Regulars of this blog might have noticed a change in its name. The Finchampstead Neighbourhood Development Plan have given it a name: Longwater Road Nature Reserve.
Notification: I must point out that I have special permission to be on the Eversley quarry site of Fleet hill farm, Manor farm and the Hampshire part, Chandlers farm. These are not open areas for general access. Public rights of way are being incorporated into the sites to enable people to enjoy the new reserves.
Please bear this in mind. Although I refer them in my blog as reserves, they are still, technically, part of an operating quarry. So please keep to the existing public rights of way, and wait for the new ones to be adopted. Also it is will be even more important to stick to the public rights of way when they do become reserves so as not to disturb the wildlife.
Update: Apparently Cemex and RSPB have been working together to restore 1000 hectares of ex-gravel works to prime habitat. The aim was to achieve this by 2020. They actually managed the 1000th hectare in 2017.
Eversley was the first hectare to be restored under this partnership; actually the Moor Green lakes and surrounding area e.g. Horseshoe lake. This youtube video features scenes from Manor farm which regular readers will be familiar with. Here is an explanation on the RSPB's website, and here is one on the Cemex website about them being runner up in the MPA Quarries from Nature awards due to their work on the Eversley quarry restoration.
27th Jan 2018 - we get a mention in The Telegraph: 50 disused quarries turned into wildlife habitats to help Britain's endangered wildlife. "Eversley Quarry in Hampshire was the first to be completed following three years of work by wildlife and conservation experts." Ahhh, they missed phase 2, the subject of this blog.
This blog is about a proposed nature reserve on the Cemex gravel extraction works between Finchampstead and Eversley. There are three parts to the reserve.
1. Moor Green Lakes. This reserve already exists. It was restored by Cemex some years ago.
2. Manor Farm.
3. Fleet Hill Farm.
Initially, this blog concentrates on the restoration efforts Cemex engaged in prior to handing over the reserve to a conservation group for day to day management. Once this happens, I would then hope to chart the efforts required to turn the raw restoration into a fully operational nature reserve.
That being said, there is already a wealth of wildlife inhabiting the site, mostly as Cemex have ceased extracting gravel, and appears to be a mecca for bird watchers. We often encounter them as we walk around the footpath, humping their tripods, spotting scopes, cameras and binoculars or perhaps exchanging notes with each other on what they have spotted that day.
Although I live about three miles away from the proposed new reserve, I only learnt about it recently. I started to photograph the efforts Cemex are expanding in clearing the gravel works and, as is the nature of such endeavours, realised I had a photo journal before I knew it.
Extent of entire reserve
The plan below shows the extent of the reserve. It stretches for 2.2 miles along the Blackwater river.
Moor Green Farm is already a nature reserve, namely Moor Green Lakes nature reserve. For more details see here Moor Green Lakes Group or here RSPB entry. Perhaps you could join us on one of our work parties to aid in the conservation of this reserve.
Fleet Hill farm is supposed to be ready as a reserve by end of summer 2017. Apart from a few sub-phases, this appears to have been achieved.
Approximately 18 months later, Manor Farm will be incorporated into the reserve. A target date in a planning application I read suggested that restoration of Manor farm should be completed by 31st December 2018. Personally, as of 7th October 2018, I can't see this happening unless the scale of infill is altered drastically or a lot more resources are thrown at the restoration effort.
You may notice, dear reader, quite a few differences between the various plans and google earth images of the reserve displayed below. I am not sure why. I suspect that some of the differences are due to extraction of gravel. This is certainly true of the Fleet Hill farm portion of the reserve. Note: I have since discovered that the plans for the restoration were fairly fluid and subject to numerous alterations.
Update: I am keeping my speculations for historical reasons. Part of the 'fun' of keeping this blog is working out what Cemex and Inert are up to. Well, the later posts show that they are infilling Finch pond. They may also modify Cormorant and Manor farm lakes to look more like the plan.
Plan of proposed Manor Farm part of reserve and image from Google Earth
NOTE: I've finally got around to updating the google earth image with the expanded reference points. Hopefully, this will allow you to navigate my text a little better.
