Ray’s Wall


Welcome to a photographic diary of the major underpinning & retaining works made to the rear garden of Ray & Jan Hopkinson’s house in Hastings, East Sussex. The work was carried out by Ray, his family and friends over a seven year period commencing September 2010.

The construction works consumed many tones of concrete and due to restricted access, all materials had to be carried to the rear by hand. Overall 220 tons of ballast plus cement was used.
The walls were constructed in an anticlockwise direction starting with wall C (see diagram) Walls A & A1 represent the deepest point with a depth of 4.45m below the patio.

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2010 and the start of Wall C


The photo below shows the very start of the dig on the South West boundary.  Excavation to a depth of 3.337m x 1.9m wide was required and this involved significantly more work than a simple narrow vertical trench footing and wall.


Below shows the excavation of the wall C base and toe. Setting out was achieved with minimal technology, a string line (photo) a length of clear hose as a water level, one light and one medium plumb bob (depending on wind speed), a spirit level and tape measure.


The photo below provides an idea of the 5.5m length of Wall C to be excavated and built in sections. Ray surveys the progress on the first.


The photos below shows the steel reinforcing bars and drain pipes incorporated within the wall and purpose made re-usable plywood lined shutters used to encase the concrete during pouring. This is the only section installed out of sequence, due to the constant risk of landslide and the fact it eases the escape route.


The completion of wall C with shutters removed, the wall consumed over 10.5 cubic meters of concrete all carted to the rear of the property by hand in barrows and buckets.


For a complete gallery of pictures of this stage, please click here.


2012 and the completion of Wall B


Progress in 2011 was limited. A quiet year for Ray due to injury and other commitments. The elbow joining Wall B with Wall C was competed in early 2012.  The pictures of Ray and Lauren below were taken in April 2012. Shuttering still in place awaiting removal.


The top of Wall C is visible, but the substantial depth and width of the wall foundations foot and toe are now hidden.

Shown below is the complex hand-made shuttering required to encase the wall sections.  Concrete was mixed on the old patio and poured down via a movable wooden slide. The picture also shows the challenges ahead as Walls D and A will need to go to significantly greater depth under the remains of the old steps and patio close to the house.


The heal of the foot is just visible below the shuttering with steel reinforcing ready for the next phase.  A clear indication of the deep work in prospect approaching the start of Wall D.


A few more pictures click here


2013 and preparation for the deep Walls D & A


2013 was another quiet year due to health and other commitments.  Work commenced later in the year on the deep digs required to accommodate Wall D.


Landslips were a constant worry and could be disastrous for the workers. The pictures below show how loose and unstable the soil was.

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2014 the deep Wall D and Walls A & A1


2014 was a hard year with the deep and potentially dangerous deep dig to accommodate Wall D and Wall A. The extreme depth of foundations was at the mercy of the weather. A landslip after the steel framework had been installed would be disastrous.


Moving and relocating the large amounts of spoil around the project to make room was a constant pain throughout the project. Darren and Ian posing.


All spoil was hauled up and moved by hand.  Even the smallest mechanical digger would not fit down the side of the house.  14 skips were used during the whole project.DSC_0028

Progress on Wall A and the start of significant shoring required as the foundation dig approaches and potentially undermines the old patio.

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Complex shoring-up of the old patio. A difficult problem as there is little to lever and shore against.


For a comprehensive gallery of photos from this period in the build please click here.


2015 the completion of Wall A and the end of heavy digging is in sight


The photos below date from June to December 2015 and show the last sections of Wall A and the elbow against the South West boundary fence.




Matt in his best clothes.


The final big concrete pour


Back to where it all started 5 years ago with the top of the substantial Wall C just visible on the left


Ray moving the final spoil


Shuttering to complete the coping to top the walls


Shingle new patio for the moment to allow time for the backfill to settle.




All walls complete and awaiting rendering


For a comprehensive gallery of photos from this period in the build please click here.


2016 Rendering, steps and the northern boundary low wall


The major excavation now complete work on the rendering and low Northern boundary wall were left to complete during 2016.

Rendering in progress.


2017 Project completion


The Wall completion party took place on 18th August 2017.

Both upper and lower patios are initially filled with pea shingle to allow for settlement before permanent paving installed.


Reasons to be cheerful…