Notification: I must point out that I have special permission to be on the Eversley quarry site of Fleet hill farm, Manor farm and the Hampshire part. These are not open areas for general access. Public rights of way are being incorporated into the sites to enable people to enjoy the new reserves.
Please bear this in mind. Although I refer them in my blog as reserves, they are still, technically, part of an operating quarry. So please keep to the existing public rights of way, and wait for the new ones to be adopted. Also it is will be even more important to stick to the public rights of way when they do become reserves so as not to disturb the wildlife.
Update: Apparently Cemex and RSPB have been working together to restore 1000 hectares of ex-gravel works to prime habitat. The aim was to achieve this by 2020. They actually managed the 1000th hectare in 2017.
Eversley was the first hectare to be restored under this partnership; actually the Moor Green lakes and surrounding area e.g. Horseshoe lake. This youtube video features scenes from Manor farm which regular readers will be familiar with. Here is an explanation on the RSPB's website, and here is one on the Cemex website about them being runner up in the MPA Quarries from Nature awards due to their work on the Eversley quarry restoration.
27th Jan 2018 - we get a mention in The Telegraph: 50 disused quarries turned into wildlife habitats to help Britain's endangered wildlife. "Eversley Quarry in Hampshire was the first to be completed following three years of work by wildlife and conservation experts." Ahhh, they missed phase 2, the subject of this blog.
This blog is about a proposed nature reserve on the Cemex gravel extraction works between Finchampstead and Eversley. There are three parts to the reserve.
1. Moor Green Lakes. This reserve already exists. It was restored by Cemex some years ago.
2. Manor Farm.
3. Fleet Hill Farm.
Initially, this blog concentrates on the restoration efforts Cemex engaged in prior to handing over the reserve to a conservation group for day to day management. Once this happens, I would then hope to chart the efforts required to turn the raw restoration into a fully operational nature reserve.
That being said, there is already a wealth of wildlife inhabiting the site, mostly as Cemex have ceased extracting gravel, and appears to be a mecca for bird watchers. We often encounter them as we walk around the footpath, humping their tripods, spotting scopes, cameras and binoculars or perhaps exchanging notes with each other on what they have spotted that day.
Although I live about three miles away from the proposed new reserve, I only learnt about it recently. I started to photograph the efforts Cemex are expanding in clearing the gravel works and, as is the nature of such endeavours, realised I had a photo journal before I knew it.
Extent of entire reserve
The plan below shows the extent of the reserve. It stretches for 2.2 miles along the Blackwater river.
Moor Green Farm is already a nature reserve, namely Moor Green Lakes nature reserve. For more details see here Moor Green Lakes Group or here RSPB entry. Perhaps you could join us on one of our work parties to aid in the conservation of this reserve.
Fleet Hill farm is supposed to be ready as a reserve by end of summer 2017. Apart from a few sub-phases, this appears to have been achieved.
Approximately 18 months later, Manor Farm will be incorporated into the reserve. A target date in a planning application I read suggested that restoration of Manor farm should be completed by 31st December 2018. Personally, as of 7th October 2018, I can't see this happening unless the scale of infill is altered drastically or a lot more resources are thrown at the restoration effort.
You may notice, dear reader, quite a few differences between the various plans and google earth images of the reserve displayed below. I am not sure why. I suspect that some of the differences are due to extraction of gravel. This is certainly true of the Fleet Hill farm portion of the reserve. Note: I have since discovered that the plans for the restoration were fairly fluid and subject to numerous alterations.
Update: I am keeping my speculations for historical reasons. Part of the 'fun' of keeping this blog is working out what Cemex and Inert are up to. Well, the later posts show that they are infilling Finch pond. They may also modify Cormorant and Manor farm lakes to look more like the plan.
Plan of proposed Manor Farm part of reserve and image from Google Earth
NOTE: I've finally got around to updating the google earth image with the expanded reference points. Hopefully, this will allow you to navigate my text a little better.
