The Shropshire Union Middlewich Branch Adopters, to give them their full name, have been putting something back into the canal system they love since 2014.
Five and a half miles of the Middlewich Branch have now been adopted from Barbridge Junction to Morris Bridge 15 at Church Minshull. This is believed to be the longest adoption of navigable canal in England.
Since its formation SUMBA has grown far beyond initial expectations. The group is now helping to carry out the Trust's pre-planned maintenance as well as year round work to improve and maintain the canal's physical and visual environment both on the towpath and offside for the benefit of all users of the canal - boaters, walkers, cyclists, fishermen and the local community etc.
SUMBA has an active volunteer base in excess of 50 people, fairly evenly split between male and female, and up to 25 volunteers attend our work parties three times a month. We also have a contact list of almost 100 supporters, organisations and media who all receive monthly updates and photos from our work parties and progress with our projects.
When asked what they like about volunteering with SUMBA their unanimous answer is: "We enjoy it and it's very rewarding and sociable."
In October 2015, we commenced a twice monthly autumn/winter programme to lay the overgrown hedge opposite Venetian Marina near Cholmondeston Lock. This was a major task, involving three days of professional training courtesy of the Trust, and then laying over 200yds of hedge.
The hedge was finished at the start of March 2016 in time for bird nesting, and result was a significant improvement to the towpath. In May 2016, together with another local hedge-laying project, SUMBA's hedge was shortlisted for a national '2016 Living Waterways Award'. Following judging in June 2016 the project reached the finals and we were pleased to be notified that the project had won second place in its category.
The tasks that SUMBA's volunteers complete are many and very varied - every work party includes something that is suitable for all abilities and ages.
Everyone’s welcome to get involved. They generally get together on the second Saturday of the month, all through the year. But you can find out more about what they’re doing here on their Twitter feed - @sumbacanal, their website or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org