Wednesday 25 September 2019

Dodgy Modelling and Cooking the Books

Apologies for recent tardiness regarding posts.

Been a bit busy.

Exchanging lengthy emails with people various on the state of play apropos aquifers in the Dever Valley.

Some people have been very helpful, others daft and occasionally disturbing.

The "Customers and Engagement" team at Command Centre Central described the Dever as a "Winter bourne" (it isn't, or it didn't used to be below Micheldever) and followed that up with an explanation of what a winterbourne is.

I have been informed three times by "Customers and Engagement " and also by a helpful Hydrologist that there were no major groundwater abstractions in the Dever Valley, each time I took my shoes off and threw them against the wall before setting out to take photos of a major groundwater abstraction in the Dever Valley.

Here's one

I'm not allowed to tell you where it is. An FOI request for the location of further such sites was refused on grounds of security.

It is sited two fields away from the River Dever.

and at this point I'd like to suggest that the cone of influence from this site could impact on the Upper Dever.

The senior Hydrologist replied that their records suggest that following extensive modelling, the cone of influence could impact upon the River Test which is three miles away and not the River Dever (two fields away remember).

I asked the senior Hydrologist to revisit the modelling and the subsequent records and take another look, which they have agreed to do.

I await a reply.

Both Customers & Engagement and The Hydrologists were very pleased about their monitoring of river flow and water quality at Bransbury Bridge, which they insist would pick up on any impact from over abstraction at the significant groundwater abstraction in the Dever Valley.

I suggested to both Customers & Engagement and The Hydrologists that most groundwater abstracted from the site was returned to the river via the waterworks at Barton Stacey, which is upstream from the Bransbury Bridge.

If there had been a breach of the abstraction licence on the site. Water flow measuring at Bransbury would not pick it up.

The Dever upstream from the outflow from the water works would however feel the impact of the over abstraction. The water quality below the discharge pipe would also decrease as the percentage of the river's flow made up from treated water increased.

I asked them to make a site visit to the Upper Dever valley and if the water quality monitored at Bransbury Bridge had demonstrated any change as the summer progressed. They have promised to take a look,

I await a reply.

Last year, Command Centre Central confessed that its Upper Itchen Flow Augmentation scheme that requires groundwater to be abstracted and sent down the Candover Stream to preserve the SAC status of the Upper Itchen is impacting upon groundwater levels in the Dever catchment. The site of the abstraction takes place not far from Madam and Otis on the left.

I asked them to revisit their assertion that there were no major groundwater abstractions in the Dever Valley.

There are others other than the two mentioned here, we have come across two others in the Dever Valley while seeking to lengthen life via the medium of walking.

I pointed out that the operators of the significant groundwater abstraction two fields away from the Upper Dever did not have the best record of late when it came to being open and honest about data collection, monitoring and potential impacts upon the aquatic environment. The suggestion had been made by regulators that there had been selective measurement of phosphates and books may also have been cooked.

I asked if the Government agency charged with providing protection to the aquatic environment could take a closer look at the machinations of this particular significant groundwater abstraction two fields away from the banks of the unique aquatic environment that is the River Dever.

I have yet to receive a reply to this one, and I fear that the gaze of Command Centre Central may once again have returned to the navel when presented with such a request to investigate this particular perpetrator.

Any progress will be reported here, but it's been raining for forty eight hours so I expect a quick fix to be acclaimed and whatever was that crank on the Dever banging on about. The overriding issue of over abstraction and a chronic decline in groundwater levels will once again be pushed to the bottom of the "things to do to protect precious chalk rivers" tray. Fingers will be crossed for an increase in precipitation and we'll all agree to muster at the same time next year to shout about the same problem, because that's how we've rolled in this valley for a long long time now.

Anyway, fishing's picked up a bit. We continue to experience good hatches of sedge and a procession of diddy olives rise from the river throughout the afternoon. Much of the ranunculus is now cashing in its chips and blanket weed rolls up into a ball and like a sub surface panjandrum, rolls away downstream giving off gammarus that lurk within.

Jobs for the winter are now becoming apparent. There are two bridges that must be replaced, plenty of planks that must be milled for projects various and a couple of months felling dodgy ash trees. Chainsaw muscles grow soft through the summer and November is often an achy month as this withered husk that passes for human form readjusts to new movements.

Last weekend we went to Winchester.

It's my Dad's 80th birthday later this year so family gathered to mark an event that should take place eight weeks hence (no pressure, keep taking the pills)

and at this point I'd like to invite everyone to my premature 80th birthday sometime next year. I'll chuck up an extensive gift list on here in a month or so. I know I'm only half way to eighty but forty years will assure that absolute vfm is achieved for all expensive items gifted.

That's him in the middle next to my Mum and it's he who must take the blame for me falling in and out of rivers for most of my life.

First fish I caught came from the Little Ouse (I think) It was a small roach, it was in the evening and my Dad was smoking a cigar (castella probably) as was Uncle Dennis. My Mum, Aunty Joyce and younger brother (a non fisher who suffered many fishing holidays) were not smoking cigars.

I don't remember my Dad catching anything that evening,

and so a pattern was set.

It was a tremendous lunch at the Hotel Du Vin that was capped by a parasol flying away on the wind (we dined alfresco. this was no babycham parasol) and smashing an old window.

If anybody eats at the Hotel Du Vin after reading this guff please mention this house's name.

We could be on for a free bowl of soup

Tuesday 10 September 2019

A Sedge on The Loo and Further Dunderheads & Weasels

Hello, me again.

It's September and fishing is picking up.

