You never know what to expect when starting up a volunteer work party in a new area. I’d put up posters, shared the information by email and on social media, but really had no idea if anyone else would appear barring David from Burslem Port Trust. I was therefore more than a little relieved to see a group of volunteers already waiting when I arrived at Luke Street in Middleport.
The main task for this our first work party was to start cutting back trees and other vegetation that had built up since the site was last tidied up as part of a Future Jobs Fund scheme in 2010.
A week before our work party a fibreglass boat moored at the end of the branch had been destroyed by fire after its two occupants had unwisely decided to refuel a petrol generator on board the craft, resulting in an explosion. They had survived but their dog was not so lucky. Many of the boat contents had been thrown onto the bank and so added to the already huge pile of litter that had accumulated in this area while they had been moored there. We had agreed with CRT that they will collect this rubbish at the same time as the destroyed boat is removed so some of our group bagged the smaller items and left them near to the bank for easy collection.
[img_assist|nid=174|title=Volunteers at Burslem Port - 24th February 2015|desc=|link=popup|align=right|width=320|height=240]Our group of 8 volunteers made good headway working in the former junction area and along the waters edge with an assortment of hand tools and soon the site was looking very different.
Unfortunately strong gusts of winds meant that it was difficult to keep our bonfire going so most of the cuttings were stacked up for burning another day. The day briefly threatened to turn worse when hailstones started to fall but they only lasted a few minutes and the rest of the day remained dry and mild.
A couple of the volunteers had to leave in the morning but by our scheduled finish time of 3pm there were still 5 volunteers going strong and determined to finish the job. We eventually called it a day at 3:45. I crossed the canal via Newport Lane Bridge and it was clear to see what a difference had been made. The church tower in Burslem was visible from the towpath once more and whilst there is still a lot to do the site was already looking better.
Weather permitting a couple of us have agreed to return to burn the brash at some point in the next week and by the time of the next scheduled work party in March we hope that the rubbish and remains of the boat will also have been removed by CRT. We have already heard from three new people who plan to join our group for future work parties and hope that the numbers will continue to grow. Why not join us on the fourth Tuesday of each month?
Work party leader
[img_assist|nid=177|title=View of the junction after the work party 24/2/2015|desc=|link=popup|align=right|width=469|height=303] [img_assist|nid=176|title=View of the junction before the work party 24/2/2015|desc=|link=popup|align=left|width=470|height=315]