Friday 28 September 2018

Chopping up Trees with Gucci & Versace

and while we still can,

Guten Abend alle zusammen.

In the current age this kind of thing normally instigates a response on here.

Keyboard warriors please send your typewritten letter to:

Test Valley Riverkeeper
What remains of the River Dever

Please enclose a SAE or postal order for £1.20.5p if you require a reply.

Some cove brimful of internet enlightenment surmised this week that bloggers were a self indulgent bunch whose sole intent is to demonstrate to the rest of the world that theirs is the perfect existence, so with a nod to Kardashians various, the lady from Goop and The Dapper Chapper here we go again with another tranche of guff on how great things are down this way.

But first I'll pause briefly to propose that the media in general are just as guilty of peddling an unachievable ideal existence to your everyday Joe. From newspaper weekend supplements through to TV's Pimp my Ride.

Lay off the bloggers,

we're not all peddling the ideal existence, it's a chronicle of interminable struggle for some.

We had wind last week, nothing to do with an increase in the percentage of pulses in our diet, but a proper blow that sent a substantial ash in the wood crashing to the ground. Call me fickle (and this is where the struggle bit comes in) but I don't like attending to trees when the stinging nettles are still six feet high and full of venom.

But attend to it we did, for two days employing the full force of the chainsaw fleet clad in my new outfit for the season.

There has been much comment made, both online and off, regarding this season's outfit with much moot that it may be a tad effete.

I don't mind the reviews
and yes, the new hat may be a bit Gertrude Schilling so the hat box is ticked for our next trip to Ascot, but the bib & braces safety trouser combo scream seventies disco with the safety aspect of the strides an ability to constrain the seething mass of testosterone that lurks within.

The clues were there at Milan fashion week and while previous years winter woodland wanderings have been influenced by Vidal Sassoon (it's on here somewhere) this winter it is very much into the wood with Gucci and Versace with the terrific tractor's onboard toolbox receiving the required upgrade.

Anyway, beneath all the godets and sequins the outfit kept me safe. I'd stitched my last pair up a few times and I'm not sure how chainsaw proof my needlework is.

Needless to say the ash we were attending to was riddled with dieback. It stood in a small cluster of affected trees which have also now been felled. Advice is now available on the YouGov website on what to do with affected trees. The passage is a little long and quite ambiguous in places. It can take a decade for a tree to die, but once it has this lurgy, die it surely will. It will remain a viable habitat for all manner of flora and fauna during its decline. As a general guide for felling, refrain from felling any trees with no signs of the disease (obvs!) as they may have some immunity. Fell affected trees if they pose a danger to public or infrastructure. As part of your woodland management plan (I know we have one, I've just forgotten where I put it) fell trees if the crown has been reduced by fifty percent or more.

We have a significant number of ash trees affected which will be feeding the wood burners of the parish for much of the next decade. Beyond that who knows? perhaps we may not be allowed wood burners by then. If we are we won't be burning much ash. We are replanting with alternative hardwoods as a ban has been in place on the moving and planting of ash saplings for some time but the log piles and wood sheds will have a different smell and appearance to the current solid fuel burning generation who may well be known one day in wood burning circles as "Generation Ash".

Attention has been drawn to the down beat tone of recent posts (more of My Struggle, there's no perfect lifestyle here) regarding water levels so I'll look up and not down and not mention the fact that nothing has changed, but well done for it raining somewhere, just not around here.

We have had frost, and several misty morns reveal the remarkable work of spiders and their webs spun in the dark that that reach from tree to tree. Barley has been introduced to the flight pond, numbers of duck are building and the wonder of watercress maintains a late season flow keeping a narrow ribbon of river free from silt.

This week I saw a mayfly. Numbers of mayflies hatching in this river in late summer have increased from not at all to the odd one in recent years. It's not uncommon on the upper Avon. Several tines I fished as a guest at Middle Woodford and caught fish on a Green Drake Mayfly in September although the Dever Trout are a little reticent when it comes to sampling goods out of season. If the Buddhists are right and I am destined to return to the Dever as a Mayfly can I please be one that hatches in September as my journey from river bed to willow tree will go completely unhindered by the forces of fin or feather.

Tuesday 18 September 2018

The Be Sharps and The Binkiest Nabob

On me everyone as there is much to discuss.

But first a word from our sponsor.

The Husqvarna 365 is a semi professional saw with a 70cc engine and 28 inch bar that will deal with the toughest timber situations. Styled in seville orange with noir detailing it is sure to cause envy in any arborist in the immediate vicinity.

It's a big saw built to cut up big trees. The engine is bigger than my first motorbike, it weighs many newtons and is a welcome addition to the woodland fleet. It's also a useful tool for keeping our chooks in check.

That's the Husqvarna 365 everybody, coming to a tree trunk near you.

Back on the beat there isn't a lot of water in the Dever . Fish are feeding in spells and spend most of the day bunched up on the bottom. I was very kindly invited to fish the Anton for the second week in succession and it was the same story over there, with one deep hole playing host to twenty or more substantial soporific trout and grayling. Inevitably I spooked one setting off a series of bow waves as fish charged around the much diminished river.

