Chelmer Canal Trust

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Saturday, 5th December 2015
Sandford Lock

Sometimes getting up early on a Saturday morning, even for a Chelmer Canal Trust work party, can be a bit of a bind. Well this early start had the benefit of a beautiful sunrise!

The outboard engine on the raider had its normal tantrums, but with expert input and perseverance it was eventually started and warmed up. Then it was a warm welcome to all – another impressive number of volunteers - and we got ready to set off.

We had an excellent group on the bank, clearing litter - just sorry we haven't got more pictures of all of them.

The teams on the water thought it seemed that they had drawn the long straw - the rafts of pennywort we were expecting just weren't anywhere to be found.

In fact the crew on the raider were so blase that they left the smaller amounts of pennywort to coracleman Steve.

The Navigation was almost completely clear of pennywort all the way down to Cuton Lock. Just as a matter of interest we moored up to look at the ditch that runs close to the Navigation and enters below the weir. Some wished we hadn't looked!

It was absolutely chocker as far as we could see! This was far more than the three volunteers on the raider could deal with and we returned for reinforcements - half of the litterpicking group and our trusty coracleman. Then it was down to some very significant weedbusting.

There is only so much weedbusting that can be done before a break is needed - and given the amount of energy that was being expended refreshments were needed. Apparently, proud as he was of his 'refreshment joke' the teller's contribution didn't match the quality of our normal work party jester.

The refreshments were appreciated and the various conversations were so warm and engaging that it was difficult to stop and get back to the real work. But needs must, and our trusty gang got back on the job. There were more, the coracle was somewhere in that ditch - just not in the pictures. And it wasn't the most pleasant place to work.

Our weedbusters are tenacious and despite the conditions they battled on.

Eventually, with only one area of pennywort remaining which we couldn't get at (but which one of our excellent volunteers said he would return to deal with) we had cleared a significant stretch of the ditch.

The only task remaining was to collect the various bags of litter our bank party had so painstakingly collected.

And return to base

And leave the rubbish ready for the Chelmsford City Council Hit Squad to collect (which they did with impressive speed on the following Monday)

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Saturday, 7th November 2015
Barnes Mill Lock

Despite the rain that the weather forecast threatened (and which only started as we were leaving!) a good crowd of volunteers turned out for what became a seriously hard-working work party.

A briefing and health and safety input at the start - always important. Note the refreshment carrier, complete with umbrella (so THAT was what kept the rain away!)

Our party walked across to the stream through the water meadows, expecting to do a bit of weedclearing there before moving on to other sites in the vicinity. WRONG. Those of us who had been there before could hardly believe our eyes. The stream that we had completely cleared of pennywort a year ago was firmly clogged with the stuff.

Not to be daunted (which would have been entirely reasonable) we set about our tasks, with enough human resource to work in three different places.

The energy and enthusiasm - not to mention some very quick learning of long-established techniques of weed-removal - of four volunteers new to our weedbusting exploits was impressive and soon pennywort was being dragged out at an amazing rate.

Pennywort has never been distributed so that it dies back quickly in such an excellent fashion.

Teamwork was the order of the day, and with coracleman Steve helping by both releasing pennywort from the far bank, and removing the stuff we couldn't get at under overhanging branches, the system worked well.

We managed to get two of our party who had been litterpicking in the area around the lock to come back to join us and no one refused the excellent refreshments.

The joke from our resident jokesmith was recycled but we are so 'green' that it didn't matter.

Then for some it was back to where they had been working, and for others it was along to pennywort-pastures new.

Yet again, time had beaten us and we had to pack up and return to our cars. It had been a tiring morning. But an enjoyable one.

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Weedbusting and Litterpicking

Saturday, 3rd October 2015
Langford, Beeleigh and the Long Pond

It was a misty start when William collected the work party boat Buster from Heybridge Basin, but by the time he met the rest of the vounteers at Tesco, in Maldon, it was warming up, and turning in to a beautiful day.

The litter pickers are hard at work.

The boat crew have found plenty to do too!

