Author: Nick Hale, Project Officer
After many months of planning the project we were finally able to start the fun part and get on the riverbank!
The first job was to take delivery of all the machines and equipment such as the 15m long reach excavator and wheeled dumpers. Access to the site was quite tricky but having a good delivery driver is always good!
Mike our excavator driver was raring to go but first we had to install our sediment control features, marker posts to measure changes in water levels/river bed level and also take a few photos for comparison.
It was great to finally get the breaker attached onto the machine and begin breaking out the concrete. The centre of the channel was broken up first, and then the sides.
The weirs were certainly well built! Sheet piling had been installed at the up/downstream ends of each weir to key it into the riverbed and act as the formwork when casting the concrete. Lots of 6mm steel rebar had been used to provide extra strength, and in some places the concrete was almost 1m thick.
Removal of the sheet pilling was quite a challenge at the first weir, with the downstream section being 1.8m in length.
Mike gradually broke up the weirs into manageable pieces, which were loaded into the wheeled dumpers and transported to the collection site. A local company was contracted to collect the waste material using grab lorries. Each weir was made up of about 80 tonnes of concrete which was about 5 grab lorry loads per weir.
Chestnut faggots were secured with chestnut posts (both locally sourced) to form the line of the new bank.
A marginal shelf of site-won soil was then encased in coir matting behind the faggots and secured to the banks with oak pegs. We will come back to plant these up in the spring.
With high spirits and with the weather thankfully on our side, we tracked up the bank to do battle with the next two weirs. Although the construction of each was similar, each site posed its own challenges. However one by one they fell, with all three weirs being removed and banks reinstated in a three week period, reinstating flows and passage for the first time in over half a century.
The benefits of the work were made clear before we had even pulled out of the site. We saw numerous fish passing the previous barrier to explore the stretch upstream.
Look out for our third and final blog on the Three Weirs Project to see some before and after photos and the timelapse video!