Category Archives: Latest News

Despite Covid-19 Lockdown Work Continues at SNT

We thought that our loyal supporters and the public at large may be interested to know what has been going on at the Bonded Warehouse during the last 6 months of ‘lockdown’ due to the Coronavirus Cov-19 pandemic. Despite the limiting nature of the measures required as a result of the Coronavirus Cov-19 pandemic and the subsequent cancellation of annual events at the Bonded Warehouse we have managed to make a lot of progress with many of the major projects which were approved at our January 2020 Trust Meeting.

Passers-by may have noticed the recent scaffolding which was required to safely facilitate the last stage of repairs to the roof of the office buildings. We took the opportunity of the scaffolding being in place to commission a replacement of guttering and re-pointing of the rear wall which in places was in a poor state causing water ingress through the walls causing damp patches in the ground floor parlour and stairwell. A job well done and one which will safeguard the integrity of the building for many years to come.

Following the successful refurbishment of the Ladies toilets last year, the same extensive treatment has been given to the Men’s toilet in the Bonded Warehouse. One of the few advantages of the building being closed is that the contractor could work safely, avoiding interaction with our customers and generally it didn’t cause us any bookings inconvenience as the building wasn’t being used. All the tiling and flooring has been finished too and it does look very nice and to a high standard – Gents please watch your aim!

The three boilers in the Bonded Warehouse have been serviced with the good news that they have passed the required tests and we have a new gas safety certificate. Repair work has also been done on the control panel in the Bonded Warehouse for the heating system, requiring the replacement of a few outdated components. The gas meter in the Bonded Warehouse has also been changed. The electrician has completed the annual electrical inspection at the Bonded Warehouse and this has pleasingly passed without any further work needed to be carried out. Nine new LED lights have been fitted in the Brindley Room, securely attached by new cables to the beams to prevent hirers from attaching items around them. Two new ceiling lights outside the toilets have also been fitted and the outside lighting by the fire escape is now working properly on the light sensor. The new lights are very bright when you look directly at them so have been finely adjusted to avoid them shining into people’s eyes.

Of course all of the above projects will enhance and safeguard the buildings and some of the maintenance tasks are now mandatory to ensure that as a facility used by the public it is a certified as safe – this has meant a significant hit on our funding given that our main income streams have needed to be cancelled, but due to great fiscal diligence by our Treasurer, Chris Dyche, we are keeping our heads above water (no pun intended – well OK it was!) and financially we are positioned satisfactorily going forwards and certainly better off than many other charitable organisations and businesses who have serious concerns for their survival.

We are delighted to report that following a risk assessment and consultation with many of our regular hirers (e.g. Yoga and Slimming World) we are now starting to ‘open up’ the Bonded Warehouse as long as social distancing measures and other Government guidelines are complied with. Pilates classes on Mondays and Thursdays during the day are also resuming on 7th September, Meditation class are considering returning on 9th September. Yoga evening classes are considering returning towards the end of September along with the Stourbridge Bonsai Society.

Posters and hand sanitisers are in place in the building as protective safeguards for our hirers. Our Manager, Heide, has sent out our risk assessment and special conditions of hire with regard to Covid-19 to our regular hiring groups and any groups that are returning will have to add their Covid-19 risks to their risk assessment form. Groups such as Slimming World that have multiple sessions in one room hire meeting will be exiting the building from the Brindley room down the rear fire escape and out through the gate into Canal Street using a one way system.

Malcolm, one of our stalwart Tuesday Club volunteers, has kindly put up hand towel dispensers in the Kitchen, Green room in the Bonded Warehouse, basement kitchen and the Elsan, as we can’t use our normal towels due to Covid-19. Disposable / once usable paper towels are a cleaner safer option. Also the office building has been fitted with two dispensers in lieu of hand dryers.

Our manager has held a meeting with our Cleaner and Caretaker to discuss issues about re-opening the building and agreed enhanced cleaning procedures, they have been provided with -Covid-19 cleaning requirements for them to follow and to decide on a cleaning schedule to work around the groups that will be hiring. PPE such as plastic aprons, gloves and a face visor have been made available as we need to insure their safe working conditions and also that of the public that are using our buildings.

This essential preparation has clearly involved a lot of work by our Manager to whom we owe an enormous debt of gratitude in working hard to ensure that we are all as safe as possible.

