Chelmer Canal Trust

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Saturday, 6th December 2014
The Long Pond

The upside was that it wasn't raining. The downside was that it was very cold.

But even the early start to get equipment in place couldn't be grumbled at too much with this sunrise to start the day.

And the cold weather didn't deter our superb weedbusters from meeting up at Fullbridge by which point there was a clear blue sky.

Car parking at the side of the car park was at a premium as not just one, but two, work parties were taking place at the same time in the same place.

Some of our group were able to get to work straight away, heading off with litter-pickers and rubbish sacks to pick up the inevitable rubbish along the banks.

There was no shortage of pennywort to be dealt with, so while our litter-picking volunteers worked along the banks, a coracle and a canoe started the regular task of removing the weed.

The joint owners of our work boat, Essex Waterways, had already booked the boat for the weekend and thus we had no right to use it. Nevertheless, with thanks to EWL for their cooperation, we were able to use the boat for the morning (and as it happened, were saved the trouble of getting the boat started and getting it from Heybridge Basin to Fullbridge - a task we know well).

And so soon after its arrival our workboat, Buster, was quickly in action.

There was plenty of weed and litter to keep us busy.

Eventually it was time to have a break, make and drink the refreshments and to warm up.

And Alan had returned after a break of several months to entertain us with not just one, but two of his infamous jokes. Our volunteers look happy most of the time - but especially so during the refreshment break!

Refreshments over, it was back to work, moving further downstream and collecting more litter and more weed.

And if the owner of this device wants to come forward we will stretch a point and return it to him!!! (is it relevant that it was found in the Long Pond?)

There was yet more weed to be offloaded.

And finally it was time to head back to base, and for some of us to warm up for the first time.

But the session wasn't quite over.

We always ensure that Buster is returned to its base in at least as clean and tidy a condition that we found it in. Today was a day to add to the early spring-cleaning of Buster and a sterling job was done by one of our volunteers who willingly (and having had the forethought to bring the equipment) scrubbed the decks shiny and clean!

With the boat having been handed back to the EWL work party the rubbish had to be taken to a disposal point by car (lucky it wasn't the muddy, dripping, smelly load that we sometimes get!)

And a very full wheelbarrowfull of equipment had to taken back to its store.

And the last CCT work party of 2014 was over!

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Weedbusting Extra

Sunday, 9th November 2014
The Long Pond

It had to be done! The mild weather (or is pennywort adapting to different conditions?) meant that whereas by now we would expect the evil weed to be degrading, it was actually growing healthily. Areas that had been cleared a few weeks ago were showing new growth.

So another lone volunteer ventured out to zap the weed. There was plenty around and it probably needed a full work party, but needs must and he slowly made his way up the Long Pond from Heybridge Basin. Few photos. Little time for anything but pulling out Floating American Pennywort.

Most of the weed was obvious as it was growing so vigorously; some tried to hide

And closer inspection showed this typical patch - just a shame that this patch couldn't have been cleared by others.

Working from the bank soon meant that this nasty patch was gone

Onwards and upwards to Wave Bridge - with a few waves to Sunday afternoon walkers on the way.

Hopefully the good folk working in the Bentalls building will appreciate the clearer view of the Navigation now that a large raft on their side of the water has been removed. It might not look much but it was a lot of hauling.

Finally time, as the constant enemy, was running out. Just enough of it to return the work boat to its mooring.

And the work was rewarded by a pleasant sunset

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Weedbusting and Litterpicking.

Saturday, 1st November 2014

It was an early start for one of our volunteers to get the workboat in place.

But it was worth it as 11 additional volunteers were ready to get to work - and a further two joined us later - lucky for some!

The safety briefing over it was time to get equipped

With so many volunteers wanting to work so hard there was plenty of ground that could be covered. Some went off to deal with the considerable amount of rubbish between Beeleigh Lock and Beeleigh Abbey and some looked for rubbish along the towpath.

And the crew on the workboat, Buster, headed up to Rickets Lock to work downstream on the considerable amount of pennywort.

Meanwhile coracleman Steve, released from on board Buster, headed off to deal with the smaller (and much more crucial) pieces of pennywort.

