Notification: I must point out that I have special permission to be on the Eversley quarry site of Fleet hill farm, Manor farm and the Hampshire part, Chandlers farm. These are not open areas for general access. Public rights of way are being incorporated into the sites to enable people to enjoy the new reserves.
Please bear this in mind. Although I refer them in my blog as reserves, they are still, technically, part of an operating quarry. So please keep to the existing public rights of way, and wait for the new ones to be adopted. Also it is will be even more important to stick to the public rights of way when they do become reserves so as not to disturb the wildlife.
Update: Apparently Cemex and RSPB have been working together to restore 1000 hectares of ex-gravel works to prime habitat. The aim was to achieve this by 2020. They actually managed the 1000th hectare in 2017.
Eversley was the first hectare to be restored under this partnership; actually the Moor Green lakes and surrounding area e.g. Horseshoe lake. This youtube video features scenes from Manor farm which regular readers will be familiar with. Here is an explanation on the RSPB's website, and here is one on the Cemex website about them being runner up in the MPA Quarries from Nature awards due to their work on the Eversley quarry restoration.
27th Jan 2018 - we get a mention in The Telegraph: 50 disused quarries turned into wildlife habitats to help Britain's endangered wildlife. "Eversley Quarry in Hampshire was the first to be completed following three years of work by wildlife and conservation experts." Ahhh, they missed phase 2, the subject of this blog.
This blog is about a proposed nature reserve on the Cemex gravel extraction works between Finchampstead and Eversley. There are three parts to the reserve.
1. Moor Green Lakes. This reserve already exists. It was restored by Cemex some years ago.
2. Manor Farm.
3. Fleet Hill Farm.
Initially, this blog concentrates on the restoration efforts Cemex engaged in prior to handing over the reserve to a conservation group for day to day management. Once this happens, I would then hope to chart the efforts required to turn the raw restoration into a fully operational nature reserve.
That being said, there is already a wealth of wildlife inhabiting the site, mostly as Cemex have ceased extracting gravel, and appears to be a mecca for bird watchers. We often encounter them as we walk around the footpath, humping their tripods, spotting scopes, cameras and binoculars or perhaps exchanging notes with each other on what they have spotted that day.
Although I live about three miles away from the proposed new reserve, I only learnt about it recently. I started to photograph the efforts Cemex are expanding in clearing the gravel works and, as is the nature of such endeavours, realised I had a photo journal before I knew it.
Extent of entire reserve
The plan below shows the extent of the reserve. It stretches for 2.2 miles along the Blackwater river.
Moor Green Farm is already a nature reserve, namely Moor Green Lakes nature reserve. For more details see here Moor Green Lakes Group or here RSPB entry. Perhaps you could join us on one of our work parties to aid in the conservation of this reserve.
Fleet Hill farm is supposed to be ready as a reserve by end of summer 2017. Apart from a few sub-phases, this appears to have been achieved.
Approximately 18 months later, Manor Farm will be incorporated into the reserve. A target date in a planning application I read suggested that restoration of Manor farm should be completed by 31st December 2018. Personally, as of 7th October 2018, I can't see this happening unless the scale of infill is altered drastically or a lot more resources are thrown at the restoration effort.
You may notice, dear reader, quite a few differences between the various plans and google earth images of the reserve displayed below. I am not sure why. I suspect that some of the differences are due to extraction of gravel. This is certainly true of the Fleet Hill farm portion of the reserve. Note: I have since discovered that the plans for the restoration were fairly fluid and subject to numerous alterations.
Update: I am keeping my speculations for historical reasons. Part of the 'fun' of keeping this blog is working out what Cemex and Inert are up to. Well, the later posts show that they are infilling Finch pond. They may also modify Cormorant and Manor farm lakes to look more like the plan.
Plan of proposed Manor Farm part of reserve and image from Google Earth
NOTE: I've finally got around to updating the google earth image with the expanded reference points. Hopefully, this will allow you to navigate my text a little better.
The plan below is the Manor Farm extension. Below that is a Google Earth image as of March 2017. Note the difference between the it and the plan. Particularly Finch Lake, which is now huge, and what I have been calling Cormorant Lake which is supposed to be joined to the bigger lake to its right. The Pump Station area, currently on dry land, would be in the middle of a lake, according to the Cemex plan.
