This report actually covers two work parties for the price of one! The ‘official’ April event concentrated on getting the base of the visitor mooring to the point at which concrete could be poured. The subsequent effort six days later actually saw the concrete placed.
The usual description of a work party Friday is ‘preparation’; a term that covers a multitude of tasks which, although essential, are not actually construction. On this particular Friday it was construction from the off, namely finishing off the bulk excavation on the mooring site. The only April Fool joke this year was played by the weather gods who gave us some dry weather for a change, instead of the promised rain. This greatly aided the earthmoving effort, and by knocking-off time the base of the mooring was down to grade with the adjacent pile of excavated material reaching new heights.
Alas the rains returned with a vengeance on Saturday morning making the going underfoot particularly tiring. The workforce split into two groups to work on the mooring and the towpath. The mooring gang got stuck into digging out the base with the help of the 3 tonner, blinding the excavation bottom with cement dust, and then installing the scaffold boards which acted as formwork. Progress was hindered by water, water, everywhere. The rain ran down the sides of the excavation and caused a series of earth slippages which required remedial shoring. Groundwater began to appear from the bottom of the excavation making continuous pumping necessary. Thankfully after lunchtime the rain was replaced by warm sunshine and, as if by magic, progress picked up such that by end of play the base was excavated and blinded. The towpath gang cleared vegetation from the remaining 25 metres or so of towpath and then switched their attention to building up the level of the towpath south from Pryces Bridge.
On Sunday morning work on the mooring concentrated on line and level of the formwork and covering the areas of bad ground in the base with stone. The towpath gang finished off the towpath at Pryces Bridge by application of the temporary surface of crushed stone. Late morning attention turned to the problem of moving the heavy reinforcement cages from the compound to the mooring – about 150m metres. They were too big to go on the dumper so the only solution was to carry them! It took twelve volunteers just to lift them and shifting them all the way to the bottom of the channel was pretty hard work. The last task was to lift the cages into position and adjust them for level and alignment, not something that many volunteers would have bet on at lunchtime on Saturday.
So the base was finished and, bar the installation of the expansion joints, ready for the concrete six days later. What could go wrong? Alas, the next day, a narrowboat somehow managed to hit the stop-planks at Redwith Bridge, damaging them and causing the level in the Redwith to Pryces section to rise to full height. This in turn caused the amount of leakage into the worksite via the Pryces Bride wing walls to increase. There was a real fear that the site would be inundated but, in the absence of any heavy rains, the pumps managed to cope with the inflows for the rest of the week. A day and a half of effort completed the task. Four volunteers spent Friday ridding the excavation of a small amount of soil which had slipped into the excavation, and installing the expansion joints. By ten-thirty the next morning the task was finished. A dozen volunteers placed the concrete which was pumped from three large ready-mix lorries by a lorry-mounted concrete pump. The image shows the finished base which will be ready for block laying during the next work party. A very hard but very satisfying few days!