31 January 2019

Ham Mill Jan 30th 2019.
by: Andy P.

I read that other volunteers may be slow starters in the cold and are fed on jammie dodgers.  The frozen foursome this morning were at it by 08:15 after a diet of foxes specials and chocolate hob nobs.  It was mighty cold but we could spend all morning walking on the mud-did not try the canal water this time. 

Bob started by cutting some pointy bits on the bottom of the sheet piles. Note that these are proper big sparks.

The dumper was fired up ready for some external maintenance and repairs.

The temporary (1) sloping tow path is now in full time use but folks still get a bit lost sometimes.

Duncan, Mathew and Andy began on the temporary (2) canal side tow path. Temporary (3) posts were knocked into place with the 2 man post basher.  Then temporary rails (3) were cut and screwed in place.  Then temporary (4) trench boards were fitted into the temporary (5) hole behind the non retaining wall. 
Dave and Rich returned the mini digger, from engine lifting duties, where it continued to level off the new temporary (6) tow path by the lock. No matter how many times if was levelled it always sank some more when driven over.
I was nice to see Mike and the bench fitters and have a quick catch up.
We quickly broke up the remaining, what has turned out to be the temporary (7) concrete ramp before the jack hammer was returned.
The original temporary (8) lock side trench boards were moved to their new temporary (9) position alongside the fence.
The temporary hole (5) was filled in to form a new temporary (10) level surface to meet up with the other temporary trench boards (9) shortly.

A temporary sort of day but it’s all part of the plan and the mud won again despite the canal still being frozen on the way home.

30 January 2019

Project 'DNF' - No.5 Refit

When it's -4C, working with metal is not the first choice of activities, but this is what we set ourselves to do today with the expectation that the sun would thaw things as the day progressed.
Two major tasks were achieved today.  Firstly, our new engine duly arrived at 09:00.  It was lifted straight off the pick-up and taken over to No.5 to be landed in the engine room.  Various items associated with it were unpacked and discussions over a cup of tea, ably supported by Jammie Dodgers, helped us formulate our plans for engine location within the boat.
By the end of play today, all the drilling was complete and the whole assembly was fixed inside the hull using components that once supported the old engine. 

Secondly, the joystick support assembly, which consists of a number of components fabricated last Monday, was welded together and trimmed to fit in the cab.  It is a substantial structure, probably complying with Admiralty standards, but one which should be very sturdy in operation.
Adjustments were made to optimise its position relative to the seat.  All that remains is to drill and tap the pivot points in the cab structure and provide a latching system to lock it in one of two positions.  The whole joystick assembly tilts forward to aid getting out of the seat.  We also intend to fit a switch to detect it being moved so that control circuits are disabled for safety reasons.
Late in the day, two large pieces of 6mm tread plate arrived.  These need cutting to size, drilling and painting to cover the areas where the capstans once lived and where the hydraulic oil tank resided.  A job for Monday, snow and ice permitting.

The team really enjoyed a fantastic days effort, so rewarding when major milestones are achieved. 
A Sad Departure
by: Buffs
Monday saw the final departure of the Transit van which had been the transport workhorse of WD for 11 years . The 5 seats of the van had been the mounts of the many and varied volunteers based at Eastington.  The covers stored the dust of the canal worksites carried on the trousers of the volunteers as the Stroudwater was brought back to life.  The wooden floor of the load bay scarred by the many and varied loads of tools, benches, mud rimed buckets and the detritus of a day’s work being brought back to WD.   It also brought the tables and chairs which filled the old caravan and now the palatial all-purpose base for the burgeoning number of volunteers. Before the van left we carefully recovered some souvenirs – the carpet pieces used to soften the burden on the rusting floor, the batteries which will be re tasked, the jack, which was only recently put to good use on Dredger No5 and the rear passenger seats.
We waved farewell as she was dragged hesitantly from the yard to her final date with the fiery furnace to rise again phoenix like from the flames as a bean tin or a Rolls Royce…….
Workpunt Jasper keeps snug under her green blanket. She is in the yard for some upgrades based on user feedback.
The cold of winter mornings flushed with frost lingering in the shade until lunchtime has reduced attendance to a hard core of stalwarts.  These hardy chaps and chapesses can be slow to arrive but then it takes so much longer to layer up to keep out the cold and, this week, the biting wind.  There was an anticipation of fallen trees sent tumbling by the weekend high winds but as with the previous two windy weekends there were none on our patch.  David, our logmeister, has kept the logs team busy with donations of wood from around the patch to be collected, reduced to saleable size and stacked to dry.  There are also a number of deliveries to our more regular customers to be made.
The regular readers of this blog will know that the yard is seldom quiet.  Sometimes it is the rasping call of rooks and more often the raucous scream of an angle grinder on steel.  Occasionally the angle grinder in the right hands can provide an impressive light show.  While Andrew was providing the musical accompaniment for workers playtime he added a spectacular light show.  The sparks generated by from a higher carbon steel he was cleaning up turned the grinder into a Catherine wheel lighting up the darker recesses of the workshop.

