29 August 2019

Harper's Field 28th Aug

by: Dave C.

The Bank Holiday meant only one day at Harper's Field this week, but a momentous day it was.  Having been put on hold waiting for a bigger hammer and a bigger digger there was no chance of progress with the off-loading point.  So, Bob A with his usual Ham Mill gang of Andy P and Mathew, made a start on the slipway.

After a short 'well how are we going to do this meeting' Bob set about clearing the ground while the rest of us checked the drawings and the layout.  While Bob dug Andy and Matthew did the clever bit of finding the line that would require the minimum of digging whilst still being able to launch a 70 foot boat.  Ground cleared and line pegged out, all that is needed now is a bigger digger (I am beginning to sense a trend) to make the gradient of the slipway.

Project 'DNF' - No.5 Refit

A very brief report this time.  Given that we had repaired one of the fixing points for the side tanks the other week and added rubber 'bang' protectors down the sides, it seemed sensible to check that they would still drop into place and the securing bolts go through the holes.

We were able to sling the tanks from the boom and use it to raise each of the tanks enough to for them to slot in.  The task verified that both sides fitted correctly, we'd not want to discover an alignment problem when splashing around in the water.

25 August 2019

Weedie works wonders

by : John F.

While walking down the canal tow-path on my way to Frocester beer festival, some fortuitous timing meant that I was going past St Cyr's as the trip boat Perseverance was arriving on a charter, carrying the bride and groom to a wedding function.  Anyone who saw this section of the pound a few weeks ago will know that a lot of effort went into making this trip possible.
Blanket weed and water lilies had choked the canal and floating reed mats were threatening to complete the job.  Several sessions with our aqua flora harvester, Weedie and a couple of trips by the tugs Margaret and Goliath have now cleared the pound to the extent that the trip boat crew made going alongside look effortless. 

24 August 2019

Gough's Orchard Water Feed - The Return

by: Andy P.

Nov 2017 the vacuum pipework was completed and commissioned. It did not last long and despite numerous folks and numerous methods, the vacuum failed to work for a sufficient length of time to get the water from the pond up and into the canal. So Bob, Mathew, Maurice and Andy P returned. First job was to close the inlet valve by the pond, which when we left in May 2018 moved easily with 1 hand. Not this time, 4 hands, on our stomachs, a hammer and 40 mins later it was closed. Can WD engineering make a frame at waist level to make it easy to open and close-Thank you.
The pipework which took days to assemble yielded in 30 mins-the saw did help a lot. Then digging and much more digging to drop the level and straighten the run across the tow path.

Off to Brimscombe to take the old pipes and look at the shiny new, very, very heavy pipes and fittings.  Well, a bit of a jigsaw but eventually figured out how it all might work.  John B was not too impressed about his order and drawings versus what was delivered.  More bits needed.  A very pleasant lunch break and WRG flapjack, at the bookshop, did help.

Then back to digging in between rain showers.

Weds was more digging.  Lots of digging.  Collected 2 bends and used them to work out the best way to get across the towpath, with one being cut to size to make the correct angle.  Back to the bookshop for lunch and WRG cheesecake. We like WRG work party leftover food.  Ian M spotted us so we ‘volunteered’ to take a length of hose to the WRG working at Dudbridge.  Lots of activity going on there.
Then to finish off we did some more digging and a final selfie.  To be continued at some point in the future. 

22 August 2019

Harper's Field

by:  Dave C.

Another busy week at Harper's Field saw some progress.  Piling has been started by Alan Jones' crew, with Tony Jones working the tug and Andy Jones providing guidance, the team sound like the Welsh Rugby side.  The piles have been driven as far as the equipment could provide, unfortunately it won't be enough and the age old CCT solution will be applied, 'get a bigger hammer'.
Another 20 tonnes of Type 1 hardcore arrived to finish off the entrance and access to the car park.  With the digger and road roller Steve P, Vince and part-time Les M (he'd gone off to unload hoppers so we let him off), we had the whole thing smoothed out and ready to go.

The Welfare Unit is also taking shape, with Will and his team delivering the first frames for the seating.

Dudbridge Lower Lock

by: John S.

Wednesday. Another busy day with the Wergies at Dudbridge. 
Stop planks in place and time to pump out the water. Annette was tugged up so we could use her hydraulic pump.  More excellent exampled of collaborative working.  Dave Pashby and crew brought Annette up early and so the day started.  Another very hectic but rewarding day. 

