Thursday 22 February 2018

Brimstone Butterflies and a Horse called Derv

Disaster has fallen upon local town society with the temporary closure of Colonel Sanders' fried chicken emporium.

For one day this coincided with the closure of the Golden Arches burger bar where all entries were barred and some sort of "deep cleaning" operation seemed to be underway with pressure washers very much to the fore, there was talk of Rattus Norvegicus, and thank you for that Hugh Cornwell.

The food shortage even made the local news with reporters filing copy from the epicentre of the crisis and interviewing people who were clearly struggling. Subsequently in supermarkets vegetables were handled and viewed with a quizzical eye, stocks of deep pan pizza were swiftly depleted and an electrical surge, when many ovens were turned on for the very first time, stretched the local electrical grid to limits not previously envisaged. Aid convoys have clogged up the Highway to the Sun and there is talk of an open air concert to raise funds for those affected by the disaster.

The impact of these international fast food giants shutting their doors in town for the day was deeply felt and the masses (including women and children) currently walk the streets with empty buckets desperately seeking buffalo wings with slaw.

Thank you Kate Adie on the front line,

here's Tom with the weather.

Weather: See previous guff regarding a continued requirement for rain and winterbournes and spring ditches remaining dry.

situation remains the same, more rain please.

Where did all these big trout come from?

Grayling fishermen in recent weeks have been tormented by somebody else's trout that seem to have turned up, including one substantial fish of six to seven pound that has taken up residence on one of the upper bends and noses at an increasing number of olives putting in an appearance in the afternoon. The river remains remarkably clear with some surprisingly verdant weed growth.

We've cut down a couple of ash trees this week that had contracted the dreaded dieback.

It's a slow disease to take hold and is characterised by unusual patterns of growth and prolonged arboreal death throes, with the first symptoms showing fairly evenly in the extremities of the tree's crown.

It's a one step forward two steps back demise for the poor old ash, with diminished abnormal new growth each summer that dies back the following year and breaks like a breadstick.

This one was fairly substantial and when it hit the ground the entire trunk split in half with rot set in throughout its' length.
In Private Frasier parlance it was "doomed" which is a shame, as only five years ago it was developing some fine lines with prospects of assuming the status of a fine senior ash tree.

Quite the Bug Hunter, here's one of a Brimstone Butterfly that Lord Ludg bothered with his chainsaw. He pursued a soporific shrew among hazel for many minutes too but unfortunately we have no footage available.

We've also had the winch out (pictures courtesy of Lord Ludg) and have returned some of the substantial Christmas tree roots and stumps to the hole from which they were levered.

It is steady old job and no two stumps are the same.

Hawsers and haulage straps are very much to the fore and some stumps flip over with ease, while others are a little reluctant to return to the hole from whence they came.

It appears that this house has made the latest edition of Country Life magazine and thank you very much for not putting my age after my name as is the wont of some publications. Only too happy to be quoted in such a well written piece but what a shame they didn't fit in the word "nincompoopery" as it's currently one of my favourites and often used when drawn on this subject.

Oh yes the Winter Olympics,


and when will the BBC wake up to the fact that Hazel Irvine is one of the best sport anchors around?

And there we have it.

Our work in the wood is all but done.

It has been a jolly few months with awkward silences few and far between.

The armoured quad bike in the picture is the principle steed of The English,

Lord Ludgershall and myself form a more stately procession of two on the amber caravan to the right.

Not quite Plum's "Galleon in full sail" but more of a mud river chugger sallying forth to make passage to camp.

Myself astride a horse called Derv,

Lord Ludgershall in the carriage behind, eschewing the diesel fumes and all it's particulates to regally wave at anyone/anything (his peepers ain't what they were) we pass.

Thank you both for all your help this winter with chainsaw work. We seem to have achieved an awful lot this winter with a lot of laughs along the way.

Make ready for the end of term party and be sure to press those chainsaw trousers as it'll be a high end do!

