Wednesday 24 January 2018

Dangerous Nincompoopery. Please Respond Accordingly

Hello Everybody

River fine, on the rise and well done the rain for that but keep it coming.

Work going well and almost to schedule.

Dog in good form.

Right that's the regular messages out of the way now on to the meat of the business and a level of nincompoopery surpassed only by Icarus

and Canute.

Apologies that's Neil Kinnock falling over on the beach

Canute at high water

It has been brought to our attention that Command Centre Central are proposing a series of charges for applications to carry out habitat improvement in the aquatic environment.
Lengthy details (north of 80 pages) can be found here:

Section 4.9.1 will furnish you with the details of the proposed charges. But I will now attempt to give you a précis of what the possible impact will be on this stretch of river if implemented.

Regular visitors to this parish will be aware that for the past few months I have been going bananas with a chainsaw in the company of Ludgershall and English in annual skirmishes with crack willow, which if left unchecked would result in a reduction in biodiversity and quality of aquatic habitat. Under the EA's proposals the work around the spring hole would require one application detailing the work, how it is to be carried out, who is to undertake the work, what they will use to complete their task and contingencies for events various ranging from spilling a drop of oil when topping up your chainsaw, safe exits from the wood should the fire get out of control and where does everybody go to the toilet or sit down to have a cup of coffee. Each application will incur a charge for agency Wallahs to run their eye over the scheme undertake a site visit and raise or lower the thumb, (an agency wallah by the way who may be making their first visit to a stretch of river that I have been intimate with for over half my life, who will have the ultimate say on the best way forward with regard to this particular stretch of chalk stream)

A separate application would be required for the work on the mill stream and another for chasing the silt downstream which gets underway next month. A case could be made for the two bridges that I must build before spring to pass without EA approval as we will be replacing existing bridges that have been in place for twenty five years.

but the bridge that Lord Ludg and I built that was opened by the Duchess of Cambridge

and the bridge we floated upstream to the Flight Pond would have required two separate applications and we would have been billed twice.

There is some merit in regulating work in the aquatic environment in order to improve habitat and increase biodiversity. There are currently some terrific keepers doing terrific things in the chalk stream environment but occasionally while undertaking the current recommended method of extending life (walking a few miles each weekend) Madam and I have occasionally come across some pretty raw work pulled on the river in the name of habitat enhancement.

Some people do need a bit of guidance, and an application process with approval granted or denied for some major works is undoubtedly a good idea

But here's the thing.

The proposed charges for an application, just the application, to undertake a long list of regulation tasks in the aquatic environment range between four hundred pounds and a thousand pounds.

The cost to apply for the annual winter work that we will undertake this winter (which is regulation stuff that we have to do each winter) would be several thousand pounds under the proposed charges.

Just to apply.

I'll say that again,

To apply for EA approval to complete our work this winter will cost several thousand pounds under the proposed changes.


Punitive charges that border on racketeering and will result in less aquatic habitat improvement projects being undertaken or an increase in the amount of habitat work undertaken flying under the radar of the agency charged with all things environmental

The EA have an improved record in recent years and have been about effective as I have known them in my time on the river but this proposal deserves more than a raised eyebrow or a "tut tut" as it is absolutely crackers. It will not serve the aquatic habitat well at all and is redolent of the fever that took hold of the EA around the turn of the century when daft ideas and edicts were de rigueur.

I know some very good people at Command Centre Central who will be tearing their hair out at these proposals, that can only have been drawn up by the bean counters of a cash strapped agency.

Earlier in the piece I mentioned that the proposals have only just come to our attention and judging by the amount of public comment, many others are unaware of the EA's proposals. Public comments on the proposals must be submitted by Friday 26th January (I know, I know!) If passed these charges will impact upon every river, lake, angler, fishing club in England and Wales.

The method of response to the EA's proposals is via a form on the website mentioned earlier, unfortunately it doesn't work very well (surprised?) and I had to email my response to:

If you don't agree with the EA's proposals for increased charges for habitat improvement work in the aquatic environment, I urge you to do the same.

I've not mentioned it for a while, but

We are Increasingly led by loons.

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Mr Clapham, a Leucistic Goose and a Surprise Spaniel Experience

Happy New Year everyone and best wishes for 1973

We did that one?

Ok, on with the guff and a report of recent movements.

Which this week, as ever have centred principally around habitat enhancement and raising biodiversity, cos that's the kind of guys us keeper's are.

Up around a spring hole for much of the week with Lord Ludg and The English.

Willow had taken hold and the hole and the thirty yards of spring ditch was fairly void of light and life. So with Messer's Stihl and Husqvuarna forming the vanguard the forces of Salix were not so quietly conquered,

light streamed in and from the centre of the spring hole appeared a hand holding a sword.

I may have dreamt that last bit, but pictorial evidence would suggest otherwise and we have had an email from an regarding the precise location of said spring.

