Welcome to the new work party normal – not so very different from the old normal. The first work party for four months inevitably included large doses of social distancing, mask wearing and sanitising in both site operations and welfare. In the event it turned out to be an enjoyable and highly productive affair.
If there was a society record for most earth moved in a three day work party it must have been smashed during this weekend. This was made possible by two big excavators, two dumpers and a full complement of drivers, and three days of dry weather.
On Friday the main jobs were site strip and treatment of another section of channel bed. The latter involved the usual removal of silt and vegetation and then mixing cement grout into the exposed ground. The next day attention shifted to the length of channel between the Oak Tree and Crickheath. This is to be restored using the cut and fill method used in Phase 1. In two days we managed to shape a length of channel equivalent to half that of the entire Phase 1. For comparison, shaping Phase 1 took five complete work parties. The trick? Well the two big excavators were used to move the spoil directly rather than having to rely on dumpers. This was done firstly from the channel bed to the towpath bank, and then from the offside bank to the top of that bank. The fact that the offside bank was wide enough to accommodate the excavators, which allowed them to operate at maximum efficiently as backacters, also greatly helped the cause. The result has a passing resemblance to a canal channel.
Despite the machine-aided heroics described above the stars of the show were at the other end of the site. For various reasons the usual annual vegetation clearance had not been done over the winter. Add to this another six months of lockdown growth, and a large fallen tree in the compound, and the result was a mass of vegetation surrounding the LAF compound. The vegetation gang spent two very hot days doing a lot of old-style jungle bashing. The result is that the canal is now visible from the compound again.
The society had successfully argued as, Principal Contractors under the CDM Regulations, that site operations should restart under our own RAMS documentation. This means that as well as social distancing, use of masks, and various sanitising measures on site, the society is for the time being not providing accommodation or food and drink during breaks. Although this means that off-site socialising is currently curtailed it is a pleasure to report that the quality of both erudite conversation and sparkling wit during the tea breaks is undiminished by the enforced break. The major downside of the new arrangements – the absence of the world beating site tea – was greeted with stoicism. There is however a strong current of opinion to have this treat restored sooner rather than later as part of the new normal. Watch this space.