This week's blog is picture heavy. Once again we are very busy. I will follow recent formats of giving an update with some photos, before completing the blog over the next day or so.
This week I was torn between taking 'arty' shots (you'd hardly believe this was a 'working' reserve) and the normal factual progress shots. I hope the photos will be a feast for the eyes.
I thought I'd end up like a stuck record repeating the same sentence. Not this week. The pump has been turned off, and although Cemex continue to work on Manor farm, my goodness have they been busy this last week.
It does take a little time for my two brain cells to come up with a thought. I decided that it was time I walked around the north part of Manor Farm. This is not for the faint hearted. Far better to have experience of tromping around steep sided fells and moors of The Dales, Forest of Bowland and Cumbria. The ground is boggy in places, some of the slopes near vertical and the covering of bracken makes for treacherous negotiation of the terrain. It isn't really that dramatic, but it is very easy to lose your footing.
I entered the reserve at 7:50 am on a cold, calm, frosty day. The birds started flying in after waking from their roosts. The sun slowly climbed above the horizon. It was magical.
What have Cemex been up to this week? Well, they have continued to their restoration around the Longwater Road entrance. Mighty leveling of ground and, if I am not mistaken, reclaiming some of Finch pond i.e. extending the ground into the pond. Plus they got to play with the concrete cubes.
I have assumed that the north edge of the reserve (basically the north shore of Finch Pond and Cormorant lake) were cut into the hillside that slopes up to Finchampstead. Having tromped around this part of the reserve, I now reckon they are embankments formed from the soil scrapped off the land to get at the gravel. They resemble the great ditches around the old hill forts and places like Avebury.
I also discovered a new species. :-) I found it right in the middle of the reserve, on an embankment between Cormorant Lake and a pond abutting the north edge of the reserve.
Typical, I thought I was all tooled up: reserve battery, reserve camera, monopod. What could go wrong? Halfway round my Compact Flash card filled up! It's only 2GB. Too many photos for the poor wee thing. It's about time I pulled my finger out and formatted my 'shiny' new, cheapo 16GB CF card.
As for the wet foot. Ah, I hope you can feel the waves of embarrassment emanating from Finchampstead. You see, I decided to hop over a channel, but got distracted as I wanted to take an interesting shot, but then couldn't be bothered to walk the few steps back to my original intended crossing point, where a big step would have easily cleared the channel. Instead I decided to use some tussocks of grass in the channel. Only said tussocks turned out to be floating mats of grass! Sigh.
I've split the slideshows into a number of sections, in the order of my clockwise walk around the reserve. We kick off at the Longwater road/culvert entrance.
The next, short, set of shots are from the north edge of Finch pond. I am atop the earth embankment, which I had mistaken for part of the hill that leads up to Finchampstead. I now reckon it is the soil scraped from the land to enable Cemex to extract gravel. The embankment at this point is between 15' (5m) to 20' (6.75m) high.
The following sequence of shots takes us along the north edge of the reserve, and the north shores of Cormorant lake and Manor lake, plus a new pond north of Cormorant lake. I am heading east all the time, and finally swing round to join a footpath that runs between Manor Farm and Moor Green Lakes. Normally this final part of the sequence is at the start of the walk.
There are some spectacular views from the embankment that runs along the north edge of the reserve.Alas, I expect them to be bulldozed down. Shame. Though if they stayed I'm sure some idiot would contrive (larking about more like) to not pay attention and fall down the slope, thus evoking elf and safety to have them closed. Sigh. Cynical me. Anyway, enjoy some of the views. Though the camera does play tricks with the light. :-)
Two updates on one weekend. I do spoil you all.
It occurred to me, a bit late on in our walk around the reserve yesterday, that I should take the opportunity to walk on the spit of land that has appeared on Cormorant lake; the end of which I had christened Cormorant island. However, we didn't feel like retracing our steps. At some point in the future Cemex will finish their restoration of this lake and the only way to get photographs from its middle would be via a boat.
