The Wey & Arun Canal Trust has hosted its first working party camp since lockdown, with the Northern Working Party Group spending four days constructing the deck for Birtley Bridge near Bramley. 

A small number of volunteers swapped the usual village hall accommodation for separate rooms in a local pub to ensure they met coronavirus regulations and could join regular volunteers to construct the decking parts for the first Birtley bridge, which was built last year. Visiting groups played a big part in the bridge's creation and so it was fitting the Northern Working Party Group and Wey & Arun Canal Trust regulars could come together to finish the job.

The Thriscutt Slipway on Dunsfold Park became a socially distanced production line to allow volunteers the space to fabricate all the deck elements safely. The deck is being made from the wooden timbers previously used as props at Drungewick Lock, which are held together with bespoke metal plates to make the four metre span. Each metal part was cut and drilled on site, with some 400 holes needed to be drilled and 400kg of steel used.

Lengths of Douglas Fir, bought from a local mill, sit on top of the frame and each plank required routing to make smooth.

The completed deck will be transported prefabricated to Birtley, allowing a circular canalside walk to open there and the waterway to be used by canoeists and kayakers.

Designs for a second bridge at the stretch are being worked on and once built and the canal restored there the temporary deck will be removed and replaced to create a lift bridge.