Wednesday, May 15, 2019

A Scam, by Tamas Lukas and Sabrine Vitch

On me everyone, as there is much to discuss.

Ok I've been a tad tardy with regard to posting guff of late but there are reasons for this of which you will be made aware later in the piece.

Despite a dearth of early season fly, fishing has been fairly productive. Numbers of fish caught are up on last year and a couple of leviathans have been pricked or lost. The first few flurries of Mayfly are underway but no fish have yet to fall to an artificial. Weed growth is sparse which may be due to cold water. I was planting ranunculus earlier in the week and my hands soon went numb, although this may be due to dwindling circulation. The marginal growth is also slow to get going and with little in and alongside the river, fish are easily spooked. You can take it as read that the level is low and concerns remain for mid to late summer, and at this point I'd like to draw you to an article that featured in the business section of the Sunday Thunderer the other day.

You may enquire as to what business have I perusing the Business section of the Sunday Thunderer.

Well we had a few cold nights that week and Madam requested that the wood burner be lit. The article described an investigation into dodgy data produced by several water companies in the UK. Our own water company was chief among the culprits and I'll repeat my assertion that data gathered by water companies and agencies charged with protecting aquifers does not reflect the true state of play with regard to groundwater levels in this chalk valley.

Water Companies and Dodgy Data? who'd a thought.

Weasels, weasels, weasels!

While we're on weasels, or perhaps another predator that strikes when it's victim least suspects, could I extend the very same sentiments to the organisation that scammed Madam and myself out of the best part of four figures of hard earned pocket money.

The houseboat in Amsterdam that these lowlife offered as a holiday let did not actually belong to them.
Advertised on, a website we have used previously, we were fortunately made aware of the scam weeks before we were due to travel. During the trepidatious quest for alternative accommodation we were twice warned by the host website (, formally Owners, a website that we have also used many times, mostly en France.) that the property we were enquiring about could be a scam.

Word at the forum has Amsterdam targeted by organised scammers for the past few months with bogus websites very much to the fore and good people's money siphoned off to all corners of the globe.

Pitch back through this interminable line of guff, and you will find that we have been booking trips online for fifteen years. The default state may appear to be addled, but we are reasonably confident booking travel online, even with wine onboard.

This scam was very convincing.

We've found an alternative boat and have spoken with the owner, or the person who purports to be the owner

and suddenly wounds received are reopened.

I'll own that the experience unnerved me for a few days.

The threat of physical assault was a given in this job back in the day, particularly post harvest when swathes of the surrounding countryside were considered open season for a particular section of society. I was once roughed up by four choice characters outside the village shop in the middle of the afternoon because I objected to their modus operanidi with regard to bothering wildlife in the local environs and I've suffered mental assault, principally when Richard Madeley is invited to fill in on BBC radio programmes.

This scamming experience with the possibility of identity theft has left me feeling more violated than either of the two examples already given. We were offered victim support, but the wounds were still a little raw and we were in "trust no-one mode" so the offer was politely declined.

To the ledger of weasels we can add the names Sabrine Zwich, Tamas Lukas, A Frenchman called David Brown (I know, I know) somebody called Susan plus the rest of the miscreants at the immoral and sophisticated organisation who are currently targeting honest people taking holiday lets in European cities,

and hey if any of you are your reading this chunk of guff,

a thousand curses on your icy souls.

The UK, Dutch Police and OLAF the EU fraud crime team are currently investigating a scam that has caught quite a few people out during the past few months.

Looking up and not down we see that all trees are now in leaf bar the ash trees, which is a bit of a worry. The valley always attains a certain sparkle at this time of the year with glossy leaves and hawthorn blossom. We are still short of swifts and swallows, the local cricket league got underway last weekend. A haven for swifts there were none in evidence during the season opener which is uncommon. Lord Ludg reports that there are squadrons of the things around Ludgershall Towers so perhaps they will enter stage left sometime soon.


Following recent events a reference to Partridge seems apposite.

