(Report from John Foley, photo credit Roger Bravey) On Saturday, 16th November we helped the Manchester and Stockport Canal Society to clear a heavily overgrown section of the Stockport Branch, near the junction with the Ashton Canal at Clayton. Not quite the job originally planned but probably more important as the local area officer of Manchester City Council (who own this part of the canal line) had arranged to work with us for most of the day - as a volunteer! And he did, too. Said he enjoyed himself and was impressed by the M&SCS plans and our shiny red van. And our work of course. The work uncovered a long-neglected garden, complete with ornamental mini-obelisks laid out when the landscaping was done in the 1970s, following infilling. Council contractors were due to collect the loppings, undergrowth, strimmed brambles and the usual bags full of rubbish on the Monday. Close by, at the junction, and close enough to brewshare, IWA Manchester Branch volunteers continued their programme of improving the Ashton Canal towpath. Some of the most dramatic photos of Operation Ashton were taken here, and show the junction bridge. What a difference in appearance now. We just need the Stockport Branch back in water to complete the job.
...part way through...
Organisation of the work was largely down to Bob Dewey with significant inputs from John Dodwell and Michael Limbrey and various members of CRT staff. For those who don’t already know, John is Chairman of the Montgomery Canal Partnership and a CRT Trustee, while Michael is Chairman of the Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust.
The first job was to lay a "haul road" in the canal bed to protect a drainage pipe that had been found uncomfortably close to the surface. Recovering a couple of rolls of geotextile from the container in the jungle which was once Crickheath Wharf proved an interesting exercise; good job we had some slashers in the van. Having completed that, we then started to remove the embankment to the other end of site to be taken away by a steady stream of wagons the next morning. We had a 21 tonne digger loading scoops of embankment into 3 x 6 tonne dumpers to ferry it and a 13 tonner loading the wagons from the pile they created. A small team of Adrian. Bob, Dave J, David W, Diane, John H, Malcolm and I plus Nick and another SUCS guy started the work, not forgetting Martin, the excellent CRT guy who is as hard to get out of the cab of a digger as Adrian. We were on site by 8am the next day with Malcolm cooking ‘til Thursday evening when we said ‘bye to him and Diane.
Friday morning we were on site for 7.30, joined by Nick (again) and David from SUCS and later welcoming Darren, Lynda and Paul, Matt and Steve to the group. Fantastic weather with only one bit of drizzle kept us going and we were on site again for 7.30 on Saturday, with the embankment largely removed by lunchtime. The wagons didn’t run on Sunday so we gathered together the remaining ballast ready for Monday. David took over the cooking with help from Matt who also did the shopping - and a trip to get a fence post which I had promised the land-owner would be replaced. We said goodbye to John on Saturday and Paul and Lynda on Sunday. Dave left on Monday night taking with him a digger key (more interested in an ice cream). He quickly returned it to the hire company but we managed with 1 digger as we had reduced the wagons to 2. It was just levelling left and removing the "haul road". On Tuesday, Adrian carefully graded the residual ballast to ensure the sewer pipe stayed well covered while Malcolm returned to take the van back to Manchester. A final bit of tidying by hand and replacement of as much fencing as we could saw the job essentially finished.