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Montgomery Canal Restoration Work Parties Report - April 2013

WP1, March 29 - April 01

The second of the shaping-only work parties was a four-day effort which made considerable progress. As with all earth-moving the results have an immediate visual impact and the final shape of the channel is now evident right along the length.

On arrival on Friday the site looked like a Christmas card scene with snow very much in evidence. The weather was bitterly cold throughout the weekend and the snow only gradually melted. Crucially however the weekend weather was also dry and this greatly aided the cause.

Friday was taken up with yet another big exercise in pumping out the channel. Given that the rains have kept away for the past week or so, much of this was groundwater. The current twice-monthly pumping sessions do seem to be having some effect on the local water table level.

Work started on the towpath slope on Friday and the resulting spoil merely added to the large quantity of sludge in the channel. Some of this was removed on Saturday but at that point the prospect of even finding the bed of the canal through the sludge, much less levelling it ready for lining, seemed remote. However when this work started on Sunday the operation went very smoothly. In hindsight the reason for this was that in doing the final shaping the land drain was fully exposed which, in turn, removed the standing water. This was confirmed the next day when this section of channel, which had taken much of Friday to drain, was cleared of water in less than an hour with our little submersible pump and some 40 metres prepared for lining. Oh the joys of a functioning drain!

The 14 tonne digger was on site again and was employed doing the final shaping of the offside bank between tip slope and the compound. On Sunday it turned its attention to reducing the level of the channel bed in that area to just above grade. The final job was to extend the land drain past the compound.

The big news in the Welfare Department this month is the launch of the Society’s outreach programme to the local ovine community. Our Welfare Officer agreed to feed and water the inhabitants of the adjacent farm in addition to his tea and cake duties on site. The image shows Nick looking, from the boots up, the epitome of a good shepherd. Alas one of the ungrateful creatures (the sheep not the volunteers) mugged him, and in the confusion his phone went missing. We are delighted to report a happy ending to this story. The phone was eventually found, a little dirty but still functioning, and the sheep all appeared to have overcome the trauma of the weekend.

 

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Pretty as a picture
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The Air Lord is our shepherd; we shall not want
For tea and cake. Or wool.
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Al Fresco tea break in the snow
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A digger
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A picture of some canal
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Another one

 

WP2, April 20 + 21

And we thought that the last lining work party was good.......  This one smashed the record, established last month, for the length of lining completed in a weekend.

Events kicked off on Friday with the usual pumping session. With the continuing dry weather this task was less arduous than in recent months due to the ever decreasing amount of ground water required to be removed each time. Also we took delivery of 4000 blocks, three large rolls of liner, and two rolls of light gauge Teram. The latter was necessary to comply with the CRT specification for lining channels in areas where settlement might take place, such as the area in which we were to be working. The Teram is laid above and below the liner to provide 'slip planes' in the event of settlement.

The other major item of work on Friday was the construction of a chute (aka Major Maund's Patent block delivery system ) to move blocks from the top of the bank to the canal bed. The use of this device has a number of potential advantages, the most important of which is the elimination of delivery of blocks by dumper along the bed of the channel and the consequent churning up of the prepared surface. Two chutes were made - one of steel angle and one from timber - supported on trestles at top and bottom. The method of use was to deliver blocks from a dumper located on the top of the bank and into the lined section of the channel. In this way the lining gang were always working off the previously laid section of channel. Wading around in mud was to be a thing of the past, but would it work?

When volunteers assembled on site on Saturday it became apparent that numbers were down for various reasons and a number of key personnel missing. There were only a total of thirteen volunteers on site including those doing welfare. Despite this, by concentrating all efforts on the lining operations, we laid nearly 20 metres of blocks on Saturday. The effort was greatly helped by the use of the chute which defied the Laws of Physics, the Laws of Thermodynamics and the Society’s resident cynics, to perform excellently. However, chute or no chute, all of the baker’s dozen knew they had done a days work by close of play. Sunday brought personnel reinforcements and with seventeen volunteers we completed 38 metres for the weekend before we ran out of blocks and lining materials in mid-afternoon. So a grand total of 246 metres of the Redwith/Pryces Bridge length (nearly 60%) is complete, with 173 metres awaiting lining. To give some idea of how much things have speeded up in 2013, the running total of lining for 2013 is exactly 50% of the 2012 total.

Oh, and there was also time to do a couple of other useful jobs. The land drain was extended past the compound slope, and the base of the last 20 m of channel at the Pyrces Bridge end was shaped. Completion of these jobs will give us a flying start next time.

Over the last few months an appeal has been running on the Canal and River Trust website to raise funds for the Society's Montgomery restoration work. Just over £5000 was generously donated and this money has been used to buy two large rolls of lining material for use on the Redwith to Pryces Bridge section. We started to use this material this month (and will continue to do so for some months the come). The Society would like to record its thanks to the donors and looks forward to seeing them on the towpath to watch the liner installed. Come quick or you might be too late!!

 

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Chutes in action
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The Maj and his triumphant troops
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The lining operation in full swing
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The last 20 m of the Pryces end ready for lining
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The liner bought with the proceeds of the C&RT website appeal being rolled out for cutting
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