Spoon Dredging

Traditional Techniques: NarrowBoat, Spring 2006

Tom Foxon

Tom Foxon looks at a primitive method of dredging that lasted into the 1950s

Once built and opened to traffic, a canal eventually suffers from silting. Much of this finds its way into the waterway from feeders and storm drains. In 1959, a heavy thunderstorm brought so much mud down a feeder to the west of Shortwood Tunnel on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal that a bar was formed across the cut which stopped traffic until it had been dredged. The Stone Cross area of the Tame Valley Canal suffered persistent silting from sand washed down from the sides of the cutting. The Oxford Canal was affected by silting entering it from the Cherwell crossing at Cropredy and from mud brought down the Souldern Brook. Several methods were used to deal with silting, one being the draining of the affected length, the mud being shovelled into barrows and wheeled up planks onto the bank. For many years this was the only method available, and it was still occasionally resorted to in the early 1950s. For large dredging projects, steam grab dredgers were used once the technology…

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