Week ending May 25th
Although volunteer numbers were well down, we still managed to have a very productive week. Our first load of “Moody blocks” was delivered last week and we soon got to work on Wednesday, using the tele-handler from Ruttle Plant Hire to put them in place on the wing wall foundations. It’s a really quick and effective method of construction; by lunchtime all the 14 blocks for the base layer of one wing wall were in position, leaving us the afternoon to mix and place the concrete fillet behind the blocks. It was very satisfying to see such rapid progress and we’ll do even better next Wednesday, as we have another 32 blocks on site ready for positioning.
Saturday was a miserable day, with a constant steady drizzle, but the half-dozen who turned up did a really useful job, thanks to the local Yobbery, who had pushed the security fence around Lock 18 (Fosseway) into the lock chamber, from which it was extracted with difficulty. Although some of the panels were damaged we were able to repair and re-erect the fence, a little more securely than before. This could become an ongoing battle!
On Sunday a mini-gang of 3 removed the shuttering from behind the newly- installed blocks before backfilling and compacting the area. All in all, a very good week’s work.
Total volunteer hours this week: 103 by 15 volunteers
Week ending June 1st
A very short report this week doesn’t reflect the progress made. Wednesday’s miserable weather didn’t deter an excellent turnout of volunteers who added another 32 “Moody Blocks” to the winding hole wing walls. Although there’s still a long way to go, the first couple of courses are in place and the structure is already very impressive. The weekend saw us backfilling behind the newly-installed blocks and setting out the lines and levels for the brickwork, which we can start next week. Thanks as usual to everyone for sticking to the task and making such great progress.
Total volunteer hours this week: 170 by 22 volunteers
Week ending April 6th
Last week,with the deadline for the opening of the Heritage Towpath Trail looming large, I contacted all the volunteers to ask for any extra hours’ help they could provide, and their response was magnificent,and saw our normal output nearly doubled, to over 300 hours. Many worked extra days or longer hours so that we could give ourselves a chance of completing the job, not only on time but to a very high standard. The transformation has been remarkable, particularly over the last weekend. By Saturday lunchtime we hadn’t finished laying the hardcore base, but by the end of the day we had a finished path all the way from the A38 bridge to Lock 26.
While this was going on we were still clearing hundreds of tons of material from Pound 25, a logistical problem, as we needed the digger and dumpers both for that job and for delivering materials for the path-layers. Eventually we were also using the old 15-cwt dumper, the “works truck” (my micro pick-up) and wheel barrows to move the fine surfacing stone.
Sunday’s high attendance resulted in the clearing of brash and debris from the coppice and the landscaping of that area, including the planting of Spring flowers and bulbs. The board edgings to the path were backfilled with soil and the earthwork banks raked over. The finished path is a joy to see and has already brought many compliments from walkers. I believe this has been one of our finest achievements, certainly on a par with our work in Darnford Park, and can only repeat my admiration for, and gratitude to, all “ my lads and girls”; good friends and the best workers anyone could wish for.
Let’s not be too cocky! There’s still the section between Locks 25 & 26 to do, but we’ve already made a good start on that, so I’m sure we’ll do that with a few minutes to spare, come next Sunday.
Total volunteer hours this week: 309 by 27 volunteers
Week ending April 13th
We did it! It was almost a last-minute effort to add the finishing touches to the Heritage Towpath Trail ( we finished 10 minutes before the opening speech ), but we made it. The last 2 weeks have seen a huge effort from everyone, with this week’s input even greater than the previous figure. We worked 15 days out of the last 16, sometimes only a couple of us, sometimes “mob-handed”, and often well past our normal finishing time, but we were determined to get the job done, and done properly.
The result of our labours is something of which we can all be very proud and which will boost the Trust’s reputation as more and more people use the path. I hope that what Peter Buck envisaged when he designed the trail is as good in reality and will be a credit to his foresight; he’s always been there when we’ve needed advice and encouragement and I’m very grateful to him. Not so grateful as I am to the gang, the finest group of friends and workmates anyone could wish for, and without whose great commitment we wouldn’t be anywhere near completing the job. I’m a very lucky man to be a part of it all.
