Chelmer Canal Trust

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Saturday, 1st December 2007

On Friday evening everything seemed to have conspired against us! The details of this Weedbusting session having been emailed out on the previous Wednesday, it then transpired that (1) a change in the locking system of the Ulting Lane gate meant that we would not be able to get through it to Ricketts Lock (2) all three workboat operators who had said that they would be available now found that they couldn't be (3) three of the four people who were to deal with weed at Baddow were now unavailable and the fourth had got a wrong message and thought it had been cancelled and (4) to cap it all it was pouring with rain!

However, with the cooperation of Terry, William and Anne the situation was rescued and workboats would be available and in place. On Saturday morning several of us were up before dawn to get boats and cars in the right place - and as the sun came up we were treated to a view of a cloudless sky - a far cry from the weather of the night before (it was just a shame that we couldn't get through that ****** gate!)

As volunteers turned up at Ulting Lane they chose whether they would start at Hoe Mill or Beeleigh. To everyone's appreciation later on in the morning the Deputy Refreshment Provider also arrived with refreshments for the two groups (we send our best wishes to the Chief Refreshment Provider and hope she recuperates soon!). In total eleven volunteers contributed to this Saturday's work.

Four willing volunteers worked from Hoe Mill - with three in the Raider and one in a canoe. The very important hand-picking was done by the canoeist - a regular and reliable volunteer who also ventures out mid-week to clear weed. The three people in the raider dealt with the stretch of Navigation between Hoe Mill and Ricketts Lock, removing an impressive three boats-full of pennywort weed. Sorry that we do not have pictures of them at work.

Meanwhile, six people set to, working upstream from Beeleigh Lock.

With three in the workboat (including William with his hand on his Honda!), and three in two canoes, impressive quantities of weed (and trees, and wooden storage box complete with empty beer cans and lilo's) were removed from the Navigation (If the owner of the wooden storage box recognises it and wants it back they better get it out of the rubbish bin at Heybridge Basin pdq).

Again, despite working on this section last month, and it having been dealt with by contractors earlier in the year, we found plenty of weed to remove.

Of course, the refreshment break is always a key feature of Weedbusting sessions. The 'Beeleigh' group had arranged to meet the 'Hoe' group at Ricketts Lock - but they didn't turn up (we'd like to think that they were so dedicated that they couldn't spare the time to travel down to Ricketts rather than the fact that they had a better selection of refreshments they didn't want to share?!!

Like the Hoe Mill gang several boats-full of pennywort weed were despatched by the workboat crew to rot on the bank.

Compared to previous years the situation was much better, but we still need to keep on top of the weed by continuing our efforts (and hoping that some cold weather in the next few months destroys much of what we haven't yet been able to remove).

Please make a New Year Resolution to join at least one of the Weedbusting Parties in 2008!

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Saturday, 3rd November 2007

The weather was as forecast, making this Saturday an ideal day for Weedbusting. As the sun rose, six keen weedbusters were already up and about, ensuring that equipment, boats and refreshments were all taken from where they are stored (Hoe Mill and Heybridge) to be ready to be used at Beeleigh for the earlier, 9.00 am start.

Another impressive group of fifteen people in total turned up to carry on the valiant efforts of previous weedbusting sessions. Nothing odd about that!

As last month, the two workboats and three canoes meant that we were able to work both upstream ands downstream of Beeleigh Lock.

Sadly, the team working downstream, dealing with the large amount of weed that has grown in the last few weeks, left so quickly, and worked so fast, that no pictures are available of them until their return, having landed a boat-full of weed further down, but arriving complete with what had previously been a half-submerged tree (be very grateful to them boat owners - they have potentially saved you the need to make considerable repairs to your hull and propeller!)

The upstream party, heading towards Ricketts Lock, similarly found that they had a task and a half on their hands. Working effectively as a team, and not allowing spirits to be dampened the way some clothes were(!), teamwork skills were to the fore as the workboat, canoe and bank party worked together to remove some very large rafts of pennywort weed.

