Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Legal Problems in the Wood lead to a TR7 in Space

Forgive me everyone, I know it's not long since I was last on but once again I have become cross with the curate's egg that is the current form of Countryfile.

This Sunday past we were gifted a brief homage to Graculus by some cove formed from three parts tofu, followed by a short piece regarding the importance of stands of reed to the Bittern.

A brace of ornithological eulogies and both fish eating birds I hear you cry, but the first is increasingly abundant inland, is impacting upon freshwater fish stocks and can be shot under licence. The second has been a threatened species for many years and needs all the help it can get.

The Cormorant should have been called out for its impact on freshwater fish supplies and not purred over for the colour of its inky black feathers.

The Bittern was rightly promoted as a species that needs a bit of a leg up.

Sort it out Countryfile, you can be more than a bit flakey at times.


Following recent posts it has been pointed out that Child A and Child B are no longer children. I may be in denial over this one and a quick check of birth certificates confirms that Child A is pushing twenty five and Child B has just passed twenty three and thus are exempt from all child protection protocols regarding identity, and yes I am about to enter my sixth decade.

The picture just down on the right taken last year debunks all theories regarding moisturiser, clean living and gym membership.

Madam informs me that the picture on the right wasn't taken last year.


Call this a Christening, Aqiqah, Hollekreisch or Namkaran,

whatever you like, or nothing at all,

but from this day forth Child A shall be known as Maisie and Child B as William. Maisie's "Plus One" is Callum their dog is called Ava and Otis remains as Otis. The lady who sleeps on my left continues to be Madam and I remain the Doofus that chucks up guff.

I hope that's provided some clarity for the troublemakers who were querying bonafides regarding Child A (Maisie) and Child B (William)

Many steps recently in the name of lengthening life saw us conquer footpaths across ploughed fields. You'll remember the chap who likes to shoot our pheasants that exit out of the side of his strip of maize? well this footpath crosses his "many signed domain". Some landowners would leave a thin grass strip to mark the way, and once again when it comes to this particular bunch


but, no matter.

We were several inches taller once we had conquered the ploughed up peak to take in a view that confirmed that the field known as spring bottom remains springless. The signs are there that it could break soon but to all the flat earthers, it has not been a wet winter in these quarters, just a what was considered a "normal" winter a decade or more ago.

Here's one of the field on the edge of the village that has been known across the ages as "Spring Bottom" I've high hopes that there will be a small splash of water in the centre of this field sometime in March but it remains dry at the moment.

It is still only February, so more rain please, the Scandinavians seem to cope with worse.

If I practice the bongos in the hopefully wet weeks to come, can we all agree to learn the words of the following song to form a rousing chorus come early April.

One ray of light appeared recently regarding education regarding groundwater and how it work in this valley. Kids from the local primary school have produced a leaflet to push through doors. Provisionally titled "Ditch Aware" it calls for the local populace to be careful about what they chuck in what may appear to be a dry ditch but one winter day will hoipefully be a fully fledged water course carrying all within it to the precious river that runs through their village.

Well done the kids,

Well done the teachers

and well done their much put upon assistants.

Why were Liverpool playing in Readybrek orange in their win over Southampton on Sunday? White with numbers one to eleven used to work quite well when I stood on the Kop (for £2) in the early eighties. and while we are on football how does the leader of the player's union justify an annual remuneration of over two million pounds.

First up, he's a Union leader, and secondly a significant number of the sides in the lower leagues pay their entire squad (who he represents) a similar sum.

He picked up over three million two seasons ago

Anyway (we seem to be saying this a lot of late)

We've found some more Christmas tree that have fallen over in the wood and have set about them with the saws. I don't think I made mention of it on here but Lord Ludg ran me over with the tractor a while back, it was all in slow motion but I did end up prone with the back wheel on my leg. This week, by way of payback, I managed to drop a substantial christmas tree on him and the tractor. The English (a legal eagle by trade) is encouraging (sotto voce) all manner of action from either side, but in the spirit of "Detente" Myself and Lord Ludg have reached agreement that if he doesn't run me over again I won't drop any more Christmas trees on his head.

We've many hard wood trees on order that must be planted in the gaps that have been created and also a heap of green French oak on order for the bridge replacement work.

