Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The first (few hundred) blocks

Quick update on progress on site over the last week or so...

Blockwork has started on Terrace A, although we are now waiting for the lintels which will bridge over the service entries and the engineering bricks to arrive on site.  Finished floor levels will be three courses of engineering bricks above the top of the blockwork as seen here.

The common garden area to terrace A is small but has a lovely outlook

See the extra wide cavity, which for those of you in the know, will give a wall U-value of between 0.10 and 0.12

The Common House blockwork is ready to go. Note that the front of building 2 has now been pulled down to make way for the Children's room, toilets, laundry and guest rooms.  The floor will be lowered to provide level access

Meanwhile at terrace D the building platform is being levelled.  A report on the safety of the rock face to the right is pending - we plan to leave it looking as natural as possible

And at Heron Bank, the pile of rubble just gets bigger and bigger.



Another Elephant found on site!

The following elephant was constructed by chance when the girls were playing in the river during the last gasp of summer.

Obviously they improved it once they noticed their accidental creation and then had a little rest after their hard work.

A little known fact is that mechanical elephants used to be built at Luneside Engineering; here is one outside the Mill doors. More information can be found here.

The late Colonel Teodor Benirski, who ran Luneside Engineering, created a "factory-in-a-garden" on the site of Heron Bank, or what we used to refer to as "the manager's house".

I hope that our common house terrace will have the same feel.



Friday, September 23, 2011

Scything team in action

All change on Butterfly Bank last week. Having done a days training in the Arnside & Silverdale AONB a few weeks ago we borrowed a set of scythes and hayrakes. On one of the better days, with help from a couple of other would be reapers from LESS we managed to give the whole bank a short back and sides.

The scythes are Austrian and are being promoted in the UK by Simon Fairlie from Monkton Wyld Community in Dorset. They are much easier to use than 'English' scythes - something to do with weight and balance. We borrowed them from The Lancashire Wildlife Trust who are getting together a North Lancs Meadows group and hope in the future to recruit a posse of volunteer reapers who would go out and hand cut small meadows in the area.

While I was sharpening one of the scythe blades a group of teenage lads went by the last one throwing me the comment of "awesome weapon!" as he passed. Next year we may be organising a 'Strictly Come Scything' party as I learnt from a friend at the Glasson music festival that scything was traditionally done to music - the last Piper in the North West being recorded as playing for a scything team in Ulverston in the late 1790's.

Down at the other end of the site in the mill garden, another set of people has been busy. Pete and Geoff prepared a bed for shrub cuttings, and Kate put in 28 flowering currant cuttings. Other passing cohousing members were surprised to see that flowering currant has berries similar to edible currant. No one tasted them!

Some of these passers-by were tempted to try their hand at some gardening work too. James was found a task which could be done without bending his bad back - cutting privet, and Pam and Gill took over removing the cut branches to pile on top of the windrow, which has suddenly become all green and leafy again as a result.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Progress update and more photos from the site

The cycle path on the south side of the Lune is a good vantage point for checking out the action on site... click on the photos for bigger versions.

On the right is the east end of terrace B. The building platforms have to be compacted in narrow layers.  This can only be done after dry weather as the material doesn't compact properly when it is wet.

If we were using more granular material the compaction would be an easier process, but then the 'muddier' stuff would become waste that it would be difficult to make use of anywhere else.

Over on Terrace A, foundations were being poured last week.

The severe gales (the remains of Hurricane Katia) did a bit of damage just above our site

Now we have concrete pipes on site rather than plastic ones.  These are being installed this week.  They are to collect the rain after a storm and discharge it slowly into the river, no faster than a greenfield site would, so that we don't contribute to the flooding of Skerton!

The roof of the sheds has been removed.  It is due to be replaced with fibre cement - the planners have asked for it to be dark green rather than the paler grey which the group chose, but we still think it will look OK!

Space is tight and the crusher is back on site.  All the concrete and brick from the old buildings can be reused as fill after crushing.   This is where Heron Bank will be built.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

The street starts to take shape

The groundworks contractors are now working to form the street from both ends at once.  Down at the far end of terrace D the rock face has been exposed at the bottom and and cleaned, and looks like it will form an even nicer back drop than expected

The retaining wall at the top of the rockface will remain more or less as it is now.  The rockface is due to be inspected by and expert geologist to check nothing is likely to fall of it.  Any smaller loose chunks will be removed, whilst if there are any bigger loose bits they may need to be bolted in place. 
The late afternoon sun catches the rock face....  This is where the upstairs living 3 bed houses will be.
There may be a natural "bin store" area cut into the rock on the street part way along Terrace D.  Sorry, it's not a great photo of that!  We will have a better idea once a bit more digging has been done here. 

Towards the west end of Terrace D some rock (in the centre of the photo) will need to be pecked out.  We don't know exactly how wide the street will be yet.  The line of the rock race we have uncovered is to be surveyed next week.  Along the part of Terrace D which does not already have a stone wall above the rockface, the 1 in 1 vegetated slope will start from the top of the newly exposed rock face (which runs towards the bottom left hand corner of the picture).  We don't know exactly how high this will be yet, but is looking like around a meter of vertical natural rock before the slope we will be building starts.

Meanwhile close to Halton Mill at the west end of the street the old cobbles have been removed and stockpiled for use in gabions, and the street adjacent to Terrace A is now close to its final level.  The green door in the middle of this photo is where the communal bike store will be.

And here's a close up - the series of holes have been prepared ready for the underpinning of the storage part of what we know as "building 2" next week.  This is necessary because the new level of the street is slightly lower than previous ground levels - to ensure all our houses are easily wheelchair accessible.
This was the moment when the engineers looked down a  trial foundation  trench for terrace A.  It doesn't always take 4 men to dig one hole using a JCB.  The verdict, the ground will be suitable after a little extra compacting, so the foundations of the Common House and Terrace A should be poured this week.

Finally, at the west end of Terrace F, the huge brick base of the former boiler house chimney has now been removed, revealing a stone retaining wall behind.  We are hoping that there will be space in this recess to accommodate some very deep manholes which will take foul and surface water down from the upper level, under Terrace F, to the street.  If this proves feasible it should save us some money.

Hopefully the next post will show more of the area around Terraces C-E.  The big problem is safely accommodating all the material which is having to be temporarily removed!