With canoes dealing with weed caught between the trees, and the bank party kept busy with the regular deliveries of weed, pennywort was piled high on the banks, hopefully high enough above the water that it rots and dies, rather than accesses enough water to keep it alive!

Refreshments were, as always, much appreciated, with an added bonus that there was plenty to go round!

Following the break work continued, again with teamwork making the task extra-efficient.

With plenty more weed left for next month - and we hope a spell of cold weather will halt its progress - final collections of weed were made.

Then it was time for some to return to their cars at Beeleigh while the workboat crews still had to make their ways back to Hoe Mill and Heybridge Basin.

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Saturday, 6th October 2007

This weedbusting session had to be one of our best attended and best resourced. .Sixteen volunteers, including three new recruits, assembled at Hoe Mill Lock - with some arriving impressively early!

Two workboats and five canoes meant that we had the capacity to tackle weed upstream and downstream of Hoe Mill.

Three canoes headed upstream to deal with stray pieces of weed which were lodged along the banks here and there.

Meanwhile two workboats and two canoes headed downstream towards Ricketts Lock. Those in canoes fine-picked the banks and, with the attention to detail so often shown by our regular canoeists, it was confirmed that the whole of the north bank between Hoe Mill and Ricketts was entirely free of pennywort weed - well done!

The south bank presented significant problems that will take further research to resolve. In quick time the workboats pulled weed from the reeds fringing the banks. Hard working bank support volunteers worked slowly along the bank, removing the weed growing in the mud as a result of being trampled into it by the cattle in the adjoining fields. Despite valiant efforts the task of effectively removing all the weed from the mud was impossible, and the decision was made to leave this weed until an effective method of removal can be found.

By 11 am the amount of work that had been done meant that it was time to head to the boats for well-earned refreshments, the 'catering manager' having provided just enough to go round.

Further tidying up was done after the refreshment break, during which time even more impressive amounts of weed were collected and one weedbuster nearly lost not one, but both Wellington boots in the thick mud below the bank.

Eventually time was up, and with copious amounts of weed having been unloaded onto the bank the workboats headed back to their respective homes.

We need to find effective ways of removing the weed that is so well established in the mud below the banks and can only hope that a cold winter depletes much of this weed.

So keen are our weedbusters to spend as much time as possible weedbusting that we have decided that for the next weedbusting session at least we will be starting at 9.00 am.

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Saturday, 1st September 2007

With probably the lowest numbers ever turning up for Weedbusting (was it because it is still 'summer holidays'?) seven experienced volunteers turned up on Saturday, 1st September - six at Hoe Mill and one at Paper Mill. But what we lost in numbers we made up for in volume of weed - huge amounts were removed from the water and deposited on the banks! At least we had plenty of equipment available!

The Hoe Mill gang divided into two groups - two volunteers, with the Raider already positioned below the Lock, headed off toward Ricketts Lock to continue where work had ceased a couple of Wednesdays ago.

Two canoeists, and two giving support from the bank, headed for the weir pool where a considerable amount of weed had built up.

In a very short time large accumulations of American Pennywort were removed and safely away from the water where it should rot down.

Meanwhile the Raider crew had found plenty for them to be getting on with.

Working steadily downstream, and joined by the two canoeists and bank support, all major rafts of weed from Hoe Mill to Ricketts Lock were removed.

Sadly there still remains some hand-picking to be done, and if this is not dealt with soon the weed will have recovered its dominance by next month. But at least, for the moment, the Hoe Mill posse could feel proud of an excellent morning's work. They certainly earned the more-than-adequate refreshments provided by Miriam.

Not to be outdone, Dudley was working alone at Paper Mill where the right angled bend just upstream from the Lock is a favourite haunt of pennywort. The bank there is non existent and the crux of the bend is a shallow muddy bay. This location has been the venue for several of our Weedbusting parties and, no doubt, will continue to test us. So, not to be beaten, Dudley returned for yet another blitz.

