A sheared bolt and a mini adventure

On Thursday night last week my charge light didn’t go out. Since it was very wet I just assumed it was down to a slippy fan belt and decided to fix it at the weekend, provided the never-ending rains let up.
2014-02-16 15.02.07
After a huge fry-up at the farm, daughter and I set about fixing the problem – which turned out to be caused by the alternator completely snapping off! The 200Di conversion involved making a custom alternator bracket. Though the bracket itself is made from 10mm sheet steel welded to a chunky steel tube I made on the lathe, the weak spot is the M8 bolt which runs through it. This bolt had sheared off, leaving the alternator hanging loose. Luckily the fan belt didn’t fall off on the way home and I didn’t drive far enough to overheat the engine (the water pump must have stopped working as a result of the belt going slack).
2014-02-16 15.18.37
In the end I used a length of threaded bar instead of the stainless set screw that Emma is holding in the photo. Hopefully this will last a bit longer; stainless steel being notoriously brittle.
2014-02-16 16.39.27
I wasn’t allowed to start the engine “unless we’re going on a journey” so, once the fix was in, we headed up the road to Bucklebury Common. After the weeks of heavy rain and strong winds the common was pretty muddy and there were fallen trees and branches everywhere. I think the daughter enjoyed her introduction to Green Laning.
2014-02-16 16.39.30
In fact she took it so seriously she started compiling some pace notes!

South West Coast – Lands End to (almost) The Lizard

Several years ago we finished the northern section of the South West Coast Path. This week a smaller group of us went back to take on the next section – Lands End to The Lizard.

We managed 16 “strenuous” miles on day one, 18 “moderate” miles on day two and then cut day three short to 8 more moderate miles. We didn’t make the Lizard, but we had fun trying! The landscape was beautiful but the weather was cruel to say the least. Snack breaks on day three were bitterly cold with a constant freezing wind blowing head-on as we walked. Can’t complain too much though as the rest of the UK was hit by unseasonal snowstorms.

We witnessed a real life air-sea rescue on day two. An RAF Sea King turned up to winch a fisherman from the freezing sea after he’d been swept off the rocks. We were convinced they were pulling out a corpse but next day the local radio confirmed he had miraculously survived the 10-foot swells, jagged rocks and freezing water. Watching the rescue unfold from the coast path left us in awe but also a little shaken. Coastal erosion was in full swing and we often found ourselves on detours around huge new cracks in the ground or navigating slippery wet rocks above certain-death falls. Maybe these things are best done in the summer!

That said, it was fantastic to notch up another 42 miles of stunning coastline. Hopefully next year will see us back in Cornwall for the next section of walking and more warm pub parlours, good beer and fresh fish suppers.

Greenham Common Sunrise

Woke up early and met Dr Johnson just after dawn at Greenham Common. The control tower car park was closed so we stopped in a lay-by with the dog walkers and wandered over to the north taxiway. The ground is very wet and I am hopelessly out of practice with FPV so I stuck to line-of-sight flying. Turns out I am also out of practice at that as after about 10 minutes I got disoriented and crashed, snapping a leg off and ending the festivities for the morning.

Since flying was out of the question, we decided to go on a survey mission round the base. It was my first time on the airbase so was quite interesting to wander over to the bunkers and stare through the fence. The runway has been torn up and bulldozed into lumps to stop planes landing, so where the mighty B52s once rumbled in to land there’s now just gravel and gorse bushes. Saw the odd cow and some horses too, since the common is now common land again.

Here are some photos and a video from the ‘copter. I am somewhat annoyed that a drop of water got on the lens (again!) and smudged up the image. We shall return to the base soon I hope.




Snapshot 2 (15-02-2013 08-31)

A Winter’s Tale

This weekend we headed off into the frozen wastes of Wiltshire to set up a rough shelter amongst the converted barns, Range Rovers and tweed-clad organic hemp farmers.  It was cold!  Apparently it got down to -4C during the night, though I slept like a warm, cosy and pleasantly drunk log in the back of The Duke.

