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, Chandlers farm. 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.
Inert have been busy. Land bridge back. Infill progressing north. Spoil heaps growing. 17th January 2021
Salutations on this first blog of 2021. Hope is in the air. Biden will be president in three days time, despite the attempted coup on the 6th Jan. Covid-19 vaccine rollout going slowly, due to PHE's unambitious plan, but picking up. Lockdown bowling along until end of February. Inert working steadily on Manor farm.
I paid a site visit, early on Friday morning. A digger was working far on the north shore of Cormorant lake (south), and appeared to be pushing stuff into the lake. At times the digger was hidden behind huge piles of spoil.
Our bulldozer driver was pootling along the south vehicle track, pushing watery mud around. I spotted two lorries, good old John Stacy vehicles, making their way gingerly along the south vehicle track.
This week, the bulldozer driver told them not to reverse 75 to 100m up the land mass, but instead to drop their loads at the south end of the land mass track. The bulldozer driver then pushed the spoil some 75 to 100m northward on to the land mass. Very sensible, considering the amount of rain we are still getting, though not as bad as before Christmas.
I paid a visit to Manor farm, early Sunday morning. I eschewed a Saturday visit as we had snow and yet more rain on Saturday morning.
Having seen the wave of mud being pushed by the dozer blade on Wednesday, and the amount of standing water on the site, I decided to not walk along the south vehicle path or go on the land mass - with its quagmires. Instead I decided to walk straight to the ridge and gravel spit to see what the digger had been up to.
Was I in for a surprise. Firstly, the pump has been running, which means water levels were low. I did notice this on Friday, and could hear the pump wheezing away. However, I don't think it was running on Sunday.
Secondly, I realised that Inert have been working on Cormorant lake (north). At some point in the last two months (actually, probably this year), a digger has cut drainage channel into the infill of Cormorant lake (north). It runs along the lake's western edge, and joins up with the drainage channel between Finch pond and Cormorant lake (south). The upshot of this channel is that I could not get to the gravel spit.
Thirdly, the land bridge is back. Which is how, I reckon, a digger got to Cormorant lake (north). With the land bridge in place it does mean water can't drain into Cormorant lake (south), well, not unless Inert have put a big pipe under the land bridge's soil.
Thwarted in my attempts to get to the gravel spit, I chose to walk along the central north embankment (noting loads of animal paths through the bracken - normally fox, deer, rabbit and badger), and then to the end of the east ridge. I even ventured onto one of the mud flats (very carefully and gingerly) and was moderately surprised to discover the ground was relatively firm.
It was difficult to see what the digger had been up to. It was using its shovel to push/smooth spoil, from what I could see on Friday. The north shoreline has been flattened. Before Christmas the shore was basically a cliff, a vertical bank some 8m high.
Now, I did notice that a bit of the land mass was now in contact with the gravel spit, but I seem to remember this was the situation last year.
It is nice to see that Inert are continuing restoration during lockdown. It's pretty safe for the plant operators. They sit in their air conditioned cabs, isolated from each other, and can either communicate via radio or by shouting to each other across several metres of fresh air. Long may this continue.
When looking back over blogs, what tends to be forgotten so easily in the mists of time are the surrounding events that provides more of a context to proceedings. Thus, this year's restoration of Manor farm, Fleet Hill farm and Chandlers farm has rumbled on against a background of
- Covid-19 pandemic, with the government's total mishandling
- A US election, seeing an sociopathic, tantrum, child not getting re-elected, then throwing a hissy fit by embarking on a coup attempt worthy of the very worst of dictators.
- Brexit negotiations finalised at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the twelfth month, when bumbling Boris blinked and caved in.
- We were to witness some of the very best of the British spirit in coping with the pandemic, along with, it has to be said, some of the worst.
Through it all, when they could, the unsung work force of Inert, Cemex and haulage firms kept up their restoration of Manor farm.
Which brings us to this, last entry, of 2020. Well, nothing has happened. I held off a weekend report as last week's site visit (Wednesday, 23rd December) revealed a silent Manor farm, with gates across the bailey bridge firmly locked. The latter being a bit of a laugh, as there is a large section fencing, near the sewage works, that has fallen over.