There was certainly no shortage of pennywort to be dealt with

And Dudley kept us on our toes, pointing out where we could find more weed

A lot of effort was being put in by a lot of people to good effect. So they deserved a lift upstream for refreshments.

But not before the pennywort collected so far had been taken ashore

Coracleman Steve caught us up

And brought his contribution ashore

And we had been joined by two new volunteers who were so interested in the river that they had travelled by way of the source of the River Blackwater! Such enthusiasm!

There were plenty of refreshments for everyone - including large cups of tea, coffee or chocolate for those who wanted them.

The refreshment break seemed to work.

Then, as usual, it was more of the same

And finally back to Beeleigh Lock

And the short walk back to the car park and off home for most.

Two interesting features on the way back to Heybridge Basin:

Islands in the stream

And a black swan (an Australian Native?!)

To see a video of random parts of this work party click below:

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Chelmsford Rivers Litterpick .

Saturday, 11th October 2014
(and Sunday 12th October thanks to Sandford Boating Club)

Another Chelmsford Rivers Litterpick; another chance to clear rubbish from the River Chelmer before it found its way further downstream.

After this year's 'Group Photo', including not just an unashamed commercial promotion, but a welcome voluntary organisation promotion, it was time to get a picture of the real heroes of the day, our Chelmer Canal Trust contingent.

In your imagination please picture Dudley to the right, unloading his canoe from his car!

A straightforward and well-rehearsed plan for the morning - two craft on the water, one for each bank, one further floating volunteer and two volunteers along the bank.

Coracle mam Steve, as always, attracted some interest

Although it might seem otherwise, rather than posing, the crew on the other bank spent time delving into the recesses and places where litter gets trapped.

Soon, and we don't know if it was because he was working faster on his own than the three people in the inflatable, Coracleman was heading back upstream

With such a significant amount of river cleaned it was time to head upstream, but not before another photo opportunity (again, where was Dudley?!)

Yes, it might have rained again, so pointing to a sign indicating a person putting an umbrella up was maybe valuable!

It had been a good haul so far - several bags of 'ordinary' and several of recyclable rubbish had been collected. High on this year's list: disposable lighters, cosmetics, food takeaway containers, half-bottles of spirits; previously found, but missing today: tents (were they still on their way down from the V Festival?), a television, wallets, supermarket trolleys.

It was time to head upstream where, coincidentally, refreshments were about to be served.

But not before meeting the Deputy Mayor of Chelmsford, imprssively still litter-picking long after the official photo had been taken, and a most welcome conversation, and some advice, about Chelmsford City Council's attitude to its waterways - and the potential for maximisation of water features in new developments.

The refreshments were, as always, most welcome, and the vegetarian(s) in our midst were pleased to note the return of the tomato soup option!

Having worked so long during the earlier session, and not only spoken with the mayor, but also enjoyed an interesting conversation about the potential for working together with others on some exciting ideas at Sandford Mill, it was time for some to leave for home and some to continue.

Much further upstream than we would usually venture (and not even our own river!) litterpicking continued.

And before heading back, an opportunity to reflect on the contrast between two approaches to river bank design - natural banks, the facility to sit and enjoy the view and easy for wildlife to access (in the distance) or encased in an ugly, fenced, concrete channel (close by). Just sayin'!!

But that was not the end of the litterpicking for the weekend. The following day, Sunday, our good friends from the Sandford Boating Club, during their time in Springfield Basin, used the litterpicking equipment to collect two further bags of litter (and to become very unfriendly with a dumped roll of plastic hazard tape which inconveniently wrapped itself around the prop of one of the boats.)

Thanks to all!

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Weedbusting EXTRA!

Sundays, 5th and 12th October 2014

We know from past experience that September is the month when pennywort potentially grows the fastest, and the mild sunny weather this September proved it to be no exception.

The welcome circumstances of time, people, workboat, enthusiasm and commitment being available offered the opportunity to add a little to the huge amount of time that our most reliable weedbuster, Dudley, puts in outside of work party sessions.

Sunday, 5th October

Reports had come in that there were some large rafts of weed in the pound between Beeleigh and Ricketts Locks.

