Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Taming the laurels on the Museum Green

By Rob Westlake, Dec 10 2014
The Friends of the Canal Museum are preparing costings for some remedial works to the Museum Green. Over the last couple of summers, the area of the former Canal Arm and Dock have subsided and in places the original edging stones have been revealed.
The Green is used extensively for the Village Canal Events – and finding a level area on which to erect marquees is getting more difficult.
The Laurel hedge along the northern side of the Green has become very overgrown and has encroached onto the usable area by 4 or 5 metres.
The resident of the adjacent house has lost a lot of sunlight – particularly in the winter when the low sun never enters their garden.
After discussion with CRT – it was agreed that this work could be carried out and arrangements made to cart away 3 or 4 lorry loads of the arisings.
So the team set to work – and a huge pile of branches quickly covered a large area. By midday – only about half of the length of the hedge had been cut.

After discussions with our volunteer coordinator – a stop was called to enable the material to be stacked and loaded onto the CRT maintenance gang’s truck.
2 loads were carted away, but more couldn’t be done that day.
So the site was tidied up and 2 of our members assisted by our coordinator Graham returned the following morning to help load another 3 truck loads which were carted away.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Recovering the ash box for the second time

By Rob Westlake, Nov 12 2014
The Adoption Group had spent a couple of days last year working around Lock 15, clearing back the vegetation and replacing sections of rotten arris rail around the side ponds.
The overgrowing foliage around the brick built ‘Ash-Box’ at Lock 15 had been trimmed back and the adjacent section of brick wall exposed for the first time for many years.
The hedge and ivy had again completely engulfed the area again, so this was cut back and a long section of the adjacent brick wall cleared of ivy. The Ash-Box was excavated and entangled roots and debris removed – including an engine flywheel and other unidentifiable metalwork. The remaining soil was dug through and planted up with daffodil bulbs.
These had been kindly donated by Young’s Nurseries at Blisworth. Initially we were given 4 trays – each containing about 150 bulbs.
Bulbs were also planted under the hedge along the towpath back towards the village and around the trees on the offside of Lock 15.
The towpath edging around the side ponds and the ash box was dug out – revealing quality edging bricks – which had seen the daylight for many years.
The following week, a couple of the team members meet again and planted another 6 trays of daffodil and narcissi bulbs.
The contents of 3 were planted along the towpath and up onto the Woodland Walk. 3 trays of bulbs were planted around the trees either side of Lock 14 and the bridge and then along the car park side of the Museum Green.


Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Removal of head banging branches

By Rob Westlake, Oct 8 2014
Concerns about overhanging trees had been raised by the gentleman that organises the Health Walks around Stoke Bruerne.
On inspection - the problem was that branches that had been sawn off in previous years by CRT's contractors - had re-sprouted and the weight of the summer foliage had lowered the whole branches.
So we set too work and cut back the foliage and then sawed of the offending branches - at a number of locations along the long pound.
That was the easy part of job. The arisings then had to be chopped up and disposed of - generally by filling gaps in the hedgerow and along the boundary fence.
The cutting only took a couple of hours - but the clearing of the towpath kept us busy well into the afternoon.
The rest of the team worked on the Woodland Walk - clearing back the rampantly growing brambles - to ensure the pathway is easier to use.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Preparations for Stoke Bruerne's Village at War event

By Rob Westlake, Sep 11, 2014
The volunteers carried out some tidying up work around the Locks and the Museum Area in readiness for the Weekend 'At War'.
The Dry Lock area was weeded and litter removed. Weeding was done around the Top Lock and along the canal edge to the Museum Green.
The paint pots were brought out, and the lock beams re-painted, along with the lockside edging.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

In readiness for Red Wheel

By Rob Westlake, Aug 14 2014 As our CRT coordinator Miriam was on holiday, John Highmore arranged the delivery of power and hand tools along with the necessary safety equipment.
Graham Newman from Braunston - another volunteer coordinator joined us for the day.
Our thanks to Graham for his help and ensuring all tasks were carried out safely.
7 other volunteers joined us for all or part of the day.
The planned work for the day centred around 2 areas.
Firstly, a tidy up of the area around Lock 14.

The dry lock was again cleared of weeds and some litter. The grass banks either side of the road bridge were raked off - with dead grass cuttings and leaves removed.
The hedge alongside the lock adjacent to the 'Spice of Bruerne' car park was cut. The verge and hedge adjacent to the disabled car parking bays by the bridge was also trimmed and tidied.  Secondly, some members of the group then returned to the south portal of Blisworth Tunnel, to again tidy up the area in readiness for the Red Wheel Plaque unveiling ceremony on 22nd August. CRT's grass cutting contractor had that morning cut the grass bank around the 'tunnel segment', so this area was raked off and the brambles and bushes trimmed back. A small amount of foliage was cut back on the offside adjacent to the portal. A number of low hanging branches along the towpath were trimmed and those overgrowing the tunnel information signs were cleared.

During the afternoon, a couple of our volunteers walked up and down the long pound to lock 16 - to cut back some of the rampantly growing brambles, wild roses and other foliage to ensure towpath users don't have to duck and dodge.
The rest of the group spent the afternoon clearing back the ever evading brambles and bushes along the woodland walk. CRT's contractors had cut a swathe either side of the path, which helped enormously, but brambles grow out at head height and seem to grow extremely rapidly.

