Chelmer Canal Trust

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Saturday, 1st December 2018
The Langford Cut

Small, but perfectly-formed! That's the best way to describe the composition of today's work party. The organiser felt lucky! Knowing about illness, work commitments, holiday commitments, Christmas approaching, and a rubbish weather forecast he might have found himself on his own. But with three of the finest, most-experienced volunteers we have what could possibly go wrong?! (well, the work party organiser finding himself above the knee in smelly, slimy, mud, but that's par for the course working in this location).

It was great to have Barry and Audrey back with us, and as always Steve is a valuable member of the team. This area is a sensitive area as far as wildlife is concerned and with this team we knew we could achieve a healthy balance between removing the pennywort but not disturbing the natural surroundings significantly. And this is one of the best times of year to work here, with some of the most challenging vegetation having died back.

A recce the previous weekend had confirmed that there was pennywort in its usual location and it was still there today. Two rafts of pennywort; four experienced volunteers working as a team?! Sorted in a very short time.




That, of course, was the easy part. More challenging because of access to the water's edge, were the rafts of pennywort further down 'stream'(that should possibly be down 'slime'). This area is not for the fainthearted. Cutting a path through the brambles on one side, crawling under the brambles and blackthorn on the other side, and niftily avoiding puncture-causing underwater branches to the coracle we all arrived at the next infestation of pennywort. The current National Rail security announcement 'See it; Say it; Sorted'worked for us here! We (eventually) could see it; we said what needed to be done and we sorted it.

here's the challenge

work underway

tidying up

We'd caught the weed at a good time, while it was still fairly healthy. As soon as colder weather is around for a while the weed will starting degrading, making it far more likely to break up and far more difficult to pull out effectively.

Trying to ensure that we accessed all areas of water where pennywort was floating (and having to miss a few because they could not be accessed 'if only we had a long spray-lance and some herbicide! Watch this space!) our splendid team moved downstream.

Having worked so hard, refreshments were now on the cards. Back across the concrete sewer pipe (thoughts of Dudley Courtman and the aspiration to have the pipe re-routed and the Langford Cut opened up for navigation) and an opportunity to review part of the morning's work.

Not just tea and coffee, but for this pre-Christmas work party, hot mulled wine (but not so much that it would affect us working beside the water or driving home!).

Then, having accessed and removed all the pennywort we could along the Cut itself, a while longer spent removing pennywort at the mouth of the Cut where it enters the Navigation.

Then it was all over for another day. It had rained, but not the torrential rain that had been forecast. It had been blowy, but down in the vegetation of the Langford Cut we didn't notice. The main thing was that we had enjoyed working together and we'd achieved our aim

Another very successful work party. The last of our work parties in 2018. Here's to 2019!

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Work Party.

Saturday, 10th November 2018

Not to be put off by the heavy overnight November rains, four brave volunteers arrived at Hoe Mill Lock, ready to do battle with the invasive weed, and maybe, the elements!

Fortunately they were rewarded with benign and dry morning, with even the odd burst of autumn sunshine as they headed downstream in the Raider to find the ditch, over the bank opposite Rickets Weir, where Pennywort was suspected to lurk. After a short reconnaissance, a section of the ditch was found filled with an odorous cocktail of pennywort and pond scum. Bingo!

A way was cleared through the brambles so that the pennywort could be pulled out, and the volunteers carefully climbed down the bank.

With Steve in the coracle bringing the pennywort from inaccessible locations, and the bank crew pulling it out and moving it safely away from the water, the ditch was soon cleared.

Then it was time for a quick coffee break back on the boat.

Then attention was turned to the small patches of pennywort in the main river which had been noted on the way down, as the boat worked back up towards Hoe Mill.

On the way, reports were received of more of the weed in the millstream above the lock, so that was the next port of call.

While some removable pennywort was found in the millstream and removed, the main problem seemed to be a large fallen tree which was holding a huge raft of floating debris, with a little bit of pennywort inaccessible in the middle.

A decision was soon taken that this could not be tackled with just four people near to the end of a work party, so, with one unfortunate wet foot, it was back into the boats to clear the last few bits of pennywort which had been noted on the way up from the lock.

All in all, a very enjoyable and productive November morning.

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Saturday, 6th October 2018
Cuton Lock

A major challenge awaited us for this work party and we were hoping for a good number of volunteers to allow us to complete the various tasks. For entirely understandable reasons several of our 'regulars' weren't able to be there. Nevertheless, we had a hard-working team of five who were prepared to do whatever was required.

