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.
I waited until Sunday to visit Manor farm. Saturday was pretty manky and foggy. Not point in going down. Sunday was still pretty manky, totally gloom with very,very low light conditions.
Also, I hoped Inert would not be working on Sunday.
They weren't! Thus I had unfettered access to walk the site - except for the mud (just short of wellington depth on the tracks) and soft ground.
Firstly, it was obvious the pump was not working. Standing water everywhere. Finch pond reappears. Despite there being a let up in the rain. The soft ground isn't too brilliant for the heavy plant trundling about the place.
Secondly: The scrape appears to be completely buried under about 10' of spoil. I didn't dare try and negotiate the bulldozed soil to get to the scrape. The ground was too soft, and I know from experience that soggy, freshly bulldozed spoil is lethal (i.e.like quicksand) especially when close to lake's shore.
My mid week stomp was also delayed by a day. I popped down Thursday morning, as Wednesday morning was even foggier than Saturday. I spied about three lorries on the site, plus bulldozer. I might have arrived at a tea break.
I guess the infill is slow but steady. Quite a bit of stuff appears to have been brought onto the land mass. Inert appear to be in the building piles all over the place phase: the place looks like No man's land.
After a week or two, I expect the piles of spoil to be levelled, and then gouged out, before more stuff is brought in an built into little hills.
As that idiot president's blatant attempts of a coup falter, and this stupid lockdown enters its third week (with the infection and death rates falling as a result of the tiered restrictions filter through), I was once again thwarted by Inert working on a Saturday.
Our lone bulldozer driver was working away at 7:35am, when I arrived on site. I did notice flashy lights on Chandlers farm - perhaps Inert have started work on restoring it. Who knows.
Wednesday morning provided a surprise. At least five or six lorries on Manor farm, with an actual queue! Albeit of two lorries. I must reiterate that there isn't any sense in hiring too many lorries whilst they still have to reverse 75m or so up onto the land mass. It just takes too long, some five minutes to reverse up, drop their load, and drive back. Queues of lorries will thus build up quickly, with drivers spending up to 25 minutes or more twiddling their thumbs.
In any case, it was heartening to see the pace of restoration picking up. My prediction of infill being completed by the end of this month was, perhaps, wildly optimistic but I reckon was possible were it not for the unusually wet October and November we've been experiencing.
Back to Saturday. I spied the bulldozer from Longwater road entrance. To gain some semblance of what the chap was up to, I decided to make my way across the Finch pond infill to the north embankment. I knew no plant would come onto Finch pond side of the works, whilst I would be some 10 to 15m up on the north embankment and ridge. Plus, it would give me a chance to photograph the works from there, as it has been some time since I walked along the north embankment and east ridge alongside Cormorant lake (north).
Well, from some 100m away from the bulldozer, it was difficult to assess the amount of progress this last week. There seemed to be a fair amount, with large swathes of fresh, dark spoil spotted around the land mass. It still seems a random process to me, this restoration lark. Inert are flitting all over the place.
I spotted yer actual lorries on my Wednesday stomp. At least four of the beasts, which have been rare or missing these last few weeks. To qualify my remarks, I do reckon there have been lorries on site, it's just I didn't seem them during my short, 25 minute mid week stomp.
Four or five lorries is about right, given the ground conditions and the fact the lorries have to reverse some 75 or 100 metres up a vehicle way on the land mass. Basically it worked like this.
While one lorry reverse up the land mass on a vehicle track, another is trundling over from Chandlers farm. When this second lorry reaches the vehicle way it positions itself to reverse. In the mean time, the first lorry is beginning to dump its load.
The second lorry only has to wait a minute or so for the first lorry to complete its dump (as it were) and drive down the vehicle way, before it can reverse up the vehicle way.
Elsewhere, lorry number three is making its way over to Chandlers farm, while a fourth lorry is being loaded with spoil. There might have been a fifth lorry, but I feel there were only four.
These four lorries keep things ticking along nicely, dropping loads for the bulldozer driver, and this time with out the 8 to 10 lorry jams I used to see last autumn; as lorries queued to get over the bailey bridge.
As to why the lorries were reversing this long way. Walking on areas off the vehicle way, on Saturday, revealed firm but soft ground. Not particularly good for heavily laden lorries to trundle over - especially when reversing. It's all this rain we've been having. I think it was the wettest October ever, and November (normally a dry month) doesn't seem to be letting up on the wet stuff falling from the sky.
Dawn on Saturday was wet and dark, with low heavy cloud. I delayed my trip until 7:30, partly to see if the rain would get worse and partly to give Inert time to get on site. However, Inert were not working this Saturday, meaning not only could I get on site, I could also wander round and make my way up to the ridge.
Well, dear reader, having bemoaned the glacial pace Inert appeared to be working to these past few weeks, it appears that either I did not read the situation properly or that in the past couple of weeks restoration pace has picked up.
