Thames & Medway Canal
The Thames & Medway Canal Association achieved a satisfying amount of work in 2018, some planned, some not. The unexpected work was to repair a gabion bank that had collapsed. The bankside next to the slipway at Mark Lane, Denton, constructed of one gabion on top of another, started to fall over into the water. After the water level was lowered it was revealed that instead of the problem being caused by an unstable foundation, as first thought, the wire mesh under the waterline had corroded to such an extent it had allowed the stones to fall out, causing the basket to collapse. It was obvious that a small repair was not possible so the complete section beyond the slipway had to be removed with some heavy equipment. This repair was successfully completed in November and the pumps were once again turned on to refill the canal. The work done by all the volunteers was tremendous. WRG, BITM and many others gave up their weekend to work on the canal. Mechanical Movements, together with Harlex, supplied the plant.
Although this project turned out to be much larger than planned, not only was the original gabion repair achieved but the bunds were also worked on. Bunds were added during World War II to provide wet sections for immersion of timber shipped in from Canada. The timber was then transported up to the Mosquito factory in Buckinghamshire. Additional bunds were added some years ago to test for leakage in each section, so for many years these prevented free flow along the canal. However, during this work in November, the first bund was removed completely and two others reduced to enable the complete stretch from Mark Lane to Shorne Mead to be in water. A video of the associations work can be seen at thamesmedway.co.uk.
Planned work has also included the clearing of annual tree and bush growth with further removal of old timber beyond Shorne Mead. New litter bins were sited adjacent to the benches which greatly improved the appearance of the towpath as they replaced the plastic bags that were usually hung from a convenient tree branch.
In the summer the swing-bridge was weatherproofed with a decking coating on the timber boards and the ironwork painted with durable paint. Regarding the fixed bridge restoration, there was still no response from Network Rail which claims it is Sustrans that should carry out repairs but, as it has steps, cyclists do not use it. There is still no agreement with Network Rail to allow work along the Higham section, though the company has agreed to the request that the bridge it built to span the canal be increased in height by around 2m.