The plan below is the Manor Farm extension. Below that is a Google Earth image as of March 2017. Note the difference between the it and the plan. Particularly Finch Lake, which is now huge, and what I have been calling Cormorant Lake which is supposed to be joined to the bigger lake to its right. The Pump Station area, currently on dry land, would be in the middle of a lake, according to the Cemex plan.
As described above we start our walk at the Moor Green Lake car park, located in the top right hand corner of the map. The details shown in this map are the proposed public right of ways, and possibly some further landscaping. As an example, currently there is a sizable lake at the point I call the Pump Station. This lake is not shown in the map.
There are large areas of this new reserve I have not photographed as we have tended to keep to the current public footpaths.
We cross the Longwater road at the culvert/entrance to the reserve to get enter Fleet Hill farm immediately opposite.
Plan of proposed Fleet Hill farm part of the reserve and image from Google Earth.
This is the Fleet Hill farm extension showing proposed structure and public right of ways. Below that is a Google Earth as of Sept 2017.
Stone Crusher lake is a small manky green lake. The plans below suggest that it will be filled in.
Swan lake is also a small manky green lake, which according to the plan will get bigger.
There is a large part of this extension that I have not really photographed as we have tended to stick to the footpaths. Most all the restoration had been completed by the time I started photographing the works.
Update 7th October 2018. I suspect that apart from a few small pieces of work (e.g. completion of bridle path) Fleet Hill farm is pretty much restored. One of the planning applications I read said that tree planting will occur in the year after restoration has been completed. As this happened earlier on in 2018, this would suggest that, apart from a few sub-phases, restoration is complete.
This post shows how the Fleet Hill Farm and Manor Farm parts of the Cemex Eversley gravel works has changed over the years since 1999. Credit has to go to the Google corporation for their Google Earth initiative and also for developing Googe Earth Pro. This free application allowed me to explore a history of the images Google have taken of our planet since 1999, and to also save images.
I would recommend you download Google Earth Pro. It allows to you to zoom in to see an incredible amount of detail.
As well as showing the evolution of the area, the images also demonstrate the evolution of the techniques Google used to photograph the landscape. If you look closely you will notice that Google had problems stitching some parts of the images together. They also either went through a number companies to do the fly over and photography or simply garnered images from different GIS companies over the years.
The images below have been reduced considerably in size from the Google Earth images. It would take ages for this blog to load across the network if I left them at full resolution.
Note. I've used Google Earth as was readily available and convenient to use. There are other GIS sources available, which may provide even higher resolution images or greater quality. You pays your money and takes your choice.
Several times in this blog I mention the complex geology of the area. I found a map, courtesy of my old College, that goes part way to showing this complexity. Greater detail can be found here Eocene sands and iron map a natty title that sort of rolls of the tongue.
I've taken the liberty of inserting a much reduced image in this blog. The vertical red line marks the Longwater road. If you zoom in you may just make out the words "Cemex works" to the left of it. This is actually on the Fleethill farm part of the works. To the immediate right of the red line is Manor farm. Count two large lakes to the right and you reach Moor Green lakes.
Quite a landmark are our works.
This is now pinned to the top of the posts.
I have largely ignored Chandlers farm over the years. Partly as most of the restoration will be (and has been) given over to sports facilities, and partly as it is still an operational quarry. I believe there are some 50,000 tonnes of stuff still to be extracted once the site buildings are demolished.
A small area of the site (the north west corner) is to be given over to a nature reserve, and I'm sure I read in one planning document that there was to be a community growing area. Another name for these could be allotments, perhaps. We need more allotments, especially considering the waiting list, and the need to do something to save this planet.
I present to you, courtesy of Google Earth Pro (a free app well worth getting hold of) the changing face of Chandlers farm - the original Eversley Quarry. Manor farm and Fleet Hill farm are subsequent extensions to this quarry.
I'm deeply suspicious of both the imagery and the dates attached to them. The earlier ones exhibit particular problems, typical of a fledgling service. Imagery has come from various sources, with varying degrees of quality, and they have been stitched together with varying degrees of accuracy.
