On the last day of September of a very warm month, I hauled myself out of bed at 5:10am and dragged myself down to Manor farm at 6:45am. I had to take a long detour as South East Water take their twice/thrice yearly crack at fixing water leaks on the Finchampstead road south of the surgery.
A glorious morning. No wind. Slightly nippy. I parked on Dell road and nipped over the fence on the east access track to the north side of Manor farm. From a photography angle, Manor farm is far more photogenic than Moor Green Lakes nature reserve. Particularly sun rises. Another aspect I've discovered, is that the north bridle path should give brilliant BIF photos as birds fly the length of the valley. I used to get superb BIF photos from the long gone, north embankment. Anyway, on with the show...
I was totally gob smacked to see a bridlepath cutting across the access track. Bleedin'ell, I thought, Inert have been busy.
In my defence, Yer 'Onour, I was looking for signs that Inert were working on the north bridle path before I took myself along there. I haven't seen any of these signs e.g. churned up ground caused by lorries trundling northward across the site, your actual digger working up there or your actual yellow dumper truck shifting stuff up there. Inert did this whole construction by stealth.
Further in my defence, Yer Lordship, Inert did not dig a mighty trench to accommodate the bridle path ballast. The digger appears to have scraped a couple of inches turf for the bed of the path, and dumped said turf along side the edge of the path; I was looking for tons of stuff to appear on crescent mound. One upshot of this is that far less ballast is required to cap the weed proof membrane, meaning it takes at least a fifth, in not less, of the time to create the north bridle path as it did to create the south bridle path. In fact, it is possible most of the path was created this past week.
Ground conditions on most of the north edge of Manor farm is fairly dry and firm. This allows far less depth of ballast/gravel to support a bridle path. However, towards the west side of the side, conditions get rather more boggy. It should be interesting to see the depth of trench cut here.
Anyway, enough of my excuses and tardiness in not hauling my backside to investigate the north section of Manor farm. What have Inert accomplished?
The east side of the path stops some 30m to 50m shy of the MGLG car park. I would suggest that this last segment is not constructed until fencing (with wire mesh) is put along the length of the bridlepath. Without the fence, people will simply roam all over the site, and dog owners in particular will let their dogs run loose. Bear in mind there are quite a few ground nesting birds here, most particularly the endangered Sky Lark. Around Hawthorne lake, dogs will be allowed to run into it, disturbing wildlife and eroding banks. Don't believe the latter? Take a walk along the Blackwater river, and note severe bank erosion at popular 'dog diving in' spots.
The bridle path (well, some of it is supposed to be footpath) extends all the way westward until it meets the boggy ground where the once might ridge used to stand; basically due north of the copse. It should be interesting to see what Inert put here to bridge this boggy bit. A pipe/culvert for one, I would say. The bridle path isn't quite finished where the east ridge used to be i.e. where the west access track to Lower Sandhurst road is. This particular track is meant to be, on one map, where a spur of the bridle path will be.
One big problem with all this bridle path is keeping anti-social yobs from riding their motorbikes on it. I've seen them do it on Fleet hill farm.
I mentioned, in my first visit along the route of the north footpath, that culverts or drainage pipes need to be fitted along some drainage ditches to allow the bridle path to go over it. Well, Inert have placed big drainage pipes in these ditches. Two of them surprisingly small.
Stop press! Cemex have informed me that this is pure temporary. The small bore pipe will be replaced with one of 750mm diameter. Keeping my ramblings for historical context. One of these crossing points will cause considerable trouble. Inert have simply placed a small bore pipe in the bottom of the ditch, and contoured the bridle path downward by about 3 feet i.e. it dips down. It's a lovely slope but the ballast will be eroded away (particularly by horses) and the bottom of the dip will become saturated with water, and so erode away even quicker. This needs to be revisited - see photos.
Inert have also dug a mighty drainage ditch alongside the Barn owl box. It flows into Hawthorne lake. Shame is, the Barn owl box will have to be moved. Barn owls will not appreciate hoards of people passing so close to it. Secondly, as witnessed by the felling of the Hadrian's wall Sycamore, some low life will either steal the Barn owl's eggs or chicks, or kill the barn owl or chop its box down.
Plenty of photos to follow. Firstly though, I have to spend an onerous day sanding down banisters. SWMBO wants them painted white - rather than their current (hideous) dark brown.
A polite notice first: All photographs on this blog are owned by me and subject to copyright.