Sunday, September 10, 2017

We Have Nothing to Fear Bar the Sky Falling In On Our Heads

I don't know how it happened but it seems to be September.

The month in which fishing for trout usually picks up after the dog days of summer. Dipping into the archives our fishing books demonstrate that some of the biggest fish are caught during this month as hormones begin to kick in and appetite is raised in preparation for the rigors of spawning. After a desperate start to the season when the river remained at a lower level than the end of the previous season, the river has retained a reasonable level for the second half of the season with verdant weed growth undoubtedly having an effect. No groundwater intended for the Dever has been pumped down the Candover stream into the Itchen and consequently the much muttered mantra in these parts of "this river falls away far quicker than it used to during the summer" does not hold this year. Good luck to the Environment Agency in their battle with the weasels at the water company and the attempt to reduce the size of the abstraction licence for supplementary pumping of groundwater down the Candover stream. The impact of no supplementary pumping of groundwater into the Candover stream on the neighbouring Dever has been obvious even to this addled eye.

Blanket weed has come on quite a bit during the past month and competes with some surprisingly vigorous weed growth for space in the river. Trout seem to be bunched up and lurk mainly in deeper holes, although the top shallows that received the attention of our orange saws last winter have never been more productive with several good fish taken from both below and above the hatch.

There is a possibility that there may be a half rod (one fixed day a fortnight) next year. We've a bit of a waiting list, but sometimes the day presented doesn't suit the waiters, so if you would like to chuck your hat into the ring, don't be a stranger.

Watercress continues to creep out from the bank, pinching the river and helping to maintain a reasonable speed of flow, although the first frost will soon see it in retreat. Our heating clicked on this morning for the first time since last April, and it won't be long before the wood burner is back in action. I spent an hour last week walking around with a paint brush daubing crosses on ash trees that must be felled this winter. It's a fairly depressing business and one that I will have to repeat for several winters to come, but there are trees that currently show no sign of the disease that may have some degree of immunity so it may just be a cycle that the ash tree population must endure.

As the years progress I'll confess to an increasing appreciation of this time of year. An appreciation that is only increased by my employer's grandson's request for work before returning to Uni. I've long championed the wall and fence as the future of boundary demarcation over the medieval hedge, so it was with great relief that destitute grandson (he won't be cash poor for long as he's a year away from completing a law degree) set about the behemothic hedges that surround the place. Afters twenty five years of tackling the things, I'll attest to the theory that there is a bit of a knack to completing the job to the required level of satisfaction. These hedges will be viewed from all sides throughout the winter. A bit missed or a wonky line will grate for many months and don't get me on levels.

Anyway, aspiring law student completed the task to a high standard your honour, and in two thirds of the time that it takes these middle aged bones to complete the task, which was a little galling.

Late last month we took delivery of three figures worth of pheasant poults. It's the first time we've had the release pen up and running since all those Christmas trees fell over following flooding (it's on here somewhere)

It's good to have pheasants back in the wood and a few days shooting to look forward to. This bunch seem to have a sweet tooth and most afternoons this week an eating apple tree that borders my employer's garden has played host to thirty or forty pheasants pecking away at the ripe fallen apples.

Seed heads have now formed and I've now topped the meadows. I was surprised to disturb a couple of hares during my progress with the swipe. We don't see many hares up the river as a quick glance at google earth will reveal your correspondent driving a blue tractor and also confirm that the meadows are a long island and the hares have either swum the river or crossed one of three bridges. There were also several hedgehogs, many mice (that the barn owl missed) and an incredibly colourful spider that unbeknown to me hitched a lift home on what remains of my head of hair to put in an appearance at lunch when it dropped from my forehead onto my plate of cheese salad. if it had been the soup of the day before, he/she wouldn't have stood a chance.

