signed in and took advantage of the range of equipment, ensuring that they were fully stocked with all they would need.

Given the number of people elsewhere, and having checked that the Springfiel d Basin wouldn't be a higher priority, they directed their efforts to the section of river between the weir and the Springfield Cut.

It is fair to say that the group worked well together, finding much to entertain and amuse them. The first task was the weir itself.
Then it was along the bank, calling in to as many clumps of vegetation as was possible. Not only the rubbish collectors, but also the rubbish was glowing with pride

The usual range of drinks bottles and fast food containers formed most of the rubbish - and our group was able to categorise the majority of rubbish as recylclable and ensure that it was put in the right bag.
The group worked steadily on until it was time for refreshments - and it was rather novel to have someone else prepare them (thank you), indoors, and to be able to sit on chairs to enjoy the coffee and bacon sandwiches.

Returning to the boat it was time to tackle the other bank, again with trips into the vegetation being par for the course.

An interesting and unusual find was a purse which we dragged from the river. It contained a host of debit, credit and loyalty cards, photocards, etc. We surmised its fate based on the fact that there were neither notes nor coins in the purse. It is now in the safe keeping of Chelmsford Police and if a Mr P…………… wants it back that's where to collect it from!

All too soon it was time to leave. Two of our volunteers left from Chelmsford while the other two returned the workboat to Sandford.

Weedbusting Workparty

Saturday, 4th October 2008

Due to the attendance of two new weedbusters to our ranks we had 10 people working in two groups.

Our first group of three volunteers, using our workboat, Buster, concentrated on the Long Pond, travelling up to where the Ford work party had got to a couple of weeks previously.

Much of the work involved the fine hand-picking which, whilst somewhat tedious, is essential at this time of year if we are to prevent much growth of Floating American Pennywort next year.

The group worked up the Long Pond towards Beeleigh.

Of course, it wasn't only Pennywort which was removed from the Navigation. This group's haul included a cold water tank (it might once have been a hot water tank, but the water (and mud) that came out of it was pretty cold!), a range of logs, a scooter, a bike and a very impressive collection of supermarket trolleys (maybe if the supermarket manager sees this picture he might consider whether the person he pays to remove trolleys from the Navigation is being as diligent as is needed!)

The day's work wasn't complete until Buster had been give a thorough hose-down.

Meanwhile at Hoe Mill two new volunteers were being introduced to the ways of weedbusting.

And mention must go to the sartorial elegance displayed by one long-standing volunteer who was extremely proud of his recently-purchased (via Ebay) set of waterproof clothing for the bargain price of £20

Similar to the Long Pond Group, the collection of weed downstream of Hoe Mill Lock involved much messing around in the bankside vegetation in order to trace the weed back to its source.

The mid-morning stop provided an opportunity to off-load the first boatful of weed and, as always, the refreshments were much appreciated.

Further weed-removal work, including the removal of mud in which pennywort had become established, was carried out on the way back upstream before time caught up with the group and they made their way back to Hoe Mill.

We were particularly sad for one volunteer - not only had she found herself to be the only female volunteer in the group, but she had also not benefitted from the useful features which a set of waterproof clothing can offer……..

Ford's Help in The Community Workparty

Friday, 19th September 2008

Seven volunteers from Ford motor company met in Daisy Meadow car park for a day on and around The Long Pond. Some small patches of pennywort had been reported, along with various litter and unwanted objects in the water. It was decided to combine clearing the pennywort with a litter pick of both the water and the towpath.

In the event, the haul of litter completely overshadowed the pennywort. Working from the bank and aboard the 'Buddy Buster' work boat, a considerable haul of general litter was removed including a number of navigational hazards. Among the items hauled out were the inevitable supermarket trolleys, office chairs, a traffic cone, several floating logs, a large fan heater and a child's scooter.

During a break for lunch at the Maldon Tesco, a newt, which had been picked up among the haul of rubbish, was rescued and released.

By the end of the day the team had completely cleared the section between Heybridge Basin and Tesco of the visible pennywort and rubbish.

