by Chris Grimmett

February - the new headframe

The new headframe going up

The far end of the shelter could now be blocked off

February 2003 provided some uncharacteristically decent weather and work started on installation of a new headframe to the dig.  Some new scaffolding was obtained and a rather larger setup built, with the intention of using the spoil buckets in their tipping mode at last.

The winch was set up in its new position at 90 degrees to the old one.  With no further need to run the winch cable through the shelter, it was decided to block off the outside end and to wall it over with rocks and spoil, making it rather more effective than previous.

It rapidly became apparent that the winch operator was now facing into the prevailing south-west wind and would rapidly keel over with hypothermia.  Because of this, a winch cage was also constructed so that pieces of wood could be added to make a windbreak and/or roof as required.  

These were not permanently installed as to do so would have increased the visual profile of the dig site unacceptably.  In addition, the wind occasionally turns to come from the north and everything has to be reversed anyway.  Surprisingly, the scaffolding, although large, blends into the surrounding landscape and is only really visible to the trained eye.

The new headframe and winch base

The job completed

Easter/May - the flume

The flume

The buzzer used for sending hauling signals

There was some digging at Easter, and the end of the shelter was covered up as planned.  There were increasing difficulties with jamming buckets at the bend in the shaft as the depth increased.  Norman came up with a solution and installed the 'flume'.

This took the form of two pieces of Armco barrier, bolted together in a 'V' configuration and mounted at an angle in the shaft.  Buckets travelling in either an upwards or downwards direction are diverted into the groove in the flume and successfully sent in the right direction.  A curved attachment to the lower end ensures that upcoming buckets find their way into the correct alignment.

Norman also provided a simple buzzer kit for sending hauling signals between the diggers and the winchman as the distance had increased to the point where voice messages were becoming unreliable.

The dig had once again stopped draining and the May bank holiday session was preceded by pumping out the excess water in the bottom.

Digging was now once again possible without too many difficulties although progress was relatively slow due to the nature of the spoil itself.  We had unfortunately run into more of the mud and small pebbly material that is so difficult to break up and shovel.


Pumping out the excess water

Hauling successfully resumed

August - the bank doors

Old bucket

The August session saw the best progress at Babysitters for a long time.  The last of the major engineering items was installed, modified and then put to work.

For a long time we had been using tipping buckets, but had been unable to use them to their full effect.  The addition of a set of bank doors over the shaft means that the barrow can now be wheeled out and filled directly.  This in turn means that one less person is required at the top as the buckets no longer have to be manhandled off the cable and lifted.

One or two of the old buckets had exceeded their sell by date and were replaced with new ones.

The spoil heap was now increasing in size at a rate of knots and it was decided to call a halt to further vertical development on the right hand side.  Usefully, this coincided with a change down below to more large rocks with sand infill and walling materials were therefore in good supply.


New bucket

The bank doors

The spoil heap

Graham at the working face