18 October 2019

A Grand Day Out

by: Buffs

Western Depot manager Reg, who also carries the title of Grand Director of Maintenance for the Western Canal, stood in front of the grass cutting tool shed. “All these tools and so few being used” he mused, “if only we had more volunteers trained to use them”. The thought crystallised and became The Training Day.  All WD tasks would be set aside for one day and the time devoted to getting more people trained to use strimmers and polesaws, the grillo sickle mower. The tipper would get new drivers signed off and trailer training would see more volunteers given the basic tools to reverse trailers and tow them safely.

The day chosen was to be Reg’s third day out on the ground working with his charges. Last week he joined an expedition shifting wet hessian sandbags from the landing stage at Ebley onto a Mitzi.  Not an easy task as each nominal 20kg bag had to be carried increasing distances to the waiting vehicle in the carpark. Offloading at Dudbridge was easier – just slide off the tailgate into a ragged pile. Not content with his morning’s lift and shift Reg was only too pleased to help with the unloading of a substantial van load of flat pack furniture up to the top floor at the Brimscombe bookshop. There was little time to stand and admire the Virginia creepers bleeding through the still green hedges along the waterside.

Came the day for the big expedition to the Ocean where the green training was to take place and the yard was busy with strimmers being filled and tested before loading and training rosters prepared.  Tea was poured into flasks and lunch boxes were loaded into vehicles.  Then a message that the ‘volunteer what knows about training for strimmers etc.’ rang in sick. “No matter, we’ll carry on” said Reg.  There was a big reason to continue as the HLF assessors were due be given a progress report on the development phase of the 1B bid. The assessors would be coming to the Ocean and St Cyr’s church to be talked through 9 short presentations and reports on the detail of the progress and plans.  And there was real work to do around the Ocean basin wharf front by the former farm buildings. 

The ongoing commitment to keeping the waterside community involved with the restoration effort along the waterway means that we work with them to keep the waterside tidy.  The Ocean was dredged by the trust volunteers some time ago and many willows were felled or pollarded.  The main channel is essentially clear but the vegetation close to the gardens has grown strongly and tall.  WD were to reduce the height of the greenery and pollard the willows.
Base camp was established on the ‘Wedding Field’ by Stonehouse Court.
Richard gave training on the Grillo and Mike was on hand to give the benefit of his experience with the pole pruner/saw.
Several volunteers were given experience in working with the pole pruner and much young growth was removed from willows young and old.  So much work was done that it required 3 runs with the tipper to clear the brash away.
The greenery beyond the dock wall had been reduced by Heather from Wookey Hole and her mentee Chris using the heavy Stihl’s fitted with masher blades. These tools are very effective at reducing dense brush and greenery to a mulch which can be left to rot down or cleared as required.
During all these activities we were watched by the waterborne residents of the Ocean. The family of swans, 7 cygnets still in their grey plumage and two adults, are clearly the stars of the water.  They are ably supported by ducks and squadrons of moorhens and coots.
We had done some prior observations and watched the moorhens and coots disappearing into gaps in the reeds and were mindful of this when working and training throughout the day.

During the day the WD volunteers recorded skills in vegetation management and driving techniques which will reduce the load on those who already have them and bodes well for the work of the yard.  The intended training on strimmer tools will be re-programmed soon.  The weather was kind with yellow jackets quickly replaced with just the hi-vis waistcoats.  Fading summer tans were topped up and lungs refreshed.  The night’s sleep was well earned.
And a source within the 1B hierarchy has said that the bid review was successful with the team impressed with the work done and the evident enthusiasm of the volunteers visible on the day was commended.

But what of Reg?  He enjoyed a day away from the phone.  His primary role was as team speaker.  An essential role in any work team along the towpath as most people will stop and ask “What are you doing today?”  Reg was ideal for the role as he knows much about what we are doing now and for the future.  His forte was, and is, the emollient link between WD and the residents around the Ocean. And he set up the day for us – not sure how he managed the good weather though!

10 volunteers were trained across 5 disciplines:  Polesaw, Grillo, Tipper Driving, Trailer Towing and Jet Washer use.
Congratulations to David C, Andy J, Matt J, Vince H, Bob K, Phil S, Richard A, Steve P, , Frank L and Clive B.
Thanks go to Frank L, Richard A, Mike L, Dave C and Bob A for sharing their knowledge and experience with the group.  And of course to Reg.

17 October 2019

Wednesday Dredging East of Ebley.

by: Andrew R.

