Cold, rain and sleet, bog and mud underfoot with the river level about where it should be. Someone flicked the Snowdrop switch and in the space of a couple of days the majority came into flower. Daffodils and Bluebells should be the same having benefited from a proper winter cold snap. The river temperature is low and there is no sign of the mad midday Olives that can sometimes appear at this time of the year.
The tin shifting the silt is working well with the good flow and some parts of the gravel are starting to regain their sparkle. The Bittern that we disturbed the other week appears to have moved on, and a few birds sound like they have changed their tune in the hope of an early onset of spring friskiness. Plenty of Pheasants are strutting around, once the banging stops they can become quite bold. Pigeons have hammered the maize that I rolled down and several friends had a good few hours shooting, they are still pitching in from mid morning to mid afternoon but not in the numbers that they were when it was first rolled.
I have once again taken up arms, in the perennial struggle to repel invasion and occupation by Snap Willow. The stuff is indestructible, growing high, falling over, and taking root to climb high again. Someone once said that in the event of a nuclear holocaust there would be one survivor, the equally indestructible Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones, who in a barren wasteland would emerge dazed from behind a tree to declare “I saw the lights and I thought we were on” The tree from which he took shelter would undoubtedly be a Snap willow and it would still have green shoots. The Willows that I have been clearing this week have started to starve the bankside fringe of light leading to it thinning and exposing the bank to erosion. It only takes a few years of diminished light for severe damage to be done to a bank. I have also been killing the ivy on some of the bigger trees in the wood, cutting through the ivy at the base of the tree. At this time of the year it is easy to see the trees that need doing.
Once again Otters are to the fore this week. One or more has found the flight pond, and despite Mssrs Fine Fleece and Sandals, assurances that an Otter’s staple diet is Eels, has started to work his way through the Carp. Scales are scattered like confetti along the bank with three corpses so far, the biggest a Common Carp of around ten pound that was over thirty years old, two others also met their end despite the pond holding a good head of Eels. There are two large Koi Carp in the pond that I rescued from someone’s derelict swimming pool, they stand out a mile, and must be highly visible to an Otter but these have yet to be eaten. Maybe the answer is to issue fish with High Viz jackets to deter this latest threat. There is over a thousand pound worth of stock in the pond that we are powerless to protect, and will not be able to replace until the problem of a burgeoning Otter population is addressed.