Regular readers of this guff will appreciate that I am a keen listener to Danny Baker (Prodnose) and his Saturday morning radio show. A quick trawl of my bag of emails confirms that this house made just shy of sixty contributions to his show over the past few years as one of the "chiefly yourselves" The first as follow up to John McGovern singing AC/DC's Whole Lotta Rosie in the manner of Brain Clough. It was a tough gig but my tale of a French campsite reproduction of Riverdance, sans dance steps, which featured a chorus line shuffling about the stage may/may not have received mixed reviews.

I didn't go a lot on his TV stuff but as a broadcaster, he is up there with Old Tel.

An error of judgement, and perhaps "of a piece" for a particular generation. For some time Danny has agonised on air over life's third act. I'll miss him on the radio on Saturday morning and I hope his third act centres around "living for pleasure alone" and he is not castigated too much by the media or his own mind.

Jonathan Ross (for whom he has written many a script) made his way back after a similar serious error of judgement, Fingers crossed Dan can do the same, because he's radio gold.

And hey Richard Madeley if you've any notion of a return to radio, you'll get a similar response to your previous efforts when you were picked up for playing fast and loose with planet earth's daily quota of the words I and Me.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Mappa Mundi, An Aged Tortoise and Entente Cordiale

By way of an amouse bouche, here's one of Micheldever Wood on Easter Sunday at 8.00am.

Stunning, quite stunning,

before Moss ran amok

And we're off.

The trout fishing season for 2019 is now underway in Bransbury. There isn't a lot of weed, the early splutters of the hawthorn hatch are underway and the water is low. There are plenty of trout about that have over wintered well and several big fish have already been caught.

We've opened earlier this year to make up for the increasingly difficult midsummer conditions. A response to a changing climate if you will.

Further evidence of the dehydration of this corner of the country came my way last week. The National Library of Scotland has made many old maps available online.

A kind gent forwarded a map of this valley in 1894.

The map was drawn in 1894, the email wasn't forwarded in 1894.

They didn't have the internet then, although some of us still don't enjoy the internet experience via the medium of cables, high speed or otherwise, an hour away from one of the biggest cities on planet earth.

The map shows an awful lot of water being moved around the valley floor and writ large across the centre is "Liable to Floods". For those who know this stretch of river you will note that the Mill Stream takes the bulk of the water with several streams spilling over into streams that feed down into what we now call "the main river" Management of the water meadow was all about turning a wheel at the Mill, flooding the meadow in late winter to stimulate grass growth for early grazing and flood prevention.

Clever stuff and a wealth of lost knowledge about how to manage water in a chalk stream valley.

Aged tortoises that live out their years in far flung corners of empire get all the heat when it comes to antiquity, but the cast iron sluice on the house that has a big part to play in the management of water valley was installed in 1847, continues to be relevant and is still in use today.

For a few years now there has not been sufficient flow to run the Mill Stream, let alone spill a surplus across the meadow via a series of hatches and ditches to the river.

I was once shown a photograph of the Mill House in the early 1900's. It is winter and a group of men are working on a ground floor bay window, the stream through the garden was of sufficient size to merit inspection with a fly. This stream is now much diminished and dries up each summer.

Look closely at the map and you will see the pub that is now a house and whose ground borders our bottom bends. I have it on authority of his late wife Renee, that Ted, a river keeper in this parish for many years from the mid nineteen hundreds, would sometimes arrive home from the Crook & Shears soaking wet having fallen off the duck board walk that traversed the decidedly spongy ground that surrounded the spring holes. Today,Ted could totter home from the pub in Renee's highest heels without fear of sinking in or getting a soaking.

Regular readers will be well versed in the saga of Spring Bottom and concerns that groundwater data collected does not reflect the mountain of anecdotal evidence for the chronic depletion of this valley's aquifers.

Further revelations from this second Mappa Mundi include: the pasture on the non fishing bank - the wood's not as old as it appears.

The absence of the flight pond and the farm buildings by the entrance to Bransbury Manor. The dairy moved across the road around the turn of the century with the one-time cart shed now converted to a holiday let, all that remains of the original farm.

The demise of the mill as a functioning producer of flour probably led to the construction of the hatch at the top of this beat. With no wheel to turn, the water could be taken away from the mill stream and its mission to turn a wheel to boost flow in what we now call the main river.

