Wednesday 28 March 2018

The Cove Gove and Bonafides

Briefly returning to the cove Gove and his bonafides.

Before any claim is made that the genius switch has been flicked following the proposal to introduce a deposit scheme for recyclable bottles.

Half of Europe has implemented such schemes for many years and not just the Teutons, Goths and Visigoths who happen to have a particularly efficient way with a supermarket crate of beer.

This guy was way ahead and well on his way to becoming a recycling millionaire a few summers back in Croatia, where they queue up in Lidl car parks to exchange their recyclables for "money off" coupons in-store.

Finish a bottle of water on the beach and somebody will soon be along to collect the empties.

It's a tremendous idea, perhaps this cove Gove is warming to Europe after all.

I could now attend to proposed punitive charges for filling in forms to be perused by somebody in fine fleece and cutting edge outdoor trousers at the Environment Agency, but will refrain as a long weekend is approaching and I'm informed that a vein bulging on the side of your head is not a good look and we shall be in company so several deep breaths and Happy Easter everyone.

Monday 26 March 2018


Well here we are, two old ducks just turned fifty

and if the experts are right the sustained and determined consumption of red wine, dark chocolate and biffidus digestivum guarentees that in the football game of life we are just approaching injury time at the end of the first half.

I say we because yes, both Madam and myself passed the mark in the same week as I am her senior by three days.

On the day of the passing of my fiftieth year we dined at home with my menu of first choice for the day being Pie, Mash and Mushy peas with the pies sourced from The Good Life Farm Shop and hey Good Life if you'd like to furnish me with some free pie for this product placement I don't do Chorizo.

That's The Good Life Farm Shop folks,

Pricey pies, but crikes they're good, give them and their meat, cheese and much more besides, a go.

Anyway I pulled the pies out of the oven and promptly threw the lot on the floor in an oven glove fail incident.

I have dropped other things since turning fifty.

On Madam's 50th birthday her desk was decorated at school and she received many gifts, had the Happy Birthday sung to her several times and the pleasure of one of her pupils guessing the significant age she was passing as forty.

Needless to say he received good marks for his efforts with a "should go far" writ large in the margin.

Having informed me that I was dropping many more objects since I passed fifty the day after she reached the landmark I received an urgent call from Madam at school who had left home without any spectacles and could I run some up to school toute de suite!

A spectacle chain and oven glove are now on order.

Welcome to the world of fifty.

The snow and ice has now all gone and the spring hole that we cleared after Christmas is already demonstrating the benefits of improved light and a slowly increasing discharge although the spring ditch that runs through the village that should be running remains dry.

On the pond the senior pair of swans are making preparations to nest with an elaborate raft of twisted reed. On the river the ducks are way ahead with the odd egg already abandoned in the fringe. Kingfishers have resumed their aerial dog fights over best places to nest and just the other day I buried a micro Muntjac that had broken its hind leg.

Cormorant numbers remain on the rise, an observation confirmed by the nearby "Big Fish" trout lakes and for the second season running we seem to have acquired big numbers of somebody else's two to three pound triploid brown trout; a sociable bunch they have subsequently drawn the eye of Tarka whose presence was betrayed during recent snowfall, when they also sussed out the small streams in my employer' s garden. The fen that we fired a month ago is on the cusp of leaping into life and a trickle of olives in the afternoon are beginning to catch the eye of the numerous brown trout although the grayling are showing no sign of starting spawning yer.

I'll keep this one short as there will be much to discuss in the coming weeks.

Oh yes,

Here's one of some ducks that Hilda and Stan would approve of,

Oh yes again,

Why is Michael Gove Minister for the Environment?

He's spouted some pretty odd views in recent weeks regarding the environment. Madam still bears a grudge from his time as Education Secretary but what are his bonafides for his current position?

Tuesday 13 March 2018

Demolition! Demolition! Demolition!

Hello Everybody and welcome to Ditch Watch.

Still dry, although the river has crept up slowly following the retreat of Snowmageddon. The Field known as "Spring Bottom" remains dry although the sheep have been moved off it which is a positive sign. Some of our banks are close to assuming the status of "soft" which is another good sign.

Work this week has been varied,

The walkway below the fishing hut is exactly twenty three years old.

I built it when I was a stronger man, aged 26, listening to the Cheltenham Festival through bleary eyes as an eight week old William required feeding every other hour and subsequently Madam and myself were a little fatigued.

Twenty three years later William still visits the trough every other hour.

We spoke to him via the magic of the internet the other day and he was cooking a steak, which is all well and good as he's an independent twenty three year old a long way from home but it was one thirty in the morning where he was and he'd already completed the old standard Q&A between Parnet and child on what he had had for his tea.

