The restoration of the Western length of the Stroudwater requires the inspection and repair of the existing bridges at Whitminster (Occupation Bridge) and Newtown (Roving Bridge). Walk Bridge at Saul will be completely replaced with an arch bridge to replace the current level fixed bridge and flow metering station.
After consideration of options it has been decided to use a modular pontoon to completely fill the gap between the banks under the bridges. This will enable a small platform to be erected and carried on the pontoon deck for the surveyor to get as close as is necessary to the brickwork for a detailed examination. The pontoon structure is similar to that of Kon-Tiki which is used by the landing stages team.
The modules were collected from the manufacturer by a team of SDC and CCT volunteers on Monday and left overnight at WD. The collectors were given a hands on demonstration of the method of assembly before loading into the van and tipper. The 55 double units and 10 single units were stacked, cajoled and squeezed into place and lashed down. The multiple bags of bits and steel work were moulded into the remaining spaces and voids.
The work of assembly was carried out on Tuesday by the SDC led volunteers. Access to the Occupation Bridge is possible in road vehicles in summer when the ground is dry. Our van and tipper do not cope well with ground which has seen a weekend of heavy rain on winter soaked turf. The only practicable route in is along the canal bank from the A38 roundabout and across a style. The 12 strong team set about carrying the units the half mile or so to the bridge.
What about Stuart I hear you ask. Wasn’t she left by Occupation Bridge after the logging event during storm Erik? Well, she was-until last weekend when the WRG foresters continued the job started at Christmas at the viaduct end. They decided that having a boat would make their job less challenging. The 29 strong team hand balled the boat from one side of Stonepitts Bridge to the other where she remains.
Splitting the route into 3 sections kept a steady delivery of units to the constructors. 3 pairs of volunteers carried the 55 11 kg double units in a relay across the fields and over the style over two and a half hours. A massive effort by the team of not so young and spritely volunteers. Bravo bravissimo!
The construction team assembled and locked into place all the units on the bank of the canal. The choice of assembly site was not ideal… Determined by the need to be close to the bridge the form was laid on a slope, albeit a gentle one, upwards to the lip of the bank. How much became evident after lunch the time came for the launch. Small undulations in the ground caused some difficulties for the assembly of a flat modular system. These were corrected but it became evident that the best place to achieve full tightness was on the only flat surface to hand. The water.
Launching was meant to be a simple slide from the bank. With all 12 pushing there was no movement, even with long levers movement was imperceptible. With all the effort concentrated on one corner movement was achieved. Progress was maintained by a wiggling action until full flotation occurred to no cheers at all. The pontoon was manoeuvred under the bridge where the locking pins were tightened and the handrails were fitted. Here we learnt that although very stable there is sufficient flexibility in the structure for the outer rows to respond to heavy weights placed on them. Adjustments to the rail fixings were done at arm’s length.
Now that the assembly is afloat it deserves a name. Keeping with the Thor Heyerdahl theme, Ra would seem appropriate for this new boat.
May God bless RA and all who sail on her.
RA lies quietly admiring the Swans at Occupation Bridge