Inert appear to have returned to Manor farm to tackle the landscaping of Finch pond with a vengeance.
The infill of what was left of Finch pond continues, probably just grading and perhaps building in some features - see slide show for details.
Perhaps their most dramatic action is to cut into the east side of the north embankment alongside the ridge. A great huge chunk has been gouged out of it and pushed into Finch pond. Now part of me says that we will see the embankments being flattened over the next couple of weeks. However, I have been here before. I know Inert flit about the site. Having started on the embankment this week, they may not touch it for months.
Anyway, what was particularly nice was that the embankments and ridge were shorn of nettles and thistles. Well, actually the west embankment was shorn, the north embankment and ridge had wide path ways cut through them. Interestingly, the 'backs' of the embankments (i.e. west edge of west embankment and north edge of north embankment) had also been cleared or at least flattened. This does tend to hint at their demise soon.
In any case, it sure made walking along the embankments and ridge a breeze this week.
There is still quite a considerable amount of inert stuff to be dumped on the site to complete landscaping. Particularly on the new north shore of Finch pond. A sinuous 'hill' is to be sculpted, with at least five and a half feet (say 1.5m) still to go.
Another dramatic feature, built by Inert, is to cover the trackway running along side the south shore of Cormorant lake (south) with compacted limestone or chalk, possibly with some ballast. This will provide a smooth surface for the various plant to traverse. Currently, they have a very bumpy drive, bouncing up and down, and having to drive slowly.
Will Inert manage to complete the restoration of Manor farm by the end of this year? Well, although I remain sceptical, they sure have gone at it hammer and tongs this past week with a view to doing so, perhaps.
A mid-week supplemental. I had taken a few photographs (mostly on my smart phone) on my Wednesday morning stomp; I was too lazy to take my bridge camera. Only I forgot to download the photos. My cheapo smart phone does surprisingly well. The only downside is that mobile phones have digital zoom, which is next to useless.
We can now see what activity occurred early (like before 8:30am) Wednesday morning.
I did notice that the floaty pipe, so beloved of gull type birds when water levels rise, has severed itself. Will it no longer float?
Unless otherwise stated, the following photographs were taken on my smart(ish) phone.
Now on to wildlife; was it a mass of plastic pollution I spied?
As I remarked earlier, my usual Saturday morning stomp didn't. Instead I wandered around Manor farm early evening of the Friday; as the gas man was coming on Saturday morning to service our boiler.
As such, the wildlife on view was not the normal mix I see. On a Saturday, the site tends to be full of roosting birds, most getting ready to go to various feeding grounds. Many of the birds had not returned on Friday evening.
There is quite a bit of pollution on Manor farm, mainly of the plastic variety. I have posted photographs of some of the stuff I have seen, particularly polystyrene beads in Finch pond. Thus, when I crested the ridge and stared into Cormorant lake (north) I saw its shores lined with white stuff, which I took to be polystyrene; lots of it.
Only when I looked closer at the photographs I'd taken, I realised that it was nothing more than a mass of white feathers. The closed nature of Cormorant lake (north) simply concentrated the feathers. Looking at other photos of the area, I realised that the whole site is dotted with white feathers. I reckon that these feathers either come from moulting birds or were the downy linings for nests.
After spending a week in south Italy, covered in factor 50+ and hiding under any scrap of shade, we had hoped for some relief from temperatures in excess of 30 C when we got home. Instead, we flew straight into a heat wave with temperatures the same as we had endured all week. I wasn't in a fit state to visit the proto-reserves yesterday - partly as Ryanair's flight left late, partly as we were knackered, and partly as it was sooooooo hot.
I disappeared down to Manor farm early this morning (no way was I going to leave it later on and the stupid temperatures we're expecting today) and had to infer whether or not Inert have returned. Well, with no mid-week stomp, I have to say the jury is out; despite the evidence.
Firstly, I noticed the usual traffic control had been set up near the bailey bridge. To wit, some large tyres and boulders placed across a trackway.
Secondly, I noticed that the west embankment, bordering Longwater road, has had a shave. This happened last year, at roughly the same time. Contractors moved in and cut down vegetation on the west and north embankments bordering Finch pond. This year, their job would have been a little more difficult. Last year's very hot dry summer, stunted the growth of the thistles and nettles. This year, as evident from an earlier blog post, growth has been rampant. Shame I didn't wait a couple of weeks before scaling the embankments; though I am hoping the contractors will return to tackle the north embankment this week.
