Author Topic: Let the Ditching Commence !  (Read 1680 times)

Offline awemawson

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Let the Ditching Commence !
« on: March 28, 2022, 05:49:56 AM »
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.

https://www.madmodder.net/index.php/topic,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:

Andrew Mawson
East Sussex

Offline Pete W.

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Re: Let the Ditching Commence !
« Reply #1 on: March 28, 2022, 09:08:25 AM »
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!!!
Best regards,

Pete W.

If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, you haven't seen the latest design change-note!

Offline awemawson

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Re: Let the Ditching Commence !
« Reply #2 on: March 28, 2022, 12:06:32 PM »
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 !

Andrew Mawson
East Sussex

Offline Spurry

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Re: Let the Ditching Commence !
« Reply #3 on: March 28, 2022, 01:41:16 PM »
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. :)

Offline awemawson

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Re: Let the Ditching Commence !
« Reply #4 on: March 28, 2022, 02:16:54 PM »
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.
Andrew Mawson
East Sussex

Offline hermetic

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Re: Let the Ditching Commence !
« Reply #5 on: March 28, 2022, 02:39:44 PM »
Excellent news Andrew, and good progress by the looks of it, but of course what we really need is Video, bring on bucket cam!
Phil
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Offline awemawson

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Re: Let the Ditching Commence !
« Reply #6 on: April 05, 2022, 09:59:23 AM »
Well the 'delicate lambs' situation ' sorted it self out, but it's been raining making things even softer under foot. But last night we only had 0.7 mm so I thought that I'd have another shortish session.

Still rather sway'y and wobbly but I did get another 75 foot done.

This is as far as I'm prepared to go until I've positively determined where a 25 mm MDPE water pipe crosses the ditch - and I have a second to find crossing the stream that this ditch drains into. It was trenched up to either bank, then the pipe pressed into the silt as far as possible. Worst case scenario is nicking the pipe and not finding out until the next water bill arrives  :bugeye:

. . . I have a cunning plan, but that will enjoy a thread of it's own when the time is right.

Andrew Mawson
East Sussex

Offline awemawson

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Re: Let the Ditching Commence !
« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2022, 04:19:39 AM »
So as you may have read in the "Water Thumper" thread, yesterday I had a go trying to find that elusive 25 mm mdpe water pipe, and it wasn't entirely successful  :bang:

https://www.madmodder.net/index.php/topic,13505.msg162594.html#msg162594

In fact I made a right boggy mess that is worse in the flesh than the pictures show. There is a reasonable drying wind today - if this keeps up for a few days I'll be able to get back on it, get rid of the ruts where I got the JCB 3CX stuck and resume ditching - there is only about 50 foot left to do of this stretch. Then I have to shift the spoil - I will make a compact 'berm' from it and leave it for a season to rot into something useful (hopefully)

However, picking the good bits from yesterdays work: The ditch is now cleared where the pipe is despite not finding it AND not ripping it up (!) It just needs tidying up when things are a bit drier.

Andrew Mawson
East Sussex

Offline awemawson

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Re: Let the Ditching Commence !
« Reply #8 on: April 18, 2022, 11:24:41 AM »
It's been dry for a couple of days but still too soft out there for the JCB 3CX, however I judged that it was probably OK to use the smaller  JCB 803 and the Thwaites 2 ton dumper to carry the spoil away to start making a 'berm'. Actually the ground is still pretty springy to walk on but I just about got away with it.

So Easter Sunday and Monday I managed to clear all the spoil so far removed from the ditch and start on the berm, which is going to be a "permanent feature" for the next couple of years until it rots down. At a distance it looks for all the world like stable manure and I suppose the vegetation and silt that it actually comprises isn't far off that ! It doesn't smell very sweet either.
Andrew Mawson
East Sussex

Offline awemawson

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Re: Let the Ditching Commence !
« Reply #9 on: April 18, 2022, 11:30:57 AM »
Oddly I just added some pictures to that last post but they are not showing  :scratch:

(Later edit: Solved - one picture was too large and had evaded my reduction process! )
Andrew Mawson
East Sussex

Offline awemawson

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Re: Let the Ditching Commence !
« Reply #10 on: April 19, 2022, 05:39:42 AM »
The weather forecast is dry up until mid-day then quite heavy rain for several days. I've only 45 foot of ditch to scoop out, and although the ground is still really too soft I decided to have a cautious try.

All was going reasonably well until on the last 15 foot the machine was distinctly unstable - stabiliser foot on the 'heavy side' just kept going deeper and deeper and the machine was canting over far too much as I lifted the bucket at full stretch across the ditch.

