20 February 2019

A38 Whitminster Roundabout - CCT working in Partnership(Phase 1B)
by: Dave C.

It was Monday morning when 2 pick-up loads of CCT volunteers and one pick-up of Stroud District Council personnel descended on Whitminster Roundabout.  CCT had been asked by the Contractors via SDC to help clear the centre of the roundabout of some of the trees, specifically those that obstructed the way for equipment to dig the new canal.  As most of you would imagine, working in the middle of roundabout involves multiple permissions and agreements, as well as working under the rules and regulations of Agencies.  So having had a brief at the depot, a man in a White Hat came and told us how to be safe and made us sign his form (he had a clipboard and everything), another chat with Amey's work supervisor to ensure we didn't get in each other's way and a couple of minutes with Geotechnical to check out their bore hole kit, and everyone was (almost) happy.  The traffic management people then turned up and put cones everywhere making us all very popular with the locals.

Dave P, Derek and Mike L set off with their chainsaws while Richard, Fred, Maurice, Ian M and John P (yes SDC personnel rolled their sleeves up and got on with the work).
Soon after getting started, a nice man from Amey wandered over to see us to ask if we could spare some volunteers to clear the space for the bore hole machine.  Suitably briefed off went Derek and Richard with chainsaw and pole-saw to clear the way.  Back came the man from Amey to tell us he needed the brash and wood taken away, a quick scan of the task quickly resulted in the conclusion we needed reinforcements, so out came Buffer and Jeff in the tipper. Clearly the work was taking its toll on some, so a trip back to the depot was arranged at lunchtime.  As the amount of wood was quickly pilling up, we called for the tipper again and Steve C dutifully arrived and a ferry system was established.  With all the logging cut and transported we called it a day and went for a nice sit down.

Wednesday we were back on site and Ian arrived with the new toy , an industrial sized chipper.  After a bit of head scratching on how to get the thing going, a few random buttons and leaves were pushed and pulled and the thing leapt into life.  There then began the competition to find the biggest bit of wood to through into chipper to see what would happen - the chipper was very chipper and coped with everything we had.
Clearly this was a bit of a different activity for our volunteers, involved in the first meaningful step of 1B restoration and working alongside Gloucester Highways, Amey, Geotechnical and of course SDC is a sign of things to come for anyone wanting to be involved in getting the Stroudwater Navigation Connected. (Now - Cotswold Canals Connected....ed.)

18 February 2019

Miles to go?

by: Will F.

The cry for help went up from the Wallbridge visitor centre, “our milestone is a bit unstable”. 
The National Waterways Museum at Gloucester has kindly leant us a replica stone milepost with an original mile plate from Bakers Mill, Frampton Mansell. Trouble was the uneaven bottom meant the whole assembly was liable to topple over. 

Chippies to the rescue,  Ray made a new base from a repurposed oak work top we had at Weston Depot and the resulting stand provided a fitting support. Now where is that tin of paint we had to pick out the lettering....?

Project 'DNF' - No.5 Refit

Yet another dry and fine day, we've done really well for them on this project.  An initial debate took place concerning the future of the cab, but either way, scrap or keep, it had to come off.

A cunning plan was hatched to highjack the tipper and load it on by first lifting it and loading onto skids, then sliding it across the decking onto the truck.  This all worked well.  On arrival at the landing point in the yard, we had the benefit of gravity and a raised tipper to help it progress to ground level.

All this has made our project look somewhat different.  Out of the shed came the two freshly painted fuel tanks.  These have now been placed in position.  They only just go past the engine, but that's enough for us!
Elsewhere, preparation and painting continued in the yard.  We also completed a stage one clean of the boom & jib.  Here loads of grease and dead foliage were removed.  A general clear-up of the site then followed.  In all, a lot to show for our days effort.  Thanks to the fine team that gathered for todays bash.
Time now needs to be spent searching for possible cab options.  We have Mr. Hydraulics arriving on Wednesday to plan the substantial plumbing job that awaits.

