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The charity making life better by water

East Midlands Newsletter November 2021

It's a time for connections, canal adoptions and Christmas plans in the East Midlands.

A family canal walk in winter

New partnership launched in Leicester

Exciting things are happening in Leicester with the launch of a new Leicester Waterway Improvement Partnership. Following in the footsteps of the Nottingham Canal Improvement Partnership we're bringing together businesses, community groups and local authorities from across Leicester to look into ways of working together to make the city's waterways better for people and wildlife.

More than a third of people living in Leicester, around 117,000, live within just 1km of the River Soar and Grand Union Canal running through the heart of the city. With so many people living and working on the doorstep there's huge potential to make a big difference to people's lives if we work together to make our waterways even better.

The aim of the partnership is to build on the success of recent projects on and around the city's waterways including towpath and access improvements and projects, secure moorings at Friars Mill and ongoing works to provide additional moorings at Memory Lane. There's still lots to be done and we're really looking forward to seeing the partnership develop and play an active role in improving Leicester's waterways for everyone.

Waterways Kickstarters celebration

Also in Leicester we're delighted that almost all of our Waterways Kickstarters are staying on with the Trust after being offered apprenticeships working within our teams. The Kickstarters initially joined the Trust in June to begin their six month paid placements. In that time the team have rolled up their sleeves and worked on a wide variety of projects across Leicestershire.

The team have installed canoe portage points at Barrow on Soar, replaced fendering at Barrow Deep Lock, tidied the area around Lime Kiln Lock in Leicester and repaired sideponds and put up fencing at Foxton Locks.

Four of the team have been offered Waterway Apprenticeships working with our operations teams on day-to-day maintenance jobs and two have been offered Bricklaying Apprenticeships working on some of our bigger construction jobs.

The team's efforts are due to be recognised at a special celebratory event taking place at the National Space Centre in Leicester.

Kickstarters team standing beside a lock

Volunteering Matters adoption marks #IWill week

We're joining forces with national volunteering charity Volunteering Matters to help give people in Northamptonshire the opportunity to gain skills, improve their physical and mental health and meet new people.

Volunteering Matters have adopted a one mile stretch of the Grand Union Canal near Cosgrove, committing to getting out regularly and helping us to keep their adopted stretch special for people and wildlife.

Canal adoption activities typically include everything from painting lock gates, installing signage, improving hedgerows and planting canalside gardens. The sessions will enable those taking part to learn new skills, keep fit and make new friends.

In particular the two charities hope that the adoption, which is being launched as part of #iwill week, will appeal to young people and give them the opportunity to lead action in their local community. Both charities have signed the POWER of Youth Charter outlining their commitment to supporting young people at all levels and collaborating with other organisations to work with more young people from a broad spectrum of backgrounds.

If you know of a business, charity or community group that would like to find out more about adopting their local stretch of canal you can find out more information here.

Creating healthy hedgerows

It's the perfect time of year for giving our hedgerows a bit of love and attention and teams of colleagues and volunteers have been busy across the region getting to grips with the art of hedgelaying.

In the south of the region volunteers have been hedgelaying at Stoke Bruerne and others have been in action at Crick, helping to fill gaps and provide protection for birds nesting in adjacent fields.

Further north we've been taking part in hedgelaying training taking place on the Grantham Canal – with volunteers from Friends of Cotgrave Country Park and Grantham Canal Society. We hope to work closely with both organisations over the coming years to enhance and improve hedgerows along the canal and on adjacent land. We're also planning similar training sessions on the Ashby Canal at Snarestone.

Hedgelaying is a really important traditional skill and involves cutting and bending the stems of the individual plant to fill gaps and encourage new growth to create thick, healthy hedgerows. Hedgerows provide vital habitats for a wide variety of wildlife, offering much needed shelter and a ready source of food.

Hedgelaying volunteers on the Grantham Canal

Diwali celebrations return to Leicester's waterside

After a year off last year it was fantastic to once again celebrate Diwali with the people of Leicester with our special waterside event at Limekiln Lock taking place at the end of October.

It's the third year that we've celebrated Diwali in Leicester, with last year's event cancelled due to Covid. It was fantastic to celebrate once more, and more than 400 people joined the lockside celebrations for an evening of lights, music and traditional food.

During the evening families could create their own paper divas to float on the surface of the water alongside the large floating sculptures created with Leicester Belgrave Mela. This year there was an additional piece of art, an illuminated Taj Mahal, which was floated on the water alongside a fish, swan, diva lantern and lotus flower.

Many thanks to the local volunteers and community groups who helped to run the event, we're already looking forward to next year.

Diwali celebrations beside Lime Kiln Lock

Dredging project at Foxton Locks

A giant floating vacuum has been in action at Foxton Locks helping to suck thousands of tonnes of mud and silt from the sideponds there.

The sideponds at Foxton are used to store and balance water for the operation of the flight and they have to be cleared out every now and again to ensure they have sufficient capacity. Works have been taking place over the past few weeks to clear out any built-up silt and reeds to restore the ponds to full capacity.

Before the dredging could take place specialist fisheries contractors had to wade into the ponds to carefully relocate them to another part of the canal, well away from where the works were due to take place. The contractors used special rods to emit a low-level electric pulse into the water which temporarily stuns the fish enabling them to be safely netted.

Dredging machine working at Foxton Locks

Works at Stoke Bruerne proving a pane

There's a busy few weeks ahead at Stoke Bruerne as we start to get into the Christmas spirit.

Before the festivities begin though important works will be taking place to remove some of the larger artefacts from the top floor of the canal museum. The items, which include a large model of Foxton Locks and an 18th Century fire engine, are being taken out by the Trust's specialist collections team as part of the ongoing transformation of the museum space. Due to the size of the objects contractors will need to remove the upstairs window pane so they can be safely lowered down onto the towpath. The project was due to take place earlier in the year but had to be put on hold due to nesting birds in the eaves of the building

In the café a new seasonal menu is now available with a section of delicious home cooked dishes on offer. Plans are also being made for Christmas craft activities for families to enjoy when they visit.

The second hand book stall within the cafe is proving a big hit and the team there welcome any donations of unwanted books. Please just drop them in if you are passing.

Photo of Canal Museum at Stoke Bruerne

Last Edited: 23 November 2021

photo of a location on the canals
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