Volunteers removing blocks and liner.

Monty dam-busting volunteers triumph

SHROPSHIRE Union Canal volunteers began the fortnightly programme of restoration of the Montgomery Canal, near Crickheath, during a weekend work party from March 4-6.

Volunteers removing blocks and liner.
Volunteers removing blocks and liner.

The main task of this work party was to remove the massive clay dam, which was towpath high and 6m wide, that retained the water in the previously restored 250m section at Pryce’s Bridge.This water and a massive accumulation between the dam and Crickheath Wharf took just over two days to pump out sufficiently, to allow the blocks and four layers of liner that had waterproofed the inside slope of the dam to be taken down.

The digger in action.
The digger in action.

The clay bund, which is the technical name for the dam, had to be removed to allow the completed section measuring 250m to join the 330m section under construction, at the correct depth.When a length of channel is lined with four layers of waterproofing materials, it is then ‘paved’ with building blocks to weight down these materials.Working conditions were, at worst, very challenging and, at best, difficult with sometimes a foot of water in some places, but the 17 volunteers kept battling on with the dirty heavy work.

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By the Saturday afternoon the removal of the bund had begun using a large digger and a dumper to transport the clay away and by the close of play on Sunday three-quarters of it had disappeared.While the pumping out was taking place on the Friday, 400 saplings were planted along the base of the outer edge of the towpath embankment, to stabilise a section of the newly constructed canal channel. Lengths of heavy lining material were cut to size and laid along the offside of the channel in preparation for completing the next 60-metre section.

Close of play after the team’s efforts. PHOTOS: SU PUBLICITY
Close of play after the team’s efforts. PHOTOS: SU PUBLICITY

The next work party at the end of March was expected to spend two days pumping out water that has accumulated, to enable the removal of the remaining bund. Channel shaping can now take place to match the new section under construction to the existing completed profile.

All in all, this was a superb effort by a very dedicated team of volunteers working in terrible conditions and a significant amount of preparation was achieved. It is anticipated the work to Crickheath will be completed by the end of this year.

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