The charity making life better by water

East Midlands Newsletter September 2021

As the weather starts to turn we look ahead to a busy winter on the East Midlands' waterways as well as reflecting on a special anniversary for a canal project in Nottingham.

Stoke Bruerne in the autumn

Looking ahead to a busy winter of works

It's getting to the time of year when we look forward to our programme of winter works. Between October and March we'll be draining sections of canal so we can replace lock gates, repair bridges and restore historic brickwork.

This year's highlights in the East Midlands include replacing lock gates at Locks 3 and 7 at Watford Locks alongside brickwork repairs elsewhere on the flight. There will also be major works taking place at Newark Town Lock on the River Trent where the top and bottom gates are set to be replaced. Repairs are also taking place to the old lock chamber that sits next to Town Lock.

Other works are set to take place at Cossington Lock on the River Soar, Cosgrove Lock on the Grand Union Canal, Long Eaton Lock on the Erewash Canal and Dakins Bridge on the Ashby Canal.

The programme is a great opportunity to show people the work that we do and so plans are being made to hold a mix of virtual and in-person open days enabling people to see behind the scenes of the works. Watch this space for more information on the open days but in the meantime take a look at the virtual open day we held last year at Blue Bank Lock in Leicester.

A workman fixing a lock gate in a drained canal

Tackling weed problems on the River Witham

We've been working hard to tackle the problem of weed on the River Witham that's been causing difficulties for boaters, anglers and rowers in Boston.

The Witham is prone to weed as it's flushed into the river from neighbouring drains, and nutrients are washed into the water from agricultural land - but we've never seen it quite as bad as it's been this year.

The unprecedented amounts of weed are causing a real headache for those wanting to enjoy the river and so we've stepped up efforts to try and clear it as quickly as possible. We invest around £80,000 each year tackling weed on the Witham but, in light of the recent challenges, we've brought an extra weed boat onto the river and are clearing around 100 tonnes of weed each day. We're also using Boston Lock, where our responsibility on the river ends, to flush weed along the canal each day.

The weed is a mixture of duckweed and the non-native water fern, Azolla. In order to tackle the latter we've introduced 3,000 weed-munching weevils that feed only on Azolla and who can clear a waterway in a matter of weeks. Over the course of the last year we've used weevils to tackle Azolla problems on the Erewash and Grantham Canals and the little critters have done a great job.

We're really grateful for everyone's patience and we're doing all we can to clear the weed as quickly as we, and the weevils, can.

Nottingham Canal Improvement Partnership celebrates milestone

Over 100 organisations in Nottingham are celebrating the first anniversary of an innovative partnership which has brought major improvements to the Nottingham & Beeston Canal.

The Nottingham Canal Improvement Partnership was formed in October last year with the aim of making the canal, which runs through the heart of the city, better for people and wildlife. Twelve months on and the difference is clear.

Almost 100 square metres, the equivalent of a badminton court, of floating reedbed have been installed on the canal helping to give a more natural feel and attracting wildlife into the heart of the city.

The partnership has been the catalyst for a major city-wide street art project which has just been launched, with several pieces planned for the canalside. The first, at Castle Wharf, will celebrate the life of Eric Irons OBE – the UK's first black magistrate.

A number of social prescribing projects have begun with organisations from across the partnership working together to enable people to spend time by water to boost their physical and mental health. Around 100 people have taken part in the Trust's Waterways & Wellbeing project since it launched earlier this year.

Other improvements that have been carried out by members of the partnership have included linear wildflower meadows being planted along the canal, seven bridges repainted and floating nests created out of everyday objects by residents of Castle Marina.

Community codesign workshops have taken place enabling local people to have their say on how they think the canal could be improved for people and wildlife.

The milestone was celebrated at a special event at Canalhouse in Nottingham where members of the Partnership, including the Sheriff of Nottingham and Nottingham South MP Lilian Greenwood, came together to reflect on what's been achieved.

Members of the Nottingham Canal Improvement Partnership stand on bridge over the canal

Busy, busy, busy at Braunston

It's been a busy time at Braunston with volunteer lock keepers reporting a bumper year of boating. With boater's plans disrupted for much of 2020 the team have experienced a busier summer than usual, helping up to 70 boaters a day at the height of the summer.

Luckily there have been some extra pairs of hands available with several new volunteers joining the team this year – including one young lady who has been working hard on the locks to achieve her Duke of Edinburgh Award.

Meanwhile Braunston Canal Society have also been busy on their adopted stretch of the canal. In recent weeks they've been working hard to paint weir fences, tend to recently planted hedge whips at locks 4 and 5 and tidy the lockside garden.

The Society has also been helping with some important safety works near Braunston Tunnel. The team have been regrading steps down onto the towpath and recovering a handrail that had fallen off into nearby vegetation. They've also been addressing some loose stone on the towpath to prevent anyone slipping.

Braunston is affectionately known as the beating heart of the waterway network and volunteers have played a crucial role in making sure the area is safe and welcoming for boaters and visitors alike.

Lockside garden at Braunston

MP meetings

We've been really pleased to meet some of our local MPs recently giving us the opportunity to explain what we've been up to locally and the difference our waterways are making to communities in the region.

We met Robert Jenrick, MP for Newark, at the new hydro power plant that was installed at Newark Nether Weir last year. Robert had a behind the scenes tour of the plant which has a single 70KW Archimedes screw turbine turned by the force of the water running over the weir. The plant generates enough electricity to supply the average requirement of up to 175 homes and supplies nearby King's Marina. It's one of 11 hydro sites on our network, which provide the equivalent to the energy used by 6,200 homes and offsets around 9,500 tonnes of CO2.

The meeting was also an opportunity to discuss the growing importance of the River Trent in providing local communities with a green, relaxing place to look after their physical and mental health.

We were also joined recently by Jane Hunt, MP for Loughborough, who met with our Waterway Kickstarters that have been working in her constituency. Jane visited the team on-site to find out about their work and their experience of working with the Trust. You can read more about the visit here.

Robert Jenrick MP meets the Trust's regional director Phil Mulligan

Trailer on Tour rolls into the region

Colleagues and volunteers from across the region have been taking the opportunity to reconnect at a series of roadshow events.

The Trailer on Tour sessions have been taking place at Foxton and Newark, giving people the opportunity to meet up with faces they haven't seen in a while and have their say on a wide variety of topics including safety and colleague wellbeing.

Members of the local leadership team, along with representatives of the executive – including chief executive Richard Parry – were also at sessions to chat with colleagues and volunteers.

Group numbers were limited and the sessions were held outdoors or in well ventilated areas to keep those present Covid secure.

Historic Nottingham crocuses planted along the Nottingham & Beeston Canal

We're excited to have taken part in a project to plant rare ‘Nottingham Crocus' bulbs along the Nottingham & Beeston Canal.

The crocus is so named as, 200 years ago, it was abundant in the city, particularly in what's now known as The Meadows and along the banks of the River Trent. It was brought over to this country from southern Europe and had a number of medicinal uses – including treating malaria.

Development led to the decline of the crocus but now plans are in place to restore it to some of the green spaces across the city. As part of a wider project volunteers have recently helped us to plant some of the special bulbs along the grass verges of the Nottingham & Beeston Canal.

Keep an eye out next year for these special little plants popping up along the canal.

Volunteers planting bulbs alongside the canal

Last Edited: 28 September 2021

photo of a location on the canals
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