SOME CHELMER CANAL TRUST ORGANISED WORK PARTY
REPORTS / PHOTOS TAKEN DURING 2020.
Neither Weedbusting Nor Litterpicking!
9th December 2020
Weedbusting and LitterpickingSaturday, 5th December 2020
The Langford Cut and the Long Pond
Work Parties don't just happen - they need preparation, especially in the middle of a pandemic. Our volunteers were very helpful in confirming by email both that they would be taking part and also that they would comply with the various regulations and requirements resulting from the pandemic.
Preparation also involves ensuring that all of the tools and equipment are available for everyone, whatever task they are involved in and wherever the work party is taking place. That requires an early start. The payback at this time of year is being able to enjoy the sunrise.
Fortuitously the decision to work along the Langford Cut and the Long Pond meant that whereas work on the main river systems would have been impossible due to the high flow rates, the flow of water where we would be working was negligible and the work party could go ahead. Plenty of water flowing over the long weir at Beeleigh.
It would be misleading to say that the conditions were good at the Langford Cut where most of us would be working - conditions are never good there; it's a dreadful place to work due to the dense undergrowth, associated lack of access, and undefined margins between the water and the edge. But we had a very good turnout of volunteers and the weather was far better than we had expected.
Safety briefing and distribution of tools having been done our volunteers set off: two litter-pickers to deal with litter along the bank of the Long Pond; one volunteer in an inflatable dinghy to deal with pennywort in the Long Pond below the flood gates; two teams of three each to work either side of the Langford Cut itself and our trusty coracle man, always in demand due to his ability to get to places others can't reach. Soon, one team had been ferried across to the far side of the Cut and the dinghy was ready for work.
While members of both teams starting getting down to the task in hand either side of the Cut.
It can never be said enough times, this location is a tough place to work in. Nevertheless, everyone was prepared to overcome the challenges set by the dense vegetation and the decidedly unreliable-to-stand-on branches across the water. Our three new volunteers proved themselves to be skilled and valuable from the start. They hadn't known what to expect, but they hadn't expected this!
Having the coracle helping in so many ways maximises hugely on the impact we can have, in this case detaching pennywort from the surroundings so that it can be dragged ashore.
Our new red-handled hooks (better suggestions of names are welcome!) again proved their worth.
Meanwhile, our two litterpickers were doing a fine job, ensuring that all litter between the flood gates at Beeligh and the landing stage at Tesco had been collected.
Back in the Cut more progress was being made with impressive teamwork being show, both in effective use of the various tools, but also in maintaining safe distancing.
With so much energy having been expended, and so much progress having been achieved, it was back to base for our own, individually-prepared, hot drinks and individually-wrapped crisps and cakes.
Then time for a quick pic before heading back for more.
This time we had everyone working on one side of the Cut, maximising on whatever access we could find or make, and benefitting from the support of our two litterpickers.
Half way through removing yet another of those rafts of pennywort
And job done
Our proud gang, rightly very pleased with themselves, standing on just some of the pennywort that had been removed during the morning
And another volunteer, again with a small proportion of the pennywort he'd removed during the morning's session.
Finally time to stack all the tools on the work boat ready for return to Heybridge Basin, off in the cars, and off in the work boat for the return trip.
A prize for anyone who can identify this section of the Navigation!
Weedbusting on 6th and 7th November 2020Cancelled due to Lockdown (or was it?!)
We had two important work parties planned for Friday, 6th November at Stonhams Lock and Saturday, 7th November in the Langford Cut. We had appropriate guidelines in place to ensure that we complied with the various pandemic regulations and restrictions. We had impressive numbers saying that they would attend both work parties. But then Lockdown was announced and we were forced to cancel both work parties.
This was a severe blow as it meant that we couldn't continue with our previous excellent work, working down the Navigation removing every trace of pennywort that we could find. We knew that our presence at Stonhams Lock was needed as there were more large rafts of pennywort needing our attention.
