Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Midnight Conniptions and Peculiar Barbel in the Guadalquivir

Completely Broadband free this one, cos that's how we roll around here.

It's been a busy period in the wood and much timber has been laid waste. I've a dent in my chain bar and a few millimetres left on the teeth of the chain. We are on the cusp of resurrecting the release pen and restoring paths through the wood that have not been trod for two years, finally catching up with the arboreal devastation caused during the flooding a few winters ago.

I'll be honest and say that some bits look a bit bare and it has been necessary to replant with a few hardwoods, principally walnut from a kind couple in the village who pot up the seedlings that appear in their lawn and some oaks from acorns lifted from Deauville wood by Lord Ludgershall on one of his many raids. I've also a store of self set ash to be thinned out and spread through the wood that will also help plug a few gaps.

Deer around here have been hit pretty hard of late, including the fallow down on the common, one of which has since been proven to be a mighty beast with a golden head (I think that's right) although we currently play host to a particularly bold muntjac, who stood less than twenty yards from me while I spent fifteen minutes splitting logs. The usually timid animal may have thought that he could not be seen, hidden as he was behind a couple of twigs, a ploy employed by our bittern who will stand perfectly still behind a reed with his beak pointing straight up in the belief that this renders him invisible.


There do seem to be a lot of barn owls in the area at the moment and I continue to see at least one each day, there are also rumours of the Shrike returning to the valley, although the dearth of cars lining the lane suggest that it has already moved on. Our birdfeeders are currently very busy and are regularly emptied within forty eight hours. Tits, finches and siskin are a given but nuthatch and woodpecker arrive most days and this week we have been inundated with redpoll, all bow down before what must be the bossiest bird in Bransbury, a Robin and self appointed Lord Protector of the nuts and seeds.

A couple of anglers have bothered the grayling since Christmas, the river is quick to colour up following rain but fines down within forty eight hours while retaining a reasonable level, an indicator of increasing groundwater flow. A few fish have been feeding on the surface mostly grayling in the afternoon but trout too, who seem to be over wintering well with little sign of thin fish or fungus. I'll whisper it quietly, but the river is in fairly good order and looking in good knick for the coming season. A venerable keeper further down the valley, who happened to recommend me for my current position of twenty four years and counting, insists that we have had a reasonable winter's rain if he can't get about the meadows in his 4x4 in early April. This could be the state of play around here in a couple of months time. A couple of rods have been targeting the roach, there are a few lumps missing after a herd of otters occupied the valley this summer, but a few decent fish remain although they are understandably windy and prone to feed in fading light.
We have the wood for the bridge replacement and the logistics of how to the build the thing over deep water have been worked out. The old bridge has been cut off its supports and floated upriver where it has been temporarily re-sited and used to build the new bridge alongside. Once complete the old bridge will then be re-floated and pushed upstream to the flight pond where it will be hauled from the river by the tractor and winched into place as the replacement bridge to the island on the pond. Well that's the plan anyway.

Done some miles this week.

Chester last week to visit my parents after my Dad fell over and bumped his head running for a bus in the middle of Chester. Running may be an exaggeration it's certainly not what Mo Farrah would recognise as movement, but he (my dad, not Mo Farrah) lay outside Marks and Spencers for nearly an hour, blood pouring from a cut on his forehead ( that was later staunched by seven stitches) and a fractured leg, propped up with an oversized teddy bear for a pillow and swaddled in a father christmas cape, both sourced from a nearby charity shop. The ambulance never came, and a kind policeman ran him to the hospital in his squad car after an hour passed.
The NHS is a tremendous thing, but come on Flash can Cheshire have the funds to buy one more ambulance to avoid this kind of thing happening again. Take it out of the pot from fracking, much of which will no doubt end up funding expensive dacha in the hills for an elite minority rather than benefit a populace plied with a ten percent reduction in the price for heating their homes, shiny new swings in the playground with a potential threat to water supply and the aquatic environment.

A few days later it was up to Yorkshire and the funeral of Aunty Joyce.

A tremendous human being who will be missed by many.

