SOME CHELMER CANAL TRUST ORGANISED WORK PARTY
REPORTS / PHOTOS TAKEN DURING 2021.
Weedbusting in the Cuton DitchAn Additional Work Party on 17th December 2021
News that there was pennywort in a ditch that feeds into the Navigation had been received and we needed to respond. If it wasn't removed the anticipated winter flooding could well flush the pennywort into the main system and ruin much of the work we've done during the year. Hence, the additional work party.
Our volunteers are happy to be out in all conditions and many of us get used to working under some pretty grotty circumstances. But thankfully today wasn't too bad. In fact, 'it could have been worse'! The weather was misty and murky with a bit of rain - but it could have been worse. There were only four of us available today, and whereas we could have done with more volunteers it could have been worse. The pennywort we were about to remove had been damaged by recent frosts, but not so badly that it easily broke up - so it could have been worse.
With no work boat available to get us to our planned location we needed to walk there. But with permission to park a bit closer, the distance we needed to walk was slightly reduced; it could have been worse. Tools and refreshments ready, we were poised.
After a fifteen minute walk we were at the ditch, there was plenty for us to do. And we got down to work.
Skilled volunteers, working together, meant that the first of several rafts of weed was quickly removed.
Although pennywort flourishes in open water with good light it also manages to colonise reed beds.
What a result - the work has produced an impressive stretch of clear water.
But there was more to be dealt with!
Nevertheless, moving progressively downstream, working together, produced more valuable results. In a few more minutes there will be no pennywort left here to be washed into the Navigation.
Sometimes you just have to be totally committed.
We'd worked hard and it was time for a break and some warming refreshments.
Then back to the task in hand.
And again, good to be able to completely clear another section.
By this point we had all worked hard and were starting to flag. So, feeling pleased that we had given it a good shot, it was time to check that we had all of the equipment, return to base and head home.
Our next Chelmer Canal Trust Work Party is on Sunday, 9th January 2022. Details of our regular work parties are emailed out and available on this website about a week before the event. Dates for our regular work parties throughout 2022 are listed in the Forthcoming Events section of our CCT website. Click here to open the Forthcoming Events page.
Weedbusting on the Long Pond from Heybridge Basin5th December 2021
The weather forecast was rubbish, it had rained overnight, was still raining when we met up and it was cold. Nevertheless, the ten volunteers who had said they would turn up did so. And all on time!
It was good that two new volunteers were able to join us. They soon got the hang of things and fitted in well.
It was far too cold to stand around so we were soon on our way.
A large inflatable dinghy setting off from the landing stage
and our jointly-owned work boat leaving from its mooring in Heybridge Basin.
Despite recent work to remove pennywort having been done between the boats and along the Long Pond there was still plenty to do.
Being able to get between the moored boats from the water is a real plus.
And our regular style of work, from a work boat, is essential in allowing the removal of larger rafts of pennywort. Just look at the amount this group have collected in such a short time!
Having the advantage of an inflatable dinghy (well worth the fuss of getting it there part-assembled) extended our range – especially as it could hold two crew and the skipper (just).
We all progressed up the Long Pond with each volunteer playing an important role in the overall team effort.
Plenty of pennywort brought onboard, meaning that plenty also had to be offloaded.
By this point, and without a break, many of us were finding it difficult to work as we couldn’t feel our fingers! But at least it wasn’t raining!
So, back to base and the chance to warm up with some hot drinks and snacks. We are so lucky to have such a smashing group of volunteers.
And to reinforce how lucky we are – it’s not just pennywort removal. One of our volunteers has created some more ground anchors which will allow us to put further barrages in place across the mouths of some of the feeder ditches.
Sunday work parties have worked well as alternatives when Saturday work parties can’t take place. That applies in January - our next CCT work party is another Sunday one – Sunday, 9th January 2022.
Weedbusting on the Long Pond7th November 2021
The first time, as far as we are aware, that we'd arranged a ‘Sunday' work party. And thankfully about the same number of volunteers were able to take part as would have been there for our ‘Saturday' work parties. Early starts for some of our volunteers, who we are grateful to, for ensuring that the right equipment and boats were in the right place by the start of the work party. A loaded work boat from Heybridge.
A long trip down from Hoe Mill
And local preparation, inflating the dinghy
Not wanting to waste the opportunity, two of our volunteers were in action before we even started!
Then the all-important briefing of a group who didn't need to hear much as they were all experienced volunteers.
Then swiftly into action
Not just on the water but in the water
There was plenty of pennywort to remove. Sadly.
It wasn't just the amount of weed that was challenging! Why does someone decide to get rid of the interior of their cat basket by throwing it in the Navigation? (hope the cat wasn't in it). Not the best thing to have wrapped round the prop!
Elsewhere work continued, of course
Until it was time to get everyone to the location for our mid-session refreshments
Always appreciated and a good opportunity, at last, to catch up with each other.
It's not unusual to find a supermarket trolley in the Navigation. Today we took out three.
Good progress was made down towards and past Black Bridge
Then finally the offloading of yet further loads of pennywort and back to base.
Farewell to some. See you next time. Onwards for some to take the boats back to their bases. Thanks, and hope you had successful trips back.
Weedbusting.15th October 2021
On the Long Pond and above Beeleigh Lock
An additional work party today in order to keep on top of the late-season growth of pennywort.
It would have been difficult for it to have been any better! A great team of volunteers; a good spread of craft on the water; and some excellent weather. Result!