For several hundred years the mill stream carried the bulk of the valley's water. What is now the main river existed as a side stream that wandered about a bit receiving sustenance from sluice streams throughout the length of the mill stream. These small sluiced streams also served as a means of getting rid of water in times of high flow, preventing the flooding of the mill.

The industrial revolution led to a reduced reliance on water mills and with the increasing popularity of sport fishing for trout with a fly, more water was sent down the natural course of the river and away from the half mile man-made mill stream.

Paperwork from several sales of the mill illustrate that the fishery has been a significant asset of the property for some time, principally for eels and trout as a source of food. The advent of dry fly fishing for trout in the late 19th century saw the value of a yard of chalk stream bank rise rapidly beyond the value as a source of turning a mill wheel.

In a reversal of roles, the mill stream is now used to move on any surplus of water (an event that hasn't happened since 2013) with the flow of what is now the main river controlled with an eye to providing sport fishing.

In other news,

The tragic fire in Notre Dame recently brought to mind our own recent travails with the medium of fire, and at this point I'd like to show solidarity with Messieur Macron and promise that our own little shed will be rebuilt in time for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Vive l'entente cordiale! Vive La Difference!

With an eye to the shortages, we've purchased a wood fired oven.

We have plenty of wood and we like cooking in ovens so it seemed the natural course to take.

When the lights dim and the plugs fade on whatever date is now scheduled, we shall seek succour and sustenance from "adequate food" ranging from wood fired oven chips to wood fired reheated pie.

To counterbalance this increase in our own personal carbon footprint I'd like to point out that the smoke produced from our oven is offset by that fact that mine and madam's exhalation weakens with each passing year.

Although other gases produced may be on the rise, which I attribute entirely to an increase in pulses in our diet

We wobbled over to another water meadow this week. A trip to Salisbury for a cup of tea and a walk around the meadows where Constable picked up his brushes to paint the tallest spire in Blighty.

The Cathedral of first choice for the Russian Bear, the city is bearing up remarkably well following recent events and is a great place for a day out.

The Avon is not quite as polite as the Test or the Itchen and can rise and fall at some speed. The water meadow complex upstream of the city also stand as testament to lost knowledge as to how to manage chalk river water meadows in order to both retain and get rid of water. I believe this kind of caper is current:


I could hazard a guess at some of it, but at one time there would have been a gang of guys bumbling about the Salisbury meadows with an eye as to what to do with the water and where it should go who really knew their stuff about how their water meadow worked.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Gambit, Barwick and Command Centre Central


I'll pause there because I've come over all nostalgic with regard to all things Fred Dinenage.

Is he still with us?

Google confirms that Fred still retains a pulse although the work has dried up a tad. Plans are afoot for a revival of Anglia TV's quiz show "Gambit"

Apologies, bit of a false start there. I do find myself being easily distracted of late.

Negotiations over the furnishings in the executive washroom at Command Centre Central are ongoing with Jimmy Bevan speaking out again regarding a precarious water supply in these Isles.

The general consensus of the public response on a phone in I caught one lunch time, appeared to be that there was plenty of water and it was a public right to leave the tap running when attending daily to the canines and molars.

Which was a bit depressing so come on Sir Jim, there's a message that needs to be made many times in order to make a few pennies start dropping.

While we're on Command Centre Central, an underfunded and over stretched Government department, our local "Big Fish Water" have been on to say that they have received a request to fit expensive screens to all of their rearing ponds to prevent any interference with the passage of salmon and sea trout.

You may add Sturgeon and Shad to that list, as neither of the four species run this river.

Any producer of fish is subject to rigorous checks over what they do with their water and fish and costs are subsequently incurred.

There are some who hold the view that there is a policy of making smaller fish producing units economically unviable, as a few larger producers are easier and cheaper to monitor.

It flies in the face of a push for localism,

there would be revolution if this theory were applied to cheese.

Years ago fish were reared in smaller units to supply a neighbouring stretch of river. The fish were reared from adult fish taken from the neighbouring stretch of river and stocked at a smaller size, because fish food technology had not advanced to the stage that it is at today along with fish transportation.

Again I find myself saying "Well, we are where we are"

and I'll add a "You couldn't make it up",

but it's symptomatic of the first years of Command Centre's centralisation when our annual application to introduce a small number of brown trout to this stretch of the River Dever was declined due to Bransbury being sited on a sensitive stretch of the Upper Itchen.

