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Montgomery Canal Restoration Work Parties Report - March 2013

WP1, February 25 - March 03

This work party was notable for three reasons. The first is that it must rank as one of the longest work parties in the Society’s history. The second is that it was undoubtedly one of the most productive and, finally it was the first of the new system of monthly ‘two part’ work party events, which have the aim of finishing the current length this year. Volunteers were on site variously for a week and it is no exaggeration to say that the appearance of the channel has been transformed.

Work started on the Monday prior to the event with the inevitable pumping session, which lasted throughout the day. There was less water to deal with than hitherto – the result of both our labours in February and the three weeks welcome respite from the monsoons during late February. Thereafter the sumps were pumped every day for the week. Most of the water was disposed of via the culvert but a small quantity was pumped through Redwith Bridge into the watered canal. It was noticeable that the time taken to drain each section diminished as the week went on suggesting that we were making some impact on ground water levels.

In the past our earth-moving was been done using our own, or a hired, 3 tonne digger. On Tuesday we unleashed our secret weapon – a 14 tonne digger! The advantage of this beast – longer reach, bigger bucket and more power – promised greater output, but first one of our volunteers had to be trained to use it. The training was done on site and Richard passed the assessment with flying colours. On Wednesday the 14-tonner went into action.....

The first area to receive its attention was the offside bank between Pryces Bridge and the tip slope. First the top of the bank was levelled and from then on the work was done from there. The machine was capable of reaching right down the slope in one go, and its wide bucket produced a smooth finish. The profile of the slope was established by a series of batter rails positioned at intervals down the slope. The 100 m or so section of bank was finished in one and a half working days, a process that would have taken probably ten times as long using the smaller machines. At the same time that the big machine was in action on the top of the bank the Society’s digger was reducing the level of the adjacent base of the channel to 100 mm above grade.

The two or three volunteers who had worked daily through the week were reinforced at the weekend by another half a dozen. On Saturday the big digger was switched to the slope between the tip and the compound, an area which had received no attention in the past. The machine was again capable of working from the top of the bank, in this case being located on the haul road in the field. A considerable quantity of topsoil and vegetation was removed from the bank and a small section given its final shape.

The other essential job was final shaping of the section of channel to be lined later in the month. This was done by the smaller of the diggers and involved work on both the bottom and the towpath slope. The need to keep the area clear of water and the big variety of ground conditions made this, as always, a slow task. At close of play 40 m of channel was ready for lining.

Thus the first of the ‘shaping only’ work parties could be considered a success. Over to the lining gang!


Levelling the top of the bank
Digger spectating.
Lucky there are no distinguishing features visible..
Between the tip and the compound, in progress..
.. and at close of play
Ready for next time !


WP2, March 16 + 17

Just as the shaping work party at the start of March broke records so did the lining work party a fortnight later. The length lined was 34 metres, easily beating the previous best of 25 m in a weekend.

As has now become the norm, the work went on for three days starting on Friday morning. The chore of pumping out was somewhat lightened by the thought that the weekend might see the demise of the sump which has been the source of much of the groundwater ingress into the channel. A series of deliveries on Friday included the latest version of the lining material; this time coloured white and in a five metre width, and three lorry loads of blocks. Also on Friday there was a small amount of final channel shaping.

The advantage of the new system of monthly ‘two part’ work party events is that there is no competition for dumpers between the various tasks on site. In the case of the lining work parties the exclusive use of two dumpers helped to ensure a regular supply of blocks. One group of volunteers had the thankless task of loading the dumpers. To try to reduce the damage to the bed of the canal during transit, the quantity of blocks on each journey was reduced by a third from the previous practice but this was compensated by an increased number of journeys.

The lining area was at the Pryces Bridge end in the widest section of the channel on the whole length. Pumping sessions on Friday, and early on Saturday and Sunday mornings, got rid of the still large quantities of standing water. A considerable amount of thoughtful pre-planning and setting out permitted the actual lining operation to start promptly. The block loading/transport/lining operations continued without stopping through the day, volunteers taking their breaks in shifts to keep work going, and in doing so breaking the record for length lined per weekend. This was in fact a much more impressive result than it appears, since the previous record was set in the narrow section of channel at the Redwith end. To general relief the offending sump was duly pumped for the last time, blocked with benonite and covered with liner and blocks. Our resident statistician calculated that the 34 metres lined takes the total to 208 metres out of 419, so another 1.5 m and we will be half-way!

The split work parties certainly seem to have got off to a good start in March and more of the same is planned for April.


Levelling the mud
The weekend's result
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Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon
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