After succumbing to being bashed and dinged by lorries, the old gate was removed some months ago. I spied a shiny new replacement gate, this Saturday, which wasn't there on Wednesday. I didn't walk up to it on Saturday, but it looked from where I was standing (on Manor farm) that it didn't fit.
The real surprise, and excitement, in one sense, was that Inert have started to infill Cormorant lake (north). This was always a funny little lake, hidden from view, bordered by high embankments and a gravel/shingle causeway/spit. Birds tended to be slightly ambivalent about it, partly, I suspect, due to the water levels going up and down so often. When high, it forms a proper lake/pond. When low, there are mud/sand banks, which are too exposed to predators to nest on, plus they get flooded quite often.
I'm sad to see Cormorant lake (north) being filled in. Whilst I didn't visit it often, the whole area has become sort of a friend to me over the years. Now they are disappearing.
Another surprise was that inert have built a bridge/crossing across the drainage ditch between Finch pond and Cormorant lake (south). This gives lorries easy access to Cormorant lake (north). About time to. I never understood why Inert have never done this before now. Previously, lorries would have an enormous detour, going west from the bailey bridge, swinging around north past the Longwater road entrance, then heading east by hugging the north embankment, before heading south around the ridge. It's about 3/4 of a mile. With the bridge/crossing in place, that distance is halved.
Inert had completed their flattening of the spoil they dumped between the pump and scrape before lockdown. They were, therefore, not working on Saturday morning. This meant I could stomp across the site unmolested. However, I delayed my visit until after 7:40 just to make sure digger and lorry were not there; but also this meant I started my walk from near the bailey, after walking around the south footpath and then hopping over the wire fence next to the transformer.
I was able to walk over to the scrape, on Saturday. I haven't really been able to walk on large areas of what was Finch pond or get any where near the scrape since about the new year. It has simply been too wet and the infill too boggy to walk on. I did manage to do the odd foray, by sticking to bulldozer tracks, to get within about 30m of the scrape. But to not venture close to the edge of any infill. However, all is dry and firm now, and I had no problem getting to the scrape.
Our pump was not chugging away. It hasn't done so for a couple of weeks now. Water levels are, thus, beginning to creep up.
The infill/upfill of the north and west shores of Cormorant lake (south) continue apace.Though strangely, I only saw two lorries at work on Wednesday. There was the heavy earth mover and a tipper truck. I might have arrived on a quiet day. The amount of work seems to suggest this.
Wild fowl are, to some degree, avoiding what is left of Cormorant lake. Understandable, given that it is now a lot smaller, and there is a lot of disruption. On the other hand, what was Finch pond is a buzz with birds and, presumably, small mammals - there are certain at least eight Roe deer. There are large numbers of Gold Finches, Pied Wagtails and Skylarks, and other small brown birds I cannot recognise. Most all birds appear to have had a very successful breeding season.
I arrived relatively late on Manor farm, about 7:20 am. After a brief pause to photograph two Red Kites swooping on some kill near the sewage works, stomped round to the ridge. Whilst photographing the latest progress on the Land mass, I spotted a heavy earth mover driving onto Manor farm, at 7.40 am. A couple of minutes later, a digger clanked and squealed over the bailey bridge to join the heavy earth mover.
Time for me to get off Manor farm. Sigh. I may well have to move my stomp to Sunday. Arriving earlier will not work as dawn it getting later and later. This situation is likely not to last too much longer. I noticed that the job of the digger and heavy earth mover is to make inroads into all the spoil dumped around the pump station during autumn of 2019 and winter/spring of 2020.
I don't really understand why the bulldozers can't shove all this spoil into Cormorant lake (south). It's seems a bit of a long winded exercise to load up the heavy earth mover and have it trundle around Cormorant lake (south) to drop the spoil, only for the bulldozer to shove it into said lake.
