Is that a clue in that crack?

Tomatoes grow on Peterborough’s embankment

An enormous crack opened up on Henry Penn Walk and was reported (with extraordinary drone photos taken from above it) on 4th March 2021 in Peterborough Matters when a council spokesperson is reported to have said, “The current state of the walkway is a result of the structure, sheet piling, beneath the path falling.” On 2nd August 2021 the Peterborough Telegraph reported that the council and a corporate landowner were still at odds over who is responsible for the maintenance of this structure. This is an extraordinary standoff, given that a river is a highly dynamic entity, with carving into land and carrying it away away its favourite and constant sport. The embankment constitutes its urban restraint. Wouldn’t it make sense to fix the damage first and then sort out who owed how much in the courts? A few days ago I went to see whether or not the crack had been repaired I found a larger crack than I expected. Close up, the embankment undulates as if there’d been an earthquake or a landslip. A sort of fountain of subsoil sits at could conceivably be the source of the damage (if it got there by being thrust up right out of the ground). It is as if if water got stuck somewhere and had to burst up through what is a remarkably deep layer of tarmac. And guess what is growing just where that pile of subsoil is? Yes. Tomatoes. Of course, they could have been planted in an apartment garden. But wild tomatoes are common in the UK and they are celebrated self seeders. They can be spotted growing happily along railway tracks and wherever human manure distributes their tiny tell tale seeds. So my question is, given Anglian Water’s discovery of a major sewer works scandal not so very far away, at the junction of Wentworth Street and Bourges Boulevard this July (also reported to the council and in our local paper), has Anglian Water investigated whether or not something equally stinky might lurk beneath Peterborough embankment’s spectacular crack? Could damage to, neglect of, a blockage in or a fault in the drains cause damage on this scale? Or, conversely, could the crack have damaged a foul drain, enabling a tell tale seed or two to escape? After all, what force is there, other than water, capable of taking the huge corrugated steel retaining wall holding the embankment in place and bending it out of true? I’m no expert, but I can see that the embankment wall is not vertical any more. My theories about water transporting sewage carrying tomato seeds and pushing steel walls around might both be fanciful. But if anyone has a more sensible explanation, do tell. 

Seeing Green at Railworld: please register your interest

Seeing GreenThis event (originally blogged here on 1st May) has not happened yet.  Jack Ginns came to talk to Peterborough in Transition on Monday evening and explained how sustainability was central to his enthusiasm for engineering and for transport and he discussed the history of Railworld in Peterborough and the Reverend Richard Paten’s conception of a centre for sustainable transport and lifestyles on the Railworld site.

It turned out that the initial idea Jack had had for a meeting about sustainability had grown into an all day event and that he was considering maybe splitting the themes into more, smaller events.  So if you’d like to register your interest at what is still a future event or a series of future events, please send Jack your email address and he will add you to his mailing list.