Tuesday & Thursday Team tackle the towpath
Stroud District Council’s (SDC) Canal Restoration Volunteers, known as ‘The Tuesday & Thursday Team’ recently resumed their activities at Wallbridge Lower Lock. The team’s task is the installation of a new length of towpath alongside, and immediately west of the lock chamber.
This new towpath section is designed to provide wheelchair access as defined by the 2010 Equality Act.
The project has necessitated raising the height of the towpath for some 75 metres in order that the required combination of slopes and level areas are achieved.
Tried & tested system
A well-established method, used elsewhere on the restoration, is applied by the volunteers. The towpath construction requires the fitting of six inch high edging boards each side of the two metre wide pathway. The wooden frame provides support for the application of a foundation of broken bricks.
This foundation is then tamped tight before the application of a five inch layer of ‘Type One Aggregate’. That is then topped with a one inch deep topping of ‘Fine Aggregate – 3mm down to dust’. The final process is the application of a heavy roller.
Ian Moody, SDC’s Volunteers Coordinator explains…
“Fortunately we have a huge mound of broken bricks and rubble produced by the recent work on the lock. The volunteers have been ‘mining’ it out of the large spoil heap nearby. Silt removed from the lock chamber, together with top soil from the site of the new Bowbridge Steps, will be used to landscape and blend the towpath route into the existing profiles of the canal bank”
Ian supplied an impressive answer to the question — what sort of weights and volume are you dealing with here?
“So far we have moved four to five tonnes of bricks; three loads — three tonnes, of Type One Aggregate that the volunteers shovelled onto the Cotswold Canals Trust Tipper Truck. They have also moved and applied a couple of tonnes of topsoil. All this has been achieved with shovels and wheelbarrows in the hands of a great group of committed people.”
“We also had our first visit from sixteen year old Jacob on his Duke of Edinburgh Award. After his Health & Safety briefing he wasted no time in getting involved in the work. We have a new student from Ruskin Mill this year – John, aged eighteen. He recently passed his chainsaw competency course and now has his own chainsaw. This week was his second visit and he enjoyed it even more than the first so we must be doing something right.”
The Tuesday & Thursday Team also benefits from the presence of an active 70yrs+ gentleman named Fred.
“He elbows me out of his way to get in there with his shovel whenever I start to slow down” explained Ian.
Dave Marshall, SDC Canal Project Manager concludes…
“Wallbridge Lower Lock has been probably the most challenging element of the whole restoration. The very high embankment on the north of the chamber had to be re-profiled. We had to await the completion of the adjacent Stroudwater Court; we have had to install a by-wash & fish pass, where none existed previously and the lower offside wall of the lock chamber had been pushed out of alignment by years of landfill material. This has necessitated the installation of a steel strengthening structure between the walls at the tail of the lock.
“All these elements had to be completed before the installation of the gates on a site with limited access. Whilst some contractors were involved, Waterway Recovery Group Volunteers and local volunteer teams have carried out the remainder of the work.
“Between us we have achieved a great deal. Foremost amongst those achievements has been the involvement of a diverse group of people from the local community. They have benefited from the friendship, exercise, experience and skills training that this type of work engenders.
Those volunteers will continue with the finalisation of the restoration of the lock and its surroundings.”
A salute to the past and the future
When the time is right Wallbridge Lower Lock will be the venue for a celebration. This will salute, not only the significance of the site as the link between The Stroudwater Navigation and the Thames & Severn Canal created 230 years ago, but the first part of the 21st century project that will reconnect those waterways to England’s national system.