Saturday, December 8, 2018

Ham Mill - Weds Dec 5th
by: Andy P.

Another early start to try to beat the rain.  Mixer Mathew made up several loads of mortar for Bricky Bob who was bricking up and forming the by-pass ring.  The new disc cutter worked a treat as many of the bricks had to be cut to fit.

Digger Duncan on the mini digger cleared, levelled and smoothed the muddy ground we had left in darkness the day before. 2 big heaps of soil are now ready to be moved to the slope.  We even uncovered some long forgotten parts of the original tow path.
Then the heavy rain, as forecast, drove us inside for our first break of the day at 13:30.  Then some clearing, cleaning and tidying up ended our soggy day still in daylight.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Ham Mill Update - Tues Dec 4th
by: Andy P.
Next day was clear and frosty but also magical with mist rising from the water. Our hands and feet still wished it was summer when we should have been doing this work.
The big digger (BD) was brought in to play sitting behind the SBD, with the MD waiting in anticipation. The trench was dug out and a sophisticated level device used to ensure there was a fall away from the spill weir. 
The soil lifted out by SBD was moved, patted, scraped and pushed into a neat pile by BD, to hopefully allow SBD to escape

The trench hole was finished and passed as ok by designer John. Then the fun started. Carefully measured, cut ropes were fitted around the pipes and slowly, carefully and safely, the whole pipe length as one was lowered into the trench. Brilliant doesn’t really sum it up.

A bit of slight adjustment and it was in place-a perfect fit.

The 1 tonne trench box was next as it needed to go over the open end of the pipe.  A combination of metal chains and shackles were used to pass the swinging, wild beast from BD to SBD and into the hole.  Some gentle and delicate taps, then it was also in place.

Then BD, SBD and MD all came to play as the trench was refilled in the failing light. We even managed to get the shuttering for the end sealing ring in place. Lots of cleaning, fence moving and erections took place! It was now really dark o clock.
Big thanks to Bob, Duncan, Jason on the big toys, and the little helpers of Kay, Maurice, Mathew, John and Andy.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Weedie Loaded

by:  Myron

A horrible day weather-wise but there was a clear window in the morning for a couple of hours.

One crew took Margaret out to the Ocean.  Water levels and lack of weed make this possible with difficulty.  Apart from practice and keeping the canal open, the main purpose was to watch the coolant system for any sign of leaks or air locks. The coolant system is still not right.  An erratic temperature gauge and excess pressure in the system may indicate an air lock.  The enthusiasm of the crew is to be commended.  They apparently arrived back at base about 2:30 soaking wet from the rain.  I was alright, I had already been in the pub for about an hour, keeping a watchful eye on two senior members of the Boat Team, who seemed intent on a bit of a session rather than venture into the rain.

Meanwhile, Weedie had manged to get all the way up above Bowbridge lock. They told us there was weed up there, tons of it, but we didn’t really believe them but we do as we are told.  Guess what, there was tons of weed up there. All along the stretch that has only just been dredged. In such a short time and in the middle of winter.
 Weedie took out 3 loads similar to this one.  The crew reckons there is another two days work up there.  Incidentally, they reported that the lock gates sealed pretty well.  If you still wondered if Weedie is capable of doing a good job, this picture should convince you.  The mesh is still hanging together, albeit with a few more repairs.  We have worked out the way to use it and we are now getting experienced crews on the vessel.  Turns out it was a good investment after all.

Project 'DNF' - No.5 Refit

Since Dredger No.5 landed on Monday in Western Depot's Eastington dry dock, today was the first opportunity to properly kick off the project.  We had managed just to fence her in, so now it was time to get on with making the operating area safe to work in.  So, it might come as some surprise, but it was not too early to get the paint out!
In a really despicable attention to finish quality, the numerous trip hazards had white paint dobbed on them.  (I'm pretty sure my hat was once green!) Our chippy guys magic'd with amazing speed some staging supports for the plastic trench covers, which make a great way to provide the surface with an effective non slip surface. 

