End of the weed cut this week, everyone upstream of us finishing on time meaning that I could send down all of the cut weed that hangs up on bridges and weed bars on the final morning of the weed cut. Because the river on this stretch splits into two channels, much of the weed that comes down gets stuck on bars or shallows, as the momentum that it had from a single channel of water is lost. At the end of each weed-cutting period it is necessary to jump into the top of the river with the “grabs” a long handled garden fork bent over at ninety degrees, and work your way downstream pushing on any weed that has hung up. It takes around four hours and is relatively easy. The dogs can come along and work their way slowly down the river with you. My two older dogs have seen it all before, but for Otis it is an exciting and exhausting morning that involves running around with lumps of weed in his mouth. He has now decided to bring his work home with him and for two evenings this week has disappeared out of the patio doors, returning with a mouthful of lily pads from our garden pond that he then spreads around he room, it makes a change from running around the settee with the video camera in his mouth. Zebo - his uncle went through a very difficult period at this age, destroying a mobile phone, chewing up a digital camera and eating 7ft of an 8ft Hardy Fibalite spinning rod. Otis has had his jabs now and is coming to cricket matches and bumping into other dogs. Zebo has a few gnarled lumps and bumps that have appeared from nowhere adding to his “old warrior”appearance, Dobby the Spaniel remains highly entertaining but absolutely rubbish.
With the weed cut finished, I topped the water meadows and then made a start on some work on one of the drives on a piece of land that we rent for shooting. The drive consists of a belt of ancient trees that lie on top of a 200-yard long Iron Age Defence barrier, consisting of a large Earth bank with ditch. English Heritage has requested that some tree work be done on a footpath that travels down one side of the ditch. It will take me a fairly long time, but I hope to have it done before the start of the shooting season. The ditch once protected one side of an Iron Age settlement that was protected on the other sides by the river Test and Dever, the confluence of which would have been on this particular stretch of river. The rivers then would not have had clearly defined channels the valley bottom being one wide boggy morass, that would have provided not only protection but also a source of food and clean water. I am told, by the man at the museum, that there were several round houses on the raised area to the West of the defence ditch. More recently the Footpath was used by people from the army camp situated at the top of the defence ditch, as a quick an easy route to the pub that is now a private house that backs on to the river. For some reason there were several beds set up in the ditch alongside the footpath the remains of which were still there ten years ago. The camp is now gone, the footpath goes nowhere and is hardly used. We have several strips of game cover, one of which borders the Defence ditch. This year we have grown Maize, but previous cover crops have included Sorgum, Millet, Kale Sunflowers and Stubble Turnips. Around an acre and a half each, some years I have had to put them in, other years it has been passed over to a contractor with varying results. Each year the strips get a healthy dressing of pig manure, weeds sprayed off, cultivated and then drilled. The two plots were drilled around three weeks ago, the newly emerged plants and are now attracting the attention of pigeons and Crows so it has been necessary to put some slow burning bangers up that go off every half hour or so to try and protect the crop, although this has not been necessary while I have been working on the footpath.