A few grayling anglers have put in an appearance and despite "all that rain" the river remains fishable. Two fish around the two pound mark were caught at the weekend when fish fed hard for a an hour or two in the afternoon.

I love the Winter Olympics,

There, I said it.

I'm no skier, skater or sledger but man some of these youngsters performing somersaults on an ironing board are not old enough to drink beer or drive, and hey, come on Maisie and William (Child A and Child B as was), up your game with regard to winter sports, are impressive at what they do, how they do it and their attitude towards competitive sport.

Oh yes, enlightenment regarding the following matter would be much appreciated as I may have misheard the radio wallah, but why has somebody sent a TR7 into space?

Space is an awfully long way away and the TR7 was notoriously unreliable. I know James Bond had a lotus that was equally unreliable that could drive underwater but surely this mission is doomed to failure.

What times we live in.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

A Reasonable Rate of Flow, Verdant Weed and Ava

Well a few people seem to have got excited about all those application charges that the EA are trying to sneak in under the radar.

It's been all over the national media and in addition to the mire in which the EA find themselves immersed they are being petitioned to prevent a major player in the world of bagged salad from dumping waste water brim full of nastiness into the headwaters of the Upper Itchen.

You can sign the petition here:

Command Centre Central managed a fairly sensible few years recently and yes they are underfunded and overstretched but can we all remember that they will be helping to form our environmental legislation when we leave the European Union and will be under immense pressure from Big Business and the bottom line not to be too stringent in their requirements regarding the environment when the economy is all.

Please can we all agree to jump, shout and call them out in the event of further lunacy with regard to protecting the aquatic environment as we won't have EU Water Framework Directives anymore which were used by several UK Trusts and Associations to hold the EA and others to account over failures to protect certain aquatic environments.

We are where we are, but we must make the best of it.

Moving on.

The Dever is in pretty good form at the moment.

We have received a reasonable amount of rain and although the spring ditches are not yet running, the river has slowly crept up and while still within its banks retains a reasonable rate of flow, weed growth is also particularly verdant for the time of year which is also most welcome.

With the Froome and other rivers to the west in flood we have received a few more grayling fishermen, all of whom have caught fish. It's a bit murky in some of the deep holes but it is possible to "sight fish" throughout much of the reach. The trout are also more active now that the business of spawning is through although we seem to have acquired a few of somebody else's triploids, three pound lumps that have fed all winter. We've a few people booked in for the final few weeks of the grayling season, traditionally it's the period when the biggest grayling are caught so if anyone fancies a day, don't be a stranger.
The geese are still hanging around and we continue to play host to good numbers of teal, the recent cold weather has also brought a few snipe into the valley to probe and prod in the mushier parts of the valley. I thought I caught sight of a Peregrine last week. Peregrine pitch up now and again and a friend once received quite a surprise while pigeon shooting when a myopic peregrine stooped at many miles an hour and smashed into one his plastic decoy pigeons.

We've also had a sparrow hawk spread terror as it buzzed the birdfeeders a few feet outside our kitchen window and Madam has a regular assignation with a barn owl while walking Otis on returning from school. I've made mention of it before but we have some increasingly bold Muntjac about. One continues to hide behind twigs and feed with our chickens while several have put in an appearance while coffee housing in the wood with Lord Ludg and The English.

They used to be so shy and timid,

the Muntjac, not Lord Ludg and The English.

I have begun to burn bits of the reed and fen

and we're coming to the end of the chainsaw work for the winter.

We've tackled a knot of substantial Christmas trees that have been down for three winters and several battalions of crack willow. This chunk of guff occasionally proves useful with regard to the passage of time and looking back on here I find that some of the willow that we have been attending to that is as thick as a man's arm was last cut back only three years ago. Six feet of growth in a summer is nothing for this Salixian terrorist, the Daesh of the arboreal world, on a mission to cut out light and spread dark throughout the world.

The fishing letter has been formed and is due to be sent out to our regulars in the next week, as soon as a new printer cartridge has been sourced (printers and ink? now there's a scam/racket) We've a full compliment for the coming season but if anyone wants to be added to the list, don't be a stranger.

We've had another dog to stay. Not the soporific spaniel who stayed for two nights a few weeks ago but Ava.

Ava belongs to Child A and her Plus One. Ava is from Greece and the three of them hooked up during an extended stay on an island.

