Eight third year joinery students from Reaseheath College have refurbished a canal side structure which was likely to be scheduled for demolition by Canal and River Trust. The students undertook the project as part of their 3rd year NVQ Level 3 final exams after their tutor was approached by SUMBA (Shropshire Union Middlewich Branch Adopters) — a local canal volunteer group who were keen to see it restored.
The brick built hut, a half mile from Venetian Marina on the Middlewich Branch canal, was used as a manager's office for the Cholmondeston clay pit which was operational from the late 1960s to 2002 — the clay being used for canal repairs. In 2009 the area was turned into a popular mooring and picnic site with tables and barbecues, but the hut was in a bad state of dilapidation and needed complete refurbishment, including a new roof, door and window etc.
SUMBA obtained a community grant from Cheshire East Council for the building materials and the students fitted the work into their syllabus — the on site work requiring 266 hours of their time over five days between June 12th and 16th.
In true canal boat carrying tradition the students were transported to the worksite each day with the materials and tools in Canal and River Trust's 72' historic workboat 'Malvern'.
In the coming months the site will be further enhanced with a disabled friendly picnic table and jetty. The table will be made by 'Men in Sheds' in Crewe using wood recycled by SUMBA's volunteers when they repaired the nearby Brickyard bridge. An interpretation board will also be installed detailing facts relating to the Middlewich Branch canal including the clay pit.
SUMBA, made up of enthusiastic canal volunteers, has adopted five and a half miles of canal from Barbridge Junction to Church Minshull under Canal and River Trust's 'Adopt Your Local Canal' scheme — which aims to get more people involved in their local waterway. Supported by the Trust they hold work parties throughout the year to maintain and visually enhance their stretch of canal by cutting back vegetation, painting locks and infrastructure, litter picking, lock keeping and hedge laying etc.
Graham Russell, SUMBA's organiser said
'The students have done a great job with the hut and it's good to be able to involve our local college and Men in Sheds in our waterway project. SUMBA welcomes new volunteers and information about our work and contact details can be found on our website www.sumbavolunteers.org '.
Canal enthusiasts from the Shropshire Union Middlewich Branch Adopters (SUMBA) celebrated their 100th volunteer canal work party on Saturday 19 November with a special cake, followed by vegetation clearance at Aqueduct Marina, Church Minshull, Cheshire.
The group was formed in April 2014 in response to a call from the Canal & River Trust, the charity which cares for 2,000 miles of waterways. Even at the start, SUMBA entered the record books by adopting five and a half miles of the Shropshire Union Canal Middlewich Branch from Barbridge Junction to Church Minshull in South Cheshire — the longest adopted stretch of canal in England. Most adoption groups look after a mile or less.
In just over two and half years, their numbers have grown to more than 50 volunteers, with around 25 men and women regularly turning out to help with each organised activity.
Work has included towpath and canalside maintenance, vegetation control, painting and repairing locks, helping boaters, litter picks, adding waterside picnic tables, benches and barbeques, and planting fruit trees and shrubs. Their 'Clean for the Queen' event in March resulted in a massive 12 mile litter pick from Calverley to Middlewich, involving 35 volunteers including Nantwich cubs. A major hedge-laying project near Venetian Marina was runner-up in the Trust's prestigious national Living Waterways Awards 2016.
SUMBA/s organiser Graham Russell said:
"Our volunteers have donated a total of more than 5,000 hours to improving the canal. The response to our initial call was amazing and the existing group far exceeds our original expectations. Now to be celebrating our 100th working party is a great achievement and a source of pride for all our volunteers who have worked so hard with us over the last two and half years."
Wendy Capelle, local waterway manager with the Canal & River Trust, thanked the group for their tremendous contribution and added:
"The SUMBA group adoption is a fantastic example of how volunteers play a vital role in improving the canal environment. Hundreds of walkers, boaters, anglers, cyclists and joggers have benefitted from their hard work and now have an improved experience along the Middlewich Branch thanks to the SUMBA volunteers."
Launched by the Canal & River Trust last February, the Living Waterways Awards seek to recognise the most exciting and inspiring waterway-based improvement projects across the UK.
After a series of visits and assessments, which saw expert judges travel across the country from Norfolk to Gloucester and from London to Cheshire, an independent panel of experts, led by Christopher Rodrigues CBE, selected its finalists for the 2016 Living Waterways Awards.
Richard Parry, Chief Executive of the Canal & River Trust, explains:
"The Living Waterways Awards celebrate the individuals, communities and organisations that have done the most to make a difference to the nation's rivers, canals, lochs, lakes, reservoirs and docks, making them exciting places to live, learn and spend time."
Ellie Brown, SUMA's hedging coordinator, comments:
During the winter months between January 2015 and March 2016 volunteers laid 250 metres of untamed hedgerow opposite Venetian Marina. Our 'tree huggers' held work parties twice a month, often in very challenging weather, to firstly clear away the undergrowth and dead wood and then lay the useful parts of the hedge.
Our hedgerow was shortlisted earlier this year, together with a similar project near Bunbury locks, and last June the judges visited both projects accompanied by our coordinator Ellie Brown. Subsequently we were pleased to be informed that the project had reached the final stage with the category winners to be announced at a Gala Dinner in Birmingham Town Hall on September 14th.
It's a wonderful achievement for all our dedicated volunteers that our Helping Hedgerow project has been recognised as a category runner up in this year's national Living Waterways Awards.
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