Registered Charity No. 702429
WORKING PARTIES
NEWS 2008

LICHFIELD CANAL

Work Party News
There’s nothing like the prospect of gaining, or possibly losing a large grant to drive the work force to greater dedication than ever to beat a looming deadline. Through the winter, routine work at Tamworth Road, Lichfield has been subordinated to the Staffordshire Aggregates Levy Grant Scheme project for the Borrowcop Locks Canal Park. Approved as late as October 2007 it had to be completed financially by mid-March. And it was! In just a few weeks, capital expenditure of £36,000 spread over four months provided all the required materials which include a new steel footbridge and 125metres of new towpath.


New interpretation board at Tamworth Road.
(Photo by Paul Marshall)

Readers may have been intrigued by the comment in the last issue about a “trick up our sleeve”. In Pound 27, the original crumbling towpath wall had been cleared away some years ago. After considerable deliberation, it was decided to apply a new building technique using pre-cast concrete blocks with interlocking raised nodes produced with recycled aggregates by Jack Moody Limited at Essington. Laid on a strong concrete foundation, the raised nodes on top match cavities underneath so that they fit tightly together with little effort.

Thanks mainly to a special arrangement with Chasetown Civil Engineering Ltd, 233 blocks were delivered in some 20 loads from time to time. Measuring 1.6m x 0.8m x 0.4m and weighing a tonne each, the long straight wall was assembled by a few volunteers with basic lifting machinery in a relatively short time. With practice, four workers could lay over 60metres of wall in half a day – and no need for curing time! Back-filling and surfacing can be done almost at once. For aesthetic appearance and canal waterproofing, the wall has a blue brick facing which conceals the unusual, modern core material.

Other work has involved setting out a footpath across the newly-acquired land adjacent to the A38 highway making a connection through a wooded area back onto Tamworth Road. Planting, coppicing, rooting out certain trees and forming rustic steps have occupied our heavy and light brigades, assisted by visiting volunteers from Essex wrg and Kent & East Sussex Canal Restoration Group.

John Horton, former Project Director applied his career skills in steel erection to designing a suitable footbridge providing access across Lock 25 to the towpath. D & C Engineers of Tamworth fabricated and indeed helped to erect the galvanized steel bridge to exact specification, supplemented by matching fencing around the adjacent canal wall. Site signage, a detailed interpretation board and seating complete the scene to welcome visitors enjoying this major advance in bringing part of the Lichfield Canal back to life. The Trust is very grateful to all those who redoubled their efforts to achieve such a vital change in such a short time.

Bob Williams

Restoration work through the summer has largely been confined to the handful of regulars who can be found at Tamworth Road every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday unless bad weather and other commitments intervene. Much of this effort has been directed towards brick-laying along the long wall in Pound 27, tree planting and hedgerow maintenance; that is until recently.

Over the first week-end of September, we were very pleased to welcome back Essex Waterway Recovery Group, renowned for their “green” abilities. Through heavy rain they laid 50m2 of turf around the set of large lock stones to enhance the visitor approach to Borrowcop Locks Canal Park: ideal conditions to lay turf. Without having their enthusiasm dampened, they then turned into masons to use cut stone blocks from those donated by Birse Rail when bridge parapets were demolished to widen the West Coast Main Line (CBW 52, page 24). Careful alignment and choice of well-weathered faces make the new wall retaining the embankment on the offside of Lock 25 look as if it has always been there! Help was also given to the home team in preparing to build a new quadrant wall for the off-side tail of Lock 26.


Essex wrg laying a dry stone wall to off-side of Lock25, 7-9-08
 
Essex wrg brave the rain to turf Borrowcop Locks viewing area

Another volunteer group who have become regular visitors at this time of the year are engineering members of the Jaguar Land Rover Corporate Citizenship Scheme. Plans for over 200 man-hours spread over three weeks had to be halved last minute by urgent corporate demands. Even so, the willing efforts of those attending contributed extensively through cheerful team work to push ahead with several projects. Replacing a badly rusted-on defective wheel on the trailer they mended last year (CBW 53, page 20) brought it back into use. Strong reinforced concrete foundations were laid for the Lock 26 quadrant wall: tasks that appealed to their engineering minds. Another team installed a display frame at the A51/A38 entrance into the Borrowcop Locks Canal Park and erected a fence to define the top boundary of the land which the Trust bought earlier this year alongside the A38. Thanks to all our visitors: come back soon.


JLR team erecting the Trust's boundary fence by A38, 24-9-08
 
JLR Team lay shuttering for Lock 26 quadrant Wall

Lock 26 deep foundations prepared for tail quadrant wall, 7-9-08
 
Brian Davis and Barry Parkes building the quadrant wall, 2-10-08
(photos by Bob Williams)

Looking ahead, the next major task is constructing a completely new bywash to Lock 25. Various ideas have been considered which need to allow both for normal canal needs and exceptional storm flows passing through. In that road-side location, the design must provide for water containment, public safety but with distinctive features which make the site interesting and attractive. Based on a landscaping concept by Fira Ltd which provides disabled user access over the new footbridge to the towpath, Brian Davis and Clive Hensman have developed drawings which incorporate an approach path around a circular bywash outfall beside the parking area. It is inevitable that certain trees, described by the Council Tree Officer as of poor stock, will have to be removed thus giving the remaining trees more room to flourish. So watch this space!

Bob Williams

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