We would like to thank the Ford volunteers for very worthwhile day's work.

Weedbusting Workparty

Saturday, 6th September 2008

A number of our regular volunteers were unable to be with us, and the bad weather the previous day had put off more potential participants. However, six of our most experienced weedbusters were ready to get into action (eight if we count the providers of the refreshments).

Disappointingly, weed in ditches and ponds in the Barnes Mill Lock area, the responsibility of landowners, and in places which we cannot access, was potentially being flushed by the heavy rain the previous day into the Navigation. This is bad news as it undoes much of the work we have undertaken in the past. Dudley went off in his canoe to investigate, got stuck into a major piece of weed-removal and damage-limitation, and plans to return during the week. Some of the weed removed by Dudley is shown here.

Meanwhile, three more volunteers were meeting up at Hoe Mill Lock.

With two in the Raider and one in his canoe they headed downstream to continue the work of the previous evening work-party. Pennywort continues to grow out from the bank and this group made good progress, clearing an impressive length of the bank-side vegetation and taking on board two boats-full of weed.

Having met early in order to get the new workboat, Buster, in position, two more volunteers scouted for weed between Beeleigh and Ricketts Lock. Dedication to detail was the name of the game!

Making quick progress they were soon at Ricketts Lock and, with time on their side, they cleared the cut running into Ricketts Lock and even managed to meet up with the 'Hoe' volunteers.

But the meeting was short-lived and soon it was back to the individual tasks.

Eventually time was up and the long journey back to Heybridge needed to be made. Nevertheless, on the way back along the Long Pond even more pennywort was removed.

Overall it had been an excellent weedbusting session with there now being very little pennywort evident between Heybridge Basin and Hoe Mill Lock (and the refreshments had again been excellent).

Weedbusting Workparty

Wednesday, 13th August 2008

The previous work-party having been cancelled due to bad weather it looked like the same fate would befall this one. However, as the 7.00 pm start approached the skies became brighter and ten (almost eleven!) volunteers turned up at Hoe Mill.

The plan had been to work downstream and to remove clumps of pennywort growing between the reeds on the (dry or damp) bank. This is what it had looked like a few days before

Regrettably, that was one thing that the weather had jeopardised - the rise in the level of the water meant that the pennywort on the bank was now the pennywort growing in the water!

However, undaunted by the challenge two parties worked along the bank and the crew in the raider worked on the pennywort in the reeds and waterside vegetation.

It was not the satisfying work of some work parties where large rafts of weed are pulled from the water, but it was equally important as this weed is starting to colonise the banks and would soon be creating large rafts in only a month or two's time.

So the three parties worked on along the bank, clearing pennywort from something like 400m of bank and reeds on the non-towpath side. Rakes, hoes and crones were all put to good use

The farmer has usefully tidied up and fenced the bank where his cattle had trampled the mud (and the weed) in the worst place, but our volunteers have a lot of work to do if they are to keep this section under control as well as respond to outbreaks elsewhere on the Navigation.

Eventually the approaching nightfall meant that if the group was to get back to Hoe Mill while it was light they had to leave now. So, in high spirits, the group returned to Hoe Mill to put tools away and head for home (or the pub).

Wednesday, 9th July 2008
The session was cancelled due to bad weather

It was wet! It was cancelled!

Essex and Suffolk Water Workparties.

Friday, 13th June 2008

With permission to do so from their very kind managers, around 30 enthusiastic volunteers, mainly from Essex and Suffolk Water, turned up on Friday 13th June to watch the launch of our new workboat (see a separate page) and then to work enthusiastically on bank repairs and litter picking.

One party was based at Heybridge Basin and another at Paper Mill. The Heybridge Basin group had been under the impression that they would be weed-clearing; the message hadn't got through that, unusually, there was no weed and the priority was in undertaking repairs to the banks where they were eroding badly. Nevertheless this keen group kept their spirits up and went to work with a real sense of purpose (and just a small amount of posing!)

The first task was to mix up a dry mix of concrete and put it into sandbags ready for use upstream. Huge numbers of bags were filled and put into one of the workboats ready for use.

