30 June 2018

BOBbing up and down on the waves

For those that may have missed it, here's an ITV piece on our intrepid narrowboaters.


29 June 2018

Another day + another pile of aggregate  = another wheelbarrowfest

by: Ian Moody

Here is the obligatory “before” picture. The sharp-eyed amongst you will clearly be able to see that it is a distinctly different 16 tonne pile of Type 1 when compared with Tuesday’s 16 tonne pile of Type 1 (I wonder if there is a website somewhere that just features photographs of aggregate).
[Of course there is: https://www.shutterstock.com/search/aggregate   ed. ]
Anyway, it seems that if you pile it up, they will come. We came, we shovelled, we barrowed, we smiled, we sweated, we laughed, we ate doughnuts and we definitely wished it was a little cooler.
At one point we were rudely interrupted by a badelynge of ducks but it turned out they were just moving from the relaxation of the canal to the excitement of the river.
I failed to take a pic of the missing aggregate pile so I’m afraid you’ll just have to look at the first picture and imagine it without the aggregate and the boards. Go on.  I’m sure you can do it.  It’s sort of grassy with a bit of fencing.

The great news is that we are all systems go for the bouncy castle. Happy days!

28 June 2018

WRG Training Weekend - Brimscombe Port - 23/24 June

by: Jon P.

The red T-shirts of WRG descended upon Brimscombe Port for their annual national training weekend.   This is the 2nd time in succession that CCT, SVCC, and SDC have hosted this event, so we must be doing something right.   
Training sessions were available for small excavators, large excavators, dumpers, scaffolding, bricklaying, lime mortar, bricksaw, CAT scanning, breaker hammers, etc..   Plenty of CCT and SDC volunteers turned up to take advantage of this training which, in most cases, assumed no previous experience.   The accommodation at Brimscombe Port provided a 'hub' for feeding, sleeping, and event administration.   The available space here, and around the site of the old Port, provides ample opportunity for this sort of training   The bricklaying, lime mortar training (provided by Ty Mawr Lime Ltd of Brecon), and scaffolding was carried out behind the Heras fencing, keeping well clear of the Rush Skatepark visitors.   

In the woods at the top end of the site, the CCT 1.7T excavator and the WRG 3.5T excavator were kept busy with trainees and loading a dumper for their training.
Off site at Ham Mill, a hired in 8T excavator was used for large excavator training, together with the CCT dumper for further capacity.

On the Sunday, bricklaying trainees were whisked off to Weymoor Bridge, near Cricklade, to complete their training.   This will have been a 'baptism of fire' for the trainees, who'd only just learnt to lay bricks straight, level, and vertical.   The average Thames & Severn Canal bridge is anything but these parameters, being battered, curved, and with sloping courses - throw away your spirit levels!

It’s Not Just Boaters Who Use The Canal

By: Buffs

A warm night lit by a bright full moon in a cloudless sky slid effortlessly into an equally cloudless, brilliantly sunlit, day.  And it was hot.  By 11 o’clock it was uncomfortable and by lunchtime being outside in the yard was almost painful. Paint was drying almost as soon as it touched the hot metal surface it was applied to.  No-one had and egg to fry on the roof of any of our storage containers but wagers were considered for how long it might take to cook.

The sub text to this good weather which started early last week was this is a fallow year at Glastonbury.  And Glasto always portends heavy and persistent rain for one or two days during the festival.

The place to be was beside the water where the bankside trees cast dappled shadows on the water and the towpath.  The cool waters of the canal are rippled by the a gentle breeze which were we standing on the coast would be a sun driven sea breeze as the heated land draws in the sea cooled air across the beaches and headlands.

The sight of a fire engine drawn up in an unusual place will always attract attention and today was no exception. An appliance from the Gloucestershire Fire station at Stroud was parked on the old A419 at Pike Lock. The crew were apparently looking for a quiet place to rest but when joined in conversation said they were looking to do some water rescue training.  The cut would be ideal as a place to refresh their technical training before going onto moving water for another session.

I watched as the team from Black watch laid out two hoses, coupled them together and formed a loop for the casualty to grab on to.  The knot in the securing rope was described as 5 round turns and 9 half hitches – “it won’t come adrift, honest guv”.
  The hose was inflated to 2 bar and then manhandled to the waters edge.  The loop was cast afloat and using the remaining length of the hose directed to the off bank.  The active and conscious casualty would then be instructed to get inside in the loop, to then be drawn to safety.

