Welcome to the final edition of the work party report in this year like no other. It gives the lowdown on six days of work spread over two consecutive weekends. The big news is that at the end of it all we had achieved our target of finishing and surcharging the two banks in the subsidence area at the oak tree. There is also substantial progress in Crickheath South. Oh, and we had a seasonal visitor……
The main effort in the channel during the first weekend was finishing the construction of the towpath side bank. As can be seen from the image this is a massive structure. The ‘hogs back’ shape ensures that the highest point is over the area of maximum predicted subsidence. All being well after the prescribed period of settlement the top of the bank in this area should be near to the level of the rest of the towpath. We will see! To help this process the IBCs were placed on top of the bank. We even had time to start preliminary work on the next section of bank.
The 136 IBCs were filled during the second weekend – the bottom course being filled completely and those on top half filled. Since each container has a capacity of 1000 litres this was not a trivial task. Two pumps were used. A hired diesel pump drew water from Phase 1 and delivered it to the tanks, a distance of nearly 200m away. Our little submersible pump was also pressed into service taking water from the flooded channel close to the tanks. Ten volunteers each day finished the work in a day and a half.
The Crickheath South vegetation clearance is now finished except for two large trees which will be removed later in the winter. The brash was disposed of in two large bonfires. Encouragingly the work seemed to be well received by the local residents. The next task in Crickheath South is likely to be somewhat harder – raising the funds to finish the work!
During the first weekend we had a visit from the most disreputable looking Santa ever to have been allowed out of Lapland. His patter featured lots of festive cheer but sadly the promised presents are still stuck somewhere in the Christmas post. A number of volunteers have subsequently reported having nightmares about this episode.
As with every other facet of life the virus has had a major impact on the restoration. It is perhaps hard to recall that in the early part of the year the more or less continuous heavy rain was the thing that made life on site hard going. Activities on site were suspended during the initial lockdown from March onwards only for the rain to be replaced by a long spell of glorious ‘earthmoving weather’ which we had no option but to sit out. Site activity resumed in late July under revised working arrangements made possible by the fact that we are Principal Contractors to CRT for the project and hence were regarded as ‘working’. It was clear right from the first day of restart that if we were to have any chance of remaining on programme we had to complete two of the four sections of bank that required surcharging by the end of the year so as to permit sufficient time for settlement to take place. Before we could do this the channel bed had to be treated and drained to permit machines to run over it: major tasks in themselves. That both tasks have been completed was made possible by a massive amount of hard work by the society’s volunteers backed up by help and advice from CRT, Arcadis and our many suppliers. Next year promises to be equally busy – watch this space!