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Weymoor Bridge @ Bridging the gap

Teamwork at Weymoor

Cotswold Canals Trust (CCT) and the Waterway Recovery Group (WRG) volunteers have been working together to construct a new brick built bridge to replace the long since demolished Weymoor Bridge near Cirencester. Pictured below.

 

Research & Planning

Time spent on research and planning is rarely wasted in the world of canal restoration. Civil engineering expertise from within both organisations was pooled over a four month period.

The aim was to create a bridge arch by laying courses of bricks using English Bond on arched formers to produce a carrying capacity of 40 tonnes. This task called for the identification of design, material and staff skill requirements.

A good day to start

Good Friday, 25th March saw the mobilisation of the first of a series of 2016 Weymoor work camps.

Given the specialist nature of the task the conventional WRG camp format was modified to bring together a small number of volunteers experienced in the combined arts of bricklaying & labouring support. That is to say, consistent mixing of lime mortar and the precise cutting of bricks used to form the apex of the completed arch.

Volunteers from near & far

Gordon Williams & Larry Finnegan from the Foxham & Lyneham branch of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust were a great help to the newly formed Weymoor Team, particularly as the effects of a virulent bout of influenza depleted the team during the week.

Roger Kenworthy, Robin Payne and Dave Northcott, skilled local CCT volunteers, also assisted in ‘bridging the Weymoor Gap’. John Maxted, the CCT Eastern Depot work party organiser, ensured a reliable supply chain of materials. Also present at an early stage was Xavier Schachtl, an apprentice freight handler, from Freiburg in South West Germany.

Xavier explained his presence on a west of England wrgie work camp…

“My family enjoyed boat holidays on the English canals in 2014 and 2015. I found your canal history very interesting and decided to help in preserving that history.

“And so… I am now a wrgie and my uncle, Heinz Maier who also was on the boating holiday… he is also a wrgie, today he is on a work camp in the north of England”.

Weather proof working

The Weymoor Team applied a previously proven technique used by CCT’s Ham Mill Lock Restoration Volunteers. A large gazebo was installed over the entire bridge work site to provide shelter from rain. The acquisition & installation of this important asset was carried out by the CCT Eastern Depot work party. Varying intensities of rain and high wind failed to dampen or demoralise the band of bridge builders.

'Topping out’ tradition honoured

The second week of the camp was led by WRG’s Ian Gaston. The bricklayers pressed on stoically in variable weather conditions. Ian’s team reached the end of their week in something of a frustrating manner. They found they were just nine courses short of completing the apex of the arch!

WRG’s BITM (‘Bit in the Middle’) team followed on to lay those nine courses of brick to complete the arch. They were joined by CCT’s local bricklayers and labourers to enjoy the glory of the traditional ‘topping out celebration’ on Sunday 17th April.

Next steps

The mortar in the arch has been allowed to ‘cure’ and gain strength for 28 days.
The steel girder arch formers will be removed during the late May Bank holiday weekend.

The newly formed collective, dubbed “The Friends of Weymoor Bridge" will carry out this work and continue the construction of the wing and spandrel walls.

Our sources inform us that one wrgie was up and about very early on Friday 29th April. He was baking a very large Lemon Drizzle cake for the weekend workers who will be on site throughout the coming holiday weekend!

See more pictures of work at Weymoor

Find out some more about the technicalities