Spencer clears the way for inspection
The task set by Natural Resources Wales was to clear the overgrowth that had built up over many years – comprising of mainly Blackthorne, Sea Buckthorne and thick Brambles – to a distance of at least 1.5-metres either side of the wall. The purpose of the clearance was to allow engineers access to inspect the condition of the steel piles that hold the 4.5-kilometer long wall in place.
Originally built in early 1990s and having never been worked on since, the wall’s purpose is to retain excessive rises in the sea level at high tides. It therefore represents a critically important part of the local sea defence system, ensuring the low-lying land beyond it – including the Machynys Peninsular Golf Course – is far less liable to flooding.
Before work began, consideration had to be given to the ecological impact the clearance activity might have and consequently, an NRW ecologist inspected the site to identify the areas where Water Vole, Otters and other wildlife were evident. Also, with the inland marsh designated as a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest), Spencer took even more care when carrying out the work to ensure that vehicle and plant movements were kept to a minimum and within the 1.5-metre clearance zone.
Adding to the considerations was the proximity of the All Wales Coastal path that runs along the ‘dry’ side of the wall. It meant there could be no obstructions or vehicles parked next to the wall at any time and any movements on the path had to be accompanied by a walking banksman.
Taking into account these factors and having to schedule operations around the tide table, work was expected to take five weeks. But, calling on its experience and resources – which included having an ideal range of equipment for the tasks to be performed – the Spencer team was able to complete the job in just three weeks.
As well as using chainsaws, brush cutters and an excavator fitted with a flail head, Spencer also utilised an all-terrain, track-driven, remote control McConnel Robocut with an out-front forestry mulcher head attachment. Able to negotiate the often-challenging angles and surfaces, this versatile machine was used to clear much of the invasive vegetation along the 2.8-mile stretch of coastline safely and effectively.
NRW were very impressed with the speed and quality of execution, as Spencer ECA director Jonathan Davis explains:
“Before we begin any project, we look at the equipment and resources we are going to need to get the job done within the customers’ timescale and budget. With weather and tides an issue with this particular project, we were delighted that by using the right combination of skilled staff and machinery, we were able to complete the work ahead of time and to the high standards for which we are now widely recognised.”