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Let the Ditching Commence !

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As regular readers will know, I have recently acquired a 'new to me' JCB 3CX Project 9 excavator. The excuse being that I have a considerable length of ditches, streams and a pond that have silted up over the years and need sorting.,13429.0.html

So what is the task - well I have about 80 yards of genuine ditch that is totally choked. A largish pond that started life 8 foot deep but is pretty well silted up. And best part of 3/4 of a mile of stream that although it flows, is pretty choked with vegetation and fallen branches.

Up until now the ground has been too soft to get it out in the field and start work, however today it was just about tenable - still rather soft for the 'stabiliser legs'  but workable so long as I don't cover the same ground twice or they sink in too far.

Now it's many years since I've worked a "180" wheeled excavator on stick controls, having been using my much smaller "360" tracked  JCB 803 and I need to re-acquire the coordination skills of the stick controls as they are quite different from the servo joysticks of the little one.

I decided to start at the far end of the ditch where there was manoeuvring room.

Still for a first attempt it didn't go too badly - to try and make it easier for myself I positioned the machine at 90 degrees to the ditch so working the first bucket load is easy, however of course subsequent scoops have to be done slewing the boom so are no longer at 90 degrees, so neat edges aren't easy (or really possible without a tilting bucket, which I don't have). I managed to do about 33 foot of the first ditch in an hour and a half producing a huge pile of vegetation and a bit of silt - this will all have to drain and dry before I shift it to . . . well somewhere as yet not determined - - I hope that it shrinks considerably as it drys !

Now in the 33 foot I moved the machine three times. For my next go I will put the axis of the machine parallel to the ditch, slew the boom at 90 degrees and only take one bucket width before repositioning the machine. As it's parallel to the ditch it's only a case of driving forwards (well, legs up, 6 in 1 front bucket up, drive forwards then bucket down legs down and start again!)

No doubt by the end of this job I'll be quite good at it, but at the moment its a bit sketchy  :bugeye:

Pete W.:
Hi there, Andrew,

I hope your weather forecast is better than ours - wall-to-wall rain tomorrow and Wednesday!!

If that pond was ever 8 feet deep I reckon it must have been after a visit from Blaster Bates!!!

Pete, we dug it 8 foot deep as we only made it as we were short of 'fill' for finishing raising the field that we call 'The Wilderness' by 30" - so yes it was genuinely 8 foot deep in the middle with a shallow bit at the front.

Having been released from repairing the doors of Polytunnel #2 I was able to have another session this after noon. As mentioned this time the machine was in line with the run of the ditch which meant more but easier moves (every 5 foot as it's a 5 foot bucket).

Went OK and I'm now up to 118 foot done and a darn great heap of detritus to dispose of somewhere. It'll stay where it is for quite a few weeks to dry out. Plan is to complete this ditch over the next few days then leave it for the warmer weather. The stabiliser feet were sinking in alarmingly - particularly the ditch side one, as I raised a full bucket of vegetation, silt and water, the machine tilting a bit  :bugeye:

I hope Pete's weather forecast doesn't materialise but it probably will !

Difficult to tell from the pictures, but are you working with-the-flow or against? When my farmer friend last did one of my ditches, he positioned sort of sideways to the ditch, then would just put the bucket in line with the machine, lift the back wheels and stabs off the ground and push the whole lot forwards with the bucket arm. His Massey was not 4WD , so do not know if that's possible with yours.

As a coincidence, as I have a 360 5 Tonne Kubota on hire for another little project, so had a go at a ditch today. Biggest problem is that one side is hedges and trees. If positioned close enough to see the ditch bottom, the arm/bucket fouled the trees. Move further away to miss the trees, and cannot see where the bucket is. Things can only get better. :)

Pete not a lot of flow at the moment - it mainly takes flood water away when the River Brede over tops its banks. However the work is  from the 'headwater' down stream - not ideal but pragmatic.

When I get to the end of this ditch, where it flows into a branch of the River Line, no doubt there will be a good old flow as it is effectively dammed at the moment. With any luck it will carry off all the floating reeds, rushes and miscellaneous muck that's currently forming  scum on top!

A 360 would be far easier, but to get the reach it would need to be a very big one and thus very pricey. My 3 ton JCB 803 cannot even reach the water in places never mind the far bank. This ditch is modest in it's reach requirements - the pond and the actual stream are another thing all together.


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