Riveting stuff

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The Canal and River Trust appear to have a problem. This is a problem that will strike a chord with most folk - lack of storage space. Apparently, the Trust have had numerous large bags of stone donated, and rather than politely refuse, they have accepted on the off-chance that they will “come in useful one day”. The major problem for the Trust is that all their storage facillities are filled to the rafters with nonsensical public relations signage; it seems that they got “a good price, Guv’nor” for ordering enough signs to last a thousand years. This good price clearly did not involve proof-reading. 

The solution to the storage problem was, according to an inside source, resolved in a massive brainstorming session held at an undisclosed location during discussions to consider how to sell yet more well-remunerated, high-level appointments to gullible, licence-paying customers.


“Put ‘em in the cut,” was the prize-winning suggestion, which was immediately implemented at several locations.. These  were then unveiled to the public as “visionary art installations designed to challenge the usual, one-dimensional, old-fashioned concept of canals as merely functional navigations”, as the official CRT Department of Spin press-release informed us.


The Trust has clearly been vindicated, as coach-loads of visitors have been observed “Oohing!" and "Aahing!” in astonishment at these sites. Some of these visitors have even been overheard exclaiming “What the f**k are those doing there? I’ve never seen anything so mentally stimulating in all my life!” 


Meanwhile, over at Dadfords Wharf on the Stourbridge Canal, the ex Stewarts & Lloyds tug “Bittell” has been removed from the water for the replacement of worn plates. This is a very nice tug, but definitely in need of the work being carried out. I was drafted in as “Head Second Riveting Assistant”, a grand title which turned out to be rather grander than the actual job merited.


Basically, I had to knock the hot rivets tightly into the pre-drilled holes from the inside with a heavy lump of metal, and act as an anvil for Ian Kemp to rivet the ends over on the outside of the vessel. I was duly praised for my anvil impression. John ‘Baldric” Sanderson had the task of heating the rivets up and offering them into the holes with the oldest pair of tongues in the world. I have a little experience of this work, as I performed a similar role when Roach was re-footed a few years ago, with the new plates riveted to the bottom angle and a new bottom-guard riveted on. 


In between all this work, coal has still been tipped on the yard, bagged, loaded into boats and delivered. It is relentless; it’s like painting the Forth Bridge - with a shovel. It is also daunting, holding a shovel whilst looking at twenty-nine tonnes of smokeless fuel needing to be put into bags. The different coloured bags and pallet wrappers that we use does present a cheerful view over the yard though. Enough to brighten anyone’s day.


On the boating front, I took Roach down the Severn to Worcester recently with coal aboard; a pretty swift trip as the river was rising quite rapidly. I was saddened to see that the huge, old conker tree by the Camp House Inn at Grimley had fallen over in the high winds. This tree must have been a few-hundred years old and was certainly iconic - a much overused word these days, but appropriate in this case. Luckily, it was too early for a pint as stopping would have been difficult. 


Pete took over Roach in Worcester, and was due to finish our deliveries by boating up to Hanbury Wharf, and then returning either via the Droitwich Canal, or back down through Worcester. He made it up to Hanbury, but subsequently discovered that the Severn was closed as the water levels had risen substantially. The alternative route up Tardebigge Locks was closed for maintenance work, but after a phone call to the CRT personnel working there, they agreed to allow us to pass through the works early in the morning. This was greatly appreciated - although it has to be acknowledged that the blokes on this length are always helpful - and Pete was able to proceed up the canal. A few locks from the top of Tardebigge flight, a large tree was encountered across the canal. Luckily, I had driven out to give Pete a hand up the locks, and we did manage to get by this obstruction, but it did need both of us to achieve this. The situation was a little strange as two other trees that had fallen down at the same time, and immediately adjacent to this one, had been removed by CRT’s contractor. Oh, well, as the song says, “Two out of three ain’t bad”.


Flooding is not always confined to rivers, here is a picture from our latest trip round the North. It shows Roach leaving the bottom of Jackson’s Lock having to run the gauntlet of a mini Niagara Falls. This water was cascading out from the blocked chamber on the weir stream. I’m glad that we were not heading the other way - all that water down the chimney would have been disastrous. 


To finish on a brighter note, here is a picture of Pete leaving the bottom lock of the Wolverhampton flight on his way back to Awbridge from Worcester, cheery smile and all. Looking forward to a pint, I expect. © John Jackson 2014