Thursday 17 March 2016

Cup my Corks and Call me Titan

Well here we are and all bridge work is complete.

Moving the old bridge from the river to the flight pond went rather well. The brains trust that is Lord Lugg and myself recognised the need to be fairly fluid with regard to a plan of action and adapted accordingly throughout the process (Process - the new word of first choice for football's David Brent - Alan Pardue, having graduated from the word "group")

The first few feet of the bridge that was a boat that was destined to be a bridge again was hauled from the water by the tractor onto the narrow isthmus that separates pond from river.

Short of space a long rope was passed over the island and across the pond to the repositioned tractor and the bridge hauled into the pond.

The proprietor of the establishment then turned up, replete with a month old new hip, to look in on the chaos of the bridge reshuffle.

before a rope was then run over a v in a tree in order to raise the nose of the bridge come boat onto the bank of the island.

The whole thing was then jiggled level with bars and winches and a hard wood bearing put under each end.

It went really well, and I expected all manner of problems, and was prepared at any moment to go at the thing with a chainsaw should we get stuck at any point.

But the bridge is in place, and the colours retired to Lord Ludgershall's log drying facility at the heart of his estate.

There are a few more willows to attend to that are impacting upon marginal growth on the middle bends, and then it's on to the final titivations before the beginning of the trout fishing season.

This week I added another year to my age, and edge ever closer to the halfway point of my life (the sustained consumption of red wine, dark chocolate, biffidus digestivum, fkax seed and chia seed indicate three figures is a bare minimum)

Last year I discovered the number 47 has magical qualities

Googling the number 48 we gain further numerological enlightenment

With Wikipedia as our guide we find that the number 48 is the natural number that follows 47 and precedes 49, it is one third of a gross, or four dozens.

Our friends at "Angel numbers" have 48 as a combination of the vibrations and attributes of the number 4 and number 8, the angels of abundance are all around and positive life experiences are ahead, do not concern yourself with material loss there will be ample compensation for the honest effort that has been put in. (I'll stop trying to get that hammer I dropped in the river while building a bridge then.)

While numerologists at "Riding the beast" point out that there are "48 petals of the two petals of the Ajna Chakra located between the two eyebrows"

Experts at are a little less upbeat and have the number 48 as the cause of a colourless life , and insist "if you really wish to have success, good family with wife and kids and posh home, you have to correct your name"

and talk of Majesty and Greatness and quote some psalm - "and man shall speak of the might of thy terrible acts: and I will declare thy greatness"

Combining these last two it's cup my corks and call me Titan for the next twelve months.

Go on and Google a number, it's a lot of fun!

There now follows a short clip of a debate in the second chamber of the House of Commons on rural broadband requested by our MP Caroline Nokes.
You may recognise the scenario described around the 9.45 point, and thank you very much Caroline Nokes.

An experiment in internet marketing:

Late Availability: We have a half rod available on Thursday. Every other Thursday from the last week in April until the second week in October. A mile and a half of prime chalk stream fishing shared with another rod, no marked beats, fish where you want and when you want, feel free to share your rod with a guest or send someone along in your place. It's all very relaxed, good fun and rods don't become available as some of our regulars have been fishing her over thirty years. If you are interested, don't be a stranger and drop us an email.

Tuesday 8 March 2016

Matters I should have attended to had I not been distracted by The Duchess of Cambridge

Matters I meant to attend to before I was distracted by bridges, Ludgershall and the Duchess of Cambridge, delivered in a punchy series of bullet points as it's all go around here.

1: Feck! Frank's gone. Little remains of the finest TV programme of the 1990s but Graham Norton. Ardel O'Hanlon and Pauline Mclynn.

2: Feck again, Louise Rennison's gone. She was only 63, such a loss.
Madam, myself and Child A fought to be the first to read each Georgia Nicholson book (forget the film) as it came out. Whither poor Moley, whose writings will one day be recognised as the definitive chronicles of his age, and all hail the genius of Sue Townsend, but Louise Rennison and Georgia Nicholson ran them as close as anyone.

3: George Martin now, Feck again

Apologies but I'll break off there. Just been called to the screen by Madam to take in a family experiencing life in progressive decades throughout the last century. 1990's tonight and a brief vignette where the children mock a dial up internet connection in 1996 and are introduced to the world of buffering at 0.5mb.

Internet speed in this house via the phone line dial up connection in 1996 - 0.5mb

Internet speed in this house via the phone line broadband connection twenty years later- 0mb

And we think we are a progressive nation

Nicely alight, I shall now abandon the bullet point approach and attend to Tim Peake, the nation's favourite space bitch, who I feel could turn a few more tricks for the price of his sojourn to other parts of the milky way. Giving out a few Brit awards, popping up on the radio breakfast show and promising to give us all a wave as you make your way across the evening sky should sow the seeds of a late life media career but come on Tim, a little more please. The lottery numbers perhaps, weather reports or traffic news from above or how about pointing out the bits of earth where the lights shine brightest and pondering why we don't spread out a little more.