Equipment was loaded on to our new boat - being christened with real tools, after its splattering of champagne 45 minutes earlier

And then some decided they would walk up the towpath

while others took advantage of a ride

The other workboat seemed to be loaded fully………..!

Tools and materials were distributed along the Long Pond

And teams then set to digging out foundations, placing sandbags and driving in stakes to hold them in place.

With so much energy having been expended it was eventually time to head back for lunch (with grateful thanks to Essex and Suffolk Water)

And then it was back upstream again for more of the same in the afternoon. With so much practice we soon had some skilled bank-repairers and it was difficult to judge which team had done the nest quality repairs

Meanwhile, with so much fun being had along the Long Pond, a second group were working at Paper Mill. There was extreme aggravation at the start and at one point it looked like this work group might have to abandon their task due to equipment (= boat) failure. But with the combined skills of a number of experts the petrol tank was found and the engine was fixed. After all of that aggravation it was time for coffee!

But then it really was time to get down to the real work and the group set off upstream, through Little Baddow Lock, searching for floating American Pennywort weed.

Not a single scrap of weed was found, but a few floating bottles and other debris were removed from the river. Like the Long Pond group they were determined to have some fun!

Then it was time to head to Paper Mill for an excellent Ploughman's Lunch (even more thanks to Essex and Suffolk Water) and then downstream to Rushes Lock in search of anything that shouldn't be in the water!

During the day the group had seen lots of wild life on the river including dragon flies and damsel flies in their vivid colours, swans and their cygnets, moorhens and their chicks, mallard ducks and ducklings plus some clever swallows which had built their nests under the road bridges completely out of harms way.

Finally, with all the work having been done that could be, and with the natural history having been well explained, the group returned to Paper Mill Lock and headed off home.

Both groups said how much they had enjoyed their time working along the Navigation and hoped that they would be able to return again next year. We hope so too!

The Chelmer Canal Trust gratefully acknowledges the work put in by the volunteers, and their organiser who couldn't be present on the day as she was on holiday. We are also grateful for the use of many of the pictures taken on the day by Essex and Suffolk Water's photographer.

Further Weed-scouting and Tree-trimming.

Wednesday, 11th June 2008

Twelve keen volunteers met at Hoe Mill Lock ready to work on whatever aspect of maintenance was needed. Of course, before starting the work the regular, and important, health and safety briefing was undertaken

The plan was to travel downstream and, potentially, work on both banks and from the water.

However, the best made plans and all that! Dudley had done a good job on any visible pennywort actually in the river. The farmer had installed an electric fence along part of the field on the bank opposite the towpath. The hope had been that this would stop the animals in the field trampling pennywort into the muddy bank and thus stop it taking root. Ironically it seemed that there was less pennywort where there was no electric fence and where the cattle had cleared the vegetation up to the water. The electric fence had stopped the cattle clearing the vegetation immediately beside the water and pennywort was seen growing healthily between the reeds.

With Plan A defunct the group decided to adopt Plan B and return upstream to deal with some of the vegetation hanging intro the Navigation. Some of the group decided to adopt Plan C which potentially involved a visit to the nearest pub.

Sadly, we had no sacks to collect rubbish so one member of our party was left extremely disappointed. However, moving further upstream again it didn’t take long for our volunteers to find useful work to do – watercress and more overhanging and under-poking vegetation.

What might have seemed like a short job was far from it – the more the branches were cut back the more obstructions were revealed. Saws, loppers and the rope were used to cut half-submerged trees from the bank and the engine of the Raider was severely tested in terms of its power to tow heavy loads across to the other side in order that our remaining volunteers could cut the wood into manageable-sized pieces, pull it fully ashore and dispose of it in the undergrowth.

Again, a productive session. The good news was that we could find no pennywort growing in the river. The bad news is that there is still plenty in the bankside vegetation and we will need to work hard to keep it under control when it starts growing later in the year.

Weed-scouting and Tree-trimming.