20 August 2019

Dudbridge Lower Lock

by: John S.

A busy Monday at Dudbridge lower. It was a case of all hands to the pumps as the Wergies started in anger on Dudbrudge lower lock, with the installation of the lower stop planks. Not an easy job, but with the help of some fantastic teamwork all the planks were in position by close of play. Patricia (and crew) were there to help with lifting and lowering. Ah, we need some sawdust, came the shout. A quick call to the Western depot and the job was done. Dave P personally deliverung said sawdust to the lock. The a mobile working platform was needed to enable the Wergies to clear out the remaining foliage from the stop plank cut out. Step forward tug Margaret. Another job done. With one or two other difficulties overcome the last plank went in just before 6pm. Phew....

A great example of working together: SDC, Wergies, Western depot, tug boat crew and dredger crew. A very enjoyable and rewarding 10 hour shift (for some of us!). And a thank you to the Wergies for a limitless supply of tea and cake.

18 August 2019

Chestnut Lane obstruction Aug 14th 2019

by: Andy P.

The back of the previous excavation.
I was going to say this was something different but there again the heavy rain and mud up to your knees wasn’t a good start to the day.

Lowering the Wallbridge Lower-Dudbridge Upper Lock Pound, a 2 page Procedure digested with glee.  Leader Bob, Andy P and Mathew, at second visit in matching custard yellow 2 piece waterproof suit, set about the day.  The mini digger cleared a path to the canal side to re-find the big lump of concrete which we were tasked with removing.  Simple.  Drain canal to the procedure, hire breaker, and remove concrete.  Myron and Chris on Stewart provided, dropping anything in the canal, emergency support. 
After several hours the offending concrete started to show and we set about with the breaker. Will be done in a jiffy and we won’t get too wet.  Would like a word with the person who made this mix up with granite and stones as it was mighty tough.  Working in shifts, the 3 of us slowly pecked our way along and down and inwards. We even had a soggy lunch in shifts to keep the breaker going. 

The lump spent most of the day underwater as the canal drained to river level so it was hard to see where and what to break up. Feeling our way was the only option. 
We did what we could and a significant amount has been removed and water depth improved. 
Numerous visitors appeared during the day to watch our ‘progress’ but by 1600 or so, we had had enough and time to clear up.  The dredger will be needed to clear the rubble.  The width has not improved as opposite the gas main concrete covering is a 1 metre diameter old tree stump, which wasn’t moving. Some days are just hard and unpleasant and this was one of them.
Apologies for leaving the truck and digger in a mess but Bob was on his own at WD trying to unload and it was still raining and getting towards 6pm.  Sure you understand.

16 August 2019

Dudbridge Lower Lock

by: John S.

In advance of major reconstruction work, accumulated silt from the lock chamber has to be removed.
Taken from the cab of Patricia as we dredged out the silt from Dudbridge lower, in preparation for the wall repair.  We removed approximately 1.5 hoppers full.

15 August 2019

Ham Mill - the final countdown
by: Andy P.

A quick summary of the last few weeks work.

The block work on top of the concrete beam was built. The facing bricks were laid and pointed and the wall capped.

Western depot folks Mike L, Dave P and Maurice, supplied cement, slabs, bricks and then more bricks to keep us all going.   We set a new world record of 11 cups of tea made in 1 sitting.

Working from the plastic pig was interesting as you could lay mortar without you actually moving as the PP moved back and forth.

Heritage rubble was put behind the wall for drainage.

Surplus soil taken to the other side.

The other side new track was levelled for a possible mooring site.

The 2 dams and bog mats were removed and the BD is ready for a service and a change of career.

Numerous scrap runs were completed.

We even found time to weed, seed and plant some more bank plants.

The canal to river overflow was blocked off and the reluctant pipe was removed leaving a section under the tow path.

Even Samson left us but did struggle on its way.

Although there are only 4 in this photo, Andy, Duncan, Leader Bob and Mathew, I wish I could add in the other Ham Millers, Monday - Maurice, Richard, Jason and Kay who have all toiled, sweated, sworn regularly, heaved all sorts of things into all sorts of places over a number of years.  In fact I am told we first appeared at Ham Mill in 2013 so perhaps this merits a more detailed what has Ham Mill ever done for us story.
Yard cleared in the time available and things taken to Brimscombe.  Fence posts hammered in for Dave S.
The neighbours gave us big goodbye hugs. We will miss each other. Even Dino the big fearsome dog looked sad.
2 records were set as super delighted neighbour Wendy was the first non CCT person through the lock and Bob and Wendy’s boat was the first non CCT boat through the lock as they went to rescue the plastic pig which some idiots had untied and was down at Griffins lock. A thorough soaking being their reward.
We did manage to have a goodbye and thank you sandwich at the Brewery before we went to Chestnut lane bridge bird surveying-yes the things we volunteer for.

