I recently went to look at a possible job on the South West Coast Path (it’s a tough life, but someone has to do it!), and took the opportunity to look at a number of our old projects. We have undertaken quite a few habitat reinstatement and translocation works, going back to the 1990s. One of our biggest customers was South West Water, and the major investments they made in sewage treatment plants (I prefer the coast path). As part of Operation Clean Sweep a whole series of new treatment works were constructed, and some smaller sites upgraded. So over the years we have undertaken major works at Torbay, Par, Perranporth and Bideford, as well as many smaller schemes. Par was probably the most fun, and Truro definitely the smelliest!
Par was in some ways a big jump in contract size for us, and involved moving and replacing a sand dune system on Polgaver beech (see also case studies). Most interestingly for Steve, our YTS trainee at the time, the beech was a popular naturist beech. All went well, and it was good to see the habitat restored and the marram grass still thriving. The wider area, Carlyon Bay, is now, however, the subject of a controversial housing and leisure development, on the site of the old Cornwall Coliseum and its adjacent beech. It now has planning permission, but the economic recession appears to be holding things up. At least they are designating Polgaver as an ecological reserve in the new development.
I also had a look at three heathland sites we worked on; two were again reinstating pipeline routes for South West Water. The third was the valley running down from Wheal Jane, where the Environment Agency undertook a major clean-up and installed a treatment plant for dealing with water overflowing from the old tin mine. Wheat Jane and St Agnes were amazing: it looked like there had never been any disturbance, and I had great difficulty finding the actual pipeline route at St Agnes. Perranporth was slightly more mixed, with contaminated soils, exposure and walkers all playing a role. I could see where the route had been, though to the first time visitor, I think the paths, heather areas and bare patches all merge into one mosaic.
The secret to good habitat works tends to be early planning, and maximising use of what you already have. So at Polgaver we moved the marram both by heavy machinery and hand planting, kept it in temporary storage to the side of the pipeline, and then put it back twelve months later. With heathland we collected heather seed from the surrounding vegetation at the right time of year, and ensured rough ground on the reinstatement route. Perhaps a little untidy to the eye, this does however provide good microclimate for seed to nestle and germinate. Perranporth also included reinstating some meadow, where we baled a hay crop from the undisturbed area of the meadow, and later spread it back on the reinstated area. End result being extremely locally sourced seed (locally sourced and native being the normal requirements) and the right species mix as well.
I first went into contracting because I thought that there were too many people talking and not enough doing. Now, however, I am often one of the talkers (age again)! However, when we operate as consultants we are able to offer an integrated service: delivery as well as plans, and the plans are based on real practical experience.
Now where shall I go for my next study tour? Next week: back to Treragin Wood where the daffodils are coming to their peak.