31 March 2019

Annual Restoration Conference 2019

Yesterday in Wolverhampton, a great gathering of over 100 movers and shakers in canal restoration attended a joint IWA /C&RT conference.  

A number of keynote speakers addressed the delegates in the main conference hall, punctuated with break out group sessions tackling in detail matters relating to fund raising, the HLF, community engagement and much more.  Two of these featured Dave Marshall on the importance of CE and Lois Francis & Molly Beebee on adding value to your HLF grant (Archive Projects).

Our Cotswold Canals received more than just a mention.  A number of us and our project partners were in attendance.   With a wealth of knowledge and experience on hand, it was a most rewarding day.

29 March 2019

Ham Mill March 25-28th 2019
by: Andy P.
Monday continued with a whole more concrete mixing and wheeling down the slope to cover the pipe and rebar mesh.  Mathew, growing extra muscles as the loads are now twice as large as the big mixer now in use.  By weds am the 40 bags of cement were all used.  The final surface was made under the bridge with some type 1 added for extra measure. We even had a small section sloping upwards now.
 A rebar bending tool was brought into good use as several test pieces were made. After a lot of measurements and calculations, we now know what sizes are needed for the slope. We also calculated that 4.5m3 of ready mix will be needed to form the base path and foundation for the blockwork. That’s a lot of shovelling still to do.

Bob H and visitors arrived for a look around the site and workings, which was good to do.
The dry weather meant it was easy to walk on the car park and around the area however that was not the case on the other side as we continued to build a path way for the MD.  The mud is horrific stuff and the MD succumbed to its grip.  The rest of the day was spent trying to get it out.  BD could have been used but it would not start again and the dumper also got sucked in.  Now we are in a pretty pickle.  No matter which way the MD turned, no matter how many rocks, trench plates and digging it just got worse and had to be abandoned for the night.

Thursday Jason, Duncan and Andy J dug, dragged, pulled, lifted, swung, pulled some more until it finally was released.  However, the repaired but still very sickly BD got stuck as well.  Oh dear Oh dear.  By the skin of its teeth it hauled itself free to much cheering from the crowd including Reg and Jim.  Then MD finally made it out-what a machine, as it fired up every time despite the stress it had been through and the stresses it passed on to all of us.

We are really all an unhappy bunch to have got into this predicament trying to do a good job.  Time for a rethink.

28 March 2019

The Boat Team

by: Myron

It’s been a couple of weeks now since our last blog so what’s been happening.

Monday the 18th saw myself grabbing the skippers slot on Margaret.  Not that I did much except watch the crew demonstrate how to move a hopper breasted up.  We are finding better ways of tying the two units together with as little movement between them as possible.  The tighter the more manoeuvrable the whole thing is.  We also did some conventional end to end hopper pushing.  One result was that John Ferris got his’ Margaret with hoppers’ ticket.  Another fully trained crew member.

Wednesday the 18th was at first glance a very disappointing day in that a full day of activity on Weedie had to be cancelled due to the oil slick in that pound.  What was even more disappointing was that we had been due to give a demonstration to a group of schoolchildren.  I hope they catch the b******* who put that oil in the drain that caused this mess.  I also had my good friend Jerry with me on his first day as a volunteer.  So, being basically unemployed, I decided that we would have a walk round, more a walk along really. We started at Western Depot, where Reg kindly gave Jerry a good introduction to the workings of the yard. Next we stopped off at Wookey.  They were busy dragging huge bunches of reeds out of the canal just up from Upper Mills.  Next we saw Patricia trying to turn round so they could get a better angle on the upper wings of Ryeford locks.  They couldn’t quite do it so they were taking a few bites out of the bank and emptying into a hopper.  We then came across Margaret patiently waiting for the hopper.  While we were there the hopper was accepted and it was interesting to see the tug and hopper coming up the locks. Here Jerry joined the Margaret crew and soon made himself useful.  The dredgers had reported two large concrete obstructions just up from the lock gates.  They had probed the lateral dimensions quite accurately but had not got a real feel for the depth.  So Margaret trolled up and down with a crew member on a pole, checking the depth. For once it was quite good news. Although the obstruction is quite big and goes out to mid channel, at normal water levels it is about 1.1 metres below the surface, enough for it not to be a problem for our deepest drafted boat, Margaret.

