Well, not quite. There was still a stub left this morning. I reckon all will be gone by Friday, such is the speed of demolition.
Last week's stomp revealed one works building still standing. I have no idea when the other two were demolished, as I tend not to pay too much attention to Chandlers farm. This week I stopped by for a clearer photograph than Sunday's, only to discover that virtually all the remaining building had been taken apart. Only the lower parts of the once mighty tower remains.
Better still, Inert were dismantling it as I snapped away. A dinosaur type extension to a digger. Bet that is a fun job.
Anyway, depending on which of the numerous amendments to the various planning applications you read, this demolition appears to be a couple of months ahead of schedule. Cemex and Inert have been concentrating on Chandlers farm all summer.
They have also made fair progress on Manor farm, over the past week. This time some interesting additions to the scrape.
Yesterday morning was outright manky, overcast, dark and gloomy. Rain followed later on in the morning, and didn't stop until night time. I declined to visit Manor farm. Instead I waited until today. Not only was it bright, we got an extra hour in bed due to the clocks going back. However, it was only 2 degrees centigrade, and I had to scrape ice from my car's windows. The yukkie ice that sticks to glass like epoxy resin.
My midweek stomp revealed a dearth of lorries, depositing stuff. However, this was an illusion. Much has happened, even by Wednesday. Infill was now wrapping around the east side of the scrape, and heading northward. Our intrepid bulldozer driver was flitting about all over Manor farm.
My Sunday walk, in misty conditions bordering on fog, revealed a whole mass of work has taken place. Though I cannot be certain exactly when some bits were done, as I have kept of the more muddy bits of infill. To recap what I sort of noticed, bearing in mind my proviso that one bit of churned up mud looks pretty much the same from week to week.
- There are signs that Inert have been working on what was Finch pond. It sort of looks flatter, and has fresh bulldozer and lorry tracks all over it. This is one way I tell where work has been done, how fresh and crisp the tracks are.
- That weird hole on the south side of my mighty mound, has been filled in and firmed up. I was quite relieved. I could now keep to the vehicle trackway, and not take a muddy detour around my mighty mound onto the land mass. The terracing is still pronounced, and a raised trackway has been consolidated onto the land mass, leading up to the 'north' shore of Cormorant lake (south).
- I did see the bulldozer driver working on the 'north' shore of Cormorant lake on Wednesday, pushing stuff around and, occasionally, into the lake, before whizzing back down to work around the copse.
- The gravel spit, separating Cormorant lakes north and south, has had work done to it. I'm not sure exactly when, but definitely within the last couple of weeks. I sort of spent most of last week concentrating on not sinking into mud as I worked my way across the land mass. Anyway, Inert have trundled to the east end of the gravel spit and pushed a whole load of spoil southward into Cormorant lake south. They might have done stuff in Cormorant lake north, but I didn't look this week. I'll try next week if the weather is clement.
- By far the most dramatic work has taken place around the scrape and the feature I christened Cormorant spit. A considerable amount of infill has occurred around the east and south of this area, with some infill encroaching onto Cormorant spit. I was able to negotiate my way along bulldozer tracks to step onto Cormorant spit, and walk along it onto the scrape; the bulldozed soil was unusually firm.
And there I was thinking the scrape would stay. If by chance it does remain as a feature, its shores must be protected from erosion by water. Plover island and Tern island in Colebrook lake, over in Moor Green lakes, have experience severe erosion, resulting in lose of eight feet or more of shore line.
In some ways the possible demise of Cormorant scrape and spit is a shame. Bird really like the gravel bars that appear when water levels are low. I have no idea why they are so popular. Even more so than the actual scrape.
- These were the most obvious changes around Manor farm. There are hints and signs that much other work has taken place, but it is slightly difficult to pin point on two short walks.
- Moving on to Chandlers farm. Some of the works buildings have been demolished! Actually two major buildings. I do not pay much attention to Chandlers farm, therefore do not know precisely when the demolishing took place. I suspect during May to July. I mentioned several times in this blog that I heard extensive noise, not unlike buildings being demolished, emanating from Chandlers farm. Well, I now have the photographic proof. Strangely, this puts the restoration of Chandlers farm slightly ahead of schedule, as I am sure this wasn't supposed to happen until the start of 2020.