29 January 2019

Ham Mill - 28th Jan 2019.
by: Andy P.

A really cold start, for the 7 of us, but it did allow the mud to be walked on for a change.  The Mini digger and trailer had to be rescued from where it was left or rather dumped by the last users.

Duncan, after lots of greasing, finally started digging out behind the non retaining wall and creating space for the other temporary tow path along the lock side.
The spoil being dumpered away-sorry the only place left was to put it in the canal.
Jason, on big digger, began clearing the canal where the 2 dams were, in order to allow a boat to pass towards the bridge.  A new temporary career for the boat has been agreed.  Fuel has to be manually carried over to the now trapped big digger.
It’s a long time I suspect, since the canal looked so open. Looking good down towards Griffin lock

Maurice, Richard, Mathew and Andy found rails which were cut, spliced and screwed onto the temporary tow path posts.  The towpath under the bridge was blocked off at both ends and suitable signs put in place.  Then Bob set about cutting 2 grooves along its length and up the slope to mark out where the overflow pipe was to go.  Then the jack hammer made an appearance for the rest of the day.  It being used on a shift basis, to break up the concrete which was carried away in the mini tracked device-this seemed to have a mind of its own on occasions.

Dave and Rich arrived with the last piece of pipe and went off to get us much needed fuel top ups.

They then set off down the track to Griffin lock but the famous now gooey mud, refused the let the tipper past.  So all hands were called to push it along its way.

Boats, boats, boats

by: Dave I.

Please forgive our enthusiasm for boats, but there's no getting away from the fact that they are what the navigation was built for!

Both tugs were out on Monday, doing a little hopper moving, a little training, and a little keeping the channel clear.  Here's an unusual picture of them together in Ryeford Locks. 
Preparations for mounting the crane into our wide beam barge Delilah have started.  The hatch into the  compartment where the crane will be mounted was opened, and we found it'll need to be emptied:
And now we know where the first cuts will need to be made. Hopefully we'll be doing this next week.  Once we have a hole, the next task will be to weld edging all round.  We'll let you see what it looks like as soon as we can. 

28 January 2019

Project 'DNF' - No.5 Refit

A good team gathered this morning with the first and essential ack of holding a discussion as to how and where we were going to mount the two joysticks.   Their position in front of the arm rests and then shifting them away to a location which permits the operator to easily vacate the seat.  We had the right volunteers in that many were qualified dredger operators. 
Ideas were discussed and sketched, even a hardboard mock-up produced.  Once the concept was agreed, we hunted for materials and then spent the remainder of the day manufacturing the various components which we hope to fabricate into an assembly ready to fit during Wednesday.

Away from the cab, the hydraulic tank received its second coat of red-oxide paint, as did the cab safety rail.

27 January 2019

Digging out for the Griffin Lock lower landing stage

by: David M.

The landing stages team has been working in parallel in two groups this last week or so.  The stage will be close to a high bank, needing steel plates to retain the bank and towpath.  One sub-team has been at Brimscombe doing the hard work of manhandling the plates for buzzing off rust, bitumastic painting, and drilling for lifting points.  They were brought to site along the track from Ham Mill by trailer, to join the OBB piles already in place nearby.