After relocating Brer spider, (untroubled by his/her dip in the salad dressing) I returned to my lunchtime perusal of the newspaper and learnt that a book has been published by the author Andrew C Johnson that debunks all that Asterix taught us and lays claim to the lie that none of what that bunch of indomitable Gauls achieved actually happened.
I don't know what "La Johnson's" agenda is but I implore you not to buy this book,

Burn it if you can

All civilised people agree that Asterix and Oblelix actually happened, the danger of the sky falling in upon our heads remains and there is much to be learned from the writings of Gosciny and Uderzo.

And then there was the cricket.

The internet isn't big enough for me to provide a complete rundown of Longparish CC's dramatic season just completed,

although a brief summary can be found at where the photo gallery section is particularly apposite.

It's the first year since my children were born that I have not attended a Test match at Lords. I was kindly offered a ticket for the Saturday of the Test against South Africa earlier in the year, and a brace for the Friday of the Test against West Indies, but unfortunately circumstances conspired and I/we were unable to attend, which was a shame as it is always a tremendous day out.
This Test just passed was particularly poignant as it was Henry Blofeld's last stint at the TMS microphone. I've listened to TMS for most of my life. I can remember Arlott from Arlesford, Don Mosey, Tony Lewis, Trevor Bailey, Alan Mcgilvery, CMJ et al.

Blofeld has been an ever present throughout my time of listening.

The Times Cricket correspondent John Woodcock has been a part of cricket at my local club Longparish throughout his life and he was the driving force behind Blofeld switching from life in the city to a life in cricket correspondence. John is a terrific chap (he's the only doyen I know) and also a very good fisherman. He kindly took me several times as a guest to a stretch of the Avon where he had a rod for many years. He has also brought many of the great and the good in the world of cricket to the Longparish ground both to play and spectate, his photograph album is a procession of well known people from the cricketing world taking pegs at the Longparish ground.

Only last year the lady who sleeps on my left was slightly confused by the chap she had a conversation with who she thought she knew but could not quite place,

It was Aussie cricket commentator, Jim Maxwell.

The late Tony Cozier also caused some confusion a few years before.

There could be no mistaking Blofeld.

On two occasions I can remember popping into The Plough when he and John were taking pre-prandial pints. What you heard on the radio, was what you got in the pub. Holding Court and thoroughly entertaining with an amplification and turn of phrase that held the whole room rapt.

I'll miss him on the radio,

Monday, September 4, 2017

Why Wander Odysseus, Why? Doh!

Still here,

Just had a few things on that's all, some semblance of normal service has now been restored, although a quick glance at the calendar confirms that there isn't much free time remaining this month either.

and yes, we've been away again, and the requisite report now follows, so if you only visited this house in search of enlightenment regarding chalk stream management or guidance in catching trout off the top, then on this occasion you will be disappointed,

Which is par for the course if we're honest,

Anyway, to the substance

On this year of years, and with the eye as ever on "Living for Pleasure Alone" we've been away again.

Cephalonia this time,

Inspired by all things Corelli (the brilliant book, not the dreadful film adaptation) it had been on the list of places to visit for a while and so it was that we set off in the early hours for Gatwick, keenly anticipating our first experience of the newly opened smart M3 motorway after many years of road works and average speed limits.

Unfortunately Smart motorways need at least eight hours sleep at night (who knew?) and the thing was closed from ten till six, so it was another "seat of your pants" hurtling along little roads in the hours before dawn trip to catch a plane at Gatwick.

Well done the roads of South East England, well done!

Into Argostoli and an hour drive over the mountains to the village of Agia Efimia, a onetime fishing village and a small community that now plays host to a well heeled yachting set from many nations, numerous Italian pedestrians and the occasional riverkeeper with spouse.

The heat was in the high thirties and after a brief pause for Mythos and cheese we hit the beach,

Which is where we remained for much of the week,

Each morning we woke to the sounds of goats with bells being herded up the adjacent hill, contemplated visiting somewhere in the morning, but ultimately opting for the beach as the Celsius count breached thirty by the middle of the morning.

We did visit the spectacular caves and the subterranean lakes which are a feature of this lump of limestone and are comfortably cool.

