Regulars of this blog might have noticed a change in its name. The Finchampstead Neighbourhood Development Plan have given it a name: Longwater Road Nature Reserve.
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 was very pleased to see Inert back on the land mass, along with at least four if not five John Stacy tipper lorries. A digger was working just north east of the copse, but well short of the north shore of Cormorant lake (south).
The land mass, and south vehicle track, have dried out sufficiently for lorries to safely manoeuvre on the site, and they do not have to reverse 100m onto the land mass, executing complicated U-turns on the south vehicle track. I saw three of them, simultaneously, dropping their loads on the dump area where the digger was working.
Curiously, with so much acreage to work with, Inert have built a single track causeway, which the lorries have to drive over. I have no idea why the causeway/embanking was built, partly as I haven't gone on the site. There was a large drainage ditch, dug here during the really wet spell. But all Inert need do is fill in a bit for lorries to drive over; not go to all the effort of building an embankment.
The bulldozer was on site, but I am not sure where it was working as it had trundled over to the bailey bridge for some repairs from a John Stacey man.
It is good to see Inert back on the land mass. Long may it continue, as the quicker this infill is completed the quicker Manor farm can be a proper nature reserve. In the meantime, nothing will be breeding on the land mass as it is a waste land from its latest infill; no cover, no vegetation, no suitable pebbly surface to hide eggs from predators, etc. A pretty hostile place for birds.
What breeding birds there are, confine themselves to the east mud flats (which has lots of cover and pebbles), Cormorant lake (north) and the infill of what was Finch pond. Though even Cormorant lake (north) isn't a brilliant place for birds to breed. It's water levels fluctuate dramatically, and there are lots of foxes and badgers breeding in the north embankment and woods beyond, having easy access to any flats that might surface in the lake.
The birds also totally ignore all the heavy plant, lorries and assorted vehicles trundling about the site. A couple of Shelduck were chilled out in a large puddle, just yards from the land mass vehicle track. They'll probably leave when the pond dries out; which it will probably do soon, as we've had such little rain of late. We've gone from one extreme of continuous rain for months on end, to the other extreme of virtually no rain for weeks, thus far.
All photos taken on Thursday 8th April, when I visited MGL on a rare, glorious sunny morning. Wide angle shots taken on my cheap mobile phone.
A Tuesday visit (as the weather was sunny and warm) saw me drifting down to Manor farm via Moor Green Lakes. Inert were at work, continuing to build their mighty mound betwixt the pump station and bailey bridge.
There wasn't a huge amount of lorry traffic. I only saw one John Stacey lorry. This is not to say there were others, as I didn't spend a long time around this area. However, I suspect building of the mighty mound is just progressing slowly and easily.
The mound itself is being extended in sections, by the look of things, first northward then west. Not sure how long Inert will keep this up.
I haven't wandered around elsewhere on either Fleet Hill farm or Manor farm, but I do know Cemex tinker on bits of it.
Wildlife (well birds) are still very much in evidence, particularly on Colebrook lake of Moor Green lakes. Get yourself down there, quickly, before the birds disperse to their breeding sites or local nests.
And now, some photos of the wildlife to be seen on Moor Green Lakes
Reports will be sporadic until the breeding season is finished - typically June/July. I'll be keeping off Manor farm, restricting myself to the south footpath. Though if Inert expand their infill operation during this time, I will occasionally pop onto the parts they are working on to see what they have done. It's interesting watching the birds when Inert continued infill of Finch pond during the breeding season. The birds totally ignored the heavy plant trundling to and fro. It was only when humans appeared that they took flight.
As usual with Inert, it is very difficult to figure if they have done any restoration work from week to week. Just when I think they have done nowt, I discover they have been tinkering and done loads.
My infrequent, short visits, mean it is down to luck whether I see any activity. Thus it was, I turned up on a Monday to witness Inert at work. I think this is the first time I've visited the site on a Monday. I only went due to glorious cloudless sunny skies. Got to make use of any break in the weather.
Inert were working away, this time with a digger and bulldozer, between the bailey bridge and pump station. They appear to be up to their peculiar strategy of building large mounds of spoil, only to knock them down again some time in the future. And once again restricting themselves to a tight space just north of the bailey bridge.
No doubts spoil from newly appeared heaps on Chandlers will be transported across the bailey bridge over the coming weeks to be dumped around the pump station. Then, at some point in June or July, the stuff will be laboriously loaded onto lorries and shipped westward onto the land mass. An extremely inefficient, time consuming and costly way of going about this restoration. I hope Cemex have negotiated a fixed price contract.