Well That's Father Ted, Georgia Nicholson, Broadband and Space dealt with, now to attend to the river as in true Sesame St Style this guff is being brought to you by the numbers 47 (for that is the age about to pass me by) and the letter R for river

or Rugby Commentary.

ITV are making a fair fist of it, and Sky had a go, but please BBC drop Eddie Butler's attempts at Celtic lyricism to slow motion pictures of large men coming into contact with each other over an oval shaped ball. he may have written a novel and be quite well thought of in literary circles, but Richard Burton he ain't.

The best bit about the BBC Rugby coverage?

The red button, that allows you to take in Ian Robertson's take on the game with added pictures ( not that you need them) He's right up there with Bill Mc'Claren and Cliff Morgan and another skilled broadcaster advancing in years, who we will miss when he's gone at which point I'll make my repeated appeal for another broadcaster to be given more work,

As a licence payer, Prodnose to the Radio 2 breakfast show as quick as you can please BBC

Ah yes, the river.

Beyond the bridges I have also been shifting some silt with the tin. Quite a bit has accumulated in the last few weeks, as ditches have begun to flow after increased rain. It's a little later than I normally would like to do it, but two weeks should see the job done in time for the grayling to get on with the business of spawning.
Ninety five percent of the work on the pheasant pen is now complete. I'll finish the last few bits of fence work off in July before we get a few pheasant poults and make moves to resurrect the shoot in woods that have been impassable for the past few winters. Currently the valley is brim full of ducks undertaking their ill mannered relations, (who'd be a female mallard at this time of the year?) and there are fifty odd greylag and canada geese on the meadow immediately upstream.

Burning the reed beds went reasonably well on a dry day at the start of the week, and the wall of flame advancing up the valley also drew the eye of the police helicopter that patrols the Highway to the Sun. It may becoming a perennial saying of mine at this time of the year, but burning bits of fen and reed bed increases biodiversity in a chalk valley.

The couple of grayling fishermen who have had a go this month will confirm that the brown trout are in fine form and the grayling are perhaps starting to think of other things, showers of rain have caused the river to colour quickly but it soon returns to sufficient clarity to allow sight fishing, a sign of the increasing contribution to the river's discharge made by groundwater.

The dog won't use the new bridge. He may be cleverer than we think and accessed the step by step guide to bridge building in a previous post, which makes him both an IT wizard and civil engineer. Even on a frosty morning he's opted for the swimming option over breaking step on the bridge.

And at this point I'll break off to bring you news from our music correspondent

I like a little background tune when tapping the keys, and there are those who insisted they could "name that tune in one" by the words that ended up on the page when I used to compile reports on local football matches, although this may have coincided with my "Nina Simone" phase when writing football match reports I would inadvertently turn on the ref when Nina's "Sinnerman" came on

These guys are really good:

Yes the Adele, yes The Osmands (especially the tall one who is now on Pointless) and yes Beat machine ( I think that's right) , and OK this may be a little more folksy than my usual ear worms, but having developed a mid-life penchant for a pulse, the dried thing in a packet that promises to make me live for ever, although it's always good to feel the throb of an artery first thing in the morning and confirmation you've made it through another night, I am increasingly drawn to this musical genre and when in wine, often consider swapping the car for a cart, hitching up a beast of burden, and living a life in dungarees up a wooden ladder building barns.


Oh yes,

And so to Europe,

Or not,

As the whole thing has descended into a nonsensical argument akin to kids in a playground throwing jingoism and project fear at each other. It's worn me down, and that man across the pond with the remarkable haor is giving me the willies

So I'll conclude on a nostalgic note, and hey India, Egypt and Australia ? How about getting the gang back together and doing the "empire" thing again,

Monday 7 March 2016

Moving Bridges with Lord Ludgershall - The Duchess of Cambridge ducked this one, away Skiing

Building bridges last week, moving bridges this week.

The old bridge made from a telegraph pole split down the middle with a double thickness deck on top has a few years left in it yet and will serve as a replacement for the wobbly bridge to the island on the flight pond where it will see much lighter use.

It could have been dismantled and rebuilt, but the prospect of raising some sail and driving it up the river seemed far more fun, so the coast guard was consulted, the shipping forecast duly noted, and with Lord Ludgershall on hand to record events with his box brownie the flag was raised and we made haste for the flight pond.

There was a poignant moment when the old bridge passed beneath the new one, a changing of the guard if you will, before we were into the bends and some tricky manoeuvring , I'd adopted the method of taking the racing line, but the salty old dog on the bank was consulting charts and at one point produced a sextant before warning of dangerous waters ahead and I was advised to alter my approach.

Once again he was right and the weir on Wells Ride proved to be a perpendicular clash between two gnarled old telegraph poles, each eager to gain an advantage over the other; a clash threatened to go the distance,

so the sail was furled and the tractor summoned to haul the bridge over the obstinate weir and end the stalemate (Note to self - if we do this kind of thing again I may need to build some kind of lock at this juncture)

Over the obdurate weir, it was on with the motor for a brief bit of cruising on flat water and for a short time the craft was up on the plane before we entered shallower water as the river rattles down a steeper gradient. The vessel ran aground and I have to admit that I nearly gave up at this point and was considering dowsing the thing in diesel and sending it off downstream, and if anybody asked any questions? well the Vikings were obviously back in town.

