Staff, volunteers and partners talk about life working with and for The Waterways Trust
From Alan Forrester:
Busy, busy, busy!
My wee Fiesta has been a one-seater for some time now. It
seems to be permanently filled with boxes, boots, waterproofs and
hi-vis vests these days. Last week - Monday was a recce day
for the Green Action Project in Falkirk, Tuesday was the induction
day for new project Woods & Canals on Prescription based at
Auchinstarry Basin, near Kilsyth.
Wednesday was canal walk day with an Edinburgh primary school in
the Blue Motion Project, Thursday, another school walk and finally
on Friday it was Green Action Kilsyth.
The participants in Woods & Canals are middle-aged to elderly
and all suffer some form of long-term medical condition. The
project aims to encourage them to get out and get active more and
to that end, they will undertake a series of 12 walking and forest
Yesterday was their first action day and they all absolutely loved
it! Kitted out in safety boots, waterproofs and hi-vis, they
enjoyed a canal walk, learned how to use a Kelly kettle in the
woods and composed a joint poem celebrating the outdoors.
They were as high as kites walking back, as excited as the children
I take on walks.
One lady told me she had lived only 2 or 3 miles away for almost
40 years and never knew the basin or woodland was there. Few
if any of this group would venture along the canal or into the
woods on their own so it was very satisfying to see them explore
and revel in the waterway and woodland environment right on their
doorsteps. I overheard one lady saying, "Just wait till I get
back and tell my pals what they've missed"!
Woods & Canals is jointly delivered by The Waterways Trust
Scotland and Forestry Commission Scotland.
Hi my name's Sarah and I'm a volunteer for Waterways Action
Squad helping with the Volunteer Conference and Celebration Event
that's coming up on 15th June. As the current
project reaches its end, Waterways Action Squad want to receive
some form of evaluation from anyone who has been involved, and also
to celebrate everything that the project has achieved over the past
It's been great to see the type of opportunities Waterways
Action Squad has created for young people and the difference it has
made in restoring and protecting the local waterways as well as how
it has affected the volunteers. So we decided to create this event
so you can come along and try out some of the opportunities we have
done, such as willow-weaving and aquatic surveying, as well as
being able to tell us how Waterways Action Squad has affected you
in the past two years. We'll also be having a celebration later in
the day to say thank you to all volunteers, with an awards ceremony
for volunteers' contributions to the project, a delicious BBQ and
other activities like bell-boating and water-zorbing.
Volunteer Conference and Celebration Event
Wednesday 15th June
12:30-7:30 p.m. Awards start at 3 p.m.
National Waterways Museum, South Pier Road, Ellesmere Port, CH65
If you'd like any more information please email either Simon (firstname.lastname@example.org)
or Emma (email@example.com).
Looking forward to seeing you there!
An entry from Hazel, our volunteer leader:
Wednesday is Leeds-Liverpool day in my work diary, so I set off
as usual to meet the volunteers in Maghull, Sefton for a spot of
bridge painting. Alas, no sooner had we got to the site and
unloaded the paint but the sky greyed over and started to drizzle -
not enough to put we hardcore conservationists off mind; just
enough to mean the paint had no chance of sticking!
Not to be deterred, we picked up loppers instead to prune back
some trees that were pulling apart the wash wall of the canal, then
we set off to do a wildlife audit of the stretch, concentrating on
breeding water birds and the hedge. This last task needed
doing so that Matt Taylor from British Waterways can get a handle
on how many whips to order - he has the noble aim of getting all
the boundaries into decent shape in the next few years, and that
includes laying the hedges and filling all the gaps -brilliant for
wildlife, and something that Waterways Action Squad has already
started with in Maghull. I was pleased to see that the section of
hedge we laid last year and the new baby trees we planted were in
good nick with new leaves and even some flower buds out.
The other highlight was spotting the first little ducklings of
spring - 14 of them! They were so tiny they can't have been
more than a day or two old, sooooo cute!
So, now for results: We surveyed just over a mile of canal,
identifying 646m worth of hedge gaps to be replanted ; we counted
33 male and 9 female mallards, with 14 ducklings! (we think
the other females must be sitting on eggs - or maybe just hiding
out to avoid the boisterous male attention!) 6 moorhens, 1 magpie,
8 coots, 1 blackbird and 2 swans. Add to that some 7-spot
ladybirds, ancient willow trees sending up new shoots from the
stumps, 3 trolleys in the cut and some pesky japanese knotweed
making an appearance, and we had a whole heap of information to
help BW monitor and improve the canal habitat.
