The last piece of the current tunnel being moved into place
Volunteers working on the restoration of the Lichfield Canal overcame the worst the elements could throw at them to move over 230 tonnes of concrete tunnel into position at Darnford Moors.
The last piece of the current tunnel being moved into place
The 11 sections of culvert, each weighing 21.3 tonnes, had to be transported from their storage site at Hazel Lane Colliery in Great Wyrley because of a proposed development. One of the many challenges Lichfield and Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust faces is a crossing under Darnford Lane, so this was an ideal opportunity to put the culvert sections in place, ready for the time when a tunnel will be installed. Many weeks of preparation of the site, digging out the canal bed to the correct depth and constructing a platform for a huge crane, and clearing the Great Wyrley site for the big lift, meant that all was in place for the move on March 2, despite the atrocious conditions produced by ‘the Beast from the East’. Unfortunately, the 350 tonne crane heading for Darnford Moors broke down on the M1 and the expected 6am start of the two-hour operation to prepare it was delayed until its arrival at 2pm.
The sections of concrete tunnel on the way to the Lichfield Canal project
Meanwhile, six low-loaders, each carrying a culvert section with ‘LICHFIELD CANAL’ stencilled in bright yellow paint on the end, were held at Norton Canes service station on the M6 Toll Road, until the crane was set up. They arrived at Darnford Moors at 4pm when trust volunteers were prepared to work into the night under lights to complete the move, despite the snow and freezing conditions. But then Storm Emma brought very high winds which made it unsafe to continue. 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 pieces. Finally, the last section was swung into place at 1pm, to the relief of trust volunteers. Peter Buck, engineering director and mastermind of the move, paid tribute to the many people involved in the operation. “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,” he said. “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.”

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