The posts supporting the sleeper top were fast approaching the end of their life and considering the doofus who built the thing, the bridge proved remarkably resilient and clung to its position stubbornly.

The sleepers came off easily enough and two thirds of them are in a reasonable enough condition to be used again, but the four by four posts that I banged in with the mother of all bumpers when I had strong arms put up some resistance and winches, tractors and the ire of Ludgershall and English had to be invoked to ease them from their lie.

On the cusp of fifty, I don't knock posts this far into the river bed anymore, if you fish here in the coming years you may want to wear some form of buoyancy aid or at least break step when you cross the replacement bridge.

On removal it was all too apparent that the posts were approaching the end of their life. Not rotten, but eroded by twenty three years of river flow that had reduced them from a four by four post to a two by two. The section that had been banged into the bed was in the condition that it had been in when it was banged in all those years ago. I have pulled out posts older than these that have been in a similar condition and at this point I'd like to make a pitch for an expensive anti ageing cream formed from the scrapings of the river bed.

Although we may need a fresher face than my own to be the face of the product.

Fresh oak posts are on order and some replacement sleepers have been sourced to rebuild the bridge as was and given the required amount of red wine, dark chocolate and bifidus digestivum can we'll all agree to meet up in twenty three years time to run through the process again.

The tin is out and I'm tickling up a few heaps of silt/expensive anti ageing cream that would taint the river when the weed growth really kicks in and pushes water into places it hasn't visited for much of the winter. With the end of the grayling fishing season imminent I've taken the tip off the fringe which is now demonstrating signs of imminent lush green growth. The cold snap last week hit our frogs hard. I've come across a few dopey specimens on the road in the last week, a dangerous journey from hibernating on higher ground on the bank and verge to the warm water of the Mill Stream. The school pond also experienced thick ice and a bag full of dead frogs had to be removed before Madam took Class 2 out for "pond dipping"

While we're on school, the kids produced a leaflet to be pushed through doors in the village highlighting the risk of ground water flooding. Groundwater flooding isn't going to happen this year but well done the school for raising awareness of how water works in a chalk valley.

Well Done!

The Shepherd's hut over on the Itchen has received a coat of paint as the canary yellow base coat was beginning to show through in a few places. The weed seems to be slow to grow on that stretch of the Itchen compared with the verdant Dever and there will be nothing to cut in April. Trout fishing starts a little earlier over there so we keep our fingers crossed for some early hatches of grannom. Here on the Dever Trout fishing breaks out at the end of April. We have a full complement of rods and a couple of people waiting for vacancies. In just over two weeks they will all arrive for lunch where I will be expected to explain my movements throughout the course of the winter and present them with a river full of fish for four weeks time.

Confusion was caused on Mother's Day when William sent some flowers to his Mum.

Because they needed to be signed for, he had them delivered to the school on the preceding Friday.

Here's a photo of the label.

There are around fifteen staff at school who answer to the name of "Mum"

Three of them named one of their darlings "William"

It took some detective work, and at one point the head teacher pulled rank and claimed the blooms as her own but the mystery was solved and the flowers eventually delivered to their intended destination.

It seems this house has made another appearance in The Trout and Salmon Magazine.

It's a big month for the EA and their efforts to introduce exorbitant charges for a range of services and also in their battle with the weasels at the water companies who are opposing the EA's efforts to reduce the impact of abstraction on the both the Test and the Itchen.

The house also rocked up in Fly Fishing and Fly Tying magazine last month with a few thousand words and many pictures regarding tricky fishing for pristine grayling.

There has been a lot written about Ken Dodd since he passed away so here's a few more.

I remember seeing him live at the ABC Theatre (Regal as was) in Chester. It must have been the late seventies as the theatre that once played host to the likes of The Rolling Stones and Morecombe and Wise was converted into a cinema in 1980. I attended with my parents and brother and sat in the stalls on the left hand side looking at the stage. The Diddy Men marched down the aisle within touching distance confirming that they were actually real beginning a quest for magical mines that we only called off a few years ago.
There was no support act, there was no need and it was one of the latest nights I experienced in my formative years. I do remember a lot of laughter and a man who appeared to be in his element on the stage.

I regret not making the effort to see his act for a second time.

Saturday 3 March 2018

Snowmageddon and Nuts up the Nose

Hello everybody and welcome to Snowmageddon.

They seem to be sexing the thing up with some seriously edgy names, but weren't "The Beast from the East" and "Storm Emma" WWF wrestlers back in the day?

