Registered Charity No. 702429
NEWS 2006


Work Party News
Over the quarter from April to June 2006 our volunteers have worked every weekend at Tamworth Road including 13 Saturdays, 12 Sundays and some midweek days, doing 138 man days of work. The WRG Canal Camp in April and weekend visits from the Dig Deep groups; Kent & East Sussex CRG in April, Newbury WPG in May, London WRG and WRG BITM in June contributing a further 214 man days.

KESCRG dig out the old collapsed bywash tunnel at the tail of Lock 24
  In early April we continued laying the capping bricks on the rebuilt section of the towpath wall in the garden, removed the earth ramp and excavated the foundation trench in preparation for rebuilding the gap in the wall where the deep pit containing the lock coping stones had been. The KESCRG weekend at the start of the Canal Camp laid concrete blinding in the towpath wall trench, and continued the bricklaying and completed the concreting for the top wing walls of Lock 26. A short section of towpath which was subsiding into the old collapsed bywash tunnel at the tail of Lock 24 was excavated and consolidated in preparation for resuming the excavation of the lock chamber, which was a major task for the Camp at Easter.
The partly exposed Lock 24 before the Canal Camp in April

As a result of starting the excavation last November we suspected that the lock contained most of the large coping stones and brickwork from its partial demolition, and a method statement and risk assessments were prepared to enable the chamber to be cleared and materials recovered in a systematic and safe manner using the available machinery and manpower. After some initial difficulty in establishing the optimum technique, work continued steadily throughout the Camp removing the coping and quoin stones, by sliding them up temporary earth ramps, often requiring a particular stone to be moved first to get at another that was wedged in by the first or by large chunks of demolished masonry. Thousands of re-usable bricks were also recovered and stacked ready for cleaning and the remaining earth and rubble removed to the temporary spoil heap.  
Lock 24 excavations uncovering several large coping & quoin stones

Excavating Lock 24 with the JCB804 at the start of the Canal Camp in April

The other main achievement of the Camp was to complete all the capping brickwork on both top wing walls of Lock 26 to a very high standard. After this the bricklayers moved onto the roadside wall to restart this from its previously half rebuilt level. The top course, which had suffered some frost damage to the lime mortar over 2 winters, was partly re-laid and levels established to compensate for the irregularities in the original 1790’s construction. Other jobs done during the Camp included installing the ladder, obtained by Peter Magee, re-pointing in Lock 25, and much brick cleaning and transporting of bricks. At the end of the Camp we spread a lorry load of crushed concrete chips, supplied free through Michael Brown, along the towpath and ramp to reinstate a good walking surface. The towpath had been closed each day whilst machinery was working on the lock excavation, with a temporary diversion along Tamworth Road using signs produced for us by Tudor Signs.  
Adrian and George spreading roadstone along the path after the Camp

The roadside wall, and the vegetation, nears full height in June

After the Camp, Keith continued the excavation work over several weekends to complete the last few yards of Lock 24 up to the top cill, recovering yet more stones and bricks. Surprisingly, the timber cill beam is still in place, although partly burnt, and with the land drain tunnelling beneath it through the stone and brickwork at some depth.

One of the jobs originally planned for the Camp was to install the rebar and concrete the foundation across the towpath wall gap. Following consultation with Roy Sutton, I had earlier drawn up plans for a more heavily reinforced foundation and wall across the pit area and made a contact at ROM in Lichfield with Steve Winter who kindly volunteered to produce the detailed specification, source the steelwork at cost and assist us in its installation. Although it was not possible to obtain the rebar in time for the Camp, Steve persuaded ROM to sponsor us and supply it all free of charge, for which we are most grateful. Steve and his colleague Pat also spent a weekend with us in early May wiring it all together and installing the cage, whilst the visiting Newbury WPG built the shuttering, so that we were able to cast the foundation with a 6 cubic metre load of ready-mixed concrete the following weekend. ROM have since also supplied us with the rebar panels for the wall.

The Newbury group also continued the roadside wall bricklaying – in heavy rain – whilst some of our gang found a nice dry job painting and reorganising the inside of the container ! By contrast, June started with a heatwave and bricklaying on the roadside wall was continued at every opportunity, by Brian and by visits from London WRG and from WRG BITM, and is now up to the final capping course of headers. Phil Cardy kept re-appearing with all the different groups and has helped a lot with our bricklaying progress this Spring. At the end of May, Brian and Barry had set out the walls across the new garden towpath wall foundation and the two visiting groups in June largely completed building the back wall. They have also done a lot of preparation work on Lock 24, cutting out damaged brickwork, raking out the loose mortar joints and removing the last of the spoil, whilst London WRG also found time to do some re-pointing below Lock 26 and remove the scaffolding from Lock 25.