Malcolm again has been very busy undertaking Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) in the Bonded Warehouse and the offices, yesterday he was working all day in the basement to ensure that all of our electrical items, and there quite a few are working safely and compliant with the standards – thank you Malcolm, it is most appreciated.

On the technology front, we have invested in BT’s new BT Halo System which commenced on 19th August so it will be a change over from a normal phone line to the internet based solution which affords greater clarity on the new handsets and has inbuilt resilience of 4G in the event of broadband outage. On the back of the installation of the necessary new router we have installed three BT Wi-Fi extender disks to give improved coverage across the offices and the warehouse for the benefit of our volunteers but also as a service improvement to our hirers who will soon be able to access the managed free to use Guest Wi-Fi service.

In addition, because we were having problems with the annual PCI DSS certification, we have installed a new Credit Card device using GPRS access which will improve our capability to take payments in both buildings using a roaming SIM – the signal is excellent even in the carpark.

Letters have been posted to all of our Tuesday Club volunteers providing them with an update of activities and importantly asking if they would like to return back on 1st September. We are pleased to report that the group has since reformed and have an unusual and quite beneficial situation in that they can concentrate on routine maintenance tasks for the immediate future as resources will not be required to orchestrate the Open Weekend and Santa Trips – the proverbial silver lining in the Coronavirus dark cloud. Expect to see many a paint brush earnestly in action over the forthcoming months. Just today one team replaced a rotting window cill on the top floor of the rounded end of the building whilst others did a litter pick (4 bins full) and tidied the overgrowing vegetation on the carpark which now looks much better.

If you would like to join us at the Tuesday Club please get in touch as many hands do indeed make light work. It is a fulfilling role and one to which you can commit as much or little time as you are able.

We hope that you find this update of interest, useful to know and that you will return to provide your valued support to Stourbridge Navigation Trust in 2021 when perhaps we can return to some sort of normality.

Bonded Warehouse Re-opens for Slimming World !

We have some good news to report for a change in what was been an unprecedented difficult year for us all –  our first  room booking for a community event cautiously went ahead without any problems on the evening of the 11th August.
This was in partnership with our good friends at Slimming World who bought their  national standards and expertise of Coronavirus measures from their professional risk assessment to safeguard their clients. They were split into smaller groups, kept at appropriate safe social distances and channelled through a one-way system using the rear exit.
Slimming World will run a repeat session this week under the same controls and for the immediate future until lockdown is further released slowly.
Our Chairman, extended thanks to everyone involved in getting the building up and running again, particularly Heide, the SNT Manager, who we jest has cornered the market in Bluetak as she has  printed, laminated and put up so many signs to ensure everyone knows the rules.
Soon we will be hosting and assisting our regular  Yoga and Pilates sessions to get up and running.

2020 Open Weekend and Santa Boat Trips Cancelled.

With there still being much uncertainty about the ongoing risks and longer-term impacts of the current Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, after much consideration and discussion during a meeting of the Trustees of the Stourbridge Navigation Trust, with reluctance it has been decided to cancel both the Annual Open Weekend in October 2020 and the popular Annual Santa Boat Trip experience at the Bonded Warehouse on all weekends in December 2020.

It is our sincere hope that it will be possible to safeguard all of our volunteers, visitors, boaters, traders, entertainers and food retailers, sufficiently to organise the Open Weekend in 2021 in its traditional usual weekend of Saturday 16th & Sunday 17th October 2021.

Santa sends his sincere apologies and his elves are distraught at the thought of disappointing all of the lovely children who come to see him. However, we hope that you will all understand why this decision needed to be taken. It does give the elves an opportunity to plan for a bigger and better Santa experience in 2021 and we have already pencilled in the dates for weekends next year (10th/11th/12th December and 18th/19th December) as Santa is a busy man!

Trustees and volunteers thank you for your continuing support and understanding in these difficult times.

“We, including Santa and his elves will be back!”

Coronavirus Covid-19 Update

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE:

Due to restrictions put in place to help fight the current Coronavirus pandemic we will be adhering to Government advice and will be cancelling all of our Blackcountry Man boat trips for the months of May, June, July, August and September 2020 as it is still not possible to put any social distancing in place.

We will monitor the situation closely and make decisions based on Government and Public Health advice regarding trips booked after these dates. We will be issuing updates on a regular basis on our website.

If we have not been in touch with you individually regarding refunds please ring us on 07889 908090 with the date of your trip and your ticket number which is on the ticket.

