Darnford Park - A New Canal Section


It is not possible to recreate the canal through all its original route and a new section through Darnford Park has been identified as the best way to progress from the Tamworth Road to the eastern side of the A38. A staircase lock will be constructed in this section of the canal and tunnels will be built under the Tamworth Road and the A38 at the appropriate time and when funds are available. The work is being carried out under licence with Lichfield District Council, who own the park, but land ownership will be transferred to the Trust later.
 

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Woodland Management

It happens that what has now become the route of the canal was planted some forty years ago with hundreds of trees of varying kinds and quality, left unmanaged so that very few were worthy of preservation. Partial felling permitted by Lichfield District Council was contracted out to the local firm Tonks Brothers Tree Surgery who worked hard to clear a long swaithe of trees in a few days. Whilst a voracious machine spread the large volume of shredded brash on site, hard wood was removed to mitigate costs. The Trust collected the soft wood trunks, reducing them to short lengths to build “bug hotel” walls around trees being preserved. These also retain soil mounds to contain excavated material on site and will serve as a welcome barrier from the incessant A38 traffic noise on the boundary.


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Sewer Diversion

Changing the course of a live foul sewer calls for expertise acceptable to the water authority. Diverting a historic pipeline running across land which is needed for the canal was awarded to Black & White Contractors of Armitage who worked well with the Trust in achieving a satisfactory result on time and on budget. Creating a plateau for installing the new pipeline around the perimeter required some excavation of the canal land which happens to be almost entirely brown sand, making the job relatively easy to manage. The right choice of contractor became more apparent when they agreed to allow qualified Trust volunteers to use their heavy plant during the week-ends.


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In early 2012 and in celebration of the Diamond Jubilee Year the Trust Launched the Diamond Jubilee Appeal.  Working in association with Lichfield District Council's "Jubilee Woodland" scheme in Darnford Park, the Lichfield Canal diversion beside the A38 highway needed to be formed through the southern part of the Park in that year. The Trust's plans involved initial woodland management and pipeline diversion to enable the canal channel to be excavated during the summer months, followed by landscape reinstatement and planting new trees. Installing canal culverts under the adjacent roads and constructing new staircase locks will be at a later stage. The total cost of the work for 2012 alone was estimated to be up to £100,000, towards which grants were sought. Ultimately though, the grants were not successful and it fell upon the Directors to raise sufficient funds through private loans and donations.

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An artist’s impression by Peter Buck of how the completed canal will look in Darnford Park. The tunnel under the A38 is to the left and the new staircase lock is in the centre.

2012

Making a start

Work got under way in June 2012. The first task was to create a new temporary car park.
Just like those instant house renovations on TV, Trust volunteers made an early start, beavering away, turning grassland into a fully surfaced car park in just one day... complete with publicity notice board! This was to allow the contractors to encompass the usual car park in their restricted works compound. To sympathise with the surroundings, the Trust chose rustic chestnut paling to fence off the extensive work area in the park, still allowing full public view of the work in progress.

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More Excavation

The loan of the heavy plant made short work of supplementing the excavation being done in the permitted area to bring forward work that would cost a great deal to set up separately in future. Gradually a part of the canal channel started to take shape with embankments laid to their final operational slopes with the location of the staircase locks starting to emerge. Deeper down, the ground is hard sandstone which will require heavy-duty treatment for the canal channel. Considering a future aspect, Lichfield District Council thought it would be advantageous if it could be done now so that more of the park could be finalised for returning to public use. We were given a deadline of just five days to remove a footpath, dig and landscape about 1,500 tons of sand and lay down a new public path.


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The Public Footpath

All this work would have been really daunting if it did not happen to coincide with the long-planned visit by a combined group of 30 volunteers from Waterway Recovery Group North West London and Kent & East Sussex Sussex. It was all done, in time, and to a high standard. Dubbed ‘Olympic Walk’, the path now forms a popular viewing area for the canal work.


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Before       


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After       


North Environmental Mound

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A typical section through the Environmental Mound
 
 

The North Environmental Mound was formed from the surplus material from the sewer diversion embankment facing the noisy A38. This uses the available sandy material from the site to form the new sound barrier and maximises the volume of stored material on site. Note the log stack habitat which forms the protection to the retained trees on the park facing side. 

For many years, we have benefited from visiting volunteers from the Jaguar Land Rover Corporate Citizenship Scheme. These are from the engineering brains behind producing vehicles you will not see for years yet - but are an adaptable, hard-working and high value group to the Trust. All the pictures here describe better than words the summer of intense activity that now shows the Trust really means business in Lichfield.


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Bob Williams and his “Tonka Toy” capable of carrying anything from a thimble to a forest.

2013

The North Environmental Mound


Following completion of the sewer diversion contract, regular volunteers continued the work on removing part of the old sewer pipe and further excavation to level the canal site. This material was used to complete the substantial environmental mound beside the A38 boundary.

By early 2013 the mound had been completed and will provide an effective noise barrier for users of Darnford Park. Just before Christmas over 100 Blackthorn saplings were planted along the top to grow into a protective hedge above the Geoweb-tiered wall. Sections of mature heathland turf which has grown in the canal channel by the Lift Bridge at Darnford Lane have been transplanted to cover the sloping channel embankment in Darnford Park . The Trust was able to buy a quantity of heather seed specially harvested by the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust to scatter among the turf so they will develop together into proper heathland, also helping to stabilise the ground.

