done because of the funding cuts. At the point she offered me her hand which was an indication that the interview was at an end. So I shook her hand, stepped 3 or 4 steps backwards as instructed, curtsied again and went away. In the meantime she’d pinned the medal onto my dress.
Q: The BCN Marathon Challenges – tell us about that? A: The BCN Marathon Challenge was an event that was run by Helen and Chris Davey and Alan Jervis – it ran for about 10 years. We took part for about 8 of those 10 years mostly on Ben, one year we joined people on Fulbourne. It was an amazing intense 24 hours of boating – mostly pulling on ropes, pushing with poles and getting stuck in the mud, going aground, having to clear the propeller, having to go into the canal to clear the propeller. It was started because there was a perceived threat to navigation at night. So Helen, Chris and Alan decided to formulate an event that involved having to boat through the night to prove the point that we could boat through the night. The first event ran for 24 hours, subsequently they changed the rules so that you could moor up for 6 hours. You had to boat for 24 hours out of 30 – we tended to have our 6 hours rest in the pub. We aimed to get 6 or 7 people on board for the weekend and have a bit of sleep in shifts. I remember we went into Netherton Tunnel in the dark at 4 o’clock in the morning one year and as we went underneath each air shaft we looked up and it was getting lighter. It was quite light by the time we came out the other end. We ended up in the first series of Water World. We had this cameraman on board for the best part of the day on the Sunday - Ed Walker nearly knocked him in the canal with one end of the pole. We had a good team on board that year.
Q: Have you done any canal camps? A: Only parts of camps - I did part of one at the London Canal Museum in the ice pits. That’s probably about it really! The National Festival I’m always there with my IWA hat on.
Q: What would you say WRG’s greatest achievement has been? A: Generally, the increased number of available miles to navigate – especially back in the last 10 years. 2001 2002 there were a lot of waterways being reopened and although WRG haven’t done all that work, a lot of it’s down to the canal societies, WRG are there to support the societies and provide the manpower when needed.
Q: What would you say WRG was good at? A: Encompassing everybody – everybody and anybody is welcome. That’s what I notice quite a lot. On the camps we had at Froghall the Duke of Edinburgh people were made to feel just as welcome, we had some from overseas. It’s quite laid back – there’s not that much bureaucracy – we obviously have to do health and safety paperwork. That’s changed a lot in the 18 years I’ve been involved – we used to go to the pub at lunchtimes with London WRG when I was first digging. It seems to work as an organisation.
Q: Who has inspired you? A: I suppose Tim Lewis must have inspired me on that first December social meeting. Since then – Martin Ludgate – from the first London WRG drink that I went to – inspired me with his enthusiasm. And Neil Edwards has inspired me particularly with the IWA side of things rather than WRG – he’s been my mentor I would say.
Q: What’s the most useful skill you’ve learnt and who did you learn it from? A: Early on I remember my dad being particularly proud of the fact that I’d spent the previous weekend being trained how to drive a dumper. I think that got mentioned in his speech at our wedding.
Q: What has changed for canal restoration? A: There’s definitely more health and safety related things – which is obviously good. Apart from that not a lot has changed about going on a dig: lots of fresh air, hard work, just getting on with it.
Q: Where do you see WRG’s future? A: Hopefully carrying on what we’re doing now – that would be good. With British Waterways looking to move into the third sector it ought to become easier to work on a wider range of projects. Let’s hope it does become easier. I think there’s more scope for getting more people involved although I think there’s a danger that British Waterways and WRG are going to be fighting for the same volunteers. British Waterways seem to be going down the lines of it’s not about working in partnership with existing volunteer organisations – it’s about getting their own volunteers. There’s only a certain amount of people in this country who are going to volunteer on the waterways. IWA and WRG might find it harder.
Magazine for volunteers restoring the waterways.