This was one of the most productive work parties to date on the current Phase 1A section. The three day effort saw the newt ponds, the stonework on the mooring wall, and the shaping of the channel and installation of the land drain adjacent to the culvert all ticked off the ‘to do‘ list.
Work on a rather wet Friday took place at both Redwith and at Pryces Bridge. Inspection of the of the Redwith newt ponds constructed last time out showed that, much to the collective relief, they both were holding water. Work concentrated on construction of the newt terrestrial habitats. This rather grand sounding activity involved digging a shallow trench, filling it with a mixture of old tree trunks and bricks, and then adding a covering of soil. The idea is that the newts burrow into the soil and overwinter in crevices between the timber and bricks. Two habitats were constructed adjacent to the ponds. The ponds themselves were planted with a mixture of vegetation dug from channel adjacent to the compound and some imported from the Lancaster Canal. The completion of this work is one of the prerequisites for the forthcoming newt licence application for Phase 1B which, if successful, will allow restoration to a point 200 metres from Pryces Bridge.
The stonework gang had a busy weekend. Only the upper courses of the last two bays remained to be completed and work continued between the heavy downpours on Friday and Saturday. The rest of the gang stuck to the exhausting task of mixing, transporting and placing the concrete haunching at the back of the stonework. Eventually late on Sunday the last stone was laid on the mooring. The view of the finished product is presently obscured by the scaffolding but when this goes in the next few days the quality of the workmanship will become apparent. The removal of the scaffolding will also allow final shaping to start in the channel, albeit next year.
The rest of the operations during the weekend involved earthmoving and drainage. The reduction of the base of the channel down to grade above the culvert occupied the whole of Friday. Early on Saturday the earthmoving machinery from Redwith was moved down to Pyces Bridge which allowed work to start on backfilling the mooring and other jobs. Spoil was transported to build up towpath to grade on the Phase 1B section in preparation for the planned installation of a newt fence along this length.
The rains ceased on Sunday and the opportunity was taken to install the last section of French drain on the current section. The work was undertaken using a new method. To date gravel has been delivered to the drain trench manually using buckets and a pipe as a gravel chute. This had the twin disadvantages of both being slow and very hard work but was necessary because dumper access was restricted to the top of the bank. Because access direct to the channel is now possible a Mark 2 gravel chute was constructed to allow gravel to be tipped direct from the dumper into the drain excavation. Careful excavation of the drain trench was required since calculations showed only a 200mm gap between the top of the culvert and the bottom of the drain. The work was straightforward except for one moment of panic when water began to pour into the trench (it turned out to be groundwater). Ten metres of drain was installed in just 2 hours using the new system, a great improvement on its predecessor. Shaping the channel sides in this area completed the work. So a very successful work party and one that means that the next job in the channel will be commencement of shaping and lining in the New Year. The remainder of this year’s efforts will be concentrated on preparation for the Phase 1B of the work.