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.
As the headline says, Inert have made a fair amount of progress in upfilling what was Finch pond. They are upfilling in strips, running east-west. The strips are some 100m long; possibly longer. I reckon they have managed at least a further strip of at least 30m.
Assuming the upfill depth is about 60cm (2 feet in old money), then this equates to approximately 3000 cubic metres of spoil; or roughly 3000 tons. If each lorry carries 18 tons of stuff, then we had approximately 166 lorry movements last week: 33 per day or roughly 4 an hour.
This seems very low to me, as I reckon each lorry can manage two to four trips an hour. I may have either underestimated how much upfill there has been or how much each lorry can carry or how long the lorries work for and whether the restoration of Manor farm takes all Inert's efforts.
In my defense, I have noticed occasions, when I have done a mid week visit, when the bulldozer is inactive for long periods i.e. 20 to 20 minutes.
Any way, at current rate of progress, and assuming that all of what was Finch pond will be up lifted (bar the new ponds) then I reckon between 6 to 8 weeks to complete this task.
Now, I have been lazy of late, and not wandered all over the site to see what Inert are up to. Silly, as I do know they flit around. However, even from the ridge, I can see that the mighty mound next to the pump station is getting smaller. I can only assume that the spoil being dumped on what was Finch pond comes, in part, from this mound.
I can't even tell if the pump is pumping, as I didn't wander over to what is left of Cormorant lake (south).
The ground conditions are currently very hard. Some rain is forecast for tomorrow, but this shouldn't affect ground solidity much. Next week, however, sees a potential for lots of rain showers, which might make conditions a little soft. This will slow restoration down, sigh. The only mitigating circumstance is that the ground is now so dry, any rain will simply soak away. We'll see.
Drainage ditch for Cormorant lake (north). Upfill continues; will it be same level as Longwater road? 10th September 2021
Yes, it is a Friday. I've actually been visiting the site after 16:00 on Friday's, as that is approximately when Inert knocks off. Fair dues, they start very early, and it is normal in the construction and manufacturing industry.
I'll have to return to weekend morning visits as autumn approaches and the clock go back.
Inert have finally got around to providing Cormorant lake (north) with a drainage ditch. Its waters can now drain into what is left of Cormorant lake (south), and then wend its way to the pump. Only the pump is currently off, as all action is concentrated way over near Longwater road. I did mention, in an earlier blog post, that the upfill of this area should not have joined up with the east ridge and 'grasslands'. Cormorant lake (north) needed a drainage ditch.
Oh, technically, water is draining the wrong way from Cormorant lake (north). It should head west, not east. This will, no doubt, be rectified, once the upfill of what was Finch pond is complete.
As for this upfill, as I call it. Inert have now taken the strip closest to the north embankment all the way across to the western embankment, then turned a corner to head south for a bit. They have then embarked on a second strip, over doubling the width of the first strip.
I will repeat that I am quite surprised at how much upfill is being carried out; some 18 to 24 inches (48 to 60cm). I thought this whole area was more or less complete.
Judging by the depth of upfill, I think it will take what was Finch pond up to the same level as the Longwater road. I did mention in a blog posting a long time ago, that I thought this whole area had to be lifted by this amount to avoid flooding. I did have to pick my way carefully along side the western embankment, avoiding deeper water by sticking to ridges pushed up by bulldozers. Even the, the water was wellington deep!
Will Inert complete the upfill of what was Finch pond by the end of October, given that the plan is to upfill the whole area? Possibly. I say October, as Inert still have Cormorant lake (south) to complete by the end of this year, as well as forming several new ponds and lakes.
At least the weather is holding reasonably dry - apart from a downpour yesterday, and a bit today.
You gotta admire the restoration process for continuing to throw up surprises.
I thought the Finch pond infill was largely complete, with the land largely at finish height. All that needed be done was a little bit of tinkering: bits of minor landscaping, perhaps digging out the odd pond , establishing stream courses, capping with top soil from the embankments, putting in fencing and trees, perhaps the car park. Sort of like fitting out the insides of a new build house, once it was weather sealed.