A new tipper lorry contractor has appeared which I've not before, M.A.C. This might have been the lorry that was around a couple of weeks back which the memsahib saw - and which I mistook for the heavy earth mover. As I was leaving on Monday, I spotted a Manor tipper truck dropping a load. A possibility, perhaps, that restoration will continue apace over the next three months?
Then again, Inert have consistently done the opposite of what I have assumed. At least Inert are continuing with restoration of Manor farm for the time, rather than halting until June/July, albeit in a tiny corner of Manor farm.
Shocking, I know, an update on time; sort of.
We visited Moor Green Lakes, on Wednesday, to make best use of a break in the weather, before the storms trundled in. When opposite Colebrook hide, I spied a yellow vehicle on Manor farm, just north of the bailey bridge.
My partner, who had walked over to Longwater road, informed me that she had seen a great big lorry (i.e. the heavy earth mover) dropping a load on the west shore of Manor lake. I didn't actually see any vehicle, when I legged it to the bailey bridge, but this is hardly surprising if only the heavy earth mover is dumping stuff. To be honest, I was more interested in photographing the wildlife around Colebrook lake.
I would say that whilst walking along the south footpath along Manor lake, I keep thinking that Inert have been dumping stuff on its west shore. A closer inspection is required, I feel.
I've seen Inert do this before, concentrate on Chandlers farm, whilst tinkering on Manor farm. I'll try and pop down this next week for an extended look; who knows, I may drag myself out of bed on a weekend for a stomp on site - if the rain ever lets up.
I haven't any photos of Manor farm, this week. Instead I present a selection of photos I managed whilst mooching around Colebrook lake. One day I'll hoof it over to Grove lake.
More photos can be found on the Moor Green Lakes Facebook page.
A bit lax of me folks, but there appeared to be zero work done on Manor farm. Lots of banging and crashing on Chandlers farm.
I visited the area twice, last week, on Wednesday and Thursday, quite late in the morning for me. All was quite on Manor farm. Actually, I lurked around Colebrook lake, on Moor Green Lakes, snapping birds with my new (second hand) Canon 80D. I wanted to take advantage of that rare commodity - bright sun light.
My partner walked along the south footpath to Manor farm, whilst I photographed. She reported no work being done, and the gates over the bailey bridge were closed to works traffic. Sigh, it looks like Inert have shut down for the breeding season on Manor farm. Shame.
Anyway, if you get yourself down to Moor Green lakes, you could see scenes such as these
Mighty mound appears near pump station. Still wet. Not much done on land mass this week? 20th February 2021
Yet more rain. I swear I'm growing fungus in my feet.
I did a mid-week visit, early on Thursday morning. No sign of anything working on Manor farm. Indeed, the gates across the bailey bridge were firmly closed to vehicular traffic!
I am not sure if Inert worked on the land mass this week. It didn't really look so. I did spy a mighty new mound of spoil between the bailey bridge and pump. Intriguingly, I also spotted more spoil had been added to the already huge spoil that has existed on Chandlers farm since I started this blog.
While Inert may been missing from Manor farm this week, there were lots of banging and crashing on Chandlers farm. I can't see this activity from the south footpath, but it does indicate that Inert are cracking on.
Whether they return to Manor farm this coming week, remains to be seen. I hope they do not stop work until August because of the breeding season. Nothing is going to breed on the mess that is the land mass and infill.
I did not make it to the pump station on Saturday. You see, after visiting the north end of the land mass, I decided to eschew the vehicle track and strike out south east across the flattened infill. The area has had time to settle, and I hoped it would be firm.
Well, in racing parlance, the going was firm to very soft, so long as I kept moving. Unfortunately, just when I got to a slightly more boggy bit, I stopped to photograph a Grey Heron passing overhead, and I began to sink into the mud. Trying to reverse my direction of travel only made matters worse.
I thought, should I spend five minutes, trying to remain upright whilst extracting myself or should I crawl out? I decided to crawl out. I took my hat off, put my camera in it, put the two on the mud, then proceeded to crawl out. It is amazing how little you sink in the mud - barely made a mark on the stuff. Took me all of 30 seconds to crawl to firmer ground. I must have looked ridiculous, but I didn't care as it was effortless.
Only now my hands were muddy. I should have put my gloves on. Anyway, I wiped as much of the mud off as possible, grabbed my camera and set off. The remaining mud on my hands dried very quickly, and transferred itself to my camera and lens. Arrgh! I had to beat a hasty retreat back home to clean the equipment. Sigh.
A polite notice first: All photographs on this blog are owned by me and subject to copyright.