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230 tons of concrete tunnel moved in Staffordshire canal restoration project

By Jack Averty | Cheslyn Hay & Great Wyrley | News | Published:

Volunteers overcame the worst of the elements to move more than 230 tons of a concrete tunnel as part of a canal restoration project.

The 350 ton crane lifts a section of tunnel into place at Darnford Moors. Picture: Margaret Beardsmore

The 11 sections of culvert, each weighing 21.3 tons, had to be transported from their storage site at Hazel Lane Colliery, Great Wyrley, to Darnford Moors in Lichfield because of a proposed development at the Great Wyrley site.

The move forms part of the overall restoration of the Lichfield and Hatherton Canals, which were abandoned in the 1950s.

One of the many challenges Lichfield and Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust faces in its restoration project is a crossing under Darnford Lane, so being forced to move the concrete presented an ideal opportunity to put the culvert sections in place ready for when a tunnel will be installed.

A section of the concrete tunnel is lifted on to a low-loader at Hazel Lane Colliery, Great Wyrley. Picture: David Hodgkinson

However not everything went to plan on the day, despite weeks of planning.

Volunteers had dug out the canal bed to the correct depth, constructed a platform for a huge crane and cleared the Great Wyrley site for the big lift, meaning everything was in place for the move this past Friday, March 2, despite the atrocious weather conditions.

Unfortunately the 350 ton crane heading for Darnford Moors broke down on the M1 and the expected 6am start of the two-hour operation was delayed until 2pm.

The convoy of low-loaders lined up on Darnford Lane. Picture: Margaret Beardsmore

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Meanwhile six low-loaders, each carrying a culvert section with Lichfield canal stencilled in bright yellow paint on the end, were held up at Norton Canes service station on the M6 Toll Road until the crane was set up.

Despite the delay trust volunteers were prepared to work into the night under lights to complete the move, but Storm Emma's high winds forced the volunteers to stop early.

The next day’s improved conditions meant the first six sections were lifted into place by 9am, with the lowloaders making return journeys to Great Wyrley for the five remaining sections.

The final section of tunnel is swung into place at Darnford Moors using a sling because of a problem with the lifting anchors. Picture: Paul Marshall

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The last section was swung into place at 1pm, to the relief of the trust's volunteers.

Peter Buck, the trust's engineering director and mastermind of the move, paid tribute to the many people involved in the eventually successful operation.

He said: "The moving of these precast tunnel sections has been another of the challenges the Trust has been set and together our fabulous hardworking volunteers once again have risen to the challenge.

“I’d also like to express my gratitude to the drivers of Leicester Heavy Haulage, ABA Cranes, Walter Tipper, Tommy Coakley of Darnford Moors Golf Club for his co-operation and immense patience, Staffordshire County Council Highways Department who were out at 5.30am gritting Darnford Lane to allow the operation to go ahead, and the Misra brothers at Hazel Lane Colliery.”

Jack Averty

By Jack Averty
Senior Reporter - @javerty_star

Reporter with the Express & Star, based at head office in Wolverhampton

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