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Montgomery Canal Restoration Work Party Report - March 2012

March 3 & 4

The first work party really got the restoration year off to a flying start. With a large attendance (29 on Saturday and Sunday) and an exciting new lining material to use we were raring to go. However there were a couple of matters to attend to first.

On arrival it was apparent that the most important facility on the site – the shelter where we have the tea breaks - had been blown onto and over the adjoining hedge and been smashed to pieces during the winter. Thus job number one for the new season was to restore this structure to its former glory. This took most of Saturday for half a dozen volunteers. We were immediately grateful to them during the periodic downpours throughout the weekend. The second preliminary was an induction session by Mike based on our new Health and Safety system. The Society’s new H+S system is as good as, or better than, those used by most commercial contractors.

The work party actually started on the previous Monday when five volunteers did the final shaping of some 18 m of channel at Pryces Bridge ready to accept the ‘new’ liner. This material is essentially a version of the black non-woven geotextile used previously but factory-treated with an acrylic waterproofing chemical. On contact with water the acrylic reacts and swells to form a stable gel that is self-healing when punctured. Its other property is that it does not actually need covering to work. However some form of protection is required to protect it from damage in a working canal. In our case the existing blocks will be used, but laid on their side rather than their long edge. We are the first users of this material on the UK canal system, and to prove the point some visitors from the Lancaster Canal journeyed down to see it.

Before the lining gang started work we realised that progress would be quicker than with the old system, since all the work of cutting, transporting, and sealing the bentonite was eliminated, and the blocks were laid side-on rather than end-on. What we hadn’t realised is how much quicker. Work started at lunchtime on Saturday and was finished at the same time the next day, including generous tea breaks. Thus we had done 18m in half the time it took to do 15 m in October. The images confirm that, in addition, the finished product looks better than its predecessor. There were understandably some very happy members of the lining gang and they were rewarded by being given Sunday afternoon off. Some 10% of the Redwith to Pryces section is now lined.

The upshot of the new wonder material is that the ‘critical path’ is back with the digging gang. They worked shaping the narrow channel at the Redwith Bridge end and had an innovation of their own for the new season. A digger equipped with a rotating bucket had been hired as a trial. This device meant that only the bucket, rather than the whole machine, need be level to shape the channel bottom, and it can also be rotated to shape the slopes. This proved to be a considerable time saver. Some 10 m of channel was finished over the weekend working with split meal breaks to keep the machines in action throughout the day. Also work started on building up the remaining section of the offside bank adjacent to the culvert. Alas, the realisation that the lining was three times faster than the channel shaping over the day tended to dampen the mood at the digging gang’s normally convivial Saturday evening debriefing session in the Cross Keys. It’s an ill wind.....


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The remains of the 'South Wing' of the shelter The first strip of the new liner covered with blocks
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More liner and blocks ! Channel shaping at Redwith Bridge
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