Chelmer Canal Trust

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Bramble-Cutting and Weedbusting

Saturday, 2nd December 2023

As is so often the case, an early start for several of our volunteers who needed to be up bright and early to get equipment and boats ready. We are grateful to them.

Two teams for today's work party.

Team Cut Backs had the task of taking Buster, our work boat, up the Long Pond from Heybridge in order to cut back brambles that dip into the water and harbour pennywort that we can't get to; and which subsequently sneaks out when we aren't looking. Two volunteers joined by an EWL lengthsman who could use the powertools that would make the task easier and more effective.

It has to be said that it was bitterly cold and there was some doubt about whether or not the Long Pond would be frozen over, stopping Buster making any progress. The apparent relaxed approach here doesn't represent the reality. Or maybe it was just that at this stage they were still warm.

With no ice in Heybridge Basin Buster got away ok and made progress up the Navigation until they encountered the ice. Boatowners aren't keen on bank-to-bank ice being broken near their boats for fear of the expanding ice damaging the hulls of their boats - especially if they are plastic. However, the ice was past where boats are moored on both sides and careful breaking of the ice by hand meant that Buster could make slow progress.

Eventually it was down to the real work with tools at the ready.

And on with the job

Those motorised hedge-trimmers were the perfect tools to use

And progress along the bank was efficient

With regular stops being made to offload the bramble collections. No one wants to find themselves falling into that nastiness!

Unbelievable as it might seem, it was decided that the inflatable could be useful

And a brave volunteer took to the water. Incredible dedication in those temperatures

This group certainly earned their refreshments - hot drinks were the order of the day!

And they seemed to lift their spirits!

Next, the wisest decision of the morning was taken - that they had done quite enough in the bitter weather and it was time to return to Heybridge, put the tools away and clean Buster.

They'd done enough, but unbelievably they did more! A trip to Hoe Mill to look out parts of a very old crane that might well become a bankside exhibit. But that's another story for another day!

Team Much More Growth were also out in the bitter weather. Three of them although should have been one more but the bitter weather got the better of a fourth volunteer's engine which wouldn't start. A pity as we were hoping to include a coracle in our work this morning. Talking of engines, the outboard in the boat is notoriously unreliable and the last thing we needed was a conked-out boat far downstream (some still have PTSD induced by once having had to pull this boat by hand from Cuton to Sandford Locks!). Thankfully that wasn't the case today due to the brilliant work done on the engine by our expert volunteer.

Like Team Cut Backs, this group wasted no time in getting going. It was going to be very cold just sitting in that boat so close to the water as they travelled far downstream.

The sooner they got up and out of the work boat and round to where the work was to take place, the better. And they were soon down to work. It's obvious what has to be done. And it's obvious from the frost on the vegetation just how cold it was!

Our volunteers have plenty of experience of removing pennywort in a variety of locations and the tried and tested techniques were soon brought into play. Teamwork at its finest.

Of course, attention to detail is important and every last strand of pennywort was going to be removed.

The lack of coracle was regrettable, but Plan B came into operation and for the second time in a morning, despite the bitter cold, another brave volunteer took to the water

That has to be above and beyond the call of duty?! And he stayed there, moving down the ditch, cutting back the overhanging brambles and making what has to be described as a jolly fine job of it!

He stayed working in the ditch for some time. Claimed it was warmer than being on the bank. Didn't look it!

The group worked further down the ditch, removing all of the pennywort they could get to.

It has to be said that, like Team Cut Backs, they had undertaken a difficult task with some brilliant outcomes.

Back to the boat for refreshments - they weren't as unhappy as they look!

Then back to Sandford to unload tools back into cars and then return the work boat to its mooring. That sign on the bridge was probably superfluous on a day as cold as this - who would want to?!

Again, huge thanks to all of our brilliant volunteers for being prepared to work under such nasty conditions and to achieve the outcomes they did.

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Thursday, 23rd November 2023

Part of our management of Floating American Pennywort involves catching it before it gets into the main system. This is especially relevant where small streams harbour sneaky patches of Pennywort that can get flushed into the Navigation under some circumstances. We use floating booms if we can get them donated. Having recently been successfully awarded some funding for new floating boom we didn't take long procuring it and then getting it into use.

Starting from Sandford the first location needing attention, having removed an overhanging tree that stopped us getting through, was the mouth of the stream that flows into the Sandford Mill Stream.

We've replaced this boom before so we reckoned a bit of maintenance would allow it to remain effective for another year.

Then it was onward to Cuton Lock. We needed to be below the lock to best access our boom there. Trouble was, the floods had washed silt and debris against the upstream cill of the lock. 45 minutes with our long red poles, dragging out all sorts of gunk, had the gates closing well-enough that we could drain the lock

Down through the lock and round to the weir where we could access our 'Cuton' boom.

Having dragged plenty of debris away it seemed that the problem here was that the boom had been damaged by a log being thrown on it (Mindless? Ignorant? Who knows?). On with his waders in order to be able to access the far bank and our enthusiastic volunteer soon got the job underway. In the meantime the photographer took a look at the pennywort situation further upstream. There's plenty of Pennywort to keep us occupied at our next monthly work party.

