A possible reason why restoration progress appears to have slowed; seven lorries in a traffic jam all waiting to cross the bailey bridge between Chandlers farm and Manor farm. There may have been occasion when more than seven lorries were queuing. Most times I would expect less than seven queuing. I might just have arrived at an unusual time of day i.e. 9:30 am on a Wednesday.
I think there are a number of factors causing these traffic jams. Inert are working between the pump and bailey bridge, still shipping in and piling up stuff. However, there doesn't appear to be sufficient manoeuvring room for more than one lorry at a time.
Tipper lorries are reasonably quick. Their drivers can operate the tipping mechanism from their cabs. Grab loaders take a lot of. Their drivers have to exit the cab to operate the tipping mechanism, however, they have to move the grab out of the way first, and then once the load has been tipped, put the grab back.
To add to the hold ups, we have the heavy earth mover. This beast is dumping stuff on the land mass. It had to wait for a tipper lorry to stop reversing before it could proceed to the bailey bridge.
I've never seen such a large lorry jam. Occasionally I'd see two or three lorry hold ups at passing points on the single track vehicle track. But they were short lived i.e. a couple of minutes at most.
I'm not sure why there isn't sufficient manoeuvring room around the pump station and bailey bridge. I find it odd that loads are being dumped so close to Manor lake (south). Move 50 yards to the west, and there should be sufficient room for more than one lorry at a time to manoeuvre. I know their big buggers, but their drivers are very experienced in operating in tight spaces. But then its easy for me to say and a rank amateur.
What is a mystery to me is why the heavy earth mover is the only lorry dumping stuff on to the land mass. I agree the south vehicle track is pretty torn up, with very very deep ruts i.e. 3 feet (90cm) or more, but there is rather a lot of rubble around to fill the ruts easily. The expertise exists with the companies involved in this restoration. Tipper and grab loader lorries could then join the heavy earth mover in dumping stuff on the land mass, and therefore reduce the traffic jams. However, again it is easy to be an armchair advisor. There may well be sound reasons for operating this way.
I do know that the bulldozer driver is marshalling the lorries. He's always in and out of this cab tell the lorry drivers where to dump their loads or to have a right go at them when they've either done something dangerous or dumped their stuff in the wrong place. Its a couple of hundred yard between the land mass and the pump station. Keeping an eye on the situation is not the easiest for the bulldozer driver.
Some work has been happening on Fleet Hill farm. There was a flat bed transit on the north entrance to Fleet Hill farm, while I observed fresh tracks on the south entrance. I haven't popped over to investigate - certainly not on Wednesday as I was running late. I might pop over some time next week.
Anyway, enough amateur observations. A two parter this week. The first slide show is from my rather foggy Wednesday morning stomp. I didn't bother taking my long lens, conditions were so bad. I did video some of the action, but the resulting files were just a little too big for me to feel comfortable posting in this blog.
Later on today or tomorrow I'll add photos from this morning's stomp. Light conditions were absolutely dire. Again, I didn't bother with my long lens.
Moving on to my Saturday stomp. Wot a bleedin' manky morning it was. Overcast, gloomy, wee bit drizzly even though the Met Office said no precipitation. I didn't even bother taking my long lens. On the bright side, which there wasn't any, it was not foggy or misty.
After a rainless week and the continued efforts of our pump (still chugging away on Saturday) ground conditions were finally getting more sane. In horse racing parlance, I guess the going was very soft to heavy. Walking along various tracks, including the bulldozer's, was almost pleasurable.
Though I still had to be careful. Lethal spots of 'quick mud' existed here and there. These occureither where vehicles had pushed silty mud to the sides of the tracks (lorries generate a wash as they trundle along) building up a deep layer of 'quick mud' or where the bulldozer stops shovelling. The stuff the blade piles up can be very, very soft as it hasn't been consolidated by the bulldozer tracks. This is precisely what I sank into the first time I sank up to my knees in mud some two years ago. I am very wary about stepping into the pile of stuff the bulldozer blade produces at the end of its run. I keep a look out for hardcore in the pile. This gives it a degree of solidity.
Despite the lorry jams, as fair amount of stuff has been ferried onto Manor farm. Last week there was a huge cutting (gouge) some 4' (1.2m) deep and just over a bulldozer's width wide running some 50-75 yards along the south vehicle track. This had been filled in and was now level with the vehicle track. Other gouges and depressions around the area have been filled in, while some of the ramped mounds have been flattened.
There are signs that tipper and grab loader lorries may be venturing westward along south vehicle track as the ground has been drying out and getting firmer. I reckon progress will pick up once the lorry jams are unblocked.
I did clamber to the top of my mini-mound for a 360 set of photographs. It's been months since I've been able to get close to this mound. The ground has been too soft and boggy to even get close to it. The ground was firm enough, and vehicle tracks close enough to the mound for me to get close to it. Even still, I could only really get to it from the south, and managed to sink my right foot into mud up to the top of my wellies when I stepped into a patch of soft 'quick mud' lorries' wash had pushed up against the side of the mound.
Various mud flats have started to reappear now that water levels have fallen. Wildlife (not just the ducks and geese) love these mud flats. They create a much richer diversity. I am quite puzzled as to why the plans for this site call for yet more bleedin' reed beds at the expense of these mud flats. People I speak to all acknowledge that the reed beds will lead to lower bio-diversity compared to what the current landscape offers. In the defence of the designers, their plans were drawn up some 30 to 40 years ago, and much has changed regarding conservation in that time.