Coffee time was announced. Was there to be a race?

Who could get there first? The coracler or the canoist?

A huge headstart was given to make it fair! Then the chase was on!

The coracle was way out in the lead, but the canoist soon caught him up!

Steve and Dudley and comparing notes!

The team are enjoying a well-earned coffee break in the glorious sunshine. It was hard to believe it was the beginning of October!

It was time for the team photo.

William did a marvellous job of balancing his camera and setting the timer, so he could be in the photo.

Then back to the boats to continue hunting for the dreaded pennywort!

There was no hiding place left unchecked!

And a thorough inspection showed every speck of litter had been found!

It was an excellent morning's work! Well done everybody!

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Litterpicking Chelmsford's Rivers

Saturday, 26th September 2015

The actual event started at 9 am, but that meant an early start for some in order to get the work boat started and from Sandford to Springfield.

However, the journey up to Springfield was pleasant.

And the early start was worth it because a photo-opportunity with the Mayor of Chelmsford - a cheerful and convivial man - presented itself to us before the 'official' photo.

Two events on the same day meant that there were less volunteers attending this event than usual, so from our own band (but along with others attending the event) our lone landward litterpicker set off.

Meanwhile the remaining volunteers crewed the workboat and coracle and started work. (It is possible to see coracleman Steve above the weir on the far side of the boom).

With careful regard to personal safety litter was removed from as many places as possible.

Then it was downstream to deal with litter that could only be accessed from the water,

The results were impressive - one bag of ordinary litter and one of recyclable litter, none of which will now find its way downstream to cause further problems.

Meanwhile, coracleman had taken on the toughest task of all - the smelly green soup which was the rubbish above the boom. Never to be beaten, Steve worked his way backwards and forwards across the mess, finally ensuring that every piece of litter that could be seen on the surface had been removed.

Before After

One of the key points in any work party is the refreshments and our volunteers were very grateful to the cheerful 'can do' folk at the Sea Scout premises for rustling up some delicious food and drink so quickly.

Then it was off to the High Chelmer shopping centre to visit colleagues there and see their fine displays.

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Weedbusting and Litterpicking.

Saturday, 5th September 2015
Paper Mill Lock

Nine volunteers, plus Dot the Dog, assembled at Paper Mill Lock ready for a morning of Litterpicking and, possibly, Weedbusting. It was a straightforward plan, three in the workboat (which to our delight was baled out and ready to use), one in a coracle, one in a canoe and four on the bank (the dog's contribution to litter-removal was limited to trying to eat anything that had the least chance of being edible).

So off we set

Not exactly a walk in the park, but pretty close. Practically no litter and it was hard to find any pennywort.

In fact, it meant there was time for other important aspects of our work parties.

The bank party seemed to have less work to do than those on the water who toiled valiantly to not only collect litter but also to remove branches and posts which would otherwise cause a navigation hazard.

Eventually we all met up at Kings (Little Baddow Mill) Lock.

It was time for refreshments

For some while we had been deprived of our regular mid-work-party-joke, but today we were treated to a somewhat risqu'offering - but we all laughed! (it's all in the delivery!).

Coracleman Steve did wonders in the mill pool

It was interesting to see the technique being used for some bank repairs.

A productive work party, although pleasingly there was very little litter and only a very small amount of pennywort.

Hopefully there could be no complaints about the state of the work boat when we finished.

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Weedbusting and Litterpicking.

Wednesday, 5th August 2015
Hoe Mill

With some of our regulars away on holiday we were a small, but cheerful, band of volunteers; in total seven of our number spent a pleasant evening on and beside the Navigation.

Our main 'bank' party got tooled up and were soon underway.

It was very pleasant on the water - not a single piece of litter to be spotted (that was so unusual that we felt someone must have litter-picked there earlier), and the only things we needed to remove were pieces of wood which might otherwise have caused damage to the propellers of passing craft.

Our stock of wood increased as we worked

The odd patch of Himalayan Balsam was in flower

And the cloud formations did not disappoint

Eventually we caught up with our bank party (plus one) who were having a similarly pleasant but non-taxing time.

