Sunday, October 6, 2013

Mushrooms are magic but we could do with some rain

It has been a fabulous few weeks for mushrooms and the few sites I visit in the local environs have been littered with my favourite fungi. Otis accompanies me in my furtive scuttling for white diamonds, he ain’t no truffle hound and is more than a little flummoxed when we take an indirect route home in an effort to conceal our source. There are plenty of puffballs about along with some shaggy inkcaps, I don’t care much for puffball, having eaten a surfeit once on scout camp, although the ink caps are ok when young but must be eaten straight away as they don’t store beyond a day.

Earlier this week forecasters predicted that over the last forty eight hours a deluge would deliver a week or more’s worth of rain, 80mm was mentioned at one point as headlines in papers and online became ever more hyperbolic. Well it may have rained to the west of here and possibly in the north but we have hardly had a drop and dust still lies along the edge of roads that some said would be underwater this weekend. I don’t know when the fear of rain became a major media topic, we used to be quietly resigned to the fact that it would rain now and then.

I wish it would, this river could have done with 80mm of rain. It wouldn’t have flooded as the valley currently has a huge capacity to soak up anything that falls. There are some gravel bars that are high and dry on our top shallows that won’t see spawning fish this year and the water supply to our stew ponds has almost dried up. The cress is growing out across the river helping to squeeze the flow and imparting a sexy wiggle to the line of the river, but it will disappear at the first sign of hard frost and the river will drop further.

Daddies abound and squadrons of the things bumble about our bedroom of a night. Fishing has picked up no end in the last few weeks with many anglers departing with a brace or more. Not a lot of aquatic invertebrates, just the odd pale watery rising vertically early in the afternoon. Nymphs and emergers have taken most fish. Flashy and splashy nymphs spook more fish than they catch when the river is this low when plain and drab wins the day, while CDC emergers cover a multitude of bases including many small beasties mixed in among the steady line of leaves that make their way down the centre of the river. The grayling are in tip top condition and are present in all year classes with a few fish over two pound. Most in pursuit of trout are picking up the odd "lady of the stream" both on the surface and below, the roach however are proving enigmatic and are not holed up in the spots that they were a few months ago although this may be down to the low water.

The Phragmites around the flight pond has had a good year, it seems several feet taller than normal or I may have developed a stoop. Chez nook for a Bittern should one happen this way again this winter, it will need quite a bit of cutting back if it is not to take over the pond completely. The water is crystal clear and full of roach rudd and bream, but the duck currently prefer the river at night. Pheasant feeders are out and corn is regularly scattered on the rides in the meadows and woods, there are a few birds picking up on the idea of an easy meal but many hang out on some of the stubbles that still line the valley.

We recently travelled north to Cheshire to visit parents who had very kindly run up a pair of curtains for our bedroom. A dash up the motorway was completed in half the time it used to take me in my 850cc mini-van twenty five years ago (it once took me nine hours), before the Newbury bypass, M40 extension and M6 toll road were constructed. Leaving the M6 at junction 16 we were struck by the fact that much of the remainder of our route across the Cheshire plain had been placed in a 30mph zone. Now this may be to allow the motorist ample opportunity to take in the latest development of former farm buildings that have been natified and dipped in the latest line of heritage paints, but it can double the time it takes from the motorway to destination which, with a bit of back end drifting on roundabouts and a judicious attention to the racing line through specific bends we could previously complete in twenty minutes. On this occasion it took us forty minutes to travel twenty miles, in the previous forty minutes we had covered fifty miles or more. It is not an urban route, our school bus tanked up five miles of it every day at close to fifty miles an hour causing the carriage works to assume a phosphorescent glow and most passengers experienced weightlessness on cresting the Duddon bump before entering the Clotton bends to find fifty cows plodding off for milking and a road surface covered in pats, most days we made it to school. Maybe the plan is to push the traffic elsewhere but half way along the route is Crewe station which is a key stop on phase 2 of HS2, you may get from the capital to Crewe in a matter of minutes but from there on it will be an interminable journey by car to your final destination, marginally quicker than by bullock and cart.

Unless the clincher for HS2 is the announcement that the hover shoes we were promised throughout the sixties and seventies by Lesley Judd and Valerie Singleton et al are finally ready for distribution and once you arrive at your HS2 station of first choice, a click of the heels will transport you to your final destination. We can but dream.

Was the script for Downton Abbey written by text message or twitter?

I'm sorry, did I say that out loud?

I am sitting in the kitchen while the lady who sleeps on my left reclines lazily in the lounge enthralled by the popular period drama. From here it sounds like a series of statements issued in a staccato manner. Did they really talk like that?

I once caught a glimpse of the Downton's out popping at pheasants which resembled Orvis or Roxtons at London Fashion week.

Not my thing, but then in the words of 10cc, "life is a mulligatawny"

or possibly "minestrone"


We also travelled west along the M4 over the bridge and into Cardiff to visit Child B who is currently enjoying the haze of first year student life. The journey along the M4 highlighted how the M40 A34 M3 north-south route has become a vital transport link to the economy of this country as a booming car industry transports lorry loads of cars to the container ports of the south, along with lines of mobile homes and trailers for export to goodness knows where. Didn’t see one car transporter on the M4, I bet we saw 40 on the M40, if I had been ten years old with nothing to do in the car I would probably have counted them.
Cardiff is great, and we shall return to explore the revamped Tiger bay area, I may even put a rod in, Child B is currently ensconced fifty yards from the Taff, (although I am not sure he has noticed yet) a river that I believe contains some seriously senior barbel.

Child A is entered to run in the Great South Run on October 27th. Previous winners have included Mo Farah, Joe Pavey and Paul Radcliffe, or was it Paula? if a prerequisite for success is an androgynous name then child A may need to think again or perhaps enter as "Child A" although hopes at home are high despite her feminine moniker. She is running for the British Heart Foundation a worthy institution whose services I and many others may have to call upon one day. If you would like to sponsor my daughter in her quest for athletic medals follow this link where she can be sponsored via the magic of internet pixies and their sorcery


Queens Hotel said...

A beautiful post and photographs thank you for sharing. Here at Queens Hotel we enjoy spectacular views across the Solent together with close proximity to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and Mary Rose Museum. We wish you and all your readers our very best.

Test Valley River Keeper said...

Thank you very much for your kind comments and for reading the rubbish that I write.

Next time we stay in Portsmouth we will undoubtedly stay at The Queens Hotel with its spectacular views across the Solent and close proximity to the historic dockyard and Mary Rose museum.