I may or may not put some wildlife photos in. There were four Roe deer, a large number of Greylag and Canada geese, plus some nice swans and teal. However, here are a couple of before and after photos of the works buildings on Chandlers farm. I will replace the misty on I took this morning, with a clearer one. Hopefully this Wednesday.
I know I am sounding like a worn record...Inert have continued flitting around Manor farm. As usual, due to one bit of bulldozed mud looking pretty much the same from week to week, I am hard pressed to figure what Inert have done on certain parts of the site. Any changes have to be reasonable major to notice.
A further complication was the mud. I kept off most of the site due to the squidgy porridge like mud the consistency of quicksand. I was not prepared to take risks sinking in, particularly as I had my DSLR and long lens with me. Even keeping to bulldozer tracks did not guarantee firm ground. About the safest tracks to follow were the ones made by lorries.
OK, enough whingeing, what have Inert been up to this past week?
- There are definite signs of tinkering around the Longwater road entrance. Some mounds of spoil have been flattened, the odd hole filled in, and bits scraped here and there. Just a ways south of Longwater road entrance, along the old west shore of Finch pond, I came across a very curious structure. It reminded me of a sand fort children would build on beaches.
- I get the feeling more grading has taken place along the west and north sides of the copse. Hard to determine. I didn't walk along the north embankment and I didn't venture on to this part of the site. It is/was far too soggy and cut up. Any trekking across this bit of Manor farm would have been a slow, hard slog.
- Another strange structure was discovered by the 'mighty mound'. At first it looked as if Inert had dug a large hole across the vehicle track. After sleeping on this thought and looking at my photos, I do wonder if the trackway to the east of the 'hole' has actually been built up. It was hard to tell. Getting close to the edge of the 'hole' was tricky as the soil was so soft, I was sinking up to my ankles in it with some 3m still to traverse. This 'hole' or built up track occurred quite late on in the week, as I saw a lorry trundling along this bit on Wednesday.
Because of this 'hole' and super soft mud, I couldn't continue eastward along the vehicle track. I had to take a long detour north around my 'mighty mound' (which I couldn't get to due to the soft mud), onto the land mass (old infill) and work my way carefully to the west shore of Cormorant lake (south). Only then could I follow lorry tracks south to get to the vehicle track on the east side of the 'hole'.
- Obvious, by far, was the amount of work done on Cormorant lake (south). Inert have been working on the west, south and east shores of this lake, continuing its infill. It appears a slow, random process, working on bits at a time. The bulldozer driver appears to employ two strategies. The first is the obvious one for infill; he drives directly at the lake's shore (basically orthogonal to it) pushing soil in with the entire face of the bulldozer blade. His second strategy is more subtle, he drives parallel to the edge of the shore, using one side of the bulldozer blade to sort of peel the soil into the lake.
Anyway, as usual having graded the land flat, Inert have dug it all up again producing a WWI type landscape. Again, although I walked along the latest infill to its northern edge, I didn't get right to its edge. It was too muddy.
I'm pleased to say that our faithful, hard working pump was still at it, wheezing and gurgling away. Water was still flowing freely into the small pond in which the pump rests. I did spook a Green Sandpiper, when I walked along the south edge of this little pond. It was tucked up, right at the base of the southern shore of the pond.
There is a fair amount of wildlife around. Its pattern has changed. You tend to see more large flocks of birds, particularly Lapwings, geese and ducks. Other species are around, just less apparent.
Finally, will Cemex, Inert et al finish landscaping Manor farm by the end of this year? Like last night's Brexit vote (bloody stupid morons, the lot of 'em ought to be put up against a white wall without blindfolds), this is a close call to my inexperienced eyes. Although both Cormorant lakes, taken together, are large, they do not seem to be on the same scale as Finch pond. Cormorant lake (north) is actually quite shallow, easily filled with the flattening of the north embankment. It is the northern parts of Cormorant lake (north) that might sink the meeting of the deadline.
I am particularly fascinated by how Inert will tackle the merging of Manor lake (south) and Manor lake (north - also known as East Fen) with Cormorant lake; to form the new, long Manor Lake. The former two lakes are quite full; with water levels well above Cormorant lake. I guess opening up the ditch between Manor lake and the pump would be the first action. This allows the water in Manor lake to be pumped away to reach the same level as Cormorant lake; enabling diggers and bulldozers to safely landscape the area.
