July 28th – The hazel hedge by the canal, between Silver Street pedestrian bridge and Coopers Bridge is heavy with nuts this year – clearly to the joy of the local squirrel population. Thankfully when I spotted these healthy specimens, they grey rodents hadn’t completely stripped the trees of their creamy bounty yet.
But they’re having a jolly good go, bless them.
Still can’t get into my head that w have fruiting hazels growing healthily on what used to be an open, festering refuse tip.
January 30th – Further up the canal on the Aldridge/Walsall Wood border, the canal was also looking good from Northwood Bridge, over the marina there, and in the other direction, up past the brickworks at Stubbers Green.
The canal here looks so serene and peaceful, that only a vague chemical smell in the air and low background susurration would tell you that nearby there was a toxic waste handling facility, a large landfall, marl pits and two brickworks.
Impressions can be deceptive sometimes.
August 21st – I had stuff to do in Aldridge on the way home, and Northgate was solid with traffic, so I cut down past the back of the Vigo landfill to hop on the canal at Brickyard Road. I noticed that the final work seems to be going on with sealing this immense refuse tip. It was capped with a top layer of marl a while ago, and landfill gas is still being abstracted and used to power a large generating set, supplying power to the national grid; but amongst the bulkheads and snaking pipes, a plastic membrane has been laid and it’s being covered in topsoil, prior to final landscaping.
The membrane prevents rainwater from getting through the cap and soaking through the refuse, where it would be extracted and disposed of as a toxic brew called leachate, which is an ongoing, expensive operation.
Reducing leachate production also lowers the future chances of groundwater pollution.
Landfill is quite a high-tech operation these days, if carried out properly.
June19th – I must admit, I’m fascinated by the landfill at Highfields South, between Walsall Wood and Shelfield on the Lichfield Road. It looks and seems haphazard, but is being operated in an engineered manner. At the moment, the eastern side of the void is filled, now to about 6-8 metres above ground level with a marl cap on top. Gas bulkheads sit atop harvesting tubes inserted deep into the mound. As the pile sinks under it’s own weight and that of the cap, it evolves gas, which is harvested and powers a generating set, feeding energy into the National Grid.
Meanwhile, to the west of the void, the hole is being prepared for the next stack of waste. Systematic. Methodical.
The void existed due to marl quarrying for bricks, and the landscape is favourable for this type of thing. It may not be pleasant, and we should reduce our waste as a society, but the process is very interesting.
I passed by the entrance to Shire Oak Quarry in the early evening. The air was clear and I thought I’d try the new camera out on the view of Lichfield Cathedral from up there.
Not too shabby. Lichfield, St. Marys, the Argos warehouse at Barton Turn, the Bass (Coors) brewery at Burton, Pirelli and beyond the hill at Bretby, the disused cooling towers of Willington power station.
I’ll never tire of this view.
February 27th – I had to pop into Aldridge on my way home and had ridden up Coppice Lane; not far from the gas turbine and leechate plant, another sign of a dirty underground secret from the past. This square compound on wind and mud-blasted wasteland, just off the rear entrance to the Ibstock Brick plant, is a breather for the mines underneath the area that were used as a dumping receptacle for millions of gallons of industrial toxic waste a couple of decades ago.
Inside this well-locked square palisade fence, a bulkhead is fitted to a borehole that goes hundreds of feet underground and allows gasses to vent to the atmosphere from the sludge within. The breather itself is from a tall pipe, well above human head height, up where the wind can quickly disperse anything nasty.
It’s sobering, and a bit chilling; and indicator that beneath this area there is an unknown quantity still requiring monitoring and care. But the ground it is in is surrounded in clay and favourable, and as time passes, the content should settle.
There are several of these installations in the local area – finding them is an interesting, if slightly unnerving challenge.
January 5th – In the New Year Quiz on my main blog this year, I asked about the bulkhead pipes visible sticking from the mounds of a couple of local landfill sites; the answer was that they were gas collection points, to feed a gas turbine that generated electricity from the otherwise wasted methane evolved when the buried refuse decomposes.
This plant – humming away continuously in the way only a gas turbine can – is just off Brickyard road in Aldridge and has been running for at least 3 years fuelled by as from the Vigo Utopia landfill, generating electricity which is fed back into the national grid.
Refuse operators will paint this as ‘green energy’ – it’s no such thing; it’s not renewable, is finite and is no cleaner than any other methane power plant. It is, however, making use of gas that formerly would have been wasted, so it’s a good thing.
There is a similar setup at Highfields South, not more than a mile away.
December 7th – it was a beautiful afternoon with a very unpleasant wind, but the sun and commons of Brownhills were a joy to behold. The heaths and scrub glowed beautifully, as did the canal embankments.
These days it’s hard to imagine these beautiful places have a harsh, lingering industrial legacy.
Looking for deer near the site of the lost Coombe House, at Coppice Side, I spotted this monitoring well, a int of a none-too-pleasant past; this is the edge of a former landfill and boreholes like this are regularly unlocked and ‘dipped’ to monitor contamination. The EX symbol warns of an explosive gas hazard – methane, mostly, from rotting refuse buried underground.
This is a problematic site and will require monitoring for many years to come.
I looked up from it to see the backside of a young hind disappearing into the the copse…