30 March 2018

SDC Thursday Volunteers

by: Ian Moody

Weatherwise it was truly a day of two halves and we definitely preferred the first half. At Wallbridge Lower Lock we continued the tidy-up and removed the shuttering from the new steps. 

Over at Brewery Wall we painted the fence, painted the windows, landscaped the top area and tidied up the site.  Unfortunately we had to put all the rubbish into an imaginary skip because the real one failed to arrive at the prearranged time.  Later that day the same skip failed to arrive at the rearranged time.  Who knows, maybe it will arrive on Tuesday at the re-rearranged time.

In between the two work sites we had a team team tackle a large area of graffiti on the mural under Brewery Bridge.  The mural has a protective coating on it called "Graffiti Magic" and it certainly lived up to its name, with the graffiti requiring only water and elbow grease to remove it.  Nice work.

After lunch we worked on in the rain then went for an early bath. 

28 March 2018

Pat's Progress

It now becomes more obvious that the ratchet has been set to "tighten." 
In the facility cabin, one of our multi-skilled pair, John D has given the bilge a final sweep out and applied some rust proofer, ready for the coats of finishing paint. (The other of the pair Gill D was kidnapped to paint a trailer chassis!) 

Meanwhile, Mathew J continues to develop his plumbing skills on the heating system. He's now waiting for the engine to be turned on - and a few more bits and pieces. 

More progress in the engineering shop, where production line techniques are in place to make the 28 new pivot pins. These will have lubrication and rotation facilities built in!

Vince continues adding the third wires to the bilge pump controls and is now taking lessons from Reg G in conduit bending!  That'll be for the Solar Panel then'!  

Meanwhile, the JCB arm has been noted to have pipes on the jib which are blanked off. It would be useful we thought, if we could use those for other attachments, like a rotator for a clamshell (like Dredger no. 5) or a breaker.  So, with Andy J and Les M we traced back the pipes to the cabin and the hydraulic control valve block.  Joy of joys, it's already connected up and has a solenoid and switch on the operator's seat arm!!

Hopefully it'll all leap into life when we fire up again with the new pipework we'll install. 

Bob Hallam.

"May your bilges always be dry and your anchor always hold."

27 March 2018

Pat's Progress

Work continued in tracing the 12v wiring so we know which fuses supply what, mainly for the auxiliary components - the bilge pumps mainly! 
Vince found some "interesting" labelling, e.g. a wiper fuse is actually supplying a bilge pump! 

Since we'll have a solar panel, Vince will modify the cover of the electrical box to mount a new voltmeter and the solar charge controller. 

The batteries are currently playing yo-yo. 

Mathew continues making good progress with the heating and domestic water update.

The engineering boys are now set to make the pins for the spud leg levers, and a dry assembly was carried out to familiarise them with the geometry I point out that Andy C is doing the tecchy drawing, while Mike C is doing the tecchy measuring.

The final few parts are on order, the paint supplier for the hull paint is coming Tuesday so hopefully all required parts will be here soon. 

Bob Hallam.

"May your bilges always be dry and your anchor always hold."

26 March 2018

Wallbridge Lower Lock - Tree planting

by: Ian Moody

Today the SDC Canal Team were joined by a small group from Stroud High School who planted around 100 tree saplings on the offside at Wallbridge Lower Lock. It will take a few years but eventually they will make the offside much easier on the eye as well as providing a rich wildlife habitat.

The saplings were provided by The Woodland Trust and are a mix of Hazel, Silver Birch, Rowan, Hawthorn, Dogwood and Cherry.

Did I mention that I am starting a collection of "hands in the air" pics?

23 March 2018

Wallbidge activities

by: Ian Moody

Thursday saw more Wallbridge action for the SDC volunteers.  At Wallbridge Lower lock the concrete steps and brickwork are finished.  At Brewery Wall the concrete slab is complete, the fencing is coming along nicely and we’ve started landscaping the site.  

Amongst other things I promised painting, pointing and pouting. Unfortunately I did not manage a picture of the painting!

