Blue Flower

Monday 2/1/23 Anne Marie was walking the Nar Valley Way past the bone mill and saw the upstream wall had collapsed into the river and she informed everyone immediately. I had a walk down the footpath to have a look, so did Ryan. Fred went to the mill to assess the damage and find out why it collapsed. 

We had a long drought last summer followed by recent hard frosts, then prolonged heavy rain. There is a tar floor under a layer of soil along the length of the river wall with the trench wall the other side and we believe the heavy rain was soaked up by the dry topsoil and had nowhere to go when it reached the tar floor, so it went sideways and forced the wall to collapse. 

Thursday 5/1/23 When we arrived at the mill we looked at the damage from our side of the river, it shows how close the grindstones are to the edge, but there is nothing we can do at the moment to clear up, as the track is too slippery to take machines to the mill in winter. Ryan noticed a crack in the trench wall which is bowing out, this is opposite the collapsed river wall and could also be at risk of falling down. I suggested the two walls could be tied together with steel rods and plates to hold both walls in place when the river wall is rebuilt.

I leaned over the corner of the wall and lifted the Grey Wagtail box off after checking inside for birds, they don’t start nesting until April, so we will keep it safe until then in case the rest of the wall falls. There is another Grey Wagtail box at the far end of the site on the downstream wall.

When we walked back to the railway wagon we saw a Swan in the river so I found the new pack of Swan food and threw some in the river near it, but it seemed more interested in whatever was at the bottom of the river than our pellets floating by. Eddie and Anne Marie filled all the bird feeders, I used the new scoop to fill the long seed feeder which fills it in one go. Eddie repaired the top of the peanut feeder with Duck tape. Ryan straightened the Bat box using the long pole pruner as it had twisted round, then he cut a notch in the shed door to clear the screws as we are still having trouble closing it. 

Anne Marie sorted out the garden tools and put trowels and secateurs in the tubs which Eddie fitted to the shed door last time, so they are easily accessible. Anne Marie then dug up nettles at the top of the slope on the wildflower meadow bank, then cleared the area between the shed and compost bay, as we plan to have a small greenhouse there made from plastic shelves covered with polythene.

Eddie made free standing fence posts to cordon off the collapsed wall using OSB boards which I brought today, we didn't want to risk hammering fence posts in the ground! We put them at both ends of the wall with fencing tape across to prevent anyone going into the danger area between the two damaged walls. Eddie got a barrow of bricks which he and Ryan put down to hold the post bases.

I brought 6 sacks of rubble from my garden today, Ryan emptied them into the truck and broke it all up, then tipped it out on the muddy track and drove over it a few times to roll it in. The track is much firmer now.

We had lunch outside as it was quite a mild day, Anne Marie brought chocolate fridge cake for us which we enjoyed. After lunch we went across the footbridge to view the collapsed wall from the other side and I put up a sign to let walkers on the footpath know we are aware of it.

While in the bridge area we took the cover off the boiling house foundation which was full of soil from mole hills. We noticed our Perspex panel showing the brick floor had condensation under it, we left a gap at the top for airflow but we also get condensation in winter under the other glass panel on the downstream brick floor. A Cygnet was in the river near the bridge.

The area where the container was, which we cleared last time had a wheelbarrow left there from the early days, we retrieved it and pumped up the tyre to see if it stays inflated, as we can use the barrow for brickwork repairs. We unpacked the Kingfisher tunnel to check it, as they are fragile and its been moved a few times recently, its intact and will be installed in the river bank soon.

Ryan levelled off the grass verge near the brick stacks so we can move the access track nearer the trees, this will increase the size of the wildflower meadow. Eddie and I patched a hole in one of the water butts with Duck tape to prevent it leaking and damaging the shed and to allow it to fill up to the top.

Friday 6/1/23 Jan and her friend Sue walked the circular river walk and visited the bone mill on their way back. Ryan and I went down to put the bridge across for them and get the display screens on with videos of the water wheel turning and making the wildflower area. We cleared mole hill soil from the boiling house foundation and left it open on view. Jan and Sue crossed our bridge and looked around the visitor centre and saw the outside exhibits as well as viewing the collapsed wall from both sides.

Graham Bartlett  

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