This month featured two highly successful but contrasting work parties. In the first a large turnout of volunteers ticked off a long list of jobs in four different locations. The second was a more focused effort concentrating on channel shaping and channel bed treatment.
Two significant project milestones were achieved during the month. A day and a half into the first work party, the third specially designed bank over an area of underlying peat was completed. Like the others it required overfill and surcharge. The work used both dumpers and power barrows to move 350 tonnes of stone to the top of the bank where it was compacted to its final shape. The continuing dry weather aided the start on shaping the 80 metre long section of channel between the Crickheath and the oak tree. The towpath bank in this area was also brought up to final level. In addition a group of volunteers visited one of our old haunts, Redwith ponds, to do tests of water retention. As we left site on the Sunday it started to rain.
And it rained for most of the three weeks until the second work party with the result that the LAF end of the site almost looked like a navigation. Friday was inevitably spent pumping out that end of the site. The presence of the continuously pumped land drain in the middle section of the site permitted all of the machines, and an increasingly muddy group of volunteers, to work on shaping that section of channel. By the end of the weekend all but about ten metres or so had been finished. They also cut to length and delivered to the middle section a dozen sheets of heavy fabric which is part of lining system. All concerned deserve a medal.
On Saturday work started on treatment of the channel bed at the LAF end of the site. This is preparation for the construction of the fourth and final specially designed bank. Being adjacent to the Hell Hole we knew that both the ground conditions and water inflow would be bad and we were not disappointed. The area had the full works – constant pumping, grout, terram, geogrid and stone – but as always with this work the results will not be known until the grout has had time to do its stuff. A long run of benching on the towpath banks completed the weekend.
The second milestone was that the consulting engineers have agreed that two banks at oak tree, which were finished just before Christmas, can now move from primary to secondary settlement. This means that the bulk of the likely settlement has now happened and accordingly the IBCs can be removed and the banks reduced in size to their final shape.
The completion on the three banks and the progress on the shaping permit work to commence in a number of other areas – notably lining and finishing of channel. This coupled with the easing of pandemic restrictions means that the site will be back to full volunteer numbers from next time.