All pennywort visible from the water was removed using a canoe and paddlepower with the deck of Dudley's canoe carrying nearly a dozen deck loads of weed away. The residue remains invisible in the bay among the tall growth of waterside reeds and we will, no doubt, have to return there again, potentially when the vegetation dies down.

(Sorry not to have any pictures of Dudley in action - but he features in many pictures on this website, and some will have seen him starring in a recent TV programme about the Navigation!).

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Third 2007 Evening Weedbusting!

Wednesday, 15thAugust 2007

Despite the low grey cloud overhead 12 trusty volunteers turned out to bust weed at three locations along the Navigation.

Using the workboat based at Heybridge two volunteers set forth to tackle what they could along the Long Pond.

Picking up the occasional raft on the way they encountered the considerable amounts of pennywort that had started growing between Black Bridge and the Tesco footbridge.

Such was their enthusiasm to bust as much weed as possible that they perceived the failing light as being a result of the day starting to end, rather than an approaching storm. Having unloaded a very full boatload of pennywort onto the bank at Fullbridge, they returned to Heybridge Basin in the dark and in torrential and, despite their waterproof clothing, both soaked to the skin.

Four more volunteers worked between Hoe Mill and Ricketts Lock. Three regular weedbusters took the Hoe Mill Raider downstream to work from the pipe at Sugar Bakers down towards Ricketts Lock while a lone canoeist worked valiantly on much hard-to-reach weed. It seems they were having fun!

Meanwhile another gang of six weedbusters had assembled at the road bridge at the bridge crossing the Navigation just south of Boreham village -'three canoeists and three bank party. They'made'their way upstream over Little Baddow lock and headed for the'right angled bend about 1km from the lock. Working cooperatively the canoeists detached weed from the far bank and pushed rafts to the tow path side for the bank party to remove.

This procedure had to be re enacted many times as they wrestled with a further large clumps'in similar difficult positions in the vicinity opposite the sharp bend.

Most patches were either tangled up with large stands of reeds or were attached to submerged tree debris, and there was a lot of it. It was a slow process as much time was needed to extricate the weed.''Moving it to the waiting bank party armed with cromes was relatively easy- its subsequent removal required strenuous lifting.

In all it was estimated that half a ton of weed was removed. In case there is any doubt, this is what the weed looks like in situ.

The group was so thoroughly absorbed with their task that they did not notice the approaching darkness and sadly bad light stopped play. The volunteers ignored the very heavy showers and it would have taken more than them to dampen their enthusiasm. As night fell the task was complete and a very satisfied group of "busters" made their'way slowly back to their'cars.

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Second 2007 Evening Weedbusting!

Wednesday, 19th July 2007

It probably couldn't have been better! We had a fine, warm summer's evening, a fully functioning workboat with three able crew, four eager, experienced, canoeists and five fit and talented people who could work from the bank! And for good measure three more people came along to enjoy the pleasant stroll and friendly atmosphere! By the end of the evening the entire section of Navigation from Beeleigh Lock to Rickets Lock had been completely cleared of pennywort.

Dudley had previously spent a considerable time clearing the towpath side of this section so we were left with the task of clearing the only-accessible-from-the-water far side.

The workboat crew were keen to get started and in place early, positioning the boat above Beeleigh Lock so that no time was wasted.

After a short briefing of the plan of action everyone was in place and getting down to work

Working where we were the area was devoid of the infamous supermarket trolley, but we did manage to find a tree to remove from the Navigation

Canoes really are just the thing for getting into the reeds where the weed is otherwise inaccessible.

We just kept on working all the way up to Rickets Lock

Some Weedbusters seemed to want to continue above Rickets!

Teamwork was in evidence all evening with the workboat crew dragging the larger clumps onto the boat, the canoeists getting in where the workboat couldn't, and the people on the bank removing weed from the workboat and the canoes and heaping it away from the water where it should rot down and cause no further problems.

