18 August 2019

Chestnut Lane obstruction Aug 14th 2019

by: Andy P.

The back of the previous excavation.
I was going to say this was something different but there again the heavy rain and mud up to your knees wasn’t a good start to the day.

Lowering the Wallbridge Lower-Dudbridge Upper Lock Pound, a 2 page Procedure digested with glee.  Leader Bob, Andy P and Mathew, at second visit in matching custard yellow 2 piece waterproof suit, set about the day.  The mini digger cleared a path to the canal side to re-find the big lump of concrete which we were tasked with removing.  Simple.  Drain canal to the procedure, hire breaker, and remove concrete.  Myron and Chris on Stewart provided, dropping anything in the canal, emergency support. 
After several hours the offending concrete started to show and we set about with the breaker. Will be done in a jiffy and we won’t get too wet.  Would like a word with the person who made this mix up with granite and stones as it was mighty tough.  Working in shifts, the 3 of us slowly pecked our way along and down and inwards. We even had a soggy lunch in shifts to keep the breaker going. 

The lump spent most of the day underwater as the canal drained to river level so it was hard to see where and what to break up. Feeling our way was the only option. 
We did what we could and a significant amount has been removed and water depth improved. 
Numerous visitors appeared during the day to watch our ‘progress’ but by 1600 or so, we had had enough and time to clear up.  The dredger will be needed to clear the rubble.  The width has not improved as opposite the gas main concrete covering is a 1 metre diameter old tree stump, which wasn’t moving. Some days are just hard and unpleasant and this was one of them.
Apologies for leaving the truck and digger in a mess but Bob was on his own at WD trying to unload and it was still raining and getting towards 6pm.  Sure you understand.

16 August 2019

Dudbridge Lower Lock

by: John S.

In advance of major reconstruction work, accumulated silt from the lock chamber has to be removed.
Taken from the cab of Patricia as we dredged out the silt from Dudbridge lower, in preparation for the wall repair.  We removed approximately 1.5 hoppers full.

15 August 2019

Ham Mill - the final countdown
by: Andy P.

A quick summary of the last few weeks work.

The block work on top of the concrete beam was built. The facing bricks were laid and pointed and the wall capped.

Western depot folks Mike L, Dave P and Maurice, supplied cement, slabs, bricks and then more bricks to keep us all going.   We set a new world record of 11 cups of tea made in 1 sitting.

Working from the plastic pig was interesting as you could lay mortar without you actually moving as the PP moved back and forth.

Heritage rubble was put behind the wall for drainage.

Surplus soil taken to the other side.

The other side new track was levelled for a possible mooring site.

The 2 dams and bog mats were removed and the BD is ready for a service and a change of career.

Numerous scrap runs were completed.

We even found time to weed, seed and plant some more bank plants.

The canal to river overflow was blocked off and the reluctant pipe was removed leaving a section under the tow path.

Even Samson left us but did struggle on its way.

Although there are only 4 in this photo, Andy, Duncan, Leader Bob and Mathew, I wish I could add in the other Ham Millers, Monday - Maurice, Richard, Jason and Kay who have all toiled, sweated, sworn regularly, heaved all sorts of things into all sorts of places over a number of years.  In fact I am told we first appeared at Ham Mill in 2013 so perhaps this merits a more detailed what has Ham Mill ever done for us story.
Yard cleared in the time available and things taken to Brimscombe.  Fence posts hammered in for Dave S.
The neighbours gave us big goodbye hugs. We will miss each other. Even Dino the big fearsome dog looked sad.
2 records were set as super delighted neighbour Wendy was the first non CCT person through the lock and Bob and Wendy’s boat was the first non CCT boat through the lock as they went to rescue the plastic pig which some idiots had untied and was down at Griffins lock. A thorough soaking being their reward.
We did manage to have a goodbye and thank you sandwich at the Brewery before we went to Chestnut lane bridge bird surveying-yes the things we volunteer for.

So, unbelievable as it seems our work is done.  Hopefully the team and its spirit, friendship and camaraderie can be maintained.  Along with cake, nice weather, timely plans we stick to and some easier jobs-Mmmm.  Maybe not.

12 August 2019

Just the Ticket!

by: Richard F.

Margaret worked well today, two full hoppers and two empty ones shuttled between Patricia and the dry dredging team. In between times she travelled down to the Ocean to check accessibity for the charter boat. 
The towpath team requested assistance to check the spillway bypass at Ryeford and a problem on one of the lock gates at Ryeford was reported.  Weedie was checked out after the recent bad weather.

The bonus was that I got the hopper handling endorsement for my tug ticket. 
Harper's Field

by: Dave C.

