Capels Mill Viaduct — Brickwork Buddleia Banished

Questions & Congratulations

Cotswold Canals Trust Visitor Centre staff at Wallbridge received some questions, and indeed some misplaced congratulations this last weekend.
The comments related to the new look Capels Mill Viaduct. The Buddleia and other vegetation growing from the brickwork had been entirely removed!

Capels No Buddleia 4This self-seeded incursion has long been the reason for statements of dismay and discontent expressed by Thames & Severn Canal towpath users passing through Stroud’s new Waterside Park. This stance is perhaps explained by the earlier photos below .Capels with Buddleia and a steam engine

Balfour with BuddleiaAs effective as the Waterways Recovery Group (Forestry) team are known to be, we were pretty sure the vegetation removal must surely have been the result of nocturnal operations carried out by Network Rail (NR) and the company’s contractors.

Enquires were commenced

Enquiries with Network Rail Maintenance produced some impressive results. It was ascertained that the removal of vegetation (including Buddleia) had been originally programmed for the latter end of this financial year. However, a recent examination of the structure, built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1868, recognised that there had been a rapid growth in the vegetation (buddleia breaking through brickwork) over the past year.

Works order accelerated

An NR Structures Asset Engineer instructed the original works order to be accelerated via NR’s Western Projects team to ensure the above works to remove vegetation and Buddleia throughout the structure, to kill the roots and re-point any open joints were to be carried out in a timely manner.
The works were estimated on 22nd June and then authorised and approved on 26th June.
NR’s Western Projects team appointed a Network Rail approved contractor, Balfour Beatty Rail to carry out the works as per the works instruction.The contractor took five days/nights.

Not an easy job

A Network Rail spokesperson explained… “This wasn’t an easy job as it required the Balfour Beatty Rail staff to use ‘roped access’ during night-time operations to ensure they removed all the vegetation including Buddleia.
“They also had to treat the stumps with suitable herbicidal eco-plugs to prevent regrowth.
Another difficult area for the contractor to deal with was to ensure they didn’t damage the 148 year old brickwork when removing the roots. The Birse/Balfour Beatty team had planned to carry out re-pointing.”
Network Rail engineers are now in discussion with Balfour Beatty Rail over the appropriate procedures to carry out the re-pointing works.Balfour sans BuddleiaCongratulations and thanks must surely be directed to the Network Rail — Balfour Beatty Rail Team.

Some more food for thought

Some further enquiry revealed that the guidelines for the use of herbicidal eco plugs include the following directions: ‘Drill a hole 1/2″ diameter and 1 3/8″ – 1 5/8″ deep.
Use a hammer to drive the plug into the hole, thus sealing the opening so that no substance can escape.’ 
CCT Photographer Mike Gallagher’s before and after photos illustrate a jolly good job well done.

And that job was, in the main, performed hanging high in the air at the end of a rope in the middle of the night!

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