The Millbrook Dam Project

millbrook damLast year we were approached by the owner of Millbrook Dam in Stalybridge Country Park with the prospect of us taking a long term lease and developing this neglected water back into an attractive angling venue for our members and because the water had been available to fish for free for a long time we took the decisions to open the water for day tickets so non of the local community would be excluded from fishing.

The water had been long known to our chairman and is set in a beautiful location so it was an easy decision for our committee to unanimously approve the offer.

We were familiar with the water so we went into this project aware a huge amount of work would be required. On this page you can see the the progress we are making and the aims we have for the water moving forward.

We purchased a site cabin for storage of materials and a bailiffs office and started to formulate our plans.

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We started to test fish the venue and were happy to see quite regular carp catches of healthy plump fish so the initial signs were encouraging. While fishing though lots of snags were encountered so an obvious 1st job to do was to try and clear the lake bed to make it more angler friendly.

millbrook crapOver the course of the next few weekends we took the grappling hooks down to the lake and were amazed at the amount of rubbish that had been dumped  over the years.

This is just one of several van full’s of rubbish we pulled from the lake and this job took quite a few weeks to do. Everything from bikes to clothes to tyres.. you name it and we pulled it from the lake bed !

We knew we had an upcoming bio Mass survey booked with the environment agency so it was crucial we got the lake bed as clear as possible so they wouldn’t snag their nets.

We next wanted to start the prep work on the north bank of the lake which we saw as an ideal angling bank.

north bank 1

As you can see from this image there isn’t a huge amount of room for anglers so our plan was to cut the trees back where required and raise the whole bank installing pegs at intervals. This is a huge undertaking and was always going to take a lot of time, money and effort but we felt it was worth doing for the long term benefits we would gain. We located the divert for the inlet to the lake and opened this to drop the level and then we were ready to start the preparation.

We needed to create a ramp down to this area so we could provide safe access not IMG_1728only for anglers but the vehicles that would be needed to take on the industrial task ahead of us.

The level was dropped, the chainsaw gang were dispatched and work commenced.

IMG_1761We Also started to bring the heavy vehicles in at this point to do the jobs that couldn’t be done by hand.

We also wanted to install a new outlet as soon as possible. At that time the water went out through a hole in the dam wall. The path along the dam wall was treacherous and you had to jump over the stream to get along that bank. This was obviously unacceptable  and something permanent and safe was needed.

IMG_1727We had pipes from work we had undertaken on one of our other waters ( Rainwater) so theseIMG_1732 were the ideal solution. We laid the pipes and constructed a dry stone wall around the pipe and had the digger drag a huge block across the top of it to make it secure and permanent. We then cemented the whole thing in and that was another task complete.At this point the Bio Mass survey was conducted by the EA. Unfortunately the EA’s nets were still catching on the last remaining snags we hadn’t managed to clear and they have to lift their nets over these snags and this stops us getting an 100% accurate figure as fish will escape under.

millbrook survey 13 - 01 - 14 (32)Having said that the EA did a great job and everything they could to net as much as millbrook survey 13 - 01 - 14 (15)possible. These surveys are an essential part of understanding what you have with a new water.

The result was quite a few large Carp and a small bag of silvers and Bream. What does this tell us ? Well even though only a percentage of fish were netted  it tells us we have a water with a good head of Carp and a small population of silver fish which is a quite good place for us to develop the water from.

All fish were returned to the water except for one small koi that was removed to a garden pond due to the risk they pose of spreading disease.

bank workWith the bio mas complete it was back to work and we were ready to get the hard task of raising the north bank and starting to install pegs. This is a long hard job slopethat was going to take several months of work parties but we planned to start the planting come Spring so we needed to get on with the task.

We found the level then sunk sleepers along the bank while the lake was dropped. We then filled against the sleepers with tons  of material creating a new bank for anglers to fish from. It sounds easy when written in a couple of sentences but the reality is it was a couple of months worth of work and lots of effort working long days in mud up to our ankles.

woodchipThe top layer is wood-chip to give a nice finish

This is where we are at this point but there is still a huge investment of time and resources required to complete the job. I will add to this page as work continues and we progress.IMG_1751

Update 22/05/14

The construction of the north bank is now complete and we move onto the planting of that bank. This will start to create a habitat for the fish and the wildlife as well as making the lake look much more appealing. We have put planting beds between the pegs and this should make this bank a lovely place to fish within a year or so as these areas become established. 10339612_645395785537161_8329900290887406644_nThe pictures show the lake with the level dropped for us to complete the work, when re filled the water level will be just below the top of the construction.10288769_645395568870516_5146177592134154017_n

Machines are back in this weekend to finish the heavy work around the lake and then we will plant and carry out maintenance over the Summer and return to construction come the Autumn.

Update 26/05/14

We had a few machines on site again this weekend to make a push to get some of the major jobs completed. 983675_648939931849413_4337609031301963886_nWe managed to get the North bank finished and finally started the planting which is the next crucial stage to create a sustainable lake not only for the fish but for wildlife with the aim to build a healthy environment. Areas for spawning, cover from predators and safe zones are all crucial.IMG_3541

We’ve dug out the inlet and de silted some of the shallows and pulled all the loose rocks out of the margins and shored up the dam wall as well as levelling paths and creating planting zones all round the lake. A very productive weekend.

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Well after many hours of hard work by a small group of dedicated souls, the dam is now fully pegged out and angler friendly. The final stage this year has been to get lots of planting done and landscape the paths and fishing areas. 420 trees have gone  in supplied by Woodland trust , as well as lilly pads and lots of other essential aquatic plants all with the aim of letting mother nature take her course and create a nice echo system for the fish and wildlife as well as an attractive environment for anglers to spend some time.

With the bio mass survey and anglers catches giving us a clear picture of the waters stock we are now in a strong position to take decisions on upcoming stocking. This is linked to the growth of the aquatic plants. To explain there is no point stocking young fish into a feature-less water for them to be eaten by predators. We need those sheltered areas to be in place so they have a decent chance of growing on as well as having natural food sources to supplement anglers baits. All this should happen in due course and then we can move onto this next stage. The following are a few pics of the tree planting and how the water is looking :

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So as 2015 comes to a close we have ongoing maintenance work to conduct as well as fund raising with the aim to making this water the very best we can as well as secure as possible. We are putting drainage above the North bank as the Autumn storms highlighted how soaked the banks can become and creating and updating path ways.

We have also had a diver coming up to clear the remaining snags we had missed when we did our initial snag clearing.  So snag free fishing should be the norm now which is good for the anglers and fish alike.

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Comments
  1. nick says:

    do you do day tickets

  2. Billy Cain says:

    Brilliant transformation, Lovely water well done to all who took part.

  3. Dave Goff says:

    Extremely impressive work and excellent keeping with nature also. If my disabilities i would be happy to go on work parties i’m free 7 days a week. I have made double moorhen floating nest boxes and would be happy to build anything for the club as i recycle pallets.

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