Saturday 15 February 2014

The Beast of Bransbury and further F******* Puddles

Following late night discussions over the fate of the fallen Field Maple that fell in our garden, and reclined on our roof throughout the night, it was decided that the course of action recommended by those clad in the finest fleece and cutting edge walking shoes, to stand back and record its decomposition from the kitchen window over the coming years, logging any flora and fauna aroused by its broken limbs would be ignored, and the decision was taken to cut the bloody thing up, which I have carried out for much of today, pausing only to mutter

"another chuffing tree down, but at least this one’s on dry land and not laid in another f****** puddle!"

It turns out the tree played host to the “Beast of Bransbury” a Puma, five feet in length that had been sighted on several occasions and photographed by people with keen interests in manual focus and depth of field.

If I had gone at this tree while it was still standing there is no doubt that I would have broken something.

Madams’ shed could have been flattened, the three lines of electricity that cross the garden left flapping, or several windows or walls left battered. The Good Lord laid this tree down with precision and the deftest of touch that broke nothing more than my best plant pot, I may even take in the “God Channel” during a lull in Match of the Day probably when Sir Shearer is on,

Say what you see Alan.

Alan: Well he’s taken it down on his chest and he’s kicked it toward the goal and the goalkeeper hasn’t saved it and it’s gone into the net, so it’s a goal

Gary: Thanks for the insight Alan . In today’s game at the Emirates.............

It’ll take a few days to clear up, and there was a hairy moment in the afternoon when the whole thing slipped eighteen inches down the bank, but the roof is now sheeted over and the tree lies in a million pieces in the garden awaiting storage. On the upside it couldn’t be closer to the log basket so with my time and motion head on it may be stacked in the garden ,as long as we leave space for the “cue ce barb” and a couple of chairs we’ll live with it this summer.

Thanks to all the offers of help in dealing with the busted boughs.

Late in the afternoon I nipped over to the Itchen in order to take in the effect of the weir that Wickes built beneath the M3 motorway.

There’s no direct route to be had around here, with many minor roads and the odd major road closed across the county. Half an hour later, after a distance of nearly twenty miles (please note Mr/Mrs/ Miss Taxman)The three hundred acre lake had yet to materialise but there was flooding in the meadows.

Winchester remains at risk. As a result Wickes, and the Beautiful British Army, have been summomned to make more weirs to stop Alfred’s seat from becoming too soggy; this time using the culverts under the A34.

It’s a great effort in desperate times, but may be a short term fix for a city, that when the rain recedes,will remain struck by groundwater flooding well into spring.

Strange days indeed (you’ve done that one to death ed)

Friday 14 February 2014

An out of bank experience

And the Bafta nominee for shakiest camera work and worst soundtrack in the open air is...

“Floods II – broke bank fountain”

Featuring in appearance order:

The ditch that carries water away from the neighbouring village,

The River Dever at Bransbury

And a groundbreaking performance that trod new roads from a portion of The River Test

Strange days indeed, four months ago this river and the aquifers that feed it were at one of the lowest levels recorded, today sages predict that they will soon be at the highest ever recorded; from off the bottom of the gauge at Weston Colley to a substantial out of bank experience. Nothing on the scale of the Thames, Severn and Somerset Levels but this is a chalkstream and this is very unusual behaviour for groundwater fed rivers, strange days indeed (repeated for emphasis ed). After the floodwaters subside on flashier rivers the groundwater flow will mean that fields and roads in chalk valleys will remain flooded far longer.

Two days ago we made the Environment Agency’s excellent live flood map in red, and each evening we have received a recorded message reminding us of the danger of flooding and not to underestimate the power of the water. Here, we are some way off property being affected by flooding from the river channel, but ground water is rising at a remarkable rate. The borehole that supplies water to the Mill house and the house in which we live is bubbling like the Trevi fountain and is at a level almost equal to the level of the lowest room in the Mill House, as a result an extra pump has been fired up that hooks the exuberant ground water away to the river and we have been advised to boil all that we drink, althogh I draw the line at Mulled Wine, makes me liverish. In two to three weeks a bigger pump may be required as the ground water will keep on rising for quite some while yet. A drive up the Bourne, Upper Test and Dever reveals a plethora of private pumps at work shifting groundwater that threatens to cover the entire valley, and I have just returned from spending a few hours moving furniture to higher ground in a basement that has been invaded by groundwater.

