I did not visit the nascent reserve this week. Judging by lack of activity on various construction projects in and around the area, I reckoned that Inert and Cemex had shut up shop for Christmas.
I may visit the site after the New Year (if only to try out my Christmas pressie to myself - a decent piece of glass for my camera bought in the 'sales' - actually voucher by sigma), but I doubt any further restoration will take place until Monday 7th Jan.
In the meantime, I wish you a brave New Year.
I fully expect all restoration efforts to cease for a minimum of a week if not two as various construction and quarry staff take a well earned rest. Most builders tend to shove off for a couple of weeks over Christmas. However, we are in the age of working all hours given to us in pursuit of the mighty dollar or, in some cases, stupid deadlines dreamt up by some numptie in management.
Restoration efforts appear now to be centred on the south shore of Cormorant lake. Only one bulldozer was in evidence, on my Wednesday stomp, chugging up and down the shoreline of Cormorant lake. Various tipper and grab loader lorries were delivering inert waste. Part of the banking that used to run the length of the south shore of Cormorant lake (south), built for traffic control (i.e. stopping plant from driving into said lake), has now been bulldozed away into the lake.
It must now be fairly dangerous. The pump has stopped, which means water levels are high. Recent (and continuing) heavy rains has turned the whole area into a quagmire. To the point where I refuse to walk on certain parts (e.g. area west of copse, latest infill into Cormorant lake) as the quicksand like mud was so deep. All vehicles were driving very carefully.
Even my normal trick of keeping to the bulldozer tracks doesn't always work well. The new bulldozer has wider tracks, which means its surface pressure is much less, resulting in less soil compaction than its predecessor. Where possible, I follow the lorry tracks as they compact the ground more.
I am a little perplexed (who isn't) with the latest infill. Plans seem to indicate that the south shoreline of the new combined Cormorant/Manor lake will pass quite close to the south footpath. Perhaps even closer than now, offering superb viewing of wildfowl; provided a whole load of trees aren't planted to obsure the scenery.
However, the infill seems to be pushing the south shore further north. Now, this might simply be due to the way Inert work. They seem to build up the infill, then bulldoze it down, before building up again, only to then dig it out to the final contours. Time will tell, but it does seem a shame to fill in such a nice, well used deep, large lake which already works well to attract all forms of wildlife, as well as keeping viewers happy.
I can't tell if more work was done on Finch pond just north of the copse. As I've commented before, one muddy patch of infill can look pretty much the same from week to week. One trick I have of establishing if work has been done or not is to see if my tracks, from the previous week's walk, are still visible. It's not foolproof, but if they have disappeared then there is a fair chance the bulldozer erased them
I clambered to the top of the pile of sorted spoil to take a 360 of the area. I am not sure why I never thought of doing this before - perhaps due to me keeping clear of the area during the breeding season. Anyway, after checking that the heap was well consolidated, I clambered to the top of it. What a mighty view it was. I always maintain that some raised viewing platforms should be built on nature reserves. It gives a completely different perspective.
Wildfowl, not surprisingly, were a little sparse on Cormorant lake. I think the Teal, which flew in a week or so ago, were still there in large numbers. I say I think, as my bird recognition skills are not that good, and Saturday was too manky a morning to be taking good photos to aid in recognition.
I've done a new progress map to now take in Cormorant lake. It gives an idea of how much work there is still to go. Only a year lads. No pressure.
I've marked out, to the best of my dodgy estimating ability, the amount that Finch pond (purple) and now Cormorant lake have been filled in. As I've used the latest google earth image, you will notice that it shows bits of Finch pond already filled in. Also the area I have been calling 'the land mass' is infill.
No on site photos until tomorrow: Sunday. This morning it was overcast, dark, very cold, breezy and (the killer) sleeting. I decided against a site visit.
I did my usual Wednesday morning visit, when conditions were more benign.
Alas dear reader, I did it again. Sank up to my knees in mud while attempting to cross the causeway to the copse. I easily stepped over the small trickle of a stream in the middle of the causeway, straight into deep, gooey mud the consistency of quicksand. It was a bit of a struggle to haul myself out of the mud - not as bad as when I first did this some months ago. The mud didn't go as far up my knees.
I should have known better, but I noticed that some Roe deer had crossed the causeway. Their hooves did not appear to sink into the mud very much. Therefore I thought it was a lot firmer than it was.
Inert now appear to have switched their attention to the infilling Finch pond just north of the copse, and to landscaping and infilling the south shore of Cormorant lake. Tipper lorries were dumping their loads near the north west of the copse. Interestingly, they were also dumping spoil near the yellow bridge.
Infilling of Finch pond appears to have now reached the first set of small 'islands' just north of the copse. I reckon (ha! famous last words) that Inert are doing their usual trick of building a causeway then infilling any resulting enclosed areas.
