Working Party Blog

by Terry Brown

Terry has been a Trust member and volunteer for over 14 years and is the Lichfield Site Manager for the Trust. This page aims to carry a brief report on the working party achievements each week.


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Lichfield & Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust


Some before and after photos


1st January 2015                                                                           6th  March 2015


Weeks ending January 11th  2015



After our customary midwinter break we had a very gentle return to work. With conditions at Tamworth Rd. still unfavourable, it seemed a good time to introduce some of the gang to Summerhill, our new site between The Boat pub and the M6 Toll aqueduct. After the fairly strenuous walk to the aqueduct and back we had little choice but to drop into the pub for warmth and refreshment. The licensees are very friendly, interested and supportive of our efforts. That was Wednesday and Saturday, but with drier conditions on Sunday we got down to a bit of proper work, and although there were only 4 of us we managed to prepare another section below Lock 26 for concreting. We now have a clear plan for this area, but the presence of the massive  manhole combining the bywash , big pipe and a further storm drain will be a hindrance for some weeks.  



Total volunteer hours:   59  by 10 volunteers



Week ending January 18th 2015



Despite the very cold weather a few hardy souls turned up and made some really good progress downstream of Lock 26, the focus of our efforts until the winding hole area dries out. We’ve excavated and prepared for concreting another stretch of about 20 yards, between the towpath wall and the big pipe, which is now exposed on one side as far the access ramp to the bed of the pound. Although we concreted a short section on Wednesday the increasingly sharp frosts have made it unwise to continue (concreting), for the time being at least.


Earlier in the week Bob Houghton arranged for himself, Hugh and me to visit the Ashby Canal site at Measham, where their Engineer, Geoff Purslove, gave us a very helpful and informative tour of the site, a well-finished and pleasant stretch of waterway, and a vision of what our own efforts will produce in the near future.   Ashby Canal Trust website.


Thanks to everyone who braved the cold to help us make another useful contribution; it may not seem much, but every few yards done now gets us nearer our target.


Total volunteer hours:   90  by 11 volunteers


Hugh and Terry and a fresh slab of concrete.   From our Facebook Group

Too wet -  conditions early January


Week ending January 25th



Sorry to report that we did only 2 days this week, due to me making a bad call on Wednesday’s weather and ground conditions. As this is usually our best-attended day the figures are well below normal. On Saturday, without enough bodies to make an impression at Tamworth Rd., we went up to give Roger, Jean and Pat a hand at Muckley Common, before giving Adrian and Dr. Richard a tour of the Summerhill site. About a dozen of the gang have been up there now and are all keen to get stuck into it ( perhaps it’s thanks to the warm welcome and excellent soup we get at “The Boat”. Try it sometime! ) With various volunteer groups showing interest in helping us we should make rapid progress.


A good turnout on Sunday allowed  us to concrete another sizeable area below Lock 26, where we now have a plan for the removal of the “big pipe” and the construction of the slipway, 2 important projects to occupy us until we can return to work on the winding hole.


Total volunteer hours:   67  by 12 volunteers



Week ending February 1st


It’s good to see that we’re finally getting back to our usual volunteer numbers, in spite of the cold  weather. On Wednesday we had a good concreting session at Lock 26, made more satisfying by getting the cement at a bargain price ( £2 per bag instead of nearly £5!) There isn’t a bottomless pit of money and we try to make the best of it, which is one of the reasons we mix our own concrete whenever possible, rather than buying ready-mix.


On Saturday and Sunday the prospect of hard night-time frosts decided us against concreting, so we trooped off to the new site at Summerhill  and made excellent progress clearing invasive trees and undergrowth from what rapidly became a recognisable canal channel. By  the end of the week we’d cleared about 100 yards of track, a great result from a gang equipped with a single chainsaw, hand tools and loads of enthusiasm. I’ve said it before, but I don’t think any other restoration project can have such a fine band of volunteers.



Total volunteer hours:   127  by 15 volunteers



Week ending February 8th


A very short report this week, but one which belies the great progress made by the lads and girls at Summerhill. Although the contractors have made a wonderful job of clearing the site around the aqueduct and culvert area, they’ve done so with the aid of powerful specialised machinery. Down by “The Boat”we’ve made big advances with minimal equipment; by the end of the week we’d cleared the channel all the way past the old wharf and are now clear of the wooded offside bank and out into a more exposed section. Those of you with a copy of “Cut both ways” can picture it from the aerial photograph; we’re past the sharp right bend in the woods and roughly where the centre fold of the page cuts through the picture. Everyone has put in a great effort but we still have a long way to go, and every day’s progress gives a longer trek to and from the car park.


