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Work Party. Sandford

Saturday, 3rd December 2011

It took more than the threatened rain, Christmas Shopping opportunities and a nice warm lie in to keep six of our most trusty volunteers getting to Sandford Lock for a tough morning's work.

As usual, the first thing was to get the work boat ready for use by baling it out - and by the look of things it hadn't been used for a while - weed (though not pennywort) was growing INSIDE the boat!

Off to work meant off to Cuton Lock so off we set!

It was a feeder stream, not the Navigation itself, that we had been advised needed attention and on our arrival it was clear to see why.

Floating American Pennywort had taken over, despite us having done considerable work here previously - it just goes to show we can never rest on our laurels. This amount of weed, flushed a few hundred metres downstream into the Navigation itself by winter floods, could undo years of work.

Used to this sort of work with these sorts of challenges, our volunteers set to work, knowing that this was going to be one of those days when everyone needed to put plenty of effort into the task. An access route to the far bank was constructed (a bridge too far?)

and along with the trusty coracle, reaching parts other weedbusters can't reach, the Pennywort Removal began (what would we do without coracleman Steve?).

There was a lot of pennywort to be removed

And after some serious consistent effort, and not a few hints that it was time to stop for refreshments, it was indeed time to take a break and sample the delights of this morning's supplies (provided over many years, and for the last time today, by Miriam, to whom we are extremely grateful).

Then it was back to work, this time removing a few more rafts of weed and then undertaking the more tedious, but equally important task, of getting rid of every small weedlet and broken-off piece of weed that remained - since every piece left there has the potential of becoming next year's main crop.

Finally the task was over, and all we had to do was to get coracle and coracleman back with us!

It was good to see the difference we had made!

We worked hard for no money!

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Work Party. Long Pond

Saturday, 5th November 2011

With reports of both litter and pennywort in places along the Long Pond it was time for our volunteers to make another return visit.

Eight volunteers put aside the thought of spending a dry day indoors and turned up at Tesco Fullbridge, despite the weather not being as kind as it might have been.

The work boat was in place early 'maybe it was enthusiasm, or maybe it was just everything having run smoothly at the preparation stages.

Having ferried two of our group across to the Far Side (of the Navigation) there was no shortage of litter to be dealt with from the bank

And no shortage of litter to be dealt with from the water either

Before we could send coracleman off to do his thing running repairs were needed 'skilful application of a recycled drinks cup and some adhesive tape did the trick!

And in the meantime there was pennywort to be dealt with.

Repairs completed it was time to get serious with a small outbreak of weed that left unchecked would become a large raft.

With seven keen volunteers on the bank and on the water the group had soon cleared all the way to Black Bridge.

And fortuitously it was then time to head back upstream for refreshments (picking up extra doughnuts on the way 'every little helps!) (and Dudley as well). Not the most naturally attractive environment to take a break but the graffiti was 'different'and we could shelter from the rain. No one added a CCT 'tag'!

Suitably refreshed it was then time to head upstream towards Beeleigh and the Langford Cut. Again, there was both litter on the bank and litter in the water to be dealt with, as well as the odd patch of pennywort to be removed.

Dudley's efforts to break a way through into the Langford Cut proved successful, but the report he returned with was not good news.

There were substantial amounts of pennywort further up the Cut. Our volunteers sampled the not-very-pleasant area and did some test removals 'but with the amount there and the time needed this was not a task for today. Further work here is needed.

We'll meet again!

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Chelmsford Rivers Litterpick.

Saturday, 15th October 2011

With several volunteers away on other commitments it was just the two of our trustiest volunteers who turned up to contribute to this important event.

With one skilled coracler, and one novice ready to be coracled, safety was high on the agenda.

The first task was to deal with a large amount of rubbish below the weir. Our two coraclers set to with enthusiasm and skill.

By the time they were ready to break for refreshments an impressive haul of rubbish had been collected.

Then it was time to deal with the area around the top of the Navigation 'where again there was plenty to contribute to the overall efforts of all involved (someone needs to keep his coracle in a much tidier state 'just look at the inside!)