Spookily this has just dropped through the door.

A request for monthly returns for the abstraction licence for our fish rearing ponds.

Fish rearing ponds that we mothballed in 2013 and an Abstraction Licence and Consent to Discharge that were subsequently revoked the same year.

News just in: Brian Barwick has resigned the post of Chairman of the RFL.

An old adversary of mine, we once shared a urinal in the top tier of the Warner stand during a Lords Test Match.

He was CEO at the FA at the time, while I sat on the Committee of Barton Stacey Football Club. I had a long list of questions for El Capitano, top of which was why a hoard of money accrued by my local county FA from fines issued in the grass roots game was not reinvested in the game at grass roots level.

I posed the question and Bri responded by zipping his solid gold zipper and exiting stage left.

I think I made my point, the chap on my left sniggered and said "well done" which seemed like a kind of an endorsement.

The Loos in the top tier of the Warner Stand by the way, some of the best in these isles. You can take your ease while keeping up with the cricket through a long thin window at eye level.

They think of everything at Lords, it's one of our favourite days out of the year.

In other Capital News, we popped up to the smoke the other day for lunch at William and Rosie's, before jostling our way across Leicester Square to the Prince of Wales Theatre to take in The Book of Mormon.

A tremendous romp with an awful lot of effing and jeffing, I don't know why we were so late coming to the piece.

Last weekend the regular rods turned up for lunch and a walk up the river. Always an enjoyable day and a nod to an impending season, they all seemed reasonably pleased with work undertaken over the winter. Some have fished here for over thirty years and have seen the valley go through quite a period of change.

On completing the task of stacking next winter's logs I received the gift of lumbago. Connoisseurs of the wood pile will note the Flemish method employed in the pile on the left.

Currently we have King Cups in flower along with inky black sedge. We've had a few frosts this week and the Wisteria has gone into "shall I or shan't I mode" I've seen several large female pike nosing up sprung ditches and hoorah for the small number of grayling that are charging around on the top shallows and below the ford across the Mill Stream.

The mower's been out for its first outing of the year and will now be employed every week through to the end of October. I may have made mention, but for the fifth spring in succession we've no spring in spring bottom.

Everything is waking up now and making preparations to take a restorative tot of water, so we'll have to go with the current level of groundwater, which isn't great.

It remains a bit of a worry that data collected and presented by government agencies and private companies doesn't demonstrate the actual state of play in the field with regard to groundwater levels in this valley.

Oft dismissed as a crank by those who purport to know better, the loin cloth, beard and life of a cave dweller once again appeals; with the occasional appearance to shake a fist at an outside world in which we continue to be increasingly led by loons.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Sir James, The Water and the 6th Motzkin Number

Tadah! and as if by magic the shopkeeper appeared.

Well the CEO of the EA to be precise, who this week drew attention to the possibility of a water crisis in the UK in two decades time.

He may be on the cusp of a pay review or possibly an inquiry into the opulence of his office furnishings,

we don't know,

but he really should have piped up some time ago.

Regular visitors will know that this house has been banging on about the subject ad nauseam, ( "Forever and ever" is the current earworm, although that may be due to the Demis Roussos inspired nightgown that I have donned to tap out this current chunk of guff)

In his defence, the CEO of the EA will have relied on EA interpretation of data collected which has proved to be questionable on several occasions in recent years.

If the CEO happens upon this, could he please make himself aware of the parable of the field known across the ages as Spring Bottom.

It may not have an X or a Y axis, or sit on an excel spreadsheet, but for minds as simple as mine (and possibly his own) it remains a reliable belwether as to the level of the precious groundwater supply in this corner of the county.

Data collected by his own agency and the weasels at the water company doesn't

For the fifth winter in succession, Spring Bottom remains spring free.

Groundwater levels in the region are in chronic decline because of the unsustainable way in which we use the groundwater resource.

We do indeed need to be more water wise.

A statement that first featured in this guff ten years ago, so come on Sir James Bevan, up your game.

Phone ins and features on the radio and television following the CEO's declaration demonstrate that public awareness needs to be raised. Most VOX pops came back with the consensus that "it's always raining, what's he on about"

If the pay review hits choppy waters, I'd suggest raising the subject of a national water grid.

