29 November 2018

Now - CCT Benches on the G&S Canal

by: Will F. & Steve P.

Volunteers yesterday installed two benches bought by the Canal and River Trust, on the Quedgeley section of the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal. 
The smart CCT made benches compliment the  recently laid  tarmac tow-path.  However the location was some way from the Elmore Road bridge and needed careful balancing on a trolley to transport to the agreed installation site. The edge of the tow-path was a mix of large stones, pebbles and blue clay, so we had fun digging the post holes!

Dallying with Delilah

by: Dave Irving

Some of our boats get used for all sorts of things.  For example, our wide barge Delilah is often used as a convenient work platform, or a method of transporting building materials (she carried literally tens of tons of aggregate and chippings to surface the towpath at Ryeford).  But recently, while some of the items in her hold are ours, she's unfortunately been used by persons unknown as a rubbish skip.
Extracting this volume of these types of materials and safely disposing of them is unfortunately beyond the capabilities of the Boat Team, so we are delighted that Western Depot have offered to do the job for us.  Not unreasonably, they ask that the water in her hold is removed first.  So today, off we went with a high capacity pump to remove a foot or so of water.  Weather conditions (very wet, very windy) led to the decision to transport the pump by car rather than boat, and we were soon at work.
The result – still full of rubbish, but while it's still wet, it's no longer under water.  This should make life easier, safer and more comfortable for those cleaning her out – we thank you in advance!  (For those wondering ... yes, that is a bath!).
It's not always possible to moor boats so others can't access them, but when possible we will move Delilah to moorings that make it considerably more difficult to fill her again.
Ham Mill

by: Andy P.

Work completed over the last week includes
Filling in with concrete, one bucket at a time, all the remaining blocks. A nice set of steps were finished from the road down to the block wall

Created a ramp to get the mini digger behind the block wall, so we could move stones beyond the big diggers reach. A broken back saver. We now have a nice flat level working surface behind the wall for moving the soil onto the slope.

Re planted the Acer tree again and made preparation for moving the shed again.
Eventually 4 of the lengths of 500mm by 6 m pipe arrived for the new overflow. Only 9 months late though. One piece was cut to size to form the spill weir discharge pipe, as well as building a bull nose brick facing ring.

A screw gate, high tensile strength karabiner was donated to Dino, the big fearsome dog, as a Christmas present.   

28 November 2018


by: Ian Moody

And thus it was that our three intrepid adventurers, Chris, Chris and Vince, set out on their brave mission, accompanied only by a small metal handle and a couple of hangers-on.

Objective number one: Load workboat Stuart onto the newly repaired boat trailer at the Pike Lock slipway. 

Objective number two (slightly more ambitious):  Launch workboat Stuart at the imaginary slipway at Whitminster in preparation for forthcoming WRG visits.

Objective number one was soon accomplished. The trailer performed perfectly. The rollers rolled, the winch winched and the frame stayed, erm, framey. Tick!

So off to Whitminster we went. We soon agreed upon the location of the imaginary slipway and the trailer backed up, all green with excitement.
Vince attached a rope and tried, in vain, to launch Stuart using only the power of thought.
So in the end we just pushed. Sploosh!

Workboat Stuart, ready for work.
Many thanks to everyone at the depot who worked so hard to get the trailer back in service. The boat will make a huge different to the progress we make in the coming weeks.

26 November 2018

Margaret’s meanderings

by: David Irving

Margaret met up with companion Wookey Hole again today - this could be start of a pleasant habit!

We joined forces at Ryeford Locks, both boats going down in tandem and with Weedie joining in the fun.  And fun it was – the bottom gates wouldn’t close! Well, one would, and the other got within about 3 inches of closed and refused to get any closer.  Folks from Wookey, joined by folks from Margaret probed about the bottom of the recalcitrant gate from Wookie Hole with poles and kebs and didn’t find or move anything.  So we enlisted yet more help and borrowed the dredger team’s long keb.  With this we could reach the bottom, and scrape along the cill in an attempt to move any obstructions. We found lots of humps and bumps, but still didn’t obviously move anything.  So we opened the gates and closed them again (a time-honoured tradition when they’re not cooperating), and lo!  - one closed and the other didn’t.  Only this time they were the other way round.  So we probed and scraped again and opened the gates and closed them again.  And this time they both closed with a welcome ‘bump’. We went through the locks again later with no problem, but we can’t help but feel there’s something down there waiting to catch us out in the future.

