It’s official. I’m now fully trained to cut down the same size trees I was cutting down quite happily before the four day training course I endured last weekend.
Don’t get me wrong, I think that comprehensive training is necessary when working with dangerous tools and chainsaws are very dangerous. There are far more serious accidents in forestry than there are in the building industry. Comprehensive training is important but the thirty six hours of instruction on safely felling and logging predominantly oak, ash and willow saplings nearly finished me off.
We didn’t actually start a chainsaw until day two. On day one we learned how to carry out a risk assessment of the areas where we work, assemble an effective first aid kit and put together a tool kit for every eventuality. We learned about chainsaw development from the first chainsaw manufactured by Andreas Stihl in 1926 (electric powered and weighing in at 140lbs) up to today’s relatively lightweight, more powerful and much safer saws.
Our instructor Tim Rose, former poacher, gamekeeper, prison officer and now tree surgeon for eighteen years, really knew his stuff. He demonstrated all of the saw’s safety features, why we need to use them and what to do if they go wrong. He lectured us on fueling, safe practices, legislation, manual handling, the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974, Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992, Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005, The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005, the Approved Code of Practice (ACoP), the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) and the Sustaining Trees & Understanding Particularly Infectious Diseases (STUPID) act 2013 (I made the last one up).
After the theory we were actually allowed to hold a real live chainsaw, but not to start it. Tim had brought a couple of his working saws with him, and both had particularly blunt and battered chains. Tim then explained, in mind numbing detail, the anatomy of the chain. He told us about the witness mark, top plate, side plate, working corner, gullet, depth gauge, toe and heel. He waxed lyrical about the difference between and full and a semi chisel cutting heads, cutters, drive links, guard links tie straps and rivets.
With the finer points of chain composition finally exhausted he very kindly allowed Pat and I to spend an hour sharpening his blunt chains. Oh, what fun we had!
Finally, after twelve hours tuition, we were allowed to take our chainsaws into the woods.
We spent the rest of the day working next to our reed bed filtration plant cross cutting half a dozen oak which I had felled earlier in the week. We learned about tension and compression, the correct sequence of cuts, the dangers of kickback, correct posture and grip, pulling and pushing chains and when to use them and, most importantly, how to pay attention and look interested so we didn’t hurt Tim’s feelings.
On day three we spent the morning practicing our felling techniques… but not on living trees. Tim strapped two 2m oak logs vertically to two nearby willows so Pat and I could spend a couple of hours practicing cutting “sinks”, the wedge shaped pieces which are cut out of the tree to determine the direction of fall.
In the afternoon we ventured further into the woods to fell our first trees. We spent a couple of hours discussing what we needed to do before felling the 10m high oaks.
The reason we are removing so many oak, apart from the damage done by the squirrels which has resulted in the crowns dying, is because our 1,500 oak are far too close together. Most of them are no more than 2m apart which means that they don’t have room to grow and that they are all competing for a limited amount of water.
The fact that they are so close together means that the one which need to be removed are quite difficult to fell without getting “hung up”. A hung up tree is one which falls against an adjacent tree and stays there. I felled an oak surrounded by other oak and ash which immediately hung up. Tim then spent the best part of an hour describing the methods which could be used to safely put the tree on the ground. He finally came to the conclusion that the best remedy for the problem would be to attach a robust strap to the half-fallen trunk, run the strap through a pulley strapped to a nearby ash and use a ratchet to ease the tree into the horizontal position.
Given that I didn’t have any of the necessary equipment and, to be honest, didn’t understand at all what Tim was suggesting, I waited until he left for the day, picked up the troublesome oak and carried it out of the woods.
On the last day we concentrated on felling oaks although, with frequent breaks for review and correction, we didn’t fell very many. We finished the course at about 3pm on Sunday after cutting down a total of eight oak and two willow out of the twenty five trees I had reserved for the course.
So now the course has been completed. Both Pat and I have passed and are now certified in chainsaw maintenance and crosscutting and basic felling techniques on trees up to 200mm in diameter. Do I think the course has been worthwhile? Yes I do. Every minute of it.