There was the possibility that some work was happening on Chandlers farm, as I heard machinery noise coming from the direction of the old works building.
My site visit yesterday (Wednesday 30th December) proved another silent one, both on Manor farm and Chandlers farm. Water levels were high, the south footpath particularly saturated, but funnily enough the south vehicle track looked rather dry. Perhaps Cemex/Inert decided it best to shut down for two weeks. It should be interesting to see which Tier the various areas are going to be in next week, and whether plant operators are permitted back to work. We shall see.
I have a feeling that the yellow road bridge has disappeared. It might be my imagination, but I am sure I missed it as I headed east, but then forgot to check on my way back west as I headed for my car.
Well, that's me signing off for the year. I will only starting posting when Inert et al return to Manor farm.
This should be interesting. Manor farm, Berkshire, is in Tier 4. Chandlers farm, south of the Blackwater, is in Hampshire, Hart district and in Tier 2. Therefore, Inert and lorry drivers are, technically, in breach of lockdown rules every time they cross the bailey bridge from north to south. :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) Though in actuality, their not, along with the other key workers who have to cross the Blackwater.
Seriously, what a laugh.
My Wednesday stomp revealed Inert back at work, with a bulldozer and digger very much in evidence. I was a bit perplexed as to what the digger was up to. It would trundle up and down the south vehicle track, stopping and rotating its cab, before trundling up and down again. I thought perhaps it was limbering up, before getting down to work.
Soon all was revealed. It was making holes in embanking that run along the side of the south vehicle track. These holes were drainage channels, hopefully allowing the large quantity of water and liquid mud to escape off the south vehicle track and onto the south footpath, and hence the Blackwater.
As for our bulldozer driver. He had smashed down a lot of the spoil heaps I saw last week, when all was quiet. On Wednesday, he was pushing the spoil eastward into Cormorant lake south.
I was unable if he pushed stuff northward, as I didn't make a site visit on the weekend. Saturday was pouring with rain, virtually all day, with some pretty heavy duty stuff in the early hours of the morning. I fore went a Sunday visit, as I knew the underfoot conditions were likely to be pretty bad, and I didn't want to chance the south vehicle track being under two feet of mud/water - despite the best efforts of the digger.
The ground would have been very soft, as the pump did not appear to be on; yet again. There was a lot of surface water, and a big large puddle (going on pond) between the copse and my mighty mound.
Oh, there were no lorries on site on Wednesday.
We appear to be living in truly interesting if not historic times. King/emperor/tsar/Caesar Trump chewing on carpets, Brexit negotiations going down the pan, and the Covid-19 vaccine being doled out, we look to Manor farm for some welcome news.
Sorry to say, but it's all bad here as well. My Wednesday morning stomp revealed nothing. Absolutely nothing. The entire site, Manor farm and Chandlers farm, were as quiet as a morgue on a quiet night. The gates across the bailey bridge were firmly shut/locked. No sign of life anywhere.
As quick look at various tracks and spoil heaps indicated that now further work had happened since my weekend stomp. It looked as if Inert had packed up bags and shop and shipped out. Very odd.
One thought did spring to mind, as I witnessed this desolate scene on Wednesday: perhaps everyone has had to self isolate due to Covid-19. If that is so then I wish them all a speedy and safe recovery.
I think the pump was chugging away, it was hard to tell, and I didn't have time or inclination to wander over to find out. There was a boulder sorter outer, perched high up on a mighty mound just inside Chandlers farm (this mound has been present since before I started this blog), but it too was silent.
Oh well, on to next week's mid week stomp to see if there is any activity or if all stays ominously silent.
In case you haven't twigged, I didn't pay a site visit this weekend. No point if no work has occurred, and I most definitely did not want to wade through deep mud for nowt.
With Brexit negotiations stalled, the electoral colleges to finish their certification on Tuesday, the only brightness is the news that the Pizer covid-19 vaccine will be dished out, allegedly, starting this Tuesday. That remains to be seen, given this government's track record of promising much but delivering little, and cocking things up along the way.
I did not make a mid-week site visit. Too busy. Therefore did not see where the theatre of operations were. I almost didn't visit on Sunday, as it was very foggy where I live. Still, I gave it a go and was mildly surprised to see virtually no fog on Manor farm.
