The charity making life better by water

East Midlands Newsletter July 2021

Summer may be well and truly upon us, with temperatures soaring, but there's been no let up in the work taking place on and along our waterways. Read on to find out about our recent dredging works on the River Trent and River Soar, our packed summer events programme and the fantastic start that's been made by our Kickstarters.

Pink rose on the River Soar in Leicester

Dredging works in the East Midlands

We've been carrying out a £70,000 programme of dredging works at key locations in the East Midlands to make life a little easier for boaters in the region.

Works have focussed on Ratcliffe Lock on the River Soar and around Stoke Lock on the River Trent following feedback from boaters who have been getting into difficulty. Contractors Land & Water have removed over 1,700 tonnes of material between the two sites.

Siltation is becoming an increasingly regular problem for boaters at Stoke Lock and so we plan to invest around £400,000 every three years in dredging on the Trent, starting from next year. We have also made plans to carry out ‘ploughing' on the river each year to redistribute sediments and maintain the navigable channel.

Above Stoke Lock, River Trent

Message in a Bottle garden washes up at Stoke Bruerne

Visitors to Stoke Bruerne could soon be able to explore the Message in a Bottle garden which recently appeared at the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show.

Designed by award winning garden designer, Tracy Foster, the garden is inspired by our Plastics Challenge and represents the positive message that we can all help to fight plastic pollution.

Created from cast iron, Tracy's garden depicts a huge bottle, laying as if floating in a canal or river. Inside it's planted with bright and colourful plants intended to give an optimistic feel.

The garden is currently in storage while the appropriate permissions are sought for it to be recreated on site near the Canal Museum. Once in place visitors will be able to follow in the footsteps of Bill Bailey and Tony Robinson who both had a look around during their visit to Hampton Court.

Message in a Bottle conceptual garden

Summer events programme gets under way

Our packed programme of summer events and activities has just got started, with a little bit of something for everyone.

We'll have everything from paddleboarding to pond dipping, canoeing to calming mindfulness walks.

Some of our most popular sites will also be holding free family activities each week throughout the summer holidays. Events will take place at Foxton Locks every Wednesday, Stoke Bruerne each Thursday and Trent Lock every Friday.

Pre-booking is recommended for most activities, and more information can be found here.

Ladies canoeing on a canal

Treasure Your River campaign launches in Nottingham

We're really excited to be working with environmental charity Hubbub to support the Treasure Your River campaign in Nottingham.

The campaign aims to help reduce the amount of litter entering the River Trent and goes hand-in-hand with the our Plastics Challenge.

Activities will be focused on the Nottingham Beeston Canal with the message that items dropped into the canal, which runs through the heart of the city, are washed into the river and eventually out into the sea.

Over the course of the summer we'll be holding events enabling members of the local community to find out how they can help do their bit. There will be canoeing and paddleboard sessions, litter munching remote controlled boats and a special fishmonger's stall demonstrating some of the items commonly dumped in our inland waterways. We'll also be holding regular litter picks along the canal so that local people can get involved.

Executive team visit reopened Canal Museum

The role played by local volunteers in the transformation of the Canal Museum at Stoke Bruerne has been celebrated during a special ‘thank-you' event.

The event, on 7th July, saw the Trust's Executive team look around the newly redeveloped museum and café. It was also an opportunity to meet the people that have played a crucial role in the project and those that make the site such a special place to visit.

Guests included members of the local operations team, volunteer lock keepers, Friends of the Canal Museum and volunteers that help to care for historic working boat Sculptor, which is moored outside the museum.

Volunteers have played a vital role in the redevelopment of the museum, helping to research and create some of the new exhibits and digging out facts, figures and photos that now take pride of place on the walls. The team also hosted ‘pop-up museum' activities outside the museum while it was closed, bringing artefacts out onto the towpath so people could still learn about local canal history. More pop up activity is planned for the year ahead.

As part of the Executive's visit Lynda Payton Chair of the Friends of the Canal Museum handed a cheque for £67,000 over to the Trust's Chief Executive, Richard Parry, as a generous contribution towards the redevelopment. During the visit the Friends, along with museum volunteers, lead guided tours around the museum and explained the role that they had played in the project.

