Progress...and team-building as the boss wades in on the Wilts & Berks...
A few weeks ago, I received a call from David Whitty of Community Service Volunteers, saying that he had a company in Swindon who wanted to do a team-building exercise for some of their senior managers and he asked if I could provide any work on the canal - what a daft question!
It seems that the company involved was Innogy, the new name for National Power, and as they are based in Swindon, the Wilts & Berks Canal seemed a suitable venue. A girl (Rose) from the Community Relations Department, and David Witty from London, duly arrived to meet Di and I and have a look at what work I could offer them and to decide on a suitable programme. While I picked up David from the station, Di met Rose, who - to her horror - was dressed in sequinned top, long tight skirt to the ankles, and high heels....
Nevertheless, she bravely tottered across a rough field or two and scrambled through the barbed wire fence onto the towpath at the eastern end of the Dauntsey section. The towpath at that time was un-strimmed and quite long, but they could see what needed doing.
The day finally dawned (Friday 30th August), and nineteen volunteers were shipped in by minibus. (can you call them volunteers when it is part of their job?) We were quite surprised that there were more females than males, but they all set to with a will, clearing out the hedge, sawing off branches and dragging out brambles, and three teams were set up with Tirfor winches to remove stumps from the towpath. Phill Cardy, David James and Ray Alldridge all came to help, so we were able to have an experienced Tirfor operator with each team.
Innogy have seven directors, four of whom turned up including the Managing Director. None of them had ever done anything like it before, nor knew what to expect - in fact, we weren't sure how much we could expect of them - but I think we were all surprised. They worked really hard throughout quite a long day, had some huge bonfires and a lot got burnt. 135yds of towpath were cleared of stumps, and 100yds of hedge were thinned for laying.
The Community Relations Department had not only brought a present of a small leather bound hip flask for everyone present, but had prepared prizes along the lines of who had the cleanest trainers at the end of the day, who had worked hardest, who had got wettest - which turned out to be the Managing Director who had donned waders and gone into the cut to attach a Tirfor to a stump. The appropriate prize turned out to be an Aquaman. One or two others got a little damp from Katy-the-dog retrieving sticks from the canal and coming out and shaking herself all over everyone, but it was a warm day. They had also prepared a prize for the person considered the laziest at the end of the day, but couldn't award it as even those expected to be lazy weren't!
It was a brilliant day, and every-one enjoyed themselves, so let's hope that other companies in the locality get the same idea!
Reprinted from Navvies No 196