Brian & Barry starting bricklaying on the foundation
across the towpath wall gap
WRG BITM laying the top courses of the towpath back wall in the garden

Phil and Martin help rebuild the roadside wall during the Canal Camp
George & Keith cleaning bricks, whilst as usual
Charlie wants a stick throwing!

London WRG chiselling and raking out the brickwork in Lock 24
WRG BITM continue cleaning up the brickwork in the chamber of L.24

All photographs taken by Phil Sharpe

Our own volunteers have continued many of these jobs between the WRG visits, especially the bricklaying, plus preparation and completion work, as well as the many unsung tasks such as keeping the site tidy, mowing and strimming, weed control, watering, landscaping, plant maintenance and repairs, moving materials and the bulk of the necessary brick cleaning, etc. Thanks are due in particular to Keith, Brian, George, Barry, Clive, Peter, Adrian, Mick, Simon, Bob, Dave, Peter, & Michael.

We have a gap until the final Dig Deep weekend arranged for this year which will be KESCRG in October, so we are on our own for a few months, and more assistance will always be welcome. We hope over the summer and autumn to complete the roadside wall, including shuttering, concrete backfilling and landscaping, and to complete the garden towpath wall, with more brick cleaning, bricklaying and concreting. We also want to surface the reinstated towpath through the garden, finish off various sections of re-pointing work, continue to prepare Lock 24 for its partial rebuilding, and to remove most of the excess spoil.

Phil Sharpe

Work Party News

This report covers July, August and the start of September 2006 and includes work done at Tamworth Road site by the Trust’s own volunteers plus an additional weekend visit from the London Waterway Recovery Group in early August.

In the garden, at the top of Lock 26
Looking towards Lock 25

At the top of Lock 25
Into the bottom of Lock 24

Lock 24
The offside wall of Pound 25
Photos taken at Tamworth Road in June by Bob Williams

As will be recalled, July was exceptionally hot and not conducive to hard physical labour, but work still continued each weekend, although numbers were somewhat down due no doubt to the weather as well as summer holidays. Bricklaying was completed on the roadside wall and, after vegetation clearance, the big job of installing shuttering boards along the 60 metre length to retain the backing concrete was also accomplished. In the garden, we finished the bricklaying on the back wall section for the towpath gap reinstatement, whilst good progress was made with brick cleaning to supply the front wall, and moving them to the site. Maintenance continued with strimming and weeding, repairs to the strimmer and mixer, and fitting extension feet to a platform for use as a temporary towpath bridge.

The weather in August was mercifully cooler, and progress was boosted by the London WRG visit on 5-6th August. After a late delivery on the Saturday, we successfully placed 6 cubic metres of readymix concrete to complete half the length of the roadside wall and moved round extra soil to support the shuttering on the other half. On the Sunday our gang removed the shuttering from the completed section, backfilled and levelled the roadside verge. Meanwhile, in the garden, the bricklayers made steady progress with the front section of the towpath wall and raised this half way over the weekend. A re-pointing job on the offside tail wall of Lock 25 was also finished off.

(There are some good photos of the London WRG dig on 5/6 August on Tim Lewis’s website. Click here to see them)

Holidays and wet weather then intervened and the only other work achieved to the end of August was to largely complete raking out the brickwork joints in the chamber of Lock 24, in the process discovering some rather ‘hollow’ sounding areas of brickwork that will need to be removed and replaced.

Our attendances started to recover in September and the first weekend saw us mixing concrete for the first lift of infill between the two leaves of the towpath wall, as well as a bit more soil moving.

Thanks are due to everyone who helped, including 8 from London WRG, and especially to our small group of regulars for keeping things moving; Keith, Brian, George, Barry, Clive, Simon, Bob, and Mick.

Regretfully, as a result of various issues, culminating in a reduction in the restoration budget, and a structural problem on site, I have now resigned as Work Party Organiser and this will be my last report in Cut Both Ways.

Phil Sharpe

Work Party News
Through the autumn, Tamworth Road continued to claim attention with brickwork being the major focus. Concrete back-filling the off-side wall of pound 25 revealed that the poor state of some lower courses could not take the stress put on them. Fortunately, the downfall of a short section only hurt everyone’s pride but valuable lessons were learnt by studying the cause and debating the best means of correction, guided by Roy Sutton for IWA.

