Tuesday, May 27, 2008

We've started.

Many readers of this blog might be forgiven for forgetting that some 18 months ago I posted that we (EFO and JGC) had bought a house for development.... planning permission (2nd attempt) came through last September.. buildings regs permissions, (with a couple of qualifications) 19th. May...

Structural work still awaits some details from the engineers and architect, but I was let loose to arrange the new services connections (water, electric, gas), water being the lowest and requiring ideally (they say) a 4' deep trench, 1 m. wide (there are to be two pipes, one per flat) at least where they make their connection (by the kerb,) although builder Alan (right, above) and I agreed about a digger-shovel width (about 2' 6") would do for the main run. (The central figure is his son - also Alan - with nick-name Alan senior didn't instantly divulge but five minutes later we overheard it's "Bodge"... perhaps not the kindest name for a would-be builder? But, you must admit, quite funny, kindly said, as it was.)

Last Friday, Alan had dug about 2/3rd of the run, very neat, by 3.30p.m.. At about 3.40p.m. the left hand wall collapsed at the far end (viewing as in the photos) with no provocation whatsoever and clearly the next bit was dying to go.... it had also become clear that at 4' down we were on the local water table... not really desireable since the idea is to lay a pipe for potable water, not collect non-potable...

The photos were taken at the end of today - by which time we had given up hope of stopping the LHS of the trench collapsing and so removed it anyway. The concrete on the left is the neighbours' path... and there used to be a fence.. but, of course, that went when the earth did. Mind you, it was legally ours in the first place... we met that neighbour, Valerie, who doesn't mind any of it all because she's just so delighted we are sorting it all out... the previous owner died back in the 1980's 2 days after falling off a ladder when painting on the property but left a will that his American lady friend had the right to live there for the rest of her natural... which was right up to September 2006. For some legal reason, the owner's family, not the lady, were left responsible for all upkeep and bills so not surprisingly they did a minumum... she herself spending 6 months of the year in America anyway...

Valerie has lived in the area pretty much all her life and we heard all the major events including that she'd seen most of the people she'd known in the Close go to their last resting places. And that she played darts at some pub or club where the parking was impossible. She was charming and it was a relief she clearly had no objections at all to us creating havoc to make the property attractively arranged... I was going to write "again" but I gather it hasn't been since before the 1980's! I must confess to being a little distracted for wondering how the trench could be brought back into control... at the moment the bottom is pretty much like a quicksand (no doubt why the wall of it collapsed.)

But, not all bad news in the slightest. In the process of digging Alan discovered the routes of both the "foul" drain (the ordinary sewage one) and a "surface water" drain pipe... which we'd had no idea before ... indeed, paper searches for even the existance of the latter had been unclear! Alan discovered them by digging clean into them, of course, but, never mind, easily enough re-connected... and the broken "foul" pipe neatly drained the trench over the weekend conveniently, if illegally.

What to do? Oh, should be done tomorrow... fill the bottom of the trench with small pebbles to about 3" above the water table level, lay the new water pipes complete with indoor valves, (I've already bought or looked-out) phone Thames Water and demand they get their act together or the trench might collapse again.

I do hope "anonymous" (hiya Dave!) is entertained. It IS a very muddy trench.. but so much actually essential discovered... just nothing formal or paper had explained our "foul" pipe went to the manhole visible on the left in the second photo. Stunning manhole... about SIX feet deep... nothing in any of the legal papers "our" sewage runs into that manhole and only then even deeper... and all that below the water table and ends up being treated in Yarnton, I gather... which is miles away! And, I would have thought, higher... I think it must be pumped or something, can't see how else it would get there.

I think the photo of me is quite good - I'm the one on the left looking calm but glancing because I'm wondering just how much gravel it will take to back fill above the water table... seems likely to be a lot to me especially because the bottom of the trench is so soggy... Alan's reckoned 6 "scoops" (which means HUGE bags of the stuff)... I'm thinking likely to be more like 12 because the bottom is so soggy... we'll find out tomorrow! Not being a soil specialist I think it's significant the trench fell in because the subsoil is such loose beach-like sandy fine gravel and so full of water and we therefore need a huge layer of pebbles allowing the water to flow and drain but leaving us with a dry and firm surface to lay the pipes.

We'll see. But we've started, at last. I'm sure there's some Latin phrase about that. Even better if there was a Greek one, I always preferred the Greeks.


  1. Thinking of digging a muddy trench? What you need is a pair of stylish Dunlop White Wellington boots with integrated steel toe cap. Just £26.99p and available now from Alan Burnett's Amazon store. Use the link from the highly recommended page : the boots will be the same price but I get extra commission.

  2. We've supposedly had commission for ever with Amazon over book references... no actual money has ever materialised. Dream on. And I've got perfectly good wellies, terribly cheap... also overtrousers.

    But if you can lay on the deep-fat fryer I can do you chips for your surprise party. Well, I need the potatoes, of course and the stuff to cut them up, etc..

    Sadly, I won't claim my chips are fabulous... as I would some other cooking. Tasty, yes, but I've never discovered how to necessrily do a crisp chip... although most of that kind I've met are good texture but usually taste awful. When we buy the right potato ours can be fabulous flavour... but rarely crisp. Indeed, my only crisp chips have been hopeless flavour...

    We must get a new fat-fryer, I keep telling Jane... it always was hopeless for having a rectangular basket so you couldn't shake stuff to be loose easily and it's gone gummed up in no time... mind you, it was very cheap!.. But.. not entirely the point, this design was the fashion so there simply weren't any simply round machines on sale... it needs to be round to allow you to shake the chips properly!


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