Chelmer Canal Trust

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Weedbusting and Litterpicking

Saturday, 2nd March 2019
Downstream from Paper Mill

Several of our regulars were unable to be at this work party – but that that was more than compensated for by the excellent attendance of a number of ‘newbies’, all of whom were willing to get stuck in to whatever work was needed.

A key component of most work parties is having use of a work boat, enabling us to access pennywort and litter from the water and, crucially, giving us access to the non-towpath bank. Starting the outboard engine of work boats, especially on winter mornings (o.k. - technically it was Spring!) is sometimes a challenge. Today was no exception. More choke, less choke, more throttle, less throttle, you try, he tries, someone else tries. It wasn’t going to play!

But then, thankfully, with the skill that clearly comes from being the General Manager of the Navigation, our thanks went to David Hewitt for getting the engine started.

Our lovely volunteers had watched the engine (not) starting patiently from the far bank and it was good to do some introductions and to run through the basic ‘health and safety issues’; the main one – enjoy yourself (after all, who wants to give up their Saturday morning to NOT enjoy themself?)

So off we went with a very strong contingent litterpicking along the towpath and surroundings, and the crew on the work boat ready to deal with inevitable Floating American Pennywort we were there to deal with.

Although not growing as fast and as lushly as it does in the summer months there was plenty about, and removing as much as possible at this time of year means that there is less of it to grow into the huge rafts we often see later in the year.

Our willing volunteers were soon hard at work, well, willingly! No scrap of paper, can, bottle, bag or other piece of litter was going to escape their attention.

And soon the crew on the work boat were getting the hang of using the various tools to greatest effect (or using the techniques they have perfected over several years as a work party member).

Steady progress was made by the litterpickers along one bank

And steady progress was made by the work boat crew along the opposite bank

We never stop being surprised by the amount of rubbish that is thrown away – especially by people who have, presumably, walked this far, hopefully to enjoy the surroundings. (Although, of course, some floats downstream from more populated areas).

As if it had been planned, the work boat arrived just as the litterpickers were at an area which would be ideal for refreshments.

Whatever the weather we like to ensure that our volunteers are provided with adequate refreshments – after all work like this in the fresh air stimulates the appetite – and with the refreshment box safely rescued from the debris in the work boat it took only a few minutes to start the preparations

And then time for our happy band to enjoy them! Most managed an adequate intake; some need more practice!

Then all too soon it was time to pick up the rubbish bags, get back on the work boat and head back to the car park at Paper Mill.

Hopefully the litterpicking crew wouldn’t find too much on the way back. But the crew of the work boat still had a few tasks to complete before their morning’s work was over.

It had been another excellent effort by all of today’s volunteers and we hope they will come back again.

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Weedbusting and Litterpicking

Saturday, 9th February 2019
Fullbridge and beyond

It’s fair to say that the Work Party Organiser isn’t a morning person! Having to get up at the crack of dawn, prepare refreshments, lug all of the equipment to the car or onto a work boat, and travel to the location for the work party is not his favourite activity. Especially if the weather is foul and especially if the outboard engine of the work boat doesn’t start, or when it does the telltale of the engine isn’t weeing out water proving that the engine is being cooled adequately.

But some days, rare, but they exist, it all works smoothly. Today was one of those days. Who could grumble when the morning was developing the way it was?!

And things got even better. Several of our most experienced weedbusters arrived at the meeting point, as did three new volunteers who, during the morning, proved their worth. Ten in total.

The usual plan of attack to deal with Floating American Pennywort and litter. A crew on the water principally dealing with pennywort – four on the workboat with coracleman Steve in his coracle, and three groups on the bank principally dealing with litter.

There was plenty of pennywort for the folk on the water to deal with. And the newcomers were soon at home with the tools and techniques we have used over many years.

Meanwhile the folk on the banks were kept busy litterpicking

And occasionally helping with pennywort-removal from the bank.

