Chelmer Canal Trust

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Weedbusting Workparty.

Saturday, 5th December 2009

We were meeting at Sandford for this particular session as we had reliable information that there was plenty of Pennywort in the area for our volunteers to deal with. Unlike last month when our advance information was wrong, the descriptions we had received this month were depressingly accurate - two large rafts of weed in the weir stream and masses of weed in the Cuton Ditch.

Preparation is the key, with the workboat needing to be bailed out, and the inflatable having to be, well, inflated (and well-inflated!).

Wasting little time two groups set out to undertake their respective tasks.

The inflatable and our trusty coracle headed into the weir stream to deal with the rafts there - and they were not disappointed.

Carefully freeing the weed from the bank, and knowing how difficult it was going to be to remove it up steep or slippery banks and needing more equipment and more muscle to do so, they floated two large rafts down to Cuton Lock where they were joined by reinforcements from the second team and where it was successfully removed.

It was just like the bad old days! (look back at similar pictures taken five or six years ago!)

Meanwhile, knowing that their task was not going to be easy the workboat crew donned their lifejackets and set off downstream. There is usually at least one interesting wildlife feature on work-parties and our team weren't disappointed - a kingfisher flew along in front of the boat, perching from time to time on trees just ahead of us.

This year's Christmas challenge follows: Spot the Kingfisher!

Can you see where it is yet? It really is in that tree!

Here it is''..

Our team had hoped to approach the Cuton Ditch from the bank of the weir stream beside the lock, but the water flow over the Cuton Lock gates made it unlikely that they would be able to empty the lock, and even if they had they might not have been able to open the upper gates on the way back, so they made landfall above the weir and soon found how extensive the infestation was.

It was probably some of the worst conditions our volunteers have had to work in - steep banks, tall, tangled vegetation and low over-hanging trees.

But duty calls, and despite the conditions it was not long before the weed was being removed in large quantities.

A further volunteer on the far bank of the ditch - accessible only as a result of a long walk - meant that the weed that was just out of reach of could also be dealt with.

As usual the refreshments were much appreciated (no picture as we don't want to make the other group envious - they had to wait until the end to get theirs!). The attempt to supply a further litter-picking volunteer with more rubbish bags was also not recorded in a picture.

After the break it was more of the same (with the brief excursion to the lock to remove the 'Sandford' rafts having already been reported).

Again, the flexibility a coracle offers was proven with fine-picking of runaway weed, ditch-clearing and generally being-anywhere-that-it-is-needed skills being put to good use.

Despite the taxing conditions, by the end of the morning a large amount of weed had been removed from the ditch, but sadly there is lots more still there. We hope that a tree that currently blocks the outlet of the ditch into the Navigation is left where it is for a while as it is very effective in holding weed back.

Returning to Sandford our volunteers could justly claim that they had put in a good morning's work. Altogether eleven volunteers had been involved in the morning's work.

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Weedbusting Workparty.

Saturday, 7th November 2009

Another of those days that dawned bright and clear, encouraging our regular band of volunteers to step forward for yet more work trying to keep Floating American Pennywort under control. Our original plan was to have a single group working between Hoe Mill and Ricketts Locks. However, information came into us that there was an outbreak that needed attention in the region of Stonhams Lock, and on the morning we learned of a further problem near Barnes Mill Lock; our trusty volunteers dealt with it all!

Our Paper Mill group (soon to subdivide into a Barnes Mill and a Cuton group) were in place early, getting the Raider in position and ready to head upstream.

They had only just got underway when the call came through for assistance elsewhere and one of them departed for a while to go up to the Barnes Mill/Sandford area and deal with a PW emergency there.

Between the two of them they took care of a huge raft of PW which if left to its own devices would certainly have caused problems as it travelled downstream.

Meanwhile our original 'Paper Mill' boat was travelling upstream. Unfortunately the information we had been given about the pennywort situation was flawed and there was no significant weed to be collected.

However, as well as admiring the excellent work that has recently been done at Stonhams Lock, and impressive bank repairs, our volunteers were able, with some difficulties and holding of noses, to remove a tree that was in the water and which was making an ideal pennywort-trap, and a potential nursery for next year's PW crop.

Of course, after such energetic work it was time for refreshments which were up to their usual, excellent and much appreciated, standard.

And as if all of that work wasn't enough we also had our Hoe Mill group hard at work.

