Two major landmarks were reached during this work party. The last of the site strip in Phase 2 was completed, and the final major piece of work on Phase 1 was ticked off the list. In addition the construction of the first section of permanent base of the Phase 2 channel commenced.
Although the weather during the work party could not be described as good, it was evidently much better than that endured in some other parts of the country. There was no rain during working hours on any of the days but heavy overnight downpours made underfoot conditions decidedly sticky, and kept the pumps busy throughout.
The major volunteer effort over the whole weekend was on the fences around Phase 1. These had enclosed the working area for the construction of the retaining wall, and the spoil heap. This work occupied the entire workforce bar half a dozen or so. The preliminary work involved removing the newt fence (which was easy), followed by dismantling the existing stock fence which turned out to anything but. We had only ourselves to blame – we put it up!
The plan was to reuse as much of the fence materials as possible. The fence posts were buried very deeply and took a great deal of persuasion to come out. Eventually they did, and on Saturday the line of new fence was established by a combination of the 3 tonne digger and lots of manual effort. A final push on the last morning saw the job finished. The combination of new fence and the removal of the newt fences have changed the appearance of Phase 1, arguably for the better, as the image of the view from Pryces Bridges shows.
The completion of the Phase 2 site strip on the first day brought to an end a task which started way back in June. Achievement of the twin aims of removing organic material and vegetation, and destroying possible newt habitats, means that construction work on the channel can start in earnest. It also means that our work in the channel will not have to be continuously supervised by CRT ecologists who have, over few past few months, become very much part of the site team.
On Saturday the site strip gang moved onto work on the channel base at Crickheath. After a lengthy tussle with groundwater the bed of the channel was excavated to below grade ready for treatment. This consisted of an application of cement and covering with sheets of geotextile and geogrid. Crushed stone was then spread to bring the level up to grade so to create a permanent channel surface which is capable of taking the weight of excavators and dumpers.
The upshot of this weekend’s work is that Phase 1 is effectively finished and the construction of Phase 2 is now underway. Given that we had what was, in effect, an enforced break in the early months of the year, when the whole of the channel was in other hands, we have made better progress than seemed possible only a few months ago.