Saturday, 10th May 2008

Despite having received a number of emails giving apologies for non-attendance, we had anticipated getting sufficient volunteers to be able to field two work-parties, one from Beeleigh and one from Hoe Mill. Consequently two work-boat skippers were up and about early in order to get the boats in place.

William headed off to collect volunteers at Beeleigh while Neil collected the Raider at Hoe Mill and dropped it down through the lock in readiness for work on the Hoe to Ricketts section (again, the Raider had been excellently prepared by Steve, the Residential Caretaker). Sadly, having commented in the Round Robin email giving details of the session, that Hoe was often more popular than Beeleigh, no one turned up at Hoe Mill! The Raider was returned to its mooring and all efforts were put into work above Beeleigh Lock.

There was plenty to do (which is maybe why the volunteers seen here don’t look like they are having as much fun as we thought they were!)

(There was, incidentally, no outright winner to the ‘best hat’ competition!)

The aim of the work-party was to assess the current pennywort situation, remove any rubbish and cut back the most serious of the overhanging vegetation. There was no shortage of the latter.

The refreshment break was well-earned and, as usual, an adequate supply of tasty morsels was available to satisfy even the most greedy of the work-party participants.

And of course, we are always fastidious about the cleanliness of our refreshment boxes!
After the break the five enthusiasts continued to cut, and take ashore, more willow that was blocking the river (and would be catching the pennywort).

Three of the group had to leave early to attend to other commitments. The remaining two participants reconnoitred both banks between Beeleigh and Ricketts Locks, including the first 100m of the Ricketts weir stream. With watercress and American Pennywort looking somewhat similar at this time of year it was difficult to determine exactly how much (or how little) pennywort there is on this section. It would seem that there is very little, but a spell of warm weather can promote rapid weed growth and we imagine that our June work-party (the first of our Wednesday evening summer sessions) might provide us with a number of challenges. Time will tell!

Chelmsford River Clean Up.

Saturday, 19thApril 2008

Having an interest in all of the Navigation it was appropriate that we should join in the Chelmsford River Clean Up organised by Chelmsford Borough Council. The contribution of our Chelmer Canal Trust volunteers was predominantly by working on the water, concentrating on the section of the river downstream of the automatic weir near to the Essex Records Office. Five volunteers contributed to the effort directly, and we saw a number of other regulars 'doing their bit' along the banks.

Working from the water necessitated having a vessel to work from, and having it available on time. This involved William valiantly volunteering to bring the Raider up from its usual mooring at Paper Mill. Supported by extra fuel supplies provided by Sue he made good progress on Friday afternoon/evening in getting the Raider upriver to Springfield.

This meant that on Saturday morning four trusty souls, having collected gloves, bags and litter-pickers, could set off in search of litter.

In fact not a lot of searching was required as the litter on the bank, in the bank and on and in the water was fairly obvious. Clearly the good folk of Chelmsford (and further upstream) are a thirsty lot as there were many cans and bottles waiting to be picked up. Although we didn't think it was Ronald himself, Mr McDonald's customers had obviously chosen the automatic-water-assisted-litter-disposal-system, rather than litter bins, to get rid of their rubbish. Our thanks go out to them for giving us several hours' worth of pleasant litter picking.

We were encouraged to sort the litter into that which could be recycled and that which couldn't (hence the white and black bags).

With the Raider almost full we returned to base to off-load about eight bagsful of recyclable litter and four of (mainly) polystyrene. The mid-morning refreshments were welcomed, and good, but the general agreement was that we preferred Miriam's style of hot crossed buns!

Back to work and as the morning wore on, and maybe indicating something about the minds of our four volunteers in the boat, some of the items of rubbish we were collecting helped us develop our own 'Tale of the Riverbank'. First there was the rucsac and later a complete set of men's shaving equipment; next, several empty bottles of alcohol, then some items of women's clothing and a (deflated) lilo. The tale was coming together. A contact lens fluid bottle (couldn't she see him clearly without her lenses?). More empty bottles and then, yes, a packet of condoms with one remaining unused. More alcohol. Was this where it ended and would there be a sequel? Eventually more clues were there for all to see. An empty jar of baby food and then (and its always there) the Tesco trolley with not just one but TWO baby seats! The End!

