This work party featured a number of notable ‘firsts’ – the most important being the start of block laying in Phase 1A, and ground breaking in Phase 1B. Once more a large turnout of volunteers and, at times, some glorious autumn weather allowed substantial progress to be made. By the end of the weekend the appearance of the site had been transformed.
Friday is always the day for deliveries of plant and materials. These operations now have to be scheduled more carefully than at some times in the past because of the start of channel lining operations. The problem is, as always, fitting everything into our small compound storage areas. For example, finding a temporary home for three thousand blocks whilst still leaving room to do things like cutting long pieces of lining materials, requires a bit of forward planning. An additional complication is that the principal channel access is now via the main compound. As well as the blocks there was a delivery of liner and the disposal of the remaining logs and tree roots from the winter work. The latter were transported to Redwith for eventual use as newt terrestrial habitats.
The topsoil strip in the Phase 1B channel got underway early on Friday with a thorough search to ensure that no newts had escaped capture during both previous searches. We in fact found one. The eight-tonner then stripped the banks and channel base and stockpiled the loose material ready for transport to Redwith. Progress was rapid and by knocking-off time on Saturday the job was done. What a difference this makes to the appearance of the site!
Over in Phase 1A final shaping of the channel pushed on over the three days and with the exception of a few metres of the channel base this job is now finished.
Saturday morning saw the bulk of the volunteers engaged on – what else? – a concrete pour. Sod’s Law dictated that the delivery of ready-mix coincided with the hottest few hours of the weekend. Three cubic metres was placed on the channel sides but, wow, it was hard work to compact and finish the slabs. However, the concrete pour was but the warm-up for the most eagerly awaited task on the whole Phase 1 restoration – lining and blocking the channel. This got underway on Saturday afternoon and the familiar old routine was soon established. The three types of sheet materials were cut to size in the compound prior to being placed in the channel. The block chute was dusted down and many of the volunteers experienced for the first time the delights of repeated manual handling of 17.5 kilogrammes of concrete block. By the end of the weekend fifteen metres of very neat channel was finished.
On Sunday the ‘glorious autumn weather’ reverted to type and treated us to another soaking. The mysterious hole which is adjacent to the clay bund in the Phase 1B was pumped out and a land-drain sump installed. This will enable any standing water to be removed as a preliminary to the extension of the land drain. Phase 1B has started!