Most work parties involve significant preparation and this one was no exception. Even getting the outboard engine on the work boat started is often a challenge, but welcome help, in the form of coracle man Steve, arrived at just the right time and all was well.

Then into Sandford Lock to drop down to the lower moorings.

And with transport for some being provided by our good friend Ron it was fairly leisurely start to the next phase of today's work party.

Onward downstream to Cuton Lock, with rafts of pennywort being noted on the way down for collection on the return trip. At the lock an introduction for some about the procedure for locking a boat down through a lock.

Then on to moor up at the bank below the Cuton Lock weir, which in itself was a challenge.

Over several months an impressive island has been forming. This would need to be a task for another day. Breaking that island up and removing it from the Navigation has the potential to go wrong. Not only could the obvious fringe of pennywort, but also large sections of the island, break free and cause problems further downstream.

A short walk along the bank of the ditch which runs parallel to the Navigation and our worst fears were realised. When pennywort has taken hold this much, covering every square centimetre of water, it is serious. Difficult to see where the bankside vegetation stops and the pennywort (and therefore water) starts. Experienced pennywort-removers will be able to judge the border.

Not the best circumstances to be working in, but with some good teamwork the giant raft of pennywort was soon being removed.

Impressive hard work ensured that we were able to clear the entire section; three of us on the bank removing the bulk of the pennywort and coracle man Steve on the water in his coracle, undertaking the vital task of removing the remnants which would otherwise regrow and make our efforts futile. Just one downside - one very impressive boot-full of water - but the wearer made light of it. That's the spirit!

Before breaking for refreshments our team walked further up the bank of the ditch just in case there might be any pennywort further up. Was there?!!!! We almost wished we hadn't looked. Several hundred metres of wall-to-wall pennywort. Far too much for this team to be able to deal with today.

But potentially a good place to experiment with herbicide-spraying. A joint bid by Chelmer Canal Trust and Essex Waterways Ltd has been successful and we have been awarded '4.6k from Essex and Suffolk Water's Branchout funding. This will provide training, equipment and supplies of herbicide which we now find can be used on the Navigation and its feeder streams.

So time to walk (and squelch!) back to Ron's boat and the luxury of refreshments inside. So luxurious that the photographer completely failed to take any pictures.

Not only did the feeling that we had spent a little too much time mean enjoying our refreshments on Ron's boat, but also the approaching rain, meant that we felt it was time to lock back up and return to Sandford.

The rain caught several of us out! (we'd expected a fine day). It was therefore extra-impressive that rather than heading straight back to the relative dry of Sandford and our cars, we nevertheless stopped on the way to collect the rafts of pennywort we'd noted on the way down.

There was potentially some irony in the fact that the place where we offloaded the significant amount of pennywort collected today was exactly the same place that our first work party offloaded pennywort at the site we had used for our first CCT 'Pennywort' work party over 15 years ago on 20th September 2003!

Then onward still, the rain becoming even heavier, and with huge thanks to our volunteers - who would have been forgiven for clearing off - but who stayed to unload the work boat, lock the boat up through Sandford Lock, and stay to the bitter end (actually it was friendly and harmonious rather than bitter!).

Thanks to today's lovely volunteers and apologies that there weren't more pics of the impressive amount of work undertaken.

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Weedbusting and litter picking

Saturday, 1st September 2018
Beeleigh to Rickets

The day started early for the workboat skipper, cutting through the lawn of duck weed at Heybridge Basin heading for Beeliegh to meet up with the volunteers. (Strangely the duckweed caused no problems first thing in the morning, but regularly clogged the cooling water intake on the way back later.)

At Beeleigh six more enthusiastic volunteers arrived ready for action!

Coracle man Steve got straight to work below the lock on the small rafts of pennywort which were visible above the weir, while Buster locked through in search of the reported large rafts further up river. Meanwhile the litter pickers set off up the towpath armed with bags and pickers.

Above the lock, it wasn't long before the crew of Buster found the first of the large rafts.

It wasn't long before the boat was getting quite full

Even the pennywort entangled in the sharp brambles was no match for Barry and his secret weapon - the garden shears!

Soon it was time to break for refreshments, where we had an unexpected visitor.

