This may have been the last scheduled restoration work party this year but it distinctly lacked any ‘end of term’ feeling. One of the reasons for this was undoubtedly the boost to morale caused by the award of the Heritage Lottery Fund grant, some of which will be used to fund the Pryces to Crickheath section. There was also the satisfaction of finishing two major tasks in Phases 1A and 1B, and taking the first tentative steps on Phase 2 work.
The key to the excellent progress was the remarkably dry weather which made earthmoving possible even at this late stage in the year. Full advantage was taken of this on both Friday and Saturday to complete work on both the mooring and the towpath.
The work to backfill the mooring with concrete, including installation of mooring rings, was finished on Saturday. This left the volume behind the wall to be filled with compacted soil and this was duly done on Sunday courtesy of the 3 tonner and a power barrow. The same combination of plant completed the building up of the Phase 1B towpath to grade, following which a temporary surface of stone was applied. This is certainly a great improvement on the muddy switchback which was there before. Taken together the two jobs consumed a vast amount of spoil and for the first time since work started on the length the site is not decorated by apparently random piles of material. This state will endure until channel shaping starts next year.
Two other important jobs were done on Saturday. The first was the accurate setting out of the Phase 1A channel ready for shaping next year. The second was off site at Frankton Junction where five volunteers planted bulbs in the various planters. This enhancement work will be followed in the coming months by painting and general tidying up of the gateway to the Montgomery Canal.
Sunday saw the start of vegetation clearance for the Phase 2 works. Bracken and small bushes were cleared from both edges of the towpath as a preliminary to future work on the hedge. The clearance work revealed that the towpath structure appears to be in remarkably good condition despite the many years of minimal maintenance. The exceptions are those areas where subsidence has taken place. In some places over 1 metre of fill will be required to bring the level up to grade. However that is a problem for the future. At this point on a November work party report it is usual to describe the forthcoming diversion into hedge laying at a site remote from our base. This winter we are staying at home to continue the work on the towpath hedge on the Phase 2 length. This will keep us occupied until channel shaping and lining starts again in March. We can’t wait!