Tuesday 27 August 2019

Buscopan, IDS and a Dearth of Water


Apologies all but I have been laid crook with a severe bout of IDS

Reading the T&C's it seems Buscopan is ineffective when treatment is sought for Irritating Dickhead Syndrome.

Last week IDS and a tank full of thinks proposed that state pensions should only be issued when the age of seventy five is attained. IDS was then asked "sotto voce" to drop the subject as it wouldn't be very popular with the electorate,

but propose it he did.

I have paid into a private pension all of my working life as has the lady who sleeps on my left. We have also paid full NI contributions throughout our working lives. State pension payments from the age of sixty seven (nee sixty five) were a part of our future financial planning for retirement. IDS would now like me to work for another nine years contributing further NI payments for a reduced period of pension payments.

IDS receives a military pension and, one day, a parliamentary pension for coming up with this screwing over of the everyday Joe.

Ok it has been muttered in some quarters that I retired at the age of twenty one to become a riverkeeper, and while I may make it look effortless, it is a physical job. Not one that I had envisaged undertaking to the age of seventy five. My knees are a mess and regular visitors to this house will attest that my mind is on the wane,

beyond seventy I'm not sure I should be trusted with plastic knives, let alone a chainsaw with a twenty eight inch bar.

We now know where part of the funding for the false promises the current crock of shite have been making this past month will come from. Me and millions of others working for an extra nine years and not claiming my state pension at the age originally intended.

IDS even had the temerity to suggest it would do me good. Is he intent on creating civil unrest?

IDS: "Now that you have reached the age when you are eligible for a state pension we've done the math and would like to present you both with this bill for just over £130,000 (nine years of state pension for two people) that you can repay by working for another nine years, it'll do you good".

Mr & Mrs de Cani: Sorry Ian, how about you give us the lump sum that we have paid through NI and Serps throughout our working life and we'll be the best judge of what's good for us and which part of planet earth we decide to spend it"

Shame on You IDS,

If you query the bonafides of this tale, give "IDS retirement age" a google

Right, I seem to have got quite cross, and a little sweary but now I've got that off my chest (a chest that has undoubtedly slipped a bit) to river business.

Cress is pushing out from the margins helping to squeeze the river and maintain a rate of flow but it can smother ranunculus and kill it off prematurely. Fishing remains tricky with fish getting a very good look at whatever is presented, parachute adams remains the fly of first choice. Not much weed was cut during the August weed cut and blanket weed continues to flourish.

It took two days to top the meadows and they will need going over again once more this summer. It's a steady job on the magnificent orange tractor but years ago it would have been the swish of the scythe that toppled the lush growth. I am often told that I have the carriage and demeanor of a thirty five year old but I am actually of an age when tractors and ride on mowers were not used to tend to the banks of a chalk stream. When I first started falling into the river in the 1980's Allen scythes and brush cutters were king and the fringe was attended to with a slasher. Pre Allen Scythes mowing scythes would be used. A normal Turk Scythe with the blade set at a different angle than for weed cutting, with a keen edge it was a fairly efficient method of mowing and knocking off the fringe. There is a rhythm and method to mowing with a scythe that Aiden Turner has yet to grasp. During my brief tenure at The Houghton Club, I also remember a chain driven brush cutter that hung on a wall in a barn. The chain ran from the engine to the cutter head on the outside of the shaft, sans guards. I used to get my flares caught in the chain on my bike in the 1970s, This contraption, straight out of Wallace & Gromnit, put most body parts at risk of being snaggged and compared to modern strimmers the thing weighed a ton!.

Ben Stokes by the way, what a cricketer. Madam and myself were in the house when he hit the fastest Test century at Lords against New Zealand in 2015. When the force is with him, bat, ball or in the field the opposition had better look out.

Last week we had rain, not a lot made its way down to the aquifers and this week the river has run dry at Stoke Charity. Stoke Charity is roughly three and a half miles from the usual source of the Dever and four and a bit miles upstream from Bransbury.

It's a worry.

It has come close to drying up at Weston Colley two miles from the usual source of the Dever during the past few summers.

The river dried up at Weston Colley a few weeks ago. Dever Springs Trout Fishery used to rear fish in ponds upstream from this dry river bed.

There was a gauge on the river at Weston Colley to record flow and height of water.

This is a stretch of the Dever three miles upstream from Bransbury that I used to help stock with several hundred pound and a half brown trout each summer.

There was a thriving angling club with a burgeoning membership.

Sutton Scotney Anglers. They even had a HQ in the village with name plate on the door an'all.

Couldn't stock it now.

The current situation in the Dever Valley has been caused by five dry winters, an unsustainable use of the groundwater resource and not allowing enough of what little rain that falls to soak back into the ground.

