27 September 2018

Final river section dredge before Spawning season shutdown.

by: Andrew Rendell

Target to make landing stages usable by October the 1st from Wallbridge to Dudbridge as well as make slipway safer.

Monday morning first frost but nice day.  Team met up at Newman's yard upper Wallbridge pound. Dredger made noises but would not start, the cold and a 3week stoppage did not help.

Swapped battery from Annette2 and consequently Dredger bust into life with a puff off nearly black smoke.
Did some silt and debris clearance from behind gates before proceeding down to lower Wallbridge after a nice lady from the cafe provided us with a free coffee each.

The lower gate though would not operating properly, collar straps loose and gate not meeting at top 1 1/2 metres as well as gates are sitting at different heights

Moved down through lower lock after cleaning fish pass grids of jumpers, shoes, branches, leaves, weed, bottles etc.  Not good!

Got to gas main with a struggle as bouyancy tanks rubbed passed the encroaching bank and reeds.  Amazing who 9 months ago we dredged this and was easy to pass through.
Landing Stages at Lower wall bridge needed heavy dredging, the team worked well!  All the silt and soil I dumped across to offside.  Moved on to Painswick brook landing stage.  Cleared much silt and again dumped offside, can't be missed especially with a sign.

Sign erected to ask all vessels to keep away as depth of Canal is poor and if spread will cause problem.  Hopefully all skippers and users of the  Canal keep away from silt banks as can't revisit till May next year.

As can be seen in photos there is warning tape mounted to keep vessels away from a major block wall.  It's just below water level and would cause serious damage.

Finally onto Stratchams Slipway and east side of Chestnut Lane. The slipway was badly covered in silt to a foot at deepest point . We've cleared that and a zone around the entrance and hope people keep away from it except for use until we come back next year to clean the whole section when hopefully the gas main is removed.

The Tow path landing stage is being cleared and all deposits put on offside. The pictures show 5 hours work just clearing a 2 metre wide section to opposite side. At least now the landing stage can be used and will be finished by Wednesday.  

Many thanks to John, Alex, Jim and Mark for working hard over these 3 days

26 September 2018

The Brimscombe Port Landing Stage Factory

by: David M.

Each landing stage requires a couple of days work to prepare the materials.  Unit 8 at Brimscombe Port has seen better days, but it is secure and mostly watertight, and the lack of mains power does not put us off.  We can usually work near the large front doors for daylight, and in the depths our eyes do get used to the gloom.

The timber frames have their cross pieces cut on a sliding mitre saw, and frames are assembled using steel right-angle brackets and screws.  We can knock these up in less than 30 minutes now.  Each stage has 5 frames.

The open box beam piles come in 4.8m lengths, and for typical stages like Bowbridge West we cut 91cm off for making cross-beams, leaving 3.9m piles for the water side, 10 per stage.  For this we use an industrial angle grinder with 10in disc, too heavy to wield all day (IMO) unless you let gravity help the machine to do the work.  Cutting a pile through takes about 10 minutes.  The hard part is carrying them from the storage area, four can manage but five is better.

In the picture is a stack of piles we prepared in the last few days, part of our preparation for the next four landing stages east of Stroud.

The cross-pieces need to be drilled to fit the end plates to enable them to join pairs of piles together.  The “mag drill” has an electromagnetic base which locks the machine onto the steel material, and the holes are made not with a drill bit but with a hollow milling tool.  Piles are also pre-drilled to take bolts to fit the frames to.

Once the work barge is moved up through the locks, we’ll shortly be starting the landing stage west of Bowbridge Lock.

25 September 2018

A Big Day at Western Depot

By: Buffs with additional contributions from Andy P

An early start for WD volunteers on Monday.  There was frost on the Cotswold Hills promising a calm day with a forecast of sun later.  My car showed signs of an air frost with ice on the glass from the roofline to halfway down the windows.  The early rising sun became garlanded with a halo which grew ever larger as the light passed through the rising mist and hazy cloud.

The early cohort of volunteers had opened the gates and very quickly our vehicles and trailers were moved to the car park.  The scrap and general rubbish were loaded for disposal and the trench plates which cover the yard lifted to provide a more reliable surface for the mixer when it arrived.
Meanwhile Duncan and Andy P set about placing the re bar mesh in place prior to the pour. The mesh was supported on pieces of brick to ensure it was inside the concrete slab
An anticipatory quiet fell over the Western Depot. Barrows were lined up ready, spades and shovels were clean and close to hand. The last cups of tea had been drunk and gloves were being nervously clasped as the team waited for the mixer to arrive.  Time ticked by until the cry “it’s here” was heard.  The mixer was backed as close to the barn as was safe and the delivery chute fixed in place.  Anticipation turned to readiness only to be paused whilst the samples were taken.

