Monday, February 20, 2017

Monsters of Rock, In Rock and a Belted Galloway

Still going about my business, chainsaw in hand much willow has been conquered along with some stubby little thorn that fought back hard in a recent campaign claiming one pair of neoprene waders and a slow puncture to the front wheel of the tractor.

Even in gloves my hands bear the scars and each evening I attend to various punctures and splinters with little sympathy and only vin rouge for succour.

There's a few more weeks to go of this kind of work with the bottom bends requiring attention and a large tree falling on to the Pheasant pen that we hope to make use of this year. Bashing about on the top shallows has betrayed a brace of Water rail but the small bird with the unusual whistle remains elusive. The Kelly Kettle provided some drama one morning. Fired up for the first time I wandered away to attend to a fire when I hear a loud pop. Turning to the direction of the noise I saw the kettle was a few feet from where I had left it. Closer inspection revealed that I had forgotten to take the cork out of the kettle part, the kettle had boiled and because I had jammed the cork in hard to prevent any spillage during transit pressure had built up to such an extent that the cork had now joined the list of space junk orbiting the earth and the kettle had shot across the ground in recoil. A new bright orange silicon cork has now been purchased and a lesson learned. I'm also making steady progress with the perennial problem of shifting silt, a task that is made all the more tedious due to the low water conditions, more on that later - apologies in advance.

A few people have been bothering the grayling with mixed results. One chap had a handful of fish all pushing two pound and another managed to put a venerable roach of a pound thirteen on the bank. We had some funny foam in one of the streams that flows through the mill house garden although nothing on the main river so something must have entered the mill stream. We had a surprise road closure recently (which caused chaos and don't we normally get informed about such incidents) to attend to potholes and bumps and unusually it rained in this valley a few days later so it may be something to do with runoff from the road.

I'll just break off there to attend to Stonehenge.

Since I first set foot in this valley in 1986 there has been talk of burrowing underneath the thing to hide the nearby Highway to the Sun and restore a little tranquillity to the heap of blue stones. Back then you could rock up after a night at the pub, park on the side of the road and take your ease on the heel stone for some post pub contemplation.
To my mind, it was built for this very purpose

The tunnel proposal is once again under consideration and if it does ever happen the jingoists will declare a great feat of engineering to rival any wonder of the world at which point our Swiss friends may emit an


We've put more holes through some of our Alps than we have through some of our cheeses."

We once drove up the Rhone Valley from Montreux to Brig to stay on a camp site on an alp with a swimming pool filled with glacial melt water where sleep was an impossible dream due to a field full of cows wandering about in the dark with bells around their necks.


Half the journey up the upper reaches of the Rhone was subterranean with some of the highway burrows many many miles long.

And hey Montreux how about some embers by the lake putting smoke on the water and fire in the sky or failing that a few Funky Claudes promenading on the shore or possibly running in and out?

For a particular generation your town could be the new Graceland.

Oh yes, Stonehenge.

A five minute piece on local TV this week revealed it was once within a few yards of a brace of aerodromes. One black and white photo displayed Getafix and friends undertaking rituals with Tommy Sopwith doing bunny ears in the background, the runway was very close by and rumours abound that a few stones were clipped on landing in high winds which caused a few crustys with trowels to look askance but let's not forget that several generations took the whole thing down and put it back up again in their own eye and several stones retain Victorian foundations.

It may now not be what our Neolithic forebears perceived and the whole reason it gets all the heat with regard to all things prehistoric is that it is visible from a very busy main road. There are some equally impressive remains from prehistory at the other end of the British Isles that receive far fewer visitors and at this point I'd like to offer the premise that the builders of Stonehenge chose the location in the knowledge that one day a busy highway would drop from two lanes to one thus slowing traffic down in order to gaze upon their skills with stone.

