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Those of you at the AGM will recall the presentation by Jon Carter, Marketing Director of CPL Distribution. CPL are probably best known as the largest and oldest distributor of coal and solid mineral fuels in the UK (excepting Scotland).

They own the Homefire brand and as well as direct delivery to consumers you’ll see their product outside many petrol service stations, B&Q etc. During a meeting early this year your board were trying to come up with endorsement type ideas for the Guild brand and we decided to give CPL a call.

Daniel Hodgson met Jon Carter and they quickly realized the upside for both parties. What started as an idea for an information booklet quickly became a 20 page A5 glossy brochure, “The Good Fuel Guide”, packed with useful information for your customers.

It covers subjects as diverse as chimney safety, storing fuel, chimney terminals, CO issues and lighting a fire. It contains excellent information on the CPL product range. There is also a section for your details. You can present it to your customers as a sweeping history for the chimney – to be updated each year. There is a generous 20% discount on a 1st order to customers wishing to purchase any of the CPL fuels.

CPL have recognized the power of our potential to distribute The Good Fuel Guide to our customers and are shouldering all the production and printing costs. We just need to pass it on.

It contains something useful and interesting for every customer and you can draw attention to any section which is immediately relevant to their situation e.g. dangerous terminals, ventilation issues, CO issues etc.

If you use it properly it will enhance your professional status and increase your business. We have produced a short training video which you can see at It gives some pointers as to how to use the Good Fuel Guide to your best advantage.

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I have now been involved in the Chimney industry for some thirteen years, a family business established in 1982 run by my father in law up until 7 years ago when he retired. Fortunately I was in a good position to take over the reins and bring forward the business to what it is today.

The issue at heart I would like to make all sweeps aware of is your “KNEES”. Like many I have been on my knees for some time now and taken considerable care over the years, always worn heavy duty, comfortable knee pads and tried to rest them as much as possible, especially during the busier period.

A couple of years ago, 2008 to be exact, I noticed that my knees ached for slightly longer than normal, but hey what do you expect kneeling most of the day… My dear wife as sympathetic as ever kindly reminded me “I wasn’t getting any younger” I was 39 at the time.

In December 2008 the pain started to become unbearable; long into the night even with pain killers the aches continued. At this point there was no swelling, bruising or anything to show that something was wrong.  Once again I just put it down to the amount of work on my knees and continued to work and live with it. This proved to be a big mistake!

In January 2009, while working on a chimney, I twisted round slightly to pick up another rod and felt and heard an almighty crack in my right knee.  I knew it wasn’t good and headed straight home after I had finished the chimney.

That evening my knee was the size of a football, but funnily enough the pain wasn’t so bad, yes it ached but it was considerably more comfortable. Every night after work the ice pack was in full use, fortunately the chimneys had slowed down a little enabling me to get to the docs and see what was happening.

The Doctor said I had Pre-Patella Bursitis or better known as house maid’s knee, this is a fluid behind the knee cap which thickens and becomes painful after years of kneeling, but on the safe side she sent me to see a knee consultant. Amazingly after three weeks the swelling had all but gone, but the knee was still causing problems, the consultant checked and said things didn’t quite feel right and I should have an MRI.

The MRI scan appointment came through four weeks later. I then waited another three weeks to see the consultant, finally the results and “ Yes Mr Potter you have two tears, one to the cruciate ligament and one to the medial ligament, the only way to repair this is by surgery”.  The surgery is by means of an arthroscopy, this is key hole surgery.  “When will I be able to work?” was my first question, “Three weeks later” I was told.

After seeing the surgeon, the surgery was booked for June 4th, at last I thought I can get this sorted and back to normal. When the surgeon had finished the operation and came to see me in recovery the true extent of the damage was revealed. Yes, the cruciate ligament was torn, and so was the medial, so much so they had to remove it fully. Additional to this there were particles of bone floating around the knee causing the main aching, this had to be removed and the worn bone re-shaped.