Some were out early at Hoe Mill and Heybridge Basin where, with thanks to Essex Waterways Ltd. staff, boats were ready to bring use.
Then it was the meetup at Beeleigh. Done so promptly that we could finesse our plans and get started on what was going to be a challenging day.
Sadly, no pic of the Essex Waterways Ltd weedlifter and crew starting off from Beeleigh Flood Gates and doing an impressively efficient job of removing the larger of the rafts of pennywort at the top of The Long Pond.
But our canoeists and kayaker got ready to be on the case, tidying up behind the weedlifter.
And soon after that, with two work boats ready to be used, tools and equipment were distributed above the lock at Beeleigh.
Then into action for everyone.
Fine work, literally, was being done downstream of the flood gates. Hand picking, leaving nothing to regrow, is so important.
Meanwhile, above Beeleigh, the two work boats hadn't taken long to pull rafts of pennywort on board from the water and then, of necessity, with the boats getting ever heavier, to unload it to the bank.
And so it continued. Plenty of pennywort to be removed. Much pulled on board the work boats, some towed to the bank for direct removal.
The refreshment break was planned for 12.15 so the two work boats returned to Beeleigh lock
and everyone enjoyed a well-earned break. In the sun!
Then all too soon it was back to work, Efficient skippers and crews
and lots of pennywort still to be removed.
Support from the kayak and coracle makes such a difference and means that less is given the chance to regrow as soon as our backs are turned!
Good progress was made up past the Langford Water intake
And excellent teamwork shown at a particularly challenging spot.
Time was against us, but nevertheless the combined effort of our brilliant team of volunteers mean that we had made a sizeable impact on the pennywort below the Beeleigh Flood gates and cleared all the significant pennywort between Beeleigh and Ricketts Locks,
Time to head back home, with some, continuing the afternoon's efforts from the coracle and one of the work boats – what more could we ask for?!
Weedbusting.2nd October 2021
On the Long Pond, below Hoe Mill and above Paper Mill
We keep saying how brilliant our volunteers are – and they keep being brilliant! There were two common themes for this work party. Firstly, the weather which had been good when our three teams started, but gradually deteriorated to decidedly-horrible. What did each of our teams do? They just carried on. Well, you would, wouldn't you?! (If you'd been out in that rain you probably wouldn't!). Secondly, we had volunteers on work boats and in two locations volunteers in kayaks and canoes. The folk on the work boats praised the folk on the water for their superb efforts and the folk on the water praised the folk on the work boats for their work. Praise, whichever direction it was going in, was well deserved. Almost a love-in!
Three teams of volunteers, starting at different locations and dealing with different sections of the Navigation. Let's start this time upstream and go with the flow downstream:
Team Paper Mill. Two volunteers in a canoe and two volunteers on the work boat. Well, our volunteers would have been on the work boat it, as planned, it had been left ready for them. Sadly it was on the far side of the moorings with no fuel tank and no engine cowl. Thankfully we were told where we could find the much-needed items. The challenge was getting to them. Luckily the canoe team were at hand to help ferry our two volunteers across in two trips.
Any pics of the other volunteer are censored due to the look of terror on his face and the associated words in his head. The canoe skipper could feel the nervous trembling from the back of the canoe! It had been several decades since either had been in a canoe!
The task was to clear pennywort from between the moorings and then to clear upstream as far as possible.
The folk in the canoe soon had challenges – pennywort growing with in the reeds. It is a common problem along much of the Navigation.
Offloading pennywort where there's nowhere easy to offload has its fun side!
The general principle was that the folk in the work boat would remove the larger rafts and those in the canoe the smaller amounts. Teamwork at its best.
There was plenty to choose from:
Then, as if planned, the four members of the Paper Mill team joined up at Little Baddow Lock for some well-deserved refreshments.
All credit to our canoeists who were not only doing twice the time they had intended to be out for, they'd also been out clearing pennywort the previous Tuesday! What a pair of stars!
Sometimes the period after refreshments involves tidying up and finishing off. Not so today. Our work boat crew's major work was only just starting (and the rain was falling ever heavier)! Having already offloaded one boatful of pennywort it wasn't long before they had another boat load.
And progress was being made to collect a third boatload.
There's something very satisfying about towing an entire raft of pennywort away from the bank. Even when it is chucking it down with rain!
There was certainly no shortage of pennywort to bring on board. The pile just kept getting higher and higher.
Eventually it was time to bring the final boat load round to the lock to unload it
And to capture a picture of the morning's work at this location.
Then simply (as if it's simple!) the trip back to Paper Mill, the cleaning and bailing-out of the boat and returning of the tools to the cars.
Team Hoe Mill. Another group of experienced weedbusters. They too had problems getting started due to, guess what, the boat not being ready. No fuel tank. No engine cowl. Eventually that was sorted and they made their ways downstream.
The same sort of plan as the Paper Mill Team. The work boat taking on the main rafts and the kayakers doing the invaluable task of dealing with the smaller strands and left overs. They spent some time willing the sun to come out. But to no avail, the weather got progressively worse.
Of course it wasn't long before some offloading was needed.
Meanwhile the work boat was being put to good use. Makes a good platform from which to pull large rafts on board and ferry them to the bank.
In fact, overall, they transferred three boat loads of pennywort from floating on the Navigation to being left to rot on the bank.
However much they did there was still more to do.
Like others, they carried on in the pouring rain, doing amazing work.
They weren't alone!
Good to see so many juvenile eels in the Navigation. Many came onboard with the pennywort. All were carefully and successfully returned, unharmed, to the water.