I'd certainly take the imagery dates with a large pinch of salt. The year 'might' be correct, but the date is not always correct e.g. images dated 31st December or 1st January show deciduous trees in full leaf!!!
Consider the 'settlement ponds' in the top right hand corner of the site. These three rectangular ponds are, I believe, where water (pumped out of the various ponds and lakes) are passed through to allow sediment to settle out, before the water is put into the Blackwater. The photos for 1999/2000 show these ponds. The ponds are missing from the photos dated 2003, only to reappear in 2004.
I hadn't appreciated how much restoration had already taken place on Chandlers farm. Note the football pitches - rather poshly flood lit at night. I thought they had been there before the quarry. But no. They were one of the first parts of the quarry to be restored.
You will also notice the stop-start nature of the restoration. Not readily apparent from the large gaps in the imagery data, but quite normal as I have reported in this blog.
Still, it looks as if Hampshire county council is putting pressure on Cemex to get Chandlers farm completed, judging by the all out effort put in this year. Alternatively, it might be Inert flitting around the various sites, as we have seen over the past couple of years.
However, at least this is being done. Hopefully, the surrounding communities will benefit greatly, and hopefully a small fragment of this planet will be saved for wildlife and future generations.
Enough ramblings, on with the show.
With torrential rain on Wednesday falling on already saturated ground, the Blackwater was almost bank full in places. A few more inches and there would have been flooding on parts of the south footpath. Note it is possible that the Blackwater burst its banks on Fleet Hill farm - it does so - and on bits of the south footpath I didn't walk along.
I put a trail cam out on a tree that had fallen into the Blackwater, near the Longwater road. When I put it out, Saturday week, it was a good 2 feet (60cm) above water levels. It was completely submerged when I tried to retrieve it on Thursday morning. Much to my total astonishment, the unit was still working (when I managed to get to it yesterday morning) even after water poured out of its battery compartment and SD card slot when I opened it up. Extraordinary! It is a cheap Crenova unit, costing all of £68.
Anyway, enough prattling on about flooding and trail cams. What have Inert been up to this week?
It is a bit tricky to tell. Due to my ancient car being serviced and MOT'd on Wednesday, I had to postpone my mid-week visit until Thursday morning. Inert were busy around the west shore of Cormorant lake and my mighty mound.
They had moved the boulder sorter outer to near the south footpath, next to my mighty mound. A small fleet of John Stacey lorries were queuing up to drop their loads next to the boulder sorter outer. I counted at least five John Stacey lorries - there could have been more, plus lorries from other companies, but I didn't hang around long to find out.
Our bulldozer driver was pushing stuff around the various parts of what will be Manor lake. I didn't really walk along to the scrape to find out how much had been pushed into Cormorant lake. Due in part to laziness, still being ill with a filthy, rotten, stinking cold; and partly as I wanted to get over to Moor Green Lakes to photograph it in the early morning sun.
I can say that the south shores of Cormorant lake are looking a little flatter, which is normal procedure. The piles of bricks and concrete, which I saw last week, appear to have been laid into a track, stretching from the south footpath to the middle of the land mass, where the boulder sorter outer was last week. By Saturday, this piece of plant had been moved back on to the land mass where it was last week. At least the other plant and personnel will have a firm track to drive/walk along.
After a couple of week's hiatus, the pump was back on - not leaking by the looks of thing. It is sorely needed, with all this rain about. Water levels have crept up quickly over the past week.
That's it, I'm afraid. More of same, slowly nibbling away at the infill of Cormorant lake, with nothing seemingly dramatic happening. This means the slide show is fairly short and, in complete contrast to last week's fog, a glorious technicolour scene which you get on an early autumn's morning.
What was dramatic, was I spotted a Great White Egret (aka Common Egret or Great Egret) over on Moor Green Lakes. No doubt this bird also partook of the reeds and rushes of the various lakes and ponds on Manor Farm and Fleet Hill Farm. Quite exciting as this is quite a rare species to spot in the UK. Sightings are getting more frequent, but still rare. There are reckoned to be about 35 birds over wintering in the UK, but this is a very broad estimate.
