NetApp Making a Difference in the Community, One Branch at a Time

By Simon Dutton


As we come up on the holiday season, NetApp 360 is pleased to launch a new blog series devoted to showcasing the way in which NetApp teams across the globe are giving back to their communities.


On Thursday 11th October, a team of 18 hardy NetApp Stockley Park employees braved the drizzle and made the short walk down to the banks of the Grand Union Canal, which runs alongside the estate. Why? Well, we were there to meet the crew of the Elsdale II, or “The Floating Classroom” as it is known. According to their website, the boat offers “an award winning schools programme … our aim is to ensure that young people are offered a varied and stimulating range of learning opportunities that support their personal development and raise awareness and attainment.”


The boat is operated by a local charitable organization, and at over 70 feet long is the largest electric barge currently operating in the UK. Because it’s so big, it really needs the canal to be as clear as possible from fallen trees and overgrown vegetation to ensure that it can navigate safely. Unfortunately, this is not the responsibility of the local authorities, so the boat’s operators need to either do it themselves or get some outside help. And that’s where NetApp came in…

After a short safety briefing and an outline of the plan for the day, we set off down the canal to the first obstacle, a large fallen tree. Charlie the skipper jumped off and set to work with his chainsaw, and it was left to the NetApp team to figure out how to drag the boughs and trunk across from the other side to the towpath, get the tree out of the water, and then cut it up into small enough pieces to be safely disposed of in the surrounding bushes. It was hard, wet, dirty work, but a really good laugh and everyone mucked in one way or another – either sawing up logs or lopping off branches, clearing away the cuttings, or simply pruning back the overhanging vegetation to make the towpath clearer for everyone in the community to use.

After an hour or so, scratch one tree - so it was time for lunch and a cruise further down the canal to where a series of crack willow trees had fallen and taken root in the canal bed, halving the width of the waterway. This was a much bigger job, taking almost four hours – and this time it was raining. Nevertheless, again we all pulled together – literally, when trying to get thirty feet of wet dead tree out of a canal – and were soon finished and back on board for the short cruise back to the office. Charlie the skipper was delighted – “dead chuffed” in his own words. He was really pleased with how much we’d managed to do (more than he was expecting) and how neat and tidy we’d left the towpath afterwards – which was important as it’s used by runners and cyclists and a stray tree trunk could mean a very wet accident…


So, all in all a fantastic experience – having fun, doing good for the community and team building all at the same time. All made possible by the NetApp VTO program, and brilliantly organized by the UK intern team.


For more information about the Elsdale II, visit