SOME CHELMER CANAL TRUST ORGANISED WORK PARTY
REPORTS / PHOTOS TAKEN DURING 2017.
WeedbustingSaturday, 4th November 2017
Unfortunately this was a brilliant work party! ‘Unfortunate’ because we had many heavy and well consolidated rafts of weed to deal with, much in places that were fairly inaccessible; ‘brilliant’ because we had a team of loyal and hard-working volunteers who worked tirelessly to get the work done.
With the weather forecast all week having predicted heavy rain it was great that our volunteers turned up. One more joined us and two others would have done but sadly they’d gone to the wrong place! Ooops!
A crafty bit of off-road parking meant that we could save ourselves from having to carry all of the equipment too far.
And such was the confidence in this fit-for-purpose structure that wife Audrey went first!
Then there was no holding back. There was sufficient pennywort to keep everyone busy.
What a superb crew?! With groups working at various places along the stream an excellent job was made of removing not just the rafts, but also the fragments of pennywort which would otherwise cause problems further downstream. There was good, effective, use of the ‘remote pennywort retrieval system’ – otherwise known as the ‘chuck the crome on a rope into the furthest weed’ technique. Equipment failure threatened to scupper our plans at one point when the weight of the pennywort being hauled in was so great that the rope broke and two volunteers went staggering backwards. No harm done and a trip through the nettles on the far bank led to retrieval of the wayward crome (note: must replace rope with something with a greater breaking strain: further note to self – it might be November but those nettles are still stinging).
The rain that was forecast was patchier than expected, and spirits remained high. All too soon it was time to return to base for our morning break.
Then back to work and to tackle some pennywort in a very challenging location – in the stream at the bottom of a high bank, and with very thick marginal vegetation. Out with the shears and paths were cut through to gain access. Crome on rope throwers, volunteers at the bottom of slippery banks, volunteers at the top of slippery banks and back up behind, valuably pulling back the retrieved pennywort and distributing it ready for it to rot down. Excellent teamwork!
By now it would have been reasonable to consider that a morning’s work had been done. But no! With the bridge still in place it was back to the stretch we hadn’t yet tackled and, again with impressive teamwork skill being shown, further rafts of pennywort were removed. Everyone was busy. Sadly only one picture of the work.
Then it was back across Barry’s bridge.
Then a quick deconstruction of the bridge, a fairly short carry to the cars and the work party was over.
Huge thanks to all for such a successful, hard-working, morning’s efforts.
An Extra Weedbusting Work Party.Saturday, 21st October 2017
The Long Pond
An email had gone out to our most loyal and hard-working volunteers – could they help at an ‘impromptu’ work party, to deal with Pennywort between the boats at Heybridge Basin? And the reply came back from those who were not working – yes they could!
So, on a day that was predominantly ‘blue sky overhead but pretty jolly windy’, and occasionally ‘threatening clouds and spots of rain and pretty jolly windy’ our loyal band started to assemble at Heybridge.
The plan was to have volunteers working up either bank, with our workboat Buster, adding support from the water.
There was no lack of weed to deal with. Some had been growing for a while, and was lush and matted, some was at the early stages of raft-making.
It didn’t take long before Buster was brought into use to access the weed that could only be accessed from the water.
There was no slacking (not that we had expected otherwise) and our hard working volunteers on both banks found plenty of pennywort to deal with.
Of course, on the principle that an army marches on its stomach, the refreshment break is always an important aspect of any CCT work party. The conversation over refreshments this time included some delicious suggestions about how the provisions might be even further enhanced!
Onward after our break, and there was still no shortage of pennywort to deal with.
Our aim had been to clear pennywort from Heybridge Basin up as far as the last moored boat. We did that and more!
Just time to unload our last pile of pennywort and then it was back to base and off to deal with the rest of our ‘Saturday’ tasks that we’d all put in hold to be there.
HUGE THANKS to our excellent and reliable volunteers.
The Chelmsford Rivers LitterpickSaturday, 7th October 2017
Around Springfield (for most of us).