Part of the previous two days has been spent chucking sandbags around in the neighbouring village. A series of houses were under threat from a spring ditch that was all but out of control, a sandbag berm was built and a pump put in place to shift water from the side of the houses, but waves from passing traffic breached the barrier and the benefit of fifteen minutes of pumping was cancelled in an instant.
The road was closed but still the traffic came, ignoring the road closed signs, the cars broken down on the side of the road being attended to by the AA and the several people waving their arms and pleading with them not to enter the hundred yard stretch of road that was underwater and rising to smash on through and send wave after wave surging up to stricken houses. It was a fairly depressing episode that also included a school bus driving over a road closed sign to deliver his load, a flatbed truck swerving midstream to put the wind up someone who was asking them to slow down and a white single deck coach from Andover whose driver was asked politely to find another way home with his empty vehicle but instead pressed on regardless, taking his hands from the steering wheel midstream to perform a hilarious mime of someone swimming underwater. His bow wave took the top line of sandbags off the barrier and another fifteen minutes of pumping had been carried out in vain.

He was really funny, it was a great mime of a person swimming and was just what was required at that particular moment and drew rave reviews, the best of which is listed below:


In what may have been a bungled effort to pick a day to bury bad news, all who manned the flood defence had that day received through the post compulsory notice from the water authorities that their properties were to be fitted with water meters to preserve a commodity which was becoming ever more precious.

"Hear hear!" said I

Which instigated a tense stand off between myself and several poised with buckets that were about to be thrown my way.

Over on the Itchen things have taken an unusual twist. In order to save Winchester from aquatic Armageddon, the M3 motorway was closed one evening and over a hundred one tonne sacks of sand and gravel lowered into the main river at the point that it shoots through the substantial culvert below the UK’s highway number 3. It’s the weir that Wickes built and the idea is to flood the land upstream in order to gain Winchester some breathing space particularly in the coming few days when several inches of rain is forecast. Innovative thinking from the folk at flood defence and by accident rather than design, but where we saw a motorway crossing a valley they saw dam potential. Models predict (and Cindy Crawford is rarely wrong in these matters) that three hundred acres of water meadow will be flooded to a depth of four feet, the chap who lives by the main bridge in Easton will have the willies but if it sees Winchester through the next rough week of weather, well done the blokes at the EA.

What if there were a set of hatches in place under the M3 to carry out this kind of operation and negate the need for a sponsorship deal with Wickes?

Oh yes, impounded streams and all that, best rip the hatches and sluices out then.

While I will readily knock the EA and their cohorts at the planning level, in the field over the past few weeks they deserve more than some of the stick that has been thrown their way. A media savvy bunch with twitter feeds and YouTube posts from each team in the field they are equipped with all the gear and energy to make a difference but have been let down by leadership, planning and budget. Follow a few on the internet to find out what they have had to put up with this past week. The local council have been very good with their sandbank distribution and troop movements up and down the A303 are comforting along with the huge pumps that we saw pass en route from Holland to the Somerset Levels.

Further down the river Romsey’s World of Water (a tropical and freshwater fish emporia) reached nirvana as the nearby river flowed through their premises. Inspired by “Free Willy” several substantial sturgeon have fled into the neighbouring river Test. We have seen sturgeon feed on the surface, swimming upside down to take floating baits with their under slung mouths in a French lake so there could be some fun to be had at Mayfly time on the lower Test.

I was kindly contacted by a chap asking what I thought of Richard Benyon’s suggestion to allow flooding in the headwaters of the Kennet in order to delay its discharge into the Thames. I may be wrong, and could quite possibly have dreamt this one but a hundred years ago didn’t a system of hatches, ditches and carrier streams exist in most chalkstreams to push water around the floodplain, giving man control over a river system which allowed retention or release of water. The meadows would be flooded as a matter of course to encourage an early flush of grass for grazing. Marry that knowledge of how water meadows work with today’s enlightened times on habitat and its management and we may just be walking the right road.

Don’t rip the hatches out but learn how to use them, understand what is and isn’t achievable with each set of sluices and return to some sensible channel management.

Apologies for the garbled nature of this post, fairly frantic times.

Traffic News: Just heard that A303 dual carriage way, the Great Western road to some , the North/South divide to others, has been closed fifteen miles est of here due to flooding. If you were planning on a camping trip to Cornwall this weekend you will need to find another route.

And now this has just happened. The perfect prelude to Valentine's day l'amore

A chuffin tree falling on the back of your home!

Tuesday 11 February 2014

Clockwork! the future of domestic power!

I wish I knew how it would feel to be free,
I wish I could break all the chains holding me,
I wish I could say all the things I should say,
say ‘em loud say ‘em clear for the whole wide world to hear.

With Barry Norman unavailable,

Is he still around? Wikipedia seems to think so, but they are never the most reliable source, I saw him at a Test match a few years ago and he looked well enough so fingers crossed. He was quite good on Spitting image as well as the film show,


Audio’s beyond me, so the written lyrics for the theme tune to the BBC’s once famous film review show (there’s no plugs here) will have to serve as an introduction to this latest piece of written rubbish which opens with a three minute film of flooding in these parts, which may or may not be up for a BAFTA, who am I to say?