If the casualty is less responsive or agile – as a cold casualty might be – a single sealed hose would be deployed.  A loop formed in one end of the inflated hose can be floated to the casualty.  By twisting or rolling the hose the loop can be dropped over the casualty for them to grasp whilst being hauled to safety.

There is a serious point to the exercise today.  The water in the canal is still very cold just a few inches or centimetres below the surface.  The shock effect of the cold water on the unsuspecting individual is debilitating and disorientating.  It does claim lives every summer.  All too frequently it is not just the foolhardy but also the well intentioned who fall prey to the effects of cold shock in water.

As with all rescue services Black watch hope that they never have to put this training to use but will be ready when they are called on.

27 June 2018

Pat's Progress

One thing's for sure.  If you want to watch paint dry this weather, then you don't have to hang around for very long!

With a new tin of RAL4008athand, just about all the cabin surfaces were given their second coat of purple.  The doors have received treatment also, the results are a really smart looking lady, getting ready to take the plunge.
The rotator and clam shell bucket will now be arriving on Monday next week.  This is the last major job.  Today, the electrics were completed and checked.  We laid the floor in the control cabin using the new pieces made by our chippies to replace the crumbling ones.

On the roof, we now have the solar panel bolted in place.  This is also operational, although the batteries were not particularly hungry.  
Inside the facilities cabin, a load of collected junk and various tools were removed.  The area was given a first stage clean.  We will need to make a hardboard cover for the floor before the lino' is laid.  There is a bit of woodwork to do around the sink/hob unit and also the area where the coal bunker used to reside.
The only other significant job, is the affixing and plumbing of the gas bottle cabinet, which will be mounted on the facilities cabin central deck face, beside the door.

It is fast getting to the stage when we will have to start letting the workers go!  The end is in sight, Jib/clam shell bucket activities are now on the critical path.

Bowbridge Wheelbarrowfest.  Part 1.

by: Ian Moody

The beginning:
The during:
The lunchtime:
The end:

26 June 2018

Training Day

By: Buffs

The Midsummer weekend brings the Wergies to Brimscombe Port for their annual training weekend.

Not an initiation event for unsuspecting volunteers to be led a merry dance around a peat fire casting long and curiously shaped shadows on the walls of the decaying buildings at the port followed by anointing with freshly drawn silt from the cut, the faces of the initiates drawing taught as the scent of the wonderful perfume, Canal No. 2, invades their olfactory system.

Nothing so fancy!  It is a skills transfer weekend where the skills necessary for safe working with the larger equipment we use are shared with willing hands and brains so that the restoration and maintenance effort continues across the whole system.  It occurs by kind permission of the land owner, SDC, facilitated by Jon Pontefract.  This weekend included classes in digger driving, dumper handling, van driving and trailer management (including the dreaded parallel parking), bricklaying with cement mortar and the use of lime mortar for bricklaying and plastering.

The Wergies are the red army of canal restoration.  They form a red wall wherever they gather.  Their vans are red-inside and out, their hard hats are red, their tee shirts are red; even their wheel barrows are red.  This CCT volunteer was clearly out of step in freshly starched hi vis and green hard hat. There was the usual early morning confusion as instructors worked out where their training breakfast was.  This orientation complete some semblance of order descended on the camp.  Womble, the queen bee of the weekend, coupled up trainees and trainers for the first session and we were off and bimbling* to the various kit scattered across Brinscombe and Ham Mill.

I was led into the woods by a kindly older gentleman where he promised to show me his big machine and I would get to play with it and if he was delighted I would be signed off to drive a small digger.  But I wasn’t really interested in Australians; I had come to learn to drive our small tracked excavator.  After the usual preliminary litany: oil, fuel, water, hydraulic fluid, mirror, signal, manoeuvre I climbed into the driving seat.  I thoroughly enjoyed digging a hole and filling it in and the merry-go-round in the cab.  All too soon it was over and I got the nod, the wink and the secret handshake which said I was safe enough to carry on learning by doing.

Back for morning tea I could clearly pick out the CCT volunteers.  It was easier that finding Wally as there was more than one of them in the sea of red shirts. The rest of the day was hot and got hotter.  I enjoyed reversing with a trailer attached.  I even got the trailer around a corner but was less effective at parallel parking but now I have the basics I just need to practice, practice, practice! 