15 February 2019

Weedie gets a new conveyor mesh.

by: Myron

Wednesday morning first thing.  I am at the depot looking for a vehicle and some help to load it. ‘Use the tipper’ says Buffer, ‘I’ll give you a hand’ says Peter, taking a few minutes off from the dredger.  Loaded I say to Buffer a few minutes later. ‘Good, Dave will take it down in a few minutes, do you want some help unloading’ says Buffer.  ‘Too right’ says I. At this point Richard A and Steve C got roped in.  A few minutes later we met up with Nick and Rob at Stonehouse Court who had already got Weedie perfectly placed on the landing stage.  The six of us made very short work of getting everything in place. The tipper and its crew then went off to do more vitally important stuff. Thanks Western Depot.

In the mean time a crew was taking Goliath out from Ebley.  A very new crew were taking first tentative steps on their own on the big bad canal.  I’d already found out from Iain that the Wookey would busy themselves around Harper’s Field and even without an engine and wouldn’t need any assistance.  Great, time to get on with the job in hand but not before admiring the wonderful setting around this area.  This has to be one of the greatest spots on the whole canal network.

The next bit broke my heart. We have been nursing the old mesh very tenderly for a good while. Now hacksaws and chisels soon ripped it apart.  No time to dwell though.  Cable ties secured the first new section of mesh to the old.
The hydraulic power on Weedie was then used to drag the new mesh into the bowels of the conveyor structure.  About a metre or so at a time the new mesh was added and pulled onto the craft.  Old sections were dismembered as they came off.  Very quickly the new mesh appeared at the other end of the conveyor.
Next was the first tricky bit.  This was to disassemble the idler shaft so we could put the new sprockets on.  It resisted our efforts for an hour or so, but a combination of heat and an impact driver got it apart.  Re-assembly did not take long.  Power was again used to pull the new mesh onto the conveyor until all was new, none was old.
That was it for the day.  Literally tie the loose ends up, pack up and go home.

Thursday saw a change of crew.  We were now joined by Brian and John.  The task for today was to set up the drive roller at the front and make all the final checks and adjustments.  Here we had things go our way. A short while ago we had struggled with umpteen years of corrosion around this area, putting on a new drive motor for the drive roller.  This time round it all came apart in our hands.
The whole issue was re-assembled quite quickly.
Now came much measuring, adjusting, test running, measuring, adjusting, test running, measuring, you get the idea. The result was that it
It works!  A final clear up then home.

Ham Mill 11th and 13th Feb – The Trench Gets Ever Deeper
by: Matthew J.

This week the trench digging got serious with the return of the Slightly Bigger Digger (SBD). Actually it wasn’t the previous 8 ton digger but its slightly smaller cousin, the 5 ton Very Slightly Bigger Digger (VSBD). First job of the day was to uncover the trench box protecting the end of the bypass pipe that we had laid before Christmas. The bad news was that a fair bit of water had accumulated in the end of the pipe due to the rain over the last couple of months, so that when we removed the end plug it all gushed out and left us with a gloopy mess in the bottom of the trench.
The VSBD then set to work extending the trench back towards the bridge so that we could lay the next 6m length of pipe. Unfortunately the stickiness of the mud meant that the digger bucket regularly required mechanical assistance to empty it out, resulting in a strange mating ritual between the VSBD and the mini-digger.

The depth of the trench by this point was such that extreme care had to be taken, but the job was eventually done and by Monday evening the new section of pipe was in place with a wooden marker to show where it ended.

Finally the trench could be back-filled, enabling the team to exercise their creative skills by simulating a World War 1 battlefield. The end result was satisfyingly realistic.

On arriving back on Wednesday morning, a slightly reduced team faced the challenge of extracting the trench box from its previous resting place, so that it could be moved over the new pipe end. Unfortunately the VSBD proved to be unequal to the task, so the two halves of the box had to be lifted out separately.

The rest of the day was spent in extending the trench to meet up with the previously-dug section going down the sloping towpath. The pipe has to negotiate a 45 degree turn at this point, and this is also where it is effectively at its deepest, so the final excavation was of epic proportions. The trench box was then reassembled and slid into place over the pipe end. Further manual excavation will be required to allow the final sections to be put in place, but that will have to wait for next week’s thrilling instalment…..
With thanks to Bob, Duncan, Richard, Matthew, Jason and Kay.
T for Training (and Tuesday)

by: Bob H.

