Time had taken its toll on the culvert over the years and floodwaters had begun to severley damage the struture, washing debris into it and dislodging many of the stones. At the beginning of 2009 when the restoration project finally got underway, the entrance to the culvert was completely obscured by silt, deposited by years of flood water rushing through the ghyll and eroding the soft clay banks in the process.The flow of water had been so great at times it went over the culvert on its route downstream and a significant part of the overlying footpath had been eroded away, exposing a large hole on the culvert roof. It was clear that if something was not done soon, the whole structure could collapse as early as the following winter
Local contracter John Brander was appointed to carry out the restoration work, which also included designing and installing gabions and an overflow pipe to further protect the structure in flood conditions .
John completed Stage 1 of the works in May 2009 which included:
- Tree Clearance
- Removal of silt upstream (see pictures above)
- Digging of several test trenches
- Surveys of the structure, stream and surroundings
- Site photographs
- Comparative survey of another local culvert
Stage 1 works were crucial in assessing the condition of the culvert before any restoration took place and was very much an exploratory dig. From this, a plan was developed for the best way of restoring the culvert: what type and how many materials would be required. As part of this work, a substantial wall was exposed on the south side of the entrance, revealing the extent and significance of the structure. At this point an initial survey was done as part of the watching brief by Archaeology South East.
Stage 2 of the restoration work started in July 2009 and included the following:
- Removal of accumulated silt at the entrance of the culvert, to be deposited at a nearby site further upstream.
- Installation of gabion baskets across the stream and a relief water pipe as a mechanism to protect the restored culvert structure.
- Stabilisation of the northern bank at the entrance of the culvert to support and protect the culvert structure.
- Repair of the outer and inner culvert structure where necessary with locally sourced stone, maintaining the original appearance of the culvert where possible.
- Reconstruct the pathway over the culvert to its original width using locally sourced stone rubble.
Finished entrance to the restored culvert Finished exit from the restored culvert
It was important that all works were completed sympathetically and carefully - in keeping with the historical significance and amenity value of the culvert and its surroundings.
The restoration phase of the project was completed just in time for a celebration day event on the Saturday of the August Bank Holiday weekend.
A watching brief on the restoration project has been written by Richard James and Nick Garland of Archaeology South East and this gives more detail on the structure of the culvert as revealed in the restoration process. To read the report in full, click here: Strawberry wood Culvert Archaeological watching brief
Videos on how the restoration was achieved and more background information on the history of this ancient archaeological rarity can be viewed at the beginning of this website section.