November 4-6 and 18-20
Although the channel construction is now finished, there was still plenty to occupy the Society’s volunteers during the month’s two work parties. As well as putting the final touches to the new channel, the bulk of the work involved decommissioning both LAF and Crickheath compounds, and setting up the new Crickheath South base.
The first work party saw the final act on the Pryces to Crickheath channel. This involved the use of a hired dredger to remove the clay dam at Pryce’s Bridge. The use of a dredger was necessary because of the difficulty of road access to the bridge. In fact there were two boats on the water: a pontoon which carried the digger which did the excavation and a hopper which transported the excavated clay. These became the first boats to use this stretch of canal for at least 70 years. The two craft were delivered to Crickheath Wharf by road, craned in and hauled manually the 500 metres to their destination. The latter was a relatively easy job when the craft were empty but the return journey of the loaded hopper was anything but. It took twelve volunteers a couple of hours to drag the boat to Crickheath, a journey that thankfully finished just before dark on the second day. All that remained on the final day was to empty and clean the boats, although the latter was a major task in itself.
During the rest of the first weekend, when not hauling boats around, volunteers worked on two main tasks. One gang removed the remaining newt fences on the offside of the channel. The other worked on transporting left-over materials from the two compounds to, variously, an external warehouse, Crickheath South or the local tip. As much as possible is being retained for re-use on the next project.
A major landmark was achieved during the second weekend when the remaining items of work were signed-off and the whole section was handed over to CRT. Work on transporting stuff from both the LAF and Crickheath Wharf compound to the new base continued.
The emphasis of the work is rapidly shifting toward Crickheath South. The ground investigation within the channel was finished by external specialists during the second weekend. In addition, Society volunteers exposed and surveyed a long length of the heritage wharf wall south of Crickheath Bridge. Also, a further section of channel was cleared of vegetation.
The hope is that by the end of the January work party, both LAF and Crickheath Wharf compounds will be de-commissioned and that at Crickheath South established as a new base.