Holding Back The Waters

King Canute Woz 'Ere

In the 12th century King Canute demonstrated to his courtiers and advisors that even the ruler of the land could not exercise command over the tides and by implication the other forces of nature. Water is ubiquitous and without it life is impossible but in the wrong place it can cause harm and or chaos.

So when it is necessary to repair a wall that is normally submerged beneath the murky waters of a canal how might you go about creating a suitable environment for the bricklayers ? One solution would be to simply drain that section of the canal. Well in the case I have in mind the next lock is 2.8 miles (4.5km) further along. A rough estimate of the amount of water that would have to be drained  is 158,000 cubic metres, or to use that term beloved of journalists, the equivalent to 63 Olympic size swimming pools. Then there is a matter of all the fish and other life that calls the waters of the ‘cut’ ‘home’. Even the next nearest bridge where there may be ‘stop board’ slots is around half a mile away.

The logical solution is to build a dam so that only a small section needed to be drained. The traditional method would be to use steel sheet piling hammered into the bed of the canal. To install this you need a suitable size crane or excavator equipped with a piling head. After the work is finished the piles have to be extracted and then hope that the clay lining of the canal bed has not been so disturbed as to create a leak into the ground below.

Repairs Needed

At Lock 27 on the Grand Union Canal there is currently (February 2021) a ‘stoppage’ to allow the replacement of the bottom gates and to undertake repairs to the masonry.

The canal has been dammed using an innovative method consisting of some metal supports and a heavy duty tarpaulin.

Rear Of Dam

A view of the rear side of the structure.
A series of closely spaced metal frames have been staked to the canal bed using standard scaffolding poles. The tarpaulin is anchored to the top of each frame and is presumably weighted at the bottom edge.

Dam Across The Canal

At the sides there is a significant wrap around.


This picture shows that the arrangement is working very well and that there is only a small amount of water present. I was also surprised at the small amount of debris, other than an old tyre waiting for an unwary propeller to pass by, most was natural  materials rather than objects thrown in.

Tug & Barge Laden With Pumps

There are two pumps on the barge, only one of which was running, and judging from the sounds it was making it was not really doing any work.


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2020 Twelve Months Twenty-Four Photographs



A cormorant perched on a limb of a sumberged tree at Tiddenfoot Waterside Park on the 18th of January

Cutting Back Completed

On the 25th of January the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway’s Fence2Fence team cleared away vegetation from the side of the railway line to improve the visibility when undertaking shunting manoeuvres at Tanllan Carriage Shed .


Red Kite

A red kite seen against a clear blue sky while walking along the towpath of the Grand Union Canal on 7th February.

Banwy Bridge Upstream

On 16th of February after several days of heavy rain, delivered by Winter Storm Dennis, the River Banwy, which flows alongside the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway was in flood.

The chart below shows the water level in the River Banwy at the Llanerfyl Gauging Station that morning. There is a time lag between the peak water level being measured there and it arriving where the river runs alongside the railway.
Data obtained from <https://rivers-and-seas.naturalresources.wales/Station/2062?parameterType=1&gt;


Steam Test For Peter Pan

The diminutive steam locomotive Peter Pan, ‘Wren’ class engine, built by Kerr Stuart & Co Ltd in Stoke on Trent in 1920 blows steam out of the safety valves during a steam test being carried out for the insurance company’s Boiler Inspector on 3rd of March. It had just been overhauled and fitted with a brand new boiler and water tank.

Blackheaded Gull

Blackheaded gull seen at Wilstone Reservoir on 17th of March. This site is part of a group of reservoirs that supply water to the Grand Union Canal.


Sunset Through Branches

With Britain in the grip of ‘Lockdown’ this picture of the setting sun was captured on the 8th of April through the branches of a tree along side the main road near my house.


This was such a lucky shot and probbaly my best picture of the year. On the 8th of April I was using the garden shed as a bird hide to photograph sparrows using the feeders. I glanced up overthe top of the door and saw this goldfinch less than ten feet away.


The Likely Lads

A bright spring day, 6th of May, and two sparrows are sitting on the top of the garden hedge and waiting for an oportunity to get their turn on one of the brid feeders.

Horsing Around

Horsing around at Southcourt Stud on 17th May.


Black & White

Black and white modes of transportseen on the 7th of June.

Marbled White Butterfly

While out for a walk on the 9th 0f June I saw several Marbled White butterflies.


North Bucks, South westerly, 2, Showers, Good

If I leaned anything during this year it was how many footpaths there were so close to home. While wandering on 8th of July I was wondering if I was about to get a soaking.

Zillertal at Mill Curves

At last an oportunity to get back to Wales for a weekend working on the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway. The locomotive we have hired from the Zillertalbahn Railway in Austria is seen at Mill Curves on 25th July.


Countess Crossing Brynelin Viaduct

I had another couple of days at the W&LLR in August. On the Saturday 15th I took my car to Cyfronydd and then walked down to Brynelin Viaduct.

Swallows Feeding From The water

An early morning walk on the 8th of August and near Church Lock a flight of swallows were feeding from the surface of the canal. This one had created quite splash.



The sunset on 5th of September.

Powerful Moon

A faint moon seen through the wires of the electricity grid lines during broad daylight on the 6th of September.



