Friday, 22 August 2014

There was an old lady who swallowed a fly....

In my last post I told you about the wiggly beasties in my eye and I also mentioned that Laura telling me she saw living things in my eye was a sentence I never wanted to hear again.

Well, I can now add to this with another sentence I never want to hear again in my entire life, which was when I got the results of my eye tests back yesterday as to what the creatures where, and the missing link as to why my sinuses have been a sneezing, running, blocked and irritated mess ever since the eye incident.

Oestrus Ovis: Sheep Nasal Botfly larvae. 
Oh. The. Horror.  

I had sheep botfly larvae (or the after effects of) in my eye and hiding out in my sinuses which was why I’ve felt so rough for 3 and a half weeks and been sneezing and snotting like I was suffering from the worst hayfever ever…aaarrrrrrggggghhhhh it is beyond gross, hideous and just downright bizarre.  However, I have had cameras put up my nose and through my sinuses now (horrible) and had it all washed out and am already feeling much better today and best of all – my sense of smell and taste is returning – hooray!  Hopefully that was an element of the job I will never suffer again…botfly, I mean, just EW.  (When I had the phone call I spent about ten minutes sitting at my desk staring blankly at the screen in silence, and just occasionally uttering the word ‘botfly…’ in whispered horrified tones, until Laura told me to stop repeating it as it will not help.  Googling it didn't help either as it was just full of horror stories.).

Anyway, so all seems well again and I can focus on the job without feeling like my sinuses are about to explode anymore.  So let me move on to nicer things and talk about the Marsh project

I mentioned a couple of posts ago, about the river bank restoration work that we have started undertaking on Stockbridge Common Marsh this Summer.  The last I wrote, we had installed a fence and put in the geotextile edging into the river following the line of where the bank should be, before it got so eroded.

The geotextile in place in June

 Well following on from this in July, I had contractors working in the river to plant up the backfill area and try and fold down the bank turf to create a sloping margin.
There were a few teething issues; turns out that instead of a peat bank, the bank in this particular area was two thirds chalk, from previous years of bank repairs and track installations dating back decades.   This meant the bottom third of the bank was peat, and this was what was getting washed out by the river until the top two thirds of chalk were so overcut that they collapsed in.  This gave our contractors a problem in that they couldn’t dig out and slope the bank as planned because the chalk would just crumble and give way.  So they ended up managing it in some areas, and in others where the chalk had already cracked and fallen, this was made into sloping areas.  Plants were taken from the other side of the river and planted in between the bank and the geotextile – again, more difficult than planned as they should have had more peat backfill from the bank to plant into.  But as the bank turned out to be chalk, the plants had to be planted direct into the silty edges of the river bed.  This will still result in sedimentation and stabilization, but will take longer than if there had been peat backfill to put in with it to begin with.

However, they planted up all along the area and will do two more days of planting in autumn once things have silted up a bit more.  The visual difference after they finished was brilliant and when I went back there a few weeks later to add some more faggots across inlet areas, I could see even more growth of vegetation.  Fleabane, water forget-me-knot and water parsnip were thriving on the bank side already, a marked difference to the eroded wasteland that it had been only 2 months earlier. 
From this.... this - see the water forget-me knot...

...and this!  Within a month, you can see the amount os peaty silt that has begun to fill in this inlet section.

Planted up.

So it is ongoing but the early results are promising.  We cannot possibly foretell the future – this winter will obviously have an impact as if we had flood levels like last year it may pose a risk to the planted vegetation.  We also know now that the re-profiling of the bank is not something that can be done with picks and spades if chalk is present so we will potentially have to plan something else for further stretches.
Still, I am sure you agree that from these photos this stretch of bank is looking healthier than it has in many years – so all we can do now throughout winter and into the next growth season is watch and wait and hope.  Grow nature, grow!

I leave you on a nicer note than the one i began with - took this shot in the Mottisfont rose garden of my favourite butterfly species.  Butterfly season is almost over - enjoy them whilst you can!


  1. What a transformation from eroded bank to plant rich stabilzed bank-good work

  2. Thank you very much - I am pleased with the results so far and cannot wait to see how it will look after a full growing season next summer. Always good to hear positive comments as it can be a controversial issue, preventing access to the river bank, but the results speak for themselves.