As described above we start our walk at the Moor Green Lake car park, located in the top right hand corner of the map. The details shown in this map are the proposed public right of ways, and possibly some further landscaping. As an example, currently there is a sizable lake at the point I call the Pump Station. This lake is not shown in the map.
There are large areas of this new reserve I have not photographed as we have tended to keep to the current public footpaths.
We cross the Longwater road at the culvert/entrance to the reserve to get enter Fleet Hill farm immediately opposite.
Plan of proposed Fleet Hill farm part of the reserve and image from Google Earth.
This is the Fleet Hill farm extension showing proposed structure and public right of ways. Below that is a Google Earth as of Sept 2017.
Stone Crusher lake is a small manky green lake. The plans below suggest that it will be filled in.
Swan lake is also a small manky green lake, which according to the plan will get bigger.
There is a large part of this extension that I have not really photographed as we have tended to stick to the footpaths. Most all the restoration had been completed by the time I started photographing the works.
Update 7th October 2018. I suspect that apart from a few small pieces of work (e.g. completion of bridle path) Fleet Hill farm is pretty much restored. One of the planning applications I read said that tree planting will occur in the year after restoration has been completed. As this happened earlier on in 2018, this would suggest that, apart from a few sub-phases, restoration is complete.
This post shows how the Fleet Hill Farm and Manor Farm parts of the Cemex Eversley gravel works has changed over the years since 1999. Credit has to go to the Google corporation for their Google Earth initiative and also for developing Googe Earth Pro. This free application allowed me to explore a history of the images Google have taken of our planet since 1999, and to also save images.
I would recommend you download Google Earth Pro. It allows to you to zoom in to see an incredible amount of detail.
As well as showing the evolution of the area, the images also demonstrate the evolution of the techniques Google used to photograph the landscape. If you look closely you will notice that Google had problems stitching some parts of the images together. They also either went through a number companies to do the fly over and photography or simply garnered images from different GIS companies over the years.
The images below have been reduced considerably in size from the Google Earth images. It would take ages for this blog to load across the network if I left them at full resolution.
Note. I've used Google Earth as was readily available and convenient to use. There are other GIS sources available, which may provide even higher resolution images or greater quality. You pays your money and takes your choice.
Several times in this blog I mention the complex geology of the area. I found a map, courtesy of my old College, that goes part way to showing this complexity. Greater detail can be found here Eocene sands and iron map a natty title that sort of rolls of the tongue.
I've taken the liberty of inserting a much reduced image in this blog. The vertical red line marks the Longwater road. If you zoom in you may just make out the words "Cemex works" to the left of it. This is actually on the Fleethill farm part of the works. To the immediate right of the red line is Manor farm. Count two large lakes to the right and you reach Moor Green lakes.
Quite a landmark are our works.
This is now pinned to the top of the posts.
I have largely ignored Chandlers farm over the years. Partly as most of the restoration will be (and has been) given over to sports facilities, and partly as it is still an operational quarry. I believe there are some 50,000 tonnes of stuff still to be extracted once the site buildings are demolished.
A small area of the site (the north west corner) is to be given over to a nature reserve, and I'm sure I read in one planning document that there was to be a community growing area. Another name for these could be allotments, perhaps. We need more allotments, especially considering the waiting list, and the need to do something to save this planet.
I present to you, courtesy of Google Earth Pro (a free app well worth getting hold of) the changing face of Chandlers farm - the original Eversley Quarry. Manor farm and Fleet Hill farm are subsequent extensions to this quarry.
I'm deeply suspicious of both the imagery and the dates attached to them. The earlier ones exhibit particular problems, typical of a fledgling service. Imagery has come from various sources, with varying degrees of quality, and they have been stitched together with varying degrees of accuracy.
I'd certainly take the imagery dates with a large pinch of salt. The year 'might' be correct, but the date is not always correct e.g. images dated 31st December or 1st January show deciduous trees in full leaf!!!
Consider the 'settlement ponds' in the top right hand corner of the site. These three rectangular ponds are, I believe, where water (pumped out of the various ponds and lakes) are passed through to allow sediment to settle out, before the water is put into the Blackwater. The photos for 1999/2000 show these ponds. The ponds are missing from the photos dated 2003, only to reappear in 2004.
I hadn't appreciated how much restoration had already taken place on Chandlers farm. Note the football pitches - rather poshly flood lit at night. I thought they had been there before the quarry. But no. They were one of the first parts of the quarry to be restored.
You will also notice the stop-start nature of the restoration. Not readily apparent from the large gaps in the imagery data, but quite normal as I have reported in this blog.