Ava travelled across the continent by road to the UK (with all required papers and injections) and is a pleasure to have around. Tremendous fun, incredibly fit and around two years old, she has something of the saluki about her and nearly did for Otis who may be a little past his "sexy saluki" phase. He tried to keep up but for the most part failed heroically and after the three days was a husk of his former self.

Here's one of two ladies kicking back after a long day covering many miles, mostly at speed.

One in the water meadows, one at a primary school at full stretch.

Quite the Usurpers, I relinquished my position at the north end of the sofa and joined what remained of Otis in front of the fire for a few evenings.

We played host to Ava because Child A and her Plus One were in Italy for a few days.

First to Bologna, where it snowed

and then on to Rome for England's opening game of the six nations, which is a trip I quite fancy myself.

They flew back to Blighty midweek to pick up the keys to their house that they have just bought. Exciting stuff and Madam and myself couldn't be happier for them or prouder of them. Well Done!

Oh yes.

Politicos get a bad rub for most of their days, although I hope I was effusive enough in my praise for our own MP Caroline Nokes with regard to all the help she gave us in dealing with the bovver boys at HMRC and the boneheads at BT, but well done to whoever came up with the "Help to Buy ISA" (George Osborne I think, but I mat be mistaken) The government stump up twenty five percent of every penny that you save in the ISA that you subsequently use towards the deposit for the purchase of your first house.

Not all banks offer a Help To Buy ISA (Nat West do) but well done somebody for coming up with the scheme,

Well done!

Martyn Lewis apart, why isn't the "Help to Buy ISA" being shouted about more than it is?

Child B continues his work on the other side of the world, much of which seems to centre around playing cricket and attending major sporting events. The Melbourne Cup, five days at the Boxing day Test, three days at the Sydney Test have now been followed by Kyle Edmond's semi final at the Australian Open Tennis and Federer in the final of the Australian Open Tennis.

Here's Child B at the Rod Laver arena with Roger (white shirt walking the line holding bat) and Mate of Many Years (Black shirt, glasses on head) with whom he currently shares a flat in South Yarra (Mate of Many Years not the bloke with bat).

Mate of Many Years is a bit of a whizz with numbers. He came with us on holiday to Greece several times and would spend an hour or two each day standing waste deep in the sea, puzzle book in hand and is now paid money for something called "coding" and at this point you may have picked up that I am getting a little out of my depth with regard to the subject described, but there must be something in this "coding" because Mate of Many Years currently qualifies for free tickets to numerous major Melbourne sporting events.

I might have a go at coding (whatever it is) myself

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Dangerous Nincompoopery. Please Respond Accordingly

Hello Everybody

River fine, on the rise and well done the rain for that but keep it coming.

Work going well and almost to schedule.

Dog in good form.

Right that's the regular messages out of the way now on to the meat of the business and a level of nincompoopery surpassed only by Icarus

and Canute.

Apologies that's Neil Kinnock falling over on the beach

Canute at high water

It has been brought to our attention that Command Centre Central are proposing a series of charges for applications to carry out habitat improvement in the aquatic environment.
Lengthy details (north of 80 pages) can be found here:

Section 4.9.1 will furnish you with the details of the proposed charges. But I will now attempt to give you a précis of what the possible impact will be on this stretch of river if implemented.

Regular visitors to this parish will be aware that for the past few months I have been going bananas with a chainsaw in the company of Ludgershall and English in annual skirmishes with crack willow, which if left unchecked would result in a reduction in biodiversity and quality of aquatic habitat. Under the EA's proposals the work around the spring hole would require one application detailing the work, how it is to be carried out, who is to undertake the work, what they will use to complete their task and contingencies for events various ranging from spilling a drop of oil when topping up your chainsaw, safe exits from the wood should the fire get out of control and where does everybody go to the toilet or sit down to have a cup of coffee. Each application will incur a charge for agency Wallahs to run their eye over the scheme undertake a site visit and raise or lower the thumb, (an agency wallah by the way who may be making their first visit to a stretch of river that I have been intimate with for over half my life, who will have the ultimate say on the best way forward with regard to this particular stretch of chalk stream)

A separate application would be required for the work on the mill stream and another for chasing the silt downstream which gets underway next month. A case could be made for the two bridges that I must build before spring to pass without EA approval as we will be replacing existing bridges that have been in place for twenty five years.

but the bridge that Lord Ludg and I built that was opened by the Duchess of Cambridge

and the bridge we floated upstream to the Flight Pond would have required two separate applications and we would have been billed twice.