On the 23rd of October a jackdaw was perched on our TV aerial.

Squirrels's Breakfast Time

Squirrel’s breakfast time captured on the 9th of October.


All Saints Church

The 5th of November was a bright and sunny day. All Saints Chuch, built of honey coloured stones stands tall among the surrounding buildings.

Mist In The Ouzel Valley

Early on the 22nd of Novmber I went out intending to photograph the sunrise. That was a bit disappointing but the mist laying in the Ouzel Valley provided some wonderful pictures.


High Spirits

There is a field near my home where a number of scruffy, seemingly dejected ponies live. On the 22nd of December someone had just arrived to bring them some food and this pair started romping around and having a game of chase.


A few minutes later at the same location a Class 88 Electro-diesel 88 004 ‘Pandora’ was seen heading north along the West Coast Main Line with a train of new cars and vans. Do you get the feeling that 2020 was the year we got too nosey and dared to lift the lid on Pandora’s box ?


Posted in bird watching, Photographs, train, vegetation management, Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway, West Coast Main Line, winter | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Wordless Wednesday (23rd December 2020)

Christmas 2020
Robin 2

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Wordless Wednesday (9th December 2020)

Leaning Into The Curve
Zillertal at Mill Curves
The short-lived intermodal service to Llanfair, 1999.
Heading For Felixstowe
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Wordless Wednesday (25th November 2020)

The Next Departure From Narnia Central
Mist In The Ouzel Valley
Squirrels's Breakfast Time
Crossing Brynelin Viaduct
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Wordless Wednesday (11th November 2020)

Rainbow At Cyfronydd
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Throwback Thursday (5th November 2020)

As it is Bonfire Night here is a reminder of the firework display that took place on 2nd September 2017. During the annual steam gala, the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway rounded off the Saturday evening with pyrotechnics and music to mark a historic milestone; the preservation company had operated the railway for longer than the Cambrian, Great Western, and British Railways all put together.

Fireworks @ Llanfair Caereinion

A selection of more traditional gala photos are available in an album at the link below

Double Header At Dolrhyd Mill


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Wordless Wednesday (28th October 2020)

Rainbow Over Y Golfa
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Have You Got A Screw Loose ?

About a month ago I was asked if I could ascertain why the one of the circuit breakers in a barn type building kept tripping out plunging the place into darkness. The structure consists of wooden frames cladding corrugated iron. It has been extended several times over the years and parts of it are now well over 50 years old.

Now I will be open and state that I am NOT a ‘proper electrician’ but I am an electrical test technician. So below is a verse of poetry to help keep me and others in a place of safety.

Lord Finchely by Hilaire Bellock

Lord Finchley tried to mend the Electric Light
It struck him dead: And serve him right!
It is the business of the wealthy man
To give employment to the artisan.

The first task was to determine which of the miniature circuit breakers (MCBs) were responsible for the lights. Then which of the switches turned on which lights. After that the lights were turned on and your author settled down with a flask of coffee to wait for the MCB to trip out. After half an hour nothing had happened; well after all, perhaps some rain might have leaked through the roof and caused a problem but had now dried up?

On the lighting circuit in question there were three Fluorescent strip lights that were not working and one only dimly lit. Might one of these be the cause of the problem ?

Before a physical inspection was attempted the MCB was switched off and the circuit proved to be dead. A clamp and lock were attached to prevent anyone else turning it back on . A tall pair of steps was fetched and the ceiling rose for the first disfunctional light examined. It was shall we say ‘somewhat unconventional’ inside but unlikely to be the cause of the MCB tripping.

The next one ‘out’ was about three lights further down the same run. I will let the pictures tell the next bit of the story.

Inside the ceiling rose was a fused mass of wire, terminal blocks and melted insulation. Almost certainly the cause of this mess was that one of the terminal screws had become loose in the forty years or so since it had been installed.

I will re-cap on the form of construction of the building. The wall frames, roof trusses and purlins are all made from timber and the cladding is corrugated iron. It heats up and cools down rapidly and when the wind blows it shakes and rattles. So anything attached to the structure is also being shaken. So no matter how tight the screws were fastened, way back when, over the years some of them will have worked loose.

After the ceiling rose had been replaced the MCB was better tempered and has not tripped out since. The people responsible for the building have accpeted that they will have to get a qualified electrician to undertake a Periodic Inspection which involves a physical check on the switches, sockets, etc., and electrcial tests to ascertain if the wiring is in good condition.


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Discrete Chemical Carrying Wagon

The small grey goods wagon, with a tarpaulin covering the load, is not quite what it might seem. Beneath the cover are two 1000 litre Intermediate Bulk Containiners (IBCs), interlinking pipework and hoses for the loading and discharge of the cargo. The vehicle is used for the storage and transport of the chemical compound Dihydrogen Monoxide also known by the initials DHMO.

This substance has a number of uses:
It is key ingedient in weed killer
Very efficient fire supressing agent
It is essential in steam locomotive boilers to preserve the lead cores of firebox crown sheet fusible plugs
A general purpose cleaning fluid

In 2018 DHMO was directly involved in 263 fatalities

Nearest Equivalent COSHH data sheet


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