Lake Vyrnwy (Placement day 51)

I’ve heard people refer to Lake Vyrnwy several times since I started my placement here but I’ve never heard of Lake Vyrnwy outside of work so all I knew about it was the information contained in overheard conversations in the office:

  • Mosquitoes
  • Wales
  • Auto-sampler
  • Cake

So I was surprised when upon telling my mother on the phone where I’d be going the next day she said she’d been there with my step-dad to stay.

I met Damien at MacDonalds in Stockport at 7am. It’s a convenient meeting place as it has a car park and is situated on the A6 which leads from Buxton to everywhere north of Buxton. He arrived in the huge four-wheel drive which I’ve seen in the work car park. You could fit the hire cars I’m used to traveling to surveys in, in it’s glove box.

Damien is one of the main GIS people at work. I picked his brains about GIS and his career so far as we crossed country to Wales, stopping at a Spar shop famed for it’s generous cake portions. I bought a slab of flapjack for £1.30 and we set off to check and empty the 8 auto-sampler machines dotted around Lake Vyrnwy at various tributaries.

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When I caught my first glimpse of the lake my eyes widened, both because it’s very beautiful and because it’s so big. Not just the lake but the trees and surrounding hills. It reminded me of a holiday I had in the Wye Valley as a kid. I remember thinking this must be what America is like because the landscape looked wild and big and exotic. But the stone dam dispels any fantasies of America.

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Like the landscape it’s big. Victorian big. It looks like the wall of an ancient city. In the distance on the other side of the lake I could see a tower that wouldn’t have looked out of place on top of Hogwarts.

The routine at each stop was the same:

Locate, empty and reset the auto-sampler. This is a device which looks like a legless R2D2 and contains a months worth of bottles, a pump and a computer. You open it up, empty the water samples into sample jars, reset the computer to take the next months samples and put it all back together again.

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Locate the stilling well and download the data. This is essentially a scaffold pole somewhere near R2D2 with a locked lid. Inside is a connection for your laptop at the top and a sensor on a wire hanging under it, down the pole, measuring among other things the rise and fall in water level.

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Damien showed me the whole process for the first couple of stops but for the rest we split the task with me emptying the autosampler while he downloaded the stilling well data and returned to watch me reset the computer. This way we were able to move through each site quickly and efficiently (and I wasn’t left with any niggling doubts that I hadn’t reset the computer properly).

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The only breaks from this routine were a lunch break at a picnic spot…

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… and our ramble onto the moorland to collect a spectrolizer. This involved a rollercoaster offroad bounce along a dirt track followed by a twenty minute walk in the warm afternoon sun to where the spectrolizer was screwed to a rock, measuring the colour of the water.

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Walking there was as fun as any walk in the British countryside. Walking back was more like the time I bought a TV from Argos in the Arndale Centre and tried to carry it to the bus stop on Oxford road. The equipment is very heavy and an awkward shape. We both had protesting backs and arms by the time we made it back to the car.

We finished the 8th and headed across the dam and away. Back in the car the tiredness hit me but I made sure I didn’t nod off. We’d been very lucky with the mosquitoes apparently. It’d been a beautiful day and I have to say I’m keen to go back soon, whether that be with work or just a weekend away, such a nice place.

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Back at work the samples will be tested and the data, along with the data downloaded from the other equipment will be used as part of an ongoing project to do with the colouration of drinking water.

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Day 3 – Library & Lab

Today I was supposed to be going to Wales with Andy to collect some autosamples from a lake. I had been advised to bring wellies and suitable clothing to cover up from a promised mosquito attack. Rather than attempt to be in Buxton for 7am (possible with a bus but requiring a 4am start) Andy kindly offered to collect me from the MacDonalds near Stockport station.

I travelled to Stockport via Piccadilly passing the Vimto statue as has become a morning commute landmark…

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At MacDonalds I got a call from Andy. They couldn’t get to Stockport due to an incident on the motorway so I headed back to the station to head into the office instead. The anouncement board at Stockport listed my train as being on platform 0. I now know this does not mean it is yet to be allocated a platform, there is actually a platform 0. I felt like Harry Potter when I checked this with a member of staff.

Wales would have been interesting but this turn of events has meant I was in the office with time on my hands on a day when Christine the librarian is in. I asked if she had time to give me an introduction. First we went through the electronic library at my excellent vintage desk…

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This blew my mind. Christine has invested so much work in it that she is part library, in sync with the various files and folders. The electronic library is vast and well organised. I’m presently somewhat overwhelmed by it but with practice I think I’ll get the hang of it. Next I was introduced to the physical library which is a fantastic looking room with bay windows at one end and three walls hidden by floor to ceiling shelves of books, files and journals. In amongst these are various cabinets from various decades all adding to the aesthetic. It’s the brain of the building.

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On my way back to my desk to practice my new found library skills I bumped into Helen from day 1 who said I could help out in the lab again in the afternoon. So all in all, what began as a disappointing day became a productive one.