My nemesis returns: Mud. 'Reed planting' on Manor lake infill, with north banking complete. 30th July 2023
I've just realised a major flaw in the change of plan calling for the infill of Manor lake: Climate change. Scientists predict that British summers will get drier and hotter. Last year and this year have definitely given us a taste of this. 40 C temperatures last year, with drought conditions. A two week heat wave in late spring of of this year - leading to hose pipe bans in certain parts of England.
I reckon we got really lucky with the subsequent long spell of wet weather we received. However, an El Nino year for the UK tends to result in long stretches of dry, hot weather.
This means that the new Manor lake, with its marshy, tussock ground will dry out very quickly. There just isn't the depth of water required to keep this grassland (what it effectively is) wet. The original design of Manor lake, however, called for it to be a proper lake, with a proper depth of water (about 3 to 5 metres), which would have provided a good reservoir of water for the area, as well as doubling up as a good soak of run-off in periods of torrential rain.
This week's update will be a little unusual. I too so many photos (165) yesterday, I need time to process them and then spread them across more than one slide show. This post will be updated over the coming week with extra photos.
In the meantime, an update.
We have experienced a lot of rain recently, some of it quite heavy and prolonged. Rather surprising for an El Nino year. I was expecting a long dry summer, to compound the ridiculous temperatures we got in late spring. This wet weather, combined with bulldozing of friable soil, means that mud is back on the restoration site.
The going was soft to very soft in places, with very gooey, sticky surface mud, which stuck to and built up on my walking shoes. I stuck to bulldozer and digger tracks wherever possible. Overall, the ground wasn't that soft, and I only wussed out because I didn't have wellingtons on.
A lot more rain is forecast for this week, which is good. The ground is still quite dry, and the rain soaks almost into it directly. There is very little standing water. Further rain would also help filling up the Manor lake infill, and will also help the reeds and trees both survive and get established.
Tuesday's footpath stomp revealed a lone digger building up the west side of the banking on the north shore of Manor lake. A truly mighty structure it is. The digger driver stopped just short of the old pump station. I wonder if a sluice gate will be fitted here?
After completing the banking, our digger driver then went on to dig the deeper frilly bits along and around the banking. Manor lake now has all sorts of channels and moated scrapes and wiggly bits. It all looks very pretty and interesting, but will be hidden very quickly, and I suspect will be silted up in a few years.
Reed planting has finally taken place, roughly six months behind schedule. Not bad, considering Inert had to fill in Manor lake as part of a last minute change in design. What Inert have done is to cut established clumps of reeds, taken from other parts of the restoration, and dumped them onto various parts of Manor lake infill. Only in a couple of places were the clumps planted into soil. Other parts they were simply plonked on the top of the ground. Inert may go back and plant them properly, though I'm not sure they will. The unplanted clumps should get establish as they are quite large, with good root systems, and it is going to rain a lot, with no blistering temperatures.
Inert have also transplanted some trees. They are looking pretty sorry for themselves, and I really don't think they will survive. I believe all the trees planted on scrapes in Finch pond were either removed or have died.
Well folks, it does look as if the infill of Manor lake is almost complete. The digger driver has started work on the extension to Manor lake. He has definitely flattened pump station mound, and has begun landscaping around the old pump station. Funnily enough, this area had the softest ground. It was firm enough for me to walk on without sinking. I was just overly cautious as I didn't have wellingtons.
Wildlife has returned to Manor lake with a vengeance. Though it shouldn't have been forced out in the first place. Manor lake was well established and should never have been filled in. One aspect of the original design of the site was for it to help with drainage management - which means having deep lakes to hold rain run off for subsequent slow release into the Blackwater river.
On Saturday morning (5:50 am) I spotted on and over Manor lake: Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Black headed gulls, at least five Green Sandpipers (which flew between Finch pond and Manor lake), Lapwings, and a whole load of unidentified brown bird species. Coots, Moorhens and Mallards occupied East Main reed beds aka East Fen. Finch pond and the Main reed beds had their usual population of resident birds.
Now that banking has been restored, I am beginning to see more Roe deer. They had been conspicuously over the past year.
A bit later than desired, the first tranche of photos.
This is proving heavy work, processing all the photos I took on Saturday. I do feel, however, that it is important to reveal the underlying bones of this site before it becomes water logged. Other areas of landscaping are bold and obvious. Landscaping on the Manor lake infill is subtle and will be silted up quickly, thus the structures will be lost.
My fingers are getting cramp from so much typing. Not many more photographs to process after this tranche.
I think Manor lake and its extension should be renamed Manor Mire. Some parts of the infill seem higher than the land making up the peninsular; which isn't at all boggy, even the bits near the water.
A defining feature of the Blackwater valley is its boggy, marshy nature. That's why there are so many drainage ditches cut into the landscape. Even our back garden has a drainage ditch going across the bottom of it. What this area does lack are large, natural lakes. Which is why I am baffled as to why Manor lake was filled in as was its extension. The idea of these lakes was as a soak for run off, particularly from the Finchampstead ridges, and then slow release into the Blackwater river. This river gets bank full very quickly after heavy rainfall, and frequently bursts its banks. Storing water in Manor lake was one way of mitigating flooding.
We now reach the final installment of my marathon photography session. In addition to the landscaping of Manor lake, I've also included photos showing how nature has reclaimed Manor farm, in some cases a few months after earthworks were complete.
There is no site visit this week. Rain was forecast to start at 4:00am this morning, and monsoon conditions follow throughout the day. In fact it started raining at 5:55am - which meant I would have got wet had I visited Manor farm.
A polite notice first: All photographs on this blog are owned by me and subject to copyright.