Back at the boom our newly-acquired kit was being tied off at the nearside bank.

Weather on work parties can be variable. Today was one of those 'pleased to be out' days.

Next stop was Stonhams. Down through the lock there - draining of it being helped by a plank on the downstream gate having rotted - and back up below the weir to Boom Number 3.

Another situation where replacement was needed. Out with the old

And in with the new. This boom required three sections of boom - meaning that we've already used more than half of our new kit.

Another excellent job.

Another successful session, hopefully stopping Pennywort entering the main system from side streams.

Lots of work done. All successful. Back through the locks to our starting point at Sandford.

Then lots of time spent unloading the work boat, cleaning it up and putting it back onto its mooring before heading off to unpack cars, return tools, and so on.

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More Weedbusting on the Long Pond

Thursday, 26th October 2023

The Long Pond has to be one of our most challenging stretches along all of the Navigation. Very little flow of water and plenty of overhanging vegetation together make it easy for Floating American Pennywort to safely attach to brambles, etc. and to grow both under the brambles and out across the surface of the water. So, in order to try to do some catching up, this additional work party was arranged, volunteers were recruited and on a day that started off very, very, wet it was a case of getting the equipment from our store and ferrying it up to the start point.

Forty five minutes of opportunistic weed-collecting on their way up the Long Pond and Buster, the work boat, arrived at Tesco Fullbridge.

Then it was a case of heading further up the Long Pond, initially intending to check back for Pennywort from Beeleigh Lock. However, a quick change of plan was called for as it was soon obvious that the work done at the top of the Long Pond during our previous work party here had been so successful that we could leave that section. Nevertheless, there was plenty of looking out for Pennywort.

And plenty to bring on board.

After which it wasn't long before off-loading was needed.

It was useful to have a volunteer working from the bank.

Large rafts and small strands all had to be removed.

And having a volunteer getting close to the smaller strands was vital.

Lots of hard work deserves a break. Always appreciated. And always well-earned.

Then back to more of the same.

And even more offloading.

And even more getting more on board

A quick rush back to Tesco when we realised that maximum time in the car park had been reduced from four hours to three hours. Meaning our volunteer numbers were suddenly seriously reduced.

Some might have just returned to Heybridge at that stage, but there was more to be done, and more we did.

At least the weather had progressively improved during the morning.

Just one more load of pennywort to offload.

And then back to Buster's home at Heybridge Basin.

Another great session with an impressive amount of Pennywort work completed.

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Weedbusting on the Long Pond and above Beeleigh Lock

Saturday, 7th October 2023

It's really great that we have volunteers who are willing to get up at the crack of dawn to prepare work boats and get them to the locations ready for us all to start our work promptly. So that we could start work at 9 am two volunteers started early from Hoe Mill to bring the Hoe Mill Raider down to Beeleigh and two volunteers started early at Heybridge to take Buster, our jointly-owned work boat, up to Beeleigh.

Our tasks for the day involved two teams. One to work upstream from Beeleigh back towards Ricketts Lock (and as it turned out, above Ricketts too), and another to work back down the Long Pond from the flood gates. Meaning we could all meet at a common starting point!

The 'Upstream From Beeleigh' Team soon got down to work with a skipper on the work boat, crew on the boat to bring Pennywort on board, and another variously in a dinghy and on the bank.

Pretty annoying when Pennywort gets brought into the system from feeder streams and ditches.

We're pretty sure that the notice is only advisory and in any case we are doing a favour for the landowner (who might want to make a contribution to our costs for removing this invasive weed from his land?)!

It seems there was only casual interest from those in the area.

The work continued; the pile of Pennywort on the work boat got higher.

With plenty of Pennywort being taken directly ashore.

And with the Pennywort from the work boat being very discretely landed onto the bank.

With much of the weed having been removed from between Beeleigh and Ricketts Locks that was to have been the end of that team's work and they headed back towards Hoe Mill,

But who can pass rafts of Pennywort that could be brought on board? The temptation to do more was just too great.

So, yet another work-boat-full of Pennywort that won't have the opportunity to grow into even larger rafts or break up and infect the system further down.

Meanwhile, Team 'Down the Long Pond' had at the same time been working hard.

The first task was to remove the pennywort from behind our very effective boom across the Langford Cut.

In fact it wasn't long before the first of several offloadings had taken place, such was the amount of Pennywort that had been collected from behind the boom and by Buster's crew on the way up to Beeleigh.

Then down to work on the main system.

With so much vegetation dipping down into the water, both trapping Pennywort and giving it a secure place in which to grow, some of those brambles just had to be cut back.

Talking of cutting back brambles, they literally came back with a vengeance in some places! Help was needed to remove this attacker! (referring to the piece on his back, not the person themself!

More Pennywort, more off-loading.

More extra supplies of Pennywort brought in, but we'd like a caption for this next pic?