I was very surprised how much water levels had fallen over the past week - despite the deluge we got last week. In fairness to our pump (which was off today) Finch pond is now not much bigger than a couple of large village ponds, whilst Cormorant lake is smaller than it was. Still, it did surprise me.
I didn't go on to Manor farm to see if any bulldozing had taken place i.e. infilling Cormorant lake. I figured Inert hadn't fully returned, and that the traffic control was in main for the contractors who cleared the embankments. My guess is that Inert will return in force either this week or next.
Over on Chandlers farm, the great wall of spoil has grown out of sight to the east of the bailey bridge. I didn't hop over said bridge, this morning, to photograph the extent of the embankment. It's very impressive, whatever it is.
On with the protracted slide show. This first batch (I may get round to putting some wildlife shots up later) were taken with my smart phone. Those who know me may get off the floor or close mouth after being in stunned amazement. Yes, after decades of not having a mobile, I have finally got one. Still don't really need it, but it does come in handy for wide angle shots - especially as the image chip in a mobile phone isn't much different to that in a bridge camera. Though I did miss the optical zoom on my bridge camera.
Yes, it isn't a Saturday or Sunday. Early report due to university visits. It's that time of year!
It is also business as usual. No activity on Manor farm - except our hard working pump is chugging away, lowering water levels in Finch pond and Cormorant lake.
Over on Chandlers farm, Inert are busy extending their earth banking; almost as if they are building a wall to keep the Berkshire folk out of Hampshire. :-) :-) :-) Seriously, I do wonder what this earth bank is all about.
I still reckon it will take at least another two weeks of pumping to get water levels down to a safe depth. Matters are not helped either by the deluge we got on Wednesday, and the pasting we are supposed to get today. The Blackwater was running very high, after a long period of having quite low water levels.
Bird life was surprisingly abundant on Cormorant lake (south) - and not just the usual suspects of Canada Geese and Mallards. My inexpert eyes spotted a Green Sandpiper - first time I have ever spotted one - as well as the Little Ringed Plover. Will the latter attempt to over winter in the UK? Climate change is causing more and more migratory birds to do so.
Speaking of Canada Geese - I think I managed to spot an 'albino' one. Technically it is called a partially leucistic Canada Goose as it is lacking melanin. Still, if it is such then it is a first for me.
Kicking off the slide show with the usual 'restoration' shots.
Now the 'albino' Canada goose
For what ever reason, many flocks of Canada geese decided to descend onto Cormorant lake (south) - this, in addition, to those who went on to Moor Green Lakes. It is somewhat interesting to note the huge disparity in bird numbers from day to day.
Now the Green Sandpiper and some Sand Martins I managed to photograph as they fed over Colebrook lake (north) in Manor farm.
Inert are still staying off Manor farm. It will take a couple or three weeks for the pump to get water levels down to safe depths for the plant to operate on the site. Looks like Manor farm will not be completed this year.
I think the last time I stomped around the west side of Manor farm was about the beginning of December 2018. Partly as restoration had shifted to Cormorant lake (south) and partly because of the breeding season from April this year.
Well, I decided to revisit Manor farm west to show how quickly the area greens up, without any human intervention.
Was I in for a nasty surprise. The abundant rainfall and reasonable temperatures has caused nettles, brambles and thistles to grow to crazy heights. I would normally clamber up the west embankment at the Longwater road entrance, then stroll along said embankment taking photos. Not today, I didn't.
Yes I fought my way up, though brambles 15' (5m) long, and nettles and thistles over 2m high. I managed some photos from the south end of the west embankment, but made my way down gingerly. For why? From what I could see, I would have to fight my way through dense thistles, nettles and brambles, taller than me, all the way to the north embankment.
I chose to walk along the former shore of Finch pond, which had nothing more nasty than daisies and Oxford ragwort.
However, I did have to fight my way through nettles and thistles over 2m tall along half the north embankment. It took me some 8 to 10 minutes to battle my way some 50m through this stuff. I'd normally stroll that distance in about 40 seconds. Thankfully I had elected to wear my wellies and a heavy duty fleece. Unfortunately, I was wearing summer weight walking trousers. Thistles had no trouble getting through these, while the odd old nettles managed also to get through the thin material.
Luckily, from about halfway east along the north embankment the thistles dissipated, the nettles only came knee or chest high, and from about three quarters of the way east, I had nice grass. The ridge was covered in nettles, over 2m high in places, but no where near as thick or dense as on the west side of the north embankment.
