One of my recent contracts has been for the lovely community and conservation minded chaps at Chiltern Rangers in High Wycombe. The MD, John Shaw, contacted me a couple of months ago with a notion of installing a graded track approximately 300m long around Funges Meadow Nature Reserve to allow people of all abilities to benefit from the nature reserve. Some regular readers of my blog (if there are any) may remember I carried out some conservation and habitat enhancement at the reserve back in March, which I blogged about in Funges Meadow Back Stream Enhancement. So I sat down and scratched my head a few times to come up with something that would meet his criteria.
However it wasn’t as easy as it sounded. John wanted to construct something that was in keeping with the wildlife site: it had to be as unobtrusive as possible, easy to maintain and allow mowers to cross it, within a strict budget, environmentally friendly and also be wide enough and level enough to allow wheel chairs, buggies and individuals of all abilities to access all areas of the nature reserve whilst still looking natural. You can see the previous uneven grassy track in the aerial photograph above. So after some serious head scratching, I came up with a plan!
John wanted a perimeter track laid around the pond in the middle of the reserve, with a spur leading off to the dipping platform on the banks of the back stream (adjacent to one of the gravel riffles I installed in March) and another spur leading off to the boardwalk which crosses the back stream on the main pedestrian entrance to the site.
Fortunately the substrate around the reserve is chalk and flint, meaning the ground under the top 150mm of top soil is extremely solid. This was fortunate, as i meant that any shallow excavations took out the 150mm layer of top oil, and presented a nice solid base for the track.
The terrain within the nature reserve is, well – natural. This meant it was far from level and a little ingenuity had to be employed to ensure that the track blended in, whilst still allowing wheelchair and buggy access on the inclines. Access to the site for HGV’s and heavy plant is also limited, which narrowed the possibilities even more. My final specification for the contract was:
Construct 1,200mm wide, approximately 310m long circular path around pond at above site, including a 1,200mm wide, approximately 30m long spur path leading from the circular path to the dipping platform situated on the bank of the Back Stream within the footprint of the site.
Construct 2,000mm wide, approximately 20m long track leading from road access gates on Bowden Lane to circular path around pond suitable for vehicle access.
Grade the ground and terrain along the footprint of the path sympathetically with 5 ton 360 tracked excavator where needed to allow pedestrian and wheelchair access to all areas of the site via the path.
Paths to be constructed by excavating 150mm deep by 1,200mm wide track along the desired route, laying 1,500mm wide 100GSM weed prevention membrane, backfilled with scalpings aggregate (or similar) with 5 ton 360 tracked excavator and 3 ton 4WD dumper, and compacted with 1.2m wide sit-on vibrating roller. At appropriate locations, paths may be required to be edged with 22mm x 150mm x 3,600mm treated timber, supported by 75mm x 75mm x 1,500mm treated posts to prevent subsidence.
Path to be finished level with adjacent terrain level where possible (excluding ramp areas) to allow mowers to traverse across. Spoil from path excavation to be used for profiling on site as directed by Chiltern Rangers.
I spent a week on site with a small team, using excavator, dumper and roller to create a 1.4m wide, circa 350m long track around the nature reserve which blended into the surrounding terrain, wouldn’t break up under pedestrian and light vehicle use, but which would ‘green up’ to allow the site too look as nature-like as possible. In some areas, the inclines had to be extended with timber edging to keep the track on a suitable gradient. This edging was sunk into the ground to allow John and his team to traverse the track with mowers when they maintain the site through the year.
The excavated spoil was all used on site to create new habitat and variations in the terrain to suit all manner of wildlife. All the heavy plant used on site was the smallest the work could be completed with, and was as environmentally friendly as possible – including being filled with biodegradable fluids. The photos below were taken on the day of completion.
All the Best,
Matt – ACC Contracting