The restoration of the Pryces to Crickheath section has started! The weekend saw a considerable amount of progress with the result that the short section south of Pryces Bridge does begin to resemble a canal again.
The work party came at the end of 60 day period of newt trapping and relocation of the newts within the newt fences by CRT. Some seventy Great Crested Newts were captured and re-homed, together with a number of smooth newts and numerous frogs, toads and other creatures. The Society would like to record its gratitude to Steve, Sara and Stuart, the three CRT ecologists whose early morning visits to the traps, and help at work parties, has ensured a successful conclusion to the newt exclusion process.
Fourteen volunteers worked a full day on the Friday. The initial task was to assist the ecologists in a newt search on the grassed area of the offside bank which was earmarked for access to both the channel and the stockpile areas. This involved hand search, strimming, and raking up and removal of the vegetation. This whole process was repeated a second time with a result that there was no vegetation cover for newts. This area proved to be a relatively easy introduction to the delights of site clearance for both the four volunteers who had qualified at the last work party on strimmers, and for the other volunteer who had the thankless task of raking up, and disposing of, the cut vegetation. As they were all to find out a sterner task lay ahead.
Saturday dawned and, with a full complement of volunteers, the clearance/search operations transferred to the overgrown channel. As a preliminary the pumping gang got to work on removing the standing water in the channel. The bushes, and the matted, waterlogged reeds and other aquatic plants proved to be major challenges to the strimmer operators and vegetation collectors. However dogged persistence meant that by the end of the day the whole of the channel section between the clay bund and the middle newt fence had had ‘the treatment’. The other major task on Saturday involved some rather larger items of vegetation. The large tree adjacent to the culvert was felled and its stump, along with the others on the offside bank, was removed by the 8 tonner. All of the timber was stockpiled ready for later use for the construction of newt hibernation structures. Other work on repair of the compound surface, repairs to a couple of fences, and the start of the setting out of the channel completed a busy day.
The ground breaking moment (in both senses of the phrase) took place early on Sunday morning when the 8 tonner started the site strip. The image records the moment. This machine cleared the vegetation from most of the channel sides and base, which was then transferred to a stockpile adjacent to Pryces Bridge by dumper. The 3 tonner chipped in to finish off the task working from the towpath. While all of this excitement was happening on one side of the middle newt fence, on the other the vegetation clearance gang stoically pressed on with their strimmers and rakes to finish the clearance of the other half of the site. The three days of work made…well….quite a difference to the appearance of the site as the images show. The work continues at the next work party which will be held on 15/16 August. The Society will be organising an open event adjacent to the site on those days. Volunteers will be on hand to explain the work, and the famous work party tea and cakes will be in evidence! This event will appeal to anybody who is thinking of volunteering; or is just interested in the restoration; or who fancies a pleasant walk along the towpath and a piece of cake!