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Amazing efforts of volunteers praised

Volunteer hours pass the 3,000 hour milestone as local people help us clean up after the Boxing Day floods

Volunteering in the north after the boxing day floods

Since Christmas we've seen volunteers, aged from 8 to 80, give over 3,000 hours to repair towpaths, rebuild walls, clean up mud and clear rubbish and other debris from the Aire & Calder Navigation, Rochdale Canal and Calder & Hebble Navigation.

The figure is the equivalent of one person working eight hours a day for a full working year and it is estimated that the volunteers' efforts have been worth more than £40,000, though the benefit in helping to reopen stretches of towpath and canal is incalculable.

Highlights include:

  • Volunteers on the Rochdale Canal moved over 200 tonnes of stone to reopen 9km of towpath between Hebden Bridge and Sowerby Bridge
  • 100 volunteers aged from 8 to 80 helped clear the towpath and rebuild a dry stone wall at Elland
  • An allotment group in Todmorden shored up a canal bank with sandbags to stop water loss
  • Volunteers from Sanderson Weatherall property agents cleared up a section of the Aire & Calder Navigation in the heart of Leeds

David Baldacchino, waterway manager for the Canal & River Trust said: “This is a real milestone and local people should be rightly proud. We've been blown away by the role that volunteers have played in helping to get parts of the region's waterways back on their feet. We've seen people from far and wide wanting to play their part, whether that's rolling their sleeves up and helping with the clean-up or supporting our fundraising appeal.

“The efforts of the volunteers have not only reopened sections of canal but also enabled our teams to get on with the important task of planning the bigger repair jobs. The response, in very difficult conditions, has been incredible but there's still much to do and so we'll be organising more volunteering opportunities in the coming weeks and months.”

Local people have been involved from the outset, helping to make things safe and putting up signs warning people of damaged and closed towpaths. Since then the focus has turned to clearing up the devastation left behind by the floods.

Around 100 people volunteered at Elland to clear mud from the towpath, create a temporary pathway around Park Nook Lock and rebuild a dry stone wall that had been destroyed. The group included junior soldiers from Harrogate Army Foundation College who pumped mud off the towpath as part of their Duke of Edinburgh Award.

200 tonnes of stone

On the Rochdale Canal local people have been out on the canal several times a week and have moved over 200 tonnes of stone and other materials – the weight of 15 double decker buses – to fill holes and long scours that were left by flood waters along the popular towpath through Sowerby Bridge, Hebden Bridge and Todmorden. As a result of their hard work around 9km of towpath has been reopened between Hebden Bridge and Sowerby Bridge.

And in the past few weeks volunteers from Sanderson Weatherall, property agents in Manchester, showed support for their neighbours in Leeds by giving their time to help clear up a section of the Aire & Calder Navigation in the heart of the city.

The efforts have been supported by a wide range of organisations including local branches of Lloyds Bank and Halifax Bank, Shire Cruisers, the Calder Navigation Society, Yorkshire Building Society, Calderdale Council and Todmorden Council.

Last Edited: 18 March 2016

photo of a location on the canals
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