Week ending July 6th.
These reports are, I’m afraid, becoming a little repetitive, but that’s the nature of the job. Once again, our main efforts have been concentrated on building up the brickwork of the winding hole walls. They are built in “English Garden Wall” bond (1 course of headers and 3 of stretchers), so after every 4 courses we fill the gap between the brickwork and the “Moody Blocks” with reinforced concrete, making an extremely strong, boat-proof wall. There’s a lot of mixing and shovelling to do, but the lads take it in their stride.
Another important job is the cutting of stop plank grooves in the previously constructed “Narrows”. Although one pair of grooves was built into the original construction we thought it prudent to add another pair a metre along and fill between them with clay; this hard and dusty job is being undertaken by Neil, Malcolm and Chris.
On the social side, we’ve decided to hold our barbecue on 19th July at 7 pm, by Lock 26, everyone welcome, but bring your own food (we’ll cook it!) and drink.
Total volunteer hours this week: 146 by 18 volunteers
Week ending July 13th.
It’s quite easy to become a little blase about such things, but this week’s attendance was exceptional, and would have been even greater but for holidays and illness, both of which are permitted! Thanks to a grand turnout on Wednesday we were able to send a gang to Capper’s Lane to begin installing a post-and-wire fence to delineate the footpath between Capper’s Lane and the lift bridge. This proved a much harder task than we thought; the ground is very hard and it was difficult to drive the posts in, so next week we’ll hire a post-hole borer to make life easier (we hope}. While in the area we scraped the flaking paint off the handrails of the lift bridge so that we can smarten it up a bit.
Back at Tamworth Road we continued building and backfilling the blue brick facing of the wing walls. We’ve been joined by another brickie, Tony Jones, who brings many years’ experience to add to those of Rick, Tony D. and Barry, so we now have a really strong gang. Unfortunately the promised delivery of “Moody Blocks” failed to arrive, due to an accident involving the low-loader, but we hope to have them sometime in the next couple of weeks.
The marketing group’s “SMART” caravan is on site and has been positioned on the grass at the tail of Lock 26, where it can be easily accessed from the Heritage Towpath Trail by means of a new footbridge built across the lock by Hugh and Keith. Foot traffic was unusually light at the weekend, but we hope to get a good number of visitors in the next few weeks. Thanks to Mike Brown for his efforts in setting up the van and for “brewing up” on a hot weekend, and to everyone who contributed to an excellent week’s work
Total volunteer hours this week: 195 by 22 volunteers
“Information Centre is now open. Why not call in for a chat. Tea & Coffee available” Photos by Mike Brown
Week ending July 20th.
Once again our main progress has been a continuation of the bricklaying described in the last couple of weeks’ reports, as well as further scrub-bashing at Fosseway Lane and in Darnford Park.
The highlight of the week, however, was the staging of our second annual barbecue which took place on Saturday evening. Heavy, thundery rain on Friday night and for most of Saturday didn’t deter us and I must thank all those who worked so hard and cheerfully to get everything ready,and to everyone who came to support the event. Thankfully, the weather cleared up just in time and the evening was a great success, attended by nearly 40 of us from all aspects of the trust. Once again, Ossie came along to entertain us with his music, while Hugh provided and manned the barbecue. It was good to meet socially and for wives and partners to see what we get up to, so we hope to do something similar before the end of the summer.
Total volunteer hours this week: 160 by 19 volunteers
Week ending July 27th.
A slightly lower attendance this week, but still a lot of useful work done, despite the hot and uncomfortable weather conditions, particularly on Saturday. The bricklaying gang was depleted, but made steady progress and will soon be up to the level of the “Moody Blocks”, at which point we’ll have to stop until the remaining blocks can be delivered and put in place. As the transport is a goodwill gesture we can only wait until a vehicle becomes free.
Saturday was very hot, making our efforts very tiring, but everyone stuck to it, mainly strimming, mowing and hedge cutting around and between Locks 25 and 26. The whole area looks really tidy and attractive now; having built a first-class footpath we must make sure that it’s a pleasant and interesting place for walkers.
Thanks, as always, to everyone for their Sterling work, support and good humour, and to Mike, May and Beverley for looking after the teapots!
Total volunteer hours this week: 129 by 16 volunteers
Week ending August 3rd.
Another very satisfactory week to report. A good turnout on Wednesday enabled us to work on a number of jobs; the fence marking the footpath from the liftbridge to Cappper’s Lane is now complete, thanks to Roger and Tom. Malcolm and Bob gave the Pound 26 by-pass pipe a thorough cleanout while Neal, Rick and Dan installed drainage to prevent erosion to the side of the Towpath Trail. Meanwhile, Tony J. continued to raise the level of the walls in the winding hole, where we continue to wait for the arrival of the remaining “Moody Blocks”.
