Which seems apt as we celebrate seventy years of The Archers.
I say “celebrate” but I haven’t leaned my lugs to an episode for twenty odd years, but the Sunday morning hour long omnibus was a staple in our house for a long time. Tom Forest was still about, Nelson Gabriel was up to no good in antiques and his dad Walter kept wheezing things like “Roll the baby in the snow and all its aches and pains will go” and “Hello me old pal me old beauty” I can clearly remember the incident that saw me turn back on Ambridge. It was a hot day and Tony Archer took the afternoon off mid harvest to wash the landrover.
While we’re on soaps I see Coronation St are also celebrating an anniversary. Again I was an avid follower at one point. Ray Langton came and went, Dierdre’s morrocan beau Samir unfortunate demise and I made a pilgrimage to the spot where Alan Bradley was killed by a tram in Blackpool while chasing Rita Fairclough.
I wasn't chasing Rita Fairclough, Alan Bradley was chasing Rita Fairclough. I held no truck with Rita at the time.
I don’t remember why we stopped watching the Street. It may have been when they went to three episodes a week and it all became a bit much.
Through the soap, an reasonable analogy for 2020, we will now turn our attention to river business.
The river is in excellent order, flowing well and crystal clear, keep the rain coming please. We’re still whacking into the willows at the moment. Mostly crack willow that is starting to impact upon marginal growth and weed in the river through excessive shading. It’s a spongy business and the tractor has cut the ground up quite a bit when dragging the things out of the river. The Salix that we have been attending to this week would benefited from being pollarded a couple of years ago as they are now quite a substantial size. The nature of the tree is to twist and bend and grow into irregular shaped branches which makes judging distribution of weight in the bigger specimens a bit of a challenge, pinching your saw is inevitable with this stuff. Lord Ludg and myself (it was both of us) once managed to get three saws (two of his, one of mine) stuck in one incalcitrant bough, which helped to fill a morning.
The bits of bank that we have attended to will look a little stark through the winter months but will green up rapidly in the spring.
Spawning brown trout remain few and far between. There is the odd patch of clean gravel that could be the beginnings of a redd but nothing like the number of fish kicking up on the shallows ten years ago. The gravel is nice and loose and the height of water offers protection from avian predation, we just need spawning fish.
The water temperature is still quite high for the time of the year and while this won’t impact upon the urge to spawn, as daylight length is the trigger factor for that business to start, it does mean that the weed in the river is still growing well. This week the local big fish water up stream from here cut masses of mare’s tail, which is unusual for December.
Shooting in the locale took a brief hiatus in the four week lockdown. There are oodles of French partridge in the fields bordering the valley and there will be some big days in the second half of December. Big number days that, to my mind, don’t always shine a favourable light on game shooting. When we shot here at Bransbury, four days each winter, sixty birds was a good day and every one ended up in an oven or a freezer somewhere in the parish.
Just finished writing fishing reports for publications various. Summaries of the season that serve as a bellwether to the state of play on beats up and down the river. In a year when the pandemic has been all consuming it felt right to record all things Covid and its impact on the season. Back in March, when we went into lockdown two weeks too late, the message seemed to be that three weeks of lockdown would be enough to see off the lurgy and the season would commence as normal. You will remember that three weeks became six weeks, the opening day of our trout season was delayed by four weeks, but open we did, and we got through the season without any real incident bar the collapse of gazebo during a storm on two anglers outside of their opening chota pegs of the evening. This summer Covid 19 along with Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse have highlighted the benefit to body and mind of a day on the bank with a rod in hand.
The Test Valley has one of the lowest infection rates in the country, the numbers are only a little above Cornwall, but it’s on the cards we’ll still be affected by virus protocols at the beginning of next season. We know what to do now, the summer has demonstrated that we can fish safely,
just sans gazebo.
Oh yes, It’s Christmas,
Thanks as ever for reading the rubbish that I write, Happy Christmas and see you on the other side in the promised sunlit uplands of 2021.