I was pretty confident felling trees before the course, but possibly for the wrong reasons. Since last Sunday I’ve spent a couple of days on my own in the woods both felling and crosscutting. The techniques which were repeatedly drilled into us have stuck with me. As a result I’m now less of a danger to both myself and those around me and, because of the techniques I learned, I can use a chainsaw for longer with far less fatigue.
I’m grateful to Tim for sharing his extensive tree surgery knowledge with us, but I’m even more grateful for the encyclopedic knowledge he shared about woodland management.
Tim’s first experience with woodlands began over three decades ago as a teenage poacher. He then legitimised his woodland exploits by becoming a gamekeeper and then a tree surgeon. He knows a huge amount about the balance which needs to be achieved if the woodland is to develop into something which is both aesthetically pleasing and a haven for a rich variety of birds, insects, reptiles and mammals.
Tim told me that, although there are plentiful signs of both flora and fauna in our larger six acre wood, it is what is described as a “cold” wood. A cold wood is one which has a top layer, a canopy, but no mid or bottom layer. Our wood is predominantly oak and ash with a few conifers and other marginal species thrown in for good measure. There is no understorey (mid layer) or ground cover. The animals which venture into the wood don’t stay for very long because they feel exposed.
There are plenty of signs that animals have passed through the wood; there is, of course, the extensive damage done by grey squirrels to the oak canopy, then there are marks left low down on tree trunks by rabbits, hares and muncjack deer and, slightly higher up, by roe deer. Tim told me – and he kept a very straight face – that the muncjack marks are made by sexually frustrated bucks who are prevented from getting anywhere near the does by the dominant buck. There are signs that they have passed through but passed through too briefly.
The easiest way to provide quick and effective ground cover is to use the brash, the twigs and smaller branches, from the felled oak. It’s a win/win situation for me and for the wildlife. They get plenty of ground cover and, rather than having to drag the brash a couple of hundred metres to the truck, load it up, drive to the tip and unload it again, I can leave it close to the felled trees in tidy piles.
The remaining stumps or stools from the felled oaks will also help to provide ground cover. Early next year the stools will produce new shoots which will initially give cover close to the ground and then, over the coming years, grow into an understorey layer.
With some ground cover in place, I just needed to find a solution for the missing understorey. Next week I’ll be planting some. On Wednesday I hope to take delivery of 270 mixed holly, wayfaring tree, spindle, hazel, field maple and crab apple. It’s not enough to cover all of the woods, but it’s a good start.
I’ve only just stated to use the brash from the felled oaks as ground cover. Most of it had already been removed from the woods before Tim visited us last weekend. Some of it had been burned. I didn’t like burning the oak branches. I thought it was a shame to see it go up in flames. We use a fair amount of bark chippings around the site on paths and to suppress weeds around shrubs. A rubble sack full of chippings costs about £60. I knew we could save this cost if we chipped the large amount of brash we generate in general from site maintenance and in particular from the oak felling project.
I persuaded the powers that be to hire a professional chipper for the day. Early on Tuesday morning I drove twenty miles to West Haddon in Northamptonshire to pick up a professional Timberwolf chipper. It was a beast of a machine.
We fed the brash from about forty oak and half a dozen willow through the machine – plus a couple of arm-fulls of very painful to handle blackthorn – over six very intensive hours. The end result was four truck loads of chippings, or about ten rubble sacks, numerous cuts and scratches and absolute exhaustion. Patrick and I don’t work together very often. I think we’re both a little antisocial. But on the days we are together we tend to be quite competitive. Feeding the chipper was quite demanding physically, as was wrestling the branches off the bonfire which I had compacted with our small excavator.
The hob’s been done now though and I’m delighted with the end result. The brash from the felled oak has been processed so that it can be put to use in and around the woods. Chipping Mountain has also added a bit of interest in the woods for Charie and Daisy. I took them to explore it this morning (below).
I’ve strayed from the usual newsletter subjects this week but, because the chainsaw course took up all of my free time last weekend, I haven’t had an opportunity to think about, research and write any other subjects. As living on a narrowboat, for me anyway, is all about being able to live a quieter, more peaceful life close to nature, I thought that you too might be interested in the wonderfully rich nature which surrounds me.
After I’ve finished planting 270 new saplings next week the short term projects in the woods will be complete. I’ve removed 120 damaged oak to give the healthy oak more space and coppiced about fifty goat willow. In the process I’ve logged and split enough wood to keep me warm for a couple of years.
