Inert have returned tentatively to Manor farm, after their short hiatus. I get the feeling that they have been middling around the site for a week or so. Lots of subtle signs.
Inert's return to Manor farm does not herald an associated amount of activity. My Wednesday stomp revealed roughly one or perhaps two tipper trucks, with the bulldozer driver having a leisurely time of it all.
Rather oddly, at one point I noticed the heavy earth mover trundle up to the bulldozer, and the drivers have a brief chat. Whereupon the heavy earth mover does a U turn and heads back to Chandlers farm.
One reason for the somewhat sedate pace is that the tipper trucks have to reverse some 100 or so metres from the Bailey bridge to the bulldozer, which was stationed near my mighty mound i.e. not too far from the copse. This means only one tipper truck can operate at a time. Very curious.
Previously, there was a vehicle track that ran along the old shore line of Cormorant lake. Lorries could trundle westward down this track. Drop their load without any reversing. The return leg would simply involve driving forward, turning south and describing wide semi circle to join up with the south vehicle track and trundle back to the bailey bridge.
Actually, it would be better if they went west along the south vehicle track. Turn right to join the vehicle track along Cormorant lake, head east a bit, drop their load and continue on to the pump. When they turn right at the pump, they would be facing the bailey bridge and could see if there were any lorries heading towards it from Chandlers farm.
May be I'm thinking too simplistically. Oh the pump did not appear to be working. Water levels were high, and I did not visit the site on Saturday partly as Inert didn't appear to be doing very much but mainly as it was bucketing down - no surprises there. I think it was Strom Jorge or perhaps a mini precursor.
There will be no Manor farm visit tomorrow. Inert were absent on Wednesday, working on Chandlers farm instead.
I hopped over to Fleet Hill farm to check out suspected flooding and to determine what contractors I spied a few weeks back were up to. Well...I was not disappointed with this visit, having not stomped around the site since last summer, when I photographed Dragonflies.
Flooding. Two years ago, I posted photos of 'gullies' cut into the banks of one of the lakes which bordered the Blackwater. At the time I postulated that these were cut by run off from the Blackwater. My supposition was proven correct. There was water still pouring over the strip of land separating one lake from the Blackwater, down through the gullies, over two days after storm Dennis passed over us, and nine days after storm Ciara. The flow from the Blackwater over the banks into the lake must have been quite impressive at the height of the storm. It ran for about 50m to 75m.
I'm not sure where all this flood water is going, but all the lakes were very full. In fact one, next to the Longwater road, had burst its banks. One outcome of all this high water levels, is that many of the crossing points I use to get from the southern most ponds to the middle part of Fleet Hill farm were full of water, at least three feet deep. I only had my wellies on.
The Blackwater appears to have only burst its banks on one lake, towards the west of the site. However, the water, reasonably deep, was flowing over what will be a bridle path which follows the Blackwater.
Before we move on to fencing. I noticed that the kissing gates on the north part of the site, which was across a footpath leading to Finchampstead village, has been removed. This is rather odd. It was designed to keep horses off the footpath and to prevent motorcyclists entering the reserve. The thing was only fitted two years ago. I wonder if the miniscule number of horse riders had complained about the kissing gate. Never mind that their horses churn up the footpath to make it almost impassable for walkers, and the fact they are not allowed on footpaths.
On to the fencing. The contractors have put in a whole load of fencing which delineate the public rights of way through Fleet Hill farm. I have a feeling the fencing is incomplete, especially as there are a number of paths missing e.g. the bridle path that follows the north side of the Blackwater. In fact, one of the paths which the fencing marks out leads into a field adjoining the Blackwater. Only there is no way out of the field as it has been fenced by horse owners who, I believe, have leased some of the site back from Cemex.
As the headline says, I did not visit Manor farm today. Partly as storm Dennis has been flexing his muscles (currently strong winds and slight drizzle) but mainly as Inert haven't done anything this week.
My Wednesday stomp revealed a deserted Manor farm, with all vehicles operating on Chandlers farm. Inert have done this before, and returned to Manor farm after a short hiatus.
However, bad news on the restoration front. Cemex have applied for a two/three year extension to the process: two years to extract more gravel from Chandlers farm( about 50,000 tonnes, according to an old planning application I saw on the Hampshire County Council website) and a further year to finish infill and landscaping.
What is glaring odd about this extension is that extracting gravel from Chandlers farm does not preclude restoring and landscaping Manor farm, and finishing Fleet Hill farm to spec. Indeed, I believe there is enough stuff piled up on Manor farm around Cormorant lake (south) to finish the infill of said lake, before joining it to the current Manor lake to form one large lake - as per plans.