. . .I bottled it . . .  :bugeye:

Fortunately I'd got far enough past the pond that there was room to approach the ditch 'rear on' - a far safer configuration even if it does effectively mean moving the machine for every bucket full.

Anyway the bulk of the ditch material is shifted and I can do a bit of tidying up the edges with the smaller machine when I shift the spoil to the ever growing berm.

As a matter of interest the JCB 3CX has used 32 litres of red diesel doing this job - I'd topped it off before I started on March 28th and topped it off again just now having finished. The dumper and 3 ton JCB will have drunk their fair share as well but I can't accurately quantify as they weren't topped off before I started.

Andrew Mawson
East Sussex

Offline awemawson

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Re: Let the Ditching Commence !
« Reply #11 on: April 21, 2022, 11:24:28 AM »
This afternoon I cleared away the spoil from the last session - at least this means that this section of ditching is finished - hoo-ray! The last dumped load was more like Brown Windsor Soup - sploshing all over the place as I drove.

I'll probably do the length behind the cottages next - first there is some brush wood to clear away that I don't want mixed into the spoil, then it will hopefully be a much lighter scraping - just evicting the vegetation - as the stream is flowing.

I can't really start the pond yet as it is full of frog and toad spawn and their tadpoles which are just developing legs. Given a few weeks they will be mobile and hopefully more of them will survive than would at the moment were I just to plough on and do it.
Andrew Mawson
East Sussex

Offline awemawson

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Re: Let the Ditching Commence !
« Reply #12 on: May 23, 2022, 04:51:23 AM »
Last week I was able to clear the brushwood from the cottage side of the stream by pulling it across the stream with the JCB 3CX. This had always been the intention when the Alder and Willow growth was cut last year as carting it all the way round would be a right pain - too far and would involve dragging it through the cottages courtyard so not guest friendly.

Having got it into the 10 acre field for a bonfire this left things free to start dredging the actual stream. There's about 13 years worth of vegetation growth and the intention is to hopefully just remove this leaving the banks ramped suitably for the egress of wandering sheep without human assistance!

While the 3CX was in the paddock clearing brushwood I did a tentative scoop just to prove that it did have the reach.

« Last Edit: May 23, 2022, 09:00:39 AM by awemawson »
Andrew Mawson
East Sussex

Offline awemawson

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Re: Let the Ditching Commence !
« Reply #13 on: May 23, 2022, 05:10:21 AM »
Now my 'master plan' was to dredge the growth from the stream and leave it on the north bank to drain, and in a few days cart it to the berm that I'm creating.

Yesterday I had the two crucial planets in alignment - empty cottages and dry weather - so I set too with enthusiasm and managed to pull out the full length of the stream where it goes between the paddock and the cottages. However the silty stuff was so goopy it was pretty hard to get it to lodge on the sloping bank - I didn't want to pull it into the paddock itself as quickly you end up ruining the grass and this is a 'guest dog exercising area' 

All went well until about 3/4 of the way along I burst a hydraulic hose. If the 'Extendadig' cylinder was fully extended an impressive fountain of expensive 32 weight oil was produced however if the cylinder extension was stopped before it was fully extended there was no leak. Hose obviously opening it's burst when the extra pressure of a dead ended cylinder encountered. Careful control of the Extendadig pedal let me continue with just a bit less reach.

I was able to finish by lunchtime and it wasn't until I read the forecast for today I realised that if not moved the silty stuff would slither down the bank in the heavy rain that was predicted.

So instead of a nice restful Sunday afternoon I set out again after lunch and moved the spoil from the north bank - horrid sloppy stuff - had to be careful driving the dumper not to spill it all out !

The idea was to leave the banks at an angle that sheep can manage unaided - much but not all of it is !
Andrew Mawson
East Sussex

Offline Pete W.

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Re: Let the Ditching Commence !
« Reply #14 on: May 23, 2022, 07:48:24 AM »
Good afternoon, Andrew,

For posts dated prior to the end of march, I'm seeing the pictures as pictures; for later posts, I'm seeing what I presume are pictures as attachment references!

Is this general or is it just my end?

Well, whatever it was seems to have gone away, I'm now seeing the pictures as pictures!

It seems my lovely but shy assistant is downloading a few gigabytes of one of her games!!   :doh:   :doh:   :doh: 

Best regards,

Pete W.

If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, you haven't seen the latest design change-note!