The steel bank support plates will be used two-high at the higher end of the bank and screwed to the rear of the bank-side piles, then back-filled and tamped solid with soil.  Steps up from the stage at the lock end will be formed within a sturdy piled steel box, inserted into the canal bed.

The other sub-team has made good progress with the HIAB crane and clamshell grab, digging out an especially wide and deep stretch of ground.  Thursday started with some ice breaking to avoid making barge-hauling even more energetic.  
The width of the canal means that the barge has to be pushed diagonally across with each load, for the crane to reach high on the opposite bank where spoil is deposited.
Then hauled back again to let the crane get a good grabfull on a short reach.  It’s often too hard to hold by hand, and needs anchoring to the bank.
The first pass was nearly completed, to just below water level, leaving about 1m width in place.  This will be removed in a second pass to about 10cm above water, with piles and backplates being installed as we go, to ensure the bank stays intact.
The grab gets a wash, the crane driver a well-earned break.  A handy piece of kit, in the right hands.

26 January 2019

Canal Project - Community Consultations

Today saw the first of a series of events along the path of Phase 1B where the local community can come and meet the key players involved with the restoration of the canal and its environment.

In Whitminster village hall had gathered representatives of each of the partners, on hand to chat with the public and to listen and record their feelings and comments about the project plans.
Many very informative displays had been set up, some of which were interactive and engaging for all ages.  An air of positivity made for a very pleasant experience with very useful feedback on all the activities placed on record for further consideration.

It was also a first outing for a proposed new logo, one which replaces 'Stroudwater Navigation Connected'.   'Cotswold Canals Connected' is now the new branding name for Phase 1B.  
Next up, it is Eastington on the 2nd February

24 January 2019

Ham Mill Jan 21st and 23rd 2019
by: Andy P.

On Monday there were 6 of us and weds we started with 3, until 2 snow bound folks slid their way to join us. Dedicated bunch.

A slow start as no mini digger and we had to wait until Jeff brought us the hired jack hammer.

Work continued to undermine the tree root, along the temporary tow path, with more axing and cutting until it finally relented, to join the yard wood pile.  Once out of the way we could make progress.  The path was dug out, levelled in a sloping sort of way, until we were happy.  Some suitable long posts were found and installed with the help of the digger and the borrowed post basher.  Trees roots still caused serious mischief.  The wire fence was tensioned and fitted back in place. Reg, in his own car, made an emergency delivery of nails and 2 man post basher.  More posts were fitted on the canal side and recycled boards, for both sides, were cut, shaped and fitted.  Membrane laid and type 1, via the dumper, digger, barrow, rake and shovel completed the job.  It had its first customer walking down it as we left.

Work started on breaking up the collapsed wall. Considering its age it was mighty hard to break up. The mud glue, vice gripped the bricks and boots. Exhausting shift working and we almost have another walk way across the canal.

A cold few days and some serious R and R needed. A pair of mandarin ducks did seem at home enjoying life, as we left.
CCT Benches

by: Wiĺl F.

With all the dredging updates, there are other activities volunteers undertake, One is making and installing the memorial benches along the Canal Towpaths.
Admired for their pleasing appearance thanks to Eastern Depot team who cut and smooth the repurposed Greenheart wood, then assembled by Western Depot chippies with the addition of a commemorative plaque and then the heavyweight guys install to the required 26 inch depth for the posts. Sometimes this is straightforward if the ground is reasonable like this morning at Inglesham where we installed the second bench commissioned by the Hanscome Family. The first bench was installed at Saul Junction so there are now Hanscome benches at both ends of the Cotswold Canals.
Last week we were pleased to install a bench at Saul commemorating former volunteer and Saul Trip Boat crew Pat Pewsey. His wife Shirley and family shared a moment of silence to remember a dearly loved family member
In all over 70 benches have been installed creating happy memories with supporting donations to help maintain the Trust’s activities.
The Boat Team - Wednesday 

by: Myron

The Boat Team had two teams out today, with a total of seven crew. It was a bitterly cold day, and there was snow on the ground for good measure. I was surprised that the canal had not frozen at all. I was even more surprised when everyone turned up. Great commitment.