Jerry probing the depths while Malcolm with clip board looks on, a budding manager

Last Monday I was once again unemployed, comes with having a great team of volunteers I suppose.  Walking down from Ryeford I spotted Aquila dodging up and down the cut, with Tony leading some outboard practice with a boat load of volunteers.  Good to see so many responding to this being organised.  I did manage to get some useful employment helping to clear behind the lower gates of Ryeford locks, the picture proves it.  Wookey came to visit us, cue for sarcastic banter both ways.  I guess that makes us one team now.

Myron doing some work for a change

Once the outboard experience was over, the crew returned to Margaret in time to go and do some tug stuff for the dredgers. Yet another volunteer was given his WRG 21c ticket. Congratulations to David Lovemore.  He is unique in that he is the first trainee to complete the entire syllabus in one go.  This was due to his patience and diligence, making sure he undersood and could do everything before he went for his ticket.

David Lovemore quietly celebrating his skippers ticket with Tony

Last Wednesday we had Margaret out training with hoppers.  Seems like we’ve found yet another way of moving them.  We’ve established  a useful way of breasting up, but now we’ve discovered another way to tie tug to hopper by using two springers.  This has the benefit of reducing the amount the two units move in relation to each other when say going from forward to stop.  I can’t wait to try it myself.

Springers used to breast up

I was busy with my new crane instructor hat on.  I had Maurice Miles for a 3 year refresher and John Sirett for an endorsement to his WRG 22.  I think it all went very well and needless to say they both passed with flying colours.  We now have 12 volunteers who have their crane ticket. This is across 3 different teams. That’s an achievement that I think we can be proud of.

Maurice and John undergoing crane training
John reaches for the sky

I hope you agree, we’ve not been idle.  Thanks to Iain Tweedie and Rob Wilson for the pictures.

27 March 2019

A Destination Canal

by: Bob Hallam

This week, the Western Depot and Wet dredging team has been the destination for two very different organisations.
The first on Monday, came about by an unusual connection. BobH (and wife Lynn) are members of the CaRT "Boating Buddies" scheme.  They fairly regularly get to take members of CaRT staff - who may never have been on a canal boat - on their Narrowboat for a day.  This can be (and is) anywhere in the country during the Summers out on "The System".  The staff get to see and hear of boater's views, and Bob and Lynn get to find out about a lot of the "back office" stuff that goes on. 

Anyway, the arch organiser of the BB scheme is Damian Kemp, the head of Boater's Communication and Consultations. He was interested in both our dredging operation in CCT and BB's views on canal matters generally- as well as creating a new podcast for CaRT!  On arrival, he was amazed at how much work goes on at WD. It seems - if I understood correctly, that we now carry out as many repairs and fixes as almost any CaRT region workshops!  Needless to say, he was very impressed by our dredging operation and the support from all the volunteers in all the teams.  We await the podcast! 

Don't know how many of our readership use Facebook, but one item on their is the CaRT restoration page.

A few weeks ago a picture of Patricia was posted on there.  A short time later, BobH was asked to ring Rod Gordon . He's a member and frustrated dredger crew volunteer for the Grantham Canal Society!  After making the call and arrangements, Wednesday saw a fact finding visit from the Grantham Canal Society, 

with 4 of their volunteers- again with dredging as their main interest. (We must be doing something right!)

Again they were very impressed by all they saw, the "tour" took in the Western Depot ("Look at all these volunteers and equipment!") and a long look at Dredger No. 5 rebuild (fantastic!) 
We discussed all the necessary documentation we have produced for dredging and operation of the plant, then went off on a Whistle Stop tour, taking in The Ocean, the Ryeford Dredging site, (almost drooling over all the plant especially the long reach digger and Patricia) then off to Ham Mill where BobA showed the repairs he and his hard-working team have been battling with. 

Finally, they had a long chat with MartinG about Ham Mill Lock and project planning. 