Finally, time to return to Hoe Mill and pack up, and as one volunteers put it, then dry out, satisfied that they'd made a difference.
Indeed they had made a difference – superb work by our Hoe Mill Team
Finally, Team Heybridge Basin. A successful start for this team once they got Buster, our jointly-owned work boat sorted out. For them it was up to Black Bridge and then work back down towards Wave Bridge. Sadly, they didn't have the advantage of support from kayaks or canoes.
Up the Long Pond looking ready for action!
And soon there was some. In fact, there was lots of action.
And, needs must, if the best way of getting smaller fragments on board is to get down to their level then so be it.
Some weed offloaded and room for more, here at Black Bridge
Talk of dedication! In order to maximise on the time they could spend weedbusting they'd decided to forego their refreshment break and work ono through to the bitter end!
And work they did! Finally, rain pouring down, it was time for the return to Heybridge, here just about to pass under Hall Road footbridge.
Amazing amounts if work done by all three teams. Impressive amounts of pennywort removed from the Navigation. Thanks to today's amazing volunteers. You made a huge impact under very challenging conditions.
Rumour has it that an additional work party is being planned for Friday 15th October!
More WeedbustingAround Hoe Mill and along The Long Pond
17th September 2021
An additional ‘Friday’ work party, allowing us to do some catching up between our regular ‘first Saturday of the month’ work parties (which will be ‘first Sunday of the month’ work parties for November and December!).
For a second occasion we had the benefit of members of the Whoosh canoe club joining us – although sadly, again, such was the workload, that our two groups didn’t actually manage to meet up.
The Whoosh kayakers met at Hoe Mill and worked downstream. We knew that there was very little pennywort in the first section of the Navigation because that part had been recce’d the previous weekend. And the Whoosh guys confirmed this, potentially expecting to have a ‘light duties’ day.
However, as they progressed further toward Sugar Bakers and beyond the workload increased. We’d cleared this section a couple of months ago, but that old enemy, Floating American Pennywort, had capitalised on our absence and the guys in the kayaks found plenty to do, creating impressive piles of pennywort beside the Navigation.
A concerning development of the abilities of pennywort to adapt to local circumstances, which we noticed and dealt with some years ago near Ulting Church, and which we’ve seen more recently on the bank above Stonhams Lock and elsewhere – pennywort growing on the bank (i.e. not in the water – no longer just floating!).
This will maybe be a candidate for herbicide spraying - which we try to avoid but feel can be necessary under some circumstances.
A quick, well-deserved, break at the ‘Hanningfield’ water supply pipes at Sugar Bakers
and then, excellent progress, further downstream to the Rickets Weir before heading back upstream and then returning home to Hertfordshire. Thanks Guys!
Meanwhile our Chelmer Canal Trust volunteers set off, fully-equipped, from Heybridge Basin ready to deal with the Floating American Pennywort that hadn’t been removed at our last Work Party.
A bit of opportunistic pennywort-removal of odd strands as we travelled up to our chosen location, although we didn’t want to waste time on small amounts when larger, potentially-more-likely-to-cause-further-problems, weed awaited us further upstream (not that there is much ‘stream’ in The Long Pond which is potentially why pennywort flourishes there so well!).
Always a valued asset on our work parties, Coracle Man Steve was soon doing what he is so good at – ensuring that any and all loose strands of pennywort are removed.
While the crew on Buster, our work boat, did what they are so used to doing – hauling rafts of pennywort from the various sites it likes to inhabit.
There was plenty to keep us busy.
So much keeping us busy in fact that the photographer failed to take any further action shots until we were ready to offload the first of several boats-full of pennywort.
Then time for a well-earned break and some refreshments – for some inexplicable reason getting up close and personal with the pennywort we’d just off loaded.
Then back for more. If we were going to be back at Heybridge Basin by 2.30 pm (we weren’t!) we needed to work even faster.
This might look like one of the several ‘Steve in his coracle’ pics; what can’t be seen is the rapid repair that was necessary when an underwater stake pierced a hole in the oilcloth skin! With a hole that size coracles don’t stay afloat for long!
Lots more pennywort removed. Sadly, rather more than we’d hoped for left, and it was time to head back ‘home’ to Heybridge Basin. From the looks on their faces you’d get the impression they’d enjoyed themselves! Well, they had!
Weedbusting on The Long Pond4th September 2021
At last, a return to our more usual format of working as one group in the same area. Well, that’s what we achieved eventually. But to do so involved getting two work boats to our meeting point. One from Heybridge Basin (fairly straightforward once all of the equipment had been loaded), and the other from Hoe Mill (the best laid plans and all that; our skippers were there on time, but the fuel tank and engine cowl for the boat weren’t!). All credit to our two Hoe-Mill-workboat volunteers who, despite the frustration, made swift progress through three locks to get to our meeting point.
Eventually, car parking limits having been resolved (thank you, Tesco) our team for the day was ready for action.
Another work party where we had an ideal combination of volunteers to work and places to work from. The plan was for the work boats to remove the biggest rafts and strands of pennywort and for those in kayaks and the coracle to do the fine picking. If those on the work boats spend too much time dealing with small strands it can reduce the time available to work on the larger outbreaks.
Our kayak team were quickly on the job and on message.
As we know only too well, and especially at this time of year, even the smallest fragments left in the bankside vegetation will soon be forming large rafts.
Those small strands and fragments soon build up!
Ahead of them on one of the workboats, another team removing the larger strands.
Again, our range of equipment, along with skilled operatives, means we have what we need to get the job done efficiently.