Another early start for two of our willing volunteers, not only having to get equipment to Sandford and load it on the workboat (kindly loaned by Essex Waterways Ltd), but also needing to get a fairly heavy outboard engine (also on loan – from the CCT Chairman) from one end of the mooring to the other. Thankfully the task was made much easier with the kind help of one of the residential caretakers at Sandford.
So, despite the inconvenience of an early start, all seemed to be going well and we were ahead of schedule. Until the starting cord on the outboard engine snapped! Resourceful as ever, we found that with the engine cover off we could thread the broken cord through the mechanism and start the engine that way. But it took an age to do so we didn’t want to do it too often!
The journey upstream was slower than usual but with the 4HP engine doing its best we made steady progress. Luckily the current wasn’t strong. And luckily the now-no-longer-with-a-starting-cord engine didn’t stall.
It was great to arrive at the mustering point and find that we had another good contingent of Chelmer Canal Trust volunteers, including two welcome ‘newbies’, all keen to get started on the tasks in hand
To distribute our resources in the most effective way the plan was that four of our volunteers would deal with rubbish on the river banks either side of the river downstream of the automatic weir, one would work from a canoe in the town’s rivers and three would work from the work boat, dealing with the rubbish in the river below the weir.
The best laid plans (again!).
Our volunteers on the banks did very well, picking up the various cans, bottles and other detritus along the banks. Apologies to them that there are no pics of them in action.
Our volunteers on the work boat didn’t fare quite so well! The Curse of The Sandford Raider had struck again. Starting the outboard engine became ever more challenging, and the amount of time spent picking up litter was many times less than the time spent trying to get the engine to perform. It turned out to be fortuitous that someone had left a fairly handy canoe paddle in the work boat.
The weather didn’t help, with occasional showers of light rain adding to the frustration of the experience. A patch of blue sky did appear at one point, but the intensity of the blue of the sky in no way matched the depth of the blue language coming from the work boat. At one point the work boat crew thought that they were possibly being filmed for ‘Candid Camera’!
The plan was that our CCT group would meet up to go together for our mid-morning refreshments. In order to be something like on time, the work boat crew, more out of desperation than good intent, abandoned the boat (rather than it being a security issue some of them hoped that the boat might be taken away by others!) and headed back to the start-point to join with several of our hard-working colleagues and head for our mid-morning refreshments.
Although a long walk away, the location for this work parties’ refreshments, rather than the usual Sea Scout Hut, was The Brambles Café in Quadrant. Again, that suspicion of our work boat crew - that they were being filmed for Candid Camera – was reinforced when we were led on a circuitous route through the store; one which felt more like we were on Christmas Shopping trip rather than heading for the café!
As usual, it was good to exchange news and get to know each other better. Then, a struggle to break away from the comfort and calm of the café, and head back to ‘work’, but we all accomplished it, with the landward crew getting back to their serious task and the work boat crew getting desperate.
Serious action needed to be taken. The decision was made to take part of the engine apart, and Steve headed off to buy some tools from the town centre. Without doubt we had two fine engineers on board. Considerable engine-mending skills were shown, and the selection of tools brought in to deal with the task was impressive (all done with the engine in place on the boat and the skipper being very nervous about any parts being dropped into the river! It was no consolation to be told that if anything was dropped at least we would know where it was!).
But to no avail. That engine was not going to start. Well not yet anyway!
So, aware that our colleagues upstream had potentially enjoyed a far more productive time than those on the work boat, the crew decided that it was time to abandon the task of litterpicking and face up to the fact that there was a boat and an engine at Springfield and both needed to be returned safely to Sandford!
The various options were explored, but several meant that others would unwittingly be lumbered with the responsibility for dealing with the fall-out. Only one thing for it. The canoe paddle on board, which could be separated into two halves, meant that it just might be possible, with the current and the wind, sort-of, in the right direction, to paddle the work boat back downstream.
Foolish? Yes, probably! Knackering? Yes, definitely! Frustrating? Yes, certainly. Anyone watching from the bank might have wondered what these two idiots were up to! Sometimes paddling bow-first, sometimes broadside, sometimes stern-first, and occasionally cartwheeling off the bank because of the wind, slow progress was made towards Barnes Mill Lock. We were sure that there were more bends in that river on the way back than there had been on the way up!