Offline awemawson

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Re: Let the Ditching Commence !
« Reply #15 on: June 11, 2022, 10:59:18 AM »
Time to get ready for dredging the pond. The Coots or Moorhens or whatever they were don't seem to be still around so lets get on with it.

The north side of the pond was surrounded by three side of a fence, originally intended to give a bit of a haven for wild life, but inevitably had got overgrown with rushes and was very hard to manage. My intention was to take my Camon C8 fingerbar mower down there, cut the rushes and put them up in stooks to dry so when I dredge I wasn't dumping the spoil on very long vegetation.

That plan soon stalled. This mower was abandoned by our predecessors 15 years ago with a stuck clutch, which I successfully fixed and it's been excellent, it has a finger bar and a cultivator head. It's sat for two years but started right up and went to work, but got hopelessly stuck by the hummocks that the rushes form.

OK Plan B: dispose of the three sided fence and cut it with the full size flail mower. So the JCB came out to play, and with a friend acting 'banksman' we went round pulling up the chestnut posts with strops and carted them off to the bonfire.

Much of this fence was going to have to go anyway to make room for dredging, and quite a bit was in poor condition though it's only about 13 years old.

Next job - couple up the big mower and mow it - this will probably take a few passes. It's been suggested that I might be better scraping the top off and losing the vegetation - not sure yet I'll sleep on it.

(The mower picture is of one on eBay not mine which isn't as shiny








1
« Last Edit: June 11, 2022, 02:26:36 PM by awemawson »
Andrew Mawson
East Sussex

Offline pycoed

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Re: Let the Ditching Commence !
« Reply #16 on: June 12, 2022, 04:59:01 AM »
I'm surprised your little Camon wouldn't handle those rushes. They have quite a good name. I  have an Allen Mayfield 8 (like an Allen Scythe's much larger brother - 8hp Kohler & hydrostatic gears ) which would eat that little patch. Tussocks are the big problem with rushes though: it's REALLY hard work cutting them by "hand mower". Much more sensible to break out the Turner!
I had to do a roller bearing on my Turbomower the other day &, looking up the PDF manual for the size confidently ordered a 1 1/4" job only to find that between printing the manual/parts list, & building the thing, they had gone metric :bang: Had to return it for a 35mm version! I'm not entirely happy with the other side bearing so am awaiting another before resuming the annual rush battle.

Offline awemawson

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Re: Let the Ditching Commence !
« Reply #17 on: June 12, 2022, 12:37:55 PM »
The Camon was quite happy cutting the rushes, what stumped it was the great clumps of basically clay that have formed at their base. The lumps were too much for the wheels to make progress and in the end it got totally stuck and I was unable to move it backwards or forwards - rather like a WW2 invading tank getting stuck on 'dragons teeth defences  :lol:

It took three of us heaving on attached strops to shift it.

This morning i did a tentative scraping with the big JCB. I could either dig in and drag out very substantial root balls and make a big mess, or skid over the top and make little impression. I tried both the 6 in 1 front bucket in planing mode with the jaw wide open, and with the 5 foot toothless ditching bucket on the back actor to little avail.

So I brought the hedge cutting flail to bear on the problem. This allowed me to scalp the clumps with a bit more precision and I was making quite good progress until stupidly I ran out of fuel. It was putting quite a strain on the flail - I even had smoking belts at one point, and was obviously drinking far faster than I expected. After a bit of tooing and froing trying to find my RED jerry can (for red diesel) eventually got 20 litres in the tank and started the bleeding process - only to find in it's last gasps it's obviously sucked all the muck out and plugged the diesel filter solid. Not only that in removing the old filter and proving diesel flow the pipe from the filter to the injector pump snapped. You can see it waving in the breeze with that banjo fitting. I tried cutting and re-fitting but it's too short. Very brittle 8 mm o/d and about 5.5 mm i/d. Pushes on the banjo one end and has a nipple and internal support at the filter end.

Sunday so local ag place is closed and that put a stop to things today. I've ordered a filter from Amazon that will arrive Tuesday but I'll hot foot it to Culverwells (Robertsbridge) in the morning and see what they have. I'd far rather remake that pipe in copper.
Andrew Mawson
East Sussex

Offline pycoed

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Re: Let the Ditching Commence !
« Reply #18 on: June 13, 2022, 04:42:18 AM »
I get it with the tussocks & clumps: the Allen is ex river authority, so came fitted with double wheels each side. The wheels are much larger than your Camon , plus a difflock helps!