Just a bit further downstream, our team with the biggest challenge, including one massive raft of pennywort anchored into the bankside vegetation and completely across the creek at Heybridge Mill.
A technique we’ve used over many years when we have large rafts of pennywort to deal with - rather than drag the pennywort on board and then subsequently drag it off onto the bank, tow it directly to the bank. First detach a manageable raft,
Then tow it to away from its friends
And finally (well, finally for this raft) drag it onto the bank.
There are signs saying that it is Private access to the creek. We had the owner’s permission.
It seems that the message that it was time for refreshments got through! Don’t panic – there’s enough for everyone!
Our wonderful, hard-working, volunteers deserved a relaxing break.
But not for so long that they might get used to relaxing! Back to the task in hand with renewed enthusiasm and commitment.
More tidying up of the pennywort that hadn’t been towed away.
More searching for small fragments that hadn’t yet got our attention
More ferreting around in the marginal vegetation to seek out the strands of pennywort lurking there and waiting to grow out once our backs are turned.
And more work on the larger strands.
Again, huge thanks to our brilliant volunteers for undertaking such a challenging task. A massive amount of pennywort removed. Had it not been, at this time of year, it would soon be forming large rafts. This was just a small part of the overall total.
Weedbusting at two locations along the Navigation20th August 2021
An additional work party today - planned to deal with the rapid increase in Pennywort since our last, 7th August, Saturday, work party.
And another format for our work parties! Two groups, one working a couple of miles from the top of the Navigation and another working a couple of miles from the bottom.
Generously, members of the Whoosh Explore Canoe Club had offered to join our weedbusting efforts today. And who were we to refuse them?!
They started at Sandford, working downstream. Like us, they know full well what Floating American Pennywort looks like. They’ve been dealing with it over on the River Stort. But just to be sure……
A team from our early-August CCT work party had dealt with all visible pennywort downstream, down as far as a few hundred meters short of Stonhams Locks. So, there were a number of strands to be removed, just to get the Whoosh guys warmed up.
But then they got to the more serious stuff. Small rafts that had exploited the opportunity to grow undisturbed for a couple of months.
And the task didn’t get any less-demanding!
Finally they got as far as Stonhams, on the way having removed an impressive amount of pennywort.
That’s made a significant contribution to our overall management of Floating American Pennywort. Thanks, guys. Come back soon!
Meanwhile, on their way up from Heybridge Basin, two volunteers had found time to opportunistically take on board any pennywort they could grab on their journey. It was a pretty impressive pile of pennywort they offloaded before they even got to Beeleigh Lock.
Our Long Pond team were parked and ready when the workboat arrived exactly on time and, after the usual health and safety and Covid briefings, were ready to get started.
A multi-talented team, who were joined later by two more volunteers. The workforce: two volunteers in a canoe; the ably-skippered EWL Weedlifter; a kayak clearing up the loose pennywort set free by the weedlifter; three on the workboat; three working from the bank. A perfect balance!
What would we do without these two amazing volunteers?! Not only do they regularly attend our work parties, they are also out every week, keeping the area of the Navigation from Hoe Mill up to Paper Mill free of pennywort.
There’s certainly no lack of attention to detail!
It is always of huge benefit to us when we can be joined by the weedlifter. It set off to deal with the larger rafts. And did so admirably!
Our work boat (CCT owns half of it; we’ve never really defined which half we own!) started its work under the Maldon bypass road bridge.
The boat provides a perfect platform from which to work.
By 12.30 pm everyone had worked so hard that they deserved their refreshments. Covid-compliant, of course. Nothing shared and nothing swapped.
Then, inevitably (but it has to be said, willingly!) back to work with more of the same but in different places.
Plenty for the work boat crew to do – here demonstrating two of our more recent additions to our range of equipment – long red poles with a range of attachments, including our newest addition – a net for removing escapee weedlets.
Those red poles are certainly popular!
Here’s one of the many piles of pennywort offloaded during today’s session.
We aim to leave the pennywort we remove close-enough to the water that the various critters that live in water can quickly and easily get back home. Quite a number of eels and elvers in today’s hauls. It should rot down before there is any risk of a rise in water level, in any case highly unlikely on the Long Pond.
Another successful and valuable work party. Thanks to all of our hardworking participants.
Now let’s get ready for our next ‘Saturday’ work party on 4th September!
Weedbusting along the Navigation7th August 2021
What’s not to like about the Chelmer Canal Trust Work Party on Saturday, 7th August? Well, to be honest, several things were not to like! Firstly, two key people having to drop out (understandably) fairly late on. Secondly, the appalling weather! But what IS to like? The willingness of our volunteers to be flexible; their tenacity in turning up and making a significant impact on the burgeoning recent growth of pennywort; braving some pretty horrible weather; three groups each working amicably together.
Let’s start at Sandford. Three volunteers, two in a canoe, one in a kayak. They’d done it before, knew what to expect and just got on with it. When they were there last month there was practically no visible pennywort. But now…
…. we are into pennywort’s fastest-growing phase, with the current weather – heavy rain followed by bright sunshine – being just what it likes the most.
There was a job to be done and they got on with it.
The first phase – from Sandford down to Cuton Lock.
And of course it wasn’t long before plenty of pennywort was being removed from the water…
…. then placed on the bank where any critters trapped in the weed could get back down into the water, and where the pennywort would rot.
Down past Cuton Lock and our valiant volunteers made it about two thirds of the way to Stonhams Lock.
