Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Wet, wet, wet - (30/04)

Well just when we thought summer was arriving, the typical new Mills weather returned with a vengeance, on Tuesday and overnight torrential rain raised the river level considerably which meant water coming into the excavation via the original exit tunnel and also a little through the coffer dam - Chris, Yvette and team soon had things back under control and what looked like an outdoor swimming pool at the start of the day soon resembled a site waiting for concrete to be poured by lunchtime which should start tomorrow (Thursday 1 May).

The last of the overnight deluge being pumped away

Retaining wall is being reinforced - blocks for the area out of sight and original stone for the rest.

Closer view of temporary United Utilities pipe

A JCB's eye view of the excavation.

This little contraption will help get the concrete in exactly the right place - this and a whole load of shovels and a lot of brute force.

Monday, 28 April 2008

The big lift - 8th June - (28/04)

Some of the more vigilant amongst you have noticed that the countdown clock on the blog for the big lift has jumped by a week.

Negotiations with all the various authorities involved in such a lift (and believe me there are lots) has meant a move to Sunday June 8th - make sure you have it noted in your diaries as it will be an exciting day I'm sure

Video footage - (28/04)

Some great video footage of the site and surrounding area :

King Alfreds cakes - (27/04)

On a couple of trees next to the Torrs Hydro site can be found some unusual fungus - not rare, but just look unusual !

Some common names for this fungus are the coal fungus, carbon balls, cramp balls, or King Alfred's cakes. I guess we'll call it the coal fungus for this month, since it fits with our theme. "Coal fungus" and "carbon balls"

Daldinia concentrica (for all of you that were classically educated) is also known in this country as "King Alfred's cakes," which is perhaps the most storied name for this fungus. As the legend goes, King Alfred was fleeing a battle with the Danes in Somerset when he took refuge in an old woman's house. The old woman, not knowing he was the king, left Alfred in charge of watching some cakes in the oven. Of course, he knew nothing about ovens or baking (and why should he, he was King!) and didn't really know what he was supposed to do. He fell asleep, and the cakes burned. The old woman scolded him soundly for being lazy, but later she was probably sorry about "raking him over the coals" when she found out he was the King!

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Rock bottom - (23/04)

A closer view of the original water exit tunnel and current sump and pump keeping the site nice and dry - only a small amount of water is tricking through the original wall and the lower end of the excavation is well below river level now.

Amanda and Chris sifting through the mud and debris from the mill fire looking for anything that might be of interest !

The last couple of days of needing heavy duty digging equipment with the JCB's 'pecker' being put to great use in chipping away at the bedrock (gritstone).

Closer view of the exit tunnel which does eventually lead out to the river

Its a long way up... over 150ft from the bottom of the excavation to the house above the Torrs.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Digging below water - (17/04)

Chris, Yvette and Will enjoying the New Mills sunshine...

Excavation hits bedrock below river level

The excavation has continued well over the last few days and we are now digging below the level of the river with about one metre to go before we get to the target depth. Having removed the subsoil and remnants of Torr Mill we have now hit bedrock which means slightly different digging techniques and the use of a 'pecker' on the JCB which literally does what it says it does - pecks away at the bedrock.
Although we are now below the water line seepage into the site is remarkably low, but just in case we have a sump to fill and a pump draining what little water there is.

The original 'exit' tunnel from Torr Mill water wheel

Other finds during this weeks excavation include some of the original water wheel (Chris is going to use his maths skills to work out how big the full wheel would have been) and also one of the original tunnels leading from the water wheel for some distance before branching left towards the river.

Bricked up 'entrance' from the river to the water wheel

Remains of the Torr Mill water wheel

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Torrs Hydro at dusk - (14/04)

Top coffer dam with Union Road bridge in the background

A few pictures to give a slightly different look look to The Torrs Hydro sight at dusk, despite the damp conditions the excavation continues at pace.

The base of Torr Mill chimney - sited away from the Hydro project adjacent to Union Road bridge.

Some of the stones from the original Torr Mill wheel pit

Shhh - the diggers are sleeping...

View of excavation and United Utilities pipe in foreground

Friday, 11 April 2008

The 'Big Lift' - (12/04)

The event of the year as far as Torrs Hydro New Mills are concerned - tentatively scheduled for Sunday 1st June 2008.

More details to be posted here as and when available.

Big pipes for rainy New Mills- (11/04)

'Traffic chaos' in New Mills as the concrete pipes are delivered

One by one - carefully lifted into place

then carefully buried and ready for our next heavy downpour...

The early part of the project involved the relocation of a United Utilities discharge pipe which carries storm water from New Mills into the river and is used as an 'overflow' when we have a deluge in New Mills which thankfully isn't as often as you would imagine.

The original pipe entered the river right across where the Archimedes screw will be relocated so with the kind agreement of United Utilities we were able to relocate the pipe to avoid the location of the screw.