Time for a break and refreshments. Who doesn't wash their hands in Perrier when out on a CCT work party?!

A bit of a break is always appreciated.

Then on for more, much more.

Collecting smaller fragments is so valuable. If they weren't collected they would infect the area further downstream, potentially completely wiping out the impact of the work today.

Yet another offloading of even more Pennywort.

Then the return of the work boat to Heybridge, but not before another boat-load of pennywort was collected, and offloaded, on the way back.

The final task - a nice bit of work cleaning the work boat.

Another brilliant group of volunteers. Another impressive amount of work completed.

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A bit of Weedbusting at Ricketts Lock

Thursday, 21st September 2023

We'd hope to be able to get a small team together to deal with some sizeable rafts of pennywort that had been spotted during our last work party.

Unfortunately (but understandably) none of our lovely volunteers were available for the session.

Nevertheless, as we'd already arranged to work alongside a member of EWL staff using one of their weedlifters, the work went ahead with just the weedlifter doing all of the work.

This was what was troubling us

And after a short while, and some skilful use of the weedlifter, this was the now-clean scene looking back towards the lock.

Thank you so much, Michael!

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Weedbusting on the Long Pond and above Beeleigh Lock

Saturday, 9th September 2023

We had a couple of priority areas needing attention. And luckily, just about sufficient willing volunteers to be able to make them work today.

Team Heybridge Mill. A long-term irritation, and source of recurring pennywort, has been the area of water under the 'Private' chain at Heybridge Mill. We were quick to make use of the permission that the owner had given us to work there.

Working way up the Long Pond always involves an early start and today was no exception for two of our volunteers who arrived very early to get the equipment and refreshments prepared for the two groups.

After which the tools and refreshments, and our brilliant volunteers, set off for Fullbridge, one to collect the other members of Team Heybridge Mill.

The extra volunteers having been collected from Fullbridge it was back to Heybridge Mill to embark on the task in hand.

The first challenge - get the work boat under the 'Private' chain without snagging it on the boat.

Then onto the actual Pennywort removal. Many will recognise similar situations - rafts of pennywort which have grown in and around fallen trees, making what should be an easy job much more difficult. Before we could even make a start on the Pennywort we had to get rid of some of the dead tree.

Which required a pretty serious amount of tree-removal.

With nowhere on the 'private' side of the chain available every raft of Pennywort, once brought on board, had to be delivered to the far bank and unloaded.

We were hot and so were the loppers which took an unintentional dip in the cool water - but were quickly brought back on board!

Where possible large rafts were towed out and delivered directly to the far bank, rather than being brought on board.

On one of several trips to the unloading point it made sense to stop for our refreshments.

Hot and cold drinks, savoury and sweet snacks, they were all there. But did they refresh us? Not a lot! We were hot and exhausted (with very good reason, not all associated with today's efforts).

Nevertheless, our volunteers went back for more, removing the last of the rafts and tidying up as many fragments as they could grab.

Exiting from the creek we looked back and reckoned we'd done a pretty good job. But we'll be back!

A few chances to opportunistically grab at rafts on the way back were taken on the way back to Fullbridge. The intention was there, but the physical ability was by now decidedly lacking, and the unanimous decision taken was to stop, regretfully leaving more pennywort for another time. In sort, we were all knackered

Back to Fullbridge and then back to Heybridge Basin with Buster the work boat.

Meanwhile two members of Team Above Beeleigh were similarly making an early start, having arrived at Hoe Mill at Silly-o-Clock in order to get the work boat down to Beeleigh Lock in time to meet the rest of the team.

Then, at Beeleigh, equipment, refreshments and a kayak collected

If there was a competition between the two groups about who had the heathiest and lushest Pennywort Team Above Beeleigh won!

There was plenty of pennywort of pennywort like this around and this group wasted no time working on it. Two on the work boat

one in a kayak

and one in a coracle.

Tough work, but they just got down to work and did it, between them removing large rafts and small fragments of Pennywort.

With the necessary frequent unloading being part of the game.

A well-deserved refreshment break was called for.

Then back to the task in hand, with another brilliant team effort dealing with Pennywort growing around a fallen tree that has been the bane of our lives for years.

Who doesn't like to finish a work party having left impressive amounts of Pennywort on the banks to rot down (and where the various creepy crawlies can get themselves back into the water)?

Back to the car and back home for some.

Back to a bit more Pennywort-clearing, then to Hoe Mill and only then back home for others.

What a brilliant couple of teams of volunteers we had today!

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More Weedbusting on the Long Pond

Friday, 18th August 2023

With our team the previous weekend having done so well we wanted to add to their impact by doing more work on the Long Pond - a section of the Navigation which continues to cause us problems. Not a major Work Party, just a few people working off the one workboat.

A volunteer who had planned to take part had to drop out for totally understandable reasons but, an 'emergency' email having been sent out, two other volunteers stepped forward at the last minute and the work party could go ahead.

The plan was to work upstream from Heybridge Basin.

