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December 2010 - Posts - Mud Hound

Mud Hound

The life of a Land Drainage Contractor

December 2010 - Posts


I admit it I’m lucky, there is no point denying the obvious, we always shut down for two weeks over the Christmas period, its fantastic and causes a great deal of jealously from Mrs. Mudhound! It suits the company for everyone to have time off in the winter rather than the summer and having two weeks off is like a second visit from Father Christmas for me. However this does mean that this will be the last blog until the New Year. Whilst there will be a hiatus I have already lined up a few blogs and blog ideas for next year, hopefully you might find something of interest!


Anyway traditionally we will all head down the pub on our last day, hard life this contracting business you know, so I’m off to sample the local Christmas brew. The only thing to do is wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.   


P. S. Anyone else cold? Being a young lad I can’t remember a cold spell, as cold or as long as this one...




The winter months can be a pain for us. Most of our machinery can cope with the soft ground conditions: it takes a hell of a lot to stop a drainage machine and even if the mud manages it our trenchless machine has a winch so can pull itself out whilst still laying a drain on grade. Unfortunately the ground is less accommodating, there is little point in draining ground only to have foot deep ruts full of water all over the field. Still there are a surprising amount of dry periods, and there are unusual circumstances such as grass fields about to be ploughed, but most we rely on frosty weather to give us an opportunity to get on and do some work.


Last week the cold spell gave us a chance to get on with a few jobs which had been on hold, on one job we trenched in the drains making very little mess, in fact the job was probably as neat as it is possible to do, however if the job had been attempted this week the results would have been very different judging by my footmarks I made walking over the field measuring up!


I could do with a weather controlling device, anyone got one to spare?


Still I don't need to worry about the weather, its back to school time, another day spent in the class room work on my NEBOSH Health and Safety course........





There is a reason why this blog is called the mudhound. In your land is dry and fertile you tend not to need a drainage contractor. The nature of our job means we seek out and work in muddy conditions. Now I’m not complaining, stick your willies on and get on with it, but sometimes our plant does not have the same attitude.


There is a reason why our work is mainly seasonal. Heavy plant on wet ground is not a good combination. I thought I would post a few pictures of times when we have misjudged the conditions....





I have many more like this...



I suspect many people reading this blog have similar experiences 



I suspect many people have pictures similar to these...



The freezing fog left a trail of ice and once the mist lifted it looked like christmas morning in hollywood films.



The office has never looked so good!




I have just noticed that the blog has lacked pictures of late, therefore I thought I would share one of the problems we can sometimes come up against: rock.


Most of the time the type of land which requires drainage tends to be free of large deposits of stone but not all the time. I took these photos last year when working on a cross county pipeline, as you can see there were some hefty rocks just below the surface.



Our trenchers can cope with quite a lot, if the stone is soft the chain will break through it, if the stone is small the chain will bring it the surface, but some times the stone is too big and too hard!



Clearly it is not possible to lay a drain with a trenching machine in these conditions. In the end the drainage was redesigned to avoid the rocks.  




Often when explaining drainage to people who have little experience of it, one of the first questions people have is “what about the effect in drought conditions?”. They explain that although the land is often water logged in winter, come summer the ground is hard, cracked and dry as a bone, surely draining the ground will make this worse?


Well actually the answer is no.


Drainage relies on water movement caused by gravity; if the water remains still or does not move much, it is unable to reach the pipework and drain away. In soils which are sodden the large quantity of water increases pressure and encourages, perhaps the word should be forces, water to move elsewhere - as mentioned in previous post, water moves in the direction of least resistance: the air in a land drain. Of course the opposite is true, in soils without surplus water the pressure is less and less water finds its way to the drains. Land drainage removes excess water from the land, but as the water is removed the effectiveness of the drains is reduced. In other words drains need wet soils to work, in dry soils the drains have very little effect.


Oddly drainage can actually help in drought conditions. Drainage improves soil structure and lessens the occurrence of cracks in clay soils. It also encourages roots to grow down to the water, root growth tends not to be as developed in water logged ground as the crops do not have to reach down to find water. These large roots then come in useful during dry periods when the moisture level is low in uppermost level of top soil.