However, Lockdown didn't mean that no work on pennywort was undertaken. We'd been pleased that Michael from EWL had planned to join us at our work party at Stonhams Lock. As he was working, not volunteering, he could still use the weedlifter at Stonhams. And, fortuitously, one of our volunteers happened to be there while taking their daily exercise along the Navigation, meaning that someone was present to raise the alarm if anything went wrong (not that it was likely, but better safe than sorry) and to take some pictures.
We've had the advantage of working with Michael before and know that he is an expert in lifting rafts of pennywort from the water.
It was a great shame that others of us couldn't be there as it is always good to work alongside EWL staff at our work parties.
Several hours' work didn't get as much work done as would have been done if we'd had a full work party at Stonhams - but nevertheless an impressive amount of important work was done.
Thanks, Michael. And thanks CCT volunteer!
More Additional Weedbusting.Saturday, 10th October 2020
Sandford Mill Stream
The second day in a row for a CCT work party and whereas we had invited six volunteers to attend 'as that was all we needed for the task that was planned 'only three turned up! Covid had struck! Not struck them, thankfully, but contacts and contacts of contacts 'so they did the correct thing and stayed away.
With the outboard engine on the work boat having failed us the previous day, and with attempts to remove water from the fuel system having failed, it was very good news that a replacement outboard had been brought along. Although lower-powered, it had sufficient galloping horses to do the job.
Down the Lock Cut and up the Mill Stream, hoping that the river would be deep enough for us to get as far as the footbridge.
Our first task was to remove+ a large raft of floating pennywort that was just waiting to break free and drift downstream. We've done this before and have a tried and tested technique: release the raft while keeping it under control with a crome on a rope and float the raft under the bridge.
Here's the 'after'picture with the raft having been removed.
Floated under the bridge the raft could be brought ashore at a place where it could be removed.
Tough work, especially as the three of us had been doing the same thing for much of the previous day!
Pennywort brought down the Springfield Meadows Stream continues to infect the rest of the system so we wanted to try to trap rogue pieces of pennywort. Hopefully the boom we've installed will catch pennywort but won't impede water flow.
Next, the challenge of removing the various rafts of weed that continue to grow further down the Mill Stream.
Careful manoeuvring in fairly strong current by a skilled skipper was needed. And it was good to receive appreciative and positive comments from the paddleboarders.
Each boatload of weed become heavier and more challenging to unload.
Coracleman Steve continued to do the important job of clearing up the strands of pennywort caught in the bankside vegetation.
All should have been well. But, like yesterday, it started raining (when the weather forecast had said rain was only due later)
And then again like yesterday the (second) engine failed. So we were adrift and at the mercy of the current. Thankfully, in the nick of time, the engine was restarted and we could manoeuvre to a place where we could offload our final boatload of pennywort.
Yet another excellent work party with just three volunteers making a real difference.
Additional Weedbusting.Friday, 9th October 2020
Cuton Lock towards Stonhams Lock
A work party the previous Saturday had been cancelled due to the adverse weather; turns out that it was a good call as there was so much water in the river that it was flowing over the top of the lock gates and there would have been no way of us getting through the lock.
But today the sky was blue and the weather forecast was predicting good weather until our work party would end at about 2.30pm.
Again we were joined by Essex Waterways Ltd's weedlifter with weedlifting expert Michael in charge of it.
An extra-long health and safety briefing as we had to ensure that we were all signed up to the current Covid-19 restrictions.
Then some paddled to Cuton Lock while others stood by ready in the workboat.
Downstream to Cuton Lock, with us all noticing on the way how successful our previous work party had been in removing all pennywort from this section of the Navigation.
Arrival at Cuton Lock and a good place to catch up with others of our party who had paddled up from Boreham.
Once through Cuton Lock is was down to serious work. Canoes and the coracle worked carefully along the bank removing the various strands of pennywort while the work boat towed rafts of weed to the bank.
And once at the bank our hard-working bank crew removed the pennywort from the water and dragged it up the bank.
Then to everyone's relief, the call went out that it was time for refreshments.