Finch pond should really be finished off this year. There isn't much left to do; a bit more stuff to drop and the pond to be dug out proper. Then the north and west embankments and ridge can be flattened and landscaped to form a base for the northern part of the circular bridle path.
One gets the feeling that Cemex are dragging their feet on this restoration. Which I find a bit peculiar, seeing as I would expect them to want to get shot of this responsibility as soon as possible. Let's face it, the expertise of Cemex is extracting stuff not putting it back and landscaping. However, some highly paid manager, with massive stock options and pension, is making these decisions - so what do I know.
Oh, the pump was not working. Expect water levels to shoot up again.
Wednesday, although bright, sunny and cold, revealed a very quiet Manor farm. Not a vehicle was to be seen. They were all at work on Chandlers farm; thus substantiating my observation that Inert flit all over the three sites. Though now that Fleet Hill farm is virtually fully restored, the heavy plant sticks to Manor farm and Chandlers farm.
Inert had done a little bit of work on Manor farm; possibly on Monday and Tuesday. There were signs more stuff had been brought in and dumped along the the south vehicle track, just west of the bailey bridge. It is also possible that a bit more stuff was also dumped on the land mass.
What is not at doubt is that the bulldozer driver had levelled off the south vehicle track from my mighty mound to the bailey bridge. This after making such a mess of the area a week ago.
I do not think any work had been done on Manor farm since at least Tuesday. Which is a bit peculiar. Hopefully Inert will be back next week, after the mega storm. They are pretty close to having sufficient stuff piled up to fill in most if not all of Cormorant lake (south). Especially as much of the stuff on the south side of Cormorant lake needs to be dug out to form the new, enlarged Manor lake.
Oh, the pump wasn't working on Wednesday, and neither was it on today. Water levels remain commendably low, but this will change with the deluge that is due tomorrow.
Such is the combination of torrential rain fall and howling winds (gusting up to 60 mph), the Moor Green Lakes Group work party has be rescheduled for today. We're hacking down birch trees, which is not a good idea in high winds.
On this most inauspicious of days, having left the EU, do we have any joy from the restoration of Manor farm. I have to say yes, but with a degree of perplexity.
I have mentioned, on a number of occasions, that I find the restoration process a little perplexing. As an engineering type, I normally progress through a build in a reasonably linear fashion. Any detours tend to be minimal, and occur near the beginning during the initiation phase i.e. set up a series of modules, which are bolted together.
Inert, by contrast, seem to flit about Eversley quarry, performing seemingly random tasks. Granted, over the past year or so they have settled down somewhat. Firstly by filling in Finch pond, and latterly concentrating on the south and east shores of Cormorant lake (south). However, even here there have been the odd excursions over to the ridge and Cormorant lake's east mud flats.
Thus it was, that this morning, I found that Inert had dug a dirty great hole in the vehicle track, halfway between the copse and the sewage works. It's a sizeable hole, and appeared quite deep. To my untrained eyes, it is a completely random hole, dug in the middle of nowhere, on a vehicle track that has been worked over and driven over for years. I don't remember seeing the hole on Wednesday. How strange.
My Wednesday stomp revealed two diggers aiding and abetting the bulldozer. Again, I am perplexed as to the variation in resources deployed on the site. Of course, this might simply be due to the number of tipper and grab loader lorries available for hire on any given day. My brief, Wednesday stomp does not give the whole picture of what goes on during the week, especially as my walk seems to coincide with a tea break.
Anyway, one digger was merrily at work on the north west shore of Cormorant lake (south), merrily shovelling stuff into it. The stuff was delivered by the heavy earth mover, which was not adding to its considerable pile of stuff on the land mass. The heavy earth mover reversed down my nice new rubble track (well, that's what I call it), but appeared to be tearing it up. The ground is still quite sodden.
There were signs that some ordinary haulage lorries may have dropped stuff as well. It was difficult to tell with the mud being what is was.
The second digger appeared to be working on the south vehicle track, the one I photographed last week with the dirty great ruts in it. Well, if it was repairing the ruts it didn't do a good job of it. The entire track was rutted by my Saturday stomp. The whole area needs a good dose of heavy duty hardcore; made up of concrete and bricks.
