A Grand Day Out
Western Depot manager Reg, who also carries the title of
Grand Director of Maintenance for the Western Canal, stood in front of the
grass cutting tool shed. “All these tools and so few being used” he mused, “if
only we had more volunteers trained to use them”. The thought crystallised and
became The Training Day. All WD tasks
would be set aside for one day and the time devoted to getting more people
trained to use strimmers and polesaws, the grillo sickle mower. The tipper
would get new drivers signed off and trailer training would see more volunteers
given the basic tools to reverse trailers and tow them safely.
The day chosen was to be Reg’s third day out on the ground
working with his charges. Last week he joined an expedition shifting wet
hessian sandbags from the landing stage at Ebley onto a Mitzi. Not an easy task
as each nominal 20kg bag had to be carried increasing distances to the waiting
vehicle in the carpark. Offloading at Dudbridge was easier – just slide off the
tailgate into a ragged pile. Not content with his morning’s lift and shift Reg
was only too pleased to help with the unloading of a substantial van load of
flat pack furniture up to the top floor at the Brimscombe bookshop. There was
little time to stand and admire the Virginia creepers bleeding through the
still green hedges along the waterside.
Came the day for the big expedition to the Ocean where the
green training was to take place and the yard was busy with strimmers being
filled and tested before loading and training rosters prepared. Tea was poured
into flasks and lunch boxes were loaded into vehicles. Then a message that the
‘volunteer what knows about training for strimmers etc.’ rang in sick. “No
matter, we’ll carry on” said Reg. There was a big reason to continue as the HLF
assessors were due be given a progress report on the development phase of the
1B bid. The assessors would be coming to the Ocean and St Cyr’s church to be
talked through 9 short presentations and reports on the detail of the progress
and plans. And there was real work to do around the Ocean basin wharf front by
the former farm buildings.
The ongoing commitment to keeping the waterside community
involved with the restoration effort along the waterway means that we work with
them to keep the waterside tidy. The Ocean was dredged by the trust volunteers
some time ago and many willows were felled or pollarded. The main channel is
essentially clear but the vegetation close to the gardens has grown strongly
and tall. WD were to reduce the height of the greenery and pollard the willows.
Base camp was established on the ‘Wedding Field’ by
Richard gave training on the Grillo and Mike was on hand to
give the benefit of his experience with the pole pruner/saw.
Several volunteers were given experience in working with the
pole pruner and much young growth was removed from willows young and old. So
much work was done that it required 3 runs with the tipper to clear the brash
The greenery beyond the dock wall had been reduced by
Heather from Wookey Hole and her mentee Chris using the heavy Stihl’s fitted
with masher blades. These tools are very effective at reducing dense brush and
greenery to a mulch which can be left to rot down or cleared as required.
During all these activities we were watched by the
waterborne residents of the Ocean. The family of swans, 7 cygnets still in
their grey plumage and two adults, are clearly the stars of the water. They are
ably supported by ducks and squadrons of moorhens and coots.
We had done some prior observations and watched the moorhens
and coots disappearing into gaps in the reeds and were mindful of this when
working and training throughout the day.
During the day the WD volunteers recorded skills in
vegetation management and driving techniques which will reduce the load on
those who already have them and bodes well for the work of the yard. The
intended training on strimmer tools will be re-programmed soon. The weather was
kind with yellow jackets quickly replaced with just the hi-vis waistcoats. Fading summer tans were topped up and lungs refreshed. The night’s sleep was
And a source within the 1B hierarchy has said that the bid
review was successful with the team impressed with the work done and the
evident enthusiasm of the volunteers visible on the day was commended.
But what of Reg? He enjoyed a day away from the phone. His
primary role was as team speaker. An essential role in any work team along the
towpath as most people will stop and ask “What are you doing today?” Reg was
ideal for the role as he knows much about what we are doing now and for the
future. His forte was, and is, the emollient link between WD and the residents
around the Ocean. And he set up the day for us – not sure how he managed the
good weather though!
10 volunteers were trained across 5 disciplines: Polesaw, Grillo, Tipper Driving, Trailer
Towing and Jet Washer use.
Congratulations to David C, Andy J, Matt J, Vince H, Bob K,
Phil S, Richard A, Steve P, , Frank L and Clive B.
Thanks go to Frank L, Richard A, Mike L, Dave C and Bob A
for sharing their knowledge and experience with the group. And of course to