More pleasant views

Coracleman Steve had been busy - and he made his report to an interested passer-by.

Our bank crew hurried back as, although it was still early, the daylight was starting to fade.

The sun setting at Hoe Mill

And the sun having set at Heybridge Lock

A relaxed and enjoyable evening - the last of this year's summer midweek work parties.

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Weedbusting and Litterpicking

Wednesday, 8th July 2015
Beeleigh and The Long Pond

Eight trusty volunteers turned up for this, the second of our 'midweek' work parties. But before we got down to work there were two items of interest. Firstly, the younguns in the family of swans we had seen the previous month had grown considerably.

And always one to draw attention to interesting craft, coracleman Steve had brought a foldaway boat to try out.

But there was no time to be wasted, especially as the skipper of the work boat had to get it back to Heybridge, unload and get away promptly. Our trusty gang were ready to go.

While the litterpickers picked the weedbusters busted. Removing pennywort was a task requiring patience and care. Much of it was trapped in thick blanket weed, and much was hiding within the reedbeds at the side of the Navigation.

Steve both picked litter and busted pennywort

Meanwhile our trusty litterpickers on the bank toiled on.

It is at this time of year that pennywort starts to grow rapidly, and as we moved downstream it was clear that the weed was getting ready to make its summer flourish. Fleshy root systems and strong leaves. But we had the capacity to take it on!

All too soon we caught up with our litterpickers who has between them collected four full bags of rubbish.

And then the journey back to Heybridge Basin for the workboat, Buster. And another pleasant sunset at the end of another pleasant work party.

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Litterpicking (and blanket weed collecting!)

Wednesday, 10th June 2015
The Long Pond

The first of this year's 'midweek' work parties and a valuable number of volunteers turned up.

Attention to the briefing and health and safety guidance was good.

And soon our willing volunteers were underway

At first the blanket weed caused only minor, but interesting, problems.

But later the interest in the blanket weed was much increased, as was the significance of the problems it caused.

With one group litter-picking up the tow path, another along the path beside the lake and the remainder working up the canal, the target was to meet at Hall Bridge.

But many went further ensuring that all litter was picked up as far as Wave Bridge. And a family of swans (a late brood) came by

After which it was time to return to base.

Thankfully there had not been a huge amount of litter to pick up. Unusually no supermarket trolley, nor anything especially out of the ordinary, although Dudley brought an interesting selection.

It had been a good, relaxed evening. And a good sunset.

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Weedbusting and Litterpicking

Saturday, 9th May 2015
Langford, Beeleigh and the Long Pond

Another willing bunch of volunteers turned up for this work party, but our numbers were somewhat depleted by some regulars having to prioritise staffing the Trust's display about the proposed new Cut from Springfield Basin at County Hall in Chelmsford. (take a look at the Facebook page -

Three tasks for us to complete: Litter just about everywhere; pennywort in the Langford Cut; and pennywort in the 'backwater' beside the bungalow opposite the golf course.

Our teams got prepared and set off.

With that many nettles to contend with before even getting to any pennywort gloves were a must!

Skilled pennywort-removers are hard to come by, but we have a large number of them in our work parties - for which we are very grateful

It might look easy, but even throwing a crome across the water to catch the pennywort is a gold-level skill in itself. Not snagging the crome in the partly submerged branches, or pulling up the stinking silt (which we measured to be almost a metre deep!) takes it to platinum standard!


Such was the concentration on this task that we only then realised that we were missing the company of our other work party friends. So, collect two, back to base, holler for the Steve to join us, and we are ready for refreshments. Dudley had provided most of the refreshments, including some excellent hot cross buns.

After our break we commandeered Steve to help us at the bungalow.

Then, with the valuable addition of the coracle, yet again reaching parts other weedbusters cannot reach, we continued.

Finally time had beaten us yet again. More help on the water would have got it completely done. But we can only do what we have time to do! So back on board.

And another chance to catch up with our litter-picking pals

Then, having sorted out the rubbish and the equipment we were all on our various ways!