There is some merit in regulating work in the aquatic environment in order to improve habitat and increase biodiversity. There are currently some terrific keepers doing terrific things in the chalk stream environment but occasionally while undertaking the current recommended method of extending life (walking a few miles each weekend) Madam and I have occasionally come across some pretty raw work pulled on the river in the name of habitat enhancement.

Some people do need a bit of guidance, and an application process with approval granted or denied for some major works is undoubtedly a good idea

But here's the thing.

The proposed charges for an application, just the application, to undertake a long list of regulation tasks in the aquatic environment range between four hundred pounds and a thousand pounds.

The cost to apply for the annual winter work that we will undertake this winter (which is regulation stuff that we have to do each winter) would be several thousand pounds under the proposed charges.

Just to apply.

I'll say that again,

To apply for EA approval to complete our work this winter will cost several thousand pounds under the proposed changes.


Punitive charges that border on racketeering and will result in less aquatic habitat improvement projects being undertaken or an increase in the amount of habitat work undertaken flying under the radar of the agency charged with all things environmental

The EA have an improved record in recent years and have been about effective as I have known them in my time on the river but this proposal deserves more than a raised eyebrow or a "tut tut" as it is absolutely crackers. It will not serve the aquatic habitat well at all and is redolent of the fever that took hold of the EA around the turn of the century when daft ideas and edicts were de rigueur.

I know some very good people at Command Centre Central who will be tearing their hair out at these proposals, that can only have been drawn up by the bean counters of a cash strapped agency.

Earlier in the piece I mentioned that the proposals have only just come to our attention and judging by the amount of public comment, many others are unaware of the EA's proposals. Public comments on the proposals must be submitted by Friday 26th January (I know, I know!) If passed these charges will impact upon every river, lake, angler, fishing club in England and Wales.

The method of response to the EA's proposals is via a form on the website mentioned earlier, unfortunately it doesn't work very well (surprised?) and I had to email my response to:

If you don't agree with the EA's proposals for increased charges for habitat improvement work in the aquatic environment, I urge you to do the same.

I've not mentioned it for a while, but

We are Increasingly led by loons.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Mr Clapham, a Leucistic Goose and a Surprise Spaniel Experience

Happy New Year everyone and best wishes for 1973

We did that one?

Ok, on with the guff and a report of recent movements.

Which this week, as ever have centred principally around habitat enhancement and raising biodiversity, cos that's the kind of guys us keeper's are.

Up around a spring hole for much of the week with Lord Ludg and The English.

Willow had taken hold and the hole and the thirty yards of spring ditch was fairly void of light and life. So with Messer's Stihl and Husqvuarna forming the vanguard the forces of Salix were not so quietly conquered,

light streamed in and from the centre of the spring hole appeared a hand holding a sword.

I may have dreamt that last bit, but pictorial evidence would suggest otherwise and we have had an email from an regarding the precise location of said spring.

Ducks have already found the new patch of water and I reckon Pike will find it a perfect part to nose up in order to spawn. I'll plant it up with sedge and reed in a few months which should thrive with the improved light. It was a fairly lifeless piece of water and wood and at this point I could strike up the band to perform the familiar standard of this house of why some habitats benefit from being managed by man (keepering they used to call it) but won't because if we refer to the top of the piece, we are currently living in 1973 so if all interested parties can send a SAE I'll pop a postcard and a few Polaroid's in the post.

There are a few boggy areas around the spring hole and logistically it took a bit of working out as to how some of the willows could be extracted for introduction to the fire but not for the first time the little orange tractor performed magnificently and three pairs of hands on a job like this can reduce the time taken to complete the task substantially so thanks as ever to Lord Ludg and The English for helping out.

It must be cold somewhere else as we've quite a few teal in the valley and more geese than I can ever remember,

including this strange looking cove.

It had me foxed for a bit but google suggests that it's a leucistic greylag. A greylag goose whose body can't form enough pigment to colour it's feathers. There is also some small feathered oddity in the wood that I have yet to pick out. It hangs around the tree canopy and makes a "peep peep" sound every thirty seconds or so, I'll let you know on here when I find out what it is. The number of cormorants flighting this valley continue to increase and I now see them most days, six on the pond on one occasion and twenty buzzing the main river valley as I joined the A303 on a dash for provisions one lunch time.