Now on to our rare visitor - The Great White Egret. This bird was stooging around the north shore of Colebrook lake (north) in Moor Green Lakes. Unfortunately, two minutes before I got to where I saw this bird, the early morning sun was covered by a finger of cloud. The whole lake went from glorious sunshine to instant gloom. Photography matters were not helped by the bird being about 100m from me, with the added bonus of a slight amount of mist. Still, the old Sigma 150-600mm contemporary and fence post/viewing screen board did a sterling job.
Wednesday's lovely sunny stomp, revealed Inert working on the banking that runs alongside the south embankment and also around the southerly shores of Cormorant lake (south). Two diggers were busying themselves, digging around the mound and reducing the height of the banking alongside the south footpath.
Inert seem to take great pleasure in nibbling away at this banking. It's been attacked a couple or three times already. I've no idea why the relatively low banking isn't simple bulldozed flat.
Our intrepid bulldozer driver was trundling all over the south shores of Cormorant lake and the land mass. In addition to commercial tipper lorries (from the likes of John Stacy) Inert have drafted in their heavy bulk loader; the type you see in big open cast mines. It has been trundling around for weeks, now.
Saturday's stomp was a reasonably miserable affair. I had hoped the overnight frosts we've had for the past few days would solidify the ground a little. Nothing of the sort. All it did was set water hard as epoxy resin around the doors and windows of my car. Getting the car door open required a great deal of pulling and yanking. By contrast, not only was the ground around Manor farm not frozen solid it was, if anything, even more gooey and sticky and yielding. I had to stay off bits of the site, even when sticking to bulldozer tracks.
The depths of some of the bulldozer tracks (2 feet or 60cm in places) testify how soft the soil was in parts, as even its wide caterpillar tracks did not stop it from sinking.
Fog made this morning's photography a little challenging. All would have been well had I left half an hour later than I did e.g. 7:45am, as the sun would have burnt off the fog. But then I would not have got some stunning shots of a Red Kite at 8:45am, when the sun was up, mist gone, and the bird was sunning itself.
What my (vague) stomp revealed was that the entire southern half of Cormorant lake's shores are completely torn up this week. More stuff has been pushed into the lake on a broad front taking the infill a little further north and still going around the scrape.
Inert have built a series of what can only be described as long barrows alongside the vehicle track south of Cormorant lake. It's very peculiar. They are beautifully crafted out of what looks like sandy ballast. No idea what they are for, but they do hide Cormorant lake (south) from the south footpath. And this after Inert reduced the height of the banking that ran alongside the south footpath.
A boulder sorter outer has taken up residency on the land mass, opposite the scrape, at the end of the track that Inert built a couple of weeks ago. It looks suspiciously brand new. Bright shiny paint and pipe work. There is also tons of concrete lumps spread about the boulder sorter outer. I don't think the birds are going to be too happy about this.
The nasty fly tipping has been cleared up, and a nice lump of concrete placed against the gate of the Longwater road entrance to deter anyone trying to get into the site. Should have left the banking and the tank traps in place.
Our pump was quite silent, this morning and Wednesday. Possibly awaiting repairs to its leak.
In summary, Inert have been all over the southern shores of Cormorant lake (south), filling it in a little, but mainly (as usual) tearing the whole place up so it looks like the Western front. Business as usual.
The much calmer, and reserve ready, Fleet Hill farm had a nice load of wildlife this morning. Shame I didn't have more time to investigate.
Sadly, after a reasonably quiet summer with regard to fly tipping, it appears that some low lives have decided to use the Longwater road entrance as a free rubbish dump. Some cowboy business.
Moving on to more positive matters. Once again I declined a Saturday stomp. The sky was cloudless and the air was crystal clear at 6:30am., which was not what the Met office said it would be on their Friday weather report.
I checked the Met Office's forecast and it steadfastly claim rain would come sweeping in from the west by 8:00am. As they have a habit of getting the weather completely wrong for this area, I checked Auntie Beeb's weather report. It concurred with the Met Office. I took a quick squint at the Met Office's (now somewhat useless) rainfall radar, which said a band of rain would track across from Bristol to Wokingham in approximately 3 hours from 8:00am.
