Monday 15 April 2013

And now the Bourne Rivulet's turned yellow!

Temperatures reached double figures this week sending Blackbirds and Ducks decidedly frisky. The male Blackbirds belting out their complicated calls with increased gusto in their quest to establish a territory and tempt a mate, the drakes cutting to the chase and jumping the bones of any duck who hoves into view. No swallows or swifts here yet but over on the Itchen, a dozen or more House Martins swooped for any invertebrate that rose from the water.

Two weeks to go before the trout anglers turn up, and today saw the vanguard arrive to take food and wine on board and pass judgement on the winter work, a fun day with regular rods, many of whom have fished here for over twenty years. Initial murmurings were encouraging despite the river looking a little stark at this time of the year, afternoon sunshine added a little sparkle and the sight of a few fish on the fin certainly helped.

A brief digress: As I write, the Golf is on the goggle box and isn’t it forward thinking of the US government to allow the interns of Guantanamo bay to caddy at the Masters as a means of aiding their reintroduction to society.

On the Itchen, fun and games were anticipated with the arrival of a Shepherds hut. A steal on eBay, it was driven from Dorset and plonked on the queen’s highway by the bridge at the top of the beat. With a profile and aerodynamics suited to speeds of little more than five miles an hour, it was a miracle that it survived the trip. But survive it did, and head scratching commenced when it was left at the side of the road around midday. With no shepherds available to advise, it was shackled to the back of the jeep, dragged up the road and then with many fingers crossed a course was taken through bramble thicket and willow to its final resting place by the top pool to significant sighs of relief. The preceding weeks had seen visions of the thing laid on its side in the river or breaking into a billion pieces somewhere around Salisbury but all went well and it was installed in “position A” within an hour of its arrival, we just need a shepherd/shepherdess and some sheep now....................... Oh and a lick of paint, as it’s a lovely shade of lime green with patches of canary yellow and is currently visible from the edge of space.

The Dever valley at Bransbury remains reasonably dry, spring ditches are about where they should be and on the water meadow above ewes and lambs have been put out on to some unlush grass, further down the valley this is not the case the middle of the main river around Stockbridge has significant standing water in the meadows that would not see a sheep on them for several weeks.

There is much muttering afoot about the recent water Framework Directive and the public consultation following a two year survey by a company of international repute and high protein diets. As I have previously stated the report for the two stretches of river on which I work was inaccurate at best, inept at worst. Comments were called for, regarding the report which many duly did. Four weeks down the line none of these comments have been published, which suggest that things are not quite running to plan. For every other survey on rivers in the UK carried out for Water Framework Directive purposes, public comments have been published on the consultation website. Something smells fishy

A few miles away the Bourne rivulet continues to take a battering. To recap, last summer the leading washer and grower of bagged salad spilt several hundred litres of diesel into the river that attracted a fine equating to five eighths of f*** a**. Later in the year the groundwater rose following rain, not an unexpected phenomenon, but one that caught out the local water company whose cracked sewage system couldn’t cope with water leaking in and for over half a year they have been sending raw sewage bar a few johnnies and floaters skimmed off by rudimentary filter down the Bourne. Late last week several on the Bourne and Test down to Stockbridge received a call from Command Centre Central that the Bourne had turned yellow, a call that was repeated the following day when Plunkett Green’s bright waters once again assumed an amber hue. Some have suggested farm slurry may be the cause, others that it is a dye being used by the water company to test the sewage system for leaks. Either way it ain’t good. Farm slurry high in organic matter Phosphates and Nitrates is the stuff of algae dreams and chronic leakage from a cracked sewer is not the best tonic for a river that, following the last twelve months, is on its knees; if this was a boxing match the referee would have stopped it several rounds ago. If either of these acts had been committed by a private individual, would the level of fines and inaction been the same?
The Bourne is one of only a few chalkstreams in these Isles. A SSSI, it has been let down by those who have damaged it and by those assigned to protect it. Despite the huff and puff from on high, protecting the home environment does not appear to be as high up on the list of jobs to be done as they would have us believe.

As a cold war baby I remember Mrs Thatcher, and like most people in the UK grew up with nuclear missiles aimed at our house. I remember the strikes, riots and several senseless acts of terrorism. There are several in this village who ground out ground at Goose Green and they think the world of her, myself I don’t have any strong polarised opinion, she was just Mrs Thatcher who ran the country as Mr Gunnery was the man who ran the local grocer shop. The only thing that I do feel strongly about is that she was a woman who worked her way up to the top job in the land. There are still societies where this is not possible, women are suppressed, denied education, independence or an opportunity to better themselves. This is one aspect of Mrs Thatcher’s time in office that this country should be proud.

This has been a party political broadcast by the “Isn’t Germaine Greer great ?” party

Tuesday 9 April 2013

A £5000 fine ought to teach Europe's largest bagger of salad a lesson

Still cold, snow earlier in the week and a wind that bites bones from the east continues to phew. For forty eight hours daytime temperatures hit double figures, although only just, and spring threatened to spring; when it does, it should be short but sweet. We often have a phallanax of swallows and martins formed up on lines of wires above our home at this time of the year but no sign of either yet. Buds fail to bulge and the wisteria in the mill house remains in Christmas mode.

