Finally got back to building the bridge, no more trees down, or new ones to plant, so it is back to the river. The bridge is to be a single span using the split telegraph poles as the runners, sitting on uprights made of straight telegraph poles driven into the river bed, all topped off with “steady oak” slats. First job is to drive the uprights into the ground, to carry this out I use the “mother of all bumpers” to bang the posts into the ground. The bumper weighs a ton and you know, when flopped in your chair in the evening, that you have had a day on the bumper! The telegraph poles are treated and last for ages in the ground. The fishing hut that was built fourteen years ago stands on telegraph pole stilts; it has a peg tile roof and must weigh several tonnes. The telegraph poles were cut into eight-foot lengths, and then banged into the ground until I hit the gravel, which happened to be seven feet down; it took the best part of two days to bang the four posts in by hand. The hut was then built on top of the stilts. I annually check the hut with a spirit level and it hasn’t moved an inch, once you get down on to the gravel you are guaranteed a firm base on which to build. Ten years ago while carrying out some work on part of the Mill House, Brian Parsons top river man, and the man to call for any major construction job on the river, pointed out to us that the oldest part of the house, which at one time was three storeys high, was built directly onto the gravel with no foundations; this part of the house is around four hundred years old, according to Brian it is not that uncommon for some of the older buildings in the river valley to have been built straight onto the gravel.
With this in mind I felt fairly confident about banging my telegraph poles down into the gravel to support my single span footbridge.
Once banged in, I use string across the river to determine that the bridge will be level, cutting into the uprights at the correct spot to provide a base for the main span.
I then drag the single span across the river by hand, and put in place on the uprights. I then use this to determine the level of the second span that sits alongside. The bridge is then topped off with steady oak slats and a handrail. The Grayling in the river are showing signs of thinking about spawning, the larger fish moving onto the shallows to dig a shallow redd. Grayling were introduced to the Test during the early part of the last century. The initial stocking of a small number of fish from the North of England, was made in the Stockbridge area. They soon spread throughout the river system, and up until ten years ago, were considered a pest. I can remember electro fishing on the middle Test and removing hundreds and hundreds of Grayling, along with Pike, Roach, Perch and anything else that was not a salmonid. The Pike would be taken alive to Broadlands Lake, a commercial coarse fishery. Some of the other coarse fish would be transferred to other lakes, while the Grayling were banged on the head. For several years a man would come down to Hampshire and take hundreds of Kilos of Grayling back to his Chinese Restaurant in the North. In the past ten years Grayling fishing has become a very popular sport. They provide good sport on a fly through the winter, when the trout are out of season, and we regularly have parties from the North of England and France and Belgium who come to fish for Grayling in the autumn. The Grayling season ending on March 16th, it is at this time of the year that you see the really big Grayling moving onto the shallows to spawn. A big Grayling for this stretch of river would be around two and a half pounds, although they go well over three pounds on the main river Test, the spawning process takes a heavy toll on these bigger Grayling and a high proportion of them die post spawning. Electro fishing to remove Grayling, now no longer takes place on this stretch of river.