Still, it looks as if Hampshire county council is putting pressure on Cemex to get Chandlers farm completed, judging by the all out effort put in this year. Alternatively, it might be Inert flitting around the various sites, as we have seen over the past couple of years.
However, at least this is being done. Hopefully, the surrounding communities will benefit greatly, and hopefully a small fragment of this planet will be saved for wildlife and future generations.
Enough ramblings, on with the show.
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.
I did not pay a visit to Manor farm on Saturday. Partly as it had been raining (some torrential) for almost two days (and was still doing so on Saturday morning) and partly as we have too much prep to look after aged relatives over Xmas.
In any case, Inert appear to have slowed down on the restoration efforts. Unsurprising as Christmas is almost upon us. Many people will be taking leave, and quite rightly so.
I did pop down on Wednesday. Our intrepid bulldozer driver was hard at work making new piles of stuff near the pump station; ably supported by at least three John Stacey tipper trucks and one Collard grab loader.
I wonder if Inert are caching stuff in preparation for a big push to fill in Cormorant lake (south), come the new year. On the other hand, it may be too boggy to work safely so close to water's edge. The rain has been relentless, to the point where I feel the pump is just about keeping up with pumping out water flowing into Cormorant lake. Over on Moor Green Lakes, Colebrook lake is high again. No doubts Grove lake as well.
It is possible that Inert have been fiddling around the edges of Cormorant lake (south), but I wasn't able to see much from the south footpath. They seem to be continuing what they have been doing for the past few weeks: piling up stuff along the south shore of Cormorant lake (south).
I'll be fascinated to see if the pump keeps operating over the next week or two. Cormorant lake will fill up quickly if it stops.
Photos in slide show are from my Wednesday morning stomp.
I am still quite perplexed as to this restoration process. As noted several times in this blog, I have noticed Inert go through a process of Pile, level and gouge. For the past few weeks, Inert have largely concentrated on the pile stage i.e. piling up soil. Though, in their defence, they have been pushing sorted soil into Cormorant lake.
The extent to which Inert have been piling stuff on the east shore of Cormorant lake and around the pump station has been lost on me, as I have been keeping clear of most of the recently bulldozed material. Rainfall continues incessantly, making ground conditions somewhat lethal for foot traffic. Even some areas of Finch pond infill are still quite treacherous. I did venture on to this infill for the first time in months when I decided to climb onto the ridge. I had hoped that the soil would have consolidated itself over the past months. But no, it is still the consistency of epoxy-porridge, with sink up to your knees patches.
Anyway, getting back to the narrative. This week I wandered over to where Inert were working on Wednesday i.e. around the pump station and east shore of Cormorant lake. I actually had to walk all the way round to get to the pump station i.e. walk east to the Bailey bridge, turn north to the pump, then turn west to walk to near the scrape. I couldn't cut across from the vehicle track to to west of the pump station as the ground was so muddy and cut up.
Inert have created large piles of soil, which tower over me. Regretfully, there was no obvious sign of what the digger was doing last week. In addition to building soil heaps, Inert have been pushing stuff into Cormorant lake (south) along its east shore, around the scrape. But it is hard to fathom if the infill extends further north. I haven't been on this bit for some weeks; partly as Inert were mainly working on the west shore of Cormorant lake, but mainly as the whole area was just too boggy to walk upon; especially when carrying a long lens around my neck.
Our stalwart pump was chugging away, working hard to pump vast quantities of water dumped by the incessant rain we have had, which is set to continue; according to the Met office.
Something was happening on Fleet Hill farm on Wednesday/Saturday of this week and Saturday (or Wednesday) of last. Week before, I did spot a bloke on a red quad bike on the north part of Fleet Hill farm, riding up to the north Longwater road entrance. He was quite leisurely, and appeared to have business on the site.
On Wednesday of this week, I noticed a large white van, parked inside the north Longwater road entrance. Hi-viz clothing bedecked the van, while the two gates on the north Longwater road entrance were open. I didn't pop over to investigate what was going on as I had to head home.
This Saturday, on arriving at 8:00am ish, I noticed two men, in orange Hi-Viz suits, trekking eastward on the footpath that runs south of Stone Crusher lake. Again, I did not investigate; in main because it was drizzling. In fact, 20 or 30 minutes after I got home after my stomp, the heavens opened up.