Our busy bulldozer was working away on the south shore of Cormorant lake, trimming the banking along its entire length, and landscaping a stretch from the middle to the west shore of the lake; levelling it and pushing soil into the lake. On the immediate south west corner of Cormorant lake, the bulldozer continued last week's effort of extending the infill eastward.
There were two bulldozers on site during my Wednesday visit, only one working though. By Sunday, i could only see one. Though this was also the case last week.
There seems to be a big push on to complete this restoration. I remember work stopped on Manor farm round about November 2017 and didn't recommence until about April or May of this year. So far, Inert having been plugging away at Manor farm. Presumably, there will be a week or two shut down during Christmas.
Interestingly, the pump didn't appear to pumping, on Wednesday. It was chugging away on my Sunday visit. Normally it is hard for me to tell on Wednesday if the pump is working. I'm some distance from it, keeping myself to the south footpath, and there tends to be quarry plant and local farm machinery making a fair amount of noise.
There was a fair amount of wildlife around, visible on both Wednesday and Sunday. The Widgeon appear to have returned, while on Sunday a large flock of Teal landed in Cormorant lake south. There were the usual flotillas of Teal and smatterings of Mallards et al. No big birds e.g. geese or swans.
Once again it was time to clear Tern island of vegetation. Clearing Tern island should have taken place two months ago but was postponed until this month due to the torrential rain. You do not want to be on an exposed island in cold heavy rain.
Sunday started off cloudy, damp and gloomy. A light, southerly wind and clearing skies gave way to a lovely sunny, almost balmy day which made work outside a real pleasure. Here are some before and after photos.
I eschewed the island work detail, and stayed firmly on terra firma; albeit a tad moist at the lake's edge.
My mid week stomp around the south footpath takes me up to the works (Bailey) bridge. As I approached the bridge, on a dull, damp, wet manky morning, I noticed a posh Landrover Discovery (Disco) driving slowly along the lorry track on Chandlers farm. I reached the bridge as the Disco went past, allowing me to catch a glimpse of the occupants.
The driver was a stocky man wearing hi-vis. His passenger looked like a corporate executive type. Slim build, youngish, black hair, wearing the black woollen (?) knee length coat, beloved of corporate types. He didn't look overly enthused.
The Disco proceeded slowly on to Manor farm, following the lorry track westward. I checked to see if the pump was working - couldn't hear a thing. This is not unusual. The pump is about 75 yards away from the south footpath. South of it is Chandlers farm, with all the heavy plant kicking up a racket, whilst north of it is Manor farm proper. On this particular morning I think they had a tractor chugging around.
Anyway, I hoofed it back toward the Longwater road: partly to see what the Disco was up to and partly to ensure I didn't get rained on by a dirty great black cloud headed towards me. I finally caught sight of the Disco when I got parallel to the copse. It was stopped up near the Longwater road entrance by the Q bays. As I headed further west, the Disco did an about turn and slowly cruised back the way it had come. I finally lost sight of it at the hill of spoil by the former location of the yellow bridge.
The passenger didn't look like a surveyor; in main lacking the hi-vis that is part of their uniform these days. I reckon it was a corporate type, either from Inert or Cemex (possibly over from Mexico), come to check up on progress.
Enough speculation, on to the conundrum. From what I could make out, the pump was not working. Which is a bit of a surprise as water levels in Cormorant lake had dropped dramatically over the past week, and still remained low when I visited on Saturday - despite the soggy pasting the area has received over the past few weeks - like today, for instance.
Finch pond has almost disappeared, a tiny vestige remains, and is not connected to the culvert under the Longwater road. I tried to see if there was any other channel or drain constructed to empty water into the Blackwater, but could not discern any.
Thus I am perplexed as to why water levels in Cormorant lake are so low, and emptied so quickly, especially as water levels in Manor lake are quite high. I can only suppose that the pump is now super quiet. I was too lazy to wander over to the out flow channel into the Blackwater to check if the pump really was off.
Well, this past two weeks Inert continue to fill in Finch pond. It has virtually disappeared. The pond to the west of the causeway is tiny - smaller than a very large garden pond. The pond to the east of the causeway, and north of the copse is now about the size of a large village pond. Many manor and country houses have a bigger pond. I was fairly correct with my supposition last week with regard the bulldozer trundling over yet more filled in pond.
Essentially Inert have been pushing soil into Finch pond, gouging out the infill they did earlier in the month. Lorries were depositing inert waste on the south side of Finch pond or should I now say the Colebrook? Essentially, that is what Inert are constructing here - a small pond and the reinstated course of the Colebrook.
I wandered down to the 'scrape' on Cormorant lake this Saturday as I reckon Inert would start work on its infill. Sure enough, sometime over the past couple of weeks or so spoil has been pushed into the lake on its south western shore. Regretfully, this pond is also for the chop, being reduced in size to a village pond. Though I believe it will be joined with Manor lake.
