Early in 2015 a small group of residents on Lodgefield Park thought it would be nice to improve the section of canal that runs adjacent to the park. We contacted CRT and asked if we could volunteer to help do this work. Our first priority was to improve the private footpath from our park over bridge 102, (Lodgefield Bridge), giving us access to the towpath. This work was initially agreed by the, then, volunteer co-ordinator. We started work in early February but then hit a snag – we found out that our friendly CRT man hade ‘jumped the gun’ and had given us the go-ahead without having got the ‘all clear’ from all other interested parties. Work had to stop until such time as these issues could be addressed. It is worth noting here that we were assured by CRT that we had done nothing wrong and that any blame could be put firmly upon CRT’s shoulders. It appeared that neither the land owner nor Natural England had been consulted. As the work slightly infringed upon an SSSI, permission was required from the authorities for any work. Our ‘on the ground’ co-ordinator, Terry Hodgetts, said that CRT would sort things out. This resulted in a meeting with CRT’s environmentalist and myself. This meeting was very positive and we now had to find out who actually owns the land and obtain their permission. This issue is still on-going and it appears that it will be up to us to sort it with the owner and the SSSI authority as CRT do not own the land as was first thought, although CRT do have a right of way there.
We mentioned to Terry that we would like to fill in gaps in the hedge along the towpath, make up the towpath and put in mooring rings and erect a notice board near St. Thomas Bridge, (Bridge 101). Terry then suggested we consider adopting this length. This resulted in a meeting with Sue Blocksidge of CRT who explained the adoption process etc. The forms were e-mailed to me and duly completed. Meanwhile, whilst this paperwork was in process we managed to obtain some funding from the Staffordshire County Council Local Community Fund for the installation of rings and a board so we were able to arrange a work party to do this work. We also were able to obtain sponsorship from Hope Construction Materials who donated the concrete for the rings. The rings were installed over three days by volunteers and CRT staff and the notice board erected later. Having got the adoption paperwork we are now ‘official’. One small hiccup occurred when we were awarded the grant from the council – they wanted a bank account for us. As a small group we had no committee much less any bank! CRT came to our rescue as we were able to arrange for the grant to be paid directly to them. Unfortunately we had been mis-quoted on the cost of the notice board so the total project cost would have been over budget if it hadn’t been for the ‘free’ concrete. Now that our adoption is complete a new chain of contacts has been set up and things should run more smoothly. As interest in our group has been increasing, with several new people joining us, we thought it time to have a proper meeting. We agreed that we wanted to be an informal group with as little regulation as possible, so we opted to have just a Chair, Treasurer and ‘Secretary’. This would enable us to get a bank account in the future. We also opted to have no membership fees and no membership list but just a list of volunteers and those interested.
Apart from the communication problems at the start we had very few problems with working with CRT and setting up the adoption, so we are now fully fledged as The Baswich Canal Group (Staffs and Worcs Canal) and even have our own signs along the canal.
Group Leader, (Chair), Baswich Canal Group.