Monday 17 October 2016

Down with Hedges and Walk a Mile in My Shoes

The vanguard of this winter's grayling anglers arrived earlier this week and two up from Devon enjoyed surprisingly good sport with fish to a pound and a half off the top in the afternoon. It isn't easy as the river remains down to its bare bones and I have deferred putting the thing to bed for the winter in order to provide as much cover and protection for what sexually mature brown trout remain from a burgeoning population of avian predators. Heron and Little Egret mostly, both of which can cause carnage to a fish population seeking to spawn in clear shallow water. We've had a reasonable amount of rain this week but not enough to lift the river. The ditch to the earth stew ponds remains dry and would not function as a salmonid rearing unit should we still be in that game. It's the same on many other rivers in the south, a couple of grayling anglers reported that the Frome was in a similar state, but I am constantly surprised by the number of people who express surprise that the river is low, particularly some who are paid considerable sums of money to be across such matters.

Hedges play a big part of Autumn life in this parish and at this point could I make the case for brick walls, fences or white lines as the future of boundary demarcation. Yes the birds, yes the hogs and yes the fashion for being dragged through the thing backwards, but even in my current athletic prime I'm struggling to conquer some of the arboreal leviathans that hem this place in. Come on Science, surely in this age we can come up with some digital alternative to what is, a medieval solution to keeping the cattle in.

Can we all agree that this kind of thing has had its day and sign up to a campaign for more virtual hedges (sorry Packham and Oddie et al) donations can be made at www.justgiving/hedgesareoldhatfencesarethefuture.

For those who have visited here, the hedge that borders the gravel yard is over twenty feet wide at the top and you'll be aware of how long my arms are and how far my chest has slipped, so forgive my ire, as for eleven and a half months of the year hedges are good things.

With the onset of Autumn everything also seems to be reluctant to lose their green hues, stingers are still stinging in the wood and we still see the odd swallow and martin

Apparently Ed Balls is a real person, and not a training ground routine favoured by some of the neanderthals who populate a game that is now only occasionally beautiful.

Call me a conspiracy theorist but the BBC seem very keen to promote Ed's cause and hey Comrade Jez expect another challenge to your leadership soon, that or the genesis of an alternative political party occupying the centre left with Ed very much to the fore.
I don't think this is what I pay my licence fee for, but Rupert uses my sky subscription to further his many cases with politicos so we are where we are,

which I seem to find myself saying with increasing regularity these days, and if presented with an opportunity to pick up this river along with family and friends and retreat to an island and pull up a drawbridge, I'd take it like a shot, as the pattern of voting on the BBC's flagship hoofathon and the tone of the jungle drums worldwide point to poisonous times ahead.

Anyway, Ed Balls: hubristic hopeless hoofer who many in the media and particularly at the BBC, seem keen to promote.

I shall attend to Chairman May in the weeks to come, but in the interim if anyone wants to start a political party on the basis of let's be sensible, all get along, look up not down and have a bit of fun, then I'm in.

Sandi Toksvig's got some good ideas, why can't she have a go?

Regular visitors to this parish will be aware of my propensity to ramble, so when Madam suggested that we undertake such an activity at the weekend I retorted that I was a seasoned campaigner in the business.

I was presented with a cagoule and knapsack and a withering look and detailed to source a compass, gators and buff up on my valderi, valdera as we were about to go hardcore with regard to all things left foot, right foot.

Now I'll confess that in my youth, I was quite the walker.

Mostly through scouts and the Cheshire Hike, a two day county competition for teams of two carrying 25kg each over thirty odd miles that my mate and I somehow managed to win at the age of fourteen.
A group of us, madam included, once pushed a supermarket trolley from the north west to marble arch to raise money for Save the Children and if I rocked up at a student party and didn't approve of proceedings I'd think nothing of walking up to ten miles home in the early hours. Yes I was quite the walker, and feel justified in stating that I've ticked that box. Not that I'd want to give up walking altogether, just unnecessary walking,

but what Madam was suggesting was recreational.

Golf without the sticks, fishing without the rods, football without a ball,

madness had surely taken hold.

Anyway the case was made that accompanying Madam on her meanderings coupled with the sustained consumption of red wine, dark chocolate and bifidus digistibum meant that those misspelt invitations to our hundredth wedding anniversary party (should have been tenth) may come in handy one day if we walked far enough. Exercise is important at our time of life apparently.

Chilbolton and its' common with requisite commoners last week, a gentle stroll on even ground, knapsack free in full sun and home in time for a late Sunday lunch. Which was nice and a few more years in the bank. .

Further afield this week. We're building up to hills, so opted for a canal side trek that guaranteed level ground. The Kennet and Avon canal to be precise. Leaving our car at a railway station on the GWR line we set off towards our destination of Hungerford and train ride back to what all agree is the best mode of getting from A to B, the motor car.

Roped together our party consisted of myself, madam and Otis. Otis expecting his usual half hour walk was a spent force thirty five minutes in and tried to stymie our progress by walking slowly in front of us on a narrow tow path. After an hour and a bit he fell/threw himself into the canal and had to be pulled out. After two and a bit hours Hungerford appeared like an oasis in the desert and our spirits were restored by provender that included cheese and sauvignon blanc.

We caught the train back, which was free.

We tried to buy a ticket but there was no obvious machine and no guard on the train. We spoke to the driver and he implored us to "just get on" which seemed a little free and easy. We have subsequently made the retrospective purchase of two tickets as neither of us could sleep that night which we attributed to guilt rather than aching limbs and sore feet.

Today we have purchased proper walking shoes, and next weekend we march on Nepal,

Or possibly another section of level canal

I'm quite happy to emerge from hiking retirement but on condition that we exchange the dried food, survival bags and compass work. for regular stops, light conversation and fine fare (not you George Cowley) at the close.