We are currently looking to arrange further trips later in the year if the situation improves but increasingly it seems likely that it will be 2021 before any form of normal service resumes.

In the meantime the Bonded Warehouse remains closed but our manager is working from home and is able to respond to enquiries about changing existing bookings and taking new ones for later in the year or indeed in 2021 when we all hope this the restrictions necessary due to this latest pandemic will be reduced sufficiently to allow some sense of normality.

Thanking you all for your patience and understanding in these very difficult times.

 

NEWSFLASH: Bonded Warehouse Closed.

It may come as no surprise but with great disappointment we have to advise you that the Stourbridge Navigation Trust  premises, including the Bonded Warehouse,  are now formally closed due to the Coronavirus COVID-19.

We have clearly needed to adhere to government instructions and the closure for an undetermined period of time was always in the offing as the virus spread with many of our hirers needing to cancel their bookings, again correctly following government and expert medical guidance. 

 The Trust Manager, Heide,  will be arranging her attendance in the office as required but will mainly undertake her vital duties by working from home. If you do wish or need to contact her, the best mechanism is by email in the first instance (Stourbridge-trust@btconnect.com) and if necessary a time to speak on the telephone can be arranged.

We are very sorry to have to close this vibrant community hub as it pays an important role for many of our valued customers as well as providing the income stream the Trust, as a Registered Charity, requires to maintain and operate the unique buildings. We do hope that this pandemic will pass in the coming months and we are grateful for your anticipated understanding of the position we and many similar organisations find themselves in.

We will be back !

In the meantime, keep safe and we thank you for your support.

Blackcountry Man Boat Trips – Coronavirus Cancellations

Due to restrictions put in place to help fight the current Coronavirus pandemic we are going to adhere to Government advice and cancel/postpone all of our boat trip bookings for the months of April and May 2020.

Like many others in our position we will monitor the situation closely and make decisions based on Government and Public Health advice as to our intentions with regard to trips booked to embark after these dates.

We will be issuing updates on a regular basis on our website and Facebook Group Page.

If we have not been in touch with you individually regarding refunds please ring us on 07889 908090 with the date of your trip and the ticket number on the ticket.

We are currently looking to arrange further trips later in the year if the situation improves sufficiently  to enable us to operate these.

Thanking you all for your patience and understanding in these very difficult times.

 

Blackcountry Man Boat Trips – Coronavirus Cancellations

Due to restrictions put in place to help fight the current Coronavirus pandemic we are going to adhere to Government advice and cancel/postpone all of our boat trip bookings for the months of April and May 2020.

Like many others in our position we will monitor the situation closely and make decisions based on Government and Public Health advice as to our intentions with regard to trips booked to embark after these dates.

We will be issuing updates on a regular basis on our website and Facebook Group Page.

If we have not been in touch with you individually regarding refunds please ring us on 07889 908090 with the date of your trip and the ticket number on the ticket.

We are currently looking to arrange further trips later in the year if the situation improves sufficiently  to enable us to operate these.

Thanking you all for your patience and understanding in these very difficult times.

 

“Tuesday Club” Volunteers Hard At It !

After the post-Christmas peak of activity for the volunteers at the Bonded Warehouse you would have thought that a trip back to the North Pole with Santa would have been in order for a well deserved rest, but no, the ‘elves’ are still hard at it with plenty of work to do.

The first big job of course was to dismantle Santa’s Grotto and importantly store it away in an orderly manner so that constructing it again later in the year (starting at the end of October) will be much easier, in theory at least. This job took us into February when due to the poor weather most of the volunteer’s energies were focused on ‘indoor’ jobs – we didn’t have to look very far to find those jobs either and more were added along the way.

The really good news is however that Tuesday Club has been bolstered by three new locally based volunteers, – Ivor, Geoff and Ken, who are all quickly finding their way around the buildings, discovering where things are stored and of course making new friends and joining in the banter whilst making their contribution to the cause.

Progress has been good with many jobs completed as the new volunteer workforce organised themselves into a number of small groups to tackle specific jobs (many involving paint!) proving that many hands do indeed make light work.

Amongst the jobs already completed, or almost completed include applying white emulsion to the basement ceiling, maintenance and re-staining of 4 wharf-side benches, replacing damaged flooring by the bar in the Brindley room, repairing and colourfully painting the boat hook from the Blackcountry Man, replacing a broken window on the Blackcountry Man, repairing the ceiling in the weighbridge room and apex of the Bonded Warehouse and similarly repairing the interior wall in the parlour which are now all ready for the final paint job as well as examining and starting to deal with a significant damp patch in the stairwell of the office building which has caused some cosmetic damage. We have been busy!

