Second phase of coir roll project completed on Cromford Canal

The finished job with the vegetation regrowing. PHOTOS: FCC

THE Friends of the Cromford Canal volunteer work-parties, have completed the second phase of fitting coir rolls to the towpath edge at Cromford, Derbyshire.

It was recognised over two years ago that parts of the towpath edge on the section between Cromford Wharf and High Peak Junction needed repairing due to historical erosion and damage caused by dogs scrambling out of the water. In several locations, there was a serious risk of the towpath being undercut by the water.

An initial meeting in July 2016, attended by Derbyshire County Council Countryside management and John Barker of the Friends of Cromford Canal work-party group, decided that dry coir rolls set into the water, backfilled and replanted would be the best practical way forward. Dry coir rolls are unseeded, because this section is a SSSI area, so new species of plant are not allowed.

The FCC were fortunate to have two grants from DerwentWISE Landscape Partnership, one in the autumn of 2016 to allow phase 1 to be achieved, this was completed at the end of September 2017, with 50 coir rolls being fixed in position. The second grant, phase 2, in early 2018 allowed for the purchase of a further 50 rolls. Each roll is ten feet long and one foot diameter.

DerwentWISE Landscape Partnership is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, additional advice to the FCC on preparation of the grant applications was from Waterside Care.

The rolls for the second phase were delivered in the spring and fitting commenced in April through to the end of May.

The loaded workboat at Cromford Wharf.

To get the rolls to site, they were loaded on to the workboat, very generously loaned by DCC. The workboat was then pulled up to site by Birdswood, the narrow boat owned by the FCC, on the days when Birdswood was not available due to trip boat duties, the work boat was poled up to site, which, in its self, is no easy task.

The rolls which had been tied together on the bank prior to placement in the water.

On site, the rolls were tied together on the bank, so at one time we may have had ten giant sausages laying on the towing path. Then the bank might have to be cut away or vegetation removed to allow the rolls to be placed in the water in a slow progression with the steel securing rods hammered at an angle through the coir rolls and into the bank, three rods to a roll. When all the connected rolls were had been secured in the water, they were left until the following week to soak. Puddling clay was then backfilled behind the coir rolls to provide a support for vegetation and to fill any voids. Finally, the vegetation, either that has been removed earlier or brought up from the Cromford Wharf area where all the winter reed pull had been stored, was replaced.

Looking at the rolls that were set in place last year, new growth can be seen emerging, which is very pleasing. The work parties over six weeks were supported by the tractor and trailer belonging to DCC, providing a constant supply of puddling clay for the backfill and some top soil, without this support the whole job would have taken very much longer using wheel barrows, which is heavy tiring work over long distances.

The second phase of the coir roll fitting, FCC volunteers gave 293.5 direct hours and we estimated more than twelve tons of clay were used.

Phase 1 & Phase 2 combined, the FCC volunteers gave 750.5 direct hours, placed 100 coir rolls which equates to 1000 feet of repaired towing path. Congratulations to the brilliant team that are the Friends of the Cromford Canal work-party.