Temperatures reached double figures this week sending Blackbirds and Ducks decidedly frisky. The male Blackbirds belting out their complicated calls with increased gusto in their quest to establish a territory and tempt a mate, the drakes cutting to the chase and jumping the bones of any duck who hoves into view. No swallows or swifts here yet but over on the Itchen, a dozen or more House Martins swooped for any invertebrate that rose from the water.
Two weeks to go before the trout anglers turn up, and today saw the vanguard arrive to take food and wine on board and pass judgement on the winter work, a fun day with regular rods, many of whom have fished here for over twenty years. Initial murmurings were encouraging despite the river looking a little stark at this time of the year, afternoon sunshine added a little sparkle and the sight of a few fish on the fin certainly helped.
A brief digress: As I write, the Golf is on the goggle box and isn’t it forward thinking of the US government to allow the interns of Guantanamo bay to caddy at the Masters as a means of aiding their reintroduction to society.
On the Itchen, fun and games were anticipated with the arrival of a Shepherds hut. A steal on eBay, it was driven from Dorset and plonked on the queen’s highway by the bridge at the top of the beat. With a profile and aerodynamics suited to speeds of little more than five miles an hour, it was a miracle that it survived the trip. But survive it did, and head scratching commenced when it was left at the side of the road around midday. With no shepherds available to advise, it was shackled to the back of the jeep, dragged up the road and then with many fingers crossed a course was taken through bramble thicket and willow to its final resting place by the top pool to significant sighs of relief. The preceding weeks had seen visions of the thing laid on its side in the river or breaking into a billion pieces somewhere around Salisbury but all went well and it was installed in “position A” within an hour of its arrival, we just need a shepherd/shepherdess and some sheep now....................... Oh and a lick of paint, as it’s a lovely shade of lime green with patches of canary yellow and is currently visible from the edge of space.
The Dever valley at Bransbury remains reasonably dry, spring ditches are about where they should be and on the water meadow above ewes and lambs have been put out on to some unlush grass, further down the valley this is not the case the middle of the main river around Stockbridge has significant standing water in the meadows that would not see a sheep on them for several weeks.
There is much muttering afoot about the recent water Framework Directive and the public consultation following a two year survey by a company of international repute and high protein diets. As I have previously stated the report for the two stretches of river on which I work was inaccurate at best, inept at worst. Comments were called for, regarding the report which many duly did. Four weeks down the line none of these comments have been published, which suggest that things are not quite running to plan. For every other survey on rivers in the UK carried out for Water Framework Directive purposes, public comments have been published on the consultation website. Something smells fishy
A few miles away the Bourne rivulet continues to take a battering. To recap, last summer the leading washer and grower of bagged salad spilt several hundred litres of diesel into the river that attracted a fine equating to five eighths of f*** a**. Later in the year the groundwater rose following rain, not an unexpected phenomenon, but one that caught out the local water company whose cracked sewage system couldn’t cope with water leaking in and for over half a year they have been sending raw sewage bar a few johnnies and floaters skimmed off by rudimentary filter down the Bourne. Late last week several on the Bourne and Test down to Stockbridge received a call from Command Centre Central that the Bourne had turned yellow, a call that was repeated the following day when Plunkett Green’s bright waters once again assumed an amber hue. Some have suggested farm slurry may be the cause, others that it is a dye being used by the water company to test the sewage system for leaks. Either way it ain’t good. Farm slurry high in organic matter Phosphates and Nitrates is the stuff of algae dreams and chronic leakage from a cracked sewer is not the best tonic for a river that, following the last twelve months, is on its knees; if this was a boxing match the referee would have stopped it several rounds ago. If either of these acts had been committed by a private individual, would the level of fines and inaction been the same?
The Bourne is one of only a few chalkstreams in these Isles. A SSSI, it has been let down by those who have damaged it and by those assigned to protect it. Despite the huff and puff from on high, protecting the home environment does not appear to be as high up on the list of jobs to be done as they would have us believe.
As a cold war baby I remember Mrs Thatcher, and like most people in the UK grew up with nuclear missiles aimed at our house. I remember the strikes, riots and several senseless acts of terrorism. There are several in this village who ground out ground at Goose Green and they think the world of her, myself I don’t have any strong polarised opinion, she was just Mrs Thatcher who ran the country as Mr Gunnery was the man who ran the local grocer shop. The only thing that I do feel strongly about is that she was a woman who worked her way up to the top job in the land. There are still societies where this is not possible, women are suppressed, denied education, independence or an opportunity to better themselves. This is one aspect of Mrs Thatcher’s time in office that this country should be proud.
This has been a party political broadcast by the “Isn’t Germaine Greer great ?” party