Chelmer Canal Trust

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Weedbusting & Litter-Picking.

Saturday, 3rd December 2016
The Long Pond

Getting up early on a cold morning to make the refreshments and load the tools onto the work boat and take it upstream to Fullbridge sometimes has its benefits'...

On arrival at Fullbridge there was time to remove a hazard to navigation and return it to its proper home. Boat owners should be aware that there might be an increase in shopping trolleys in the Navigation in this area now that Tesco have removed their ''1 deposit'devices from their trolleys (apparently it's to do with the new Lidl across the road being in competition!).

Despite several of our regulars being unable to get there we nevertheless had a good turn out and a good skill mix. It's a while since we revised and updated our Work Party Guidelines; today presented an ideal opportunity to check a revised version out as we gathered for the Briefing.

Our plan involved heading up to the Maldon Bypass Flood Gates which had been closed (but, by the look of the gap in the middle, not sealed!).

Once there we sorted out the various tasks 'litter-pickers and pennywort-removers working along each bank, with the invaluable coracle, and Buster the work boat, on the water.

We all moved downstream methodically, the litter-pickers having plenty to do and the aim with the pennywort being to remove any strands we could find. A zero-tolerance approach. What the volunteers on the banks couldn't get at was tackled by those on the work boat, and what they couldn't get at was dealt with by the coracle. Perfect teamwork!

Steady progress was made. Although the amounts of pennywort were small, most was still growing healthily and removing even the smallest strand potentially stops it forming a huge raft next year. On the other hand the volumes of litter the litter-pickers were collecting was impressive.

Having our refreshments at the Heybridge Chunker gave us the opportunity to check out the pennywort we had been told had infested the collecting pond. Thankfully there was practically nothing in it; a huge amount was rotting on the banks having already been removed.

Our refreshment break is always a pleasant opportunity to socialise and across the whole group the conversation was varied (vintage French motorised bicycles to psychiatric hospitals). The addition of hot mulled wine seemed to bring an extra smile to our volunteers'faces.

After the break it was back for more, with the litter-pickers joining forces to tackle a high-density area behind McDonalds and the workboat dealing with further pennywort downstream.

Eventually, although as always there was more to do, time caught up with us and we returned to base to arrange the disposal of the five large sacks of litter, return the tools to the work boat, bid each other 'Seasons'Greetings'and arrange to meet up again for the next work party on January 7th 2017.

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Weedbusting & Litter-Picking

Saturday, 5th November 2016
Heybridge Basin

We knew that we would be short of a few key members if our work parties, so it was good to welcome two new volunteers, meaning that we just had sufficient capacity to work effectively.

One litter-picker on the bank, two weedbusters pulling out weed from the bank, two weedbusters on the work boat and one weedbuster in a coracle.

There was plenty to keep us busy - so busy that the official photographer was too busy to take many pictures. AND he seems to have something on his lens! Sorry!

For this work party much of the work involved removing Floating American Pennywort from around the moored boats.

Yet again the coracle was invaluable in being able to access the weed that neither those on the bank, nor those on the work boat, could get to

(there's a coracle with coracle man Steve in it somewhere behind those boats)

The weed being pulled onto the boat built up quickly and therefore had to be offloaded regularly.

It was time for a break so we went in search of our litterpicker and her two bags of rubbish. With so much hard work being done the refreshments were welcome - just a shame that the catering officer had failed to bring the milk.

After the refreshment break it was more of the same for everyone, but the evidence is only of the weed collected on the work boat.

Knowing that we would run out of time we collected three volunteers and moved to the opposite bank and speedily moved back towards the Basin, there being slightly less weed on that bank.

Meanwhile, coracleman was still busy.

We felt pleased that we had managed to remove as much weed as we had, although, as always, there was plenty more that we could have done.

It was good to meet up with one of our regular volunteers at the Basin

Just time to look at the newly-installed dam blocking off the lock in order for vital lock gate replacement to take place.

Watch out for an article about the lock gate replacement in the next edition of the Chelmer Canal Trust's newsletter, Coates Cuttings.

Another work party was over and we left feeling satisfied that we had been successful in removing lots of Floating American Pennywort and two bags of assorted litter.

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Saturday, 1st October 2016
The Chelmsford Rivers Autumn Litterpick

An event that CCT always tries to support for several reasons. 1) removing litter upstream means that it doesn't cause problems downstream 2) we are more likely than others to be able to work on the water and access litter that others would miss 3) we have a particular interest in Springfield Basin, the lock Cut and Springfield Lock, as well as the river below the weir.

