Sunday, March 2, 2014

Naked from the knees up with a slice of Half Moon

With my cricket head on, and bearing the hat of office of our local club, we received an urgent message from our county board urging all clubs who have been affected by the flooding to get in touch no later than the 5th of March, as ECB funding for a big bag of sponges may be available for clubs who get their applications in early.

Why March 5th?

Hampshire will be affected by groundwater flooding well into April. Tewkesbury may be drying out and the carp cleared from the outfield of the county ground at Worcester, but chalk valleys have some way to go yet. The small borehole on the edge of our square threatens to spout forth like “Old Faithful” in Yellowstone Park and plans are afoot for a six foot fibreglass model of the “Mannekan Pis” in Brussels to stand at square leg on match days. Principally to move water away from the square, but also to don the umpire’s garb on match day and adjudicate on run outs through a series of carefully placed lights.

On this river the main river flow is making preparations to return to its original channel, and as a result I have been able to mount an assault on the substantial trees that currently litter the meadow. In the wood a stand of twenty odd Scots Pine, each one about forty feet high, have all blown over. A warm roost for pheasants and much more besides, they have now assumed the guise of ground cover and will be tackled next winter.

On a rare sunny afternoon, while hacking away at a poplar that had cashed in its chips in the meadow, fish fed sporadically in an eddy off the main current. An underwater camera was introduced to the margins, with a deftness that would have delighted the Milk Tray delivery man, and the footage is premiered here in glorious technicolour(forty five minutes edited down to just over one minute) and features fish in fine form, if a little camera shy. Preliminary titled “When Trout Attack!” production was unfortunately completed too late for this year’s Oscars ceremony, but fingers are firmly crossed for next year.

We can but dream, David Attenborough give up your shoes!

Weren’t the Winter Olympics great! A fantastic effort by team GB considering the number of winter sport venues that we have/don’t have. The use of Mclaren F1 technology made a significant contribution in the sliding sports and the skin tight outfits of sliders and skaters played their part, although the genesis of their design lay in the disco’s of the 1980’s; The finals of the four man bobsleigh featured a team who, in dim light could easily pass as a Hot Gossip tribute act. A record medal haul that relied on a particularly un-English response of imploring others to fall over or crash in order to bump up the GB medal count; and now the Para-Olympians are having a go, inspirational stuff!

Apologies, but it has been drawn to my attention that something titled "LinkedIn" has been making many proposals on my behalf. I know nothing of their ways or their intentions so please ignore any requests of friendship/ marriage or possible provision of services.

The Internet, Eh?............Tut.

There is still plenty of standing water about and the soggy grass is taking on its first flush of green growth. We are inundated with Little Egret and it is not uncommon to see a quartet of the funny birds poking around in a puddle. No Bittern yet, and it may be that his yellow legs are not long enough for usual wading haunts on the flight pond this year. Hares are starting to congregate for their annual conference in the back field, I counted six when cleaning my teeth the other morning.

Briefly on teeth,

Mdme and myself are fairly fickle when it comes to all things orthodontic, there’s no brand loyalty around our sink, and we’re suckers for an offer where teeth products are concerned, but this week we have already purchased three tubes of the stuff. The first was lemon flavour that came with the Queen’s blessing but had no mention of any citrus twang on the box. The second came with a nod and a wink from Holly Willoughby and turned out to be infused with all things menthol, performing the dual role of buffing up your molars while keeping your sinus’s phlegm free and instigating a bizarre dream that culminated with me reclining naked from the knees up bar a powdered wig and wellies on a Chaise Longue working my way through a green packet of long brown cigarettes.

No Holly, No!

The third saw a return to trusty mint. The experience has led myself and Mdme to develop a degree of brand loyalty but when did these new flavours that were probably pushed as an exciting new concept in toothpaste technology, come about?

I don’t like them, and I don’t trust “non mint” toothpaste.

Recently I was summoned by village elders to give a photographic account of my activities over the past twelve months. A difficult crowd with no qualms over throwing things or turning their backs on a speaker, I relayed a tale that had seen record lows and highs within the valley, facts that were confirmed by a succession of Septuagenarians and Octogenarians who, over a cup of tea and slice of half moon, recounted how they had not seen flooded roads such as we had in January and February at any time during their long lives.

On the Itchen the threat of direct flooding from channel flow has receded but the threat of groundwater flooding has increased substantially and will remain for many weeks. A brief bumble up the Bourne Valley revealed a plethora of private pumps moving water away from property and personal effects, and one road remains closed out of this village as over a hundred yards of road has been transformed into a winter bourne, the head of which continues to creep further and further up the valley indicating that substantial amounts of water are still making their way down into the aquifers. Numbers of chalkstream riparian owners who are blessed with chalkstream bank have swelled as 2014 has progressed. The Test is rising several miles north of its usual point of entrance at Ashe and the Dever appears much further up its valley where a blue tractor and yellow combine harvester emporium stands defiantly in the way of the Dever's early progress to the sea. We are several bits of bridge missing and they are probably bobbing about in Southampton water bouncing off the Liners, so a few repairs will have to be made in the coming weeks,

To bridges, and possibly liners, they were big bits of wood.

Recriminations over flooding are already underway, the first of many predicted. A Put and Take Trout fishery is taking issue with the owners and managers of the stretch of chalkstream directly downstream from their bottom boundary. In line with current thinking from on high as to how chalkstreams must be managed, a Fancy Pants Fishery Management Consultant on a flying visit advised the syndicate to alter their channel management practice and allow it to grow in. In recent momths this reduced channel has forced water back up through the fish rearing ponds at the fishery, releasing hundreds of substantial Rainbow Trout out into the river, a “non native” species that either of the aforementioned from on high are too keen on. The fishery is thousands of pounds worth of stock down, and in efforts to appease their neighbour the fishing syndicate now speak of dredging and diggers, actions that could have been avoided had the marginal growth been managed year on year. Old fashioned “Edging in”, a process carried out each autumn with a slasher or scythe and can be done with a sympathetic eye to both marginal growth and flood defence. It featured on a list of actions issued from on high in 2013 that must cease in order to save the chalkstreams. There is the possibility of an over-reaction in the coming months to channel management, but rather than going at ditches and drains with a digger every five years, annual management practice with hand held tools by a chap in green trousers will prove more effective in finding the middle way that must be trod between habitat protection and flood defence.


Peter Weston said...

The thought of a hot dry summer certainly has some appeal given our record rainfall, this winter. If indeed we are experiencing global warming, which the majority of the meteorologists are now acknowledging, hotter dryer summers could be the next trend. The question is how long can the chalk stream aquifers survive if we had two hot summers in a row with a dry winter in between?

Test Valley River Keeper said...

Couldn't agree more Peter