Waterway Recovery Group Christmas Holiday
Report by Martin Thompson
'The Great Escape' may have been on TV yet again this Christmas, but fourteen hardy souls escaped the TV schedules to work off Christmas calories by restoring a length of the Cotswold Canals. The brave group are members of The Waterway Recovery Group. These people are affectionately referred to throughout the Inland Waterways as 'The WRGies'!
A wet week for working on a waterway
Water from above and water underfoot, both in copious quantities, failed to deter the enthusiasm of the volunteers who had paid for the privilege of being part of what the Waterway Recovery Group refer to as 'The Post Xmas – See in the New Year Work Camp'.
The work site location was the Eastern end of the Cotswold Canals at Rucks Bridge just downstream of Eisey Lock. (Map Ref: SU 122953)
Volunteers from far and near
Fourteen volunteers from as far away as Cumbria, Devon, Cambridgeshire and Essex arrived in Gloucestershire on Boxing Day.
Their task was to clear the towpath and canal channel of trees, scrub and undergrowth.
Led by the man all WRGies know as 'RAF' Martin Thompson, the collective included three teachers, an accountant, a BT technician, and a local authority welfare officer.
All camped on the floor of Watchfield Village Hall near Shrivenham in Wiltshire.
Specialist & local support
Members of the the specially trained & equipped WRG Forestry Team as well as locally based CCT volunteers visited the work site during the week.
Particularly well received was CCT's recently appointed Chairman – Mike Guest.
Jon Pontefract, the local project coordinator, escorted Mike around site to view the ongoing works.
Mike thanked all the volunteers for their sterling efforts under such testing conditions.
He also took the opportunity to get his brand new high viz jacket very muddy!
Waste not – want not
Heavier timber produced by the scrub clearing was collected for processing by the CCT's Log Delivery Service Team.
David Pagett, a.k.a. The Logman, was particularly pleased with this apect of the WRGie's endeavours.
David reports that sales of quality fire wood are increasing.
Photographs by WRG's John Hawkins
Outcome of all the effort
Despite losing half a day to some serious rain storms, approximately 150 metres of tow path was cleared of scrub. Numerous tree stumps were dug out by the CCT mini excavator or hand winched out by WRG.
A couple of stalwart WRGies donned chest high waders and life jackets to tackle trees and bushes growing in the canal bed under 1.1 metres of water. The branches were taken by boat to the bonfire site on the towpath.
During one particularly wet morning, WRG volunteers found some shelter in the barn at CCT's Eastern Depot. They engaged in some very effective splitting of Eastern End's logs. This was in readiness for an urgent New Year log delivery.
Fun after hours
The evening social calendar was equally active. After hot showers and awesome evening meals group members would chill out with with games or a good book.
Trips out were taken to challenge the Wilts & Berks Canal work camp at Dauntsey to skittles.
Local hostelries also benefited from the the fact that The Wrgies were in the area!
A thank you or two
WRG would like to thank all the CCT team for their help, especially the Eastern Depot team for their hospitality and use of their facilities. This was very welcome considering the prevailing weather conditions.
The accommodation at Watchfield village hall lived up to its reputation of being one the best accommodation facilities WRG use. All the WRG volunteers were unanimous in their wish to come back again to work on the Cotswold Canals.
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