Kent and East Sussex Canal Restoration Group

14th - 15th April 2012

KESCRG steal the Glory at Over...

Words: Mick Lilliman

The motley crew arrived at the Old School House in Highnam, an ecclesiastical looking building with pointed doors and stone walls. The relics of the previous week's camp were already there: RAF Martin, chainsaw Martin et al. After finding a space for beds some of the group went for a meal at the local Hungry Horse, the remainder drinking in the Old School as per the leader's instructions. The Old School House is small with just about enough room for the 13 happy campers, so it's a good job we're a friendly bunch with no snorers...

After a hearty breakfast the gang went off to site, it must be the shortest trip to site. After parking up at Over Basin the group started work. The machinery team consisting of Digger (why is he called that?), RAF Martin, Martin W, Phil the Bitch, Alan Lines, Peter F, Dave Miller and Adrian continued the work of the 2 Easter camps under the watchful eye of Dave Penny, excavating the course of the old canal in accordance with the drawings; shifting clay, puddling it using 2 sheeps-foot rollers, and generally trundling around on 9 tonne dumpers. 9 tonne dump, now there's a thought!

Man and Machine (Mick Lilliman)

Work In Progress (Kate Penn)

Meanwhile back at the overflow chamber Mick and Steve were working it out with a pencil, tape and another drawing. Trigonometry in real life? Crazy! Brick lines set out, the bricklaying team of Mick, Steve and Roy continued with the brickwork, made more difficult by the need for engineering bricks for part of the structure and red brick for the bits on show. Kate, Cath, Laurence and a couple of friendly locals started preparing the engineering bricks by chipping away at their white sanitory glaze - they had been salvaged from the hospital during the original Over work. By the end of the day a course of bricks made the purpose of the structure clear. And the red bricks were in the right place.

Bricklaying (Mick Lilliman)

The digger team beavered away all day, only taking the shortest of breaks despite Eli's excellent lunch and cake. All returned to the Old School House and did the usual resume of the days activities, amid the smell of another evening meal prepared by Eli. No-one seemed inclined to go out for a drink, the nearest pub being a drive away, so we sat and drank a few beers and went to bed in a not-too-warm building.

Sunday morning we were up with the lark or at least it seemed like that. After a hearty breakfast we went off to site and restarted where we left off the previous night. The bricklaying team, now with Laurence and less Steve continued with Roy facing up the front walls of the structure.

Bricklaying (Mick Lilliman)

Spill Weir (Dave Miller)

The diggers, dumpers and rollers continued with their work until the canal bed and towpath were deemed complete. So Digger (man not machine) cut across the clay dam separating Over Basin from the new cut, whilst the pump taking water from the River Leadon was started. Water slowly crept over the clay dam, cascading over into the new cut. Kate and Stephen continued with the fencing to make the whole job look like a finished item.

Rewatering (Kate Penn)

Canal With Water (Mick Lilliman)

Filling (Dave Miller)

Winding hole before (Dave Miller)

Winding hole (Dave Miller)

In the meantime the machine crew started the job of cleaning the accumulated claggy mud off the machine using spades and a pressure washer to return the machines to pristine condition (well good enough to hand back off hire). This job looks nearly as grim as brick cleaning with mud going nearly everywhere. Digger even had to wear overalls to stop the worst of the mud going over his pristine clothing, 'cos machine operators stay in warm clean cabs.

Lunch arrived courtesy of Eli, along with a panic to get back to the hall and finish clearing up for a surprise birthday party, well it was a surprise to Eli and RAF Martin!

The rest of us then emptied out the kit, counted it out and put it back in the van.And then we left!

With many thanks to WRG for lending us the kit post Easter Camps and to RAF Martin and the 2 week-long Easter Camps for getting the job so nearly done that we could finish it off and get water in the new cut and claim all the work as ours!

For more information on the Over extension, and more photos see the Vineyard Hill at Over page on the Hereford and Gloucester Canal Trust Website

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