21st April  2013

The crew of the Chesterfield Canal Trust’s ex-British Waterways working boat, Python, has been helping to clear overgrown shrubbery from the channel near Wiseton.

Having handed over a hopper, Amanda Morgan, the Volunteer Leader from C&RT, gave a briefing on the day’s volunteering. She came bearing all the tools and Health & Safety equipment that would be needed.

Despite very strong winds, Richard Allsopp, an expert helmsman, managed to manoeuvre Python and the hopper into the very shallow offside bank. Before long, lengths of willow, ivy and other unidentified bits of vegetation were being lopped with incredible speed and efficiency.

Later in the day, the group met a C&RT crew hard at work with a mini-digger repairing the side of the canal. This demonstrated why such work is so useful. The volunteers could do the simple cutting back in order to free up the skilled guys from C&RT to perform the more heavy-duty repairs to the bank side.

This was the latest expression of a burgeoning relationship between the two Trusts.

The Chesterfield Canal Trust’s promotional trailer, James Brindley, attended the very successful Stret Lock Open Day last November. This was followed by a meeting between several of the Canal Trust’s members and some local C&RT managers. Both groups found lots of common ground.

Seán McGinley, C&RT East Midlands Waterway Manager, came to speak at the Canal Trust’s AGM in March. It is hoped that C&RT will have a presence at the Chesterfield Canal Festival at Staveley Town Basin at the end of June.

C&RT are keen to set up a scheme for regular volunteers. Kath Auton, Volunteer Co-ordinator for the Chesterfield Canal Trust, said “This is great news. We have a long tradition of working successfully with the Derbyshire Countryside Service on the western end of the canal. It would be great to have a similar relationship with the Canal & River Trust on the eastern end.”

Apart from the usual winter maintenance, C&RT have widened Stret Lock, long an obstacle for some boats, and have carried out an extensive programme of weed extraction and dredging.

Michael Edwards, Chesterfield Canal Trustee, said “The works carried out over the winter have not only been completed efficiently but also to the highest standard. In particular, the weed and towpath cutting have restored both the canal and its towpath to its former glory.”

Like most bodies interested in canals, the Chesterfield Canal Trust was pleased to hear the rhetoric when C&RT was created. However, its hard-bitten members wanted to see what would happen in practical terms on the canal before passing judgement. Thus far, things are looking good.