On this day last year, dear reader, my partner and I made the fateful decision to turn right at the Blackwater and follow the south footpath into the unknown. She and I usually turned left to follow the southern edge of Moor Green Lakes reserve, then back along the Lower Sandhurst road back to the car park.
We had avoided turning right as we knew the path lead to the Longwater road and we do not like walking along busy roads. It was only after examining a 1:25000 OS map of the area that I 'discovered' the footpath leading into and around the Fleet Hill farm part of the works.
Back then I did not know about the restoration efforts underway; the plans for the nature reserve or indeed its size. I was actually more interested in taking photos of the various excavation machinery for my paintings.
A couple or so weeks later I discovered what was going on and decided to record (out of curiosity and professional interest) the process by which Cemex restored the quarry to nature reserve quality. So was born this blog.
It has been great fun, tramping for miles over the reserve, fighting my way through nettles and brambles and chest high weeds and whippy shrubs, falling down slopes and into ponds, sinking up to my knees in mud the consistency of quicksand, fighting off blood sucking biting insects, walking through the snow and ice. Highlights were spotting American Mink (and catching it on my trail camera), a fox den with cubs (which I haven't mentioned 'til now so as to protect them), a Weasel with dead Vole, Lapwings, Oyster Catchers, Shelducks, Hobby, plus all the other wild birds and insects I now have a fighting chance of identifying.
One unexpected outcome of this project is how much I have learnt about cameras, especially my secondhand Canon Rebel XTi. Even so, I have to admit, dear reader, that I use both cameras as point and shoot devices. Partly as I am somewhat time constrained as I stomp about the reserves, partly as the fast moving animals do not give you the luxury of fiddling with settings (i.e. blink and the blighter has gone), but mainly as I am too lazy to muck about with the camera controls. Occasionally I will fiddle so, but only quite rarely. I have discovered, through trial and error, a series of settings and tricks which take good photos most of the time.
I've included some of the original photos I took a year ago plus what the scenes look like now. Photos from 2017 taken with my bridge camera on the left. Photos from 2018 taken with my ancient DSLR on the right.
Fleet Hill farm. View west from the bridge over the Longwater road. I was fascinated by the conveyor mechanism and the machine I christened 'Stone Crusher'. I reckon it crushed large lumps of extracted gravel so the smaller bits could be carried by the conveyor to the processing plant on the Hampshire part of the works.
Fleet Hill farm. View west over 'Lower lake' taken from the access path. I will have to go back and retake the photo on the right as I didn't quite get the perspective correct.
Fleet Hill farm. View north over 'Stone Crusher lake' from the footpath. Not really a huge amount of change to be seen, apart from more vegetation and the light green tubes protecting the newly planted saplings.
Fleet Hill farm. This piece of machinery is what I called Stone Crusher. Stuff is fed into the large hopper on the left, is then shaken and masticated, before the small bits are fed into the mechanism on the right for, perhaps, more sorting and then dumped on the conveyor for a journey under the Longwater road, across Manor farm, thence a right turn to the works on the Hampshire side of the works.
Manor farm. Apologises about the photo on the right. To begin with I am not entirely sure where I took the 2017 photo. Thus I had to take a guess for the 2018 photo, and even then I had to crop it heavily from a wide angle shot I took this year. Further, I think my bridge camera is set for vivid photos, whilst the DSLR takes photos more or less as the eye sees. Though, the Tamron lens does, I feel, mute the images a little. But then, that is the compromise I accept when using an entry level 16-300mm lens; personally I love the lens.
A polite notice first: All photographs on this blog are owned by me and subject to copyright.