It wasn't long before we were picking out the small strands and mini rafts that we'd come looking for.

Much of what we were looking for was trapped under brambles and bankside vegetation. Very difficult to remove completely.

Some required careful hand picking.

The further upstream we worked, the more pennywort we found.

But nothing evaded us.

Eventually it was time to package up what we'd collected so far - much of which would go off to help with some very high quality compost-making.

Time to stop for a break.

It was only when we finished our break, ready to carry on for another 30 mins, that we realised that we were well over-time. We'd been so busy that none of us had noticed the time.

Ooops! Better hot foot (well, hot boat) back to Heybridge Basin, pack the tools away and move on to other aspects of our lives.

Our next CCT work party is on Saturday, 9th September.

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Weedbusting on both the Long Pond and above Paper Mill

12th August 2023

Two teams for today's action.

A couple of trusty volunteers were up at the crack of dawn to prepare two sets of kit and get them to the starting points for the two groups

Team Long Pond had their equipment delivered in Buster, the work boat that they'd later use for their work on the Long Pond. Having loaded his boat the work boat skipper was underway.

Good to start with some fine weather.

Picking up his two crew at Fullbridge it was immediately down to work with a new team member very quickly getting the hang of the task.

It wasn't long before the worst infestations of Floating American Pennywort were being brought on board. Some to be later dumped on the bank; some to be used in a compost-making process.

With work well underway there was the opportunity for a quick refreshment break

More work, more pennywort, more to unload

Finally (well, almost) time to drop two team members back to Fullbridge.

But some of us just can't pass growing rafts of pennywort without lifting them out, and our work boat skipper just couldn't resist!

What a star!

Meanwhile a delivery of equipment to Paper Mill ready for Team Upstream of Paper Mill. Thankfully the work boat was in an easily-accessible place and with the tools and refreshments having been carried up to the boat the long haul to Cuton Lock started, the plan being to head directly upstream and then gather pennywort on the way back. Locations of pennywort sites were carefully logged on the way upstream. There's an excellent App available for logging locations of invasive species such as pennywort, but for this occasion it was a personal memory task.

A bit of lock training and then having three volunteers on the bank made going through locks a speedier-than-usual process.

At last, arriving at our third lock upstream of Paper Mill, there was an opportunity to stretch our legs, take a break, have some refreshments and get ready for the work that was needed on the way back.

Very much a zero-tolerance approach with every strand of pennywort that was spotted being pulled out, along with efforts made to trace the source way back through the reeds.

Three crew was just right for efficiently removing pennywort.

It was more small strands than it was large rafts, but ensuring that every strand, stalk, weedlet and even leaf was removed ensured that the future growing-power of pennywort along these sections was significantly minimised.

Team Upstream of Paper Mill were pleased with their efforts as they moved back down to Paper Mill.

A brilliant effort by both teams

Our next Chelmer Canal Trust monthly work party is scheduled for Saturday, 9th September.

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Weedbusting on the Long Pond

Saturday, 1st July 2023

The team of seven of our finest volunteers were ready for action today.

As usual it was an early start for two volunteers, ensuring that one of the boats, the equipment and the refreshments were in place at the start.

Arriving early there was time for a cheeky bit of pre-work party work. No point in wasting time when there are things to be done!

A bit of final preparation to be done by one of our volunteers while the rest sheltered during the only wet weather of the session.

Our weedbusting efforts have been very successful throughout the last year and, although we know it will flourish soon, pennywort levels are low. We've returned several times to the Long Pond, because it is one of the areas that suits pennywort best and therefore needs extra attention from our weedbusters. Today was another of those 'keep it in check' days. Very important as every strand and weedlet that we remove now won't have the opportunity to grow into a large raft of pennywort later in the year. This is the sort of thing we were looking for.

We had not only the ideal people on this work party, we also had the ideal range of techniques. Three individuals in solo craft - one of whom hadn't expected to be, and in particular hadn't expected to be ankles-deep in water while working. And four on the work boat, Buster.

We made our way to Beeleigh to get started, aiming to work as far down the Long Pond as we could.

All were quickly underway and getting stuck in. It requires a certain mindset to be able to stick at the task, moving from one strand or patch (or weedlet) to the next. But our brilliant volunteers just kept on going and were all soon moving down the Long Pond as planned. The work boat going first, with volunteers on it removing the most obvious, heavier and accessible pennywort. But not spending time on pieces that could be better removed by the three excellent 'soloists' who followed, undertaking the vital task of removing the smaller pieces of pennywort, potentially more difficult and fiddly to access.

All too soon it was time to collect everyone up ready for the morning's refreshment break.

An important part of any work party. After all, if the troops don't get fed they won't be ready for the following battles. Not that any of us were warriors.

Then on with the tasks in hand.

A quick offloading of the work boat.

And time for our solo weedbusters to show that they were still smiling, despite the tasks they'd been consigned to.

Good progress was made down to below Chapman's Bridge

Despite the early shower we'd been lucky with the weather, and of course, ensured that we'd kept ourselves protected in case there was any sun.