River levels have slowly crept up during the opening weeks of this year. It was evident that the springs in the spring hole around which we were engaging the forces of crack willow flowed a little stronger as our work progressed. Aquifers have received some replenishment and the welcome sign of a chalk stream increasing in level during a couple of dry days as the contribution made by groundwater flow increases sent me scurrying over to the cricket pitch, where I can take the lid off a borehole and with the aid of a torch, shine a light to reveal the height of the groundwater in the valley (we don't do dodgy data, fake news or conjecture just have a look with our own eyes and form our own opinion) It had indeed risen but was still three feet below causing groundwater flooding on the outfield that was not such an uncommon occurrence in front of the pavilion ten or more years ago.

Recent left foot right foot expeditions in an effort to extend life have seen us cross a couple of chalk stream valleys both of which would characteristically carry standing water at this time of year. Here's one of the Anton Valley

And the Upper Itchen,

Apologies folks, but more rain please.

Just by way of reminder here's that island in the middle of the Itchen that has been exposed since September and has since been claimed by this wagtail.

In other news,

We've had a spaniel to stay. For twelve years we played host to the world's worst spaniel. Bill Hicks once joked that in the event of a nuclear war from among the dust an indestructible Keith Richards would stir and proclaim

"I saw the light and I thought we were on"

The same applied to Chump. A spaniel with duff back legs, indomitable attitude and a propensity to bring back half a hedgerow in his feathers he was terrific fun, but high maintenance and once he passed on we both agreed that we'd had ticked the "spaniel experience" box.

Until last week, when Madam agreed to look after a friend's elderly spaniel for a few days. Soporific, well mannered and with a dislike of a puddles he was a dream to look after, although he did have a funny way of taking his ease.

To return to guitar legends who surfaced in the nineteen sixties, I understand that a film is currently being shown in picture houses across the land that centres on the life and times of Eric Clapton.
I trust that the scene in which he fishes at this place and we shared a cold lunch at my employer's kitchen table made the final cut and the visit to our local pub where the landlady continually called him "Mr Clapham"

Top bloke and not a bad fisherman.

Oh yes almost forgot,

here's one of the dog who refuses to believe that Christmas is over.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

2018 Already, Are You Sure?

Happy New Year everyone, and best wishes for 2008 .

Apparently it's 2018, I am no longer forty years old and hell's horses, where did the last ten years go? If these cranks are to be believed and it is indeed 2018, where are the Hover Shoes we were promised by Blue Peter in the 1970's and come on everybody, where are the flying cars?

Anyway, we are where we are so on with the guff.

Well it has rained.

Which is welcome and during recent explorations of the northern territories to touch base with relatives there was water lying in some valley floors in the midlands, so expect the usual hyperbole from a disconnected media sometime in the new year regarding flooding, But all those rivers we passed with water in the fields ( Cherwell, Windrush, Avon - flood plains anyone?) are supposed to flood at some point.

and by way of balance here's one of a spring ditch that we crossed during our early morning walk on New Year's Day that used to run most winters but has remained dry since the spring of 2014.

Bridges remain precipitous and the hatch on the house which was installed in the 1840's and is opened notch by notch to release water from a river on the rise through winter rain remains shut with a small surplus spilling over the top.

More rain please, keep it coming.

The brief cold snap during the festive period brought more teal into the valley who can be heard whistling their way up the valley as the light fades. Geese have mustered on the meadow upstream along with numbers of swan several of whom seem a little sick, it seems to be a cyclical thing with a spike in the number of winter mortalities every three of four years. Up until recently we have been spared the attention of greedy graculus. It's not really cormorant water with only a few stretches offering sufficient depth for them to fish. This winter they have been more persistent, targeting both pond and river, I see them most days, five years ago I could count the number of encounters with Noggin the Nog's Budgerigar on one hand (I have the full compliment of digits and nor am I a witch) Thirty years ago it was rare to a see a cormorant this far inland.

