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Montgomery Canal Restoration Work Party Report -

'Big Dig 40' Anniversary Work Party

October 17 & 18 2009


The addition of an extra mid-month work party might have meant that attendance would be lower than usual, but a large number of volunteers turned up, no doubt tempted by the prospect of a free meal!

Work took place in four main areas.

At the Redwith Bridge end construction continued on the offside retaining wall, and another bay was completed. This leaves only a single bay remaining to be built, before being filled with concrete, topped with stone and backfilled with spoil.

On the towpath further hedge-laying took place at the Pryces Bridge end. As hedge-laying is a task that works well with a large team, plenty of volunteer time can be devoted to this valuable job while the winter months are upon us.

In the channel, work continued on the vegetation clearance, or as it's known to some, "scrub bashing". The 95 metres already cleared from Pryces Bridge was extended by some 40 metres, despite resistance from a number of large tree stumps.

At Pryces Bridge work started on shaping the offside of the canal, grading it to the correct slope required for the liner. If the vegetation clearance had revealed the size of the canal, the shaping really started to make it look canal shaped! While a 5 metre section had already been excavated at Redwith Bridge a few months earlier, it was only a narrow section of canal.

At Pryces Bridge the canal is much wider, meaning that the bank slope on the offside is much larger. Because the bentonite liner needs to be anchored into a trench on the offside, it was necessary to precisely calculate the position and geometry of the offside slope, the trench, the waterline, the bed of the canal, the transition from canal bed to the offside slope, the transition from block canal lining to boulder canal lining and a multitude of other factors. All this brings home that this is a complex, precise engineering exercise, rather than just digging a muddy ditch!

The Sunday lunchtime brought some relief from the hard work. The Society's president, the Earl of Powis, and vice-presidents, Stewart Sim and Tony Hirst were in attendance. Visitors from a number of organisations had arrived, including British Waterways, local councils, other waterways organisations, local landowners, the High Sheriff of Shropshire, the Mayors of Oswestry and Welshpool and Lembit Opik MP. Also present were a number of volunteers who took part in the original Big Dig in 1969. It was nice to mingle and talk with a large number of people all with a common goal in mind. After a top-quality lunch, provided principally by Anne Lindop and Barbara Myatt, speeches were given by Anna Turner, High Sheriff of Shropshire and John Bridgeman, British Waterways vice-chairman. The guests were then taken on a guided tour along the towpath to view the works in progress.


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The High Sheriff of Shropshire chats to volunteers More completed retaining wall
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Shaping the offside Caught napping
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