Chelmer Canal Trust

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Saturday, 7th December 2013

Despite the warning that we were to return to much the same place as last time, to do much the same work, an impressive number of willing volunteers turned up.

A series of emails had established the system for getting the fuel tank for the work boat, but clearly someone involved didn't know their Honda from their Yamaha as the connector on the fuel tank we were given did not fit the engine. This being the third time this has happened we are starting to wonder'..!

However, mother being the necessity of invention, in circumstances such as this we hatched a plan to cross a deep ditch to reach the otherwise inaccessible area where we needed to work. Access would involve walking a plank (which we would have to carry). The somewhat concerned look on the faces of some of our volunteers at this prospect were only equalled by their even more concerned looks when we arrived at the location of the plank-walking! But we set off, with plank, determined not to be beaten by either the lack of a boat or the challenge of crossing the ditch.

It seemed fair that the person who had hatched the plan went first (after all, he's expendable), followed by those whose confidence increased as they witnessed every successful crossing.

And it wasn't long before we found what we were looking for.

And it was down to work, with even our newest recruit soon developing a good technique.

And of course there was the usual teamwork involved

There was no shortage of weed and all of our volunteers were kept busy.

And the further up the ditch we wen, the more weed we found

At last, with no dissenters, it was time to break out the refreshments

And our usual sumptuous feast was enhanced still more by the generous, and greatly-welcomed, donation of WARM sausage rolls (the chilli ones were pretty hot) and WARM mince pies. A rare luxury.

(he's giving them out, not eating them himself!!)

And, as usual, we were treated to our monthly joke 'although some noticed that today's had been recycled from a previous work party!

Back to work, and as the ditch split into two, so did we.

One group worked on a ditch that hatches pennywort from a pond that seems to have no feed into it (leaks from the Navigation?)

And we found that we had a challenger to our usual 'rope the chrome'expert

And eventually our work there was done

Meanwhile our other team was making good progress up the main ditch where there was more pennywort than you could shake a chrome at 'although shake many chromes we did.

Floating American Pennywort is enemy number 1, our primary challenge, and of course time is enemy number 2. And eventually both had us beat. We had made superb progress, but had to leave with still more pennywort to draw us back in future. So it was back to base

Though not before the final challenge 'the return crossing of the plank. But by now our confidence level was so high that some almost skipped back across the plank.

The delight that the plank experience was over was plain to see

And we trekked back to Sandford Lock a happy bunch of work party volunteers. It had been an excellent morning's work with huge amounts of pennywort, which would otherwise be flushed into the Navigation, having been consigned to rot on the bank.

It just remained for us to wash our boots (biosecurity) and wish each other a Merry Christmas before heading off home.

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Work Party 2nd November 2013

Barnes Mill

This was going to be one tough work party and luckily we had another excellent group of volunteers who arrived ready to take on whatever tasks were needed,

Crossing Barnes Mill Lock and walking across the water meadows was the easy part, but practically as soon as we arrived at The Ditch our party organised themselves into two groups and started work. Both had lots to do.

The pennywort was thick and in most places the access wasn't easy

But skilled volunteers these, they all knew they had a role to play and gradually the pennywort-removal moved along the ditch.

At times it was very tough and getting the large rafts of weed even into a place where it could be removed from the water was a challenge - but not one that would daunt our weedbusting volunteers!

The break for refreshments couldn't come soon enough for most of our group - and it was well-deserved.

Then it was back to work, in even more difficult places and using some of the tried and tested techniques developed over the years

Meanwhile others saw the job through to the important end, not just pulling out the masses of obvious infestation, but paying attention to detail and ensuring that even the smallest weedlets were removed - a vital task if the weed is not to regrow.

Coracle man Steve was certainly kept busy

And eventually where once there were dense carpets of thick pennywort there were now areas of clear water.

It had been another fine effort by a committed band of volunteers.

