Carreghofa Locks Restoration (1979-1986)

Starting in August 1979, SUCS members restored the two locks and the intermediate pound including the reconstruction of two weirs and repairs to the toll house. This work was completely funded by the society. The rest of the calendar year was devoted to establishing the new site, the toll house being used for temporary storage. Initial work was installation of scaffolding in the top lock and pointing and repair of brickwork above water level.

Top lock before restoration (Photo Pat Wilson)
Bottom lock 1977 (Photo T Clayton)

In 1980, much of the effort was on clearance work. Both spill weirs were relieved of vegetation. Silt was removed by shovel and wheelbarrow from the bottom lock chamber and side pond. In the summer, the middle pound was drained and mud cleared. Scaffolding was installed in the bottom lock which permitted repairs to the chamber and wing walls of both locks and clearance and pointing top lock forebay and copings removal. The major event of the year was in September with the start of rebuilding the bottom spill weir. This, the first bit of reconstruction since 1972/73 at Welshpool, involved casting a new weir crest and clearance of both ground paddles. During the year, volunteers made a series of visits to the Vyrnwy embankment for do vegetation clearance work.

Work on spillway (Photo SUCS archives)
Work party at top lock 1977 (Photo T Clayton)
New top lock gates February 1978 (Photo L Fowler)

By February 1981, the Vyrnwy embankment clearance work was finished. Work on the spill weirs occupied much of the year. The top spill weir was demolished and a start made on the replacement of the culvert brickwork. By June, the bottom spill weir had been concreted, the brickwork finished and work on the culvert was underway. In late summer, the bottom lock was cleared out and repairs to lock chamber walls and spill weir undertaken. The main off-site activity during the year was several trips to clear mud at Belan, the reason for and nature of which is not known. In December, the society received a request from BW asking SUCS not to start work on Aston locks.

The old problem of low volunteer numbers was still apparent at the January 1982 work party, the archive material noting that ‘The sole volunteer removed formwork from top spill weir’. For the rest of the year work was split between the Tanat feeder, continuing work on the lock chamber walls and the top spill weir. The work on the feeder was extensive. The feeder was dredged using an excavator. The weir across the river Tanat was reconstructed and this involved concreting the weir crest, concrete backfill and rebuilding the associated rubble walls. A four-day work party in April installed scaffolding and rebuilt a chamber wall in the bottom lock. In the summer months, formwork for the top spill weir was constructed, concrete placed and backfilling completed. Finally in November, the middle pound was cleared using two excavators. Also in November, came confirmation that BW would not permit the society to move to Aston on completion of Carreghofa.

Clearing the pound (Photo SUCS archives)

The main work during the first three months of 1983 was rectification of the position of copings in the bottom lock so as to permit BW to fit the gates. Work continued on the Tanat feeder and the top spill weir. Leaks in Tanat weir were rectified using puddle clay and the spill weir was finally finished in September. In July, the top gate in the bottom lock was fitted. A summer camp in August with seventeen attendees drained, finished the dredging of and refilled the middle pound. Construction of bridge steps in the pound completed a busy year. The archive contains further correspondence with BW regarding work at Aston. The outcome seems to have been that BW would permit limited work to arrest deterioration only, the first fruits of this decision being tree clearance at Aston by the Wellington Boys Brigade in November.

Both the March 1984 (35 volunteers on Saturday, 40 on Sunday) and April (25 each day), work parties were notable for a large turnout of volunteers although the breakdown of numbers between society members and visitors is not clear. The massed ranks worked on the top lock (copings removed and top courses of brickwork rebuilt) and on towpath foundations and edging. The copings were replaced in May with puddle placed in the trench behind and the steps brickwork completed. June and July work parties repaired leaks in both locks. The August work camp (20 volunteers) concentrated on pointing the top lock walls. Work during the rest of the year included repairs to the top spill weir culvert and towpath foundations and edging.

During the early months of 1985, work was concentrated on the top lock (puddle behind the walls and pointing), landscaping, fencing and towpath construction. The scheduled August work camp attracted twenty volunteers who cleared silt from Belan and Berriew locks. Perplexingly, the same report to SUCS Council that describes the work camp also notes that Carreghofa was behind schedule. The rest of the year was occupied by clearing silt from the Carreghofa bottom lock (aided by Manchester WRG) and repair of a serious leak in the top lock gate recess.

The final year of work at Carreghofa started in March 1986 with very cold weather hindering pointing and landscaping. Maybe because of this, small volunteer numbers caused concern and an appeal was made to fourteen canal societies for help. The Kennet & Avon and Basingstoke societies answered the call and in April, the top lock pointing was finished. The bottom lock received similar treatment in May. In July, the gates were painted and the landscaping finished. All that remained was remedial work on the top lock brickwork and tail bridge during the August work camp. All of the items on BW’s snagging list were tackled by the end of October. All of the outstanding work having been completed, the locks were re-opened by Lady Eirene White and Mr B Dice (BW Chief Executive) on 1st November.

Opening ceremony (Photo P Wilson)

Carreghofa locks today remain one of the most photogenic features of the whole canal. Being in the middle of the current CRT managed and Levelling-Up Funded section of restoration, there is a sporting chance that the locks will see boats again in the not too distant future.

Carreghofa top lock today (Photo D Carter)

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