As we come to the end of a year that will live long in the memory we want to thank all our colleagues, volunteers, supporters and partners and wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year.
New opportunities for young people in Leicester
We're about to launch our Waterway Kickstarters programme which will give young people in Leicester the opportunity to boost their skills and employability by applying for a six-month paid placement with the Trust.
The Waterway Kickstarters will get valuable experience working alongside our teams on a range of tasks to maintain and improve the city's waterways. They'll get involved in everything including graffiti removal, tackling vegetation, water-based litter clearance, helping out with events and community activities and, if timescales allow, some hedgelaying.
The placements are available to 16-24 year olds who are on Universal Credit and will be a great opportunity to gain work experience and improve communication and other important employability skills.
The intention is that the Kickstarter roles will act as a pathway into apprenticeships or other positions within the Trust or elsewhere.
The roles are part of a £2bn government scheme, funded by the Department for Work and Pensions, to create new jobs for young people following the Covid-19 pandemic. Leicester is one of three places where the Trust is looking for Waterway Kickstarters, alongside Walsall and Blackburn.
Blue Bank Lock virtual open day
If you haven't already, it's well worth visiting our virtual open day where we give a behind the scenes tour of works to replace lock gates and repair brickwork at Blue Bank Lock near Glen Parva.
The works are part of our annual winter maintenance programme which sees us replace lock gates, repair historic brickwork, dredge sections of canal and generally make sure our historic locks, tunnels and bridges are ready for what we hope will be a busy year of cruising and visits to our towpaths
We're investing around £4m improving our waterways in the East Midlands this winter, making sure they're safe and accessible for everyone, whether you're boating or using the towpath.
Breach on the Ashby Canal
You may have heard the sad news about a breach on the Ashby Canal – where a hole has formed in a section of canal wall enabling water to escape. Although the breach has occurred on a section of canal owned by Leicestershire County Council, we've been hard at work helping with the clean-up operation.
In particular our fisheries contractors have been out helping to remove fish from the pools that had formed in the drained section. They've been using electrofishing which temporarily stuns the fish with a gentle electric current so they could be netted and moved to safety elsewhere on the canal. Of course, they've also had the sad job of recovering dead fish from the surrounding fields and drainage ditches.
As attention turns to repairing the hole in the canal wall, we'll be working with the county council to support and advise where needed.
Volunteers trained in the art of hedgelaying
Thanks to funding from the Players of the People's Postcode Lottery we've recently been able to hold some socially distanced hedge-laying training courses on the Northampton Arm of the Grand Union Canal, in Leicestershire and at Dockholme Lock on the Erewash Canal.
Hedgerows are vital corridors for some of our best-loved species, providing places to shelter and a valuable source of food. Hedge-laying, which is the traditional method of bending and partially cutting stems so that they grow horizontally, is essential in ensuring we have full, healthy hedgerows alongside our canals.
The volunteers that took part in the training will now be able to carry out a number of hedge laying activities between now and March when the bird nesting season begins. Further training is planned for the new year on the Grantham Canal at Gamston.
East Midlands region scoops top safety award
We were thrilled that the East Midlands operations team won the national Safety Award at the Trust's first ever virtual Safety Conference.
The team were recognised with the award for their ‘To the left' campaign which encourages colleagues to periodically stop and speak to the person to their left to discuss their work, their surroundings, observe hazards, identify risks and where possible make a positive intervention.
The campaign, which was communicated through text message and team meetings, resulted in a reduction in the number of incidents or near misses logged and an increase in reports of positive interventions taken to prevent an accident. A similar approach has now been adopted throughout the Trust through its new Step Up campaign which encourages colleagues to take an active role in ensuring the safety of themselves and their colleagues.
Leicester street art project completed
The sixth and final piece in our street art project in Leicester has been completed. The latest piece has brightened up an underpass near the city's Abbey Park, bringing some much-needed colour but also signposting people around the city's waterways.
The new piece celebrates the wildlife that can be found along the River Soar and Grand Union Canal as well as reflecting the area's industrial heritage, in particular within the hosiery industry.
The project has seen us work with Leicester City Council and local arts company Graffwerk and all six of the pieces form a street art trail which we hope to launch next year.
Notts Fire & Rescue wade in to help with reedbed project
Big thanks to Notts Fire & Rescue who have been helping us to secure our floating reedbeds in Nottingham into position.
The reedbeds have been put in recently to give the canal in the centre of Nottingham a more natural feel and attract more wildlife into the heart of the city.
Some of the reedbeds have been placed into the disused canal arm in front of Nottingham Magistrates Court but they've needed fixing down with concrete weights so they don't move around.
With access difficult we needed a small boat and, through the new Nottingham Canal Improvement Partnership, Notts Fire & Rescue offered their help. As it turned out, instead of using their boat the team donned their special dry suits and waded into the water to secure the reedbeds into position.
Southern Operations team welcomes two new faces
The operations team working in the south of our region have been boosted by two new faces.
Dean Brady joins on a permanent basis after previously working for the Trust through an agency. Dean lives in Braunston and when he's not at work likes cycling, running or heading out on the towpath with his family.
Catherine West joins from the Butterfly Conservation in Northern Ireland where she was responsible for attracting funding, membership and volunteers. The proud owner of a fully electric, solar-powered, 57-foot narrowboat Catherine is currently moored at Brinklow.
If you're feeling festive and crafty then have a look at this brilliant Christmas Crafts videos put together by our Explorers education team and filmed at Trent Lock on the Erewash Canal. All of the items are made from natural materials found easily along the towpath so next time you're by a canal take a bag with you and collect all the things you need for these Christmas creations.