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Cumbrian coastline presents challenging site investigation


SOIL MECHANICS is carrying out a challenging site investigation next to the Haig Colliery Mining Museum in Whitehaven, Cumbria.

The ground, environmental and coastal stability investigations, worth more than £700,000, are being carried out for English Partnerships on land owned mainly by Copeland Borough Council.

The site is a rough, steeply sloping section of the Cumbrian coastline south of Whitehaven.

It has a long history of ground failure and movement because of continuous rotational slipping, which has produced clearly visible back scarps.This has resulted in an extremely uneven site with steep gradients up to 1:4 in places.

As well as difficult access, work is complicated by the close proximity of sites of special scientific interest and listed buildings, including a former inn reputed to be the house of Gulliver's Travels author Jonathan Swift, that require stringent environmental control measures.

Work began in early February, with cable tool boring, rotary coring and trial pitting, together with installation of a raft of instruments to measure cliff stability.

These include inclinometers and magnet extensometers - in some instances as combined installations; gas and water monitoring standpipes; and ground markers for precise surveying of vertical and horizontal displacements.

Soil Mechanics had to build roads and temporary bridges to gain access to several 'rather precarious' borehole positions around the former colliery - in one case down a 70m deep drop off a cliff edge to sea level.

The investigation will allow English Partnerships and its engineering consultant Mouchel Parkman to develop cost-effective options for the site, which include stabilisation and managed retreat for the coastal fringe.

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