A small amount of the mix was taken to the accompanying van for a slump test and for test blocks to be made.  For the slump test a conical mould was filled with the mix and tamped down.  Before the mould was removed the top of the cone was levelled then with a swift lift the mould was off and placed beside the concrete cone.  The cone did not slump but stayed upright and in shape. A good mix for us to lay.
And then the hard work began.  A whir of barrows and shovels went into action filling the space between the shuttering.  ‘Don’t stand still or your boots will be filled’.  The team barrowed, shifted, shovelled and raked for about an hour to get the concrete approximately level.  The ramp was filled and the extra slab by the carpenters shop was started.
On to the levelling with the power screeder. Jason had confessed to having laid concrete slabs before so he became the natural choice to drive the powered vibrating beam. Naturally it took a little to get going but soon a level surface began to appear. 
It became obvious that there was too much concrete for the fill and many barrow loads of concrete were removed into an ever growing fleet of barrows. (Where did you find them all, Kay?)
Until all was smoothness and it was time for lunch. (Note to self: Must remember to thank Leonie for bringing the most welcome cups of tea!)
To generate the final polish on the new floor a rotary power float was used. To say that this requires both skill and courage to operate belies the comedic scope of the tool.  The first attempts demonstrated that this beast could be a bucking bronco or a magic roundabout.  Eventually Jason mastered the beast and with help from Andy and Maurice who applied the water and the floor was polished to a flat and plain surface.
As this was a construction job with many wheelbarrows and shovels used there has to be a hands up picture so here it is:
Thanks to Will, Mathew, Jason, David, Vince, Andy, Duncan, Kay and Maurice; not forgetting Reg who managed it all beautifully by keeping out of the way   

24 September 2018

Pat's Progressed.

Pat has quite a quiet life recently at Ebley whist awaiting some new iron ballast to help here sit more stable in the water.  Today, an opportunity to do a couple of small jobs had us visiting her after lunch.  

There had been considerable rain over the weekend, so time to check the state of the bilges.  We were not sure that all the pumps were automatically pumping out when the levels rose up - and sure enough, they weren't.  The rear bilge, which has the largest catchment area had not worked.  An examination of the pump suggested that the float switch worked, but the float might actually be the problem.  Has it sunk or was it suffering from sticky bearings?  We need to actually remove it to check these points.  The pipe connections are very tight, so we'll leave that for another rainy day!
Another modification was to install a new switch to enable the domestic water pump so that the sink unit can be used once the engine is turned off.  This involved cutting a new hole in the control box to mount the switch and then to wire it in.  This we did and is now ready for use.

21 September 2018

Prep's for a new flat workspace

by: Buffs

The recently clear yard at Western Depot was just a fleeting glimmer in the deepening past.  The deep clearance of the barn means that the pile for tipping has grown and the equally large collection of recovered scrap metal is reaching for the sky.  The other large pieces of kit have now filled the space created when Stuart was returned to the water and its trailer was sent into the wilderness at Brimscombe.

David and his team of flexible size have been digging out the floor of many levels and cambers and erecting shuttering in preparation for a new and level concrete floor to be laid very soon.  The lunchtime concert this week was augmented with the staccato ringing of the Kango breaker on concrete as the footings for the approach ramp from the yard level to the new floor were dug out.

The early morning confusion over the size of the concrete mixer which would deliver the mix was cleared up with a site visit from the supplier.

The delivery of the concrete in a large vehicle will require an early effort on behalf of WD volunteers.  All the vehicles must be removed from the yard and parked in the car park.  The waste piles are to be relocated and other items in the yard which can be moved away from the line of work.  The yard will seem grow.

What does this mean for WD volunteers?  Parking by the canal at Pike Lock and an early start for the concreting team.  The logging team have an interesting day planned recovering a tree felled by last weeks wind and lying in the canal above Upper Mills.  There may be more work for them after the winds of storm Bronagh.

20 September 2018

Distinctive Water Feature

Whilst travelling the canals and always looking out for potential craft to support our restoration activities, a number of abandoned mud hoppers were spotted, some of which had not seen service for a very long time.  In any case, none of the owners were about to chat to, so here's an image of a water feature, the like of which we've only really seen on brand new gates before they get a soaking on our canal.

Can anyone recognise where it is?  Answers please on a legacy form to Western Depot.