I’m almost ashamed to say it, but I’m off to not-so-sunny Spain for a week, leaving the job in Hugh’s capable hands. I expect to see it finished when I return!



Total volunteer hours:   171  by 21 volunteers



Week ending February 15th


While terry is off on holiday Hugh Millington is kindly standing in.


The week has been spent entirely on the new works at Summerhill on the section between the Boat and the aqueduct. A good turnout on all three days and the weather was kind to us. Many yards of brush and mature tree were removed from the original towpath and canal trench. It is now easy to see the line the canal took.


Some volunteers were cutting down trees, some were cutting these (the trees) up into manageable sizes, and some were feeding up to as many as three fires. Hard, hot and relentless work.  A welcome lunch time break at the  Boat Inn made the day.


The weeks progress has been quite remarkable but there still a lot to do, so 'see you later' down the cut next week.



Total volunteer hours:   165  by 18  volunteers


Week ending February 22nd



I should go on holiday more often! I returned to work on Wednesday and was amazed to see the progress made in my absence under Hugh’s leadership. The gang had felled and cleared the towpath all the way up the quarry, leaving only a short stretch, mainly dense scrub, to clear before joining up with the section cleared by the contractors. On Wednesday and Saturday we made further inroads into this, as well as getting rid of lots of the brash left in the canal bed, but persistent rain on Sunday brought an early end to our efforts.


On the other side of the toll road Peter assembled another small gang to remove the old hedge and erect a boundary fence to delineate our land. The next step is to plant several hundred new whips of mixed hedging to replace the old hedge.


As always, when there’s a big job and a tight schedule, the lads and lasses have responded magnificently, as the volunteer hours and numbers show. Thanks again to everyone for their great efforts.

 


Total volunteer hours:   202  by 26  volunteers

The best radio-controlled toy ever!
Stump busters Tonks Tree Services in action - click for video                                  

Numerous trees have been cut down but many more will be planted.

Canal line is now passable from the Boat Inn (centre left) down to the Aqueduct (left)

Terry feeds the flames                                 

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Week ending March 1st.


I’m afraid this report is becoming a little repetitive as we continue to clear the canal channel and banks. The towpath is completely clear now, but there’s still some scrub on the offside and a bit of brash to burn. The contractors brought their stump grinder on Monday and worked their way down to The Boat during the week, reducing the thickest stumps to chippings in no time.


On Sunday we erected a temporary security fence along the bank of the canal, to keep intruders out of the quarry.


On the other side of the toll road the Green Team have been busy planting several hundred “whips” of mixed hedging to replace and supplement the old one.


Once again, thanks to excellent turnout of volunteers for their hard work and enthusiasm.

 


Total volunteer hours: (not including the ‘Green Team’)   171  by 23  volunteers


Week ending March 8th


After nearly 2 months of intense scrub-bashing we’re nearly at the end of this phase of our work at Summerhill. Another excellent turnout on each day resulted in the clearance of the remaining brash from the canal bed. We’re now working our way from The Boat up to the aqueduct, having a final tidy-up; another good week could see us finished, but Wednesday’s weather forecast isn’t good and it’s Mothering Sunday this weekend, so we may run over.


Once again the Green Team and the Staffords have been hard at work on the Barracks Lane side of the aqueduct, bringing new life to the site. Thanks, as always, to everyone for their efforts in what has been a really hard slog.



Total volunteer hours:   162  by 26  volunteers

10th March - The Summerhill section  now largely cleared -   Click picture for a larger image  - Pictures by Stefan Szulc.



Week ending March 15th


As I suspected might be the case, we were unable to complete our current phase of work at Summerhill last week. We did very well with a good attendance on Wednesday, but a disappointing turnout on Saturday and a blank Mothering Sunday left us a bit short of our target.


