Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Fallen branches and trees removed

By Rob Westlake, 9th December 2015: 
Considering the time of year, a considerable amount of work was achieved at this month’s task group meeting, with the group continuing to benefit from the help of Northampton Arm volunteers. Not only were fallen branches and leaves removed from the Museum green, but also from the area around the Stables and the Forge, including weeding out the block work path there. Meanwhile, other volunteers had brushed out the dry lock and weeded the lock sides and steps. Attention then turned to the towpath and offside track below the road bridge, cutting back overhanging vegetation, dead Sumac trees and a very invasive creeper taking over the hedge adjacent to the car park of the Navigation PH (with their permission).

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

A great volunteer effort!

By Rob Westlake, 11th November 2015: 
At intervals between the October and November meetings, small groups of volunteers had continued and completed the painting of the panel supporting beams, as weather had permitted.  Finally, the panels themselves were assembled and bolted to the beams. Job complete, a great volunteer effort. 

At the main task group meeting in November, the morning began with a huge leaf clearance off the Museum green and then the focus shifted to the Lower Locks parking area where, in addition to the usual litter pick, vegetation cut back improved its appearance.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

A hard day's graft!

By Rob Westlake, 14th October 2015: 
For some time, the Adoption Group had been waiting for news of when the installation of new interpretation boards all along the canal corridor would take place, as the group had offered to assist with this substantial task. The Stoke Bruerne regulars were joined by stalwart volunteers from the Northampton Arm task group, whose assistance was invaluable.
Prior to the October meeting, energetic volunteers had installed the metal supports made by Bob the Blacksmith for the oak beams which would hold the panels. At the task day, these were undercoated and painted in special black paint – quite a job in some places awkward to get at! Meanwhile, a second team began the mammoth job of sanding down the oak beams ready for painting later. 

A back up team, meanwhile, cleared more apples from below the dry lock and weeded the canal side outside the museum, to keep things looking presentable. A hard day’s graft!

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Annoying hundred's of wasps

By Rob Westlake, 9th September 2015: 
The aim of the September task group day was to make the canal centre as attractive as possible in readiness for the forthcoming Village at War festival. So all the usual areas were tidied up – dry lock, Spice of Bruerne hedge, around the laurel hedge and the adjacent seat and the Museum flower beds. Great quantities of fallen apples were shovelled up from below the dry lock, to the annoyance of hundreds of wasps! Everything spick and span, even including a litter pick at the Lower Locks car park which is always an area  in need of attention.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

August's Focus

By Rob Westlake, 12th August 2015: 
This month’s focus was on serious cutting back of overgrowth and overhanging brambles, especially above and around the tunnel southern portal, making it much safer and easier to appreciate its appearance. A large fallen branch up the Boat Horse Road, which was blocking the track, was also cleared away.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Making way for summer geraniums

By Rob Westlake, 8th July 2015: 
A priority this month for the party of 7 volunteers was keeping on top of weed and grass growth. Once again the dry lock was litter picked, swept and weeded, along with the garden at the front of the museum. A strimmer was put to good use on the Lock Island, along the Woodland Walk and down to Lock 15. Hedge trimming included the Spice of Bruerne car park hedge and a major task trimming back the planting around the Museum car park and giving that whole area a thorough sweep. The ash box by Lock 15 was also tidied and cleared of bulbs to make way for summer geraniums.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

A busy day

By Rob Westlake, 10th June 2015: 
With much appreciated assistance from Wayne of CRT, a substantial amount of overgrowth on the offside around the tunnel portal got the chop, clearing sight lines for boaters entering and leaving the tunnel. Spurred on by success, the team continued to cut back overgrowth back towards the Museum and on down to Lock 15. Meanwhile, other volunteers did a great job litter picking, sweeping and weeding the dry lock and weeding the lock sides. Finally a busy day culminated in a useful litter pick of the Lower Locks parking area.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

A painting and hedge tidying day

By Rob Westlake, 13th May 2015: 
A painting and hedge tidying day: 5 volunteers spent the first hour tidying the area underneath and around the laurel hedge, removing giant brambles and undergrowth gone wild, and also trimming back the hedge bordering the car park to the Spice of Bruerne restaurant. Then it was out with the paint and brushes to give the edges of Lock 14 a new coat of white, also the ends of the lock beams – whilst making sure boating traffic and visitors stayed free of paint!  

A good tidy up of the garden outside the Museum concluded the day’s tasks.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Lower Locks

By Rob Westlake, 8th April 2015
Since the group was formed back in 2013, we have concentrated our activities around the Village centre, Locks 14 and 15 and along the towpath to the southern portal of Blisworth Tunnel – including the Woodland Walk.