It wasn't long before they were finding significant amounts of pennywort which was ably extracted from the water, the reeds, and where possible the bank.

And a result of fast weed-collection is that it was soon time to unload the first of several boats-full of weed.

Again, such effort deserves its reward, and the same quality of refreshments met with approval from this group.

Further work was undertaken after the refreshment break with this group having the advantage of not only the mega-removal skills but also micro-removal skills - much needed as every little helps, and today's weedlet is next years raft of weed.

A significant observation, for which there were a range of suggested explanations (and further suggestions are welcome), was that almost without exception, the only visible pennywort removed by this group was from the eastern, non-towpath, cattle-field side of the Navigation. Despite more bankside vegetation on the opposite bank there was no weed on that bank.

Whereas usually time is the enemy and further weed-removal has to be left undone, on this occasion the group had been able to do a complete clean up of the section between Hoe Mill and Ricketts Locks, and were able to return upstream knowing that all visible pennywort in this section Navigation had been removed.

There was time for just one more unloading before a timely return to Hoe Mill.

Including our refreshment-providers, a total of eleven volunteers had delivered a very effective morning's work.

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Litter-picking Workparty.

Saturday, 10th October 2009

Having been let down with the loan of a workboat the start time was not as early as it would otherwise have been, but we were lucky to have the use of another boat which was not entirely suitable for getting into the spiky undergrowth, and nor did it carry the crew we like to include, but it was better than nothing and certainly helped with the job in hand - the six-monthly litter pick at Chelmsford. It is in our interest to take part in this event as litter we remove from the river in Chelmsford won't need to be removed from further downstream.

As always, thorough preparation is the key.

With a total of seven Chelmer Canal Trust volunteers to swell the ranks of volunteers who had turned out for the event, we were able to have two in the inflatable boat, our trusty 'coracle man', and four on the banks.

There was no shortage of litter and our volunteers were soon underway.

Compared with previous litter-picking sessions there were no significant finds - although disposable lighters and cans of men's deodorant seemed disproportionately represented among the soft drink and beer cans and bottles. Ronnie McD's cartons seemed to be much less evident than on previous similar sessions.

The refreshment break is always a unique experience on sessions like these, with adequate supplies of bacon rolls (as well as something for the vegetarians).

With the inflatable boat and coracle by now above the weir there was the opportunity to tackle some of the rubbish which, if the water level rose, would be pushed over the weir and make it way to Beeleigh. There was no shortage of rubbish to deal with!

As we started to clear up to leave we were aware that with more time, more boats and more volunteers we could have cleared even more rubbish.

The session wasn't quite over for one of our volunteers who stayed to demonstrate just what a flexible craft he has! Click on this link to see what we mean!

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Weedbusting Workparty.

Saturday, 3rd October 2009

It was an early start for three and a dog of our volunteers who nobly agreed to get up extra early on a Saturday morning to ensure that one of our workboats was taken upstream from Heybridge Basin to Beeleigh. A further volunteer was up early getting refreshments ready, meaning that altogether nine humans and one dog were involved in the morning's work.

Reports of rafts of pennywort at the top of the Long Pond had come into us, and not long after our party met up at Beeleigh Lock it was clear that the reports had not been exaggerated.

While our very proficient volunteer in the coracle hunted out pennywort (and rubbish) which would not be accessible by other means in the Langford Cut and the Blackwater, the crews of two boats dealt with pennywort along the Long Pond and two volunteers dealt with whatever was accessible from the banks.

Not waving but weedbusting!

It was almost a return to the bad old days when rafts of pennywort were part of our everyday weedbusting, and those well-honed skills of pulling in complete rafts of weed, without it being broken up, were put to the fore once more.

There was plenty of weed around!

All too soon it was time to retrieve volunteers from the creeks and tributaries

and there was then time to catch up on each other's news, compare ages (!), and enjoy the mid-morning refreshments.

Then it was back to work, with all of our volunteers looking out for the weed!

And everyone wanting to ensure that not a trace was left to continue growing

With time needed to be able to return Buster (that's the boat, not the dog) to Heybridge Basin, volunteers were ferried back to Beeleigh and Buster headed downstream, but not before, in time-honoured tradition, removing a shopping trolley from the water.

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Saturday, 19th September 2009

Our friends at Chelmsford Borough Council had asked for our help as they had a large amount of blanket weed in the lake in Central Park. Blanket weed wouldn't normally be our thing, but experts in weed-removal that we are, and having worked cooperatively with Chelmsford Borough Council over several years, we wanted to help if we could.

