15 May 2018

A Cautionary Tail

by: Buffs

After a short interlude rounding Lands End and St David’s Head I returned to a yard transformed. I thought that I had walked into a sculpture studio. There was a large steel structure floating above the place where the two new boats had been constructed and under the barn roof a pair of angel wings were being assembled and welded together.  I thought that CCT were being bold in commissioning some monumental works to grace the canal in the manner of the Falkirk Kelpies.

But No!

The aerial sculpture was the large trailer suspended from the gantry whilst the final adjustments were being made and the angel wings are part of the new grillage being prepared for the Dudbridge bypass.  However, the image still lingers and may yet provide a spark for the future.  Perhaps a linear sculpture park along the Stroudwater.

In the bright sunshine workboat Jasper was to undergo powered propulsion testing.  A donated old, but now refurbished, outboard motor was to be fitted to her and the boat run at powers up to full throttle.  After being wrested from the hungry undergrowth now consuming the banks of the cut Jasper was brought to Blunder lock to be fitted with the engine.  The variable height engine mount was adjusted to get the best prop depth. This  being a balance between best speed through the water and least risk of clattering the prop on the canal bed.

With engineer Colin at the helm Jasper was put through a series of runs, turns and astern manoeuvres.  She responded well in her very light state which bodes well for the rest of her working life.  She will return to the yard for some final snags to be addressed before being put on station below Wallbridge. (Sorry, no pictures, PPPPPPP applies as my phone was not charged overnight)

The explosion of growth along the canal banks is both a seasonal blessing bringing forth colour and wildlife and a curse with the sprouting of giant hogweed and Himalayan balsam. The verdant growth also blurs the boundary between the wet and the dry.  In places where the towpath is restricted by adjacent properties this is especially true.  A volunteer was returning to the depot with a mowing machine.  He was moving along the towpath when the mower found the edge of the canal where it had been eroded and the path width reduced.  The volunteer was unbalanced as he kept the mower out of the cut and entered the water.  His colleagues were able to help him out of the water and back to the depot where he received the usual sympathies from his colleagues.

This incident strongly illustrates the potential hazards of the canal.  It highlights the need to be aware of the potential pitfalls along the canal edge. When this incident was investigated and the site strimmed to expose the canal edge and the inner edge of the towpath it was clear that a contributory factor was the burgeoning and rampant growth of grasses and other vegetation on both sides of the towpath reducing its effective width and deviating its line towards the water.  The strimming also exposed other short lengths of erosion (by just a few inches) hiding under the new seasons growth.

If you, dear readers, see or come across parts of the towpath which have become restricted by rampant vegetation please let the depots, East and West, know so they can address them.