No matter, it is a heavy fall of snow, that didn't used to be such an unusual event in early March, and while some now trumpet the first day of this month as the onset of spring I surmise that in all my years I have hurtled down a snow covered hill on whatever was available in the garage (currently a bespoke car roof box for a second generation Renault Scenic) more often in the Easter holidays than the Christmas holidays. I'm not sure it's an event that merits numerous " One Show Specials" with live reports of burst pipes and slippery pavements, but it is a proper winter event that will benefit flora and fauna who, in a mild winter, can sleep lightly and wake up prematurely. About twenty centimetres have fallen in this part of the valley, the wood burner has not been extinguished for three days and drifting snow has threatened to block the Entre and Sorte to the small cluster of houses that is Bransbury.

The chickens are a little bemused and the fish in the river revel in occupying the warmest spot in the valley as the air temperature has remained at or below freezing for the past seventy two hours.

It's a great time to take a walk and gaze at the ground and footprints that betray creatures that currently haunt the valley.

No sign of any otters or foxes which is tremendous news but there are a bevy of badgers in the Andyke and numerous roe deer and muntjac in the wood. This afternoon I was moving things around in the workshop and disturbed a juvenile grass snake hibernating beneath the bench, which was quite a surprise.

Regular visitors to this parish will know that punctuation and grammar are a struggle and occasionally the words are presented in the worng order with a colon surprise! So it may sound a little hypocritical if I call out a few for glaring mistakes in both the written and spoken word. The paper that I have read for the past twenty years, not for any political reason but for the quality of its sport section which was just about all William would read in his teenage years, happen to be the Daily Telegraph. The quality of the editing has taken a bit of a dip in recent times with spelling mistakes and sentences that don't make sense on the increase. Over on the radio I recently heard a current "goto guy" on all things sport describe Billy the bronze medal snowboarder as self depreciating.

Yes, Billy's getting smaller and smaller in front of our very eyes and it's all of his own volition.

Billy does have a self deprecating manner when it comes to humour.

While we are on sport on the radio, why do so many sports summarisers (former players mostly and I'm looking at you John Lloyd, James Taylor and Emily Rainford Bent) when packing for a tour abroad forget to pack sufficient quantities of the letter "t" and over estimate the number of the letter "d" they will need for the trip?

It's not vidally impordant but id todally geds on your dids a bid afder a while especially when coupled with a lack of done and adequate expression when delivering the sendence thad inevidably ends with a rising inflecdion.

It's the modern way I guess, and there may be some megalomaniac on a submersible island with a magic diction affecter ray at work somewhere out in the oceans and it at this point it may be apposite to discuss the next James Bond.

and at this point I'll break, as I think I've found out where all the letter "t's" have gone.

The excellent Jeremy Coney is working his way through them in commentary on the current one day series in New Zealand.

Anyway, back on the river,

Apologies, river in a mo.

My ear has just been caught by a programme that Madam is watching in the next room in which a three year old has "accidentally" put an almond up his nose.

You don't accidentally put almonds up your nose.

so let's not be hasty in dismissing this little guy as a crank, he may be some kind of seer/visionary and be on to something.

So come on everybody, get yourself an almond

a hazelnut may suffice,

but ffs! (contemporary parlance) don't do a coconut

Nuts up the nose, it's the future

You'll never feel more alive !

Oh yes, the river.

For the few days preceding the third Ice Age (as described by the Daily Suppress) we experienced an incredibly dry easterly wind which proved to be perfect conditions for burning fen and reed beds. Butterflies and things that buzz in the summer will be pleased as come august there will be substantial drifts of hemp agrimony and much more besides which are manna for such creatures that reside in a chalk valley. It also provides thick winter cover for game birds. The window for getting the reeds burnt is a narrow one between the end of the shooting season and before ground nesting birds hunker down to undertaking the business of producing an egg or two. Not the driest of windows but worth it if conditions are favourable.

We've planted numerous indigenous hardwood trees to fill in the gaps created by all the ones that fell over that now reside in various stashes of logs. All new trees have been staked and guarded against deer and rabbits. Deer will nibble a sapling at any time of the year, but at this time of the year with grass a bit thin on the ground rabbits will strip a tree of its bark to a height of eighteen inches.

Recent walks in the name of lengthening life have been local affairs as some weekend time has been allocated to erecting fences and gates at Maisie and Callum's house in Kingsclere.

We did venture out onto the Ridge two minutes drive from their house where many famous race horses have been put through their paces.

On the morning we traversed the ridge the sky was full of Red Kites and several counties were in view.

With regard to all things left foot, right foot, I have been selected for the Sport Relief Billion Steps a Day Challenge Team. It's a great honour and one long overdue given the fact that it has the word "Sport" in the title and it is a widely acknowledged fact that if Thierry Henry had been gifted my left foot he would have been complete.

I have promised to do as many steps a day as I can for Sport Relief, if you would like to make a donation please visit the following site

Oh yes, apologies about the special effects on some of the photos in the piece. Seems my clever camera isn't idiot proof after all and I clicked some special effect button by accident.

Might be time to dig out the old Pentax ME Super