I thought some of you might be interested in this rather clever piece of green technology, and was reminded to write a post about it as I recently had to replace one of the seals in the pump.
A few years ago as part of our heathland restoration work we reintroduced grazing animals onto Black Down, one (amongst many!) of the issues we needed to address with the cattle was a supply of clean drinking water, the hill is the highest point in Sussex, and above the local reservoir, so even if we had wanted to using mains water would have been impossible without a costly (financially and environmentally) electric pump.
The idea we hit on instead was to use a lost volume pump. These have been around since victorian times, and the papa pump is one of the latest on a similar theme. They use the power of a body of falling water to drive a small percentage of that water up a hill. On Black Down we have loads of natural springs, they form wherever the sandstone meets the clay. This one is the source of the River Wey.
You can’t really tell from the photo, but it is in amongst a lovely glade of aincent beech tree’s. The spring has been contained within a brick cistern, which supplies water to a number of our nieghbours, we decided to use this spring as well as a clean source of water for our cattle.
We built an extra cistern on the front, and then led a drive pipe from this downhill to a chamber which housed the pump.
The metal pipe has about a 4 metre fall before it arrives at the pump chamber.
Inside the chamber sits the pump (on the left below) and a pressure vessel.
Water falling down the length of the metal pipe rushes into the pump, through a valve and provides the impulse to send a short pulse of water through the pressure vessel and into the smaller blue plastic pipe. The drive water then spills out of the chimney in the top of the pump and the cycle starts again sending the next pulse up the pipe. No external source of power is required and the drive water is returned down a seperate pipe back into the stream it would have been in anyway.
The pressure vessel smoothes out the “stroke” of the pump so the water travels evenly up the pipe rather than in a series of pulses.
The top trough the system pumps to is about 1000 metres away from and 100 metres above the pump, pretty impressive I always think. Also, it makes a really satisfying sploshing heartbeat noise as it works, one of the wardens who used to work here always used to tell groups on guided walks that another local lost volume pump was the sound of the heartbeat of the earth, and that stuck with me, I always stop by whenever I am passing, firstly to check it is working, but also to listen to the heartbeat. If you are ever out for a walk on Black Down and are passing Cotchet Farm you could try keeping an ear open for it.