Sunday, 19 May 2013

Spray time at Blakemoor

The subsidence ponds at Blakemoor Farm at the south end of the bay are so familiar to us that we forget how startling they can seem to visitors. The pond in the photo above swells across a hollow in the middle of a large arable field that is given over to oil seed rape of winter wheat. The extent of the water varies markedly with seasons and years. A dry summer can see the whole shallow basin exposed into a reticulated pavement of cracked mud, dotted with pineapple mayweed and knotweeds. A sudden rain storm can refill the whole hollow. This is one of the ponds over the ten abandoned seams of nearby Ellington pit. The coal measures extended far out under the sea, but were so near the sea bed that the miners could hear ships passing overhead. Many of these field ponds lie in suspicious rows across the fields, perhaps echoing the subterranean tunnels. The wet year of 2012 and dry winter of 2013 has left the crops stunted and patchy, much of the ground dried out to a tough crust. The crop sprayers have been out to catch the first sustained spring warmth. We are curious to find out if any of the farm management affects the productivity of the ponds. These arable field ponds black foetid mud of the deeper swamps which seems a better trap for organic carbon. However these field ponds can be carpeted by vivid turquoise and green crusts of algae, visibly fizzing trails of oxygen bubbles on sunny days, so may be briefly but intensely productive whilst the sumemr sunshien lasts. The sprayers do not drive through the cloying mud, perhaps nervous of just what lies beneath (or, more ominously, does not because it has all been dug out) from the days when mining dominated south east Northumberland.

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