Saturday, October 29, 2011

The missing link - at the Lune Aqueduct

Five or ten minutes cycle ride downstream from Forge Bank, another construction project is well underway.  British Waterways are carrying out various repairs and improvements to the Grade 1 Listed aqueduct which carries the Lancaster Canal over the River Lune.

If you are reading this and don't live in Lancaster, you might not know that both the river and the canal have tarmaced cyclepaths alongside them, but until now they have been linked by some steep and narrow steps.

Not only are the steps being widened...

but also a new cycle path is being built up a relatively gentle ramp to link the riverside cyclepath to the towpath...

...emerging just before the canal crosses over the A683 Caton Road on another bridge.  
According to workmen on site, the ramp is due to open in January 2012

Why am I writing about this on the cohousing blog?  Because once the new ramp is open, it will be much easier to cycle from Halton to a whole host of destinations close to the canal, including the Dukes Theatre, canalside pubs, the Gregson Arts and Community Centre, White Cross and the Hospital.  The towpath isn't lit, so its not the first choice after dark, but the rest of the time it makes a excellent route to the whole east side of the city centre and beyond.

Latest pictures from the site

Okay, these photos are a few days old sorry - I only just got around to downloading them.  Block laying above floor level started on Wednesday so look out for more pictures next week...

The common house - you can see a black heating duct popping up through the  floor which will allow heat to be piped from the woodchip boiler and solar thermal panels on Halton Mill

The foundations have been laid to allow part of the building that will contain the toilets, laundry, guest rooms and play room to be rebuilt, this time with wheelchair access 

Here's the surface water drain coming through the common house.  We still have to fit electricity, heat, phones and TV alongside it.  The sewer goes a different way, fortunately

This is an example of what contingency is for.  We were going to reuse this gable wall, but having seen the state of the below ground section we are now going to have to rebuild it.  Steps will go up to Terrace F from the right hand side of this photo. 

At Terrace D the groundworkers are still removing rock, some of which will go in gabion baskets.  The rock removal is expected to take 3 weeks.

At Terrace F, sub contractors are installing rock anchors into the existing wall so that we can reuse it confident that it was not on the verge of collapsing.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Family friendly? Definitely!

Overlooking the Lune
The Family Friendly Hotspots Report lists the postcode area of LA2, which encompasses Halton, as one of the top three places in England and Wales to bring up children. 

Their analysis is based on a combination of factors including crime rates, earnings, house prices and access to good schools. Obviously there is far more to family happiness, but it is a good start. Rather randomly, the report used Galgate to represent the postcode area, but we think Halton is far better! 

The Centre @ Halton
It is quiet in comparison, surrounded by lovely countryside with stunning Morecambe Bay only 3 miles away. There are acres of traffic-free space on our land for children to play on and explore, with a fabulous stream and rope swings just on the edge. The fantastic recreational facilities at the Halton Community Centre provide even more choices for those of any age. 

View from High Road
There are a good number of facilities both in Halton and the local area. We have a GP surgery, small shops, chippy and pub. A Co-op supermarket, pharmacy and butcher exist in Caton, which can quickly be reached by bike. The local primary school, St Wilfrid's CofE, is rated as outstanding by Ofsted, whilst we also fall within the catchment area of several outstanding secondary schools.

We are certainly proving attractive and on the current count have eight families with young children and a three with young adults.
Halton and surroundings

Need I say more?


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Ancient Cave System found in Halton

There was much excitement at Forge Bank last week, as the Lancaster Cohousing construction team broke through to what appears to be an ancient cave system. Initial exploration has revealed a mixture of what appears to be a series of small chambers interconnected with man made tunnels. Already some crude cave paintings have been discovered depicting scenes of stick men hunting bison like animals.

In order for work to continue on site the entrance has been stabilised by the construction team as can be seen in the photo below. A lockable gate is due to be fitted early next week to prevent animals and members of the public form entering.

Steve Wrigley, one of the Cohousing members and a keen potholer, is hoping to survey the cave system over the winter months. He is interested in hearing from local people with surveying expertise who would like to assist with this work. Caving experience is not essential, but the work will involve crawling through very wet and tight passages.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Here comes the insulation

The first of the has insulation started to arrive on site.  We are using polystyrene in the floors, and also in the walls below damp proof course level.  It's an oil-based product, but far better to use a little here, where we hope it will remain for hundreds of years, than to create houses which use more energy to heat than they could have done, every year, from now on.   The white insulation blocks are 25cm thick, for the floors and the grey ones are 30cm thick, for the walls.  Special thermal blocks are used where the floor and ceiling meet, to avoid creating a "cold bridge". 

The pipes you can see popping out of the ground are for the various services.  The big black ones are for the insulated district heat pipes.  We are bringing as many services through the floor as possible, rather than through the wall because it is easier to keep the building air-tight that way.  It's not that we don't want fresh air in the buildings, but we want it all to go through the 90% efficient heat exchanger, rather than leak in uncontrolled.

Also this week, work started on the Common House walls.  Here are the recycled aggregate blocks arriving.  They were due to be sourced from the Aggregate Industries plant just one village away in Nether Kellet - must double check with the contractors that they have actually been able to obtain blocks that were manufactured there.

Down at terrace D, a mini quarrying exercise is in progress, to  make space for the services which need to be buried in the pedestrian street to the north of the houses

The future bike store is in use as an insulation store for now
This is plot 7u/d.  You can see the rock was at an ideal level here.  No need to dig deep and pour in lots of concrete, and no need to peck out lots of rock either.