Monday, 4 July 2016

More and more people - and blocks

We had an amazing 9 volunteers on site today, to help rebuild Hayles Abbey halt. Or was it the rumour that Paul was going to make bacon baps? Either way, we had a great time, with warm weather and a cheerful atmosphere.

This is the opening shot for the day, showing two teams laying a second row. But first things first, we had a cup of tea made in our 'kitchen' by Paul:

 The quality of the tea has now improved, as we get individual tea bags, with which we can brew our own strength. Paul was 'mother'.

Note to Hayles participants: from now on, drop a pound into the coffee jar, to help Paul buy the materials, currently out of his own pocket.

What do you get for your money? Well, several cups of tea of coffee during the day, but also...

Doughnuts !
Tea, doughnuts, sunshine, good company, even armchairs. In return, you have to lift blocks and get spattered with mortar.

With the arrival of Tim, we managed to raise no fewer than three block laying teams. Tim's team finished off the area around the return by the catch pit, Paul's team worked along the rear of the middle section, while
Dave and Lyndon raised the row at the front to the second level at the southern end. All in all, we laid well over 90 blocks today,a  new record for us. We have got through two out of the three dumpy bags of sand, half the cement, and about 3/4 of the 480 blocks from the first shipment. Only 96 blocks remain. A hurried site meeting agreed that we urgently needed to re-order supplies to keep us going after the Friday session.

Tim and yours truly laid part of the rear row of blocks around the return, which is apparent in this photograph.

This area is now 4 blocks high, which is as high as we will go. After this level, it will be three rows of corbelling bricks. But not yet, we still need to infill the voids in the blocks with concrete. That will be a major job of concrete making and barrowing.

Gentlemen, may I introduce to you:
Paul, Tim, Jim, Paul (again) Dave, and Lyndon. Out of the picture Jim (again) and yours truly.

While they receive a morale boosting lecture from Paul ('the beatings will continue until it improves'), Jim is away fulfilling their desires for... mortar! Yes, the spot is empty, and Jim is beavering away at the mixer, some distance away. With three teams, the demand for mortar is high and relentless.

Another load of mortar arrives, made by Jim to a recipe just right for laying heavy blocks on a hot day. It's good when the team gets to know each other's needs so well.
Tim has just laid the 5 blocks in the foreground, which you can identify from the wet mortar in the joints.

At lunchtime, the rumour about bacon baps (or should that be cobs?) turned out to be true! Paul cooked us all a bacon bap each, with ketchup, and second helpings for those that wanted them. Stevie Wonder also dropped in, and his dog Gypsy was allowed a half a bap. It's a pity dogs never seem to savour their food, it goes straight in and then it's gone. Oh well, we enjoyed them.

A catastrophe occurred during the bap eating, as Jim fell through his chair.

While Jim bemoaned the poor quality of the chair material, evil tongues wagged about the weight of its occupant.

A backup supply of fresh chairs was brought in later in the day, but we can't go on like this Jim, you'll have to be more careful with the facilities provided.

After lunch, a quick look at the northern end and around the catch pit shows the platform well on its way, and looking quite sturdy. A lintel will go over the catch pit and it will end up out of view, but accessible via a removable cover at the front. Note the second catch pit in the centre (on the left in the picture). Unusually, we have the centre one as for a station, but the cess one was not removed and it still functions.

Having gone as far as they can around the catch pit return (blocks need cutting to an angle here now) Tim's team moved to the southern end and started a second row on the rear here. That's about as far as we got for the day.

The last shot of the day shows a double block wall at the northern end (with a few blocks still needing to be cut for the slope) and the double block wall continuing southwards beyond the return, and then a final row on the front almost as far as the path. The 96 blocks we have left, out of the 480 in the first shipment, are right at the other end. It's quite a small pile now.

We reckon we have enough blocks left for a further day (if three teams) and as a back up we should be able to start filling in the voids with concrete as well. New supplies will be ordered though, and if all goes well there will be no interruption to progress - we are ahead of schedule in fact, and very pleased with the way things are going.

We will continue on Mondays and Fridays, so this Friday is the next session at Hayles.

Finally, a plea for some heritage items. We need a GWR type Beware of Trains to borrow, so that we can have it copied for the halt, and indeed also for the future barrow crossing at Broadway. Who can help with lending us one? It should look like this one:

There are many similar notices about, but we would like to cast from a  GWR type. Notice the corners, and the fact that the sign is more oblong than square, with a smaller word 'OF' in the centre.

And can anyone lend us one of these? Again, we would like to cast two further examples from an original.

This would be for Broadway.

Any offers of help would be much appreciated at breva2011(at)

See you on Friday!


  1. There is a 'Beware of Trains' sign of that type currently at the left hand end inside the grey L&NWR van on platform 2 at Winchcombe station. It may belong at the southern end of that platform. I do not know whether it is a genuine GWR sign or, more likely, a reproduction one. It could serve as a readlily accessible template.
    Neil Herapath (Friends of Winchcombe Station)

    1. Thanks, Neil, I'll take a look.
      I haven't actually seen a GWR one anywhere on the railway so offers to lend a real one are still welcome.

  2. The SVR have (or had at that time - 1970's), a "PLEASE ADJUST YOUR DRESS" sign in their Gents toilet at Highley. May be still there or may have moved somewhere else on the SVR. Hope this may be of some use. Regards, Paul.

  3. Your broken plastic chair, reminded me that May last year I used someone's steel steps with plastic treads outside. While standing on the top if three treads, without any warning the tread shattered. I went through breaking the other two treads on the way, the weight of m body pushing me through. I ended up with a severely broken leg as my legs went through crossed. When the ambulance came, they had to send for the fire brigade to cut me out. I spent a month in hospital with having a metal pin put down the broken tibia and a twice broken fibula. I had a blood clot from the operation and other problems still suffering from.
    The steps had been kept outside, the sunlight uv had degraded the plastic, which should have a warning label dated with a safe life untill.
    A moral to the story, I shall think twice before standing or sitting on anything made of plastic. Sounds like Jim had a lucky escape.