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Wessex Waterways

Restoration Trust

By Larry Finnegan
    I would have liked to report that a previous refurbishment of the bridge decking could have lasted for 20 years or more but alas a whopping gurt cow found a soft spot and plunged its hoof through the decking (as you do) and that is why we were where we are today.
    As with all projects there is a ton of preparation to complete before the more exciting parts can start and this bridge project by the Dauntsey Vale Working Party was no exception. As the assistant Project Leader for the task it fell to me to submit the paperwork to the Trust so they could give their blessings, permissions and insurance cover etc otherwise nothing could proceed further.  
   Now nicely squared-away procedurally Gordon Williams (the Main Man of the Working Party) set-to and priced-up the preferred wood type; an imported dense hardwood called Ekki which has proven far more durable than traditional types such as Oak. Ekki as I have said, is a dense materiel that will sink when immersed in water (not good for boat building then?) and is difficult to mill as it is prone to blunting one’s tools. However, a certain Mr Ray Bond, a staunch supporter of the Canal Trust, was well up to the task and back in the Summer made his woodworking equipment available and before long everything was cut to size, chamfered to specification and transported to Elm Farm ready for an appropriate date to begin.
    Planning is everything. Many calls-to and meetings with the landowners secured permissions and meant that once the refurb commenced, they would be on hand with machinery to shift materials which otherwise would have had to be lugged cross-country by hand. A working party a couple of weeks previously had removed some 20 coach-bolts and loosened the other 20 or so in order to cut down on jobs on the day. The worst part of that particular job was that all bolts were coated with a high-performance mastic that took brute force to shift. Not one of the workers came away without blisters as a result!
    The day of the refurb dawned (Fri 8 Nov 19) and I was on site early to check on any likely safety concerns and finding none began removing some of the coach bolts around the decking hinges ready for the team to start. The Team comprised of Gordon Williams, George Schmidt, Robert Hitchcock and yours truly. The first 4 decking planks were the hardest to fit as they had to be machined to inset the two hinges. In Autumn the days are short and time was ebbing-away whilst Gordon & Co worked to set the hinges properly and I admit to peeking at my watch nervously as the morning turned to afternoon with only that phase nearing completion but, with a quick lunchtime snack under our belts, the remainder of the decking planks flew into place with little bother. Again, the most difficult part was the screwing-in of the myriad of the pesky but critical coach bolts!
    Finally, as the evening drew in with a beautiful red sunset, Farmer Robert Pegler returned to assist with the kit removal and to inspect our labours. Robert, it should be noted, has been present at all three incarnations of the current bridge and has been photographed each time with this being no exception. I would finally, on behalf of the Working Party, like to thank Robert and his wider family who now manage the farm for their continued support of our projects on their property.
Larry Finnegan

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