The May work party is usually close to the top of any list of the most productive events during the Society’s restoration season. This year’s event was no exception. One reason for this is that it includes a Bank Holiday and so it is longer than most. Additionally, it always seems to attract that other essential ingredient – good weather. During the four-day marathon, the weather was kind and substantial progress was made on the mooring and the French drain. Also, exploratory excavation of the old brick culvert yielded information to inform the design of its replacement.
Friday was a full working day with activity concentrated both in the channel and at various locations in the compound. The aim by the end of the weekend was to progress the mooring to a point where concrete could be poured in June. Achieving this ambitious target involved initially shifting some 400 blocks from the compound to the mooring site and setting out the blockwork walls. Work on setting up our ever reliable old mixer, and substantial repairs to the newt fences around the compound, completed the physical work on Day 1. It is perhaps worth recording that the attendance on Friday was fifteen, surely a record for what is supposed to be a ‘preparation’ day.
The Society’s work on the current project is, of course, all done by volunteers. Notwithstanding this the Society is in legal terms a contractor to CRT. For this reason we had a Contractor Safety Audit by CRT on Friday. Since the Society prides itself on its welfare and safety systems it is a pleasure to report that all was found to be well.
Saturday saw work start on extending the French drain in the channel. As with the mooring there was a target for the end of the work party – in this case to extend the end of the drain to a point in close proximity to the culvert – some 20 metres. The combination of use of the 8 tonne excavator and reasonable ground conditions saw steady progress achieved. Work on the mooring included removal of formwork, drilling the base to insert rebar, and block laying. By the end of Saturday two bays of the wall were up to three courses. Three volunteers had the task of excavating, by hand, behind the culvert headwall on the Lloyd’s side. The aim of this exercise was to determine the best method of fixing the new plastic culvert to the old brick headwall. The work illustrated that old maxim of construction – ‘you don’t know what is underground until you start digging’. What they found was a 200 year old brick culvert in poor condition; penetrated by tree roots and only held up by the surrounding earth. Once exposed the culvert was prone to collapse. The headwall itself was found to be of sound construction.
Block laying continued apace on the mooring on Day 3. The bulk of the volunteer effort was, however, concentrated on the French drain, a task made easier by greatly improved ground conditions. By the end of the day the drain was finished to its intended position, including the first intermediate sump, a distance of 55 metres from Pryces Bridge. The last day. After a considerable amount of chiselling, sawing, drilling, grinding and filling the back of the headwall was judged to be in a smooth enough state to take a plastic pipe coupling. This left only the mooring. A mighty effort of mixing and delivering mortar, transporting blocks and actually laying the blocks ensured that by four o’clock on Monday the mooring was in a state to receive its first concrete pour during the next work party. A very tired group of volunteers made their way home!