The steps made for access to Patricia have been recovered from the rear storage area and redeployed.  A flat and roomy area now awaits the heap of components, including an engine, that will shortly be extricated from No.5  We had a great team of 6 beavering away.  Thank's guys. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Ham Mill - Mon Dec 3rd
by: Andy P.

Heavy rain kept the 7 of us inside for a while and allowed the daylight to appear.  We had a plan. Unload the 1 tonne trench box and leave room to off load the slightly bigger digger, digger (SBD).  Ok so we had to modify that plan and get the SBD to lift and move the trench box to allow the SBD to get into place, to dig a trench for the bypass pipe.  The bypass pipe, cut to fit the exit, was connected to a bend, then connected to the rest of the 6m length, the connected to a bend, then connected to a 6m length, then connected to a straight collar, then connected to a 6 m pipe.

When we glibly say connected, we mean spend an hour using mallets, hammer, sledge hammers, formers, wood, people power and finally big ratchets to get the pipe over the greased seal to go 10 inches into each end of the fitting.   Once the system evolved, we greased or way through the rest of the fittings.

The now, very long length of pipe and fittings was manually lifted into its intended position. Markers were added and the SBD scraped a surface path ready for the real digging tomorrow. Some of the soil was transferred to the garden slope and moved in place, helped by the mini digger (MD).

A nonplussed heron watches on. Then it got dark.

And now for something completely different

by: Myron

Leading on from the previous blog, we have the further adventures of Flea. Written from the perspective of Weedie, which today was a breakaway from the tight knit group that the Boat Team has been recently.  Weedie joined Flea in their ascension of the locks to the upper reaches, into the Thames and Severn no less.  I understand the rest of the Boat Team united one of our team with his newly purchased dinghy, which you will have seen on the shore of JayBees yard.

As it was reverently lowered into the water, Flea looked splendid in her new paintwork. Until Ian put his muddy boots all over it.  His  ‘Well it is a workboat’ received little sympathy from the attendant crowd.  As Flea’s engine has not yet been fitted, we offered them a tug, it’s what we do.  Their polite refusal was understandable.  They wanted to play with their new toy without interference by strangers.

By now, the ailing Dudbridge Lower lock had finally drained and the adventure really started.  The lock filled a lot faster than it drained and we were soon off to Foundry lock, some with more effort than others.  It wasn’t long before the gate opened onto the pound.  The joys of bow hauling were now receding fast with the SDC crew, and a cry of ‘Do ya think that tow would be possible’ was met with enthusiasm by the Weedie crew.

The simple method of tying two ropes to the front bollards of Flea, and running them forward to be held on the rear handrail of Weedie by Nick proved most effective.  The combined teams now progressed harmoniously up the cut.  A really nice example of working together.  We did all the hard work (well the engine did), while the SDC crew had the easy task of opening the bridges and locks.  One funny bit was approaching Wallbridge Lower.  With one paddle fully open it brought the convoy to a dead stop.  We were just making headway again, when opening the second paddle actually sent the convoy backwards, even on full power.

Soon we were going up in Wallbridge Upper to be greeted by Lisa, Gemma and Clive from the Wallbridge centre, offering tea and biscuits.  Be impolite to refuse so we retired there for lunch. It was nice to be in the warm for a bit.  After lunch we made short work of tying the boats up just above the lock.  With much congratulations all round on Flea’s first voyage, we all set off for the considerable walk back.  All in all quite a different day, but it’s never the same is it.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Dredger No.5 & Flea take to the air

In preparation for No.5's major refit, she was lifted from the water today and taken to Western Depot.  In an orchestrated move with work boat Flea, many volunteers had turned out to assist with the operation. 
Flea journeyed from Saul Junction where she has been renovated for use on SDC working party activities and taken to Wiggal's Yard at Dudbridge to be lifted into the Stroudwater Canal.  

