I’ve suffered several sleepless nights over my ineffectual efforts to explain the process of laying back a bit of bank, so I’m going to have another go.
Management of marginal growth is key when maintaining chalk streams. In times of low water it can be allowed to grow out into the stream to pinch the river and maintain a rate of flow, in times of high water it can be cut back to maximise the amount of water the channel can take. This is why strong marginal growth throughout the length of bank is important, and an eye must be kept on shading and light as excessive shading by trees, willows in particular can eliminate marginal growth.
Here’s one of my hay knife.
Often seen on the walls of pubs (when they were open) It is the perfect tool for cutting cubes of sedge and reed. This clump has grown three feet out into the river and must be cut back. The hay knife is used to cut a line through the sedge and reed parallel with the river bank about eighteen inches from the edge, cuts perpendicular to the bank are then made with the knife
and the grabs used to pull the cube of sedge and reed back on top of the remaining marginal growth. I've banged a couple of sheets of tin into the river on the opposite side to push water along the bank being laid back to wash away any excess silt left behind once the sedge and reed has been removed.
As expected this stretch played host to dozens of brook lampreys who love the thick mud and soon settle down in the new bank.
They are a primitive fish with no jaw that loses its appetite when it becomes a mature adult having spent its time growing up feeding on algae and organic matter in the mud. When I was student, I kept one called Lionel in a tank in the hope that he would feed on the algae and reduce the requirement for cleaning, but he didn’t take to the task so I returned him to the stream.
I’ve more bank to lay back this week so expect more exciting lamprey facts in next week’s issue.
Presented with a bit of bank like this most would drive a digger at it and make merry with the bucket ,which would undoubtedly be quicker and easier, but using the hay knife is a steady job and you don’t see the lampreys from the digger.
Other things that I forgot to say that kept me awake at night included Glen Hoddle’s reveal as Grandfather Clock in The Masked singer.
I was unaware of his break up from The Fast Show’s Chrissy Waddle following their number 12 smash Diamond LIghts and I’m not sure that Glen has chosen the right path for his fledgling solo career,
it’s certainly a long way from Up the Junction, Labelled with Love and Take me and yours which remain three highlights of Glen and Chris’s canon of work.