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Rivers Clean Up

Saturday, 19th October 2013

We were blessed with another good crowd of the lovely Sandford boaters which meant that nine willing volunteers joined the many others in this bi-annual event, meeting outside the Essex Record Office for a 9.00 am start.

Our actual start was delayed for a while since we needed to show the press that the Chelmsford City Mayor was supporting the event. We reckoned that skilful use of a litterpicker from behind could make it a Mayoral Chain Picker. But it was nice of the mayor to show support for the event and later on in the morning we had the opportunity to talk to two knowledgeable and interested Deputy Mayors.

So pausing only for our own pictures we were soon underway

We went three ways. Two coracles, headed upstream to deal with rubbish in the water above the weir.

One kind boat owner had brought his boat along and he and his crew dealt with litter between the lock and the weir.

And a further kind boat owner and his crew dealt with litter in the lock cut and Springfield Basin.

With both photographers in coracles sadly the only further photographic record of the event is by way of the pictures they took of themselves. (Although we know that the others were working very hard and doing valuable litter-picking work.)

Before the refreshment break our two coraclers worked on the two rivers above the weir, working up as far as the unattractive concrete troughs that carry the rivers through the city centre - such a valuable asset so hugely underplayed!

Despite there being much less rubbish then at other events there was still enough to keep our coraclers in business.

And one of our coraclers - a virgin at the last litter-pick - was now showing a certain confidence (although was it going to be over-confidence??) about his coracling ability. Regular followers of our reports will note his ability to smile smugly AND paddle this time!

The free refreshments at the Sea Scout hut were plentiful and some of us were not overly-offended by being mistaken for the drivers of the rubbish vans!

Able to put it off no longer, our coraclers knew that their major task was ahead of them: any amount of rubbish in the green soup which was held back by the boom across the weir. Just had to be removed

This was one tough task. Steve, our skilled coracler, ever the gentleman, and having let the apprentice use the more stable coracle, also ferried both coracles into position - what a guy!!

The smaller coracle is for poachers to make a quick getaway with their rabbits; the larger one designed to allow poachers to pull large salmon on board. There was plenty to bring on board, but the only animal we found in the water - a dead pigeon - remains there.

We cannot lie - it was hell! Smelly and difficult to get through. There seemed to be a preponderance of ladies' cosmetics, quite a few bottles of Mexican beer (empty apart from a slice of lemon) and bottles containing some dubious yellow liquid which wasn't necessarily orange juice!

As can be seen by the amount of rubbish surrounding Steve, there was plenty to be dealt with.

But our coraclers are nothing if not tenacious, and working steadily they eventually had the area cleared of all rubbish that could be found floating above or in the thick weed covering.

Five sacks of rubbish came out of that area!

It had been a good morning's work. Well done to all who took part.

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Work Party.

Saturday, 5th October 2013

Our willing volunteers '15 altogether - arrived between 8.30 and 9 pm, ready to take on whatever tasks were needed.

But not before all the equipment was prepared and ready to go

With another impressive turnout we were able to send groups in two directions. The larger group, hearing of the challenges ahead, headed downstream by boat and on foot to Cuton Lock, and the smaller group headed by inflatable, canoe and coracle up the millstream.

Arriving at Cuton Lock it was familiar territory for some, and a new experience for others. Nevertheless everyone played their part. A route through the vegetation was created to allow access to a large raft of floating pennywort

And then the hard work began, hauling it ashore from the water

And far enough up the bank that it would rot

Meanwhile, quality control 'catching any breakaway weedlets which would infect the Navigation further down 'was in place further downstream

And valuable moral support was provided by other members of the group. The love they showed was impressive!

Next, it was back up to the ditch which runs parallel to the Navigation. This continues to be a challenge and did not disappoint today.

Luckily, for a while, we were able to access both banks of the ditch, making removal more effective.

And just when we thought we had it all there was more

Meanwhile our smaller party were facing a larger task

They did an excellent task before the call to refreshments came through.

