Friday 11 September 2015


Well, ever since I adopted a hirsute look to the fizz, a litany of disaster has ensued.

First day back from Croatia, I boarded the tractor reversed ten yards out of the workshop and the guts fell out of the engine as the entire contents of the sump left a thick black line across the workshop floor and gravel. We are approaching the end of the season and I will cut the banks with a push along mower and strimmer for the remaining few weeks. The next day, with two rugby playing work experience lads aged sixteen and bursting with energy about the place, I decided to tackle the substantial piles of wood we have about the place and fill the log storage facility. A new chain was purchased to replace a tired old set of links, and during fitting the chain brake spring went piff, and jammed the spinning wheel thingy, outside the cog on the drive shaft from the engine. The long handled hedge cutter that has become such a vital piece of equipment for riverkeepers was the next thing to falter, as I inadvertently soaked the engine while working chest deep in the river and the thing is now in pieces on the bench drying out. Next I received an email from the new editor of The Shooting Times, explaining that the rubbish I write was being refreshed from fortnightly to monthly, and half as many cheques would be dropping onto the mat, which I kind of expected as I always expected to be found out, but we shall miss the pocket money all the same.

Today I must cook a pig for the cricket club presentation do, no pressure, but there are many mouths to feed, I've just realised it's Friday the 13th, goodness knows what will happen, it's either have a shave, or pop the takeaway menu for Wayne Wong's into my back pocket just in case.

It's not Friday the 13th, my watch isn't working.

Anglers are still commenting on the colour of the water, and we still have foam. I have just learnt that somebody in the village upstream from here noticed water running down a farm track and onto the meadow that seemed to be emanate from the water treatment works. It may have been nothing, and I don't like to point fingers, but it is a shame the chap in question didn't report it at the time, but then he is not a fisherman. Public awareness needs to be raised with regard to this sort of thing.

Fishing remains difficult, we have had some good hatches of sedge and olives bar the blue winged ones and there are some canny fish in the river, but they rise from the depths to nose any offering and are non committal when it comes to the actual take. This may be a result of the high number of fish that were pricked or lost in the first months of the season, or they may have been feeding hard below the surface.
The otters haven't helped matters who still visit periodically, it was a fourteen pound pike that ended up needlessly on the bank this week and I fear for our two pound plus roach and grayling who no longer seem to be about. Heron seem to have had a good breeding year and are also making a nuisance of themselves, but hey the freshwater fish population can take the hit, can't it?

Kick samples this week threw up the expected numbers of most things, bar mayflies. It wasn't a cause for alarm, as it has happened before and a second sample a few days later found quite a few, but the mayfly nymph does seem to gad about a bit on the bottom of the river.

With the chainsaw repaired, all wood storage facilities are now full of the beech and oak that fell during the floods in early 2014, which inevitably instigates a warm glow inside...... me and the house. After the errant limb of a conker tree dumped the electric lines on the roof of our home, an inspection by an eminent tree surgeon has declared that the tree is in rude health and this is what two hundred year old conker trees are prone to do. The beech of a similar age is also doing well but its contemporary the ash on the edge of the road is on its way out, rotting form the base up with the crown in retreat. The jackdaws love it and each year nest in the hole half way up the main trunk and last year the top twenty feet fell off onto the road in the middle of summer. If it was up the river or in the wood, I'd go at it myself, saw a buzzin, but it is right on the road, in amongst the power lines and a bit beyond me. A gang are booked to take it down bit by bit from a cherry picker as the upper part is unsafe to climb. They will leave the logs as it stands fifty feet from our log storage facility, so that is next winters' logs taken care of which renders the six substantial balsam poplars that fell over in the floods redundant. They are not the best logs and we chopped and stacked them thinking that we would need them for next winter, but now we don't so this week we have been conducting experiments with the medium of fire to try and incinerate the unsightly stumps that remain. It kinda worked, and a leaf blower fanning the flames undoubtedly intensified the heat sufficiently to char the stumps, even if they are not reduced to ash they will be dead and done in a few years.

It looks like it will be tree work again this winter, with the bank-side trees left alone for two years now following the carnage in the wood that had to be dealt with last winter. Two years unchecked growth on some of the crack willow has certainly affected the fishing and highlighted the importance of regular willow management. I have said it before, but this stuff could conquer the world if left unchecked and is one of the key roles of the chalk stream river keeper.

Believe it or not, and today's local paper is the first time it has come to my attention, but this valley and the next have received government recommendation for licences to frack. It comes as no surprise, and I won't go on, as I have already on many occasions, but the consultation period, which somebody seems to have forgotten to publicise, ends on 29th September, when a licences will undoubtedly be granted and this river and our water supply will be in the safe hands of the government agencies and the industry's regulatory bodies,

and yes that's you Generalissimo Smith,

In the words of Stevie Wonder,

"I just called to say I love you"

No, not that one

"Heaven help us all"

And there we have it, I may post a little more regularly now I have been "refreshed" for which I apologise in advance. Ok I have the added pressure of featuring on the "ask the experts " panel for the magazine, and trumping up ideas for feature articles that may merit publication, but I don't anticipate anything too taxing. If anybody out there in magazine land needs any written

Now may be the time to get my head down and come up with some other such guff, but if anybody out there in magazine land needs some written rubbish, don't be a stranger, I'll have a go at anything.

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