A long way to travel by boat, but when we got there we saw how important our task was - at least eight large rafts of weed, several of them solidly attached to submerged branches or overhanging brambles.

With only two people to undertake the task there was little time for pictures, but with the work almost complete, just below Ricketts Lock, there was time for a small record of the final tasks.

Sunday, 12th October

The Long Pond was also suffering from much greater infestations than usual, and an offer of help was not to be turned down.

Another trip in our jointly-owned work boat, Buster and we had not travelled far before huge amounts of weed were being removed from under landing stages and between boats and the banks.

Our weedbusting virgin was a natural and took to weedbusting like a crome to pennywort. An almost instant expert! Studying form before moving in for the kill

The final approach

Job done!

Thanks to our two new experts! Come back again soon!

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Saturday, 4th October 2014

All credit to the enthusiastic weedbusters who turned up for this work party - not only did we know it was going to be another tough morning, but even the weather forecast's threat of heavy rain during the morning didn't put these volunteers off. As usual, the important safety briefing and an explanation of the task in hand, was taken very seriously.

There was plenty of help carrying the various pieces of equipment what was going to be needed a fair distance away.

The bridge was prepared and, most importantly, the refreshments were sent across

And then, with the addition of the handrail, general boarding commenced.

Yet again, having taken some satisfaction over the success of the previous work party's efforts while getting to the area where we planned to work, we soon found that there was going to be no shortage of work for everyone.

And true to form, our volunteers showed the commitment to their tasks we value so much

Where necessary (and given the amount of weed involved it was necessary) our volunteers worked effectively as a team with everyone playing their valuable part.

Specialist skills and equipment again came into their own.

No one could say that the refreshments had not been earned, and Captain Birdseye started the preparations.

Without doubt we had some of our finest volunteers on this work party!

But with the weather obviously changing it was quickly back to the task in hand. Again, those special skills were employed to get weed from what might have seemed like impossible places.

And yet again, that valuable teamwork was displayed.

Finally, with the worst of the pennywort removed, and satisfied that although there was more upstream the major threats had been removed (and with a continuing eye on the sky to the west) it was time to head back, overcoming the challenges presented by that makeshift bridge on the way.

And the rain that was forecast? It started, not within minutes, but within seconds of us getting into our cars!
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Mainly Weedbusting.

Saturday, 6th September 2014

Well, the refreshments were ready to leave on time, but where were the volunteers?

Ah, in good time our volunteer gang was forming and we were almost ready to leave. It turned out that we eventually had that perfect mix - experienced, skilled and enthusiastic regulars and a keen and willing newcomer.

We knew where we wanted to get to - and our intrepid volunteers showed their many skills to get there!

Despite the somewhat unusual construction (and the least said the better about the amount of duct tape that had been used to reinforce the ladder) the bridge was declared robust and the crossings commenced.

There was no shortage of pennywort for us to get started on

The pennywort in the smaller stream was soon dealt with and our group moved on to the bigger stream, quickly dealing with some very conveniently-located small rafts of weed.

Showing the skills and attention to detail that we are so proud of in so many of our regular weedbusters, we moved upstream. Our task had been made much easier by the recent cutting of the vegetation along the banks.

Eventually, with the prospect of lots more work further upstream, it was time to take a break and have refreshments - and of course to compare notes on recent navigation-related events.

Just time to pose for the Group Pic before we resumed our tasks

There was certainly no shortage of pennywort and most of our volunteers remained stuck in and committed to the end (one - not in the pictures - came up with some feeble excuse about having to take it easy due to recent surgery; pathetic!)

Retrieving weed from the far bank is always a challenge (where was coracle-man Steve when we needed him?!), but there are few situations that defeat our people!

And one aspect that underlines their understanding of the task in hand is the attention to detail that is shown by our lovely volunteers. Their important work, retrieving the small fragments of weed that have broken away, means that there is very much less chance that we will have inadvertently generated weedlets that will produce next year's rafts of weed.

Eventually it was time to leave and return to Sandford. The task was not complete, we will need to come back to do more, but the amount of weed along the banks was tribute to the hard work of today's group of volunteers and means that there is now much less weed to infect the main system.

