Friday, November 13, 2015

The joys of being a Volunteer Towpath Ranger

I did a ranger walk yesterday with our new Boss Darren.  He let me choose where we should go so I chose Cowley Peachey and some of the Slough Arm. One of the first things we noticed was this broken fence near Packet Boat bridge.

broken fence

then just as we walked away, a respectable looking middle aged couple walked off the towpath, through the hole in the fence and round the back of the building.  It leads through to a little industrial estate.  People will use whatever shortcuts they can I suppose. I wonder who cut the fence in the first place.

The down the Slough Arm I had been telling Darren about the nuisance of kids on motor bikes on the towpath.  Just then as if to prove my point, one appeared some distance away. We walked towards him but of course as soon as he spotted us he turned around and drove off into one of the many little footpaths that lead off.  Then as luck would have it, just as we got to the footbridge where the arm meets the GU, he appeared again right in front of us.  Before we could shout “Oi” he nipped past and disappeared over the bridge and drove off through another “unofficial” gate into the yard behind Argos, and then out into the main road and away.  Of course he had no number plate or anything to identify him. The surprising this though, was that he was not a young whippersnapper, but a guy of perhaps twenty five years old.  We’ve got signs up saying motor bikes are not legal along there but of course these people take no notice.  The problem is not just the safety aspect, but also the noise these bikes make especially at night.

Further down the arm, we detected signs that someone is sleeping rough under Bridge 1, and we think that at least one of the WWII pill boxes down there are occupied too.  That’s something for Darren to address.  We volunteers deal with the more mundane matters like reporting this impassable (without risk of wet socks) bit of towpath.  I’ll send in a photo and no doubt it will be added to a job list, but at a low priority.


At last I have been given a key which opens up CRT lockups like this little shed at Cowley lock.


at the moment it’s used by the volunteer lock keepers, but we will be commandeering a shelf to keep a bit of Ranger stuff, now that we have keys.  We need to find more lock ups like this on our very long patch from Ricky to Brentford.  I think the next one might be at Norwood top lock.

Another of our duties is talking to towpath users, boaters, cyclists, walkers, anglers etc.  Sometimes to listen to their concerns, which we report back at meetings, and sometimes to try to persuade them to be a good towpath citizen if they are being a nuisance in some way.  Yesterday we were chatting to a couple of anglers. Interestingly one of them said he had given up living on a boat in London because of the pressure to keep moving all the time.  So for those who think CRT is doing nothing to deal with overstayers, it seems that some boaters don’t feel that way.

Being a ranger is not all about walking about, (I did about five miles yesterday, and now my plantar fasciitis is playing up) at least is isn’t for me as a lead ranger.  Today I have spend an hour or so sorting out bundles of uniform and bits and pieces that have arrived for my team, trying to remember who is size  L and who is XXL etc. Then another hour sorting photos and composing emails. It’s all good fun.


Jenny Woolf said...

That is interesting,I didn't know about volunteer rangers. on the Regents Canal they have barriers to stop bikes going down, or steep flights of steps to the towpath. Obviously not the case everywhere.

Jenny Woolf said...

I think it's the Lea Valley bit of the canal by the way. I am sure you know it. Have cycled a lot down canals but never thank goodness actually met a motorbike.

Vallypee said...

You must be getting very fit, now, Neil. All that walking! Still, it must be fascinating too. You get to see all the changes in both the man made developments (or deteriorations) as well as the natural ones. Great!