For those who have fished here or are due to fish here during the coming season I’d leave the suede shoes at home and perhaps pop in a few bids for some fancy waterproof boots on ebay

It feels like half time in the cup tie with Floodsville united. Some rivers will have experienced a hiatus over the past forty eight hours without significant rain or may have even fallen a little but in chalk valleys where replenishment comes via groundwater supply the level has risen insidiously over the past few days. We have a long way yet to go this winter and I confidently predict that the sequel to this BAFTA nominated film due to released next week will feature even higher levels of drama, with ducks playing in places they shouldn’t a particular highlight.

A few days ago while disposing of the weekend’s empties at the bottle bank I bumped into an octogenarian from the next village who used to write on important matters for The Times newspaper. His family have lived in the valley for generations and, an accomplished angler, he commented that his father had always said the” The river Test was too much of lady to flood” Well she is being a bit of a bitch at the moment, switching her mood from the low flows of last autumn to current conditions of high flow. In the last few days two of our wooden bridges have given up and floated away, and snowdrops are flowering despite being under six inches of water. We are yet to be inundated with wading birds that the flood protagonists assured us would make merry in condition such as these.

The electric substation remains under siege from all things aqua and the situation is unlikely to improve in the coming weeks. Fortunately the transformers are bunded and have a few inches of protection but at this point shouldn’t we call in to question the decision to throw everything in with Eddison and opt for the electrical route?

Surely “clockwork” was the way forward, proper power with no issues over water.


Following a gentle reminder of commitments made on the first day of this year, determined efforts are being made to avoid criticism of those in higher places during the laying down of this drivel.

Part 2

Snowboarders are great!

I am not riding the crest of a wave of emotion after Bridget Jones clinched a much deserved bronze medal, but am genuinely impressed by the whole bunch. A spectacular sport that held the lady who sleeps on my left and myself rapt for much of the past weekend. A creditable crowd who are quick to laugh at themselves, they are skilled and brave with a genuine respect for their opponent and are an example that other sports would do well to follow.
In the ladies event one competitor flunked a jump landed on her head travelled fifty yards with legs flapping in all manner of unusual directions, but within a minute she was up on her feet, albeit with a smashed helmet, to scoot down the remainder of the course to receive the applause of her contemporaries.
The contrast with football or cricket (sports once close to my heart) is stark. If Chico Flores had bumped his head like the wee dot of a girl pushing for a medal he would have been out for weeks, let alone finishing the game, and if Michael Clarke had been at the bottom of the slope to welcome a brave competitor it would not have been the hugs of fellow snowboarders that welcomed him but a “next time you’ll break your F*****arm”
Tongue tied footballers could also learn a little from the snow-boarding vernacular. Baffling at times and not a little bonkers, it does set the scene and each particular competitor, like the Lusitania at either end of a transatlantic crossing is either “stoked” or “unstoked”
The BBC got itself in a bit of a muddle when one of our pioneering competitors declared himself to be “hucked” for which the BBC issued a swift apology, although no apology was forthcoming for allowing Austrian Ski jumper Andreas Wank to run twice through his repertoire well before the watershed.
The traditional ski jumping that followed seemed a little tame, and both the lady who sleeps on my left and myself were urging all who competed to chuck in a few spins or flips in order to up the style marks.
A wise old manager currently on a lengthy secondment in the North East, attempted to divert the spotlight that had shone fully on the 2012 Olympics back to football, and he sagely pointed out that football too is a beautiful and noble game, played in a terrific spirit by fair minded players with the utmost respect for each other, before being sent to the stands seventy minutes into the first game of the season for abusing the fourth official and the opposing manager.

Phew made it, without making mention of the Generalissimo, the EA, NA, WTT, RSPB, H&IOWWT or anything else in capital letters, I even refrained from compiling my top five most ridiculous people in football.

Oh, Ok then

But in the spirit of all things “Pointless” I will leave a few letters out or jumble the odd word up to avoid litigation.

1. Lana Padrew
2. S_m _ll_rdy_e
3. Joes Minorhio
4. A_l_ S_e_r_r
5. Any manager of Stoke City, it just isn’t football.

PS: I have just spent the afternoon dishing out sandbags to several houses in the village where water laps at the door, the Dever and the Upper Test are now writ red on the excellent EA live flood warning map.

Friday 7 February 2014

In Generalissimo Smith we trust

More rain and further rivers rising but thank goodness we have a white knight to see us through these damp times. Enter Lord Smith leader of the Environment Agency who cut straight to the nub of the current predicament by informing us that it is a straight choice between towns flooding and countryside flooding. At which point I would like to employ the modern method of using lots of punctuation in a row to emphasise a point:


Sorry, that should read


Six figures a year for three days work a week, gosh the EA were lucky to get him!