Always a popular part of a Saturday morning work party the scones went round (and round and round) and the tea and coffee went down. Some discussed the meaning of life and some just contemplated it!

A comment was made that the Trust was perhaps spending money unnecessarily on refreshments. NOT SO!!! Apart from the fact that none of the Trust's money is spent on refreshments, the modest supply of cakes and biscuits, tea and coffee, is a small price to pay for such valuable, and enthusiastic, volunteer time. Paying a contractor to do the same task would be in the 'ks! (and potentially be done to a lower standard 'as we have discovered in the past!)

Enough of relaxing though, there was even more work to be done, albeit tidying up. So many of the party headed off to the infamous ditch to admire the work so adequately completed by the smaller group.

Those guys had worked hard and could be justly proud of their efforts

Finally it was back to Sandford Lock and another work party was over. Several participants commented on how much they had enjoyed the morning in the fresh air, the walk to Cuton Lock and back, and working alongside such committed and pleasant people.

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Saturday, 7th September 2013

The first of our Saturday morning work parties after three months of mid-week evenings had clearly caught many of our regular weedbusters out! Various good reasons for not being there would have seriously reduced our numbers had it not been for the excellent turn out of boaters from Sandford - and what a super crowd they were!

Our plan was to work downstream from Sandford, litter-picking the towpath and clearing pennywort from the Navigation - with two or three large rafts needing particular attention. But the best laid plans of (dor)mice and men, and all that! The engine on the work boat did not want to play.

Luckily a knight in shining armour came to our rescue (a.k.a. Ron Abbott, Blackwater Boats, 07802 6514400. Trips and Charters - very good value and an excellent way to see the Navigation and learn more about it).

The work boat became a butty and the earlier ways of working boats on canals were recreated.

With remarkable talent being shown in driving both craft our first 'on the water'team soon found some weed that had to be dealt with.

But that was only a taster of what was to come and another raft of pennywort loomed large

Even the combined strength of four keen weedbusters was tested by this monster raft of weed which threatened to almost tip the boat over at one stage
(note the use of lifejackets by all on board).

Dudley kept an eye on things and ensured that smaller strands of weed did not go amiss

Meanwhile or bank party were working hard to collect the various items of litter and other rubbish that needed to be cleared away

With a boat full of pennywort, and another raft of it in tow, it was without doubt time to unload the boat of pennywort; an access point was created.

And the pennywort was landed

Which gave the ideal opportunity to take on board the well-earned refreshments.

Then after the break it was more of the same. Some of the crew swapped over

And the rest of the pound down as far as Cuton Lock was checked for pennywort.

After which, thanks to Ron Abbott (Blackwater Boats, 07802 6514400. Trips and Charters 'very good value and an excellent way to see the Navigation and learn more about it) we were able to return to base.

It has to be said 'it was an excellent morning's work made possible by an excellent team of willing volunteers.
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Work Party

14th August 2013
Long Pond

Another good evening for weedbusting (well, apart from the deluge a few minutes BEFORE the last of the equipment was packed away at the end), and a good band of volunteers.

Meeting promptly at the Landing Stage beside the Tesco car park - and with the work boat arriving with only 30 seconds to spare - our trusty volunteers took no time in passing their Health and Safety A levels and preparing to bust the weed and bin the litter!

Five volunteers on the water and two on the bank was a bit unbalanced - but the efficiency and enthusiasm of our two landlubbers mean that they did sterling work. At one point they were working so fast that we lost them!

But our Buster crew were no to be outdone and soon they were getting into action (eventually!)

And of course our trusty canoe and coracle duo were also hard at work

We made it all the way up to the flood gates at Beeeleigh, and with the light starting to fade, all the way back to the Landing Stage, picking up not only rubbish, but a coracle and coracler on the way.

A pleasant evening - and the last of our Wednesday evenings for this year! Back to Saturday mornings!

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Work Party at Heybridge Basin.

Wednesday, 10th July 2013

We haven't necessarily been very lucky with the weather for our evening work parties over the years, but this evening's weather had to be some of the best ever!

