Wilts & Berks Canal 22nd - 31st December, 2001



    The camp went very well, and we were very satisfied with the amount of work achieved.

    However, we did not get off to a very auspicious start, Brummie Ken arrived unexpectedly on Friday night, so Di rummaged through the camp food kit, and emerged with some veggie sausages, which she put on the work surface while she prepared some vegetables.  Five minutes later, she turned round, and there wasn't a sausage in sight!  at the other end of the kitchen, looking like a permanent fixture, and innocence written all over her face, our dog sat in her bed, happily licking her licks......Sorry Ken.

    Ken and I started on site early on Saturday morning, and the others were directed towards us as they arrived.

    Our work was divided over the camp between two sites: up from Dauntsey Lock, and Lock 3 of Seven Locks at Tockenham.  At Dauntsey, we were hedge laying, thinning out the hedge, and stump pulling, and some huge stumps were heaved out of the towpath.

    The main problem with working on this site is the 1-mile trek up the towpath, carrying tools, although we had the Tirfor winches already up there in our Hospitality Suite (an old caravan).  We also trashed our even older caravan, which was no longer needed, with bits of it being burnt, bits recycled (aluminium), and bits that were still useful being transferred to another home.

    At Seven Locks it was too cold for bricklaying, but we got 13-14 cubic metres of concrete poured behind the first chamber wall.

    It isn't possible to get a Readymix lorry up the towpath, but we've acquired a very large concrete mixer, now known as 'Jumbo', and with the help of our regular team of local volunteers, everyone worked flat out.  When the first pour had set, and the shuttering had been yanked out, we drilled holes in the concrete and inserted re-bar to tie it to the original pour which was now six months old.

    The next task will be to lay a pipe along behind the wall to create a drain, and then the concrete mixing starts all over again.

    Lynne had to work over Christmas, and she and Nick were only able to join us on Thursday evening, but we were treated to her haute cuisine for Friday and Saturday, which was much appreciated by all.  Di looked after us very well for the rest of the time.  On Christmas Day, we worked until lunchtime, and after a visit to the pub, we relaxed back at the cottage before Di produced a full Christmas dinner, after which we retired, round the fire, well satisfied.

    We decided to go to the cinema, with the obvious choice of either "Harry Potter" or "Lord of the Rings".  The Chippenham cinema was closed on Monday (Christmas Eve), so we trooped off to the multiplex at Swindon: 12 screens.  Five of them were showing "Lord of the Rings", at staggered half-hour intervals throughout the day, but every one was full, so it was "Harry Potter", which was hilarious and enjoyed by all.  We tried for the other one at Chippenham on Friday, arriving half an hour before the performance, but it was already full.  We eventually managed to get in to see it on Saturday, after Di had rushed in an hour early to join the queue!  I think that those of us who were Tolkien addicts enjoyed the film more than those who were unfamiliar with all the weird goings-on.

    Katy, after her initial disgrace, managed to enjoy herself, racing around getting wet and muddy each day, and collapsing in an exhausted heap on my sleeping bag each evening.

    All in all, a good time was had, and some significant progress was made on two sites on the Wilts & Berks Canal.

Rachael Banyard.

Reprinted from Navvies No 191


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