The whole island receives its water supply via a groundwater resource that is amply replenished by rain in the mountains that rise to five thousand feet, it is a surprisingly verdant island quenched by cycles of convectional rainfall

the theory of which confused our main man at command centre central a few years ago - it's on here here somewhere but here's a picture to be going on with

We experienced heavy rain on three occasions during our eight day stay.

The Melissani Cave system is an underground limestone river that could quite easily support a population of trout. The water temperature is a constant fifteen degrees and is slightly brackish due to its proximity to the sea, it supports a population of eels and the odd mullet and there were a few flies on the water. I did make enquiries about popping a few Rainbows in and offering guided fishing, although for overhanging branches claiming poorly presented flies read overhanging stalactites.

It is a spectacular setting and contains remains from prehistory on the river bed, along with offerings to the goddess Pan regarding uncoordinated dancing on Top of the Pops during the 1970's.

On from the caves, is the Port of Sami, which serves as a gateway to the island of Ithaca, home of Odysseus and another island to tick off one day. It's all about the ferry and the port in Sami and the contrast between a local population living a sustainable life on this isle and its well heeled visitors is particularly stark.

Myrtos beach next, a stunning location that regularly crops up in newspapers and magazines as one of Europe's beaches to take a look at. The drive down to the mile wide expanse of bright white shingle is a little hairy but the hundreds of feet high cliffs adorned with many goats (clappers removed) provide a stunning backdrop to a beach that borders the bluest of seas. It was the setting for the blowing up of the mine in the facsimile of a sham that was the film of Captain Corelli (there was a trilogy to be had from the one book alone) and on each of our many visits was never crowded.

Kicking back on any beach in Cephalonia the eye is drawn to an obvious line on rocks two feet above the water. It is a remnant of the 1953 earthquake, when four major shocks of over seven on the Richter scale between nine and eleven in the morning raised over ninety percent of the island's buildings to the ground. Fiskardo at the northern tip of the island was the only town to escape relatively unscathed. The whole island rose two feet, hence the water line on the shoreline rocks. As a result of the devastation a significant proportion of the island's population were forced to emigrate, principally to Australia and Canada.

It remains a point of chronological reference for many on the island with much referred to as "pre" or "post" earthquake.

And then we headed off up the straits of Ithaca for a day in a boat to the many beaches that are only accessible by sea.

I don't know why Ithaca's favourite son Odysseus went off a wandering because this corner of the island is a quiet piece of paradise.

For four hours Madam and myself enjoyed our own private beach and while Madam Crusoe read books,

I established "Man Friday" credentials by hopping on sand and worrying the local wildlife, principally the local the wrasse population, although it was bream I was after bothering.

More beach followed and yes, I did lap up all things Louis De B during our stay. We ate some superb Greek food, and I do seem to have punished the Rabbit Stifado somewhat. The Ribola was Ok and the Mythos following rigorous testing, was declared as good as it ever was.

We didn't get to climb Mount Aenos as we had initially intended, but we did see a Pine Martin, albeit dead on the road (wither poor Psipsina)

The drive back over the mountains was spectacular and we paused briefly to take in the view of Argostoli and Luxouri and doff our caps to the bones of St Gerasimos, before heading for the tiny airport that serves this tremendous Ionian Isle,

I don't know what the roads were like around the ancient city of Athens, but back in Blighty and what some would have as one of the greatest cities of the modern world, the M25 and the oh so clever new M3 were bunged up so it was the back lanes home from Gatwick again.

Note to Self: Two thousand words on why the road network of the South East no longer functions as originally intended and internet connection on an isolated Ionian Isle is fifty times faster than our own at home forty miles from previously mentioned claimant to greatest city on planet earth.

A terrific trip (bar the roads of England)

Further fishing stuff to follow

Monday, August 7, 2017

Blood Pressure and The Joy of Buffering

After the party is over,

Yes the mood's taken a bit of a dip and yes, it is disappointing to find garments and footwear discarded in the bushes after I made it quite clear in my speech that it wasn't that kind of party.

