Earlier this year, one of the willows just South of the railway bridge fell down, greatly restricting the width of the canal. The Canal and River Trust are pretty speedy at clearing trees completely blocking the canal, but if you can still get a boat past, you may have to wait for a year or so for the Trust’s contractors to clear the whole channel.
It was fairly easy for a narrowboat to pass, but getting our wide beams through called for some pretty hazardous manoeuvres. So with a couple of hours to spare, Dave Lee and John Bennett took Sheldrake 2, some loppers and a bow saw, and managed to greatly improve the situation. However, the tree just sagged lower, and branches got in the way again … then another tree fell just beyond this, forcing our boats to ground again whilst trying to pass. More drastic action was called for.
After a short day trip, Nick Alexander, Marion Roberts and John Bennett set off again to have another go. Nick did a great job keeping the boat in just the right spot while Marion and John set to work on the greenery. Some delicate manoeuvring later (including making room for passing traffic) and further skilful use of loppers and saws, the deck was soon full of willow. Then ‘all’ that was needed was to transfer this onto the offside bank. This process repeated several times to leave a nice clear navigation channel for wide as well as narrow beams.
The odd thing is, that few would know that the work had even been done – you don’t notice what isn’t there. Everyone would comment on the blockage; no-one would notice that it wasn’t there. Still, those involved know that they made a real contribution, and made every trip we run a bit easier.