Kent and East Sussex Canal Restoration Group

8th- 9th October 2011

The Pete Redway Memorial Dig

Stephen Davis

In October, KESCRG joined forces with all the regional WRG groups to celebrate the life of Pete Redway on the Basingstoke canal. Pete was for many years the working party coordinator for the Surrey and Hants Canal Society, and was always a great friend of the group – always smiling and always providing interesting and varied work for the group on our visits over our many, many years of involvement with the Basingstoke Canal. It was very fitting that his passing should be marked by such a large gathering of WRG volunteers, who spent the weekend working on multiple sites spread along the whole length of the canal from Woking to Greywell. A full report of the weekend is in the December - January 2012 edition of navies (issue 250), available on the WRG website, and in the winter 2011 edition of the Basingstoke Canal News (starting page 12), available on the
 Surrey and Hants website.

Photo: Alan Lines

Saturday morning saw many minibuses departing to the various work sites along the canal, and apart from Bobby, who was off chain-sawing on another part of the canal, the KESCRG effort was concentrated on relaying a stretch of towpath between Farnborough and Fleet under the watchful eye of Eddie Jones. The towpath here is very popular with walkers and cyclists, and had become pretty rutted and uneven. The trust provided two excavators, two dumpers, a ride-on roller and 100 tonnes of type 1 road stone. The only slight problem being that due to access permissions the stone was at one bridge and the first area of towpath to tackle was at the next bridge… about half a mile away down the towpath. Slightly inconvenient, but not really a problem given the presence of dumpers, but unfortunately the towpath - being busy with cyclists, in places pretty narrow, in other places slightly overgrown and containing a number of blind corners – did not lend itself to running the dumpers up and down flat out all day long. Instead, each dumper required a banksman to walk, jog or trot along behind (depending on the driver) to ensure no cyclist tried a suicidal overtaking manoeuvre, and to negotiate passing spaces when meeting the other dumper coming the other way. Help was also needed early on in the removal of overhanging branches to preserve the dumpers’ orange flashing lights, and in confirming that the dumper would in fact fit down the towpath at all.

These things combined to mean that it took quite a while to get a good rhythm going and to avoid long waits between stone deliveries. It did however give a chance for Mark to give Emma some training on the excavator on the stone pile – the only alternative being watching activity on the Farnborough Airfield - which mostly consisted of the security men watching Mark watching them watching him, wondering why a bloke in a hard hat was sitting in an excavator on top of a large pile of stone in the middle of nowhere on a Saturday morning.

The towpath progressed steadily enough, with one excavator scraping off the top layer of the existing surface to get to a firm flat base, then with profile boards in place down either side of the path, the road stone was tipped from the dumper and spread by rakes and shovels. The roller then packed this down to billiard table perfection. Over the weekend several hundred yards of path were relayed, and the worst areas of the remaining length were patched up. The intention is to continue the base layer and then lay a thin crust of finer gravel on top of the road stone when we return to this site in February 2012. The work here was clearly greatly appreciated by the users of the canal, and we received many encouraging comments from cyclists and walkers over the course of the weekend. Even the local anglers were pleased that the work was being done, despite the fact that they had to move a long-planned Sunday morning fishing competition to the next stretch of towpath – apparently dumper trucks, rollers and a large number of fishing rods are not a good combination.

The accommodation was at the St John’s Ambulance centre in Farnborough, complete with the obligatory barrels of real ale. Mitch and Jude and their team produced a fantastic curry for Saturday night, and Moose and Maria masterminded the complicated logistics of the whole weekend very well indeed. Our thanks to them for organising such a fitting farewell to a man we held in such high regard.

Eddie 110112

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