There is this enormous spoil hill on the north edge of Chandlers farm, just to the west of the Bailey bridge. It's been relatively dynamic, over the past 2 years, as Inert remove and then add spoil to it. Various boulder sorter outers (screeners) are seen to work on and around it.
On Wednesday (yep, no Saturday stomp) there were two diggers at work. One was on it, and appeared to be loading lorries. The other appeared to be digging a trench: I'm not entirely sure on this. However, we have seen this sort of activity before. Inert did dig a drainage channel a year or so ago, only to then fill it in.
Manor farm remains resolutely untouched. With the pump still silent, water levels are getting back to their normal levels. Apart from Manor lake north. It is draining into Cormorant lake, and its levels are some of the lowest I have seen for many moons. Large swathes of mud flats are now exposed, which are well liked by Lapwings and gulls type birds in particular.
Part of 'gull pipe' is now floating. This will prove popular with the gull type birds, once water levels have risen to surround the pipe.
There doesn't seem to be anything using the scrape. Which is rather odd, considering its isolation, as it used to be quite popular. There seemed to be more birds on it when it was larger and less cut off from the mainland.
We received a 'Finchampstead Parish Council' leaflet which provided updates on what the council's main priorities are for the coming year. I noticed two entries pertinent to this blog.
1. For 2018/19, under Rights of Way: "Encouraging the completion and opening of the new nature reserves at Fleet Hill and Manor Farms and the rights of way on the sites"
2. Plans for 2019/20: "New nature reserves and rights of way at Fleet Hill and Manor Farms"
I have talked to one or people about what the plans are for the site. Strangely, they do not know what is happening on the site. Granted, some do, as one or two actually helped design the layout of the new reserves. Most were more concerned about having the noise and dust from the workings finally coming to an end. Which is understandable, but the sand, gravel etc used to build their houses and local infrastructure has to come from somewhere.
Sadly, others were only interested in the restoration as simply to provide them with a recreation area, particularly to walk their dogs! It's not like they don't already have miles of areas and fields to walk their dogs. Well, unless the reserves are securely fenced in, I reckon you can kiss goodbye to the Skylarks, Lapwings et al, currently nesting on the site.
A couple of the Cemex/Inert workforce I chatted to made the observation that a fully operational quarry, where people are kept out, has a highly diverse and vibrant wildlife. Those converted into 'Country parks' witness this wildlife being devastated. Simon's wood and surrounds is a fairly good example.
Anyway, what chance have Inert of completing restoration efforts in the next year, particularly on Manor farm. Hmmm, it is touch and go, I think. The infill of Finch pond was a major exercise. Inert were at it most of last year, and it still isn't complete.
Cormorant lake isn't as big, and some progress has been made on filling it in this year. It must be noted that Cormorant lake has already undergone a considerable amount of infill - reducing it to almost half its former size. I believe that Inert are staying away from Cormorant lake because of the breeding season, which means they will not return until mid to late July at the earliest; giving them five months to meet the last completion deadline I saw, namely Dec 31st of this year.
It will be close, especially as all the rights of way have to be established and fenced in, plus the car park at the Longwater road entrance has to be built and the entrance remodelled. Quite a tall order for five months. But then again, the deadlines have been extremely fluid over the past few decades.
We still do not know who will be taking over the site. Presumably a combination of Blackwater Valley Countryside Trust and an extended Moor Green Lakes Group. Both underfunded and understaffed.
Still, it will be a great day when I can hang up my stomping boots, and re-purpose this blog to a, more relaxing, narrative of how the scars of restoration transform into a vibrant nature reserve.
Cor blimey, that's a bit philosophical for a Saturday morning.
Onto the slide show, what little there is of it.
It is probably quite amazing I manage to get as many photos of birds as I do, seeing as I do not stay still at any one place for very long. I normally storm through the sites, starting at MGLG car park and walking to the middle of Manor farm; sometimes to Longwater road entrance, and back. Thus, it is testimony to the richness of the wildlife on these sites that I can get so many photos.
The highlight of Wednesday's stomp was photos of a Little Ringed Plover. A birder motioned me over and pointed out this bird to me. He had already spent quite a bit of time photographing it, and said he had seen it on a couple of occasions the previous two days. Only spotting the one, we didn't know if the bird was simply passing through.
It was awfully tame. We couldn't have been more that 20 feet away from it. The birder said it had come even closer. He must have reeled off hundreds of photos of the bird on his high end Canon set up. I took about 50 photos (very easy to do with a modern digital camera), and then left him to it.
Plover island seemed somewhat light on birds. I couldn't see any plovers on it, but then again I do not spend sufficient time in any one spot.