Monday 26 January 2009
A wet and windy week, Gales at the start although no tree damage to speak off, the river rose a few inches and coloured up considerably. We now have “spare water that I can send down the millstream by opening the hatch by the mill house a notch at a time. The current Cast Iron hatch and winding gear was installed in the mid nineteenth century by an Andover company and still works perfectly. Along with a set of manually inserted boards in a hatch at the top of the millstream it allows water to be diverted down the main river or the millstream. It is possible to completely drain the millstream, or reduce the river to a series of still pools depending upon how you have the boards. A good sign at this time of the year is to have to open the hatch by the millstream by one or two notches a week. This indicates that the rain we have had has been steady and a lot of it has got down through the soil to the aquifer. Heavy rain and fast run off and the hatch is opened half a dozen notches and closed by as many a day or two later as the rain runs off straight into the river. At the moment the river is about where I would expect for this time of the year.
With perfect weather conditions we had another crack at the Ducks, but the numbers were disappointing. The pond was frozen for a week, and many may have found other places to feed and overnight. We did see a few Teal that dropped like bombs onto the pond, but most Mallard were paired up. Otis retrieved his first Duck in the dark, a challenging drake Mallard that had become trapped in the stopper wave of a small weir. Zebo and I were most impressed although Otis appeared a little nonplussed.
I have held off starting the tinning this week because of the rise in water and will look to start next week. The fencing around the stew ponds is now complete bar a couple of doors and grills. I may also stretch some wires over the top of the whole area to further deter Herons and Cormorants.
Twice this week while driving up the road I have disturbed the Merlin who visits this parish every winter. Flushing him from the ground or low in the hedge he hugs the road in a dipping flight ten yards in front of the truck for a short while before veering off through a gap in the hedge, sometimes it seems that he is waiting for a car to race to demonstrate his flying prowess.
Next week we have our last shoot of the season, the morning routine will change, no more treks up to the two game cover strips. The Maize still has many cobs on so I will roll the whole lot flat to feed the remaining pheasants and also provide some pigeon shooting through February, all of the outlying pheasant feeders will be brought down into the wood to encourage a few hens to hang around and lay.
I have often wondered why cows in a field, sheep on a hill, deer in a wood will take the same indiscriminate path across an open space; A daily plod from A to B declining to take a straight route but meandering like a slow moving river. At this time of the year with the grass dormant and frosts rampant I can see that I do precisely the same. Crossing an open paddock on my morning feed round taking the same wandering path from one side to the other when a straight line would have saved a few steps and seconds, subconsciously content in the route that I know.