You'll not be surprised to learn, dear reader, that my perplexity increases regarding the process by which Finch pond is restored. I'm sure it makes sense to somebody somewhere, but not, I'm afraid, to my reasonably linear engineering type mind.
In addition to my normal Wednesday stroll, I also popped down on Friday for a much longer walk with the memsahib. I was able to see a little more of what Inert were up to. They are best itemised.
1. The west shore of Finch pond has undergone considerable remodelling - butchery more like. Areas once filled in have been bulldozed into ramps. Others (e.g. the funny structures I called the inlets) have been partially restored.
2. Similarly, the south shore of Finch pond has had huge changes wreaked upon it. I have commented that having built up the entire southern area of this pond, it was then scooped out and pushed into the pond. A large proportion of the western half of this area gently shelves down into Finch pond; forming a sort of broad sloping beach.
The western portion of this 'beach' (basically up to the causeway) has been extended to meet (in places) the north shore of Finch pond. Meanwhile the eastern half of Finch pond has had its south shore extended further north.
3. The northern area of the copse has had the piles of spoil graded smooth, and it has almost reached its finish level.
4. The northern area of Finch pond continues it rise to the finish level, extending almost to the north shore of Finch pond near the Longwater road entrance. The eastern half of the northern area has its finish level extending about half way south.
One curious action I noticed was that the finish level had been extended about 3' to 4' (90cm-120cm) up the slope of the north embankment; and slopes gently south. I did notice, some weeks back, that a bit of the bottom of the north embankment had been cut back, forming a vertical face some 3' to 4' high. At the time I thought this had something to do with the drainage channel or perhaps was over exuberant bulldozing. It appears that it may have been deliberate to mark out the finish level.
Having said that, I perhaps should not have said that as I know from experience that Inert will go off and do something completely unexpected. I don't have the master plan, and what I do have does not contain any elevation views or cross sections.
I am pleased to say, that the area I have been calling 'the depression' has been filled in. This is countered by all the remodelling that has taken place, which includes digging out sections of the north west area of Finch pond. In particular forming ramps.
There is a survey stake on the north shore of Finch pond, round about three quarters of the way east from the Longwater road entrance. I call out this stake as on either side of it the land has reached its finish level. However, this stake has its finish level marked a good 4' to 5' (120cm - 150cm) above the ground level either side of it. This indicates to me that the shore here will undulate. It might look very pretty and offer interesting landscaping, but boy will it require a lot of spoil.
Finally, the character of the spoil being applied to the area north of Finch pond (where it has reached its finish level) has changed. It seems more like soil rather than inert building rubble. There are the odd bits of rubble in it, but like nothing compared to what sits under it. I am going to take a stab and say this is the final capping of good inert soil.
5. I noticed on Wednesday that further work has been done on the east side of the gravel bar i.e. a low banking separating Cormorant lake north and south. A lot more spoil has been dumped there and sculpted by a digger. This seems to indicate to me (ha ha, famous last words) that the finish level for this part of Manor farm is given by the height of the gravel bar/spit.
The sculpting is quite extraordinary, with high steeply sloping sides. The channel between Cormorant lakes north and south is still open ( I did expect it to be closed) but hardly any water runs through it as the pump still continues to drain the ponds. However, we did notice that only one of the two channels, that normally carry pump water from the settlement ponds to the Blackwater) was flowing. Either the other one is blocked or there isn't sufficient water to have them both flowing. Who knows.
It kind of makes sense to me. The plans for the area call for a bridle path to run around the north of Finch pond, more or less along the route of the north embankment and then skirting the 'reserve' along the Lower Sandhurst road. This area is higher than Finch pond. Therefore the bridle path will need to slope upward.
6. I did notice, on Friday, that a digger was operating around the pump station. I could not really tell what it was doing, there were no apparent large scale changes. I didn't pop down to the pump station of Saturday; partly in deference to the wildfowl in Cormorant lake south and partly as it was freezing cold.
There were definitely more tipper and grab loader lorries around this week. Wednesday was dominated by John Stacey, whist Friday had a bigger mixture e.g. R Collard, Taurus, etc. I haven't seen any Manor lorries recently or the rare Inert tipper lorries.
I still remain highly sceptical that restoration of Manor farm will be completed by 31st December of this year. I reckon it will take at least until the middle or (more likely) end of November to complete restoration of Finch pond. That leaves three to five weeks to complete work around Cormorant and Manor lakes.
According to the plans I have access to, there is a lot of infill and sculpting to come for these two lakes. Of course, plans change, possibly in the light of wildlife sightings or other environmental factors. This could lead to the restoration requirements being lessened (especially the amount of inert waste required) and so allowing the finish date to be met.
I think I am being optimistic here.
One thought did spring to mind. What am I to do once both Inert have completed their restoration and any initial flurry of work done by the conservation groups who will take over management of the nature reserve? No need for weekly recording of progress.
I shall have to hang around on street corners again. :-)
Will the restoration of Manor farm be completed before the 31st December of this year?