There’s always plenty for Steve to do. The work he does from the coracle is invaluable.

And on the bank some good PR was going on – spreading the word about what we do and why we do it is no bad thing.

We like to ensure everyone has the opportunity to have their refreshments at the same time, meaning that everyone needed to be collected and ferried to our chosen spot.

But not before the first load of pennywort had been offloaded (it’s fair to say, with energy and enthusiasm – maybe the prospect of the forthcoming refreshments helped!)

Always appreciated, and an opportunity to catch up with each other’s news, the refreshment break seemed to be appreciated (sadly, despite trying to find him, we couldn’t find one member of our group)

Then, as always, more of the same. The litterpickers headed to Beeleigh Lock while the weedbusters found some large rafts of weed that they just couldn’t leave there.

Finally for the work boat a trip upstream to collect the litterpickers, the return trip to the landing stage, and thankfully the meeting up with the tenth member of our group.

Another impressive morning’s work by everyone. We are proud of our core team of ‘regulars’ and we particularly hope that the newcomers will return again next time too.

Weedbusting and Litterpicking

Saturday, 5th January 2019
Upstream of Paper Mill

The first of our 2019 work parties and it was good to have an enthusiastic group of volunteers to deal with whatever work was needed.

Some of us thought it was a cold start and some of us were pleased that it wasn’t as cold as we had expected. Either way, we got colder as we progressed upstream to Kings Mill (Little Baddow Mill) Lock. Nevertheless, our volunteers were keen and ready for action, usefully spotting, on the way up, the pennywort we would remove on the way back.

A quick check above the lock showed that there was no obvious pennywort in the lock cut, the place where it would have been most likely to linger.

So we took on our various responsibilities to work downstream, with the usual roles established over the many years of us doing this work: some on the bank both collecting litter and removing any accessible pennywort; some on the water lifting pennywort into the work boat; Coracleman Steve in his coracle, accessing areas that other techniques can’t reach.

It’s a sad commentary on modern society that so many people throw their litter away rather than take it away with them. Our volunteers aim to reduce the dangers to wildlife and create a better visual amenity by collecting this needless rubbish. This is a good time of year to do so when vegetation has died back and when litter that would otherwise be concealed is evident.

What would we do without Coracleman Steve who not only manages to make remaining stable in a coracle look easy, but also works effectively, removing pennywort that might otherwise not even be noticed?

With two volunteers removing pennywort from places not accessible from the bank, and a workboat skipper ensuring that the work boat got them to the relevant places, more valuable work was done. It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.

Armed with the appropriate tools for both litterpicking and pennywort-removal some demonstrated admirable multi-tasking!

With good progress having been made it was time to moor up ready for delivery of the much-needed refreshments.

The refreshment break. Time to recharge our batteries and to chat further as a group, share some anecdotes and catch up with personal news. Maybe it was the cold weather, maybe it was the energy thus-far expended, that meant that there were healthy appetites. And maybe some found that the resolutions they had made hadn’t lasted very long…….

Then, with a bit of swapping over of roles, more of the same. It’s great that we have volunteers who are happy to take on each of the important roles, enabling us to make good progress and work efficiently.

More work to do on the bank, along the tow path

And plenty more to do on the work boat which rapidly filled with pennywort. On the plus side the pennywort was still growing well enough that it came out in useful crome-fulls (rather than break up, having been weakened by the cold weather). On the minus side, so much of the pennywort was trapped in roots and braches just below the waterline.

Meanwhile, valuable opportunities were being taken to remove pennywort from the tow path side.

A long morning’s session during which we had usefully removed a large amount of pennywort from a large stretch of river as well as collecting several sacks of rubbish. We had had to leave some pennywort, trapped in the vegetation or hiding in the rushes, but hopefully some cold weather will kill off the pieces that were broken off and not caught.

And what a fine band of volunteers who were willing to carry the equipment from the off-loading point back to the car park. Well done everyone!


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