Tuesday 22 October 2013

Somebody ask Dave Arch to dance

Hello and welcome to another edition of Mushroom Monthly, or if the ratings are good Fungi Fortnightly, but first an appeal.

If anyone is interested in providing a home for a failing laptop please get in touch. Two documents of several thousand words exiting into the ether and miserable experiments with social media have soured my view of all things IT and I am seriously considering a return to pen and paper,

but that makes my hand ache so one more chance technology, don’t screw up again.

If anyone has received any messages via social media containing pledges of undying love I apologise, evil forces have entered my hard drive and are seemingly convinced that I need a date with someone or something, they may also have eaten my documents to sustain them in their campaign as there are flatulent noises emanating form the depths of my keyboard that would suggest a troubled bowel so the last load of words it gobbled up may not be sitting so easy.

Mushroom picking is currently spectacular, with a couple of pounds of white diamonds plucked from secret sources twice a week, they are making an appearance in most meals but what looks like a fair haul shrinks in the pan with flavours concentrated far more than a shop bought button and a sauce as black as your hat that’s great for dipping. There are many other fungi about, the rump of a senior ash in the garden that when felled was estimated at 170 years old plays host to six different types, and a golden willow stump opposite the fishing hut is ringed by what look like golden chanterelles but I am not brave enough to try, they don’t crop up on my super safe list of things to chuck in the pan so I may need to take advice. This year’s spectacular show of fungi make a strong case for not being too neat and tidy when going bananas with a chainsaw, don’t burn everything and leave some dead wood lying around for the fungi.

Our first grayling fishermen have arrived and sport has been good, most of these guys regularly fish the river at this time of the year and all have remarked at how low the level is. There is some wobbly footage on here of grayling spawning on the shallows opposite the hut, two weeks after that film was taken water preservation measures were put in place. Today the river is even lower; if grayling were spawning on those shallows today a pound fish would have its back out of the water. Water preservation measures don’t achieve much at this time of the year but boy do the chalkstreams need some rain. The grayling are in tip top condition and have provided good sport to those engaged in the opening skirmishes with most rods landing a dozen or more fish.

Somebody ask Dave Arch to dance. He has mooned on from the sidelines in half a headphone every week for a decade a more without the merest whiff of an “excuse me” He's obviously aching to have a go so please somebody ask him to dance,

and why can’t I share power between my iphone and ipad via icloud negating the need for a charger.


Carnage is being caused in the low clear water as heron and little egret stab away at anything that moves on the shallows. Little Egret are not difficult to spot, like a Leeds fan in the middle of The Stretford End, their bright white figure renders them highly visible and I estimate that there are half a dozen or more in the valley at the moment taking advantage of a river that is brim full of fish. A few fish are showing signs of white fluffy saprolegnia infections, which is a worry, any scars incurred during spawning or scrapes from a misplaced stab will soon become infected and there may be a few sick fish about through the winter.

The Autumn colours are slowly coming to a peak and most trees seem to have coped well with a summer where liquid refreshment must have been a bit thin on the ground, as green turns to gold thoughts turn to winter work and this winter will see substantial chainsaw work both on and away from the river but only after fish have finished spawning, any cover from avian predation on the shallows at spawning time is welcome, with his big wings and floppy take off “Jack’ern” doesn’t like taking to the skies through foliage so the more cover the better, although once spawning is complete the one and two year willow whips had better look out.

I was recently invited to an afternoon on a lake in the middle river valley, an annual event attended by a parliament of keepers who feasted well on curry and beer before some chucked fluff on the lake. Conversation over food inevitably turned to work and from all quarters came a despondency about some of the guff currently being peddled in the name of chalkstream management. Breaking popadums in a quorum with a combined time on the river of well over a hundred years, the underlying feeling was that fishing was viewed by some as not the best way forward on this river and sometime within the next ten years we would be required to dress up as “Dickie the Damsel Fly” to conduct tours of a strangled chalkstream. Somebody pondered what people would pay for a guided tour of a chalkstream habitat and even in a condition that most book sellers would term “slightly foxed” fuzzy brains drew the conclusion that jobs would be lost and the river would suffer. There is an anti angling undercurrent in some quarters, a particularly short-sighted view point as it is only angling that can provide the income for the implementation of EU habitat directive. You could make a case for over-zealous practice in the past in the quest to put on some decent dry fly fishing, but the pendulum must not be allowed to swing too far the other way. A sensible comment was made from on high at the start of the year about changing the angler’s expectation as to what he can expect on the day, it may not be the big bags of big fish of old on super short grass, but it is still possible to put on a day where an angler can pay for the privilege of premium dry fly fishing for trout, a brace to take home if required with minimum impact and the enjoyment of a day in a unique environment where biodiversity is on the up. It will provide far more income and keep these rivers in better order than a day out with Dickie the Damsel fly.

