28 February 2019

Ham Mill - Weds Feb 27th 

by: Andy P.

5 and 2 halves today. Bob, Mathew, Duncan, Andy and Julian were joined later by big Steve C and big boss Jim.
Plan B had been hatched and the pipe that took so much effort to push in place on Monday came out with a few Bob tugs. Maddening. The bend was assembled with a 2 foot piece of pipe and dropped back into the trench box with the SBD, now having more room, pushing the pipe into place. Easy. The really nice piece of worktop, covering the end, did not survive though.
Ratchet strap threading is not our forte as 3 tried on Monday and 3 more today, so relieved the diggers are better performers.  Moving the trench box with BD was next-a doddle and it was swung into place and pushed into the gap leaving the new pipe end safe and secure.  SBD back filling in harmonious unison from the 2 well oiled machines and drivers.

The SBD was inched forward and was able to reach beyond the trench box and excavate the next section, to the corner.  However the Ambury canal connection was too full and let water back into the trench.  No one was keen to pipe fit under water-strange that.  We needed a dam. How about a 1 tonne sand bag. No problem and it was swung into place and dropped into the gap.
 Then the bucket water baling helped drain the pipe side of the trench. The SBD scooped, pushed and pulled the gooey mess out of the trench with Bob the mole doing the final hand digging, but he did get stuck in the gloop several times.

A length of pipe was lowered and pushed into place by SBD. A quick tidy up as it was now getting dark. A good day in the sunshine with the Ambury connection looking rather splendid.

The Boat Team - Wednesday 

by: Myron

Wednesday saw two boats out, both pushing new boundaries to some degree.  The weather was glorious and very conducive to boating.

Weedie was carefully taken through Dudbridge Lower under the careful of of Ian Moody, to then be taken on quite a long voyage to Stanton’s Bridge pound to continue the deweeding in that stretch which was curtailed when the old mesh broke up.  I was at a bank side meeting at Marling Field, which was to try and sort out the various thorny issues surrounding the use of this fields for dredging this summer.  It was gratifying to see Weedie come passed, resplendent with her new mesh.

 They went on to take a load out of the above mentioned stretch.  This is the first real use of the new mesh in service, and all performed as expected.

Meanwhile, after the meeting had finished, I caught up with Margaret, messing about with a hopper down Ryeford way.  We had a couple of hoppers to move for the dredgers later on, so we carried on playing with the empty hopper we had.  For a few weeks now we have been experimenting with moving the hopper with the tug breasted up rather than pushing.  This was my first opportunity to try this and after a few coupling and uncouplings, I must say it is very successful.  It gives a fast turnaround and the combination is very controllable.  You will need a good depth of water if you have a laden hopper, but as an experiment we did get all the way up to Ebley in this setup, only getting a bit stuck a couple of times.

 We finally delivered the empty hopper to the dredgers and took the full one away.  As a bonus Malcolm Webb was assessed for his tugging with Margaret endorsement.  That makes seven skippers now who are fully trained on both tugs for hopper and barge moving. A very useful day.

Apologies for not including much about Wookey Hole.  It has to be said that we won’t get much done with integrating them into the team until Wookey’s new outboard is in service.  I understand there are some modifications that need to be done before it can be fitted.

On Thursday, Chris Drake and myself were at Griffin Mill to do some work on Delilah.  Alas this was not to be.  After years of reliable, although noisy and smelly service, the faithful old Lister on the hydraulic power pack, absolutely refused to start.  Eventually, Alan and his gang decided to decamp to Brimscombe Port to do some work there.  We went along as we also had the alternative of preparing the new large beam for the crane on Delilah, which had just been delivered.  Here is a picture of Chris grinding out one of the slots in the beam that is necessary to the design.  So, a useful day from a bad start.

Ryeford gets closer

by: Bob H.

Well it does if we’re going backwards! 

The Wet Dredging Team are getting more and more familiar with operating our Patricia. Now we regularly move off our current mooring, go and collect an empty(ish sometimes) hopper and move to our dredging site with it attached. No problem - so long as we move slowly. In reverse! 

Today, 3 stalwarts started prompt at 08:30 and performed start-up checks, collected the hopper and went off - backwards - towards Ryeford Lock.  This is getting closer as we press on.