Lynda Payton from Friends of the Canal Museum presents a cheque to Richard Parry, chief executive of the Trust

Kickstarters off to a great start

Our teams of Kickstarters have really hit the ground running after joining us in June.

The Kickstarters roles give young people in Leicester the chance to boost their skills and employability by completing a six-month paid placement with the Trust.

We've got two teams of Kickstarters working in and around Leicester; Waterways Kickstarters who get involved with the day-to-day maintenance of their local waterways and Construction Kickstarters who work on some of the bigger engineering projects.

The Waterways Kickstarters have been helping with bank repairs and have also created a canoe and kayak access platform and steps at Barrow upon Soar, next to Barrow Boating, making it easier for people to get onto the water.

The Construction Kickstarters have been busy clearing the Trust's yard at Kilby Bridge and have discovered significant amounts of valuable materials, such as coping stones, that can be used on future construction projects.

The placements are part of a £2bn government scheme, funded by the Department for Work and Pensions, and are available to 16-24 year olds who are on Universal Credit.

Community Roots restarts in Leicester

After a brief hiatus our Community Roots project is getting back under way to engage with communities in Leicester and encourage them to feel the health and wellbeing benefits of spending time by water.

Leicester was particularly badly affected by COVID-19 with the city in lockdown for over a year. Part of the work of the Community Roots project will focus on reaching out to the community groups that we've previously worked with to find out what the impact has been on them, and see how we can support them and work together.

To make all this happen we've appointed a brand new Community Roots Coordinator, Abi Kirk, who will be meeting groups and collating ideas from them about future project. Abi will also continue to support and engage with groups that have adopted sections of the River Soar and Grand Union Canal.

We're also keen to make contact with the community groups and networks that have popped up primarily in response to COVID-19 to see how we might be able to work with them now that

restrictions are easing. And, of course, we're looking ahead to see how Leicester's waterways can be included in the Diwali 2021 celebrations.

Diwali natural art outdoors

Weevil power used to clear invasive weed from Grantham Canal

We've been working with Grantham Canal Society to introduce weed-munching weevils to parts of the Grantham Canal.

The weevils are being put to work to tackle Azolla, or water fern, which grows on the surface of the water. This non-native weed can form thick mats blocking sunlight and reducing oxygen levels in the water for fish and other aquatic plants and creatures.

Azolla is a voracious grower and, if left unchecked, can quickly choke a waterway. Collectively the weevils, which don't feed on anything else and aren't harmful to the local environment, are incredibly effective at clearing the weed.

Volunteers from Grantham Canal Society have already started releasing the weevils onto the canal at Harlaxton and visitor should notice a difference in just a few weeks. It's the second time in recent years that weevils have been used on the Grantham Canal and just last year an army of them helped to clear azolla from the Erewash Canal.

Azolla, also known as fairy moss or water fern

Foxton volunteering day

Colleagues and volunteers from across the region came together recently to give Foxton Locks a good spruce up. The day was an opportunity for colleagues, many of which have been working from home for the past 16 months, the chance to reconnect while getting stuck in helping to make the site cleaner and tidier for our visitors.

Working in small teams the group cut back dead vegetation, edged the coping stones around the side ponds, painted the doors of the toilet and shower block and tried their hand at a bit of lock keeping. Local volunteers were also on hand to give guided walks down the historic flight.

The day, which ended with an outdoor picnic and a bake-off, was a great way to colleagues to meet up once more whilst making some welcome improvements to one of our busiest sites.

It's been a busy period at Foxton with the site hosting a number of trial camping events for colleagues and staff. The Trust has an aspiration to offer camping and glamping at the site and so the events have provided an opportunity to test the offer. The trials are culminating in Trustfest – a two-day camping event for colleagues, volunteers and partners taking place in August.


We'd love to tell you more

Our newsletter is packed full of exciting updates and stories of how our charity keeps canals alive.

Last Edited: 22 July 2021

photo of a location on the canals
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