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.
Cemex/Inert have made reporting more challenging. Inert have been working all over Manor farm, it's hard to keep up and to even figure out what had been accomplished over this past week. Listing the highlights of what I could determine...
- Midweek revealed two diggers at work, attacking some of the banking along side the south footpath. My Saturday stomp revealed they had sliced a bit off the banking, making the vehicle track wider. Curiously, the track was then pinched narrower by marking its edges with some of the concrete blocks dumped next to the mighty mound.
- My midweek walk also revealed our bulldozer driver, working on the infill on the east shore of Cormorant lake south. Not unusually, there seemed to be far fewer lorries around. But this was Wednesday. More lorries may have been employed on other days of the week. The amount of stuff dumped onto Manor farm seemed to suggest this.
- Our puffing pump was off. I think I have discovered one reason why it has been off so much recently. Water levels are now so low, the pontoon holding the pump pipe inlet is now grounded on the bottom of Cormorant lake. The can't pump any more water, as the inlet is no longer submerged.
- A small 'pond' has appeared, located in the middle of what was Finch pond. Due, I think, in part to the large amount of rain we have had recently and also to the land level being built up around it. Inert have dug a drainage ditch from 'mini' Finch pond to Cormorant lake north, which curiously doesn't actually reach the latter lake.
- A line of soil has been bulldozed up to a survey stake which used to show 5' (1.5m) of infill needed to reach it. I think this is a fairly significant milestone. It gives the clearest indication yet of the effort required. All that needs be done now is the land be raised around it and landscaped appropriately; using the north and west embankments and ridge.
- The land has also been built up around the northern part of the copse. This is an original piece of hedgerow containing a fragment of the Colebrook cut. The land is, in places, level with the stream bed.
- Although much of the land has been built up, Inert are following their normal procedure of plough titanic gouges in to the levelled land, pushing some into the lakes, and piling up others into huge mounds. Thus, although the land has been built up over the past few weeks, it could just as easily be gouged out again. One thought I had for this procedure is that perhaps it is a means of mixing up the infill to provide a more homogenous mix.
- Further infill has taken place along the south eastern edge of Cormorant lake north. Inert are going to a great deal of trouble to infill around the feature I have been calling the scrape. If this scrape is to exist as part of the finished restoration, there needs to be some means of protecting its shores from erosion. Tern island, a scrape in Colebrook lake north, in Moor Green Lakes, has had up to 8' (2.4m) of its shore eroded away. It is now about half its original size, and rapidly disappearing.
- The soil barrier blocking the Longwater road entrance has now been flattened, and the gate has a shiny new pad lock. Strangely, the large hole (or anti tank trap as I call it) has not been filled in.
- I am quite sure I have missed a great deal of what happened on Manor farm this week. After all, I only have one, quick mid morning stomp (probably at the contractors' tea break time), and then enter into a forensic examination on the weekend to determine what Inert have been up to. It is all quite fascinating how a quarry is restored for nature.
I'm submitting this post first, before I then go to work on the slide show. It was a rather busy Saturday, and I'm a bit tired this morning.
A polite notice first: All photographs on this blog are owned by me and subject to copyright.