Irrigation Project for Reed Fen Farm

Background

Reed Fen Farm is a 1,000 acres, second-generation family farming business based in the rural village of Lakes End in Cambridgeshire. This farm is run predominantly as an arable enterprise, growing a range of produce including potatoes, sugar beet, onions and peas.

The Problem

Following a number of hot summers and the reduction in rainfall, farm manager John Hartley was concerned that future crop yields would be affected. As a result, John needed some way to guarantee the harvest in the short term. To achieve this, advised by a consultant project manager and an engineering consultant, John decided to build a reservoir to provide a practical and efficient water supply.

Filled during the winter when rainfall is higher, the stored water will be used for crop irrigation over the summer without having to resort to using water from other, less environmentally-friendly sources. However, all involved with the project were concerned that the reservoir be positioned correctly within the landscape and fit into the local natural environment.

Why the Fen Group?

The Fen Group was selected for the irrigation project due to its reputation, its prior experience undertaking similar projects in the area and the high-quality results it has achieved. It also present the most cost - effective solution to Reed Fen Farm's tender.

Challenges

Having calculated the amount of water the farm required, it was apparent that the reservoir needed to accommodate 10 million gallons - a capacity that required specialist expertise and equipment. The project was further complicated by the fact that the soil in the area was very poor for engineering purposes. Usually excavated material would be used to form embankments of up to 3.5m, but in this case there was a restriction of 1.25m due to poor foundation conditions. To provide the required capacity of 10 million gallons the reservoir would therefore have to cover a much larger area than would normally be the case, as the soil could not support the ideal depth. Thus the reservoir needed to cover an area of 2.2 hectares (22,000 square meters).

However, because of poor quality surplus soil removed during construction could not be used for any form of land restoration activity, it had to be used around the edges of the reservoir as landscaping material. As a result, the project's total footprint extended to an area of 3.5 hectares (35,000 square meters) including the field fringes. Construction was also restricted to a narrow window, as it had to wait until after the potatoes were harvested but had to be completed in time for the reservoir to catch winter rains, as the Environment Agency restricted water pumping from nearby ditches to between November and March.

The Outcome

Working closely with the engineering consultant, the Fen Group completed construction in time for the reservoir to be filled during the winter months. It has since been providing Reed Fen Farm with the water it needs to irrigate crops over the summer, boosting the quality of the potato yield despite adverse weather conditions.

The Fen Group was the ideal choice for our irrigation project thanks to its local experience and its level of initiative. It was a fabulous job carried out under difficult circumstances, and it's looking really smart. I would definitely recommend the Fen Group

Andrew Dennis, Engineer

For our irrigation project I needed a specialist company with many years of experience in reservoir creation. As chairman of the Upwell Internal Drainage Board and a lifelong resident of the area, I had an excellent knowledge of local suppliers and my preferred choice was the Fen Group

John Hartley, Reed Fen Farm

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