Boaters and fishermen, among others, should be pleased about that!
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Mainly Weedbusting.

Wednesday evening 6th August 2014
Long Pond

Our 'out and about scout' Dudley had advised that there were patches of Floating American Pennywort that needed to be removed along the Long Pond, so this was to be our task for the evening.

And so enthusiastic was our first volunteer that he was there early and had got straight down to work.

By 7pm the rest of our team had assembled - and we had a selection of the finest, most effective volunteers it is possible to get.

Two litter-pickers on the bank and the remainder on the water was the order of the day.

Our keen litter-pickers started off at a fine pace, always ready to give that little bit extra.

As had been reported, there was plenty of weed about and we had to prioritise working on the patches of weed most likely to cause further problems in the short term. It didn't help that others seemed to have been involved in doing some 'weed work' and had left a considerable amount of broken-up pennywort in the water near the bank.

We moved carefully up the Long Pond, aware of the fact that there were patches at the top, near the flood gates, that needed attention.

It would be inappropriate not to mention that coracle man Steve, seen above, was the winner of EVERY coracle race at the recent Bures Coracle Regatta, run by the River Stour Trust - well done Steve - YOU ROCK!

By this time our litter-pickers were 'picked out' and we welcomed them on board as willing weedbusters. They certainly didn't shirk from their duties.

The amount of weed collected is a measure of how quickly pennywort grows at this time of year, and of the hard work done by our weedbusters.

With the light starting to fade, and with the need to get Buster (the boat) back to Heybridge, there was just time to drop our volunteers back to the landing stage at Fullbridge and to head for home.

And looking back, to enjoy the sunset.

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Litterpicking and Weedbusting

Wednesday evening 9th July 2014
Hoe Mill

Despite the threat of torrential rain, and with other distractions such as World Cup football, we nevertheless welcomed six willing volunteers to our second evening work party of the year.

There was hardly any need for a safety briefing as all of our volunteers were old hands. Our 'fine pickers' set off to see what they could find in the mill pool and back stream

And our enthusiastic bank party made speedy progress along the towpath

Meanwhile the raider (excellently made ready for us by Steve at Hoe Mill) was lowered in the lock to patrol the river itself.

It is fair to say that we were pleased to find very little litter either on the bank or in the water, although disappointingly a mower had shredded some litter into many pieces.

Most of us met up further downstream near Ricketts Lock

Sadly we weren't ready with our cameras when Dudley shot the weir. But he's promised to do it again so we have proof that he did it.

Our return to Hoe Mill gave us ample opportunity to proceed with some Helmsman training and we felt comfortable in the boat and confident that we would soon have two new skippers looking after the workboats.

(on second thoughts maybe one crew member doesn't look entirely comfortable!)

It was good to be reunited with coracleman Steve who again had reached the litter that other litterpickers had not reached

And to be fair he kept up with us as we made our way back to the lock

Expertly navigated into the lock, and we had the work boat almost back home

It had been another pleasant evening and a lovely sunset made even returning the equipment less of a chore.

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Litterpicking and Weedbusting

Wednesday evening 11th June 2014
Heybridge Basin and Long Pond

The first of our three summer 'Wednesday evening' work parties, and we had a total of ten willing volunteers who came along to spend a pleasant summer evening together.

The plan (yes, we had one) was easy - one group on either side of the Navigation, and one group ON the Navigation. Tools at the ready, everyone set off.

Quickly doubling our number on one bank, the task was undertaken at a fast pace

Our pair of intrepid litterpickers on the other bank went so deep undercover that we couldn't find them for a while - but when they emerged they had plenty of rubbish to show that their efforts had not been in vain.

And as well as litter, our Buster crew even found some pennywort.

Coracleman Steve was suffering from withdrawal symptoms so we set him free in his craft to do the excellent fine-picking task he does so well.

Dudley had also gone upstream on a pennywort hunt, only to find that pennywort he had removed from the Navigation the previous day had been THROWN BACK IN!!! (You couldn't make it up!)

Our two groups on one bank eventually met up - you would have thought they were old friends!

