Monday 9 November 2020

Exmoor and Feature Status for an Excavator

Not for the first time ,we must open this latest chunk of guff with an apology.


It has been noted by several visitors to this site that I have once again drifted into tardiness with regard to chucking up guff. 


Ok the fug, 


I have got an allotment and also a long list of decorating jobs seems to have presented itself.


Apologies, I’ll try and keep up.



We also went away at half term. 

A week on Exmoor with the dogs and very few other people. 

Unable and unwilling to fly away, we decided to do something different so took a house by a river for the week.  Withypool was the place and a perfect base for walking. The moors border the village and five minutes walk saw us climbing steadily past free range ponies. 

Moss did most of Exmoor in the first morning, Otis was a little more staid in his progress but covered every mile that we did, which ain't bad for an old dog. 

The house sat on the banks of the river Barle. Our first walk was curtailed by stepping stones that were underwater. Our drive to a walk starting at the Tarr steps was doomed due to the height of the water of a ford on the Barle. Five days into our stay, and after quite a bit of rain the Barle was half way up the garden and heading for the house.  It’s a pretty river the Barle but it has few manners, unlike a pretty chalkstream. 


We saw plenty of red deer and a couple of hen harriers but no sign of the beast of Exmoor, although we did see a black goat. The mythical beast has been roaming the moors for decades ( beast of Exmoor, not the black goat) and how long before Jeremy Wade rocks up having exhausted all avenues when it comes to frightening people about fish. 



the internet in Withypool, a forty minute ride away from petrol stations, secondary schools and supermarkets, was ……..superb!


The mobile signal in Withypool is non existant. 


This can present unique challenges. 


Particularly with online security.

Midway through our stay the penny dropped  that we had forgotten to transfer some money from our savings account before our departure.  

Our online savings account required a PIN to be generated and delivered to our mobile phones. 

The PIN self destructs in five minutes. 

Our attempt to transfer money required a dash to the highest point on Exmoor to get the PIN followed by a careering journey down the lanes to the laptop to enter the thing in the box. 


It couldn’t be done. 


Here I am on the highest point on Exmoor explaining my predicament to the bank. 


Lynton and Lynmouth were the only urban areas that we visited. 

There were a hundred crazy fools in the sea with surf boards on a day when it hammered down for hours. The river rose quickly, but the culverts and levees coped easily with what must have been a fraction of the flow on the August day of the disaster.


We rode the funicular and sang our songs. 

All the windows and doors were open and numbers were limited. It’s powered by water which is plentiful in these parts . Ballast tanks beneath the cars are filled with water at the summit and emptied at base camp, the increased weight of the car at the top pulls the lighter car at the bottom up the slope. 

Top chips by the harbour and sausages for the dogs before returning to the isolation of the moors. 


By the end of the week, the Barle remained in a fine bate. The colour of cocoa, the Tarr steps were almost submerged. 


At home, the Dever was also on the rise but remained well within her banks. The first pair of grayling anglers had a great day, with clear water allowing sight fishing for grayling to two pound. Triploid trout were a pain, with some huge lumps taking time out of their day. No sign of any fish kicking up redds yet, but there is still plenty of time. 


Over on the Itchen, this happened. 


Seems the campaign by the fine fleece and cutting edge walking shoes brigade to replant the river has switched from ranunculus to Kubota. 

It has been there all week and they are struggling to get the thing out. This part of the Itchen is a SAC, A designated special area of conservation, higher than an SSSI.  The form filling and risk assessments that are required to carry out this work are extensive, if you knock your cup of coffee over you have to stump up an explanation. 


I don’t know how it happened and best wishes to the digger driver, I hope you’re ok.

 It could be a while before the thing is hauled out and it may well acquire “feature status” with catch records next season reporting the location of capture as “just behind the Kubota. 


Poor Geoffrey Palmer. A keen angler, I met him once. 

Not here on the Dever but at some nearby lakes.  

A sudden shower sent most sane people scurrying for cover and I ended up underneath an oak  tree with Geoffrey Palmer.  As lugubrious as you would expect, we chatted for five minutes about fishing before the sun came out and we went our separate ways, he to the lake, me to the fishery office. To touch base with a mate. He was quite a good fisherman by all accounts. 


A second sad loss this month was Jim Glasspool. 

During his tenure as secretary of the Test & Itchen Association he gave a great deal of time promoting the cause of the two chalk streams and sat on many committees representing the interests of the two rivers. A chemist by trade, who worked high up in the petro chemical field, he promoted the use of phosphate test kits that have been used so successfully in holding the feet of water companies and bagged salad producers to the fire. 


His predecessor was Peggy Baring. 

Scion of the banking family, and Christine Hamilton times ten, she is fondly remembered by many keepers and owners alike. 

In the late eighties I was undertaking eleven weeks work experience with the EA’ s predecessor the Nationl Rivers Association. 

As part of my remit I was given a company car, an unlimited “Overdrive” card to buy petrol and dispatched to the county in order to ascertain who actually owned which bit of river, because, 

yes, they really didn’t know.  

First stop was Peggy Baring, who invited me up to her big pile of bricks just outside Basingstoke.

Presented with coffee and biscuits I sat down on the sofa with Peggy and we pored over maps. She couldn’t have been more helpful, she had a soft spot for keepers and prospective ones and was very generous with her time.  I was twenty-one years old at the time and was unnerved by Peggy’s flatulence.  It was not mentioned throughout our two hour meeting, but it was regular event and seemed to coincide with the chiming of the grandfather clock at the end of the room. Two hours with Peggy and I had eighty percent of the task in the bag. 


Ding dong The Donald’s gone,


And a predictably petulant departure with echoes of The Duce.

The man who made America grate again

Please can we all agree to resume stepping forwards rather than backwards.


Mick Newey said...

Enjoyed that, sounds like a great week away, my sort of place in this current climate.

The Two Terriers said...

Chris, an excellent read, it reduced my temper about all things Trump and lockdown. My wife says can you bottle it? That's a fine look jack Russell in your 'Digger submerged in river' press cutting. Many years ago I had a brilliant few days fishing for trout on the Barle. A truly delightful area. Flatulence with Swiss chronometer managed timing. Wonderful, you could sell that, forget your Rolex. A s far as Donald goes, and let's hope it's a long way, but I don't see hime hanging from a lamppost. Anyway, great post. I enjoyed it immensely. Stay safe, John

Test Valley River Keeper said...

Hi Mick,

Thanks for getting in touch. We stayed in Bridge Cottage in Withypool. Very comfortable and perfect for dogs. A minute walk to the shop, two minutes walk to the pub and a five minute walk puts you on the moors. It's on AirBnb somewhere,


ian said...

Thanks well worth waiting for. You and Mick are my fishing line to sanity these days. Keep up the good work. Stay safe.

Test Valley River Keeper said...

Hi John,

We saw a few fish in the Barle earlier in the week before it started to flood, it must be a pretty river in which to flick a fly in early summer.

The digger remains in situ and once the pandemic is done will feature on several guided walks around the Upper Itchen,

Look after yourselves


Test Valley River Keeper said...

Hi Ian,

Thanks for getting in touch and for reading the rubbish that I write.

I'll do my best to chuck up guff a little more often as it is also serves as a reminder as to what it is I am supposed to be doing when the inertia sets in.

Look after yourself and keep on keeping on,