A busy week and more connections made to other organisations. 
Project 'DNF' - No.5 Refit

Our noisy racket continued today with more of the deck getting the nail gun treatment.  Not quite half has been cleaned down now.  No paint was applied as we wanted to get the cab back in place, big boots on soft paint don't mix, so that internal fittings could now be installed and protected from the weather.
The cab is almost complete with regards painting, but certainly in a condition ready to reinstall on the boat.  A method of shifting it onto the flat bed truck was devised and the process went very well.  After its short journey out of the yard gate and across the car park, it was slid and rotated into position.  Next came the answer to the great question:  'Does it still fit?'
Well, it dropped into place perfectly and the doors hung back on their hinges.  Another important step in the progress of this refit programme. 
The hydraulics installation is making good progress and may well be complete by next week.  

25 March 2019

** Tonight **
This is an event organised by the GSIA which members of the CCT may find of interest.  Visitors are welcome to attend.

Speaker, Nigel Jefferies is a founding member of the Herefordshire and Gloucestershire Canal Society (now Trust). 

He has researched extensively the fascinating history of the construction of the canal which took place in two phases. 
Full of optimism, construction started in 1793, but inevitably there were difficulties which caused costs to spiral, in particular for the 1¼ mile long tunnel at Oxenhall.  In 1798 worked stopped altogether one mile out of Ledbury a distance of just 18 miles from Gloucester.  This was barely half of the planned 34 miles to Hereford.  In was not until 1839 that work restarted under the direction of Stephen Ballard as clerk and engineer to the company.  The canal finally reached Hereford basin in 1845 but by now we were firmly in the Railway Age.

Project 'DNF' - No.5 Refit

Another fine sunny day, perfect weather for a bit more painting.  The cabin is pretty well ready to go back on the hull now, something that we hope to achieve on Wednesday, perhaps.  The doors also received attention today, together with the interior of the roof, oh, and a bit of window cleaning - long overdue.
Since our working party last Wednesday, much has happened with the hydraulics plumbing.  Many of the new pipes are in place within the hull, the piping on the boom is the biggest part remaining.   
Today, the saddles for the pipe clamps were welded in place on the boom.  These will need cleaning and painting next time.  More deck scraping again, but some serious mechanisation is required if good progress is to be made.  The old paint is stuck well and very thick in many places.
The limit switch for detection of the control joystick assembly now has a mounting point, close to the release catch.  All the electrical parts are in stock, so fabrication of the new control box is next on the priority list.

21 March 2019

Ham Mill - Weds March 20th 2019
by: Andy P.

Bob, Duncan, Mathew and Andy set about todays jobs.

Cutting and 90 degree bending of the reinforcing mess to wrap around the pipe under the bridge. A clue is in the description. All sorts of heavy duty bending tools were brought into use and we even managed to break many of the welds. Amazing what can be done with scaffold poles, wood and pick axes. The mesh was then placed over the pipe to await its fate under the concrete being readied

A mortar mix was made for Bob, so he could continue with brick laying.

Duncan dug a trench and fitted the water drainage pipe on the opposite bank before moving to the mini digger (MD) to again grade the slope down to the bridge.
Mathew and Andy spent most of the day mixing and precariously barrowing concrete down the muddy slope to pour over the pipe.  Lots of tamping to get it under the pipe. 15 loads and 1 meter done. 6 m to go. Do the maths. Gulp.

Buffs , Colin and Geoff (Thank you all ) arrived with the fuel bowser and we put over 200 l into the MD, BD, dumper, generator, pump, and every can we could.  A BD fuel leak put a stop to this as fuel was removed.  Lots of looking and ideas to solve the problem but BD still after TLC.

The generator also was found to have a leak in a red flexi pipe.  More looking and ideas and TLC needed.
Late in the day Bob again looked at the big mixer, drained the fuel and fired it up-no still dead. Our helpful neighbour and temporary landlord, with spanners, helped out with dismantling fuel lines and fettling. Then 3 spins and it not only fired, it ran and kept going. Marvellous. A change of skills sets for the ham millers.

20 March 2019

Community engaged!
by: Leonie A.

