Since these work party reports often bemoan the rain/cold winds/hail/snow/frost which adversely affect progress, it might seem churlish to complain that the weather during the June event was a bit too hot for physical work. In fact, the dry weather greatly contributed to the substantial progress made since the two main tasks involved large amounts of earthmoving. Volunteers coped with working in the 30 degree heat with the aid of lots of drinking water and frequent breaks, and those working down holes and out of the sun for once considered themselves the lucky ones!
Following the pattern of recent work parties, Friday was a full working day. The main reason for this was the need to prepare of the concrete pour on the mooring scheduled for the next morning; the principal job being the addition of a fourth course of blockwork. The rest of the effort centred on the culvert. The headwall on the Lloyd’s side received more attention and work started to uncover its equivalent on the other side of the canal. By the close of play there was the tantalising sight of some mystery brickwork at the bottom of a large hole adjacent to the towpath. There were also the usual deliveries. These included the mass of pipework for the culvert, and it was great fun trying to work out which bit fitted into which.
The first item on the agenda for Saturday was the concrete pour to fill the inside of the walls up to three courses of blockwork. A dozen early rising volunteers completed the task in an hour with a little assistance from two large ready-mix lorries and a lorry-mounted concrete pump.
After this the volunteer group split into three. The blocklayers continued building the walls and in the afternoon started to backfill the rear of the mooring. The determined gang of towpath side hole diggers continued towards Australia and eventually, with a little help from the 8 tonner, uncovered the top of the culvert, a headwall and a manhole. The culvert was in similar poor condition to the rest of the structure, and the manhole was of a rather unusual agricultural design. The headwall was in reasonable condition but, alas, the shape of the opening in it means it will have to be replaced. The third group set about installing the replacement culvert. The first job was to align and fix the flange to the headwall, a task achieved using a variety of bolts, washers and two types of gunge squirted out of mastic guns. The gunge was allowed to cure overnight. Meanwhile excavation of the old culvert started and large quantities of 200 year old bricks, some still in surprisingly good condition, were carted away for eventual disposal.
Sunday morning saw the number of tasks reduced to two. The mooring gang continued their tireless efforts and work started in earnest to install the Lloyd’s side of the culvert. The 8 tonner made short work of digging the trench and uncovering the seemingly endless quantity of bricks. The 450 mm diameter pipe sections were assembled ‘on dry land’ before being lowered into the trench and bedded in pea gravel. By the end of Sunday the pipework reached its lowest intended point beneath the bed of the channel and a water test indicated that its levels were correct. All that remained was making safe the holes and newt fences which had been disturbed during the works. For working flat out from early Friday morning to late on Sunday evening all of the volunteers concerned deserve a mention in dispatches. Next month will be more of the same – hopefully including the same dry weather.