What next? Time,tide and canal restoration wait for no man and we must press ahead as quickly as possible with the construction of the winding hole walls, the foundations for which are already being prepared. It would be good if we could have them finished by the end of June, after which we could start to prepare the channel for lining. Watch this space!
Total volunteer hours this week: 372 by 28 volunteers
Week ending April 20th
After the frenetic activity of the last 2 weeks it was very hard to get ourselves going again on Wednesday, but we eventually sorted ourselves out and did some good work. We took a load of fence panels up to Fosseway to make the picnic area around the lock more secure, very important, this, as the whole of that section is now much more attractive to walkers.
Back at Tamworth Rd. we can now turn our full attention to the foundations for the winding hole wing walls, and this kept us occupied for the remainder of the weekend. The geology here is quite interesting; at one point we’re hitting bedrock only a few feet down, while 50 yards away there’s just sand to the full depth of the digger’s reach. Digging out the bedrock is hard work but it will be a really good base for the concrete which we hope to start pouring a week on Wednesday.
The new footpath has really been a great success, with many more people using it. No wheel chairs, as far as we know, but lots of families with pushchairs and children’s bikes. Excellent outcome! Thanks to everyone for keeping me going when I needed a lift.
Total volunteer hours this week: 143 by 15 volunteers
Completed Heritage Towpath Trail from the A51 entrance. Peaceful picnic area by the restored Lock 18, just off Fosseway Lane.
As I’ve been on holiday I was unable to file my usual report, so here’s a double bill. I’m indebted to Hugh Millington for recording hours and activities.
Week ending April 27th
On Wednesday a very good turnout enabled us to make good progress on the foundations of the winding hole wing walls. A lot of careful measuring was involved before the final excavations were done, some hard work in the sandstone outcrops. While this was going on the other half of the gang went the whole length of the new footpath checking for, and rectifying any low spots or thinly covered areas. On Saturday a smaller crew put in place the reinforcing mesh and made the area ready for concreting, while a couple of us were able to sow an area of the path-side bank with a wildflower meadow mix which should look very attractive later in the Summer.
Total volunteer hours this week: 112 by 13 volunteers
Week ending 4th. May
The week got off to a disappointing start as the concrete delivery failed to arrive due to a vehicle breakdown. All being well the pour can be done this Wednesday (7th.) Fortunately the gang found plenty of jobs to get on with; the area around the weir corner, always a bit rough, has been levelled and raked ready for another wild flower mini-meadow. Up in pound 25 we’ve finally tidied up the top edge of the underpinning, which now looks a lot neater. We’ve been given an old ride-on mower; it’s in a sorry state but if we can get it working it will be very useful, especially as it can be transported to different sites on the “works truck”. In the meantime we’re back into the regular grass-cutting season with the small mower and strimmers.
I’ve been on holiday and, as I knew would be the case, nobody noticed the difference (except maybe for the better!) Thanks to everyone for running the show and for taking a bit extra responsibility, it’s much appreciated. Just as well; I’m off again this week!
Total volunteer hours this week: 121 by 14 volunteers
Week ending May 11th
Please forgive the delay in sending this week’s report; a late return from yet another holiday!
A very mixed week to report, with an excellent effort on Wednesday followed by an almost blank weekend. It’s a pity, but inevitable that these times crop up occasionally. A good turnout of 12 volunteers on Wednesday meant that we were able to pour the concrete for the first section of the foundation for the winding hole wing walls, about 6 cubic metres.
Having done this we turned our attention to the rough ground around the weir corner, levelling and raking it before broadcasting wildflower grass seed. This was a very satisfactory day’s work, but sadly it couldn’t be continued into the weekend, for a variety of reasons and from which lessons have been learnt. No doubt next weeks report will be much more positive.
Total volunteer hours this week: 69 by 12 volunteers
Week ending May 18th
After a slightly disappointing performance last week, we returned to our usual standard with a high turnout of volunteers and
very satisfying results for our efforts. On Wednesday we completed the concrete pours for the winding hole wall foundations,
2 loads totalling over 17 cubic metres (nearly 40 tons), a task that occupied us for most of the day. Fortunately the weather was perfect, enabling the dumpers to deliver their loads easily. While this was going on a small team cut out some more brick joints at the wing wall of lock 26 ready for pointing.
