Bricklaying Volunteers back at Bowbridge
Waterway Recovery Group (wrgie) volunteers assembled at Brimscombe Port over Easter for two weeks of Canal Camps working on the rebuild of Bowbridge Lock.
Leaders and lime mortar
The first camp was led by Ian Gaston who experienced Bowbridge lock for the first time. The second week was led by an experienced hand known to many as ‘RAF’ Martin Thompson.
Upward ever upward
The offside brickwork adjacent to the Veterinary Surgery car park rose by fifteen courses in the middle of the lock wall. On the towpath side new brickwork rose by sixteen courses.
Blocks and bricks
At the upstream end of the lock, in the absence of solid masonry, the upper levels of brickwork have been backed by concrete blocks that have been further strengthened by poured concrete. The wrgies completed five courses of block-work during the first week. The result has also aided stability of the ground behind.
Complex issues & specialist skills
Two areas of particular complexity include lock ladder recesses. The original lock was not fitted with ladders. Needless to say, such safety measures are a must these days.
The other challenging issue appears in the lower gate recesses. These recesses feature an unusual dish shape which requires some specialist brick laying skills. Such skills are being applied by Rob Brotherston, Phil Cardy and John Hawkins. The trio were on site for the entire two weeks.
Newcomers acquire new skills
Working alongside the seasoned canal restorers are several newcomers carrying out Duke of Edinburgh’s Award projects. These new volunteers are acquiring and developing skills that include re-pointing original brickwork, transporting and installing stop planks and re-setting a large quoin stone.
Other jobs included the removal of large quantities of spoil and broken bricks from site, disused lock gates dismantled and removed and the clearance of generations of silt and debris from ground paddle arches and culverts.
This last task provided excellent practice, as a team of four were temporarily seconded to assist Cotswold Canals Trust volunteers at Ham Mill Lock.
The wrgie secondees were required to apply their silt shifting skills in Ham Mill Lock’s similarly clogged culverts. Its arches were filled with oozing black mud to a depth of 1.5metres.
The team achieved their aim using a combination of determination, hands, buckets and an excavator. The gloopy material was then removed from site in a tipping trailer.
No pay… but lots of praise!
Jon Pontefract, the Stroud District Council Volunteers Co-ordinator & Project Manager for Bowbridge Lock commented…
"The fine weather made both camps even more enjoyable for the volunteers. Excellent progress has been made. These people deserve all the praise and appreciation they get. It is worth remembering that they are not paid a penny… they actually pay to do this work!
"Their success and pleasure can be measured by the fact that many of them have volunteered to return later in the year".
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