Nine trusty volunteers heeded the call and, despite the task being a demanding one, after three hours we had cleared nearly all visible signs of blanket weed on the surface (although there is still a lot more lurking in the water - hopefully cooler weather will put paid to that)

Those on the water felt that we had a good balance of people on the water to people on the bank - but those on the bank might have felt a bit pressurised as vast quantities of blanket weed were sent their way.

Having had so much of our valued and effective equipment tidied out of existence we were grateful that one of our resourceful volunteers had been able to recreate one of the most useful 'tools' we had used in the past to bring ashore large rafts of weed - the triangular wooden frame with 9'nails through it. Especially at the start it served its purpose well.

With the sun shining, and our volunteers working cooperatively, we settled down to efficient blanket weed removal.

By mid morning we had more than earned our ample refreshments.

After which it was back to work - although the pictures seem to tell a more relaxed tale. But it really was hot work and, despite our recent refreshments the arrival of bottles of cold water were much appreciated

We had been on the receiving end of a few suspicious looks, and it didn't take long before we were under close observation

We pulled a lot of unusual items out of the water in our weedbusting times and for our finale we did even better than the kitchen sink''.

Shortly after our blanket weed busting Saturday we received a 'thank you' email from Chelmsford Borough Council's Parks and Heritage Services Manager - we were pleased to have been of some help and it is good to be appreciated.

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Saturday, 5th September 2009

Taking advantage of the availability of two work-boats, this session started at Heybridge Basin, the intention being to remove rubbish and any American Pennywort Weed we could find.

We were short of some of our regular volunteers, but nevertheless with a total of nine people contributing their time we were able to ensure our human resources were used effectively. As quickly as we could we had two boats ready to move upstream, supported by our trusty coracle and a bank-side litter-picker.

The first section as far as Hall Bridge was pleasant and decidedly lazy work for our volunteers on the water, whereas our volunteer on the bank (who later said that she had really enjoyed the day - you heard it here first!) was kept very busy. This was mainly due to her having to clear up after fishermen who seem to regard it as their right to occupy an area to fish from, and then press a range of pieces of rubbish into the reeds, the bushes, and in fact anywhere in close proximity which will save them moving too far and save them having to take it with them - and we thought that fishermen valued the Navigation and its environs as much as we do! (Dog owners got it last time, fishermen this time - who will it be next month?!)

The work became more steady as we approached Black Bridge and by the time we were under the main road bridge we thought we had earned our (very ample and much appreciated) mid-morning refreshments.

Our canine volunteer (not counted in our total numbers) helped with the clearing up too.

After our break our waterborne craft headed in different directions..

For the crew on Buster it was much of the same, but the volunteers in the Raider found that as they moved upstream they came across a considerable amount of PW.

Soon it was time to head back to Heybridge Basin, but not before our haul of detritus was supplemented by two bikes and '''wait for it'''' yes - THE TESCO SHOPPING TROLLEY (no work party in this area would be complete without the removal of at least one trolley - this one probably from Tesco at Bentalls shopping centre). The Trip Boat from Heybridge Basin had been hitting it, and no doubt there will be less damage to other boats passing by.

A combination of the wind and an illegally moored boat delayed our plans to empty the raider and Buster quickly and depart.

However some excellent cooperation and teamwork meant that the not-insignificant task of unloading both boats was accomplished in an impressively short time, and remembering to complete Buster's Log, (but failing to remove everything of value from Buster - thankfully successfully retrieved the following day) we were eventually on our various ways.

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Evening Workparty.

Wednesday, 19th August 2009

The prospect of a fine evening was possibly enough to attract the twelve volunteers - including two of our youngest ever - to join this third (and last of this year) Wednesday evening work-party starting at Hoe Mill Lock.

It was a game of two halves! One team, keen on the bags-and-litter-pickers aspect of the work, worked around and above the lock, collecting the large amount of rubbish left by dog owners (more of that later) and fishermen as well as that other depositor of rubbish, General Public

Leaving few areas unexplored our litter-pickers diligently picked their way through the various litter-hiding nooks and crannies to effect an excellent tidy-up.

