To paraphrase the song by Traffic: 'The hole in my wellie was letting in water...' I fear my right wellington has given up the ghost, developing a small, but annoying leak in it. The wellies have taken a bit of a beating, partially from my stomping antics around the restoration (well, more sliding down slopes of spoil) and partially from encountering sharp objects (e.g. thorns, twigs, etc) whilst volunteering with Moor Green Lakes Group.
They're still good enough for general stomping - just not in anything wet.
Enough of my wellie woes. On to this week's scintillating instalment in the restoration saga.
Last Saturday, I noticed the the bulldozer was missing from Manor farm. Not an unusual occurrence. My Wednesday reconnoitre revealed its continuing absence, and a dirty great lorry tyre placed across the vehicle trackway near the copse, thus indicating that no work took place on Finch pond west of the copse.
Two diggers had taken the place of the bulldozer and were both working on the east shore of Finch pond - basically a small bit north of the copse. They were being supplied by a small number of lorries, and dumping the spoil into Finch pond. This is quite a slow process, compared to the rate at which the bulldozer works at.
Lorry traffic has been subdued somewhat since the heady days of seeing up to 20 or more trundling around the site. Their number appears to have dropped to no more than about half a dozen; perhaps reflecting the new target completion date of the end of next year.
I took the opportunity to photograph the restoration from locations I have been keeping clear of during the breeding season. Thus, I now have comparative shots from the channel between Finch pond (well, what little is left of it) and Cormorant lake; and from the former location of the yellow bridge.
I noticed the pump had stopped chugging on Wednesday. Has someone forgotten to top up the diesel? In any case, water levels were on the rise again, preventing me from hopping across the causeway next to the copse. I never know if the pump stopping is intentional or not.
Now on to the Q Bays. I have no idea what these are all about. My bafflement increases daily. This week I notice a pile of spoil had been dumped into Q Bay 2. Huh? The bays aren't exactly big. They would hold an insignificant amount of spoil. All dead mystifying.
Finally, wildlife or lack thereof. The whole site was remarkable bereft of wild life - particularly of the quacking and honking variety. Numbers of birds have been declining of late, possibly due to them flying to their winter grounds, but it was remarkably empty on Saturday. Which is just as well as the weather was particularly dank and murky, with my other nemesis rearing its head - rain.
Oh, I did manage this shot of a Red Kite, flying around the site on Wednesday. I was quite surprised how well the image came out. I had my cheap Tamron lens at its maximum 300mm. This normally equates to soft images. There wasn't much else around on Wednesday - though this is not unusual, as most birds had gone to their feeding grounds by the time I get around to visiting the site round about mid morning.
From a pictorial perspective, this week's changes to Manor farm are distinctly unimpressive. As sea of mud, sod and spoil that looks more churned up than usual.
My mid-week stomp saw a rather soggy Manor farm. There was a lot of standing water (aka puddles to thee and thou), with fine silty mud, which the tipper and grab loader lorries had to negotiate with great care. No storming up and down the track ways.
One lorry, which stopped to sort out it's rear door (a procedure I often see the drivers doing), had rather a lot of wheel spin as it tried to gain traction in the ooze when setting off for a new load of spoil.
My Saturday stomp, in the early morning gloom, discerned little of what action took place during the week. As I have commented before, one bit of churned up mud doesn't look too different from week to week. There are, as usual, hints of what has transpired.
The ground is more churned up, with bulldozer tracks showing than more stuff has been pushed into Finch pond, making it ever smaller. More spoil had been dumped on the north shore, loads of piles of spoil for the bulldozer driver to push about on Monday.
I photograph regularly a long thing feature, sort of an 'inlet' that runs along the west side of the ridge. This feature has been nicely terraced, and the landscaping goes around it very neatly indeed. I found this very odd as this feature does not exist on the various plans I have seen.