Eventually (did it really take over an hour?) the work boat got to Barnes Mill Lock. No problem lowering the boat down through the lock and then, joy of joys, on a whim to see if it would now behave, the engine played ball and started first pull! No hesitation in getting going, we motored back down to Sandford while our luck was in.
Once there, with no time to waste – too much had been wasted already(!) - the tools were packed back in the car, the work boat returned to its mooring and the engine stored. Then, in the full knowledge that our efforts to clear up litter from the work boat had been minimal, and the real work had been done by our excellent colleagues upstream, we headed home in the knowledge that the ‘aching muscles’ effect would soon be kicking in!
Exclusively Weedbusting.Saturday, 2nd September 2017
With many of our regular volunteers reporting that they were unavailable, coupled with reports of huge rafts of pennywort re-colonising the Long Pond, we were concerned that we might be a little under-strength, but we need not have worried, as on this perfect late summer morning, six keen volunteers arrived at the rendezvous point at the back of the Tesco car park at Fullbridge ready for action. Two Trust members had even made it all the way from Saudi Arabia especially for the work party! (…..and possibly to visit others as well. But still, is that a record?)
We decided to travel aboard Buster to Beeligh flood gate first, so we could target our activities. It turned out that most of the larger rafts had already been pushed up onto the bank by forces unknown. We suspected the EWL weed lifting boats had been out since our last reports! While these had certainly cleared the channel, we found considerable amounts of pennywort left behind in the reeds and edges, and quite a lot of the dreaded weed in the entrance to Langford Cut, so while Steve paddled downstream in his coracle looking for weed to hand pick,
the rest of the party divided into a bank team and a boat team to tackle what was growing in the mouth of the cut, the boat towing the weed across to the bank team for removal.
… until we realised that they might have something to do with our proximity to the Maldon Golf course!
As there were no convenient places to pull weed up over the bank, soon there was a growing pile of weed on Buster’s deck.
Which was added to from the coracle.
Buster’s ramp proved essential for getting the weed onto dry land past the vegetation at the edge of the water.
Soon it was time to break for refreshments.
While we enjoyed our break, someone noticed quite a large eel wriggling on Buster’s deck. Steve sprang to assist it back into the water,
Eventually it was returned to where it belonged.
After the break, there was still plenty of pennywort to be found. The coracle was soon brimming again.
A very pleasant and productive morning.
Weedbusting – abandoned!Wednesday, 9th August 2017
Only as far as the Tesco Fullbridge Car Park!
The best laid plans, and all that……
“Come along, and if you don’t want to take part in the work, enjoy a relaxing stroll on a pleasant summer’s evening.” we said
“We’ve had to change the location of this August’s work party as there is floating pennywort along the Long pond that we need to deal with.” we said.
“This part of Essex is one of the driest in the whole of the UK.” someone said.
Well it wasn’t quite like that!
As our work party organiser left home in north London and headed to Heybridge Basin he knew there would be some challenges, given the weather. The first was that, despite leaving over an hour extra to get there, the traffic conditions weren’t good. Watching the predicted arrival time on the Satnav ‘Never mind, still plenty of time to get to Heybridge, get the boat started, load up the tools and motor up to Fullbridge’ became ‘Cutting things a bit fine, but it’s still possible’. The rain fell harder. Someone on the radio phoning in with a traffic report described the A12 as a river in places. The traffic went even slower. ‘Cutting things a bit fine’ became ‘Don’t stand a cat’s chance in hell getting there by boat. Drive straight to Fullbridge.’
But wait, who is this walking across the car park? A trusty work party volunteer. We made a trip to the landing stage, willing the rain to stop. We could see burgeoning rafts of pennywort.
After extensive consideration, and despite a lull in the rain, we decided to abandon the work party. And it was a good call; minutes later the rain was hammering down again.
The best laid plans……..!
