Written by Samantha Harris • Published 24th April 2014

Despite the 5am wake-up, a trip to Hope Valley, home of the UK’s largest cement works, was a field day the Hope Construction Materials team and I had been really looking forward to.

As a PR living in London it’s not often we get to a) escape the hustle and bustle of the big city, b) get up close to huge impressive machinery and c) stop and think where the materials used to build all the infrastructure surrounding us comes from.

Like most people living and working in the capital, we quickly notice the loud and disruptive building work going on around us but do not fully appreciate the processes involved in making the end product possible.

The PHA team at the UK's biggest cement plant.

The PHA team at the UK’s biggest cement plant.

After a three-hour train journey into the depths of the peak district, surrounded by rolling green hills and fields of yellow flowers, we had arrived. It was the sheer size of the Works, hidden within these beautiful surroundings, that first shocked me and after getting suited and booted in all our protective gear we were off on a bus tour of the plant.

Learning how cement, essential to bind materials in construction and engineering was made, we started at the quarry, a large area of land in which limestone is extracted from. We then watched the huge limestone boulders being emptied into a machine that bashes them up into smaller workable size pieces, explored various other parts of the plant such as the kiln, in which all the heating processes take place, and the silos where cement is stored before being handed out to trucks. We even got to spend time in the controls room where all the monitoring of the machinery takes place. This was super technical stuff!

Two of the most impressive facts I learned were that:

  1. The process used to create cement was taken from natural reactions that took place millions of years ago.
  2. During the process, the mix is heated to more than 1000°C in under a minute.

I had a great day and can safely say I now have a different outlook on construction work taking place around me!