The Wet dredging team decided some time ago that Tuesdays would be good for training days. We soon discovered that in the words from the Michael Jackson song “You are not alone.”  

This week, two, crew and an Instructor gathered at Ryeford for a “session.”
Since the dry boys had used our previous work area, we carefully manoeuvred Patricia backwards to a new patch towards Ryeford Lock. To make life interesting, we had a mud hopper attached alongside, (“breasted up” in Narrowboat parlance.) 

Now, we knew that the trip boat team were having a training day and would arrive about 11:30 (we get calls from them asking if all is ok.)  Of course we always agree a plan. 

It was a bit of a surprise when Goliath the Tug and crew turned up just after we lowered Pat’s legs down!  They decided to “play” with a full hopper but got it firmly wedged between OUR hopper and the bank.
So, it’s 11:30 as they began to free it,  and?
Here’s Percy!

Bob M and his crew happily pirouetted on a deep, freshly dredged bit before waiting to go down through Ryeford Lock.  After assisting them passed our hopper, we eventually had to yield, lift the legs and move over a few inches to allow Goliath to pass through. 

Later still, after unavoidably putting water into the hopper, we have developed a technique of helping remove the water by using our bucket, starting in the closed position!  Even with the holes drilled by Peter A and Vince H, we can still remove about 100 litres each move (it’s a 150 litre bucket). 

13 February 2019

Project 'DNF' - No.5 Refit

…"we had a sort of feeling, if we remove the ceiling..."

Well, with the removal of a bolt or three, we had the blighter free!  That meant that the whole cab section, which is in need of serious tin worm therapy, can be lifted off the vessel.  Our intention is to transport it into the barn so that the repair task becomes considerably easier.  That's for another day.  A test lift proved that it would separate.
The decks have been pressure washed.  Considerable detritus had collected over time, so since it was spring like, a spring clean was in order.
The main job was the fabrication of the cradle to support the hydraulic tank.  This had to take into account the 50mm slope on the bottom of the tank so as to keep the top face level and not too visually offensive.  All the metal was found to create this thing, which now sits waiting in the paint department.  It will bolt onto the webs in the bottom of the hull.

Just three and a half of us today, but fine achievements for a days work.
The Week after the Snows

By: Buffs

After the weekend’s snow Western Depot slowly came to life. The chill in the ground seeped slowly into the morning sky creating a gentle haze over the canal at Pikes Lock. The ice which had crusted the water held fast and in the shadier places was still there as we left in the gloaming. Along the cut our boats worked created crazy paving over the water as they passed through. The yard, washed over with a muddy brush, was soon to be patterned by the deep cut soles of our boots.

A slow start as snow depth stories were swapped and the sign in sheet crept to nearly full. A bench to be fitted so off went 4, the dredger to be worked on - away with another 6; fittings to be turned and joints to be welded - 3 to huddle in the workshop around the potbellied stove to soften cold joints before delicately caressing the machines. 

The yard soon echoed with ring of hammers on metal and the scream of a grinder as the current ‘sculpture’ hanging from the A frame was worked into a working HIAB crane for the heavy barge Delilah. Frames and fixings were measured, cut and shaped to be welded into their final form.

Now the hiss and splutter of the burning torch as it was coaxed into life and steel was cut to size for the deck of the dredger. The always fascinating dance of the white hot molten steel spray driven away from the flame to hiss and twist into red then grey as it cooled on the muddy ground.  

The sun crept through the barn warming the part painted parts allowing second coat to be applied with every prospect of it drying before the end of the day.  
The Office rang to say that the new van would be ready for collection ‘soon’, but alas as the day wore on soon became tomorrow which means Wednesday.  

Wednesday came with a high demand for movements. Tower scaffold to go back to its owner and could we pick up a pillar drill on the way, the van to collect from Gloucester, the small pick-up and deliver jobs with the two Mitzis and not enough drivers signed on. Not entirely true as most of our drivers have other skills which were needed throughout the yard on Wednesday so it fell to the duty manager to spend time behind the wheel. 

