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Friday, 23 March 2018

Sandyford Brook Restoration Project 2

It has been a busy week back on the Sandyford project and we’ve made big strides to get the bulk of the heavy-duty work done as soon as it was dry enough, before commencing with reinforcements to the access and the pitched slope itself. Although it has felt for a while that things are starting to look a lot worse before they start to get better, repairing as much as we can as we go and using low-impact vehicles where possible ensures we minimise this. 

The weather at the start of the week did us no favours, with a quarry visit to select materials being put in jeopardy of delays due to the roads being impassable in the extremely heavy blizzards. Thankfully our route re-opened on the still frosty morning of the visit so we were able to confirm the pitching stone was suitable and hand-pick the foundations and bridge slab. These were then able to be delivered to site over the next two days and we have already began transporting them to the worksite in preparation for the next construction phase. This is when a group of experienced stone pitching volunteers from the Lake District National Park will begin laying the first section of track surface.

Measuring the bridge stones which will need to lock together in place for potentially hundreds of years.

To assist that next step, yesterday we were lucky enough to be helped out by a group of undergraduates from Nottingham Trent University, undertaking a conservation project case study at the Lindley Education Trust Hollyford Centre in Castleton. We also were joined by an archaeologist from ArcHeritage, the organisation who produced a recent survey of Eastern Moors' many thousands of archaeological items, who was on site to monitor any ground disturbances.

We excavated the wet clay and matted dead vegetation topsoil, to reveal a quality hard-based tray on which to build up the stone surface. By being flush with the surrounding turf the final track will quick vegetate around the edges and between stones to become almost as natural as the rocky White Edge ascent above. We really hope the group got as much from the day as we did from them and were ecstatic at their work ethic and motivation, for the project as well as protecting the sensitivities of the area.

The NTU student group plan and mark out the track route and safe working areas. 
An archaeology meter stick above a preserved history of clay, peat and soil substratum.

As promised we have not closed off any areas of the open-access moorland up until this point, but have been warning visitors in close proximity of the works and will continue to do so. Only Eastern Moors Partnership staff are permitted to drive off-road vehicles on the site but please take note of the potential for significant increased traffic from the access gate to Curbar Gap car park over the coming weeks. The current deep-rutted access route from here to White Edge Fields unfortunately no longer resembles the traditional Peak District dual-stoned and central grass strip track, as the surface is now mostly compressed into soft ground has been by the weight of machine and materials. However we are already working to reinforce this with more traditional sandstone chippings back to its former state. This will also mean foot access to the site will become much more pleasant through to the temporary diversion that will come into play next week.

On this point, at this time of year it is worth reminding all visitors that on top of these works and heavy machinery traffic, the area continues to be a high risk for Adder encounters with dogs, who have also been noted causing potential significant disruption to ground nesting birds in breeding season. With livestock returning to this area at the end of the week it is vital that dogs remain on leads on the moorland to help out nature during these especially important months for wildlife.
Tools must be hand-carried down to site to minimize vehicle impact as much as possible.

Lastly, it has been great to engage visitors on site and gain some incredibly positive feedback about the project. As always, for any comments or queries please get in touch on, or on this blog or our Facebook 

The finished tray ready to receive stone pitching. Soil deposited to each side is able to be backfilled around the stone steps and vegetation transplanted to eroded patches.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Sandyford Brook Restoration Project

The Sandyford Brook Restoration Project is now underway as we look to enhance this important access track and river crossing point for visitor enjoyment and protection of wildlife.

We need to allow the surrounding surface of the track, which has become excessively trodden and eroded by weathering and heavy use, to naturally recover. We intend to achieve a big reduction in impact to ecological habitat by allowing users to stick to a resilient single track, rather than having to spread out to pass wet or slippy areas in poor conditions. There are additional benefits in preventing uncontrolled erosion damage to an area of the Scheduled Monument through which the track passes.

When looking at the priority areas for works this location was identified to be in most urgent need of attention to prevent further degradation. We are looking to achieve this by narrowing and reinforcing the track with stone pitching - a type of traditional stone-stepped surface that is more pleasant to use. We are also replacing the timber bridge which has reached the end of its useful life, with a stone clapper bridge. This permanent structure shall have reduced maintenance requirements and be more appropriate in its special Moorland setting. We are also reducing the length and height of the crossing to increase visitor safety and further allow it to sit softer in the landscape.

Example moderate sized stone clapper bridge

The bulk of the work will be carried out by our Warden team, who are experienced in working sympathetically in sensitive areas of Moorland. In addition, following consultation with the Peak District National Park Authority, National Trust and RSPB archaeologists, we are undertaking all excavation work under watch of specialists for protection of the Scheduled Monument.

To prevent disruption to visitors we are maintaining an accessible route between Curbar Gap car park and White Edge, by way of a temporary alternate access into the adjacent fields. This is also a separate project to provide a cattle gathering point outside of the more sensitive areas of the surrounding Moorland. People will then be able to re-join the track above the area works are being undertaken. At times there may be an increase in staff vehicle movements to the site from the car park but there will be signed and taped-off areas to warn of site hazards.

Photos below capture some of the decline in condition over the last year, as well as concept visual impression of what we would like to achieve over the coming years as the track blends into the landscape and vegetation recovers.

Current condition

Intended improved condition