Last updated 16 Dec 2020
Dredging: 2008 – 2012 (click on photographs to enlarge)
Once the main structures had been put in place and / or repaired e.g. footpath, spill weirs, culverts etc. then thoughts turned to re-watering the section of the canal at Pewsham. Whilst the foot / cycle path had allowed access to the public putting the canal back into water would make this stretch a much more enjoyable place to visit and would also attract a much greater variety of wildlife and really open up a green corridor for wildlife. One positive factor was that despite being abandoned for almost 100 years large parts of the line at Pewsham were still wet i.e. still seemed to hold water after rain which implied that the clay lining in the canal bed was still in place and possibly usable.
Before the canal could be dredged the line had to be cleared of scrub and more especially the many trees, both big and small, that had self-seeded during the near 100 years that the canal had been abandoned.
After a number of culverts, which were carrying streams under the canal, had been repaired it was found that water was still leaking through the clay bed and into the culverts. This required the removal of old clay and the renewal of puddle clay over the culverts.
Dredging then took place in a number of stages using diggers and bulldozers with the canal infill removed using dumpers. Fortunately all this infill was silt and was used by a local farmer on his fields as a fertiliser.
Having dug out the infill it was found that a lot of the original clay lining was intact and because it had been covered had not dried out it could still be used without the need to bring in more puddling clay. This made the task that much easier!
Dredging and canal bed shaping and lining took place during all seasons and was not without its challenges. Not least through the wetter months when the wet, sticky clay managed to get the better of some of our machinery. How did the navvies cope when the canals were originally built?
Finally the canal was ready to be re-watered. This took time as there are limited streams that run into the canal at Pewsham that can fill it up. Initially the canal looked rather stark however it did not take long for the vegetation to start growing in both the canal and along the banks.
Today the canal is a haven for wildlife with fish in the canal which have led on to kingfishers and herons being present. There are also ducks and moorhen as well as swans and a wide variety of smaller birds. Insect life has also flourished with numerous types of damsel fly and dragon fly whilst overhead buzzards and red kites can be seen. In addition a very elusive otter has been spotted.
In the canal a variety of weeds and reeds grow whilst along the bank there are many different grasses and flowers. Because there is very limited boat traffic reeds grow very prolifically and so it is an annual battle for the volunteers to keep the reeds under control and to stop them totally clogging up the canal. This is hard, dirty work however it is worthwhile as it allows us to offer boat trips to the general public along the stretch during the summer months.
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