The wrgies are back in the Cotswolds
Big red Transit vans displaying the words ‘waterway recovery group’, in white lowercase, have been seen about the byeways of Brimscombe this week.
Impressive restoration work
Thirteen volunteer members of the Inland Waterways Association’s canal restoration group has been engaged in some very impressive restoration work at Griffin Mill Lock.
Sun tan & diesel oil
The people seen here labouring in the hot summer sunshine are actually on holiday! And whilst a scent of sun tan oil could be detected so was the waft of diesel oil.
The reconstruction of a lock built by hand way back in the 1700’s nowadays requires a range of modern tools, materials and motorised equipment.
Volunteers from all over the UK
The work camp team has been assembled from people who reside throughout the UK.
Accents to be heard on site reflect places of origin that include Shropshire, Worcestershire, Lancashire, Nottinghamshire, Tyne & Wear, Northumberland, Kent, London and Ireland.
The range of occupations and backgrounds is equally diverse. These include… Student (on the CV enhancing Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme); Youth Worker; HGV Driver; Motor Industry Area Manager; Railway Engineer; Digital Conversion Outreach Worker and Port of London Authority Boat Crew.
Work Camp Co-leader Mark Richardson explains how the Griffin Mill team was assembled & accommodated.
“This group was booked in to a job on a canal in the Midlands but that has been re-scheduled, so rather than stand them all down we offered our services to the Cotswold Canals. The accommodation provided is brilliant, loads of space on two floors and covered parking. Sheer luxury." Mark's enthusiastic endorsement is for a disused industrial unit in Brimscombe Port!
Interesting and challenging tasks
"The tasks are interesting here… we have some earth moving to do on the far side of the lock. We are using three diggers and two dumper trucks for that. The operators have all been trained by wrg.
"We are also carrying on with the job the CCT volunteers have been doing on reconstructing the by-wash and spill weir. That means laying bricks and some very big stones."
First photograph by Jonathan Mosse shows the reconstuction of the by-wash and spill weir
Second photo shows original coping stones being repositioned above the paddle chamber
Third photo shows the landscaping and reprofiling of the non towpath side
Fourth photo – Mark with WRG 1 E
When asked about the range and levels of the skills being applied to this work he replied…
“Wrg has so many people in the organisation who are willing and able to pass on their professional skills and tricks of the trade. Some are still working and come on what might be called a busman’s holiday break.
"Others are retirees keen to keep active and involved. All in all everybody benefits, with young people and new recruits learning new stuff all the time, and of course having fun meeting new people from all over."
It is about the people too
Mark’s Camp Leader colleague Bex Parr enlarged on this theme.
“What we do is not just about the job on the canal, it is also about the people. We see the same faces coming back to camps all over the country.
"We help them them learn and develop new skills and sometimes to develop their self-confidence. As a leader that is pretty good to see happening. You feel as if you have achieved many things on many different levels.
"Oh! And all the while… Mark and I are talent spotting for future Camp Leaders."
Asked to describe the reactions of the tow path passers by both smiled widely and described the many compliments and positive comments.
“The local people are obviously so keen to see it all happening" commented Mark.
Bex Parr added “They also want to see the canal finished and operational, so we tell them we are doing our best and sometimes suggest they come and join us!"
The atmosphere at Griffin Mill suggests that the wrgie team thrives on this positive approach; serious progress achieved through hard physical work and the application of skills in a setting of fun and conviviality.
Speaking of conviviality, the local hostelry, The Ship Inn at Brimscombe has welcomed the thirsty workers in the evenings. Mark smilingly explained…
“The Ship Inn has quenched our thirsts day and night… local ales at night and ‘Adams Ale’ in the day time… they allow us to use their outside tap to fill our water containers to take on site!”
The final picture tells the story of the commitment wrgies apply to their chosen mission. Mark’s campervan sports a unique personalised number plate… WRG 1 E
Interested in joining the volunteer teams?