Since the last task day, CRT arranged for the Tunnel Plaques erected in 1984 to mark the re-opening of the tunnel after the major re-construction, to be removed from the southern and northern portals. These have been cleaned and graffiti removed and then re-painted. CRT's staff replaced the plaques last week. Stoke Bruerne Canal Partnership is also investigating the replacement of the small plaque which was fixed to the portal to mark the 200th anniversary of the opening of the tunnel in 2005.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Saving a Vole

19th July, 2014 by Rob Westlake: After the preliminary discussions the previous month, CRT Heritage wouldn't let us do anything more than 'spring-clean' the former stable block up near the tunnel. This work took the form of a 'dust' of the internal roof and beams along with the walls. The oldest graffiti was dated in the 1960's and some of the cobwebs dated from this era!! The floor was swept and several barrowfuls of leaves carted away.
Steve and Kathryn removed most of the ivy from the gable ends and the bushes and weeds cut back to enable the building to be 'seen' again.

Our attentions were then transferred to the southern tunnel portal. The blockwork towpath from the Blacksmiths to the portal was weeded and swept. Brambles and weeds cleared back that were encroaching on the 'tunnel section ring' - placed on the embankment beside the tunnel in 1984 after the re-lining of the central section. Weeds and ivy were removed from the tunnel portal.

After an abortive morning, waiting for a certain hire company to deliver equipment, our CRT Volunteer co-coordinator Miriam arrived with a strimmer and a hedgecutter. Our 2 'certified' power tool members set to work to clear the offside area of the approach to the tunnel. This revealed a set of Stop Planks which we reckon CRT probably don't even know they had!
Have they been used since 1984?

The whole area around the tunnel does look much more 'cared for'.
A small tidy up just before the planned ceremony on the 22 August is hopefully all that will be required - for the unveiling of a Red Wheel Plaque by the Transport Heritage Trust. This has been planned on the 30th anniversary of the re-opening of the tunnel after the closure of 4 years to enable the major re-construction of the central section.

2 highlights of the morning.
A water vole - swimming along the edge of the offside piling - and Miriam's brave efforts to rescue.
An Osprey flying overhead - witnessed by Rob and Miriam. Not the majestic bird of prey, but the US Air Force CV-22

The rest of the day was spent trimming back the every encroaching brambles and nettles along the woodland walk and cutting the hedge alongside the towpath between the Museum Green and the Woodland walk.

Next task day is planned for the 13th August.

Monday, 23 June 2014

A 'spruce-up' day just a few days before the Stoke Bruerne Family Festival.

By Rob Westlake, Jun 23 2014: 
Work achieved.
Weeds and rubbish removed from in and around the dry lock and the Top
Top lock gate beams repainted.
Lock hinge date plates repainted in black and the numbers repainted in
white - special thanks to Miriam (CRT Volunteer co-coordinator).
Removal of overhanging vegetation and nettles from the long pound and also the towpath up to the tunnel and along the woodland walk. Litter picked throughout the area.

During the course of the day the Stable building - just south of the tunnel was inspected and suggestions made about it's future possible use. Also, the northern end of the Woodland walk path was also inspected, after a report of an accident the previous weekend. A possible extension along the former plateway track bed might remove the need for the present steeply sloping link out onto the boathorse road.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

WHO planned 2 local working parties on the same day...!

12th March, 2014 by Rob Westlake: Today, the Museum Green was again raked to remove loads of branches and twigs brought down in the recent gales.
One group spent the rest of the day up the Woodland Walk - trimming back foliage and brambles and removing a couple of ivy covered fallen trees. Litter and many dog poo bags were cleared up and the leaves rakes off the path.
3 of us spent time down on the long pound, removing overhanging vegetation and brambles and then attacking a couple of huge willow trees - removing dead branches and several branches that were intent on reaching the towpath...!
Attached are a couple of lunch break photos - on Kathryn's front doorstep. The gentleman on the left of the first photo is Graham Newman - from Braunston. He's another of Miriam's second in command co-coordinators, as Miriam was with the Northampton IWA Group down at Lock 17. Now - WHO planned 2 local working parties on the same day...!
A couple of volunteers spent a good while 'fishing' twigs, branches, pieces of driftwood and float litter out of the cut just above Lock 14 and  the blanked off entrance to the 'dry lock'. A good barrowful was retrieved, including an armadillo! What - in the canal at Stoke!
It's actually come from the scaffolding that has been erected around the Museum for the external maintenance works. It is a bright yellow scaffold fitting cover, used to protect human heads and limbs from accidental injury from protruding scaffold clip bolts - when on a publicly accessible route.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

A bit of a wash out

11th February, 2014 by Rob Westlake: The work party on the 11th February was rather of a wash out - though we did venture up the Boat Horse Road and inspected the water channel from the small car park where Bob the Blacksmith parks his van - right up to the old SMJR railway line. This is an amazing brick lined channel - probably built with local 'Stoke' bricks. We cleared out some debris and cut back some overhanging trees and scrub and brambles. A fair amount of bricks have become dislodged over the years and one day it would be good to do some repairs.
Anyway - the water course is now much clearer, though very little water was seemingly entering the canal from the culvert under the towpath? So where is it going?

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Short back and sides

January 14, 2014 by Rob Westlake: Working down by Lock 15. That day started by raking all the leaves and debris off the Museum Green, and then some vegetation bashing at the start of the long pound down from Lock 15. I also gave one of the bushes on the lockside a 'short back and sides'.