The April event attracted near record numbers of volunteers (16,23 and 18 for the respective days) who got through prodigious amounts of work spread on three separate sites. The main tasks over the three days were disposal of brash, construction of two more newt ponds at Redwith and further enhancement work at Frankton Junction.
The volunteers working on the ‘home’ site had the hardest task. The last of the winter work parties had cut down about a hundred metres of hedge and trees on the towpath starting at a point about 400 metres from Pryces Bridge. Most of the hedge in question was in fact nearer to Crickheath Bridge than Pryces Bridge. A ‘hundred metres of hedge’ is an enormous volume of material and, because no bonfires could be made in the channel because of the presence of newts, it all had to be carted all the way back to the clay bund. This was achieved using a power barrow and a fleet of wheelbarrows during Friday and Saturday. Very hard work but the resulting bonfire was a sight to behold!
Half a dozen or so volunteers, aided and abetted by the eight tonne excavator and the dumper, constructed newt ponds number four and five at Redwith. The construction process was familiar but so were the problems. The underlying stratum on the site is gravel which is easy to dig but has no water retaining properties at all. The two excavations absorbed four large lorry loads of puddle clay which were first placed using the machine and then finished by volunteer armed with rammers and good old fashioned boots. The results looked waterproof but trial flooding revealed that both leaked to different degrees. Cue pumping out and the recruitment of some of the erstwhile brash burners for another mass puddling session. Whether this was a respite from pushing barrows up and down the towpath they were too exhausted to say! A second filling of the ponds suggested that they held water, but only time will tell.
On Sunday eleven volunteers made good use of the fine weather off site at Frankton Junction to complete the painting of planters and fences which was started last year.