The trout fishing season is rushing towards us and there is much more to be done. The fifty foot walkway downstream from the fishing hut must be replaced as it is twenty three years old and starting to sag a little, an opinion it would probably reciprocate with if only it could give voice. The fishing hut needs a little attention, there are reed beds to be burned. Two duck hides to construct, silt to be shifted a small bridge to be constructed and quite a few trees to be planted and the way the weed is currently growing I could be swishing the scythe in April for the first time in a long time.

There are some who are already heralding the onset of spring,

which is nuts

and others, tabloid newspapers brim full of enlightenment mostly, who trumpet the onset of an ice age sometime next week,

which is also nuts

February has been all that one would expect and has flown by as always, focusing even this addled mind on the fact that there is much to be done and a decreasing amount of time in which to do it.

Wednesday 14 February 2018

Legal Problems in the Wood lead to a TR7 in Space

Forgive me everyone, I know it's not long since I was last on but once again I have become cross with the curate's egg that is the current form of Countryfile.

This Sunday past we were gifted a brief homage to Graculus by some cove formed from three parts tofu, followed by a short piece regarding the importance of stands of reed to the Bittern.

A brace of ornithological eulogies and both fish eating birds I hear you cry, but the first is increasingly abundant inland, is impacting upon freshwater fish stocks and can be shot under licence. The second has been a threatened species for many years and needs all the help it can get.

The Cormorant should have been called out for its impact on freshwater fish supplies and not purred over for the colour of its inky black feathers.

The Bittern was rightly promoted as a species that needs a bit of a leg up.

Sort it out Countryfile, you can be more than a bit flakey at times.


Following recent posts it has been pointed out that Child A and Child B are no longer children. I may be in denial over this one and a quick check of birth certificates confirms that Child A is pushing twenty five and Child B has just passed twenty three and thus are exempt from all child protection protocols regarding identity, and yes I am about to enter my sixth decade.

The picture just down on the right taken last year debunks all theories regarding moisturiser, clean living and gym membership.

Madam informs me that the picture on the right wasn't taken last year.


Call this a Christening, Aqiqah, Hollekreisch or Namkaran,

whatever you like, or nothing at all,

but from this day forth Child A shall be known as Maisie and Child B as William. Maisie's "Plus One" is Callum their dog is called Ava and Otis remains as Otis. The lady who sleeps on my left continues to be Madam and I remain the Doofus that chucks up guff.

I hope that's provided some clarity for the troublemakers who were querying bonafides regarding Child A (Maisie) and Child B (William)

Many steps recently in the name of lengthening life saw us conquer footpaths across ploughed fields. You'll remember the chap who likes to shoot our pheasants that exit out of the side of his strip of maize? well this footpath crosses his "many signed domain". Some landowners would leave a thin grass strip to mark the way, and once again when it comes to this particular bunch


but, no matter.

We were several inches taller once we had conquered the ploughed up peak to take in a view that confirmed that the field known as spring bottom remains springless. The signs are there that it could break soon but to all the flat earthers, it has not been a wet winter in these quarters, just a what was considered a "normal" winter a decade or more ago.

Here's one of the field on the edge of the village that has been known across the ages as "Spring Bottom" I've high hopes that there will be a small splash of water in the centre of this field sometime in March but it remains dry at the moment.

It is still only February, so more rain please, the Scandinavians seem to cope with worse.

If I practice the bongos in the hopefully wet weeks to come, can we all agree to learn the words of the following song to form a rousing chorus come early April.

One ray of light appeared recently regarding education regarding groundwater and how it work in this valley. Kids from the local primary school have produced a leaflet to push through doors. Provisionally titled "Ditch Aware" it calls for the local populace to be careful about what they chuck in what may appear to be a dry ditch but one winter day will hoipefully be a fully fledged water course carrying all within it to the precious river that runs through their village.

Well done the kids,

Well done the teachers

and well done their much put upon assistants.