Even during me eating a spot of breakfast, I noticed the sky getting overcast, with high level wisps of milky cloud. I held off going, and sure enough, by 8:00am the wind had picked up to force 4 and it was chucking it down. Ten out of ten to the Met Office and whomever the BBC use for their weather reporting.
Sunday, by complete contrast, was clear (though clouding slowly) and windless. I was hopeful of some decent wildlife shots, but there wasn't really much around.
Inert appear to have settled on remodelling Cormorant lake (south) with their usual strategy of dump, lump and flatten.
Dump: Tipper and grab loader lorries dump spoil around work areas.
Lump: Dumped spoil is quickly pushed into roughly the right place by the bulldozer; creating a No Man's Land type landscape
Flatten: The lump land is smoothed and shaped by the bulldozer driver.
This week's task appeared to be flattening and smoothing the Somme type landscape produced by the lump phase. There was some low key delivering of stuff to the site, but my Wednesday stomp showed the bulldozer trundling to and fro, smoothing off the land.
An odd feature was that a whole load of sand had been laid along the scrape and joining up with the previous week's infill. I simply strolled along this sand bridge onto the scrape; rather than having to gingerly pick my way across infill, testing the firmness of the ground as I went. Some paw prints in the sand revealed that at least one fox had also trekked along the scrape.
Infill continues around the scrape, impinging on it further. This feature may well disappear, though Inert are skirting around it still; apart from the sand.
Our pump was wheezing away and has sprung a leak. I've seen it do this before, when it was frosty. The spray of water coated small trees, making them look very festive.
I also took a walk along to the end of the gravel spit, which separates Cormorant lakes north and south, to have a look at the infill. Again, a very curious piece of infill, with Inert flitting about the site. It almost seems like Inert decided to dump some spoil there for no particular reason.
Guess what numpty forgot to take a photo of the site of the former works buildings? Yep, me. Even though I hoofed it back with the express intention of photographing the vacant area, I forgot. Possibly as I was quite tired.
On with the slide show.
Well, not quite. There was still a stub left this morning. I reckon all will be gone by Friday, such is the speed of demolition.
Last week's stomp revealed one works building still standing. I have no idea when the other two were demolished, as I tend not to pay too much attention to Chandlers farm. This week I stopped by for a clearer photograph than Sunday's, only to discover that virtually all the remaining building had been taken apart. Only the lower parts of the once mighty tower remains.
Better still, Inert were dismantling it as I snapped away. A dinosaur type extension to a digger. Bet that is a fun job.
Anyway, depending on which of the numerous amendments to the various planning applications you read, this demolition appears to be a couple of months ahead of schedule. Cemex and Inert have been concentrating on Chandlers farm all summer.
They have also made fair progress on Manor farm, over the past week. This time some interesting additions to the scrape.
Yesterday morning was outright manky, overcast, dark and gloomy. Rain followed later on in the morning, and didn't stop until night time. I declined to visit Manor farm. Instead I waited until today. Not only was it bright, we got an extra hour in bed due to the clocks going back. However, it was only 2 degrees centigrade, and I had to scrape ice from my car's windows. The yukkie ice that sticks to glass like epoxy resin.
My midweek stomp revealed a dearth of lorries, depositing stuff. However, this was an illusion. Much has happened, even by Wednesday. Infill was now wrapping around the east side of the scrape, and heading northward. Our intrepid bulldozer driver was flitting about all over Manor farm.
My Sunday walk, in misty conditions bordering on fog, revealed a whole mass of work has taken place. Though I cannot be certain exactly when some bits were done, as I have kept of the more muddy bits of infill. To recap what I sort of noticed, bearing in mind my proviso that one bit of churned up mud looks pretty much the same from week to week.
- There are signs that Inert have been working on what was Finch pond. It sort of looks flatter, and has fresh bulldozer and lorry tracks all over it. This is one way I tell where work has been done, how fresh and crisp the tracks are.