Earlier this year a delegation of Trusts, Associations and Interested parties approached the Water Companies and EA about the need to conserve water this summer. The Water Company announced that there was nothing to worry about, they would just draw more out of the ground. The EA's gaze was drawn to their navel.

In early summer I wrote to my Local EA office asking why their groundwater data didn't reflect the anecdotal evidence in the Dever Valley of aquifers under pressure. A rather supercilious reply stated that their data was accurate and anecdotal evidence was the ravings of cranks and loons.

If nothing changes with regard to the way we use our groundwater and the amount of rain that falls in this corner of the country this stretch of river will receive its principle replenishment from the sewage works out flow at Barton Stacey. It will be much diminished and its character will change. Above the sewage works outflow the Dever will become a winter bourne, below the sewage works - high in nutrients prone to warming with regular algal blooms. It will cease to be a true chalk stream.

One of the reason I chuck up this guff is to provide a record for future generations that this wasn't always the case on the Dever. An incredibly productive and biodiverse chalk river environment is being quietly trashed by a generation's inability or unwillingness to look after a ground water resource that feeds these precious rivers.

I have said it many times on here, if a third world country or failed state treated a unique habitat with such contempt, we would be quick to condemn as corrupt.

Thursday 15 August 2019

Leverets, Slurry and Puffing Like a Loon.

Right, back to the office.

Grass has grown, the fringe is a little long and then a tree fell down in high wind at the weekend. Well half a tree actually, a significant chunk of an ageing horse chestnut.

The wind seems to have blown constantly since we returned from Sardinia (Did I mention we'd been away?) which has made fishing, for those who have attempted it, decidedly difficult. Coupled with low crystal clear water and fish in mid season form with gimlet eyes keenly honed in on what is presented, this time of the year is always challenging.

A delicately presented Parachute Adams would be my fly of first choice fished on a longer line than one employ in May and June.

There is some succour to be had in that fishing will often pick up in September as those fish that do spawn have a final feed before making preparations to get jiggy in autumn.

Kingfishers have had a good year and each morning we disturb at least two as Otis, Moss and myself make our way up the river. Numbers of geese also honk and parade on the stubble fields behind our house.

We have Leverets on the river bank for the first time in my memory. There were a couple of hares hopping about the water meadows for most of the winter. Lepus prefer the fields and woods higher up the side of the valley and this pair can only have ended up where they are by coming through the wood and crossing one of three foot bridges.

That, or they swam across the river.

Several anglers have commented on the colour in the fringe and the range of wild flowers in the meadows. It does seem to be a good show this year particularly hemp agrimony in the top meadow and around the fishing hut and loosestrife in the fringe.

Unfortunately blanket weed has really taken hold. An insidious filamentous algae it thrives in water rich in phosphates and smothers the good weed like ranunculus and water parsnip. Not much lives in it and it is a sign of falling water quality and rising water temperature. It's the heaviest bloom of blanket weed for some summers.

Over on the Itchen ribbon weed is having the time of its life and each weed cut I have had to cut it back only for it to grow clear of the water within a matter of weeks.

I was over there swishing my scythe earlier this week and was dismayed to see this.

The next time the movers and shakers of the chalk stream world get together to talk phosphates and nitrates over coffee and fine biscuits could they invite this guy in the tractor along.

He spent a whole morning spreading pungent slurry onto a field sloping down to a water meadow ditch that leads into the main river. Farmers used to follow the weather but apparently no more. I was keenly monitoring the radar on a day to day basis, obviously for groundwater replenishment but also because we had two tickets for the first day of the Lords Test twenty four hours hence.

Twelve hours of rain had been forecast for some days. Forecasters were proved right and we await a refund for our blank day.

Some of the slurry that this guy could have chucked on another field or applied when rain was not forecast will have ended up in the ditch and subsequently the river.

While the mood is upon us, well done The Thunderer for their investigation the other week (3rd August) into water companies and their weasely ways with regard to the aquatic environment.

Keep it up.

Following our recent trip to Amsterdam where cycling had been a particular highlight we returned home and vowed to take to the pedals again.

Not the king of the mountains mamil lycra cult that seems to have taken hold over here, but normal bikes of Dutch design that you ride in everyday clothing in an upright position on a wide comfortable saddle often with a handy cargo box in front of the handlebars.

Research over the past few weeks has revealed that such bikes can be purchased with secret engines.

I get cross when I have to pedal up hills. Give me the flat hills of my homeland, or possibly the polders, over an incline anyday.

Hills are not fun to ride up on a bike.

With this in mind we are now the proud owners of a Dutch bike with a secret engine.

An ebike they call them.