As always a good selection of refreshments for everyone.
Good to see our entire group together during the break.
And for the rest of the session, before and after the lunch break, more of the same. Our groups working brilliantly as teams, removing massive amounts of pennywort.
Used properly the weedlifter makes a huge difference in effectively removing large rafts.
And this weedlifter skipper shows just how it should be done
Meanwhile excellent work was being done along the banks.
We'd hoped to get to Stonhams Lock. We didn't get quite that far - it was almost in sight round the bend - but nevertheless it had been a stunningly-good session.
It seemed that rain was on its way and the time for the end of our session was approaching. So time to call it a day and head back to Sandford.
That's when, after a perfect day for both weather and work, it all started to go wrong! The engine on the work boat 'which had run perfectly all day 'refused to re-start. Luckily the weedlifter wasn't far away and a tow was possible.
A further understandable delay as a hole in the lock gate needed attention.
We should have been back by now, but the towing and the repairs had held us up. And it chucked it down with rain as we headed back to Cuton.
Although the philosophical statement 'you only get wet once'was used it was little comfort as we got ever wetter.
We were pretty pleased to arrive back at Sandford and get into our relatively dry cars!
It later turned out that the possible problem with the engine was that the fuel tank contained half petrol and half water!
Let's hope we don't have problems with that boat again! It was once very unrliable but recently it has been excellent. (well, until today!)
Weedbusting.Saturday, 3rd October 2020
Sandford and Cuton Locks
There were those who, bearing in mind the grim weather forecast, would have liked the work party to be cancelled. And there were those who were happy to go ahead whatever the weather ('you can only get wet once'),
We want our CCT work parties to be enjoyable and for our volunteers to be safe. As we weren't sure that we could ensure both, it was felt best to cancel this work party. From memory this is only the fifth time in twenty years that one of our CCT work parties has been cancelled. Not a bad record!
When the River Chelmer is in flood it can be a dangerous place to be 'both on the water and beside it.
Without doubt there had been a lot of rain
A 'cancellation'email had gone out to those planning to attend and apparently it had been effective as no one turned up. Or maybe everyone had just looked outside and said to themselves 's*d that'! However, there was just one friendly volunteer who couldn't resist showing an interest.
Water levels in the River Chelmer can rise very quickly as a result of the river serving a large catchment. Here's a pic of Cuton Lock on Friday afternoon.
And here's the weir at Cuton, also on Friday afternoon, before an evening of heavy rain.
(thanks to Keith for the above two pics)
The water was swirling around in some parts of the system
Someone still has some work to do on this pennywort
Plenty of water bubbling through here. Only a couple of weeks ago there was no flow at all.
Not unusual to see a lot of water flowing over the weirs at Paper Mill. A good job that they have been reinforced/rebuilt by Essex Waterways Ltd.!
Access to some parts of the Navigation was impossible due to roads being flooded.
And here are two more locks where the water level is so high that it is topping the bottom gates.
If you are wondering if a CCT work party will be taking place or not - it probably will be! And there will always be someone at the meeting point, even if only to advise that the work party has been cancelled. If we cancel a work party in advance we'll aim to send out an email advising of that so, if in doubt, it's always worth checking emails before setting off.
Want to earn yourself a free Chelmer Canal Trust keyring (they are highly sought-after!)? Email Neil with the correct locations of the fifth, sixth, seventh, ninth, tenth and eleventh pics. Some are easy, others are more challenging.
Additional WeedbustingFriday, 25th September 2020
Sandford to Cuton Lock
You'd think that a weather forecast predicting cold winds sufficient to cause structural damage, along with torrential rain, would deter some participants in our work parties. But not only did all fourteen volunteers who said they would be there turn up, they proved their worth many times over.
A perfect mix of some working from the bank, from a kayak, two canoes and a coracle, the work boat and a weedlifter. Ideal!
Better still, the work boat had been baled out and both vessels were in place long before the start of the work party. Thanks Michael!
Some serious briefings about Covid-19 issues as well as other health and safety matters.