The Office finally confirmed that the new van was ours and had all the correct papers in place. Off to Gloucester went the driver and the van returned to the yard before lunch. The general comment was ‘It’s red’ followed by have we got enough white/ green/purple paint for it. And a common aside ‘we can put some Wergie stickers on it and blame them if anything goes awry’

After lunch a more detailed inspection generated a jobs list for the next couple of days but none of these will stop it being used if required. It is reported to have a reasonable turn of speed and it stops when the brakes are applied. It will have a long and fruitful life with us.
The WD volunteers have become accustomed to the lunch call and musical accompaniment being provided by the raucous scream of an angle grinder on metal. Someone forgot to tell John D this and he started to cut the hinges from the old engine cover from the Dredger far too early in the day. The sound of stomachs rumbling in a Pavlovian response to the siren call could be heard in the far corners of the yard. John proceeded to break the pattern further when he stopped for lunch. You just can’t get the staff these days

12 February 2019

Joining forces 

by: Bob H.

In the Ryeford to Dudbridge pound, the dry dredging boys have been doing a fantastic job with their Long Reach excavator. 

Meanwhile, the Wet dredging boys have been working Patricia up to speed by clearing along the bit on the offside that the long reach isn’t quite long enough for.   For a short time today, we were VERY  close together.

Patricia and crew can now up legs and move forward quite quickly, so we decided it was a good idea to move backwards towards the lock, picking up an empty hopper on the way. 
Dredging then continued until almost dark - there’s plenty to do up there! 

"May all your combined leaks never exceed your bilge pump capacity. 

11 February 2019

Project 'DNF'  - No.5 Refit

The assembled team today managed a variety of jobs.  Painting featured, as it most often does as did interior cleaning of the cab.  The painted deck plates were installed on a gasket of sealant and tightened down.  At leas the rain water cannot run into the hold now.  Last Friday's, storm Erik, left quite a deep puddle to pump out.
After looking in the obvious places and failing to find the woodruff key for the turret hydraulic motor, it eventually turned up in an unexpected place, but we were pleased it did.

When it came to fit the key, we noticed that the keyway was 3.3mm smaller on the new pinion and required milling down, but tight along the sides (as it should be)  In the old pinion there was 1mm of slack - not good.  A large cover plate that protects the bearings was found to be minus its fixing screws, so had been hanging down out of place.  This we fixed in place with new screws.

The actual fitting of the pinion took a bit of care, especially checking the dimensions of the shaft etc.  In the end we achieved a fantastic fit by heating the pinion to about +80C so that it slipped nicely over the shaft.  When cool, it will be a very tight fit.

The motor assembly was then lugged into position.  It is very heavy.  Now back in place, we just need to secure it down.
All the holes in the deck that once had various hydraulic fittings have now been filled and sealed with coach bolt heads.  The largest was the return pipe to the hydraulic tank, one of the largest trip hazards.  
Late in the day, the hydraulic tank was extracted from the barn and placed in the hold.  Mountings are required for this. 
Four Get Wet in Whitminster

A late message on a phone “Can you help out at Whitminster on Friday. We need an extra pair of hands as we reduce a couple of overhanging trees below Occupation Bridge” – reply “Isn’t going to be wet and windy?”- “It’ll be ok we won’t be out too long”

So began a three hour soaking in the best that Storm Erik could throw over the West of England. It was very windy and very wet. The wind that blew from east to west along the line of the cut had become all the more fierce as it rushed over the water unhindered by the extensive clearance of trees and undergrowth by the WRG Christmas campers. One of the intrepid four had to bring Workpunt Stuart from its mooring East of Occupation Bridge through the arch to the West side. The boatman had to paddle and push to coax the boat into the deeper water for Stuart was warm and dry by the bank and didn’t want to play in the windswept water, neither did Stuart want to get his deckboards wet. It was with a series of wind driven pirouettes on the water that progress was made to the bridge where a helping hand was waiting in the deepening mud to haul the boat through the arch. Set free on the wind Stuart came to rest on the pipe-bridge as the still in place cover prevented further progress. This was hastily removed and boat and crew slipped under and was drawn and blown to the worksite.

The rain eased a little, a brief respite as the heavens temporarily dried.