If you were one of those who said had said in advance that they couldn’t come – good call.
If you were one of those who looked at the weather and decided not to come – wise move.
If you were one of the two who made it to the car park – thank you!
Just Weedbusting.Saturday, 12th July 2017
Barnes Mill Lock and Beyond
It was good fortune that brought the six volunteers to this work party – as they were the most likely volunteers to be up to the considerable demands that were subsequently placed upon them. A long walk (or paddle in the coracle) and then conditions that would have tested the more faint-hearted.
The need to concentrate on the planned task went a bit against the grain as we walked past areas we could see were ripe for the pennywort-picking. But in general the weed that we saw in one of the small streams was isolated as a result of thick reeds further down that would not let it drift further down.
Eventually we got to the chosen destination – a sharp bend in the main feeder stream which flows across the water meadows, and a place we know well, having visited it frequently. Always a challenge to access with steep banks and a large reed bed that conceals pennywort and prevents line-of-sight spotting of the enemy. Today was no exception – that vegetation was tall and thick!
Yet again we benefitted from the equipment and skills that we needed. Coracle man Steve in his how-do-we-ever-manage-without-it coracle, and crome-thrower-supreme Barry. Steve collected armfuls of pennywort while Barry cast out for crome-fulls of the stuff.
Meanwhile, wader-man William looked for places where he could usefully stand in the water a drag pennywort out.
Irreplaceable-assistant Audrey, and Jolly-pleased-he-was-there John worked well together, helping bring ashore the pennywort that was being cromed out.
Working from both sides can be effective
Meanwhile pennywort was being ferried upstream
To be off-loaded from the bridge.
Time was, as usual, against us, but we did as much as we could, taking out all the pennywort we could find, before taking a much-needed break for refreshments.
Then, with the sun setting in front of us as we returned, the long slog back to Barnes Mill, with everything, coracle included, having to be taken across land.
A valuable piece of work completed by an expert crew. There is now no longer a very large quantity of pennywort waiting in the stream, ready to be washed further down into the Mill Stream, and thence the Navigation.
Litter PickingWednesday, 7th June 2017
The Long Pond, Heybridge
A bit of maintenance on our jointly-owned work boat, Buster, before we started – the telltale on the outboard engine needed to be cleared; we want to ensure that we know that the engine is in good order.
For a variety of understandable reasons a number of our regular volunteers couldn’t be at this work party. But as it happened, we had just the right number of people for the task in hand and were very pleased to be joined by a Councillor from Heybridge – after all, we were on his home turf.
The safety of our volunteers is of paramount importance to us and an addition to our equipment is safety whistles with which each member of the party was issued. They conform to the three ‘p’s – plastic, pea-less and piercing!
Then it was down to work.
We used the usual plan under such circumstances – volunteers on both banks and one or two on the workboat dealing with anything in the water.
Our volunteers on both banks made good progress.
Both because they are experienced litterpickers
And because there wasn’t a lot of litter to deal with – what a pleasant state of affairs!
And during the whole of the work party we only managed to find one strand of pennywort – would that it was always like that!
The rain was irritating – but could have been much worse. Refreshments, taken near Hall Road Bridge, were, as usual, appreciated.
Then it was further on up the Long Pond to Wave Bridge where there was possibly the densest concentration of litter.
And then the long haul back to Heybridge Lock, dropping off equipment on the way, and with thanks to our lovely volunteer who took the three sacks of rubbish with her for disposal.
Weed BustingSaturday, 6th May 2017
Barnes Mill Lock
The string of apologies that continued to arrive right up to a few minutes before the start of this work party meant it might have been our first ever work party with no participants! But that was not to be and it was a relief to know that there would be four dedicated and experienced weedbusters undertaking the continuing important task of dealing with pennywort in streams and ditches that feed into the Navigation at Sandford Mill.
Strategies were discussed between participants and a plan was hatched (most significantly that we WOULD take the refreshments with us!)
It was a fair old hike to the location for our first session of pennywort-removing. We didn’t know what to expect and when we got there we weren’t disappointed and we were! We weren’t disappointed because there was weed there that needed to be removed; we were disappointed because there was weed there that needed to be removed - and we’ve removed weed there on a continuing basis. Oh well, here we go.