And talking of old friends, we were pleased to welcome back - all the way from Saudi Arabia - two of our volunteers who had joined us on the same work party last year!

(they weren't shy - they were interested in the surroundings - very different to clearing mangrove swamp!)

On the way back we looked at the lock dams on the Barge Julie, and with willing helpers carrying the rubbish to the skips the clearing up was nearly finished and it seemed that everyone had had an enjoyable evening.

Finally, though, thno work party is over until coracleman Steve arrives back (eat your heart out David Bailey!)

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Saturday, 10th May 2014
Hoe Mill

The weather forecast threatened a day of rain and it had rained overnight. Nevertheless fourteen brave souls turned up (and the weather was very kind to us). One of the delights of working at Hoe Mill is that the workboat is invariably in good order and ready to go. This visit did not disappoint.

First, as usual, it was the briefing, with a somewhat unnecessary emphasis on what to do if anyone found a syringe (none were found!!)

The plan was for one group to clear around the millpond, one to clear the bank heading upstream, another to be dropped off on the opposite bank and a fourth group to work from the bank. And a lone canoeist to head downstream. Plans, eh?!

The groups on the bank moved so fast it was difficult to find them.

Whereas the group on the boat took time to spring into action.

But there was work to be done, and it was done. The groups on both banks found plenty of swag (some of it not exactly warmly received by those on the boat - well by the skipper, if the truth be told).

And the crew of the workboat, now joined by one of the groups who had been working along the bank, weren't going to be outdone either.

So fast was the work going that a call was made for early refreshments.

The sun came out, the coffee was wet, and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.

After the break work party members headed off upstream and downstream.

And finally it was time to head back to base.

Taking advantage of a couple of photo opportunities on the way

And another work party came to a friendly end, but only satisfactorily after the arrival back of the last of our team.

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Chelmsford Rivers Litterpick

Saturday, 26th April 2014

This is an event we try, as a Trust, to support, and each year a number of our CCT volunteers turn up to swell the numbers.

No event like this would be complete without a group picture with the mayor (very nice of him to turn up that early on a Saturday morning)

Our plan was to work either side of the river, downstream from the weir. So off we set

With so much high vegetation it was not as easy as it sometimes is to get to the litter, and we were severely hampered by the lack of the workboat we had hoped to use.

Nevertheless we moved on, finding much less litter than we usually do.

Our volunteers on the water played an important part.

And we'd like to claim that coracle man Steve cleared the water above the weir to this pristine condition which we have rarely seen it in, but we can't!

Not our most difficult of work parties, but nevertheless it had been enjoyable and we earned our refreshments!

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Work Party at Tesco car park.

Saturday, 5th April 2014

It was decided to meet up at Tesco's car park and litter pick up and down stream from Beeleigh and down to Hall Bridge. Ray was the first on the scene helming 'Buddy Buster'- we were all appreciative of his early start, having to go to the Basin to collect it. It supplied an added dimension as it allowed to tackle both the canal and its banks including Oak Tree Meadow and the area around Beeleigh. The turnout was a little down on the usual numbers because of the counter attractions at Springfield Basin where the unveiling of the sculpture, 'Timber Stack', was to take place. We were encouraged by the arrival of two new volunteers.

One party took 'Buster'downstream to clear the Heybridge area with the intention of moving back to Beeleigh later on. The choice was a good one as the waterborne team were soon fully occupied and as many items were retrieved from the water full black sacks began to accumulate on deck plus a child's go-cart! Some excitement was provided by the unexpected inflation of a life-jacket when its emergency toggle inadvertently got caught up with part of 'Buster's'superstructure- it was at least good to know that they do actually work! So much time was taken in doing a thorough job downstream that the proposed waterborne trip upstream was abandoned and refreshments were taken on the landing stage at Tesco. The bank party had managed to clear Oak Tree Meadow, the towpath and the Beeleigh area, so together we achieved a very satisfactory result

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Work Party 1st March 2014

Barnes Mill

The morning couldn't have been a better one for bringing out a good band of volunteers. A record-breaking (in recent times) 22 people turned up. So many that parking (admittedly at one of our most restricted spots) became difficult.

