This may have been the first restoration work party of the year but it didn’t feel like it. The main reason for this, of course, was that the Society’s efforts over the winter had been based ‘at home’ doing tree and vegetation clearance on Phases 1B and 2 of the restoration. All of the forty-odd trees on the offside bank behind the compound were removed and the towpath cleared of vegetation and trees to a point within sight of Crickheath. The volunteers who had taken a well earned winter break from the action could hardly believe their eyes such is the change!
The main job during the work party was to install the newt fencing around the perimeter of the Phase 1B site. There was an urgency to this task since the recent warm weather had caused the local newt population to come out of hibernation. Thus the enclosure of the site had to be finished during the weekend to enable trapping work to commence as soon as possible – on the face of it a formidable task.
The newt enclosure consists of a plastic fence around the outside of site with terram ‘drift fencing’ used to sub-divide the enclosure. The Society had experience of this work of this nature during the previous phase and used the same methods this time. A trenching machine was used to make a cut in the ground into which volunteers inserted the plastic fence panels. The job is completed by backfilling the trench, bolting the fence panels together and, finally, inserting some short props at intervals to stiffen the fence. The drift fence was simply a strip of terram fabic attached to posts and tethered to the bed of the channel using blocks.
The work started on Friday on the towpath side and since most of the course of the trench was in made-up ground, progress was rapid. By the end of Friday the towpath side fence was complete despite the continuous heavy rain soaking the 17 volunteers. Saturday saw a remarkable effort from the 24 volunteers on site, assisted by the glorious Spring weather, which completed the whole job. Ably assisted by three new, and two returning, volunteers 260 metres of plastic fence and 30 metres of drift fence were finished by close of play. On Sunday the rain returned with a vengeance but the main task for the 16 volunteers present was chopping up some of the brash left on the towpath from the winter clearance work. This is a preliminary to its future transport to the compound for disposal.
The Phase 1B site has now been handed back to CRT for the 90 days of newt trapping so it will be July before any more construction work is possible in that area. In the meantime the plan is to return to work in the Phase 1A channel next time out.