 A few months ago, we rediscovered a pair of stormwater drain outlets. Now these were installed we think before the canal was partially restored in this area. Around them is a concrete apron which protrudes into the channel, a lot of stones and granite sets ( which we are leaving) and the remains of yet another bund. That’s hard work to remove!! 

After a good day, another hopper full was delivered by the Tug team to the unloading point, an empty one left for us to fill on Monday.
The drain drain outlets are in the near distance with some of the temporary markers around the apron. 

So, onwards and backwards (for a few more days) then we work on again with hopper on the other side an forwards past the landing stage. 

"May all your combined leaks never exceed your bilge pump capacity. 

27 February 2019

Project 'DNF' - No.5 Refit

Small team today, but good progress made in the never relenting sunshine.  Out on the boom, jib & turret, the remaining areas of green paint/bare metal were treated with red oxide.  The transformation into yellow beckons soon, if the weather holds.

A while was spent measuring for the diesel pipes and their associated connectors.  Following a trip to the plumbers, we now have connected the fuel tanks to the pump and to the engine.  All that remains is to cross link the two tanks at their lower connections.  For this, we need to order a length of fuel delivery hose, so should have that by Monday.
During the day, white van man delivered the sheet metal and 'U' section channel for the cab repairs, so this will be an action for Monday.  The plumbing in the engine room is being placed so that a proper non slip floor can be installed.  Plenty to do.....  

26 February 2019

Ham Mill Mon Feb 25th
by: Andy P.
A chilly start for the 7 of us, greasing, oiling and refuelling the diggers before we disappeared into the trenches.

Some more of the wall was removed and shipped away whilst the bank was used as infill around the trench box.  The hand digging and bucket lifting rota was reformed as we dug down to water level as we wanted to get the next bit of pipe installed.  The other wall side was showing signs of slipping so BD quickly sorted that out with a couple of scoops.  A bit of external shovelling revealed some long buried grass as we worked in the first T shirt weather.

We pre assembled a short length of pipe and a collar before it was lowered into the trench box.  It was just the right length to fit in the box.
I wish the people who made the video about the pipe just pushing together could have been here to see all the efforts we made.  Bob applied plenty of lube to help with the push, but BD failed as not enough room, strong folks pushing had no effect, sledge hammer was barely helpful. 
So the big straps were extended and fitted and slowly the pipe was squeezed into a position. However we ran out of time and did not quite finish it. Therefore, it's plan B on weds. 
A fly past and the big boss watched over us and we rescued, yet again, a frogtoad.

Deep into Cotswold Canals Connected.

(Phase 1B)

by: Bob H.

We had a huge success with a Bathy survey a few weeks ago. In layman speak, this was measuring the depth of the water, comparing it with the desired canal depth and profile, then working out how much silt is to be removed. 

All of our previous survey was done using serious technology. That included Global Positioning Satellite (GPS), Sonar, WiFi, Bluetooth, Mobile Phone data, digital mapping and a little Radio Controlled  boat. Quick, highly accurate and fun!! 

Today, we returned to a more traditional method of trundle wheel, stick and string! 
So in the fabulous scenery between The Ocean and Pike Lock, we dipped and measured, measured and dipped.   Bob H. did receive a few surprises, all was not as he feared. There is a possibility that he will become redundant before he was expecting to be. (Though that’s in doubt.)

Next, the “in water” section West of the A38 roundabout. This section is so attractive already after our WRG friends visited over Christmas. 

Now we can see the water surface (A walk along here is highly recommended!) more dipping and trundling and the initial data measurements was complete. 

The really clever bit now though is to feed the numbers into a computer programme. 
We await the results with interest! 

25 February 2019

Project 'DNF' - No.5 Refit

February knows no limits, ice first thing, but could well have been summer this afternoon.

We had three sort of sub teams operating today.  Firstly, the cab repairs have been started, we cannot hold out for something else which may take load of effort to make fit.  There is considerable metal worm in the lower panels and frame.  Attending to these has been simplified by elevating the cab.  Metal is on order as there was none of the right size squirreled about the yard.
The boom and jib were Gunked and pressure washed this morning, with the sun drying things out nicely.  After a good rub down, almost a complete coat of red oxide has been applied.  Yellow will probably be the final colour.
Down in the engine room, we managed to cut two large holes in the hydraulic control valve containment tank.  These are for the main pump feeds to the block.  Not easy access and very noisy.  The tank was also placed on rubber shims in case of any vibration movement.  The control block was finally fixed in place on its angle brackets.
At the stern, the hydraulic oil tank was also treated to some shims of rubber.   Along side the engine, we affixed the battery carrier to the engine stretchers, right below the starter motor stud connections.  There is still the battery isolator mount.
During a dull moment in pressure washing department, the site steps seem to have customised!