Margaret, as always, performed well, managing to move a hopper for the dredging team while all this was going on.  The trip also exercised her cooling system after fixing a couple of issues last week.  It’s definitely working better, keeping the engine at the right temperature, but there still seems to be more to do.  We’re keeping an eye on coolant levels and potential air-locks for the time being.

The photo is from last week (thank you, Iain) showing Wookey Hole and Margaret about to descend Ryeford Lower Lock.

Pat Testing
Today saw the continuation of Patricia's commissioning trials.  From her 'anchor' point, we moved off to a location along side a mud hopper and then deployed the legs for dredging.  As we were towards the centre of the canal, it was possible to set all the feet on the legs pointing outwards.  Our great  new 'C' spanner soon had the legs rotated 90 degrees.
After a few phases of boom movement, the feet settled firmly on the canal bed and dredging commenced.  Over a period of a couple of hours, dredging took place over the complete swept area of the boom, including repositioning to a new dredge area.
With Dredger No.5 having suffered a serious hydraulic fault and likely to be lifted sooner than later, getting Patricia ready for front line service has become top priority.  Today's experience was considered most satisfactory by the three operators that took the controls and enjoying a more prolonged period of dredging.

23 November 2018

It's Otter at Wallbridge

by: Richard Attwood

Today my wife and I were walking to Stroud to check out any Black Friday deals when we were able to join a small group of people on the towpath at the Brewery Wall.

The reason for the group of people was to watch the antics of Lutra lutra, otherwise known as the European otter.

Mr Otter (or was it Mrs) was having a great time playing in the water.  He or she was ducking and diving in the canal, climbing on the lower gate of Wallbridge Upper Lock, and inspecting the floating litter thrown in by passing litter bugs.


Eventually he or she headed down stream towards Wallbridge Lower Lock. Probably to inspect the plaque on the bench commemorating the visit by George III.
SDC Thursday Group

by: Ian Moody

It’s always good to have a new work site so there was much enthusiasm for getting stuck into the old weighbridge site near Eastington.  The weighbridge has been disused for about a decade and has been overrun by ivy, brambles and weeds.
Once we’ve finished the tidy-up the site will become a “mini-depot” for the SDC canal team including, and this is a source of much excitement amongst our volunteers, a REAL TOILET!

It’s going to be quite a squeeze to get our containers in there whilst leaving enough room for the existing cycleway but we’ll just about manage it.
All in all a chilly, sunny successful day!

20 November 2018

Ham Mill - 20th November

By: Andy P.

A chilly start for the gang of five as Bob set about transferring big dumper loads of soil up to the garden to fill in between all the plants, shrubs and trees.  The mini digger was a great help as it was able to push, lift and scrape the soil into place.  We still had lots of digging and raking to reach under the shrubbery and to the fence edge.
Even the sun came out for a while

Some very large nice stones were too heavy to move, so were made into features as a plan B.  Frank and team were clearing the lock of weeds and a lovely job they made.  Good to share biscuits with them.

One main rule on site was to keep the gate closed as Dino, the big fearsome dog, might get off its chain and escape, to cause canal mayhem.

We did not and it did.

We followed it down the tow path, with pedestrians and animals taking cover.  A few shouts and it started to walk back.  Spotting a small path and preferring this option, off it went.  It’s a clever dog as it waited repeatedly until getting within striking distance, than running off.  It was a nice walk through the glades, river side, industrial estate and units.  Thought we had it trapped but it had disappeared.  He was spotted, sat on another path peering at us, waiting calmly until we reached it and then set off again.  Irritating.  Did not know dogs could hold so much pee for marking purposes.
It reached the tow path and took a right turn towards home-good news-then turned round and headed away.  Running around to meet it,  Dino had stopped to pester a man with a poodle.  Leaping on its back and with an arm around its neck its collar was found.  Then, clinging on for dear life, we were dragged into the path of worried neighbours holding a proper lead.  It was a piece of cake after that, being taken for a walk home.

Dino, the Alsatian and Rottweiler cross guard dog who can un clip itself from its chain
It’s a big softy-really
These boys and their new toy's on the canal

by: Andrew Rendell

The long awaited power grease gun, the trials and tribulations we have gone through greasing them nipples, all 26 on Dredger No.5 and now far more on Patricia.  It’s Safer, it’s quicker and makes a difficult job fun!

The day was a good one and gradually the canal is beginning to look like a canal from the Dog training house to Ryeford Lock.

The plan for Tuesday is training Dredger operators as the focus and ensuring the trainee is able to cut the correct profile using several techniques.

