Kent and East Sussex Canal Restoration Group
Wendover Arm, GU Canal
Report by Sophie on her
first working weekend with us after meeting at the National while we
were running the Bhaji stand
Not having been out with them before, I’d heard that KESCRG digs tended to be more technical and allowed you to play with more machinery but I hadn’t seen this for myself until last weekend on the Wendover arm of the Grand Western at Tring.
The Wendover dig is a fun one because it’s basically building a canal all over again. The work at Tring consisted of lining the short Wendover section, currently dry, with Bentomat. It also entails putting in some moorings by widening the existing canal trench.
Saturday saw us erecting fencing on the canal bank to mark where the new mooring site was going. With passing cyclists on the tow path questioning how wide the passage was going to be after we’d fenced half of it off, we also set to work trimming the hedges (99% bramble bush, as my very deep scratches testify) to allow right of way past the site whilst work was in progress. The area is much used by walkers and cyclists and it was encouraging how much support and curiosity we received from passersby.
On some occasions there was frustration and some waiting around to be endured: the site at Tring presents considerable logistical problems. Volunteer groups like KESCRG are also working under the direction of the local canal trust rather than mobilising themselves and this did cause some delays over the weekend. Nevertheless considerable work was achieved over the two day dig. Being a large group (16 or 17 at any one time) both helped and hindered in this respect, as we made up for lost time by the amount of man hours we could put in when work was able to start, but on the down side the site on the dry canal bed was cramped, with a large number of people working in a small space, shut in by diggers on one side and water on the other. This sort of impediment is frustrating but pretty much inevitable when the logistics are so difficult.
Day two, the Sunday, was a much harder and dirtier day with all machines on full throttle and some heavy jobs to be done mixing concrete, positioning blocks and laying Bentomat. This work continued at a considerable pace and by the end of the day real progress had been made.
Mention has to be made of grim Tring scout hall, which provides accommodation which can only be described as ‘basic’. In terms of comfort, Tring scout hut is definitely one-star accommodation – but worse still, it’s a long walk back from the pub. Excellent food was provided by Ellie, although she did initially look initially ashen-faced when she first saw (and smelt) the kitchen. A slightly better night’s sleep than the rest of us had was enjoyed by Nic, in his latest ebay win – an ex-NHS ambulance, which has plenty of room for a bed and a chunky Staffordshire bull terrier in the back.
Also helping out on the Wendover branch was a party of helpers from the RAF. KESCRG volunteers had a surprise when they arrived on site to find a crew of around 40 male and female troops in camouflage gear. They were very friendly and cheerful – possibly scrub bashing in Hertfordshire is an appealing alternative to service in Iraq!
Thanks to Ellie for the excellent food, Ian and Liz for relentless support, Mark 2 for the relentless conversation about camper vans and everyone who helped out with lifts!