We have done it! The lining and blocking of Phase 1 is now complete and ready for its water test. Additionally we cleared a long section of the next phase of channel in preparation for forthcoming ground investigation works. It almost goes without saying that we once again defied the weather forecast and were treated to almost spring-like weather for the duration.
Another large attendance of volunteers ensured that events got under way early on Friday morning. The newly delivered batch of liner was quickly tested and cut to size, and the first blocks were laid in the channel before nine-thirty. Nearly two thousand blocks were shifted in the day and the remaining 25m or so of channel was all but finished by knocking-off time.
The remaining few blocks were placed before tea break on Saturday morning and the job was done. This vindicated the collective decision made in the in the summer to insert the extra work party into the schedule to allow us to finish this task by the end of this restoration year.
Work immediately started to prepare for the water test of the section. This involved sealing the four sumps, and adding the ‘chimneys’ necessary to isolate the land drain for the duration of the test. This action, rather than blocking the sumps, will permit the land drain to be brought back into use after the test. On Sunday we did our own mini-test to successfully check that the seals on the sumps were watertight. The Phase 1 channel has now been handed back to CRT for them to conduct the full test.
The other major task was clearance of the remaining trees in Phase2A which occupied all three days. All of the brash, and most of the resulting cut timber (mainly willow), was dispatched on three very large bonfires. The clearance will allow access for equipment to investigate the types of soils beneath the channel and the banks so as to inform the design of both.
The notable off-site activity was a very pleasant Christmas dinner which was held on Friday evening in a pub in Llanymynech.
There is progress to report at Crickheath. Work on the rerouting of the water pipe has progressed such that piling has re-started, with only a small length yet to do. Much of the towpath appears complete, and work to construct the ring beam to which the liner will be attached is making good progress.
So ends a remarkable restoration year. The work done reflects great credit on the volunteers who have turned up in greater numbers than ever and have continued to produce work of professional quality. Work will continue during the winter on preparation work for next year’s construction activities. The closure of the towpath for much of the year has resulted in fewer visitors than is customary. What is certain is that when they return they will notice a transformation between Pryces and Crickheath Bridges!