The scores for the Health and Safety test in the car park were impressively high with the symptoms of Weil's Disease and procedure on finding a syringe being known by all.

Sadly Buster, our jointly-owned work boat had blown a fuse, was out of commission and could not be used to ferry volunteers, tools and rubbish.

And even the three wheelbarrows that are usually available had disappeared. But we weren't to be beaten and while two of our party took to waterborne craft the others posed for photos on the towpath,

But their 15 minutes of glory were short-lived and soon they were getting stuck into their tasks. The north-bank towpath was remarkably clear of litter, especially given the number of people fishing, and there was hardly a dog-mess bag to be found hanging in the trees.

And our chaps on the water played their part too. It is a shame we did not get a video of Dudley hurling rubbish to the bank.

At Hall Bridge we did some consolidating of rubbish

and with time on our side made our way further up the towpath to Wave Bridge. Then it was back to Hall Bridge and across to the other side of the Long Pond.

By now the sun was starting to set, but that didn't stop our bank-side volunteers from stopping to make use of one more photo-opportunity.

Then it was a pleasant stroll back to the car park with very little rubbish to be found on the way.

We dropped our rubbish off at the skips and stood back to admire how much we had collected.

(OK 'we must own up 'ours were the two bags in the wheelbarrow!)

What a smashing evening!

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Working Party Report

Wednesday, 12th June 2013
Hoe Mill

This was the first of our summer evening sessions and we met at the car park at Hoe Mill.

There being no recent pennywort sightings we had decided to concentrate on litter and associated debris removal from the water and banks.

The forecast had promised rain for the afternoon and evening but for the main part we were only delivered a desultory drizzle towards the end of the session. Steve, the lock keeper, had prepared the Dory, and we had, at the last minute, procured a qualified skipper, Ray O'Shea. He arrived early and was very enthusiastic about the whole operation so he and crew started off before the starting gun. We were subsequently joined by other volunteers who concentrated their efforts on the towpath side from Hoe to Rushes lock.

On the whole the river was very clear and clean, just the odd plastic pieces and cans lurking in the eddies and under bushes and trees. The banks and lock sides at Rushes bore the signs of numerous picnics in the form of discarded disposable barbecues. Dealing with a hot barbecue after the event seems to be beyond the imagination of a lot of people.

We finishes somewhat early- it was still light!- and would have had time to proceed further upstream if we had taken a lock key, something to be remembered next time out. As it looks as if we are going to be concentrating on litter clearance while the pennywort is preparing to attack in late summer it would be wise to choose future sites that are most prone to littering.

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Work Party.

Saturday, 11th May 2013
Hoe Mill

It having been a while since we were last at Hoe Mill we were keen to see if the section of the Navigation below Hoe Mill, once one of our worst locations for Pennywort, was likely to be causing us problems later in the year.

The Health and Safety Assessment having been passed with flying colours by all participants, our trusty volunteers set off. Three on the bank, three in the Raider, one in a coracle and one in a canoe 'it doesn't get much better than that!

Our bank party were quickly in business, finding rubbish to transfer into their black sacks.

Meanwhile in the weir pool there was also plenty of rubbish to be found, both on the banks and up in the overhanging vegetation.

And our Raider Party worked steadily downstream too.

We had time to check the ditch beside the cut and were pleased that we couldn't find a trace of pennywort anywhere (but how quickly things can change).

All too soon our bank party, anticipating that it would soon be time for refreshments, were coming into view

The preparation of the refreshments was more carefully monitored than usual.

And then came one of the toughest aspects of the whole morning 'that insistence that everything had to be eaten, whether it contained blackcurrant or rhubarb and ginger jam. It was a tough task, but someone had to do it,

The north bank having been dealt with it was then time to deal with the south bank.

And eventually, having been missed all morning, a further member of the fleet arrived.