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Work Party.

Saturday, 11th April 2015
We all met at Paper Mill lock, and discovered our main task was going to be litter picking. We gathered for a safety briefing before we got under way.

The starting point was going to be at Little Baddow lock, so we travelled up stream in the work boat. As the wind was strong, Steve and his coracle hitched a lift!

When we arrived we split into two groups, the crew in the boat started working under the trees on the far bank.

And the other volunteers started litter picking on the main towpath.

Steve and his coracle managed to get to the places that others couldn't reach!

The boat crew spotted a huge log floating in the water!

If left it could be very dangerous, and easily catch unwary boaters out!

Rope was tied around the end, and it was towed to the bank.

Then team work was needed to drag the enormous log out!

We had been lucky with the weather, but suddenly the heavens opened! We took refuge under a bridge, and decided it would be a good time to stop for refreshments!

After skilfully transferring himself into the work boat Dudley took charge of making the coffee.

There was just enough room under the bridge for Steve and his coracle to join us!

After refreshments we emerged from under the bridge to find sunshine had replaced the rain!

It made the rest of the morning very enjoyable, as we made our way back to Paper Mill lock on a beautiful spring day!

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Spring River Litter Clean-up.

Saturday, 21st March 2015

We were able to borrow the EWL's workboat to support this event. It had to be brought up from Sandford meaning an early morning start, and one of our volunteers having to tackle the locks!

Although there was a slight drizzle, it was a pleasant journey, and a great opportunity to see the wildlife on the river.

We all met at Wharf Road car park at 9am. One of our intrepid volunteers had cycled all the way from Billericay to join us!

Once we had signed in, collected our pickers and sacks we were ready to start!

Almost immediately the boat crew spotted a shopping trolley under the surface, but it was buried deep in the silt, and even after a lot of tugging it wouldn't budge!

They carried on upstream and tackled the areas which others couldn't reach!

There was a huge amount of rubbish in the nooks and crannies!

Our other trusty volunteers were busy along the bank.

The boat crew carefully worked their way down stream, ensuring they didn't miss a single piece of litter.

Or other unmentionables!

Soon it was time to head back for refreshments.

The boat crew had done an amazing job, and came back with numerous bags of rubbish.

A lot was achieved in a short space of time, well done to everyone!

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Work Party.

Saturday, 7th March 2015

Our work party was at Barnes Mill. We had an excellent turnout of 13 volunteers, and even though it was only a small parking area we all managed to squeeze in!

We made our way down to the ditch at the end of the meadow which is a hot spot for American Pennywort! And this is what we found - the ditch was full of pennywort!

The task looked quite daunting! Although the ditch was cleared last year, the mild winter has provided perfect conditions for the pennywort to grow!

The volunteers got stuck in, soon the ditch was clear and there were huge piles of pennywort stacked up along the bank!

Team work was needed to hook the huge rafts of pennywort, and drag them out of the water.

Time for well-deserved refreshments! And a team photo!

We are all in it thanks to William's skill for setting the timer!

After the break we made our way downstream, where we removed some more patches of pennywort.

Getting every piece of pennywort is important - the tiniest stem or leaf can regrow in to a huge raft!

We had a very enjoyable work party - beautiful weather, good company, and even managed to fit in a bit of dancing!

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Work Party.

Saturday, 7thFebruary 2015
Langford Cut & Beeleigh

Trying to leave Heybridge Basin early in the morning in the work boat 'Buster', with least disturbance to those still asleep, is usually easy given the smooth quiet-running of her engine. However, despite that quiet engine, the cracking of ice as she broke her way through it rather gave the game away on this particular morning. The reflections are in a sheet of ice, not water!

First stop - collect tools, equipment and refreshments.

Although there aren't any pictures of it, Buster had to break through several more patches of ice before arriving at Beeleigh ready for action. Marine-grade aluminium made easy work of it! And breaking a channel through the ice meant that there was a way through for our canoeist.