Talking of keeping warm, did you know that the government would like to help you out with your winter fuel bills, even if you’re living afloat?
If you are over 62 and otherwise meet the government’s criteria for winter fuel payments you’ll receive £200 towards your heating costs regardless of whether you live on dry land or on the water. If you have a house and a boat, you won’t receive payments for both. The payment is per property rather than per person so if you share your home, floating or otherwise, with a girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband each of you will receive £100.
There’s information about how to claim for the winter fuel allowance if you use a friend’s or relative’s address as a postal address on the Association of Continuous Cruisers web site here. Please note that they state that you can receive the winter fuel payment if you are over sixty. However, the qualifying criteria is that, for this winter’s payment, you were born before 5th January 1952 which means that you need to be closer to 62 than 60 before you qualify.
Sadly, or maybe I should say happily, I won’t qualify for another nine years, which is a shame considering that my total expenditure for coal last year was £888.
Kim Wainwright, Deckhand on the forum, registered for this site in April this year while she waited for her own boat to be built. Now she’s living the dream on her new narrowboat Progress with her ex corporate high flyer husband Jim and their five dogs. They’ve been living afloat now for a month and love every minute of it. Here’s their story.
I’ve been writing regular newsletters for a couple of years now. During the first year they were every two weeks or so. To be honest, the frequency was a bit hit and miss. My New Year’s resolution, and one that I’m delighted to say that I’ve kept, was to send out a newsletter every Sunday, rain or shine. The hardest part of the process isn’t the writing itself, it’s constantly thinking of new content. The trouble is, I don’t know what you want to read. I think I keep the newsletters reasonably interesting but I don’t know for sure. That’s where I need your help.
Can you let me know what you would like to read in the future? Are there any areas of narrowboat life you don’t think I’ve covered enough or areas which I’ve missed completely? Please let me know what you want to read about. Thanks for your help.
I created the site just over three years ago to provide a source of information for anyone interested in narrowboats and the possibility of living on one full time. The site has grown to encompass a comprehensive listing of inland marinas in England and Wales, dozens of articles, a forum and regular newsletters. I’ve already created (below) indexes of the site articles and the more popular forum posts. I thought it was about time I created an easy to use index of the newsletter content. Here’s the index so far. I’ve managed to reach the end of 2012. I’ll add the rest next week.
Dealing with the coldest winter on record
Digital reading – A detailed review of the Kindle, the perfect solution for book loving boat owners
Article – Living on a narrowboat in winter
The first four narrowboat case studies published
I’ll start with myself; Paul Smith, living on my own, moored in a marina and working full time. Narrowboat James case study
Meet Peggy. She has a husband and two small children, works full time and cruises the network during the summer months. Narrowboat Violet Mae case study
Fancy spending your retirement cruising the waterways of England and Wales? Meet Barry and Sue Horne. They’re living the dream! Narrowboat Adagio Case Study
Here are another working couple. Lina and Warren cruise the cut with their two cats.Narrowboat Olive Rose case study.
Two more case studies. One of them waxed lyrical about life on the waterways and enjoyed every minute of her life afloat. Now (April 2013) she’s selling up to follow another dream in Spain.
Reviewed: The Liveaboard Guide by Tony Jones. A great guide to living afloat
eBay Narrowboat scam (and a little bit of flack for me from another forum)
Case Study: Author Toby Jones on his own liveaboard narrowboat
A review of Debdale Wharf marina
The downside of living on a narrowboat – This was a very controversial post. Liveaboard Pauline Roberts wrote about the less pleasant aspects of life afloat… and attracted a storm of comments
Case study: The Woodsman – Pauline Roberts again giving an insight into the life that you may think she doesn’t like.
As a result of the article about the downside of living on a narrowboat published in the 18th March newsletter, I asked liveaboard narrowboat owners to complete a survey to give a balanced view of the issues raised by Pauline. Here are the survey results and a much more positive article by liveaboard narrowboat owner and frequent forum contributer Peter Early.