I may investigate on Wednesday. However, as I have not visited Fleet Hill farm in some time, it may be difficult to assess what, if anything, was done. This will not be a wasted visit, as I do need to find another tree or trail to place my trail cam. The one I am using currently takes too many photos of a brown rat. It was also visited by a dog, this last week. Not a problem, as the dog was well behaved and came when his master called; I saw both on Saturday. My main concern is if a dog (investigating my bait) does not come when called, and its owner has to go and get it, and so reveal my trail cams. Most all owners would leave the trail cams, but with my luck I'd get the one dog owner who nicks my trail cams. It is much quieter, the further west you go into Fleet Hill farm.
Here's a special for you. In trawling the internet, looking for old photographs of the farms before they became a quarry, I came across a site of the company that built the conveyor under the Longwater road, between Fleet Hill farm and Manor farm. Canning Conveyor Co. Ltd. kindly gave me permission to reproduce the photos. The photos showed the end of erection in spring 2010.
There I was, 8:15am, wandering along the vehicle track on the south side of Manor farm, approaching my mighty mound, when what do I espy: a red digger trundling north from the Bailey bridge. Bleedin' 'ell I thought, what's 'e doing workin' on a Saturday morning?
Then I thought, should I make my way off Manor farm? Even though the digger was still some 50m away, it could go any where, and may be joined by more plant. It is dangerous to be wandering around with plant operating. More so, as I didn't have any Hi-Vis clothing.
Anyway, I watched the digger, and the digger driver watched me from within, and after a few moments I wandered down a rather natty path Inert have made for me ( :-) ), while the digger driver made his way past the pump and over to the east side of Cormorant lake, close to the scrape.
I haven't worked out what the digger was doing. At first I thought he might be digging a new drainage channel. Which is odd, as there is a perfectly good drainage ditch already there. In addition, the digger driver didn't seem to get close enough to the water's edge to cut the channel - unless you dig the channel dry, to begin with (thus making it easier and safer) and only connect to water at the last moment.
Needless to say I did not wander over to see what the chap was up to; keeping well away and to the vehicle paths. I did toy with paying a visit on my return leg from Moor Green Lakes. half an hour later, but the digger was still at work. I had to proceed to the Longwater road (where my car was parked) and make a slight detour to pick up two trail cams I had put out on the Blackwater.
Now, what have Inert been up to this past week? Well, it is a bit tricky to tell. My Wednesday stomp revealed our bulldozer driver industrially working away on the east side of Cormorant lake. No apparent attempt had been made to level the heaped soil on the west side of Cormorant lake. The odd lorry was sighted, but certainly not the hordes I have sometimes seen. Overall, there seems to be a slow down in rates of progress.
On Saturday, I was pleasantly surprised to see that ballast had been laid over the rubble track, Inert had made over the past week or so. How nice of them to do so for me. :-) :-) :-) Walking along the rubble track was wonderfully easy - no hopping from boulder to boulder, or sinking into deep mud.
I have seen Inert build such a structure several times over the years. Mostly along the south vehicle track. I've never seen them build one onto the land mass. It will certainly make the lorry drivers' lives a lot easier not have to either drive or reverse down a muddy track.
Our stalwart pump, silent on Wednesday, was chugging away this morning. As well it might, seeing as the rain has returned with a vengeance, and is to continue. The rate of flow from the out flow of the settlement ponds suggests that another pump has been turned on. I think Chandlers farm might still have a pond requiring draining. Not sure.
There are subtle hints that Inert have also been tinkering around the west and north side of the copse. It is hard to say. I have been so used to seeing the site either covered in fog or frost or both for the past few weeks, it is hard to remember subtle changes from week to week. One bit of churned up muddy ground looks the same.
My trail cams picked up the grim reaper (Mink) early in the week, but no sight of the beast since Thursday. Luckily, one trail cam did pick up a weasel, scuttling fast along a branch. Only a photo mind. The thing went so fast, it was out of sight by the time the video recorder kicked in.
Inert continue with the pile phase of their usual modus operandi of Pile-Level-Gouge. Pace seemed a little relaxed when I stomped around the south footpath on Wednesday morning. Only one or two tipper lorries dumping stuff on the west shore of Cormorant lake, next to the mighty mound.. While our bulldozer drive seemed (on Wednesday) to have a sedate time of it all, waiting for its next lorry load of stuff.
The boulder sorter outer was now on Chandlers farm, next to its mighty mound, surrounded by a bevy of diggers and sundry plant.
