November's colourful blog

Have you heard that the 2016 Colour of the Year has been chosen? If not, let me tell you that Pantone ('the global authority on colour') have announced not one, but two colours for 2016... The colours in question are 'Rose Quartz' and 'Serenity', which are a soft pink and baby blue respectively. Pantone say they chose the shades after reflecting on our current obsession with wellbeing.

Runners Aylesbury 2A2L race

I find it curious that there can be a colour attributed to each year, but then I guess that's fashion (and I'm not very fashionable). Colour choice is quite a personal thing, my current favourite is orange, but this changes every 5-10 years.

I think we can all agree that the ever-changing colours in the countryside bring us all the 'wellness' that Pantone speak of. From the autumnal leaves and the green of a Mallard's head, to the grubby brown hands at the end of a day's hard graft by the canal!

As we approach the end of our busy volunteer season, it's a great time to come together to reflect and thank everyone for their time and dedication to making a difference.  Let's start our colourful picture with a wonderful report from Pamela Paterson about Rickmansworth Waterway Trust's thank you coffee morning:

“31 of us came to this bash.  A record turn-out.  It is becoming a party, and a wonderful chance to socialise that we don’t otherwise have.  These are important popular events in the RWT volunteers’ calendar.  RWT has had a record year with volunteers being given credit for healthy finances as well as 9841 visitors coming to the Lock Centre.  899 children have come to Learning at the Lock, taking more than 850 hours of volunteers’ time.  There are already 9 bookings for 2016.  64 boat charters also took place this year involving over 300 volunteer hours.  Mark (Saxon) commented on how vibrant the whole RWT operation is, thanking us all again.  Trustee Chris Burridge then thanked Mark for his wholehearted support of us all.  John Highmore from the Canal & River Trust attended our meeting.  He is proud to support RWT, particularly as David Montague and Mark, plus volunteers, make such an impact on the locality’s wonderful heritage with their input, enthusiasm and expertise.  He says the Lock Centre is a ‘Welcome Station’ where canal users from all backgrounds can find information and support.  Ongoing volunteering at RWT justifies the money spent by Canal & River Trust on upgrading the workshop welfare facility, for example.  Altogether it was a most enjoyable get-together.  It is very gratifying for us to be rewarded in this way.”

Thank you Pamela and all the volunteers at RWT for a very successful year!

We also treated our gold medal Volunteer Lock Keepers to Thank You lunches this month.  Spread over 4 dates in 3 pubs, these annual get-togethers are always a lot of fun.  For many it is not really the end of season though. Many stay on at Foxton and Watford to provide assistance throughout the winter. Some assist with water control, boat movements and other tasks alongside our customer operations staff, and some you will meet at the Open weekends (Banbury 5-6 Dec; Stoke Bruerne 13-14 Feb).  They are always ready and willing to help when we call on them and are very much part of the Trust family.  So THANK YOU all very, very much!!!

Check out this month’s Towpath Talk for a lovely full page article on Volunteer Lock Keepers at Hillmorton.

Out of the blue come our newest group – the U3A in Rugby - welcome!  We were delighted that they were interested in helping along the canal, and what a top notch job they did too!  Despite a snowy morning, they turned out in force to litter pick the towpath through Brownsover in Rugby.  They didn’t have to go far to find 20 bags of rubbish, 4 traffic cones and 2 discarded barriers.  We all had a good time in the sunshine, followed by the first mince pies of the season!  We look forward to having you out again in the Spring.

Green fingered Aylesbury Arm Towpath Taskforce volunteers were back onto the offside of Lock 16 this month to continue the clearance of this misused corner.  The group managed to finish clearing all the scrub and snip ivy off the trees to open the area up and make it more appealing.  With numbers boosted once again by the assistance of Tring Anglers, and a very welcome bacon roll provided by Dick Pilkinton and his faithful hound Harris, it was a superb effort by this dedicated and hard working group.


Red hot Blisworth Canal Partnership continue to keep involvement high in the community by supporting a village teenager, Grace, to achieve her Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award.  They now have 3 more teenagers working hard to follow in her footsteps!  They are also helping to maintain the Tunnel Spinney and Tunnel Hut to ensure they continue to be welcoming places for all of the community to use.  Fantastic to see so many community groups working together here, well done BCP!

Nearby, and despite some rather dodgy weather, the Stoke Bruerne Canal Partnership volunteers went down to the Lower Locks Car Park where the hedge alongside the access road only gets attention once in a blue moon, as does the landscape planting alongside the car parking bays.  Armed with hedge cutters, the group soon remedied this and the whole area also got a litter pick and general tidy up.  What a difference a day makes!

Also in Stoke Bruerne, a golden opportunity for a celebration as the Museum’s historic workboat Sculptor turned 80.  Doesn’t she look good for her age!  Let’s say a big thank you to the Sculptor volunteers who have done a superb job in restoring this boat to her former glory.  What a wonderful asset to have and be able to use.

Buckingham Canal Society are in the pick, holding their regular work party at Cosgrove on Sunday 8th November, most of the work was vegetation clearance and strimming along the towpath.  This time they had two new people joining us for the first time on site whom I believe are very keen to come again. The group also welcomes its first employee, Mark Hunt - welcome!  We probably don't give this group as much credit as they deserve, since much of their efforts are spent on the Buckingham Arm, 11 miles of which is not on Canal & River Trust land!  With such a long stretch of disused canal to uncover, this group is out 3 times a month clearing the towpath, removing trees from the canal bed and repairing & repointing heritage brickwork.  Have a look at these 2 photos and see the difference they are making, they pass with flying colours!