When I first joined the Trust 14 years ago, the Tamworth Road work party assembled only on the first Sunday of each month. Some still maintain this tradition, so this Sunday saw a really good attendance, which compensated for a rain-ruined Saturday. The morning was spent infilling between the brickwork and “Moody Blocks” with concrete, a hard, hot job involving 9 mixer / 3 dumper-loads of concrete. Barry, Rick-the Brick and Tony J. have almost reached the point where they need more blocks in place before they can continue.
Good news!. In search of useful work for the afternoon we decided to have a go at making a test pit for puddle clay, using the existing pit and lining it with the load of clay which has been on site for some time. With limited tools and no experience of the process, but with loads of enthusiasm, Simon, Hugh, Clive and Keith, joined later by Peter Buck, managed to lay and compact a decent-sized pond which we filled, not very hopefully, with water. At the time of writing, the level has dropped, but not as much as we feared, and certainly less than the tests carried out on the synthetic product. This has encouraged us enormously, so next week we’ll get another load of clay and “lamb’s foot” trench roller to improve our methods.
Thanks to everyone who stayed on to get the job finished and for your support, which is always appreciated.
Total volunteer hours this week: 168 by 20 volunteers
Week ending August 10th.
Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together! The long-awaited delivery of more “Moody Blocks” arrived on Tuesday, just in time for us to install them on Wednesday, when we were lucky to have use of the telehandler, which was going out on hire for the rest of the week. We’ve nearly finished the block work now, with only half of the top course to be completed. As before, we’re dependent on goodwill and availability for the transport of the last 20 blocks, but there’s plenty of work for the brickies to catch up. Although most of our efforts on Wednesday were concentrated on the winding hole, a small team went to Muckley Common to assist the Parks Department in scrub clearance and to re-establish the canal line.
Another good attendance on Saturday enabled us to backfill and compact the ground behind the newly-installed blocks, while “Strimmer John” and Pat worked hard to cut back the weed growth along the offside bank access road. Not surprisingly, the last-minute test of clay lining which we did last week wasn’t totally successful, but neither was it a complete failure, so we’ll improve our methods, hire the proper equipment and try again; we’re quite optimistic.
Sunday was washed out, thanks to the remnants of Hurricane Bertha, but we can still look back with satisfaction on a great week’s work.
Total volunteer hours this week: 136 by 19 volunteers
Week ending August 17th.
A really good attendance this week, with 24 volunteers contributing a total of 202 hours work. As usual, our efforts have been concentrated on the winding hole walls, where bricklaying, concreting and backfilling continue at an impressive pace. The plain brickwork is almost up to its finished height; another 2 weeks should see it finished, after which comes the laying of the bull-nosed top course. Tony J, Rick and Barry have worked hard to get this far and the result is a credit to them. The final delivery of “Moody Blocks” arrived on Friday, but as the telehandler was unavailable we weren’t able to install them, but it will be free on Wednesday, when a morning’s work will see that part of the structure complete.
We also took delivery of a couple of hired machines to help us with the use of clay for the canal lining. A heavy-duty rotovator will help us break down some of the large lumps, while the sheep’s foot roller soon showed its value in compacting and “puddling” the wet clay in our test area. It’s equally impressive in compacting dry material and did an excellent job on the backfill behind the winding hole walls.
Once again, “the Staffords” have been battling away at Muckley Common, a hard task against tough vegetation, but we should soon be able to mark out the line of the canal for future operations. On Friday, Hugh went up there to cut down some of the larger trees which occupy the line, his reward being a useful supply of logs.
In addition to our regular gang, we now have 3 new Duke of Edinburgh scheme lads, 2 of whom, Archie and Callum, come from the far side of Tamworth. With the 3rd, Lewis, they make a useful contribution. All in all, a very productive and satisfying week; thanks,as always to everyone who made it possible.
Total volunteer hours this week: 202 by 24 volunteers
Week ending August 24th.
After some frustrations with transport and machine availability we were finally able to position the last of the “Moody Blocks” on the winding hole walls, on Wednesday. The last 2 were quite difficult to fit; they had to be cut down to fit, meaning that the lifting point was no longer in the centre, so they didn’t lift or lower squarely, but we eventually got them in. We can now finish backfilling and compacting behind them. This needs to be really firm as we will need to use that as an access to the Tamworth Rd. side of the narrows as the lining of the channel gets under way. The last 2 courses of plain brickwork are being built up, leaving us “only” the bull-nosed capping and the final infill of concrete to complete the job.