A skilled team we were able to move efficiently along the stream, dealing with the various infestations as we went.
And the team faced some challenges. With no waders and no coracle, getting to weed on the far bank and between the reeds was difficult, as was removing pennywort that had rooted in the soft mud. Smelly, gloopy and heavy.
Nevertheless we made good progress and it was good to see a number of areas of open water that in the past have needed a lot of attention to clear them. Eventually we arrived at a good spot to take a break and have our refreshments – and watch a deer on the far side of the stream that either had to be deaf or fake. It turned out to be the latter and the developmental joke that followed led to the traditional ‘refreshments’ pic being overlooked.
(OK, here it is: What do you call a deer with no eyes? No eyed-deer. What do you call a deer with no eyes and no legs? Still no-eyed deer. What do you call a deer with no eyes, no legs and blood coming from its head? Still no bloody eyed deer! Boom boom! We needed Alan!)
Onwards along a stretch dealt with during the April work party – and unsurprising, but nevertheless disappointing, to find a considerable amount of re-growth. But we were there to remove it so remove it we did.
All credit to our volunteers for being prepared to brave the steep banks, muddy edges and nettles in order to gain access to pennywort that might otherwise have been overlooked.
Then with time having beaten us again, it was the long slog back to base. On the way we saw even more ‘explosions’ of healthy pennywort still waiting to be removed. It’s a dilemma. Keep coming back to the same place where we know we have problems and still aren’t on top of the situation – but when understandably our volunteers might get bored, or go elsewhere to deal with other outbreaks that might not be as serious but contribute to variety of locations and experience of other parts of the Navigation.
Weedbusting Work Party.Saturday, 1st April 2017
A rather damp Saturday morning saw seven keen volunteers gather close to Barnes Lock. While the main navigation appears to be mostly pennywort-free for the time being, the pockets of weed remaining in the many tributary ditches remains a threat, so our target was again to be the Baddow Meads ditch. The weather was not promising as we reached the ditch and took up where we had left off in January, but that was not going to stop us! With Steve, the coracle man finessing the upstream sections which we could not reach from the bank, the rest of us headed downstream to continue from where we left off in January.
Although we like to keep our removal of waterside vegetation to a minimum, we couldn’t ignore the tree branch which was holding a large patch of pennywort just out of reach, and making removal impossible. After some determined work with a rose-pruner, it came free, bringing a surprising amount of the invasive weed with it!
In places the ditch got very narrow, which made removal of the bank-to-bank infestations seem slightly less daunting.
Also the weather was starting to brighten up, which always helps!
Further downstream the channel widened out again, and we realised that considerable strength and effort would be required to tackle this section.
So to make sure we would all be in peak condition, we took a short break to take on extra fuel!
Feeling refreshed we started tackling the larger patches in earnest. Much of this growth was hidden in the reeds last time we were here, but these seemed to have died back a bit so we seized the opportunity!
We made good use of our net for catching small stray pieces – even extending it with the use of some tape and a long crome handle!
Sometimes the best option is to just go and grab the stuff by hand!
Soon we had impressive rolls of pennywort on the bank, and clear water in the channel. It was time to go home, with another satisfying morning’s work complete.
Purely Litter-PickingSaturday, 4th March 2017
The Chelmsford Rivers Spring Clean
It is in our own interests to support this event, organised by Chelmsford City Council, as the more litter that can be removed upstream the less we will need to deal with further downstream. Everyone benefits – the Navigation and its environs look better free of unsightly litter, the environment is healthier with less negative impact on wildlife, boaters have less problems with nasties getting wrapped round their boats’ propellers and so on.
Traditionally the taking of a group photo precedes the event. In the opinion of some, a shameful opportunity to give advertising to a company that is responsible for a significant amount of the litter. We smiled and waved our litter-pickers to order.