The day’s task was to complete the removal of overhanging branches from trees close to the pipe-bridge which were outstanding from the Christmas clearance task. The two saw-men and their willing helpers set about assessing the best way to reduce the branches over the water and bring them ashore for reducing to manageable logs. Ropes were attached to boughs and cuts carefully made in line with the cutting plan until with a creak and a twist the branches fell where they were expected to. The target boughs were heavy and multi forked with nature formed twists which required more cutting. Saw men love their saws and don’t like getting them into the water. The resulting fountains are spectacular but have a habit of soaking the sawyer, the audience has the option of running away which they usually do. With much huffing and puffing and heaving on ropes the branches were lifted just clear from the water for a dry cut to be made and the lumber was dragged ashore for further reduction later.

The rain came again, with malice aforethought, driven on by Erik’s mighty blast. The four were getting wetter and colder…..

 The Workpunts constructed by Western Depot have become a favourite of the chainsaw fraternity as they are remarkably stable platforms to work from and, as the Christmas work party showed, have a good capacity for cut logs which are recovered from the water. The boats are so stable that using an extending pole saw at its full length of 4 metres is as easy on the boat as on the bank. And so it proved on Friday. Small branches were removed from the long target branches to make the felling of the big stuff less difficult. In skilled hands the pole saw can be used to remove branches up to 20cm (8”).
As the storm built to a crescendo the final piece of the jigsaw was undone as the last and heaviest branch was lassoed and severed from its trunk and coaxed onto the bank by three men on a rope and one man in a boat. 

At this point the four decided that incipient hypothermia needed to be acknowledged – waterproof hi-vis jackets have their limits - Dripping rain onto heavy work trousers being one of them. 

The jumble of branches and scrub left on the bank will be tidied by a work party of Scouts from Amberley soon. I’m sure that someone will find time to write a piece for the blog when it happens.

And finally… There are no photos as all the phones were kept well away from the wet. And wet gloves over cold hands don’t work well wresting small flat objects from deep dry pockets. 

10 February 2019

Four fellers foiled Erik
(Phase 1B)

by: Jon P.

The arrival of Storm Erik on Friday did nothing to deter a (fool)hardy team of four that had planned to tackle some stubborn limbs on two trees next to the Government Fuel Pipeline crossing the canal at Whitminster.   Previous work had left these four limbs for later removal, with plans to use an all-terrain 'cherry picker', but we couldn't work out how to get one over Occupation Bridge.   This picture shows the scene before any work was done at Whitminster.
It was so wet and windy that we couldn't take any pictures of the work in progress, so this 'before' picture shows one of the trees next to the pipeline in unusually calm and strangely lit weather – if only!  

Our team consisted of Bob H, 'Buffer', Ian M and Jon P – equipped with chainsaws, pole pruners, ropes and grappling hooks.   The weather was so atrocious that even the farmer had stayed at home, so the arrival of the Mitsubishi pickup convinced the cows that we were delivering their daily haylage!   After fighting our way past the inquisitive cattle and donning life preservers, Ian and Buffs went off to fetch work boat Stuart to the pipeline.   This was to act as our work platform, as the two trees were hanging out over the water.   By judicious use of the pole pruner at full 4 metre extension, we were able to reduce a fair amount of weight in each limb.   Then, with ropes attached and taking up the strain, Bob cut through the limbs leaving a 'hinge'.   This meant we could pull each limb in the correct direction away from the pipeline.   The felled limbs were either dragged up on to the bank or left in the channel, and the plan is for the SDC volunteers to cut and stack everything on Tuesday.

Despite wearing life preservers as a precaution, at the end of the session we were as wet as if we'd actually fallen in! 