Warm and Busy at WD

by: Buffs

Western Depot has been shaking off the coils of this curtailed winter over the last two weeks. We mark the winter solstice with a waved handkerchief as several of the regulars jet off to warmer climes for an extended sojourn in the sun. remaining can oft be found warming hands around the workshop stove before returning to the jo Those bs of the day. This year’s very clement weather has been welcomed by our hedgerow neighbours find their voices of spring. Here and there the swans politely remind their offspring that it is time to leave by chasing them along the water and more. The ducks are starting to pair and the rookery by Pike Lock is coming back to life. Some hardy volunteers have removed some outer layers and a pair of naked arms was spotted after elevenses. The first knobbly knees of the new season cannot be far off. 

As the day warms so does the yard. Even with the reduced winter roster there is much to do and the yard often rings with the sound of the angle grinder chorus. Last Wednesday the chorus was so large that there was a queue for the sonorous tools. 

The big task of recent weeks has been the removal of some of the trees on Whitminster roundabout on the A38. This is the second big task for phase 1b that WD volunteers have supported in recent weeks. There is more detail on this elsewhere on this blog but WD fully supported the logging team by collecting 10 tipper loads of logs to be converted to saleable size for drying and sale next burning season

Jasper has been in the yard after a successful campaign over the Christmas holiday at Whitminster. She has been modified to have a similar internal arrangement as Stuart which should make handling the boat under power much easier for the boats crews of which there are many. Jasper will next see service supporting a Wergie forestry team who will be climbing in and reducing a very large overhanging tree at Blunder Lock in the near future.
The crew of Weedy have completed their replacement of the mesh conveyor on our weed cutter. They have returned the old mesh to the depot for disposal. With our recycling hats on we have yet to decide its fate as it appears to have further use providing temporary matting over muddy footways on worksites in the future. 

I have mentioned already that this week has been a heavy week for our angle grinders. Angle grinders can be fitted with a variety of discs and other tools to suit the job in hand. One large task where they have been deployed is the preparation of the engine cover for Dredger No 5. The job was to transfer the green paint from the cover to the volunteer on the end of the grinder whist adding to the syncopated and cacophonous music of the day. Here John demonstrates successful transfer of paint from the cover onto his person.
Gill, working with a black painted cover has been more successful. Her white trousers are now a battleship grey.

23 February 2019

Had better Post this one!

Some of the great things that happen on our canal are often not reported, so stumbling across this was a pleasure.

For a long time, the old stone post has stayed bare, but now, one of the new cast locally made replica milestone plates has been fixed in position adding great interest to the towpath section just below Hope Mill.
 Above Hope Mill, but below Gough's Orchard Lock, much clearance activity has taken place.  Two interesting developments, but which group(s) of elves had the pleasure?
The towpath has also received attention and is now in superb condition for all to enjoy. 

22 February 2019

WOT? Dredging on FRIDAY??

by: Bob H.

One of our stalwart volunteers, Sue only spends the Summer with us, as well as doing farm work during the week. (She Winters in Scotland!!).  The busy week means she is limited to when she can help.  Being a farming girl, she has a lot of tractor driving experience, so she was persuaded to come and learn how to remove silt with a lovely piece of plant which had a JCB origin. Almost!! 

Since she is so busy elsewhere, FRIDAY was offered, as one of Instructors was available. 
So a full day was set up.

Here’s Sue C, hard at work, concentrating furiously and doing a good job of using her two hands to control the bucket position. 

Left, right, up, down, forwards, backwards, open and close.  Again and again and again. 
It takes time, perseverance and not a little imagination to achieve good safe, smooth, and efficient movement.  And that’s without a single bucketload of silt leaving the bottom of the canal. 

She’ll be a good ‘un!  
Ham Mill Feb 20th 2019

by: Andy P.

A different sort of start to the day.  A 9 am start in fact.  Leader Bob was at WD trying to get some transport to take the screw pile machinery back as we may not be using it now as screw piles are non heritage.  Only the tipper was available.  Great but it had a flat tyre.  Not great. 