We finished slightly early, and some were lucky enough to hitch a lift back to Beeleigh

The very perceptive will notice that one member of the team is not shown in the pictures. Working as a team of one, Dudley had worked away all evening on the Rickets weir stream. He made good progress, removing large quantities of weed; but a lot of weed remains there - a challenge as it is difficult to access by either boat or on foot.

Overall, though, a very fine evening!

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Evening Weedbusting!

Wednesday, 13th June 2007

Nine keen volunteers set a good benchmark to the first of our three summer evening weedbusting sessions (if they are all needed). Meeting at Paper Mill on an evening which didn't feel like it was going to turn out to be the pleasant, balmy summer evening we had hoped for, the volunteers were soon under way with four in canoes, two in the Raider and three on the bank.

The canoeists valiantly scoured the banks upstream of the moored boats at Paper Mill as far as the road bridge, finding relatively little pennywort. The rest concentrated their efforts on an area we had worked on in February when the floods had lifted Pennywort out of the river and onto the banks. Despite, in February, our best efforts to clear the weed from the rest of the debris deposited on the bank, some had remained and a ditch and surrounding marsh had succumbed to an outbreak of healthy and lush new growth of pennywort.

One volunteer, appearing to enjoy the prospect of a mud face-pack, ventured into the undergrowth to clear the ditch.

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Two Level 1 Powerboat-qualified volunteers showed their expertise along this section by nudging the bow of the Raider gently into the reeds and extracting all the visible pennywort nestling in the dense riverside vegetation. Soon, finding little weed further upstream, the canoeists returned to help bring the accumulated pennywort downstream to where it could be removed from the river.

Potentially the party would have moved further upstream to where a couple of further minor outbreaks had been reported, but with the lightning starting to flash and the thunder starting to roar, our local section-lead's offer to return to deal with it at the weekend was too good to be true, and we raced back to Paper Mill to avoid the approaching storm.

It seems only fair to congratulate Mike Lewis, who started last, but was first back, showing an impressive turn of speed and beating the other two canoes and the Raider - well done Mike! (is it churlish to point out that the Raider was restricted by having to stick to the 4 knot speed limit and showed courtesy to moored boats by going even slower when passing them?!)

A good evening's work, enabling us to keep on top of the emerging pennywort along this section. Even the storm co-operated by passing close-by rather than overhead, and meaning that none of us got wetter than we normally do!

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Spring Cleaning, Training and Construction!

Saturday, 12th May 2007

Having sometimes arranged for volunteers to work at one venue, and occasionally having them work at two, this Saturday we surpassed that by having people at three venues - the top, middle and (nearly) the bottom of the Navigation - and none of it was about removing pennywort weed!

At the Chelmsford end a party worked along 1000 metres of the Navigation between Springfield Basin and Springfield Lock. Working mostly with canoes was invaluable in removing rubbish inaccessible from the bank due to the protective barrier formed by the large bank-side brambles. Much of the detritus of modern living - plastic bottles, drink cans, spray cans, gas containers, paint pots, plastic bags, cardboard boxes and polystyrene packing (but interestingly no Tesco trolley) - were effectively removed. Most had probably been blown by the prevailing winds from the car park, although we suspect that some had been helped there by human hands.

While on site our spring-cleaners were able to clean up our defaced notice board.

So, a good morning's work produced a sparkling clean 1000 metre stretch of canal. Now no rubbish will be washed further downstream, and, more importantly, this summer everyone can enjoy the unspoilt water environment.

Meanwhile at Paper Mill lock the latest three Chelmer Canal Trust volunteers were being put through their boat-handling paces in being trained to use one of the workboats we employ for weed-clearing and other maintenance tasks. This brings to eight the total number of volunteers recently trained to use the workboats. Congratulations to all eight for now being in possession of their RYA National Powerboat Certificate Level 1 (Inland)!

RYA Powerboat Level 1 (inland) course in progress

Further down the Navigation, just below the Beeleigh Flood Gates, four more volunteers worked well into the afternoon to install a landing stage. Frequently the Flood Gates have not been left closed and one of the reasons for this could be the difficulty of mooring up to return to close the gates when travelling towards Heybridge.