Getting a work boat up to Springfield means an early start from Sandford, as well as our grateful appreciation to Essex Waterways Ltd for letting us use one of their workboats and ensuring that it was ready.

Three of our finest volunteers met early, loaded the work boat and were soon underway.

Our trip through Barnes Mill Lock and up to Springfield would have been quicker if it hadn't been for a lot of weed on and below the surface, frequently fouling the propeller and slowing progress.

It was the first pass for some of us under the 'new' bridge.

The slipway wasn't exactly inviting!

In fact our progress through the weed had been so slow that we arrived too late for the group photo. So we took our own.

We went our separate ways, which is why we have few photos of all of our group in action.

The work boat crew took care of the area around the automatic weir.

And then proceeded down one bank and up the other, collecting several bags of litter; about even between recycling and other rubbish.

Meanwhile another two volunteers were working on the banks, two were in an inflatable, and one was in his famous coracle dealing with the litter along the lock cut - an area often missed by litterpickers. We managed to get some of them back!

Then a chance for a break and catching up with each other's news over hot soup and bacon rolls at the Sea Scout hut - where we found another of our volunteers who joined us for the journey back to Sandford Lock.

On the way we felt that we couldn't leave the lock cut into Barnes Mill Lock, and the lock itself, so full of weed and rubbish so we spent some time clearing it out.

During which time the rain started to pour, some of us got very wet, and the idea of taking any further pictures was forgotten.

Nevertheless, another successful day removing litter that would otherwise have caused a range of problems.

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Weedbusting and Litterpicking.

Saturday, 3rd September 2016
The Long Pond

Back to our 'first Saturday morning in the month' work parties, and another morning of fine weather, which made for a pleasant work party and was in contrast to the very much wetter weather later in the day. In fact the day had looked like it was going to be good from the moment one of our party arrived early at Heybridge Basin to collect our jointly-owned work boat.

The work boat was loaded up and it was time to head upstream to Fullbridge to meet our other volunteers.

Some prompt arrivals at the landing stage at Tesco Fullbridge and we soon had our full team for the morning. Two of our regular volunteers couldn't make it but we were pleased to welcome a new volunteer who quickly learned how we go about things.

We were all set for a good division of labour. Two of our team would work on the water in their own craft, an enthusiastic litter-picker would work along the banks, and three would work from the work boat. A perfect combination.

Subsequent to the location of today's work party having being decided and published, Essex Waterways' staff had the removed pennywort from the Long Pond and potentially this might have left today's work party with nothing to do. Not so! It seemed that their work had been based on removing weed so that navigation was not impeded. The nature of our CCT approach is aimed at eradication. So it was useful that the large rafts had been removed, leaving our volunteers to do the more specific task of removing the fragments that had been left by the previous workers and getting into the marginal vegetation and removing the strands of pennywort hiding there. Even small fragments that remained would soon be generating new rafts of weed if not removed.

All credit to the three of our volunteers who worked tirelessly on their own, either litterpicking or working carefully along both banks gathering impressive amounts of pennywort that others had left behind.

Meanwhile the crew on the work boat worked down one bank removing small fragments and strands of pennywort before getting to an area which had not yet been dealt with in any way.

A raft of pennywort needed careful attention, particularly as part of it was past the rope indicating the boundary of the Navigation Associated with it was weed that had grown under the nearby willow making removal especially challenging.

And there was more to be dealt with on the opposite bank.

At one point we thought we had lost our litterpicker and went searching for her. Committed to her task she had gone searching far from the Navigation. But we eventually found her and it was time to meet up with our other two volunteers and enjoy our refreshments, but not before removing the first of our collections of pennywort.

We were short of our regular joke-teller, but nevertheless had a deputy, and in any case enjoyed the friendly chat that is inevitably an inherent part of our weedbusting sessions.

Then it was time for more of the same, with all volunteers working hard to gather more litter and remove more Floating American Pennywort.

It was fair to say that there were especially-committed attempts to remove small fragments that might otherwise cause subsequent problems when conditions are right.

However much pennywort we remove there is always some that has tried to evade us!

Eventually it was time to pack up, load three large rubbish sacks into a volunteer's car for disposal (thank you!), collect tools and equipment and return the work boat to Heybridge Basin.

Another successful work party.

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Weekday Evening Weedbusting

Wednesday, 24th August 2016
Barnes Mill Lock

At the end of a hot summer's day who wants to turn out for a work party? Well four of our most diligent volunteers did!

(one is behind the camera!)

