A reminder about tomorrow's soggy Sunday Moor Green Lakes open day walk. Kicking off at 10:00am, and finishing at 4:00pm, I'm sure you'd all love to dodge showers and cow poop to have a guided tour of the reserve, along with other activities depending on the weather.
For once, Cemex/Inert have kept to my script :-) :-) :-) A colossal amount of progress has been accomplished, which the post title does not convey. In addition to filling what little remained of Finch pond and the 'Inlet', the boys have :
- Filled in the channel (as mentioned) but extended the infill into Cormorant lake (north) along the gravel bank
- Built up the land level on the north part of what was Finch pond. In many places up to the finish level. Whilst they appear to have built up half of the 5' (1.5m) high slope just north of the copse: very impressive.
- Work has recommenced on the east shore of Cormorant lake (south), with an extensive amount of infill pushing northward.
- There are signs of general clean up and grading all over what was Finch pond. What I can't work out is if the terracing it to remain. From volunteer work on Moor Green Lakes, I would say yes. however, I have been proven wrong before.
- More stuff, i.e. large lumps of concrete, have appeared next to my mighty mound (aka former location of Yellow bridge). I'm not sure if this will be bulldozed into the lakes as is (it is classed as inert material) or if some effort will be made to break it up a little.
-The brand new, shiny chalk/limestone track has been thoroughly chewed up by the lorry traffic. A lot has been ground up to the consistency of quicksand. It is truly yukkie stuff, looking like concealed porridge, and it sticks to my wellies like epoxy.
- I'm sure there are other pieces of restoration Inert have been up to on Manor farm. My short visits do not reveal this.
As I prepared my photographs for posting, I began to realise just how much had been accomplished this week. It is quite impressive. The question now is will this continue or will the lorry count be reduced to the normal three to four?
Oh, I forgot. My nemesis (mud) is back. The pump appeared on mid week, but seemed silent this morning. However, this might have been due to the wind direction, carrying any sound of it away from me. Water levels, despite the numerous down pours, seemed acceptably low.
You might have noticed, dear reader, that my website has changed its look and feel. The old theme I used had been deprecated by Weebly. This means that it is no longer being updated, and may be retired in the near future. This meant further that certain features of the old theme (e.g. slide show) did not work properly on some smart phones.
The new theme offers more features and flexibility, and also renders properly in most browsers on most smart phones. I will explore the new features over the coming weeks, and make tweaks to my website.
A further plug for this Sunday's open day walk on Moor Green Lakes, kicking off at 10:00am. Though currently the weather report is looking rather dire. Heavy rain in the morning (stopping at roughly 10:00am) followed by thundery showers. However, both the MetOffice and Beeb have been predicting thunderstorms this and last week, but nary a rumble in the sky was to be heard.
On to Manor farm and my mid week walk. There were a whole load of lorries, busily at work on Manor farm. I estimate at least ten; though I reckon more.
It has been some time since I last saw this number of lorries on Manor farm. This is not to say this hasn't happened. I may not have noticed them as my mid-week stomp covers such a short interval of a week.
I have have seen this before. A whole fleet of lorries arrive for a week or two, then vanish. We are then reduced to the two or three lorries. In defence of Cemex, they may simply not be able to hire that number of lorries on a long term basis. There are only a small number of haulage firms capable of carrying large quantities of spoil. They typically have a small fleet. And they have other customers to service.
Still, it was good to see that number of plant trundling to and fro. It is possible Cemex are making a determined effort to complete restoration. It is hanging like a millstone around their corporate necks.
Today the lorries were dumping loads in two places. Firstly across the middle top of what was Finch pond - where Inert has to increase ground level by up to 5' (1.5m) in places. Secondly, around the channel between Finch pond (as was) and Cormorant lake (south). I reckon the feature I called the inlet has now gone, and who knows, perhaps the channel itself.
I never did manage to cross the channel when it was a proper channel, connecting the two former bodies of water.
The photo of the Black-winged Stilt was taken from the 'viewing point' on the bridle path between Manor farm and Moor Green Lakes. The Black-winged Stilt is still on the fen, totally unperturbed by the lorry traffic trundling very close to it.
First a plug for the Moor Green Lakes open day, on Sunday 29th Sept i.e. next week. There will be guided tours around parts of the reserve not normally open to the public. I might be leading some of the tours (depending on how many volunteers and visitors we get), but should be manning Colebrook hide and the 'new workings' (aka Manor farm) during the afternoon.
Yesterday's mammal walk/talk went well, and I managed not to throw any naughty children into Colebrook lake; though one precocious tyke (not used to sharing) did deserve it. More details (including short video clips) to be found here https://www.facebook.com/pg/MoorGreenLakes/community/?ref=page_internal
Returning to our scheduled report: Once again, on my Wednesday walk, all that was apparent on Manor farm were piles of spoil and lorries trundling to and from dropping them. Our bulldozer was working away on Chandlers farm. On my return from MGL, the bulldozer was busily at work on to the north of the copse. Seems a sensible strategy to me, if indeed this is the modus operandi: the bulldozer works on Chandlers farm while the small number of lorries available build up the spoil on Manor farm; when there is sufficient spoil to work on, the bulldozer returns to Manor farm.