Notes from Western Depot, Wednesday 21 March 2018
by: Buffs 
A cabin full of volunteers and a long list of tasks for the day. There were  logs to be cut, a bench to be fitted, work to finish on the Gough’s orchard feed to list just a few. The yard was a hive of activity in the early morning sun.
The logging team of 3 set about cutting and loading the last section of a lime tree which had been donated to the depot. The section was about 1.5m (4’6”) long and an impressive 1m or more in diameter. The chain saw men cut the trunk into discs of 10” or so, measured by a carefully calibrated boot. Each disc was then cut into smaller pieces to be loaded onto the tipper ready for the splitting team to work on back at the yard. A quick recce around the donor’s grounds identified several more loads of timber which will soon be on its way to Eastington.
Log splitting is an almost continuous activity at the Western depot with an impressive stock of drying logs building up.  More on this in another report later.
A new bench was taken to the Ocean and set just above the bridge on the tow path side giving views across the church and the trees of Stonehouse court and of course the canal. It will provide some where to sit whilst the bridge is being swung.
Work continues at the Gough’s orchard feed site to ensure that the water keeps running to top up the canal.  
Another unsung task is the collection of waterborne litter from the waters of the cut. Our work boat crews collect sacks of plastic bottles and bags, cans and paper packaging which find their way back to Eastington. When there is van load the waste is taken to one of the local authority tips for disposal. Unfortunately the plastics are not in a recyclable state. It would, of course be better if recyclable material were taken home for proper disposal.
In the yard work continues on the new mess with the lino laid on the refurbished floor and the table and chairs set into place. We only need another 30 or so chairs and there will be places for everyone to sit down. If you know of any business disposing of large quantities of chairs mention us to them.
The 1 tonne trailer now stripped of its rotten wood shell was having its steel frame derusted in preparation for repainting. It will be moved under the canopy at the end of the yard into the space vacated by the tipping trailer for painting and to have the new woodwork fitted.
We were visited by two members of the team restoring the towpath at Ford’s wharf, Ryeford. They spent the morning fabricating steel staples to lock the newly refitted coping stones together. The steel staples were made in approximately 1” square bar. Considerable heat was required to persuade the bar that it really wanted to be bent into the perfect staple shape.
Meanwhile the re building of Patricia continues…….
Pat's Progress

Today, the weather was bitterly cold, so inside work was in order again.

The 12v electrical wiring needs a little modification, so Vince, having set to on the task last week, showed his skills with the switch mountings for the new bilge pump switches

With the new bilge pumps, they will allow automatic operation as well as manual.   Checking out more of the wiring, the work continues. 

The "Ratchet set to Tighten," now looks much closer, the painters moved in to prepare the facility cabin floor. 

Trust me, these two are experts and come to us highly recommended, moving to us from the newly built work boat "Mole."

Bob Hallam.

"May your bilges always be dry and your anchor always hold."
Dredging - Towards Griffin Mill Lock

For a change of scenery, Andrew R moved towards Griffin Mill Lock yesterday and stated to work the silt that the dry dredging team couldn't reach. 
Bob H and Sue C carried on today, doing the silt, very compacted and VERY heavy. 

There were times when Sue C had to move TWO hoppers at the same time, one partially full, one empty. 

All was going well until a serious engine oil leak stopped us.  We found the capillary for the oil pressure gauge had fretted through and was spraying oil around. 

Fixed that (blanked off) and carried on. Loaded hopper movement was accomplished with ease using Annette2

Now we were stopped again, this time by a damaged and leaking hydraulic hose. 
After containing the small resultant spillage, the bucket was parked on the hopper deck ready for attention. 

The hose at the bottom of the picture has sheared off by means unknown. 

Bob Hallam.

"May your bilges always be dry and your anchor always hold."

22 March 2018

Tuesday - Stanton’s bridge to Bowbridge

by:Andrew Rendell

Dredger No.5 has hoppers arriving quicker than can be filled.  This stretch is now 2/5 complete width, dredged.  As can be seen one hopper that’s empty and one that’s nearly full. We’ve been trialling Weedie with Tug team volunteers helping Nick Carter hauling and pushing the hoppers with varying success.

Wednesday - clearing some high silt to make it easier for hopper movement. 
Morning, we had to work back towards and under Stanton’s bridge first to remove more silt and put in one hopper as the hoppers are nearly full each load and were skimming the silt causing difficulties.

The video shows a way of removing water from the hopper without a water pump.  This was the first trial today. If the canal was deport we’d use this method more.

Afternoon - Then we moved up towards Griffin Mill lock end to start clearing the towpath side which is too dangerous for the dry dredging team to reach.  This set new challenges. Unfortunately Weedie has had a mechanical breakdown and we are now trialling a new set up.  Our nearly passed trainee had many challenges which was all part of good experience. The Dredger was disconnected an the operation of her showed how difficult it is to manoeuvre, Ballet comes to mind.

Thanks again to Dry, Wet dredging teams and the hopper movement volunteers. 
Brewery Wall

by: Ian Moodey

We had some extra SDC volunteering action today, courtesy of the Swindon head office of Nationwide Building Society. Ten intrepid souls from the IT department arrived bright and early and initially made camp in the Upper Lock Cafe at Wallbridge. However, they were unable to resist the combined temptation of the sunshine and of not one, but two, shiny orange cement mixers and they were soon in the thick of it, working their way through three tonnes of ballast and twenty bags of cement to concrete the lower ledge at Brewery Wall. 

