Once again, Inert prove me wrong.
For the past few weeks, I've been disinclined to haul my backside out of bed and get it down to Manor farm by 7:15am. Partly due to the cold snaps, partly as my hay fever was particularly bad, partly as I didn't think Inert were up to much, but mainly as I couldn't face slogging my way through oceans of mud with little or nothing to report on.
I have also, I admit, been worried by the possibility of disturbing breeding birds, but soon realised that the situation around Cormorant lake is similar to the infill of Finch pond a couple of years ago: The birds simply breed on the other part of the site. Hence, two years ago, birds bred around Cormorant lake, whilst this year they shifted to what was Finch pond, and possibly the mud flats.
Anyway, I took myself down to Manor farm, by 7:00am on Saturday, and what a surprise I got. Firstly, due to the long dry spell we've had recently, the ground was very firm. What a joy it was to walk over the infill, without having to check every step gingerly to ensure my foot didn't sink into mud, or to be able to wander around without having to make detours.
Secondly, Inert have been up to a stunning amount over the past few weeks. They've covered huge tracts of the land mass. Flattening many of the spoils heaps they have been piling up over the past few months. Pushing and levelling the soil west, north and east.
What was a deeply rut riven, churned up chunk of land adorned with huge spoil heaps, is now almost as flat as a bowling green. I wouldn't say a large amount of infill has taken place. The west shore of Cormorant lake has moved slightly east.
The north shore has joined up with the gravel causeway (which separates off Cormorant lake north), but only because water levels are so low. In fact I heard the pump wheezing away on my Thursday visit - a sure sign it isn't working properly. I was able to step down to the north shore of Cormorant lake (north), something I haven't been able to do for months, as it has been so wet, and then step over to the gravel causeway. The ground was absolutely solid. I didn't go onto the gravel causeway or over to Cormorant lake (north) just in case of breeding birds.
Big changes have happened around the south end of the ridge. The tiny land bridge is no more. Instead, Inert have filled in a large part of the drainage ditch from Finch pond they dug. There is now a large expanse of level land. Some of this land extends into Cormorant lake north, with a bit of the gravel causeway flattened down.
Curiously, either a digger or bulldozer drove up the south face of the ridge. I speak from experience that the slope here is quite steep. The vehicle then drove along the ridge to its north end. I didn't walk along the ridge to find out what it did there, as I didn't want to disturb any breeding animals. I know foxes have dens in the ridge and north embankment.
The area around the copse has been built up, possibly approaching its finish level. Again, I didn't investigate in case there were breeding birds either in the copse or on what was Finch pond. There are Lapwings and Sky Larks nesting on what was Finch pond - I can seen the Lapwings from the south footpath. Although I am studiously keeping off the Finch pond area, I do find it a little ironic that a couple of Lapwings have nested closer to the south footpath than I would get to them were I to walk over to the copse.
I must say that the most curious feature that Inert have built is a large, limestone (or chalk) bridge across a fair bit of the land mass. This 'bridge' makes a lot of sense when the whole area was basically a quagmire, but why this structure wasn't built sooner is a mystery to me. Lorries had been struggling up the land mass for months; reversing for up to 75m, and then being held up with a single track road.
It is ironic that just when he trackways are beefed up with limestone (or chalk) and two way traffic is possible, that the rains stop and the ground hardens. Trust me, the ground really was quite firm. An absolute joy to walk on.
Inert have built, what can only be described as a large round about around my mighty mound. Thus trucks can actually keep flowing, sort of. The limestone bridge is still single track, whilst the south vehicle track is single carriageway with passing points.
That there are breeding birds about, there is no doubt, but they are on the peripherals of the infill area - way over on the mud flats to the east, ridges and grasslands to the north, and of course, Finch pond to the west. Nothing is breeding on the work area, which is a wasteland. Inert do environmental surveys, before under taking work, so rest assured no animal is losing out.
It must be said, as I have done so before, that the wildlife largely ignore the lorries and assorted plant trundling around the site. I've seen birds totally not flustered when a dirty great big lorry passes within feet of them.
I didn't wander around the pump station to see what Inert have been up to there. It might be worth a quick jaunt in the future, but only from a distance.
Inert continue to work on the land mass, with plenty of activity when I visited on Tuesday morning. At least four if not five John Stacey tipper lorries, and one new boy (well to me anyway) , a Pennington grab loader.
I really need to pop onto the land mass to see the extent of Inert's working. There is nothing breeding where they are operating. Anything that is breeding (like the Lapwings and Sky Larks), will be doing so either on Finch pond or the grasslands, and possibly Cormorant lake (north).
There was a digger and bulldozer operating simultaneously on Tuesday. Normally there is only one driver. The digger driver appears to be someone new - least ways I've not seen him before. Anyway, on Tuesday he seemed to be working on the south vehicle track, using the digger's shovel to flatten the trackway by pushing the shovel along it.
Now, the issue is, Inert have done this to me before. They have a brief flurry of activity for a couple of weeks. Then go back to faffing around the edges with one or two lorries.
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
A polite notice first: All photographs on this blog are owned by me and subject to copyright.