Wednesday 13 February 2013

Hay Knives and Celebrity Squares

The current generalissimo at command centre central of all things environmental, has declared that the rain we have experienced over the past twelve months is of a variety previously unseen on these shores:

Scene 1 Lord Smith of Finsbury is preparing his speech in a warm office in an urban environs with a cast of thousands tending to his every need.

Generalissimo Smith “Microwave rain is a..

1st minion, (sotto voce ) “Wrong oven Generalissimo sir it's Convection....Convection rain”

Generalissimo Smith “My apologies, halogen rain is a rele.......

1st minion, (sotto voce ) “Convection! Convection!”

Generalissimo Smith “Ah yes, convection rain is a new phenomenon that this country had better get its head around because experts predict it is the future of rainfall in theses Isles...... ( fill/wing it, give them what they want and bugger the substance)

Convection rain is not a new occurrence in the UK; mention is made of it in meteorological records dating back over a hundred years. We had an exceptional amount of rain fall during last summer but this winter’s rainfall has been marginally above average. As I write there is a programme on national TV dramatically titled “The year that Britain flooded” a more apt title for the rivers of this region would be “The year that the chalkstreams got out of jail” needless to say I am sitting in the kitchen away from the TV but close to a small gammon joint that is almost ready to come out of the oven. Since both a roof and a bridge gave way beneath my weight, the lady who sleeps on my left has declared that calories must now be counted. As a result I am now half a yard closer to Usain Bolt in the run for the bus but food tends to crop up at regular intervals during conversation. I am quite surprised that I am trusted to be left alone in a room with only a part cooked ham for company.

Anyway, the rain and the flooding

Much more of the sensational hyperbolic rubbish on rain with decrees from those completely unsuited to the post to which they have been appointed, and I’m donning my loin cloth and heading off to a cave to grow the mother of all beards. The world is increasingly ruled by loons and it’ll be a hermit’s life for me.

A few yards downstream much of Bransbury Common is under several inches of water, (which is how it should be at this time of year). There are islands amongst the puddles and parts where, if you went through the top crust, you would just keep on going down. It wasn’t the easiest trek for the world’s wobbliest spaniel, but he did insist on coming along.

At home the river is in great condition. When the sun shines again the jaded look that the river assumed for two winters will be washed away and the gravel will take on a sparkle unseen for several seasons. Ranunculus is peeping through and an April weed cut is guaranteed. The spring ditches that run down through the village are running well but drop back after a succession of rain free days. Otters are about, and one of our few remaining carp was duffed up at the weekend. The trout in the river are back on full form and take any olive that puts in an appearance around midday.

On the Itchen the main river carries far more colour than the Dever and is close to going over the banks. Weed growth should once again be prolific during the coming season with the only course of action to cut everything out.

On the small stream water is also high and I have been digging one bank back that has encroached a little too far into the channel during three years of low flows. I have had to do the same at home at the top of the Millstream. In a nod to retro riverkeeping I have been using one of the few hay knives to escape a life hung on a country pub wall to cut the marginal growth that has encroached into cubes, these are then pulled out with grabs and laid on the edge of the bank. The channel is gently widened, a bank that previously had the consistency of instant whip is firmed up a tad, the marginal growth will be twice as dense as the previous year and a soft edge to the river is maintained for all those biodiversities that we are being spurred on to protect.

I was also invited along to the neighbouring big fish water to witness a netting operation by a group of fishery students; a useful stock assessment and great practice for the students.
The hundred metre net took some hauling but after forty five minutes the leads were lifted to reveal large numbers of small roach, some jumbo pike and one of the biggest chub I have ever seen in the Dever valley living alongside a good head of supersize rainbows.

At the end of last week, a popular quiz show host arrived to fish along with a well known fishing author to trot for grayling and roach. The lady who sleeps on my left has always garnered a secret ambition for one of us to appear on a game show, a fast track to fortune or a speedboat at the very least. I must admit that in my youth I was quite envious of the top three booths in celebrity squares. The glamour of answering questions from height, appealed and where were the ladders? Rusty Lee’s acrophobia was cruelly exposed by her insistence on a seat in the bottom row (which was a surprise as she seemed such a confident woman) and Willie Rushton’s messiah complex revealed by his commandeering of the central box on every show. To date neither my wife or I have made any appearance on a quiz show.


The angling quiz show host was a thoroughly nice man, a very keen fisherman with a car full of gear and funny to boot. Unfortunately, in the true spirit of Tiswas, he fell in the river up to his neck around lunchtime while leaning over to look at some roach, blame was immediately apportioned to the phantom flan flinger and my application for “who wants to be a millionaire” moved to the bottom of the pile.

Last week a nice man called Graham with an Open Reach turned up at our house and after the best part of a broadband free three weeks our internet connection was restored. Graham was the first BT engineer in recent months to take his ladder from the roof of his van. He replaced the short stretch of line from the last pole, where there was broadband, to our house where there wasn’t, Simples! We had suggested this course of action on several occasions but what do we hicks in the sticks know about telecommunications. We have been offered a £40 discount for our trouble but have declined and are making a formal complaint to OFCOM

Enough is enough; I’m off to snaffle ham. With muffled cutlery and judicious carving no one will ever know,

and if suspicions are raised there’s always the cat to blame.


Anonymous said...

Always enjoy popping in for a visit. A particularly good read today.

Test Valley River Keeper said...

Thank you for your kind words and for reading the rubbish that I write