Much progress has been accomplished this week. Finch pond, for all intents and purposes, is gone; completely filled in. The structure I called the 'inlet' (a narrow strip of water running parallel to the ridge) is almost completely filled in. I would expect the tiny remaining remnant to be filled in this coming week: though Inert have caught me out before by flitting over to another part of the site.
In addition to filling in the 'inlet' our bulldozer driver appears to have worked all over Manor farm, smoothing and grading the surface. Piles of spoil have been dropped near the north embankment. I am going to stick my neck out and say this stuff is going to be used to build up and contour the land to the required finish level - some 5' (1.5m) in places.
I couldn't be entirely sure (I paid a quick visit on Friday evening, as I was helping with the mammal walk/talk on Saturday morning) but further infill has occurred along the gravel bank which separates Cormorant lakes north and south.
For those interested. The Black-winged Stilt is still hanging around East Fen (aka Manor lake north) on Manor farm. Plenty of bird watchers in attendance. Quite a few other species on offer e.g. Ruff, Green and Common Sandpiper, Sparrow hawk, numerous Lapwing etc, etc, etc.
First an updated infill map. Although the change from last week's map looks miniscule, an awful amount of work has been done. The depth of infill is over six feet (1.8'), which is a substantial amount of stuff to cart around.
Heads up: Blackwater River Festival kicks off next week. The Blackwater Valley Countryside Trust and associated nature conservation groups have a week of events planned between 21st and 29th September.
As part of this, Moor Green Lakes Group will have an open day on the 29th September where members of the public will be permitted access to the reserve. I am scheduled to perform various tasks on the day, from possibly leading guided tours, and also manning Colebrook hide and Manor farm.
Back to our normal schedule.
Manor farm was very misty at roughly 7:30 on Saturday morning. Opening and closing the Longwater road gate to Manor farm (it still isn't padlocked properly), and clambering up the west embankment, I could barely see half way across. I decided it wasn't worthwhile walking along the embankments, and took off across what was Finch pond. By the time I got near the ridge, the mist had been burnt off by the sun. Amazing how quickly this can occur.
Inert have been very busy this week. My Wednesday stomp revealed nowt but a whole load of lorries dumping loads on the north side of the copse. There was very little sign of Finch (village) pond west or of the bulldozer. It was busily at work on Chandlers farm.
Told you Inert flit about the site. Though it probably makes sense for the lorries to dump a whole load of stuff, before the bulldozer does its business. When there are only a few lorries, the bulldozer driver can spend a fair amount of time waiting for sufficient stuff to flatten.
Last week, Inert filled in Finch pond west; remember I've been calling what was calling them large village ponds. This week, Inert have almost completely filled in Finch pond east. Only half the 'inlet' is left.
Inert have also started to fill in Cormorant lake, pushing what looks like really good top soil along the south side of the gravel ridge separating Cormorant lakes north and south. Shame. The birds really like the flat, open shoreline, bereft of vegetation. Strangely, very few birds seem to use Cormorant lake north. I do see them there. Just not as many as on Cormorant lake south. I guess it is too enclosed.
Other than that, the whole of Finch pond and area around the copse have this tidied up, flatten appearance. Interesting, seeing as the survey stakes suggest the land has to be built up considerably. I think this is where the north embankments (strictly, they are banks) and ridge come into play, being bulldozed flat.
The shiny new limestone/chalk track way is taking a pounding from the lorry traffic. It's beginning to form ruts. This will make it a bouncy ride for the lorry drivers in the not too distant future.
Our pump wasn't pumping. Gone on strike again. Though water levels were quite well. Not much point in pumping the lake (i.e. Cormorant) completely dry. All the little fish will be killed off.
On the wildlife front. There was (and maybe still is) great excitement at the appearance of a Black-winged Stilt. More on this in the wildlife section.
Firstly, an updated map of the latest round of work (in yellow) since Inert were last here back in early march. NOTE: Inert have actually been working all over what was Finch pond, and the old infill I call the Land Mass. They have been steadily landscaping the site, smoothing it over, and building up bits. The yellow hatching simply shows the new infill that has taken place since they returned a couple of weeks ago.
As part of my Wednesday stomp, I usually take a wander over to Colebrook hide to see if there are any interesting species around. This week there was a Snipe - a somewhat reclusive bird. I was dead chuffed to see it on the sand bars in front of the hide.
At this point a birder comes hoofing it up to me, all excited like, asking if I'd seen the Black-winged Stilt. I wouldn't know this bird if it came up and bit me on the leg. I showed him the photos of the Snipe I'd taken, on the grounds that my bird identification skills are so low it could have been said Stilt.