Our bulldozer driver was working on the south east corner of Cormorant lake (south), as he has done so for the past few months. Only this time he appears to have churned up the vehicle track as well. This might be intentional. The south vehicle track almost follows the new south shore of Manor lake when it is joined with what is left of Cormorant lake. Therefore churning it up is simply establishing the new south shore of Manor lake when it is joined with Cormorant lake (south). The map shows the approximate path of the south vehicle track and how it impinges on the new shore of Manor lake.
However, I have made such assertions before only to be completely and utterly wrong. Watch as Inert proceed to smooth and restore the vehicle track in the coming weeks.
Moving swiftly on. A vehicle appears to have crashed into the east gate across the footpath next to the bailey bridge. It's put a nice dent in the gate. However, this appears to have been a fortuitous accident. Walkers can easily squeeze past the gate without having to open and close it. You will not believe the number of people who are incapable of closing a gate. Many's a weekend I find one or both gates half open. I can't work out who is doing this: walkers, cyclists (who shouldn't actually be on the footpath) or both.
Our stalwart of a pump was inert, both on Wednesday and today. Not a good move, I feel. It has been raining, and more of the stuff is predicted in the coming week, if not weeks.
A possible reason why restoration progress appears to have slowed; seven lorries in a traffic jam all waiting to cross the bailey bridge between Chandlers farm and Manor farm. There may have been occasion when more than seven lorries were queuing. Most times I would expect less than seven queuing. I might just have arrived at an unusual time of day i.e. 9:30 am on a Wednesday.
I think there are a number of factors causing these traffic jams. Inert are working between the pump and bailey bridge, still shipping in and piling up stuff. However, there doesn't appear to be sufficient manoeuvring room for more than one lorry at a time.
Tipper lorries are reasonably quick. Their drivers can operate the tipping mechanism from their cabs. Grab loaders take a lot of. Their drivers have to exit the cab to operate the tipping mechanism, however, they have to move the grab out of the way first, and then once the load has been tipped, put the grab back.
To add to the hold ups, we have the heavy earth mover. This beast is dumping stuff on the land mass. It had to wait for a tipper lorry to stop reversing before it could proceed to the bailey bridge.
I've never seen such a large lorry jam. Occasionally I'd see two or three lorry hold ups at passing points on the single track vehicle track. But they were short lived i.e. a couple of minutes at most.
I'm not sure why there isn't sufficient manoeuvring room around the pump station and bailey bridge. I find it odd that loads are being dumped so close to Manor lake (south). Move 50 yards to the west, and there should be sufficient room for more than one lorry at a time to manoeuvre. I know their big buggers, but their drivers are very experienced in operating in tight spaces. But then its easy for me to say and a rank amateur.
What is a mystery to me is why the heavy earth mover is the only lorry dumping stuff on to the land mass. I agree the south vehicle track is pretty torn up, with very very deep ruts i.e. 3 feet (90cm) or more, but there is rather a lot of rubble around to fill the ruts easily. The expertise exists with the companies involved in this restoration. Tipper and grab loader lorries could then join the heavy earth mover in dumping stuff on the land mass, and therefore reduce the traffic jams. However, again it is easy to be an armchair advisor. There may well be sound reasons for operating this way.
I do know that the bulldozer driver is marshalling the lorries. He's always in and out of this cab tell the lorry drivers where to dump their loads or to have a right go at them when they've either done something dangerous or dumped their stuff in the wrong place. Its a couple of hundred yard between the land mass and the pump station. Keeping an eye on the situation is not the easiest for the bulldozer driver.
Some work has been happening on Fleet Hill farm. There was a flat bed transit on the north entrance to Fleet Hill farm, while I observed fresh tracks on the south entrance. I haven't popped over to investigate - certainly not on Wednesday as I was running late. I might pop over some time next week.
Anyway, enough amateur observations. A two parter this week. The first slide show is from my rather foggy Wednesday morning stomp. I didn't bother taking my long lens, conditions were so bad. I did video some of the action, but the resulting files were just a little too big for me to feel comfortable posting in this blog.
Later on today or tomorrow I'll add photos from this morning's stomp. Light conditions were absolutely dire. Again, I didn't bother with my long lens.
Moving on to my Saturday stomp. Wot a bleedin' manky morning it was. Overcast, gloomy, wee bit drizzly even though the Met Office said no precipitation. I didn't even bother taking my long lens. On the bright side, which there wasn't any, it was not foggy or misty.
After a rainless week and the continued efforts of our pump (still chugging away on Saturday) ground conditions were finally getting more sane. In horse racing parlance, I guess the going was very soft to heavy. Walking along various tracks, including the bulldozer's, was almost pleasurable.