It has a large cushioned saddle, a big rechargeable battery and a button that you can push to assist with the uphill bits. For my knackered knees it's a boon and you arrive at your destination (local shop, cricket ground, fish smokery, recycling centre) in a reasonable condition and not soaked in sweat, eyes bulging and puffing like a loon.

It's a trial period. If ebikes are not for us we'll move the thing on at the end of the summer.

If ebikes are for us we'll add another electric velocipede to the fleet later this year.

But for the moment, my name is Chris de Cani and I am an ebiker.

Tuesday 13 August 2019

Grappa, Fags & Telling It Like It Is!

Un Momento, ancora una volta abbiaamo viaggiato molto.

I'll continue in the mother tongue as Google Translate just crashed.

A few days In Sardinia. The gulf of Orosei to be precise, about half way down on the right hand side and a repeat attempt to touch base with saline detective Monk Seal.

You can take it as read that the M25 was a mess and the trip to Gatwick took an hour longer than usual. The Easyjet flight to Olbia was delayed by over an hour. Inter rent the hopeless hire car company who we had trouble with in Milan took forty five minutes to hand over the keys. Picking the case up to pack in the car I tipped the entire contents out across the car park as I had forgotten to do it up after retrieving documentation and on leaving the airport Google maps failed, all navigation was lost, and we we circumnavigated a roundabout for several minutes before formulating a plan.

After a spectacular three hour drive through the mountains we pitched up at an apartment on the beach in the small town of Santa Maria Navarrese. Situated on a twelve mile wide plain hemmed in by the mountains and the sea, the only way in is by the two main roads over the mountains or by sea to the port of Arbatax. Most of what is put on a plate or tipped into a wine glass is produced on the plain.

We didn't have a duff meal or glass of grog all week, and can report that Sardinian Cannonau is a tremendous drop of grog and the locals can really work a tomato.

Up into the mountains first to clock up a few steps and spy the land
before driving along the Orientalale Sarda or the SS125 up to the village of Baunei for lunch. The mountains climb up to six thousand feet and most winters are topped with snow.

Hence the neatly stacked wood piles. The road is nuts and gets quite hairy at some points and also features regularly in the Giro D'Italia as both a climbing stage and descent.

To the beach in the afternoon. A spectacular strip of sand edged with verdant woodland and a crystal clear stretch of sea teeming with life. Each morning before breakfast we would take a snorkel, goggles and a handful of bread to feed fish to around eighteen inches in length that massed around some rocks in front of our apartment.

And so a pattern was set. Activity in the morning, good lunch, beach in the afternoon and out to dinner at night.

A walk to a prehistoric site one morning took us through some scrub that had been subject to the medium of fire a few weeks before. It must have been quite a burn with a few isolated dwellings looking a little singed.

Sardinia is covered with piles of rocks hand made around four to six thousand years ago. The Nuraghic civilization chucked up many stumpy little three tower complexes, often on a hill.

Well preserved, managed and maintained they litter the island.

There were also the remains of an earlier Dolmen,

And Menhirs By Toutatis!

Several evenings a week the chairs are dragged out from the 11th century church in Santa Maria Navarrese and people gather for a postprandial recital.

They have a programme that runs throughout the summer.

Could have been Puccini, Verdi or Rossini,

We don't know

I'll own that many subjects are a blind spot for this house. Classical music would be up there in the top ten, although we did see Pavarotti in the park.

Half an hour of this quintet coupled with some decidedly glugable Sardinian grog definitely aided digestion.

Captain Corelli would approve, or was that another island we've been to?

Tortolli next, a functional town with a supermarket that we needed to visit and a famous sprint finish on the Giro D'Italia.

Sardines or Sardinians as they prefer to be known are the longest lived people on planet earth. Several Asian cultures may dispute this and question the criteria for classifying a longest lived group of people, but a higher percentage of people on this island live to a hundred years old than anywhere else on earth.

Each month's qualifiers are photographed and asked to reveal the secret to their longevity.
The results are then displayed on the wall of Tortelli library.

Here's Raimonda who attributes her longevity entirely to tomatoes.

Riata insists faith has a part to play

Eugenio puts it down to fags

Mafalda Hebden, the local Grappa and Horology

Maria, furious knitting or possibly ectoplasm

And Giovannina, a hundred years of telling it like it is.

Whatever it is,

and by the way it has nothing to do with cycling any of the local stages of the Giro D'Italia, such activities would finish most all sane people,

they're on to something.

And then, all too soon, it was time to go home.

Not by blue lilo,

but back over the mountains to an Easyjet flight delayed by two and a half hours and chaos on the M25

Thanks to everyone who held the fort at home.

Our quest for Monk Seal?


We even managed to smuggle one home.

River news to follow.