The various activities associated with this ‘weekend’ work party were actually spread over five days. It was a highly productive event and was also notable for both the record number of volunteers covered in slime and a most unusual visitor.
Four volunteers successfully completed offsite training on dumpers on Thursday and Friday. Their services were subsequently much in demand for the rest of the work party. The main activities onsite on Friday were the commencement of work on the newt pond adjacent to Pryces Bridge, and the delivery of a considerable quantity of pipes, stone and sundry other materials. After the obligatory pumping session the newt search was conducted by two CRT ecologists with the assistance of two volunteers. The remaining newts were transferred to their new home in the Redwith pond which had been built by the Society last year. The other job on Friday was work on the new tea shelter. Actually this is the old shelter repositioned, extended and generally super improved.
Saturday morning saw the first group of volunteers coated in sludge of different hues. A final hand search and sweep of the Pryces newt pond was followed by work to clear it of the large quantity of accumulated black slime. Also the source of the water which fed the pond was investigated. It was clear that some entered via leaking stop planks and some via the brickwork of the wing walls. The planks were sealed with puddle clay (which seemed to be effective) and resulted in the two volunteers concerned having a distinctly yellow appearance. The application of puddle clay to the area of the brickwork leaks was less successful and these leaks will require further treatment. The other major work was to extend the compound. A post knocker mounted on the 3 tonner made short work of installing posts for the newt fence in this area and, after the newt fence itself was erected, the compound was surfaced using a geotextile covered with stone. The new area is already in use for storage of drain pipes.
Society volunteers have been asked to do some dirty and unpleasant jobs over the years and one of the tasks on Sunday must rank near the top of any list of these. As preparation work for replacement of the culvert beneath the channel, a sump had to be installed in the ditch which feeds the culvert to enable over-pumping to take place. In order to do this the ditch first had to be cleared of small trees and other vegetation, and yet more black sludge! The ten volunteers who uncomplainingly accomplished this task each deserve a medal. The other major job on Sunday was the start of earthworks in the channel. The site of the newt pond was filled in and a start made on reducing the channel base to just above grade.
All of which brings us to our visitor – the boat horse which pulls the trip boat which is based at Canal Central in Maesbury. The horse, whose name is Cracker, inspected the works, ate a lot of grass and posed for photographs. We hope that in a few years time the sight of a boat horse on the towpath at Pryces Bridge will be considered ‘usual’ rather than ‘unusual’!