This week's format follows that of last week. An initial posting, followed by a number of photo updates due to the large number of photographs I took.
But first, a really good place to plonk a hide and viewing screen might be where the 'Grey box' is situated. This grey box (a transformer) is a well known landmark, and is used to direct bird watchers. I've also realised that it gives decent views over the banking separating Manor lake (mire/marsh) from the main reed beds, as the banking is actually quite low here; it's basically the bit Inert plugged. One big issue is how tall will the reeds grow? If the really tall variety, like at RSPB Leighton moss, then little will be seen of the main reed beds. If a shorter variety is used, then more will be seen of open water areas of the main reed beds - unless the intention the entire area is covered in reeds. A great shame if so. It aint 'arf boring, and not much of a community asset if people can't see anything. Note: Longwater road nature reserve was/is considered a community asset - and should be managed as such: to promote wildlife, educating people of said wildlife and conservation, and providing a green landscape for people to enjoy.
I hope the grey box is retained. Though taking out its innards would be a good idea, and also making it obvious this has been done. Otherwise some thieving oik will try and steal the wires inside.
A point I've made before: unless effort is made to provide an extensive stretch of pebbly/gravelly ground, the Little Ringed Plovers will no longer breed here. Which is a shame, as they do so well. Unfortunately, I noticed that Inert had scraped a great deal of the gravel and pebbles that used to cover the site from the yellow bridge eastward to almost the Bailey bridge.
It was obvious from my Tuesday visit that Inert were now working on sculpting the Manor lake extension, finally. What remained to be seen was whether they would stick to their task or would this be an example of them flitting about from place to place; starting one job, working on it a bit, but taking months to complete it as they flit off to another task.
I had to lift my jaw off the ground when I arrived on Saturday morning. Inert had completed a huge amount of landscaping of Manor lake extension - probably as much as 75%. It just shows, that given a decent set of plans, and the instructions to go, how much Inert can achieve in a short space of time. I bet the crew felt good about achieving so much.
What have Inert done?
Flattened banking that used to run along the south footpath - thus allowing people a clear view of the site. Although we could see over most of this banking during winter months, when vegetation had died down, it became almost impossibly during summer months due to said vegetation growing so tall.
A wooded area near the Bailey bridge has been left, so far. It is actually a well established ecosystem, with established reeds and a thriving community of Reed Warblers. I do hope this area is retained as is.
Inert plant operators have removed many spoil heaps and other large areas of spoil, which littered the area. From just shy of the yellow bridge and extending eastward to just shy of the old pump station, Inert have sculpted a series of 'scrapes' and channels and moats, quite nicely sinusoidal in nature. Unfortunately the deeper areas of water aren't that deep - in keeping with what they did with Manor lake.
I would say that Manor lake extension does look a little bit more interesting, landscape wise, than Manor lake. One possible disappointment is that the south shore of Manor lake extension is, perhaps, a little further from the Blackwater valley footpath than we would of liked - from a photography point of view. On the other hand, if a bridlepath is built between the south footpath and lake then it would place bird watchers nice and close - and you can bet your bottom dollar that bird watchers will be using the bridlepath as it will be closer to Manor lake.
Actually, having walked the proposed route of the bridlepath along the south shore of the current Manor lake (when contractors had come in and cleared the path, and before nettles had grown up along it) I can say bird watchers will get superb views; until any reeds grow up - hopefully they wont be the giant ones like at Leighton Moss.
Inert are, sensibly, working west to east on landscaping Manor lake extension. This means that the eastern part of Manor lake extension hasn't been sculpted. Thus, the middle bit is a bit of a mess.
Firstly, with much sadness, I have to report that the last remaining fragment of Cormorant lake (south) has been filled in. All rather pointless, really.
Secondly, I can't really work out the structure of this middle bit, as it is all a mess, with pile of oil and random structures here and there.
Thirdly, there is the matter of the curious crescent shaped mound of soil I really am at a lose what this is or how to explain its function. It isn't the usual pile of spoil Inert build. It isn't a decent piece of banking. It just looks like a ramp either a tank would drive over or a police pursuit vehicle would sit on. I can only assume that the channel from Manor lake would pass along the north edge of this crescent to join up with its corresponding name sake on the Manor lake extension.
Talking about channels. It's only just dawned on me that the channel on the Manor lake extension does not hug the banking separating Manor lake and the main reed beds. Instead, it heads off inland (southward) from the sluice gate near the yellow bridge, before curving east and describing a sinusoidal route towards Manor lake. It hasn't yet joined up with the channel on Manor lake's north shore, but it was curving back towards the former location of the pump station.
What I've been calling the channel on the Manor lake is on the last set of plans on the WBC planning website, only it looks like a proper lake; only it isn't as it is so shallow. Anyway, it will join up with the channel on Manor lake (which isn't on any plans), and sort of change into a biggish, shallow lake to the east of the crescent mound.
The mound isn't on any plans I have.
Speaking of this channel on Manor lake extension. I wanted to get to the north side of Manor lake extension, a bit between the channel and the banking), to photograph what was there. Only I had to cross the channel. Now, it wasn't at all deep, on near the crescent bank. It was barely discernable as a channel, however it was a slightly lower bit of land, with a channelish sort of shape, and water in it.
To paraphrase a certain cop from a certain film...'I had to ask myself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well do I?' Would the ground be solid enough to support my weight? I took one, very careful stop, on what appeared to be slightly gravelly ground, which from experience told me the ground would be firm. Nope, my foot sank an inch into mud promptly, with very little pressure being applied by me.
I backed up, and sought another spot; which I duly found and was able to cross over to the bit of land north of the channel, but south of the banking. The ground here was firm to soft going. A lot of care was taken in how I walked, backing off quickly if the ground was too boggy. It wasn't too bad, but I didn't take any chances.
I had hoped to walk all the way to where the sluice gate near the yellow bridge will be installed. I was thwarted by a hidden channel, about 20m from the sluice gate hole. I might have made it across this channel, had I been wearing wellingtons. But not today, as all I had on were hiking boots.
Oh, the Marsh Harrier graced me with an appearance as it flew, languidly, eastward over near the crescent ridge. It didn't seem too concerned about me. In fact, many birds weren't too bothered with me, particularly the Egyptian geese. These are very nervous birds, and normally fly off at the merest sight of me. On Saturday, several flocks stayed put, even though I was in plain sight, at one point no more than 15m from a pair. No honking or warning cries. No flying off.
I can only imaging is it was because I was wearing a hi-vis vest, and only assume many birds have got used to seeing people wandering around in hi-vis clothing and leaving them alone.
Anyway, I think the Marsh Harrier is an early riser, as this is the third time I have seen it flying along the south shore of the main reeds beds at roughly 6:00am to 7:00am
Couldn't really sleep, last night. Finally hauled myself out of bed at 5:00am and got cracking with photo update. I got carried away with this latest tranche. Rather more photos than I had intended, but they do hang together in a sort of logical way.
This is where I have my 'Dirty Harry' moment. Do I feel lucky? I had to ask myself, is the ground in front of me solid or is it going to engulf my leg up to my ankle or beyond?
Fourth and final installment. Bet you're all glad to see an end to this marathon photographic update.
A polite notice first: All photographs on this blog are owned by me and subject to copyright.