This was quite a weekend! June 2014 will go down in the record books as the month when the Redwith to Pryces section saw boats for the first time since 1935, and work on the Pryces to Crickheath section was started. The events had extensive coverage on TV, radio and in the press. As a result the number of visitors over the weekend suggested that the canal has become a significant tourist attraction.
Work on the re-watering in fact started some ten days before the work party when CRT removed the clay dam at Redwith Bridge. This was followed a few days later by a ceremony, with the media in attendance, to raise the top plank under Redwith Bridge. The section took several days to fill up and the stop planks were then removed completely.
Come Saturday morning we arrived to be greeted by a sight which we had all worked so long for – the canal in water. The extraordinary thing was that the channel already had the appearance of a mature canal with plants already populating the banks. A casual observer would not have realised that it had only been in water for a matter of a couple of days. Then we had the first boats on the section for nigh on eighty years. Headed by Mike and Jan in their boat, five narrowboats made the journey to Pryces, accompanied by yet more TV reporters. The first boat sported a barrel of beer on its bows – for later consumption! All of the volunteers had the memorable experience of a trip along the section at some point in the day.
Alas we also had to do some work on Saturday. The newt pond was lined, soil placed around it and filled with water. The hedges around the pond were completed and some trees added. Irises were planted on the offside bank and, to complete the job, the Netlon fence which had for so long been a barrier on the towpath was removed.
The evening saw a celebration at Canal Central for the volunteers who had worked on the section. It was good to see many familiar faces. The barrel of beer was duly opened and the celebrations, as they say, went on long into the night. The evening also gave the volunteers the opportunity to thank Mike and Jan for their massive contribution to the restoration over many years. They were presented with a print showing their boat on the restored channel earlier in the day.
The Sunday work party blew away the cobwebs by making an immediate start on the Pryces to Crickheath section. The work involved erection of 50 metres of stock fence and placing a newt fence round the pile of puddle clay dumped in an adjacent field. In addition the surveyors made a start on determining levels and dimensions of the next section.