With thirteen more miles of River downstream, but only a few minutes remaining, we felt we had done all we could for one morning. In total our volunteers collected about twelve bags of recyclable litter, four of non-recyclable litter, just the one trolley (although we counted many more collected on the bank further upstream), the cabinet and motor of a fridge, the deflated inflatable boat, four footballs, numerous tennis balls and materials for several more Riverbank Tales!

Rubbish Collecting, Trimming, Tidying and Weedbusting.

Saturday, 5thApril 2008

A record number of locations were dealt with on this particular session: log tidying and litter collecting above Paper Mill Lock, Weed-scouting below Paper Mill, Vegetation-trimming below Hoe Mill and above Beeleigh and Weed-scouting on the Lower Blackwater, Langford Cut and Long Pond. A total of 16 volunteers working at 5 locations with 4 other people supporting the initiative.

Adequate preparation is the key to getting work parties off to good starts. Russ, Alan, Terry and John looked after getting boats in place, and thanks go to Roy, Sue, Steve, Colin and Ewan for playing their parts in getting engines and fuel ready for us and towing boats, and to Miriam and Dave for the supplies of refreshments.

The task at Paper Mill was to try to bring order to some logs which some less-than-kind souls had seen fit to distribute in the river and around the bank. These were tidied and banded together in an attempt to keep them consolidated.

On completion of this much-needed task this group of three (including the Chairperson and Director of Essex Waterways, Roy Chandler) spent the rest of their time above Little Baddow Lock picking up litter from the fringes of the Navigation. An impressive five bags of rubbish were collected (but why, say some of us, was there that much litter there in the first place?).

Such was the enthusiasm of this group that they forgot (yes, FORGOT) to stop for a refreshment break despite being provided with not just one, but TWO, sets of refreshments! There is more work to be done further upstream where, it is reported, there is even more litter awaiting removal (either by a further work party or by high winds and further rainfall).

Meanwhile a lone canoeist patrolled the stretch of the Navigation below Paper Mill Lock, ensuring that as much of the Navigation as possible is kept clear of American Pennywort at a time of year when control is possible.

Further downstream the Hoe Mill group had assembled.

Four volunteers in the Raider and another four volunteers in three canoes meant there was an impressive workforce to deal with some of the most troublesome bankside vegetation which catches weed which would otherwise float by.

Despite the problems of removing blackthorn and brambles, both of which have sharp thorns (especially difficult for those canoeists with fingerless gloves), necessary work was done removing a large amount of problematic overhanging vegetation, with only one clump having to be left due to insufficient time.

The Raider travelled all the way down to the cut running in to Ricketts Lock and patrolled back up to Hoe Mill Lock, ably supported by the canoeists. This flexibility of water-based removal methods maximises on the effective work that can be done.

Upstream from Beeleigh three more volunteers carried on with what had been started last month.

(there were only three of them but they needed their refreshments!)

This involved further work on overhanging willow trees which not only trap weed but also get in the way of passing boats in some cases. One of the downsides of this type of work is that many of the willow branches have rooted into the gooey mud which has a habit of splattering volunteers with a liberal covering of mud when branches are removed to the bank!

A good time was had by all, with a range of tools, including loppers, machetes, bow saws and hand saws all being used to best advantage.

(before)
(after)

We had been led to believe that our longest serving and most dedicated weed-remover would not be with us on this particular work party. However, as we prepared to leave we spotted Dudley who had made serious inroads into outbreaks of pennywort in the Lower Blackwater, The Langford Cut and part of the Long Pond.

Another excellent morning’s work with impressive team efforts all round. The Work Boat, on its way back to Heybridge, got through the Beeleigh Flood Gates just in time – a high tide threatened to flow the ‘wrong’ way across the lower weir at Beeleigh and prevent the Gates (if they were doing their work) from being opened.

Blackthorn Cutting, Willow Trimming and Weedbusting.

Saturday, 1stMarch 2008

With three groups working at different places along the Navigation the pre-Saturday logistics of even getting sufficient refreshments in the right place for the right numbers of people were almost as complex as the organisation of the session itself!