A lot of spoil has been shipped onto the land mass - reversing 100yds not withstanding. Even more spoil has been bulldozed into Cormorant lake (south). This much was evident even from my exile on the South footpath. However, what was hidden from me, mainly as I could not get on site, was how far north the infill has proceeded.
In places the northern edge of the land mass has almost meets the gravel causeway and mud flats on the northern shores of Cormorant lake (south). I was so surprised when I saw this. Progress really has picked up, I feel. Shame there is so much rain forecast, which will make the ground too soft for lorries to safely drive along.
Actually, speaking of this, when I hopped over the gate at the Longwater road entrance, I notice some deep vehicle tracks - possibly the heavy earth mover. Then, when I had to take a long detour from the land mass, round the copse and Finch pond, then across the Finch pond infill, I noticed that the heavy plant had been trundling across this area.
When I headed back to the Longwater road entrance, from my visit to the ridge, I saw more of the vehicle tracks further north on the Finch pond infill. I wonder if someone was testing out the ground conditions in this part of the site, with a view of allowing lorries safe access to Cormorant lake (north)?
Inert actually used this route about three years ago, when they fill in Finch pond. Lorries would drive along the south vehicle track, turn north near the sewage works, then head east when they reached the north embankment, finally turning south to make their way around the ridge i.e. almost a full circle around the Finch pond part of the site. It seemed to work.
Oh, the pump was chugging away. It is needed, due to the almost continuous deluge we've been having.
Sad to say, two and a half weeks of lockdown left. A lockdown imposed with dodgy data, dodgy science, and people with a vested interest. Valance and Whitty commented on this, and apologised for using correct data. An example being that the regional tiers were working. The R rate was going down. Valance admitted they did not take the latest data, for the last two weeks of the tiers, into account when pushing for lockdown!
What an ending to a tumultuous and nerve wracking week. Firstly, bumbling Boris is bounced into calling a 2nd lockdown with the use of dodgy data. Whitty/Valance forced to apologise for saying up to 4000 covid-19 deaths a day will occur, then one modelling team admitting they found an error which meant they were overstating, by 50%, the number of projected covid-19 deaths.
Secondly we have the bizarre spectacle of the US presidential elections, culminating with Biden being called as the next president. The relief worldwide is palpable.
Thirdly, Inert continue restoration of Manor farm. Yeah! I popped down on Thursday morning, and could just make out a digger, in the fog, working on the land mass. No idea what it was doing, as it had stopped when I wandered around at 9:30am, but I couldn't see much due to said fog.
I returned at 7:00am on Saturday, and heard ominous sounds of clanking emanating from Chandlers farm. Inert working on Saturday again. I took a chance and legged it onto the site, hoping that either Inert were confining their activities to Chandler's farm or that they would do what they normally do and not arrive on Manor farm until 7:40am.
As I trekked along the south vehicle track, first sighting worthy of mention is that water levels have dropped considerably with Finch pond now looking very dry. Making my way to just east of the copse, I noted that Inert have been working along this area again, this time pushing spoil further onto the land mass. Other than a flattened and levelled piece of land, it is rather difficult to fathom what has been done or why.
By now it was 7:10am. My hopes of getting onto the land mass to the east of my mighty mound we dashed as I spotted our bulldozer clanking out of the mist along the south vehicle track. Time to beat a hasty retreat.
I walked eastward, along the south footpath, to see if I could see anything. Not much really. Our bulldozer driver was working in an east/west direction, shovelling stuff from the middle of the land mass into the west shore of Cormorant lake (south). There seemed to be more piles of stuff, arranged in long lines, where he was working, but it was hard to tell if it was a significant amount or if a long shallow wide trench was being dug - I've seen this before.
Well there you have it. A very short visit, with very little to see or report on. Progress seems back to glacial pace, but at least it is on going.
Having had all summer to prepare for a second wave, bumbling Boris, his bunch of hapless buffoons and a bunch of over paid, under worked managers of hospital trusts have squandered this time. Coupled with the members of Sage and the Whitty/Valance double act, who value quantity of life over quality of life, 99.5% of the population and the economy have to suffer for the incompetence of the above. Well, at least I get more time to paint.
Tipper and grab loader lorries were conspicuous by their absence during my 25 minute Wednesday morning stomp. Therefore there appeared to be the usual glacial progress I warned would happen weeks ago. Further, will this stupid four week lockdown lead to zero work being done on Manor Farm? Is restoration work permitted? After all, the plant operators are almost completely self isolating. Only time will tell.
I can only assume that the pump is either off, broken down or has run out of diesel. Although I didn't wander over to it on Saturday (it was working on Wednesday), the high water levels and return of Finch pond suggests it was not chugging away.