We've dredged along the wharf wall and to the end of the landing stage two metres wide min and at full depth in the last 3 dredging sessions.
We have been digging out up to 600 mm - 2 foot of silt every bucket. As we now know now Margaret is enjoying pushing full hoppers with ease.
It would be much appreciated if vessels with motors pass slowly along this stretch so the excessive silt does not get washed from the higher middle level to fill up where we have dredged.

15 October 2019

Tuesday Training Day on Dredger and Tug work

by: Andrew R.

Training on Patricia at Ebley Wharf. Chris K was  full flow a steadily gaining confidence. The silt bed by the wall is over 60 cm. deep and no rubble so filling the hopper was fast. 
It was agreed we would trial as an experience Dredger trainer/operator With Chris an experience tug hopper operator to trial full loading of Hoppers, then transport to Langleys field.

For those who don't know hoppers can be loaded so gunwales are level with the water. We were short of this by 15cm. More importantly we loaded the silt so it pushed the water out over the gunwales. 

This has only been done once before in the past four years on the Stroud canal.
It was great to work with Chris who showed high level skills with the tug.  In fact one of the few I have worked with or observed moving a hopper with Margaret so well.  Nearly a perfect centre channel journey.  As we agreed a lot easier with FULL hopper.
To finish, so much possible now there's a clear channel from Ebley to Ryeford

14 October 2019

The 'Adventure' begins - Cotswold Canals Trust Wheelchair Accessible Trip Boat

Construction has now commenced on the Trusts new electric powered trip boat, a 54ft x 10ft semi-trad craft and this increase in size will allow better access and manoeuvrability for wheelchair users.  

She is powered by 2 x electric motors linked to a single prop. A large solar Photo Voltaic (PV) array on the roof will charge the batteries.  There is also a plug in power option.  It is anticipated, dependant on final choice of batteries, to have a cruising range of around 8 hours.  A recharging point will be installed at CCT's Saul Junction mooring site.  The design includes the ability to remotely monitor battery condition and systems.  In fact it even has the ability to turn on the heating, while plugged into shore power, well in advance of a charter or indeed to keep 'frost proof' during the winter months.  

The boat is designed to carry 12 passengers with a crew of 3 to 4 and will incorporate a wheelchair lift at the bow.  She will initially enter service on the Gloucester-Sharpness Canal, but will move to the Stroudwater Canal as soon as possible after the completion of the Stroudwater Navigation restoration project.
Ortomarine, based nearby in Worcestershire, will be fitting out the boat, a modified design of the excellent 'Pamala May' which operates on the Droitwich Canal.  The hull, is being fabricated in the UK by Tyler-Wilson in Sheffield.
The internal general arrangement is shown in the illustration below (click to enlarge).

We are very grateful to the organisation, Trusts and individuals who made this project possible and for their patience whilst we finalised the design and the funding arrangements.

A progress continues, look out for updates.

11 October 2019

Maintenance at Dudbridge lock by Dredging team....
….and associates leads to start of dredging at Ebley confluence weir.

by: Andrew R.

Spawning season in river section now means no more Dredging from Ebley weir to Wallbridge Upper lock.  After a successful clearance of the stop planks, canvases, metal scaffold planks, poles, rocks, silt and 150 ish sandbags we needed to leave the river section.
So Monday and Wed morning dedicated Dredger crews, fully trained operators of ‘Patricia’, cleared the final parts under the road bridge as a maintenance/construction task to prepare site (note: not Dredging)

So it was byebye Dudbridge, hello Ebley for Patricia (soon Annette2 with No5.)

Wednesday lunchtime.
A keen and skilled team crewed Margaret the Tug ( David,Chris, Malcolm) pulling the fully laden hopper ‘WEFT’ to Wiggles Yard Wharf in a perfect straight line, proving the tugs can work in reverse when a hopper is well down in the water.  Then manoeuvred with a nearly elegant 180 to push it, this of course after a chatty lunch with Dredger crew John and Andrew.

Off we all pottered or should I say Motored!  It was a joy to sail?? down the canal through the freshly dredged section to the river outlet without worrying about silt banks.  Unfortunately from the outlet to the confluence weir we cannot dredge for six months and there are still serious silt banks for any deep vessels. Didn’t Margaret and the hopper have fun there!

Dredging now at Ebley 8 Metres west of the confluence weir as spawning rules dictate.  This process of dredging this section is going to take months and hoppers are going to fill fast as every clamshell bucket did have and will have a full load of silt.  We hardly moved and a hopper was filled and we only did 2 1/2 metres from tow path.

When we tried to moor to Wharf wall east of landing stages at Ebley at the end of the day with the hopper ‘WARP’ it was nearly impossible as the silt was too high.  So first task for next two weeks at least is to clear at least a 3 metre wide strip along the wharf wall to ensure a clear channel for ease of approach and mooring.