Eventually time to return to base. And to confirm that all three solo litterpickers really did get back safely.

Another excellent work party. Necessary and productive.

Our next Chelmer Canal Trust work party on the Navigation is on Saturday, 12th August.

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Team Susan Painting 'Susan' at St Osyth. Yet again

Thursday, 22nd June 2023

The third session in June for Team Susan at St Osyth! Our aim? To finish Black Tar Varnishing the inside of the hull before she goes back into the water for a while.

It was only when we were coming to the end of the painting at the previous session last week, about to celebrate the fact that we'd finished the inside, that we were informed that Susan needed another coat. Oh well!

All four of us arrived before time and were soon on the job. First task? Pump out the rainwater that had collected since last week. The helpful provision of a bilge pump made a quick job of it (thanks, Joe).

Next, in order that it would be dried out by the time we got to it, the need to get every last drop of water out. The trusty wet/dry vacuum cleaner came in handy.

After an experimental scrape of the tar on the gunnels we decided that was going to be a job for another day. But we nevertheless had to vacuum up the scrapings!

And then it was on to painting. Three on the hull, one on the outside of the transom and rudder posts. What a team!

Steady progress in the sun with the black tar varnish getting ever more smelly, knees and backs aching more and more. But that's what we arrived to do and that's what we did.

With good progress being made we deserved the break!

Then back to the task in hand, determined that we'd get a second coat of black tar varnish onto all of the deck before we left today.

As well as onto the transom and rudder posts

Superb team work meant that we made good progress! And, just a bit earlier than we'd expected, we completed the task. Yeeha!

Finally, the inevitable clearing up and packing up and we were on our ways back home!

Another excellent session. And yet more progress towards the completion of work on Susan at the boatyard.

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Painting Susan at St Osyth. Again

Wednesday, 14th June 2023

A return to St Osyth for the second time in June - and it won't be the last!

Having made good progress on our last visit, today was the opportunity to complete the painting of the interior of Susan with black tar varnish (or so we thought!).

Standard practice for us now. We arrive, put on overalls and get on board Susan. Put on vinyl gloves. Next, clear debris away from the areas where we plan to work. Then, scrapers, brushes and the vacuum cleaner to remove dried mud, dried sawdust and other debris so that the paint will reach everywhere that needs a coat.

With the valuable preparations over it's time to select a decent brush, open the cans of paint, and get on with painting. And to chat to the Boat Yard owner. We learned a number of interesting things from him.

We all got on with our tasks, working at several locations around the boat. In fact, we got to involved in our tasks that none of us realised that we'd be working for nearly two hours without a pause or a break. Spending that time in cramped conditions, on our knees, with the smell of lack tar varnish getting stronger as the sun got the interior of Susan hotter, deserves a break.

A welcome opportunity to enjoy being in a non-painting position.

Then on with more.

And an opportunity to paint something in primer rather than black tar varnish.

Eventually we'd black-tar-varnished all of the inside of Susan. But bad news! The deck needed a second coat!

Back to the start, and a second coat was applied. Until the convergence of paint in some cans running out, the sun getting very hot and our knees and backs aching. By which point we'd possibly re-painted about a quarter of Susan's deck.

Meaning that we now have three quarters more to do. Such is the commitment of our volunteers that we already have a date booked for the team to return to, hopefully, complete the black tar of the deck, do some black-tarring on parts of the outside, and another new-to-us task which is to grit-paint the red horizontal surfaces.

We're looking forward to it already!

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Painting Susan at St Osyth

Wednesday, 7th June 2023

We tried to choose a date that would appeal to those who like to take part in weekday work parties. We failed! There were just two of us available and willing to travel to St Osyth to do more work on Susan. But what we lost in quantity we gained in commitment!

The task was a fairly straightforward one. Do more painting of Susan's deck. With Black Tar Varnish. Smelly, sticky black stuff! First task - get all extraneous pieces of wood out of the way

Next, remove as much water as possible from where it had collected at the back of the boat - we're told that, although Susan has been back in the water, this was rainwater.

And clean the muck out from the nooks and crannies it is hiding in. Much use of scrapers to remove sawdust and dust from the corners, then a session with a brush and an industrial vacuum cleaner to remove as much of the debris as possible in order that the painting is as effective as possible. Preparation is so important, and we prepared well. So well in fact that it was then time for refreshments - the next part was going to be a long haul.

Who doesn't enjoy sitting in the sun with a drink and a snack?!

Refreshed, it was time to actually start painting.

And continue painting for another couple of hours

It's surprising how long it takes to ensure that the hidden parts of Susan are nevertheless given a good coat of paint. But we worked on and finished the section we'd aimed to complete. Two hours' of kneeling across the crossbeams is enough for anybody. We felt we had done sufficient and in any case working in the hot sun, smelling very smelly paint fumes, needs to have a maximum time about it. And in any case the next planks we'd got to were still damp.