Those of a weak disposition might want to skip to the next paragraph; the rest of this paragraph is aimed at dog owners. What we would like to know is why you have only got half the message about clearing up after your dog! Congratulations on having your polythene bag with you and clearing up your dog's mess. It would now be much appreciated by our volunteers if you would get used to the next bit - after you have gathered up the mess and tied up your bag PLEASE either place the bag in a dedicated dog-mess disposal bin, or take it home with you! Strange as you might find it, once you have cleaned up after your dog, we don't want to have to clean up after you! So while throwing the bag and contents over the bridge, or into the bushes, or up into the trees might give you a certain amount of perverted fun, it isn't fun for us when we try to remove it! The bags have sometimes started decaying and the contents always have! Enough said. Thank you.

Supporting our bank-side litter pickers was our trusty volunteer-in-a-coracle who manages to reach the parts on the water that other litter-pickers cannot reach.

Meanwhile, probably not realising how much more healthy their task was, our second team had locked down and moved off towards Ricketts Lock, scanning the banks for signs of the dreaded PW.

And, after several months of hardly seeing any PW, our volunteers found that it was back; not in great quantities, but sufficient that, if we don't adopt a zero-tolerance policy now, we will find it difficult to keep under control later in the year.

So it was back to the weed-clearing with which we are so familiar, and our volunteers drew on their skills and knowledge to bust the weed.

Returning to where we had removed PW the month before we found that, despite hampering its efforts, we had not eradicated it (we had not expected that we had) and our volunteers attacked the weed from the boat and from the bank.

Having removed all that was visible and accessible (NOT the same as 'removed all the weed'!) our volunteers took a trip down to the weir, and back up to Hoe Mill, off loading their haul of PW on the way.

It had been a fine evening's work on everyone's part and we were rewarded with a pleasant sunset.

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Evening Workparty.

Wednesday, 22nd July 2009

The weather forecast wasn't good, and the showers that were forecast showed up promptly just as we started! But before that two of our intrepid volunteers were already on duty, delivering our own workboat, Buster, to start work at Ricketts Lock.

Including the two volunteers on board Buster we had nine regular volunteers and it was good to welcome a tenth, new, member to our happy band.

Always keen not to waste time, but ensuring that the preparations were all dealt with adequately, we were under way with the usual (by now) good mix of skills 'two workboats, a coracle (and how many volunteer work groups can claim one of those?!) and a bank party.

The handing out of the rubbish bags was met with much enthusiasm by some!

And almost before the Hoe Mill Raider was ready to leave our other workboat, Buster arrived.

So it was a general trawl downstream by the two workboats, the coracle and the bank party with each finding sufficient to keep them occupied. Thankfully the rain stopped.

Weedbusters take their jobs very seriously, so concentration was needed to ensure nothing was missed.

Although there was a reasonable supply of rubbish to collect it seemed that the dreaded Pennywort was not going to be a significant problem, and there was some dispute about whether or not small clumps of weed growing in the mud was Pennywort or not 'only time will tell (we will see what has developed if we return in August)

The two work boats were to be swopped over (so that the one that had started at Heybridge finished at Hoe Mill and vice versa), which meant that the swag that had been collected along the Long Pond by Buster on the way up (the usual supply of Tesco shopping trolleys 'a lucrative haul, the removal of which should prevent significant damage to passing boats) had to be swopped to the Hoe Mill Raider for the return journey.

And having collected their cargo our two 'Heybridge'volunteers set off on the long journey back, hindered by the significant amount of blanket weed growing in the Navigation (at least it is said to inhibit the growth of Pennywort!)

And just when they thought it was all over, the new crew on Buster came across the sight they had hoped not to see 'Pennywort!

And this was not just any Pennywort; this was healthy, established, rooted to the bank, growing through the reeds Pennywort.

Despite time running out our volunteers could not resist removing all they could, with it being clear that a return visit (or two, or more) will be needed to check progress of the Pennywort at this location.

By now our bank party had cleared as far as Ricketts Lock, and for reasons obvious to them, were standing far away from the rubbish bags when Buster arrived to collect them.

With the light was fading and the rubbish bags humming (so that explains it!) we needed to return to Hoe Mill (especially as the spotlight had disappeared from Buster's locker).

Having hardly seen him all evening our faithful coracle crew was waiting part-way back, and we were pleased to take him, and his rubbish, on board for the last leg of the journey.

No coffee and cakes at the end of this weedbusting session 'but there was still time for those who wanted to to head off to the pub.