Why were Liverpool playing in Readybrek orange in their win over Southampton on Sunday? White or Yellow with numbers one to eleven used to serve as an away kit when I stood on the Kop (for £2) in the early eighties. and while we are on football how does the leader of the player's union justify an annual remuneration of over two million pounds.

First up, he's a Union leader, and secondly a significant number of the sides in the lower leagues pay their entire squad (who he represents) a similar sum.

He picked up over three million two seasons ago

Anyway (we seem to be saying this a lot of late)

We've found some more Christmas tree that have fallen over in the wood and have set about them with the saws. I don't think I made mention of it on here but Lord Ludg ran me over with the tractor a while back, it was all in slow motion but I did end up prone with the back wheel on my leg. This week, by way of payback, I managed to drop a substantial christmas tree on him and the tractor. The English (a legal eagle by trade) is encouraging (sotto voce) all manner of action from either side, but in the spirit of "Detente" Myself and Lord Ludg have reached agreement that if he doesn't run me over again I won't drop any more Christmas trees on his head.

We've many hard wood trees on order that must be planted in the gaps that have been created and also a heap of green French oak on order for the bridge replacement work.

A few grayling anglers have put in an appearance and despite "all that rain" the river remains fishable. Two fish around the two pound mark were caught at the weekend when fish fed hard for a an hour or two in the afternoon.

I love the Winter Olympics,

There, I said it.

I'm no skier, skater or sledger but man some of these youngsters performing somersaults on an ironing board are not old enough to drink beer or drive, and hey, come on Maisie and William (Child A and Child B as was), up your game with regard to winter sports, are impressive at what they do, how they do it and their attitude towards competitive sport.

Oh yes, enlightenment regarding the following matter would be much appreciated as I may have misheard the radio wallah, but why has somebody sent a TR7 into space?

Space is an awfully long way away and the TR7 was notoriously unreliable. I know James Bond had a lotus that was equally unreliable that could drive underwater but surely this mission is doomed to failure.

What times we live in.

Wednesday 7 February 2018

A Reasonable Rate of Flow, Verdant Weed and Ava

Well a few people seem to have got excited about all those application charges that the EA are trying to sneak in under the radar.

It's been all over the national media and in addition to the mire in which the EA find themselves immersed they are being petitioned to prevent a major player in the world of bagged salad from dumping waste water brim full of nastiness into the headwaters of the Upper Itchen.

You can sign the petition here:

Command Centre Central managed a fairly sensible few years recently and yes they are underfunded and overstretched but can we all remember that they will be helping to form our environmental legislation when we leave the European Union and will be under immense pressure from Big Business and the bottom line not to be too stringent in their requirements regarding the environment when the economy is all.

Please can we all agree to jump, shout and call them out in the event of further lunacy with regard to protecting the aquatic environment as we won't have EU Water Framework Directives anymore which were used by several UK Trusts and Associations to hold the EA and others to account over failures to protect certain aquatic environments.

We are where we are, but we must make the best of it.

Moving on.

The Dever is in pretty good form at the moment.

We have received a reasonable amount of rain and although the spring ditches are not yet running, the river has slowly crept up and while still within its banks retains a reasonable rate of flow, weed growth is also particularly verdant for the time of year which is also most welcome.

With the Froome and other rivers to the west in flood we have received a few more grayling fishermen, all of whom have caught fish. It's a bit murky in some of the deep holes but it is possible to "sight fish" throughout much of the reach. The trout are also more active now that the business of spawning is through although we seem to have acquired a few of somebody else's triploids, three pound lumps that have fed all winter. We've a few people booked in for the final few weeks of the grayling season, traditionally it's the period when the biggest grayling are caught so if anyone fancies a day, don't be a stranger.
The geese are still hanging around and we continue to play host to good numbers of teal, the recent cold weather has also brought a few snipe into the valley to probe and prod in the mushier parts of the valley. I thought I caught sight of a Peregrine last week. Peregrine pitch up now and again and a friend once received quite a surprise while pigeon shooting when a myopic peregrine stooped at many miles an hour and smashed into one his plastic decoy pigeons.

