The well attended three day August work party was a highly productive effort which literally broke new ground. Substantial progress was made on the mooring, and the culvert was finally finished. However perhaps the most significant event relating to this work party occurred late on the preceding Wednesday when the legal details for the acquisition of land for newt ponds were agreed. An immediate start was made on the construction of the ponds on the Friday. The attendance during the weekend– 18, 24 and 21 for the respective days – was notable for a time of year when holidays usually take their toll.
The site of the new newt ponds which had been the subject of so much patient negotiation between CRT and a local landowner is familiar to the Society. It is in fact the field in which we had our old base at Redwith. The plan for the weekend was to dig three ponds in a strip of the field which is adjacent to the canal. These ponds are of sufficient size to provide compensatory habitat to potentially allow restoration to end of Lloyd’s Feeds; a distance of 200 metres from Pryces Bridge. The field is large enough for many more ponds as and when the need arises.
An immediate start was made on Friday to set out newt ponds with the help of CRT ecologists, and the topsoil strip and excavation of the first pond was started.
Back at Pryces Bridge the main tasks were on the culvert. The catchpit brickwork was built up to full height and topped with a very substantial looking manhole cover. The remaining section of exposed culvert pipe was backfilled and the towpath surface restored. Elsewhere in the channel the remaining excavated material from the culvert was redistributed, and work to clear the ditch at the Lloyd’s side of the culvert got underway.
Considerable progress was made on the mooring on Saturday. The volunteers were on site bright and early for the third and final concrete pour which completed the filling of the blockwork. Never ones to allow the grass to grow under their feet the stone wall gang (see also the brickwork and blockwork gang) had the damp-proof course on the wall and the first stone laid before the end of the day.
Up at Redwith the excavation of the second pond got underway and 20 tonnes of puddle clay was delivered. We soon found out that lining a pond with puddle clay is not as simple as it seems. By the end of the day we had learnt the hard way that the bulk clay must be cut into thin strips before being put into the pond, followed by lots of water and boots to get it watertight. Messy but fun!
Sunday morning saw the third pond excavated at Redwith and the first pond filled with water. It will of course be some days before we know if the pond is fully watertight but the early indications are good. After using up the rest of the clay on the second pond the Redwith volunteers moved back to base to work on another task related to the newt habitat. The Redwith site will also have a series of terrestrial newt habitats made of piles of masonry and timber covered in earth and so Sunday afternoon was spent rounding up all suitable material (including the old culvert bricks) ready for eventual transport to Redwith.
Further stonework on the wall, erection of stock and newt fencing, and more work on the ditch completed the weekend. There was undoubtedly a sense of relief about the news about land for the newt ponds. This now means that a newt licence application for the next length is possible this winter. If successful this could allow work to commence next Spring which would take the restoration a third of the way towards Crickheath.