With an hour of the day remaining we ran short of concreting materials (sadly, my fault) so we switched to pointing the stonework at the western end of the wall. 

No day is complete without a team photo and, if you're wondering about all the hands in the air, it's because they were foolish enough to follow the photographer's instructions. The photographer has made a mental note to try to get more team photos with hands in the air in future.

21 March 2018

Mud mud, glorious mud!

by: Bob Hallam

The weather has improved greatly in Eastern Stroud. It's been rather cold up there, after all, it is closer to Siberia than the Western Depot. 
Dredger No. 5 continues to be worked hard, we average 3 or 4 hoppers full of mud every working day. 

As we gain experience and confidence, the hoppers are filled ever more full. 
The photo shows our latest one today. It shows less than a foot (30cm) of freeboard and still floating in our newly cleared channel. 

The pipe in the foreground is for the pump we use to remove as much free water as we can to make life a bit easier for the "dry dredging" boys. After all, they have tough enough underfoot conditions with all the recent rain and snow. 

Onwards and Westwards then as we dredge our way back (about 10-15 yards per day) to Bowbridge Lock. 

15 March 2018

Bowbridge Dredging - Annette2 and Dredger no5 achieve new things!

by: Andrew Rendell

Today, Andrew and the newer Dredger Team reached new levels and proved again there's many ways to move a hopper.

We’ve Bow hauled, we’ve used Annette2, we’ve even used a small boat with an outboard motor, Wookey and even recently trialled Weedie to move hoppers.

Today, we loaded WEFT fuller than ever before so the top rubbing was level to the water.

John S. stood up to the challenge as trainee and fully loaded the hopper, Brad also helped as dredger crew and help manoeuvre Annette2.  Next we pumped water out then had to move the hopper.  We faced the challenge face on! Nearly a full load.

Brad using Annette2 in reverse towed Dredger No.5 whilst Dredger No.5 was attached to the bow of WEFT.

Steady progress was made and delivered to Dry Dredging point without any problems.

We are never defeated and find ways to make progress, most importantly TEAMwork. .

Annette2 moves steadily at half throttle, steady as she goes.

The following video shows how easy also the longest towing length so far on the canal and so safe.  Goes to prove once it's moving, it's easier to move large and heavy loads on water than it is on land.

I, Andrew, thank my two new members to the dredging team for working together safely and effectively.

SDC Thursday Volunteers

by: Ian Moody

The SDC Volunteers continued the fence work at Brewery Wall, an interesting challenge given that nothing on that site is quite straight or true (especially the recycled fencing) so we've decided it will be "canal straight". The lower ledge is ready for concrete and next week we have a visiting group from Nationwide Building Society pencilled in for that task. Roger did a grand job on painting the windows and window recesses.

Meanwhile, over at Wallbridge Lower lock, a crack team of hole diggers cracked on with, um, digging holes on the upper reaches of the offside. Maybe they've gone crazy or maybe they're just preparing the ground for the big tree planting session. We have 109 saplings kindly supplied by The Woodland Trust all ready to go so all we need now is a keen group of school kids to plant them. Watch this space...

And as if all that wasn't enough we had a bloke called Jon constructing shuttering for the upper steps on the towpath side and two blokes called Paul using the tug Goliath to haul mud barge Delilah back down to Ryeford for her emotional reunion with mud barge Samson.  They don't say much but they obviously belong together.

14 March 2018

Support from a local business

It is wonderful to receive an unexpected surprise.  As it was today, when we popped round to Mikris in Stonehouse.

You may remember that the steelwork for Patricia's legs was delivered there to be shot blasted and then sprayed with a zinc coating.  We received a message that the work had been done and that they were ready for collection.

On arrival, the parts were loaded into the CCT van to take back to base.  It was such a welcome surprise when we were told that there was 'no charge'.  It is such a warm feeling when we receive this generous support from a local company.  We are truly thankful to the team at Mikris.

They now await some machining and bush fitting for the new pins
Around Western Depot Today

The fine weather assists in the visibility of many other jobs going on.  Here's a round up of the catch today:

Wood sales continue to flourish.  The regular truck load of wood arrived, followed by the inevitable splitting process.  Two bays of the magnificent wood pile are now fully stocked to the rafters.  All this contributes nicely to our funds.  Like the books, it's a valuable bread and butter income.

Our 'Carnival' welfare unit was a hive of activity.  Real progress with the wiring was evident, it is really taking shape.  The ceiling now sports several led strip lights.  Along the side wall sits a fine roll of lino floor covering waiting to be laid.

Out in the yard, a strimmer received a service, work boat Mole was having the hook system for the cover installed.  A new bespoke cover will keep the craft dry when not in use.