Woodcock retain a presence in the wood as do several pheasant despite the best efforts of Elma J Fudd and his blunderbuss on the neighbouring estate who spent part of Boxing Day blazing away at our pheasants exiting from the side of his block of maize. He hit some this time and sent word of several birds that needed picking up on the riverbank with ten minutes of daylight remaining,

once again


Before Christmas I filed annual river reports to the relevant authorities. For part of the report for this stretch of the Dever I offloaded about the Candover Stream supplementary flow abstraction and the revelation that it had impacted upon the aquifers of the Dever and may even have used the word "weasels" when describing a Water Company's objections to the EA's attempts to reduce the quantity permitted to be abstracted to limit any impact on the Dever aquifers.
A reply arrived shortly afterwards from the compiler of the excellent annual report suggesting that the scheme had not been used that much in recent years. With scars still raw over another recent revelation regarding "Dodgy Data" and the rise of "Fake News" I touched base with a couple of keepers who jump into the river immediately below the Candover stream to ask their opinion on this claim. Turns out the river can change level at a remarkable rate during a summer with wellies required one week to cut the weed, waders the next.
The question also remains that if the pumps in question have not been used very much in the past forty years how did it come to light that their "cone of influence" extended to the aquifers that feed the neighbouring Dever valley?

Dodgy Data and Fake News.

What times we live in.

In other news, Child A and Plus One are close to completing the process of purchasing a house across the county line in Berkshire, and I don't mean to keep coming back to the passage of time but didn't they do their O levels the other week? I think 2018 could be an exciting year for them both.

Child B attended most days at the Melbourne Test and has two more lined up in Sydney where he currently resides having taken in the Fireworks on New Year's Eve. He has met Kangaroo, Koala and Mike Atherton over Christmas Lunch,

Apologies the Kangaroo and Koala were not at Christmas lunch,

I don't think.

Face to face with Kangaroos and Koala were a new one for Child B but he's previous with Athers.

The first encounter was in Sri Lanka in 2001 at a thrilling test match in Kandy. Call us out as Carpet baggers but we received a four figure sum following the demutalisation of Scottish Widows, a merry band that Madam had signed up for following advice two years before to opt of Serps. We didn't own a house and had a fair old car loan, but common sense prevailed and we blew the lot on a three week trip to Sri Lanka to take in the Test match, tickle turtles, temples with teeth, elephants, monitor lizards and much much more.

A real adventure. I've banged out several thousand chunks of guff on here regarding short trips away, a reprise of this trip could make the internet creak a little so I'll stick to the cricket. It wasn't an organised tour, we went on our own and rocked up at the ground in a tuk tuk with our seven and eight year olds to pay less than two pounds for our tickets to sit on plastic garden chairs with the locals and a small division of the Barmy Army. Child A completed many puzzles and several books as cricket wasn't really her bag and Child B introduced himself to Mike Atherton. Each day we popped into the score box, said hello to England scorer Malcolm Ashton before climbing the ladders to change a few numbers with the dozen or so kids who seemed to operate the scorebox. Up on the hill behind the stand we could make out many orange robed Bhuddist Monks who had abandoned their chores to take in what was a very exciting cricket match and an unexpected win for England.

They don't play Test cricket at the ground now, which is a shame as we would like to have returned one day. By pure coincidence, Our local club Longparish held a fund raising auction a few years ago and one of the lots was a signed print by Sporting artist Jo Bowen of the same Test match at Kandy, it now hangs on our wall and four of those little blobs in the background are the four of us.

The next time we met Mike was a few years later at the Lords Test between England and The West Indies. Channel Four had the live coverage contract and as part of the build up to the day the presenters, Mike Atherton, Simon Hughes, Ian Bishop and Mark Nicholas would sit casually on a picnic table on the Nursery Ground musing on the impending action. Child B and myself, a jovial West Indian and a chap in a very stripy blazer were invited to sit on the picnic table behind discussing cricket to complete the scene.

Anyway, piece done. Mark Nicholas flounced off as some hair had been deemed to be out of place, Simon Hughes went in on himself but Mike Atherton and Ian Bishop came over for a few minutes chat. The chap in the stripy blazer had a lot to say, so we didn't get to jog Mike's memory about our encounter in Kandy but Child B did finally get his autograph (Child A didn't trust him with her pens at the Kandy test).