Oh no. Inert have continued their major upfill (as I call it) exercise. This week working alongside the north embankment (west).
I'm prepared to accept there would have been a small amount of settlement of the area after the initial infill, but surely not 45cm-60cm. This is the amount the area is being raised by, and this is without the capping of top soil from both the flattening of the embankments and whatever else is brought in.
I don't know. As a scientific/engineering type, I tend to start at one end and work my way to the other, with the odd bit of tarting up once the basic framework is completed. This restoration has Inert flitting all over the site, seemingly doing odd bits of 'non-work'. But then again, what do I know about restoring an ex-quarry.
Oh, lorries are having to reverse some 50m-75m again to drop their loads. This time as the upfill is a wide-ish strip along side the north embankment. Odd that, seeing as the going on what was Finch pond is now firm, and previously lorries would happily drive around the perimeter of this area. Reversing slows the operation down, with many lorries waiting their turn.
I'm very curious how the area will finally look, as it bears a passing resemblance to plans I have seen.
Wildlife have taken to the new, deeper Cormorant lake (north) and the possible new Finch pond. Only as Cormorant lake (south) has largely disappear, and what is left is well below ground level - thus making predator spotting a tad difficult.
Sorry about the photos. It was very, very overcast when I got to the site at 7:00am this morning.
My bafflement as to the restoration process of Manor farm continues; possibly plumbing new depths of confusion.
The recently dug drainage ditch, which I presumed (hah, when will I learn) would connect to Cormorant lake (north), has been filled in! Yep, another bit of odd work, undone by Inert.
A number of survey markers have appeared. They are metal rods, to which are attached small lengths of haz-tape. They are dotted about the site. I'm not sure what they are for. Perhaps to mark the extend of lakes, ponds and streams. Perhaps for banking. Perhaps put out to confused and bamboozle me. Who knows.
Cormorant lake (north) is now full of water, and has decided to drain itself. It's drainage strategy is for water to hug the north edge of the infill, and connect with a run off stream from the northern part of the site. This lake (or large pond) is now really nice. Water depth has improved, with nice shallows round its edges, with the possibility of mud flats.
The lake was never really popular with wildfowl. Possibly not deep enough, possibly as foxes would den in the north embankment. However, with the demise of Finch pond and Cormorant lake (south), this lake is proving more popular with wildfowl. Though, birds still prefer the ponds, just to the west of the copse.
Inert have constructed a new land bridge. It is to the north of what was Cormorant lake (south) and runs westward to the latest levelling (grading ?) of what was Finch pond. From it, they have further extended the levelling of ground to the west, reaching about half way across what was Finch pond.
The scrubby nature of this area, and what was the land mass, is very popular with Lapwings. Large flocks of 100+ would congregate amongst the low, sparse vegetation. A few nested here, this past two summers. Sky Larks also like this area. Quite a few has nested successfully over the past few years.
That's more or less it, from what I could see this week. Time will tell what happens next, though progress does seem slow.
Weather wise, it is been dry, if a little cool. Ground conditions are, currently, rock hard. Though this can easily change with a deluge or two.
Well, here's a turn up for the books. I had a long, and interesting chat, with an Inert representative, who came to see what I was up to yesterday evening, as I wandered around Manor farm. He thought I was perhaps a contractor, who hadn't exited in a vehicle, prior to him locking the gates over the bailey bridge.
As we know, plans for Manor farm have been fluid for the past 30 odd years. Originally, Cormorant lake (north) was supposed to be filled in. A late change in plans calls for this lake (well, large pond, really) to be retained. It's quite a nice shaped pond, if a little small and shallow.
One mystery that has been solved, is that of the 'drainage ditch' to nowhere - which I mentioned last week. This ditch is set to be connected, at some point, to Cormorant lake (north) to allow it to drain. In turn, the east side of Cormorant lake (north) will be connected by a stream to Colebrook lake on Moor Green Lakes nature reserve. The connection point is under the footpath bridge near Colebrook hide. Thus the lakes on MGL can drain through Manor farm, and thence to Fleet Hill farm; via the culvert under Longwater road.