The 4 of us Bob, Mathew, Richard and Andy loaded everything on the now suitably tyred tipper as we all set off into the middle of nowhere to return everything.  We got back just in time for lunch suffering from non working withdrawal symptoms. 

That soon changed as we set about moving the trench box.  Bob on the BD had to very carefully dig out more of the trench, not helped by some inappropriate signalling.  Heavy chains were fitted, refitted, adjusted and refitted to get the box to vertically fit tight against the wall side and miss the end of the pipe.  There is not much space to work.
The BD slowly and carefully back filled the exposed trench areas around the trench box but ran out of reach, but at least the somme is looking a bit flatter.

The BD is big and only has a big bucket so we need a combination of this and something smaller for trench work.  Let’s hope one is available to hire next week.  Exciting.

21 February 2019

The Boat Team

by: Myron

Quite a lot happened this week with the Boat Team.

On Monday, Weedie was relieved of all the old debris associated with the old mesh.  Thanks to WD for taking on this thankless task.  A crew from the depot met Weedie at Stonehouse Court and a short while later Weedie was able to continue up the cut.  The boats systems were thoroughly tested and all checked out fine. The boat was taken up and moored at Ebley. Next week she will travel through Dudbridge Lower and on up to Stanton’s Bridge area where she has unfinished business.  Some of you may recall this is where the old mesh finally gave up the ghost, just as Weedie was getting stuck in, in earnest.

Meanwhile Goliath was out training and I believe they had a very pleasant day.

Tuesday was a big day for Goliath. Two trainees carried out their final assessment.  This is something that we have started doing over recent months. It is overseen by an instructor who has not had much experience with the trainees.  The trainees are expected to command the boat through all the major activities it can carry out, including general handling, lock work and hopper movements.  It goes down well with all concerned, as it both introduces a second opinion and proves to all including the trainee, that they have what it takes to command a tug in all situations.  It Needless to say, both passed with flying colours. Congratulations to Ian Nie and Malcolm Webb on achieving their WRG 21c tickets.

Wednesday was I believe  a day that might now start to be called routine. Margaret made herself useful moving hoppers for the Dredgers.

On Thursday I made my contribution along with others.  I welded some angle iron onto Delilah as part of the fitting of the crane.  It was interesting to observe the amount of activity on the canal. Apart from us three on Delilah, there were about eight people just next door getting on with the latest landing stage.  The SDC gang were also in the vicinity, doing all sorts of maintenance to towpaths.

Sorry there is no photos, mostly 'cos I wasn’t there, but even when I was, I had my head stuffed inside a welding helmet.

Ham Mill Feb 18th 2019
by: Andy P.
I have never liked returning to work after a holiday but Monday was probably one of the worst.  I do not know what it is about Ham Mill and land slips but we arrived to see that the wall down the old tow path had slipped almost into the trench, that had been dug for the pipe. Lots of d and f words.  Numerous emails had already been flying around but the scale of it was bad.  I am sure Sir Doctor Hindsight (SDH) will have a field day.
 So another challenge for the gang of 8. Duncan went to retrieve the BD-ah but it was trapped on the wrong side of the canal so he had to rebuild the causeway to get back over to help dismantle the collapsed wall.

In the meantime we entered the Somme trench, protected by a hefty trench box to hand dig out the solid mud. Buckets were lowered and filled and lifted out as Kay added the spoil, to the Somme sculptures. We finally, after several rotating hours reached the water table which allowed us to assess the pipe levels. All part of the punning clan!

The mole award of the day going to Jason and his funny bone.
The BD slowly lifted out the wall stones which were all carefully placed in a chosen spot ready for the rebuild.
Then began the task of digging the trench deep enough, without undermining the other wall side, to accept the new pipe we wanted to fit. This took a long time with lots of finger signalling going on.
We had several important visits during the day from designer, engineer and the big boss.  We are grateful for their contribution and support as it was confirmed that the bridge itself would not fall over and a revised plan was established to rebuild the now disappeared supporting wall.  It’s worth noting that no one was hurt or injured and there were no serious risks.  Everything is being done in a considered and controlled manner, despite things seemingly conspiring against us.

The pipe was cut and cut again and 2 bends fitted and tried, first in the trench and then assembled up top with the help of the mini digger straps.

The part length pipe was put in place and gently squeezed into place by bucketless BD. Now for the 2 bends.  'Lets use BD again' was the shout, so late into the evening it was all in place.