Shift water from wet regions of the UK to increasingly arid areas of these Isles and charge as you see fit,

It's just a thought

Up your game Sir Jimmy B, Up your game.

Like Mrs May, much of my week has been spent digging holes.

Planting trees for my part. Native hardwoods to replace ash trees that will cash in their chips in the next ten years.

Lord Ludg and myself have ridden hard on the splitter for many days and are confident that we now have enough logs lain about the place to serve several fires through next winter.

The hydraulic log splitter is a piece of cutting edge technology to rival the space shuttle and the invention of the internet, but when will higher minds than ours develop the self stacking log?

Oh yes, this.

Phosphate levels in rivers and domestic water supply in our region are on the rise. Be it fertilizer, pesticide, weed killer or slug pellets, this kind of caper shouldn't be going on in close proximity to a water course.

Buffer zones along river channels please Sir James, if you haven't gone home already.

Another month, another front cover.

Here's the December issue of Fly Fishing and Fly Tying magazine.

I'll own that I was a bit late to the piece, but as ever thanks to the clever person who took the photo for making the bridge that I built look level.

The bridge has now appeared in quite a few publications and has subsequently been taken on by an agency for bookings with the requisite appearance fees.

All enquiries to

Today I spied grayling in pre spawning mode on the gravels above the ford across the mill stream. It's a spawning site of first choice for Thymallus thymallus most years, fingers crossed a few more join the party. Brown Trout are increasingly active and look up to the odd olive that popped in appearance this week.

Since the implementation of the National Trout and Grayling Strategy in 2015 , a muddled piece of thinking in which brer grayling was largely ignored, we have been joined each winter by many large triploid brown trout. Our rods don't complain and most end up at the smoker such are their size, (the triploids not the rods - touch wood) they look great in the fishing book but add an unnatural air to this small stream.

Despite being dismissed as a crank by supercilious knobs in fine fleece and cutting edge walking shoes, I maintain that introducing fingerling diploid brown trout in spring is preferable to an adult triploid only stocking regime in southern chalk streams.

The reasons why have been listed on here many times (most posts throughout 2014, although they may have an angry tone)

I've recently had the mantra tattooed on my arse, which will be premiered at the next consultation/achieve five eights of f&%* all, meeting.

I seem to have got quite cross, which is worry and I lay the blame entirely at Sir James Bevan's door, but I recently attained the great age of forty one.

That'll be Fifty One - ed

A dispute seems to have arisen, so in the spirit of ontont cordial, I'll meet you half way. Recently I attained the great age of forty six.

Nope, you're fifty one - ed

Gnashes teeth, clenches fists - F*&% You ED!

I seem to have got quite sweary as well. I don't know how this happened, but it may be a sign of something else going on.

My name is Chris de Cani and I am 51.

By way of succour, Wikipedia teaches us that 51 is 3 lots of 17 and is the natural number following fifty and preceding 52, while our friends at Stagecoach have it as the bus route from Chichester to Selsey.

It is the 6th Motzkin number and may be involved in atoms.

Numerologists insist that the essence of 51 is its basic tone and vibration, with the use of the word "thus" very much to the fore in explanation.

Religous types talk of repentance regarding the number, with mention made of Samuel in the Old Testament,
while my tape measure hints at a relationship between the numbers 20 and 129.

Whatever, I've just turned 51.

How did this happen?

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The Juggler, The Grayling, The Horse and His Lover


But before the guff, the pitch.

Here's the site straddling the Test and Dever Valleys where an American owned company would like to build a bonfire twice the size of Winchester Cathedral. Visitors to this parish will be aware that I like a fire, but this is the mother of all incinerators with chimneys 90m high that generates electricity and dividends. It's called the Harewood Wheelabrator and it uses groundwater. Give it a google and make your own mind up as to whether it's a good addition to the Test and Dever valleys.

Right on we go with another chunk of guff, and following the fire (see previous guff) the flood.

Not the flood that would be manna for this valley, but the flood that flowed down my waders when I stumbled in the river and fell flat on my face in three feet of water. The experimentation with the cult of wild water swimming was swiftly brought to a conclusion and after a chilly tractor ride home I took an early lunch.

