Work parties in the early months of the year inevitably start with a pumping day and this was the case for both the month’s events. The water table at this time of year is about a metre above the base of the channel.
An impressive array of pumping kit was in use including a large 150mm diameter static pump at Redwith Bridge during the first work party. A sizable pumping gang worked full time tending their charges. This included keeping the suction side of the pumps free from weed, directing the discharge into the appropriate watercourse and satisfying their considerable thirst for fuel. The year’s first major work in the channel involved the removal of the LAF clay dam. It was very soon apparent that the water pressure in the base of the drained channel was going to cause problems. Having removed the blocks and liner from the upper parts of the dam a section of the adjacent lined base was pushed upwards. It turned out that this was caused by pressure of water in the land drain which had been installed several years ago in Phase 1 of the work. Although the groundwater was subsequently pumped out with the aid of a newly installed sump, it is likely that groundwater levels will remain a problem until later in the year.
The clay dam was removed and carted away to storage in the Crickheath compound during the first weekend. Work during the second work party involved shaping forty-odd metres of channel on the Crickheath side of the site of the clay dam. This involved the removal of a considerable quantity of stone from the offside bank and this was relocated to the part-completed banks in the area of the oak tree.
Several hundred hedging whips were planted along the base of the newly constructed stone banks. The outer slopes of about 100 metres of stone bank were also covered in soil and grass seed applied.
A quantity of the heavy lining membrane (‘the carpet’ in volunteer parlance) was delivered, cut to size and transported to its eventual location. A large quantity of the heavy gauge plastic sheet was also pre-prepared for lining operations. Given this month’s experience with groundwater pressure it is likely that lining operations proper will not start until later in the spring when levels have dropped – the current plan is May.
Finally the opportunity was taken to repaint the containers and repair the tea shelter.