Siddington. I remember working really really hard to try and impress everybody. We were physically digging silt out of the top of the bywash. I was absolutely aching by the time I got back home but I really enjoyed it and so I came back. We went all over the place that year.
Q: Since then what’s been the nature of your involvement? A: I carried on. Later that year I started going out with Rupert who was also digging with London WRG. He has an historic narrowboat so that involved doing quite a lot of boating. So as well as a bit of boating on my own boat, which I was living on still, we were travelling across the country quite a lot and going off boating. By 1994 we spent time gallivanting around the Midlands so that didn’t allow quite so much time for going on digs but we were still on quite a few of them right up to the time where we left London in 2000. We had got married in 1996 and by 1999 had found a house to move to on the Caldon Canal with moorings at the bottom of the garden. In the meantime I’d been pretty involved with IWA in London. So when we moved up to the Caldon Canal near Leek we got quite involved straight away with the local canal society. Since then we’ve carried on going on occasional London WRG digs especially if they’re further north. We got involved with the local IWA branch, (me as secretary) and Rupert and I both got involved with the Caldon Canal Society and I became work party organiser. Eventually we got some work going on on the top lock of the Uttoxeter Canal at Froghall so that meant that rather than being a volunteer on a weekend dig I was actually hosting the digs as a work party organiser. Although we only lived a few miles down the road from where the accommodation usually was, Rupert and I would both go and stay in the accommodation.
Q: Tell me a bit more about the Caldon Canal A: By the time we arrived the Caldon Canal Society were a bit worried about people overstaying on longterm moorings and hadn’t done very much active restoration since the Caldon Canal had been reopened in 1974. There were murmurings about doing things down at Froghall and at the end of the Leek Arm. After a few years funding became available though the EDF (European Development Fund) and British Waterways were involved with the project. What we put into the project was £45,000 worth of volunteer work as matched funding. It’s opened up the first lock of the Uttoxeter Canal and the Caldon and Uttoxeter Canals Trust (as it’s now [known]). The basin was completely overgrown, most people didn’t know it was there. If you have visited Froghall, which is the terminus of the Caldon Canal, there’s a pretty wharf, a little carpark, ice cream shop; people wouldn’t know that the basin was there. You could see where the canal went off it if you knew what you were looking for – the top end of the lock had been filled in and you could walk down the lock chamber.
Q: What work did WRG do? A: The tree felling – WRG forestry were very
involved: Tenko, Sparky, Alison, and Clive. They would come up – there were several weekends when we had WRG-NW or London WRG coming up for the weekend – they would come up the day before and fell some trees so that we had something to get started on. We had 3 canal camps: the first was led by Mike Palmer, the second by Helen Gardner and I think there was another one . What happened was: towards the end of the project I “Quite an occasion” - Froghall reopening discovered I was expecting a baby so I handed over my role to John Ryder. I think there was another camp just before the reopening – that Easter. I wasn’t involved then because I had a tiny baby to look after. July 2005 was the reopening and that was quite an occasion; we had the first boats come down the lock into the basin. So that was quite an achievement and it was really good to have been involved with that project. Hopefully we’ll have some work coming up further down the canal later this year . Recently I’ve just become work party organiser again. We had a feasibility study completed last year which says it is feasible, even where a lot of people might think that’s a bit of a dead duck because you’ve got some quite tight confines in the valley with the [derelict] railway. There are odd bits of canal that remain but most of it is now the line of the railway which is now a popular footpath. Basically it’s feasible and it’ll cost about 90 million.
Magazine for volunteers restoring the waterways.