Sunday morning broke bright, sunny, still and cold. Although I reckon there would be more opportunities to walk on what I have now christened Cormorant Spit, it was too nice a morning to miss. Armed suitably with a fully charged battery for my DSLR, I set off at 8:50am.
Unfortunately the Moor Green Lake car park was still closed - though there were three twitchers on the west side, with their spotting scopes already set up on tripods facing the bird feeders about 15 metres away on the east side. No idea what has got them so excited.
Bird watchers normally park in the Horse shoe lakes car park, and hoof it around the reserve. I drove round and parked in the Longwater road entrance to Manor farm. As I trekked east to the pump station and cormorant lake I encountered other bird watchers. Not bad for a cold ( 3 degrees) Sunday morning.
Cormorant spit was sandy, but very firm underfoot. It looked quite compacted. The birds weren't too happy at my appearance, and dutifully made themselves scarce. By now, although still bright, there were clouds forming in the previously clear sky, and light conditions varied - playing havoc with my white balance. Cor, ain't I getting all technical with my DLSR. It's still set on P though. :-)
The pump keeps pumping though I think it had a little rest mid week. The outflows were suspiciously not out flowing. However, I do know from experience that it takes a bit of time for the water to flow through the filtration ponds and then to the Blackwater river when the pump has been turned off for a bit.
Cemex have concentrated their efforts on the community area south of the Blackwater river and on Manor farm. They appear to have been all over the place these past couple of weeks. With so much going on I've split the photos over two slide shows. One concentrates on the south part of Manor farm. Whilst the other concentrates on the mayhem around the culvert/Longwater road entrance.
Cemex did something on Fleet Hill farm, but it isn't obvious. We noticed that one half of a metal gate at the wooden foot bridge had been opened (by the simple means of lifting it off its hinges) and there were fresh caterpillar tracks going from east to west. We didn't investigate further, partly as we were getting tired, but mainly as it was beginning to drizzle.
I didn't take a spare DSLR camera battery with me. Halfway round our walk the charge started disappearing
and the DSLR had difficulty saving photos. I had to swap to my bridge camera, hence the oddness in the quality of the photos.
Community Area/Manor Farm
The community area sits south of Manor Farm and south of the river Blackwater. I am slightly unclear as to how much of this area is for recreation and how much is reserve. Some old structure plans show the area immediately adjoin the works bridge, basically the area I have photographed in this blog, is to be given over to wetlands. The big hole which Cemex are excavating in the middle distance of these photographs look like the ponds shown on the plans. In which case the channel that has been cut makes sense.
A community/recreation area occurs much further to the west (i.e. right) of these photos, and immediately abuts the Blackwater river.
I've taken a number of photos of an enormous hill of soil. The hill is higher than our house, and I tip my hat to the bulldozer operator for making it. That is one skillful and dangerous job.
Anyway, Cemex have dug a new channel in this area, and it feeds into the Blackwater river.
Changes to Manor Farm south mainly occur around the yellow bridge area. Though once again, as we tend to stick to the south footpath we are only partially aware of any work that may be carried out on the north shores of Cormorant Lake. There has been much clearance of scrub, and modelling of shorelines.
With the pump operating, the water levels in the lakes drop ever further. My partner commented on it. She hasn't been around the reserve in three weeks.
Culvert/Longwater road entrance. 'Trackway' on northwest shore of Finch pond.
A couple of weeks back I mentioned what I thought was a new track way head north from the culvert/Longwater road entrance to Manor Farm. Then I thought perhaps it wasn't a track, being simply clearance of scrub. I never thought much about it, and certainly didn't trek up it. Well, today I did, as Cemex have done a huge amount of work around this area.
They might have done some work the previous week to this last last week, but seeing as I walked around the reserve on a Friday and there was heavy machinery in operation, I didn't nip over the gate to see what was going on.
What surprised me the most about what I saw today was the amount of industrial rubble: concrete, bits of brick walls, tarmac, etc, etc. It was strewn all over the place. I don't ever remember seeing a building around this area. It's not bad stuff as hardcore, not the best but good enough for, say, the foundations of a car park. I have heard rumours of a car park around this area.