Then it was off to work for everyone.
Of course, everyone's participation is valued at our work parties, but special mention must go to those on the water doing the 'fine picking' along the banks. Pennywort left in the margins, either because it is an almost insignificant strand, or because it has been left there after a main raft of weed has been removed, can become a large raft in a short time under favourable conditions. Their work is vital.
The work boat crew held their fire for a while, heading further downstream to work back to meet the weedlifter.
Nevertheless it wasn't long before the volunteers on the work boat had dragged onbaord sufficient rafts of weed to fill the workboat and it was time to unload it to the bank.
And by the time they got to the second boatful of weed, help to pull it onto the bank had arrived by way of two of the bank party. What a team!
Meanwhile those canoeists were getting on with the job.
All too soon it was time to take a well-earned break and have some Covid-appropriate refreshments, with serious hand-sanitising taking place before anything was eaten or drunk.
Not our usual selection of refreshments, due to compliance with Covid regulations, but nevertheless they seemed to enjoy it!
Then more of the same - the amount not to be underestimated by the brevity of mentioning it.
And all too soon it was time to meet up, socially-distanced of course, for a lunch break.
After lunch there were two priorities. One being to quality-assess the morning's work with the canoeists back-tracking up to Sandford. The second being to continue working on the ditch which we had been started working on in the morning. Considerable resources needed to be devoted to this aspect of the weedbusting.
Two worked from one bank,
While others worked from the opposite bank, with the coracle in the ditch itself.
And the inflatable making its way up the ditch too.
As happens at so many of our work parties, time was the enemy, but we left knowing that we had done a brilliant job on the main river and made a significant impact on pennywort in the ditch. Having worked strategically we know that, unless there are massive floods (they've been known), the other vegetation and fallen trees in the ditch would be likely to hold back any stray pennywort.
This had been an additional work party; an attempt to catch up on the removal of weed that hadn't been possible during Covid Lockdown. And what a success to get such an impressive amount of weedbusting work done!
We're hoping to be able to put on more 'additional' work parties in order to catch up on the work we missed, due to lockdown, earlier in the year. (as long as there are no further lockdowns!)
Weedbusting and Litterpicking.Saturday, 5th September 2020
The Long Pond at Beeleigh
Getting up extra early to get the work boat packed and motored up to Beeleigh for a prompt 9am start has its compensations. A fine morning to be on the Navigation.
Indeed, having heard that the Long Pond had been cleared of pennywort, and with a plan to work above Beeleigh Lock, it seemed to get even better!
But approaching the Flood Gates at Beeleigh a grim reality dawned - there was still a lot of work to do on the Long Pond. Flexibility is the key. The section above Beeleigh would have to wait for another day!
Although we knew that there were a number who wouldn't be able to get along today, nevertheless we had a good turnout of experienced and trusty volunteers.
Covid-related briefing and Health and Safety briefing over it was time to get down to business.
In addition to the work boat, Buster, it is always good to have smaller craft involved - and today's two were invaluable.
And an innovation adding to our 'on the water' fleet - Essex Waterway Ltd.'s weedlifter, ably crewed by the General Manager himself.
Not forgetting our much-needed bank party who could not be accused of failing to be committed!
Take a close look at those red poles! First time out and within minutes of the start of the work party they were being put to good use. With a 4m reach we know they are going to be a valuable asset.
The only person who found themselves with nothing much to do was our lone litter-picker. Always keen to ensure that every last item of litter is removed - making it less likely that others will think it is acceptable to throw their litter away - there was practically nothing to do as someone had been there before us and made a very good job of things! We shouldn't complain!
There was no shortage of work for the weedlifter or the work boat.
One of several off-loadings of massive piles of pennywort.
With so much hard work being done our valiant volunteers deserved a break and some Covid-appropriate (nothing that could have been contaminated by anyone else) refreshments.
Then on with more of the same, our 'small craft' doing the invaluable task of getting those last remaining fragments of pennywort away from the bank. Leaving any is a no-brainer as they'll just continue to grow; at this time of year able to form rafts that can cause problems over the winter.