Just before she arrived, No.5 was craned out and placed on the ground for the removal of the two side tanks.  When the transport had released Flea, No.5 was placed on board and taken to our depot.
Here, the site had been kept clear and she landed in the same spot as Patricia almost a year since Pat descended there.  
A fence has now been erected around her.  Our next act is to install the H&S approved access in advance of the commencement of her major renovation program.  It is hoped that a number of the dredger team will also assist with the project as this will greatly contribute to us getting her back in the water again.  
There is considerable workload, the progress of which you can follow in these pages.

Note: If there is an interested sponsor who would like to contribute to either of these craft, both are available for renaming.
Moody Skies

by: Ian Moody

This weekend we had two visiting groups, London WRG and KESCRG.
It was their annual joint Christmas party so they canalled by day and turkeyed by night.
The worksite was Whitminster and the task was to continue the tree and scrub clearance along the line of the canal.  We were amazingly lucky with the weather both days.  There was plenty of mud and there were plenty of overcast skies but it stayed dry.
Workboat Stuart earned his keep and enabled us to get to overhanging and submerged branches that you just could not reach from the shore.
And, of course, being a winter work party a decent fire is almost compulsory.
Thank you to WRG and KESCRG.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Now - CCT Benches on the G&S Canal

by: Will F. & Steve P.

Volunteers yesterday installed two benches bought by the Canal and River Trust, on the Quedgeley section of the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal. 
The smart CCT made benches compliment the  recently laid  tarmac tow-path.  However the location was some way from the Elmore Road bridge and needed careful balancing on a trolley to transport to the agreed installation site. The edge of the tow-path was a mix of large stones, pebbles and blue clay, so we had fun digging the post holes!

Dallying with Delilah

by: Dave Irving

Some of our boats get used for all sorts of things.  For example, our wide barge Delilah is often used as a convenient work platform, or a method of transporting building materials (she carried literally tens of tons of aggregate and chippings to surface the towpath at Ryeford).  But recently, while some of the items in her hold are ours, she's unfortunately been used by persons unknown as a rubbish skip.
Extracting this volume of these types of materials and safely disposing of them is unfortunately beyond the capabilities of the Boat Team, so we are delighted that Western Depot have offered to do the job for us.  Not unreasonably, they ask that the water in her hold is removed first.  So today, off we went with a high capacity pump to remove a foot or so of water.  Weather conditions (very wet, very windy) led to the decision to transport the pump by car rather than boat, and we were soon at work.
The result – still full of rubbish, but while it's still wet, it's no longer under water.  This should make life easier, safer and more comfortable for those cleaning her out – we thank you in advance!  (For those wondering ... yes, that is a bath!).
It's not always possible to moor boats so others can't access them, but when possible we will move Delilah to moorings that make it considerably more difficult to fill her again.
Ham Mill

by: Andy P.

Work completed over the last week includes
Filling in with concrete, one bucket at a time, all the remaining blocks. A nice set of steps were finished from the road down to the block wall

Created a ramp to get the mini digger behind the block wall, so we could move stones beyond the big diggers reach. A broken back saver. We now have a nice flat level working surface behind the wall for moving the soil onto the slope.

Re planted the Acer tree again and made preparation for moving the shed again.
Eventually 4 of the lengths of 500mm by 6 m pipe arrived for the new overflow. Only 9 months late though. One piece was cut to size to form the spill weir discharge pipe, as well as building a bull nose brick facing ring.

A screw gate, high tensile strength karabiner was donated to Dino, the big fearsome dog, as a Christmas present.   

Wednesday, November 28, 2018


by: Ian Moody

And thus it was that our three intrepid adventurers, Chris, Chris and Vince, set out on their brave mission, accompanied only by a small metal handle and a couple of hangers-on.

Objective number one: Load workboat Stuart onto the newly repaired boat trailer at the Pike Lock slipway. 

Objective number two (slightly more ambitious):  Launch workboat Stuart at the imaginary slipway at Whitminster in preparation for forthcoming WRG visits.

Objective number one was soon accomplished. The trailer performed perfectly. The rollers rolled, the winch winched and the frame stayed, erm, framey. Tick!