The workboat skippers were up and about early, getting engines on board and started, and getting the three boats in place. We were grateful that Essex Waterways were prepared to forego the use of their Paper Mill boat so that we could use it (and by doing so they also ensured that we could benefit from the excellent support of Steve, the residential caretaker at Hoe Mill).

At Paper Mill the volunteers, with three new people taking part, divided into two, with one group of five working from the Raider, while two trusty and experienced canoeists dealt with pennywort.

Much enthusiasm was shown by the six intrepid volunteers who braved the thick undergrowth and the sharp blackthorn spikes to make impressive inroads into the bankside 'overgrowth'

It was not long before our newest volunteers were showing their skills.

This group enjoyed themselves so much that they had a late refreshment break and got back to Paper Mill an hour later than planned!

The two canoeists braved the strong winds to battle up to Little Baddow Lock in search of pennywort. They found virtually nothing except for some in Sandon Brook. We know the reputation that these two have - and we suspect that they will be out on the water before the next Weedbusting session in April, ensuring that any rogue weed is taken care of.

Starting from Hoe Mill, with the Raider already dropped down through the lock, three volunteers set off to see what impact they could make on anything that would trap floating pennywort weed.

They ventured to one of our most problematic pennywort-traps downstream of Sugar Bakers - a willow tree that had fallen into the water. Almost an hour's work was needed to deal with this major obstacle before refreshments and further trimming of bank-side vegetation. So keen were these three that, like the Paper Mill group, a search party had to go out to find them unloading some of their spoil.

So, with the lock to be negotiated before the Raider could be returned it was a late return for this group too.

Meanwhile at Beeleigh two further volunteers, using the workboat which had been brought up from Heybridge Basin, made progress on some of the many willow branches dipping into the water.

Before
After

In fact the apparently easy task of lopping off the branches was made more difficult and required a more skilled approach due to the huge mats of root below the waterline.

Before
After
Frequently a feature of working on the Long Pond, the return trip for the Heybridge workboat provided the opportunity of saving boaters several thousands of pounds in repair bills - the removal from the water of a number of supermarket trolleys!

(You know where to look if there aren't any available when you go shopping……)

Weedbusting and Blackthorncutting

Saturday, 2ndFebruary 2008

The day dawned bright a clear across the length of the Navigation - including here at Heybridge Basin

With what we thought was only sporadic outbreaks of Floating American Pennywort to deal with, the plan for the morning was to divide into two groups, one to deal with Pennywort in the Hoe Mill vicinity and the other to tackle a small amount of Pennywort in a stream near Ricketts Lock and then clear vegetation fringing the Navigation.

The 'Hoe Mill' group - 3 canoeists ably supported by two on the banks - started by tackling pennywort in the mill stream below the automatic weir above Hoe Mill. Even getting there was no mean feat, but once in position the group tackled the weed with great efficiency.



The combined talents of the canoeists and the people on the bank ensured that most of the weed was removed. Trusty Dudley promises to return in a few days to tidy up any fragments that got away.



Having dealt with one problem area it was time for this group to move on to another area of concern, but not before taking a few minutes out for a well-earned refreshment break.


Disguising its potential as a pennywort mine the mass of weeds in the pool beside the lock, which becomes an island at lower water levels, challenged our Hoe Mill group which had, by then, decreased to three. Nevertheless they worked with gusto, managing to clear many of the roots of pennywort which were in the mud below the waterline.



Again, a bit of tidying up needs to be done here and Trusty Dudley will be back when the weather is appropriate.

The second group had set off with enthusiasm as well


The original task had been to track down and remove a small amount of pennywort in the stream beside the Navigation opposite the Ricketts weir - as this feeds into the Navigation below Ricketts Lock. Sadly, on arrival, further investigation showed that the weed had significantly invaded several parts if this stream; it was intertwined with much vegetation, between very steep, often practically inaccessible, banks and generally presenting a task likely to be only minimally effective.