07 February 2019

Ham Mill 6th Feb – A New Canal Emerges
by: Matthew J.
It was a slightly quieter start to proceedings on Wednesday, with Bob, Duncan, Matthew and Julian mulling over which jobs could be progressed while awaiting the arrival of the Slightly Bigger Digger (SBD) and the piling barge gang next week (hopefully…). Matthew and Julian were initially despatched for a little light gardening where the fence along the towpath needed clearing and repairing.
Meanwhile Bob and Duncan battled on with some further trench warfare towards the top of the sloping towpath. This is now as far as we can get with the mini-digger – it’s an impressively deep hole already, but we’ll need the SBD to finish the job.
So this just left the section under the bridge itself to be dug out. Unfortunately the retaining wall at the edge of the towpath is extremely porous, so water was filling the hole as fast as it could be dug out. The rest of the team were engaged as navvies to barrow out the resulting gloppy mess, while the digger bucket required frequent washings in the canal.
The final stage of the work was to remove the coping stones at the point where the bypass pipe will re-enter the canal. As a result we can now proudly announce the opening of the new Bob Ambury Branch of the Thames and Severn Canal. Admittedly it is somewhat limited in the size of vessels it can accommodate, and we will have to work out a way of getting water to go uphill before we invite HRH to open it….

No Satellite Reception under Dudbridge Bridge

by: Bob H.

We know that when a flood event washed out the towpath and lock side a few years ago, that debris washed into the canal under and a little beyond the bridge. We really need to know how bad it is down there.

 Following on from the depth survey yesterday, Mark from Land and Satellite Surveys came back early this morning to do a little “tidying up.” He had checked the data from yesterday and since it looked satisfactory, I asked if we could please have a look under Dudbridge Bridge.

However, he couldn’t use the “direct from Satellite GPS” technique we used yesterday. So how then?

No problem!
A clever set of kit consisted of a GPS receiver which also shines a laser at a target.
In this case the target is a prismatic reflector on the top of the little boat (which also has the sonar depth sounder)
There’s the boat up by the lock gate. 
And of course, it’s always good to drive another boat, so Bob just HAD to have a go.

New CCT Boat

by: John S.

Dredging this morning we couldn't decide how to get tea and biscuits to the opposite side of the canal, for dry dredgers Les and Andy. 

Brain wave. Sail them across on a plank. So, carefully loaded mugs and biscuit box was gently launched, and even gentler received on  the other side. 

We've yet to name the new vessel.
(Sponsorship anyone? ….ed)
Project 'DNF' - No.5 Refit

A much smaller team yesterday, but progress made.  We worked mainly on the decking plates, drilling and preparing them for painting.  Marking out the holes had to be done from underneath and the method used was to place the plate, spray each of the holes and then use a 10mm drill to spot the centres.
This worked well and all the bolts dropped through.  Painting has now commenced, once complete, we can seal and bolt down.

In the ever active paint shop, more component parts received another layer or two.  We had hoped to fit the new pinion - but, just where did that safely stored key go?

05 February 2019

The Canal IS Level.

by: Bob H.

Well, it may be so on the surface, but like the Duck on a fast-flowing stream, all is far from calm and level underneath. 

Many of us know only too well that there are sections of the Canal which are quite shallow - we on the dredging team (Wet and dry) are working hard to remedy that.  We are removing quite large volumes of silt and other debris to restore the level to around 1.5 metres in the main channel, with deep enough edges to get to the banks. 

One of our problems is that we don’t really know where the really shallow bits are or what volume of silt we have to remove.   Enter a nifty bit of high tech kit.
We found a very helpful company, Land and Satellite Services, 

who have equipment which measures quite accurately the water depth and the precise locations of all the pesky shallow bits. Accurate to 2mm anyway!! 

All the measurements are done without anyone getting in a boat, pontoon or coracle.  It’s all done from the bank with a radio-controlled boat, gps, laptop and a live connection to bang up to date Ordnance Survey data.  Depth is taken every 1/2 metre or so the boat travels. 

Plotted and stored on the laptop, later analysis provides a detailed canal bed contour map and, based on a specified channel section, how much silt we need to remove by dredging.

Did I mention that it’s quick too? 

Today, Mark (LSS), assisted by Bob and Alex (CCT dredging team) did a first pass of the survey from Wallbridge to Ryeford Top Lock.   The little boat covered about 20km and made over 40,000 measurements of depth, on about 3km of canal.

Tomorrow we do a bit of follow-up on sections where trees stop the gps or the mobile signal don’t work because of overhanging trees and mobile dead spots. Thank you all boat crews and dredgers for suspending work tomorrow for a day (silt free water is needed).  We’ll report later on the findings.

"May all your combined leaks never exceed your bilge pump capacity.