So off to Whitminster we went. We soon agreed upon the location of the imaginary slipway and the trailer backed up, all green with excitement.
Vince attached a rope and tried, in vain, to launch Stuart using only the power of thought.
So in the end we just pushed. Sploosh!

Workboat Stuart, ready for work.
Many thanks to everyone at the depot who worked so hard to get the trailer back in service. The boat will make a huge different to the progress we make in the coming weeks.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Margaret’s meanderings

by: David Irving

Margaret met up with companion Wookey Hole again today - this could be start of a pleasant habit!

We joined forces at Ryeford Locks, both boats going down in tandem and with Weedie joining in the fun.  And fun it was – the bottom gates wouldn’t close! Well, one would, and the other got within about 3 inches of closed and refused to get any closer.  Folks from Wookey, joined by folks from Margaret probed about the bottom of the recalcitrant gate from Wookie Hole with poles and kebs and didn’t find or move anything.  So we enlisted yet more help and borrowed the dredger team’s long keb.  With this we could reach the bottom, and scrape along the cill in an attempt to move any obstructions. We found lots of humps and bumps, but still didn’t obviously move anything.  So we opened the gates and closed them again (a time-honoured tradition when they’re not cooperating), and lo!  - one closed and the other didn’t.  Only this time they were the other way round.  So we probed and scraped again and opened the gates and closed them again.  And this time they both closed with a welcome ‘bump’. We went through the locks again later with no problem, but we can’t help but feel there’s something down there waiting to catch us out in the future.

Margaret, as always, performed well, managing to move a hopper for the dredging team while all this was going on.  The trip also exercised her cooling system after fixing a couple of issues last week.  It’s definitely working better, keeping the engine at the right temperature, but there still seems to be more to do.  We’re keeping an eye on coolant levels and potential air-locks for the time being.

The photo is from last week (thank you, Iain) showing Wookey Hole and Margaret about to descend Ryeford Lower Lock.

Pat Testing
Today saw the continuation of Patricia's commissioning trials.  From her 'anchor' point, we moved off to a location along side a mud hopper and then deployed the legs for dredging.  As we were towards the centre of the canal, it was possible to set all the feet on the legs pointing outwards.  Our great  new 'C' spanner soon had the legs rotated 90 degrees.
After a few phases of boom movement, the feet settled firmly on the canal bed and dredging commenced.  Over a period of a couple of hours, dredging took place over the complete swept area of the boom, including repositioning to a new dredge area.
With Dredger No.5 having suffered a serious hydraulic fault and likely to be lifted sooner than later, getting Patricia ready for front line service has become top priority.  Today's experience was considered most satisfactory by the three operators that took the controls and enjoying a more prolonged period of dredging.

Friday, November 23, 2018

It's Otter at Wallbridge

by: Richard Attwood

Today my wife and I were walking to Stroud to check out any Black Friday deals when we were able to join a small group of people on the towpath at the Brewery Wall.

The reason for the group of people was to watch the antics of Lutra lutra, otherwise known as the European otter.

Mr Otter (or was it Mrs) was having a great time playing in the water.  He or she was ducking and diving in the canal, climbing on the lower gate of Wallbridge Upper Lock, and inspecting the floating litter thrown in by passing litter bugs.


Eventually he or she headed down stream towards Wallbridge Lower Lock. Probably to inspect the plaque on the bench commemorating the visit by George III.
SDC Thursday Group

by: Ian Moody

It’s always good to have a new work site so there was much enthusiasm for getting stuck into the old weighbridge site near Eastington.  The weighbridge has been disused for about a decade and has been overrun by ivy, brambles and weeds.
Once we’ve finished the tidy-up the site will become a “mini-depot” for the SDC canal team including, and this is a source of much excitement amongst our volunteers, a REAL TOILET!

It’s going to be quite a squeeze to get our containers in there whilst leaving enough room for the existing cycleway but we’ll just about manage it.
All in all a chilly, sunny successful day!