Moving on, which is difficult as the photos continue to arrive intermittently via our third world internet connection. If you did send some photographs at the beginning of the week and have not received acknowledgement I apologise, they are still downloading.

For those hipsters with a beard formed from tofu who dream of days of yore and a world of buffering, don't be a stranger.

In these strange days when many look to the past for succour, there may even be some miles in us offering " buffering breaks" or "dial up day experiences"

Because yes, we still buffer.

It may be quicker to print the photos off and pop them in the post.

More news from your current affairs correspondent via a third world broadband supply to follow after news from our man on the river,

Which, after staff cuts, also happens to be me,

What weather events we have had. Intense showers have seen several trees come down, including a leaf laden weeping willow on the bend below the fishing hut. This morning we received word of friends in a neighbouring village who had the top half of a substantial beech tree blocking their drive. Everything is looking a little more leggy and increasingly verdant, but in terms of aquifer replenishment it's the face washing equivalent of splashing water on your face as opposed to a prolonged ducking and a vigorous scrub with a flannel behind the ears administered by a grandparent's hand. It's a fresher river, and chalk streams give thanks for what they have received but the level of the groundwater that feeds this river remains pitifully low

Fishing has been fairly productive. We've a fairly long injury list amongst our regulars and the river has not been fished as much as previous seasons, but the number of fish caught is well up on previous years. It isn't easy, but fresher water has stimulated fish that would normally assume a state of torpor at this time of the year. The adage that one fish in August is worth four at the end of May still holds, they have their eye in and cute presentation of dry fly or nymph is key.

Retaining what water we can remains key and bank side vegetation management plays a crucial role in this and is allowed to grow out into the stream to squeeze the flow as much as possible. Watercress is particularly good at doing this although it is important not to let it smother any ranunculus. It may make fishing in a few spots a little more tricky but the thicker fringe is a riot of colour with loosestrife, mint and monkey flower all in flower. We seem to be inundated with Muntjac who are not as shy as they used to be. One feeds regularly on kitchen scraps with the chooks and barks to other Muntjac in the wood on the other side of the river and fields beyond. It's an unmistakeable noise, particularly after hearing it at close quarters when one got its head stuck in the fence surrounding my vegetables in an attempted raid on my beans.

We seem to be well off for Kingfishers this year, It is difficult to walk up the river without seeing or hearing one, but they remain a little shy of the camera. We remain inundated with butterflies who are more than happy to sit for the camera.

This week we take delivery of three figures of pheasants, because yes after a five year hiatus we are back in the shooting game. The pen took a bit of putting back together after all those Christmas trees fell over and we have had to start again with feeders in the wood and I have had to knock up a dozen or more. Doors had to be replaced on the pen and a new electric fence attached, but now we are ready and on the next dry day the wood will once again be alive with the cheeps of eight week old pheasant poults.

Late last week the Dr'/s surgery called and left a message asking me to give them a ring. I haven't been to the Dr's since I fell off the roof, not because I am not a fan of their work, I am my Doctor is a very nice man who I have known for over twenty years, but because I haven't had real need to so to say I was confused when they gave me a ring would be an understatement. Had my great age triggered some alarm at the surgery or was it related to being married for twenty five years, scratching my head I gave them a call and was quickly informed that they had no records of me having any blood pressure. I assured them that I did have some blood pressure, sometimes it went up when groundwater levels or rural broadband were mentioned but it was blood pressure all the same. After a confusing conversation it became apparent that they had no records of my blood pressure ever being taken and could I pop in so that they could open a file. Which I did, my blood pressure was found, and measured and all is as it should be. IO offered up further bumps and lumps for checking but the nurse declined and asked me to leave, which I did safe in the knowledge that somewhere in a file is a piece of paper with a record of my blood pressure, the lark remained on the wing the snail upon the thorn and the world continued to turn.