With the nights drawing in we wanted to make the most of the opportunity and headed for the stream nearest to the lock. In fact it seemed that almost as soon as we got to the far side of the water-meadow the sun was setting!

OMG! A stretch of the steam that we had cleared of all pennywort only a few months ago was jam-packed with lush, healthily-growing weed. The conditions there are perfect; almost still water and shaded from direct sunlight, and the air temperature remaining high. It must be just like home for this weed!

By now we have the skills and the techniques to know how to deal with this sort of pennywort. A crome on a rope is thrown into the raft, and as much pennywort as possible is pulled against the bank and then removed and spread out.

Our team worked smoothly with each member playing a valuable part.

Eventually there was sufficient clear water for the coracle to be launched and coracleman Steve was able to get to the parts the crome-on-a-rope couldn't reach. And we were now able to tow rafts from further upstream where there was no access, down to our removal point.

Eventually, after considerable effort on our valiant volunteers' parts, this section (and a section to the right of the picture) had been cleared.

Not to be daunted, and never ones to waste time, two of our group then made a tunnel through the undergrowth and pulled out more.

And sadly, the light had by then beaten us.

There's plenty more there!

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Weekday Evening Weedbusting

Wednesday, 13th July 2016
Beeleigh Lock

A dry and warm summer's evening 'despite the fact that of the four of us who arrived early, three had driven through torrential rain not long before getting to Beeleigh!

Today's mission was going to be a tough one. Several of our regulars were unable to be there and the rafts of pennywort seen from the work boat, Buster, on the way up to Beeleigh from Heybridge Basin, meant that there was no time to waste 'the pressure was on as the task was huge.

Thankfully, our party comprised some of our most experienced and committed volunteers, and we all soon set too with our respective tasks. Two on the bank, dealing with litter, and three on Buster, aiming to get as much pennywort removed from the water as possible.

The rate at which pennywort was being pulled on board Buster was impressive 'the fastest we've seen in a long time; but it was needed as there was so much to deal with. In fact it wasn't long before the ramp was down and the first pile of pennywort was being offloaded.

We are careful to ensure that we offload the pennywort far enough away from the water that it can dry out but not so far that any creatures that need to be in the water can easily get back to it. There were a surprising number of elvers left on the deck once the weed had been offloaded; and of course we ensured that they got back into the water.

One load off but there were more challenges ahead.

Work wasn't only taking place on the water though; two of our bank party were working hard to remove the inevitable litter. Nice to get a friendly wave as they went past!

More pennywort to be brought on board

Meaning that we had to unload yet again or we wouldn't have room for the next raft.

What had seemed an impossible task for our Buster crew was looking more 'do-able', such was the rate at which the gangmaster made them work! So even more pennywort was dragged on board

And even more was offloaded

Eventually our 'pennywort task'for this evening was complete 'all the serious growth of this invasive wed had been removed from Beeleigh Flood Gates down to the Tesco landing stage. The work boat skipper had collected some from further down the Long Pond on his way up to Beeleigh and, a glutton for punishment had been out again on the following Sunday for a couple of hours, ensuring that, at the moment, practically all visible pennywort has been removed from the Long Pond (but with the current ideal growing conditions it will already be sprouting back).

Back to Beeleigh where it was good to see our litterpicking volunteers who had also successfully removed litter from the length of the towpath.

Farewells at Beeleigh and then it was time for Buster to return to Heybridge Basin.

The view ahead

And the view behind

Please note that the date for our next work party has been changed 'it is now to be held on Wednesday, 24th August.

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Weekday Evening Weedbusting

Wednesday, 15th June 2016
Beeleigh Lock

It was one of those sessions when practically nothing went the way it was expected to go!

The plan had been to ferry the equipment up to Beeleigh on our work boat, Buster. All went well on the way up from Heybridge Basin until, approaching Hall Bridge the blobs of floating blanket weed got bigger and thicker and there was a need to clear the prop on the outboard. Not good news. Too much of that and the cooling system will get blocked.

So, back to Heybridge Basin, wasting no time in getting there, and transfer of all the tools and equipment to a car for road transport to Beeleigh, only arriving a few minutes later than had it been by boat.

A loyal crew of our finest weedbusters were ready so we set off to deal with what we understood were infestations of weed in the two creeks off the Blackwater.

First challenge, an unexpected electric fence. The solution 'limbo under it! (Pictures have been removed to prevent any embarrassment).

Nothing in the first creek, apart from clear water and, further up, a muddy ditch which needed a bit of careful crossing.

