Neil on Nb Nerus, who moors on the next pontoon persuaded me to join in with the Lapworth C&RT Volunteers who meet on the third Wednesday and Saturday of each month. I thought that as C&RT was now a charity that I should at least put something back because as a boater we make good use of the system.
I duly arrived at Kingswood Junction workshop a little before the appointed time of 10 am and wondered down to the first lock on the Stratford canal where three boats were waiting to go through and discovered that the beam on the bottom gate had split and C& RT employees were trying make a temporary repair with a wooden plank secured with bolts through the beam. Not an easy job as a steel plate had been previously fixed to the other side and the bolts were protruding through the side where the plank was to be fixed.
I ambled back to the workshop and met with Mike the volunteer coordinator. Mike is currently an agency worker on contract to C&RT. Whilst he was explaining that this is a new venture and that they were looking to do things like painting and vegetation clearance etc and then develop local groups, another volunteer, Phil joined us.
Today’s task was to fix C&RT logos over the existing BW signs down the Hatton flight of locks to ensure that the public become aware of the changes. So we duly made our way to Hatton where we met up with Nick and Carol, two other volunteers.
*Affixing the new C&RT logos
Unfortunately there did not seem to be any correlation with the signs and the stickers we were given so it was a bit of a mish-mash but we managed to fix most signs even though four of us to do the job was overkill. Despite that it was good to be with interesting people enthusiastic to help with keeping the canal system working well.
* Hatton Flight with the volunteers walking back up to the café.
Whilst this is a new initiative for C&RT and they have a great deal to learn in a very short space of time, my initial impression is that a lot more planning needs to go into what the volunteers will do on each day and ensure that their time is used efficiently. Otherwise it is likely that volunteers will become disheartened and not return. It will be interesting to see the progress over the next couple of months.
In chatting to some of the C&RT employees one can detect a great deal of concern in the use of volunteers, after all, several other aspects of their jobs have gone out to contractors, and they need reassurance that their skills and knowledge are vital to the organisation. Perhaps it would be appropriate to involve some of the local C&RT employees with organising the work of the volunteers which would help alay their fears and create a better understanding between the two groups. From my past experience in industry good communication and building robust teams is critical to the success of any new project.I also wonder how much C&RT are taking on board from the way the current independent Canal volunteer groups work as they seem to have developed a very successful formulae.
I will keep you posted about my experiences over the coming months, in the meantime why not try a spot of volunteering yourselves.