Oh yes, my clever idiot proof Nikon D5200 continues to malfunction so today's offering have been brought to you by my Panasonic Lumix DMC SZ10

Friday, July 28, 2017

This Day of Days


Apologies for my absence and tardiness regarding posts, but we've been a bit busy

but now we're back, back back, so on with the guff,

But first can I scotch rumours that I have relinquished my full time position on the river to concentrate on royal duties,

Nice to have options.

Where was I? Oh yes, the principle reason for my silence in the past few weeks has been the advent of our silver wedding anniversary. Not in a "quiet reflection" kind of way but because preparations were being made for a hellzapoppin party held last Sunday. Vino was sourced en France, a barrel of beer from Betteridges micro brewery a few miles up the valley and a big bin of Pimms was mixed. We would dine on meat cooked on a barbecue by The Weyhill farm shop, a few leaves, a lot of smoked Dever Trout and some stunning cakes made by a friend of Madam.

So what of this day of days?

Ironically it rained,

a lot,

Which was celebrated by me and the other river keepers in attendance but not by the twenty or so people sitting under a gazebo that collapsed under the weight of water. River keepers, firemen and tractor drivers mustered and the thing was resurrected with the aid of several long poles, a roll of parcel tape and a table. Further drink was taken and the incident soon forgotten by the eighty odd people who seemed to have a high old time. Thank you to everyone who came along to help us celebrate 25 years of marriage and thirty years as a couple.

In among the mayhem that was the week before our bash, we travelled en famille to Cardiff for Child B's Graduation.
Like Child A he's done very well and also picked up a student award for some such thing or the other. He'll miss Cardiff, it's a tremendous city with some terrific places to eat (Portuguese for lunch on this trip) and some super shops in Victorian arcades. He's off to the Antipodes at the end of the summer for a bit of cricket and adventure which we are quite envious of.
Child A continues with the interminable quest to keep the streets of Thames Valley free from crime, she seems to be under quite a bit of pressure at times so come on people of the Thames Valley, up your game!

Well that's the family stuff and dedications done with so we'll move on to the river stuff.

We received word last week that the Upper Itchen had received the gift of thousands of half pound rainbow trout. Escapees from an as yet unnamed fish farm. The upper Itchen is a SAC, the highest level of environmental classification there is and let' s not forget that some of that water being pumped down the Candover stream in the name of protecting the SAC should be making its way into the Dever which is only a mere SSSI. It'll be a few years before the rainbows are hoovered up, but in that time predator numbers may spike when presented with such bounty and other fish species may suffer as a result.

We may have had rain, and the garden looks great but it has done little for the amount of water flowing down the chalk streams. Groundwater levels remain low and gravels that should be submerged still stand proud of the water. It was apparent during the July weed cut that the clearing off process (conducted in the half light after returning from Cardiff - we've been very busy people) took considerably longer than one would expect and when an exasperated angler threw his rod at me and charged me with catching some of these sodding somnolant fish. The fly that I presented to what should have been a rattling run of water under a branch on the far bank hardly moved at all on landing. There are plenty of fish, although they are starting to bunch up in deeper holes but spook one and it will charge around and disturb the rest of the gang. They do rise, if a little circumspectly, but many are now preoccupied with sub surface feeding, it's never the easiest time of the year for fishing on this river but numbers caught remain up on the previous two seasons and late summer fishing looks promising.

With the trees now displaying to the full it is all too apparent how many of the ash are in trouble, I've earmarked half a dozen substantial specimens that must come down this winter before they start shedding limbs. It is a little sad as ash make up a substantial percentage of the trees in the wood, but there are a few specimens that seem to be in good health so fingers crossed for them. The walnuts that we planted a few years ago are in good health and their noses are on the cusp of poking out of their guards.

The fringe is in full bloom and at its best with spikes of loosestrife, drifts of monkey flower and forget me not and substantial stands of hemp agrimony that continue to draw the eye of a variety of butterflies. This time of the year would normally see all manner of moths stuck to the our side wall in the morning, not seen so many this year although this may be down to us being more judicious when it comes to turning the outside light off at night.

What else?