The weedlifter continued to play a valuable part in dealing with large rafts.
Yet another off-loading of a boatful of pennywort (just look at that massive pile in the background!).
Then time to collect our two bank crew - who had managed to get almost as far down as the 'Bypass' flood gate - and involve them, with Coracle Man Steve, in one last off-loading of pennywort.
Before heading back to base.
Another brilliant combined effort on the part of a great band of volunteers. Along with the work done recently by Essex Waterways Ltd it means that there is very little pennywort in the whole of the Long Pond.
Look out for details of extra work parties we plan to run to try to catch up on what we had to miss as a result of Lockdown.
Weedbusting and LitterpickingSaturday, 1st August 2020
Downstream of Sandford Lock
Only our third work party of 2020 'that damned Corona Virus had forced us to cancel all work parties since February. But we now felt that we could safely start running work parties again and today was our first attempt at trying out The New Normal.
Thankfully several of our volunteers arrived early enough that getting the work boat from the far end of the 'above lock'moorings to the loading point below the lock was done with no time wasted at the start of the work party. And our thanks to whoever from EWL had ensured that the outboard was in fine condition and ran like a dream!
We'd had a number of apologies from those who would be on holiday. Here's our team for today 'appropriately physically-distanced, of course.
The session always starts with a health and safety briefing. Today's had additional requirements: remain physically-distanced, sanitise hands regularly - especially before eating and drinking, no sharing of equipment (all tools were uniquely numbered) and ensure that others are made aware if we are doing anything potentially risky.
With our fine team of volunteers it was, as usual, possible to split into several groups. Canoes and the coracle to go up the millstream to deal with pennywort there; the workboat with just a skipper and two crew to deal with the large rafts of pennywort where the millstream enters the Navigation; a team of pennywort-removers on the bank along with one or two litterpickers.
Off went the workboat
Two canoeists and the coracle also prepared to take to the water.
Meanwhile our trusty bank crew had found some pennywort to work on.
And our lone litterpicker (for now) was finding plenty to do
Of course, this is the beast we are aiming to remove. Looks innocuous here, but in warm weather Floating American Pennywort can double its surface area each week. Meaning that, if unchecked, it doesn't take long for the Navigation to be completely blocked.
We'd like the Navigation to look like this all year! (Downstream from Grace's Bridge)
But back to the work boat, and what a fine job they'd been doing, being able to offload this much pennywort!
By the time we were ready for refreshments they'd collected yet another boatload
Which the bank crew were eager to help unload
Time for refreshments. Much downsized from the usual hot cross buns, tea, coffee and hot chocolate, cakes and biscuits. Today, to comply with covid-related safety, it was 'help yourself to a bottle of water, a packet of cheese biscuits and some wrapped cake bars''meaning only the person who selected it had touched it.
After refreshments more of the same. And finally, several piles of pennywort along the banks of the Navigation (not on the towpath) and a fine haul of litter.
Then time to play 'our canoeists showed they could transfer their skills to being pretty decent coraclers!
Another fine group of volunteers, plenty of valuable work done, a friendly time and a good day! Thanks, everyone!
Weedbusting and LitterpickingSaturday, 8th February 2020
Downstream of Sandford Lock
The second work party of 2020, and another one that was well-attended by a skilled group of our lovely volunteers.
We'd hoped to use a work boat and we'd expected that a group of local scouts would be helping us with litterpicking, but as it turned out neither were available. Oh well! We're used to being flexible and adapting to the current circumstances.
Health and Safety briefing first, especially important as we had two volunteers who were new to our work parties. Thankfully mention of Weil's disease didn't put them off! Then two groups for the morning's work. One to look after litterpicking along the towpath (especially important due to the amount of litter washed down by the recent flooding) and the other group taking care of clearing a feeder stream which might have pennywort in it despite the floods and which was probably the original course of the River Chelmer before it was adapted to make it navigable.