I elected to storm around the south footpath, to get to my mighty mound and the reversing track. I didn't fancy fighting my way through wellington deep mud. As it was it was quite tricky getting on to the south vehicle track, due to deep mud the consistency of porridge bordering the edges of the track.
Inert appear to have dumped a whole load of stuff at the north end of the reversing track on the land mass. I can't work out how much stuff has been bulldozed, if any. I think it has, but due to a deluge on Thursday and high lake levels, I did not venture onto the very soft, very muddy land mass. I stuck to the vehicle tracks.
On my way back to the south footpath, I glanced east and noticed that there were piles of spoil around the pump station. Once again, I eschewed walking along the mud sodden south vehicle track, instead got back onto the south footpath and walked down it to the bailey bridge.
Sure enough, Inert have been working around the pump station, dumping loads of stuff and bulldozing it around. I have no idea when this took place as I have remiss of visiting this area of late. I can say that this is a very recent occurrence.
Oh, the pump was off. Seems off more than on, these days. Spectacularly high water levels as a result, and amazingly boggy ground.
I waited until Sunday to visit Manor farm. Saturday was pretty manky and foggy. Not point in going down. Sunday was still pretty manky, totally gloom with very,very low light conditions.
Also, I hoped Inert would not be working on Sunday.
They weren't! Thus I had unfettered access to walk the site - except for the mud (just short of wellington depth on the tracks) and soft ground.
Firstly, it was obvious the pump was not working. Standing water everywhere. Finch pond reappears. Despite there being a let up in the rain. The soft ground isn't too brilliant for the heavy plant trundling about the place.
Secondly: The scrape appears to be completely buried under about 10' of spoil. I didn't dare try and negotiate the bulldozed soil to get to the scrape. The ground was too soft, and I know from experience that soggy, freshly bulldozed spoil is lethal (i.e.like quicksand) especially when close to lake's shore.
My mid week stomp was also delayed by a day. I popped down Thursday morning, as Wednesday morning was even foggier than Saturday. I spied about three lorries on the site, plus bulldozer. I might have arrived at a tea break.
I guess the infill is slow but steady. Quite a bit of stuff appears to have been brought onto the land mass. Inert appear to be in the building piles all over the place phase: the place looks like No man's land.
After a week or two, I expect the piles of spoil to be levelled, and then gouged out, before more stuff is brought in an built into little hills.
As that idiot president's blatant attempts of a coup falter, and this stupid lockdown enters its third week (with the infection and death rates falling as a result of the tiered restrictions filter through), I was once again thwarted by Inert working on a Saturday.
Our lone bulldozer driver was working away at 7:35am, when I arrived on site. I did notice flashy lights on Chandlers farm - perhaps Inert have started work on restoring it. Who knows.
Wednesday morning provided a surprise. At least five or six lorries on Manor farm, with an actual queue! Albeit of two lorries. I must reiterate that there isn't any sense in hiring too many lorries whilst they still have to reverse 75m or so up onto the land mass. It just takes too long, some five minutes to reverse up, drop their load, and drive back. Queues of lorries will thus build up quickly, with drivers spending up to 25 minutes or more twiddling their thumbs.
In any case, it was heartening to see the pace of restoration picking up. My prediction of infill being completed by the end of this month was, perhaps, wildly optimistic but I reckon was possible were it not for the unusually wet October and November we've been experiencing.
Back to Saturday. I spied the bulldozer from Longwater road entrance. To gain some semblance of what the chap was up to, I decided to make my way across the Finch pond infill to the north embankment. I knew no plant would come onto Finch pond side of the works, whilst I would be some 10 to 15m up on the north embankment and ridge. Plus, it would give me a chance to photograph the works from there, as it has been some time since I walked along the north embankment and east ridge alongside Cormorant lake (north).
Well, from some 100m away from the bulldozer, it was difficult to assess the amount of progress this last week. There seemed to be a fair amount, with large swathes of fresh, dark spoil spotted around the land mass. It still seems a random process to me, this restoration lark. Inert are flitting all over the place.
A polite notice first: All photographs on this blog are owned by me and subject to copyright.