Wey & Arun Canal Trust volunteers rise to the challenge to complete bridge build

The last brick was laid this week at the Wey & Arun Canal Trust’s latest restoration project, a bridge at Harsfold in West Sussex.

Volunteers worked flat out to complete the bridge building project after floods, winter storms and then coronavirus lockdown put construction behind schedule.

Small teams of six volunteers worked five days a week to get the job finished and allow the landowner access to his fields ahead of harvest.

Work on the 7m clear span steel and concrete bridge began in September but was set back by the deluge of rain and storms seen over December, January and February, making work “hard going”, according to project manager Dennis Gillen.

The compound, which is close to the River Arun, just escaped being flooded, but the mix of clay and rain meant the construction site was a mud bath and delivery trucks and lorries struggled to reach the site. Just as the team managed to get the steel beams in, construction was halted due to coronavirus lockdown.

When work resumed following easing of government restrictions, volunteers had to operate in very different conditions and strict social distancing, but the team carried on undaunted.

Dennis paid tribute to the dedication of the volunteers: “They are an amazing team,” he said. “Everyone comes and gets on with it. They are all very skilled and great volunteers. They’ve worked so hard to get the job done.”

The area will now be reprofiled and the temporary bridleway diversion removed.

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