This report gives the lowdown on the month’s two work parties. It is to the great credit of the Society’s volunteers that attendance numbers held up for both events despite their hastily arranged nature and the holiday season. They were rewarded by the substantial, and very visible, progress.
Three factors greatly aided the cause. Firstly the formal newt trapping process in the Phase 2 channel was officially declared finished at the start of July. The second bit of good news is that the contractors have at long last finished at Crickheath. Accordingly we now have the sole use of the wide open spaces of the compound there which is essential for temporary storage. Finally the weather was kind (although attendees on the Friday of the second work party might disagree!) and this allowed us to get on with the various clearance and earthmoving tasks.
The first work party was held in what forecasters would describe as ‘glorious summer weather’. It was however a bit too glorious for strimming large areas of canal bed and the exhausting task of raking up the cut vegetation. This work was overseen by two CRT ecologists but there were few newts to keep them busy. The only newt brave enough to emerge during the whole weekend was found by one of our volunteers. The strimming gang worked steadily along the channel until by the end of Sunday about three-quarters of the Phase 2 had been cleared. The other major activity was removal of the old stock fence and hedge on the offside followed by topsoil strip in the whole channel, both activities being supervised by an ecologist. The stumps were uprooted using the eight tonner but some were large enough to present a real challenge. Both the stumps and the site strip material were moved into the Crickheath compound pending disposal.
The second weekend featured more of the same but with the added twist that work had progressed into the area which is founded on peat and has large areas of subsidence. The offside bank in this area had largely disappeared and it required a major effort to keep the excavator which was removing the stumps above the level of the waterlogged channel. A considerable area of the bed of the channel was stripped of silt and reeds, a task made more difficult because, for ecological reasons pumping was not possible. The material was transported by power barrow and spread on the Phase 1 rip-rap. By close of play the whole of the offside of Phase 1 had had this treatment. All of the work was, as always, supervised by CRT ecologists. In the three days a solitary newt emerged to brighten up our weekend.
Work also started on the important task of surveying and setting-out of the Phase 2 channel.
The results of the six days of toil: about three-quarters of the Phase 2 channel is now devoid of trees and of vegetation in the channel; the creation of two impressive piles of the same at Crickheath; and some very neat finishing work on the Phase 1 banks. The next section to be tackled includes the area containing the infamous Hell Hole – the feature which caused the Shropshire Union Canal Company so much anguish. We await this with trepidation!