I'll break off there, because Talksport's coverage of the recent Liverpool v Burnley game comes to mind. Three one in front, Liverpool were described as "going for the juggler". I've had an interest in football for some years. As a player I started off as a left winger and ended up at left back. Throughout my backward progression through the side, I don't think I ever pulled on the juggler's jersey. I refrained from faxing the show. DAB is a great thing and yes, the wide choice of channels, but goodness there's a lot of tosh uttered out there in commercial radio land.

The grayling season is drawing to a close and it hasn't been great. The train ticket thing didn't go well and then there were the phantom ferries....

Apologies, wrong grayling,

The grayling season is drawing to a close and it hasn't been great. There are undoubtedly fewer fish in the river and numbers of fish caught are down on previous winters. Yes the Otters and yes the Graculus, but spawning doesn't seem to have gone well two to three years ago. We still retain a reasonable head of sexually mature fish who currently assume an increasingly dark tone. Fingers crossed that they spawn well this spring and fry survival rates are good.

This short film was taken six years ago in early April. I've not seen grayling spawning in numbers such as this in the Dever since.

Storm Freya was an event and a big old ash cashed in its' chips on the island in the flight pond. Access wasn't easy and much of it was held up by surrounding trees so working out where weight lay and which limbs will fall which way troubled the grey matter a tad. Which is a conundrum I face most evenings when climbing into bed, so a plan was swiftly formed.

Boats were briefly invoked, along with the requisite, levers fulcrums and bars, and four days later we have a heck of a heap of ash, cut in to lumps that must all be carried over the bridge by hand.

That, or I build a bridge big enough to take the tractor.

The Test and Itchen river report for 2018 dropped through the door the other day. There are many contributors including a chunk of guff from this parish and it serves as a reasonably reliable bellwether as to the current state of play in each of the river valleys. Those who have fished here will recognise the front cover, but rest assured that the river's flow has not been reversed or the bridge to the fishing hut moved. For whatever reason the picture editor flipped the picture around on the computer.

Emerging from work in the wood, we are having a few days replenishing the log store. The log splitter has been oiled and greased and put to work on piling up the logs for next winter.

Through with Storm Freya we are currently on the cusp of Storm Granville (I think that's right, it definitely begins with a "G" it' seems to be how these things work) Yesterday it rained all day and today we had wind. The river is on the rise and water has appeared in the ditch half way up to the field known across the ages as "Spring Bottom" but we need a good bit more yet in a diminishing period of time. Ducks are pairing up and competition among drakes over which duck to set to partners with is fierce. Roe deer are particularly active and half a dozen switch from periods of sunning themselves under a sheltered hedge on the hill to feeding in the wood, with a couple of good bucks among them.

Otis & Moss, bespoke tailors to the rich and famous,

or possibly our two labradors,

are also in good nick, although Otis is shedding his winter coat. A heavy moulter, he is literally falling apart.

Moss's training is going well and he has learnt to use the TV remote control.

I popped home for a cup of tea the other afternoon and found him taking in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Does he have an online account with Ladbrokes? we don't know. A secret smart phone that he has kept from us? we don't know, but we've never had a dog like him.

He has a passing interest in shooting and fishing, but we increasingly find him in front of a screen. A first world problem I know, but binge watching Crufts and the Cheltenham festival will not broaden his mind. We've pushed BBC4 and Sky Arts but he demonstrates no interest, it's the gee gees, the dogs or nothing.

We have introduced "Parental Control" on access to The Racing Channel and At the Races, but can't keep up with the channels that screen "Police Dog Camera Action!"

Dogs eh?


Thursday, February 28, 2019

Funky Claude and The Medium of Fire

Back to work and the perennial skirmishes with the forces of crack willow continues. Mostly small stuff on the non fishing bank that is starting to inhibit weed growth, we've been dropping it into the river and pulling it out with the tractor to burn on the fishing bank. We experienced the warmest winter day on record recently and feeding a fire became a sweaty business. I had planned to burn the fen where we were working in a few weeks time, I try and do it every year as it produces a much thicker covering of flowers indigenous to a piece of fen in a chalk valley, principally hemp agrimony, meadow sweet and willow herb which are a magnet for buzzing bugs and butterflies.