Also, the south vehicle track can best be described as a single track road with passing places. One of the pinch points being the heavy earth mover, blocking the track whilst it is being loaded with spoil by the heavy earth mover. Hopefully the single track road will become properly two way once all the piles of spoil near the pump station is cleared away.
I had an unusual mid-week stomp, in that it was Tuesday rather than my normal Wednesday. There didn't seem to be as many tipper trucks trundling around as the previous week. This could be an illusion, as it takes time to load them up with spoil when they are on Chandlers farm. However, it was very gratifying to see four lorries on the land mass, with two passing each other on vehicle tracks. This should speed up progress no end, plus save Cemex shed loads of money.
I can't see Inert accepting a fix priced contract for this restoration. Especially as lengthy delays, measured in years, seem quite the norm. It makes government projects seem models of efficiency by comparison.
Our on-off pump was chugging away on Tuesday, but by the looks of things it was off by Saturday. I couldn't get near it on Saturday, due to the digger and earth mover, whist the wind was blowing in the wrong direction for me to hear it from the south footpath. The alternative outflow from the settlement ponds, which was flowing on Tuesday, had dried up by Saturday.
Oh, I spotted at least eight Roe deer on Manor farm, on Saturday. Six females were in one herd. Most unusual.
Our bulldozer returns and the pump has been turned on.
There has been a huge amount of progress this past week. I haven't seen so much progress in many, many months. Restoration pace before lockdown was glacial, mainly due the use of single track roads, necessitating lorries queuing just south of the bailey bridge, with jams up to 15 lorries long!
Now, with two way traffic and more than one lorry at a time on the land mass, restoration is romping a long. A word of caution: I have seen this before. A massive flurry of activity for two or four weeks, involving 10, 20 or more lorries, then back to glacial progress for months. In fairness to Inert/Cemex, there are a finite number of tipper trucks and grab loaders available for hire, and other companies need them as well.
My Thursday stomp (I couldn't make my usual Wednesday) revealed much activity going and our bulldozer driver's return. Now, it is possible that he has been here previously, and that my two mid-week visits coincided with his day off, but it is nice to see him as it means progress will be much faster.
I also heard the pump working away, but strangely there was no water gushing from the usual outlets. However, one stream, entering the Blackwater, was in full spate, which might suggest the water is being diverted. The other explanation is that the pump has only just been turned on, and the settlement ponds are still being filled, and have not reached a sufficient depth to overflow into the usual discharge channels.
Either way, water levels were considerably lower in both Cormorant lakes and the drainage channel between Cormorant lake (south) and what is left of Finch pond. In fact, the latter's low water levels allowed me to cross the drainage channel near the ridge, rather than take a long detour around Finch pond.
Inert have continued to build up and consolidate the ground on the north shore of Cormorant lake (south) they have been raising since returning. They have also moved their operation westward to the strange track across the land mass I commented on last week. The ground level has been raised by about 2' (60cm).
I can't work out if this raised area (getting on to the size of a football pitch) is now at its final height. There are now survey markers to tell me. Standing on the lovely, 'smooth', level surface and looking south to the land next to the Blackwater, it sort of looks as if it is the final height.
However, another word of caution. I have seen Inert do this - what I call dump, level, gouge. To wit, they dump a whole load of spoil in big heaps, then level the ground, then gouge out the level ground - pushing the stuff into a lake, before repeating the process.
On the other hand, if Inert keep their work rate up then I feel the infill of Cormorant lake could be finished in November, if not sooner. A lot of the infill near the south footpath (basically from the pump station to the copse) needs to be gouged out to make the new, long Manor lake. What is gouged out can be used either to infill the north east corner of Cormorant lake or help build up its level.
The north and east embankments and ridge can then be bulldozed, partly to infill Cormorant lake (north) and partly to provide a final layer of top soil. Unless we get really foul, wet weather, I can't really see any reason why the basic infill and landscaping of Manor farm cannot be completed before next April.