- That weird hole on the south side of my mighty mound, has been filled in and firmed up. I was quite relieved. I could now keep to the vehicle trackway, and not take a muddy detour around my mighty mound onto the land mass. The terracing is still pronounced, and a raised trackway has been consolidated onto the land mass, leading up to the 'north' shore of Cormorant lake (south).
- I did see the bulldozer driver working on the 'north' shore of Cormorant lake on Wednesday, pushing stuff around and, occasionally, into the lake, before whizzing back down to work around the copse.
- The gravel spit, separating Cormorant lakes north and south, has had work done to it. I'm not sure exactly when, but definitely within the last couple of weeks. I sort of spent most of last week concentrating on not sinking into mud as I worked my way across the land mass. Anyway, Inert have trundled to the east end of the gravel spit and pushed a whole load of spoil southward into Cormorant lake south. They might have done stuff in Cormorant lake north, but I didn't look this week. I'll try next week if the weather is clement.
- By far the most dramatic work has taken place around the scrape and the feature I christened Cormorant spit. A considerable amount of infill has occurred around the east and south of this area, with some infill encroaching onto Cormorant spit. I was able to negotiate my way along bulldozer tracks to step onto Cormorant spit, and walk along it onto the scrape; the bulldozed soil was unusually firm.
And there I was thinking the scrape would stay. If by chance it does remain as a feature, its shores must be protected from erosion by water. Plover island and Tern island in Colebrook lake, over in Moor Green lakes, have experience severe erosion, resulting in lose of eight feet or more of shore line.
In some ways the possible demise of Cormorant scrape and spit is a shame. Bird really like the gravel bars that appear when water levels are low. I have no idea why they are so popular. Even more so than the actual scrape.
- These were the most obvious changes around Manor farm. There are hints and signs that much other work has taken place, but it is slightly difficult to pin point on two short walks.
- Moving on to Chandlers farm. Some of the works buildings have been demolished! Actually two major buildings. I do not pay much attention to Chandlers farm, therefore do not know precisely when the demolishing took place. I suspect during May to July. I mentioned several times in this blog that I heard extensive noise, not unlike buildings being demolished, emanating from Chandlers farm. Well, I now have the photographic proof. Strangely, this puts the restoration of Chandlers farm slightly ahead of schedule, as I am sure this wasn't supposed to happen until the start of 2020.
I may or may not put some wildlife photos in. There were four Roe deer, a large number of Greylag and Canada geese, plus some nice swans and teal. However, here are a couple of before and after photos of the works buildings on Chandlers farm. I will replace the misty on I took this morning, with a clearer one. Hopefully this Wednesday.
I know I am sounding like a worn record...Inert have continued flitting around Manor farm. As usual, due to one bit of bulldozed mud looking pretty much the same from week to week, I am hard pressed to figure what Inert have done on certain parts of the site. Any changes have to be reasonable major to notice.
A further complication was the mud. I kept off most of the site due to the squidgy porridge like mud the consistency of quicksand. I was not prepared to take risks sinking in, particularly as I had my DSLR and long lens with me. Even keeping to bulldozer tracks did not guarantee firm ground. About the safest tracks to follow were the ones made by lorries.
OK, enough whingeing, what have Inert been up to this past week?
- There are definite signs of tinkering around the Longwater road entrance. Some mounds of spoil have been flattened, the odd hole filled in, and bits scraped here and there. Just a ways south of Longwater road entrance, along the old west shore of Finch pond, I came across a very curious structure. It reminded me of a sand fort children would build on beaches.
- I get the feeling more grading has taken place along the west and north sides of the copse. Hard to determine. I didn't walk along the north embankment and I didn't venture on to this part of the site. It is/was far too soggy and cut up. Any trekking across this bit of Manor farm would have been a slow, hard slog.
- Another strange structure was discovered by the 'mighty mound'. At first it looked as if Inert had dug a large hole across the vehicle track. After sleeping on this thought and looking at my photos, I do wonder if the trackway to the east of the 'hole' has actually been built up. It was hard to tell. Getting close to the edge of the 'hole' was tricky as the soil was so soft, I was sinking up to my ankles in it with some 3m still to traverse. This 'hole' or built up track occurred quite late on in the week, as I saw a lorry trundling along this bit on Wednesday.