It is therefore very important we therefore have full tug crews operating so the Dredging doesn’t stop.  We therefore hope committed tuggers start earlier in the day and finish later when ever the Dredger’s are working.  Please be assured we are now in a new phase where we will be digging nearly almost certainly just silt and therefore hoppers will fill fast.  This is very exciting and is what we’ve been waiting for as dredger operators and tuggers!  No sitting around.  We need to keep the Dry Dredging team busy off loading, as if they haven’t got enough to do being tugged in several directions!  On many tasks.

We are also going to fill hoppers to near there maximum as the centre of the canal from Ebley to Ryeford will allow deeper drafted vessels. We can almost see the need for 2 tugs operating so hoppers are transferred quickly to stop delaying dredging.

Once again from John and Andrew thank the  tuggers for a very active Wednesday and especially as they did extra tasks like collecting the iron stay for the stop planks and brushing down the Ebley landing stage of burst sand bags deposits on request from the dredging team, whilst waiting for a hopper, great to see.  Also thanks to the depot for sending out the Mitzi and volunteers to move sand bags to Dudbridge caged area at Redlands.

It’s great what a phone call or direct person to person request achieves at grass root level!

Also good news there are new dredging trainees who are on task for dredging which is good to see.

A reminder to Dredger operator Volunteers who have NOT updated their skills and knowledge training in the past year for Patricia or 2/3 years for No 5.  You will have to before you can operate the Dredger’s again.  You need to receive full update training even if you have a WRG ticket from operating no5 before recent refurb/upgrade.  Patricia is obvious as a completely different vessel to No5 and No5 because of its reconfigurations and operations in conjunction with Annette2, also the updated tighter safety rulings both for operating and bio regulations, so any of those few people who want to dredge again you will need to consult with Myself, Bob H and John S.

Thanks again.
From excited Dredging leads/trainers Andrew and John and other present day Dredger operators.

09 October 2019

Dudbridge Dredging

by: Chris K.

During the clearance of silt from the lock, the most interesting object that was removed from the lower gate entrance was the former lock gate rail. 
One end has a square bracket, the other end a threaded rod which must have passed through the lock arm. 

Dredging has now moved onto Ebley. 
A Report on Sandbags

by: Jenny K.

As Skipper of the day I take my responsibilities very seriously.  
Here I am inspecting a Company of Sandbags which had arrived by punt from Dudbridge lock where they had been seconded to shore up the stop lock.  This unruly bunch received a severe dressing down for having left the punt (Aquilla) in such a sorry state. 

After a suitable retribution had been extracted Steve and I attended to Aquilla's mortal needs.  
Then to avoid further indignity we hitched her to Goliath and removed her to Ryeford Warf having re-homed some reprobate sand en route.
Western Depot Manager Spreads His Wings

by: Chris C.

The air was heavy with the prospect of heavy rain as the depot filled with expectant volunteers. Yellow jackets were the order of the day. Today was the day that Lodgemore Bridge would rise again. The bridge had become increasingly reluctant to close after it was raised until it required a van to rise on upon the span like Silver dancing to William Tell’s overture bring it back to horizontal. At this point the bridge was closed to water traffic. Not that there is much demand at the moment whilst Dudbridge is blockaded.

Jeff had wired up an electrically powered hydraulic pump and had installed it in the new control box on the plinth by the bridge. The manual pump which had improved the aerobic capacity of many volunteers was returned to Western Depot where it stands sulking in the corner of the barn.

The old hydraulic pipes had been drawn back across the water and coiled and hung on the fence like a pair of spectacles which gazed on the water watching the damsel flys dance.
The team assembled at the bridge and set up the exclusion zone whilst Reg collected the cherry picker from Chestnut lane. Reg’s progress was marked by the chirping of the bleeper warning that he was charging along at just 5mph.

New hoses were run and measured, with Arthur dangling from the cherry picker at the top of the operating cylinder, only to be pulled back through the pipe-bridge for Arthur to fit the end couplings. Running the first hose back through the pipe was as easy as pushing spaghetti through a straw – it kinked and wriggled and made slow progress. After some firm wrangling by Arthur the hose completed its journey across the water.  The second hose was lashed to the first and pulled through. The spaghetti wrangling continued as the hoses and cables were worked though more pipes and bends until they emerged in the control box. 

Then Reg went flying for the second time, piloting Arthur up to the operating cylinder to make the top connections. You never know when a PPL will come in handy.  With the connections made Arthur was safely brought back to the ground and Reg commenced to taxi off the bridge. With just one wheel left on the bridge the cherry picker stopped and gave a plaintive cry and refused to move. As is usual in these circumstances buttons were pushed and switches were wiggled until the fight was won and Reg drove the beast to safety and the WSP delivery driver could pass through to get his lunch.

