It is good to be able to finally report with certainty that our volunteer activities are to resume, in just a couple of days. This is quite a long update, but there is a lot of information to share with you.
Welcome to those new supporters who have joined us since I last sent an email out, your support is greatly appreciated and I hope you find this newsletter interesting. You can immediately remove yourself from this occasional mailing list using the link at the bottom, though I hope you will stay around to recieve these occasional updates (rarely more than once a month.)
Steve and the BPT Team
My previous prediction that work parties would resume in April turned out to be a little optimistic, but we are finally ready to go again and the first dates have been finalised. You may recall that our ‘Footsteps’ path-laying project was just getting going when we had to stop meeting, so this will be the focus of our activities for the next few months.
Last week we started clearance of the very substantial vegetation growth across the site, using a contractor. After more than a year without work parties it is perhaps no surprise that in places the weeds had grown to a level where we decided that additional help was needed. With perfect timing torrential rain arrived on the day that cutting back began and work had to be suspended around lunchtime. However, enough progress was made to allow us to visit with volunteers and the rest will be tackled within the next week or two.
Our work party day is moving to a Friday, with the first of these coming at the end of this week, 16th July at 11am. Please note the later than usual start on this occasion. This will be a general tidy up, with some litter picking and vegetation removal in the areas that have been made accessible again (which may change between now and Friday, all being well.) A second work party will follow on 6th August at 10am, undertaking similar work on other parts of the site. By the end of that session we should be ready to begin the big task of path-laying, but if not an additional session will be added on a date to be agreed.
This task will be structured in a different way to anything we have tried before, though it is very common on other canal restoration projects. We need to have materials and equipment delivered to the site in bulk so it will be necessary to run the work parties on consecutive days, and we will be promoting widely to ensure a good attendance. We are looking for up to 10 volunteers every day who will be working in a co-ordinated way with supervision from myself and others to lay the path. No previous experience is required to join the work party and as usual there are a range of tasks with varying activity levels.
There will be some powered equipment on site to assist us and trained volunteer operators are being sought. Please contact me directly if you believe that you have the appropriate qualifications to operate a small excavator or dumper. We do have strict requirements for volunteers using powered equipment so your certification would need to be checked and signed off in advance. We will also have a compacting "wacker" plate in use, for which training will be given on site. This a very easy (and satisfying) piece of equipment to use, which gives the shooth finish to the new path. We also need a qualified first-aider on site every day. If you have the appropriate qualification please let me know. A first aider who is not involved in the path-laying would be welcome, and would not count as one of the 10 registrations.
We will be asking volunteers at the path-laying work parties to register in advance via the website so that we know and can prepare for the expected number of attendees each day. Please only sign up if you are confident that you will be there as the registration system has a limit of 10 attendees per day. This applies only to the path-laying days, not to our regular work parties, where volunteers work over a larger area.
The new calendar section of our website shows all upcoming events, including regular and path-laying work parties, as well as any other events. Please do check the calendar before attending any event as this will contain the latest updates. We still need to be very aware from a COVID security point of view (hence restricting numbers on site.) Previous attendees will notice some small changes to other procedures such as signing in and issue of equipment. In particular we ask volunteers to bring their own gloves if possible.
Footsteps celebratory event
You may recall that we previously put out a call for local artists to contact us to become involved in our project. We were overwhelmed by the number and quality of responses and after much discussion, appointed two groups to work with us. A public event will be held on site on Sunday 19th September, by which time we hope to have completed most if not all of the path-laying. This date coincides with the national Heritage Open Days so we will also be leading guided walks around the site. See the leaflet below, which was handed out to visitors at last weekend's Etruria Boat Gathering.
Finally, as ever, a reminder that Potto Lotto is an easy way to support us! This has been incredibly helpful to us recently as we have used the projected income to match-fund grant applications, potentially doubling the value to us of each ticket sold. Potto Lotto provides you with a weekly chance to win up to £25,000 for £1.00 and provides funds to much needed good causes across the City of Stoke-on-Trent. Thanks to everyone who has signed up and if you haven't done already so then do please consider it as another easy way to support our ongoing work.
Steve Wood, Work Party Organiser