In between covering Dredger No.5’s cab with red oxide and a much more fun purple, a short outing was made to Stonehouse for more paint rollers. 
Conversation at the till concerned the Ship Inn site and the strong local support for a green space area, with cafĂ©/facilities (CCT bookshop/visitor centre) and not the proposed housing scheme.  Locals are asking what the news is on this.  
Unable to help with that question, few moments later, a £20 note was put into my top pocket from the lady behind me – a donation for the Trust which could go towards our latest £1.5m fundraising target.  Thank you to the local community in Stonehouse for supporting the canal restoration and for asking for recreational facilities to go alongside it.
Project 'DNF' - No.5 Refit

Sometimes, when you stir things up, good things happen.  
Not too unsurprisingly, it was paint that got the agitation treatment.  Today, we were able to apply a coat of red oxide to the cabin and then the first coat of SVCC purple, not before the numerous and randomly scattered small holes in the panels had been filled and flattened.  Suddenly, the project takes a change of gear.

There is still the detail painting around the windows to deal with and some white inside the cabin.  The doors have had their bare metal painted, but still need to be finished off.

Outside in the yard, yet more deck banging to break up paint.   It all got a bit noisier when the pneumatic weapons were deployed.  More to do before we can apply the paint.
Another job that has taken most of the day to complete, is the new hydraulic hose management system atop the boom.  The existing cylindrical piece has now been replaced with a flared rectangular one capable of taking a couple more hoses and also tilted at a more appropriate angle for the duty.
Like Monday, we spent a short time on the throttle cable termination.  This has now been completed.  Pleasingly, our hydraulics man arrived again and spent quite a while on site linking some more control circuits.

The electrical components have now arrived, so that is another sub project that can now proceed.

Good team effort, again.  Thanks to all.
A New Work Platform

By Buffs

The restoration of the Western length of the Stroudwater requires the inspection and repair of the existing bridges at Whitminster (Occupation Bridge) and Newtown (Roving Bridge). Walk Bridge at Saul will be completely replaced with an arch bridge to replace the current level fixed bridge and flow metering station. 

After consideration of options it has been decided to use a modular pontoon to completely fill the gap between the banks under the bridges. This will enable a small platform to be erected and carried on the pontoon deck for the surveyor to get as close as is necessary to the brickwork for a detailed examination. The pontoon structure is similar to that of Kon-Tiki which is used by the landing stages team.

The modules were collected from the manufacturer by a team of SDC and CCT volunteers on Monday and left overnight at WD. The collectors were given a hands on demonstration of the method of assembly before loading into the van and tipper. The 55 double units and 10 single units were stacked, cajoled and squeezed into place and lashed down. The multiple bags of bits and steel work were moulded into the remaining spaces and voids.

The work of assembly was carried out on Tuesday by the SDC led volunteers. Access to the Occupation Bridge is possible in road vehicles in summer when the ground is dry. Our van and tipper do not cope well with ground which has seen a weekend of heavy rain on winter soaked turf. The only practicable route in is along the canal bank from the A38 roundabout and across a style. The 12 strong team set about carrying the units the half mile or so to the bridge. 

What about Stuart I hear you ask. Wasn’t she left by Occupation Bridge after the logging event during storm Erik? Well, she was-until last weekend when the WRG foresters continued the job started at Christmas at the viaduct end. They decided that having a boat would make their job less challenging. The 29 strong team hand balled the boat from one side of Stonepitts Bridge to the other where she remains.  

Splitting the route into 3 sections kept a steady delivery of units to the constructors. 3 pairs of volunteers carried the 55 11 kg double units in a relay across the fields and over the style over two and a half hours. A massive effort by the team of not so young and spritely volunteers. Bravo bravissimo!

The construction team assembled and locked into place all the units on the bank of the canal. The choice of assembly site was not ideal… Determined by the need to be close to the bridge the form was laid on a slope, albeit a gentle one, upwards to the lip of the bank. How much became evident after lunch the time came for the launch. Small undulations in the ground caused some difficulties for the assembly of a flat modular system. These were corrected but it became evident that the best place to achieve full tightness was on the only flat surface to hand.  The water. 

Launching was meant to be a simple slide from the bank. With all 12 pushing there was no movement, even with long levers movement was imperceptible. With all the effort concentrated on one corner movement was achieved. Progress was maintained by a wiggling action until full flotation occurred to no cheers at all. The pontoon was manoeuvred under the bridge where the locking pins were tightened and the handrails were fitted. Here we learnt that although very stable there is sufficient flexibility in the structure for the outer rows to respond to heavy weights placed on them. Adjustments to the rail fixings were done at arm’s length. 