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 Darnford Park new canal basin with side slopes planted by volunteers with our home grown heathland turf patches, harvested from the canal channel down by Darnford Lane, as part of the Trust’s initiatives to restore ancient heathland across south Staffordshire along the restored Lichfield Canal.


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3rd April 2013  - A Ceremonial Planting


Mrs Sarah Elsom, High Sheriff of Staffordshire has paid tribute to dedicated volunteers working on restoring the Lichfield Canal. At a ceremonial planting of a Swedish Birch tree in Darnford Park, Lichfield on Wednesday 3rd April, she praised those who have worked for many years to bring back this closed 200-year old waterway link across the Midlands. Cllr Ken Humphreys, also attended to give his support as Chairman of Lichfield District Council. 

 Meeting members of the Lichfield & Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust, the High Sheriff was pleased to see how much has been done by so few who volunteer their time and expertise from many walks of life to undertake such public spirited work. With her own background as a Museum Curator and as the Queen’s Representative for upholding law and order in Staffordshire, she recognised the value of restoring such a valuable public amenity in the County. In dedicating the tree, Mrs Elsom said it provides a focal point for the public to recognise Trust workers, past and present, who have striven over many years, often against difficult circumstances, towards putting Lichfield back on the waterways map of Britain..

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Photo by Jan Horton


 21st December 2013

Mike Battisson, our environmental guru planted an oak tree at Darnford Park with Mike Brown and Pete Magee assisting with the digging, while 15 other Trust members also gave support. 
 

“The greatest achievement was at first and for a time a dream. The oak sleeps in the acorn, the bird waits in the egg, and in the highest vision of the soul a waking angel stirs. Dreams are the seedlings of realities.” - James Allen

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December 2013                                         March 2015

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Darnford Park  21st December   Photos by Paul Marshall

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Locks 27 & 28 in Darnford Park looking towards the A51 portal. 
 
An artist’s impression by Ted Hiscock


2016

Forestry Day

Tony Cadwallader and Peter Buck (above) used chain saws to fell the trees and cut them into logs. This actually took place the day before for safety.
 

Our team was back in action in Darnford Park on a very cold but sunny 24th February 2016 for what was called ‘A Forestry Day’. The work entailed felling several trees of varying quality which were planted some 40 years ago, cutting them into logs which were stacked to form ‘bug houses’. The rest was chipped and will be spread on the environmental mound. The trees occupied space which will be needed to create the central environmental mound (basically a noise barrier) and, later on, a winding hole (a wider area for turning a boat around).

 Our marketing team were on hand to explain to passers-by exactly what we were doing and why.
 


Tom Hogan brought his chipper along to process the branches to wood chips.    Photos by Paul Marshall

The Wednesday volunteer team - Left to right: Tom Hogan of Stump Removal Services, Bob Dyer, Tom Reid, Rick Nelson, Roland Curtis, Phil Lee.    Photo by Peter Buck

Tom Reid helps to stack logs to form a home for insects to lay eggs or hibernate through winter.

Darnford Park Training Day

On October 15th a training day was held in Darnford Park. Instructors Paul Shaw and Adrian Sturgess did a great job working through our volunteer team through out the day with impressive results. Congratulations to all those who passed and now have tickets to operate our machines. 

 A special thanks also to Clarke Construction Services for the loan of the big Cat 13 tonne Excavator which allowed us to train volunteers on the larger excavator.

 While we still had all the earth moving equipment good use was made of it. LHCRT stalwarts, Bob Williams and Tony Gardner together with our ace junior volunteers, Harry Wem and Luke Loescher, couldn't resist the temptation to 'play with the big toys'. Between them they made huge inroads into the excavations needed to establish the pound being created just beyond where the canal will pass under the A51 Tamworth Road. Masses of 'muck' were dug out and transported to the side of the A38 where we are building the sound reduction barrier. A huge vote of thanks to Clark Construction for the loan of the machine which enabled us to do so much work in such a very short time.

More on Training Day including a list of volunteer's qualifications.


Stella Wynn, newly qualified on dumpers and small excavators.
 Selfie by Stella
 

Darnford Park basin excavated...

...and the spoil used on the A38 environmental mound.

Darnford Park Training Day

Video by Paul Marshall

Peter Buck describes briefly the work taking place in Darnford Park on October 15th 2016. 



WRG Visit September 23rd/4th  2016

Over the weekend of 24/25th September we welcomed a strong team of 21 WRG volunteers with two vans who worked on the canal restoration at both Darnford Park and at Summerhill.

At Darnford Park the WRG Team took control of the LHCRT Excavators and Dumpers and set about forming the base of the central environmental mound alongside the A38. After a good deal of scrub bashing a start was made to forming the Upper Canal Basin and the excavated material was moved by the dumpers to form the start of the fill to the Central Environmental Mound.
 
The WRG volunteers stayed over the weekend as guests of the Lichfield Cruising Club in the clubhouse and were made very welcome.


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WRG Team complete with new van (Photo by Paul Marshall)

Sections of the 'Big Pipe' are cut up and used to form the mound as seen here and to reinforce the towpath wall elsewhere. Nothing is wasted!


To be continued...

LICHFIELD AND HATHERTON CANALS RESTORATION TRUST

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