We've also had a sparrow hawk spread terror as it buzzed the birdfeeders a few feet outside our kitchen window and Madam has a regular assignation with a barn owl while walking Otis on returning from school. I've made mention of it before but we have some increasingly bold Muntjac about. One continues to hide behind twigs and feed with our chickens while several have put in an appearance while coffee housing in the wood with Lord Ludg and The English.

They used to be so shy and timid,

the Muntjac, not Lord Ludg and The English.

I have begun to burn bits of the reed and fen

and we're coming to the end of the chainsaw work for the winter.

We've tackled a knot of substantial Christmas trees that have been down for three winters and several battalions of crack willow. This chunk of guff occasionally proves useful with regard to the passage of time and looking back on here I find that some of the willow that we have been attending to that is as thick as a man's arm was last cut back only three years ago. Six feet of growth in a summer is nothing for this Salixian terrorist, the Daesh of the arboreal world, on a mission to cut out light and spread dark throughout the world.

The fishing letter has been formed and is due to be sent out to our regulars in the next week, as soon as a new printer cartridge has been sourced (printers and ink? now there's a scam/racket) We've a full compliment for the coming season but if anyone wants to be added to the list, don't be a stranger.

We've had another dog to stay. Not the soporific spaniel who stayed for two nights a few weeks ago but Ava.

Ava belongs to Child A and her Plus One. Ava is from Greece and the three of them hooked up during an extended stay on an island.

Ava travelled across the continent by road to the UK (with all required papers and injections) and is a pleasure to have around. Tremendous fun, incredibly fit and around two years old, she has something of the saluki about her and nearly did for Otis who may be a little past his "sexy saluki" phase. He tried to keep up but for the most part failed heroically and after the three days was a husk of his former self.

Here's one of two ladies kicking back after a long day covering many miles, mostly at speed.

One in the water meadows, one at a primary school at full stretch.

Quite the Usurpers, I relinquished my position at the north end of the sofa and joined what remained of Otis in front of the fire for a few evenings.

We played host to Ava because Child A and her Plus One were in Italy for a few days.

First to Bologna, where it snowed

and then on to Rome for England's opening game of the six nations, which is a trip I quite fancy myself.

They flew back to Blighty midweek to pick up the keys to their house that they have just bought. Exciting stuff and Madam and myself couldn't be happier for them or prouder of them. Well Done!

Oh yes.

Politicos get a bad rub for most of their days, although I hope I was effusive enough in my praise for our own MP Caroline Nokes with regard to all the help she gave us in dealing with the bovver boys at HMRC and the boneheads at BT, but well done to whoever came up with the "Help to Buy ISA" (George Osborne I think, but I mat be mistaken) The government stump up twenty five percent of every penny that you save in the ISA that you subsequently use towards the deposit for the purchase of your first house.

Not all banks offer a Help To Buy ISA (Nat West do) but well done somebody for coming up with the scheme,

Well done!

Martyn Lewis apart, why isn't the "Help to Buy ISA" being shouted about more than it is?

Child B continues his work on the other side of the world, much of which seems to centre around playing cricket and attending major sporting events. The Melbourne Cup, five days at the Boxing day Test, three days at the Sydney Test have now been followed by Kyle Edmond's semi final at the Australian Open Tennis and Federer in the final of the Australian Open Tennis.

Here's Child B at the Rod Laver arena with Roger (white shirt walking the line holding bat) and Mate of Many Years (Black shirt, glasses on head) with whom he currently shares a flat in South Yarra (Mate of Many Years not the bloke with bat).

Mate of Many Years is a bit of a whizz with numbers. He came with us on holiday to Greece several times and would spend an hour or two each day standing waste deep in the sea, puzzle book in hand and is now paid money for something called "coding" and at this point you may have picked up that I am getting a little out of my depth with regard to the subject described, but there must be something in this "coding" because Mate of Many Years currently qualifies for free tickets to numerous major Melbourne sporting events.

I might have a go at coding (whatever it is) myself