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Work Party. Sandford

Saturday, 1st October 2011

Having had three extremely wet midweek work parties in June July and August (when the offer was to 'enjoy a pleasant evening's stroll along the Navigation), this was the second of our Saturday work parties where the weather was almost too hot to allow us to work efficiently!

Despite the continuing hot weather the first task was to empty the workboat of fermenting 'water'.

The balance of participants was just right - two canoes, a coracle and four people to deal with the workboat and the banks.

First it was upstream, picking up litter and looking out for any pennywort that might have dared to grow. We were pleased about the complete lack of Floating American Pennywort and the relatively small amount of litter, both in the water and on the banks. However, having been briefed with the very useful RiverCare information on invasive species, we were disappointed to find significant quantities of Himalayan Balsam on both banks.

Just as we get one invasive species under control another one comes along! (In fact there are two more, in addition. It is reported that Giant Hogweed grows on the island at Cuton Lock and there is a stand of Japanese Knotweed near the Wave Bridge beside the Long Pond).

Fast progress was made upstream to Barnes Mill and back.

Pleasant work on a pleasant day.

Having completed our upstream tasks it was then time to head down through the lock and downstream to check on a feeder ditch which has been a source of pennywort in the past.

Again we spotted some Himalayan Balsam, but no Pennywort and little litter - it was a pleasant cruise!

And with such pleasant conditions it seemed only right that on arrival at Cuton Lock we should have our refreshments

The refreshments were appreciated, but the failure of some volunteers to manage their quota of five scones or cakes meant that there were some left over!

Plenty of rubbish was collected, but despite some careful reconnoitring there was no Pennywort to be found.

So with our job completed it was back to base and homeward bound.

Oh, what a beautiful morning!

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Work Party. Hoe Mill

Saturday, 3rd September 2011

After the three previous very wet work parties it was good to be able to have a full session with no rain at all (although one participant got a lot wetter than she was expecting!)

Seven of our number eventually formed this work party, the main intention of which was to remove Floating American Pennywort from a ditch which feeds into the Navigation just below Ricketts Lock. The first task was to get the work boat in position

Having dropped the work boat down through the lock and travelled downstream, several of our volunteers had found the first of the enemy's ranks and were preparing to attack.

We have been to this location before and it is not only a difficult area to access, but also there is not a lot of room to work in once there. Today's task was compounded by a large amount of duck weed which managed to give the enemy some cover.

What would we do without our coracle and coracleman? Even a canoe would not be able to access much of this area

There was a surprisingly large amount of weed to be removed.

But with the usual determination and attention to detail the first stretch was eventually cleared.

But then it was on to attack the enemy's second flank - an even larger and thicker concentration of weed a few metres downsteam. This required one of our number to be coracled across to the stinging nettle forest on the far side.

But again, with appropriate deployment of our resources, and again removing much more weed than we have done for a long time, we eventually cleared the entire section.

At which point Health and Safety and Quality Control arrived!

The job was almost done so it was time for refreshments. For some this was potentially the biggest challenge of the morning and some were just not up to the task of ensuring that the refreshments were fully consumed. But the scones, with locally produced jam made from locally grown strawberries watered by the waters of the Navigation, remained popular!

One of our additional volunteers wisely ensured that she was adequately fed - or did she make herself just a bit too heavy?

There was time to do the final fine-picking of any weedlets and cuttings that had escaped our previous notice and then it was time to head back to Hoe Mill.

Sadly the incident which occurred on the way back was not recorded for future viewing. Our doggy volunteer got just a little too enthusiastic in checking that we weren't in any danger from a swan, and overbalanced into the water. Luckily the skipper, having been on a Helmsman's Course, executed a perfect 'dog overboard' manoeuvre and our doggy-paddling volunteer was soon brought back on board, apparently none the worse for her experience.

But it was going to be a Wet Dog Afternoon.

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Work Party. Long Pond and Beeleigh

Wednesday, 17th August 2011

Rather predictably for the third and last of our 'weekday evening' work parties it was raining as we started and it rained while we worked. It was probably lucky that no one turned up inspired by the offer of a pleasant evening's stroll along the Navigation!