Bets were placed as the race started

But it wasn't an even match

Meanwhile the crew of the raider continued with their tasks

And Dudley arrived with an impressive load for anyone, let alone a canoeist

Finally it was back to Hoe Mill where one of our brave volunteers confidently worked the lock.

It had been a good morning. Moderate amounts of litter, absolutely no Pennywort, but sadly evidence of a weed more pernicious than pennywort 'the dreaded Japanese Knotweed

Ah well'''..! Something for another day (and in this case, for a different treatment)

Chelmsford Rivers Litterpick,

Saturday, 27th April 2013

We usually support this event by bringing EWL's Raider up from Sandford and working on the water, accessing places (and litter) that it is unlikely that others will get to. Unfortunately, with Barnes Mill Lock being closed for planned maintenance we weren't able to have the Raider available. Nevertheless, our trusty volunteers weren't going to let a trifling issue like that get in the way and, whereas we thought we might not be able to do much work on the water, in fact all of our Chelmer Canal Trust volunteers did so. Two in two coracles, three in an inflatable and one in a canoe.

We joined the other volunteers registering, collected rubbish sacks, and got on with doing our thing.

The inflatable was inflated and the crew were prepared.

And the coracles were ready to go too.

Well, after a swift spot of maintenance.

In fact, given that a coracle-novice was going to be using one of the coracles, careful preparation was involved.

But eventually all craft were in the water and picking up the inevitable litter, although it seemed to seasoned litterpickers that there was a lot less than usual.

And of course, our volunteers soon got to those parts that others can't get to.

Eventually it was time to head upstream for refreshments.

And to finish the session with further work above the weir.

(No - this coracler cannot scull and smile at the same time)

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Weedbusting Workparty.

Saturday, 6th April 2013

After the prolonged cold spell the temperature returned to somewhere near normal -bright sunshine when we met at Barnes Mill. A record turnout matched the weather. We had twelve in all.

Once we had negotiated the electronic gate at Barnes, and were safely parked beside the towpath, we set off for Barnes lock, crossed the footbridge below it and headed across the meadow to the dreaded ditch some half a mile away.

This ditch starts in Chelmsford near the old Army and Navy roundabout and runs for about two or three miles parallel to the Chelmer Navigation. Luckily the pennywort was concentrated in a large patch with small growths downstream for nearly a mile.

Initially we were hampered by undergrowth and trees on both banks and progress was slow. Some of the group managed to cross to the opposite bank and this helped us to reach everything.

The banks were for the most part pretty steep which made falling in a strong possibility. It turned out to be quite a test of our agility because the banks further downstream were steeper still.

Pennywort was raked out and spread on the bank to dry out.

Surprisingly we saw several large swims of fish which pleased the anglers among us.

After a long walk to the old waterworks perimeter ditch we took refreshments. Here we were sheltered from the keen wind.

Continuing along the footlpath we completed a circular route meeting with the canal and familiarising ourselves with the waterworks ditch where we had worked previously- we did find vestiges of pennywort there hidden under the bank.

On our arrival back at the lock, and our cars, it was time to reflect on what a good job we had accomplished in clearing and surveying. It could stand us in good stead during 2013 and prevent pennywort leaking into the main river. Good company, good weather, dry under foot - an enjoyable morning well spent.

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Work Party.

Saturday, 3rd March 2013
Long Pond

A good day for weed-busting and litter-picking our volunteers turned up ready to do whatever tasks were required. In the main today's session was to be a litter-picking one, with a small amount of pennywort needing attention in the Langford Cut.

Attentive to the Safety Briefing, as always, we planned our distribution of labour for the morning - five on the bank, four on the water.

Dudley got away swiftly and headed off to deal with the Pennywort.

But Steve in the coracle, often our main man as far as flexibility on the water is concerned, found himself having to be fairly flexible in the water, and getting out of it - equipment failure at an early stage put paid to any further floatation.

Well at least it gave us extra capacity on the banks!