After the break, Buster got an extra crew member. The remaining pennywort between Beeleigh and Rickets Lock was soon gone. With almost perfect weather, it was a very enjoyable, productive and satisfying morning.

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Wednesday, 8th August 2018

Sandford Feeder Stream, Barnes Mill Lock

It was good not only to be able to welcome regular volunteers, but also to find that we had an enthusiastic newcomer to today's work party.

The aim of this evening's work part was to take a look at the effect that herbicide-spraying had had on pennywort in the feeder stream and to work on any
areas of unsprayed pennywort that still needed removal.

As we know only too well, even accessing some sections of streams, ditches and the main river at this time of year can be a challenge as a result of the
lush vegetation that likes to disguise the bank.

Showing the impressive tenacity and enthusiasm that we have become used to, two teams were soon getting down to work and dealing with untreated pennywort
'of which there was no shortage.

As soon as sufficient clear water was available Coracleman Steve launched his trusty vessel - somewhat more trusty than it had been on previous work parties
as a result of some much-needed maintenance. Having such flexible craft on the water makes a real difference to how thorough pennywort-removal can be.

Thankfully, although he had left early, the work party organiser had supplied the usual range of refreshments which were, as usual, very welcome.

Then it was more of the same, with our two teams sticking at it to the bitter end!

Then the slog back to the cars and off home.

Having undertaken three monthly 'Wednesday evening'work parties we now go back to our usual 'First Saturday Morning of the Month'format, with the next work
party taking place on Saturday morning, 1st September.

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Weedbusting and Litterpicking

Wednesday, 11th July 2018
Hoe Mill

Rumour had it that there was some international event going on and starting at 7pm - but the five of us who turned up for this work party weren't fussed about that. (especially given the final result!).

What we had expected was that we'd be able to use a workboat and cover a decent amount of the Navigation - but having only found out very late on that we couldn't use it we couldn't change our plans and go elsewhere.

Nevertheless, especially as coracle-man Steve had brought a fold-up dinghy, we could do something useful. Volunteer time is valuable and we don't want to waste it or take our volunteers for granted.

The two on the water seemed remarkably confident, especially coracleman Steve in a coracle shaped like a saucer and without a lot more buoyancy!

William took to the unfolded dinghy like the proverbial duck did!

And three of us picked litter. Either passers-by were being very considerate and had not dropped anything or someone else was also doing some litter-picking. There wasn't much to find.

Many work parties have their special moments and this was one of them - a view across the weir pool with some excellent reflections.

Always ready to find it if it's around we managed to increase our 'bag' by ferreting around near the weir itself.

We were disappointed not to be working harder - but the litter just wasn't there! We should have been joyful rather than a tad dejected. At least it was a pleasant summer's evening.

Our refreshments were, as always, adequate and welcome.

And having eaten and drunk, and chatted, we reckoned it was time to call it a day.

Just some clearing away. About 5 half-sacks of rubbish. And the boat to be folded up!

Just one more Wednesday evening work party this year, on 8th August, then on September 1st we revert to our 'First Saturday Morning of the Month' format.

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Weedbusting and Litterpciking

Wednesday, 13th June 2018
Downstream from Sandford

The first of our three monthly 'Wednesday evening' work parties of 2018. Clearly not a popular evening for many of our regulars, but between us we had the right range of skills to do some effective work.

One of our volunteers headed off to do some valuable litter-picking.

Three others headed downstream, bound for Cuton Lock and aiming to deal with any pennywort hiding in the ditch/stream to the right of the Navigation. It's yet another breeding ground for pennywort which can easily we washed in to the main system. We've been there before when there's been bank-to-bank pennywort. The first challenge, though - making sure the work boat is secure and getting over to the ditch.

Thankfully not as much pennywort as we've seen there before, but plenty for our small team to deal with. And not a lot of working space.

A pattern was established. Pennywort being collected in the coracle downstream and ferried upstream to the only available access point.

And pennywort from upstream being towed downstream.

Most of the time deliveries to the Pennywort Removal Point were staggered and manageable; occasionally two deliveries arrived at the same time. Pressure! Nevertheless, that pennywort kept coming and kept needing removal.

All too soon, it was almost time to leave, but not before the opportunity to have a quick drink and the traditional hot cross bun.

Then a relaxed journey back upstream.

And just time to return the work boat to its mooring.

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Saturday, 12th May 2018
The Sandford Feeder Stream, again!