The final session was on the articulated dumper at Ham Mill.  It is, in many ways, just like driving a car but with a smaller turning circle and the ability to slide the unwelcome passenger out of the vehicle at the touch of a button. Unfortunately it does not have the speed of an Aston Martin DB5 but does have a bigger payload.

As the sun set I sat in my garden as the light slid from blue into the roseate shades of deepening sunset I watched a bat wheeling and swooping between the trees of the neighbouring hedgerows. T his silent acrobat of the evening sky raced around the tree lined wall of death never touching the sides, abruptly changing direction as its quarry twisted and turned to avoid its fate.  This tireless tumbler in the sky kept up a furious wing beat but made no noise.  As the midsummer sunset slipped into a near full moon lit night I bade good hunting to the sylph of the night as it slipped from my sight.

* not a yomp ( Jackspeak, Rick Jolly, 1989)  

25 June 2018

You don't have to be mad - but it helps!


Here's the latest BBC story.  Keep an eye out for more shortly.
Pat's Progress

Some times the job just gets too hot to touch.  That was certainly the case today when the metal could only be leant on with gloved hands!

It was going to take more than the heat of the kitchen to stop us, with much achieved today.

We really needed to get the second coat of purple paint on. but that involved giving Pat a cold shower and wash to remove the dust that collects there over time.  Most of the purple is now done.  There is some to do around the doors and then the roof of the control cabin which was left due to much digging for another job going on at the front of the boat.
Elsewhere, a steady procession of worker ants brought out the decking plates from the yard and laid them for onward fitting to the boat.  This was just like a puzzle.  Although, it's more difficult to spot the central 'sky' pieces rather than the edge bits which have features which belie their location.  One panel needed another slot cutting in due to the addition of the water filler pipe dropping down from the gunnel.
We cleaned out and re-greased the lubrication pipe to the propeller shaft.  In the engine room, we had been aware of an alarm, which was possibly connected to the oil/water separator on the side of the engine.  This was duly emptied of a little bit of water and the alarm disappeared - tick.

Back to paint.  The second coat of white has been applied in the control cabin.  Whilst the paint was still wet, we fired up the engine to check the ISO control mapping against a reference sheet provided by Andy J.  It is pleasing to report that all functions operated correctly to the sheet.

We are expecting the rotator and clam shell bucket this week.  This is the last major job before Pat can go and swim in our canal.  The only component still in store is the solar panel.  Now the roof is done, we will fit that on Wednesday.

23 June 2018

The Stand In

by: The Reluctant Manager

As the last of the lunchtime tea was being swallowed and the cups were being passed to the duty washer-up the Depot manager cleared his throat.  To the assembled throng crowded around the table he declared “I’m off on holiday for two weeks and I need a volunteer to cover organising you lot while I’m away.”

His gaze surveyed the down cast eyes and was occasionally dazzled by the reflected sunlight as it caught one of the many shiny pates of the assembled depot team.

“Well,” he said “in view of the unanimous, or did I mean ominous, silence I’ll have to select one of you at random.”  Chairs scraped across the floor as the room emptied quicker than the scramble for the last fig roll (a prized delicacy at WD).

With the yard clearing rapidly a hapless volunteer just back from a job entered the mess to take his lunch. “Just the man” said the manager “your team mates have unanimously selected you to be depot manager whilst I spend two weeks away.  You’ll have to arrange the daily work and make sure this list”.  He waved at the board full of one line task descriptions, “are finished by the time I get back.  Here’s the order book if you need anything to support these.”  Then he disappeared in a cloud of dust.

“Bu##er” said the hapless stand in.

The following Monday the stand-in manager stood before the sea of upturned expectant faces.  He knew that half of those before him were promised to the flighty Patricia.  The remainder would not be enough to complete many of the tasks. ‘How to prioritise’ he thought.  So began an auction.  Who knew anything about any of the tasks?  Who could be persuaded to join those who knew the tasks? Reaching back to his management jargon memory bank he grasped at these: which will give me a quick win, which are the low hanging fruit?

Miraculously small groups selected tasks from the list and work on them commenced. Some grass was cut.  Stuart’s job list was started.  The office rebuild carried on and some logs were sold.  The broken wooden rail under the by pass was made safe – by removing it.  Better to have no rail than one which looks good but could collapse on contact.  The bonus ball was that this rail does not belong to CCT or SDC but to Gloucestershire rights of way who will decide what to do next.