So, unbelievable as it seems our work is done.  Hopefully the team and its spirit, friendship and camaraderie can be maintained.  Along with cake, nice weather, timely plans we stick to and some easier jobs-Mmmm.  Maybe not.

12 August 2019

Just the Ticket!

by: Richard F.

Margaret worked well today, two full hoppers and two empty ones shuttled between Patricia and the dry dredging team. In between times she travelled down to the Ocean to check accessibity for the charter boat. 
The towpath team requested assistance to check the spillway bypass at Ryeford and a problem on one of the lock gates at Ryeford was reported.  Weedie was checked out after the recent bad weather.

The bonus was that I got the hopper handling endorsement for my tug ticket. 
Harper's Field

by: Dave C.

With a multitude of tasks to complete today, it was great to have so many multi-talented people at Harper's Field. It started with Vince making sure the new Welfare Unit didn't end up running downhill into the canal, by removing the wheels and replacing with railway sleepers, whilst Clive, Jill and John took shifts in finishing painting the storage container - John can just be seen finishing off the roof 
Whilst this was going on, Jason turned up to assess and guide us in the requirement for the Piling Barge to start work on the mud barge off-loading platform (must find a better name for that). So Andy, Les and Jason set off for the darkest corner of the field, and were quickly at work making a platform so the bank operator will be able to guide the piles without falling into the canal, and, with no little amount of persistence, removed the obstructing 'shrub' stumps.

Steve spent all morning finishing off tasks and then set off to the dark corner to help Jason position the piles so the crane on the barge could pick them up.

Then, as we felt there had been enough variety during the day, Jason used the mini-digger to straighten the new digger's door, with the bucket and some well place bits of wood. Having got the door perfectly straight it was refitted for us to find it needed to be curved.

We also had a morale boosting visit from the CCT Chairman, who was successful when he moved his car so we could all go home.

Project 'DNF' - No.5 Refit

Without the acquisition of a couple more mud hoppers, there is little motivation to get No.5 back in the water.  Should some appear, then it is most economic to combine lift and transport operations.

Today, more 'nice to haves' were achieved.  Various discussions as to how to prevent the boom from impacting the cabin realised several ideas, some involved large amounts of rubber, with possible electrics.  Today's solution was a very simple one and does not employ rubber or electrons. 
A simple pointer has been attached to the turret and when it is rotated to what we consider to be a safe distance from the cabin, can be seen to line up with a red marker on the deck, one each side.
The second 'nth' was a window prop, which can easily be installed to provide a clear view of the boom operations.  Originally, a chain restraint did the job, but this is a bit tidier. 
Inspection of the mounting points for the side tanks revealed that one had suffered badly from shock with the result that the bolt hole was enlarged to a rough oval.  Some hard graft with a file made it large enough to insert a tubular sleeve, which we welded in place.  There should be a lot less slack in the system now.

Samson goes to Ryeford

By: Myron

A Little Bit of History Perhaps

Samson was on its way down from Ham Mill to Harper’s Field.  Since discovering what we believed was a narrow but deep channel through what we call the gas main, we have wanted to see how far we could get a tug up East.  After the dredging that was done last year we thought we should be able to get right up to the sewer at Wallbridge.  So, the offer was made to pick up Samson from there last Friday.  In preparation for what was going to be a long journey, we moved Margaret above Dudbridge Lower on the previous Wednesday.

On the morning the boat was prepared, locks were set, people met and briefed. Then the adventure began. The first anticipated hazard was just out of Foundry lock where silt is known to collect. Well sure enough, just level with the weir Margaret stated to hit the silt bottom.  She slithered about in a most inelegant way, but we actually managed progress, with David expertly finding the channel at not much above tick over. Then came the gas main, where I took over, heart in mouth we approached. You could cut the tension in the boat with a knife. The bow was over what we knew was the worst. Would the skeg get caught, No, she was through. A cheer went up, in the boat and on the bank.

Margaret through the Gas Main.