The litterpickers could start from the lock. The weedbusters had a long walk to get to the stream where potentially there could be pennywort. And indeed there was 'new growths of pennywort, replacing the previously-established rafts which had either been washed up by flooding into the adjoining field, or washed into the main system below Cuton Lock. This pennywort is managing not just to hang on in, but to continue to grow during the winter months. It's just not right! By now we'd expect it to have been knocked back by cold weather.
Once we arrived at our planned location it was straight down to work.
Being able to work from either side of the stream helped hugely.
Gradually moving down either side of the stream is a very efficient way of removing practically all of the visible pennywort. Not only because it saved having to attempt to stretch too far to remove pennywort from the opposite bank, but also because it is often easier to direct colleagues to hidden pennywort below them that they might not be able to see themselves. (there really is someone on the far bank!)
Very good progress was made.
But we suspected that the pennywort we had seen so far was just a re-cursor to what we would find further downstream. And how right we were!
With their by-now honed skills working in locations like this our trusty volunteers were soon in action
And it wasn't long before another stretch was completely clear of pennywort.
We'd worked hard and it was time for our mid-morning break. Thankfully our litter-pickers weren't far away and they were able to join us.
Plenty of friendly talk during our break 'and useful to be reminded that we should ensure we enjoy ourselves during work parties.
Then off for more. The litterpickers only got a short way away before they were back in operation.
By now our valiant weedbusters on the far side of the stream were having to battle through significant undergrowth to access any weed, But they did, and there's one in this pic! Can you spot her?
As usual, more of the same, it being very impressive that our skilled team were ensuring that every strand of pennywort, even the smallest, was removed.
And what would we do without coracleman Steve who so often ensures that our weedbusting is thorough, being able to access pennywort the rest of us just can't remove.
What was that someone said about enjoying ourselves?!
Finally we reached the point where the stream flows out into the Navigation beside the Cuton Lock weir. And unusually, and brilliantly, rather than having to leave with more work still to be done, our volunteers at today's work party had completed the entire task 'well done!
And well done too to our litterpickers who had successfully collected an impressive amount of rubbish and debris.
We'd litterpicked along the towpath marked by the blue arrows and we'd weedbusted along the stream marked by the red arrows.
An incredibly successful work party and so enjoyable to work with such a friendly group of people.
WeedbustingSaturday, 4th January 2020
Upper Blackwater Creeks
Despite illness and injury afflicting some, the first work party of 2020 was attended by a welcome number of our most loyal volunteers.
Our task was to remove pennywort from two 'creeks'just off the Upper Blackwater at Beeleigh, the location being chosen because flooding of the main system would be likely to have re-distributed pennywort throughout the Navigation, wasting our time seeking it out. Safety briefing over our team headed out to see what we could find. This was unclear as although the area has been monitored we hadn't actually worked here since June 2016.
It was no great surprise to find that the weed we anticipated would be there was there!
Not the best place to work, both from an access point of view and because the floating pennywort disguised logs and branches which made it difficult to slide rafts of weed to the bank. Nevertheless, our team worked from either side of the first creek/ditch; some even sat down! Understandable. It was wet and slippery. And VERY smelly.
But perseverance, some excellent crome-on-a-rope throwing skills and attention to detail meant that what had seemed to be an impossible task was efficiently completed.
On to the next, larger, creek. At first glance this looked like it was going to be an impossible task, with pennywort covering more than half the surface e area of the creek and no coracle or kayak to bring the furthest reaches to shore.
But again our trusty team were not daunted and got down to work along the bank.
Careful teasing of the complete raft, being brought towards us sensitively so as not to break it up, meant that we had as much pennywort as we could deal with, and more.
The piles of pennywort built up,
And eventually practically all of the pennywort that had been floating on the water had now been piled up on the bank. And the creek was now clear.
All that remained was for us to do a bit of tidying up of one of the outlets into the main river and then to head back to Beeleigh for well-earned refreshments.
An excellent start to our 2020 weedbusting season!