Life on the river Cam – A guest article on the pleasures of river life by wide beam liveaboard Luther Phillips
Case Study – Freelance writer Anne and her South African farmer partner John reveal all
Case Study – Toni cruises constantly with ex husband Allan. They cruise together but they live apart… on separate boats
DIY narrowboat painting – I spent three weeks in April painting my boat. Here’s the first of my progress reports
DIY narrowboat painting – I’ve broken down the complete cost of painting your own boat and
Dealing with wind on the river – A guest article from liveaboard narrowboat owner Alan Cazaly
How to clean your stove glass – One of the real pleasures of a living fire is watching the flames on a cold winter’s eve. Here’s what you need to do to ensure you can actually see the fire.
Smoking on board – An alternative to smelly smoke
Survey – Do you want a forum on the site? (You already know the answer to that!)
Repeat prescriptions, diesel heating systems and solar panels
Dealing with pests on a narrowboat – spiders and swans
Posh boats – My personal favourite: S.M. Hudson
I published my guide Living on a Narrowboat: The REAL Cost of a Life Afloat. When this newsletter was published it was only available as a Kindle edition. Now it’s available in both Kindle and PDF format and is bundled with Narrowbudget, the site’s bespoke narrowboat budgeting application.
VAT on narrowboat sales
The best tip for a wannabe narrowboat owner – Advice from existing boat owners
Practical flooring for narrowboat dogs
Case study – Mike and Mags use a double redundancy payment to pay for their new floating home
I started to develop the narrowboat budgeting software. This newsletter detailed the concept and the progress to date
An unscheduled dip in the marina prompted me to write about safety on the waterways
Living on a narrowboat – Through the eyes of a young lady who would clearly prefer to be somewhere else
The first release of the new spreadsheet based narrowboat budgeting application
First tests and reviews of the budgeting application
The best aerial for a narrowboat television
Low cost narrowboat ownership – A low cost solution to the problem of funding your first narrowboat
Solar power – All you need to know about installing solar panels on your boat. Written by the inland waterways most popular solar system installer
Case Study – Mr. Solar Panel Tim Davis writes about life on board his own narrowboat
Understanding narrowboat electrics – Another excellent article from Tim Davis
Satellite television for narrowboats – Information from a system installer
Narrowboat electrics part 2 – The concluding article from Tim Davis
I asked newsletter subscribers to send me detailed breakdowns of their bricks and mortar expenses so I could compare them with the cost of running a narrowboat. Quite a few subscribers obliged. I added the breakdowns to my narrowboat costs guide and the budgeting application.
Case Studies – I put together 21 of the best case studies and analysed and summarised the data in this low cost guide. If you want ton save yourself hundreds of hours of research and costly mistakes, you need to read this guide.
Case Study – Mike’s circumstances are similar to my own. He moved onto his boat after a failed marriage. He’s upgraded from a 27? GRP cruiser to a 50? narrowboat
The real cost of going cheap. An in depth look at the cost of my 36 year old boat, and how much I spent (and still need to spend) before it will be a comfortable full time cruising boat.
Stove fuel test – What works best; coal, wood, briquettes or something else entirely – Here’s my own take on a Waterways World test
Essential stove maintenance – Here’s what you need to do to make sure that your stove always performs well.
Internet connectivity – I use the internet four or more hours every day. This is the setup I have on my boat to make sure that I’m always connected.
Detailed running costs for my own boat for January 2013
James’ upgrade – Adding solar panels and replacing carpets with oak effect laminate flooring
Where can you find residential moorings? Here’s a great place to start
Getting rid of unwelcome visitors – Geese used to regularly disturb a peaceful night’s sleep where I moor. Not any more. Here’s my solution
Know your narrowboat costs – Detailed costs for my own boat for February 2013
Half a dozen boaters now have access to their own blog section on the site. You can too. Here’s how.
Here’s an example of what happens when you really don’t understand how your narrowboat works.
Essential boating equipment – Here’s a low cost item which has paid for itself over and over again.
Whilton marina boat sales – Sometimes things aren’t what they appear to be. This alleged fact about the boat sales at Whilton has come to me from several different sources.
Case study – Sarah lives on wide beam Antioch on the Leeds Liverpool canal. She can do man things with her hands. Here’s her story.