The first week at home was unbelievable horrendous, I have never in all my time experienced pain like it, not only that but the final blow came that I wouldn’t be able to work for 8 weeks. Thank goodness business had been kind and could look after us.

What was truly incredible is that my customers who phoned or reminders we called for their booking in the summer months all waited until I was good enough to return, that speaks volumes about my business and I’m very grateful.

Nearly 12 weeks later and plenty of physiotherapy, I could return to work, thankfully the knee is good but will never be quite the same again. I need a check up every 6 months to monitor the progress which will eventually lead to a full knee replacement in approx 10 – 15 years time!!

The knee specialist made it very clear that the majority of work needed could have been avoided if only I had seen the doctor sooner.

The constant kneeling, moving around and twisting led to this problem. If you have knees that ache regularly a simple check with the doctors can prevent further trouble.

After 12 weeks at home, I knew daytime telly like the back of my hand with plenty of tea and biscuits.

Still, I’m so glad to be back doing what I enjoy.

Look after those knees members!

Nigel Potter

Clean Sweep

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We are asked on a daily basis; what make a guild sweep any different to any other?

There are three answers to this question

  1. Consistent high standards
  2. Very high levels of training
  3. Ongoing access to Industry Knowledge

It is the opinion of the Guild that in order to be considered a competent sweep, a certain level must be achieved and this unfortunately takes time. In years past a chimney sweep would have spent 2 years apprenticeship with a master chimney sweep before going out on their own.  In reality nowadays this is not practical and does not allow for the necessary classroom theoretical element. To accommodate both theoretical and practical the Guild training program for new sweeps consists of 3 days theoretical training at the Sure-Fire technical centre, followed by several weeks with a master mentor on our work based mentoring program. This Mentoring program is an industry first as it gives much of what an apprenticeship does without the long time scale. This program is designed to give a sweep the necessary knowledge to be able to undertake the job safely and professionally.

A Guild Practical training Seminar at Sure-Fire

We are often asked why do you require so much theoretical training to be a chimney sweep?

A.     Chimney sweeping today is far more that just cleaning the flue in-fact a professional sweep can advise on the appliance  installation, chimney fire safety, carbon monoxide issues as well as giving invaluable advice on things such as fuel types and burning cycles.  Furthermore sweeping chimneys carries inherent health and safety risks. This alone requires extensive training to safeguard the sweep and the customers property. Chimney physics, combustion theory of hydrocarbon based fuels  and fluid dynamics are also on the curriculum . This extra knowledge helps a good sweep understand why a chimney does or doesn`t work and inturn can undertake fault finding work in an expert manner.

Mr David Woofindin demonstration chimney sealing techniques

We are sure that as you search through the Internet you will find so called training providers that will suggest that you can become a competent chimney sweep within a day. In reality this is impossible no matter how good the teacher or student, there is simply too much information to convey and absorb. The only  viable alternative to the Guilds training program, is the NVQ level 2 training run by the NACS. This training is also in-depth and is accepted along with the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps by HETAS for the purposes of becoming a HETAS approved sweep.

Ongoing training and Master Chimney Sweeps Program

The Guild is a forward looking organisation and is always keen to promote further education. There are several courses which will be beneficial to chimney sweeps, some of these are;

  • Working at heights
  • Camera surveying
  • Pressure and smoke testing
  • Solid Fuel Awareness (HETAS certification)
  • Solid Fuel Engineer
  • Steel Chimney Systems
  • Installation of Flexible Liners
  • Appliance installation
  • Site Safety
  • Bio-Mass Expert

The Sure-fire solid fuel centre of excellence

Master Chimney Sweeps Status is only offered to members who have over 2 years experience as a full member. These special members have proven their competence in many areas including full HETAS registration. For more details on the GMCS master Sweeps program contact Mr David Wooffindin GMCS Training Trustee.

Chimney sweeping is now a modern and clean profession that has come a long way since the days of the chimney boys. A guild Training course will open up a world of  modern equipment, training, expertise and certification to both the newest of sweeps and the experienced alike.

A Guild Trainee coming to terms with the viper