11 October 2019

Maintenance at Dudbridge lock by Dredging team....
….and associates leads to start of dredging at Ebley confluence weir.

by: Andrew R.

Spawning season in river section now means no more Dredging from Ebley weir to Wallbridge Upper lock.  After a successful clearance of the stop planks, canvases, metal scaffold planks, poles, rocks, silt and 150 ish sandbags we needed to leave the river section.
So Monday and Wed morning dedicated Dredger crews, fully trained operators of ‘Patricia’, cleared the final parts under the road bridge as a maintenance/construction task to prepare site (note: not Dredging)

So it was byebye Dudbridge, hello Ebley for Patricia (soon Annette2 with No5.)

Wednesday lunchtime.
A keen and skilled team crewed Margaret the Tug ( David,Chris, Malcolm) pulling the fully laden hopper ‘WEFT’ to Wiggles Yard Wharf in a perfect straight line, proving the tugs can work in reverse when a hopper is well down in the water.  Then manoeuvred with a nearly elegant 180 to push it, this of course after a chatty lunch with Dredger crew John and Andrew.

Off we all pottered or should I say Motored!  It was a joy to sail?? down the canal through the freshly dredged section to the river outlet without worrying about silt banks.  Unfortunately from the outlet to the confluence weir we cannot dredge for six months and there are still serious silt banks for any deep vessels. Didn’t Margaret and the hopper have fun there!

Dredging now at Ebley 8 Metres west of the confluence weir as spawning rules dictate.  This process of dredging this section is going to take months and hoppers are going to fill fast as every clamshell bucket did have and will have a full load of silt.  We hardly moved and a hopper was filled and we only did 2 1/2 metres from tow path.

When we tried to moor to Wharf wall east of landing stages at Ebley at the end of the day with the hopper ‘WARP’ it was nearly impossible as the silt was too high.  So first task for next two weeks at least is to clear at least a 3 metre wide strip along the wharf wall to ensure a clear channel for ease of approach and mooring.

It is therefore very important we therefore have full tug crews operating so the Dredging doesn’t stop.  We therefore hope committed tuggers start earlier in the day and finish later when ever the Dredger’s are working.  Please be assured we are now in a new phase where we will be digging nearly almost certainly just silt and therefore hoppers will fill fast.  This is very exciting and is what we’ve been waiting for as dredger operators and tuggers!  No sitting around.  We need to keep the Dry Dredging team busy off loading, as if they haven’t got enough to do being tugged in several directions!  On many tasks.

We are also going to fill hoppers to near there maximum as the centre of the canal from Ebley to Ryeford will allow deeper drafted vessels. We can almost see the need for 2 tugs operating so hoppers are transferred quickly to stop delaying dredging.

Once again from John and Andrew thank the  tuggers for a very active Wednesday and especially as they did extra tasks like collecting the iron stay for the stop planks and brushing down the Ebley landing stage of burst sand bags deposits on request from the dredging team, whilst waiting for a hopper, great to see.  Also thanks to the depot for sending out the Mitzi and volunteers to move sand bags to Dudbridge caged area at Redlands.

It’s great what a phone call or direct person to person request achieves at grass root level!

Also good news there are new dredging trainees who are on task for dredging which is good to see.

A reminder to Dredger operator Volunteers who have NOT updated their skills and knowledge training in the past year for Patricia or 2/3 years for No 5.  You will have to before you can operate the Dredger’s again.  You need to receive full update training even if you have a WRG ticket from operating no5 before recent refurb/upgrade.  Patricia is obvious as a completely different vessel to No5 and No5 because of its reconfigurations and operations in conjunction with Annette2, also the updated tighter safety rulings both for operating and bio regulations, so any of those few people who want to dredge again you will need to consult with Myself, Bob H and John S.

Thanks again.
From excited Dredging leads/trainers Andrew and John and other present day Dredger operators.