The plan below is the Manor Farm extension. Below that is a Google Earth image as of March 2017. Note the difference between the it and the plan. Particularly Finch Lake, which is now huge, and what I have been calling Cormorant Lake which is supposed to be joined to the bigger lake to its right. The Pump Station area, currently on dry land, would be in the middle of a lake, according to the Cemex plan.
As described above we start our walk at the Moor Green Lake car park, located in the top right hand corner of the map. The details shown in this map are the proposed public right of ways, and possibly some further landscaping. As an example, currently there is a sizable lake at the point I call the Pump Station. This lake is not shown in the map.
There are large areas of this new reserve I have not photographed as we have tended to keep to the current public footpaths.
We cross the Longwater road at the culvert/entrance to the reserve to get enter Fleet Hill farm immediately opposite.
Plan of proposed Fleet Hill farm part of the reserve and image from Google Earth.
This is the Fleet Hill farm extension showing proposed structure and public right of ways. Below that is a Google Earth as of Sept 2017.
Stone Crusher lake is a small manky green lake. The plans below suggest that it will be filled in.
Swan lake is also a small manky green lake, which according to the plan will get bigger.
There is a large part of this extension that I have not really photographed as we have tended to stick to the footpaths. Most all the restoration had been completed by the time I started photographing the works.
Update 7th October 2018. I suspect that apart from a few small pieces of work (e.g. completion of bridle path) Fleet Hill farm is pretty much restored. One of the planning applications I read said that tree planting will occur in the year after restoration has been completed. As this happened earlier on in 2018, this would suggest that, apart from a few sub-phases, restoration is complete.
This post shows how the Fleet Hill Farm and Manor Farm parts of the Cemex Eversley gravel works has changed over the years since 1999. Credit has to go to the Google corporation for their Google Earth initiative and also for developing Googe Earth Pro. This free application allowed me to explore a history of the images Google have taken of our planet since 1999, and to also save images.
I would recommend you download Google Earth Pro. It allows to you to zoom in to see an incredible amount of detail.
As well as showing the evolution of the area, the images also demonstrate the evolution of the techniques Google used to photograph the landscape. If you look closely you will notice that Google had problems stitching some parts of the images together. They also either went through a number companies to do the fly over and photography or simply garnered images from different GIS companies over the years.
The images below have been reduced considerably in size from the Google Earth images. It would take ages for this blog to load across the network if I left them at full resolution.
Note. I've used Google Earth as was readily available and convenient to use. There are other GIS sources available, which may provide even higher resolution images or greater quality. You pays your money and takes your choice.
Several times in this blog I mention the complex geology of the area. I found a map, courtesy of my old College, that goes part way to showing this complexity. Greater detail can be found here Eocene sands and iron map a natty title that sort of rolls of the tongue.
I've taken the liberty of inserting a much reduced image in this blog. The vertical red line marks the Longwater road. If you zoom in you may just make out the words "Cemex works" to the left of it. This is actually on the Fleethill farm part of the works. To the immediate right of the red line is Manor farm. Count two large lakes to the right and you reach Moor Green lakes.
Quite a landmark are our works.
This is now pinned to the top of the posts.
I have largely ignored Chandlers farm over the years. Partly as most of the restoration will be (and has been) given over to sports facilities, and partly as it is still an operational quarry. I believe there are some 50,000 tonnes of stuff still to be extracted once the site buildings are demolished.
A small area of the site (the north west corner) is to be given over to a nature reserve, and I'm sure I read in one planning document that there was to be a community growing area. Another name for these could be allotments, perhaps. We need more allotments, especially considering the waiting list, and the need to do something to save this planet.
I present to you, courtesy of Google Earth Pro (a free app well worth getting hold of) the changing face of Chandlers farm - the original Eversley Quarry. Manor farm and Fleet Hill farm are subsequent extensions to this quarry.
I'm deeply suspicious of both the imagery and the dates attached to them. The earlier ones exhibit particular problems, typical of a fledgling service. Imagery has come from various sources, with varying degrees of quality, and they have been stitched together with varying degrees of accuracy.