Following relocation the original pipe is now dismantled

In the picture below you can see clear archaeological evidence of the first stage of development of Schofield mill from 1790, whereby the archway in the retaining wall (under the yellow painted mark) shows an intake from the water behind Torrs weir - this is significant because other investigations of the mill have shown the aqueduct in situ , but this does not provide an explanation for Torrs weir - this shows an intake on this 'intermediate' height, and the wall from centre to bottom right is taken to be the original 1790 external wall, with intake arch bottom right. This is only partially intact since it would seem that the rebuilding in 1820, whereby the higher weir was built will have made this inlet redundant. In any case, the arch has been partially removed, and a new (now removed) wall was built into this point.

Fish pass - (10/04)

The fish pass - yet to be assembled

One of the many aspects the New Mills Torrs Hydro project has taken into consideration includes the preservation and possible improvement of the route of fishes' natural migration.

Our local rivers contain many species including barbel, chub, salmon, brown trout and grayling to name but a few - hence the number of Herons you will also see lurking.

To aid this migration upstream to spawning grounds an aluminium fish ladder or fish pass will be installed on the site. These are structures on or around artificial barriers (such as dams and weirs) to facilitate fishes' natural migration.

Most fish passes enable fish to pass upstream around the barriers by swimming and leaping up a series of relatively low steps (hence the term ladder) into the waters on the other side. The velocity of water falling over the steps has to be great enough to attract the fish to the ladder, but it cannot be so great that it washes fish back downstream or exhausts them to the point of inability to continue their journey upriver.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

What will it look like ? - (09/04)

A number of people have asked what will the area look like once the project is finished. The objective is to re-use as much as possible stone that existed in the area or has been excavated during the project (original stone from Torr Mill).

This will blend in nicely with the existing walls in the area and link the old with the new. The picture shows an artists impression of the completed area and will include appropriate landscaping and tree planting. At first sight its difficult to even see the Archimedes screw but if you check carefully you will see it in green towards the middle of the picture.

Big stones - (08/04)

With the original United Utilities storm pipe decommissioned and removed the excavation is now able to proceed as planned - done in conjunction with our archaeologists to ensure that everything that is found is known, understood and recorded

The concrete 'shuttering' that will house the Archimedes screw will start to be installed (weather permitting) in the next 2 weeks which will then give the site a different somewhat cleaner look compared to the current 'muddy hole' that currently exists.

During last weeks excavations some of the original Torr Mill wheel housing has been discovered and safely removed and may possibly be used in some some form of display once the project is completed - the size and craftsmanship that went into these is remarkable compared to today's concrete and steel 'quick builds'.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Grey wagtails - (07/04)

Whilst you are down in the Torrs checking on the progress of the Torrs Hydro project take time to check the waters edge for grey wagtails. Particularly from the weir up stream towards the leisure centre you will find them at the waters edge perching on rocks in the fast flowing waters searching for food.

The grey wagtail is more colourful than its name suggests with slate grey upper parts and distinctive lemon yellow under-tail. Its tail is noticeably longer than those of pied and yellow wagtails.

They have gradually increased their range in the past 150 years and in the UK have expanded into the English lowlands from the northern and western uplands. They are badly affected by harsh winters, and because of recent moderate declines it is now an Amber List species but seems to be at home here in New Mills.
I've even seen them in the last couple of days sat on the yellow bags that have been used to make up the coffer dams.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Onward and downwards - (05/04)

With the existing mill floor now measured, drawn and photographed excavation continues apace to make a home for our Archimedes screw. A second smaller coffer dam has now been put in place below the weir to protect the site from flooding.

The picture below shows how the excavation has removed the mill floor from earlier in the week, exposing the existing United Utilities pipe.

Here we see a wider picture of the site from the far side of the weir showing both coffer dams in place.

Here a closer view of the lower coffer dam which is to protect the site where the lower end of the screw will be located.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Brian the archaelogist - (02/04)

The site where the Torrs Hydro plant will be situated used to be home to Torr Mill which was destroyed by fire in 1912. Some of the original walls and low level doorways and windows still exist and have been part of the Torrs for many years and give a great insight into New Mills' industrial heritage.

As part of the excavation needed for the Hydro project we have a unique opportunity to accurately record information on parts of the mill that have been covered up for nearly a century.

As Western Renewable Energy ( carefully excavate the area, Brian the archaelogist sketches, photographs, measures and records the lower areas of the mill - these areas are currently viewable from the bridge adjacent to the construction site.
Excavation to find the original mill floor
Uncovered for the first time in decades Torr Mill

Dippers - (01/04)

The whole Torrs area is blessed with an abundance of flora and fauna and in particular waterside birds that inhabit the areas around the rivers - Herons, Siskins, Kingfishers and Dippers to name but a few worth looking out for.

Dippers in particular have nests in the area around the weir and can often be seen stood feeding in the rocks at the side of the river heading up towards the 'llama' farm (my naming convention as the farm has two pet llamas).

To safeguard the population of dippers that use the wall of the site for nesting these will be covered for this years nesting period (the birds will use other nearby sites) and then uncovered once work is completed.