The Kent & East Sussex Restoration Group spent a productive week-end with Trust volunteers in early September reassessing site priorities and getting on with several important tasks. Brick walls rose up and large volumes of surplus soil were moved which also provided an opportunity for driver experience. Lock 24 infill had previously been stock-piled nearby so that the structure could be considered for repairs. However, the means of crossing the next obstacle at Cricket Lane is still well in the future. After studying the chamber, taking detailed measurements and photographs, the decision was taken to preserve it with soft earth infill for the time being so that unsightly safety fencing could then be removed.

Completing Pound 26 towpath wall and infill (photos by Bob Williams)
Lock 24 preservation (photos by Dave Moore)
Levelling Pound 25 and artistic impression of Lock 24 gates (Bob Williams)

During an extended restoration phase, presenting the site to the public is an important consideration. Not everyone can see that it has been or will again be a canal. British Waterways responded magnificently by donating a pair of bottom gates and beams replaced during winter maintenance on the Atherstone Flight. Being right beside the busy Tamworth Road, these static gates will give onlookers a convincing view of a canal until such time as the channel can by properly connected to the next section uphill.

As we look back over 2006, so much was achieved by so few. Phil Sharpe accelerated work parties to weekly in better weather, and stalwarts like Keith Grice, Brian Davis, Barry Parkes and their supporters could be there many times a week. We thank you all for such diligence and enthusiasm in getting the job done.

Bob Williams


Work Party News
– There was very rapid spring growth early in the month and our regular midweekers, Chris and Dick Mantle, were not available due to family commitments. Peter Freakley and yours truly put in two sessions with mechanical equipment prior to work party weekend on Sunday 16th to keep on top of things. As consequence I had the pleasure of telling our regular volunteers they could have a lie-in on the Sunday morning as the job was done!

MAY – Sunday 18th saw eight regulars make an early start cutting back towpath and hedge growth from Cats Bridge to the M6 motorway embankment. Again fully mechanised which allowed us to finish at lunch time and escape the rain which had persisted all morning.

JUNE – On Sunday 11th June Peter Freakley and I did an extra stint, cutting back towpath growth from the Roman Way through to Cats Bridge – in very hot weather. Our regular work party on Sunday 18th June saw six fully mechanized bods cut path and hedges from Cats bridge through to the M6. All now easily walkable and pleased to report that the post and rail barriers which we erected in the spring seem to be doing the job of deterring horse riders from using the towpath.

At this time of year I do not call out all our available volunteers. I find that if we have six to eight fully mechanized bods we can cope comfortably with the workload, particularly if we have had an additional mid-week session. I know that those advised “not required” appreciate the opportunity to do other things.

Another very hot day.

Our happy team of eight, well provided with mechanical equipment, cut back heavy summer growth on towpath and hedge between Catsbridge and the M6 Motorway.

The towpath, which we built up last winter, between Saredon Mill and Oak Lane was re-levelled in areas where rabbits and foxes had dug up our good work.

It was noted that a stand of some ten trees – immature elm or hornbeam – near the picnic bench at Saredon Mill Bridge is now not just sickly but dead or dying. The following week I informed Paul Wilkinson, BW Ecologist at West Midlands Office of this as I consider the trees, at the side of the road and up to thirty five feet high, could become dangerous as they deteriorate over the next couple of years. I also wished to know, if we felled this winter, what we should replant that might not be similarly affected by any beetles or spores left on site. He could not give an opinion but offered to visit the site and report back.

Only six volunteers today: holidays; illness; still boating back from the National; sick spouses; taking daughter back to Uni. You have never heard such excuses!

Seriously – six were all we needed to cut back towpath and hedge growth from the Roman Way through to Cross Bridge, leaving all tidy and walkable.

NOW TO CONCLUDE. Paul Wilkinson came back to me on 25th September. He has visited site, thinks trees are field elm, agrees that we remove them but advises that we should not replant, other than fill hedge gaps, as it is possible that natural regeneration will occur over the years. If not, then decide what to plant. I accept this and can now schedule felling, logging and burning into our winter programme.

Denis Cooper

And finally, a few words from Barry Kenn to finish off 2006 .......

As promised, a few pics of todays work party on the Hatherton. Not really a lot to photograph at this time of year except the dangerous state of some of the trees, one of which has come down over the channel and will no doubt require the expertise of our Chain [saw] Gang. Couldn't have wished for a better day weather wise, and it was nice to finish off with a drop of wine and a mince pie or two, courtesy of Denis.

Barry Kenn

photos taken by Barry Kenn
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