She'd had cancer of the bones for much of 2015, yet retained her marbles, keen sense of humour and had developed a late life fondness for a carefully delivered swear word. We last visited her in mid December with the dog, because Labradors were her thing, and the dog, who seems to rise to the occasion at a funeral, laid down at the front throughout the service.

It was always about the fun and having a laugh with Aunty Joyce, and oh yes she introduced me and my brother to the game of cricket. Everybody should have an Aunty Joyce, and I have since found out many other people did.

And at this point can I take the opportunity to thank all those at the Whitby Rd Care home and the local community who were so kind to them both as they approached the end of their years. You hear some worrying stories about some care homes, but Whitby Rd Pickering has some terrific people,



as does Kirkbymoorside
(along with a chemist plying an extensive selection of red wines, a first for me and there may be a link) some of whom I have since found out had this guff forced upon them over the years. Thanks for reading the rubbish that I write and thank you for your kindness regarding Joyce & Dennis.

Anyway, moving away from emotion, we were once again billeted at The Moors Inn in Appleton, a brilliant pub where the dog is piped through the door.
We pitched up on Rydale after breakfast and enjoyed an hour on the moors where Otis discovered a penchant for flushing grouse,



a new bird for him and while the requirement to flush birds from many thousand acres may be beyond his portly frame (and mine) he gave of his best but the conclusion was drawn that picking ducks in the dark in and around a small pond are his bag, these moors and their grouse are best left for stupid spaniels and potty pointers.

Driving south, there was flooding, far too much traffic and the obligatory average speed limit for many miles. Thirty years ago it used to take us between five and six hours to drive from the Test Valley to Tarvin in Cheshire. There was no Newbury bypass, the M40 was a stump that didn't extend beyond High Wycombe and large lengths of the A34 were single carriageway. Over the years the journey speeded up as the Newbury bypass was completed, the A34 made dual carriageway and the M40 extended to Birmingham. Five years ago we could do the journey in just over three hours. That was the peak, and if we invoke the spirit of Johnny Ball and a graph or two we can now prove that the journey time is starting to increase, yes there are the road works, but the sheer volume of traffic has increased to such an extent that at certain times large stretches of our road network cease to function as they were intended.

And then it was up to the smoke to pick up my boss whose hip had gone back to the menders, and collect a parking ticket to boot. The hospital was at the hub of the nation's capital directly opposite an embassy that provided no end of entertainment for a patient peering from the window at shady characters who passed through its doors. Not sure why we got a ticket, we were in a hospital parking spot, and I was picking up a patient who could not walk very far. Ok the goodbyes were prolonged, but that's just her way. Letters will be written and I hope the metropolitan parking gods look favourably on her case as a hundred and thirty zobs seems a little toppy for five minutes over the limit when picking up someone on crutches with a dicky hip.

And now we are back to the business of work in the wood and preparations for the coming fishing season. I'll put the chainsaw down at the end of the month, and jump in and out of the river for much of March. We have some travels booked for the end of the month, mostly in Seville where I am trying to sort out some fishing on the Guadalquivir for peculiar barbel, but also brief stays in Madrid and Cordoba. Child B is currently away and has just left Thailand for Cambodia sending regular emails and photos which whets our appetite for our own trip. Not sure about Child A, he seems to be putting the hours in during his year working in industry, and must be amassing quite a war chest, although golf clubs do keep turning up in the post.

Reading this back there does seem to be a lot of medical content with the odd fatality. I don't mean to be grim so I'll defer from mentioning that Madam and myself have just pulled through what was recently described as one of the most debilitating conditions known to mankind. We are both on the other side now and in full recovery but still taking it day by day. It even kept Madam from work, which is unheard of, so keen is she normally to escape the house/me during the day. I shan't go on and yes the Zika virus, but we have had our own travails with conniptions in the small hours, vomiting, fever, coughing, low energy, lack of appetite and blotchiness, I don't recall a malady like it for many a year.

Oh yes, I said I wouldn't go on,

So I won't, although I fear it may be too late.

Not for us, we're fine now, it may be too late for us not to go on (about our illness in this written piece, not living full stop)

I'll stop there before it gets any more confusing.

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