Onward to the bigger creek. A pleasant evening's stroll. Fine weather.

On arrival we were surprised to find''''''' practically no pennywort at all.

Nevertheless we removed what we could, with the pennywort that had anchored into the mud potentially being the biggest challenge 'and the mud smelling vile.

There really was very little to do. Strange how it's possible to be disappointed that the weed we are trying to remove wasn't there!!

Next phase of the work 'grab litter pickers and pick up the inevitable litter that always pervades the area. Wrong! Not this evening. Our only explanation for being able to fill less than a quarter of a rubbish sack between all of us was that someone(s) must have been in the area, picking up litter, not very long before we were there.

So, nothing for it than to head back to the car park, with coracleman Steve having become Folding-Up-Boat-Man Steve!

And an early finish to this relaxed work party.

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Saturday, 7th April 2016
Barnes Mil

A small but dedicated party met on what was to be the hottest day of the year so far - the task being to remove as much pennywort as we could from the streams that feed the mill steam of the Navigation at Sandford.

It was a long walk to the first stream for most and a long paddle for another, especially as we were carrying not only all the tools, but also ensuring that we had our refreshments with us! But as soon as we reached the first stream it was straight down to work.

Our intention was to take a zero-tolerance approach to the pennywort, small fragments of which had survived the winter and were starting to grow. So every effort was made to access as much as we could.

Zero tolerance as in - leave nothing behind


It was hot, it was tough, so the suggestion of a refreshment break was welcomed and included, as usual, the traditional joke (this one recycled - but we can live with that)

Down to the confluence of the steams and then back up the main one - where are skills were tested further by steep banks and a wider stream. Nevertheless our experts took it all in their stride.

With the sun beating down, with us all having expended lots of energy, with us having removed impressive amounts of pennywort and with there being so much left that a few minutes extra weedbusting wouldn't have made a lot of difference, we decided to call it a day (well, a morning).

Valiantly the tools, and the refreshment box, were returned from whence they had come.

As a committed paddler we were a bit surprised to see coracleman Steve carrying his coracle back, rather than paddling.

The reason became clear when he got back! No amount of baling-out was going to keep up with the water coming through THAT hole (but at least it had trapped a bit of weed!)

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Work Party.

Saturday, 9thApril 2016
at Beeleigh

We gathered on a damp and dismal morning at Beeleigh. Needless to say the weather in no way deterred the enthusiasm of the team who were all on time and 'ready to go'in their waterproofs.

Langford Cut was to be the centre of operations. This site has been for many years a source of regular work party activity. A combination of shallow water sheltered by overhanging trees has made it a pennywort nursery.

Our crome patrol went in one direction and our loyal litter pickers the other- the Beeleigh area is popular with visitors, some of whom are prone to leave their visiting cards.

April is an ideal monthe to tackle the pennywort as it stands out in fluescent green among the decaying vegetation and at this time of the year is greatly reduced in size.

The problem with the site is access, steep banks covered in bramble and fallen trees.

We had to smash out way through the undergrowth- where it was indeed possible - to reach the water's edge and then somehow reach the pennywort. It looked at first sight that this was impossible but team work and secateurs provided the answer although there were some difficult moments.

We had access to both banks via the concrete dam made for the large pipe carrying Witham's effluent . It was slow work and it was with great relief and satisfaction when we removed the final traces of pennywort.

We have high hopes that we have at last conquered this site. Summer visits will be made to ensure that any grow back is controlled.

Our litter pickers were rewarded for their efforts with six large bin bags of rubbish- so impressive. Well done!

Here's the litter picking team ready to get going.

Within seconds they've spotted some litter!

Still going strong!

After a morning's work 7 sacks of litter were picked up weighing a total of 28.75kg!

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Saturday, 6th March 2016

An early start for two of our volunteers who were awake early in order to get to Sandford Lock, collect a work boat and take additional equipment through two locks and up to Springfield for a 9am start.< p> This work party was not one of regular CCT work parties but an opportunity for us to join in the Chelmsford Rivers Spring Clean. The more litter we can remove from the rivers upstream the less we have to deal with downstream.< p> It was a morning of fairly standard working for us. A crew on the bank < p>

A crew on the workboat

And coracleman Steve in a ..........coracle.

Everyone in the CCT team worked hard throughout the morning collecting a steady amount of rubbish.

Most of us met up for welcome refreshments provided by the Chelmsford Sea Scouts, and we then carried on with an emphasis on the litter in and around Springfield Basin and the lock cut.

