Tuesday, March 20, 2012

PCBs and ipads

Spring equinox and still we wait for the winter rain; the Merlin didn’t turn up either. Slash and burn has continued for much of the week, along with a bit of spraying, no end of praying (for rain) and burning the bits of the last reed beds off. All week the Grayling have been hard at it on the shallows, a dozen or more dark minded and dark bodied males charging across the gravels to compete for the lighter coloured females who glide up from the holes below. Mostly fish of around a pound and a half, the water is of sufficient clarity for courting couples, triples and multiples to be visible from space.

The same is happening over on the Itchen in slightly deeper water with fish at least a pound heavier, the water is not as clear as the Dever although the Ranunculus is a little further on. I had added the final flourishes to the covered seat when my attention was drawn by the owner to a transformer slung on a telegraph pole fifteen yards from a spring hole. The oil from the transformer was leaking onto the ground below. The owner is a bit of a whizz where chemistry is concerned and was aware of the possible contamination by PCBs. Calls were made to the Environment Agency and Scottish Electric who, for some

reason, service the poles in the South. Scottish Electric put a mat underneath the transformer before removing it the next day along with the top inch of soil; the transformer remained, leaking. After an underwhelming response to a pollution incident on the Dever last year I did not hold out much hope of seeing an EA man before the end of the week but they responded magnificently. Lesley was despatched from Romsey with a van

full of stuff and a light on top which disappointingly was not switched on and flashing; the “guys in groundwater” were concerned, along with someone else whose name I fail to recall but may well have been Newt related. Lesley, after donning a very bright coat and some very safe shoes, took copious notes and photos, Emails have subsequently been flung far and furiously into the ether, mats have once again been placed under the still dripping transformer and we await the results of Lesley’s ire!

The pole and transformer lie next to a spring ditch that runs through the village joining the river at the bottom of this beat, a spring lies fifteen yards from the dripping pole. Throughout the winter the crack willow has been cut back, the channel cleared out and a soft line established to the banks as marginal growth has quickly returned. In a normal winter the channel will be three times the size so it is important not to put too many “hard” features to determine the line of the bank, a soft line of marginal growth can easily be cut back during times of high water. It is stuffed with minnows plus the odd trout and with effective management would make a perfect nursery stream, provided the PCBs don’t do for it in the coming weeks.

I am called to do many things in the line of duty, I work alone so all tasks must be tackled. I have run up the final furlong at Cheltenham in my best shoes in front of a crowd of 10,000, chased an errant hound around an arena with the chap from the “Horse of the year show” commentating on proceedings, played Chris Tarrant in an over 60's "Who wants to be a millionaire and much more besides. On Friday at 7am I was outside the local “Apple” emporium in Barbour and wellies, not queuing for Cox but the latest version of the Ipad, a generous birthday present from my employer. Not the technological type I declined conversation with the two hundred or more geeky guys in the queue and avoided the eye of the “appleteesers” employed outside the store to ask how excited we were about our prospective purchase. At 8 am the doors slid back and the thirty or more employees lined up outside to give us two minutes applause for what I can only assume was “doing good queue” before purchasers were allowed into the store. A bubbly man in hat and microphone welcomed each customer individually outside the store and formally introduced `them to the “i dude” who was to guide them through the purchase. Each customer was subsequently clapped into the store to much “whoopin and a hollerin”, high fives, hugs and the odd tear. Money was paid and a brief ten minute intro to the machine by an “i guide” followed. Alex was my “i guide” and during the process he ascertained that it was my birthday. Fearing another round of whoopin and hollerin and cries of "You the man" I swiftly hissed that if he started banging on about my “special day” he would be pulling apples from places that apples don’t normally grow. Alex quickly replied that several had expressed concerns over the edgy guy in the smelly coat and wellies in the queue so best tread carefully, the "birthday thing" would not be mentioned

After an emotional retail experience, I left with my fantastic birthday present and was not clapped out of the store.

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