Emma, one of the volunteers, summed it up when she said 'it's
been lovely today -lots of nice things and ducks and stuff'.
That's the waterways in spring all over.
I'm in the office on my own today so enjoying the
opportunity to get lots of work done without the temptation to talk
constantly and eating lots of biscuits without having to worry
about looking like a glutton. Optimistically I wore sandals
today, forgetting that despite sunshine outside, The Island
Warehouse at the National Waterways Museum is one of the coldest
places inhabited by man. I think it is the age and size of
the building coupled with it's location next to the Dee Estuary and
We had a lovely weekend here at the museum with the lively
Easter Boat Gathering. I love the laidback and buzzy
atmosphere and the hundreds of boats that arrive for the long
weekend make the site so vibrant and interesting. I brought
my baby and my mum down on Saturday which saw us enjoying hog roast
and cupcakes in the sunshine and mum hesitantly tried her
first glass of real ale. Enormous Adventures in Film were
here interviewing some of our young volunteers and also speaking to
some of the more established volunteers about their opinions on our
project and youth volunteering. Simon was also here with a
fancy video camera and some young volunteers to record a series of
interviews for a short film documenting 40 years of volunteering on
the waterways. This heritage documentary will first be shown
at the Crick Boat Show next month. Some of our young
volunteers, who have been engaged in comedy and drama workshops at
the museum performed at the Easter Boat Gathering too and I know
that the 'Comedy cruise' was particularly well received.
Today, when not eating biscuits and doing star jumps to keep
warm, I am starting work on a Managing Volunteers handbook which
will serve as a guide and a support tool for any staff members
wishing to engage young volunteers in their work. It is
something I've been meaning to do for a long time now and
never find the time so I best get back to it (!)
I was off for much of last week so whilst complaining that I had
nothing super exciting to write about today, my colleague Simon
jumped at the chance to share his experiences at the NCBA AGM
Yesterday I accompanied two of our young volunteers down to
London so that they could contribute to the AGM of the National
Community Boat Association.
Luke and Jonny had completed the Community Boat Leadership
Programme, run by NCBA, back in February. Along with four other
volunteers they learned boat handling, wildlife and environmental
knowledge, and the heritage of the waterways over the course of
four days. Part of the course required the participants to organise
an event, and this was based at the National Waterways Museum with
all volunteers dressed in period costume and demonstration boat
handling and lock operation to members of the public.
Luke was asked by NCBA to speak to the meeting about his
experience on the course and how it has benefitted him as an
individual. His presentation went down very well with the assembled
guests with some good questions after. Luke was complimented on his
presentation by one of the NCBA trustees and he was wished all the
best with his job hunting.
Prior to the presentation Jonny and Luke helped along with other
volunteers from NCBA to take guests for a short trip down the canal
to show off their boat handling skills.
We are looking to continue our relationship with NCBA in the
future and are trying to secure funding to allow us to do this.
Well, I'm back from maternity leave and pleased to find that
Waterways Action Squad have been busy in my absence although
disappointing to see they have managed to function spectacularly
well without me... There's been all sorts of changes and
exciting projects that I've missed out on such as a Horsedrawn
boating inspired willow weaving in the museum grounds, music
projects, residentials, dry-stone walling, invertebrates
investigation and miles of new or improved hedges along the
towpaths of the North west. I'm making up for lost time
though and have organised some more art and installation projects
in Crewe and Ellesmere Port. I'm also helping Simon to
organise our Volunteer Conference and Celebration event on 8th June
(date for your diaries please). Today I have had a meeting
with Enormous Adventures in film about a DVD to promote and
showcase our project. They can engage 3 young volunteers to
help with all aspects of the film making which is exciting news so
I'll be starting to recruit volunteers for that today.
From Kim, Trust Development Manager:
Today I'm working on the Stroud Canal
restoration project. This is a project with huge aspirations,
aiming to link the Thames with the River Severn through the
restoration of the Stroudwater and Thames & Severn Canals.
The Cotswold Canals Trust has
kept the project alive over the last 30 years; without their
efforts there would be no canal left to restore. This is typical of
the work that The Waterways Trust does, working in partnership with
the community and other groups to deliver waterside projects that
meet the needs and aspirations of the neighbourhood.
I'm working on an application for a flagship volunteering
project on the Cotswold Canals at the moment, the whole project
owes so much to the efforts of the community and volunteers that
it's not very hard to develop a convincing case. It's an
exciting opportunity as this will provide us with a chance to reach
out into the community and get people who wouldn't normally
volunteer involved. The final project will deliver a resource
which the community will own and be responsible for, could this be
Big Society in action?