My photo was dismissed. However, the birder did spot the Black-winged Stilt. A creature of the Med, rarely seen in this country. This particular individual was a juvenile, suggesting that it was hatched in this country. No doubts they are moving north due to climate change.
Anyway, this sighting caused considerable excitement, and went out on the birders hotline very quickly. On my early morning Saturday stomp, I found two birders already in position, viewing said bird on East fen. Another one joined them shortly thereafter. A fourth, whom I met heading west on Manor farm, was heading back when I left for home. I think he had gone off to Manor farm as it was so misty early on. Nothing could be seen.
Personally, I found the Black-winged Stilt a little on the boring side. I far prefer Lapwings, Snipe, Egyptian geese, etc. They are more colourful. Still, each to their own.
Now some of the more familiar species inhabiting the reserve.
Well, dear reader, the game, as Holmes is alleged to have said, is afoot and motoring away.
My Wednesday morning stomp revealed contractors working on the embankments and ridge in force; and were making their way along the north and west embankments bordering Cormorant lake (north). Why is this significant? After all, the north and west embankments and ridge have been cleared before.
It is the clearing of the north and east embankments which lead me to believe the big push is on. I realised that if you are a bulldozer driver or digger operator, perched 3m to over 6m up on some steep sided banking, then you really want to know where the edge of said banking is. Kind of difficult to establish when it is covered in dense growths of thistles, nettles and bracken over 2m high.
Further signs that Cemex are really go for a completion sooner rather than later:
- What was Finch pond is rather flat and filled in. Only a tiny bit remains around the north of the copse. What I called east Finch pond has been filled in. I had an easy walk around the site: no having to work my way carefully around what was left of Finch pond, assessing the best route through an apocalyptic landscape resembling the Somme, clambering up high, steep side gouges in the land and then sinking up to my knees in mud.
- Inert have continued to gouge out the north embankment next to the ridge, and bulldoze it into the 'inlet' of Finch pond. The inlet is a tongue of water that ran alongside the ridge. Inert always left it there, and I wondered when they would start to fill it in.
- The south end of the ridge has been bull dozed flat. Well, actually a small nub of a hillock that was isolated when Inert cut a way through the end of the ridge to allow lorries to access the gravel spit the divides Cormorant lakes north and south.
- Further work has been done on Cormorant lake (south), mainly to clear out and deepen the channel that drains said lake.
- Inert have also been over bits of the land mass (aka the infill from previous years) and bulldozed some of the north and east shores of Cormorant lake.
- The pump, which was wheezing on Wednesday (a partial blockage, I reckon), was off today (from what I could see), but water levels were quite low all round.
I'm sure there are many other bits of restoration I have missed, but I was impressed with the speed at what had been accomplished this week. Who knows, Cemex might pull it off and complete restoration by the end of the year. This does mean no more need to get down to the site at 7:00am on a cold, wet, dank winter's Saturday, ploughing through my nemesis: mud the consistency of quicksand.
If I am any judge of the lie of the land, the reincarnated Finch pond, once landscaping has finished, will be quite shallow, possibly with some terracing. The latter is pure conjecture. Terracing is there, but it will be a piffling task to grade to a nice, gentle slope.
We'll kick off the slide shows with a 360 from the top of the structure I call the mega mound. Inert have sliced a chunk off it to build up the track way. The resulting steep slope made it a little 'interesting' to clamber up. As I climbed up I noticed caterpillar tracks all the way to the top! These digger drivers are absolute nutters. I swear the slope it trundled up is greater that 45 degrees.
Now on to the main slide show. Inert have been flitting all about Manor farm; though mainly concentrating on Finch pond. A little work has been done on the 'tank traps' i.e. the barriers built around the Longwater road entrance.
Some photos from Wednesday stomp showing how Inert are tackling the embankments. I did wonder how they were going to do this.
Also the contractors working to clear the embankments of vegetation. It was blisteringly hot when they did this last year during our mega hot summer. This year they had a nicer time of it, temperature wise. Though it isn't a pleasant job.
Wildlife was somewhat sparse. I'm not sure if this is due to the season, the time in the morning I visit the reserve or the creatures not being used to the heavy plant working on the site.
Last year the birds in particular got very used to lorries, bulldozers, diggers and other assorted vehicles trundling about the site. They totally ignored the huge hulking things, to the point where I figured that if I disguised myself as one (e.g. wear boxes painted yellow, with a big flashing light on my head, and me making brum-brum noises) I could walk around the site photographing birds.
I was intrigued by the number of garden plants on the site; especially the sunflowers. Right now the post industrial landscape of Manor farm provides a rich variety of flowering plants, much like an old fashioned meadows. Unfortunately, the reserve to be will likely not exhibit this level of diversity. Certainly the East Fen (the area I call the grasslands) seems somewhat barren.
Enough of my wittering...
A polite notice first: All photographs on this blog are owned by me and subject to copyright.