I reckon it is too close a call to make. It all depends what happens to Cormorant lake and how much inert waste has to be trucked in. If the infill of Finch pond is completed by the end of this month, and the restoration of Cormorant lake simply requires the north embankment and ridges to be bulldozed into it then the answer is probably yes.
Though once landscaping has been completed it will be over to finer details like tree planting, construction of footpaths and bridle paths, fencing laying, etc, etc, etc. However, these, according to the planning applications, take place after the site has been filled in and contoured.
Enough speculation - I should know by now not to do so. Back to this week's progress.
My Wednesday morning visit revealed the bulldozer driver pottering just south of the Longwater road entrance; pushing the top surface of soil around. I'm not sure what precisely was going on. Perhaps clearing some of the water after the deluge we had.
Later on he was working on the new west shore of Finch pond, both to the north and south of it. This area seems particularly complex, and undergoes frequent changes - mainly of being filled in and then dug out again.
This is also the cast for the area south of the current shore of Finch pond. A large amount of it has been dug out by a couple of feet, and the spoil pushed into Finch pond. I am still baffled by this process. Perhaps this area is to be shallows for reed beds - it is quite a large area.
On the other hand, I did notice a whole stack of rubble (large concrete blocks) spread out along the west side of the copse, extending over the track way previously used by the haulage lorry. This rubble looks like the stuff screened by the boulder sorter outer, and has simply been bulldozed over to the west of the copse. The area where the screener resides has had a lot of the hills of spoil removed.
The pump has been doing a splendid job of draining Finch pond and Cormorant lake. Its job is much easier now that so much of Finch pond has been filled in.
The causeway, so carefully constructed earlier on in the year, has made a reappearance due to falling water levels.
Time, as they say, will tell.
Once again it was rather misty when I arrived for my Saturday stomp around Manor farm. Wednesday wasn't too wonderful either, weather wise.
Regulars may have noticed a slight delay in this week's update. This was partly due to a problem with my network adapter. One possible explanation was that it was due to a Microsoft update issue. The solution of not Ipv4 or Ipv6 wi-fi or internet connection is to use netsh to reset the winsock catalog and then reset the Ipv4 protocol.
As usual, there was a fair amount of wildlife on Manor farm, even whilst all the plant were trundling around the site. I was happy to see the Lapwing flocks gathering, though they were not yet as large as last year. There is still much time for them to grow in size.
Saturday's early morning visit had the plethora of Canada geese, Egyptian geese and a surprise appearance of a flock of Barnacle geese. Photos of many of these can be found on the RSPB's Community forum.
Unless my eyes deceive me, the bulldozer driver has a shiny new bulldozer. It has a smaller cab, and wider caterpillar tracks. Walking over the tracks, I think I can just make out the extensions to them to give them a wider width.
I was getting a little concerned about the bulldozer driver. It is possibly he has been on holiday for the past two weeks. Equally, he may have been on site all the time operating a digger or the bulldozer in a different part of the works. Perhaps he may have been awaiting the shiny new dozer.
Regardless of the reason, the return of the bulldozer marks an increased acceleration in the rate of restoration. I saw him working all over Manor farm on Wednesday morning; around the boulder sorter outer, scraping an ever greater area of the south shore of Finch pond into said pond, extending the finish level ground on the northern part of the Finch pond infill. The finish level has extended along the base of the north embankment almost all the way to the ridge.
There is still a terrific amount of infill to happen before finishing with Finch pond. I reckon as much as six feet (1.8m) over large swathes of the area. I really can't see the December 31st 2018 deadline being reached. Effectively it is only two months away - everything does stop for Christmas, and rightly so.
The final level of the ground does undulate so. Looking at the survey stakes, I can see figures of 51m, 52m etc. I assume this is metres above sea level. Though I think the average height of land here is over 60m, possibly 70m. I am therefore a little confused what the finish level height is.
I am wondering, though I should have learnt my lesson by now not to second guess what will happen, if the excavations the bulldozer driver has been studiously doing on the southern portion of Finch pond is for a shallow area of reed beds. It is a bit curious, having filled in this large area and smoothed it off, it is now being excavated and pushed into Finch pond.
Other happenings. I noticed contractors strimming around the saplings on Fleet Hill farm. A never ending task, as we know from maintaining Moor Green Lakes. I am still perplexed as to some of the strimming and mowing. Nettles are growing back a pace on the west and north embankments and ridge.
As usual, the pump is not pumping and water levels are creeping back up. It was decidedly muddy around bits of the infill. Some of this is due, no doubts, to the rain we've had recently. Some I reckon is due to the rising water levels.
I have mentioned, a couple of times, about the amount of building rubble I see being bulldozed into Finch pond, and Cormorant lake previously. I queried it's 'inertness'. I did some investigation to find out the cost of inert material. I never did find a cost, but did discover that inert waste covers a reasonably wide spectrum of materials. Building rubble is perfectly legitimate inert material.
I think the basic definition of inert waste is that it does not leach nasty chemicals into the environment.