I popped up to read the gauge at Weston Colley a few miles upstream of this stretch of the Dever.

The gauge has gone.

Seems that Command Centre Central have now given up on the first few miles of the Dever.

Thirty years ago I used to help stock the Upper Dever for a local fishing club. They had a significant membership that merited a headquarters in the village from which the club took their name. We would take a hundred or so two pound trout three or four times throughout the summer.

The club no longer exists and the stretch of river they fished has also almost disappeared, it certainly couldn't support a two pound trout.

The spring hole that Lord Ludg, The English and myself attended to last winter has all but dried up. Half a dozen springs feed into the hole, only two currently remain, each on the cusp of ceasing supply. I have not seen this spring hole run dry in the twenty seven seasons that I have been falling in and out of this river.

I don't know how we ended up where we are regarding the Dever

Let me put that another way.

I do know how we ended up where we are regarding the Dever.

It was one of the principle reasons for me to start chucking up guff regarding the river all those years ago, because this river and many more besides were being let down by those charged with affording them protection from big bad business practice and the bottom line. There are several trusts and organisations who navel gazed their way through the last decade regarding over abstraction and the unsustainable use of groundwater supply preferring to focus on other issues that though requiring attention are of little import if the river drys up.

Aquifers in chalk valleys are being over exploited due in part to the unsustainable way in which we source water in the region and dispose of treated waste water. Drawing the stuff out of the ground and then sending it away to sea hoping that Madam water cycle will reciprocate with rain no longer works. More waste water post treatment must be soaked away into the ground or returned directly to the aquifers if these precious rivers are not to be further impacted upon.

Anyway, I seem to have gone early with the offload, so to lift the mood a little..

We whizzed up to the flat hills of Moley's homeland this weekend for an aged aunt's ninetieth birthday party.

We took the dogs as it was a long way away and anyway, they're doggy people.

By way of precaution we paused a few miles from our destination, possibly at Mangold Parva, to walk the dogs/break Moss's spirit.

Moss has the manner of a dog that, given the opportunity, will party like the giddy goat.

No problem with Otis, he could take peggs on the veranda with the binkiest nabob without real incident.

We walked around the local reservoir, which was half full (AAAAAARRRGGGG!) and free from local news reporters as unfortunately the depleted reservoir had no interesting abandoned buildings poking out of what water remained, before climbing a hill to a monastery where bells rang and Cistercian monk's chanted. It was quite unexpected and merited mention in the magnificent Mole books.

Sue Townsend, such a loss.

Currently we play host to a quartet of Little Egret who fish together, fly together and roost in trees together.

They've the air of a bunch of youngsters, but with a nod to the premier barbershop quartet and their hit "baby on board (and they do look like mini storks, the little egrets not the premier barbershop quartet)

the frosted feathered four are now known as the Be Sharps,

both the premier barbershop quartet and the quartet of little egret.

I think that's reasonably clear.

The excellent Stihl HLA 85 has been employed in the fight with Phragmites on the Flight pond. Two days of tackling norfolk reed from the bank before taking to the water for a third day to cut back this most ambitious marginal plant that has designs on taking over the whole pond. While out on the water it soon became apparent that the silver fish have spawned successfully this year with masses of juvenile rudd and roach. The swan mussels also seem to be having a good time in a shallow pond that in the high heat of august attained a temperature more suited to African cichlids.

Only a few weeks of fishing for trout remain. The grayling are in fine condition but the trout will soon have a final feed of the summer before turning their minds to spawning. Big fish are always caught in the final few weeks of the season and currently we play host to quite a few substantial specimens. Unfortunately the spawning gravels that they would normally gravitate towards in the coming months are currently covered by only a couple of inches of water, a level that will be further reduced when the watercress and weed dies off at the first sign of frost.

Cue perennial request for a very wet winter in these parts - ed

Tuesday 4 September 2018

Virat Kohli and a Tenebrous Thunderer

Back on the river and as the comedy labrador calendar turns over to September, fishing picks up. August has been challenging for those with a rod in their hand. Some have not bothered and hit the beach instead while others have put in hard toil only to have a river full of fish stick two fins up to their offerings. The water did get quite warm during the month which can inhibit the brown trout's appetite and a dearth of fly hasn't helped but fish have been flying out in the past few days to both dry flies and nymphs. Fishing for trout on this river has always picked up towards the end of the summer with numbers of fish caught per hours spent fishing considerably higher than August and often July. August fishing seems to become increasingly challenging with each passing year and with a nod to "The Beautiful Game" it may be time for a mid season break and shift opening day forward a week or two and closing day back a week or two to adapt to changing climate conditions.

While we're on "The Beautiful Game" those who eulogise about more honourable times in the seventies and eighties regarding diving and cheating. There may have been less diving but before slow mo, action replays and a plethora of cameras around the ground it was a far more violent business than it is today. Head butts and punches off the ball were not at all uncommon.

