The Jet Stream played a major role in the success of the two work parties this month. By obligingly keeping north of the British Isles we were treated to a run of mild and, critically, dry weather – just the thing for shifting large quantities of stone about. It was also ideal for the other major task of cutting back the new growth on the various hedges surrounding the site.
The two work parties this month ticked off a number of important tasks – a section of bank in the subsidence areas near Oak Tree finished, the land drain completed, and both the culvert and the Crickheath South clearance pushed on as far as intended.
The pre-event prospects for the first weekend were not encouraging – the forecast promising a weekend of gales, heavy rain and assorted meteorological mayhem. This was a concern because earth moving – the principal task – and rain are not good partners. In the event we only lost one hour of working time on Saturday because of the weather. It subsequently emerged that we got off very lightly – that day had the highest rainfall nationally since records began! The weather second time round was more or less a carbon copy of the first minus the record breaking.
The priority in terms of permanent works was the banks on both sides of the channel for a length of about 40m adjacent to the Oak Tree. During the first weekend the earth core of the banks was constructed despite the best efforts of the weather. The secret of our success was covering both the spoil heap and the working areas which kept the all-important moisture content of the material within acceptable range. During the three days the covers were on and off more times than at a Manchester Test Match. Stone was added on top of the core during the second weekend so as to bring a long section of the offside bank up to its final design height.
Readers may wonder why so much effort is being concentrated on such a small length of channel. The reason is that the banks in question are located over the deepest of the underlying peat beds. When finished they will be topped up with excess stone and weighed down by water filled containers to induce irreversible subsidence. This process takes a minimum of six months and so to keep to programme this work must be finished by the end of this year. We started to take delivery of the containers (IBCs in the jargon) during the second weekend. Some time was spent practicing moving, stacking, filling and empting the vessels and a number of lessons learned.
The happiest people on the site were the land drain gang whose perseverance through the ever varying and steadily worsening ground conditions eventually saw them reach their planned destination adjacent to the Oak Tree. In doing so they completed the last of the preparatory works on the project. During the second weekend they continued their stellar progress by completing of a section of the culvert which will eventually drain fields on the offside of the canal at Crickheath.
A band of hardy souls defied the weather and continued the job of clearing vegetation from Crickheath South. This task is now all but finished bar the large trees on the offside which have to wait until the winter.
Finally the year’s programme of training was completed and two new dumper drivers were welcomed to the ranks.