Proud of our efforts we packed away and cleared off home.Taking Susan's original Stern Tube with us. (it needs a new bearing).

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Weedbusting on the Long Pond

Saturday, 3rd June 2023

A lovely day and several enthusiastic volunteers willing to take part. What could possibly go wrong?!

Well, what went wrong was that having loaded tools and equipment onto work boat Buster the outboard wouldn't start. It's always started reliably, firing up within milliseconds of the key being turned. Plan B. Load all of the tools and equipment into a car and travel to meet the rest of the team at Fullbridge.

Although we were deprived of some of our capacity to work from the water as a result of a lack of Buster, luckily we had two others who would be able to do so.

Six volunteers. Two on the water and, conveniently for this location, the opportunity to have a team of two on either bank.

We would have been more effective if we'd had Buster there, able to cover more territory, and to do better spotting for the volunteers on the banks. But nevertheless we made good progress, removing many small strands of pennywort that could otherwise, in only a few week's of warm weather, form into large rafts of weed.

Whether or the water or on the bank, we moved upstream.

Spotting from the opposite bank, or even from an overhead bridge, helped our volunteers to be even more effective.

Having cleared from Fullbridge up to Beeleigh flood gates it was time to return to base for a break

And, of course, refreshments

Our volunteers taking a break from their refreshments to pose for the camera.

Although there was little more than volunteers on the bank could do. The guys on the water then carried on the valuable work.

Thanks to everyone who took part. That will save us a lot of work later in the season.

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Painting Susan at St Osyth

Saturday, 13th May 2023

We'd expected five volunteers to make the journey to St Osyth. Six turned up! What's not to like?!

Susan was looking good (and very large - does she really fit into the locks on the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation?!)

Our task was to undertake some of the painting needed inside Susan.

Three volunteers started preparing the grey primer, ready to then apply a top coat of red. However, so much primer peeled off that we reckoned a second coat of primer would be needed before the red could be properly applied.

We'd started with that job, involving scrapings falling onto the deck, so that it would be completed before then cleaning the deck itself in readiness for the application of black tar paint. Much scraping and hand-brushing in the various nooks and crannies was followed up with the wet/dry vacuum cleaner which made a brilliant job of getting most of the detritus out of the way.

Then it was a production line team effort with two 'cleaners' aiming to clean ahead of the four 'painters' who dealt with the two sides of the deck and the walls either side. And some helpful swapping around as the need arose.

Although it was not an entirely comfortable task - paint fumes and kneeling in an uncomfortable position to be able to access everywhere that needed painting - no one complained! We just got on with it!

Nor did anyone complain when the suggestion was made that we take a break for some refreshments!

Then back for another happy hour and a half of much the same - but still smiling

Eventually time ran out, as did the paint we had in our tins, and it was time to call it a day - for now! We'd completed the painting of almost half of the deck. Good progress - and we don't expect it will be too long before we are back to do more.

What an excellent piece of teamwork!

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Bench installation above Ulting Church

Wednesday, 3rd May 2023

At our April work party we'd made a good start on installing a bench, in memory of Dudley Courtman, a founder member of the Chelmer Canal Trust, by creating the concrete base on which the bench would sit. (click here or scroll down to see the report).Today's session was the second part of the process - getting the bench itself to the site and securing it to the base so.

Thankfully there were several helpful people around to ensure that the EWL work boat in the correct place when we arrived. We are always grateful to EWL for their support.

Three of our team of four volunteers involved in today's work.

Pretty soon the bench, tools, equipment and materials were loaded

And with our brightly-coloured skipper at the helm we set off towards the site.

Quick work getting through Rushes Lock

Onwards to the site, offloading of the kit and the bench, and then lifting it into position ready for fixing hole positions to be marked up.

Next, the serious-about-security concrete-drilling and steel anchor bolt installation.

There was plenty to do!

Almost there, ensuring that there's no opportunity for any movement when everything is tightened up.

Then some well-earned refreshments. And where better to have them than sitting on the bench?!

The wood (teak from a sustainable source, the bench built by a company with high ethical standards) had been painted with a coat of quality treatment two days earlier. Now a second coat which will hopefully help to preserve the wood for many years to come.

We're not sure how many passers-by might have a suitably-sized spanner with them and decide that they'd like to unbolt the bench. But just in case such an event should occur we've rounded off the bolt-heads! And painted the newly-exposed metal.

A good morning's work!

A privilege to be able to ensure that someone who did so much for the area and for the Navigation is remembered.

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Weedbusting on the Baddow Meads
and Concreting above Ulting Church

Saturday, 8th April 2023

The weather forecast was good and we'd successfully arranged to use two work boats to access the two locations where our planned work was to take place. What could possibly go wrong?! What went wrong was that, the day before the work party was to take place neither of the workboats was found to be operational!

However, for both teams, support was available enabling work to progress as planned.

Team Hoe Mill. Creating the base for Dudley's Bench.

Huge thanks to Essex Waterways staff for bringing another, working, workboat to Hoe Mill - it saved the day! And thanks too to local contractors Bloomfield Construction for supplying materials and loaning equipment.