Inert have been working around my mighty mound; there was a digger and driver there on Wednesday. However, it is rather difficult to figure what they are actually doing, apart from scraping the top off a small section of the south vehicle track.
Some further hills have appeared around my mighty mound. Not sure why. They appear more rubble filled that some of the spoil. This is actually great track building material, and gives firm ground on any infill. I look for this stuff when wandering around any infill as I know I wont sink up to my knees in the mud.
Despite the deluges we've been having, the ground has remained remarkably firm. Even when I wander almost to the edges of infill around the lake water. Normally, freshly bulldozed spoil is remarkably soft.
I noticed the bulldozer working on the eastern parts of the land mass, scraping and pushing spoil into Cormorant lake (south). This became more evident on my Saturday stomp, as there were tracks all over the place, most headed to the shore edges of Cormorant lake (south). I'm not sure where the spoil for infill is coming from, due to the lack of lorries on Wednesday. On the other hand, I might have hit a quiet spell between deliveries.
We'll see if anything happens this coming week. I might elect to take my exercise by walking around the south footpath on Thursday.
Title says it all really. I managed to get to Manor farm on Thursday. It rained all day Wednesday. I spotted one lorry on the land mass when I arrived. I didn't see any other lorry by the time I left 25 minutes later. It could have been tea break, but I am not sure.
Our bulldozer driver was trundling all over the land mass. He had flattened the new mound built last week.
Saturday morning was dull, overcast, but reasonably mild. I got quite a few surprises on my stomp, beginning along the south vehicle path.
Finch pond is now quite drained. This is due to Inter opening up the land bridge, turning it into a drainage channel again. I was thwarted in my efforts to get to the ridge and Cormorant lake (north).
Inert have been working all over the land mass, despite the lack of lorry traffic on Thursday. What they have been up to is a little difficult to discern, especially between the copse and my mighty mound, along the south vehicle track. Lots of dozer and lorry tracks. Lots of churned up ground. Some areas where soil had been dumped. But nothing obvious.
Moving on to the land mass, and walking up to the northern and west shores of Cormorant lake (south), well as close as I dared as the ground was getting quite boggy the close I got to water, it was obvious that Inert have been pushing large quantities of spoil into said lake. However, pace appears to have slowed considerably.
They have also made further onslaughts onto the scrape. It is now over 60% covered. Again, strange decision to build it, infill around it, only to obliterate it.
I didn't walk over to the pump, and so couldn't see if it was working. I did hear it chugging away on Thursday.
Whilst the ground conditions are still quite firm across the land mass, I fear today's downpour, and further rain forecasts for next week, could cause a deterioration in ground conditions, slowing work even further.
Before the slide show. My crude map, updated to show how far the restoration has come. The latest bit is the north east part of the land mass.
The big news, as the headline says, is that this could be the end of our scrape. This has been a feature for years, appearing and disappearing as water levels drop and rise, added to by Inert with large quantities of sand last year, and very popular with the birds. Inert themselves have been infilling around the scrape, up to now, taking great care not to encroach on it.
This strategy appears to have changed, with Inert pushing a large amount of spoil onto the north end of the scrape. Does this signal its demise? Well, quite probably, as I have been hinting over the past couple of years. I've seen Inert do similar actions before. They go to great pains to build structures - normally mounds of spoil - before flattening them.
I did hope the scrape would survive (it may yet) as it has proved very popular with bird life.
Other news. Water levels have dropped dramatically due, I suspect, to the pump being turned on. I say suspect, as I believe I heard it chugging away, but didn't wander over to verify - I was a bit pushed for time. It's the only way I can see water levels dropping this fast. Anyway, the receding water meant that the land bridge was now quite exposed. I crossed it, and found it very firm underfoot.
Restoration appears to have slid to its normal sluggish pace. I might be unfair, but I have only seen a two or three lorries working on the site this past couple of weeks. Their numbers might have swelled during the considerable time I wasn't stomping around the south footpath. However, I doubt it, as progress has been markedly slow.
Saying that, Inert appear to have concentrated on dumping more spoil onto the land mass; mostly the eastern side, encroaching on the scrape in the process. There are signs (i.e. fresh tracks) that Inert briefly flirted with a quick wander around what was Finch pond.
Oh, I sank up to my knees in mud again. I was most surprised, as the ground was quite firm. I was trying to get around the west side of my mighty mound. I think I picked the one spot where the mud was very soft. To be honest, my only concerns were either getting absolutely filthy if I had to lie down to haul my wellies out of the mud or the ignominy of having to call out emergency services if I really got stuck - unlikely, but ya never know.
The only reason I had to take a detour around my mighty mound was because there is this 'channel' that snakes from the west side of my mound, across the land mass, to the land bridge by the ridge.
A polite notice first: All photographs on this blog are owned by me and subject to copyright.