Five trusty volunteers met at Fullbridge, and in fact, 30 minutes earlier one of our number had deployed his coracle to remove the first patch of Floating American Pennywort (the enemy).

The plan was to litterpick on one bank up to Beeleigh, fish out any Pennywort we could find on the way, and on arrival at Beeleigh to deal with outbreaks of Pennywort in two creeks off the Blackwater.

Our bank party made enthusiastic progress

Picking up Pennywort on the way along the Long Pond our waterborne crews were soon at Beeleigh and heading for the Pennywort mines in the two small creeks.

Another example of appropriate team working - support for those on the water by those on the bank.

Having removed all we could find from creek number one we moved on to creek number two. There was an impressive raft of Pennywort awaiting us.

It was impossible to reach it from the bank, and impossible to tow it to the bank. Never daunted, our two waterborne volunteers made quick work of ferrying it to the shore where it could be hauled up the bank (never before has so much Pennywort been placed in one coracle!)

Our volunteer on the bank was moving fast'''

And finally the job was done''''.

With the sun setting (although it was still raining) our evening's task was almost complete and with three bags of rubbish with us, and several piles of pennywort left high on the banks, it was time to return from whence we had come.

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Work Party. Sandford Lock

Wednesday, 22ndJuly 2011

An octopus might be able to predict the outcome of the World Cup, and the date of a Chelmer Canal Trust weekday evening work party is potentially as reliable in predicting bad weather.

Seven volunteers turned up at Sanford Lock, eager to do whatever needed doing. It was good not only to have the return of three of our regular volunteers who we had missed the previous month, but also a new volunteer who we hope will return for more!

The general plan was to have litter-pickers heading upstream and downstream on the bank, while the work boat crew headed downstream, dealing with not only litter, but also the dreaded Floating American Pennywort which had been reported to us as having shown its leaves for the first time on the Navigation this year.

The rain was only light drizzle, and looking like it would stay that way, a relaxed safety briefing took place.

So we set off, expecting that over the next couple of hours we would enjoy the surroundings, enjoy the company and get some work done. WRONG! It was not many minutes after setting off that the rain got heavier. Just a passing shower, we thought, although there was an enthusiastic rush to put on waterproofs.

The workboat crew soon found the offending Pennywort and set about removing it (along with the mint and cress it was growing through).

If rain coming down 'in stair rods' is one way of gauging rainfall then the rain that proceeded to fall on all of us probably came down in scaffold poles! The crew on the workboat weren't helped by the engine cutting out every so often, meaning that even if there had been some cover to run to, there was no way of running to it. Ashore or on the water it was VERY wet

Nevertheless, entirely undaunted, seven trusty souls stuck to the task in hand (with the amount of water everywhere also meaning that whatever was in hand stuck to them too!). Our upstream bank volunteer completed his task and wisely headed home (sorry we have no picture). Our downstream bank volunteers made it all the way down to Cuton Lock, and despite getting very wet, and despite waterproofs (you know it is seriously heavy rain when you can judge the height of the water inside your wellies!), seemed to remain in remarkably good spirits!

Although several of our volunteers were happy to carry on there seemed little point, so we headed back to Sandford where we would be able to get the insides of our cars soaking wet via our wet clothes.

So the day's haul of Pennywort (etc) was off-loaded.

No amount of signalling to the rain made it come to a halt.

On the way back a detour was taken up the mill stream (after all, it was only pouring rather than cloudburst by now) but there was little of interest and even our trusty coracle man, possibly hastened by a 3'tear in his 'hull', made an earlier than normal return to base.

Oh what a night!

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Work Party. Hoe Mill

Saturday, 7th May 2011

Maybe it was the early morning rain that put some volunteers off, but five experienced volunteers turned up at Hoe Mill, and what we lacked in quantity we gained in quality.

Everyone headed downstream towards the ditch which runs into the Navigation just below Ricketts Lock.