The first task - to offload some of the materials into manageable quantities so that they could be loaded onto the non-working work boat, used as a butty.

And the equipment loaded onto the other work boat.

Then the two boats, lashed together, could set off for the location where the bench will be installed.

Onward to the site where, of course, what had been loaded at Hoe Mill had to be unloaded onto the river bank.

And progress started on digging out the hole and installing the shuttering for the base.

Having been unloaded, the 'working' work boat was despatched back to Hoe Mill to collect hardcore which would be used in the base.

More work on the base,

And with everyone back on site, time for a well-earned refreshment break.

Then hardcore smashed up, and reinforcing installed, it was getting close to concreting time

Time to start mixing

And then pouring

And more mixing and more pouring

Until it was time for the finishing touches

What a very fine job!

Then the not insignificant job of loading everything that was left back onto the boats and travelling back to Hoe Mill. And a chance to reflect on the morning's (and part of the afternoon's!) work.

Team Baddow Meads.

Another work-boat-not-working issue here. This time solved by our excellent volunteer Keith solving the problem of an engine not working by bringing a spare engine! What a star!

With this workboat loaded it was time to set off up the Navigation to Barnes Mill Lock.

Then a walk across the Meads to the stream that drains the water meadows and which was the location we needed to work at.

We had planned to work elsewhere, but our intended outbreaks of pennywort had been washed away by the recent heavy rains. Nevertheless, there was pennywort that needed our attention so work started as soon as we got to the stream.

Separating into two groups, with two volunteers on each bank, good progress could be made on what was obviously lush new growth of pennywort.

There was certainly no shortage of pennywort to be dealt with

Yet again there were places where pennywort, originally Floating American Pennywort, was no longer floating, but rooted into the mud on the bottom of the stream.

With the refreshments being back at the work boat this team took the decision to work through and have their refreshments at the end of the session. Still well-earned, of course!

Then time to get back on board, ready for the journey back to Sandford.

Another successful, hard-working, team. With just one casualty!

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Weedbusting between Beeleigh and Ricketts Locks

Saturday, 4th March 2023

The starting point for this work party was to be Beeleigh Lock and as we planned to work upstream from there, ideally the two work boats would be above Beeleigh Lock ready for our main group of volunteers.

Meaning a very early start from Heybridge for three of us. Tools ready for loading and then the long Long Pond journey to Beeleigh.

It was good to see them arrive in good time.

And to get them locked up to the starting point for this work party.

We're keen to ensure that our volunteers are fully and safely equipped on our work parties and we've recently purchased a set of new buoyancy aids. Here they are being proudly displayed.

As well as our team of regular volunteers it was good to be joined by Ben, the national Local Action Group Coordinator, who came along to take a look at how we operate and see how we might be supported. He certainly showed an interest in how we go about things and was a welcome addition to our group.

Two work boats, a canoe and a dinghy. A pretty ideal combination with the two work boats dealing with the larger amounts of pennywort and the canoe and dinghy getting up close and personal with the smaller fragments.

It was another of those times when we almost wished for 'summer pennywort'! Consolidated rafts of lush, healthy pennywort that don't break up and can be easily removed at the bank. Today's 'winter pennywort' was a pain. It broke up easily and in many cases lifting it out with a net was the most effective way of removing it. Nevertheless the range of tools we've become used to using worked well;

Everyone was committed to the task (as skilled volunteers we knew they would be) and made sure that all visible pennywort came on board.

We made such good progress that we'd manage to deal with all visible pennywort before it was time for our refreshments.

So it was back to the starting point.

As always it was good to catch up with each other's news and have a bit of a chat. And pose for a group pic!

Thanks to all of our volunteers and especially those who put in extra time taking the tools and the boats back to Heybridge.

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Maintenance and Tidying Up

Friday, 24th February 2023

A boom CCT put across a stream that feeds into the Sandford Mill millstream, and which feeds not only water but pennywort into the main system, had failed. Not due to any lack of skill on our part, but due to the effect of the weather on the materials used in the boom's construction. With pennywort surviving the winter in this stream across the Baddow Meads, and starting to flourish again (plans are in place to keep it under control) replacement of the boom was a high priority. With the helpful use of EWL's Raider access from the water is potentially the best way to get the work done.

On arrival the first task was to cut back sufficient vegetation to get to the ground anchors.

Next, remove the old (sunken) boom.

Stitch two sections together securely

Attach both ends to the anchors and, hey-presto, job done!

Then off to our next location, picking up some large items of debris on the way.

(please note, using a phone while driving is not recommended!)

Our next location was a ditch some of us had worked on in early February. Try as we had done to remove all of the visible pennywort it had ben so fragile that inevitably fragments had got away. Today's mission was to nab those small fragments, as well as new growth that is even now (IN FEBRUARY!) appearing.

Working along both sides of the ditch was effective and productive.

