I had a trip around the Skares and Netherton Coal Sites this morning as a member of the technical working group that helps guide the restoration.
With nearly 14mm of rainfall in Mauchline in the last 24 hours and probably more at these nearby sites, I was interested to see how they were coping with surface water run off and water management. Encouragingly, there didn’t appear to be an issues with polluted water leaving the sites. It’s changed days since ATH (the former owner and operator that went bust) ran these sites when pollution of the burns and the Lugar wasn’t uncommon. Thank goodness lessons have been learned and there’s better management in place now.
The restoration process is well underway and Netherton site is nearing completion. Once the weather dries up, the soiling will continue and then seeding will take place. Finding adequate soil and peat to cover the site is challenging but I hear excess peat from the Scottish Power Energy Network contract nearby will be brought in. Barr Ltd are supplying green wasted composted products from their Garlaff site and other waste soils may be available.
Restoration of the Skares site is also progressing and work to fill the void behind Skares village is well underway. The material to fill the void is coming from the tip that can be seen from the road. This will reduce the height of the tip which will be regraded to blend in with the new contours. Once filled, there will be no surface water left in the void and the Watson and Ward Burns will be restored back to something like their original course (as far as possible).
There are sections of the undisturbed Ward burn still within the site and these will be reconnected with a new channel filling the gaps. I noticed two former electrofishing sites that Brian Shaw and I surveyed prior to mining taking place, way back around 2008. I’ve suggested these should be resurveyed to see what if anything survives and to inform any mitigation measures that may be required.
There will be several large water bodies left on site, some more beneficial to wildlife than others but efforts are being made to ensure there are shallow margins where possible. Perhaps in time once the sites are restored and naturalise and paths created to allow access for the public, some of these waterbodies may be useful as fisheries and I mentioned this during the tour. Time will tell. At least those with shall margins may be of benefit to wading birds and overwintering. Broad-leaved tree planting and probably plantation forestry will feature once the earthworks are completed. The Scottish Government are keen to use ‘brownfield sites’ to meet their timber targets.
In the meantime, work continues.
That deep hole that cannot be back filled, would there be budget to haul a couple of tree trunks -with as much canopy as possible- up there and float it in a couple of times a year. While it would be no substitute for backfilling, a floating island would still give a bit of cover for birds and fish would it not?
I doubt anyone will be willing to undertake such a task as once contractors are off site, it will be left to recover over the next few centuries. This void in particular is the only steep sided and deep one to be left in such a way offering little opportunity or benefit for fish and fowl. There’s a mosaic of other water bodies remaining on site that should provide ample opportunity for wildlife and biodiversity altho this may take time to establish. There will be no natural population of fish in any water body on site so it will be up to the technical working group and council to determine whether they wish to stock. I don’t expect there’s any rush to make these decisions so that may have to wait until the councils plans for public access are announced later and this will be done with appropriate public consultation and owners opinions will be taken into account.