Invasive non-native species weren’t just confined to pennywort. Himalayan Balsam is rife too.
Our CCT position on Himalayan Balsam is that it is so endemic that it is futile trying to remove it. Unless it is done properly more harm can be done than good. We are awaiting the arrival of a natural predator, released into the UK over the last year, which could well see it off.
Dreadful weather conditions and growing exhaustion meant it was time for this lovely team to head back upstream to Sandford. And potentially to a nice long hot bath!
Meanwhile at Hoe Mill another team on a work boat were heading out to deal with The Enemy! The view as they headed downstream from Hoe Mill was one we are only too familiar with at this time of year!
Skipper Mark had things well under control, heading first down as far as Rickets Lock to reconnoitre what had to be done, then working progressively back upstream to Hoe Mill.
We’ve had may years of perfecting our techniques. If it is a large raft tow it away from the bank and bring it on board. Or rake it out from the bankside vegetation and bring it in to the workboat. Sounds easy? No, it’s hard work!
It didn’t take long to get several impressive boatloads of pennywort which were offloaded onto the bank.
As with our ‘Sandford’ team, the weather wasn’t exactly kind! Check out the rain falling on the water behind them. But also notice the smiling faces!
Further downstream at Heybridge similar work was underway. The almost-zero flow of water in the Long Pond is especially favoured by pennywort and this section has to be the most challenging of the complete system.
Against the grain as it was to have to pass fast-growing pennywort on the trip up the Long Pond, the biggest problem had been identified as being at the top end, near the golf course. So, that’s where our Heybridge team headed.
Large rafts and small fragments, they all had to be dealt with.
Of course, it didn’t take long before a heap of pennywort was on the deck of our work boat, Buster.
So an offloading was in order. One of several.
There was pennywort growing on both banks. No time for slacking!
Then the rain started! It chucked it down. But our valiant volunteers carried on regardless!
And what do you know? Yes, another boatload of pennywort!
Finally, yet another opportunity to thank and congratulate all of today’s volunteers for working in some atrocious weather conditions and making such a difference. THANK YOU!
Weedbusting along the Navigation3rd July 2021
We've had CCT work parties in which more volunteers have taken part, but we've probably never had such a comprehensive ‘all along the Navigation' work party in the whole time we've been running them. And it was needed. Despite a general feeling that there wasn't a lot of pennywort around, every one of our groups reported removing more than they'd expected.
We had four groups in action at four different locations along the Navigation. Enthusiastic to the core, all but one (a lunch date dictated the time they had available!) over-ran their time, such was their enthusiasm to get the job done.
At Heybridge our team worked from the water and from the banks. Although only small strands of pennywort were visible in most cases these needed to come out. This was, after all, a zero-tolerance day!
One volunteer worked along each bank while the skipper of Buster and ex-Coracle Man Steve worked from the water.
Once all visible pennywort – accompanied by a considerable amount of blanket weed – had been removed from around the moored boats our bank crew boarded work boat, Buster to continue up the Navigation, working from Buster.
Basic refreshments had been provided; some brought their own – seems they were appreciated!
One of the team even found time to do a bit of litterpicking.
Meanwhile another team started off from Hoe Mill.
Everyone seemed to enjoy the journey downstream, checking for pennywort on the way down which would be collected on the way back.
Heading for Beeleigh involved dropping down through Ricketts Lock, expertly done by the work boat skipper and her crew.
Having reached Beeleigh it was time to turn round, swap skippers, and head back upstream, picking up the previously-spotted pennywort on the way back. As each group had found, although there wasn't a lot of pennywort that was obvious, the cunning beast was hiding in the marginal vegetation.
What some stars! Dogs had to wait for their dinner, such was the application of this group – they arrived back 90 mins later than planned!
Two unloadings of pennywort, plus a wooden pallet – a good morning's haul.
And they even returned the tools to our storage shed at Heybridge Basin!
Another team set off from Paper Mill Lock (so helpful that the work boat there had been put into the lock, making loading of tools and equipment much easier and saving time).
Their target was to remove any pennywort between Paper Mill and Stonhams Lock, by way of Little Baddow Lock.
Starting off, things didn't look good when having only just started there was a small raft of pennywort between the first two boats moored above the lock. If there was going to be this amount between all of the boats the team wouldn't get away from the moored boats, let alone to either of the upstream locks! Thankfully it was an isolated raft and the ‘spotters' soon settled down to spotting, the technique used was to work up one bank on the way up. and along the opposite bank on the way back.
One of the team had previously been out spotting from the bank on one of his many, valued, pennywort-spotting walks along the upper sections of the Navigation and having picked up strands on the way, the crew eventually got to one of the previously-reported small rafts and quickly dealt with them.
Then through Little Baddow Lock and on upstream, spotting and removing pennywort that was familiar to all of the teams.
There's a feeder stream that we've wanted to look at for a very long time, but which is practically inaccessible. Apart from by boat. The team had a boat! So, a quick scramble ashore and an opportunity to check a wide ‘river' which was potentially the course of the original river before the locks were created. And what do you know?! A long strand of pennywort.
That wasn't going to stay. Luckily we had one of the extending red poles and, despite the bank being almost vertical, and the water far down, that pennywort, and more near it, was soon removed.
The team had worked hard and deserved a short break and some refreshments. And what do you know?! Just as this team was having their break our fourth team came into view!
Like team number three, they were exactly half way.
Some exchanges of news, some swapping of pennywort stories (has it mutated to live on the earth of the banks in places?) and then our third team were off back to ‘spot' along the other bank.