This Wednesday will certainly see the end of the job for a few weeks; at the weekend we’ll be back at Tamworth Rd. where we have a lot of catching-up to do. There’s more concrete to lay at Lock 26 and, weather permitting, a chance to renew our acquaintance with our old friend, Mr.Clay. Happy days ahead, as the days lengthen and perhaps even get warmer.

 


Total volunteer hours:   119  by 19  volunteers

left to right   Barry, Terry, George, Bob, Malcolm, Roland and Keith   
picture Hugh Millington

On the other side of the Aqueduct the Green Team have completed planting the new hedge, except for a a few yards, having run out of whips!


Week ending March 22nd



On Wednesday afternoon we thought we’d reached the end of our first phase of work at Summerhill, but the last-minute promise of a group of about 20 volunteers caused a hasty rethink of our plans for the weekend, so instead of going to Tamworth Road on Saturday we returned to “The Boat” with the aim of dismantling the old sand wharf and reclaiming the bricks. Unfortunately the expected large group didn’t materialise, the 4 who did make it were outnumbered by our own quite modest gang. Nevertheless we achieved a good day’s work; once the top few courses of loose brickwork were removed the rest of the wall was found to be extremely strong, so it seems pointless and time-consuming to dismantle it completely. We’ll probably build a new outer skin to make it more watertight and to hide some of the strange mis-matched courses of the old structure.


At last, on Sunday, Hugh led the return to Tamworth Road and made excellent progress at Lock 26, preparing and concreting another sizeable section around the junction of the bywash and the big pipe. We’re at a critical stage now, as we need to build a slipway and remove the big pipe, but need detailed plans for the former and permission from Severn Trent and the Environment Agency for the latter. Drier conditions on site mean that we can turn our attention to getting the clay lining into the winding hole area, hopefully with less of a battle than before.

 

 
Total volunteer hours:   177  by 27  volunteers

The work party were joined by some extra volunteers this week.

They were joined by some young people who are currently on the National Citizen Scheme (NCS) program.   NCS is open to all 15 to 17-year-olds and gives them a chance to build their skills for work and life, by taking on new challenges.  As part of the programme, the group are required to carry out a voluntary social action project in their local area. They chose to come and work for us and we hope this could be the start of a great volunteering partnership.

Right - Old bricks are removed, cleaned and stacked ready for rebuilding.

Below - Two volunteers from NCS - Samanta Valauga left and Cara McDonald.

Below Right - Two young volunteers who are regular members of the team - Harry Wem and Harry Ayto, both 14 years old.

Rolls-Royce Rick and the 'Ton of Clay' Challenge. Rolling this stuff is as close as it gets to the life of a dung beetle!

LHCRT's answer to The Terminator - in action at Tamworth Road.
It rolls the clay, sometimes gets stuck in the clay.


Pictures by Roly Onekenobe  25th March, from our Facebook Group


Week ending March 29th



Our first full week back “at home”, and quite a satisfying one despite some unpleasant weather at the weekend. On Wednesday we seemed a bit hung-over and disorganised after our long sojourn at Summerhill, so although we had an excellent turnout the results were a bit disappointing. The dry conditions allowed us to move a lot more clay down to the winding hole but we still have problems actually spreading , levelling and compacting the stuff; very frustrating really, but we’ll work out a system soon.


Saturday started with persistent light rain but we pressed on with preparing the area below Lock 26  and improving weather in the afternoon gave us time to concrete another good section . Meanwhile, at the other end of the site, Jean and Sue worked all day planting daffodils ( rescued from Summerhill ) in the area around “Farrant’s Coppice”. We’ve had many appreciative comments about the towpath trail in general; it’s hard to remember what it looked like less than a year ago, but it was certainly worth the effort.


Sunday was a carbon copy, apart from the girls’ efforts, of Saturday; same windy, wet morning but a decent afternoon and another good slab of concrete laid. The only downside was the failure of our vibrating poker, an essential piece of kit. A poor design has caused excessive wear to the drive mechanism, but Keith has taken the offending components to a welder friend in the hope that he can repair them.


We’ve now reached a tricky stage with the concreting, as the big pipe and associated structures have to be negotiated, and we have to incorporate a slipway into our plans very soon, so there are interesting weeks ahead.

 

 
Total volunteer hours:   160  by 21  volunteers                           Document - Canals & Rivers Trust Specification for Puddle Clay

Photos by Christine Howles