Before and after transformation
At the beginning of the year Blackwater Valley Rangers and Volunteers began the tough job of improving the path at Swan Lake Park in Sandhurst. With the path at 900m long, 2m wide and a whopping 12 inch ditch to fill this was perhaps our biggest task to date. It was no mean feet, but the site being a well used SANG (Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace) we could not have the paths unusable.
Before and after transformation
The paths were first created by digging a route and filling it with wood chippings. By the time we had inherited the site the paths had turned into effectively a long ditch filled with mud and compost. We had tried for several years to combat the muddy paths by digging ditches with machinery and by hand but this proved not to work. To combat the problem we had to bring the height of the path to the same level as its sides so that water could drain off. With 900 metres of ditch to fill this involved a lot of aggregate and some hired in heavy machinery with the staff training for said machinery to boot!
Swan Lake Park car park
As positive use of the site is what we want to encourage we tried our best to keep the site as open as possible. We did have to close the main entrance during busy periods of work due to health and safety with diversions in place in place to the next nearest entrance. All other entrances and the entire path remained completely open.
Stu loading the tractor with aggregate
Our method was to get the aggregate (recycled material from nearby works) delivered to the car park. Stu would then use the tractor/excavator to load the 2 dumpers which would then be driven by Andrew and I onto the path to dump the aggregate. The aggregate would then be raked onto the path by our champion volunteer Paul who would make sure it was level and even. Charlotte, Andy and Andrew would then compact the aggregate using a roller or wacker plate.
Andrew (in many layers to combat the cold!) driving the dumper, ready to pick up the next load
At our peak we were shifting around 80 tonnes and progressing 100 yards a day. Unfortunately some days were significantly slower due to the nature of the path bringing about some big issues. Were we could we worked backwards so to not drive over the freshly laid path. But with a lack of access points and the danger of driving over wet and muddy paths adjacent to a lake we just had to on some sections. Charlotte, Andy and Andrew also created grips and culverts to aid drainage. Other issues we faced included machinery breaking down and poor weather conditions.
Mike and Paul raking whilst Charlotte driving the dumper
What was instrumental to this task was the help we received from rangers and volunteers. Thank you very much to everyone who helped. Stu, Andrew and volunteer Paul who were there from beginning the end. Andy and Charlotte who regularly came out to help. Laura who helped us with the multiple finishing touches required. Also SPA Warden Vicky, Students Matt and Jeremy and volunteers Mike, Duncan and Jon who spent longs days helping us with multiple jobs.
Paul, Jeremy and Charlotte raking on different parts of the path
I am delighted to say the path re-surfacing is now complete! Please visit Swan Lake Park on Swan Lane, Sandhurst and enjoy.
Swan Lake Park entrance and before and after transformation
We will be back in summer once the path has had time to settle and dry in order to further improve any wetter areas.
Assistant Ranger Jenny