Rain stopped play. Or, to be more accurate, a schedule that didn’t allow for rain meant that Porter’s Field Meadow on Leyton Marsh was not returned to us yesterday, 15 October 2012. In fact, when we visited on Friday 12 October, they hadn’t even started laying the turf. I hope everyone involved in the planning has made a mental note to build contingency time into any schedules they develop in the future, before making promises to people they would only be able to keep if the sun shone. This is England. In 2012. It was always going to rain heavily during the reinstatement period…
On Friday we were confronted by frustrated contractors, who are just as keen to be gone as we are to see them leave, and mud. Predictably, I would argue, huge areas of the site particularly in the north-west corner have turned to mud. Plastic sheeting covers and earth and men use pumps to remove the water collected. Others will soon be digging out the muddy areas and replacing it with imported topsoil, so we lose even more of our marsh. The fence may have to stay up longer than planned because the ground underneath the new turf is waterlogged. Organic fertilizer may have to be used to promote the development of the grass to the detriment of other plants. Oh, and we should be prepared for localised die back.
But I refuse to blame the weather. I blame all those who allowed this to happen in the first place.
Now I sit with my head in my hands and a lament on my lips. I went down to the marsh last night and it looks as if a green carpet that has spent too long rolled up and is a bit kinked as a result has been unrolled across a piece of grassland. This is not what we were promised. We were told that the turf would be intra-seeded with a mix of different grass and wildflower seeds but all I can see is a monoculture. Even allowing for a cut before the turf was harvested I would have expected to see different species clearly identifiable. Instead we have, what one of the contractors working on sight described as, a football pitch just like the one they have at Arsenal! My question is, what went wrong?
So I phoned STRI, the company responsible for the turf to ask. And, guess what? The seeds were sown but most didn’t germinate; all we have is grass, grass, grass and a little white clover. If we want Leyton Marsh back the way it was, there is a long, long way to go. The turf will need to be scarified regularly, to open up bare earth, and reseeded. Perhaps this will turn out to be a blessing in disguise, providing us with an opportunity to develop the biodiversity of the land, but we must never forget – if we need any reminder – that we have been lied to again.