Time, of course, for some well-earned refreshments

Before returning for more of the same. And the satisfaction of knowing that this section had had a through cleaning (although we'll inevitably be posting pics of healthy pennywort in this location later this year!).

With the use of the workboat an opportunity to access a section that often defeats us due to dense vegetation and lack of access by foot.

Again, a job well done.

Finally, time to return to base, stow the tools and return the work boat to its moorings.

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A return to Richard Coates's Tomb

Friday, 10th February 2023

A small group of CCT volunteers had previously spent time removing brambles and ivy from the fence and tomb of Richard Coates's grave, Richard Coates being the Resident Engineer responsible for the building of the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation. Click here to read more about our previous visit.

However, we felt the task wouldn't be complete until we'd spruced it up some more by repainting the fence around the tomb.

A bit of preparation with sandpaper and a wire brush to ensure that the surfaces were clean and sound and then onto the painting. Black for the fence itself.

And gold for the finials

Neither of us were enthusiastic painters but there was a task to be completed and complete it we would. And we have to say, with sufficient skill to make a good job of it!

Four hours of painting and the grave was returned close to the state it was in 20 years ago, and the state it was in 201 years ago!

Now just the final task of putting January 2043 in the diary for the next session here!

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at the Heybridge Chunker and the Cuton Ditch

Saturday, 4th February 2023

Despite a number of our regular volunteers not being able to take part, and even some last-minute cancellations, between us the hard work of members of two groups meant that we managed to accomplish what we had planned (although if you are reading this and had considered joining us but didn't, we could have done with some extra volunteers in both groups!)

The Heybridge Team got tooled up and were soon on their way.

Our volunteers are generally well thought of, but clearly there was some attitude from this observer!

This team's task was to clear the 'pit' that rainwater, and especially floodwater, collects in at Heybridge ready to pass under the Navigation. The original design used a long wooden 'box', made of elm, called a 'chunker' and buried below the Navigation. Here's a picture of two sections of the originals placed on top of each other.

Having failed (not necessarily as a result of the original design or workmanship) the wooden chunker was replaced in 2010 with concrete pipes. And a smarter collecting pit was constructed. Chelmer Canal Trust has removed pennywort from this pit, as have others, over the years. The build up of pennywort now was such that, with other debris having been thrown in, there was a risk of the chunker becoming blocked or not carrying the flow of water needed in flood conditions.

To start the process off a grappling hook was ideal

As was a crome on a rope (not to be confused with the unwanted Christmas Present, a Soap on a Rope).

Steady progress was made

And of course what gets dragged out has to be taken away.

With good progress being made, time for refreshments!

Then back for more, including the important aspect of catching and removing the smaller fragments that, if left, will form further dense mats later in the year.

In case it was needed, a picture to prove what a thorough job had been done!

And indeed it had

Then off back to base, with the opportunity to start the training of a potential new work boat skipper.

Also at 9 am that morning the Sandford Team were getting ready for action towards the upper end of the Navigation.

Like the Heybridge Team, they were to travel by work boat making a shorter journey time and meaning that carrying tools and equipment was less arduous.

Here's the ditch and here's an example of the pennywort they were there to remove

Once onsite, straight on with the job!

And like the Heybridge Team, excellent teamwork meant that good progress could be made

Not bank-to-bank, and not as dense as the pennywort being dealt with by the Heybridge Team, the pennywort in this ditch was more fragile and needing care if it was to be removed successfully.

Nevertheless, good progress was made and before they knew it it was time to head back to the work boat for refreshments.

Then back to the ditch to complete the work right the way down to where the ditch flows into the Navigation.

It's challenging working on that sloping bank - but it has to be done!

A final look at the ditch which, at the point we left it, was significantly clear of pennywort

Then time to cast off and return to Sandford.

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Busting Weed (but not of the Pennywort variety!) All Saints Church, Springfield.

27th January 2023

Not our usual sort of Weedbusting. Not a hint of Pennywort!

Our task today was to clean up the tomb of Richard Coates, who, as Resident Engineer during the four-year construction of the Navigation oversaw all of the works and who later became a major barge owner and carrier. He lived from 1763 to 1822 and is buried in All Saints Church graveyard, Springfield. A plaque at Coates Quay (named in tribute to him) remembers him. There's more about the history of the Navigation here.

As far as we know the last time a work party cleaned the tomb up was in 2003! A lot of vegetation has grown since then so if we were going to clean the tomb up, first we had to find it!

The tomb is in there somewhere.

Our three volunteers, experienced in all aspects of weedbusting, were soon at work with secateurs and loppers, removing the brambles from around the railings and with one volunteer inside the fence removing ivy from the tomb itself.

Strong gardening gloves were the order of the day.

An hour and a half in and we were making good progress. Time for a refreshment break.

Then back to tidy up and finish off. What a difference we'd made!

The tomb is looking a whole lot better now. Almost back to the condition it was in 201 years ago (although we don't think that 'eco cross' does it any favours!).

We plan to come back at some point to give the railings a coat of paint and return the finials to their original colour.

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