The pace of the restoration is beginning to pick up! This month the finishing touches were put to the protracted work on the Redwith site; two new tasks started at Pryces; and there were big developments at Crickheath. The weather was a considerable improvement on the last outing – it could hardly have been worse – and this aided our efforts at Redwith and also tilted the odds in the continuing battle against the ground water at Pryces slightly in our favour.
Volunteers were on site at the crack of dawn on Friday in anticipation of a variety of deliveries and a visit from the BBC. Both duly happened. Recorded interviews with a number of volunteers will be the part of a feature on the restoration by Radio Shropshire. This was followed later in the weekend by a visit from the Shropshire Star newspaper.
On Friday a gang of six volunteers, supervised by a CRT ecologist, carried out finishing work at the Redwith site. This involved spreading the contents of several large bags of grass seed over the area around the ponds and more widely over the site. This work will eventually result in the establishment of ‘newt friendly’ ground cover.
Work on the extension of the French drain into Phase 1B continued on all three days. On the face of it the installation of a total of 20 metres of drain might not seem a good return for three days of unremitting toil. However given the difficult of the tasks and the working conditions, everybody went home satisfied. The problem was that to install a drain to get rid of water it is first necessary to get rid of the water! The ground water levels in the channel had been lowered slightly as a consequence of last month’s work but even so continuous pumping was necessary. The first task on Friday was to re-establish an access to the channel for the machines and, that done, connect up the drain in Phase 1A to the sump that was installed last year in Phase 1B.
This was duly done by close of play on Saturday and some of the big hole in which the sump is located was filled in. Heavy overnight rain meant that no work, apart from pumping, was possible on Saturday morning. In the afternoon despite the joys of inundation by ground water, broken pipes, newt searches and the clinging mud, the drain was extended further, and the ‘big hole’ finally filled in. This permitted a much more efficient method of working and good progress was made on the last day until, irritatingly, we ran out of both time and materials.
Work on the towpath extended over all three days. The initial task consisted of moving the newt fence adjacent to Pryces Bridge, which was no mean feat in itself, followed by setting out line and level and installation of about 30 metres of inside edge board. The towpath gang also busied themselves on finishing work on the new clay dam. The dam is a prerequisite for work on the towpath since it is the point of access for the power barrows which will be used to deliver materials.
The Society’s work at the Crickheath site finished after the clearance work over the winter just gone. However for the last three weeks a CRT contractor has been installing newt fencing around the site. This work is now finished to a very high standard as the image shows. Newt trapping for sixty days is scheduled to start within the fences in the next few days. The upshot of this is that work is now underway from both ends of the section of Pryces/Crickheath channel. These reports will in future try to update readers on progress throughout the section. Watch this space!