I was kindly invited to fish the Anton this week. It's a pretty beat whose only flaw is that you can't gain access from the bottom of the beat. You enter at the top of the beat and must walk downstream to begin your business and in low clear water fish are inevitably spooked. I always pour myself a cup of coffee and wait twenty minutes for the fish to settle before even flicking a fly. It's a problem I also encountered one year fishing on the Arle. It was a wading beat and quite short. One wade through I'd had a fish in the net but returning to the bottom of the beat to start the second set it was all too apparent that the fish were not quite ready to return serve.

The August weed cut was brief on both the Itchen and the Dever, only the ribbon weed that required a trim. A pair of swans and their single progeny have set about some of the ranunculus and water celery predominates as we have relatively little blanket weed, which is a pleasant surprise as conditions seem perfect for its propagation. Heron seem to have bred well this year as do the little egret and several stab away on the shallows each day. The Kingfisher wars continue albeit it with diminished brutality. The hop harvest looks to be a heavy one and we are already whacking into the apples. Grass has sprung back into life and the senior conker tree that shed a limb bringing electric cables crashing down on our roof a few years ago continues to slowly fall apart. We've an expert tree wallah coming out to take a look at a few chunky specimens some of which border the road and are beyond myself, Lord Ludg and The English. The end of the season seems to be rushing towards us and eyes are turning to prospective winter work. The list is already quite lengthy and stretches are already being undertaken by way of pre winter work training.

This year was the first since 1993 that we didn't make the Lords Test match. We didn't attend in 1993 because Madam was with child and Maisie was about to enter stage left.

I retain the ticket as evidence of sacrifices made.

Anyway, we didn't make it to Lords but we did attend the fourth day of the fourth test at The Ageas Bowl. Madam has been nominated for an award for services to Hampshire League Cricket. Scoring mostly and I'll say this safe in the knowledge that she doesn't visit this house, but she is very good at it. Every weekend during the outdoor season plus midweek 20/20 games, and often twice a week through the winter for the indoor leagues.

Her scorebook is a myriad of coloured dots and squiggles that allows a reader to trace the outcome of any given ball bowled in a match.

Yes Madam has done a lot of scoring and is quite good at it.

Somebody noticed and nominated her for an award and part of the bounty included free tickets to the Test Match.

Fortunately she invited me to accompany her and so it was that we took in a fantastic day at the Ageas Bowl.

We've visited a few times, for various reasons. Matches, weddings, coaching and trials (William, not Madam or me) It had a few foibles and getting into the place on a busy day could be a nightmare.

But no more. The Park and Ride works as it should, and the "in ground" experience while not quite Lords, is much improved and an easy place to spend a day watching a Test match.

It's just a shame they won't be hosting any more Test cricket until after 2025.

With foreign office work finished Jester Johnson has once again taken to chucking up guff in the Telegraph.

It was trumpeted several months ago with the headline "He's Back!"

A few weeks ago he wrote a piece titled "We are the Rotters Who did for The Otters" Sophocles was invoked and pools were described as "tenebrous" and it all bounced along rather well celebrating the revival of The Otter and come on everybody let's give ourselves a pat on the back and well done Jester Johnson for writing such a thoughtful environmental piece.


Yes the pat on the back for the cessation in using the pesticide that was doing for the Otters, but what Jester Johnson failed to mention was the river restoration work instigated countrywide in the last decade to meet the needs of EU habitat directives that afforded our rivers a higher level of protection than our own legislation and have aided the revival of the otter and improvements in aquatic habitats.

Yes the largesse of the EU and yes it doesn't work properly, but, and I'll apologise to all you keyboard warriors in advance who may be upset by this, the habitat directives are quite a good thing.

Several organisations used habitat directives to hold big business and the bottom line to account regarding impact on the aquatic environment. The DT letters page featured several who pointed this fact out to the Telegraph's champion and also expressed concern that future environmental legislation drawn up after leaving EU may not be of equal strength. Which with Cove's of the calibre of Gove drawing up the all new beautiful British habit directives, is surely a given.

Isn't it?

I've taken the Daily Telegraph for most of my life, it has a very good sport section and I think a newspaper is an important addition to a breakfast table particularly when children are growing up. It's tone has changed significantly in recent times so I cancelled the subscription. I took the decision on the day of the "He's Back" headline Jester Johnson but we had just taken delivery of a labrador puppy

Moss, remember him?

So I delayed delivering the cancellation request as It has proved tremendously satisfying to use the chunterings of Jester Johnson and the dishonourable member for the Eighteenth century (now there's tenebrous) as an aid in house training our new addition.

Moss is house trained now so I have no further need of The Daily Telegraph particularly their columnists,

apart from Hendo, I'll miss him.

I'm off to the Thunderer, which is OK but Murdoch lurks, which is a worry,

or perhaps I'll stick to Viz as satire is important in times of political turmoil and accept the fact that I have joined a burgeoning number of people who, should an election occur, would look at the list of candidates presented and conclude that none of this lot seems to fit the bill.