A number of important milestones were passed on the HLF-funded restoration of the Pryces Bridge-to-Crickheath section in 2019. During the early months of the year CRT successfully concluded water tests on both the 200m section adjacent to Pryces Bridge completed by Shropshire Union Canal Society volunteers during 2018, and on a similar length of channel at Crickheath restored by CRT contractors. Both were subsequently handed over to CRT. This left the 325m stretch between the two sections outstanding, to be completed by the society.
This remaining section of channel was notable for exhibiting large areas of subsidence as well as being the home of great crested newts. During spring 2019 CRT contractors erected a newt enclosure enabling ecologists to conclude the exclusion and trapping process. A ground investigation was also undertaken by a firm of geotechnics specialists, which revealed large areas of deep peat and a variety of other soil types beneath the channel. CRT engaged a firm of geotechnics specialists to design the channel in this section and this work continues with input from the society. The challenge is to produce a design that will overcome the various geological constraints in such a way that it can be built by volunteers.
With the numerous other contractors occupying the whole of the channel from the start of 2019 to mid-June, the societys restoration efforts were restricted to outstanding jobs on the completed channel sections. Work parties at fortnightly intervals carried out vegetation clearance and site strip on the channel. The work followed the sequence of strimming down and removing vegetation, a search by an ecologist, then repeating the previous steps followed by removal of tree stumps and topsoil. The whole process achieved the twin objectives of rendering the site uninhabitable to newts and removing surface organic matter.
The channel bed in much of the remaining length is founded on peat. These areas are unable to take the weight of earth-moving machines and remedial work is necessary to permit this. This consists of excavating the peat to below grade; applying cement grout which is then covered with sheets of geotextile and geogrid; and spreading stone to bring the level up to grade.