The final act being to drag the trench box over the new pipe end to hopefully stop anymore land slippage.
Our neighbourly neighbour appeared with a spot light so we could see to refit the BD and move it to a safer place.  It was late and dark, very dark.

Thanks to Bob, Jason, Kay, Monday Maurice, Duncan, Andy, Richard and Matthew (also for the blog in my absence) without whom, the day would not have been so fruitful.  It’s downhill all the way now.

No time for SDH thinking, other than we should use the proper kit and for certain jobs work more than 2 days a week to finish things off.

20 February 2019

Project 'DNF'  - No.5 Refit

And yet another fine day.  As usual, the bodywork shop was in full swing today attacking the encrusted layers of old paint on the engine cover.  This has required a considerable amount of effort to reduce to dust.  Many ancillary parts were attached to this, leaving many odd holes, but there will be none after the refit as we are planning to make this a sliding cover to greatly improve access to the engine bay.

Our hydraulics man duly arrived as arranged and this contributed to the already blooming planning session concerning the layout of piping and other components inside the hull.

There will be a full refit of the boom and jib, with careful consideration given to the dynamics of the hoses as the turret is rotated.  The old hoses clearly show signs of friction on their surface, not ideal for high pressure duties. 

The cradle for the hydraulic oil tank was finally bolted to the hull and the tank placed in it.  The eagle eyed of you might have noticed that the engine is now facing the other way.  This was a consequence of the detailed hydraulic plumbing logistics assessment!
Two other components were extracted from the store.  The oil filter/water separator assembly is now fixed near the back end of the starboard fuel tank and the battery tray will find a place to rest right at the foot of the engine on the port side just as soon as some paint has been deposited on the bare and rusting metal.

We hope to have a very tidy engine room with all the pipes and wires neatly tucked away, unlike the old No.5 spaghetti solution.

And finally, with the cab still awaiting a decision on its future, an alternative and attractive idea capable of carrying sponsorship, was trialled this morning.  It's much simpler and far less costly.  What do you think?

A38 Whitminster Roundabout - CCT working in Partnership(Phase 1B)
by: Dave C.

It was Monday morning when 2 pick-up loads of CCT volunteers and one pick-up of Stroud District Council personnel descended on Whitminster Roundabout.  CCT had been asked by the Contractors via SDC to help clear the centre of the roundabout of some of the trees, specifically those that obstructed the way for equipment to dig the new canal.  As most of you would imagine, working in the middle of roundabout involves multiple permissions and agreements, as well as working under the rules and regulations of Agencies.  So having had a brief at the depot, a man in a White Hat came and told us how to be safe and made us sign his form (he had a clipboard and everything), another chat with Amey's work supervisor to ensure we didn't get in each other's way and a couple of minutes with Geotechnical to check out their bore hole kit, and everyone was (almost) happy.  The traffic management people then turned up and put cones everywhere making us all very popular with the locals.

Dave P, Derek and Mike L set off with their chainsaws while Richard, Fred, Maurice, Ian M and John P (yes SDC personnel rolled their sleeves up and got on with the work).
Soon after getting started, a nice man from Amey wandered over to see us to ask if we could spare some volunteers to clear the space for the bore hole machine.  Suitably briefed off went Derek and Richard with chainsaw and pole-saw to clear the way.  Back came the man from Amey to tell us he needed the brash and wood taken away, a quick scan of the task quickly resulted in the conclusion we needed reinforcements, so out came Buffer and Jeff in the tipper. Clearly the work was taking its toll on some, so a trip back to the depot was arranged at lunchtime.  As the amount of wood was quickly pilling up, we called for the tipper again and Steve C dutifully arrived and a ferry system was established.  With all the logging cut and transported we called it a day and went for a nice sit down.

Wednesday we were back on site and Ian arrived with the new toy , an industrial sized chipper.  After a bit of head scratching on how to get the thing going, a few random buttons and leaves were pushed and pulled and the thing leapt into life.  There then began the competition to find the biggest bit of wood to through into chipper to see what would happen - the chipper was very chipper and coped with everything we had.
Clearly this was a bit of a different activity for our volunteers, involved in the first meaningful step of 1B restoration and working alongside Gloucester Highways, Amey, Geotechnical and of course SDC is a sign of things to come for anyone wanting to be involved in getting the Stroudwater Navigation Connected. (Now - Cotswold Canals Connected....ed.)