But Lord Lugg was having none of it and was reminded of the time he was involved in the search for the source of the Nile when natives had been coerced into carrying his forty foot cruiser several miles through thick jungle,

and so to the beat of his drum from the bank, I switched off the engine and hauled the thing up the shallows step by step through the fast flow over the clinging gravel to the double bends and water too deep for me to wade.

The engine was set to tick over and what may well have passed as the world's first wooden aircraft carrier was set to auto pilot and guided up the long slow straight with punt poles to the tight bend at the end where some expert handling (as we were nothing short of veteran bargees by now) saw it around the corner and I resumed my role as Captain.

The fast stretch that follows which is perfect for a left-handed fisherman and where many fish tuck hard under the bank, was negotiated and we briefly considered going on past the flight pond as we were held rapt by the possibility of what may lie beyond each bend and anyway we were quite the cruisers now and didn't want to make shore, at which point Lord Ludgershall suggested that the boat we had passed earlier with the orange glow may have been the Flying Dutchman and we had now inadvertently consigned ourselves to a life afloat, so a safe berth was secured on a quiet bend from where it will be hauled to the flight pond later this week.

Returning to the new bridge to break camp and take a final cup of coffee, as it's case closed with regard to this site, an eye was kept out for a bridge sailing on by, as my knots are not what they once were and if anyone downstream does find they have received the gift of a bridge in the night please don't be stranger, as I am confident that with some assistance I can come down with my electric outboard motor and drive the thing back home, even from Southampton.

The engine that Chris and Lord Ludgershall used during this expedition was made by Minn Kota

That's Minn Kota folks

Sourced from somewhere else in the world and sent through the post in no time at all.

It's a global market everyone,

although my enquiries to buy a large number of plastic chairs for the cricket club direct from a man in China via the magic of the internet has repercussions that continue to this day

Friday 4 March 2016

Building bridges with Lord Ludgershall and The Duchess of Cambridge

Here follows a photographic record of a bridge being built over the river Dever.

It's a new one for me, as I normally undertake such tasks alone in the utmost secrecy as I like to take my time, minimise mistakes and anyway it's quite a satisfying task to undertake and such things should be savoured

This time, Lord Ludgershall has dodged his duties in the other place and travelled from the family seat daily (a cost unclaimed on parliamentary expenses) to assist me in my task and record events with his box brownie

With Ludgershall facetiously whistling Colonel Bogey, I began the task without paper plans, and a slight fug as to how I had pictured the bridge when placing the order for the wood a month ago. Banging the first few posts in from the repositioned old bridge seemed a good place to start, taking my time to make sure each post was straight as I will have to look at this bridge every day that I am employed to walk these banks.

The river is about four feet deep at this point with a gravel bottom ,and with a requirement for a hand rail,

the posts on the upstream side were ten feet long and banged straight into the gravel and then left for twenty four hours for the gravel to grip them and provide a sturdier feel.

Runners and bearings the next day, another steady job with the emphasis on getting things level, as all else after this is dressing,
a point lost on Lord Ludgershall who played Statler and Waldorf from the bank to my Fozzie Bear with repeated cries of "get on with it"

Ludgershall, always keen to discuss the issues of the day, briefly turned his back on bridge building when the conversation turned to Europe, he is no bridge builder and muttered something about some form of control of passage on one end of the bridge at this point,

but when I jumped into the river to complete dangerous manoeuvres with a chainsaw (It is writ on the label of my hat purchased online that the skins of the aborted foetuses of karakul lambs used to construct my headgear in Tajikistan are woven with kevlar, and the accompanying glasses are constructed from the windscreen of a long defunct space shuttle, I am safe, and feel kinda healthy, but could someone invent some chainsaw trousers that will fit under neoprene waders)

His interest soon resumed to the task in hand.

Strings out for the deck, which can hide all manner of mistakes beneath,

In all weathers, but I will never complain about rain at this time of year.

and the slats are measured individually, cut and fixed.

The handrail is attached and sanded down and wire attached to the deck to provide traction for the most gripless of wellies.

The old bridge is hauled from its position,

and floated downstream to its temporary berth before the journey to its new home on the flight pond,

and then we were faced with the conundrum of who to open the bridge.

Norman Foster was busy, and Brunel was not answering his phone.

So Lord Ludgershall called in a few favours (and this is where an ermine coat pays) and within the hour the Duchess of Cambridge had abandoned her game of tennis and was preparing to cut the ribbon. She seemed to show great interest in the types of weed I pointed out to her and I like to think she understood the importance of ranunculus.

I must confess that I experienced a Will Carling, Princess Diana moment and was completely smitten (the lady who sleeps on my left will always have Tom Selleck and Peter Powell so I am exonerated)

At one point the Duchess got quite giggly and requested a ride on my tractor, at which point I thought - Hello,

but Lord Ludgershall's ribald tone turned her head and our moment was gone.

C'est la Vie (Robbie Nevil 1985)

but one of my better bridges,

thank you Lord for your assistance.