Inert and Co. have continued to work on building up spoil between the bailey bridge and pump, and on the land mass. Progress appears slow but steady. No apparent effort to get this restoration over and done with.
Now, I could be slighting Cemex, and progress is proceeding as fast as weather, ground and resource conditions allow. There could be any number of reasons for the apparent slow progress on Manor farm. I've mentioned several throughout this blog. However, I do know that a lot of people (i.e. residents) are getting fed up with how long this is taking. Plus it is a community resource which people want to get on and use. We can but wait and see.
Speaking of ground conditions. They are pretty bad, what with all this rain. Lorries have to proceed quite slowly, one would say gingerly. Whereas before, when the area was dry, they could belt along at a fair lick. Soil, stones, chalk etc have been ground into a fine powder, which when mixed with water turns into a sludge the consistency of wallpaper paste. And the stuff is deep in places, filling troughs the lorries have gouged out in the various vehicle tracks.
Walking about the site, particularly the land mass, was somewhat fraught at times. Much careful placing of feet, and slowly putting weight onto it to check how firm the ground was. I had to back track several times to avoid sinking up to my knees in the stuff. Dragging yourself out of clingy mud, with several hundred pounds of quite bulky camera equipment around your neck is not good.
For the first time in months, I made it onto my mighty mound. The mound itself is quite consolidated. The problem was getting to it and then getting away from it. Approaching it from the north proved relatively easy, as I stepped into vehicle tracks. I prefer lorry tracks, they consolidate the ground better. The bulldozer, with its wide caterpillar tracks, has a light footprint which doesn't consolidate the ground. I attempted to get off my mighty mound on its south side, and stepping onto the vehicle track. This didn't work as planned. The very last two steps were impossible to accomplish as the mud was so deep and gooey. I had to work my way back to the north side of the hill, and retrace my steps across the land mass. The things I do for this blog!
There was plenty of standing water about on the former Finch pond part of Manor farm. An indication of the area's predilection to flooding. Now, it is possible that the water levels over the past week are higher than would be expected when restoration is complete. When the traget levels are reached, the standing water will be a thing of the past. I remain to be convinced. Water levels have receded considerably, but the standing water (i.e. large puddles to thee and thou) still remain.
This week's challenge appears to be ice. My trail cam, which I put out, claims the temperature dropped to -10C, on Sunday morning. I'm not sure of that, and have put a regular thermometer out to verify. I was certainly breaking ice about 5mm thick as I walked through puddles on Saturday morning.
Inert, and the restoration progress, never fail to surprise me.
My first surprise came on my Wednesday stomp, when I spied a tipper lorry dumping stuff on the north east side of the copse, and a digger working on it. Although the land mass (aka previous infill) is fairly stable, I was surprised that lorries and diggers were working so close to the water of Cormorant lake (south) just north of the copse. It is quite deep there, and the ground very boggy as this is an area of recent infill. Still, a fair amount of stuff had been dumped.
My second surprise was how much stuff had been dropped onto the site, seeing as I keep commenting on how much progress appears to have slowed of late. Inert continued to build piles of stuff westward between the pump station and bailey bridge. The bulldozed was pushing stuff westward, building long, high ramps of spoil.
My third surprise came at the pump station. Normally, Inert will build a low embankment which runs along the shoreline of the lakes. It isn't always done, but seems to have been a feature of the shoreline of Cormorant lake (south) running from the pump station to the copse. Venturing on to the site in some weeks, I was surprised not to see the banking there; especially as water levels were now up to normal.
Pumping out water is proceeding slowly. Only about a foot had fallen since last week. Not entirely surprising as a fair sized Finch pond and full Cormorant lake (north) have to be pumped, all the while battling the saturated ground pouring more water into the lakes and... yes ... you guessed it...yet more rain.
I did not venture onto the land mass and neither did I attempt to clamber up my mighty mounds. The ground was just too saturated. As it was I had a long detour due to the flooding along the vehicle track running along the south side of the site. Even without the flooding I know that the track can be quite boggy along the vehicle track. Therefore, first I walked along the north embankment to the ridge, then back to the Longwater road entrance, and then to the bailey bridge via the south footpath, and then back along the footpath.
After the gloriously clear skies of Friday (did you see the Wolf moon?) Saturday was incredibly cloudy, giving pretty lousy light conditions. While by Sunday, it is now nice and bright again. Sigh.
Happy new year from the first, if a tad late, update of the new decade. I paid my first visit to the restoration on Manor farm since before a rather odd, though very satisfying, Christmas.
I wasn't at all surprised to find that our stalwart pump had stopped working over Christmas; probably ran out of diesel. This year, however, we have had torrential rain for a couple of months. Thus, on my return to the site I found that water levels had risen considerably over Christmas, probably to their normal levels.
This gives a hint of what the restored site will look like.
Inert were busily back at work on Thursday 2nd, keeping themselves between the pump and bailey bridge - carrying on their pre-Christmas task of piling up more stuff. About half a dozen lorries were in attendance, some from firms I have never seen before e.g. TMR. Understandably, progress appeared a little slow. It is now too dangerous to go near waters edge, simply because it is impossible to tell where it slopes down steeply; not to mention the ground will be the consistency of quicksand.
A polite notice first: All photographs on this blog are owned by me and subject to copyright.