Two people on the work boat, one in a canoe, one in a coracle and four on the banks meant that a good area could be covered. Traditionally we concentrate on the area below the automatic weir as by then the rubbish has escaped the collecting effect of the weir, and also because it is an area less likely to be covered by other litter pickers.
As usual, the engine on this particular workboat failed to behave itself and considerable skill was needed to manoeuvre without the use of a reliable engine. It is lucky that the design of the work boat is such that no damage is done when heading to the bank and the brakes fail!
Given that Storm Doris had flooded the river and washed litter downstream the amount of litter both on the banks and in the water was less than expected and about the same as usual.
All of our work party members play a valuable part, whatever role they are playing.
Please note that talented as he is, Coracleman Steve is not standing in his coracle!
We felt that our efforts, and the time we had worked for, justified a refreshment break – traditionally for these particular events involving soup and bacon rolls at the Sea Scout Hut. Sadly the good folk at the Sea Scout Hut didn’t agree with our timing. Nevertheless in a short while their usual generosity prevailed and they provided the usual delicious fare!
Then it was back for more litter picking, enabling us to double the total amount of litter our volunteers had collected – something like 10 sacks of litter in total.
Finally the fun came to an end and it was time to revert to our normal lives. Still more to do for the work party crew, though, as having had an early start to get the work boat from Sandford to Chelmsford they also had the task of returning it, along with all of the kit for next month’s work party. Thanks, guys!
Weedbusting & Litter-PickingSandford
Saturday, 4th February 2017
A significant amount of rain over the past few days meant that the Navigation was only just recovering from flood conditions. Nevertheless even if we couldn’t work on the main river there was work to be done on the stream that runs into the Sandford millstream.
It was good to meet up with some of our regular weedbusters and litterpickers. Unfortunately several others of our regular volunteers, including Coracleman Steve, weren’t able to be there. But Waderman William was there to step in when needed, literally.
Our first challenge was to create a bridge to cross to the part of the stream we were to work on.
After a few safety checks we were across and progressed up the stream, initially pulling out small amounts of weed. Small, but enough to cause huge problems later in the year if not removed now. Good teamwork prevailed with everyone playing an effective part (well, apart from maybe the cameraman!)
It was tough work, but someone had to do it!
The further upstream we went the larger were the amounts of weed. Eventually we came to a treasure trove of pennywort, but skilful working both from the bank and in the water meant that every last vestige of weed was eventually removed.
As always we had some keen volunteers who went to the limits to remove hidden weed.
We’d covered a good stretch of the feeder stream and, having checked that there was nothing in a nearby ditch that can cause problems, headed back downstream for a welcome refreshment break. Cheese rolls were, unusually, on the menu and seemed to be especially acceptable.
At this point we felt we had done enough so it was time to return to base, meaning back across the rickety-rackety bridge (not a troll to be seen!)
Another patch of litter was ably dealt with on the way back.
We’ve perhaps not paid sufficient attention to biosecurity measures recently. ‘Check, Clean, Dry’ is very important in ensuring that ‘nasties’ (invasive crustaceans, weeds, seeds, etc) aren’t inadvertently transferred from one area to another on footwear, clothing or equipment. http://www.nonnativespecies.org/checkcleandry/ So, turning over a new leaf, and old wellies, we were assiduous in cleaning everything well before leaving, and knowing that to be fully effective we needed to dry everything thoroughly too.
Weedbusting Work Party.Saturday, 7th January 2017
January isn't noted for good weather, so the mild and damp Saturday morning on the 7th January was no deterrent to the eight hardy volunteers who met at Barnes Mill to tackle the pennywort which we knew was lurking in the tributary ditch across the water meadows.
Starting from the upstream limit of the visible pennywort, the experienced team quickly got stuck in, and surprisingly large rafts of pennywort were soon being hauled in.
While the more adventurous attacked the situation from the opposite bank after a daring leap across a narrow section upstream.
And of course the coracle reaching those otherwise inaccessible areas if infestation.
Fallen trees added to the complication!
Then it was time to stop for a very well earned refreshment break and the obligatory “Team selfie”
And then back to clear even more pennywort.
A very impressive and satisfying mornings work.