You might notice that the funny little bits of the pond, looking like inlets on the west shore have been filled in. Well, the southern bit was filled in a couple of weeks ago. It has now been partially excavated and now slopes down to the water surface; which seems to be normal practice. The northern bit has been filled in, but as with the south bit, it too slopes down to the water surface.
An updated map, which is highly approximate, of the infill (purple) and where it has reached the finish level (orange). Some of the trackways, which the lorries follow, are at the finish level, as are some parts of the north shore of Finch pond. I have not marked these in. However, I do include some photos in the slide show with the surveys stakes detailing where the finish level has been reached.
Photography was a little challenging, especially when pointing my camera east. The sun, rising over the horizon, would cause my camera to under expose the photo. I sort of had a crack at fixing this in post processing software.
Although it presented some challenges for photography, the sunrise did offer considerable opportunities for some arty shots (as I call them) of the considerable amount of wildlife (some critically endangered) that already inhabit the site. These shots are of the more common birds.
I came across an article in the 'Get Reading' online newspaper about the Eversley quarry. Written sometime in 2014, it talked about the extension to the quarry and disruption to the local community in Finchampstead; which is quite small in number. However, it did mention that restoration would be completed by 31st December 2018!
Addendum: I decided to see if I could find a definitive completion date for the restoration and entered into the murky world of planning applications. Using the posting on the MGLG website, I climbed onto the Wokingham Council website and found the numerous documentation, amendments, plans etc associated with planning application VAR/2013/2511. In these documents, it does state that the completion dates for restoration of Manor farm and Fleet Hill farm is 31st December 2018. Interestingly, there is a corresponding planning application for the Chandlers farm (Hampshire side of the works as I recently discovered) for plant to be removed by 31st December 2019, and restoration completed by 31st July 2020.
Personally, I can't really see the restoration of Manor farm happening by 31st December 2018. Progress on the infill of Finch pond has been slow and steady. Areas at the north west corner of Manor farm have reached the finish level of infill - which puzzles me as the whole lot is supposed to be capped with inert soil. I can't see the stuff being bulldozed into the lake being terribly inert.
At the current rate of progress, I reckon the infill of Finch pond will be complete round about the end of the year. Which leaves the matter of what is to happen to the lake I call Cormorant lake. One set of plans that I have seen suggest that most of this lake (both north and south) will be filled in. Another shows a fair amount of the lake being incorporated into Manor lake south; but with most of the northern parts of the lake filled in.
I feel it would be a shame to fill in Cormorant lake. It hosts such a huge range and number of wildfowl. Far better, to my untutored mind, to fill in Cormorant lake north, and leave Cormorant lake south well alone. It would certainly save a lot of money and allow completion of the reserve to be achieved much quicker. However, saying that the Fleet Hill farm and Moor Green Lakes parts of the reserve do have fairly large ponds and lakes, which the birds can use. Strangely I do not see the large numbers of Greylag and Egyptian geese in these parts of the reserve.
I have been studiously ignoring the restoration of Chandlers farm, mostly as I believed it would be given over to sports grounds. Now that I have actually gone back and inspected the plans properly, I notice that there is supposed to be a large reserve area to the east of the site - mainly where the works buildings are. However, once again I am hearing differing news on what precisely will be the final plan for this area. It has changed substantially over the decades.
In terms of progress. A visit on Wednesday morning revealed a scene similar to last week: a digger working on the north west corner of Manor farm, with a handful of lorries bringing in spoil. I have now decided that I hit tea break time on a Wednesday morning, as all the plant operators head over to the Hampshire part of the reserve.
I did notice that soil had been scrapped off the side of the west embankment i.e. the banking along the Longwater road. My Saturday visit revealed that it had been used to fill in the gap between it and the raised area that has been constructed over the past couple of week.
This raised area is now, as I mentioned earlier, at the Finish level for the infill. It has been extended about three quarters the way east along the base of the north embankment; thus filling in the drainage channel.
Some work has been taking place along the new south shore of Finch pond. Nothing dramatic, just fiddling with the edges.
Perversely, the pump has been turned off or has run out of diesel. Consequently, lake levels are, once again, rising. The birds, of course, love it. I do find it somewhat amusing the way the pump keeps being turned on and off, but cannot fathom the logic.
I've had stab at updating the progress map of Finch pond with the area I believe has reached the finish infill level. I do not know if this will then be capped with a layer of inert soil, but a quick eye ball seems to suggest that the the final level is that same height as the Longwater road. This should prevent flooding of the area.
I wonder if the car park will be constructed now. It would make sense, from my untrained point of view. Just cap the area around the Longwater road entrance with concrete and tarmac whilst it is still effectively a building site - rather than having to dig footings after restoration is complete.
Anyway, the orange area in the following diagram is my stab at estimating the portion of Finch pond that is at the final level.
Bright sunny weather on Wednesday morning was replaced by low heavy clouds, gloom and mist, with rain fast approaching.
A polite notice first: All photographs on this blog are owned by me and subject to copyright.