Wednesday we hopefully will be started at the landing stage Ryeford, to the field on the tow path side and have correct depth and profile to centre channel.

We will then work on the offside from the locks  again getting full profile and depth along all the gardens.  Patricia helping too whilst doing her trial test and procedures.

The Dry Dredging boys are profiling 3/4 width where they can reach and are very pleased they now have a working starter motor.

Tug team today are working far better learning how to handle the hoppers at “slow and steady ahead”

19 November 2018

Progress on Phase 1B Talk - This Thursday

Ken Burgin (CCT CEO) will be giving a repeat of his Institute of Civil Engineering Talk on the " Progress on Phase 1B" at the Frombridge Mill, Whitminster on Thursday 22nd November.

Please arrive for 7.00pm with the talk starting at 7.30pm. This is a free event and the room holds only 50, so its first come first seated. 

Pat Testing

Continuing on with our testing plan, today we began to do actual dredging.  A mud hopper was brought alongside and moored to Patricia.  Pat's port side feet were deployed to 90 deg.  The starboard feet were pretty well on the side of the canal so could not be turned.

It was then time for the first lift of silt into the hopper.  Over a period of about an hour, we successfully dredged the canal, each time getting more familiar with the  settlement of the feet and the small adjustments necessary to keep a stable dredging platform.  Unlike No.5, Patricia stays put so the target to dredge is where you last left it!

When it was time to move, we lifted the feet and manoeuvred the boat & hopper to the next work place.  Ideas as to how to best set the position of the hopper alongside Patricia are developing, as access to load will be needed to the complete length of the hopper.

It was a very satisfactory test session, one which provided us with confidence that a safe and reliable operation could be implemented.  The draft operating procedure now runs to five pages.

Also, a few more items of note:  Not least, the cooking of the first bacon butties in the facilities cabin.  However, the smoke and CO alarms are a real pain.  So perhaps ear defenders need to hang along side the fire blanket!
This used to be the case in the engine room, but all is now quiet since the small leak in the exhaust system has been fixed with a small dose of lead and the lagging has been fitted to the vertical pipe, which was a requirement from the B.S.S. test a couple of weeks ago.
We had never completely filled the hydraulic oil tank to its normal level, so the unexpected sight of a wheelbarrow containing two drums of the right stuff was most welcome.  It took about 1.5 drums to fill to the sight glass.
More testing will continue on Wednesday.

18 November 2018

Bowbridge pile drilling - It Takes Three

by: David M. 
We had ten 3.9m piles to go in on the ‘water side’ of the landing stage west of Bowbridge Lock.  Only one of them hit an underwater obstacle, easily cleared, but every one of them got down to a hard layer, and went to refusal with between 0.5m and 1.2m to go.  We left them at height to aid construction and mooring.  However, the factory work to pre-drill holes for the steel cross-pieces and timber frames had to be re-done, as the original holes were left up in the air.
Access to the closed (landward) side was not possible (too deep for waders) so the piles had to be drilled from the open side, not far above water level.  From our hi-tech flotation platform, it took one volunteer to hold the weight of the mag drill on a rope, the second to position the drill and operate the controls, and the third to apply the pressure, with the drill enclosed mainly within the pile.

 Bolting the cross-pieces on was relatively straightforward, with some underwater spannering, and the five frames were lowered down, drilled and bolted together, and bolted to the steel, in a choreographed display of highly coordinated activity as darkness loomed.

A new day, and we found that cutting the remaining pile lengths off when in situ, from the moving raft or a temporary surface on the frames, was a bit trickier than doing it on the bench at Brimscombe.  The Armco was hung over the side and bolted on, and the main surface panels laid for fixing in the next session.  They soon got a coating of autumn leaves, which reminds me, the hydro generator screen at Dudbridge will need clearing again.  Stu took three wheelbarrow loads of leaves out yesterday, there’ll be plenty more to do tomorrow.  But that’s another story.

16 November 2018

Ham Mill bank slip
by: Andy P.

Weds Nov 14th

Our white board list now has 3 items wiped off.  The block wall was completed and the steps are getting nearer the road.  3 tree limbs were felled, chopped and added to the growing pile of materials we were collecting.  The remaining limb, being the only upright part, was left and does look much better.

We started to fill in the blocks with concrete, 1 bucket at a time, filling 6 blocks per big cement mix.  We did try to work out how many mixes but it became depressing so we ignored those thoughts.
The biggish digger roared into life and set about trying to find garden soil with no weeds, no silt and no nasties in it.  Yes, well creative logic was used and 3 very full dumper loads were moved up towards the garden.  A ramp was also made to allow the digger to get as close as possible to the bank to help our aching backs in anticipation of in filling the slope.

