Elephant among jumbo haul of rubbish cleared from canal

Hopper arrives for morning tea - picture  Les Franklin.
Hopper arrives for morning tea - picture Les Franklin.

It was literally a jumbo haul of rubbish cleared from the canal through Milton Keynes - a headless plastic elephant was among the estimated 8 to 10 tonnes of stuff found during the clean-up.

In glorious autumn sunshine on 13 – 14 October,

Parks Trust volunteers helping at canal clean-up. Photo: Carla Boswell

Parks Trust volunteers helping at canal clean-up. Photo: Carla Boswell

Members of Milton Keynes Branch of the Inland Waterways Association held their twice-yearly canal clean-up on a section northward from Fenny Stratford to Old Wolverton on Friday, October 13 and Saturday, October 14, in glorious sunshine.

They were joined by staff and volunteers from the Canal and River Trust and the Parks Trust, and the event was sponsored by the Wyvern Shipping Co Ltd. A total of 46 volunteers clocked up more than 400 hours, plus more in preparation.

Items recovered included an engine, washing machine, fibreglass dinghy, double mattress, toilet, rucksack, numerous bikes, motorbikes and supermarket trolleys, timber, plywood and fencing panels, plastic sheeting, the usual bottles and cans, a garden heron ornament and the headless plastic elephant!

Walkers cleared the towpath and hedges of litter and larger items of rubbish. Volunteers working from a ‘pan’ - a shallow-draught workboat - cleared the non-towpath side of the canal. Submerged items in the centre of the canal were grappled by volunteers working from a ‘hopper’, a large workboat with an open hold. A Canal and River Trust dredger helped to retrieve the heaviest submerged items.

Dredger compacts the load. 
Photo: James Griffin.

Dredger compacts the load. Photo: James Griffin.

Parks Trust volunteers held litter-picks on the towpaths and the trust’s parklands near the canal.

As the workboats passed, the opportunity was taken to cut down some of the overhanging branches obstructing the navigation. Other large branches were collected from the water and the towpath hedges.

Vicky Martin, Waterways Manager at the Canal and River Trust, said: “I would like to thank the Parks Trust and IWA Milton Keynes Branch for helping us keep Milton Keynes’ waterways clean and free of rubbish. As a charity, we spend thousands of pounds each year removing fly-tipped rubbish from the towpath and in the canal, money that could be better spent helping care for our beautiful waterways. The volunteers all worked tirelessly over the weekend and have really made a difference to this stretch of canal.”

Sonny King, Volunteer Development Co-ordinator, Canal and River Trust, said: “The clean-up is another sterling example of how well volunteers work together to improve the canal network for everyone. The efforts made by everyone involved go a long way in building relationships with communities and engaging them with the network that sits right at most people’s doorstep. I really appreciate the hard work you all put in to make this happen and you all have a lot to be proud of!”

Hopper crew in action. Tim Armstrong.

Hopper crew in action. Tim Armstrong.

IWA Milton Keynes Branch is grateful to Canal and River Trust for its support with staff, workboats, dredger and safety equipment, to The Parks Trust for the splendid contribution made by its volunteers, and to the Wyvern Shipping Co Ltd for sponsorship, and for providing the tug for the hopper, support staff, and the specialist grappling hooks used on the hopper.

Thanks go to all the volunteers for a superb job in tidying up after those who dumped the rubbish, and keeping the Grand Union Canal through Milton Keynes as safe and attractive as possible for the whole community.

IWA Milton Keynes Branch plans to stage its next Canal Cleanup next spring.

The headless elephant Picture:  Les Franklin.

The headless elephant Picture: Les Franklin.

Dredger (foreground) and full hopper arrive at Wolverton. 
Photo: Les Franklin.

Dredger (foreground) and full hopper arrive at Wolverton. Photo: Les Franklin.