17 September 2018

Friends Reunited

by: Myron

Yet another classic day on the cut last Monday. Margaret was reunited with her two proteges, Warp and Weft. Not everyone may be aware that these three vessels were built and used as a team by the original owners. We bought the hoppers several years ago but had no use of the tug then. If only we’d known, we‘d have snapped it up then. Fortunately, we got a second bite at the cherry as it were, and the rest is now history.

As you would expect by now, the tug/hopper duo soon proved to have awesome capabilities. In addition to Margaret’s power and manoeuvrability, the adjustable hydraulic rams really came into their own. As the combination moves down the, trying to deal with narrows and shallows, the skipper can play a tune on the two hydraulic levers in the cabin, literally bending the combined craft through a considerable arc, keeping both stern of tug and bow of hopper in the tortuous channel we sometimes laughingly call a canal.

Old friends meet

Entering Ryeford locks with Weft proved to be exactly the same process as that already established with Goliath. Weft was tied up at the bottom of the locks, and a very satisfied crew returned Margaret to base.

Beginning connecting
The historic moment when Margaret is connected to a hopper
There’s a bow up there somewhere. 
M&H2 – A Happy Crew.
Eisey Lock 

by: Adye G.

Here are some of the Thursday evening Eastern crew at Eisey Lock, trying to find out why the by-pass culvert is solid with soil at one end and concreted in the other.  Why, nobody knows.
Jane and Rosa are painting the lock ladders, however Rosa needs to learn to use a paint brush not her hair.  Jon and Vince are trying to find the top of the brick culvert. It's down there somewhere, success. However the culvert will need to be rebuilt after taking the top of it off to gain access to solid, compacted soil inside the culvert.
Tim and Adye are re-pointing in the spill weir, with the help from Pete and sometimes Mark. It's not easy trying to stand up on that slope and re-pointing the stone.

Jon, Tim, Vince, Jane, Rosa, Doug, Peter and Dave, Adye took the pictures. 

15 September 2018


by Jon P

Could you please post the following update with the attached photos interspersed?   Thanks.

A lot of people are puzzled about what goes on in the far east – of the canal route, that is.   Some may even wonder if anything exists!   The Thursday evening group continues to ‘plough a lonely furrow’, and we’ve been working on the previously restored Eisey Lock, near to the CCT Eastern Depot at Alex Farm.   The Lock was restored between 2008 and 2011, with later work to completely rebuild the spill weir.   We’re continuing the work on the spill weir and the associated bypass culvert.   We’ve also taken advantage of our time at the Lock to paint the lock ladders and install timber jack posts for the ground paddles.

On the spill weir, several new stones had to be located to create the weir crest.   We also have had to rake out and re-point all of the stonework in lime mortar.   The 2ft diameter brick bypass culvert has been investigated and found to be fairly full of soil, gravel and collapsed brickwork, so we need to devise a method to clear around 100ft of pipe.   At the outfall end, we’ve removed a concrete ‘dam’ and constructed a new ‘roof’ for the culvert.   Several blow holes have also been found along the route of the culvert.

The softwood jack posts were kindly made by CCT’s Eastern Depot using reclaimed timber and remove a hazard created by holes in the lock side grass surface.   At this stage, they’re purely decorative, as the canal above the canal above the Lock remains completely dry.

The lock ladders were installed after restoration, as the lock holds between 1.5 to 2m depth of water.   They were modified and painted in primer by CCT’s Western Depot, then painted black before installation.   Painting the handrails in white has completed the scene at Eisey.

Why not come and join us from 5pm each Thursday between Easter and the end of October?

Piling Gang Rest & Recuperation Day

by: David M.

Here are some additional pictures of last Tuesday’s movement of Samson.

A busy day for the tug team and piling team on Tuesday, moving the work barge Samson down from below Wallbridge to Ebley, and the mud hoppers through Wallbridge down through Dudbridge locks.
The hoppers were lightened to reduce their draft.  They just fit together in the locks and are pulled in abreast, but have to be taken out line astern to get past the opening lower lock gate.
Roping by the cross beams is an acquired skill.  It can also be done by one person, but this requires press-ups and is rarely seen.
There are some underwater obstructions just below Lower Wallbridge, but once clear got over the sewer pipe no problem.
Getting Samson over the Chestnut Lane gas pipe needed a trip back to Wallbridge to empty the lock and send down a mini-tidal wave.  They are still looking for Samson somewhere downstream . . .
In fact it got through the lift bridges OK and through Dudbridge locks, a tight squeeze getting out of the lower lock, man-hauled all the way so far.  It was then then collected by the tug and taken down to Ebley, to push in some sheet piles to plug a leak.