After lunch, with the tank filled with hydraulic fluid, the first turn of they key to start the bridge lifting. There was a judder, then a small hop and then a massive jump to at least 6 inches. Swiftly followed by a clang as the bridge was ‘lowered’. Adjustments were made and oil added to the tank and off again. More height and more controlled lifting but still came a louder clang as the bridge sought the safety of the ground. Humphing and ha-ing followed. A diagnosis was made and new parts tried which increased the lift control but not the lowering. Stumps was called but a solution was apparent to be tried once another part was obtained. 

Thanks to the team of Arthur, Chris, Jeff, Reg and Vince the bridge will be back in full service soon but until then there will be no waterborne traffic through Lodgemore Bridge

08 October 2019

The Herefordshire and Gloucestershire Canal - in operation and restoration

This is a follow-up to the talk we had in March on the construction of the canal and the afternoon visit in June to two of its major sites, Over Basin and Oxenhall. Our speaker is Dick Skeet, the author of “Rescued from Obscurity: The Continuing Story of the Hereford and Gloucester Canal”. The fully illustrated talk will provide a brief recap of the construction of the canal which took about 45 years from 1783 to complete the 34 miles to Hereford, but will be more concerned with its operation and eventual demise after being leased by the Great Western Railway. In recent years the H&G Canal Trust have been carrying out major restoration projects along various sections of the canal and we will learn about the considerable successes and some of the tribulations.

01 October 2019

Goughs Orchard water feed

by: Andy P.
Over the last few weeks a big effort was made to lay the heavy water feed pipes and connect them together.  Not forgetting the extra metre to hand dig out under the towpath to avoid the gas and water pipes.  Fittings were made to support the 90 degree bend so it rests on the canal bed, some 3m below. Another very heavy bit of pipework in place.

This week we returned en masse to do some more digging and to drop the pipe on the slope, cut a hole and fit the vacuum connector and make some more connections. Only 2 connections left to finish when the parts arrive. Peter A and Vince visited to see the progress being made.
Looking forward to the great second switch on ceremony!


Peter A. - This pipe is a big step up in quality and stands the best chance of being gas tight, a critical requirement.  It was kindly donated to us by Thames Water following conversations with Ken B.  With the head of the pipe now 1m lower than the original installation, the demands on the vacuum will be much reduced.  Passing by yesterday and observing all the pounds above Bowbridge at full level, the locks full and the spill weirs functioning, was a most pleasing sight.  I too am really looking forward to the switch-on.
Last Chance Dredging

by: Chris K.

Today Monday 30th September last chance to dredge on the river section of the cut by Ebley fish weir. 
An early start at 8am and late finish at 5.15pm cleared the last of the silt for this season between Dudbridge and Ebley on the river section. Wookey hole cleared the banks along side the foot path. 
Thanks to crew of Patricia and Margaret for a good days work. 

28 September 2019

Jubilee Bridge Canal leak
by: Andy P.

A number of leaks from the canal into the river have been identified and the plan was to dig out the towpath behind the coping stones to a sufficient depth to identify the leaks and to back fill with clay.  Early Monday morning 13 tonnes of finest Oxford blue clay was delivered, with the truck carefully reversing down Ham Mill lane and along the track to the gate by Jubilee Bridge.

The crew of Bob, Mathew, Maurice, Jason, Kay and Andy P set about closing and diverting the towpath and when the mini digger arrived, the first explorations were made. It was not long before the first leak appeared or rather a gushing flow that created another Bob Ambury canal extension.

The trench was back filled and the clay and pushed down with the digger to seal the leak. We tried wheelbarrows but soon reverted to dumper loads as flow number 2 appeared along with a large void under the old gas main. We may have found the main route to the river.

Work continued in rainy weather as the trench was filled and covered with trench plates-it was a very muddy mess by now.

On Weds Bob, Mathew and Andy P continued digging and back filling.  Several more large holes were found and then a whole length of wall was leaking back into the trench.  As we back filled we could see the water being forced back through the wall. We continued until the marker post about 28m in total.  It was noticed that Griffin Mill spill weir was now flowing and no obvious signs of water into the river we've seen.

All the clay was used and we apologise to the tow path users but its a bit messy at the moment.  However we are sure Jon P. and his team will work their magic to repair the towpath.

26 September 2019

The Tug Team reports

by: Jenny K.

