Erotic Frogs and an ultrasonic bridge
Last week we had cause to drive up the Bourne Valley in the name of under sixteen football. The bourne at St Marybourne is barely a trickle. Before the ban, we used to attend several Alresford Coursing Club meetings on ground just north of St Marybourne always in late February or early March around the time of the Waterloo Cup. The Bourne would always be rattling along under the bridge in St Marybourne and on one occasion it had broken its banks and sandbags were in use around the doors of several houses. I don’t want to labour the point but we need a few wet weeks if the river is to sustain a decent level throughout the season.
The particular coursing meeting in question was held over two days and was quite a grown up affair with one big stake offering a decent amount of prize money and drawing entries from far and wide. There would always be a party over from Ireland, a Cornish contingent, plenty from East Anglia. The North was well represented with Yorkies, Scots and several from the North West, a large Pakistani contingent would turn up from the midlands, plus a few over from Europe. The mix included Racehorse trainers, game keepers, bookmakers, chefs, landed gentry, a lifeboat coxswain, a fireman, celebrities of varied standing and many many more. A Rolls Royce would stand next to the most beat up dog van in a muddy corner of a field. It wouldn’t be my first choice of field sport and more often than not I was performing some role on the day, either beating, flanker, taking dogs in and out of slips or catching them up after they’d run. But those who chose to be there showed incredible dedication to their sport. It doesn’t happen now, and I would challenge anyone to come up with a field sport that attracts such a wide mix of people. Horse racing must come close, but for several years after the ban the club’s annual barbecue and duck race would be held here in midsummer with the same bunch travelling miles to talk over the past season and bet on plastic ducks floating down the river, Mr Younis in his Shalwar Kameez, beard dyed red, with the coxswain of the Cromer lifeboat taking in the yellow plastic ducks on a bench by the river, you couldn’t make it up!
Each afternoon our pond in the garden plays host to a raucous frog orgy. As each gravid female flops into the pond she is immediately pounced upon by half a dozen randy males. One confused hopper (who will obviously try anything once) had a four-ounce Goldfish in his clasp for much of yesterday afternoon.
The Pike are grouping up, my son and his mate had three out of one hole while fishing at half term. They were helping me out up the river, clearing up a load of wood that I cleared before I had my hernias dealt with, not sure how the Pike rod got to be there.
A few Cormorants have looked in this week, although nothing like the numbers of previous winters, they seem to be sticking to the main river at the moment. The local put and take trout fishery reports having seen none on their water all winter.
Sixteen years ago the road bridge in this village was taken apart and two electro magnetic coils inserted in a concrete base in the riverbed, the bridge was then reconstructed over the top. The river was diverted and the road closed for four months. The electro magnetic coils would provide flow data for the River Dever every thirty seconds that would be transmitted back to a desk somewhere in the south of England. The cost to the taxpayer was around one and a half million pounds (at 1995 prices). This week while on a restorative potter with the dogs I came across two technical types tinkering with the bridge. They informed me that the electro magnetic coils in the riverbed are now obsolete. Flow data would now be measured by ultrasound via this silver box they were attaching to the bridge, but the really great advantage was that flow data would now be measured constantly as opposed to every thirty seconds.
I scratched my head for much of a very long walk.
Why do we need flow data every thirty seconds? Why do we need flow data for every second of the day? A man in a van measures all of the water quality parameters manually, at regular intervals. Why does flow data need to be monitored so closely? There is no danger of flash flooding on this river. Why did they put it under that bridge anyway? A hatch at the mill a hundred yards upstream (that has been in existence for hundreds of years) will compromise data every time it is opened?
A man could have measured the flow data manually every day for sixteen years and been paid a wage that attracted the highest rate of income tax, and still come in at half the cost of these coils in the river bed.
Was the close monitoring of flow data a national strategy implemented by flood defence following serious flooding in other parts of the country twenty years ago? Was the decree issued that all rivers should be monitored for flash flooding, even the chalkstreams that don't flash flood. An action group was formed, media campaign arranged, all who lived near rivers would be saved by people in cutting edge wet weather gear and shiny wellingtons who would issue flood warnings through their giant copper coils. And the bill? Oh don't worry about it, now what's next a national monorail scheme or roads in the sky, I know lets do both!
If the flow is monitored every thirty seconds or every second of the day for flood defence reasons then it is completely unneccessary on this river and a lot of money has been wasted. If it is for another reason, I would love to know, because I can't for the life of me think what it is.