For each of the River Clean Up work parties there seems to be a theme in terms of the type of litter which predominates. For this work party the work boat crew seemed to pull out a large amount of large polythene bags and sacks – the sort of thing which can easily wrap round propellers and block cooling water inlets on boats.

Another successful work party which ensured a considerable amount of rubbish was removed.

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Weedbusting and Litterpicking

Saturday, 6th February 2016

Sandford Lock

Despite the prospect of a wet and muddy time no less than 15 volunteers turned out to take part in our February work party. Again we had the benefit of our group including our friendly and hard-working volunteers from Helping Hands, Chelmsford.

An early task for one of our members had been to construct a bridge which would enable us to cross a stream and gain access to the area we were working in.

In case Bridge Number One wasn't fit for purpose, thanks to another valuable member of our party, we also had the kit for Bridge Number Two. In the event it wasn't needed.

The briefing and health and safety talk over, a short walk took us to the equipment and our group were further tooled up for the task.

Our bridge builder had done an excellent job and crossing safely we were able to start work.

Enthusiasm was the name of the game and within minutes our trusty group were identifying a lot more pennywort than we've seen before and removing it to where it could rot down, and where any wildlife trapped in it could easily return to the water.

Soon that section was clear of all visible pennywort.

Then it was on to the main stream, our group spreading out to deal with the many small rafts of weed that, despite the time of year, were still in place.

As we have become used to expecting, several of our volunteers will go that extra mile, or boot-full of water, to ensure that every opportunity is used to access and remove the weed.

And what can't be accessed from the bank will be dealt with later from the water.

Progress was swift and the teamwork was excellent.

And soon, an impressive stretch of the stream having been cleaned of pennywort, it was time to meet back up for the refreshment break. As always there was plenty to go round and yet again there were goodies left over. Luckily, after several month's absence, the Joker was back with us and ready with a joke he'd prepared earlier.

Then it was back upstream and an opportunity to deal with an irritating stream that is generally isolated, but which dispenses pennywort into the main system when the water meadows flood.

Often the task of clearing this length of water would occupy one work party for the entire session, but the energy and enthusiasm of our group, along with the exceptional teamwork involved, meant that quick progress was made.

In places the pennywort was as lush as it can be in the middle of summer

But not many minutes later it was gone

This had to have been one of the best pieces of work our work parties have ever done on this part of the system. There had been the potential for huge amounts of pennywort to be flushed into the main system, and that risk is now much mitigated.

Time then to return to the bridge, remove it, and meet up with other members of our party who had worked assiduously throughout the morning to collect an impressive amount of rubbish.

There just remained the walk back to Sandford Lock and some friendly farewells. Another excellent work party.

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Weedbusting and Litterpicking

Saturday, 9th January 2016
Barnes Mill Lock

For the second month running the early start, and energy expended in order to get the work party equipment from Heybridge to the location of the work party, was made more pleasant by the early-morning view from Heybridge Lock

An impressively large group of skilled and eager volunteers met at Barnes Mill Lock, initially for the Health and Safety briefing.

After that, our volunteers set off. One to do a recce of the local pennywort situation, two to head off to collect the inevitable litter, and the rest to deal with pennywort in the ditch across the water meadows. There was plenty for all to do.

In the water (both intentionally and unintentionally), on the water and either side of the water, our volunteers were everywhere.

Our work parties have benefitted recently as a result of some extra volunteers coming along and without a doubt their energy, enthusiasm and fast-learning have increased our capacity immensely.

This was a work party where the amount of pennywort looked almost too much for us to be able to deal with, but where the tenacity and determination of all members of our group, working in teams, showed just what is possible.

Working from both sides of the ditch helped.

And if it was necessary to lie down to get the job done then that's what happened!

Some complained that the stop for refreshments was a bit early. But by that point they were well-deserved. And the atmosphere was good.

Dudley had advised that there was a large raft of pennywort further downstream so while some remained to do the very important (vital, in fact) fine-picking of the smaller fragments, others headed off to deal with it.

Back near where we had started coracleman Steve thought he was just about to finish.

But then an observant member of the group spotted another large infestation of pennywort, and a text book example of the weedbusting process was seen. Firstly get rid of the main raft

Then get Steve to deal with the parts the bank crew can't get to

Then put it in the skilful hands of 'the finishers'who we know will be meticulous in getting rid of every last fragment.

Then, justly proud of the immense efforts made by everyone (including, of course, the litter-pickers whose haul of eight bags of rubbish weighed a total of 44.1 kg), it was back to base to clean up and pack up. But not before passing a strangely-moored dinghy on the way.

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