Our on off pump was happily chugging away on Wednesday, and well it might. Water levels everywhere are still very high, whilst the ground is sodden, mushy, soggy and lethal. I stayed off most all muddy bits on my Saturday stomp. Even some of the vehicle tracks were no go areas; whilst firm, they were covered in varying depths of really, really gooey mud, causing me to sink halfway up my wellies, without applying much weight on my foot. The stuff held on to my boot, as I tried to pull it out of its grip; all the while the supporting foot would sink deeper into the stuff.
I know to keep of the bits of track where even the bulldozer has sunk into the mud, cutting out a deep gouge. The 'trench' fills naturally with oozing mud the consistency of runny porridge, forming a deep pool. I know that the bottom of the trench, on which the oozing mud sits, will be soft.
Otherwise, a freezing cold (minus two) Saturday morning simply revealed that Inert continue to pile up soil on the west shore of Cormorant lake, and also graded material is pushed into Cormorant lake. All the while still carefully going around the scrape.
I would expect that in the next week or two that Inert will enter the 'levelling' stage, where the material piled up over the past few weeks is flattened. Then the whole load will be gouged out, pushed into Cormorant lake, with another depression formed.
Shame. I had expected more progress on Manor farm than what has been achieved. But then I do not know what else has been going on the site.
Normal, but small, slide show follows. Then pictures of the grim reaper i.e. American Mink.
I decided to splash out and purchase a cheap trail cam to replace my Crenova, which had not recovered from being submerged by flood water. It remained resolutely foggy due to moisture in its body.
As the rain continued throughout the week, and water levels creeping back up to flooding, I placed the new trail cam (an entry model Apeman) well up the river bank. I was very fortunate in capturing photos of an American Mink, which wandered round on Friday.
This mink appeared very pale, in stark contrast to the darker coloured one I (well, my trail cam) filmed a year or two back. I sincerely hope they are not breeding. It'll be the kiss of death for many creatures in the area.
Rather annoyingly, whilst the Apeman appears to be a more robust and reliable unit that my Crenova and Victure trail cams, it appears to have a much slower trigger time and time to video. This means I only got photos of the mink. It was fast moving and well out of the way in the 2 seconds it took for the Apeman to start videoing.
Anyway, unusually for me I went straight back in the late afternoon to stake out the fallen tree with two trail cams.
I have a feeling that Inert have been digging out the foundations of the works buildings. Judging by the noise I heard on Wednesday, they had a jack hammer extension to the arm of a digger, which was then smashing its way through the concrete foundations The spoil was then being transported to Manor farm for screening by the boulder sorter outer.
Fine screened material was then being bulldozed into Cormorant lake, whilst the bigger stuff was piled into heaps before being bulldozed to form a road way onto the land mass. Actually, Inert have done this a number of times on Manor farm, and at least twice in the past few weeks. It follows their normal pattern of build piles, bulldozed flat, dig hole.
Speaking of holes. The area to the south of Cormorant lake (south) I called the great depression has been filled in. Again, following Inert's normal practice: pile, level, dig hole; repeat.
I suspect that the larger screen stuff (i.e. concrete blocks, bricks, etc) will be broken up a little bit over the next few weeks (probably by driving heavy plant over it) before being bulldozed into Cormorant lake.
Whilst the boulder sorter outer was in operation near the south footpath on Wednesday, it was absent from Manor farm on Sunday. Possibly finished with? Maybe infill of Cormorant lake will now pick up?
Although lake levels are now low, the pump was off on my Sunday stomp. I didn't walk on Saturday due to rain and even more gloomy weather. Strangely, the pump has been chugging away of late. It needs to be turned back on. More rain is predicted over the next few days, adding to the stuff we got last week (and last night), meaning the Blackwater is running high again. Getting my trail cam back from the tree in the Blackwater was a bit of a challenge this morning.
Needless to say, underfoot conditions were pretty boggy on Manor farm, with all this rain. I kept to fresh lorry and bulldozer tracks. However, kept resolutely off old tracks or freshly bulldozed soil. It is just too boggy, with the consistency of quicksand and clinging power of cold porridge.
The disruption around Cormorant lake (south) is causing birds to switch over to other lakes in the area. A whole load of Canada geese appeared to have taken over Manor lake (south) and Moor Green Lakes.
A polite notice first: All photographs on this blog are owned by me and subject to copyright.