Yes, dear reader, your intrepid (some say foolish) blogger, despite posting continuous warnings about the quicksand nature of the mud on Manor farm, sank up to his knees in the stuff today. In my defence, the bit of bulldozed mud I stepped into had a firm look (rather than the grey porridge stuff) and took the weight of my right foot.
Unfortunately, the torrential rain of recent weeks (particularly last night) made the mud particularly soft. I sank up to my knees when I took a step with my left leg and put a load on it. Attempts to extricate my left foot out by pulling it out vertically and balancing on my right foot, only caused said right foot to sink even deeper into the mud.
Sigh. There was nothing for it but to gone on hand and knees. With my weight now distributed across three points (two hands and a knee), I could twist one foot clear of the mud and place it (horizontally) on slight firmer mud, and with my weight distributed over a larger area of leg. Then I could twist the other leg out of the mud, before crawling backwards on hands and knees to firm ground.
Yes, my trouser knees were distinctly muddy, as were my hands. Luckily, I eschewed my DSLR/long lens due to the manky weather. Thus I did not have to worry about getting them muddy. I only took my bridge camera, which I simply slung around my back. Also, I did not have to lie completely flat and pull myself out on my stomach.
Unlike my previous sinking incident, this time I had a mobile phone and could have called for help. However, I did not want to even contemplate being rescued by emergency services.
Before we plough into our normal schedule: There is a MGLG work party tomorrow, Sunday 13th. This week we shall be planting 300 saplings in the gaps in the hedgerow running from the MGLG car park and the Blackwater river. Do come along and help. Meet at MGLG car park from10:15am onward.
Inert et al, as is their normal modus operandi, have been working all over the southern half of Manor farm. I am still very perplexed at this flitting all over the place business. Must be the engineer in me: Start at one place and then work your way, linearly, to the finish - unless there is some compelling work to do in the middle bits beforehand.
The remains of the old iron footbridge and pump station road bridge have been removed. Bit of a sad day. I was quite fond of the iron footbridge, even though its metal treads were lethal when wet. As I can attest to with experience, having slipped down them on a couple of occasions.
Last week I said that one reason for the pump not chugging was that it was grounded, with its inlet pipe partially or wholly above the water; thus making pumping impossible. How wrong I was. It seems that the pump pontoon rests on a large brick structure. This structure was still mostly under water. The pump was chugging away this week, revealing the brick structure. At least a foot and a half (say 45cm) has been pumped out this week.
Just as well the pump is on. Water was flowing quite rapidly from the new Finch pond into Cormorant lake (south) and thence into 'pump pond'. It is still raining hard as I type, and the forecast is for yet more deluge over the coming week!
You'd be hard pressed to see what Inert have been up to on Finch pond this past week. It is all torn up, looking like the Somme. Again this follows restoration practice of infill, smooth, tear up: repeat. I can see that Inert et al have:
- Continued building up the land level around the northern part of Manor farm; some backfill along the banking built last week.
- Deepened the drainage channel between the smaller Finch pond and Cormorant lake (south) they started last week.
- I think the smaller Finch pond is now taking shape. At least there is a pond shaped hole approximately where it is to be, and it is being drained; but not yet hooked up to either the culvert or the original fragment of Colebrook cut. Can't do that until quite late on as access is needed by lorries.
Midweek I espied a digger working around the pump. Not entirely sure what it was up to, but there was a new track on the east shore of Cormorant lake (south), next to the drainage channel. Most was revealed this morning; though I do not know how much was done this past week or the weeks before.
- The ditch connecting Manor Lake (south) to what was Cormorant lake (south) has been partially filled in, forming a dam/viaduct to allow plant to cross over. This means that Manor lake (south) can longer drain. Water levels have built up, covering some of the mud flats/gravel bars.
- The viaduct allows diggers and bulldozers to go around the drainage ditch to work on the east shore of Cormorant lake (south).
- I am not entirely sure why or what has been done. There appears to be some bulldozing of soil into the 'pond' next to the pump. Diggers and/or the bulldozer have worked their way northward, but not a huge amount appears to have been achieved. Very odd.
- The digger also appears to have cut a path from the pump southward along the west shore of Manor lake (south), on the east side of where a bridge used to stand. Again, it is difficult to discern what the point of this is. It does give better access to the pump pipe, running into Chandlers farm.