The aim is to 'flatten' the site, asap. I assume this means the embankments, plus to being some areas up to finish level. Thus, Inert have now brought the ground around northern and eastern parts of the copse up to the intended finish level - though there may be a cap of top soil. Much needs to be done to the western side of the copse, and possible what was Finch pond.
Interestingly, the plans for the western half of Manor farm may have changed yet again. The 'latest' plans I saw on Hampshire county council's planning site, calls for a long thin lake, approximately where the current ponds are.
I'm also not sure what is going to happen to the southern area between the copse and the pump station. One plan calls for a long lake connected to Manor lake. An alleged newer plan has this area turned into a wetland area, with small ponds - though it is hard to tell from the plans on the planning application site. These same plans allege that both Manor lakes are wetland areas with small ponds, when they are actually quite large lakes. However, what I have interpreted from the plans as being lakes are, in actual fact, deep areas of a wider wetland. Thus, the current Manor lakes are shown as 'wetlands', yet are quite large lakes, which may be shallow.
If this is the case, then the new, long Manor lake, will be truly spectacular, running from MGL to the copse, quite close to the southern (akak Blackwater river) footpath and with a hide/viewing area extending into the middle of it. However, the bank between Manor lake (south) should have been removed by now. Currently, the area is occupied by the pump and a rather large heap of spoil.
There is a question mark over whether a car park will be built next to the Longwater road entrance. One plan says yes, one plan says no, another plan says may be. Shame if it doesn't get built. People will either bombard the small MGLG car park or simply park on the Longwater road clogging it up.
Another possible solved mystery is that of why Inert sometimes cease infill. They can't get suitable spoil. Which kind of makes sense, as there are only so many building sites; especially during lockdown.
Finally, I had a look at the Hampshire County Council planning application pages, and found some documents which describe the latest timescales for the completion of restoration. Unsurprisingly, Inert are running behind - partly due to lockdowns and unusual rainfall- we are in a La Nina year. The main points are that a lot of the infill and basic restoration of Manor farm takes place by the end of this year, particularly the embankments being flattened by autumn. Areas will then be shaped and landscaped, with reed/tree planting taking place spring/summer of next year.
Chandlers farm is scheduled to be completed by 2023.
I've placed the timescales plans after the slide show. Both are the same, except one was rendered in Microsoft Edge and came out almost illegible. I have put the diagrams text into readable boxes. The other was rendered in Firefox and came out better - though still a little hard to read, as I have made it small to reduce download times.
'Curiouser and curiouser', said Alice. Which basically sums up my feelings in trying to determine what Inert have been up to this week. I'm sure there is some technical explanation, probably involving surveyors.
This is a La Nina year. This means we can expect a coolish and damp summer. This meant it rained last weekend, and some. I did not expect to see Inert doing much this week, and I was right, to a certain extent.
Inert appear to have switched operations to the western side of the land mass, working between the ridge and copse. One obvious feature they have constructed is a new land bridge, a spur of the existing, circular one. A sensible move, seeing as this side of the land mass is a little soft underfoot.
In comparison, the going on the north east side of what was Cormorant lake (south) is now quite hard. There are some tyre tracks here, a couple of lorries and van appear to have circled the end of one of the land bridges.
Apart from the new land bridge, it is difficult to ascertain what restoration has taken place. Inert appear to have simply scraped the top couple of inches or so off the ground, and sort of levelled it. Some stuff might have been dumped for infill, but I am not sure of this.
Shame that Inert have scraped off the vegetation. What was there (scrubby grass and low weeds) provided excellent food (seeds) and cover for wildlife, particularly Lapwings.