A fine group of volunteers had arrived and after the safety briefing were heading off to start on their various tasks. The plan was to have two groups dealing with pennywort from the banks of the Langford Cut - one group either side - two on the water in the Cut, and others doing the inevitably-required litter-picking in the area.

A voyage of only a few metres, but an important one, to get a group to the far side of the Cut, and this mooring pin looked like it would probably hold!

This area is probably one of the most difficult to work in - dense, sharp undergrowth, muddy banks, and given its status, the need to create as little damage as possible. But our enthusiastic volunteers were not to be daunted.

As usual, our volunteers on the water played a crucial role, collecting weed that couldn't otherwise be accessed, and making regular deliveries to the bank.

A cold day, tough work, and it was therefore no surprise that no one objected to stopping for refreshments. Given the energy that had been expended it was surprising that some wanted so few calories (although to be fair, most of us made sure we took in adequate quantities!). Our regular joker was back (seems he had needed a couple of work parties off to re-stock!) and the refreshment break seemed to be appreciated.

(please note: no balance beams were damaged in the preparation of these refreshments!)

Then for some it was back to the task in hand, and for others an opportunity to deal with things from a different angle.

By the end of the work party an impressive amount of Floating American Pennywort had been removed from the Langford Cut - and therefore can't find its way down the Long Pond. However, despite our best efforts we couldn't get it all, and we will need to continue to keep a watchful eye on this site.

And our litter-picking volunteers (sadly, no pictures of them in action) had collected an impressive haul of litter too - 13 bags in all - which were taken by Buster for disposal.

An excellent morning's work, everyone! Well done!

And yes, the lost litter-picker (equipment, not person!) turned up!

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Saturday, 10th January 2015
The Long Pond 2

A gale had made it difficult to sleep all night and hadn't abated much by morning, meaning that it required considerable skill, and the benefit of much experience, to even get Buster, our workboat, off her moorings. But such are the skills we have come to expect from our more experienced volunteers that this was done with an elegant efficiency.

Another benefit of the arrangement on this particular morning was that, rather than having to be carried long distances by wheelbarrow and car, our equipment could be loaded directly onto Buster. And the time saved by this arrangement mean that there was time for the traditional 'sunrise' picture.

Our work party met at the Landing Stage at Fullbridge. Starting with the many 'Happy New Years', and with what has to be said was an inventive, although not entirely convincing, excuse for being late, and the 'Health and Safety Quiz 2015v1', our volunteers got equipped for the tasks in hand - some litter picking along the banks and some litter picking and pennywort removal from on the water.

Of course, the dedication of some was shown in their proud display of Christmas Presents (well what do you give the girl who has everything?!)

Although not present in huge quantities (maybe the high flows of water had had a cleansing effect?) there was litter to be removed and annoyingly pennywort was still growing. Hasn't this plant checked the calendar recently? It's winter; it is supposed to be dead!

(in case it needs clarification he's removing pennywort from a blackthorn bush in the picture on the left!)

Dudley, as always, was recognisable in his canoe and dealing with pennywort on the opposite bank.

Meanwhile both of our bank crews had made good progress and collected a lot of letter - left in bags to be collected by Buster while returning to the landing stage - and two seemed willing to accept a lift!

With such superb work being completed by our tenacious volunteers in such nasty conditions it was soon time for the refreshment break.

The weather forecast had predicted torrential rain at 11.00. It came just a few minutes early and we can confirm it was torrential. A small glitch in communication found one of our crew believing that enough was enough, it was time to end, and we were heading back to base, and others believing we were continuing as usual. Although twin-hulled, Buster can only go in one direction at a time, and that was a 'back to work' direction. And there were different attitudes to the rain (which was truly torrential)

Some fine work was done by coracleman Steve who was left working while others were collected for the return journey - sadly the weather conditions precluded any further photos.

Eventually enough was enough, even though the rain had by then stopped, and we all returned to our point of departure, the landing stage at Fullbridge. Rubbish was re-sorted, tools were collected, personal equipment was identified and Buster was given a good clean.

All that remained was some friendly goodbyes and the return of Buster, the tools and the rubbish, to Heybridge Basin.

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