With a multitude of tasks to complete today, it was great to have so many multi-talented people at Harper's Field. It started with Vince making sure the new Welfare Unit didn't end up running downhill into the canal, by removing the wheels and replacing with railway sleepers, whilst Clive, Jill and John took shifts in finishing painting the storage container - John can just be seen finishing off the roof 
Whilst this was going on, Jason turned up to assess and guide us in the requirement for the Piling Barge to start work on the mud barge off-loading platform (must find a better name for that). So Andy, Les and Jason set off for the darkest corner of the field, and were quickly at work making a platform so the bank operator will be able to guide the piles without falling into the canal, and, with no little amount of persistence, removed the obstructing 'shrub' stumps.

Steve spent all morning finishing off tasks and then set off to the dark corner to help Jason position the piles so the crane on the barge could pick them up.

Then, as we felt there had been enough variety during the day, Jason used the mini-digger to straighten the new digger's door, with the bucket and some well place bits of wood. Having got the door perfectly straight it was refitted for us to find it needed to be curved.

We also had a morale boosting visit from the CCT Chairman, who was successful when he moved his car so we could all go home.

Project 'DNF' - No.5 Refit

Without the acquisition of a couple more mud hoppers, there is little motivation to get No.5 back in the water.  Should some appear, then it is most economic to combine lift and transport operations.

Today, more 'nice to haves' were achieved.  Various discussions as to how to prevent the boom from impacting the cabin realised several ideas, some involved large amounts of rubber, with possible electrics.  Today's solution was a very simple one and does not employ rubber or electrons. 
A simple pointer has been attached to the turret and when it is rotated to what we consider to be a safe distance from the cabin, can be seen to line up with a red marker on the deck, one each side.
The second 'nth' was a window prop, which can easily be installed to provide a clear view of the boom operations.  Originally, a chain restraint did the job, but this is a bit tidier. 
Inspection of the mounting points for the side tanks revealed that one had suffered badly from shock with the result that the bolt hole was enlarged to a rough oval.  Some hard graft with a file made it large enough to insert a tubular sleeve, which we welded in place.  There should be a lot less slack in the system now.

Samson goes to Ryeford

By: Myron

A Little Bit of History Perhaps

Samson was on its way down from Ham Mill to Harper’s Field.  Since discovering what we believed was a narrow but deep channel through what we call the gas main, we have wanted to see how far we could get a tug up East.  After the dredging that was done last year we thought we should be able to get right up to the sewer at Wallbridge.  So, the offer was made to pick up Samson from there last Friday.  In preparation for what was going to be a long journey, we moved Margaret above Dudbridge Lower on the previous Wednesday.

On the morning the boat was prepared, locks were set, people met and briefed. Then the adventure began. The first anticipated hazard was just out of Foundry lock where silt is known to collect. Well sure enough, just level with the weir Margaret stated to hit the silt bottom.  She slithered about in a most inelegant way, but we actually managed progress, with David expertly finding the channel at not much above tick over. Then came the gas main, where I took over, heart in mouth we approached. You could cut the tension in the boat with a knife. The bow was over what we knew was the worst. Would the skeg get caught, No, she was through. A cheer went up, in the boat and on the bank.

Margaret through the Gas Main.

Chestnut Lane and just beyond proved to be the biggest challenge so far. More revs were needed as we went through the bridge, but still doable. As we went passed the slipway there was still a lot of slithering about. We had been worried about this section. Before the Dredgers came the water available here was no more than a few inches. But we made it into slightly deeper water. Now came Lodgemore Bridge and we could see journey’s end. But it was not to be. In the middle of the bridge hole Margaret came to a grinding halt. We tried again, same result. We tried once more with more revs and a run up but no. We did not attempt a flat out approach, as we thought we’d end up perched on a pile of gravel, unable to move and unable to lower the bridge. But what a great result. Well done to the Dredgers for getting us that far. This section was never meant to be dredged to full depth or width as it was a means to an end to get to Stanton’s Bridge. And just how do you dredge under a bridge that is so low, busy with traffic and takes 10 minutes to raise and 15 minutes to lower. The amazing thing is that we found just enough width to be able to turn Margaret around. Relatively quickly we bow hauled Samson through the bridge. We would now tow Samson until we could get behind her.

Margaret Manages to Turn at Lodgemore Bridge.

At this point I had to go to hospital for an no canal related problem, so I had to miss the best bit. We discussed and briefed how it would be achieved before I left. Towing a barge is a fraught process. There is a risk that the barge under momentum would hit a stationary tug. I returned about an hour later to find Samson already descending Dudbridge lock. Wow! Well done crew. There had been the odd drama where the whole issue had got stuck but we get that all the time in other stretches.

At this point, it started to rain, but thankfully soon passed. One of the big worries was that the forecast was for more heavy rain and strong winds. But it stayed warm and sunny all afternoon. With that and the fact that the previous night’s heavy rain, the weather gods were smiling on us.