Because of this 'hole' and super soft mud, I couldn't continue eastward along the vehicle track. I had to take a long detour north around my 'mighty mound' (which I couldn't get to due to the soft mud), onto the land mass (old infill) and work my way carefully to the west shore of Cormorant lake (south). Only then could I follow lorry tracks south to get to the vehicle track on the east side of the 'hole'.
- Obvious, by far, was the amount of work done on Cormorant lake (south). Inert have been working on the west, south and east shores of this lake, continuing its infill. It appears a slow, random process, working on bits at a time. The bulldozer driver appears to employ two strategies. The first is the obvious one for infill; he drives directly at the lake's shore (basically orthogonal to it) pushing soil in with the entire face of the bulldozer blade. His second strategy is more subtle, he drives parallel to the edge of the shore, using one side of the bulldozer blade to sort of peel the soil into the lake.
Anyway, as usual having graded the land flat, Inert have dug it all up again producing a WWI type landscape. Again, although I walked along the latest infill to its northern edge, I didn't get right to its edge. It was too muddy.
I'm pleased to say that our faithful, hard working pump was still at it, wheezing and gurgling away. Water was still flowing freely into the small pond in which the pump rests. I did spook a Green Sandpiper, when I walked along the south edge of this little pond. It was tucked up, right at the base of the southern shore of the pond.
There is a fair amount of wildlife around. Its pattern has changed. You tend to see more large flocks of birds, particularly Lapwings, geese and ducks. Other species are around, just less apparent.
Finally, will Cemex, Inert et al finish landscaping Manor farm by the end of this year? Like last night's Brexit vote (bloody stupid morons, the lot of 'em ought to be put up against a white wall without blindfolds), this is a close call to my inexperienced eyes. Although both Cormorant lakes, taken together, are large, they do not seem to be on the same scale as Finch pond. Cormorant lake (north) is actually quite shallow, easily filled with the flattening of the north embankment. It is the northern parts of Cormorant lake (north) that might sink the meeting of the deadline.
I am particularly fascinated by how Inert will tackle the merging of Manor lake (south) and Manor lake (north - also known as East Fen) with Cormorant lake; to form the new, long Manor Lake. The former two lakes are quite full; with water levels well above Cormorant lake. I guess opening up the ditch between Manor lake and the pump would be the first action. This allows the water in Manor lake to be pumped away to reach the same level as Cormorant lake; enabling diggers and bulldozers to safely landscape the area.
Yes, dear reader, your intrepid (some say foolish) blogger, despite posting continuous warnings about the quicksand nature of the mud on Manor farm, sank up to his knees in the stuff today. In my defence, the bit of bulldozed mud I stepped into had a firm look (rather than the grey porridge stuff) and took the weight of my right foot.
Unfortunately, the torrential rain of recent weeks (particularly last night) made the mud particularly soft. I sank up to my knees when I took a step with my left leg and put a load on it. Attempts to extricate my left foot out by pulling it out vertically and balancing on my right foot, only caused said right foot to sink even deeper into the mud.
Sigh. There was nothing for it but to gone on hand and knees. With my weight now distributed across three points (two hands and a knee), I could twist one foot clear of the mud and place it (horizontally) on slight firmer mud, and with my weight distributed over a larger area of leg. Then I could twist the other leg out of the mud, before crawling backwards on hands and knees to firm ground.
Yes, my trouser knees were distinctly muddy, as were my hands. Luckily, I eschewed my DSLR/long lens due to the manky weather. Thus I did not have to worry about getting them muddy. I only took my bridge camera, which I simply slung around my back. Also, I did not have to lie completely flat and pull myself out on my stomach.
Unlike my previous sinking incident, this time I had a mobile phone and could have called for help. However, I did not want to even contemplate being rescued by emergency services.