While we had the telehandler on site we salvaged some of our big sandstone blocks and positioned them at the weir corner as a seating area, part of the Bobby Battisson Memorial Garden. A suitable fence around the open drop shaft will soon be installed, replacing the temporary one currently in place.
Additional clay has been put into our test pit, thoroughly puddled and compacted with the sheep’s-foot roller. Even though this is still not to the full design plan, it seems to be holding water very well and bodes well for the full-scale lining.
Total volunteer hours this week: 174 by 21 volunteers
Week ending Sept. 7th.
At last, we’ve nearly completed the winding hole walls, with the bull-nosed coping coming along well. thanks to Rick-The-Brick, Barry and Tony J. When that’s done, all that remains is to fill between the brickwork and the “Moody Blocks” with concrete (probably ready-mix, as there’s a lot to do). Better still is that we’ve made good progress on the profiling of the canal bed in that area; it’s amazing how much it’s lifted our spirits and how much interest the passing walkers have shown. We’re really hopeful of getting that section (from the narrows up to the weir corner) into water before the winter. It will certainly demonstrate that we’re a serious organisation.
Once again “The Staffords” have been clearing the brambles and thick grass through Darnford Heath, in the course of which they’ve found dozens of lost golf balls. Maybe we should sell them back to the golf club! On Sunday the D.O.E. lads, Archie and Callum, made a good job of mowing and strimming the area around Lock 26.
Thanks to Rolls-Royce Rick for coming down on Friday to repair the leaking drum on the small mixer.
Total volunteer hours this week: 146 by 19 volunteers
Week ending Sept. 14th.
Another well-supported week’s work was slightly spoiled by another break-in on Tuesday night. Although nothing was taken, a lot of damage was done to the doors of 2 of the sheds, requiring the attention of 3 of us to repair them. It’s a worry that the culprits may have been simply finding out what equipment is kept in there, with a view to returning.
Are we downhearted? Not likely! The winding hole is finally taking shape as a recognisable canal channel, with a 10-yard wide strip from the narrows up to the weir corner excavated to profile and depth. The spoil has been used to widen the access around the back of the narrows to facilitate future movement of big machines. Meanwhile, the brickies are making really good progress with the bull-nose coping, which has drawn appreciative comments from a number of walkers. More people than ever are now stopping to look at our work and to show interest; all we need to do is to convert that into new volunteers and donations. We have several weeks of hard work before we can get the section in water, so any new helpers would be very welcome.
Once again, the D.O.E. lads have made a useful contribution, while “The Staffords” continue to work wonders at Darnford Heath, clearing a wide path through brambles, nettles and golf balls ( even a discarded club! ) My thanks to everyone for their hard work, support and encouragement, all of which are much appreciated.
Total volunteer hours this week: 198 by 21 volunteers
Week ending Sept. 21st.
Not much new to report this week; no more break-ins and our work around the winding hole and in Darnford Heath continues steadily and with satisfying results. The excavation and preparation of the canal bed prior to lining has attracted much attention and interest from passing walkers, including a large group of enthusiasts from Derbyshire; perhaps our fame is spreading! We really must try harder to spend time promoting ourselves to as many people as possible, as we’ve achieved a lot to be proud of and will do much more in the future, but we always need more help. Lecture over!
Watch this space next week for news of a significant investment in site plant.( Clue:- Baa-baa-baaa )
Total volunteer hours this week: 142 by 19 volunteers
Week ending Sept. 28th.
As promised last week, good news on the equipment front! Having had a “sheep’s-foot” roller on hire for a few weeks and established its suitability for our needs, it seemed sensible to buy one, as the potential hire charges would soon be cancelled out. Hugh searched the Internet and found a couple of good ones in Leominster, so we went down on Monday and did a really good deal on the better of the 2; it will be delivered (free!) in the next couple of weeks, and will hopefully give us years of good service.
On the down side, however, work ground to a halt, literally, when a track bearing on the digger broke up, making us realise how much we rely on the machine. It’s an easy but expensive repair, so we’ll be back to normal on Wednesday. In the meantime we turned our attention to preparing the apron of Lock 26 prior to concreting in a few weeks. After the long dry spell, the water level in pound 26 is very low, as the water supply is by-passed to satisfy Environment Agency requirements. There’s a bit of leakage through the stop planks and probably some down the back of the lock walls, so we’ll need to investigate all of these potential water losses.
On Wednesday, Jack Moody (our landlord) sent a crew down to mow the field adjacent to pound 27 and to cut the hedges. They worked all day and made a made a great improvement in the appearance of the site. On the same day we were visited by John Heather, from the Shrewsbury and Newport canal; we had a useful couple of hours discussing some of the problems we both face. We are not alone!
Total volunteer hours this week: 181 by 22 volunteers