It's a trick not lost on Anthony Gormley who has made a mint out of erecting his most prominent pieces by busy roads, The Angel of the North a prime example.


rather than a tunnel, as the Swiss, Austrians and Italians have this one taped, I propose we extend the dual carriageway up to the stones and make them the centre piece of a large roundabout. The current alignment of the stones lend themselves to this and it is one thing we do increasingly well in this country where we are blessed with many and while the Swiss may counter the miracle of our short tunnel with a Romansch "Ahem" they will have no comeback to a roundabout to end all roundabouts, because they don't do good roundabout. Those who wish to view the stones can drive around the roundabout as many times as they please and those who just need to move on to a holiday, cricket match or relatives can pass straight on by.


Recent rambles have seen us conquer the Basingstoke canal from Odium to Dogmersfield, cutting back across Dogmersfield Park to take in some nice lakes and several enormous piles of bricks. Full of fish we took lunch on bench behind a platoon of carp fishermen who'd struck camp for the weekend.

A wet and windy day and an impending televised six nations game saw us stay a little closer to home and trek from Whitchurch towards Tufton then on up the Test Valley to Laverstoke Park and then back again.

Aside from the beautiful scenery and some voluble cattle,

Here's a Belted Galloway owned by South African former F1 star Jody Schechter,

and by way of balance,

here's some chooks, sans belts, owned by Hants FA Groundsman of the year 2011 (opened a lot of doors for us did that)

It was clear that high up the valley the aquifers are depleted and in desperate need of replenishment.

And at this point I will fall off the wagon and attend to groundwater levels.

Here's a photo of a ditch that should have water in it,

Further dry ditches

And here's a field that should have a half acre splash of spring water that feeds through previous ditches to the river that I fall in and out of.

The Test and Itchen River Report for 2016 was rolled out this week. Featuring reports from most beats on both rivers plus other guff regarding the two rivers (including poor prose from your correspondent) A piece from Command centre central described the impending renewal of the abstraction licence to send supplementary water down the Candover Stream during periods when the Itchen's discharge dropped below a specific level. The Upper Itchen is deemed an uber environmental area which must be preserved at all cost. However it has come to light that the cone of influence caused by this groundwater abstraction (cone of influence from groundwater abstraction- think digging a hole in super dry sand, the deeper you go the wider the rim of the hole at the top) is impacting upon other river catchments, principally the Upper Dever Valley. Quite rightly the EA have recommended that the amount of water permitted to be drawn out of the ground to sustain the Itchen's flow be reduced on the new licence, quite wrongly the local water company has asked for it to remain the same and a portion of it be siphoned off to supplement local domestic supply. Many times on here (and elsewhere ) I have pondered why the river seems to fall away at a faster rate than it did twenty years ago, seems I wasn't half the crank I was made out to be by some. Well done the EA for fighting the cause, but I fear it will be like popguns against Polaris missiles in the tussle with the water company in the current political climate.

In the sustained pursuit of additional years Madam and myself have just returned from another weekly six miler, coincidentally among the depleted aquifers of the upper Dever Valley, on a tour of tracks that I knew from the years that legal coursing events were held on the same ground. Two or three would tale place each winter with three eight dog stakes and a rich mix of people would assemble from all corners of the UK to run their dog. From the ermine clad with trainers (dog trainers not reeboks) through life boatmen, farmers, architects to Mr F*7%ing Younis ( so called because each sentence was littered with F&$%s) with his beard full of henna in a Shalwar Kameez. My employer ran the show and before each meeting the place would be reconnoitred to limit the inevitable chaos that ensues when allowing dogs to run after things in open fields. The two farms were alive with hares and on each recce you'd expect to see up to a dozen bumbling about with many more hunkered down hidden away in their scrape.

On this mild morning when you would reasonably expect to see the opening gambit of the Hare's mad spring shenanigans,

we didn't see a single hare,

so well done Mr Blair for that, that hunting bill really worked our for the hare didn't it?

Cardiff yesterday and a flying visit to touch base with Child B who is in his final year at Uni and about to push off to China for three weeks, seven days of which are a course field trip to Hong Kong.

Cardiff grows on us with every visit and I think he'll miss it if he ever leaves. The Victorian arcades host a plethora of interesting independent shops and places to eat. Madam Fromage is a tremendous place to take sustenance

Otis was much taken by the pooch boutique opposite peddling bespoke leather dog beds with marble dog bowl holders,

We didn't go in but his dream remains

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