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Camp report Reporting from Seven Locks on the Wilts & Berks Camp 12 - Wilts & Berks Canal 30th July - 6th August This was, in essence, the second week of a twoweek camp for us on Locks 3 and 4 of the Seven Locks flight, as BITM ran one the week before. On that camp, we had 25 volunteers on the first weekend and between 12 and 14 during the week, and a tremendous amount was achieved ready for the start of Camp 12. Due to the cancellation of the Mon & Brec Camp due to run simultaneously with ours, we finished up with 22 for this week: panic had we enough work, could we fit them all in on site, not to mention in the accommodation? As it turned out, apart from being a bit cosy in the Foxham Reading Rooms it worked very well, and we managed to get more work done than we had dreamed possible. The teams were divided up, and swapped around to some extent between Locks 3 and 4 (which fortunately are quite close together) doing different types of work. Apart from the wing walls at either end, Lock 3 has largely been completed over the last couple of years. Lock 4, on the other hand, had had little work done on it for some years before the BITM camp last week, and was very overgrown and silted up. So there was a lot of vegetation clearance from the brickwork and digging out some pretty messy s—t from the lock chamber involved.

Apart from Wednesday, when he skived off for a few hours to look after his boat, Jeremy took charge of the Lock 4 team, leaving Luke and myself to sort out the work on Lock 3. By lunchtime on Monday, the Lock 4 group, consisting mainly of Jeremy, David Harris, Helga, Becka, Nigel and David Hudson (with some help from Andrew, Amie and Daniel for a few hours on Sunday) had cleared the vegetation, revealing the poor state of the brickwork on this lock. It has obviously suffered from some movement on the off side, and will have to be taken down eventually almost to the invert. We had the pump running and repaired the leak in the dam at the top end. Clearing the silt also started on the Sunday, and on Monday we moved our hired 7-tonne digger up to the bottom of the lock, where Jeremy proceeded to remove the silt just above the dam there, so that we could pump more water out. He then moved the digger along the lock chamber to start removing some of the infill. Our Dauntsey dumper arrived. Using a scaffolding pole, we determined that there was about 1 metre of silt and clay and bricks to be cleared out of the lock: we were able to lower the digger bucket into the lock chamber, so the human diggers could fill it with rubble and clay for removal. The team was augmented on Tuesday. with the addition of Taz and Sophie, and the clearance work continued. In Jeremy’s absence on the Wednesday, I took over the digger and had to dig an extra sump below the lock to help the water which had collected overnight to be pumped away. We quickly found that as we dug away more silt, the digger bucket could no longer he lowered for enough for the human diggers to reach to fill it, so we had to rethink our ideas: I moved the digger down to the tail of the lock, and dug away some of the towpath side by the lower lock gate entrance, which allowed us to reach down to the invert. We were then able to pump out the excess water with the Honda pump, and the machine bucket was able to remove dumper loads of the slimy stuff. The team were then able to get down into the invert in their wellies and waders - apart from Becka who waded in regardless in her leather boots, so it quickly became impossible to distinguish where boot and sock ended and bare leg began!

David Harris

On Thursday, a fair amount of water had collected again overnight, which was effectively removed by the Honda pump, with the lift and force pump keeping the water level down, and removing the silt. The team cleared to the end of the gate recesses.

Clearing silt from the bottom of Lock 4

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First thing on Friday - before she got plastered with muck again - I gave Becka her first training session on the 7-tonne digger, and I hope that she will take this further, either on another camp or the training weekend next year. The team then pushed on a further 12ft into the lock chamber, before we had to stop work to clean up.


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