Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Nicky Witchell and an Odyssey on The Cheshire Plain

Nicky Witchell’s been on and the word on the street is that the ninety nine year old D of the E is no longer with us. 

Who knew?

Oh well, here goes, roll the state music,

Once when visiting Cowes during regatta week we walked past the tender that had transported Phil from the Royal Yacht Brittania to the yacht club where he was due to take in all things sail and boom. The Prince sat with the squadron in the clubhouse behind the brass starting cannons. We sat on a bench eating chips trying to work out which boat was winning. 

Many years ago on a trip north to bother salmon across the border my paterfamilias briefly shared the waxed jacket aisle in John Norris with his highness Prince Phillip, they lost touch soon afterwards and didn't speak for the remainder of his years. Clearly things had not gone well 

In her preliminary years, Child A was detailed to take a day away from her formative education and travel to Southsea Common to present flowers to her majesty the Queen (Phillip’s wife) Her Majesty wore yellow,  Child A wore a burgundy school jumper with an owl on the front. They spoke at a length of sorts, but they too lost touch soon afterwards. 

In an effort to earn further coin while a student in the late 80s I once coshed the Grandmother of The Duchess of York on the head with a ladder while painting the outside of a restaurant on Stockbridge High St (I was being paid to paint the restaurant not assault well heeled nonagenarians) The tower of London was briefly invoked but we eventually parted on good terms. In her last few remaining years our relationship attained "estranged" status and we never spoke again.

That’s all I’ve got Nick, is that ok? 

Moving on. 

We’re open for trout fishing and it feels gooooood (apologies, been listening to a lot of Partridge in preparation for his glorious return in the coming weeks) 

Not much fly about and the many fish that sit on the bends nudge and nose at most offerings rather than commit to a full on rise. Not much hawthorn around yet, but it is early. There are grannom over on the Itchen, but again fish remain circumspect. Leaky waders when weed cutting betrayed the fact that the river is still pretty cold but is also dropping at quite a rate. The spring ditch through the allotments that emanates from spring bottom has quickly run dry, and the track at the back that three weeks ago was passable only in wellies is now a decidedly dusty affair, some warm rain would be welcome.
I’ve come across three dead slow worms flat on the road recently. Like the frogs and toads they seem to head for the high ground of the grass verge along the line for their winter retreat, making their way back across the road to the meadows when spring is sprung. Only seen one swallow, 12th April which is a little later than we would expect, but the snow showers earlier this month may have had an influence on their estimated time of arrival. 

Popped up to Cheshire for a few days in an AirBnb last week in order to touch base with parents. We were very lucky with the weather and caught the sun while taking pegs and pie out in the garden. Dogs were in attendance and our digs were in the middle of nowhere on the edge of the limit of ponds that I used to fish when growing up in the area. As I’ve said previously, fishing was very accessible in this part of the Cheshire plain. Most fields were pasture with milk production the principle quest. Marl pits were present in many fields, scrapes made to extract clay to fertilise fields that filled with water and subsequently served as water source for dairy cattle. They all had fish in.  Rudd, crucian carp and tench mostly with the occasional perch or pike. 

The AirBnb that we visited sat on a remote farm with a couple of marl pits nearby full of fish.  I had no knowledge of  these pits as they were just out of range of a wobbly bike overloaded with fishing tackle. 

The twenty minute drive to our parents' abodes was a nostalgic trip of youthful fishing trips that Madam eventually drew tired of and  went something like: 
Kings pit – good pike, 

Littlers – tench up against the lillies, 

Greenaways – same, 

Eddy Walleys – fished many times at night, 

Sarmons – full of stunted rudd, 

Egg bridge – netted it with a pea net and moved bream in buckets on bikes to Sangsters an ancient dubisch pond full of big crucians. 

Marl pit – choked with potamogeton and again, home to stunted rudd, 

Walkers - crucians and little tench with overhead power lines, and full disclosure here (further Partridge), power lines that we once straddled with an aluminium landing net pole while having a go at the javelin (Tessa Sanderson and Fatima Whitbread were quite the thing at the time) knocking out the supply of amps and ohms to the nearby village of Oscroft, for which we/I now fully apologise. 

I didn’t mention the many meres and rivers that sit on the Cheshire plain that I also fished, but it is an easy place to fall into fishing.
You might pitch up to one of these ponds at four in the morning in June to take on the tench and find a dozen or more of your contemporaries in attendance. If fishing was good it was a reasonably sensible business but if bites were not forthcoming it could swiftly descend into a nonsense with fishing secondary. I think it’s the genesis of my penchant for social fishing. For a few years I could fish quite intensely for a prolonged period, but now the chat, the social side of being on the bank and kicking back with a beer if there is nothing going on is just as rewarding. 

Which leads me to think that my destiny may be the guy who inhabits every fishing tackle shop, turning up each day to talk a good fish without ever wetting a line that week. 

And there’s nothing wrong with that, 

I think that’s it, So with a nod to the large number of hares that currently bumble about Bransbury and Barton Stacey, 

That’s all folks,
(Bugs was a Rabbit, and apologise for the poor quality photo taken on your sub standard phone you dolt! – Ed) 

I’m off to read a book by Sue Townsend. She struggled greatly in the last few years of her life, lost her sight but continued to turn out fantastic material and died far too soon at the age of 62. I once had an opportunity to attend a week long writing retreat in Greece which she hosted and had a reputation for a bacchanalian air. I didn’t take up the opportunity, which remains a significant regret, 

Long gone, but a genius still much missed.

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