On Saturday we were able to strip the shuttering and tidy that end of the site ready for the next stage, the laying of the “Moody Blocks” which will form the backbone of the walls. These are just like giant, concrete “Lego”, and are a very quick and effective way of building walls, which will later be faced with blue brick. While the dumper and digger were not required, Adrian was able to train and test a couple of the gang so that we‘ll have more qualified operators. He continued this on Sunday, while a couple of us tried, not very successfully, to cure leaky stop planks in lock 26. At least it gave us a chance to test our new water pump, generously donated by Simon.
We can look forward to more good progress next week with the laying of the blocks and the chance to start setting out the brickwork.
Total volunteer hours this week: 176 by 23 volunteers
Laying the ‘Moody Blocks’ on a very wet wednesday
Week ending June 15th.
Apologies for the extreme lateness of this week’s report; I haven’t been at my best!
After a couple of weeks of rapid and very visible progress we are now moving into the next phase of the winding hole construction. The brickwork facing to the wall has to be of the highest quality as it will be subject to some rough treatment when boats are manoeuvring, so the setting out of the first few courses, with radius corners, provision for stop planks and variations in foundation levels is a slow and careful task. Rick and Barry, our chief bricklayers, have been joined by a new volunteer, Tony, so we now have a really good team, and the wall should go up quite quickly.The gap between the bricks and the “Moody Blocks” is filled with reinforced concrete which is mixed on site. Another new volunteer, Dan, a strong young man, has made light work of loading the mixer and is a great asset.
As we had a good attendance on Wednesday, we were able to send a small gang up to Muckley Common to continue the scrub clearance started last week. This is the height of the growing season and we need to keep on top of the vegetation, particularly as so many more people are now using the footpaths.
Once again, thanks to everyone for a well supported and productive week’s work.
Total volunteer hours this week: 154 by 18 volunteers
Week ending June 22nd.
A short report, and very similar to last week’s. Our main progress has been in the bricklaying on the winding hole walls, where the brickwork now extends to the full length of both walls, if only at a low level. Every course we add makes the job a little more comfortable, so progress should be fairly quick, especially as Simon has repaired the small mixer, which is a lot easier than mixing by hand. We can’t complete the “Moody Block” construction for a couple of weeks as we’ve used up all the stock at the factory and we’ll have to wait for new ones to be produced.
Once again we were able to send a few people up to Muckley Common to continue the scrub clearance, while at Tamworth Rd. some more bamboo was planted in the pipe wall alongside the A 38
Total volunteer hours this week: 165 by 18 volunteers
Week ending June 29th.
Once again, a very satisfactory week’s work, with a high turnout of volunteers able to make progress on several fronts. While the brickies continue to add to the walls of the winding hole, other small gangs carried on keeping the rapidly-growing vegetation at bay at Tamworth Road, Muckley Common and Darnford Heath. Mike Battison has enlisted a little help in his efforts to open up and restore the old by-wash of Lock 24, which will be a good feature on the Heritage Towpath Trail.
Although we are now committed to using clay to line Pound 27, it was decided to carry out a last trial of the new synthetic membrane which promised a much quicker and lighter means of waterproofing the channel. Unfortunately, despite everyone’s best efforts and under the manufacturer’s supervision, the test failed again, so it’s back to the drawing board for them.
The “Moody Blocks” which we need to complete the back of the winding hole walls are being manufactured and should be ready for delivery next week. There are 60 blocks to come, which will take 2 good days’ work to position, but what a difference that will make, and how much more daunting the challenge for the brickies. How lucky we’ve been with the weather recently. After braving the elements through the winter and early spring, it’s a joy to come to work in warm sunshine, although some of the bare, white legs are a bit scary!
We’re always pleased to welcome new volunteers, so if you feel you’d like to contribute a few hours of your time please come along and see what we’re doing; we’re a very happy and friendly group and you’d be made very welcome
Total volunteer hours this week: 160 by 22 volunteers