Lawks, I'm a rambler

However did it come to this?

Oops, forgive my forgetfulness, The Fleet Hotel in Temple Bar is the place to stay if you ever happen to find yourself in Dublin, we look forward to our stay next month and also in February.

That's The Fleet Hotel Folks

If any other establishments out there would like to exchange a complimentary room for a series of peppy reviews and the odd mention on here, don't be a stranger.

Saturday 8 October 2016

Marvin Gaye and the Stuff of the Duce

Morning everyone,

Yes morning, and an early one at that.

Was woken by a text at 5.00am from someone called the Taxman informing me that I had overpaid by£198,25 in 2015 and could I click on the link to provide bank account details and reclaim my booty.

I didn't, as a quick check of the number revealed that it was someone from Russia, possibly the lady who sent me one of my very first emails in the heady days of Compuserve and our excellent dial up internet connection, and proposed marriage and could she have my home address in order to come and talk about table decorations, wedding lists and where her relatives would be staying. My betrothed appears to have been in touch most weeks since with all manner of proposals and repeated requests for bank account details and photographs diverted off to my junk mail.

I'd turn the phone off, but both of our near neighbours are ladies who live alone and may need assistance at some point in the night so I may have to change my mobile number if Babushka persists with her early morning messages.

Anyway, I'm up now and I can hear a fox barking outside, probably the same b~#%$3 thing that killed all of our hybrid chickens and Khaki Campbell ducks one night last week, only took one away but killed the rest for fun.

I'm on your case Toby

We've bought some replacements (chooks not foxes), eight five week old hybrids in a partridge pen by the woodshed with a security light and a security door on the hen house. I like keeping chooks, and one day we'll end up living somewhere where it will not be possible to keep them so I'm making the most of the opportunity now. I find them very soothing, there's something very satisfying about keeping a fit fat hen who gives the gift of an egg most days, but we are a few months away from any ouefs emerging from this bunch of raw recruits.

Up the river the opening skirmishes of Autumn are already underway. Much of the weed in the water is on the wane but there is noticeably less blanket weed than one would expect in low water which suggest that the quality of what water is flowing down the Dever is of a better quality and carries less nutrients than twelve months ago.

Trout fishing closed this week.

An OK season with numbers up on the last, which was the hardest I have experienced during my time here. Hatches of fly have been a little disappointing during the second half although the mayfly continues to be spectacular each year. The final week saw fish a little more active as they prepare to spawn and on the final day a brace of chunky lumps around the three pound mark were put on the bank. Our first fishermen targeting the grayling arrive next week. The grayling have been reasonably active and several have been caught off the top in recent weeks by trout fishermen.

Once again there is a lot of chainsaw work to attend to this winter both on and away from the river, plus another bridge that needs replacing

and we may have to attend to some of the big ash trees that have looked very ill all summer, there are a couple in particular that could be dangerous if allowed to lose limbs next summer.

We have enough wood stacked up for the next few winters but extra ash is always welcome, although I don't know how much ash will be going into wood burners in twenty years time because this "die-back" disease has got a grip very quickly in this part of the valley.

And so to the parley with the big noises from command centre central.

And there's a tale to rival that of King Caractacus that culminated in our meeting which I think is best not recorded here, feel free to enquire directly but be warned, the reply may be lengthy and a little fruity with regard to language.

Anyway the Senior adviser on fishery strategy for the South East and a member of the regional team arrived to discuss our concerns over the reduced number of sexually mature brown trout (and other species) in the river.

And so a fun two hours passed, both sides giving of their best,

C de Cani HND, Hants FA Groundsman of the year 2011 v the two Dr's of Fish and their environs.

and hey all you brim full of internet enlightenment having wallowed in some such website or forum who like to send anonymous emails calling me out as a fishery management dinosaur or wrecker of the aquatic habitat, how's this for a review?

here's part of the letter from Dr Fishery Strategist for the South East after his visit:

"I was very impressed with the way you manage the river, trees and marginal vegetation with both angler and fish in mind"

We have approval for a small broodstock scheme, the details of which will be finalised in the coming months, and will hopefully help restore numbers of fish in the river to the levels experienced five years ago.

Thank you Dr Perri and Dr Kerry for coming out to have a look, listen to our case and for offering advice. A refreshing change in tone from the supercilious one that prevailed five to ten years ago, feel free to pop back any time.

Fracking now, and here we are with an economy to stimulate and an increased requirement for energy. Every effort will be made to push applications through.

We have two sites in this river's catchment owned by a fracking company and an official designation as a low risk area ???????????

If in a few years time my county council choose to oppose a proposal to frack in this valley and it is subsequently overruled by parliament (how does that sit with the push for devolved power to the regions?), I shall draw inspiration from 1605 and while it may be difficult to roll barrels full of gunpowder across parliament square and down a conveniently open cellar door, I shall certainly fire some rockets in their direction or at the very least throw a few stones at the windows.

Nationalist politicians having a punch up in parliament, the newspaper headline "BUSINESSES REQUIRED TO LIST FOREIGN EMPLOYEES" and a school sending out letters asking for confirmation of each child's birthplace and nationality.

It's the stuff of Il Duce,

Only it isn't because these were all events that took place last week.

and at this point I'll assume the guise of Marvin Gaye,

What's going on?

Come on Tim Peake, we paid for you to go to space to point a few things out to us down here on the mother ship, speak up please.

Oh yes, almost forgot, how's this for a stat?

The crew on Nelson's flagship - Victory, at the battle of Trafalgar was drawn from over twenty nations.