31 October 2019

BAT Squad - Mud Hopper Recovery

by: Peter A.

Another big day for the Boat Acquisition Team, concluding our efforts to find, purchase and transport 2 mud hoppers to our canals.

An 05:30 start from Stroud saw us heading north up the M5/M6 to Etruria, Stoke on Trent, where last week, we moored two 50ft mud hoppers for collection.  The journey went well, very well in fact and we were on site at 07:50.  

To our great delight, the guys at Black Prince had obviously been busy and had pumped out all the tanks and bilges leaving the two hoppers sitting dead flat in the water - nice!  All the pumping kit we had loaded into the car was now not needed.
Soon after, above the trees, there was the unmistakable outline of a large yellow crane, shortly followed by the lorry.  Deployment of the crane was efficient, during which the first hopper was hand hauled to the loading point. 

The lifts went well.  Our local haulage company, Ellis Transport, had them stacked on the trailer and firmly strapped down.
Amazingly, the job was complete and we were heading back to Gloucestershire just after 10 o'clock.  Good time was made, but on the odd occasion, the hoppers were travelling slower on the M6 than during their time trundling down the Caldon canal!
Another major transport operation was underway back at base, where Augustus Gloop was being returned to the water at Dudbridge.  Our destination was the same yard where one of our hoppers was to be dropped off in the canal, using their crane.  By lunch time, we were on site.

That lift went smoothly and the tug team merrily pottered off with their new hopper.

Phase 3 of our operation kicked in, with the assembled crane and lorry heading off to the Thames & Severn Canal at Thrupp, or more accurately, besides Stroud Brewery.

The lift location was in the grounds of Tudor Rose International, they had been most helpful in facilitating the operation.  The canal here has received only cosmetic dredging, a few years ago, so the landing point was going to be mainly on a bed of watery reeds.
Over the fence, the second hopper went and landed in a semi-buoyant position ready for Alan J. and his team to take possession and commence the dredging activities up there.
Throughout our time with this project, we have received excellent co-operation from Black Prince, Ellis Transport, Ellis Cranes and Steve Foster Cranes up at Etruria.  It made the whole experience so rewarding and enjoyable.

Finally, only one course of action was available, that of a short walk into Stroud Brewery for a fine pint of ale.  SDC's Thursday gang duly arrived and joined in.

30 October 2019

Harper's Field

by: Dave C.

It was a busy day in Harper's Field with multiple teams assembled and numerous tasks allocated, none of which had anything to do with progressing the Harper's Field project.  As the Field now appears to have become the favoured off-loading of brash and associated foliage picked up by boat crews and left for the workers to clear up (not counting Wookey, see below), a bonfire was planned, and in fact it took 2 bonfires.  Mike L and Derek set to with chainsaws making the big stuff into smaller stuff so it would burn easily, whilst Clive kept a watchful eye on the fire making sure it had enough fuel.
In addition Steve P and Buffer set about removing the fuel tank from the Welfare Unit to try and clear out the gunk (technical term) that was blocking the fuel flow, whilst this was going on Les M set about getting the dumper work ready.  Both tasks were successfully achieved with the Welfare Unit being given a full test of all of its facilities and the generator coping admirably, and the dumper being given a full road test, or should that be a full field test.  
Jeff B arrived first thing and worked his magic on the big digger, and with it going for the first time since its service (!) Frank set off happy his toy was back and working and was successful all morning, then he turn it off at lunch time and it wouldn't restart.  This was a bit of a blow as it meant the final task of taking the broken bit of Weedy back to the depot couldn't happen.  Jeff was recalled, but he had clearly run out of Pixel Dust and the magic was just not happening.

Towards the end of the day we had a cheery visit from Wookey, who had more fuel for the bonfire, which Judith and Richard T happily unloaded, and then used the big digger for the only use it had, for a sit down and a catch up, only to be pushed out of the way when the piling barge turned up.

Project 'DNF' - No.5 Refit - Formally Named Today

by: Peter A.

With the imminent re-floating of our rebuilt dredger, the opportunity was seized today to formally name the vessel 'Augustus Gloop'.  A name unofficially carried in the past.

Following final preparations for the big day, a temporary nameplate was made, affixed and then it was on with the naming ceremony.