Still, too much of the reserve will be hidden from the various footpaths. What makes Manor farm so unique is the ability to see so much of it as you walk along the south footpath. If any tree planting follows the same format as Fleet hill farm then much of Manor farm nature reserve will be hidden from the footpaths; being visible only from hides. Shame, I feel, as the birds using the lakes and land of Manor farm are quite used to human traffic along the footpaths.
There was precious little wild fowl around on both days. Partly due to most of it having migrated to their winter feeding grounds and partly due to Finch pond disappearing. Even the reliable Canada geese seem to have relocated themselves to Moor Green lakes, Fleet hill farm and (I believe) the reserve pond on Chandlers farm. There were a load of Pochards around. Least ways I think they were Pochards. They might have been Widgeon.
I am quite confused about the plans for Cormorant lake. On set of plans shows it being joined with Manor lake to form one large lake, and for there to be a viewing point jutting into the lake, and for its south shore line to be close to the south footpath. However, if you contrast the plans with a Google earth satellite image then the two do not match. Well not unless there is a large amount of landscaping and digging out of infill - which we have seen happens a lot.
Slide show, with a paparazzi style photo reveal. :-) :-) :-)
Some wildlife shots of what little there were.
This week's scintillating edition harks back to the initial posts to this blog, where I kept to the south footpath. I had decided on Wednesday not to pay my customary site visit on Saturday. One reason was the Met office predicted heavy rain for my usual stomp time. They were actually right for once; it was pouring.
The main reason, however, was that on my Wednesday visit the site was empty. It was devoid of any plant, large or small. The pump was silent. The gates at the works (aka Bailey) bridge were locked shut to works traffic. Manor farm resembled the Marie Celeste.
I've seen this happen before. Inert shut up shop on Manor farm, and nothing apparent happens for weeks. Hence my decision not to visit on Saturday.
There were subtle signs that some activity had taken place earlier in the week. Some piles of spoil, heaped along the south west shore of Finch pond.
Chandlers farm, by contrast was a hive of activity. Various lorries and diggers, clanking about and up to various activities.
I was therefore quite surprised to see a bulldozer at work on Manor farm on our Thursday morning's school run. I stopped briefly on my way back to check my eyes were not deceiving me. Sure enough, a bulldozer was chugging away on the infill south west of Finch pond, and lorries were bringing it spoil. I determined still not to visit on Saturday, instead to pop down on Friday.
Friday, mid morning, bright and sunny, revealed two bulldozers at work. Well, one (on the south west shore of Finch pond) was chunkering away. The second, up by the west side of the copse, was stationary.
I later figured that there were not enough lorries to keep the second bulldozer adequately supplied with spoil. There appeared to be two John Stacey tipper lorries and a single Inert tipper lorries. Perhaps there were difficulties hiring tippers. The driver of the bulldozer would simply stop the bulldozer and wait for another delivery of spoil, before scraping it all over the place.
As I did not visit the site on Saturday, I am unsure what the bulldozers were up to. Judging by the movements of the bulldozer nearest the Longwater road, I would say it was building up the infill on the west side of Finch pond. The bulldozer next to the copse was building up infill there.
I could not see if the infill had reduced the size of what little remains of Finch pond. We'll find out next week, if it isn't tipping it down.
I met a birder on the south footpath, and we had a long chat by the transformer adjacent to Cormorant lake - basically a major viewing point. It transpires he was of the same mind as me about Manor farm being turned into a vanilla nature reserve i.e. trees and reed beds. He couldn't see the point of infilling Cormorant lake and planting reeds or of perhaps turning the land mass into grasslands/woodland.
The current set up of varied habitats (the 'post industrial landscape' of the 'land mass', the mud flats on which the huge curved pipe resides, the scrape and Cormorant lake itself) attracts a wide variety of species. There are already reed beds on Manor lake, Moor Green Lakes, plus the new ones created on Fleet Hill farm. My personal feeling is to infill Cormorant lake north, but to leave Cormorant lake south, the mudflats, scrape and land mass alone; well, perhaps have a little cosmetic tinkering.
It would save a packet of money, and it might reflect modern reserve design and/or fit in with the 'Back from the brink' initiative. Remember, the current design is a couple of decades old. But then again, what do I know about nature reserves.
Talking reserve: Wildlife was conspicuous by its absence this week. There was very little around on Friday, a bit more on Wednesday. At one point I thought it might have be down to the Peregrine lurking around. Alas, no. I didn't spot it.
The birder I met, said the Peregrine might have been the one he has seen on Fujitsu Towers in Bracknell. Damn, I didn't know that. I worked in an office block for ten years with clear sight of the Fujitsu building. A five minute walk, and I could have been camped outside the Daler Rowney factory or a little ways along Lovelace road, Peregrine spotting.
Strangely, the only reference I could find to Peregrines in Bracknell were over three years old, and only talked about a breeding pair on Winchester Tower aka 3M building. They hadn't been seen for five years prior to the tower's recent demolition.
A polite notice first: All photographs on this blog are owned by me and subject to copyright.