Its always the same with these little jobs isnt it?
JOB :- Dredge pond with JCB
1 Cut rushes with fingerbar mower - fail
1a Unstick mower - fail
1b Find strops & help
1c Unstick mower - success
2 Remove fence with JCB success
3 Scrape rushes with JCB front bucket- fail
4 Scrape rushes with JCB back actor -fail
5 Connect hedgecutter to tractor
6 Cut rushes with tractor hedgecutter partial success - fail
7 Find red diesel
8 Bleed tractor fail
9 Repair supply pipe- fail
10 Seek replacement pipe fail

Result to date?
1 Pile of broken fence in field
2 Piles of smashed rush in field
3 Tractor broken
4 Need to travel miles to get parts
5 Pond still undredged

My day was MUCH more productive: having suspected gout in my right thumb (v. painful) I spent the day using the last couple of days of my NOW TV sports subscription watching a Joe Root century!

Offline awemawson

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Re: Let the Ditching Commence !
« Reply #19 on: June 13, 2022, 07:33:05 AM »
It's actually not THAT bad! The hedge flail stays fitted to the Ford 4600 as it's such a b.... to fit !

So bright and early I went to Culverwells and got a pattern filter and some very flexible fuel hose but no fittings. (Also got some more crow scarers - crows eating hen and pig food !)

So using a bit of heat I got the original olive and hose insert off & out. Insert was an exact fit for the new hose but I had to anneal and expand the olive (using the taper of a large centre punch) it get it to fit.

New diesel filter and hose fitted, system bled and I'm pleased to say she started up nicely after a bit of cranking (Discovery battery paralleled up with it's engine running as this tractor has no feed pump and relies on gravity.)

So next the pond . . .

So I finished off what I could of the rush mangling and put all the toys back in the shed. There are still loads of root clumps but I'm hoping a few cuts with the big flail mower will eventually tame them.


Andrew Mawson
East Sussex

Offline awemawson

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Re: Let the Ditching Commence !
« Reply #20 on: June 15, 2022, 06:10:05 AM »
I took the opportunity of a couple of free hours this morning to start on the pond.

Can I have a BIGGER digger please !

The 3CX with the 'Extra-Dig will let me get a lot out but definitely not everything - need a good 5 foot more reach. Still what you see in the pictures is my 'pre-breakfast' session - I'm dumping the spoil between those two willow trees and the pond as it's too tight for the 3CX there and I'll have to use the smaller 3 ton 803 anyway to shift the spoil.

That picture showing the reach has the stabilisers at a conservative distance from the edge - reversing blind with no banksman is dodgy to say the least, so now I've developed the technique  of reversing closeish then swiveling the seat rearwards (so I can see how close we are) then pulling the machine towards the bank with the back actor. This way there's far less risk of going splash  :bugeye:

Had to stop as we have guests for lunch and need to scrub up a bit.
Andrew Mawson
East Sussex

Offline hermetic

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Re: Let the Ditching Commence !
« Reply #21 on: June 15, 2022, 12:43:28 PM »
Have you tried a long scaffold type board positioned under the legs before you put them down. spread the load on soft ground, the feet alone will work their way into the ground as you dig. You might get a few feet closer to the edge in safety!
Phil
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Offline awemawson

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Re: Let the Ditching Commence !
« Reply #22 on: June 15, 2022, 01:13:41 PM »
Good idea Phil  but at the moment using my 'pull closer with the back actor' technique I'm getting to about 9" off the edge - no doubt if I was really working the machine it'd slowly sink in ! The bank is reasonably firm but tomorrow I'm scooping up the spoil from today so under it no doubt will be a bit more challenging.

Much of the 'stuff in the middle' is actually  Canadian Pond Weed and floating as a mass. I'm going to see if it can be brought to shore with ropes, a float and ingenuity.

What we really need is @VTSteam in his shell kayak !
Andrew Mawson
East Sussex

Offline hermetic

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Re: Let the Ditching Commence !
« Reply #23 on: June 15, 2022, 02:08:46 PM »
Sounds like a job for a grappling hook, good luck!
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Offline philf

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Re: Let the Ditching Commence !
« Reply #24 on: June 16, 2022, 04:02:13 AM »
Andrew - You need a bigger digger? -  This one would do the job for you. It's got an 18 metre reach. It's pictured shifting stone from in front of our hydro-electric scheme after a flood brought down hundreds of tons more or less blocking our input.

When we get permission from the EA we need it again after a huge flood in February.

The driver is in is late 70s but loves his job so much he has no intention of retiring.
Phil Fern
Location: Marple, Cheshire