Now on to my Saturday stomp. I got to Manor farm at about 7:15am, walked along the west and north embankments to photograph progress from the ridge. Then I traipsed down the ridge, making my way across the drainage ditch (without any drama i.e. sinking up to my knees in mud), and photographed the huge amount of build up that has happened.
At about 7:35am I heard clanking of heavy plant coming from Chandlers farm. I wasn't unduly worried as this has happened many times over the past three years. But then a movement, coming from the direction of the bailey bridge, caught my eye. It looked like the mesh barriers had been opened. I stopped and watched, as I might have been mistaken, but sure enough the heavy earth mover made its way onto Manor farm, but stopped.
My plan had been to wander over to the pump, but the arrival of heavy plant stymied that idea. At 7:40 am I decided needed to get off Manor farm so as not to interfere with Inert's work. It's is going to bugger up my Saturday stomp if Inert keep this working up. I may have to switch to Sunday. Surely they wouldn't work on a Sunday.
Anyway, I turned and walked westward towards the Longwater road. Curious as to what Inert were up to, I dropped down behind a raised area of ground and watched what was going on for a while. A digger appeared, and both drivers had a conflab. I made my way around the copse, crossed over to the south footpath (I wasn't going to walk all the way back to the Longwater road), and then headed east along the footpath to see what Inert were doing.
The chaps were taking spoil from the heaps piled up near the pump station, and moving it onto the land mass. Finally! It took Inert ages and ages to pile the stuff up originally, due to the single track road.
I've just realised, I have not provided an update to the (badly drawn) progress map since September last year. Here is my attempt at trying to show how much infill has taken place since I started this blog. The red lines represent what I think has been done since last September.
I'm not sure when precisely Inert and Cemex returned to their restoration of Manor farm. Their usual breeding season hiatus (normally end of march to mid-July) was slightly extended by the ridiculous full national covid-19 lockdown. Seriously, face masks and social distancing would have been sufficient to bring transmission rate down.
Anyway, enough of the deficiencies of bumbling Boris and his bunch of bungling buffoons. I suspect that Inert returned sometime in July. I did pop around the south footpath on the 31st May, and noticed no activity what so ever, on both Chandlers farm and Manor farm. Though some large mesh barriers were set up across the bailey bridge and Manor farm track.
I didn't do a Wednesday stomp. Instead we did a 9 mile hike with some friends on Tuesday, taking in MGL, Manor farm and Fleet Hill farm en route, which is when I noticed that Inert were back.
Inert have been concentrating on completing the infill of Cormorant lake (south). They have covered an impressive amount of the north west shore with an impressive amount of spoil, some 1 metre deep. This is all the more impressive seeing as once agin the lorries are queuing along the vehicle track. I only saw some three lorries queuing on Tuesday. A far cry from the 10 lorry jam I have witnessed. But I am still puzzled as to why, given all the space they have, Inert still insist on single track road, which causes lorries to queue.
Lorry drivers are being paid an awful lot of money to sit their, twiddling their thumbs.
The pump was not working, and subsequently water levels were very high. Basically where they should be. I was quite surprised that work was progressing with water levels being so high, but did notice that the spoil wasn't actually being pushed into Cormorant lake (south). Perhaps this is why Inert were happy to have water levels so high.
Also, I didn't see our bulldozer trundling around. There was a single digger working away. Perhaps this is a one off, and our bulldozer driver will be back.
Oh, Inert have cut a nice deep drainage channel between what is left of Finch pond and Cormorant lake (south), so draining a lot of the former pond.
The west and north embankments and ridge appear to have had their annual trim. All that nasty tall nettles and thistles have been cut down, making it easier for me to trek along.
Well, that's it for this week. I really thought that Cemex would use covid-19 as an excuse to suspend restoration work. Apparently not, it would seem. Fingers crossed, we could see work completed on Cormorant lake by next spring.
A polite notice first: All photographs on this blog are owned by me and subject to copyright.