“And we’re off! The eagerly awaited commencement of lining and blocking in Crickheath South has got off to a flying start”. Says Tom Fulda, restoration project manager.

This winter has been wet (!) and February was no exception with estimates varying between 2½ to 3 times typical rainfall. Phase 1A remains full of water and out of bounds but with 3 pumps now running, the channel level had dropped a few inches and at least the overflow into the compound had stopped.

Universally cold, the weather was mixed. Friday dodged the forecast sleet showers, Saturday didn’t, and Sunday was bright but with a heavy frost. Wet weather put an end to any further channel profiling on Saturday, so digger operators diverted to stump removal in an area of Phase 2 agreed with the CRT ecologist. All the stumps are now removed providing a future opportunity for another popular pastime – bonfires.

But the main focus of this work party was lining and blocking. Prior to the work party the compound had been filled with required materials including an initial delivery of 3000 blocks and 4 rolls of ‘carpet’ – the top layer of the liner system.

Work started in Phase 1B. This area doesn’t hold water so, unlike Phase 1A, a fortunate consequence is that we have been able to maintain access over winter. The length being worked on runs from the compound to the southernmost clay dam retained from last October’s water tests. A haul road on the offside bank provides easy access for most of this area. Starting at the far end of the haul road work moved towards the dam and by the end of the weekend 30 metres of channel had been lined and blocked. Work will continue in this direction for another 15 metres until the dam is reached and then we’ll work back towards the compound.

As can be seen, blocks do not extend all the way up the liners but finish below water level. Above water level, the liners will be covered by riprap (medium-sized stone) and site strip (soil) on the towpath side. An innovative method of creating a ‘soft bank’ behind a submerged retaining wall will be used on the offside bank. This will maximise the ecological benefit of the restored channel and create habitat for many species, including water voles.

Elsewhere during this work party, the last day of this season’s hedge laying work was completed. A total of 90 metres has been completed this winter together with preparation work for next season. We gratefully acknowledge a donation of hedging whips from CGI’s Community Tree Planting Programme which were used to extend our hedge regeneration work.

And finally, he’s been at it again. On Saturday Fred took the opportunity to design a chute to improve the efficiency of rip rap delivery by power barrow along the towpath. We eagerly await the outcome of road tests at a future work party.