During the two day hiatus from the icy wind the field behind our house filled with hares. Every year they rock up in numbers on this five acre patch of arable to muck about and act daft as the days warm up. The deer are having a hard time of it too, there is not much on which to munch and any strips of maize grown for game cover have long been ploughed in. This week on the mile of main road that runs adjacent to this parish there have been several roe, a couple of muntjac and a fallow laid out on the verge crushed by cars after wandering into the wrong lane in their quest for sustenance. This sometimes provides an opportunity for some to fill their freezer with road-kill venison, but these looked fairly mangled, fit only for sausages and mince. Several years ago a fireman friend of mine was summoned one evening to drive the engine to a thatch fire in a neighbouring village. With the smouldering thatch removed they were required to stand guard through the night lest the fire should revive. With first light just gone they were startled by a bang in the nearby lane, an early bird racing for her commute to the smoke had smashed her GTi into a roe doe. The fire crew gallantly tended to the damsel and the bended car while my friend, with country blood flowing thick through his veins and a smattering of butchering nous, deftly retrieved a few fillets with his trusty leatherman, revived a fire from the failed thatch and breakfasted on venison before the tow truck arrived to cart off the GTi.

With the new season only weeks away final preparations are being made for the arrival of anglers. The sleeper walkway below the fishing hut is undergoing a revamp after a few bearings gave way; initially under my weight, but then under a popular quiz show host who was told not to walk that way.
The digger has been strapped to the back of the tractor to fill my trailer with chalk to apply to the pressure points at the end of bridges and around the hut that have not had a chance to mend this winter and remain a muddy morass. It’s controversial stuff chalk, the voles are none too keen which carries a lot of weight in these parts, Too much of the stuff can create a lifeless hard bank that is great for fishing in your dancing shoes, but a little on top of gloopy mess binds, after a drop of rain and a bit of frost, like the egg white in a meatball. Just keep it away from the precious marginal growth and all is ok, problems occur where too much is used and it stands proud of the river or it is allowed to swamp the marginal growth.

Building work almost complete. Thunderbird One (the tractor) will never have been so comfortably kennelled,Thunderbird Two (the jeep)will rise seamlessley from the 20mm gravel surround and Thunderbird three, shoud we have one, would ease from its undergorund bunker to strike at all who currently threaten the chalkstream environment. I shall command all in big glasses from a swivel chair set in a cage, or was that Captain Scarlet or possibly Joe 90? and the lady who sleeps on my left will be known as Lady Penelope and must be addressed as "m'laydy"

Mwhawwwww ...........(I think that's right)

The anglers will now enjoy extensive facilities that include toilet, toilet roll, wash basin with hot and cold water, soap and possibly towel (to be decided)

Connecting up the amps and ohms was no mean feat, and I only had to do the phone calls. Scottish and Southern were the provider of choice and they have taken a bit of a pounding of late so after many conversations about compliance and choice six men arrived to disconnect the supply: and that will be £300+ please sir. Last week the same six arrived to connect a cable from a pole and run it through a twenty yard trench dug by my own hands (operating our retro digger) the ducting was declined because the stuff we had provided was the wrong colour, before the same six rode out of town, with another £300+ . The cable that they installed must now be connected to a meter supplied by an electricity provider of our choice. This process takes another two weeks because we must be allowed to “cool off” there is a chance that we may change our minds, candles and fire may be our thing and electricity not our power of choice. We are currently in the middle of our cooling off period and are still excited by the idea of electricity so the same six will undoubtedly ride again to put a meter on the end of the cable that they so successfully installed last week (think plugging in your telly) and that will be another £300+ please sir.
Scottish and Southern was always an unlikely alliance, are these repeated requests for £300+ the continued cost of Culloden?

“Shit happens” is an oft quoted phrase when circumstances have gone awry, on the nearby Bourne rivulet a lot of shit has happened in recent times with no little amount of it finding its way into the water course. Pumping of filtered sewage into the Bourne that began over six months ago continues apace, the water company responsible has promised funding to solve the problem that occurs when the groundwater is higher than to be expected but this has happened before and a few dry months has seen funds and effort diverted elsewhere. It has also come to light that the water company have previously pumped sewage into the Bourne during conditions when groundwater levels have not been exeptional.

Further on down the Bourne one of Europe’s largest salad growers and packers goes about its business, growing and packing its fine fayre with the sparkling waters of the Bourne. During the middle of last summer an operative allowed a diesel tank to overflow and 500 litres of fuel entered the river, fines have just been issued and this leading supplier of salad in a bag, the Real Madrid of the Watercress world, will be forced to think twice about the way it conducts its business after a swingeing fine of £5000 (No I haven’t missed any noughts off)
Sixteen years ago the company were fined £6000 for a similar pollution incident. The cost of living has gone up during that time but apparently not the cost of polluting. If any other country’s government behaved in such a manner towards a unique environment that it proclaims to protect, our own leaders would be up in arms, for form’s sake at the very least if not the media’s. With planning restrictions being eased in the coming months the chalkstreams of the south face an increased threat with any hope of protection or help from over the hill coming not from command centre central and the bungling buffoons within, but from europe and its habitat directives.

How did the management and protection of our rivers come to this?