I think that's it, and I'll own that I was going to end this guff for good this month as it's ten years since it first started. It was only intended to run for one year and ten years seems like a number to say "fin" but I guess it's become a bit of a habit.
So in the words of my first employer Arthur Dodd, (Google him kids, he was very much the Jed Clampett of his day)

Press on Regardless!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Digger Donovan and some Super Sexy Wiggles

Well, we'll begin this latest chunk of guff with a good news story and some high praise for a big corporation. Having sourced the few items that one is allowed to send in the post to Australia, a box was purchased and a hefty chunk of moolah handed over to the post office wallah on the penultimate day for posting to Australia in time for Yuletide. Five days later we received word via something called Whatsapp that it had arrived at Child B's flat in Melbourne. So well done the Post Office or whoever it is that deals with that kind of delivery, and at this point I'll pause to consider how such a transaction occurs, Yes the post office cove picks up the money but how does Digger Donovan at the other need get his cut for taking the box from the plane to the door.

And not just Digger Donovan, how do all the overseas posties get their slice of the money furnished for stamps at a UK post office to send items overseas?

I have given it quite a bit of thought and it's beyond me. I don't know how overseas post works and all this thinking about international matters is starting to hurt so I'll return to the business in hand of managing a short stretch of chalk stream and its valley.

Here's a link to an interesting article that was referenced in The Times earlier this week

We've turned the chainsaw's attention to the Mill Stream, which has been mothballed due to lack of water for almost three years. To recap, the millstream is the half mile long man made channel used to carry water to drive the wheel at the Mill.

Uniform in length and initially canal like, over the last twenty years we have been attempting to make it a more natural environment. Reed and sedge have been planted and used to pinch and flick the flow and create a few sexy wiggles and lines. Cut back completely the Mill stream is a featureless channel with a silty bottom but pinching and flicking the flow keeps the gravel bed a little cleaner and allows weed to grow where it previously didn't.

As I have previously mentioned we haven't had the water to run the Mill stream for the past three summers as the main river must take precedence and if we were still in the business of grinding flour there may also have been limited supply of bread these past three summers. Of course there is willow to attend to interspersed with some particularly vicious bramble and thorn, and currently I sit chucking up this guff in a haze of TCP that has been dabbed on the many scratches and pricks on all parts of the body, the blackthorn in particular laughs in the face of the toughest chainsaw trouser. It's a steady business as most of the tree work is in the water and wood must be dropped in the river and then pulled out on the other side for introduction to the fire.

We had a second wander about with guns last week. I was a little disappointed at the number of pheasant that were in the parish on our first day. I was aware that despite the best efforts of Otis and myself each day a significant percentage of our birds wandered up to a neighbours block of maize.

Here's one of our neighbour taking pot shots at them as they fly home. Which is fair enough, as he doesn't get much shooting and warming the barrels as twenty or thirty of your neighbour's birds steadily exit stage left out of the side of the drive provided him with some much needed sport.


For whatever reason, we saw many more birds on our maraud through the woods this week. The cold weather earlier in the week had brought quite a few teal into the valley along with fifty odd geese and the occasional woodcock. It's not about the numbers and it's always a fun and relaxing day with a long lunch to finish. Thanks very much to everyone who turned out to worry the wildlife.

If we can all hum the Nina Simone somg "I wish I knew how it would feel to be free" for the next few lines the ambience will be significantly improved.

I have been invited to review a film. Not the current smash about Neil and Christine titled Hamilton, or the new Star Trek feature. It's called "Chalk" and its centred around either the end of a snooker cue, a day in the life of a blackboard or a chalk river, we don't know. But as soon as I have got around to watching the thing and chuck some words together about what I think it is all about I will let you know on here.

And there we have it, almost made it through another year. I don't know how it happened but twenty five years have just passed and Madam and myself will be on our own on Christmas morning for the first time in all that time,

which will be a bit odd,

although the bacon in the sandwiches at breakfast may be a little thicker than the previous twenty five years with a top brand name brown sauce on the table rather than the usual supermarket's own version sauce.

Yes we miss the kids, they are now very grown-ups and goodness how fast does time fly but we must look up and not down and acknowledge the fact that we now eat considerably better cuts of meat than we used to and don't have to share/fight over roast potatoes.

Oh yes, almost forgot,


because no Christmas is complete without them

Happy Christmas everyone and thank you for reading the rubbish that I write.