September 2022 work party report

September 2-4, September 16-18 and September 26-October 1

There is a lot to report this month. The volunteer effort extended over thirteen working days split between three work parties. The two regular three-day weekend events concentrated on the Pryces to Crickheath towpath. The one-week gathering was concerned mainly with establishing the new Crickheath South compound but also ventured into the channel as well. There was also work done by contractors….

The long and winding path to Pryces Bridge

We knew that the towpath had to be finished this month to have any chance of meeting the end of October deadline for ‘practical completion’. To do this involved close on 200m of construction from scratch and doing the final surfacing of the phase 1 towpath. Since the construction involves positioning and concreting in the edge boards, laying sub-base and base stone layers, putting soil both sides of the boards and, finally, laying and compacting the stone dust, this was no trivial matter. The first weekend saw construction of 100m either side of the oak tree toward Crickheath. Another gang had the apparently much simpler job of applying the final wearing surface of compacted stone dust to sections already built. The first task involved clearing the 200m of towpath on Phase 1 of weeds and overhanging vegetation. Four volunteers stuck at this thankless job for the whole of the Friday. By close of play on the first weekend 280m of towpath was finished leaving 50m to go. We thought that we were getting there – what could go wrong?

Alas at the commencement of the second weekend, the previously reliable excavator decided not to start, at least not without a lot of encouragement. Since this was used to load materials for the towpath, this was a major problem. However once it condescended to fire up it was worked continuously (including meal breaks) to make up lost time. It was a close run thing but we finished the towpath just before knocking-off time on Sunday afternoon. Phew!

The final section of towpath construction

A mighty effort by the lining gang during the second weekend extended the lining/blocking to within 15m of the Crickheath clay dam. This is as close as it can get to allow the removal of the clay dam. The rip-rap and soil were added to the towpath side of the newly lined channel.

View from Crickheath clay dam

During the first weekend there was well attended guided walk along the past present and future restoration sections. About forty society members and a number of non-members took part.

The burst of activity by contractors was to get as much outstanding work finished before the end of the HLF funded project. Crickheath Bridge now sports a concrete invert. The newt ponds at Redwith have been spruced up and a solar-powered pump and water distribution pipes added.

All of which brings us to the week-long work party which marked the physical start of the Crickheath South project. This will eventually extend the channel restoration from the end of our current site to Schoolhouse Bridge. Work concentrated on establishing a work compound in a field just south of the hamlet. Over the seven days, a large number of fence and gate posts were driven, dug, augured or otherwise persuaded into the parched rock hard ground. The majority of the wire was also fixed to the posts thanks to our colleagues from TRAMPS (the Welshpool-based enhancement group). The sizable compound area was stripped of topsoil and then covered with geofabric and compacted hardcore. There was also tree clearance in the channel adjacent to the new compound and the installation of a sump south of Crickheath Bridge.

Crickheath South compound takes shape

We have two work parties remaining to achieve practical completion on Pryces to Crickheath. Are we going to do it? Watch this space!

Posted in Montgomery Canal, Pryces Bridge to Crickheath Bridge Restoration, Restoration, Shropshire Union Canal Society, Work Party.

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