The Society marked the official launch of the Heritage Lottery Fund funded work on the canal by, appropriately, beginning substantive work on the Phase 1B channel. This work, together with further work on the Phase 1A channel and at Redwith completed a busy weekend.
The first job on Friday was to dismantle the scaffolding holding up the formwork for the concrete base slab. This was done with slight trepidation since the edges of the slab had to be sufficiently smooth to take subsequent waterproofing materials. Any fears of this nature, thankfully, turned out to be groundless. Immediately one lot of formwork disappeared work started on assembling some more. This was to contain concrete up the towpath bank slope. Before this could be done however an anchor trench had to be dug to accommodate the end of the liner at the top of the slope.
The big moment on Friday was the start of work on Phase 1B in the form of the commencement of the destructive vegetation search. Guided by two CRT ecologists a system was soon established. This involved searching the ground for newts or other creatures, strimming the vegetation down to 20cm or so above ground, searching again, and finally strimming the vegetation right down to ground level. The ninety day search of the area which preceded the work party had clearly been very thorough because, bar a couple of toads, no newts were found in the two days of the destructive search.
Eight o’clock on Saturday morning – it must be a concrete pour! The destination this month was the newly constructed formwork up the towpath slope. The concrete and method of placing this time could not have been more different from that of the last pumped pour. It was delivered by truck to the compound, transported to the channel by power barrow, shovelled into the formwork, and spread and compacted using garden rakes. After being levelled the surface finish was applied using a sweeping brush!
The other two major tasks on the main site were shaping more of the Phase 1A channel and construction of a new access to the Phase 1B site. The latter was necessary because as shaping proceeds some of the original access becomes part of the channel and can no longer safely accommodate the large digger. The work involved constructing a piped causeway over the ditch at the rear of the compound. This was achieved using large diameter drain pipes covered with multiple dumper loads of spoil from the channel shaping works. Since the causeway links two areas from which newts are excluded, newt grids had to be installed at each end. By the end of Sunday an additional 25m of channel was shaped and stabilised with cement.
Some of the hardest working volunteers on site over the weekend were the strimmer operators. Clad in their protective gear they were forced to swelter in the high temperatures but still got though a vast amount of work. As well as working on the destructive search, Phase 1A was cleared of errant vegetation and the most impressive collection of thistles which surrounded the Redwith newt ponds was similarly dealt with.