The sun burned off the clouds and the yard was humming. ‘This is easy’ thought the stand in. ‘I don’t know why the boss looks harassed’.

Wednesday brought a small handful of volunteers to the depot which made things even easier for our stand in.  The ocean bridge was swung and some repairs were effected.  Stuart was cleared and cleaned.  Patricia’s deck plates were painted.  Small engines were brought back to life.  And the sun shone all day. ‘Easy’, he thought ‘what can go wrong?’

The second week of the substitution arrived.  The mess was full to overflowing. Where did all these volunteers come from?  ‘I’ve got to find things for them to do’.  The log team were back from their breaks quickly disappeared to collect yet more wood for splitting.  The dragon’s teeth for Stuart needed bending and fettling, the spots where they were to be welded on were cleaned of paint and the launching and loading bracket was made and welded on.   Grass needed cutting and grass cutters needed banksmen.  The first hour rushed past in flurry of requests for helpers, of teams departing and manipulation of priorities. Juggling with greased balls seemed an easier task for our stand in.

Even a simple task of collecting a small tool from a local supplier turned into an odyssey.  The correctly labelled sealed box contained a different item.  So back to the shop. “No problem, I’ll see if we have got the right one” was the response at the counter.  They did not have one. “We’ll have one tomorrow”.  Another Job slowed.  During the day the list of jobs got smaller.  A long day for the stand-in.

Wednesday and good news the Depot manager was back!  He had got back early and could not keep away.  He is one of our electrical types and thought that with a stand-in he could help make some serious progress with the new office refurbishment.  The duties were shared and during the afternoon, with some prescience, the yard was filled with white smoke.  Not the election of a new Pope for the yard but a small engine burning copious amounts of oil.  A repaired engine had some obvious problems fixed but on test it was evident that there is a deeper problem within the cylinder.

What did our stand-in learn?  Planning of tasks with volunteers who can choose when to come in is not easy.  Not all the skills needed for a task are guaranteed to turn up.  WD has wide range of engineering tasks and many of the skills needed to perform them but the number and range of tasks we are asked to perform often exceeds our capacity to do them promptly.

This last point is illustrated by the amount of grass cutting and towpath clearance we are asked to do and are committed to do.  We have good kit but often lack people to use it.  There has been some coffee time discussion about summer only volunteers dedicated to grass management and possibly having dedicated grass cutting days.  The discussion has included having Tuesday and Thursday opening in the season just for grass and banks management with dedicated teams of new volunteers for the task.

Swan and cygnets below Pike Bridge. This pen is serene but devoting all her energy to her cygnets she can no longer control her feet. She has to stand on the bottom

22 June 2018

An Easterly Intermission

Getting away from work for a moment. An almost peaceful meander along the T&S section west of the Gateway Centre.  The constant noise of the PPI funded pan-European highway, that is the A419's concrete drag strip was broken only by the wide variety of bird song from the adjacent woodland.
What little water there is that puddles the bottom of the canal teamed with much wildlife.  Minnows gathered in the shallows taking in the warmth.  Dragonflies zipped about with a dazzling electric blue shimmer.  The aquatic plants displayed their finest blooms. 
The restored lower lock at Wildmoorway waits patiently for the days gates and paddle gear arrive.  Let's hope its condition holds good.
The upper lock looks more forlorn, but nothing that can't be fixed.  Remnants of a bottom gate break the surface of the duck weed.
There are great plans to re-water this section.  It is also quite likely that the T&S mile stone will resemble that at Capel's Mill in the near future.  In all, a very pleasant wander after a substantial lunch over at the western end in the sunny gardens of the Daneway pub.

SDC Thursday Gang

by: Ian Moody

We were at the Bowbridge ramp again and, as usual, the day started with a briefing.
The main task was to install the concrete edging at the lower end of the ramp and set some fence posts along that section. On top of that a small team headed up to Griffin Mill lock to remove the stop planks and tidy up the vegetation.
The tipper team had a number of jobs to do but the main task was to remove the Heras fencing from the Brewery Wall and erect it at Brimscombe Port in readiness for the forthcoming WRG training weekend. 
The poppies are looking stunning and it’s not often that we get to frolic with fencing through wildflower meadows.

So that’s Brewery Wall done.  Tick!
Next up - Bowbridge Wheelbarrowfest...