13 September 2018

Dredging Fleet Manoeuvres

by Bob Hallam

Tuesday saw the Piling Team's crane barge "Samson" being moved to Ebley for piling operations there. Since this was a "minor obstruction" to our Wet Dredging fleet vessels, we tried to coordinate movements of our two mud hoppers "Weft" and "Warp" at around the same time. 

There are two very and irritating obstructions which prevent freedom of navigation. A main sewer pipe and a little further on, a gas pipe. Damage to either could cause major inconvenience to Stroud. To get our hoppers past them, they must be almost empty. So we used Dredger No. 5 to lighten them. 
Now breasted up (lashed together) into Wallbridge Upper Lock we went - pulled by human muscle power only - and down they went. Same again at Wallbridge Lower. Now the narrow channel. In line astern, onward we hauled, under Lodgemoor Bridge (no lifting required! Through Chestnut Lane (two swings) and into Dudbridge Top Lock. 

We were told years ago that "It's not possible to get a 70ft. hopper in these locks, we'll have to shorten them." 
With our usual care, it IS possible to get both hoppers in these locks - a little care is needed to open the gates! 
There is even less clearance in the bottom lock! 
After an exhausting but mainly fun morning, the Wet Dredging Team triumphed again, leaving the hoppers secured below Dudbridge for the Tug Team to practice manoeuvring them when they are reunited with Tug "Margaret." (They were all 3 built specifically for the previous owner to operate as a ).

The triumphant remainders! (Our early Team Leader had an appointment he couldn't avoid) 

"May your bilges always be dry and your anchor always hold."
Dredger moves west

by: Bob Hallam

After moving the Long Reach digger to a new site last week, preparations began today to commence dredging on the Ryeford to Dudbridge pound. 
 The dry dredging boys Les M and Andy J commenced levelling a platform to stand their machine on. Not easy as the ground is mainly clay and rubble, baked hard by the Summer's Sunshine. 
  Meanwhile Bob H (normally found on the Wet Dredging team,) today demonstrated his skills with the mini-digger. This was used to find the blue clay lining closer to the towpath. While this excavation was in progress, a wildlife rescue took place. A large frog was disturbed and tried to hide in the mud. Carefully lifted out, it was repatriated to a more congenial and safer place. 

Look carefully, he's the light patch in the middle and his left eye is almost dead-centre. 

  Boat traffic also today, Margaret the Tug passed by and here's Wookey Hole as seen through the mini-digger boom. 
 The Long Reach is on the left, Ryeford Locks in the background. 
As always in the continuing lovely weather, hundreds of people pass by. The Best Banksman, Maurice H is always attentive to them and warns the driver to stop to let them pass safely. This happens every couple of minutes, sometimes more often. Today we had a bike jam, cyclists in profusion from both directions at once. Maurice sorted that out very professionally!! 

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

Fleet on manoeuvres. The Boat Teams perspective.

by Myron

Every week seems to bring a major event on the canal these days. Today was about taking half a dozen boats from one part of the canal to another. The Dredgers have been waiting for the Piling Gang to finish at Wallbridge, who then wanted Samson delivered to their next job at Ebley. A maximum effort was declared at Wallbridge. Some of the finest members of the Piling Gang, The Dredgers and the Boat Team were present. All went well with Samson making quick progress with a large amount of sweating and heaving, hotly pursued by the Dredgers and Weft and Warp. However Samson was brought up sharp at the dreaded GAS MAIN. I told you Alan, that it wouldn’t go over, I told you. Off Alan disappears to Wallbridge to let some water out of the locks. That with some seriously skilful crane driving by Mike, managed to shove the barge over the obstacle. Well I’ll be, but no time to ponder. As Samson goes into the lock, Nick and I go to fetch Margaret, as it is now obvious that the exercise to bow haul Samson to Wiggal’s yard will soon be over.

We arrive with Margaret, just as Samson is coming out of the lock, and it is stuck again! But the situation was no match for the combined efforts of all three teams. Samson gave up the unequal struggle and slipped obediently out of the lock. At Wiggals yard the exercise to couple Samson to Margaret went smoothly enough, given the amount of silt around, and progress was made passing the first major hurdle of Hill Orchard bridge hole. That was surprisingly easy, and getting through the narrows of the water main did not hold us up for long. Then the fun started as we approached the confluence weir. This was the most difficult passage I’ve ever done on the Stroudwater. The channel shifts from one side of the canal to the other, whereas the bulk of the barge just wants to go down the middle. But we learned some new tricks on how to use Margaret, which yet again, impressed. By slackening off or tightening the rams, the two previously mentioned positions could be harmonised to some degree, the result was that we got through, with great difficulty. The rest of the voyage was a piece of cake, relatively speaking. Samson was delivered to the site at Ebley as ordered.