(You can see some more of the photos on Flickr)

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Evening Workparty.

Wednesday, 17th June 2009

A work party with several innovations 'we were back at Sandford having not been in that area for a while, it was the first of our contributions to the RiverCare scheme, the press had come along to take pictures and do interviews, and an impressive number of the Sandford Boaters Club were joining us.

The plan was to move upstream, working from boats and the bank, clearing litter and weed as we went. Again, we were well resourced with three boats and a coracle on the water and a large number of people on the bank 'nineteen volunteers in total (and two of our regular volunteers had rushed back from the Royal Opera House to join us).

Our start was somewhat delayed by the need to pose for the press photographer, not just once, but several times.

But at last we were off, with the volunteers on the bank making fast progress and those on the water finding that their task was somewhat more fiddly and time-consuming.

Of course, some craft can reach the places other craft can't reach

But with three boats and the coracle it was possible to make steady progress upstream

And there was plenty to keep the people on the water occupied

The general view from those on the bank was that there was not much litter for them to collect 'possibly because the paths had been cleared recently, possibly because not a lot of litter had been dropped, but more probably because the growth of the bank-side vegetation had obscured much of what had been brought downstream by the floods.

Some of what was found was just too big to deal with (but if someone is interested in earning the scrap value of a long (and heavy) piece of cable 'be our guest 'its about 'mile downstream of Barnes Mill)

Having worked so swiftly, many of the bank party were ready to return to Sandford

But then the call came through that bags of rubbish and other detritus, possibly left uncollected from previous litter-picks, were waiting to be thrown back in the river just upstream of Barnes Mill Lock. So, with time running short, the workboat was diverted from normal duties and asked to go to collect it.

Some stalwarts were ready to load the boat

And in double-quick time the workboat was loaded up and this extra, impressive, haul was taken back down to Sandford Lock.

As the first of our RiverCare contributions it seemed that our efforts had met with approval!

For many it had been a good evening. At the very least, there had been the opportunity to talk to the press. The walk up to Barnes Mill Lock and back again had been enjoyed and the total number of bags collected was impressive.

But this being Sandford there was an extra bonus 'a much appreciated supply of hot drinks and cakes to end the evening off! Thank you!

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Litter Picking Workparty

Saturday, 9th May 2009

The task for this workparty was to continue the litter-picking of the previous month. Some Pennywort had been spotted in feeder streams and ditches further upstream, but much of this had been dealt with by our intrepid, and original, volunteer Dudley.

It was another event of perfect resources - three boats, a canoe and a coracle with the labour of a total of 14 volunteers (including the very important refreshment-provider and Stella the dog). Two of our regular volunteers had decided that they liked being on the water so much that they were off trying larger boats in wider expanses of water.

The latest addition to our waterborne resource was given its first outing

And another of our regulars, after a quick repair to a leak, was soon ready for action too.

Moving steadily downstream from Paper Mill, and taking great care not to disturb nesting birds, our volunteers were able to work from boats and from the bank.

Reminders of how high the floodwaters had been were still present - as was the rubbish that had been intercepted by objects in its way

Meanwhile, two of our most regular regulars were working upstream from Hoe Mill

A lot of thinking went on

Meeting up at Rushes Lock for the mid-morning break all of our volunteers looked like they were enjoying themselves (including the dog!) - probably because of the continuing excellent standard of refreshments!

It was good to have Dudley back working with us.

Our Hoe Mill boat headed back home, collecting remaining litter on the way

And our Paper Mill transport also headed back to base - but not before they had dealt with some high-rise debris (the result of high-jinx rather than high water, presumably)

It had been another good day's litter-picking. Practically all visible litter between Paper Mill and Hoe Mill had been removed - another five bags of rubbish being the fruits of our labours.

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Litter Pick Workparty

Saturday, 4th April 2009

With the Navigation still having such small amounts of Floating American Pennywort (henceforth referred to as PW) that we can leave it for another month, our efforts were again to be directed towards litter-picking (to the great delight of some of our volunteers). Paper Mill Lock was chosen as the starting point and volunteers began to arrive early

There was probably the best mix of volunteers that such a workparty can comprise - three people to crew Buster (the workboat part- owned by the Chelmer Canal Trust), a volunteer in a canoe, another in a coracle and two volunteers on the bank.

Passing a group of volunteer colleagues from Essex Waterways Recovery Group who were there to do some work on fallen trees and blocked streams our party headed downstream to do the business on the rubbish that had been washed down in the floods.