Armed with a workboat-full of timber and tools the artisans constructed the landing stage in impressive time. The rain mostly held off, and there were few breaks for coffee.

Early stages

Getting there

Finishing touches

Job done!

As soon as some adequate access steps can be constructed up the steep bank (a job which needs to wait until the completion of nearby drainage works) there should be no excuse for the Flood Gates being left open!

On the way back to Heybridge Basin two of the volunteers couldn't leave a three-quarters submerged Tesco Trolley in the Navigation so it was rescued - a Saturday workparty on the Long Pond just wouldn't be the same without one!

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Saturday, 14th April 2007

Eight enthusiastic volunteers met at Beeleigh Lock to tackle one of the last places where American Pennywort is currently visible along the length of the Navigation. After a brief briefing 5 canoeists were under way, with some working gradually upstream from the lock, and some going direct to Ricketts lock and working downstream. Both groups were searching out any signs of pennywort in the vegetation lining the Navigation, or trapped on the tree branches dipping into the water. They reported little weed and made easy work of what was there.

Two volunteers in the workboat (with an excellent new Honda outboard - very reliable) and one on the bank made straight for the 'pennywort mine' where the horses trample it into the mud above the Langford water intake. They dealt not only with the pennywort there but also with the odd branch or two.

By coffee time both banks had been rigorously inspected and there were now no signs of pennywort on either bank - allowing a relaxed break and an early finish to an effective morning's weedbusting.

Meanwhile, one volunteer, who had gone to Chelmsford in case anyone had not read of the cancelled session there, did not waste his time. At Springfield Dudley found a perfect pennywort production system - a large shallow pond, mostly dried up, gave way to a water-filled ditch full of pennywort leading into a larger pond and thence via a concrete pipe under the A138 to the Navigation.

Although the bulk of the pennywort had been removed some weeks ago, remnants and new growth were in evidence and Dudley was the man for the task. Overcoming many trees growing in the water, the brambles on the bank, the large film of minute duck weed which masked the pennywort, the boggy ground and the profusion of stinging nettles, Dudley set to and in two hours cleared the pond and the feeder ditch.

We are now in a position where there is practically no VISIBLE pennywort anywhere along the Navigation. HOWEVER, we know that there is still pennywort
1)in streams and ditches which feed into the Navigation
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2)ready for immediate supply in the pennywort factory described above
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3)nestling in the vegetation along much of the length of the Navigation
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Our hope is that we can now take a zero-tolerance approach to the floating American Pennywort. If we can remove ANY piece of weed we see, however small, as soon as we see it, we can potentially keep the Navigation the clearest it has been from pennywort for several years. Walkers, fishermen, canoeists, boaters, cyclists, etc. can all play their part - if you see any pennywort please remove it! One small piece of weed allowed to evade capture now could become a raft of weed blocking the whole Navigation in October.

Know the enemy - These tiny bits of pennywort will grow till they block the navigation if not removed.

We intend, from now on, to organise our weedclearing efforts slightly differently. Three sections of the Navigation will be the responsibility of three 'Weedbusting Czars' who will organise weedbusting sessions to suit their local volunteers. Our trusted canoeists will, we hope, continue their own weed patrols; their unsung work has made a huge difference to the success of weed removal. Our 'first Saturday of the month' sessions will resume if local efforts are unable to cope when the pennywort starts growing with a vengeance. Watch this website for further details.
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Cancelled Weedbusting

Saturday, 3rd March 2007.

Recent surveys of the Navigation had determined that, whilst there was still some American Pennywort Weed in places, the very high flow of water, along with the work currently being undertaken by the Environment Agency meant that if we met as an organised Weedbusting group on the 3rd March, we would be unlikely to find enough weed to justify the effort in getting there!

We know from bitter experience in previous years that, however well we have cleared the weed, it comes back with a vengeance when the weather conditions are right. So please be prepared to participate in future weedbusting sessions.

