Waterway Recovery Group on a working holiday in the West Country Part 1.
Waterway Recovery Group members (the ‘wrgies’) have been making their considerable presence felt on the western reaches of the Stroudwater Navigation throughout the season of the Winter Solstice.
Over thirty ‘wrgie’ volunteers arrived in Brimscombe on Boxing Day in their trademark red vans & T shirts. Their given task was ‘scrub bashing’ on both sides of the Bonds Mill pound along the Stroudwater Navigation in Stonehouse.
This length of canal is in the next phase of the restoration between Saul Junction and Stonehouse. The general tidying up of the area is being carried out specifically to draw attention to the benefits of such restoration to people and wildlife.
Malcolm Hewlett an active member of the Waterway Recovery Group, although off duty on this occasion, called in at Wallbridge Visitor Centre on the morning of Wednesday 27th December. Malcolm was born in Stroud but now lives in Hove.
Malcolm explained that he and his son Matthew and a family friend Hedley Apperly (pictured left to right below) had brought a canoe to Stroud to recreate a canal journey he first carried out eight years ago.
Malcolm remarked he was pleased the day’s expedition would take him through the scrub bashing work site of his friends and wrgie colleagues.
Visitor Centre Staff were able to advise the trio that a call had just been received from a member of the public reporting a fallen willow tree across the canal channel at Haywards Bridge, Stonehouse. Suffice to say Malcolm appeared undaunted (something of wrgie trait) and paddled off towards Stonehouse.
It was not too long before he had sent through this photograph of an enormous multi limbed willow tree across the canal. It is likely that recent heavy snowfalls had weakened the ageing tree.
Malcom confirmed that the towpath was passable and that they had portaged their craft around the obstruction and were pressing on towards Bonds Mill via the steel tube beneath the railway at The Ocean at Stonehouse.
The fallen tree photo was forwarded to the wrgies at Bonds Mill as it was known that members of the elite ‘WRG Forestry Team’ were among the scrub bashing group. It was also known that they had brought their chain saws and Tirfor winches with them ‘just in case’.
Detached & despatched
A team of five were detached from scrub bashing duties and despatched to Haywards Bridge to deal with the fallen willow.
Ingenuity, experience and energy were applied in equal measure. Available resources nearby, a mud barge and work pontoon, were identified and utilised.
48 hours later the navigation was open once more for holiday canoers & kayakers. and made ready for the return of the restoration work boats next week.
A report on the Bonds Mill Pound Improvement Project will follow shortly