Friday, February 7, 2014

In Generalissimo Smith we trust

More rain and further rivers rising but thank goodness we have a white knight to see us through these damp times. Enter Lord Smith leader of the Environment Agency who cut straight to the nub of the current predicament by informing us that it is a straight choice between towns flooding and countryside flooding. At which point I would like to employ the modern method of using lots of punctuation in a row to emphasise a point:

;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

Sorry, that should read

???????????????????????????????????????????

Six figures a year for three days work a week, gosh the EA were lucky to get him!

In many respects it is about time the EA “grew a pair” It would serve them well in the future when faced with burly frackers, and also in the argument between flood defence and conservation over the way in which our river channels are managed. For far too long they have pandered to the demands of Natural England and the many conservation and wildlife trusts who have come up with some of the daftest diktat in recent times. They must resist the demands of flood defence to dredge deep and wide and ignore the call from voluble conservation groups to do nothing but stand back and watch, and find a compromise that will go some way to meeting the demands of both flood defence and conservation.

It can be done and, wise old owl that he is, I am sure the Generalissimo has made preparations,

But then again,

Groundwater is on the rise in these environs and two of the four roads out of the village resemble rivers as the groundwater makes its way along the carriageway to the river, the other two roads that leave the village border the river which, if it floods, will leave the ancient drove that takes the high route over the hill the only dry track out of town, which may be why it exists in the first place because water levels such as these would have been more common hundreds of years ago when there was less demand on groundwater supply and water was generally more plentiful. It may be tough on some but for a chalkstream the market is booming, dividends are high, interests are on the up and growth is groovy,

I think that’s right, I’m not a money man but I am sure I have heard these words said in financial circles.

The recent rain will act as a tremendous fillip to beleaguered chalkstreams that only four months ago were down on their knees with depleted aquifers and a stale water flow.

Peter the Pollution man from the EA made a great job of clearing up, after what is now known in these parts as the “Castrol Catastrophe that could have been” Four visits and a succession of magic mats soaked up much of what lay in the ditch, which is just as well as two days later the water rose and what oil remained flowed out into the spring hole and on into the river. This week the parish has received the gift of a white two seater sofa, which has been ripped apart, possibly by bears according to some enlightened neighbours who spend very little time in the countryside living as they do for much of the time in SW6,

Where there may or may not be bears, I couldn't say, it's not my patch.

I don’t like to call Peter out again, he is probably very busy and the sofa is unlikely to enter the aquatic environment but I may give Marwell Zoo a call to check if they have their full quota of bears.

Trees continue to tumble and all that is felled in the wood will remain until next winter as much of the wood is under six inches of water. A small hawthorn fell a third of the way across the top shallows and within an hour the river upstream had lifted an inch and was making its way across the water meadows . Swiftly moving into action, and yes I am capable of brief periods of swiftness even in this battered condition, I jumped in the river chainsaw in hand and charged with excitement the offending hawthorn bristling with spikey forms. My first charge was repelled by the steely wood so I retired to the bank to sharpen my sword/chainsaw and resumed battle with renewed vigour (yes yes, I can do vigour, if only occasionally), using the flow to slay the beast with a swift cut from beneath before diving off downstream to drag it out to the side. Within an hour the river had refrained from flowing across the fields (which remained flooded but with standing water) and the flow returned to its swollen channel.

Woody Debris anyone?

A carrier stream off the main river Test has, in line with Natural England, Wild Trout Trust, Wildlife Trust and RSPB thinking been left alone for some years, I pass it most days and sigh. This past week has seen the sigh shift to profuse profanity and here’s why:

Left to grow in, with woody debris very much to the fore along with a series of fences across its main channel, the water had nowhere to go. Subsequently it quickly burst its banks and surrounded the electricity substation that supplies amps and ohms to this village and the next,

It has then made its way across four fields of pasture
before taking out a chalk wall that is quite old and probably never expected the river to come this way.

It then flows a hundred yards down the road,
before joining the Dever just below our bottom boundary.

In effect, a portion of the River Test is now flowing down our road, and its planned confluence with the Dever has shifted a mile upstream.

With the price of a yard of chalkstream bank at an all time high, you would think this is a good thing for the local community, some municipal fishing albeit it at the cost of an old chalk wall, possible powercut/outages, four fields of pasture and the village’s main thoroughfare.



In the next few weeks our new river’s discharge will undoubtedly increase and the road become unpassable, we may even lose power if the substation becomes flooded and it could all so easily be avoided if the carrier in question had been managed in a different way. The fields would still have flooded, but not to the extent that they are now.
Natural England et al would have us all retreat into a hide to conduct a watching brief, but when will the penny drop that river systems that have been managed by man for hundreds of years must continue to be managed in a sympathetic way to both habitat and water level if they are not to have significant impact.

Standing back and watching with clipboard in hand doesn’t work,

(at which point I will switch to vernacular from across the pond)

End Of!

Period!

Getgo! (that one may be wrong)

Well that's the "keep calm and trust in the authorities" new year resolution gone for a burton

As ever, we remain increasingly led by loons

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