It seemed that the weed had got there at times when the Navigation had overflowed into the stream. With an optimistic hopefulness the group decided that, with only a small flow of water at this time of year, either ice would destroy it or with no water in the summer it would dry out and die.

So it was onwards, and upwards, to deal with vegetation growing over and into the water, and providing a secure anchor for any passing pennywort. Was it something to do with having cold feet that this group ended up with a lady on the bank and three men in the boat?!
The task was significantly unpleasant. Members of this group soon found that the plants most likely to be causing pennywort-catching problems were brambles and blackthorn - and that there was a significant amount of that prickly vegetation along the non-towpath side.
Nevertheless, with not a few shouts of pain when jabbed through gloves and clothing by thorns, several boats full of wood were removed.


Adequate refreshments can make even the most difficult task seem so much easier, and with thanks to the Catering Manager and her Deputy (especially for the buttered hot crossed buns) a well-earned break was taken.


Reduced to three people after the refreshment break this group carried on regardless, with, often, only the sound of sawing and the odd expletive indicating that there was a person deep in the vegetation.
Although it had been hard work this group were pleased that the work they had done had tidied the banks, making them much less susceptible to trapping passing weed.


All too soon it was time to return to Hoe Mill


Special thanks must go to Steve at Hoe Mill for getting the Raider ready for us and for being willing to clean it afterwards

Not Weedbusting but Waymarking!

Saturday, 5th January 2008

With American Pennywort in temporary abeyance due to the combined effects of low temperatures and fast flowing water we had the chance to enhance the Navigation in a somewhat different way to most months. Part of our 'mission' as a Trust is to encourage access to the Navigation and its environs, and ensuring that walkers can use paths beside and close to the Navigation is part of that work. A plea had gone out in an email for volunteers to bring along tools appropriate for digging small, deep, holes, and Saturday's band of volunteers certainly delivered with a range of spades, pickaxes, and, with thanks to a contact of Gary's, the correct device for digging holes!

An impressive number of volunteers turned up at Sandford - 14 in all - not only to install Waymarking posts, but also to do just a bit more weed-removal.

Never having installed Waymarking posts before, installation of the first one was carried out with much discussion, a variety of points of view, and a fair amount of observation - but we soon perfected the technique and gradually reduced the number of observers and increased the number of labourers!

It seemed that this was one of those times when it was pleasant to stay as a group, enjoy the good weather, chat and install Waymakarking posts when ever we got to a location where one was planned.

By now the technique had been perfected and, having installed three posts, we were confident that we could install two more at Sandford and three more at Barnes Lock. We weren't too enthusiastic about the one planned for Stonhams Lock, it being so far away and with no easy way of accessing it. So we congratulated ourselves by returning to Sandford for an early refreshment break.

Being the committed and thorough group that we are, we had decided that the posts should be concreted into place. Time will tell whether or not this was a wise move, but we felt that they stood the best chance of remaining in place. Our problem now was that we were running out of concrete. However, with thanks to Les for donating a considerable amount of cement and ballast, we soon started our own readymix operation and produced enough to install the remaining posts.

At this point we decided that working as two groups would get the task done effectively with one group remaining to complete the installation of posts at Sandford while another group went to Barnes Lock to install the posts there. Equipment and materials were divided appropriately and the groups set forth to their designated locations.

Not only was the Waymark installed, but a footpath through the undergrowth was created in order to make sense of where the sign was pointing.

So, it seemed that the job was done. All posts except the remote one near Stonhams Lock were now in place and we could finish early.

But such was the enthusiasm of our volunteers that an early finish was not to be. Not wanting the job to be left unfinished further materials were requisitioned and seven volunteers set off, with wheelbarrow, to walk to Stonhams Lock. After a dilemma about whether to believe the map or whether to believe the photograph of the location (the two did not tally) quick work was made of installing this ninth post.

The job was done, and, with the walk back to Sandford ahead of us, we were pleased to celebrate the Last Post!


CLICK HERE FOR SOME CHELMER CANAL TRUST ORGANISED WORK PARTY REPORTS / PHOTOS TAKEN DURING 2007.

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