Thanks for the invite to the lake, a smashing afternoon with good food and company. I apologise for my clumsy casting those fish were a long way out for one used to fishing little rivers.

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Twitter and Facebook, Help!

Somewhat akin to entering a disco at the onset of the slow dances, I have finally given in and set up a Facebook and Twitter account.

Several years ago I compiled a top ten of fads that would pass in the night. Social media featured high, with confident predictions of death by inane teenage chat.

Loose women were up there somewhere, along with the tagine cookbook and MK Dons.

Well Loose women is dying a death, MK Dons remain anonymous, but we did have slow cooked lamb with cous cous for tea.

My late father in law was a clever cove who worked in computers and twenty five years ago demonstrated to the lady who was then not sleeping on my left, and myself a new invention called a “mouse” he had it on loan from the development guys at work and after a ten minute demo sold it to us as the future of personal computing, I was unconvinced and argued the case for clumpy keyboards and all things “dos” which was an early marker as to my ability to predict the next big thing.

The twitter address is @TVRiverkeeper

and the brick of the facebook wall is titled Testvalleyriverkeeper

Feel free to follow if you feel suitably inclined, but keep an arms length from the man in front and break step on the bridges.

I do not know what twitter and facebook look like so have been unable to capture them with my camera, so inspired by a photo of a mushroom on an earlier post, here’s some photos of Ena Sharples.

With these fat thumbs, expect some teething troubles

Sunday 6 October 2013

Mushrooms are magic but we could do with some rain

It has been a fabulous few weeks for mushrooms and the few sites I visit in the local environs have been littered with my favourite fungi. Otis accompanies me in my furtive scuttling for white diamonds, he ain’t no truffle hound and is more than a little flummoxed when we take an indirect route home in an effort to conceal our source. There are plenty of puffballs about along with some shaggy inkcaps, I don’t care much for puffball, having eaten a surfeit once on scout camp, although the ink caps are ok when young but must be eaten straight away as they don’t store beyond a day.

Earlier this week forecasters predicted that over the last forty eight hours a deluge would deliver a week or more’s worth of rain, 80mm was mentioned at one point as headlines in papers and online became ever more hyperbolic. Well it may have rained to the west of here and possibly in the north but we have hardly had a drop and dust still lies along the edge of roads that some said would be underwater this weekend. I don’t know when the fear of rain became a major media topic, we used to be quietly resigned to the fact that it would rain now and then.

I wish it would, this river could have done with 80mm of rain. It wouldn’t have flooded as the valley currently has a huge capacity to soak up anything that falls. There are some gravel bars that are high and dry on our top shallows that won’t see spawning fish this year and the water supply to our stew ponds has almost dried up. The cress is growing out across the river helping to squeeze the flow and imparting a sexy wiggle to the line of the river, but it will disappear at the first sign of hard frost and the river will drop further.

Daddies abound and squadrons of the things bumble about our bedroom of a night. Fishing has picked up no end in the last few weeks with many anglers departing with a brace or more. Not a lot of aquatic invertebrates, just the odd pale watery rising vertically early in the afternoon. Nymphs and emergers have taken most fish. Flashy and splashy nymphs spook more fish than they catch when the river is this low when plain and drab wins the day, while CDC emergers cover a multitude of bases including many small beasties mixed in among the steady line of leaves that make their way down the centre of the river. The grayling are in tip top condition and are present in all year classes with a few fish over two pound. Most in pursuit of trout are picking up the odd "lady of the stream" both on the surface and below, the roach however are proving enigmatic and are not holed up in the spots that they were a few months ago although this may be down to the low water.

