by Chris Grimmett

Preparations for some major engineering

Graham ropes down to measure the shuttering

As previously mentioned, the area around the top of the shaft had become increasingly unstable and it was decided that time had to be made to stabilise it.

The plan was to install shuttering around three sides of the shaft top and pour concrete into the gap.  The walls were drilled and lengths of reinforcing bar inserted to provide a good key between the rock and the concrete.

Measurements were made, materials obtained and the August bank holiday weekend was set aside for the work to be carried out.

Why stabilisation was seen to be necessary

The first shuttering is lowered into position

Clark tamps down one of
the early concrete pours

A lot of concrete

Over the August bank holiday and the week following, a large team installed shuttering and concreted the shaft top.  A mixer and generator were brought up to the dig site by Land Rover and Range Rover, together with all of the materials.  Over the course of the week, the Land Rover covered 136 miles between Penwyllt and Babysitters, carrying cement, sand, gravel and rather ironically - water.

Many mixes later, the majority of the work had been done by the time the weather broke on the Thursday.

The quantity of rain was sufficient to prevent Land Rover access all the way up to the dig and materials then had to be manhandled up the final slopes, all of which slowed down progress considerably.  The winch was set up half-way down and used to bring up the heaviest bags on a redundant alloy rescue stretcher recovered from Penwyllt.

Foot and mouth disease

It had been the intention to complete the concrete work at the surface before winter, but as ever, that was not to be.  The outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the following February prevented access to Penwyllt until June and even then only under restricted conditions.

It was not until May 2002 that operations at Babysitters Dig were to be resumed.


The winch being used for equipment hauling

The final concrete level - to be this way until May 2002