Our informant had told us that there was an outbreak of Floating American Pennywort in the ditch and we set off with enthusiasm to deal with it. But our problem was that we couldn't find it! The ditch is fairly inaccessible in places, but we persevered, initially to no avail.

At one point we found a small amount of weed which was a challenge to get at

But it wasn't the quantity we were searching for

We persevered and eventually came across quantities of American pennywort the likes of which we haven't seen for a long time.

In a wide part of the ditch, with marshy banks, the enemy was hunkered down and hiding from view. Our volunteers did what they could from the bank, but our saint in shining armour, otherwise known as 'coracle man', set to work between the bushes and blackthorn and started an impressive clean-up process.

The work was tough and, unusually, we took a break part way through the task to have our refreshments.

Fairly unbalanced for this work party, we had plenty to eat (exhortations to eat just a small amount more were made with the incentive that not only was the jam in the scones home-made, the fruit in the jam was home-grown!) but only just enough to drink (why can't thermos flasks bounce gently when they fall out of the car when the door is opened?!).

Somewhat weighed down by so many hot cross buns and scones our volunteers resumed the task. It became obvious that we needed people on the other bank, but the far bank is almost inaccessible by land. There was only one solution, and the coracle-ferry service started. Only two customers, but it did the trick and the weed-removal from the ditch could be completed.

Two of our volunteers had been well coracled!

Meanwhile, our canoeist was busy on the main system seeing what litter could be found.

Weed removal from the ditch had taken all morning - but it was a worthwhile task as, now that the entry of the ditch into the Navigation has been cleared it would have been easy for the weed to be flushed into the main system

Our volunteers returned to Hoe Mill with a sense of satisfaction of a good job well done!

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Work Party. Long Pond

Saturday, 2nd April 2011

Another fine day for a work party, and whereas our numbers were low, the enthusiasm and commitment were as high as ever.

The start of the day at Heybridge Basin'.

Our happy band were soon setting off to work, with a volunteer on each bank and two on the workboat.

And after a short while our refreshments arrived, or rather the refreshment maker and provider did!

It is good to be able to get a picture of her on the website after so many years absence, and the affronted look is as a result of a suggestion that she travel back to the car park on Buster the work boat!

However, she relented, and actually seemed to enjoy the trip.

Meanwhile, our volunteers were getting on with the job in hand

And, feeling that with so many refreshments, and so few volunteers, extra time would be needed to consume the refreshments, an early break was called.

It is fair to say that the refreshments really were generously provided'

Our volunteers always rise to the challenge but on this one we failed - we managed ALL of the hot cross buns and ALL of the ginger cake, but were defeated by Mr Kipling's provisions!

A reorganisation of roles after the break, with one of our number being somewhat over-cautious about going ashore!

More of the same as far as litter was concerned, but we saw no pennywort (although it is reported as springing into life in feeder streams and ditches further upstream)

But we had plenty of litter to keep us 'happy'.

We got just as far as Black Bridge before time ran out and we needed to return to Heybridge Basin to offload our haul

It had been another good work party. This is how the day ended - taken from the same point as the first picture of the day.

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Work Party. Hoe Mill

Saturday, 5th March 2011

It was the start of spring - and our valiant volunteers were ready to spring into action in impressive numbers - twelve eager weed and litter busters including two very welcome new faces, plus our two loyal refreshment-providers.

First things first - the safety briefing

(the eagle-eyed will notice that there are only 10 volunteers in the picture - an extra one behind the camera and another joining us later)

With such an excellent turnout we were able to send groups in different directions - one group upstream and another group downstream, both on the bank and on the water.

Again, it was a task we are used to at this time of year - pulling litter both from the water and from the bankside vegetation, following the flooding earlier in the year.

Hard work calls for reasonable rewards, but sadly, having proudly boasted about providing ample refreshments in the past, we were just a tad under-resourced in the cakes and drinks department. Nevertheless the refreshments were welcome and nobody seemed to mind the 'you cut, I'll choose' technique for sharing things out - what an amenable crowd!

Our work here was not yet done though, and after reminders about the forthcoming Navigation Half Marathon on 8th May (one participant and several marshals were present in our group), our hard-working groups set off for yet more fun and excitement (what?!!!!!!!).

More work upstream

And even the heavy plant was brought in

(just to be clear - 'heavy plant' refers to the tractor, not our volunteer!)

And more work downstream

Health and Safety is always uppermost in our minds

Coming to the end of the morning's work it was time to take our haul back to Hoe Mill and we collected numerous bags of rubbish on our way back upstream to the lock.

Then it was time to head upstream

in order to collect the 'upstream' volunteers (once we could find them) and the rubbish collected between Hoe Mill and Rushes Locks

It was fair to say that the morning had been a load of rubbish.

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Work Party. The Long Pond

Saturday, 5th February 2011

Continuing the 'bad weather leading up to a work party' theme, high winds the previous night had meant that the workboat could not be loaded and prepared, but nevertheless it was 'on station' ready to support our valiant volunteers.

An inspection trip along half of the Long Pond had suggested that currently there is no visible floating pennywort - testament to the work of volunteers at previous work parties. So today's task was to deal with the not inconsiderable amount of rubbish in the MacDonalds/Tesco areas.

There is often a conundrum associated with our litter-clearing efforts. This weeks? Why had large carrier bag full of empty glass bottles been thrown over the fence only 100m away from the glass recycling skips??!!

It took a while, but six determined volunteers changed this

into this

Then it was on to our usual strategy - litter pickers on both banks and litter pickers on the water.

With several large bags of litter collected it was all too soon time for refreshments

There was certainly plenty of rubbish in and on the water. Spying it through the flow of water our volunteers spent some time trying to unplug a microwave oven from the murky depths; we failed - it must have been the wrong sort of current!

We even managed to pick some bits of old wood and canvas out of the water

(sorry Steve - didn't realise that was your coracle!).

Just a final bit of clearing up, and our morning's task was done

Eleven bags of rubbish (plus, of course, one Tesco trolley) - not a bad haul for one morning.

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Work Party. Paper Mill Lock

Saturday, 8th January 2011

For the second month in a row our volunteers were determined not be daunted by adverse weather conditions. Although many stalwarts were ready to work in December the decision was taken to cancel the work-party due to the extreme conditions - ice and snow. High winds and torrential rain overnight might have given lesser souls good reasons not to turn up for this, the first work-party of 2011. Not so with our plucky band. Although three were unable to attend due to illness, eight eager souls (plus the refreshment provider/maker) ensured that this work-party went ahead.

There was probably quite a lot of litter, and maybe some American pennywort in the water - but it certainly wasn't floating!

Particular care was paid to preparation and to appropriate briefing - we did not want to risk anyone being swept away and, unusually, our volunteers working from the bank wore lifejackets along with those working on the water.

The weather had certainly made the conditions 'adverse'! Our volunteers on the bank were somewhat hampered by the fact that in places the river was overflowing the towpath.

Conditions on the water made it unwise to risk working from canoes and the coracle, but even the engine on the trusty workboat was insufficiently powerful to be able to make any headway in places.

Nevertheless, progress was made and all opportunities to collect litter were exploited.

Progress upstream was thwarted by flooding, which forced the decision to return to Paper Mill for refreshments. An easy decision, but not so easy to undertake as by now the water level had risen further, making it difficult for some to return without getting very wet feet. Attempts to take them off by boat were thwarted due to the inability to be able to get the boat safely to the bank.

What would we do without our hot drinks and buttered scones?

After the refreshment break, and there having been no way that the workboat could be taken below the lock, quick work was made of rubbish removal from the Boater's Car Park before our volunteers headed off downstream to see what they could find.

They found some rubbish, some flowers apparently fairly fresh from the florist (?) and, after about 'mile, their way blocked by even more flooding.

Thus, our task here was done. There will, no doubt, be plenty of rubbish in full view once the water level falls - although impressive amounts of rubbish removed in the Chelmsford area by RiverCare volunteers seem to have paid off in terms of reducing the overall amount getting further downstream.

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