Today I noticed that the bulldozer driver had pushed part of the bank in, about halfway along this feature. Now, it is possible that this was a mistake on the part of the bulldozer driver, but somehow I don't think so. His abilities are above such silly errors. No, I suspect this marks the beginning of the end for this feature.
The pump was chugging away, mid week. Water levels were not as low as expected. It is possible that the pump was off for a few days or that the recent heavy rains were too much for it.
Remember I mentioned that the bulldozer driver had got a new bulldozer with wider tracks a few weeks back? Well, I reckon it makes it easier for him to do his job. The wider tracks and , I believe, the lower weight of the bulldozer means it doesn't get bogged down in mud. However, it makes it more difficult for me.
Even since I sank up to my knees in mud the consistency of quicksand, I have kept studiously to the bulldozer tracks when there is any hint of liquid mud. Only now, with its wider tracks and lower weight, the bulldozer does not compress the soil as much. This means that what once I could rely on to be reasonably solid mud is now distinctly squishy. I tread very gingerly in certain places.
Other than that, I still remain baffled by the whole process by which the restoration takes place. I do suspect that the infill of Finch pond will be completed by the end of this year. Thus allowing the infill of Cormorant lake to resume in the new year.
Firstly, dear reader, a treat. A Peregrine falcon has been flying around Manor farm. I had spotted and photographed it a month ago, but hadn't realised what it was, such is the dodgy nature of my bird recognition skills. In my defence, it was 200 metres away on the far side of Cormorant lake north, whilst I was on the south footpath.
This Wednesday, however, it firstly flew out of the trees some 50 metres in front of me, whilst I was near the sewage works. The blighter flew off east, and I thought nothing of it until I passed the former location of the boulder sorter outer and spotted a white smudge on the end of the scrape in Cormorant lake.
I still didn't know what it was until I photographed it (at 300mm) and looked at the resulting image. The beauty sat there for at least ten minutes, with lorries trundling past, before it took off. I must have taken 50 photographs, as I walked east along the footpath, getting ever so slightly closer to it.
I wonder if it is one of the birds from Woking?
This has been heavily cropped out of the photo. My cheap, entry level Tamron 16-300mm did its best; though at 300mm images are a little soft. Sigh, I shall continue saving the pennies for a mid range lens.
Moving back to the mundane, dear reader, what is left of Finch pond has been split into two small ponds; one east and one west. Over the past week Inert have extended the infill from the copse to join up with the 'causeway' they built from the north shore of Finch pond last week. There is now a land bridge between the north and south shores of Finch pond.
With the pump still chugging away, water levels were very low, which enabled me to easily hop across the small stream running through the middle of the land bridge, thus crossing from the north shore of Finch pond to its south shore. The small, nay tiny, stream is draining Finch pond west into Finch pond east, thence through the channel to Cormorant lake. Water is then pumped out of Cormorant lake, over the Blackwater to three settlement tanks, whence the filtered water then flows into the Blackwater.
Elsewhere, infill has taken place taking various areas up to their finish level. However, perversely areas bordering the north shore of Finch pond which had reached their finish levels have been bulldozed into Finch pond! A familiar pattern, dear reader. Therefore, yet more inert material will be trucked into the area.
As I suspected, there was no way that Manor farm could be finished by the end of this year. I have been informed that a new finish date has been set - the end of next year. This, I feel, is eminently achievable. However, I do not know the details, and an unable to comment as to whether the whole site will be completed. This will involve laying down of footpaths and bridleways, planting of trees, building fencing, etc, etc, etc.
The recent heavy rains have made the area exceedingly muddy. I had up to three inches (75mm) of mud stuck to the sides of my wellies. Thankfully I did not encounter any quicksand.
Some strange, yellow signs appeared on the strange structure built near the Longwater road entrance. Q Bays, apparently. No idea what this might mean, unless it is an area for the lorries to queue in. Unlikely, but then the unlikeliest of actions appear to happen with this restoration.