Weedie was taken down to Boakes Drive. This is to be near to where we are going to fit the mesh. While this was happening we found a couple of problems with Margaret when her checks were done. The prop shaft bolts had come loose again. We came to the conclusion they were threadbound. We brought some new bolts, flat and spring washers and for good measure some threadlock. Let’s see what happens now! The coolant water was well down yet again. Whilst carrying out the umpteenth inspection we found a drip, and managed to trace it back to a rubber hose connection. We tightened the jubilee clip and the drip stopped. For good measure we tightened all the jubilee clips we could see. Now I want everyone to keep their fingers crossed that the next time that we visit Margaret that there has been no coolant loss. Another problem was that although we removed a large amount of wire and plastic tie stuff from around the prop we could feel that there was a load more we couldn’t get to. It was now about half past eleven so rather than practice moving hoppers around, we decided to do the drydock thing at Ryeford and clear the prop there.

At this point I left the Margaret team to travel and set up in the locks, while I picked up the Weedie crew, which I did. We the arrived mob handed at WD to see if we could move the 120 kg of new mesh. After gingerly removing some of the packaging, we decided that it was best left packed up until we figured out more of the details of how we were going to move it to site and exactly when. Good old Buffer, he too it very well indeed that we were going to have to leave this in the yard for maybe some weeks yet. We cleared off before he changed his mind. We then went to see how the Margaret crew were getting on., stopping of at Stonehouse Court on the way to have a look at the lie of the land at our chosen work location, their landing stage. It has a nice big flat area that we can work on.

Anyway, we arrived at Ryeford locks to find the team there had things well in hand and were half way through the job. So we had lunch on the side of the lock…and naturally told them exactly what they were doing wrong. Good sport for a while. When I got bored with that I wandered up the cut to see what Patricia was up to. Whilst extending an invitation to us to visit for tea, they shared some very good news, but I shall leave it up to them to announce it. So we had a cup of tea and a chin wag in the winter sunshine. It was a satisfied crew that motored back to Ebley a short while later.

Thanks chaps, for turning out on a not very inviting day.

23 January 2019

Project 'DNF' - No.5 Refit

Whilst the freezing world around us took on a magical air, when we headed to work this morning, the conditions on No.5 were not at their best.  The sun was clearly going to take a while to get to work on the cabin, so we stripped down the old engine mounts for possible reuse in the warmth of the machine shop.  In the shed, the 1st coat of red oxide was being applied to the hydraulic tank.
Finally, the call came to say that the carrier had finally (3rd try) found the house and the new seat was about to be delivered.
Much thinking and pondering on cab layout then ensued.  We found that if we mounted to new seat on the old seat ironwork, then the position was well elevated.  The holes almost lined up.  We had to drill and tap 4 more to a pitch just a few mm wider.  The base post frame needed modification, a bit chopping off, to move it forward as possible.  Positioning and routing of the hydraulic pipes from the joysticks is our next major challenge. 
The sun before it got to work!

Boaty catch-up

by: Dave I.

Monday was busy! Both Goliath and Delilah were out, being refuelled (thank you, WD!), then carrying on along the cut.  Goliath made it through Ryeford to Upper Mills, and then returned – even if there's no work to do, travel by a deep drafted vessel like the tugs makes a big contribution to keeping the channel clear.  Margaret met the dredgers and helped move full hoppers, so they can keep dredging.

While that was happening, Dave & Myron met Alan at WD to measure the crane we'll be fitting to Delilah. (We suspect we'll be saying a lot of 'thank you's to Alan as this project progresses!) It's rather intimidating, a large and heavy thing hanging in the gantry crane waiting for us to do something with it.  Anyway, the key dimensions were duly measured, so we know how high it will be, so we can make sure it will pass under all our bridges (even Upper Mills); and we know wide it is, so we know how big a hole to cut in Delilah (gulp!); and we know the mounting points, so we know where we need to put the matching locations in Delilah. Easy!

