Work stalled by rainfall and mud

Frustration for contractors and nurseries as more rain follows second-wettest year on record.

University of Warwick: turf project hampered by flooding of ground - image: Beechwood Trees
University of Warwick: turf project hampered by flooding of ground - image: Beechwood Trees

Heavy rain has turned parks and other landscapes into quagmires, washing away topsoil and making it impossible to plant trees and shrubs, according to contractors and nursery owners.

This follows yet more rain across Britain after the second-wettest year on record in 2012. Last year, rainfall was 1,330mm, just 7mm less than in the record year of 2000, according to the Met Office.

Buckingham Nurseries general manager Mike Easom said: "Our bare root sales are struggling because the ground is so wet people can't do anything with it. Some people have cancelled orders. We need a dry spring."

Beechwood Trees director Simon Rotheram said: "The weather recently has been atrocious, restricting works for our tree and landscape teams. We installed around 4,000sq m of turf at Warwick University but a quarter of the site was under water. Meanwhile, our tree teams have struggled with vehicle access, disrupting work."

Blakedown Landscapes has been unable to complete seeding at a Lancashire school for months, new drainage has been swamped at a school near Manchester and yet another site was too waterlogged for machines to access so trees had to be planted by hand.

The firm's senior contracts manager Phil Townsend added: "This has led to a lot of reinstatement work that we have to swallow - most work is on a fixed-price contract, which wraps the risk into the contract value."

Kings Landscapes managing director David Houghton said: "Parks and large domestic projects are in real trouble because it's just mud, severe mud. We are doing a school project with flooding issues because of clay soils.

"Projects are slow to complete and we are having to move staff around. Fortunately, lots of our work is in urban areas and we are importing dry material, which we can work on without trouble."

Grace Landscapes managing director Hugh Pawsey said imported and freshly spread topsoil is causing problems for his company because rain is washing it away and causing delays to planting projects.

"We have a landscaping job around a production facility in Buckinghamshire that is suffering," said Pawsey. "The ground is not free-draining, which means we can't spread the topsoil. This is holding up the project."

Ebsford Environmental managing director Nick Hartley said planting throughout 2012 had been a challenge for nurseries, installers and clients. He recently completed a Wakefield reservoir project involving thousands of oxygenating wild flowers.

"Down came the rain and washed all of them away, miles downstream. The new reservoir was designed to take floodwater and ended up flooding, with water levels rising 16ft in a week. Nobody expected it to happen so quickly," he said.

Contractor view

"On a positive note, we expect a very busy period of catch-up once the drier weather comes as many clients have a bank of work for us to do on playing fields and parks, along with private gardens, which we would have messed up if we'd have accessed (in the wet)."

Simon Rotheram, director, Beechwood Trees.

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