Though I still had to be careful. Lethal spots of 'quick mud' existed here and there. These occureither where vehicles had pushed silty mud to the sides of the tracks (lorries generate a wash as they trundle along) building up a deep layer of 'quick mud' or where the bulldozer stops shovelling. The stuff the blade piles up can be very, very soft as it hasn't been consolidated by the bulldozer tracks. This is precisely what I sank into the first time I sank up to my knees in mud some two years ago. I am very wary about stepping into the pile of stuff the bulldozer blade produces at the end of its run. I keep a look out for hardcore in the pile. This gives it a degree of solidity.
Despite the lorry jams, as fair amount of stuff has been ferried onto Manor farm. Last week there was a huge cutting (gouge) some 4' (1.2m) deep and just over a bulldozer's width wide running some 50-75 yards along the south vehicle track. This had been filled in and was now level with the vehicle track. Other gouges and depressions around the area have been filled in, while some of the ramped mounds have been flattened.
There are signs that tipper and grab loader lorries may be venturing westward along south vehicle track as the ground has been drying out and getting firmer. I reckon progress will pick up once the lorry jams are unblocked.
I did clamber to the top of my mini-mound for a 360 set of photographs. It's been months since I've been able to get close to this mound. The ground has been too soft and boggy to even get close to it. The ground was firm enough, and vehicle tracks close enough to the mound for me to get close to it. Even still, I could only really get to it from the south, and managed to sink my right foot into mud up to the top of my wellies when I stepped into a patch of soft 'quick mud' lorries' wash had pushed up against the side of the mound.
Various mud flats have started to reappear now that water levels have fallen. Wildlife (not just the ducks and geese) love these mud flats. They create a much richer diversity. I am quite puzzled as to why the plans for this site call for yet more bleedin' reed beds at the expense of these mud flats. People I speak to all acknowledge that the reed beds will lead to lower bio-diversity compared to what the current landscape offers. In the defence of the designers, their plans were drawn up some 30 to 40 years ago, and much has changed regarding conservation in that time.
Inert and Co. have continued to work on building up spoil between the bailey bridge and pump, and on the land mass. Progress appears slow but steady. No apparent effort to get this restoration over and done with.
Now, I could be slighting Cemex, and progress is proceeding as fast as weather, ground and resource conditions allow. There could be any number of reasons for the apparent slow progress on Manor farm. I've mentioned several throughout this blog. However, I do know that a lot of people (i.e. residents) are getting fed up with how long this is taking. Plus it is a community resource which people want to get on and use. We can but wait and see.
Speaking of ground conditions. They are pretty bad, what with all this rain. Lorries have to proceed quite slowly, one would say gingerly. Whereas before, when the area was dry, they could belt along at a fair lick. Soil, stones, chalk etc have been ground into a fine powder, which when mixed with water turns into a sludge the consistency of wallpaper paste. And the stuff is deep in places, filling troughs the lorries have gouged out in the various vehicle tracks.
Walking about the site, particularly the land mass, was somewhat fraught at times. Much careful placing of feet, and slowly putting weight onto it to check how firm the ground was. I had to back track several times to avoid sinking up to my knees in the stuff. Dragging yourself out of clingy mud, with several hundred pounds of quite bulky camera equipment around your neck is not good.
For the first time in months, I made it onto my mighty mound. The mound itself is quite consolidated. The problem was getting to it and then getting away from it. Approaching it from the north proved relatively easy, as I stepped into vehicle tracks. I prefer lorry tracks, they consolidate the ground better. The bulldozer, with its wide caterpillar tracks, has a light footprint which doesn't consolidate the ground. I attempted to get off my mighty mound on its south side, and stepping onto the vehicle track. This didn't work as planned. The very last two steps were impossible to accomplish as the mud was so deep and gooey. I had to work my way back to the north side of the hill, and retrace my steps across the land mass. The things I do for this blog!
There was plenty of standing water about on the former Finch pond part of Manor farm. An indication of the area's predilection to flooding. Now, it is possible that the water levels over the past week are higher than would be expected when restoration is complete. When the traget levels are reached, the standing water will be a thing of the past. I remain to be convinced. Water levels have receded considerably, but the standing water (i.e. large puddles to thee and thou) still remain.
This week's challenge appears to be ice. My trail cam, which I put out, claims the temperature dropped to -10C, on Sunday morning. I'm not sure of that, and have put a regular thermometer out to verify. I was certainly breaking ice about 5mm thick as I walked through puddles on Saturday morning.
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.
A polite notice first: All photographs on this blog are owned by me and subject to copyright.