On the way there we took in a few choice green lanes.  This included one of the most challenging we’ve been on to date.  After taking us through some woods – the map lead us to believe – the lane would join a track which would in turn take us back to society.  As we entered the woods we hit a very muddy incline which tested the ‘drovers mud plugging abilities and gave Dr J and I a chance to try and remember anything we may have known about off-road driving.  Clearly somebody had been up the slippy hill on a quad bike recently, but as we trundled further into the woods we started to get the impression that this was not a well-worn lane in any way.  The woods were clearly used for hunting, with a multitude of grouse feeders, shooting hides and even a pair of snapped-off deer shins to prove it.  These sorts of places don’t like green laners, they have guns and they are apparently willing to rip the forelegs off a woodland creature.  So by unspoken agreement we got a wiggle on and made for the exit.  Of course the track-to-freedom was little more than a narrow, impassable footpath.  We made our way out of the woods by retracing our steps like city-slickers out of deliverance-country; beating a hasty retreat to the Kennet and Avon for a bowl of chilli, over which we vowed never to return.

We arrived at the camp site just before dark, pitching tents and erecting what can only be described as a “rude shelter” by stringing a giant oil stained tarp between the Land Rovers.  We broke out the camping chairs and began the complex procedure of lighting my portable barbecue and emptying a few cans of ale.

I suspect Dr Johnson snorted a wrap of organic speed before we went to the pub.  Either that or the warmth made him loose his mind a little bit.  The beer was nice, the food overcooked, the other patrons were probably offended by our avant garde humour and the logs were plastic – or at least that’s what Dr Johnson thought.  An antique spanking paddle found on the shelf helped to keep the conversation flowing.

On arrival back at the gypsy encampment I set about boiling bottle after bottle of water in my Kelly kettle and poking them between the duvets in my drover-bed.  I slept very warmly and very well, awakening to an icy ceiling and the pleasing sight of a frost covered field glistening beneath the tentative caress of a December dawn.  It would have been more pleasing if I didn’t have a headache.

After a traditional breakfast we went for a nice walk and then headed home.  On the way back home something nasty happened in The Duke’s gearbox.  I haven’t had time to work out the cause, but he’s having some issues with gear selection which make me very nervous indeed.  Expect a detailed report on my findings soon!

Saturday Morning Lanes and FPV

This weekend Dr J, My Assistant and I were allowed out to play in the Land Rovers for a few hours.  We made it up to some of the Lanes north of Newbury and had fun with axes, sand ladders and ‘copters.

Dr J takes a swing at a pesky tree that had fallen on the track

We’re being followed!

The Patriot

Through a water hazard

Stopped for FPV and coffee

A ‘drover within a ‘drover

Whoops!  Maybe we should have done this somewhere more open?

Beacon Hill Tricopter

Dr Johnson, Dr Kelly, my trusty assistant and I went for an early morning walk to the top of Beacon Hill this morning. We began our climb at 7am sharp, leaving the noise of the Newbury Bypass behind as we clambered through the scrub. The newborn sun cast a golden light upon the dew-soaked turf of the earthworks and a strong wind from the West made it almost impossible to fly a Tricopter. Luckily, we had tea, coffee and cookies as well as the soothing tones of Dr K’s Saxophone to keep us entertained.

Managed to record a couple of minutes of footage, but the wind made for a very bumpy ride and a nasty smudge on the camera lens puts a damper on the quality too.

The tricopter is still very down on power, especially with the newly-fixed GoPro and force 10 gale. Maybe now is the time to convert it to a hexacopter… watch this space!

Canoeing Manventure

Another green laning trip around Berkshire and South Oxfordshire on the way (sort of) to canoing in the Welsh Borders.  I forgot the camera and destroyed my mobile phone, so these pictures are provided thanks to Dr Johnson.
With all the weight in the back it was impossible to drive over this fallen tree.  We resorted to chopping  it in half and towing it off the track, which was incredibly satisfying!

Another fallen tree causes problems.  This one was shifted with manpower alone.

Plum heads through the dense undergrowth


Stopped for lunch along the way

A tricky narrow bridge

Arrived at the camp site (which was a fantastic orchard-based affair).  Duke converted for sleeping.  Watching everyone else put their tents up.

Where on earth did we find all this wood for the fire?