The two volunteers on the bank were so fast and went so far that even the telephoto lens on the camera couldn't catch them in action. Meanwhile the volunteers in the coracle and the canoe did a thorough job removing rubbish in and near the water.

And the crew on Buster moved around wherever they were needed to collect rubbish from the bank, the water and the trees

What at one point looked like it was a piece of water-level monitoring kit turned out to be an ice maker, but like the hire boat which passed us we couldn't find the power supply and so the Navigation remained ice free for another day (however did it get there?!!)

With good progress being made it was time to collect the matching-capped volunteers on the bank from a distinctive tree, empty a bin with the most disgusting contents and head back upstream for the refreshments.

With due attention being paid to hygiene as a result of the previous bin emptying, refreshments were quickly prepared and swift progress was made working through the excellent range of cakes provided earlier by two further volunteers who provide vital (victual?) support to our work parties. Luckily we had all that was needed to prepare the drinks!

Onward and inward after the coffee break - observing all necessary Health and Safety guidelines our volunteers showed the same tenacity needed to remove litter from deep in the undergrowth as has been seen before when clearing vegetation.

With the addition of a wheelie-bin and the black sack contributions of our bankside and coracle volunteers it was soon time to head back to Paper Mill.

Not a bad morning's work - although we didn't find favour with the locals who, quite understandably, weren't too happy about even more rubbish being dumped temporarily near their boats.

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Chelmsford River Clean Up

Saturday, 28th March 2009

In response to the Chelmsford River Clean Up on Saturday 28 March, three intrepid members set out from Sandford lock in the workboat at 7am bound for the Wharf Road venue in time for a 9am start.

En route our heroes collected a substantial load of "goodies" from Barnes Mill lock and duly arrived on time with the first haul of the day.

Our regular bag lady was there to greet us however, someone was missing and a search party was sent out - to no avail.

No doubt a bleating excuse will be made by a very sheepish member in due course.

Onto the boat and soon we realised that because of the recent floods a busy time lay ahead.

Our first stop, the sluice gates, which yielded rich pickings.

Then on down river, working the banks and meeting up with our man in the coracle who can reach the parts that other boaters only dream of.

As anticipated there was a lot for us to clear

We did manage to to get ourselves a TV but reception was very poor

Our haul for the morning,before brunch, included 2 bags of recyclables, 4 bags of rubbish, 1 tent, 1 roadsign, a laptop bag and the TV

Despite the appalling weather it was a very successful workparty and of course the bacon butties, courtesy of the Sea Scouts, were mouthwatering lifesavers.

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Weedbusting Workparty

Saturday, 7th March 2009

The floods having restricted much of the work our volunteers had planned to do in February it was with a degree of curiosity that we embarked on this Saturday's work-party. Some of the effects of the flooding were all to clear to see - a bank scoured away by the floodwater, shallows where there were not shallows before, and a significant amount rubbish which had been deposited in the vegetation at what was now a height of several feet above the level of the river.

With no pennywort in evidence our plan was to work on the overhanging vegetation which, if left, will offer an anchor to floating weed later in the season. The task was not easy, with our volunteers having to contend with a mixture of blackthorn and brambles, frequently not only intertwined above the water, but often also extensively rooted under the water.

Having cut back vegetation which would soon be dipping in to the water(but avoiding exposing potential nesting sites) the 'spoil' was either towed away to where it could be easily removed or thrown onto the bank' One of our volunteers went ashore to rake, burn and pillage. However, we don't burn - as vegetation left on the bank forms useful habitats for a range of wildlife, pillaging was out as there was nowhere pillageable in sight, and so the simple act of raking vegetation, important as it was, was all that was left.

It was slow progress, but work which would potentially pay off later in the season, and with a range of techniques being used to deal with the challenges.

With one of our regular and enthusiastic litter-pickers unable to be with us it was good to be joined by a bank-side volunteer who had no difficulty filling black sacks with a range of detritus.

Eventually we had more than earned our refreshments which as usual were ample, and although they presented something of a (very acceptable) challenge - there is a maximum number of hot cross buns and chocolate chip cookies that any volunteer can eat - like all of our challenges our volunteers rose to the task!