In many respects it is about time the EA “grew a pair” It would serve them well in the future when faced with burly frackers, and also in the argument between flood defence and conservation over the way in which our river channels are managed. For far too long they have pandered to the demands of Natural England and the many conservation and wildlife trusts who have come up with some of the daftest diktat in recent times. They must resist the demands of flood defence to dredge deep and wide and ignore the call from voluble conservation groups to do nothing but stand back and watch, and find a compromise that will go some way to meeting the demands of both flood defence and conservation.

It can be done and, wise old owl that he is, I am sure the Generalissimo has made preparations,

But then again,

Groundwater is on the rise in these environs and two of the four roads out of the village resemble rivers as the groundwater makes its way along the carriageway to the river, the other two roads that leave the village border the river which, if it floods, will leave the ancient drove that takes the high route over the hill the only dry track out of town, which may be why it exists in the first place because water levels such as these would have been more common hundreds of years ago when there was less demand on groundwater supply and water was generally more plentiful. It may be tough on some but for a chalkstream the market is booming, dividends are high, interests are on the up and growth is groovy,

I think that’s right, I’m not a money man but I am sure I have heard these words said in financial circles.

The recent rain will act as a tremendous fillip to beleaguered chalkstreams that only four months ago were down on their knees with depleted aquifers and a stale water flow.

Peter the Pollution man from the EA made a great job of clearing up, after what is now known in these parts as the “Castrol Catastrophe that could have been” Four visits and a succession of magic mats soaked up much of what lay in the ditch, which is just as well as two days later the water rose and what oil remained flowed out into the spring hole and on into the river. This week the parish has received the gift of a white two seater sofa, which has been ripped apart, possibly by bears according to some enlightened neighbours who spend very little time in the countryside living as they do for much of the time in SW6,

Where there may or may not be bears, I couldn't say, it's not my patch.

I don’t like to call Peter out again, he is probably very busy and the sofa is unlikely to enter the aquatic environment but I may give Marwell Zoo a call to check if they have their full quota of bears.

Trees continue to tumble and all that is felled in the wood will remain until next winter as much of the wood is under six inches of water. A small hawthorn fell a third of the way across the top shallows and within an hour the river upstream had lifted an inch and was making its way across the water meadows . Swiftly moving into action, and yes I am capable of brief periods of swiftness even in this battered condition, I jumped in the river chainsaw in hand and charged with excitement the offending hawthorn bristling with spikey forms. My first charge was repelled by the steely wood so I retired to the bank to sharpen my sword/chainsaw and resumed battle with renewed vigour (yes yes, I can do vigour, if only occasionally), using the flow to slay the beast with a swift cut from beneath before diving off downstream to drag it out to the side. Within an hour the river had refrained from flowing across the fields (which remained flooded but with standing water) and the flow returned to its swollen channel.

Woody Debris anyone?

A carrier stream off the main river Test has, in line with Natural England, Wild Trout Trust, Wildlife Trust and RSPB thinking been left alone for some years, I pass it most days and sigh. This past week has seen the sigh shift to profuse profanity and here’s why:

Left to grow in, with woody debris very much to the fore along with a series of fences across its main channel, the water had nowhere to go. Subsequently it quickly burst its banks and surrounded the electricity substation that supplies amps and ohms to this village and the next,

It has then made its way across four fields of pasture
before taking out a chalk wall that is quite old and probably never expected the river to come this way.

It then flows a hundred yards down the road,
before joining the Dever just below our bottom boundary.

In effect, a portion of the River Test is now flowing down our road, and its planned confluence with the Dever has shifted a mile upstream.

With the price of a yard of chalkstream bank at an all time high, you would think this is a good thing for the local community, some municipal fishing albeit it at the cost of an old chalk wall, possible powercut/outages, four fields of pasture and the village’s main thoroughfare.

In the next few weeks our new river’s discharge will undoubtedly increase and the road become unpassable, we may even lose power if the substation becomes flooded and it could all so easily be avoided if the carrier in question had been managed in a different way. The fields would still have flooded, but not to the extent that they are now.
Natural England et al would have us all retreat into a hide to conduct a watching brief, but when will the penny drop that river systems that have been managed by man for hundreds of years must continue to be managed in a sympathetic way to both habitat and water level if they are not to have significant impact.

Standing back and watching with clipboard in hand doesn’t work,

(at which point I will switch to vernacular from across the pond)

End Of!


Getgo! (that one may be wrong)

Well that's the "keep calm and trust in the authorities" new year resolution gone for a burton

As ever, we remain increasingly led by loons