A short diversion along the millstream at Little Baddow Lock proved productive. This raft, the largest seen by this team today, and partly hidden under a fallen tree, was expecting to be left alone, to grow undisturbed, and then to break up and send any number of smaller rafts to infect the banks further down the Navigation. Not on this team's watch it wasn't.
The owners of the Mill House didn't seem too pleased to see pennywort being removed close to their house, but the team wasn't in private waters and was pleased to be able to remove such a potential threat!
Next, back down through Little Baddow Lock (and words of wisdom about safety to a father throwing his two young sons, fully clothed, into the lock! Idiot!).
Motoring further downstream, still picking up small strands here and there, and just before arriving back at Paper Mill, the opportunity to unload the morning's pennywort onto the bank and clean the boat up.
Last, but definitely not least, our fourth team who met at Sandford, ready to work down to Stonhams Lock.
Like two of our other teams they worked entirely from the water – a kayak and a canoe forming a perfect pairing. One patrolling one bank
And the other patrolling the other bank – and of course comparing notes and enjoying a friendly time together!
Every strand of pennywort that is removed could potentially stop several rafts growing later in the year. With a good amount of pennywort already collected it was eventually the arrival at Cuton Lock. A quarter of the way there!
Here's some pennywort which is apparently growing on the bank. We've seen this before elsewhere. In the past it has maybe grown one season but not been seen the next. But who knows, with other mutations making the headlines…!
Eventually the half way pointy for this team – Stonhams Lock.
They seem pleased to have arrived!
In fact, the meeting of two of the teams, though not planned, was a good way to celebrate the half way point.
A quick stop for well-earned refreshments, then the return to Sandford, hopefully not finding too much pennywort that had been missed on the way down as going back upstream is a lot more energy-consuming – although with experienced canoeists, not a problem.
This team did find time to check our floating boom that is intended to catch any stray pennywort coming down the feeder stream at Cuton Lock. All looking good!
A BIG THANK YOU to all of our CCT volunteers out on or beside the water today – between us we've made a massive difference!
And a ‘P.S.' The Sandford Boating Club arranged a cruise from Sandford to Springfield Basin the following day. They kindly looked out for pennywort along their route - and found none!
Weedbusting along the Navigation5th June 2021
We didn’t think it could get any better! And then it did!
Very unusually for this time of year there is very little pennywort around (click on this link and scroll down to 5th June 2019 to see how much pennywort we were dealing with then!
Which doesn’t mean that there was no pennywort at all. But what there was, was not enough for a full work party to deal with and we didn’t want to ask volunteers to come along if there was little or nothing for them to do.
So we hatched a new plan, maximising on the fact that we now have five additional trained work boat skippers. With thanks to EWL for the use of two of their work boats, and additionally our jointly-owned work boat, we were able to have THREE groups working on different sections of the Navigation at the same time. And that was thanks to the last-minute responses from a number of volunteers to our plea for help. Trained work boat skippers, willing volunteers – and some good weather too. The ideal mix!
A group starting from Heybridge Basin dealt with The Long Pond. A group starting from Hoe Mill dealt with the section down to Rickets Lock as well as one of the feeder streams. And a group starting at Sandford dealt with everything down as far as Stonhams Lock.
Skipper Chas took control of the workboat from Heybridge.
Taking the team to the Beeleigh flood gates where we knew from a previous time there that pennywort would be attempting to make an appearance. It was straight down to work getting close and personal with that damned pennywort!
And although there weren’t huge amounts of pennywort around, it was important to get all visible pennywort out.
Those red poles are still coming in handy – this version with a small rake attachment.
As we’ve found before when taking larger rafts on board, it’s not just pennywort that we bring in. Good to see this healthy-looking elver alive and well and soon to be returned to its natural home.
Working steadily down past the golf course to Chapmans Bridge our lovely volunteers, by removing the small strands of weed that we were all searching for, were lessening the likelihood of large rafts growing later in the year, potentially blocking the Navigation and preventing fishing, canoeing, stand up paddleboarding and so on.
Although not seeming a lot of weed compared with previous sessions, removing this amount is essential. And, although it wasn’t a competition, was the largest amount of weed collected by any of our three groups.
Meanwhile, another of our teams were further upstream with skipper Steve demonstrating his newly-acquired skills
And take a look at the concentration on skipper Mark’s face too!
Although not too many pics of this group they did sterling work, confirming that, by removing a few fragments, there was no visible sign of pennywort along either bank between Hoe Mill and Rickets Lock, nor in the feeder stream that runs alongside the Navigation and has in the past been a frustrating source of pennywort.
They even made time to collect litter that had been deposited on the trees and vegetation during the winter floods. Even further upstream our third team were also working. The increasing amounts of blanket weed in the lock cuts meant progress was very slow, and removal of weed from the prop was frequent. But once out into the main river the crew was on the lookout for pennywort and skipper Keith was a dab hand at getting the work boat close to it.
This is what all of our trusty volunteers had been looking for. Small patches of pennywort which, if not removed now, can impressively-quickly grow into healthy mats that not only impede navigation but also reduce water quality.
Even the smallest fragment, if it has a stem and a leaf node, will grow amazingly well!
It’s a long old haul from Sandford to Rickets Lock, but our valiant pair made it, ensuring that there was no visible pennywort along one bank.
Again, it is difficult to believe that EWL’s weedlifter was lifting large rafts of weed from this area only last November (if you don’t believe us scroll down to the November 2020 pics via this link.