We put Margaret through her paces today.  First we collected Warp from the dry dredger team above Ryeford Locks and delivered her to the wet dredgers on Patricia at Hilly Orchard playing fields.  We swapped the empty Warp for the full Weft and delivered Weft to the dry dredgers.  While she was being filled we stopped for early lunch ( or was it late elevensies ) and topped up the stern gland on Margaret.  
We then took the now full Weft back to Patricia who had moved to the river weir at Ebley and swapped hoppers again.  Back to the dry dredgers with a full Warp by which time it was raining so we sat in the cabin on Margaret while she was being emptied and then prepared to take Warp back to Patricia.  
We had a phone call to say that Patricia needed some on the go maintenance which meant Weft was not going to be filled before we clocked off.  So as we were going that way we took Warp back to Ebley and moored her on the landing stage.

In all, a good day.
Project 'DNF' - No.5 Refit

Whilst the Project Leader has been floating around the canal system for the past two weeks in glorious sunshine, work has continued.

John S. reports:

Rerouting and shortening of bucket hoses – Should be completed (Wednesday) or Monday latest.  We’ve retained the QR fittings, but these are now in line and not right angled. The chippies have modified the wooden block on the end of the dipper, so routing and also protecting the hoses. Looks very ‘nice’.
Jib drooping – We placed a ball valve in the pipe lines to determine where the leak (if there is a leak) is. After much experimenting the droop stops after a few minutes. By isolating lines we found it’s not the valve/s or block.  Also the ram (seals and shaft) appears to be ok. An opinion is that it is simply air in the system and should work it self out (via the reservoir) during use.

Balance of joystick control – The fitting of restrictors should enable ‘balancing’. Arthur is going to fit (next Monday) the x2 restrictors that Andrew R. has supplied.  Note that these are bi-directional.  They would probably be better if they were uni-directional, but until we’ve tried them out in anger we won’t really know.  Valves are easy to change if required.

The (BSS) safety inspection was done on the 18th. Without going into too much detail all that needs to be done (to get the certificate) is to clearly label the battery isolator switch and the fuel isolator switch/tap, and to pot covers over the battery and starter solenoid connections.

(Bribery took the form of a mug of tea, with two sugars, and a bit of a walk around the depot!)
The warning stickers are now ordered.

25 September 2019

CCT Summit Section Work Party Sunday 29 Sept.

by: Karen Shaw

A reminder about Sunday's work party from 10 am to 4 pm. We have 8 people being trained to use scythes - there are 2 more spaces if anyone wants to join in with that.  

Please still come along (if you are not taking part in the scything training) as there are plenty of other tasks needing doing such as manually cutting back and strimming the banks and towpath, and keeping a bonfire going. Plus, if time and enough volunteers; continuing to board the edge of the towpath.

New members are very welcome to come along for all or part of the day. I usually provide tea / coffee and Christine a cake, but please feel free to bring along your own hot or cold drinks, and a packed lunch or have lunch in the pub.

As usual, please wear sturdy (preferably steel toe capped) footwear or wellington boots and stout clothes. Long sleeves and trousers are recommended to avoid nettle stings and insect bites. Gloves and all other PPE are provided along with all necessary tools, apart from chain saw equipment.

The site is reached by a well sign-posted track to the Tunnel House Inn on the right, as you come down Tarlton Road out of Coates and after a tight bend under a railway bridge. Postcode is GL7 6PW. On arrival at the pub car park, please park on the right.

Dates for the next work parties are:
Sunday 20 October 2019 with Butterfly Conservation volunteers 
Sunday 17 November 2019 
Sunday 15 December 2019 with Christmas dinner at pub after.

Any questions please contact me: Karen Shaw on 07989 857435 or shawk30@gmail.com.

Look forward to seeing you.

24 September 2019

The BAT Squad rides again

Over the past few weeks, under the cover of a 'holiday' (Boat Acquisition Team)members of the squad have been out and about on the system looking for more equipment to assist us with our canal restoration.

A number of items have been shortlisted, but as usual, it will be the availability of funds that will determine just how many we can afford.  At the top of the list will be mud hoppers, closely followed by another tug boat.  If we go for the 50ft hoppers, it will be possible to pass through the locks without having to split the tug off, something necessary for up and coming planned dredging.
Of course, sponsorship would be most welcome - ducks not required!

14 September 2019

Dry Docking at Ryeford

by: Mark O'B

I am currently refurbishing a cottage at Ryeford bridge and was invited to help Tony and his protege (sorry bad memory for names!) to do some proper tugboat stuff and help clear the prop on Goliath. Nicely done in a calm, efficient and friendly manner! They then left me to my floor sanding as they went up to move a hopper, lucky ducks.