Sunday, February 20, 2011

Wild Geese I & II and other ducks also

It has rained and the river has risen, nowhere near enough, but good steady stuff that has got springs moving, the tin is in and silt is being shifted. The fish in the river look to be in pretty fine fettle and feed sporadically on midday flurries of flies. Crack willow will be conquered and victory will be mine, although the battle is on hold for a few weeks, after a two-pronged attack by a couple of hernias. The girl and boy in charge of the whole operation seemed a bit giggly and didn’t look old enough to be playing with knives, but it seems to have been a success and I must thank the whole Kit and Kaboodle at Winchester Hospital who successfully put my loins back in line. Hors de combat for a couple of weeks, the willow will inevitably gain ground, but I shall return stronger and more determined to defeat the devil’s own tree.

The old saw, underpowered and over worked, gave up the ghost a week ago, so a new one has been purchased, and what a difference it has made. I could clear fell the Isle of Wight in a week with the new Swedish number, Crack Willow will ultimately bow to the shock and awe of my new saw…… when the doctor allows me to pick it up.

An area I have cleared on the top shallows demonstrates the effect shade from low growing crack willow can have on a river. Where light is inhibited the fringe thins, the bank is open to erosion, the river is subsequently over widened, slows down and silt is deposited, weed and all that depend on her die and the river takes a turn for the worse. If all who reside in them are to flourish, the chalk stream environs must be managed as they have been for hundreds of years, and don’t let any body in a fine fleece and cutting edge walking shoes tell you otherwise.

The Geese turned up, several months later than usual but in far greater numbers. Over a hundred honkers of various hues currently graze the top water meadow. What Ducks that are about are paired up and engaged in the preliminaries of courtship. There are plenty of Pheasants about. Through December and January we shot our fair share, but plenty still reside in the wood. Many can be heard “cocking up” in the wood as night falls, and Otis put twenty out of a bunch of brambles no bigger than a small family car earlier in the week.

Photos of boxing Hares have appeared in the papers this week but I have yet to see any in the field behind our house. In previous years this venue has hosted more boxing bouts than Earls Court and Wembley Arena combined, which suggests we have some more winter to come yet.

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