I'm off to Leicester tomorrow to revisit the strategy for the
waterside with the River Soar
Partnership. I'm looking forward to it and to the
journey up there - plenty of quiet time on the train to get more of
my application done!
Development Manager, Kim Chester:
Today is Monday and what better way to start the week than with
a colleague's birthday marked by cake; I'm meant to be swimming
tonight but I can feel my will power ebbing away with each bit of
icing - does fruit cancel out cake I wonder?
I've spent most of today working my way through my email box.
We're involved in such a diverse range of projects that it
can be complicated trying to stay on top of all of them at once.
For example the advert for the Volunteer Co-ordinator on the
Heartlands Canal has
now gone live but the project manager isn't in post until April 4th
so I'm fielding all the calls in her absence.
It's such an exciting project and new ground for us. The
canal in this area is very typical of an industrial heartland -
surrounded by factories which cut the community off from the
waterway. Over time as freight on the canal dwindled so many
of the factories closed, some have new uses but very few include
the canal so they have all turned their backs on the canal.
It makes walking along the canal a very closed off isolated
experience that isn't at all welcoming. In addition the local
residential community are primarily first and second generation
refugees and immigrants; they have no connection with the
industrial heritage of the canal.
This project sets out to work with the local businesses, the
factory owners and the employees, to help them understand what the
canal can do for them. The impact of a wildlife rich canal
that is clean and attractive cannot be undervalued as it attracts
visitors and greater use but we need their help if we are to
achieve this vision. In addition we're working through
community events and with schools to try to challenge the local
perception that the canal is a dark and dangerous place to be.
Check out the job
details if you're interested in applying.
From Kim Chester:
It's been quite a frustrating day already with lots of urgent
emails pinging into my mail box. I had planned to spend today
writing an application for Gloucester Waterways
Museum but it doesn't look likely to happen. I have,
however, met my new colleague Alex Ball.
Alex will be leading fundraising on the Montgomery Canal
project, this is a wonderful project with huge scope for some
ambitious environmental projects. It looks like one of her
main funders will be the EU; it's an area I've looked at a few
times but it requires a lot of time and some very careful juggling
of project priorities and partnership working, I am not envious of
the task ahead of her but welcome on board Alex!
Yesterday I spent the day on a site visit round the Olympics -
sadly not into the heart of the site though. I'm looking at
developing a project for the waterways around the Lower Leaside
areas that will bind together the heritage that has been dug up
during the Olympics preparation, with heritage that is still
standing. It's really good to be involved in a project which
doesn't have a deadline of the start of the Olympics. All the
same the challenge of designing, fundraising and delivering a
project in time for the end of the Olympics is still pretty
After that we had a Partnership meeting at Three Mills
in Bromley by Bow for an update on the restoration of the House
Mill and then a long train ride home. Roll on Friday!
Today's thoughts from Kim:
What a beautiful start to the day! I had a little lie in
as I was home late last night and then I got to run through the
woods near my home before hoping on the train and coming into work.
Spring is bursting through and the sap is most definitely
Now its back to the office and it's a welcome change that sees
me based out of the office for a whole day; a meeting in London was
cancelled so I have the whole day to work on a tender for a
potential project. It sounds really interesting but it's a
very complex project on a tight deadline so we need to make sure
that we can deliver what we promise and at the right price both for
us and for the client.
A day at the office also means I can catch up with my post and
also have a proper lunch rather than a sarnie grabbed on the go.
I'm meeting up with my sister today and we'll be trying out
one of the new restaurants around Gloucester Docks. It's a beautiful place
to be and the new designer shopping arcade is a real boon to
shopping and getting those forgotten gifts!
Yesterday I was in Manchester at an Access to Nature evaluation
training day. It was a great opportunity to take a good hard
look at our Birmingham project and really identify what it was that
we were doing and how we were going to measure that. It's
very tempting when dealing with a blank sheet of paper to design
complex and sophisticated evaluation tools but often the simplest
methods are the best. We spent a lot of time looking at the
beneficiaries and it was amazing to realize the true impact of the
project and just how many people we had the potential to reach.
So if you go down to the Heartlands Ring in Birmingham in the
next month or so be prepared to be stopped and asked or counted or
involved in some way shape or form!
Find out more about how we working with our partners to
transofrm Birmingham Heartlands
Canal Ring into a resource for the whole community.