Anyway, by the time I reached the pump station, I was a bit soggy, somewhat muddy, and slightly knackered; partly due to too much swimming this part week and as it was such a hard slog across Manor farm through all the mud and torn up ground. I chose to walk back to the Longwater road via the firm and comforting south footpath. At least the sewage plant wasn't so smelly. It was really on form on Wednesday.
Moving on to wildlife. Plenty of deer sign, as usual. Birds are beginning to return to Cormorant lake. I think I have seen less due to the odd times I visited the site over the past few weeks, but also I think it is only now that they start congregating into large flocks. Also, a whole load of migrant species start arriving e.g. Widgeon.
There were a lot of Canada geese, Egyptian geese, Barnacle geese and Lapwing. Your normal Coots, Grebes, Mallards and other assorted wildfowl I can't recognise were abound. Oh, I can now here and sometimes see Long-tailed tits. I've missed their song all summer, and was worried that they might have had a catastrophic breeding season.
The conditions were pretty bad for photography. My bridge camera struggled. Just as well, with the mud incident, I didn't take my DSLR and long lens.
Cemex/Inert have made reporting more challenging. Inert have been working all over Manor farm, it's hard to keep up and to even figure out what had been accomplished over this past week. Listing the highlights of what I could determine...
- Midweek revealed two diggers at work, attacking some of the banking along side the south footpath. My Saturday stomp revealed they had sliced a bit off the banking, making the vehicle track wider. Curiously, the track was then pinched narrower by marking its edges with some of the concrete blocks dumped next to the mighty mound.
- My midweek walk also revealed our bulldozer driver, working on the infill on the east shore of Cormorant lake south. Not unusually, there seemed to be far fewer lorries around. But this was Wednesday. More lorries may have been employed on other days of the week. The amount of stuff dumped onto Manor farm seemed to suggest this.
- Our puffing pump was off. I think I have discovered one reason why it has been off so much recently. Water levels are now so low, the pontoon holding the pump pipe inlet is now grounded on the bottom of Cormorant lake. The can't pump any more water, as the inlet is no longer submerged.
- A small 'pond' has appeared, located in the middle of what was Finch pond. Due, I think, in part to the large amount of rain we have had recently and also to the land level being built up around it. Inert have dug a drainage ditch from 'mini' Finch pond to Cormorant lake north, which curiously doesn't actually reach the latter lake.
- A line of soil has been bulldozed up to a survey stake which used to show 5' (1.5m) of infill needed to reach it. I think this is a fairly significant milestone. It gives the clearest indication yet of the effort required. All that needs be done now is the land be raised around it and landscaped appropriately; using the north and west embankments and ridge.
- The land has also been built up around the northern part of the copse. This is an original piece of hedgerow containing a fragment of the Colebrook cut. The land is, in places, level with the stream bed.
- Although much of the land has been built up, Inert are following their normal procedure of plough titanic gouges in to the levelled land, pushing some into the lakes, and piling up others into huge mounds. Thus, although the land has been built up over the past few weeks, it could just as easily be gouged out again. One thought I had for this procedure is that perhaps it is a means of mixing up the infill to provide a more homogenous mix.
- Further infill has taken place along the south eastern edge of Cormorant lake north. Inert are going to a great deal of trouble to infill around the feature I have been calling the scrape. If this scrape is to exist as part of the finished restoration, there needs to be some means of protecting its shores from erosion. Tern island, a scrape in Colebrook lake north, in Moor Green Lakes, has had up to 8' (2.4m) of its shore eroded away. It is now about half its original size, and rapidly disappearing.
- The soil barrier blocking the Longwater road entrance has now been flattened, and the gate has a shiny new pad lock. Strangely, the large hole (or anti tank trap as I call it) has not been filled in.
- I am quite sure I have missed a great deal of what happened on Manor farm this week. After all, I only have one, quick mid morning stomp (probably at the contractors' tea break time), and then enter into a forensic examination on the weekend to determine what Inert have been up to. It is all quite fascinating how a quarry is restored for nature.
I'm submitting this post first, before I then go to work on the slide show. It was a rather busy Saturday, and I'm a bit tired this morning.
A polite notice first: All photographs on this blog are owned by me and subject to copyright.