I was met with quite an astounding sight. Firstly on the Fleet Hill Farm part of the reserve I noticed a forest of green tubes and tree stakes - obvious signs of sapling planting. Before investigating I took off around the south footpath to see what was happening on Manor farm.
It was an extraordinary sight. I walked along the south footpath to the works bridge and then back again, taking in all that was happening. I have no idea what the restoration operation is costing Cemex (I shall try and find out) but it must stretch into the millions.
Normally I see one or two haulage lorries (the heavy duty bulk carriers) trundling around the site, so it came as a shock to see so many on site. For what might be the last big push to complete the restoration there were a large number of haulage lorries (possibly ten or more) trundling backwards and forwards from Finch pond to the Hampshire side of the reserve. Quite a few companies were used - I certainly recognised John Stacey and local Collard. The flow of lorries was constant, with large amounts of dust being thrown up.
The trackway they were using was single track with one passing point - where the Yellow bridge used to stand. Lorries heading west would patiently wait at the Yellow bridge for lorries heading east to trundle along Finch pond and pass them. The other passing point - well turning point really - was where they were dumping soil at Finch pond for the bulldozer. Here, lorries heading east to pick a new load of inert soil would patiently wait for fully laden lorries heading west along the single track.
Our bulldozer was industrially working away, dodging in between the lorries, pushing soil into Finch pond. It all looked a bit hairy for me. The vehicles are BIG, and there are a lot of them manoeuvring around a relatively small space. I have no idea how they avoided hitting each other, especially when the haulage lorries were reversing to dump their loads whilst the bulldozer was also reversing, but back from the edge of Finch pond.
I stayed on the south footpath. Not once did I contemplate hopping over the fence 'for that shot'.
Work was also going on at a pace around the Yellow bridge. A digger was digging away the banking that runs along the south footpath. It would load the soil into a huge dumper truck. When full, the dumper truck would drive across the single track to dump the soil next to the boulder sorter, before crossing the single track to pick up another load of soil. A second digger (our blue digger) would then load the soil into the boulder sorter outer. All the while the enormous haulage lorries were trundling past them. Quite a sight.
There must have been two or more diggers on the Hampshire side of the reserve loading up the lorries with inert soil, such was the apparent speed of turn around. Who knows how many other lorry movements were involved in getting the inert soil to the quarry.
There were quite a few birds around the site. Though most chose to put as much of Cormorant lake between them and the lorries. Others were surprisingly close to all the noise and mayhem. Quite oblivious to it all.
I think I have worked out why the banking has been built up along the south shore of Cormorant lake and the west shore of manor lake. It is for traffic control. It is to stop the lorry drivers accidentally driving into the lakes. Stands to reason that if two lorries are passing each other along a relatively narrow track then it is all too easy to get too close to the shore line and end up in the lake.
Moving over to this side of the reserve. Over the past two days a forest (well small wood) has sprung up. I was down here on Sunday evening setting out a trail cam and I did not see any tree stakes or green sapling tubes. Monday morning I noticed the two vans parked in the south Longwater road entrance and a couple of chaps fiddling with the north Longwater road entrance gates.
When I returned at 14:00 on Tuesday I was met with a forest of green plastic tubes. They were all over the place. There were at least four contractors planting out. Even so, I am very impressed with the speed at which they worked.
I had a brief chat with one of the lads. He said they were planting 6000 trees. When I duly expressed astonishment, he said it was quite a small amount. They are quite used to putting out 100,000+ trees, particularly along motorways. The way he said 'miles and miles' of trees leads me to believe it gets rather tedious planting that many trees in one go.
He wasn't certain if they would be back to plant trees on the Manor farm part of the reserve. I asked if they would plant trees west of the wooden footbridge. He indicated no, but I'm not sure if they or other contractors will be back to plant more trees on this part of the reserve.
I do hope the saplings survive. Some many seem not to make it, from what I've seen on various hikes - particularly on the north York moors and Forest of Bowland. The other problem they face round here are the local yobs and oiks who would think it great fun to rip out all the trees, stakes and tubes. Never mind criminal gangs who will steal them on mass to sell. Sigh.
Fingers crossed all will turn out well. On to the fun bit of the photos. My route started at the Longwater road entrance, following the footpath to the wooden footbridge. I stayed off the reserve so as not to disturb the contractors too much, even though their work was far more sedate than the lorry traffic on Manor farm. As it was, I felt they just wanted to get on and finish the contract.