What lies beneath: drilling down into the past

Everyone says that the most unpredictable part of any building project is the ground work. Like the human psyche, you never suspect what lies concealed under the surface. So, with this renovation project in Southwark, near the Thames, the foundation work even of this small extension has been causing problem after problem. First the engineer says that because of the unstable made ground (artificial ground the result of previous human activity) that the house is built on, we need 6 metre deep piled foundations. Made ground because the whole site is built on the old Courage bottling plant, demolished in 1981. Here it is in the 1950s:

and here is the entrance to our estate today, from street view compared with the year before it was demolished (1980), with the Sold to Saville’s sign in evidence:

The piling company finally arrive, after abandoning their first appointment because their truck would not fit under the Park Street bridge just by the site of Shakespeare’s Globe and the route through Borough Market is now restricted since the attacks on London Bridge. But, finally they get 1 and a half metres down and come up against a concrete slab – in all four locations that they are drilling down.

The four holes of the piling maching

Piling company retreat and now diamond drilling companies are being approached to find one willing and able to cart their machinery into our back garden, through the front door to drill through what might be 2 metres of concrete. And then who knows what is under that: a hollow vault? Roman remains? Both are feasible.
So the project is delayed so far by 6 weeks and getting in by Christmas is maybe possible, when before we joked about it because of course we would. But the fundamental unpredictability about what lies beneath still remains.

Lingering at Balderston’s sheltering from the rain

A showery day demands careful planning when it comes to riding and not riding. My Met Office app told me that it would rain in Cambridge from 11 am until 3pm. I arrived  – just before 11 – and got ready to ride out just when the heavens opened so lingered in East Road garages as an arriving lady told me she was parking there to avoid a couple who spend ‘half the year in Spain – and we all wish they spent all year there…’. By the time the strange anecdote had ended the sun had come out and I grasped the opportunity. I tend to head out not really having a destination in mind until I get going. After a familiar exit via the A10 toward Ely I decided to head over to BMW dealer Balderston’s in Peterborough where there would be a welcoming cup of tea waiting and some eye-candy shiny bikes to look at. For once my GPS took me on a meandering and indirect route via Ramsey and places without names, the last 15 minutes in steadily heavier rain. I should have remembered that my BMW Nav does not seem to like Balderstons and takes you on a loop that gets close then veers off, only to return you again in a strange circle – not very amusing when it is raining.

Once there and after a dripping entry I was offered the customary cup of tea which I eagerly accepted and tip-toed around the ground floor showroom. The 1200gs Adventures are lovely to behold but like beasts when you stand behind them or sit on them. The fuel tank is so huge. Highly desirable but a riding experience I gave up for my present practical, nimble but secretly a little boring machine – the ‘ordinary’ 1200gs.

I must have spent an hour in the showroom waiting for the rain to stop and trying to resist the temptation to spend any money – even on the low seat for my bike which I tried out there and decided it was not required. I resisted the now £130 BMW rainsuit and the hydrapack even though my jacket has a clever pocket on the back especially designed for it. I would prefer just to stop, have a break and a drink.

First the sun came out and then the rain thankfully stopped and I along with a number of other bikers left the store.

My ride back was via Coates where I collected my first ever bike and rode home nearly 10 years ago, and March – all in the beautiful sun.

Here are the traces of all the trips I have taken since I relocated the bike back to Cambridge to make way for heavy renovations in Southwark. I am highly tempted to keep the bike here over the summers and just keep it in London in winter.

Here’s more detail of the trip: