The recipe for successful work parties includes two essential ingredients. Our old friend ‘the weather’ provided the first of these with five and a half days of dry conditions. The second ingredient – the correct tools and personnel to do the job – was also present. Despite the demands of two work parties per month, and the constraints of the virus, volunteer numbers are holding up to a level that permits the critical programme items to be successfully tackled. The main jobs over the six days were the start of the construction of the banks in the big subsidence dip near the Oak Tree (first major item of the permanent works), pushing on the land drain, and further visits to Crickheath South.
On arrival for the first of the month’s events we had an unpleasant surprise. A large tree had demolished the tea shelter and was blocking access to the rest of the site. The tree was rapidly removed but repairs to the shelter took most of the weekend. It is a pleasure to report that it is now restored to its former glory.
The banks in question are both sides of the channel for a length of about 40m. Their construction consists of an earth core. a half a metre thick covering of crushed stone with the whole lot held together by layers of geogrid. After a lengthy session of setting out the first task was to bench the existing banks – effectively cut steps in them – so as to prevent the covering layers slipping under load. This done material from the stockpile was used to form the core and was thoroughly consolidated using the excavator mounted compacter. The image shows the work area at the end of the second work party. It should be borne in mind that prior to the work it was possible to step off the towpath directly onto the channel bed, and considerable imagination was required to believe that an offside bank in this location existed at all.
We learnt two lessons during this work. The first is that a full dumper load of stockpile material reduces to very little under the action of the excavator mounted compacter. Secondly the moisture content of the soil is important. We have a system of testing for moisture content and the importance of this was demonstrated on the final day of the first work party. That day the material was at the top of the permitted moisture range when ten minutes of heavy rain pushed it over the limit. We found out the hard way that it is not possible to compact mud! In an attempt to prevent a repetition the spoil heap has now been covered.
The land drain gang battled on during the first weekend with rates of progress depending on whether the ground conditions were bad or even worse. We long ago discovered that there is no good ground on this site. About 25m of drain including one intermediate sump was finished during the weekend, and a similar length remains to finish the job.
Our ‘sideline’ at various times during the weekends was continuing the clearance of the Crickheath South channel. About 180m has been cleared to date and this has revealed some impressive details of the old tramway wharf area. Finally a training session added two more dumper drivers to our personnel.