It improves most summers once August has passed. August is an increasingly unproductive month when it comes to flicking a fly at fish and is the reason we now open for trout fishing a few weeks earlier and will close a week later than normal.

A reaction to a changing climate if you will.

It seems to have paid dividends as numbers of fish caught are up on the previous two seasons, and we've a few weeks to go yet. Small CDC emergers have been fairly successful, the smaller the better and fished on as fine a point as you are comfortable with.

We are also experiencing some reasonable hatches of sedge. This one took up residence on the cistern of the fisherman's loo for half a day.

I'll refrain from banging on about water levels, you can take it as read the river is desperately low. We have aired our concerns with The Riparian Owners Association who have passed the message on to Command Centre Central who may well remain oblivious to the Dever drying up at Stoke Charity if they are solely relying on their own data harvest for signs of a diminished aquifer.

We have heavy dew with mist most mornings as we make our way up the river and lane,

and nets cast by sneaky spiders to snare myopic insects are betrayed.

The temperature on our digital recorder dropped to two degrees overnight at the weekend and there were some small patches of frost in the meadow bringing the woodshed and woodburner combo into play.

On the Sabbath I spun leg of pork on the spit over coals.

My quest for apples to produce sauce was a tedious one.

The large bramley that normally chucks up a trailer full of the things is completely fruit free as are most of the eaters about the place.

Madam and Moss have picked a bucket of blackberries -Otis ate all that he picked. This year the batches of blackberry and apple mush to be cooked portioned and introduced to the freezer will mostly be blackberry based.

With the cricket season finished, and Madam's role as scorer complete for another year, we have once again donned the walking shoes and returned to our quest for eternal life via the medium of left foot right foot.

Upper Test Valley first, with skirmishes about the Longparish and Tufton environs.

I've not visited this stretch of the Test for a few years but I was disturbed by the lack of ranunculus in this particular stretch of main river upstream from Longparish. The last time I crossed this bridge, ranunculus was having a high old time of it and filled the river.

I once cut weed just upstream from here at a house that was owned at the time by Jocelyn Stevens. He was head man at English Heritage after a successful career in publishing.

It wasn't fished very much but I was helping the keeper out because the July weed cut was such a heavy one, water levels needed to be reduced and time was short.

This looks like swan grazing damage with the weed's recovery restricted by low water flow (apologies I wasn't going to mention that subject, was I)

The house owned by Jocelyn Stevens was a big old pile of bricks with a stunning garden and golden pheasants running about the place. The current owner from across the pond had the whole house taken down brick by brick and reconstructed a few feet further away to shield it from the quiet lane that runs nearby.

Up at Tufton there was a little more weed which was encouraging. When I first landed on the chalk streams Ginger Morris was the keeper on the Tufton water. I helped stock the river at Tufton a few times while on a year of work experience at Leckford estate prior to attending college. Ginger Morris keepered at Tufton for forty years and was a dry cove who sometimes seemed suspicious of Jocelyn Stevens and his movements.

Les Kirby took over from Ginger and then Paul Moncaster after him, it's a pretty piece of water that used to experience some heavy hatches of fly, enough to cause you to put the windscreen wipers on when driving along the nearby Whitchurch to Andover road.

Returning down the Test Valley we skirted the Longparish House water. Once the family home of Colonel Peter Hawker, the famous nineteen century sportsman and author of a celebrated book on shooting and fishing whose exploits with rod and line were often deemed worthy of mention in The Times. One of our regular rods, Colonel Andrews, lived for many years in his cottage at Keyhaven (Hawker's Cottage) where Hawker would regularly repair with his punt gun and batman to worry the local wildfowl with his charges and shot.

While at college, in 1989 or possibly 1990 I undertook eleven weeks paid work experience with the NRA (National Rivers Authority, predecessor to the EA) AS part of my work I was assigned the task of visiting owners and keepers on the rivers Test and Itchen to ascertain who owned which bit of water, determine boundaries and compile an up to date list of contact details.

I touched base with Alf Harper, the keeper at Longparish House at this very spot. Alf was a great big man who had done secretive things in various conflicts on behalf of the British army.

Alf was getting on a bit when we met, he liked a fag and was struggling a bit in the high heat of a mid July afternoon.

He was cutting weed in this carrier to reduce the water level because the lane that ran alongside was flooding. He was glad of the break and we sat at this spot for half an hour while he smoked tabs and pointed out which bits of river were owned by who in that particular part of the valley.

I think Alf would be disturbed (never a good state for Alf who retained an army issue pistol and had been known to point it at poachers) to see that the carrier to which he was sympathetically attending in order to "get water away from the road" has now run dry.

Apologies, I wasn't going to mention low water was I

Two days ago The Daily Echo trumpeted that a drought permit had been approved for our local water company in order to keep the good people of Southampton and the surrounding environs in eau.

Restrictions will be put in place regarding the use of hosepipes and everyone will be encouraged to save water. The man from the water company stated that drought order applications would happen more frequently in the future as they face a real challenge on water resources in the region.

This is a considerable shift in position by the water company from the start of the summer when they stated that they did not envisage having to apply for a drought permit this summer.

I don't know what they expected to happen this summer given the level of the aquifers in the spring and the likelyhood of any significant recharge during the summer months. Not much has happened weather wise that hasn't happened during the previous six summers, other than the light being shined a little closer on the water companies' weasely ways.

When asked to comment, a dunderhead at Command Centre Central was prised away from the fancy biscuits in a lengthy flood defence meeting to utter

"What are these aquifers that you speak off?

On behalf of our aquifers and the rivers that rely on them, can we all agree to keep shining the light a little stronger on the machinations of these dunderheads and weasels.

Apologies but I wasn't going to mention low water levels was I