Will and Ray returned with a nice handmade gate to block off access by the bridge parapet-just need a post to finish it off and more fencing.

Having agreed to dismantle the garden fence we were able to carefully drive the dumper to the edge of the landslip, to tip its load.  We had to move a large number of very heavy garden ornaments, to gain access.  Now there’s a surprise.  The mini digger pushed as much soil forward as practical.

14 November 2018

Training and more training

by: Myron

The message on Tuesday night was that the excavator had broken down, so no hoppers to move Wednesday.  Great, that means we can have a badly needed training day, moving hoppers.  Not so, come the morning they had fixed it.  No worries, we just reverted to Plan A, which is the ‘throw them in at the deep end’ method of training. It can be quite effective.  Two of our qualified skippers were just about ready to command Margaret in anger with hoppers attached.  I had two trainees on Goliath for a final assessment, and couldn’t do both, so I put one skipper one charge in the morning and the other in charge in the afternoon. More on them later.

So, off I trundled with our two trainees for an intense day of locks, manoeuvres and barge pushing.  They both passed all the tests with flying colours.  So we are very happy to announce that Gayle Collins and Steve Jones will now become members of one of the most exclusive clubs in the world, being a skipper in the Boat Team on the Cotswold Canals.  Well done!

Meanwhile Weedie was making its presence felt, going to investigate the weed situation down past Boakes Drive to the Ocean.  They reported making two passes on this stretch, one down and one up, but apparently not much weed was actually picked up.  It seems it is now dying back for the winter.  Just as well because we hope to take Weedie out of commission soon, to fit a new mesh.  I can report that another skipper gained his Weedie endorsement on Monday, well done Richard Farrer.

Arriving back at the Ryeford dredging site, it was apparent that no boats had been sunk.  In fact asking around it appears that several hoppers had been successfully moved without incident.  Skippers and crews seemed to have carried out the task if not completely elegantly, then reasonably competently and safely.  That’s ‘training by remote control’, only recommended if you are pretty certain of the outcome.  Several more of our skippers also got some valuable experience helping them towards the highly prized ‘Margaret with Hoppers’ endorsement to their qualifications.  So another well done to Jenny Kingston and David Pashby.

So that’s five new qualifications this week. A good haul but we need more.

A Griffin Mill Tuesday in two pictures:

by: Ian Moody

13 November 2018

Ham Mill Bank Slip
by: Andy P.
Monday Nov 12th

An early start, with a healthy number of people and still lots to do.
Bob cutting blocks to make the wall height level and Duncan and the little helpers, began to make some steps from the wall back up to the road. 
Will and Ray arrived with the infill fence panel and made a fine job of filling the gap.  We cleared a route in the garden, by yet again moving all the pots and plants, so the dumper could get in with 2 very large loads of crushed stone (trade description I don’t think so) from the 20 tonnes delivered this morning.

This ‘stone’ was hand shovelled along the new back fence to start levelling off the garden.
As we had the mixer going all day, the walling continued until almost dark.
Ray brought a pack of mince pies and we all commented about it still only being November, but gleefully consumed them. Thank you.

Thanks to all Bob, Maurice, Duncan, Mathew, Derrick, Andy
A quick catch-up from the SDC team

by: Ian Moody

The regular Tuesday and Thursday volunteers have been doing sterling work tackling the bankside vegetation upstream of Wallbridge, supported by workboat Jasper.  A small team have been over at workboat Flea at Saul junction, taking advantage of the postponed launch date to get some paint on her.
Last Wednesday we had a visit from Severn Trent Water, the first of four visits over the months.  They parked so many STW vans at Brimscombe Port that the Port manager worried that there was a major water incident on site!  Scrub bashing at Gough’s Orchard was the task and, despite some truly appalling weather, great progress was made.

Last weekend we had the first of various weekend visits at Whitminster from WRG and WRG-affiliated groups.  This time it was Newbury Working Party Group. Once again, the weather was appalling, somewhat different from the “scattered light showers” in the forecast.  The visiting groups are continuing the work from two years ago, clearing any trees and vegetation that are obstructing the line of the canal. 
Unfortunately we did not manage to get workboats Jasper or Stuart into the water in time for the weekend so we had to make do with a quite unstable backup – a sailing dingy hull. No t great, but better than nothing.