I did notice a great deal of activity on the Chandlers farm part of the reserve. Mostly around the huge mound of earth near the Blackwater. There were also a number of piles of spoil along the road leading to Manor farm. I didn't investigate, partly as I spotted these mid week, and partly as I haven't been paying a great deal of attention to Chandlers farm due to it being mostly for sports grounds.
Now some other animal shots.
Finch pond, once mighty and huge, has all but disappeared. Inert have continued their onslaught, pushig the shores of this pond ever closer together. They have formed a mini 'spit' of land that gets within ten feet (3m) or so of the south shore of Finch pond next to the copse.
The west shore of Finch pond has undergone extensive remodelling, being filled in all the way to the former 'causeway'. Maybe the 'causeway' was built as a marker, a survey point for Inert to know where to fill in to. Who knows.
I noticed a survey stake which was marked with the finish level of the 'river' - presumably the reinstated course of the Colebrook.
What I can say is that Finch pond is now really tiny; almost the size of a couple of large village ponds.
I am also wondering if the grading of the south shore, sloping gently to Finch pond, is now a shallow area for reed beds. Once pumping stops and water levels rise (can't really call this area a lake any more) then the south shore of Finch pond will be under a couple or so feet of water - given that yet more soil isn't brought in.
The north shore has had some slopes bulldozed into it. I am unsure as to whether these are simply tracks for the lorries to negotiate or will be the reed bed area of this part of Manor farm.
Indications are the pump was not pumping on Wednesday. I didn't wander to the pump on Saturday to see if it was chugging away. Water levels are very low now, but can rise very quickly. The reasons why the lakes have to be pumped dry for restoration work is amply demonstrated by the formation of the new 'spit' near the copse and the remodelling of the west shore of Finch pond. You can't do this if the water level is some six to eight feet (1.8m to 2.4m) above where the bulldozer will be trundling.
The boulder sorter outer has gone. Whether it will be replaced is only known to Inert. I suspect not as work will have to shift to Cormorant lake to have any chance of completing restoration before the breeding season resumes next March. Though with the work on Finch pond complete, breeding birds can switch to it, leaving Cormorant lakes north and south free for restoration work.
I noticed, on Wednesday, some contractors working near the footbridge on Fleet Hill farm. I didn't investigate. I did pop round on Saturday. It was hard to discern what, if anything, they were doing. I did notice a number of the tree saplings (complete with plastic tubes) had been pushed over. I doubt it was due to vandals as the number knocked over was tiny. It is possible that Roe deer knocked them over or that the contractors were determining which saplings had not survived the drought.
I am not sure how many of the saplings made it through the drought. Those planted nearer the various ponds and lakes appear to have done well. The others appear, at this early stage, to have taken quite a hit.
Roll on next year to find out.
One patch of reeds, that was planted earlier in the year, appear to be thriving. The patch I inspected was on the east shore of the pond I christened 'Stone crusher lake'. I may take a walk along the rest of Fleet Hill farm at some stage to see how the rest of the reeds have done.
I've updated my diagram of my estimation on how much progress has taken place. It has, I'm afraid, got a little messy. As usual, it is highly approximate.
The purple represents basic infill that has occurred over the past year.
The orange represents my best guess as to the infill which has reached its finish level.
The yellow is the infill and modelling that occurred over the past couple of weeks; particularly a big push into Finch pond.
I've attempted to give an indication of the slope direction on the south shore of Finch pond. Any slope is highly gentle, most of it is just a shallow basin.
The survey stake on the mound of soil in this next photo defines the finish level for the 'BL river' - essentially the Colebrook. I have no idea why it is labelled BL river. The lines, which I have drawn in, gives you an idea of the final finish level for the area, and of the ramps that Inert have formed during the past week. I have no idea if these 'ramps' will remain or if they will be filled in to the finish level.
Finally, on with the slide show.
A polite notice first: All photographs on this blog are owned by me and subject to copyright.