We have just created a “to do” list of a range of identified jobs and this already extends to just over a page of A4 so we are going to be busy in the weeks ahead when hopefully the weather will improve and we can tackle some outside jobs which are getting a bit overdue. Adding to this extensive list the complete refurbishment of the gents toilets will commence in April.

I must admit it is a nice, rewarding feeling to leave Canal street at the end of a busy Tuesday in the knowledge that a job or two has been completed, creating a better place for our customers to enjoy and importantly safeguarding this historic building.

The photographs show some of the team in action, other photographs will be added in the coming weeks and months as more known jobs are tackled, new jobs crop up and finished off.

 

All Hands on Deck for Blackcountry Man Maintenance.

With the new trip boat season looming ever closer and indeed an independent inspection of the boat, effectively an MoT, due later in the following week, it was time to give the hard-working Blackcountry Man some well earned TLC.

The boat was subsequently put into dry dock and firstly as part of the important preparation process given a good pressure wash to remove any crud that had accumulated over the previous couple of years.

A ‘call to arms’ was then issued to Stourbridge Navigation Trust Trustees and it’s enthusiastic team of volunteers to once again give up a couple of mornings to liberally apply the special paint required to protect the underwater hull of this large vessel – it was felt that many hands would make light work of the task!

Saturday 1st February saw the team assemble, confronted by what looks like a long wall of a hull, but undeterred paint brushes and 5 litre tins of the special paint were distributed, working groups established and application of the sticky ‘black stuff’ commenced.

Progress was initially slow as the size of the task dawned – you seemed to have been painting for ages and then looked left and there was what seemed like a long way still to go. However, with constant conversation about a range of subjects ongoing, real progress was being made and surprisingly in just over a couple of hours the job was done, well the first coat at least.

Sunday saw the team join up again for the application of the second coat – easier this time in terms of the paint gliding and adhering easily over the first coat but it was a little more difficult to see where you had actually given the second coat – nothing is simple in this life!

When the job was finished it was most rewarding to inspect it for any ‘missed bits’ but actually to admire the shiny finish – you can easily see what I mean by looking at the before and after photographs below. So, allowing for a period of thorough drying time the Blackcountry Man will be re-floated ready for inspection on Thursday 6th, hopefully passing with flying colours and then ready to make it’s steady way up the Stourbridge Arm with delighted passengers enjoying canal cruises in the coming months.

Update: The trip boat has now been re-inspected and passed with flying colours. Thanks to all who took part in the blacking over the week-end and to Ken Bywater, the boatmaster, for his continuing care of our asset. Just some painting left to do and the window to replace and it will be ready for another busy season.

Once again, the Trust has to acknowledge the commitment and hard work of the volunteer workforce – seen in the photograph above upon completion of the job – many hands do indeed make light work of a big task.

 

 

Stourbridge Army Cadet Force “armed” by SNT

The Trust’s complimentary association with the Stourbridge Platoon of the Army Cadets Force has been going for 2 years now and has proved to be mutually very beneficial. Visitors to the recent Open Weekend would have seen the local platoon being highly visible either at their recruitment stand or helping out around the site during the course of both days. All of this voluntary work  is great evidence to support  their contribution to “community activity” for Duke of Edinburgh awards, so counts for not only the platoon but also for individual cadets aspiring towards this hard earned and prestigious award.

In exchange for their valued efforts a number of  “Tuesday Club” volunteers down at the Bonded Warehouse have,  over the last year, carefully tooled an armoury of wooden rifles which were in short supply and would have cost a lot of money to have been commercially produced. The work was quite intricate actually as there are some very tight angles to cut and a good amount of detail in the wooden weapons.

The Trust was delighted to receive a “Thank You” card from the platoon with the message “Dear Stourbridge Navigation Trust Volunteers, thank you for all your hard work producing wooden rifles for our Cadets. They are outstanding quality and really enhance training. As you can see in the covering photograph they will be well used, best Wishes, Stourbridge Platoon, Army Cadet Force.”

The photograph above shows the SNT Chairman, David Caunt, who has personally spent a lot his time helping to produce the rifles, lined up with a number of Cadets sporting the new rifles.

We look forward to continuing our effective working relationship with Stourbridge Platoon in the coming years.