The Phragmites around the flight pond has had a good year, it seems several feet taller than normal or I may have developed a stoop. Chez nook for a Bittern should one happen this way again this winter, it will need quite a bit of cutting back if it is not to take over the pond completely. The water is crystal clear and full of roach rudd and bream, but the duck currently prefer the river at night. Pheasant feeders are out and corn is regularly scattered on the rides in the meadows and woods, there are a few birds picking up on the idea of an easy meal but many hang out on some of the stubbles that still line the valley.

We recently travelled north to Cheshire to visit parents who had very kindly run up a pair of curtains for our bedroom. A dash up the motorway was completed in half the time it used to take me in my 850cc mini-van twenty five years ago (it once took me nine hours), before the Newbury bypass, M40 extension and M6 toll road were constructed. Leaving the M6 at junction 16 we were struck by the fact that much of the remainder of our route across the Cheshire plain had been placed in a 30mph zone. Now this may be to allow the motorist ample opportunity to take in the latest development of former farm buildings that have been natified and dipped in the latest line of heritage paints, but it can double the time it takes from the motorway to destination which, with a bit of back end drifting on roundabouts and a judicious attention to the racing line through specific bends we could previously complete in twenty minutes. On this occasion it took us forty minutes to travel twenty miles, in the previous forty minutes we had covered fifty miles or more. It is not an urban route, our school bus tanked up five miles of it every day at close to fifty miles an hour causing the carriage works to assume a phosphorescent glow and most passengers experienced weightlessness on cresting the Duddon bump before entering the Clotton bends to find fifty cows plodding off for milking and a road surface covered in pats, most days we made it to school. Maybe the plan is to push the traffic elsewhere but half way along the route is Crewe station which is a key stop on phase 2 of HS2, you may get from the capital to Crewe in a matter of minutes but from there on it will be an interminable journey by car to your final destination, marginally quicker than by bullock and cart.

Unless the clincher for HS2 is the announcement that the hover shoes we were promised throughout the sixties and seventies by Lesley Judd and Valerie Singleton et al are finally ready for distribution and once you arrive at your HS2 station of first choice, a click of the heels will transport you to your final destination. We can but dream.

Was the script for Downton Abbey written by text message or twitter?

I'm sorry, did I say that out loud?

I am sitting in the kitchen while the lady who sleeps on my left reclines lazily in the lounge enthralled by the popular period drama. From here it sounds like a series of statements issued in a staccato manner. Did they really talk like that?

I once caught a glimpse of the Downton's out popping at pheasants which resembled Orvis or Roxtons at London Fashion week.

Not my thing, but then in the words of 10cc, "life is a mulligatawny"

or possibly "minestrone"


We also travelled west along the M4 over the bridge and into Cardiff to visit Child B who is currently enjoying the haze of first year student life. The journey along the M4 highlighted how the M40 A34 M3 north-south route has become a vital transport link to the economy of this country as a booming car industry transports lorry loads of cars to the container ports of the south, along with lines of mobile homes and trailers for export to goodness knows where. Didn’t see one car transporter on the M4, I bet we saw 40 on the M40, if I had been ten years old with nothing to do in the car I would probably have counted them.
Cardiff is great, and we shall return to explore the revamped Tiger bay area, I may even put a rod in, Child B is currently ensconced fifty yards from the Taff, (although I am not sure he has noticed yet) a river that I believe contains some seriously senior barbel.

Child A is entered to run in the Great South Run on October 27th. Previous winners have included Mo Farah, Joe Pavey and Paul Radcliffe, or was it Paula? if a prerequisite for success is an androgynous name then child A may need to think again or perhaps enter as "Child A" although hopes at home are high despite her feminine moniker. She is running for the British Heart Foundation a worthy institution whose services I and many others may have to call upon one day. If you would like to sponsor my daughter in her quest for athletic medals follow this link where she can be sponsored via the magic of internet pixies and their sorcery