I'd certainly take the imagery dates with a large pinch of salt. The year 'might' be correct, but the date is not always correct e.g. images dated 31st December or 1st January show deciduous trees in full leaf!!!
Consider the 'settlement ponds' in the top right hand corner of the site. These three rectangular ponds are, I believe, where water (pumped out of the various ponds and lakes) are passed through to allow sediment to settle out, before the water is put into the Blackwater. The photos for 1999/2000 show these ponds. The ponds are missing from the photos dated 2003, only to reappear in 2004.
I hadn't appreciated how much restoration had already taken place on Chandlers farm. Note the football pitches - rather poshly flood lit at night. I thought they had been there before the quarry. But no. They were one of the first parts of the quarry to be restored.
You will also notice the stop-start nature of the restoration. Not readily apparent from the large gaps in the imagery data, but quite normal as I have reported in this blog.
Still, it looks as if Hampshire county council is putting pressure on Cemex to get Chandlers farm completed, judging by the all out effort put in this year. Alternatively, it might be Inert flitting around the various sites, as we have seen over the past couple of years.
However, at least this is being done. Hopefully, the surrounding communities will benefit greatly, and hopefully a small fragment of this planet will be saved for wildlife and future generations.
Enough ramblings, on with the show.
I visited Manor farm on Tuesday 21st, but have only just got around to writing up.
Much to my surprise, Inert have continued work on restoring Manor farm. In fact, one of the Moor Green Lakes Group members told me they had made forays onto the western part of the site, but were told to hold off as there were still ground nesting birds i.e. Lapwing and Little Ringed Plover. Concentrating restoration on the central part of the site (aka what is left of Cormorant lake) was fine, as nothing was nesting there.
It appears that Inert have done just that. There appears to be signs that they have continued to infill and upfill what little remains of Cormorant lake, and landscaping the area into the eastern part of the site; which was restored some decade or two ago.
To this end, Inert appear to be using spoil from the massive mound they created around the pump station. I watched them build this mound over a period of months, in a most inefficient manner. And now, I watch them, on and off, flatten the mound.
The tasks I observed on Tuesday appear to concentrate of filling the stretch of water leading adjacent to the pump station. This curious ria or inlet bit of water has hung around for decades, now its days appear number.
I've often commented on how haphazard I find the restoration process, and how Inert seem to flit about all over the site, performing rather odd bits of restoration. Tuesday offered another, baffling example. A digger was smoothing the road/track ways around pump station mound. The driver was skilled, using the smooth side of his shovel to gently scrape and flatten the track way.
Why, I ask myself? Heavy plant, trundling over the bailey bridge will tear up the track way in five minutes flat; sooner if there is a heavy thunder storm or rainfall. Barmiest bit of restoration I've witnessed so far.
Sods law dictates that in the three weeks I do not pay Manor farm a visit (due to lack of action) is precisely the time Inert choose to return to a little bit of restoration. Sods law also dictates that the week I do pay a mid week site visit is the week that Inert do not do any restoration - instead returning to Chandlers farm.
What have Inert been up to during my hiatus? As far as I can make out they have
a) Taken a large chunk out of the pump station mighty mound.
b) Used the spoil from the mighty mound up infill/upfill the northern edge of Cormorant lake south. They have extended the upfill further eastward.
c) Inert appear to have also built up the land bridges further.
I haven't gone on to the site to see precisely what they have done as it is the breeding season. If Inert resume work, therefore creating a disturbance, I will feel justified in visiting the bits they have been working on.
Well, here's hoping that come July Inert will return to Manor farm in force to finish off the restoration by the latest completion date of sometime in 2023. Seven years after I started this blog - and the projected finish date of 2016!
The sad war in Ukraine still rumbles on. All sorts of rumours abound about mad Putin. We staggered around Snowdonia for a week. Yes, we climbed Snowdon - via the Ranger route, but also roamed a long the shore just west of Bangor, plus went on lots of yomps around Betws y Coed. Even spotted a Dipper at Conway falls!
Enough of worldly, and ever miserable, events. What of Manor farm restoration? Are Inert back and rumbling across it? Have the final plans been produced and approved?