The rest of the journey was now a known quantity. Ian, Jo and Chris S. left us at this point, having completed their mission to get us that far. Using Margaret to push Samson is an interesting exercise as you can’t see over the cabin and have to rely on hand signals from a crew member up front. So it is a credit to the crew that we got all the way to Harpers field with hardly  a scrape down the sides.

Samson at Harpers Field. Journey’s End.

We moored Samson up, returned Margaret to Ebley where just as we were mooring the wind started to really pick up. Good job that didn’t start any earlier. And we obviously debriefed in the Crown.

Job Done

A most satisfying day. Total time on route about 6 hours. The weather proved to be completely in our favour. The previous night’s heavy rain ensured the canal was at full level all the way through the 4 pounds we travelled, and yet we enjoyed sunshine and light winds until the very end. I would not want to attempt the journey above Foundry Lock in anything less than full depth. Special thanks to Ian, Joe, Chris S, David L, Chris D, Jerry and Dave I. A most professional job all round.

05 August 2019

Harpers Field Makes Further Progress.

by: Steve Ph.

Monday morning saw the arrival of a hired road-roller at Harpers Field which allowed us to convert an area of loose type 1 gravel into something like a car park!  With Les on the roller and Andy on the mini digger the lumps and bumps gradually started to be smoothed out.
Lunchtime saw the arrival of Chris with a new big (6 ton) digger and dump truck that CCT have bought at relatively low cost from a canal supporter, and once these have been serviced then they will join the teams equipment.  Initially the 6T digger may go to Langley’s Field where the dozer blade will be useful for levelling out the silt with the Ham Mill 15T digger coming to Harpers Field to work with the dump truck on construction of the new wharf, and eventually mud hopper emptying with the silt being laid out in the field to dry.
By the end of the day the hardcore looked more like a car park and with the digger and dumper parked on it Harper’s Field starts to look like a real CCT working site!

Project 'DNF' - No.5 Refit

Following on from the construction of a draft redirection device to vector the engine fans hot air out of the engine cover, today it received some paint, primarily to seal the surface.
A couple of hooks were also added so the assembly hangs on the engine.  A test took place, firstly to make sure nothing dropped off and secondly, to assess if the air flow had improved.

A great improvement was recorded.  There is a good positive hot air breeze emanating from the front hatches, so it would be good to think that there must be an equal amount of suction at the rear end.  A job to judge as there was a bit of a wind blowing today.

Further Wombling around the site resulted in about five wheelbarrow loads of stuff collected and relocated to a disposal area.  There is still a fine covering of sand laid down from when Patricia received her shot blasting.
On Wednesday, we will hopefully be attending to the last outstanding item, that of fine tuning the hydraulic balance of the boom and jib.

31 July 2019

Project 'DNF' - No.5 Refit

A few odd jobs, whilst we wait to refloat the boat.  The 'jazzy' red & white transit device has now been completed.  Here it is at the point of fitting ready to go into transit mode.
Easily reached from the deck with the boom raised, it can be placed around the main ram.
Once the boom has been lowered, it becomes captive and sets the boom in a rest position where the top point is roughly in line with the cab roof.  We have fitted a chain, which can be dropped over a hook so that, should the assembly get accidentally dropped, so it will not sink to bottom of the canal.  When not in use, the spacer can be stored away in a safe place.

The interior of the engine bay has had a few upgrades.  The side walls have received a fresh coat of white paint.  The floor has been extended under the cab so that the tool box is easily withdrawn and accessed, and an engine radiator air flow diverter has been made to send the hot air up out of the engine cover and not under the cab.  However, in winter, the warm air under the cab may be most welcome.
There is a little bit more to do to secure the air diverter effectively and then check operation with the engine running..

...and finally, to prevent damage to the engine cover when it is closed, we have fitted a couple of plastic door stops, one each side.
A start was also made on a site clearance.  Much detritus has accumulated during the refit.

30 July 2019

Like a Swiss Watch

by: Myron B.

You know you get one of those days when lots of things are planned and all are interdependent on each other to work. The Workboat Team had one of those today. Six boats all in close proximity and a lockside meeting. Also Weedie and a team from WD arranging removal of a pile of vegetation from the fish pass. What could possibly go wrong. Well er, actually nothing. It all went absolutely to plan.

Phase 1 was for some of us to meet at Delilah moored just below the gas main and bow haul it down through Dudbridge Lower. We were joined by Laurence, our H&S Director, coming out to help at the sharp end. Malcolm and David L. had brought up Margaret for later and also helped. Good, that’s what you need for bow hauling, lots of people. The first obstacle was expected to be the silt bank just above Foundry Lock, but it sailed over that and into the lock.  Ian from the council was already preparing the lock, so we were quickly into Dudbridge Lower.

