Dig Report

Wey and Arun, September 2019

We returned to the Wey and Arun Birtley Bridges project with London WRG to continue the work from the WRG Summer camps

Joint Dig with London WRG at Birtley Bridge on the Wey and Arun

31 August / 1 September 2019

Having seen such fantastic progress over the Summer Camps, it is always good to return to a project for a weekend in the late summer/autumn to push progress on that bit further by tackling more technical jobs better suited to a weekend than a week camp, or just progressing the work for the local group. So it was that we returned to the Wey and Arun Birtley Lift-Bridge project with London WRG for a joint weekend to do the big concrete pour for the bridge deck pivot beam, and continue the brick and block work that the local team had progressed significantly since the summer camps.

Two lift bridges will eventually be installed to create a circular walk from the existing long-distance path that follows the old railway line parallel to the canal, opening up about half a mile of the towpath to the public. This first bridge replaces an existing causeway that allows the farmer to access fields on either side of the canal, and as a new-build is relatively straight forward. The second bridge which will be built to the same design replaces a causeway that currently carries a bridleway and gas main across the canal – so presents a significantly greater logistical challenge, and it will be another year or so of planning before the second bridge construction can begin.

The main aim of the weekend was to complete the 4m3 concrete pour to form the main load-bearing beam for the lift-bridge deck. Saturday saw one team working to build up the approach ramp with hardcore transported by dumper the half-mile from the compound, and compacted in place to allow an easy barrow run up to the beam. A second team worked to set up shuttering braced off the scaffolding to support the brick face which alone would not be strong enough to support the weight of concrete. A further team continued with the brick and block work on the wingwalls to bring them up to height so they could be cut back to the eventual slope.

By Sunday morning everything was set and the team efficiently mixed, barrowed, poured and vibrated the concrete – with the final load levelled off and finished just before lunchtime. In all, a fantastic effort. The afternoon was spent continuing the brickwork and making a start on the backfill behind the wall on the west side. Once this is up to height it will allow the local team to pour the smaller beam on this side.

With thanks to Dave Evans for hosting us and providing such an interesting and well-run project for us to contribute to, we look forward to seeing pictures of the completed bridge later in the autumn. We’ll be returning to the Wey and Arun late in 2020 or 2021 to work on their next big project – diverting the canal at Tickner’s Heath to get under the road where the original bridge cannot be reinstated to modern highway standards.

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