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.
Yesterday, Saturday, dawned foggy and icy. Roads and pavements quite slippery, with black ice in places. This morning dawned foggy. Not as bad as yesterday, but still not wonderful.
I am not sure if Inert are back on Manor farm. No mid-week site visit as we were in Liverpool. Nothing exciting - emptying a house of 'rubbish'. Came back Friday afternoon - completely exhausted from humping boxes and furniture.
I decided to stay indoors and finish my latest painting.
Sars-Cov2 cases continue to plummet. There's a poke in the eye with a sharp stick for all those so called experts, professors lockdown, lockdown and lockdown. Doom meisters the lot of them. It was pretty obvious from South Africa that the omicron variant wasn't going to amount to anything.
The Bard says it all, really. I hauled myself out of bed, and down to Manor farm, early Sunday morning. I declined to go Saturday due to...yes, you guessed it...rain. Sunday was, soggy underfoot, and very cold. Ice, 3mm thick had formed over puddles, making a nice clinking sound, as I waded through them.
A pretty sun rise, peeked over the trees bordering the Blackwater river, and was reflected in a flat calm Finch pond.
Of Inert and any progress, there was none. This is not to say they haven't been working elsewhere, whether it be Chandlers farm or Fleet Hill farm. Manor farm seems untouched since before Christmas.
Why work has stopped is a mystery - answers on a post card or response to this website. Perhaps the dread isodemic (self-isolation) has laid off most of the Inert staff, perhaps Cemex have run out of money for this year, perhaps plans are being redrawn. Who knows.
Oh, the pump has been off for quite some time. The rain, however, has continued with a vengeance. This in turn has resulted in Cormorant lake south (what is left of it) filling up, while the new Finch pond has burst its banks. Run off from Finch pond can head west, under the Longwater road culvert, to Fleet hill farm. What is left of Cormorant lake south may have capacity to take on further water, but when it bursts its banks I'm not sure where the water will flow. It could, conceivably, flow into Moor Green Lakes and thence the Blackwater. but this will be opposite to where it should be flowing.
The whole of Manor farm was saturated, with plenty of standing water. However, underfoot conditions were surprisingly firm - well, sufficient for me not to sink up to my knees in mud.
On the pandemic front. Case rates continue to fall, even with test rates holding up. Hospitalisation rates are no worse than a bad flu year, while deaths are remarkably low. This should not come as a surprise to most people, except for those like Sturgeon, Drakesford and professors lockdown, lockdown and lockdown. Funny that, only what I've been saying for months, Omicron isn't much to worry about. Other scientists (the ones with their heads screwed on properly) have pointed out that Sars-Cov2 is now less lethal than influenza. Isn't it funny that the lockdown advocates have suddenly gone silent.
The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine have admitted their model was wrong. They shouldn't have set the Sars-Cov2 lethality parameter to that of the delta variant.
The idiots. Didn't they believe the South Africans, when they said the omicron variant was causing mild symptoms, that didn't translate to major hospitalisations and need for ICU.
The problem was, the LSHTM published their results ( 75,000 deaths, indeed), which was then used to panic the government into rushing in restrictions. Then Prof Whitty uses the 75,000 deaths scenario in an attempt to scare the British public; who largely rolled their eyes up and ignored him. Very unprofessional of Prof Whitty.
The prof who has surprised me is Jonathan Van Tam aka JVT aka Sir. JVT. He gave the Royal Institute lectures, this year. He has a huge sense of humour. Lovely to watch him winding up the kids in the audience. It was one of the better lectures of late.
2021 exited on a wet, dreary, soggy though mild note. 2022 didn't so much roar in, as slink in with the same dreary, wet, soggy and mild weather.
Having had a near normal Christmas and New Year (unlike the poor Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish where their political leaders are in the thrall of the lockdown experts), and a year of Pingdemics, it looks like we will have to endure chaos brought about by Isodemic. People having to self isolate for up to seven days should they test positive for Sars Cov 2 i.e. Covid-19. Even though the omicron variant is not much worse than a nasty flu. Bear in mind that admissions to hospital for flu in a normal year is roughly 1000 per day. The UK is still below this figure. Which begs the question - why the need to self isolate, particularly as over 90% of the UK population has been vaccinated?
