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Northampton Herald, February 1903, transcribed by Kay Collins
The New Rushden Reservoir
The contractors entrusted with the construction of the new reservoir for the supply of Rushden and Higham Ferrers have soon got to work, and for the last three weeks have been occupied with a small army of excavators and tree-fellers, to be increased as need arrives. The scene of their operations lies less than six miles away from Northampton, a pleasant afternoon ride, but in so secluded a district that but small rumour of their labours has reached the outside world, and very little is seen until quite close upon it. The spot chosen for the new reservoir is the secluded woodied valley that lies between the villages of Ecton and Mears Ashby. Turning off the Wellingborough-road at the World's End Inn, the trysting place of many a thirsty wheelman, we take that most picturesque of ways towards Sywell, but in a few hundred yards turn sharply to the right under a row of fine beeches that overhang the road. We soon begin to descend, at first gradually, and once past the East Lodge Farm we have to put on the break as the track is steep and rough. Hitherto we had seen nothing of the object of our pilgrimage, and the silence had been unbroken save for now and again a strange crashing sound as if caused by the fall of some heavy body, and in the far-off distance the throbbing of an engine pulsating regularly on the still air. But a sudden turn of the road give us a complete view of the valley below us, enclosed on both sides with sharply rising hills, and a stream, such as Tennyson has described for us in the "Brook," meandering through its length, in twining curves, shimmering here and there from under its canopy of encircling trees that thickly line its banks. The road crosses it by a rustic bridge, under which the stream, erstwhile so sparkling, but now thick and muddy, flows swiftly riverwards. To the right all is unchanged, the fair face of Nature is as it has been for many a year—a typical English dell; but on the other side the hand of the spoiler had been laid with a ruthless grasp, and the scene of devastation that met the eye made us involuntarily exclaim, "Oh the pity of it." It is doubtless a stern necessity, and sentiment must ever give way to material exigencies, but we could not help wishing that if generations of thirsty Rushdenites yet unborn had to be provided with their necessary fluid they might have gone elsewhere for their supply. In the immediate foreground, where a dense spinney had stood so lately, all was now bare and hideous; the trees had been felled and their trunks lopped and dismembered, and cumbered the bare earth; and where each recurring spring-time primroses and anemones had bloomed was now trodden by many mercenary feet. Half torn up roots here and there tripped up the unwary wayfarer; chips of wood and bark, signs of the woodcutter's labours, strewed the ground; and Nature, blasted by the desecrating hand of man, wore its dreariest aspect. On the opposite hill, three hundred yards away, stood gaunt against the skyline a puffing and straining engine. Just as we arrived on the scene a tall ash tree was nodding to its fall—not by the axe of the woodman, as in the old days, but by this latest adjunct of civilisation, and was dragged literally out by the roots. A steel hawser communicated with the engine, swaying in mid-air over the intervening space, and was fastened round the trunk some ten or twelve feet up. By alternately slackening and tightening the cable a series of violent tugs were given to the tree. It sways backwards and forwards for three or four or even ten minutes, according to its size. The swing of the pendulum increases with each successive shock; the roots, which have already been cut away to facilitate the operation, crack with an infinity of groaning, like a soul in anguish; and finally it is drawn, like some gigantic tooth, from its foundation, and falls with a mighty crash. It is speedily shorn of its boughs by the attendant woodmen, the cable is then attached, and it is dragged over bush and over brier, bumping its way irresistibly along the uneven ground, across the brook, and up the hill, to join its companions in misfortune. To see a trunk, weighing in some cases two or three tons, drawn along with such ease by a frail looking wire was a curious sight. Wandering further up the stream, here still in its primitive beauty and the woods as yet unfelled, we nevertheless found many of the trees being prepared for execution. This consisted in digging a deep trench round them, thus laying bare the roots, the axe-men speedily cutting in two as many as they can reach, and mighty tough work did it seem to sever them. One noble oak excited our admiration and regrets. It was the undoubted monarch of the forest, towering above its fellows nearly sixty feet and with a girth of more than twenty feet. It had but to meet its fate. We were disappointed in not meeting with any of the engineers conducting the operations, but as far as we could gather the reservoir when completed will cover from seventy to one hundred acres and be nearly a mile in length. It will, when completed, be a great addition to one of our most charming valleys. It will be a long and narrow lakelet, following in its devious windings the contour of the sinuous valley. Happily, Nature speedily repairs the ravages that men inflict  on her, and so we may hope to see the present  transitional state of desolation replaced in a few more years by an enhanced and more perfect beauty.       J.S.S.

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