Kent and East Sussex Canal Restoration Group

KESCRG Dig Report 1st/2nd May 2014
Wey and Arun Canal
Or a tale of a closed pub and mud and a cake bake off

Words and photos Mick Lilliman

We assembled in the Sun Inn in Plaistow (not the London one, the one near Dunsfold) and quaffed some enjoyable local beer - the pub was full of locals who were interested in what we were doing and the homemade food was good and at a reasonable price. At closing time we left, checking to make sure the pub would be open on Saturday evening. More about this later. The accommodation was Winterton Hall in Plaistow village, one of the better halls. It had showers and plenty of room for the intrepid 10, together with very clean toilets.

We were to continue the work started the previous weekend by London WRG, tidying up the towpath around the newly dredged section on the summit pound near Dunsfold and building a landing stage for the small boat rally being held 23rd March. So after a breakfast cooked by RAF Martin, aided by consultant chef Paul (Dobbie) Ireson, we arrived on site at Tickners Heath Depot unusually early for the KESCRG sleepyheads.

So we went through the supplied list of scaffold poles required for the landing stage, and carried them the few hundred yards to the landing stage site. Don’t go to the gym, do scaffold pole aerobics. After a bit of head-scratching it transpired the list of required & transported poles was for a different landing stage design to the one we were working to - but with much measuring of poles, Roy and the rest of the scaffold gang were eventually able to start work on the structure.

In the mean time we constructed the Aquadock, an intellectual water-based Soduku puzzle to enable the scaffold poles to be made safely into the landing stage. After more head-scratching and use of special tools the Aquadock was launched with the brave Paul as its captain. Then the scaffolders proceeded to build the landing stage.

So then the bonfire gang got to work collecting all the brash and left-over wood from the previous weekend and started a slow small well-controlled bonfire, with no chance of it getting out of control as Friday’s monsoon rain made sure everything was wet. Nevertheless with a bit of help from small blowlamp and dry firelighters the bonfire started.

And the very friendly locals (thanks to Sally Schupke the W & A chairman) a lemon drizzle cake was produced for tea-break time, and very nice it was too.

Roy and Malcolm hard at work on the landing stage

Work then progressed until lunchtime when another lemon drizzle cake appeared, courtesy of our cook Anne. Which was the best cake? Well neither had soggy bottoms and the bake was just right for both of them. In the interests of a continuing marriage and not upsetting the local chairman it was declared a draw.

The bonfire had started to go well and Martin tried putting it out with wet tree stumps and failed.

Paul and the smoky bonfire

After a good day’s work we went back to Winterton Hall where hot showers and an excellent chilli cooked by Anne awaited us.  So then, having checked the night before (see above), a few of our intrepid party walked to the pub… which turned out to be very firmly closed. So we returned to the hall and had a few bottles of beer and had an early-ish night.  

We then finished off the work on Sunday, which involved lugging quite a number of the scaff-poles (including all the longest and therefore heaviest ones, for some reason) that were on ‘the list’ but weren’t required for ‘the design’ back to the Depot. I am sure the local residents think there is a pole dancing club at Tickners heath. We were fortuitously off site by mid-afternoon just before the rain came back down again.

Finished landing stage surrounded by mud and water

So learning points from this weekend: 

Wey and Arun is a lovely canal in a very nice area. We’ll be back.

Winterton Hall in Plaistow is good for a weekend. You need a supply of 50p coins for the meter.

Plaistow village shop opens long hours and is good for anything you forgot to buy.

Bring your own beer because the Sun Inn pub doesn’t appear to open on Saturday, despite saying they would. London WRG had the same experience.

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