Against this barmy backdrop, coupled with the usual 'dead' period between Christmas and New Year's day (I always worked this period as the office was so quiet - you could get work done), I decided to forgo a soggy, muddy trudge across Manor farm to see what Inert and co might or might not have been up to.
Progress could be painfully slow, over the next few weeks, if Inert and haulage staff have to self isolate due to catching the Omicron variant of Sars Cov 2. Rainfall is also not showing much signs of easing up - we are still in a La Nina event. Ground conditions are pretty sodden.
One ray of good news to brighten up the doom and gloom: James Web Space Telescope wends its way through its commissioning process. The deployment team is taking its time, not risking anything. They have deployed the comms aerial, momentum shield, sun shield booms and DTA tower. Their team lead has decided to halt deployment to allow scientists and engineers study how the telescope is reacting to space.
Apparently, this is quite normal. However, there is a huge amount riding on JWST, and the deployment team do not want to screw things up by rushing into actions.
Yesterday was Christmas day, overcast and decidedly manky. Definitely no site visit, regardless of the lousy light conditions. Today, it is currently pouring with rain; adding to the deluge yesterday, and over night. Any miniscule thoughts of a possibly site visit today have been soundly abandoned; spurred on by thoughts that Inert et al haven't done very much over the past week.
I have no idea if this lack of activity was, in part, due to the Omicron variant of SARS-2 i.e. Covid-19. Possibly. I doubt much will happen this coming week. I may pay a site visit next Saturday or Sunday. Depends on the weather. Therefore, I wish you all a happy new year.
But spare a thought for the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish. Their loony leaders have imposed unnecessary restrictions due to the perceived threat of SARS-2 omicron variant. The loony leaders are in the thrall of the even loonier, so-called experts.
As both a graduate and postgraduate of Imperial college, and as someone who worked in the world of data science and analytics in my career, I know only too well the limitations, fallibility and outright dodginess of data models. The ultimate examples being: weather forecast, election polling forecasts and financial market forecasting. I have been saying this for over 18 months.
I was appalled that both the LSTHM and Imperial college teams gave the omicron variant the same lethality as the delta variant, in their models. Despite all the reports coming out of South Africa, which pointed to the opposite. They modellers and so-called experts also ignored the cardinal rule of viruses: a virus has two evolutionary choices - get more lethal and less infectious or get less lethal and more infections.
In presenting best and worst case scenarios, the modellers and so-called experts ignored a fundamental psyche of human nature; we focus on the worst case scenario. It was appalling, and unprofessional for both the LSTHM to publish the results of their model before it was peer reviewed - talking about 75,000 deaths due to omicron variant, and for Prof Whitty to reference this figure. Seriously! He obviously forgot about having to apologies about the 4000 daily deaths per day forecast he quoted mid way through 2020.
Right from day one, reports from South Africa said that omicron variant was way less lethal than delta and that the vaccine offered protection from serious symptoms. This would largely ignored by the so-called experts. Though who did notice it and said restrictions were unnecessary - causing more damage than good, were drowned out by the high priests of lockdown.
When their was growing acceptance that omicron variant was less lethal and that SA hospitals weren't overwhelmed, with mass admissions and deaths, the so-called experts move the goal posts, saying that the UK's demographic was different and that they (the experts) did not know how events would pan out in this country.
Hold the phone. These are experts. They should know or at the very least have a very good insight based on over a hundred years of viral research and experience. They can't take the stance of 'could', 'might', 'maybe', etc, etc, etc and then opt for the default suggestion of lockdown.
Well, until next year. Good luck to you all.
The cryptic title is due to me not really figuring what Inert et al have been up to this week on Manor farm. Matters were not helped by a rather foggy Sunday morning.
As far as I could make out, Inert et al appear to have fiddled with pump station mound. They might have added a bit more to it, they might have flattened in a bit more, smooth out its top.
What they appear to have done is dug a rampart around the base of the mound, much like the hill forts of the iron age.
With a week to go before Christmas, and with all this silliness around the Covid-19 Omicron variant, and with the band playing steadfastly on the S.S. Bumbling Boris as it sinks, I doubt Inert et al will engage in any substantial activity in the next two weeks.