Having made such good progress on the feeder stream last month we wanted to continue further upstream in order to minimise the likelihood of pennywort growing in this stream and finding its way down into the main system.

And we had just the right volunteers to do the job! Not only were they prepared to walk the long walk from our starting point at Barnes Mill, they were also determined and skilled, not being at all phased by steep banks, nettles and brambles, gloopy, smelly mud and, frankly, challenging conditions.

So, we met at Barnes Mill Lock and discussed the plan of action.

Briefing over, and laden with the various implements of our trade, we headed of on the Long Walk to Sandford (stream).

Tempted as we were to be distracted by pennywort growing in a tributary, the focus was on the main stream. We started from where we had ended last month and got straight down to work!

With excellent knowledge of what each other was doing our volunteers got on with the task in hand, braving the not-ideal territory to do so and working as effective teams.

Our challenge was to exercise a zero-tolerance approach to any pennywort we could find. Although each strand might look innocuous at this time of year, dislodged from the side of the bank each could well become a huge raft in only a couple of months. Removing even a few strands of pennywort can be as valuable as removing a huge raft that is anchored to the bank.

Coracleman Steve might not have brought his coracle with him, but nothing was going to stop him being in the water - not even a punctured wellie!

And Waderman William wasn't going to miss out on the fun in the water either. He bravely tested the depth of the gloopy mud in the stream, not once getting stuck, but coming close at times.

Having volunteers on both banks mean that each could 'spot' for those on the opposite bank where the steep bank and overhanging vegetation often concealed pennywort below them that they wouldn't otherwise have seen.

The refreshment break was well-earned and the chef got down to business.

Despite the tough work so far the refreshments seemed to keep everyone cheery.

Then onward with more of the same. Valuable work. Not especially rewarding. But very very necessary.

Plenty more gloopy, smelly, mud. And with all of our removal techniques being used.

Having received the odd comment about the amount of mud splattering our volunteers some of the worst-offending muddy pennywort was washed before being thrown from the stream; it also made it much lighter of course.

There's always room for a 'before' and 'after' pic!


The weed remaining in the water is NOT pennywort!

What a team! What some superstars. What else might they have been doing on a Saturday morning?

Eventually it was time to head back to base. Another long walk. Given the hard work that had been done under challenging circumstances everyone looked remarkably cheerful, as those in this picture demonstrate.

There's more for us to go back for - but nevertheless the impact of today's volunteer's work will be significant in terms of the amount of pennywort no longer able to make its way into the main system.

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Chelmsford River Clean

Saturday, 14th April 2018

In the early morning, what used to be Wharf Road Car Park, where we used to meet up for this event, could be seen across the river, now very much a construction site, and strictly off limits behind blue hoardings.

As this was an official event in the city, both the Mayor and Deputy Mayor attended, and even took a very active part in the litter picking!

And of course there were regulars from the regular Chelmer Canal Trust.

The Canal up to Springfield Basin, while in need of a clean up, had been left off the official collection zone, but that was not going to stop us from removing what we could get.

And of course, no workparty report would be complete without our volunteers in coracle and kayak.

Overall a very successful morning with a good turnout and a large amounts of litter removed from the City's waterways.

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Saturday, 7th April 2018
The Sandford Feeder Stream

One of our priority areas for Floating American Pennywort is the stream across the water meadows above Sandford Lock. It is an environment that lends itself to growing the invasive weed, and anything that grows here can so easily be flushed into the Navigation and infect the whole system. Hence our need to keep things under control in this area.

Eight volunteers were up for the task and it was great to be able to welcome a new member to our work party. All of our volunteers are valuable and appreciated; and it's great when we have those who not only offer regular support but input that bit extra 'like being willing to pitch up with a classy home-made bridge! It takes only a short while to put together.

And soon it's tested and ready for use.

Judging from the few strands of weed we saw on our walk up along the stream there was either very little pennywort growing, or most of it had been washed away. Then we came across the reason that we hadn't seen much weed 'a natural dam, formed by a fallen tree, against which a massive amount of weed had built up, pushed there by recent flooding.

There was nothing to be done other than to get stuck in and work on it. The amount of weed there cannot be overestimated. But some excellent team work paid off. Crome-throwing bringing it to the bank. Cromes pulling the weed up the bank from the water. Rakes and hooks being used to spread the weed to encourage it to rot down.