Ducks have already found the new patch of water and I reckon Pike will find it a perfect part to nose up in order to spawn. I'll plant it up with sedge and reed in a few months which should thrive with the improved light. It was a fairly lifeless piece of water and wood and at this point I could strike up the band to perform the familiar standard of this house of why some habitats benefit from being managed by man (keepering they used to call it) but won't because if we refer to the top of the piece, we are currently living in 1973 so if all interested parties can send a SAE I'll pop a postcard and a few Polaroid's in the post.

There are a few boggy areas around the spring hole and logistically it took a bit of working out as to how some of the willows could be extracted for introduction to the fire but not for the first time the little orange tractor performed magnificently and three pairs of hands on a job like this can reduce the time taken to complete the task substantially so thanks as ever to Lord Ludg and The English for helping out.

It must be cold somewhere else as we've quite a few teal in the valley and more geese than I can ever remember,

including this strange looking cove.

It had me foxed for a bit but google suggests that it's a leucistic greylag. A greylag goose whose body can't form enough pigment to colour it's feathers. There is also some small feathered oddity in the wood that I have yet to pick out. It hangs around the tree canopy and makes a "peep peep" sound every thirty seconds or so, I'll let you know on here when I find out what it is. The number of cormorants flighting this valley continue to increase and I now see them most days, six on the pond on one occasion and twenty buzzing the main river valley as I joined the A303 on a dash for provisions one lunch time.

River levels have slowly crept up during the opening weeks of this year. It was evident that the springs in the spring hole around which we were engaging the forces of crack willow flowed a little stronger as our work progressed. Aquifers have received some replenishment and the welcome sign of a chalk stream increasing in level during a couple of dry days as the contribution made by groundwater flow increases sent me scurrying over to the cricket pitch, where I can take the lid off a borehole and with the aid of a torch, shine a light to reveal the height of the groundwater in the valley (we don't do dodgy data, fake news or conjecture just have a look with our own eyes and form our own opinion) It had indeed risen but was still three feet below causing groundwater flooding on the outfield that was not such an uncommon occurrence in front of the pavilion ten or more years ago.

Recent left foot right foot expeditions in an effort to extend life have seen us cross a couple of chalk stream valleys both of which would characteristically carry standing water at this time of year. Here's one of the Anton Valley

And the Upper Itchen,

Apologies folks, but more rain please.

Just by way of reminder here's that island in the middle of the Itchen that has been exposed since September and has since been claimed by this wagtail.

In other news,

We've had a spaniel to stay. For twelve years we played host to the world's worst spaniel. Bill Hicks once joked that in the event of a nuclear war from among the dust an indestructible Keith Richards would stir and proclaim

"I saw the light and I thought we were on"

The same applied to Chump. A spaniel with duff back legs, indomitable attitude and a propensity to bring back half a hedgerow in his feathers he was terrific fun, but high maintenance and once he passed on we both agreed that we'd had ticked the "spaniel experience" box.

Until last week, when Madam agreed to look after a friend's elderly spaniel for a few days. Soporific, well mannered and with a dislike of a puddles he was a dream to look after, although he did have a funny way of taking his ease.

To return to guitar legends who surfaced in the nineteen sixties, I understand that a film is currently being shown in picture houses across the land that centres on the life and times of Eric Clapton.
I trust that the scene in which he fishes at this place and we shared a cold lunch at my employer's kitchen table made the final cut and the visit to our local pub where the landlady continually called him "Mr Clapham"

Top bloke and not a bad fisherman.

Oh yes almost forgot,

here's one of the dog who refuses to believe that Christmas is over.

Wednesday 3 January 2018

2018 Already, Are You Sure?

Happy New Year everyone, and best wishes for 2008 .

Apparently it's 2018, I am no longer forty years old and hell's horses, where did the last ten years go? If these cranks are to be believed and it is indeed 2018, where are the Hover Shoes we were promised by Blue Peter in the 1970's and come on everybody, where are the flying cars?

Anyway, we are where we are so on with the guff.

Well it has rained.

Which is welcome and during recent explorations of the northern territories to touch base with relatives there was water lying in some valley floors in the midlands, so expect the usual hyperbole from a disconnected media sometime in the new year regarding flooding, But all those rivers we passed with water in the fields ( Cherwell, Windrush, Avon - flood plains anyone?) are supposed to flood at some point.

and by way of balance here's one of a spring ditch that we crossed during our early morning walk on New Year's Day that used to run most winters but has remained dry since the spring of 2014.

Bridges remain precipitous and the hatch on the house which was installed in the 1840's and is opened notch by notch to release water from a river on the rise through winter rain remains shut with a small surplus spilling over the top.

More rain please, keep it coming.

The brief cold snap during the festive period brought more teal into the valley who can be heard whistling their way up the valley as the light fades. Geese have mustered on the meadow upstream along with numbers of swan several of whom seem a little sick, it seems to be a cyclical thing with a spike in the number of winter mortalities every three of four years. Up until recently we have been spared the attention of greedy graculus. It's not really cormorant water with only a few stretches offering sufficient depth for them to fish. This winter they have been more persistent, targeting both pond and river, I see them most days, five years ago I could count the number of encounters with Noggin the Nog's Budgerigar on one hand (I have the full compliment of digits and nor am I a witch) Thirty years ago it was rare to a see a cormorant this far inland.

