Saturday, 7 May 2016

Gabion day Bags of Help

After applying for a Tesco Bags of Help last year getting shortlisted in January, finding out we were awarded a £8,000 grant, we finally got started on the actual work in May.

We've been helped by Keep Wales Tidy who have organised a series of team building exercises to help us deliver these projects. The idea behind team building and not just contractors and machines is that more people can get involved and have a sense of ownership of the work. The erosion we are tackling is purely a result of huge amounts of severe rainfalls that have hit us over the last 5 years especially over the summers. However,  there are several instances where large machinery has caused problems on the very wet LNR. For example, our willow coppicing area is like pea soup in winter where a tractor came in a 5 years ago, we've lost 2 big beech trees as a result of silt being dumped at the base of the trees resulting in decreased aeration of the roots followed by infection and death. Last month we had to make safe a massive beech tree which fell in recent storms leaving a huge branch dangling dangerously over a stream which we were due to undertake a litterpick with the local beaver group. Sadly, the ground was really wet and the hill access by the vehicle with the winch led to two tyre channels which allowed water to run down them and create a bog/pond at the dip in the hill. This was right in the area where we now need to wheelbarrow the stone from the nearest access gate to the erosion point.

The Work

Keep Wales Tidy also designed the methodology and made sure the activities were made safer, largely by suggesting rubble chutes for the steeper areas. The whole plan was approved by the countryside team and the limestone was suggested by TCBC's County Ecologist who said by using limestone, the increased calcium load in the water would provide a more favourable habitat for crayfish. We did a brief survey last year with Henllys CIW School, so we hope we have a positive effect on these in the future. One local resident told us that he used to catch crayfish in this stream some 40 years ago.
Plan of action
As a community group we spent 2 Fridays repairing the tyre damage as best as we could including buying a £50 bag of stone and hiring scaffolding planks to go over the boggy patch. We also installed and tested the rubble chutes the day before.
Left. Tyre damage and pooling of water at the dip. Middle. Sumps and drainage as well as the scaffolding planks and other wood to cross this area. Right. 16 tonnes of Taffs Well limestone.
The next stage was getting the stones from the area by the gate down the slope and then down the slide. This was a lot of really hard work. The stones were tipped down the top slide and collected safely by rubble sacks at the bottom.

The long push
The stones were then emptied from the bag and barrowed a short distance to the bottom slide.
The short push
The gabion team helped to position the rubble chute and put the gabions in the right places. Once filled, stone was backfilled behind the gabion baskets.
Gabion construction
End of day
The team did such an amazing job and achieved so much. It would have taken the group days and days to do this work and it saved us so much money from the grant by having this team come and help out so we are very grateful to them, especially Sadie for organising it from their end. We are grateful for Keep Wales Tidy for suggesting this interactive way of undertaking this work.

On the Friday, I went down from 12 - 7pm to do a little spring clean on the gabion baskets  which resembled a very heavy version of the Tower of Hanoi. This will make it much easier for us for later today where a team from Barclays Partner Finance will be helping out.
Top Left. Where it finished on Wednesday. Top Middle. Moving stone from basket 3 to basket 4. Top Right. Adding the tensioning wire to basket 3. Bottom Left. Adding the second layer of tensioning wire. The baskets were then re-filled sequentially adding in more tensioning wire. Bottom Middle. Side view. Bottom Right. Front view after moving all the stones around.

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