Chelmer Canal Trust, formerly the Friends of the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation

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Chelmer Canal Trust
Frequently Asked Questions

Who are you?
          The Chelmer Canal Trust is an enthusiastic independent registered charity which aims to protect and enhance the public rights of navigation on the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation, and the recreational use and enjoyment by the public of the waterway and surrounding conservation area.

Do you run/own the navigation?
          No. We are an independent charity. The Navigation is owned by the original Navigation company which was set up by Act of Parliament in 1793, and the navigation is run on behalf of that company by Essex Waterways Ltd, which is wholly owned by the Inland Waterways Association, also a registered charity, of which we are corporate members.

What do you do?
          The Chelmer Canal Trust works independently to protect the Navigation and the conservation area for everyone's benefit. The day to day detail of this varies according to the availability of volunteers and the needs of the day. We foster the appreciation of the industrial and environmental heritage of the area, and seek to encourage the many and diverse educational opportunities which the landscape affords. Monthly work parties of our volunteers help to tackle harmful invasive plants and litter. We organise guided walks in the Chelmer valley, publish a newsletter, maintain a website and organise regular events covering subjects of interest to our members.

Can I Help?
          There are a number of ways you can help us with our work.
  • If you Join us, your annual subscription will help with the essential financing of our work. In addition you will be kept up to date with our news.
  • You could join one of our work parties and help us with practical tasks. Details are published on the Work Parties web page, and via email
  • We are always looking for people to help the organising committee. Maybe you have skills, in areas like publicity, finance, administration, or IT, and would like to give some of your spare time to help us.

How do I join the Chelmer Canal Trust?
          To join us, simply fill in the form on our website and send it to us with your first annual subscription, and we will do the rest.

How to I go boating on the navigation?
          To do this, you should contact Essex Waterways, who will provide the latest information you will need, either to bring your own vessel to the navigation, or to join one of the trip boats.

Why are you called “The Chelmer Canal Trust” when your waterway is mostly a river navigation?
          When choosing our name, we wanted something which was simple and would distinguish us as an independent body. While it is technically incorrect to call the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation “a canal”, many local residents refer to it as “The Canal” and indeed parts of it are. For this reason, we felt it was OK to use the word in our name, and people would understand what we stood for. Technically as a whole, the waterway is a “navigation” as it consists of rivers which have been modified to allow boats to pass, and man-made channels (or canals) which purely exist for the boats. So while our name may irritate some people, we felt that on balance, a technically correct name for our organisation would confuse more people than it would enlighten.

There is a tree in the river. Who do I tell?
          If the obstruction is in the main navigation channel, please let Essex Waterways know exactly where it is. Maybe snap a geo-tagged photo on your phone so they know what they are dealing with. If there is a problem outside of the navigation channel, for example in one of the millstreams or tributaries, then this will be the responsibility of either the land owner, or if it poses a flood risk, The Environment Agency

Why have all the trees been cut down?
          The banks of the Chelmer and Blackwater are used to grow willow trees for making cricket bats. The regular line of straight willows along the river is a defining feature of the Chelmer Valley. The life cycle of these trees is normally around 15 - 20 years, so at any time there will be trees being harvested, and new trees planted to replace them. More detailed information can be found on the website of JS Wright & Sons.

How can I join one of your workparties?
          You can just turn up. We are always pleased to welcome new volunteers! Please come dressed for the weather and conditions. The latest information is posted on our website.

I am a BCU member. Does my membership allow me to paddle the Chelmer and Blackwater?
          The BCU have agreements for their members to paddle on the waters of most navigation authorities in the country, but for some reason they have not negotiated any similar agreement with the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation, so you should obtain a separate license from Essex Waterways.

Would it be possible to use the information on your website on ours?
          Although we do claim copyright over the information on our website, we generally look favourably on requests to re-use the information when we are able to. We ask that you make the request before republishing, and include an acknowledgment of us as the source.

Can I bring my boat to Chelmsford?
          If your boat is of suitable dimensions (L:17.4m x B:1.62m Draft: 0.62m, Air draft:1.9m), you can get from the sea to Springfield Basin in Chelmsford, where there are well serviced visitor moorings. There is also a short branch of the River Chelmer where boats can reach the Chelmsford Automatic Weir when river conditions permit. We are hopeful that a new lock will be constructed here as part of the weir refurbishment which will allow larger vessels to reach the Rivers Can and Chelmer in Chelmsford for the first time.

Can I cycle along the towpath?
          Some, but not all of the towpath is a public bridleway. Cycling is generally tolerated along most of the towpath, although the conditions can be less than ideal, and the path is very narrow in places so you should ride with caution and give way to walkers. You should also dismount when passing the tea rooms at Paper Mill Lock.

What is American Floating Pennywort?
          This is an invasive plant which is native to Florida, but it was misguidedly introduced to the UK through garden centres. In certain conditions it can grow at up to 20cm per day, and if left alone it will quickly choke off waterways causing numerous problems. At one time it threatened to block the Navigation, however the dedicated and ongoing work of our volunteer working parties is bringing this infestation on the Chelmer under control.

Who is going to do something about this?
          If there is an emergency threat to life or property, then you should call 999. If you see a problem on the Navigation and don't know who can help, then you can email the details to us, and we will make sure the right people know about it. Maybe you could also help. The Chelmer and Blackwater depends on the good will and help from the people who value it. There is always more that can be done to improve things. If you would like to help us with the work which we do already, or even to do things which we have not yet been able to do, then please get in touch with us.

Where can I park my car near the Navigation?
          As the Navigation has become more and more popular as a place to spend time, sometimes there is pressure on available parking places. Please bear this in mind when planning your visit, and make sure you park considerately, safely and legally. There are car parks in Chelmsford City Centre, at Paper Mill Lock and Heybridge Basin.

Where can I swim in the Navigation?
          This is not generally advisable unless you are familiar with wild swimming. It is important to be aware of the dangers posed by passing boats and their propellers, strong currents, especially near weirs and locks, and the possibility of contracting Weils Disease if you have any open cuts.

Why is the Tow Path so muddy?
          One of the joys of the Chelmer and Blackwater tow path is that it can be a “walk on the wild side” where you can get away into nature. The other aspect of this is that much of the tow path is un-surfaced. On parts where there are a lot of walkers in wet conditions, this can lead to there being a lot of mud. At such times, it is advisable to wear wellies! There are moves to reinforce popular parts of the towpath to make walking easier in wet conditions. We believe that where this is essential, great care should be taken to avoid spoiling the Navigation's special character.

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