Phase 2 was a vitally important meeting to decide how the Dredgers might remove the silt from the chamber of Dudbridge Lower. John S and Jon P were due to meet us lockside for this.  Bound to have to wait for them to turn up.  Nope, both arrived within 2 minutes of each other.  I’m glad to say that some very thorny operational and safety considerations were ironed out and a plan developed.

Phase 3.  Meanwhile Patricia had been carrying on dredging below the lock and just managed to fill the hopper as Delilah was ready to come out the lock.  Margaret grabbed the hopper and disappeared off to Langley’s field.  With those out of the way Delilah was gently and oh so skilfully manoeuvred out of the lock and passed a now moored Patricia. Alex and Brad now assisting.  It was moored at Wiggal’s Yard and swapped for an empty hopper that we just happened to have handy.  This was brought back to Patricia and the lads carried on dredging with hardly a pause.

Phase 4. Time to check out what else was happening in the flotilla. What was Weedie up to. As planned it was being used by Nick and John F to ferry out a load of vegetation from the fish pass and use its unique abilities to dispose of it. Buffers idea and it worked a treat. Dave and I joined him and Geoff in the fish pass, filling bins to pass to the Weedie team to load into the boat.  Hold on!  First bow hauling, now shovelling rubbish, hasn’t anyone told them I’m supposed to be management.  However, with six of us now the job and mechanisation to help, we soon broke the back of it.  We left after letting the Weedie crew know that they needed to be at Dudbridge Lower by 2:30 for passage or Weedie would be stuck in the upper reaches forever.
Phase 5. Passed Patricia digging away and back to the abandoned Delilah, where Dave and I met up with Margaret and crew to take Delilah to Harper’s Field.  A thoroughly pleasant trip, made particularly interesting by being joined at the locks by a Belgian family on holiday. They were totally fascinated by the whole process and of course, their offers to help were gratefully received on such a hot day. There were plenty of us to keep eye on them. Stroudwater Canal, international tourist destination of choice.  Four lock movements later we continued our idyllic journey. 

Phase 6. Delilah was deposited at Harper’s Field and then an every bit as lovely a return journey to return Margaret to her mooring at Ebley.  Time to check on Weedie, had she made it before the deadline. Yes, she’s now moored at Ebley, to be taken down to her home mooring at Boakes Drive on Wednesday. Margaret arrived bang on 4:00, which was when Dave and I needed to be there so we could get to the Ops and Dredger meeting at Brimscombe. Perfect!

That was my day, How was yours?

Harper's Field

by: Dave C.

A full on day of work was ahead of us as we assembled at Harper's Field. The news that the road roller wasn't coming due to the paperwork not being completed made morale drop as we realised it would be a day of mini-digger, shovels and rakes.  But before all that we had 2 VIP visitors to show around.  For those who have been wondering where the name Harper's Field came from, well it belongs to the Harper sisters Pat and Julie, and I had invited them down to see what we were doing to their field (I know it was a bit risky!), and helped by Reg we walked the field and showed them the plan, which they were both very impressed with.
Once the niceties were over we settled in for our first delivery on 20 tonnes of Type 1 hardcore.
And started using the mini-digger to spread it out
Having has a chat with the driver who express the opinion that, 'he wasn't going to do that again if the grass was wet' having struggled to get out when the lorry was empty, and a quick check with Cullimore HQ .  We decided we might as well go for it, and got agreement for 3 more deliveries, making 80 tonnes of stone to move.  Tonnes of stone then started to arrive thick and fast and say it was back breaking work for Les and Steve, as well as quick and efficient use of the digger by Andy, by the end of the day we got somewhere close.
Still lots to do but we are all hoping that the roller will turn up and we can put our rakes and shovels down for a bit.

25 July 2019

Ham Mill update
by: Andy P.

Quite a few things have been happening over the last few weeks

Screw piles inserted and tied into the sheet piles. All sheet piles inserted.

The bank was weeded and was well received for which we got chocolate biscuits. The small dam inserted to make pumping out quicker.
Samson moved through the lock to start on another landing stage.
A very large and very heavy length of angle iron was sourced and cut at the depot and the now working forklift, put it onto the tipper for Roy and Royston to deliver.

A 5 man lift slowly lowered it on top of the sheet piles. More holes drilled, more brackets cut and more nuts and bolts used to connect it all together. Everything painted before the waters returned.

A pathway was hacked through at the back of the bungalow into the field where Duncan on BD carved a track all the way to Jubilee Bridge.

Lots of measurements, more measurements and checking before Rebar and wire mesh were bent and cut and all fitted and tied together behind the sheet piles. All gaps were filled.
A concrete pump arrived then the concrete and the hole was filled and levelled ready for the brickwork to go on top.