What was even more curious and obscure, was that Inert dug a beautiful ditch, from what is left of Finch pond up to a small pond near the ridge. There is no where for the water to drain to. There is a considerable amount of infill from this small pond all the way over to the east side of the land mass. Not an impossible task to dig a drainage ditch to what is left of Cormorant lake (south), but a bit fruitless and wasteful. Mainly as the weather is set fair, for the next couple of weeks, with temperatures heading toward the mid twenties. Easily drying out the area.
Another curious piece of work, is that Inert have been asked to extend the scraping of the top of what was Finch pond, from the Longwater road entrance to the ridge. Now, I'm not complaining. This wide track (about two bulldozer widths wide) is brilliant to walk along. I don't have to fight my way through thigh high grass and weeds, which deposit their seed heads into my wellies. I just find it curious that Inert have carefully scraped the land surface. Not at all deeply, just surface, sufficient to scrape off weeds and grass, with hardly any soil.
I guess it must be a surveyor thing. However, the ground here is soft going. I was careful, in places, not wishing to sink into mud. I'm probably over hyping the softness, but I know this area can trap the unwary. I don't wish to sink up to my knees in mud, again!
Oh, I did not do a mid week visit.
Inert have been very busy over the past fortnight.
Firstly, much to my surprise, they have filled in the drainage ditch between Cormorant lakes north and south. This gambit may pay off, a spell of dry weather is predicted from next Tuesday onward. However, it does mean that Cormorant lake (north) is very full, and looking very nice.
Secondly, Inert have continued the infill of the drainage ditch and remaining mud flats all the way east up to the first major stream of run off from the grasslands and ridges. Virtually all the mud flats are gone.
Thirdly, Inert have continued to infill the north east corner of Cormorant lake (south), working their way southward. There isn't much left of Cormorant lake (south). The remaining fragment is roughly the shape of Great Britain, oriented the same way. I estimate that this fragment is some 30m-40m long (north-south), about 8m-10m at its narrowest (Scotland), and some 20m-25m at its widest (Wales/Cornish peninsula - but without the Bristol Channel).
If the weather stays dry, and if Inert and Co. have at it, I reckon it will take a month or two for this last fragment to be filled in. However, the depth of infill is quite considerable - see accompanying photos.
It should be interesting to see how Inert fill in Cormorant lake (north), if that is the intention. I don't think the water will drain away any time soon. I guess one strategy is to simply infill and hope the water soaks away! However, it would be nice if this lake remains. Though it is so shallow, it will fill itself in very quickly.
Going on the site was surprisingly firm - given all the rain we've been experiencing. Even the latest infill (i.e. drainage ditch and southward push) was quite firm underfoot. Usually, freshly bulldozed earth can have the consistency of quicksand. I know, as I've sunk up to my knees in the stuff often enough.
The vehicle tracks were so hard, I was able to stamp my wellingtons on them to get rid of mud. This is not to say that the top surface of the vehicle tracks weren't a little 'greasy' from the deluge that hit the site 30 minutes before I arrived. Several days of continuous torrential rain, will soon return the site to a quagmire.
I think the area has been a lot drier than I have assumed, given all the rain we've had. As I made my way back to my car, I decided to stick to the south vehicle track. Between the copse and my mighty hill, there is a dip in the track. This area has been my nemesis for months. The bottom of the dip used to fill up with silt, that would overtop my wellies. Many a times I've had to abandon walking along this section of track, having to retrace my steps and walk around it, up on the embankment (which was quite soft going as well) or even having to get onto the south footpath.
Finally, as I approached the Longwater road entrance (for a speedy exit, as there were dark foreboding clouds, above - which did pour, torrentially, as I drove home) I noticed that either a bulldozer or digger had chugged around here. Which ever it was, it chugged northward, along the west ridge, up to the north embankment. I did not investigate, due to said impending deluge.
The pump was chugging away. Not much left for it to pump, apart from the considerable quantity of run off from the grasslands and ridges.
I must say, that as Cormorant lakes north and south near their ending, I do feel a twinge of sadness. I've been recording the process of restoration for over 4 years now. These lakes have become very familiar to me, and it is almost like losing a friend.
A polite notice first: All photographs on this blog are owned by me and subject to copyright.