"Jo underestimated the water in the canal..."
The objective of the camp was to
scrub-bash, stump-pull and clear as much of the towpath and bank sides as
possible, prior to dredging a section between Foxham Top Lock and the Elephant
Spillweir by the end of January, for which we have obtained landfill tax
funding. The main problem was that
water voles and great crested newts have been discovered in that stretch (did I
bring the latter with me from Stover?), we mostly could not use brush-cutters or
strimmers, and all the clearing had to be done by hand tools.
The good thing was that -
with temperatures not much above freezing - we could keep huge bonfires going,
and Di turned up with plenty of hot soup lunchtimes.
It snowed overnight on the second night of the camp, and didn’t thaw
until the final day, but with clear blue skies and sunny days it was great
weather for working outside - known in Devon as ‘Boss′s weather’,
because everyone has to work hard to keep warm!
We had a slightly uneven
start, owing to lack of trains and coaches on Boxing Day, but by Thursday there
were eleven of us, supplemented by a few local volunteers, and we got an amazing
amount cleared. Tall Dave struggled
manfully with the brambles, even though he couldn’t see the thorns, owing to a
sight problem. (Is that politically
correct - should it be personfully? Urgggghhh).
Jo stepped backwards through the ice, and underestimated the water in the
canal, which turned out to be over welly-depth, and a loud shriek woke everyone
up. It’s certainly a big
advantage having the accommodation only 5 minutes’ walk front the site, so
easy to nip back and change! Smaller Dave worked hard in the mornings, but ran out of
energy by lunchtime -hope you weren’t sickening for ‘flu, Dave.
Nevertheless, he kept us well entertained, Including a Wiltshire
There was a young man from Devizes,
Our cinema outing was
slightly disappointing, as we hoped to see 102 Dalmatians, but this was only
showing in the afternoon, presumably not thought suitable for adult audiences.
We stuck out a totally
over-the-top ‘Meet the parents’, with Robert de Niro playing the worst of a
number of odious characters, but it had its moments.
Even the local pub is only 5
minutes’ walk away: very handy. After
a special meal for New Year’s Eve, some of us trotted down to join in the pub
games arranged for the evening. Jo
and Paul managed to beat all the locals, Jo particularly finding it quite easy
to pick up a matchbox from the floor with her teeth - in fact, she assured us
that even a matchstick wouldn’t have been too much of a problem!
Of course, no camp report
from me would be complete without mention of the third member of our team of
leader-cook-dog. On the BITM
Christmas Dig, Katy surpassed herself, acquiring the art of volleyball, leaping
high and punching a large balloon with her nose back and forth over an imaginary
net to a waiting navvy - the balloon never touched the floor for 10 minutes!
On this camp, she had to be
content with retrieving sticks sent hurtling through the air from various
volunteers. By afternoon, her paws
were so packed with snow between the pads that she had to trot back to the
accommodation to thaw out.
She rapidly acquired a name
as the official camp waker-upper; once she had had her early morning walk with
Di, and polished off her breakfast, she saw no reason for people to still be in
bed. By the time the
‘porridge-ready’ call came, anyone still in a sleeping bag might get at
least their noses, if not their faces, washed’
Of the three novice navvies,
Australian Lynn really seemed to enjoy herself, once she got used to sleeping on
the floor, beside a radiator, and with a hot water bottle to keep her warm.
She arrived with the biggest
backpack ever seen, nearly as tall as herself!
thanks to all, for their hard work, willingness to tackle anything, and their
Reprinted from Navvies No 185