This report covers the scheduled September work party and an additional three day event which took place a fortnight later. Perhaps the start point for this report is to explain why the second work party was necessary. It has been apparent for some time that progress in recent work parties has been so good that there was a chance of finishing the Phase 1 lining/blocking during this restoration year if an extra weekend was inserted into the schedule. Although this aspiration is, of course, weather dependant the consensus of volunteer opinion was that we would give it a go. Were this aim achieved we would end the year slightly ahead of programme which would, in turn, greatly simplify operations early next year.
Since the critical task on both weekends was shaping the weather was a major issue. Thankfully on both weekends the weather was kind – rain apparently falling elsewhere locally but we largely escaped. Final shaping was rapidly pushed on during Friday and Saturday morning of the first weekend with the big machine shaping the top of the banks and its smaller cousin doing the rest. Alas the big digger broke down on Saturday lunchtime. This turned out to be terminal as it required a spare part from Germany. However by end of weekend final shaping had progressed to 130m from Pryces Bridge. Lining and blocking closely followed the shaping and progressed a very creditable 30 metres during the weekend. In doing so it covered the site of the water inundation in May which had subsequently been the recipient of so much fill. A collective sigh of relief to get past here!
Two weeks later the work was, well, more of the same. It was preceded by 12 hours of potentially disastrous heavy rain. In the event the land drain did its stuff and work was able to start on the Friday morning as planned. The upshot of the rain was that the dust, about which the shaping gang complained as being difficult to shape, was replaced by mud about which they complained even more. Friday saw the big digger in the channel attempting to make up for lost time caused by the machine breakdown.
The block laying gang spent the morning spreading rip-rap on the top of the banks before getting to work in the channel. For the rest of the weekend the shaping and lining gangs chased each other along the channel and, by the end, blocking had got to 140 metres from Pryces Bridge, lining to 150 metres, and rough shaping to 160 metres. The clay dam at the end of the section is now tantalisingly close but a lot of work remains to be done to reach it.
At Crickheath the contractors have now commenced some heavy duty piling work. To date this is mainly on the towpath side but progress seems to be good. One by-product of this work is a towpath closure and consequent absence of towpath visitors. We hope that they will be suitably impressed by both work sites when they return.