Well, no is the simple answer. Inert were clanging away on Chandlers farm - presumably a big push to get that restoration finished. I doubt they will be back on Manor farm until July at the earliest.
I have learnt, rather distressingly, that the all new, honest 'guv we will get it ready, finish date is sometime in 2023. Yesss, we've heard this one before e.g. the year I started this blog was one of the numerous finish dates. Don't hold your breath, folks.
Moving on, I have discovered the 'latest' restoration plans. These were produced in 2019, and probably approved in 2020 or so. They do exhibit quite a few changes when compared to the 2016 plans I had culled from the planning applications back then.
Here are the plans for Manor farm. You know, I think I'm losing it. I've just compared the 'latest' 2019 plans with the plans I posted at the beginning of this blog. They are virtually identical. My '2016' plans must be even older plans. Who knows where I got them from.
Sadly, the copse seems to require demolishing, apart from a small stand of trees, no doubt marking the course of the fragment of the Colebrook cut through this area. Also, sadly there appear to be too many reed beds. Sigh, this really, really makes seeing birds and photographing them very difficult.
With far more detail, mainly as its restoration is virtually complete, here are the plans for Fleet Hill farm.
I'll soon post restoration plans for Chandlers farm.
May the 4th be with you.
Title says it all, really. Fair dues, the Inert site manager did say they might take a slight hiatus as they await final site plans from Cemex.
They were, however, beavering away on Chandlers farm.
Inert definitely returns to Manor farm, aiming for last push to complete restoration. 27th April 2022
Wednesday was an unpromising grey, overcast day. Pretty bad light conditions for photography. I almost didn't pay Manor farm a site visit. Am I glad I did - and was held up by two large lorries reversing into driveways. I managed a talk with Inert's site manager, who gave me an update on what was happening - as far as he knew.
Oh, the site manager, who visited Manor farm to check up on progress, also turned on the pump. Water levels of Manor lake have been, apparently, too high. Looked alright to me. They've been at that level for as long as I can remember.
Well folks, today I finally returned for a mid-week stomp along MGL and Manor farm. I have not real idea why I decided to pay a visit. I had assumed that Inert would not be returning to Manor farm until about July or August. However, it was gloriously sunny, not too windy and quite warm; almost perfect photography weather.
Therefore, I was most surprised to discover that Inert had returned to Manor farm, and it appears this week. I bumped into a MGLG member, who told me he had not seen Inert on the site until this week. He visits the site almost daily.
I am not holding my breath that this activity will continue. For why? Well, firstly, the bulldozer driver was working on Chandlers farm; though to be fair, the MGLG member said he did see the bulldozer working on Manor farm on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Secondly, the pump was off, and water levels quite high in all ponds - particularly what is left of Cormorant lake (south).
Thirdly, I've seen this before. Inert have a very brief flurry of activity, and then disappear for months.
Fourthly, the two or three lorries operating on the site today were dropping their loads in a very curious place: halfway along the land bridge - effectively cutting off the northern half of the site from the southern half.
Turning away from my negative view of what is happening, and concentrating on positive thoughts.
It is possible that what was happening today was according to plan, and that Inert are now shaping the northern shore of the new, extended Manor lake. Well, as they say, time will tell.
Oh, the lorries are reversing up the land bridges again. I have no idea why. It hasn't rained for weeks. Ground conditions are rock hard, and there is tons of space for the lorries to operate on. All this reversing is doing is wasting time and fuel. Wouldn't believe there is a fuel crisis going on. Well, Cemex pay for the stuff in the end.
I did actually pay a site visit on a nice, sunny Friday morning. One of the rare few we have had of late.
Much crashing and banging coming from Chandlers farm, possibly around where the old processing plant used to be. I could hear the bulldozer reversing about the site.
Manor farm remains untouched, with no signs of any vehicles using the bailey bridge this past week.
Old faithful, the pump, was still pumping away. It needs to as a large amount of rain is due today, and possibly on certain days next week.
A polite notice first: All photographs on this blog are owned by me and subject to copyright.