This was a remarkable work party during which substantial progress was made on the two ‘big ticket’ items on the current section. The plan was to finish the blocklaying on the mooring and to complete the installation of the culvert. The latter task had to be done in one weekend for a number of reasons. The most important of these was that since the ‘day job’ of the culvert was to drain a substantial upstream area, including storm water runoff from Lloyd’s, it had to be capable of performing that function again by the end of Sunday. The target was ambitious and to allow for the vagaries of weather and ground conditions the main work was again spread over three full working days.
Work actually started early on in the week when contractors installed the scaffolding along the front of the mooring to provide a safe working platform for the higher levels of the mooring wall.
The volunteer work got off to an inauspicious start on Thursday when three volunteers spent time pumping out the area of the culvert. On arrival on Friday morning the water had returned due, it turned out, to leaks in the sandbag dams. The arrival of the two resident pumping experts on Friday morning saved the day. After some work on the dam and moving the pumps around no more water entered the works for the duration.
Work on the mooring on Friday followed the usual efficient routine of moving and placing blocks and mortar, a task speeded up by the use of the scaffold. Work on the culvert concentrated on excavation on the towpath side of the channel. The manhole which was the termination point of the old culvert was demolished by hand so as to prevent damage to the downstream pipe. The old culvert headwall received less gentle treatment and was removed without ceremony by the 8 tonner, as was a section of the towpath. Since the towpath is a designated footpath, alternative arrangements had been made to allow walkers to pass. During working hours walkers were escorted around the works. At other times walkers used a temporary bridge over the works provided by CRT. By the end of Friday the manhole was demolished and a concrete blinding applied to the base of its replacement.
Saturday dawned and work got underway at both ends of the culvert. Reinforced concrete was placed in the base of the towpath side catchpit, and the trench to take the culvert pipes under the towpath levelled. At the other end work started to extend the pipe beneath the canal bed from the point it had reached at the end of the last work party. However there was a problem – there always is! Soon after the last work party heavy rain had caused the site to be flooded (together with much of the local area) and a thick layer of silt covered the location of the pipe. Eventually the missing connection was found, cleaned out and the first length of pipe attached, bedded in pea gravel and backfilled. The rest of the day was occupied with two things. The first was shifting an enormous volume of earth from the bed of the canal to permit the safe installation of the remaining pipe sections. The second was keeping our collective fingers crossed for another day of dry weather. Late on Saturday a significant milestone was reached when the last block was laid on the mooring. This will permit the final concrete pour to be made next time.
Sunday morning and – big sigh of relief – no rain. The blocklaying gang had been transformed overnight into the bricklaying gang and they immediately started work on the new catchpit on the towpath side. Meanwhile after a small amount of extra excavation sections of pipe were installed to bring the culvert to a point beneath the towpath. These sections were duly surrounded with pea gravel and backfilled. The final task was the pipe connection under the towpath to the catchpit to complete the 24 metre long culvert. By the end of Sunday the catchpit was up to half a dozen courses high with the termination of the culvert built into the brickwork. This work meant that, although the catchpit requires several more courses of brickwork and a cover to complete it, it was now capable of functioning. We had done it! By common consent this was the hardest work party since we moved onto the Pyrces to Crickheath length. It was also undoubtedly one of the most satisfying and illustrates once more that given the resources volunteers are capable of undertaking complicated engineering jobs. The next work party may see commencement of construction of the newt ponds necessary to progress the restoration – watch this space!