Chestnut Lane and just beyond proved to be the biggest challenge so far. More revs were needed as we went through the bridge, but still doable. As we went passed the slipway there was still a lot of slithering about. We had been worried about this section. Before the Dredgers came the water available here was no more than a few inches. But we made it into slightly deeper water. Now came Lodgemore Bridge and we could see journey’s end. But it was not to be. In the middle of the bridge hole Margaret came to a grinding halt. We tried again, same result. We tried once more with more revs and a run up but no. We did not attempt a flat out approach, as we thought we’d end up perched on a pile of gravel, unable to move and unable to lower the bridge. But what a great result. Well done to the Dredgers for getting us that far. This section was never meant to be dredged to full depth or width as it was a means to an end to get to Stanton’s Bridge. And just how do you dredge under a bridge that is so low, busy with traffic and takes 10 minutes to raise and 15 minutes to lower. The amazing thing is that we found just enough width to be able to turn Margaret around. Relatively quickly we bow hauled Samson through the bridge. We would now tow Samson until we could get behind her.

Margaret Manages to Turn at Lodgemore Bridge.

At this point I had to go to hospital for an no canal related problem, so I had to miss the best bit. We discussed and briefed how it would be achieved before I left. Towing a barge is a fraught process. There is a risk that the barge under momentum would hit a stationary tug. I returned about an hour later to find Samson already descending Dudbridge lock. Wow! Well done crew. There had been the odd drama where the whole issue had got stuck but we get that all the time in other stretches.

At this point, it started to rain, but thankfully soon passed. One of the big worries was that the forecast was for more heavy rain and strong winds. But it stayed warm and sunny all afternoon. With that and the fact that the previous night’s heavy rain, the weather gods were smiling on us.

The rest of the journey was now a known quantity. Ian, Jo and Chris S. left us at this point, having completed their mission to get us that far. Using Margaret to push Samson is an interesting exercise as you can’t see over the cabin and have to rely on hand signals from a crew member up front. So it is a credit to the crew that we got all the way to Harpers field with hardly  a scrape down the sides.

Samson at Harpers Field. Journey’s End.

We moored Samson up, returned Margaret to Ebley where just as we were mooring the wind started to really pick up. Good job that didn’t start any earlier. And we obviously debriefed in the Crown.

Job Done

A most satisfying day. Total time on route about 6 hours. The weather proved to be completely in our favour. The previous night’s heavy rain ensured the canal was at full level all the way through the 4 pounds we travelled, and yet we enjoyed sunshine and light winds until the very end. I would not want to attempt the journey above Foundry Lock in anything less than full depth. Special thanks to Ian, Joe, Chris S, David L, Chris D, Jerry and Dave I. A most professional job all round.

05 August 2019

Harpers Field Makes Further Progress.

by: Steve Ph.

Monday morning saw the arrival of a hired road-roller at Harpers Field which allowed us to convert an area of loose type 1 gravel into something like a car park!  With Les on the roller and Andy on the mini digger the lumps and bumps gradually started to be smoothed out.
Lunchtime saw the arrival of Chris with a new big (6 ton) digger and dump truck that CCT have bought at relatively low cost from a canal supporter, and once these have been serviced then they will join the teams equipment.  Initially the 6T digger may go to Langley’s Field where the dozer blade will be useful for levelling out the silt with the Ham Mill 15T digger coming to Harpers Field to work with the dump truck on construction of the new wharf, and eventually mud hopper emptying with the silt being laid out in the field to dry.
By the end of the day the hardcore looked more like a car park and with the digger and dumper parked on it Harper’s Field starts to look like a real CCT working site!

Project 'DNF' - No.5 Refit

Following on from the construction of a draft redirection device to vector the engine fans hot air out of the engine cover, today it received some paint, primarily to seal the surface.
A couple of hooks were also added so the assembly hangs on the engine.  A test took place, firstly to make sure nothing dropped off and secondly, to assess if the air flow had improved.

A great improvement was recorded.  There is a good positive hot air breeze emanating from the front hatches, so it would be good to think that there must be an equal amount of suction at the rear end.  A job to judge as there was a bit of a wind blowing today.

Further Wombling around the site resulted in about five wheelbarrow loads of stuff collected and relocated to a disposal area.  There is still a fine covering of sand laid down from when Patricia received her shot blasting.
On Wednesday, we will hopefully be attending to the last outstanding item, that of fine tuning the hydraulic balance of the boom and jib.