The Little Orme is comprised of limestone with sub-horizontal bedding planes.
The jointing is orthogonal, defining large blocks. Generally, these joints are tight within the rock mass, however, due to weathering and block movement, they are often dilated on the rock face.
The limestone is made up of individual beds of varying composition, with a resulting variation in strength and resistance to weathering. As such the exposed faces display evidence of differential weathering rates. Horizons which are more prone to weathering will undermine overlying beds.
Over time the limestone blocks above will become unstable and will begin to topple forward, resulting in natural joints opening further. Eventually, the blocks will be displaced, and the process will start again.
Following the routine inspection of the rock face by Colin Jones Rock Engineering LTD it was noted that a few blocks needed further inspection to ensure the safety of road and footpath users on the B5115 Colwyn Road. Daear Geo Consulting (DGC) was asked to undertake IRATA inspections of the blocks. In June 2018 DGC completed the field inspection and reported that the blocks pose a rockfall risk.
The consequences of the blocks failing are likely to be severe, with the blocks traveling at high velocity to the base of the slope with a very high likelihood of crashing through the masonry wall and onto the road or the hotel premises beyond.
The rockfall, therefore, posed a risk to users of the footpath that traverses the slope.
From the Daear Geo Consulting's assessment, three options were possible, removal of the blocks, stabilisation of the blocks or protection of infrastructure. Between DGC and Geobrugg it was agreed that the best solution would be to stabilise the blocks. Geobruggs SPIDER® ONLINE-TOOL was used to model the blocks and to confirm the requirements of bolt spacing and bolt length along with confirmation of the mesh type.
Geotechnical specialists Colin Jones (Rock Engineering) LTD decided upon a safe system of work, methodology, and equipment to undertake the site works. Using 25 mm bar into a 42 mm diameter drilled hole secured with resin capsules. The anchor bar depth was between 2.5 and 3 m into competent limestone. Drilling of all seven bolts was undertaken with handheld drill rig.