As usual our volunteers had worked hard and without doubt now deserved the refreshment break. A quick walk back to the cars and what do you know?! Despite bringing the rest of the provisions, someone has forgotten to bring any cups! A quick search of the cars and we found enough to go round.

Then back to the stream for more

In some places rafts of weed had been lifted by the flood water onto the existing vegetation.

Groups of volunteers tackled even more patches of weed.

Always a valuable member to our work parties, coracleman Steve is indispensable.

This was another of our work parties where an impressive amount of Floating American Pennywort had been removed from the water. This weed, at least, was not now going to be growing in the Navigation later in the year.

There was just one task left. Still quite a task. A 'plug'of weed that had been previously intentionally left to trap weed coming downstream needed to be removed. When it starts growing it risks being flushed out into the river.

Again, we needed our coracleman's skills to get this sorted.

Without doubt another session of hard work carried out by our volunteers and an impressive amount of weed that now shouldn't cause problems.

Well done everyone

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Saturday, 3rd February 2018
The Langford Cut

The weather wasn't as bad as it might have been, the very limited flow of water through the Cut was ideal, the prevalence of Pennywort was dreadful and the ten volunteers were brilliant!

A huge build-up of Floating American Pennywort in the Langford Cut, if washed downstream into the Long Pond, could have had disastrous results if not dealt with. Our mission today was going to be a tough one. But we were all up for it.

A fine group of people were poised to go forth, equipped with all that was needed for a morning's weedbusting.

After the briefing of the extent of the work to be done, and the various roles needed, our volunteers were soon preparing to start work, even the most experienced somewhat surprised by the amount of pennywort that had thus far survived the winter.

With teams of three working on either side of the 'pipe', and excellent crome-throwing skills being complemented by coracleman Steve, much energy was expended and much progress was made.

In an impressively-short time practically every scrap of pennywort had been removed from the worst infected area.

Nevertheless there was plenty more to do, and everyone played their part, gradually moving along the Cut to deal with the next infestation.

Not that any proof of the amount of weed removed is needed, but for the record, two of the piles of weed that were created from the work beside the sewer pipe.

Despite the temptation to keep going, it seemed wise to re-energise with some very welcome refreshments.

The conditions in the Cut were far from ideal, especially as it being an ecologically-important sit we needed to create as little disturbance as possible.

As usual, a variety of techniques were being used, all tried and tested, and all effective in their own way.

The coracle and the canoe collected the weed that couldn't be accessed from the bank, and teams on the bank accepted it and moved it high above the waterline where it can't be washed back in (and hopefully where any wildlife can find its way back to its natural environment).

What a morning! Lots of hard work from a dedicated team. Sadly we ran out of time. But, especially given the conditions, it has been a very worthwhile morning.

We'll be back!

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Litterpicking and Hand-Picking

Saturday, 6th January 2018
The Long Pond at Fullbridge

Soon after a cold grey dawn, a hardy group of volunteers assembled in the car park of the Fullbridge branch of Tesco. A quick calculation reassured us that the new 4 hour parking restriction would not result in unwelcome penalties, so long as we finished on time.

Various circumstances, including adverse weather conditions and closed flood gates blocking the navigation meant that we had no large work boat, and as the reported pennywort was not evident, it was decided to make litter picking the main focus of our activities.

But our volunteers won't miss an opportunity to remove any available pennywort from the water, and it wasn't long before Barry had spotted a patch to dispatch.

On the water, closed flood gates and lurking covert pennywort were no match for Steve and his coracle.

While the rest of the party spread out through the frost to gather thoughtlessly discarded detritus from the towpath and environs,

our trusty coracle-man gathered countless tiny pennywort plants, each of which would have been easily capable of growing to block the channel if left unchecked!

At the pre-arranged time everyone returned to the car-park to load the haul of litter bags into the cars, and enjoy some hard-earned refreshments.

By this time the obsession with 'finishing the job'had seriously set in with some of the volunteers and a further huge haul litter was gathered from more of the towpath on the north side of the Navigation, even extending to the cycleway, while Steve went back to find even more baby-pennyworts lurking in the reeds.

Eventually, it was time to stop, and some volunteers were realising that this litter removal thing was actually becoming a bit of an addiction, as there always seemed to be one more piece'. But not wishing to be fined for over-staying in the car park, the litter was loaded into two cars and we said our goodbyes, with the feeling that we had made a difference.

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