We are all coming to terms with life in a Covid-19 global pandemic and the volunteers helping the Canal Authority have started to work on some tasks to help welcome visitors to the canal. These are on top of the routine Lengthsmen monitoring – though it is a sad point to note that there has been an increase of used face masks being discarded along the towpath, another biohazard that we can do without.
Each task has a full risk assessment that the volunteers must read and comply with. For example a maximum of 3 crew members are on either of the two workboats, the weedcutter has a crew of two, and any vegetation management work is done in a bubble of two people, with no sharing of equipment, cars, etc.
With that as a context, what have Society Members been doing?
The Hampshire workboat crew (Cheryl, Ian, Chris, Sue and Peter in rotation) have been engaged in pulling out weed from the winding hole near King John’s Castle in Odiham (above) – otherwise boats would find it challenging to turn around without fouling their props.
While en route to the site the crew were also tasked with removing fallen branches out of the canal.
While the Surrey workboat was moved up to the Deepcut depot to pick up timber for stop planks – crewed by Ian, Peter and John, with Richard providing encouragement from the towpath.
On the subject of weed, the cutter crews (Geoff, Richard and John in rotation) have been out clearing Hydrocotyle from Lock 7 down to the junction with the River Wey, though a lot remains that will have to be pulled out by hand.
The vegetation along the towpath has in parts started to constrain the width quite considerably, and, for example, in Woking the warning signs indicating deep water were completely hidden by shrub growth, A mornings work from a bubble of two (Ken and Ian) using one of the new electric hedgecutters, with a Ranger taking the arisings away in large dumpy bags.
Rechargeable hand tools will gradually replace the older petrol driven tools over time as we all strive to be greener.
A team of 6 volunteers (Alan, Ian, Ken, Pete, Martin and Richard) in 3 bubbles supported the BCA vegetation survey by cutting nearly 700 1m wide ‘slots’ at predefined intervals from Greywell Tunnel to the junction with the River Wey.