21 June 2018

Western landing stage at Lodgemore takes shape

by: David M

There are two main types of landing stage – single-level, and those with an additional lower level for canoes.  However they all differ in other ways depending on the nature of the location.  Lodgemore West is a single-level stage, but the bank is high and the space has no extra width for the landing stage to have a sloped bank.
Due to the vertical bank face, we had an extra week or two of hard work transporting, wire-brushing, painting and fitting steel plates to sit behind the rear OBB piles to hold back and support the towpath.

First to go down is a weed-deterring membrane, and the wooden frames sit on steel cross-pieces every 3rd pair of piles.  The slight offset of the frames one with another is for aesthetic reasons, as the aesthetics don’t matter once the anti-slip green topping is in place!
Armco is bolted to the front face, top surface screwed down, and bollards concreted in.  The final touch from the high bank is a set of steps, made of bricks and concrete lintels.  The cygnets are bigger now, but still paying close attention.

20 June 2018

Nearly There!  Dredging week beginning 18/06/18.

by: Andrew Rendell

Dredging in present pound coming to an end although Dredger No.5  is needing a rest and refit, we are battling on.

1.5 metres deep through solid silt at Griffin mill end just before the bund.
Dry dredging team supporting fully by emptying hopper whilst we are loading, so quick.
As next 2 pictures show Les in long reach excavator clearing between bund and Griffin Mill Lock, all sorts coming out which will make it easier for Dredger and hopper to do final clear up below and in lock.
Andy in 8 ton excavator is emptying hopper as well as landscaping.
This week, 2 new volunteers to dredging turned up to see what it's like and are returning next week. Rachel and Richard

Also this week. Thanks to the main Dredger trainees and crew Alex, Frank and John S as main operator.

We've been struggling with an old war wound on a buoyancy tank where a leak on a weld below water means we are lifting the tank off Monday 25th for Chris P to weld. 

As we say all in a days work, variety makes life more interesting although frustrating.

We are getting excited though as the dredging teams can say again, "we have made navigable another section of the canal".

We hope the grand occasion happens at the beginning of July.
Pat's Progress

Wow, what a great day.  The morning kicked off in the usual way, but very soon we had the pleasure of our estranged Team Leader, who had popped back from his eternal holiday to make a state visit to site.  There was much to see - but also so much more to be missed Bob....

The rudder is now sitting securely in its new bearing, together with the gland packing clamped in place and the actuator connected.  Our prop' also sports a '3-Phase' recognition of our well bronzed Team Leader.
Up front, the ladies were in full flight painting the white hand rails, the engine room air vents, followed by the internals of the control and the welfare cabins.  They are really starting to look quite smart now (the cabins, that is!).  It was a busy work area with the wiring of the bilge pumps also in progress.
The main jib cylinder required fitting.  This is a very heavy lump, but careful checking of the pins, surfaces and extension permitted a relatively straight forward installation followed by hydraulic hose connections.
All of the spud leg pins also received their retaining washers and split pins, as the legs were to receive their first exercise for quite some time. 

As lunch time approached, we extracted two drums of hydraulic oil from the store and set about putting 50 litres into the tank, in readiness for testing.  A systematic inspection of all the hydraulic joints was made to ensure all had  received the attention of at least two spanners.  The control lever console was manoeuvred into position and bolted down.  Lunch was then taken.
A short discussion followed after we had been fed and watered, to map out how and what we were going to test and in what order.  We did not want anyone getting in the way, especially as we hoped that there would be the movement of much metal.

The engine easily fired into life and an initial inspection of all the hydraulic joints revealed no problems.  Then, one by one, we set about exercising each of the controls over their limits of travel to check operation and to look for any issues.

Firstly, the propeller motor was run.  This was then followed by each of the spud legs and then, finally, the jib actuators.     It is pleasing to report that each step ran very smoothly with no faults or issues.  The only uncertainty is whether or not the jib controls are mapped for JCB, ISO or HLM!  We will need to check into this next time.

(turn your telly!)

Not content with having trundled past this mighty milestone, we filled the hot water system for the first time, connected the radiators, opened the valves and span up the pump.  With the engine having been on for half and hour and settled at about 80 deg C, it was not long before we had heat in the rads.  Again, we checked for leaks and there were none.
See - just how hot this radiator is!

To celebrate our many successes and a most rewarding days effort by all, we clinked the quality Western Depot porcelain and had a toast to Patricia with a fine cup of tea!