 Now that the assembly is afloat it deserves a name. Keeping with the Thor Heyerdahl theme, Ra would seem appropriate for this new boat.
May God bless RA and all who sail on her. 

RA lies quietly admiring the Swans at Occupation Bridge

Scenes from Western Depot

By Buffs

February rushed past leaving memories of a month of four seasons. The bite of the winter snow, the blast of the wind and rain followed by the unusual balmy warmth which saw Western depot bathed in sun. The final week went out with a roar but did not produce the expected bounty of fallen timber for the log yard. Normal service returned in March with frost glistening on the pale fields around the canal. The bright and heightening sun was welcomed into the small engines workshop as Colin opened both doors on the container to encourage the warming golden rays to alight onto the benches and motors lying there.
The thin winter volunteer role call managed to fill the yard with the sounds of industry as Jasper was finished and returned to the water in readiness for the new season’s work and the dredger team set to repairing and replacing the rust ravaged cabin walls. Vince has mastered the staccato of spot welding of thin plate. Others have taken on the task of covering the yard (and its denizens) in a fine green sheen as the sound steel is prepared for repainting. 

On a slightly sadder note we said goodbye, hopefully not farewell, to John and Gill. This couple have been responsible for an inordinate amount of painting over the last 18 months or so. Joining us from the Tuesday/Thursday groups they worked quietly and methodically to prepare and paint both Ratty and Mole. With the personal understanding of a long partnership they achieved a high standard which was recognised by us all. It was fitting that they were the hosts on Ratty and Mole as these boats were formally named Jasper and Stuart before joining the CCT flotilla. The quality of finish on Patricia is also a product of their standards of work. We wish them well on their adventures on their new boat.

19 March 2019

Ham Mill Monday 18th March
by: Andy P.

An interesting start at 8am as the truck arrived to collect the 1 tonne trench box.  A tipper truck and no lifting equipment.  What are we supposed to do? Bob came up with a cunning plan.  Dismantle it.  The mini digger took the strain as the leg pins were eased out with a lump hammer.  More digger manoeuvres as the sides were grabbed and lifted on the truck, twice.  Excellent improvisation.

A mortar mix for Bob as he laid more bricks around the pipe outlet.  Mathew having to multi cut every one.  Slow and steady progress.
Duncan on mini digger graded the slope, but the Ham mud nearly got the better of him and the dumper on several occasions.  The excess being used to build up a bank near the amenity cabin where the last 5 laurel tress are being planted. Maurice was banksman and on essential traffic duties, as the tow path was opened and closed and moved about a bit most of the day.

Richard and Andy on neighbourly gardening duties to add a few more finishing touches.  We do get biscuits in return.  Dino the big fearsome dog, not even moving and there was a small hint of a tail wag.  Cracked it.

Numerous visitors today but not much time for catching up but John F and Ian M came to start the big mixer in readiness for the monster mixes we will need. We had tried the opposite of the utube video and Mathew got in spluttering into life only for it to splutter to death and stop.  John failed and the mixer is still dead.  We did pick the brains of the engineer who had just fixed BD so we have some options-ready mix might be one of them.  Hoorah. BD now back up and running but still needs some more TLC.

Let’s make some concrete was heard, so 3 mixers were wheeled down the slope and bucketed into the wall space behind the pipe.  It seems like years ago we started on this pipe, it was in fact Feb 26th 2018 but at long last after a very long delay and then so much work and effort, it is safe to say the pipe in now finished. That is apart from all the concrete to go on top of it, but that’s another story.

18 March 2019

Project 'DNF' - No.5 Refit

Great working party today, there were seven of us tackling numerous jobs on and off the boat.

The final repair welds to the second door were completed.  That is all the welding complete on the cabin.  Just need to fill and paint now.  The roof, which was really flaky an rough has been flattened ready for paint.  A bit for effort inside the cabin will prepare it for a complete repaint also.

Out on the boat, the outbreak of yellow paint has now spread across the whole boom, it looks a whole lot better now.  We are modifying the way the hoses are managed, with improvements to reduce the wear from rubbing that takes place.  Some welding will be necessary to complete this change.
Following a visit from our hydraulics man, the first hoses on the control block have now been fitted as has the accumulator for the control circuit, which resides in the control block tank.
Out on the deck, the tedious task of chipping back the paint to the early Neolithic period layer has begun.  There is more to do, but the result, once painted will be a vast improvement over what was there.