Refreshments over our volunteers returned with enthusiasm to the task in hand, and despite one or two near-wettings, trimmed a considerable amount of vegetation further along the bank. As always, there was more we could have done if there had been more volunteers, but nevertheless it was a good day's work, and a satisfied group of volunteers, having rescued the tools and emptied the workboat, returned to Hoe Mill.

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Weedbusting Workparty

Saturday, 7th February 2009

Despite the recent bad weather, and a cold start to the day, eight volunteers were not going to let such things get in their way and turned up, eager to start work, at Hoe Mill Lock.

The plans had to be somewhat curtailed though as the flow of the water over the lock meant that the original plan (to take the Raider downstream of Hoe Mill Lock and work on overhanging vegetation) had to be shelved - it would have been impossible to open the lock gates,

If the Raider couldn't be taken downstream it should at least have been possible to use the towpath (or so we thought) and with loppers and litter pickers we set off.

However, progress was blocked by the very swollen river which had completely overflowed the towpath making any further progress downstream impossible. Not to be outdone, and wanting to make sure they put sufficient effort in to the session, our volunteers headed upstream from Hoe Mill where the litter picking was particularly productive. However, just when they were getting into the swing of things, progressing upstream, that swollen river restricted their progress one more time.

Those who know what the weir usually looks like might like to see how it was on this particular day

The water that didn't go over the weir went round it

So our volunteers returned to Hoe Mill pleased with their haul of litter

Restricted by floods upstream and floods downstream the only thing left was to stop for refreshments - which were served on the bridge by the Mayor of Maldon!

And that was about it - although wanting to see how extensive the flooding was two of the team travelled round to Beeleigh and walked upstream.

Ricketts Lock was overflowing well

And some volunteers might recognise the long field upstream of the weir where American Pennywort has grown in to the bank and between the reeds. Unfortunately the high level of the river meant that it was also overflowing into the ditch which is infested with pennywort and which, presumably, was being flushed back into the river below Ricketts Lock

(the opposite bank of the river is where the thin line of reeds just pokes from the water - the 'field' is beyond the reeds!)

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Weedbusting Workparty

Saturday, 3rd January 2009

Our first work-party of 2009 - and the coldest weather we have had in several year's worth of work-parties! Eight volunteers turned up, with about the same number having to send their apologies.

Starting from Heybridge Basin the plan had been to work along the Long Pond with a group on either bank and a group on our workboat, Buster, all collecting whatever Pennywort weed and rubbish was in their range. However, the thickness of ice on the Long Pond meant that use of Buster was not necessarily going to be practical. So the Heybridge crowd decided to do without the workboat and got tooled up ready for the morning ahead.

We were pleased that THE original Chelmer Canal Trust volunteer was able to join us and, having collected rubbish sacks he headed of to Beeleigh to see what rubbish could be found there.

Back at the Long Pond four volunteers tackled the tow path side, clearing any visible weed and a not inconsiderable amount of rubbish

Three volunteers dealt with the opposite bank, working along the canal-side where access to the water was possible and clearing litter back down to the Lake where it was not.

(tho the frost was cru-el!)

Eventually both groups met up at Hall Bridge

Further progress was made up to the Wave Bridge at Bentalls before returning to Heybridge Basin with three sacks of rubbish. Both groups, it turned out, were slightly perplexed by one aspect of their litter picking - why do some dog owners collect their dog's mess in a bag and then hurl it into the bushes to hang there until the bag decomposes?

In the meantime, working on his own at Beeleigh, Dudley had found the inevitable treasure-trove of rubbish which he set about with a vengeance.

Easily outdoing the Long Pond groups Dudley collected four sacks of rubbish.

With everyone returning to Heybridge Basin it was time for refreshments. Much-appreciated cakes and drinks were served by the Mayor of Maldon, one of our regular volunteers.

Lack of access to one section of the bank had meant that it had been impossible to collect some of the rubbish, including a signpost, which had been spotted further up the Long Pond and, perfectionists to the last, our volunteers decided to make an attempt at retrieving it using Buster. With Buster doubling up as an Ice-Breaker, and with a feeling that the ice must now have melted sufficiently, she made it as far as the Daisy Meadow landing stage, and the crew were on board, ready to smash their way through the frozen wastes.

However, careful analysis of the thickness of the ice (i.e. a carefully-aimed blow with a crome) indicated that it was still much too thick to justify the fuel and disturbance that would be needed to venture up the Long Pond and so Buster was returned to her moorings beside the crane to end a cold, but successful, morning's work.

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