Weeks of rainfall, running sand* and the need to protect a colony of water voles has failed to thwart Neath-based contractor the Cuddy Group, which expects to bring the earthworks project in on time and to budget by the end of this month. All of which is great news for golfers at the par 72 course – host of the Ladies European Tour and already acclaimed as one of the finest courses in the sport.
Cuddy contracts manager Gavin Lockyer said, “It’s been a substantial challenge and very frustrating at times when torrential rain has left us with no option other than to sit it out and wait for dryer conditions.
“But we have no problem adjusting to new circumstances. We’ve worked extremely hard to make up for lost time and are delighted to see it finally coming together. It’s a very prestigious course in a visually stunning location and we are proud to be associated with it.”
The scheme has involved Cuddy moving 35,000 cubic metres of earth – by hand at times in order to safeguard potential vole burrows – to ensure the course’s protection from potential flooding. During times of peak flow the Afan Dafen river that coasts through the course has often failed to hold its water volume, and when coupled with an incoming tide and excessive water levels from the neighbouring Loughor Estuary, a deluge of water from the existing outfall has at times arisen.
Cuddy have therefore built a new flood protection barrier, with bunds up to 4m wide – over a 1.5km stretch on the course side of the river – constructed in 200mm layers and compacted by the weighty kit. A ‘free hand’ technique has then been deployed to complement the flowing lines of the original course design.
The team has excavated 26,000 cubic metres of earth on the northern side of the course, to create a floodwater storage cell with a penstock system fitted to regulate water levels. The installation of two 1500mm diameter plastic pipes will now also channel water away from the course and into the Loughor Estuary.
Initially Cuddy planned to use wheeled excavators when moving earth from borrow pits located around the course, but the waterlogged site and presence of ‘running sand’* meant the team had to change to three 20tonne tracked excavators and three 22tonne tracked dumpers to conduct the earthworks.
All excavated material has either been reused on the course or stored for use in the next phase of the Pentre Nicklaus Village − a housing development for golf enthusiasts that overlooks the course.
*Running sand occurs when loosely packed grains become fluidised by water flowing through the earth.