Be inspired – There are always reasons why you don’t make the move from bricks and mortar to steel and water. Here’s an anecdote which demonstrates once and for all that there really aren’t any worthwhile excuses.
Narrowboat security – A spate of burglaries from boats and a break in at my former family home encouraged me to write this article
Case study – You need to committed to sell your home to fund the purchase of your narrowboat. That’s what Mick and Marlene have done.
The perils of exceeding your monthly broadband data allowance. Learn from my mistakes.
The Trust target illegal moorers but just what does the Trust consider to an illegal mooring?
Identity theft – The ongoing saga of my hacked laptop
RCR engine servicing – River Canal Rescue (RCR) are well known as the waterways equivelent of the AA but did you know that they will also come to your mooring to service your boat?
Narrowboat blogs – My own first cruise, Our Nige takes his new home on its maiden voyage and a chance for you to have your very own blog section on this site.
Narrowboat fuel tanks – How much do they hold
Meet one of your legless canal side companions
The canal network’s largest floating hotel
An encounter with a wide beam boat and why they aren’t suitable for much of the canal network
An interview with the Trust’s head of boating. Sally Ash talks about the Trust’s approach to the thorny issue of residential moorings
My comments about an encounter on the Oxford/GU section between Napton and Braunston sparked a debate about the pros and cons of wide beams on the cut.
Keeping dry – You don’t really need to limit your cruising to sunny summer days. There’s something very special about standing on the back deck in the pouring ran protected by a set of bomb proof waterproofs.
Do you really need a car? Living on a narrowboat is all about enjoying a simple and stress free life. Sally and I had a car each. Mine cost £2,000 to run in the previous 12 months so I decided to get rid of mine to see if I could manage without one.
Laptop hacking – An update on the problems I encountered after buying a brand new laptop which I suspect was tampered with before I bought it.
Diary of a new narrowboat owner – Frequent forum poster “Our Nige” finally moved on to his new floating home. Here’s his story
An encounter with two poorly prepared holiday boaters and my own impending two week cruise encouraged me to put together a pre cruise check list
I was on holiday for the first two weeks of June. Sally and I cruised from Calcutt to Braunston, north along the north Oxford where we joined the Coventry canal briefly before taking a very sharp right turn onto the Ashby canal. Here’s a daily report of the first week of our holiday.
The Ashby canal cruise part two – We spent a bit more time on the Ashby before heading south again, joining the Coventry canal, this time following it into Coventry’s rather depressing and disappointing city centre, then retracing our steps back to Calcutt
Most popular narrowboat names – Here’s the definitive list of the top 200 most popular narrowboat names and a resource you can use to find out if any other boat has the same name as yours
Considerate boating – An article prompted after a near head on collision with another boat trying to avoid a fallen oak.
23rd June 2013 – The cost of a two week cruise. If you live on your own boat, what’s the real cost of taking it away for a two week break?
Case Study – Mary Anne swapped dry land home rental for floating home ownership. Now she loves life afloat and works from home.
Life as a continuous cruiser – The Holy Grail of narrowboat ownership. The ability to travel where and when you like. Peter Early tells all.
Keeping your stove glass clean – Maybe you think it’s an odd subject for the summer but you can’t trust the English weather. Late June and the stove was still on now and again. At least now I have a crystal clear view of the fire I shouldn’t need to light.
Traffic chaos caused by Braunston’s historic boat rally – On a day with high winds and a canal full of working boats returning home after the rally, I had the pleasure of taking some very nervous hirers out on the cut.
Anticipating winter weather – You may well be enjoying unusually warm winter weather but the winter will be with us all too soon. Now is the time that you need to plan for the cold weather ahead.
Fenland river cruising – Another boater’s maiden voyage to whet your appetite.
Hire boat expectations – Fully understanding what facilities will be available to you is essential if you’re going to enjoy a narrowboat holiday. Here’s what not to do.
The cost of living on a narrowboat – An article in the Daily Mail… and why most boaters disagree with what they said.
The perfect narrowboat washing machine? – It’s low cost and doesn’t need plumbing in, but does it actually clean clothes?
The cost of a continuous cruising lifestyle – How much does living the life of a water gypsy really cost?
