Following the removal earlier in the year of the large sycamore tree near the dry dock it became apparent to Tuesday Club members that the residual bank putting it mildly looked a bit of a mess. Of course we were up for the challenge and over the inevitable cup of coffee plans started to form to improve that part of the end of the canal with everyone chipping in with their views on how it could be done. All of this was going on while the Chairman was on holiday but we felt that it wouldn’t be an expensive job and we wanted to surprise him with rapid progress by the time he had returned from his trip.
Firstly, and this was essential, the bank needed to initially be cleared of debris, the bank moved back and a foundation trench dug out on which to form the base a wall – yes we were competing with Mr Trump to build a retaining wall to retain the bank, at the same time matching the existing brickwork which was along that side of the canal. Typically for the Tuesday club this was a significant task and one which wasn’t on the list of things to do – spontaneity being the order of the day, or on the other hand foolishness !
It was marvellous to watch as the plan unfolded – where are we going to get the matching bricks from? How many will we need? How much sand / cement is required? What’s the weather forecast like (a constant factor for indoor or outdoor maintenance)?
The moving back of the bank itself wasn’t too difficult, certainly nothing a couple of heartily wielded shovels couldn’t deal with. The digging out of the foundation trench on the other hand was another matter – it was a particularly hot day as we set to task with shovel, a pick and a saw – it had quickly become apparent that tree roots of some strength had worked their way down the bank and formed a hard barrier to deal with – in the end we were relieved that Dave deployed his personal chainsaw to cut through the toughest parts. At one stage I think a few of us fleetingly thought “what have we started now?”, but there was no turning back!
Behind the scenes the requisite amounts of sand / cement had been ordered and by the following Tuesday it had been delivered and ready for use. Bricks were another matter but a local source was available to reclaim some old bricks which were ferried to/fro in wheel barrows to the wharf where they were cleaned up diligently by hand –hard, tedious but rewarding work.
In the meantime the concrete base had been prepared in the mixer and poured into the awaiting trench to settle for a week before the first brick was laid. It was fascinating for me to observe John Ganner calculate in his head how many bricks were required for the job and we worked hard to clean the bricks as fast as he could lay them but were destined to fail for he is a master builder and a joy to watch. Of course he fulfilled the tradition of placing a silver coin within the mortar joints as is apparently commonplace in the bricklaying trade. He was assisted largely by Malcolm Perks in designing the height and design of the wall – great minds working harmoniously (for the most part) in their deliberations.
The wall quickly took shape over a couple of Tuesday sessions, remaining covered for protection from the elements in between sessions and even early on in its construction you could tell that this was going to be a fine piece of work which blended in well with the original walling and the mooring itself.
The final Tuesday saw the wall ends shaped up and finished off and a metal barrier erected at the corner of the dry dock to prevent any debris falling through – this was a task in itself and Dave again was handy with his power tools to cut the metal sheet to perfection with sparks flying all over the place. So, after a few weeks of effort what was a messy bank became walled and cosmetically pleasing as well as acting as a barrier for the bank to be washed down onto the pathway. Job done!
The photographs show the various stages of construction of the wall – where Mr Trump has thus far failed, Tuesday Club have succeeded!
Don’t let your skills go rusty – put them to good use for a local charitable organisation. If you would like to join us in maintaining the Bonded Warehouse and the site as a whole, please contact the Bonded Warehouse on 01384 395216 or simply pop down and introduce yourself on Tuesdays from 9.30am until 3.30pm.