(by: Buffs)
Later in the afternoon John Attwooll of Attwools Manufacturing visited our new work boat Mole. John is designing the boat covers to keep both Mole and her sister Ratty dry when not being worked. John spent nearly an hour with volunteers Jill and John taking detailed measurements of the hull and the support frame work to enable his company to design and manufacture the first cover in time for Mole to be formally given her proper name in April. 

Anyone who has been involved in ship manufacture will know that all ships of the same design have variations in the way they are completed.  With this in mind the cover for Ratty will not be started until she has been brought ashore and re-measured against the cover for Mole. Ratty will also be given her proper name in April.

A trailer, the sides of which were mostly well rotted ply wood, has now been stripped down ready for the frame to receive some attention before re-panelling.

One of the maintenance tasks carried out by WD volunteers is known as 'swinging the ocean'.  This involves opening and closing the swing bridge over the canal at the Stonehouse Ocean. This is done nominally once per fortnight to ensure the bridge operating gear is kept in good working order.  Today was one of those days when two volunteers were despatched after a gap of five weeks of very cold weather.  A full report with pictures to follow next time the bridge is swung.

Finally, your TC member (Fundraising), appeared with a home baked cake for the lads & lasses in celebration of her significant and upcoming birthday this weekend.  It was well received by all and of course, totally demolished by end of play.

Pat's Progress

We arrived on site this morning to find the new pipes for the sink unit had been delivered!

Today focused on a three of areas.  Firstly, the floor area in the cabin was washed and dried.   This will receive a cure rust treatment, followed by red oxide paint and then a coat of bitumen.  After this, the floor can be replaced. The area has now plenty of ventilation to allow it to fully dry out.

Secondly, all the woodwork, including the floor was washed after the coating of grease and grime was  first scraped off with a spade.  It was allowed to dry outside before being returned under cover again in the cabin.  

The seating is in good condition and will probably just need a bit more of a clean and then a coat of something.  Ideas as to what other facilities we need to construct are all the time in our thoughts.

Finally, next door in the engine room, positioning of the heat exchanger (the unit sat on top of the engine above the glove) for the hot water supply was being planned and prepared.  We will take the hot water feed off the engine and use it, not only for hot water in the sink, but also the radiators, one of which will warm each of the cabins.  The pipes will need routing through the bulkheads.  There is space to do this.

Brewery Wall - Tuesday

by: Ian Moody

On Tuesday SDC Volunteers welcomed the sunshine and continued work on Brewery Wall.  We’ve started to reinstate the fence, reusing as much of the original fencing as we can. A couple of the sections are not repairable so they will have to be replaced with new.  The lower ledge is shaping up nicely with the front stones all in place.  Once the end stones are done we’ll cast a concrete slab and then turn our attention to the troublesome “bit at the end”, where the ledge slopes down and fizzles out rather than coming to a nice defined end.


Jon led a small team at Ryeford, installing towpath edge boards on the ramp up from the bridge and also investigating the spill weir at Ryeford Double Lock.

12 March 2018

The Landing Stages team will soon restart - a call for volunteers

by: David McGovern

Boat Landing Stages – How we make them

Depending on the height of the towpath, in some cases we need to take a slice out of the bank, generally taking a few hours work with the mini-digger backed up by shovels.

The rear line of piles is then pushed in – some will recognise these as ex-motorway crash barriers, they are made of galvanised steel and known as Open Box Beam (OBB).  They come in 4.8m lengths, take five people to lift, and we cut the rear piles to 1 – 2m  long.

Positioning of the front piles, cut typically to 3m, is done by spacing with OBB cross-pieces and “tourniqueting” the front and rear piles together with a heavy strop.  We lift and place the front piles in position with the crane, which then collects the piling hammer.  Before bolting a permanent cross piece between every third pair of piles, we cut a mineral fibre ‘carpet’ around the piles to make a barrier to weeds.

 The next step is to fit wooden frames which we assemble in a workshop, currently at Brimscombe Port, using steel corner pieces to join the lengths to the crosses.  Each of the five frames is numbered for its place in the sequence, as a standard landing stage has a regular height of 0.5m for boats with a slope to a lower level for canoes at 0.3m.  Frames are bolted to the piles and to each other.

The landing stage surface is Fibregrid, a perforated non-slip glass-reinforced plastic material, finished off with Armco barrier, and mooring bollards concreted into every third front pile.  The bank here at Chestnut Lane has been topped with more OBB to ward off traffic, and seed-impregnated matting laid down the slope.   And once work has finished for the day, kit stowed away, a team photo if we remember.

The Landing Stages team will soon restart its regular stage-constructing tasks, and we are looking for more volunteers, to enable expansion of our work from Tuesday/Thursday to include Mondays and Wednesdays.  If you are interested contact Alan Jones for a chat, and hopefully we will see you here soon!   alan.gr.jones@gmail.com  01453-752396 (evenings).