Then we went to see Delilah, to see what those dimensions looked like on the boat itself. Comparing what we plan to do, with what has already been done in Samson was very helpful.  So now we have some drawings, the next steps will be to mark out and start cutting.  We'll soon be needing to draw on the help offered by volunteers interested in helping do the actual work.

Tuesday we went training and trialling in Goliath.  Training someone new takes a fair few trips, and we try to include as much experience as we can.  This time we went to Ryeford and said hello to the dredging team:  Patricia seemed to be doing a great job.

We picked up an empty hopper, attached to it for push-towing, and soon Steve was driving a combined 95 ft vessel for the first time.  He seemed pleased!  We took it to Ebley, where we turned round (not the hopper, it's too long!).  For the return, we decided there was enough width to trial pushing breasted-up.  The additional bollards fitted to the hopper a while ago are essential for this, as a firm and secure attachment is needed fore and aft on the tug. This attachment was achieved, and off we went.

It worked very well 😊. We'll be doing more trials of this and then hopefully roll it out across the team.

On our return, Patricia had filled a whole hopper, so we were pleased to move that along and across the cut for emptying later. 

And finally, if anyone was wondering why the tug spent a while going round and round in circles, it was all part of normal training for manoeuvring at close quarters - finding out how to turn even in narrow bits of canal, doing it without hitting the banks, and getting the confidence that it can all be done with the engine just at idle. 

A Slow Start

by: Buffs

Today yard was as slow to come to life as the day itself. The low cloud which obscured the blood moon during the early hours of Monday persisted into the dawn dashing any hope of seeing the receding lunar eclipse in the time between the siren call of the alarm and the fullness of sunrise. Driving to WD through sunrise is always a differing pleasure, will I be able to see the foothills of the Cotswolds through the mist or will the hilltop trees be etched into the horizon by the barely seen sun?

The ragged start was reflected in the slow increase in the number of volunteers arriving on site. The task list for the day required drivers to go to Ham Mill and Dudbridge on simple but separate jobs. Fuel had to be delivered to the tugs at Ebley requiring a trailer proficient driver. But wait, a phone call from Ham mill. The job needs a trailer to be moved and the nominated driver isn’t qualified. Oh! And by the way can someone go to Gloucester to collect a mixer that Jason has obtained. It will need a trailer to collect it as it is very heavy and can’t be lifted like the others we have. Reg is juggling tasks and drivers until he has to leave for a meeting at 10. It all worked out in the end but it required goodwill and the use of more than one personal vehicle to meet the early day tasks.

Our tasking ultimately comes from Peter Best, Chair of the Stroud Valleys Canal Company. He is takes an increasing interest in the appearance and maintenance of the restored and watered lengths of the canal. He takes time to walk his parish and passes on to WD his observations and tasking for work to be done. One of Monday’s tasks was to follow up on some of Peter’s requests by visiting the sites on his current list to better understand the job and how many volunteers would be needed to complete the job. Jobs at Ebley and Harper’s field will be programmed for the near future.

Whilst I am on the topic of jobs to enhance the appearance of the Stroudwater I must offer a peon of praise to the Wergies who had their Christmas camp with us. Over 6 days a large party of the Red Army, never less than 30 and ultimately 40, set about clearing the banks west of the A38 roundabout. Getting as far as the site of the old aqueduct beyond Stonepitts Bridge a large number of overhanging branches and trees were cut down and were either burnt or taken away as fire wood. Vast amounts of brash and undergrowth were strimmed, cut or mashed and added to the growing number of bonfires. Jasper and Stuart, the two WD built work punts were used to great effect providing stable platforms for the chainsaw teams to work from and to collect loose timbers from the water. I thoroughly recommend a walk from the roundabout to the river bank and back to see what the canal can be as Phase 1B progresses.
There is water in there somewhere…

A before picture from the western end of the section crossed by Stonepitts Bridge. The fallen large tree is on the off bank. To see the ‘after’ picture why not take a walk from the A38 roundabout along this section.

The end of a very productive day!