Not wishing to waste a fine bottle of bubbly on the tarmac, an alternative method was sort.  So a large bottle of Phase 1B water was collected and then ceremoniously crushed in the jaws of the clam shell.
A toast to Augustus Gloop followed and the deed was done.
Trust Chairman, Jim White, joined the main project team, John, Brad, Vince and project leader Peter in the celebrations.  

Tomorrow Augustus Gloop will be lifted out of Western Depot's yard where it has rested for the past year and secured to a lorry for the short journey to Dudbridge Wharf, where she will return to the Stroudwater Canal, together with one of two 50ft mud hoppers.  A second mud hopper will later be craned into the water up near Stroud Brewery where the task of dredging will begin, so that in the near future, we can navigate there for a pint of fine ale.

Dredger No.5 has been with us many years and provided sterling service.  Here she is in the late 80's at work near Wycliffe Boat House.
(Picture: Richard A.)

29 October 2019

Canal Gets A New Slipway.

by: Steve P.

Today saw the Western Depot team of Chris, Dave and Steve working to build a new mini-slipway near Whitminster so that the WRGies can get boat access over Xmas to continue their work on pruning the trees along the cut from Whitmister towards Saul  Junction.  

Having checked out the access to the canal Dave and the mini digger made short work of the new ramp apart from some tree roots that tested its capabilities, but the end result was a muddy slope leading into the canal.  
After lunch and some checking on specs the Mitsi was put into service again to collect a 1 ton bag of type one hardcore which once delivered and spread  transformed the mud into something that a boat trailer and 4x4 might be able to use without getting stuck!  The acid test will be over Xmas, but hopefully this will allow access for the workboats to another stretch of the canal ready for Phase 1B.

28 October 2019

Annette is laying on the bed!

Our workboat, Annette II, is not happy.   The very heavy rain on Saturday resulted in considerable water flow down the river section of the canal.  At Dudbridge Lower Lock, where Annette II was moored up, the high flow out of the bypass channel hit the wing wall on the offside and jetted across the canal so hard that it overflowed the gunwales of the craft, filling the bilges.

Consequently, she sank and tipped over on her side, were she now rests.  We were hoping to use her to help move Dredger No.5 when it returns to the water this Thursday.  Refloating is going to take a while and a scheme is needed to work out how best to achieve this.


27 October 2019

Blast from the Past 4

by: Andy J.

In this occasional series,  Andy reports: Yesterday evening I attended a reunion of villagers from where I grew up and there were some interesting pictures on view and amongst them were the attached canal views.

I believe they date around 1962-3 but no-one there could be certain. 
The pictures show Pike lock,
Westfield lock...
...and a view close to Dock lock complete with remains of an old vessel. 

(If anyone can add anything further to these images, I'd be glad do revise the post  Ed.)

25 October 2019

BAT Squad - Mud Hopper Recovery

As reported last month, the Boat Acquisition Team was tasked with the purchase of items of equipment to assist with our canal restoration, well, this week, the first stage of the acquisition phase took place.

Think of this caper in terms of 'One Man and His Dog'!

The Outrun

A tug, was obviously going to be needed and this was the subject of a three day hire from a depot at Weston in Staffordshire.

Since the hoppers were up on the Caldon Canal, it was quite a long outrun.  Our target was to get up to Foxley, where there was a canal closure in place due to a wall collapse, induced by contractors working above.  C&RT were permitting movements on Fridays & Mondays at midday.  We had negotiated a special passage at 08:00 the Wednesday morning.
Site of canal blockage

Progress was good and we arrived at the destination just after sunset.

Next morning, the men arrived at 08:00 and let us through for an onward journey to the 1st hopper, moored up just before Cheddleton.  9 locks later and at midday, we pulled alongside.

The Lift
The hopper had quite a list, but we were fully armed with a pump, buckets and shovels to help clear most of the debris from the tank.  The hopper was actually floating despite having been tied up for several years.

About an hour was spent on the weight reduction programme, then it was time to couple up the tug and move off.
The Fetch
Our tug, Plover, was quite a spritely bird with no load, but once coupled to the hopper she behaved much more like your typical narrowboat, a far more relaxing drive.
The first part of the Fetch took us up the three locks to the junction with the Leek Branch.  Just round the corner beyond Bridge 1, No.2 was moored up awaiting collection.  More mucking out took place and then it was hand hauled and coupled up to the rear of the tug & No.1.