And so it should be. All involved in this enterprise deserve a well earned rest.
I did have a thought about the new, extended Manor lake and whether Inert need to embark on extensive excavating. I realised that with all the spoil Inert have lying around in various heaps, along with the various embankments, perhaps all Inert have to do is raise the surrounding land height to roughly that of the land bridges. This should result in a water depth of roughly two to four metres. Shallow, I grant you, but still deep enough for reed beds (shudder) and marginal vegetation.
Well, unless something drastic happens in the next week, a merry Christmas to you all. I might pop down on Boxing day, partly to have a look see and partly to walk off any feasting from Christmas day.
I discovered that my blog has over 7,800 photographs. I do spoil you lot.
Once again, Inert and Co appear, on the surface, not to have accomplished very much this past week. This is not to say they accomplished a lot, whether on Manor farm or Chandlers farm. It’s just there isn’t much evidence on Manor farm.
What appears to have happened is the top of the mighty pump station mound has been smoothed down. I can’t work out whether soil is being taken from the mound or if the bumps and lumps on the top have simply been smoothed down.
Logically, the latter is silly. This leaves the former as a likely explanation, but yields a further conundrum - what did Inert do with the soil? There is no obvious sign of soil being dumped anywhere on Manor farm. I can see no further infill of what is left of Cormorant lake (south) - the obvious place to put the stuff. Neither are there any obvious vehicle tracks in the mud to point to where soil might have been taken.
Despite the heavy rain we’ve had this past week (it is still a La Nina event), the land bridges and south vehicle path remain remarkably firm.
The heavy rain has led to flooding. Firstly, my nemesis is back - a depression in the south vehicle track between the copse and my mighty mound. Basically, it is one huge rut in the track caused by heavy traffic. It is deep. It is filled with water and gooey mud the consistency of quicksand. As usual, I had to take a detour around it.
Secondly, the actual flooding is on the former Finch pond part of Manor farm. Water levels from what is left of Finch pond have broached parts of the south vehicle track, and congregated in deep tyre ruts. However, the water does extend past the tracks in places. I feel it wouldn’t take much more heavy rain for flooding to start creeping toward the south footpath. Bear in mind that parts of the south footpath running alongside Moor Green Lakes reserve are prone to flooding.
The southern gate to Fleet Hill farm part of the Longwater Road Nature Reserve was wide open on Saturday morning. I did not investigate whether contractors were working on this part of the reserve.
Well folks, as Boris bumbles his way from cock up to cock up, the doomeister 'experts' on SAGE reiterate their tiresome calls to lockdown the country in the face of the omicron variant non-event, I was hard pushed to work out what restoration took place this last week.
I did figure, last week, that unless Inert did something fairly dramatic (i.e. continue infill of Cormorant lake south) that I would be hard pushed to discover the next phase of restoration. This proved true. I may be slighting Inert et al, but the only piece of work they appear to have done is worked on the banking separating the south footpath (running alongside the Blackwater river) and the south vehicle track.
This banking is normally a riot of vegetation that screens Manor farm from the south footpath throughout most of late spring, summer and early autumn: most annoying. Inert have either scraped the top of the banking free of vegetation or piled a thin layer of soil on top of it.
Other than this piece of work, I can't see what else has happened this week. This is not to say that activity has simply transferred to another part of the site (e.g. Chandlers farm) or that Inert have worked hard on Manor farm but it wasn't obvious to me. However, I have seen this before, where Inert flit from place to place - normally after a sustained piece of work in one area.
Now it is my turn to be a doomeister. I have a feeling that the new, planned, mighty Manor lake, stretching from the pump station to the copse, will not happen. I can't see where all the spoil that is on currently Manor farm will go. The mighty mounds, the embankments have to be flattened, in addition to the lakes being excavated. Shame, the new long Manor lake would provide great views, especially from the viewing are on the spit of land currently sticking out in to the middle of Manor lake (south).
As they say, time will tell.
I did clamber to the top of the mighty pump station mound, which has shrunk a little over the past few months, for a 360 of the area. Might as well take the opportunity before it is flattened.
A polite notice first: All photographs on this blog are owned by me and subject to copyright.