Well there was the flying visit to France, the trip to Ventnor on the Isle of Wight for a Hampshire League match that was done in thirty overs and a jolly day fishing on the middle reaches of the Anton.

But I've run out of steam as it's been quite a hectic month and as was pointed out many times at our wedding anniversary where some of our wedding photos were displayed.

"Rachel hasn't changed a bit, but Chris?.....well"

So I'll drag this withered husk away for a restorative bath and seek succour in bubbles (bath) and wine (wine) and won't leave it so long next time.

This week's photographs have been brought to you by Child A and my Dad and thank you very much for that as my clever idiot proof camera is currently playing up.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

It's been an emotional time of late

Apologies, but it's been an emotional time of late

There is much to discuss and normal service will be resumed in the next 48 hours now that this day of days has passed

Oh yes, fishing's ok, but the rain's done nothing, feel free to use a nymph.

More soon.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Who's In?

I don't mean to cause alarm, but does this recently received correspondence (see below) mean that air strikes are imminent?

Does our Defence Secretary know that Hacker's have already penetrated Parliament? Jim stood as PM in the early 80's


I know this mail will come to you as a surprise since we haven't known or come across each other before considering the fact that I sourced your email contact through the Internet in search of trusted person who can assist me.

I am Miss Elodine Warlord Ibrahim Coulibaly 24 years old female from the Republic of Ivory Coast,West Africa ,am the Daughter of Late Chief Sgt.Warlord Ibrahim Coulibaly (a.k.a General IB ). My late father was a well known Ivory Coast militia leader . He died on Thursday 28 April 2011 following a fight with the Republican Forces of Ivory Coast(FRCI). I am constrained to contact you because of the maltreatment which I am receiving from my step mother.

She planned to take away all my late father's treasury and properties from me since the unexpected death of my beloved Father. Meanwhile I wanted to travel to Europe, but she hide away my international passport and other valuable documents. Luckily she did not discover where I kept my father's File which contained important documents. Now I am presently staying in the Mission in Burkina Faso.

I am seeking for long term relationship and investment assistance. My father of blessed memory deposited the sum of US$ 27.5 Million in one bank in Burkina Faso with my name as the next of kin. I had contacted the Bank to clear the deposit but the Branch Manager told me that being a refugee, my status according to the local law does not authorize me to carry out the operation. However, he advised me to provide a trustee who will stand on my behalf. I had wanted to inform my stepmother about this deposit but I am afraid that she will not offer me anything after the release of the money.

Therefore, I decide to seek for your help in transferring the money into your bank account while I will relocate to your country and settle down with you. As you indicated your interest to help me I will give you the account number and the contact of the bank where my late beloved father deposited the money with my name as the next of kin. It is my intention to compensate you with 40% of the total money for your assistance and the balance shall be my investment in any profitable venture which you will recommend to me as have no any idea about foreign investment. Please all communications should be through this email address for confidential purposes.(

Thanking you a lot in anticipation of your quick response. I will give you details in my next mail after receiving your acceptance mail to help me ,

Yours sincerely
Miss Elodine Warlord Ibrahim Coulibaly

I had one from her sister Susan as well so there may be something in it, watch this space.

This time next year Rodney, we'll be millionaires.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Things I Forgot to Mention Due to Offloading on Over Abstraction

But first a bucolic scene to serve as balm to previous ire on the impact of over abstraction on chalk streams.


Since the previous spleen venting on the unsustainable use of groundwater supply it has not stopped raining.

Must offload more often.

Even the metrosexual tit (coming to a bird table near you) who hosts the breakfast radio commented that the rain was quite welcome,

It will freshen up the garden and turn brown grass back to green but will do little for already depleted aquifers.

In other news:

Contrary to the perennial propaganda campaign by the RSPB there are more than four pairs of Hen Harriers in England.

Oh yes,

I find the declaration by our Defence Secretary that future computer hacks could be met with air strikes a little disturbing. Ok the proposals of marriage from behind the iron curtain and business from the Central African Republic can be a little wearing, but air strikes?


What times we live in.

I think that was all.