I should have worn my wellies. The ground was quite churned up, which allows silt to settle in various ruts and grooves. I ended up with rather muddy hiking boots - which a tromp through long wet grass cleaned up.
Anyway, on with the slideshow.
Well, that's not strictly true. There is a supporting cast of other vehicles as this blog has shown, but I think there is only one Bulldozer.
The eagle eyed among will notice that the 10th Nov 2017 is a Friday. Not our usual weekend tromp. I had the day off work, and decided to walk around the reserve, partly as it was sunny but mainly as heavy rain was forecast for Saturday, while on Sunday we would be helping out with the Moor Green Lake Group clearing scrub from Plover island and trying to make a scrape for the ground nesting birds.
There is no change to the order of running this week. Cemex continue to work on Manor Farm, and the pump keeps pumping.
As it was a Friday, I caught the chaps working on the reserve. Well, actually I didn't catch them working as it was lunchtime, so their vehicles were parked up as they went for grub. The Cappagh vehicle suggests that Cemex have employed Cappagh to do some if not all of the restoration. Makes sense really. Cemex is good at extracting stuff out of the ground. Cappagh is good at industrial reclamation and restoration.
With all the heavy plant trundling around the reserve, I thought it best to keep to the safety of the footpaths.
Water levels in the various Manor lakes continue to drop, helped by the continuing dry weather. I only just realised that there are a whole load of dead trees poking out of the water of the lake north of Manor lake - what is to become the reed beds. This suggests that water levels were even lower in these lakes, possibly quite dried out, as the trees (now quite dead) were several years old.
There is no doubt now that Cemex are clearing the north shores of Finch pond and Cormorant lake, and the area between the two. We tend not to see much of this area from the South footpath. It was, however, very much evident on Friday.
The bird watcher I spoke to last week said that in a week or so the lakes on Moor Green Lakes would be heaving with wild fowl. This was very much the case this week, and I would expect even more birds to arrive.
Finally, I think I managed to get a photo of a Little Grebe on Lower pond of Fleet Hill Farm. They are very elusive, diving under the water at the slightest sign of humans. The little Grebe was quite close when I wandered up to lower lake, but took off to the other side of the pond at my appearance.
Finally, finally. The leaves have dropped from trees for the Alpaca to be more visible.
The first week of November was quite mild, and last night we saw our first appreciable rain in some time after a very dry October.
I happened to talk to a bird watcher when I got back to the car park after my stomp. Seems like the whole proposed reserve is already well known for its wild life. He said he had counted 40 Lapwing and several Snipe on the proposed reed beds north of Manor lake. I am also wondering if I have wrongly maligned anglers. It is possible that the some of the paths I see were trampled by bird watchers. Probably a combination of the two.
You'll not be surprised to hear that the pump keeps pumping, water levels keep dropping in the lakes, whilst Cemex appear to be concentrating on restoring Manor farm. Once again there are extensive signs they have been at work (e.g. tractor tracks in the mud) but it is hard to say exactly where they have been working.
Piles of topsoil have appeared along the shoreline of Cormorant lake. I think they have been working on the north shores of Finch pond and Cormorant lake as the area is looking increasingly cleared of vegetation. One obvious sign is that they have widened the track they cut last week on the west shore of Finch pond; I now do not believe it is a track. I feel Cemex are clearing the area of scrub.
On the boring side: what a difference a new battery makes. A cheap jobbie was bought online, but the charge held up very well. Even after taking 79 photos battery drain appeared negligible. Compared to a battery that was almost completely drained last week after taking about 30 photos.
I also found out how to set the white balance, which I duly did. Only I had upped the EV by one notch last week, which means the photos appear slightly over exposed. Still it was a very manky grey cloudy day. I never realised there was so much to using a DSLR.
A polite notice first: All photographs on this blog are owned by me and subject to copyright.