Back up to Cuton, patrolling the opposite bank and with our finest equipment in use here too.
As elsewhere, sometimes the only way to deal with those small fragments of pennywort is to get close and personal!
Then back to Cuton Lock, an exemplary display of how to properly use a lock, and then back to Sandford, with a diversion on the way up the mill stream to remove a single strand of weed that wasn’t accessible by any other route, and to check our barrage (it’s fine!).
We’re in a good place with practically no visible pennywort along the Navigation itself and with most of the feeder streams also being clear.
This is due to the excellent work of all of our volunteers, both today’s and those at previous CCT work parties. THANK YOU!
Work Boat Skipper Training30th May 2021
As regular volunteers at our Chelmer Canal Trust Work Parties will know, using the various work boats along the Navigation has for very many years, helped us in our efforts to remove pennywort. We can work directly from the work boats, removing the weed from the water, and use the boats to ferry volunteers to locations where they will be working from the banks of the Navigation.
Of course, boats with engines need skippers and skippers need to be adequately-trained. Our last skipper-training was a few years ago and since then several of our trained skippers have moved on, leaving just two of us able to skipper the work boats. To increase the numbers of skippers we had available we’d planned and agreed a Skipper Training Day for 2020, but the pandemic came along and scuppered that.
Today was the day we took the opportunity to roll out our CCT Skipper Training.
First, the basics. Healthy and Safety, procedures and practices.
Then on to the first of two practical sessions. Firstly at Heybridge on the boat we jointly own with Essex Waterways Ltd, Buster.
Familiarisation with the different types of craft and different controls is important.
Then a trip up the Long Pond with input around safe loading and unloading of pennywort and volunteers.
The ramp is an unusual luxury on Buster and needs to be used carefully for everyone’s safety.
Time for a spot of lunch, then off to Hoe Mill for more input and to get experience on a different type of craft. We are down there somewhere!
More about safety issues (there can never be enough said about safety on work boats!)
And the all-important proper procedure operating locks
Then on downstream towards Ricketts Lock during which time there was ample opportunity for everyone to get used to the features of this work boat
Getting ready for 'Man overboard’
And then a safe return to Hoe Mill
We believe that the way our 'trainees’ responded to their training was excellent and that they all showed that they have the skills needed to skipper the work boats safely and effectively.
Well done to; Keith, Hazel, Mark, Steve and Chas. We are sure our work party volunteers will appreciate having this new cohort of skippers.
Weedbusting in the Ditch!A Feeder Stream at Sandford
21st May 2021
There's a finite number of words that can be used to describe our Work Party volunteers, but again we'll say what we've said before, they are brilliant!
On a day when the weather forecast wasn't especially positive, following several days of rain, all eight of our volunteers who said they would turn up did 'and with smiles on their faces! And this was an additional, Friday morning, work party!
Just as soon as we could start with everyone present, we did. First with the Covid-19 safety issues, then the more general work party health and safety points.
Access to where we were going to work was easiest by work boat, and taking the boat also meant that we could take all the tools and equipment that we might need. Thanks to EWL for the use of their workboat.
Our group soon arrived at our chosen location. Eight volunteers; two areas needing attention; two groups of four with tools and equipment distributed equally between the two (yes, logistics is one of our many skills! Lol!).
Our first group was soon underway, working together to get maximum impact. We know from much past experience that if we can pull the complete raft across it is easier, and more effective, than grabbing individual crome-fulls.
Moving gradually downstream our first group were making quick progress.
It wasn't long before most of the weed had been removed and clear water could be seen.
Nevertheless, it's attention to detail that counts, and using the appropriate tools to remove any stray weedlets is at least as important as anything else.
Meanwhile, further down the ditch (let's call it a feeder stream; 'ditch' doesn't do it justice) was our other group.
This particular stretch of pennywort hadn't had the advantage that the stretch further upstream had had of more sunlight. Hence it was prone to breaking up more and presented more of a challenge getting the entire rafts to the bank.
Nevertheless, our 'red poles', expertly-handled, proved invaluable in retrieving even weed that might otherwise have been regarded as inaccessible.
In fact, nothing was going to be inaccessible here and a trip to The Far Side meant that the entire far bank could be tidied up.
Plenty of energy expended thus far, and it was time to replace the calories we'd burned. Some went for the lower-calorie versions 'like tea; others of us couldn't resist the delights of frothy Caramel Latte. Crisps, cheese biscuits, chocolate rolls, cake bars. All seemed to keep smiles on faces! (and dispensed in ways that we feel are at very low risk of Covid transmission).
Then back to the task in hand. Tidy up where we hadn't yet been able to and attack some of the more challenging, remote, vegetation-obscured pennywort. Again it was clear that we have dedicated volunteers, willing to work in some pretty nasty conditions in order to get the task done. Inevitably some of the pennywort evaded us. Thankfully a specialist contractor, skilled in such work, will be visiting fairly soon to spray anything we missed with approved weedkiller.
Finally, we'd done all we could. The rain that should have arrived at 12 noon hadn't yet, but looked like it might soon, so pleased with our efforts, it was back to the work boat.
And then back to Sandford
Then, with thanks to everyone who helped get the tools and equipment back to the car park, and the work boat back to its mooring, cleaning of boots to ensure that no nasty bugs or critters could get transferred elsewhere, it was time for the farewells and a return home (and maybe a long hot shower or bath!).
Another excellent Chelmer Canal Trust Work Party. It was good to get feedback from several participants about how much they had enjoyed the camaraderie, the teamwork and the sense of achievement of a good job having been done.
