Cumbrian hydro-electric construction specialist Beckside Construction rode to the rescue of local village Glenridding in a fleet of JCB machines in December, to prevent catastrophic flooding caused by Storm Desmond. Heavy rains had caused landslides and a massive movement of gravel and stone down the Glenridding Beck, which runs through the centre of the village to the Ullswater Lake.
The firm was working nearby on a hydro project for the National Trust at Hartsop. On the afternoon of Sunday December 6, managing director Robert Morris-Eyton and his son Patrick heard that there were flooding problems in the village. They drove into Glenridding to find devastation, as the gravel had filled the river course, forcing the torrents of water onto the main road nearby.
“There was firewood, boats, you name it, it was on the road,” said Mr Morris-Eyton.
The company rapidly pulled a JCB JS130 and new JS220 tracked excavators, along with a 531-70 Loadall, off the nearby hydro contract and tracked the machines down into the village centre, where they set to work clearing stone from the river. Beckside’s JS220 is the first machine of its type in the UK to be equipped with a Steelwrist tilt-rotator and operator Robert Butler put the machine to good use clearing stone away from the watercourse.
The three machines worked late into the evening and by late on the Tuesday the river was running freely once again and the machines pulled back from the task. However further rain sent a second load of stone into the Beck and the machines were called back onto the job on Wednesday. It soon became obvious that simply moving the stone away from the river bed was not going to be enough and nearby rental firm Stevens Equipment Rental pitched in with three 30 tonne articulated dump trucks to move the material further from the town centre.
Meanwhile Mr Morris-Eyton was hard at work beneath the village’s main road bridge, using the Loadall to clear up to 1.5m depth of stone including huge cobbles, to remove what was in effect a dam. By that time other companies were also sending machinery to help, as additional excavators and ADTs joined the fleet, with the Environment Agency taking charge of operations.
“In total we moved about 7,000 tonnes of stone,” said Mr Morris-Eyton.“We had offers of kit from all over the country.”
He has particular praise for the JCB equipment, which ran faultlessly throughout, even with the beck water running above the tracks at times. The Steelwrist tilt-rotator, which along with the JCB machinery was supplied by local dealer Scot JCB, also proved its worth on the job.
“All credit to Rob, our driver, he’s done a really good job with it,” said Mr Morris-Eyton. “We’re really happy with it, it’s an excellent bit of kit.”
By working through days and nights Beckside and the many contractors that joined in to help, prevented a further disaster in Glenridding, saving homes and businesses from flood damage just weeks before Christmas. As Mr Morris-Eyton said, with typical understatement: “It was pretty extreme work.”