A free download – Living On A Narrowboat: 101 Essential Narrowboat Articles
Narrowboat tips – Handy hints from experienced narrowboat owners
The cost of a continuous cruising lifestyle – How one liveaboard boater manages on a shoestring
CART Guide Approval – The waterways’ governing body is now promoting the information packages available from this site. Yippee!
Narrowboat Insurance – A summary of insurance quotes from the major narrowboat insurers
Liveaboard Case Study – Keith and Nicky downsized their property in Jersey, used the released capital to buy their 57? “go anywhere” narrowboat and now live on their boat full time while they continuously cruise the canal network. They’re ridiculously young to retire, and I’m very, very jealous
Downsizing from a 3 bed semi to a narrowboat – What do you do with a lifetime’s accumulated possessions?
Effective fly killers for boats
The downside to living on a narrowboat
Liveaboard Case Study – American Richard Varnes has taken a year out from work to cruise the canal network and write about his adventure. Here’s his case study and a few stories from his journey so far.
Solving engine room leaks – A simple solution to a dripping stern tube
All about the weed hatch – Removing debris from your propeller
A disaster – I inadvertantly deleted this week’s newsletter and there wasn’t a backup on the server. What a shame. It was all about the damage you can do to your boat if you don’t watch what you’re doing in a lock. You would have loved it!
Managing your water supply
An American blogs about his travels
A tragedy at Calcutt. Sudden Oak Dieback hits our 1,500 twenty year old oak trees
Forum private messaging – Now you can email other forum users from within the site
The folly of using unseasoned wood as a fuel – Here’s essential information if you plan to use logs you find to heat your boat for free
Creating lasting memories of your cruises – Slightly off topic, but please bear with me. You’ll have some wonderful adventures as you travel throughout the network. They’ll be adventures worth remembering but will you remember them? I have a very poor memory but instant and total recall of all my cruises is just a click away.
Managing your boat’s water supply. You can use your water supply as and when you need it when you live in a house with all mod cons. You can pretty much do the same when you’re on a marina mooring with a water supply just a hose length away. It’s a different kettle of fish when you’re on an online mooring.
Liveaboard case study – A prime example of mooring without a water supply on tap.
On demand water heater problems – Discover a common fault with these water heaters and what you can do to resolve the problem.
Know your firewood – Not all timber burns well. Find out which is best and which to avoid.
Condensation. It’s a common problem on boats. Here are a few suggestions how to keep your boat’s interior dry.
A new organisation for liveaboard boaters
The wind chill factor – How strong the wind is blowing and which direction it’s coming from can determine how difficult it is to heat your boat. Here’s what you need to know.
Case study – Another couple from down under living the dream on the inland waterways.
Popular narrowboat terminology – Hundreds or words or phrases used to describe parts of boats and the waterways they cruise through.
Narrowboat running costs – I compare my own running costs to those of a prominent YouTube video blogger and detail my exact costs for October 2013
Narrowboat central heating – I don’t have any. All that is about to change. Here’s the system I’m going to install and why I’ve chosen it.
There are dozens of helpful and interesting articles on the site, but have you found them all? I thought you might appreciate a list of the more popular articles that you can glance through and click on the ones that take your fancy. Here it is.
There’s a wealth of information on the site in general, but if you’re struggling to find the answer to a particular issue, the forum is the place to find it. I’ve listed some of the more popular posts below but if you can’t find what you’re looking for, ask your question on the forum. If you don’t know how to create a post, or if you can’t log in, please let me know. I’ll be more than happy to get you up and running.
Living on a Narrowboat: The REAL Cost of a Life Afloat – Narrowboat costs explained in detail. My own maintenance and living cost on narrowboat James for a full year. Use this information to work out your own costs.
CRT (Canal & River Trust) maintain the waterways. Here’s their site.
Find out what parts of the canal are closed and for how long. Essential cruising information for you.
Do you need to find a home for your boat? Here’s a comprehensive list of the narrowboat friendly marinas in the UK
Do you want to see where these marinas are on a map? Here it is.
Here’s a map of all the canals on the system to help you plan your route.
Newsletter Archive – Browse through a wealth of useful content in the newsletters over the last year.
Find out more about narrowboat central heating costs here.
Click here to get a FREE copy of “Living On A Narrowboat:101 Essential Narrowboat Articles”
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