Top team restore Stroud's towpath
Stroud District Council staff have organised Tuesday and Thursday Canal Towpath restoration volunteering sessions for two years. The work provides a range of out door physical tasks for a group of all ages and abilities.
Exercise with a purpose
The purpose of the Towpath Project is to rebuild the canal towpath into a multi-user trail from Saul Junction to Brimscombe Port. The completed work provides a surface & slopes suitable for walking, cycling and disabled access.
Residents & students
Residents of Stroud and district are often joined by students from Ruskin Mill College of Nailsworth and The STAR College in Cheltenham.
The Tuesday and Thursday sessions between 10am and 3:30pm regularly attract thirty or more volunteers. All are welcome to join at any time to give however many hours they can.
The 'what & how' of the work
The first stage of construction removes up to 150mm (6inches) of loose material down to a firm base, over a width of 2m (6½ feet).
Timber edging boards are then placed at 2m spacing with a sloping cross-fall to drain towards the canal. Great care is taken to ensure that the timber edges run level and straight, or with a smooth curved alignment.
A layer of geotextile separation membrane known as Terram is then laid between the timber edges. This material suppresses weed growth and stops the aggregate from sinking down into the base.
Next, a 125mm (5inches) layer of Type 1 Aggregate is laid between the boards and compacted. Type 1 Aggregate is a recycled material supplied by Moreton Cullimore of Gloucester. It consists of a mixture of crushed of brick, stone, concrete and road surface planings. The mixture contains varying sizes right down to ‘fine’ and compacts well when rolled.
Finally, two layers of a finer aggregate known as ‘6mm to dust’ are laid on top. This is a much finer version of the same recycled material. It is wet rolled to form a smooth, hard and durable top surface.
Positive reaction from the residents
The towpath work is normally carried out without having to close the towpath so allowing everyday users to pass through the work site.
Comments from the public are always favourable and team members are often able to engage people in conversation. This has even led to the recruitment of additional volunteers!
SDC's Jon Pontefract comments… “It has been a pleasure to work with so many people from different backgrounds. Some volunteers have been with us every week since we started and have become firm friends.”
Jon's colleague Paul Weller adds “People with little or no experience have bonded and developed into a skilled workforce. It is great to be involved with them all”
The volunteer's voice
Bridget Mitchell, pictured above, explains her enthusiasm… "I enjoy the work because of my interest in local social history. The canal is the thread that links so much of Stroud's past. Unearthing the old coping stones of long forgotten wharves on the canal is very satisfying.
"I get a great deal of enjoyment from barrowing, shovelling and raking with my new friends outside in the fresh air. The waterside wildlife at close quarters is also a joy to see whilst we are helping more people to access the canal route.
"All in all I have never had so much fun in muddy boots!”
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