Later in the afternoon, our attention turned to the fly by wire throttle system.  In fact, we inserted a wire inside several pieces of recycled small bore hydraulic pipe so as to route it from the old throttle lever down to the floor level of the boat and then along to the engine, where it rises up and onto the throttle link mechanism.  A special coupler has been machined to couple the wire up.  There is a bit more to do with this next time to finish the job.
A successful and productive day,  many thanks to the team.  It is good to see the plumbing going back in.  More on Wednesday hopefully.

WRG Forrestry go cherry picking

(Phase 1B)

by: Jon P.

The future site of the re-connection of the Stroudwater Navigation and the River Frome at Lockham, Whitminster was blocked by 70 years of tree growth.   The largest culprit was a huge 3-trunked Crack Willow, with one trunk fallen horizontally in the canal, one at 30° and one at 60°.   WRG Forestry were asked to tackle the removal of this tree and, rather than use climbers to remove section from the height, they elected to use hired-in mechanization.   Steve P organised for Ermin Plant to deliver a rough terrain MEWP (mobile elevated work platform), more commonly known as a ‘cherry picker’, to Stonepitts Bridge.   Friday saw Nigel Lee of WRG Forestry deploying his team to the MEWP to access the furthest extremities of the Willow, firstly to inspect the tree for nesting birds, followed by chainsaw work, and interspersed with activity on the ground to chop up (or section) the fallen limbs and remove the brash to a bonfire.

Other members of the team attempted to winch the horizontal trunk to dry land, where it could also be sectioned.   Jon P led the gang retrieving the logs, and was responsible for the (less scary) ground-based chainsaw work.

On Saturday, WRG Forestry were joined by KESCRG, who de[played a team further east along the canal, and also worked on other tasks led by Steve P at Newtown Lock and Clowes Lock, Chalford.   The wind on Saturday, however, proved too strong – not for the stability of the MEWP, but because the tree was moving too much.

Sunday was calmer, so the MEWP was back in action again, leaving just simple trunks for later felling (they’re very thick – up to 1m in diameter, and very heavy).

Once again, a very successful long weekend and another task ‘ticked off the list’ of Phase 1B – Cotswold Canals Connected projects.

17 March 2019

Something Different - Barge Pulling

by: Myron

After an unspectacular weeks work, on Saturday the Boat Team undertook an entirely different activity. This was to support the Community Engagement Team of Cotswold Canals Connected. The idea for us was to bring a tug and hopper to the public event at Ebley, do some demonstrations and assist in the hopper pulling. This is a variation of the very popular barge pulling that Paul Weller has run many times at Ryeford locks, particularly for local schools. The strong wind presented a few challenges. In the end we modified our plans to pull a Margaret and hopper combo along the wharf outside Kitsch In. This turned out to be very successful and we did at least 6 tug/hopper pulls with the public. Emily and Molly from the Community Engagement Team were very good at drumming up members of the public to have a go. Kids loved it of course but quite a few adults had a go as well, amazed at the little effort it took to get well over 20 tonnes of metal moving on the water. We had Margaret running with a crew member ready on the controls, in case the wind should get things out of hand, but it wasn’t needed.

Thanks to Nick, John Sirett and Rachel for turning up on a very inauspicious day. Chris Godding and Malcolm Webb came to see us, and it was really nice to see Bob Poole and Peter Snelson as well. A few other volunteers came from other parts of the Trust as well.

The journey back was another matter. We were now into wind. Straight off the bollard the still strong wind took the bow of the hopper, nearly 100 feet away from the propeller, and took it onto the far bank. Any boater will tell you what it is like getting off a bank on the lee of the wind. It took us about four attempts. As we went through the flood gates the public gave us a round of applause, recognising the difficulty of the task. Then all the way back to Ryeford to drop the hopper off, the wind kept trying to blow the bow onto the bank but the team skilfully managed to keep it in the middle. We all learned about boating from that. Great boat handling on a nasty day. But a very satisfying day.

Thanks to Sam Sirett for the pictures.