For this task day, we spent time down at the Lower Locks area. A major litter pick was carried out and a number of rubbish bags filled. We tidied back some of the lane and car parking area landscape planting –which had been given a sever ‘short back and a bit off the sides’ by CRT’s contractor with what must have been a rather blunt flail cutter -  during the winter.

Four of the team then set to work with paint brushes. 

The safety railing alongside the access ramp from the A508 down to the towpath had been replaced as part of the winter maintenance works – so this was painted in the traditional white rail and black post style. This might sound like a straightforward task, but the 25 metre length of fencing consumed nearly 5 litres of paint, though makes a good visual impression when driving along the A508 and enhances the view for the Lower Locks car park.

Much more work will need to be carried out down in this area in the future, but for our next couple of Task Days, our efforts again need to focus on the central area of Stoke Bruerne, in readiness for the Family Festival on the 13th and 14th June.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

The Backyard Project

By Rob Westlake, March 11th, 2015
Louise – the Manageress at the Canal Museum had been successful in obtaining a grant to create a small wildlife friendly garden behind the Museum building. This was called the Back Yard Project. After discussions with members of the volunteer group, it was arranged that materials could be delivered the day before and that we would commence the construction of this garden area.
The Group set about creating this raised area, using oak sleepers and imported soil and bark. Aided by our No: 2 volunteer supervisor Graham, we set about turning Louise’s sketch plans into the garden. Special thanks to our volunteer Bill Mann – who transported the oak sleepers back to his workshop to cut to length and to Louise and Mat for keeping us well supplied with mugs of tea and coffee.

Others from the Group planted snowdrop bulbs up along the woodland walk and also carried out the tidying up of the Museum Green – after the final laurel hedge arisings had been transferred to the skip. The towpath and the Woodland Walk were also litter picked – along with the towpath down to Lock 15.

The area down at the bottom locks was also inspected and several bags of rubbish collected. Longer term discussions need to be had with CRT and the Stoke Bruerne Canal Partnership over the possible need for a litter bin in this area.

Back at the Museum, the main structural work for the garden was completed in the one day, but a couple of the Group return to help further at the week-end and complete the project. Since then various groups have planted the area out and added wildlife friendly accessories - bird feeders, water bowls and insect ‘hotels’, which has now created an area of interest for our young and older visitors to enjoy.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

A man cometh armed with new tools

By Rob Westlake, February 18th, 2015 
As our Volunteer co-ordinator Miriam has taken over John Highmore’s ‘chair’ for a few months, our new CRT Volunteer supervisor, Wayne Moore arrived with a van full of hand tool and protective/safety equipment.
Louise, the manageress at the Museum has arranged for the Adoption Group to have use of a shed behind the Museum, so time was spent clearing out residual rubbish and Wayne fitted a hasp and padlock. The team then set to work cutting back the next section of the Laurel hedge alongside the Museum Green.

Having caused a fair level of concern from our supervisors last month – we were only allowed to cut back a certain amount – to ensure all the arising could be placed in the CRT rented BIFFA bin in the car park. Well – we did, but we also got a ‘ticking’ off – this time from the BIFFA bin emptying operative – when the branches wouldn’t neatly tip out of the container into the skip lorry.

Still – one more good session of trimming back before the end of the month should complete the job – before the embargo on hedge and tree cutting starts on the 1st March.
Several of the Group returned on the 28th February to complete the last section of the hedge trimming, along with removing a small elderberry bush in the hedgerow alongside the Quarry Field – where eventually a pedestrian entrance from the towpath will be created to access this new public area. 

We well filled the BIFFA bin again, and stacked the remainder into the root-line, to be cleared next week after the bin had been emptied again.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

After the gales, a clear up day

By Rob Westlake, Jan 14 2015
After the strong and gales force winds over the New Year period, most of the day was spent clearing up and tidying the area around the Museum and the Woodland Walk.
Initially the Museum Green was raked off, removing a large quantity of fallen branches and twigs from the poplar trees.
Some further pruning of the laurel was done, but this time the arisings were cut up and placed in the rubbish skip.
Our attentions were then turned to the area behind the Museum building, where huge piles of leaves had accumulated over the autumn period. These were cleared away and the area swept.
The shrubs and plants around the area were pruned and the remains of spent grow-bags cleared away. Path edges were cut back and stored notice boards and bins stacked away.
In the afternoon the team spent time up in the Woodland Walk, the Boat Horse Road and then back along the towpath to the Museum Green.
General trimming back of overhanging vegetation, along with the removal of some fallen branches. 

We all joined together at the north end of the Woodland Walk, where it joins the Boat Horse Road to look at the possibility of improving the access.
The Woodland Walk can never be made ‘wheel chair’ friendly, but the creation of shallow steps would at least make a much easier route – rather than what is regularly a wet and slippery slope.
This project would need further research and costings and the Stoke Bruerne Canal Partnership will be asked progress this project.