Half way through the morning, sparks from our (You'll note the shared responsibility) fire ignited the fen

and within five minutes a wall of flame was making its way down the valley, and at this point I'll resume the diatribe regarding an urgent need for rain in these parts. I had completely underestimated how dry the ground was, and urged on by the merest of zephyrs, much of the fen was completely burned off.

Which is great for the butterflies and all things that buzz, but because of the unplanned nature of the burn, I hadn't had a chance to thoroughly soak some fire breaks and a few hours later this resulted.

For Deep Purple fans with a penchant for an allegory,

Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention are in the Fishing Hut. The establishment pictured on the left is the Gambling House, while I play the part of both Funky Claude and Some Stupid with a Flare Gun.

For the unallegorical, and fans of funk, the burned out shell is not the Fishing Hut.
This is all that remains of the birch clad shelter by the old stew pond used to store fish food. It was on its last legs but didn't deserve to suffer this fate.

The clay tile porch collapsed and yes, the hut did indeed die with an awful sound. Hissing mostly as red hot tiles pitched into the pond.

It was my error of judgement to be burning willow on the riverbank, fortunately I am blessed with an understanding and forgiving employer. I didn't appreciate how dry the ground was, but who expects a barbecue ban in February?

You never stop learning.

We need rain, lots of it.

For the river, of course, but also to keep me from burning any more buildings down.

Who will be our Stormbringer?

In other Fire news, an application has been put in for a new "waste to energy via the medium of fire" facility on the other side of the Highway to the Sun.

It's the mother of all incinerators that promises to provide power to a large part of Hampshire and it uses water, which is a worry for me.

There are many in the area who spend their days in a permanent state of agitation. Foam an ever-present at the corner of the mouth, fists are clenched and teeth firmly gnashed. It seems to have been the default state for many throughout the past two to three years but it could be a long process for a decision to be taken on Wheelabrator Harewood which may call for a more measured and considered response.

Unwelcome planning proposals regarding energy production and waste disposal have been made before in this parish, and have been rejected following a measured and considered response.

Clearly I like a fire, but I don't believe the Wheelabrator is a suitable development for this valley. It is an industrial leviathan that will loom large on the local landscape and an inappropriate development for this parish. I will respond accordingly when invited to do so.

Give Wheelabrator Harewood a google and draw your own conclusions. Please respond accordingly when invited to do so.

Back on the bank, Tarka's back with a bang. When the snow fell there were no sign of any otters, other than a brief visit to our bottom boundary by a beast currently billeted on Bransbury Common. The trout fishery a mile upstream has suffered with a herd of Otters since Christmas. Seems that they are now extending their territory to visit us during the night - the otters, not the good people at the trout fishery.

All sensible people agree that the warmest winter day on record is Bing Crosby's version of Mele Kalikimaka

Apparently Bing was pipped for the warmest winter day on record this week.

Buds began to swell, blossom broke and the Ceti's warbler rocked up. We've a dearth of geese on the upstream water meadow, which suggests that it isn't that cold somewhere else and there are many duck paired up. We've also plenty of roe deer about the place at the moment with a couple of quite senior bucks.

Despite calculations of algorithmic proportions late last year, our supply of seasoned split logs is running low and the log splitter has been fired up. We got through quite a nit of wood when the snow lay on the ground, but a morning with the splitter produced a pile that should see us through the rest of the winter.

Like a repentant Viking, I shall never lift an axe in anger again. Hydraulic log splitters are the future of producing fuel for the fire.

I do seem to have mentioned fire quite a lot in this post.

Oh yes, nearly forgot. This book has just been published.

George is someone that I bump into now and again when I am bumbling about on the short stretch of the Itchen that I fall in and out of.

It has taken him ten years to produce this book and it provides a comprehensive "state of play" of the Itchen above Winchester in the early part of this century. George is a tenacious and talented photographer and the book features many examples of his best work and highlights the incredible biodiversity that exists in a chalk stream valley.

It's an excellent and comprehensive tome that covers all aspects of chalk stream life and I commend it to the house.

Further details on how to obtain a copy can be found at