Commencement Of Works

The 14th July 2009 gave the Swallowfield Decoy Pond its first taste of heavy machinery since the first ill fated dredging attempt some nine years earlier. The 13 Ton excavator supplied by John Stacey & Sons of Tadley was unloaded along the Swallowfield Road near Arborfield to begin its slow crawl over the Farley Farms estate toward the Decoy Pond. Jeff Curtis, Club Treasurer, had been in contact with Keith Brown of Stacey's and had organised the arrangements to meet the machinery at the pond. Mark Robins of Farley Farms had also been on hand earlier at the drop off point to direct the excavator across the parkland.

Excavator Arrives

 Access to the pond from the East Park was through an old iron fence, a section of which had been cut away and replaced with a cross country type horse jump. One of these stood on each fence either side of the house lawns. These appeared not to have been used for some years and were now just general barriers rather than anything equestrian related. The driver was already on site with Jeff Curtis when the machine arrived and after a few briefings of what was required and things to avoid, it was full steam ahead.

 Machine in the Pond Machine at work 

 Machine at work Machine at work 

Machine at work machine at work


Over the following week, progress was quite fast on the top end of the lake which was dug away to reveal firm gravel. The bays were formed with the excess silt that was sufficiently firm enough to stay put along with the root stock from the existing reeds and vegetation. The areas of Lillie's were dug out and moved to the bank where they were broken up into sections ready for replanting at a later date. Up until this point the weather had remained dry and warm which gave the outlook of being more than acceptable for the duration of the works. As it turned out, the rain stayed with us foe the three weeks it would eventually take to complete. It was inevitable the the machine would churn up some of the silt with its tracks but the persistent rain made the conditions a lot worse making the silt a lot less manageable. With this a large 9 Ton dumper was hired to get the wet silt out of the pond and spread around the banks. At least here, it would be where it was supposed to be and out of the way.

 Loading the dumper

The dumper, from the above picture was no small piece of kit either. Although moving the silt out of the lake and around the banks was time consuming it was necessary with the conditions that prevailed. The amount of silt shifted over the five days that it was on hire for, was immense, with everyone loosing count of how many loads it actually managed. The wet silt spread easily over the flat banks when tipped from the dumper, finding its own level and not taking too much work afterwards to flatten off.

The last week of the works was spent tidy the banks, island and bays around the pond. A smaller 5 Ton excavator was hire for this as the large machine couldn't access all of the areas of bank, but in the hands of Steve Archer, the machine driver, short work was made of this. The pictures below show the pond shortly after the machinery had left the site, and what a great achievement it had been to have come this far. The end result, without any water present, really made all of the preparations worthwhile. A big thank you to Steve Archer for his skill and patience on the excavators, and Keith Brown, both from John Stacey & Sons for supplying the equipment and extra ideas that helped achieve the end result. The second thank you must go to Dominic Martyn and the Environment Agency for their help and guidance on the project to date and their donation towards the cost of the groundworks. Thanks also must go to all of the club members who gave their time to be on site during the works to drive the dumper and small excavator (just), and to make tea, coffee and breakfasts when the time allowed.

 Completed groundworks Completed groundworks

Cpmpleted groundworks Completed groundworks