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Saturday, 3rd February 2007.

In complete contrast to January's weedbusting weather, Saturday, 4th February dawned crisp and clear.

By 9.15 several enthusiastic canoeists already had their canoes ready for launching at Paper Mill and the outboard engine of the Raider was ticking over at Hoe Mill. By 9.30 it looked like the canoeists would be taxing the capacity of the one volunteer who would be working from the bank. But longer than expected journeys were finished, duvets released their grips, and as the frost melted and the morning wore on we had a perfect balance of 7 canoeists on the water and 7 people working from the bank upstream of Paper Mill. What we didn't have was much weed!

A somewhat disappointed canoe party returned, having travelled all the way up to Little Baddow Lock, to report that pennywort was in short supply.

In fact, what it seemed had happened to much of the pennywort was that the recent heavy rain has either flushed some of the pennywort further down the Navigation or lifted the rest onto the bank where it is nestling under a covering of other washed-up vegetation. Not to be outdone, our volunteers set to and scoured whatever hidden pennywort they could away from the banks.

Somewhat reluctantly, not really feeling that they had earned them, volunteers drifted back to the car park for their refreshments.

A further attempt to find just where the weed had gone to was made by the canoeists who ventured downstream to Rushes Lock, but they returned with the news that no pennywort was not to be found there either (please note - not finding pennywort is not the same as there being no pennywort! Pennywort expert Dudley found several places where just removing a single leaf revealed a lateral stem with significant growth hiding below the waterline).

The story was much the same for the Hoe Mill gang. Two volunteers did an excellent job of scouring both banks between Rushes Lock and Hoe Mill. Altogether they managed to collect half a boatload of assorted weed and estimate that the section is now 99% clear of pennywort.

So, a good morning's work with a total of 16 volunteers removing small pieces of weed which would otherwise grow into huge rafts later in the year. We hope that with this, and the work about to be done by contractors, the Navigation will, as far down as Beeleigh, be practically clear of all VISIBLE pennywort.

The situation on the Long Pond is rather more concerning. It seems that the flood gates at Beeleigh have been left open several times during periods of heavy rain. The result is that large amounts of broken-up weed have been unnecessarily flushed into the Long Pond where they would now line the banks on both sides if it wasn't for Dudley's efforts in removing them. But there is more weed to be removed along the Long Pond to get it to the same state as the rest of the Navigation.

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Saturday, 6th January 2007.

The first weedclearing session of 2007 was possibly the muddiest and wettest of recent years.

Nevertheless thirteen enthusiastic volunteers turned up to continue the fight against the American Pennywort which, despite a spell of cold weather and considerable amounts of flood water down the Navigation, was still evident in several places.

Two canoeists looked after the removal of rafts of weed below Paper Mill towards Rushes Lock. Unfortunately, with no support available from the bank, they had to do both the collecting and hauling-out themselves; hard work for just two people, and, despite having insufficient time to complete this section, an excellent piece of work.

The Raider, with a crew of two, removed practically all of the weed between Hoe Mill and Rushes Lock - two huge boats-full (only a bit of hand picking needed along this section and it should be entirely clear). Again, a superb effort showing what two people, with the right equipment, can do.

Five canoeists and four supporters on the bank tackled the challenging section of the Navigation below Hoe Mill - without doubt the most weed-infested section of the Navigation.

Impressively the 'mile of this section, down to below the water pipe at Sugar Bakers, was completely cleared of weed, with a significant amount also having been removed from the weir stream. As the rain fell ever heavier, and this group walked back to Hoe Mill for well-earned refreshments, a large number of piles of weed at the far side of the tow path were testament to the impressive efforts of this team.

Our dilemma now is that there are rafts of pennywort at a number of locations along the Navigation - many of them not needing the full force of a complete team of volunteers but nevertheless all needing to be dealt with. Potentially February's weedbusters will need to work in a number of locations in order to facilitate maximum coverage.

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