If you dig canals this could be your ideal break

Published: 09:09AM Mar 27th, 2012
By: Dan Sharp

WATERWAY enthusiasts looking for a getaway with a difference can sign up for a new range of working holidays.

More than 25 week-long canal camps are run by the Inland Waterways Association’s Waterway Recovery Group.

There are a wide range of activities on offer including rebuilding locks, digging out canal channels and clearing vegetation from towpaths.

If you dig canals this could be your ideal break

Lock preservation work on the Monmouthshire Canal. PHOTO: RALPH MILLS

Taking part in the programme is a great opportunity to meet new people from different backgrounds and anyone aged 18 to 70 can take part. Each camp costs £56 for the week including food and accommodation.

People taking part in the Cromford Canal camp in Derbyshire will be based at the Derwentside spill weir on the watered section of the canal in the Derwent Valley World Heritage Site. Work will consist of demolishing the existing structure and building a new one, so demolition, concreting and bricklaying will be the order of the day.

At the Monmouthshire Canal, volunteers will be reconstructing and repairing Tredegar Lock and clearing vegetation from the canal corridor from Drapers Lock. This hands-on camp will also give participants the opportunity to learn the art of using lime mortar in construction and organisers say it is a great camp for people of all abilities. 

Work on the Lancaster Canal will include restoration of its northern reaches with reprofiling and relining work on a section at Stainton. Organisers intend to restore a 225m length of water which will be the first prominent piece of restoration work done since the canal trust was founded.

The project will involve a lot of earthmoving so volunteers will have a chance to learn how to drive excavators and dumpers. There will also be vegetation clearance, tree felling and stonework restoration.

Meanwhile, there will be waterway archaeology at the Wendover Arm of the Grand Union Canal in July.

The Grand Union was the ‘M1’ of its day, with boats transporting farming products, coal, timber and other materials to and from the London markets. To ensure that the canal functioned efficiently, a large number of reservoirs were built around Tring in Hertfordshire.

The Wendover Arm was primarily built to supply water from these reservoirs to the locks at Marsworth and Cowroast. In 2011, volunteers exposed the wharf walls and archways of the Arm’s derelict Whitehouse’s Pumping Station. This year, the camp will rebuild the station’s wharf wall and culverts.

Volunteers will learn archaeological skills while investigating the coal storage areas and foundations of the building.

For more details on the camps visit www.wrg.org.uk or call 01494 783453 ext 604. To request a canal camps brochure contact Jenny at IWA head office on either 01494 783453 ext 604 or email enquiries@wrg.org.uk

The camps:

Location: Cromford Canal, Derbyshire.

Dates: August 4-11

Activities: demolition, construction, stone walling, bricklaying.

Location: Monmouthshire Canal, South Wales

Dates: July 7-14

Activities: heritage construction skills, vegetation clearance.

Location: Lancaster Canal, Lancashire

Dates: July 28-August 4

Activities: channel construction, vegetation clearance, stonework restoration.

Location: Wendover Arm, Grand Union Canal, Hertfordshire

Dates: July 14-21

Activities: bricklaying, waterway archaeology

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