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Wrgies at Whitminster

Christmas Work Camp on The Stroudwater

Thirty members of the Waterway Recovery Group spent the recent holiday period — Boxing Day to New Year’s Day — hard at work on the Stroudwater Navigation.Photo by Tim Lewis (Waterway Recovery Group)

Action afloat

Even though this section of the Stroudwater Navigation was formally abandoned in 1954, it nevertheless has some reassuringly wide and deep water still evident.
A profusion of willow trees — often referred to as Crack Willow — have thrived on the abundant water supply.
However, the pollarding regime normally applied to waterside trees in order to maintain a navigable channel, has lapsed over the years. This means very many branches and some entire trees have fallen into the canal.

Photo by Tim Lewis (Waterway Recovery Group)

From far and wide

The men and women of the Waterway Recovery Group, travelled from all over the UK to carry out preparatory work in clearing the channel and towpath at various points between Whitminster Lock and Whitminster Roundabout on the A38.

Supportive landowners

Jon Pontefract of the Stroud District Council Canal Restoration Team brokered five separate access permissions with land owners.

Jon explained, “This is part of the next piece of the restoration to connect the Cotswold Canals with the national waterways system. A further bid for Heritage Lottery Funding is being prepared for submission in November 2017.

“The various landowners have been very positive and encouraging. Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust was also involved and advised the wrgie team on the use of cleared timber to create stag beetle pyramids in nearby woodland.”

A significant happening

Dave Marshall, Canal Restoration Project Manager for Stroud District Council comments… “This is a significant happening – it is the first time that a visiting Waterway Recovery Group team has worked on this part of the canal.

“From now on, there will be a steady ramping up of volunteer activity ahead of the ‘Saul to Stonehouse — Complete & Connected’  Lottery bid in November.”

On towards the next bit

WRG Work Camp Leader Dave Hearnden commented “This has been a good project for our members. Many of the team have already been involved on lock repairs and other structural work on the Thames & Severn Canal and the restored part of the Stroudwater in recent years. This is just ‘natural progression’ as far as we are concerned…

“On towards the next bit to link up with the main system at Saul”

That ‘next bit’ has included the clearance of 20 years of tree and bramble growth from Whitminster Lock. (Before pic by wrgie Alan Lines)                                                                                             (After pic by Tim Lewis)

Occupation Bridge also received some attention

Aerial photo by Tim Lewis 

Why do they do what they do?

This question is often asked by people impressed by the work the wrgies do free of charge, whilst also paying for their food and accommodation on a work camp.
Here is one possible answer…. the beauty of the canalside in winter. Tim Lewis took this photo ‘on the way to work at Whitminster early on a frosty morning’.

Time passes — work progresses

The Waterway Group has been actively restoring navigation to the canals and rivers of England since 1966. It attracts people from a diverse range of backgrounds and experience.

Dave Hearndon’s Christmas Camp group ages ranged from 23-73 years. The team included Frances, a trainee medical doctor, two serving army officers, a driving instructor, two social workers and a London based local government officer. One team member told us she would be driving home to Dundee on New Year’s Day!

Find out more

Click here to find out about stag beetle pyramids

Time to spare and energy to share?