I pity any surveyor who has to make their way along the north embankment to check on restoration progress.
Now, it may take a bit of time to update this posting, as I have many before greening and after greening photos to post. The before greening photos mostly come from 10th November 2018.
Perversely, I have put the after image before the before image. Sorry about that, but it was the after images I started with, and so have to try and find the before images. Just use your imagination.
Firstly, some photos of the nasty stuff I had to fight my way through. The camera was held at head height.
East from Longwater road entrance
South south east from Longwater road entrance.
North north east from west embankment next to Longwater road entrance.
East from west embankment next to Longwater road entrance.
South from west embankment next to Longwater road entrance. I'll try and find a better 'before' image that is more south facing.
North from along side west embankment next to Longwater road entrance.
East south east from west end of north embankment
South from west end of north embankment.
South east from midway along North embankment
South from midway along north embankment
South west from midway along north embankment
West from midway along north embankment
South east from 3/4 way along north embankment
South from 3/4 way along north embankment
South west from 3/4 way along north embankment
South from up against the ridge
South west from up against the ridge
East over Cormorant lake (north) from the south end of the ridge
South from the south end of the ridge over channel to 'land mass' aka previous infill of Cormorant lake (south)
South west from the south end of the ridge over what is left of Finch pond.
Sort of west north west from south end of ridge
North back along the ridge. Yes, those nettles are taller than me.
Although green, the plants are quite sparse on the infill of Finch pond. The nettles and thistles haven't had a time to get established.
South to the copse from the new east shore of Finch pond
West over what is left of Finch pond from the middle of the new north shore of Finch pond.
North west over the infill from the middle of the new north shore of Finch pond.
East over infill and what is left of Finch pond from the new west shore of Finch pond. Note, I've put the same before image in as it covers both the after images.
South east over infill and what is left of Finch pond from the new west shore of Finch pond. Note, I've put the same before image in as it covers both the after images.
South over infill and what is left of Finch pond from the new west shore of Finch pond
I'm not entirely sure I photographed these lumps of concrete. Anyway they were always just inside the Longwater road entrance. I always wondered what it was - and still do.
Still all quiet on the northern front. With our valiant pump firmly off, and lots of rain (it is pouring as I type) water levels are approaching their normal levels on Manor farm. It wont be long before the pipe, in Cormorant lake (south) starts floating - much to the joy of the gull type birds.
Chandlers farm was relatively quiet, when I turned up at about 9:30am on Wednesday. I really do reckon I turn up at break time - be aware that the men and women on the site start very early in the morning. I did note one tipper dropping stuff off on the west side of Chandlers farm. I really need to get a photo of the amount of stuff that has been dumped. If a bulk of this inert material is stock piled for Manor farm then we could see the restoration almost completed by the end of the year.
Now, dear reader, summat important. Details of the week long Blackwater valley river festival are firming up. An awful lot of effort is being expended by various volunteers in preparing for this extravaganza e.g. last week I bumped into four volunteers who were surveying Moor Green Lakes in preparation for the open day walk.
Details of the events can be found here http://www.bvct.org.uk/brf19/. Keep checking as they are being updated on a daily basis.
I will be volunteering on Sept 29th at the Moor Green Lakes open day walk. Pop along if you want to meet the loony of this blog. Perhaps fill me in on other restoration matters I may have missed.
There is supposed to have been an influx of Painted Lady butterflies. Could have fooled me. Despite searching high and low and keeping a vigilant look out, I have only spotted one. A gardener at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Edinburgh, claims to see hundreds if not thousands per day. Hmmm, maybe with all this Brexit nonsense the butterflies have bypassed England.
On with the slide show, which will consist mainly of wildlife photos. We'll start with some shots of Cormorant lake (south) to show how much water levels have risen and the extent of greening that occurs so quickly after restoration.
This wildlife section has photos from a number of locations, some from Manor farm and Moor Green Lakes, the bulk from a 10 mile walk the memsahib and I did along the Basingstoke canal, and a couple taken from a garden: notably the only Painted Lady I have seen all summer; despite this alleged influx.
I've also confirmed that my monopod (and, as it turns out, the wooden slats on the various viewing screens) resonate with the optical stabilisation of my Sigma 150-600mm lens. Switching to using a proper (though cheap) tripod, and 'Fine detail' setting on my camera, produced stunning results. I have ditched the monopod for the time being.
A polite notice first: All photographs on this blog are owned by me and subject to copyright.