Four groups headed in several directions. One enthusiastic band of litterpickers sped off downstream to find what litter they could

And another gang headed upstream, armed with the appropriate equipment and eager to find what they could.

The 'upstream' group had the valuable support of the work boat

And our fourth group headed off to the ditch in the middle of the watermeadows, keen to find whatever pennywort had been left after the heavy rain.
They were not to be disappointed!

Getting to the opposite bank was, in theory, just a short ferry trip in the coracle

And slightly further down the ditch work was progressing well

Is it unkind to say that for the first time in a very long time someone fell in? Yes, it probably is, but let's mention it anyway! Those coracles can be unstable at the best of times, and this time it was just a bit too unstable!

With an admirably positive, well it doesn't really matter, approach our very wet volunteer carried on regardless.
Unfortunately, for the first time ever, they had not brought any spare clothes.

It was time to return to base for refreshments (and for one still-cheerful volunteer a chance to try to dry off)
and an opportunity to marvel over the amount of rubbish that had been collected.

And after the break, with some having had to leave, an extra push for more litter upstream was made.

Meanwhile, Dudley took the opportunity to not only clean the Chelmer Canal Trust Board, but generously to also clean one added by EWL.

All too soon it was time to leave - with the trusty crew of the workboat tasked with taking all of the rubbish back to Sandford.

Another excellent morning's work!

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Work Party.

Saturday, 1st February 2014

Despite heavy rain the night before, and flooded roads that needed to be negotiated, nevertheless 13 trusty volunteers turned for another weedbusting session.

There was a lot of water coming down the river

Such conditions can be dangerous, so we decided to walk round to the ditch we had in mind just to see what the conditions were like, but with there being very little chance that we would do any work 'which is why we took no tools. But even before we had gone far our way was blocked 'and we had not even left the road yet!

Only one sensible decision was left to be made 'and it was universally agreed 'back to the lock for refreshments and an early finish!

And as it was such a nice day there was time to chat before heading off home.

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4th January 2014
The Long Pond

Our first work party of 2014, the weather the previous week had been lousy and more very bad weather was forecast for today. NEVERTHELESS, an impressive number of work party volunteers turned up. Their clothing potentially revealed their approach to the morning - seriously warm clothes, full waterproofs and boots. Except for one participant who seemed to have misinterpreted what the morning was about and had come in his Alton Towers poncho! But maybe he had got it right - our work parties can be a lot of fun - thrills but hopefully not spills In fact with the amount of water overspilling Beeleigh Lock it might have been mistaken for the Congo River Rapids.

And after the 'Happy New Years' it was time for the safety briefing.

We headed upstream to Langford Cut, planning to deal with the Cut and the area around the car park before heading back to Tesco (other supermarkets are available, but not so convenient for throwing shopping trolleys into the Navigation!)

And eventually it was time to disembark and get on with some work. One group valiantly headed off to collect litter.

While the other group was ferried across the Navigation to gain access to the Far Side. Unusually, even Coracleman had hitched a lift; it must have been tough conditions.

But soon it was down to work, with certain pressure being put on some to work faster ("If you don't pull more pennywort out I'm going to stick this crome where the sun doesn't shine!".

Two craft in the water made it possible to collect pennywort that was inaccessible from the bank

And some on the bank went out on a limb

Meanwhile the litterpickers were on their own mission

The car park is always a treasure trove of nasty relics (far too nasty to describe in detail here - some of us are still wondering how it was possible to get it into a can like that!)

And we actually found what had happened to our disappeared pennywort-remover - he'd gone over to the other side!

Generous to the core, when the ferry got back to the landing stage our litterpickers had proudly displayed their haul of black bags.

Time for refreshments and - we are getting spoiled - including some more delicious chilli sausage rolls, again, still warm (and HOT!)

With time running out we then needed to undertake the rest of our work, downstream towards Fullbridge.

At last we arrived back on dry land (no, wet land, but land)

But even when we go back there were those who just wouldn't be stopped.

And finally, having proved that maybe he should have paid more attention to manoeuvring on that recent Helmsman's course, the spoils of our morning were taken for disposal.

Another successful work party with a super group of volunteers.

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