Weedbusting in the Rain8th May 2021
Creeks off the Lower Blackwater
The preparatory tasks of boiling hot water for drinks and loading our workboat, Buster, with all necessary equipment, early in the morning, especially on a rainy day, is a lonely and to be honest, often a miserable one! So, it was great to have help undertaking these tasks meaning that we were able to leave Heybridge Basin in Buster in good spirits, despite the pouring rain requiring full waterproofs.
The trip up to Beeleigh gave another of our volunteers the opportunity to skipper Buster - and it was great that he made such a good job of it!
A recce had been undertaken the previous Wednesday to establish what extent of work was needed. Until access was gained to two creeks off the Lower Blackwater the only thing we knew was that there was practically no pennywort anywhere else in the Beeleigh area! So, those who at that point had specifically said that they would attend this work party were invited to attend, or knowing the situation, given the option not to. Apologies to those who had subsequently said that they would come and who were asked not to in case there was nothing for them to do. We know that one went back to bed - probably the best place to be on such a grotty morning.
Our eight volunteers were remarkably cheerful and 'up for it' when we met at Beeleigh, despite the rain. A quick introduction and briefing, and soon we were off, through the flood gates on Buster, to get to the Lower Blackwater.
Access to the creeks is problematic. Routinely, some years ago, we would simply walk across the field beside Beeleigh Lock. This field has now been very effectively fenced off, making access that way impossible. So, let's just say that we used an alternative method to get to the creeks using our work boat and that we caused no damage in getting there so couldn't be accused of trespassing!
It was good that we had taken the opportunity to visit. There was plenty to do! The first creek eased us in to what was to be a hard-working morning of pennywort-removal.
The application to the task was impressive.
In fact, concentration was so great that there was little conversation.
But maybe that was more about not wanting to breathe in the rainwater that was running down our faces, or the foul smell that came from the mud, than it was about not wanting to talk! Settling down, some perfected their skills in using the equipment while others seemed to apply themselves less to the task in hand!
After maybe 45 minutes of dedicated work - by everybody! - that creek was clear of all visible pennywort. Time to move on to the next, larger, creek.
It has rarely failed to disappoint and today was no exception!
Coracleman Steve had made a start on the inlet to the creek from the Lower Blackwater.
As long as the growth of the pennywort is healthy-enough it is possible to drag the entire raft to the bank, a well-practised technique we've used before.
Then the start of the process of lifting it from the water.
Readers of this - especially those who have dragged rafts of pennywort from the water - will know what an exhausting task this can be. And, even though the rain had lessened at this point, if we were going to complete this task some of us needed a break. Back to Buster where the Barista could offer no less than five types of coffee along with tea (sachets and tea bags to remain Covid-compliant of course), and a range of (wrapped) savoury and sweet nibbles. They seemed to be appreciated!
Then back to our pond, with, it has to be said, a refreshing continuation of enthusiasm to get the task done. And the full team to complete the job in hand.
Our hard-working volunteers were creating piles of pennywort that were growing higher and higher.
Of course, good practice dictates that, at this time of year when water levels are unlikely to rise significantly, we place the pennywort just above the waterline so that creepy crawlies that like to live in the water can find their ways back.
A bit of final tidying up - we know full well that any individual strands that we leave can develop roots and in a very short time grow to a raft of pennywort of the size we started with!
And there we were, job done.
A pond that a couple of hours before had been largely covered with pennywort now clear water - that will help the wildlife living in the pond!
Job done! Back to Buster.
Or was it?! After making such a fine job at this location we couldn't bear to leave a further patch that we found, hiding, on our way back.
Exiting via the same route by which we had arrived, it was soon back to the landing stage.
Then just the task of taking Buster back down to Heybridge.
Or was it?! There was some infant pennywort just starting to get established at the top of the Long Pond which we just couldn't leave.
THEN it was time to head back to Heybridge!
Thanks to everyone for undertaking and successfully completing a challenging task under not-entirely-favourable conditions so cheerfully; and to those who took and sent in the pictures that appear in this report.
See you next time, hopefully.
Extra "Emergency" Work Party10th April 2021
New Barrage Installations
Reports had come in that the barrage which had been installed across the mouth of the Baddow Meads stream had disappeared! Action was needed. Brand new barrage materials were obtained, specifically designed to catch floating weed, and a small but perfectly formed extra work party was assembled at Sandford Lock to carry out the installation while still complying with Covid restrictions. Heavy rain was forecast, so the team wasted no time in getting under way.
Upon arrival at the stream, the reason for the disappearance was apparent; it had sunk below the water!
The first task was to remove the old barrage, which now resembled a huge eel in the water.
Then it was time to prepare the new, and hopefully unsinkable barrage lengths.
The upstream end was first attached to the upstream anchor, which had held fast throughout the winter.
The downstream anchor was also firmly in place, but required adjustments to fit the length of the new barrage.
Then the barrage could be positioned ready to catch any stray pennywort attempting to escape the confines of the stream.
With the first job done, it was time to move on, but as the work boat was turning, the crew of volunteers took the opportunity to quickly remove some particularly unsightly debris which had wrapped itself around an inaccessible tree.
Then it was time to head downriver to the Cuton Stream.
First the ground anchors had to be hammered well into the banks, ...
...and the Barrage was attached, with a small amount of slack, to take account of increased flows.
The planned work had been completed in good time, so with the predicted rain holding off, there was time to remove still more litter before heading home with a modest mission accomplished.