The Drive
No.2 was coupled to Plover using crossed lashings.  After a short process of balancing the tensions, the rear hopper behaved extremely well.  Passages past moored craft could be undertaken with confidence.  It also dealt with tight turns into bridge holes very well.

Progress was obviously more sedate, but we arrived safely outside the Black Prince depot at about 13:00. 

The Split / Pen
Each of the hoppers were then taken in turn into the marina and moored up very close to their lift point ready for the crane next Thursday.

Tug Plover had to return back up the Caldon to the top of the Stockton Brook flight where it will be used to recover another abandoned hopper, but not one for us.  We moored her up in complete darkness, attached to the hopper, before heading to the excellent local golf club restaurant to address our hunger and thirst concerns.

One notable experience?  Plover was deep drafted, so much so that we made numerous visits into the weed hatch to remove wrapped up debris. She joyfully bounced up and down on the canal bed.  5 black bin bag's full of clothing and bedding were chillfully extracted, probably the lost property of the unfortunate folk that sleep under the bridges in Stoke.
One comment received from the C&RT guys at Etruria as we arrived was: 'Never seen that done before!'
Currency, in case of 'difficulties' was brought along, but not needed.
Data:  47 miles, 45 locks, 3 Days.

The 'Adventure' begins - Progress update

Cotswold Canals Trust Wheelchair Accessible Trip Boat

In less than two weeks, there have been great strides in the construction of our new Trip Boat 'Adventure'.  

With the metal fabrication completed, the hull has been loaded for transporting to Ortomarine in Worcestershire.  
Once manoeuvred into the shed, no time was lost in commencing the interior fitting out.
 Expect another update soon...

Sponsored Benches - Now, Sponsored Doors!

by: Will F.

Recently, the chippies at Western Depot were complimented on the new custom made door fitted at Ryford Swing Bridge giving access to the Frome Sluice gates...and as we are suckers for compliments, agreed to make a similar door for Mark (a canal volunteer) who owns one of the cottages at Spring Bank by Ryford Road Bridge...for a donation to Canal Restoration.

The old door
The new door under construction:
The door provides access to the rear of the cottages to allow residents to move their bins and bikes etc, and fitting needed some hefty screws into the wall
...and a hefty lock for security
Mark was delighted to provide a donation to CCT funds and the residents now have a secure, easily opened access via the towpath to the roadside.

The Ocean & Harper's Field

by: Andy P.

Mike L and gang returned to the ocean to finish off the pollarding of a willow tree with the cuttings going to Harpers field.  The new pole saw worked well but was mighty heavy and 10 mins was the maximum before lactic acid in the arms kicked in.  Well that's our theory anyway.
Then we finished the day painting groundhog Buckingham green and very smart it now looks along with the dribble effects on our coats.

Driver Training Day

by: Andy P.

Another day, a group of prospective drivers moved onto driver training where the Mitzi and trailer had to be driven in reverse through an incredibly tight, twisty, awkward and challenging reversing course.  Well it seemed like that as we all took turns.  It is not easy was the common phrase-not easy at all.  The best tip our trainer Bob A gave was, if you can see the trailer in the right mirror then right hand down.  If its in the left mirror then left hand down.  If you cannot see the trailer stop and see if it is still behind you!  Do not worry about how many times you drive forward to get the right angle for reversing-we did a lot of that.  A good day and Bob A. was pleased how well we had done.

An interesting and newly constructed bat house was found in the bushes nearby.

Dudbridge Lower Lock

by: Andy P.

One job was to cut a channel at Dudbridge to get the stop planks out.  In the end Bob only needed to cut out sufficient to get them out and above water level. Then the trusty hand chisel and hammer came into play.  It needed a rota as some very hard stone was behind the brickwork.  Jon P arrived to confirm we could stop cutting upwards which was a great relief as space was becoming very limited.

Also on site were a whole selection of boats and their crew with John and Andrew leading the assault to get the pumps and pipework out of the lock.  Much heaving and shouting on both sides saw 8 non stop planks pulled out and floated away down the lock.  Then the dredgers took over and pulled out a never ending supply of sand bags which were delicately placed in a slowly lowering boat. The rest of the sand bags journey has already been described.