Everyone headed up to Beeleigh - a treasure trove of miscellaneous rubbish, mainly left by those who have no excuse for not taking it away with them.

Some concerned themselves with the area around Beeleigh, others headed down the towpath, and soon Buster, the work-boat, was collecting sacks-full of rubbish collected by our skilled volunteers.

It is important to keep our volunteers in top form so by 11.00 am it was time to stop for our mid-morning break on the Refreshment Platform

Then it was time to head further downstream. Our volunteers kept working and the full sacks of rubbish kept being brought on board.

And we worked our way back up to our starting point.

And as we finished where we had started it was good to meet up with Dudley again.

An impressive haul of litter and an excellent morning's work.

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Workparty at Sandford.

Saturday, 2nd February 2013

This was our second work party in a row to be based at Sandford - it is an area we need to keep a close eye on. It was 'lucky thirteen' for us - that was the total number of volunteers who took part in this work party.

As usual, the work party started with the important 'safety briefing'; in conditions like today's (bitterly cold) it was important that, apart from everything else to consider, no one was at risk of falling into the freezing cold water, and if they did, that appropriate action was taken promptly.

Essentially there were two tasks - to look out for pennywort that had been flushed by recent floods out of feeder streams and into the Navigation, and to pick up whatever litter our volunteers could find (and did they find it!).

So, litter-pickers and rubbish sacks in hand, off they set.

And we were fortunate to have support on the water as well.

Our volunteers braved the elements and made good progress downstream.

At one point it seemed like a doddle on the work boat

So skilled were our litter pickers that the work boat was soon kept busy collecting full rubbish sacks - rather than dealing with its prime task of looking for pennywort. But eventually our work boat crew got to their planned destination and dealt as best as they could with a small infestation of pennywort - and as before, this location will need a further visit.

Then, with a shortage of rubbish sacks curtailing our efforts, and with some of our party starting to feel colder than they would have preferred, the suggestion that it was time for refreshments was met with enthusiastic agreement. The coffee was hot and the jam in the scones was rhubarb and ginger.

Having refuelled ourselves we returned to Sandford to restock with rubbish sacks and to venture upstream and more of the same.

And eventually we caught sight of two of our volunteers who had been involved in work away from the main group

Finally, as is sometimes the case, there was plenty more rubbish our volunteers could have picked up, but not plenty more time to pick it up in. So it was back to base to unload an impressive number of rubbish bags

And finally, with the importance of bio-security high on our agenda, a thorough washing of boots and equipment.

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Workparty at Sandford

Saturday, 5th January 2013

A New Year, but we continue to be faced with the same old challenges - Floating American Pennywort and litter.

Eleven trusty volunteers - an impressive number - turned up at Sandford Lock to take on the vital tasks that are intrinsic parts of our work parties. Although we had a plan, we were flexible, and it turned out that, as a result of the recent flooding, litter-picking was probably more of a priority than pennywort removal; but we dealt with both.

With rubbish bags and litter-pickers to the fore, both banks were efficiently combed for litter and other non-native detritus washed down by high river flows.

Meanwhile our pennywort-busters had found another of the 'breeding grounds' for Floating American Pennywort and had were quickly on the case. It was another excellent team effort - two volunteers removing the bulk of the pennywort, and our invaluable Coracle Man Steve undertaking the vital removal of the small strands and remnants left in the water.

There was more to do further down the ditch, and that task was completed efficiently too.

Rubbish was still being collected efficiently.

And Dudley left to reconnoitre the state of some of our other pennywort hot spots.

All too soon it was time for refreshments.

Then, with some of our volunteers having to leave to undertake other responsibilities the remainder of us headed back downstream to Sandford

But our job there was not yet complete - a short hike round to the weir stream allowed us to both remove some burgeoning new growths of pennywort and also to see the useful effect the flooding had had at a previously-blocked bridge where the 'overflow' had efficiently lifted huge amounts of weed, including pennywort, onto the bank, meaning our task here was much less onerous.

Another fine morning's work!

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