Before we plough into our normal schedule: There is a MGLG work party tomorrow, Sunday 13th. This week we shall be planting 300 saplings in the gaps in the hedgerow running from the MGLG car park and the Blackwater river. Do come along and help. Meet at MGLG car park from10:15am onward.
Inert et al, as is their normal modus operandi, have been working all over the southern half of Manor farm. I am still very perplexed at this flitting all over the place business. Must be the engineer in me: Start at one place and then work your way, linearly, to the finish - unless there is some compelling work to do in the middle bits beforehand.
The remains of the old iron footbridge and pump station road bridge have been removed. Bit of a sad day. I was quite fond of the iron footbridge, even though its metal treads were lethal when wet. As I can attest to with experience, having slipped down them on a couple of occasions.
Last week I said that one reason for the pump not chugging was that it was grounded, with its inlet pipe partially or wholly above the water; thus making pumping impossible. How wrong I was. It seems that the pump pontoon rests on a large brick structure. This structure was still mostly under water. The pump was chugging away this week, revealing the brick structure. At least a foot and a half (say 45cm) has been pumped out this week.
Just as well the pump is on. Water was flowing quite rapidly from the new Finch pond into Cormorant lake (south) and thence into 'pump pond'. It is still raining hard as I type, and the forecast is for yet more deluge over the coming week!
You'd be hard pressed to see what Inert have been up to on Finch pond this past week. It is all torn up, looking like the Somme. Again this follows restoration practice of infill, smooth, tear up: repeat. I can see that Inert et al have:
- Continued building up the land level around the northern part of Manor farm; some backfill along the banking built last week.
- Deepened the drainage channel between the smaller Finch pond and Cormorant lake (south) they started last week.
- I think the smaller Finch pond is now taking shape. At least there is a pond shaped hole approximately where it is to be, and it is being drained; but not yet hooked up to either the culvert or the original fragment of Colebrook cut. Can't do that until quite late on as access is needed by lorries.
Midweek I espied a digger working around the pump. Not entirely sure what it was up to, but there was a new track on the east shore of Cormorant lake (south), next to the drainage channel. Most was revealed this morning; though I do not know how much was done this past week or the weeks before.
- The ditch connecting Manor Lake (south) to what was Cormorant lake (south) has been partially filled in, forming a dam/viaduct to allow plant to cross over. This means that Manor lake (south) can longer drain. Water levels have built up, covering some of the mud flats/gravel bars.
- The viaduct allows diggers and bulldozers to go around the drainage ditch to work on the east shore of Cormorant lake (south).
- I am not entirely sure why or what has been done. There appears to be some bulldozing of soil into the 'pond' next to the pump. Diggers and/or the bulldozer have worked their way northward, but not a huge amount appears to have been achieved. Very odd.
- The digger also appears to have cut a path from the pump southward along the west shore of Manor lake (south), on the east side of where a bridge used to stand. Again, it is difficult to discern what the point of this is. It does give better access to the pump pipe, running into Chandlers farm.
Anyway, by the time I reached the pump station, I was a bit soggy, somewhat muddy, and slightly knackered; partly due to too much swimming this part week and as it was such a hard slog across Manor farm through all the mud and torn up ground. I chose to walk back to the Longwater road via the firm and comforting south footpath. At least the sewage plant wasn't so smelly. It was really on form on Wednesday.
Moving on to wildlife. Plenty of deer sign, as usual. Birds are beginning to return to Cormorant lake. I think I have seen less due to the odd times I visited the site over the past few weeks, but also I think it is only now that they start congregating into large flocks. Also, a whole load of migrant species start arriving e.g. Widgeon.
There were a lot of Canada geese, Egyptian geese, Barnacle geese and Lapwing. Your normal Coots, Grebes, Mallards and other assorted wildfowl I can't recognise were abound. Oh, I can now here and sometimes see Long-tailed tits. I've missed their song all summer, and was worried that they might have had a catastrophic breeding season.
The conditions were pretty bad for photography. My bridge camera struggled. Just as well, with the mud incident, I didn't take my DSLR and long lens.
A polite notice first: All photographs on this blog are owned by me and subject to copyright.