Monday, 11 July 2016

Dark skies

After only 5 volunteers on Friday, we were back to 9 today, with lots of visitors, all of which made demands on tea, doughnuts and chairs. Strangely, many of the visitors materialised just as the kettle went on, how do they know?

It was a day of strong sunshine, interspersed with heavy tropical showers. We dodged these by sheltering under the bridge, but luckily they didn't really hold up the work.

Before heading down to the trackbed, we made contact with Ops and were advised to wait until the only train of the day had passed - Foremarke Hall on its way to Winchcombe for a day of filming.

7903 passes the site of Hayles Abbey halt. The concrete blocks will be faced with wood to simulate the original wooden construction.
The first job of the day then was to fetch the remaining concrete blocks, ready for laying in a third and fourth course.

Julian and Dave attack the pile with a rather small barrow. If you took a block out, it fell over !

At the other end, Lyndon was there to unload them, and pile them on to the third course at the front.

A second barrow was then fetched down to speed things up a bit, and you can see it being loaded in the background.

Two barrows on a single track... who has the token?

Lyndon is running 'light engine' so has to give way to Dave with the 'heavy freight'.

After waiting for the only train of the day, and moving about 40 blocks, it was already time for tea and doughnuts. Always the best part of the day.

One-two-three Tea Up !

Then came the serious business of actually laying the 50 blocks we still had. This picture shows Dave at work with a huge pile of mortar, but quite necessary as the blockwork takes up a lot of it. In fact there was a worry that we would run out of sand today, as we had only less than a  full dumpy bag left, but in the end sand and blocks matched each other pretty well, and now there are none of either left at all.

Dave spreads a line of mortar on the outline of the block, and the heavy block, usually laid by two people (if they aren't off taking photographs...) is laid on top very gently so as not to squash the bed of mortar underneath. The block is then tapped down with the rubber mallet until it lines up with the line in front, or as in this case, the forward blockwork. It is then checked for level, and the gaps are filled in.

We were pretty impressed by Dave's rather professional activity, until he let slip that the last thing he built was a pigsty! That would explain the troughing then.

Sometimes the mortar has dried out a bit, and it is a fag having to drag back up the hill to the tank to get some water. Dave had the bright idea of using the water in the nearby catchpit, and for this he brought a bucket on a rope today.

There was only one problem -  as in the song, there was a hole in his bucket. Ah.

Dave and yours truly worked north, while Tim and Julian worked south. Here is where we met, with Julian dropping in the last block of the third row in the rear section.

What is (other) Dave doing the in the background though? He seems to be on his hands and knees?

Dave was trying to knock a hole through the wall from front to back, to allow a weepage pipe to be inserted. We were assured that this would be easier once the blocks were in place, but that was wrong. It was harder. We should have chipped out the holes before we laid the blocks. Now we know.

The hole in the corner was even more difficult. Dave is even lower than his hands and knees.

After a while and looking at the trousers, it becomes apparent who does all the hard work around here, and who does the arm waving. Is that the remains of a crease we can see there?

For lunch Paul once again had a treat in store for us - sausages in baps ! These proved very popular with our 11 guests. The high number meant that once again we ran out of chairs (now up to 9) and two people had to sit on sacks of cement to drink their tea, now replenished from two kettles at once. We are running a bit behind events with our logistics here.

After lunch Paul set out a new, fourth line along the front of the wall. The block below his elbow has just been laid as a pier, and Paul and Dave are checking it off the running rail to make sure the height is correct. In the background there is an ominous accumulation of clouds forming.

The last of our supply of 480 blocks is being laid here near the catch pit return, where a start was made on the fourth row on the rear. All of our blocks are now used up (well, except four; these are holding up Paul's stove and resistance to using those was fierce) and all of the sand too. The resupply, ordered last week, has still not arrived, and the latest news here is that it may come this Friday.

The clouds are getting darker. This idyll won't last much longer...

With all the blocks and mortar now used up, we started a new activity - filling in the voids in the 4 rows of blocks with concrete. Jim H has built a rather ingenious roadway of spot boards and pallets, which allowed him to wheel in one uninterrupted move loads of barrows of concrete from the mixer at the top, along the 4 foot and straight into the tops of the voids. Lyndon and John are stuffing the concrete flow down into the holes, and tamping it to make sure there are no air holes.

At the end of the day, we had got this far: concrete pouring has started by the ramp you can see centre left, while three rows of blocks are completed now all the way to the half way point, with the fourth row, both front and back, well under way.

Once the fourth row is on, and all the voids concreted in, then three rows of corbelling will be laid at the front, backed up by a fifth row of blocks at the rear. On top of that; the CRC2 slabs.

With the uncertainty about supplies, Friday this week still needs to be confirmed as a working date, so check your emails.

A final picture today is a puzzle - can our readers solve it?

Out of the clay at Hayles came this bullet shaped object. It is in fact larger than a bullet, and seems broken off at the rear.

What is it?

Answer next time (it took us a while to puzzle that one out, but we got there).


  1. My immediate thoughts of what the object actually is were that it could be the bottom of a speed restriction sign, the like of which are to be seen all over the railways. Not seen an end before but that is what I think it could be. Regards and well done on all the good work, Paul (in the sunny south west !).

  2. if it was in the [liassic]clay and stone in composition it's probably a fossil belemite. an extinct relative of the octopus, cuttlefish and equally extinct ammonite.

    1. Bingo! It is the tail end, or rostrum, of a Jurassic Belemnite, a hard bit which is all that is left of this otherwise soft bodied octopus type.
      Famous Hayles!
      Amazing what knowledge there is out there. Well done, Tigger.