Woodcock retain a presence in the wood as do several pheasant despite the best efforts of Elma J Fudd and his blunderbuss on the neighbouring estate who spent part of Boxing Day blazing away at our pheasants exiting from the side of his block of maize. He hit some this time and sent word of several birds that needed picking up on the riverbank with ten minutes of daylight remaining,

once again


Before Christmas I filed annual river reports to the relevant authorities. For part of the report for this stretch of the Dever I offloaded about the Candover Stream supplementary flow abstraction and the revelation that it had impacted upon the aquifers of the Dever and may even have used the word "weasels" when describing a Water Company's objections to the EA's attempts to reduce the quantity permitted to be abstracted to limit any impact on the Dever aquifers.
A reply arrived shortly afterwards from the compiler of the excellent annual report suggesting that the scheme had not been used that much in recent years. With scars still raw over another recent revelation regarding "Dodgy Data" and the rise of "Fake News" I touched base with a couple of keepers who jump into the river immediately below the Candover stream to ask their opinion on this claim. Turns out the river can change level at a remarkable rate during a summer with wellies required one week to cut the weed, waders the next.
The question also remains that if the pumps in question have not been used very much in the past forty years how did it come to light that their "cone of influence" extended to the aquifers that feed the neighbouring Dever valley?

Dodgy Data and Fake News.

What times we live in.

In other news, Child A and Plus One are close to completing the process of purchasing a house across the county line in Berkshire, and I don't mean to keep coming back to the passage of time but didn't they do their O levels the other week? I think 2018 could be an exciting year for them both.

Child B attended most days at the Melbourne Test and has two more lined up in Sydney where he currently resides having taken in the Fireworks on New Year's Eve. He has met Kangaroo, Koala and Mike Atherton over Christmas Lunch,

Apologies the Kangaroo and Koala were not at Christmas lunch,

I don't think.

Face to face with Kangaroos and Koala were a new one for Child B but he's previous with Athers.

The first encounter was in Sri Lanka in 2001 at a thrilling test match in Kandy. Call us out as Carpet baggers but we received a four figure sum following the demutalisation of Scottish Widows, a merry band that Madam had signed up for following advice two years before to opt of Serps. We didn't own a house and had a fair old car loan, but common sense prevailed and we blew the lot on a three week trip to Sri Lanka to take in the Test match, tickle turtles, temples with teeth, elephants, monitor lizards and much much more.

A real adventure. I've banged out several thousand chunks of guff on here regarding short trips away, a reprise of this trip could make the internet creak a little so I'll stick to the cricket. It wasn't an organised tour, we went on our own and rocked up at the ground in a tuk tuk with our seven and eight year olds to pay less than two pounds for our tickets to sit on plastic garden chairs with the locals and a small division of the Barmy Army. Child A completed many puzzles and several books as cricket wasn't really her bag and Child B introduced himself to Mike Atherton. Each day we popped into the score box, said hello to England scorer Malcolm Ashton before climbing the ladders to change a few numbers with the dozen or so kids who seemed to operate the scorebox. Up on the hill behind the stand we could make out many orange robed Bhuddist Monks who had abandoned their chores to take in what was a very exciting cricket match and an unexpected win for England.

They don't play Test cricket at the ground now, which is a shame as we would like to have returned one day. By pure coincidence, Our local club Longparish held a fund raising auction a few years ago and one of the lots was a signed print by Sporting artist Jo Bowen of the same Test match at Kandy, it now hangs on our wall and four of those little blobs in the background are the four of us.

The next time we met Mike was a few years later at the Lords Test between England and The West Indies. Channel Four had the live coverage contract and as part of the build up to the day the presenters, Mike Atherton, Simon Hughes, Ian Bishop and Mark Nicholas would sit casually on a picnic table on the Nursery Ground musing on the impending action. Child B and myself, a jovial West Indian and a chap in a very stripy blazer were invited to sit on the picnic table behind discussing cricket to complete the scene.

Anyway, piece done. Mark Nicholas flounced off as some hair had been deemed to be out of place, Simon Hughes went in on himself but Mike Atherton and Ian Bishop came over for a few minutes chat. The chap in the stripy blazer had a lot to say, so we didn't get to jog Mike's memory about our encounter in Kandy but Child B did finally get his autograph (Child A didn't trust him with her pens at the Kandy test).

I think that's it, and I'll own that I was going to end this guff for good this month as it's ten years since it first started. It was only intended to run for one year and ten years seems like a number to say "fin" but I guess it's become a bit of a habit.
So in the words of my first employer Arthur Dodd, (Google him kids, he was very much the Jed Clampett of his day)

Press on Regardless!