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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.

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