In glorious yellow sunshine Braunston Canal Society volunteers took on the task of edging locks 3 and 4 on the Braunston Flight as a result of an approach from Canal & River Trust to help with Planned Preventative Maintenance (PPM).  This assistance with PPM is so important for the future of Canal & River Trust as our staff look to undertake more and more preventative works to ensure the future of the canals.  Have a look at their task here.  Well done team!

IWA Northampton Branch are also in the black, assisting with PPM by clearing out the by-weirs that run around each of the 17 locks on the Northampton Arm.  This month saw them complete another 3, as well as litter picking a long stretch.  A litter pick on the Arm never disappoints, with 2 shopping trollies and a bike adding to the standard dozen bags!  Have a look at their superb progress in photos here.

Far from chasing rainbows and making a bee-line for the ‘group most regularly out’ title is Butterfly Conservation Warwickshire!  With no less than 4 work parties in November, the difference they are making is clear to see.  Mowing, strimming and scrub removal to form a ‘scrub mosaic’ is their main goal at the moment, but they are also dabbling with pond renovation.

There was a small task party by Friends of Fenny Stratford to complete and paint a second coat of Autumn Gold on the Sanitary Station fencing.  Encroaching nettles were cut away before painting could be done.  They also wheeled 2 abandoned scrap barrows round to the rear of the Pump House for removal by Canal & River Trust and the signage on the IWA Fenny information box was treated to a touch up of paint too.

It was a red letter day for our newest Adoption Group, Croxley Green Parish Council when they got the green light to clear a large patch of bramble next to Common Moor Bridge which was unsightly and made seeing ahead on the towpath tricky.  Local Parish Ranger Ollie and volunteers armed themselves with hand tools and the bramble was cleared.  Beneath was an interesting array of vintage litter, including a motor bike frame!  In the spring it will be interesting to see which woodland plants may take advantage of this cleared area now…

The good work continues in Oxford too with the Towpath Taskforce having a good autumn tidy up around Isis Lock with leaves and graffiti cleared away.

Back in September I broke the news that the Trust is organising its own half marathon & 10km race for Sunday 11th September 2016.  One of the biggest challenges that our Sports Participation Manager Joe Sammon is facing is how to fit up to 1000 runners on the towpath!  Huge thanks to Aylesbury’s On The Run group for assisting in some trial race starts this month.  With a fantastic 60 runners turning up to help, a number of different starts were tried and tested to make sure that the runners are in single file by the time they hit the towpath.  If you, or someone you know might be interested in this challenge, there will be plenty of training advice, hints & tips available early next year.

Wendover Arm Trust have been doubly busy this month.  Not only have they run their usual week-long restoration party, they have also helped Canal & River Trust submit proposals to restore a further section of the Wendover Arm Canal.  The Heritage Lottery Fund bid for funding for completion by contractors of the next section of the Wendover restoration, which together with the continuing work by volunteers, would see the Arm open to navigation to the old A41 bridge at Aston Clinton.  There are many benefits (other than those obvious to boaters) that restoration would bring to the area such as resolving a long-standing concern over marginal flooding.  Lottery bids are influenced by the volume of support, particularly from the affected locality.  If you would like to support the bid, IWA Chiltern Branch invite you to download a Microsoft Word copy of the sample letter which can easily be modified with your own comments. Please send as an email attachment to Chris Sargeant at

IWA Chiltern Branch are also seeking a home for another hexagonal seat.  There were formerly 2 hexagonal seats around two trees on the offside at Marsworth Bottom Lock. These were in a bad state of repair and one was replaced last July.  Unfortunately, it was not possible to replace the other seat around the second tree due to the angle of that tree.  Therefore, a suitable site is being sought within the Branch i.e. from Marsworth to Stockers Lock on the Grand Union, Main Line or on the Aylesbury or Wendover Arms.  A tree can be planted, if necessary.  Any suggestions please, to

Let us welcome Emma Matthars to the Inland Waterways Association (IWA) who replaces Stefanie Preston as Assistant Volunteer Coordinator.  We look forward to seeing you out and about soon!

This month saw the introduction of Adoption signage to our groups who opted in.  Keep an eye out for these colourful signs as you roam the network.  Adoption groups are doing sterling work all over the country!

Don’t forget that this coming weekend (5th-6th December) is the first of 2 Open weekends in the South East. At Banbury, you will be able to have the unique opportunity of viewing a lock from the bottom!  With guided tours and more, it is well worth a visit. All the details are on our website here.

I'd better end this month's blog by wishing you all a very merry Christmas!  It's been our biggest and best year yet so a very warm rosy red thank you to you all.

I know you are all dying to know what 2015's colour was now aren't you?!  If you guessed this correctly I'll buy you a drink... 2015's colour was 'Marsala' - a deep plum. So let's all get to the shops so we're on trend...

Last date edited: 29 July 2016

About this blog

Volunteer leader

Every month, dozens of groups and individuals give up their time to help make the canals a nicer place for everyone to enjoy. From hauling trolleys out of the water to lock keeping and giving tours of empty locks, our volunteers are an amazing asset and well worth celebrating.

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