Friday 28 May 2021

Val-Deri Val Dera, Mayfly and Knitbone

Cygnets, goslings, ducklings and pheasant chicks and Derek Nimmo

All put in an appearance in the valley this week. 

Although the Derek Nimmo bit proved to be a falsehood as a lunchtime google confirmed that he is no longer with us, it must have been a Derek Nimmo lookalike just passing through. It was a brief highlight of a particularly slow day (The possibility that the parish had been visited by celebrity, not the confirmation of the unfortunate demise of Derek Nimmo) which is just about how we roll around here at the moment. 

The miserable Guilgud (after AA Mole) has become even more grumpy following the appearance of his sole heir, and today while strimming I saw him a long way from the river chasing off another male swan through the Christmas trees. With it’s many twists and turns it is a tricky stretch of river for swans to lift off to assume their lumbering flight and I have seen them take off from dry land before. Years ago an old dog of ours managed to grab a mouthful of tail feathers as one slowly gained height across the meadow. 

We are still well down on swallows, swifts and martins. They normally turn up in time for an easy meal at mayfly time which is now in full swing. At which point I could ramble off into eight hundred words about the “magic of the mayfly” an angle for feature pieces that is regurgitated ad nauseam with slight tweaks each year in the angling press. I was once asked to write more features on subjects along the lines of “The magic of the mayfly” or “Winning ways with worms” It all seemed a bit Walter Scott to me or possibly Walter Gabriel. Instead I sent in a fifteen hundred word feature piece on how Poldark couldn’t use a scythe properly and would do well to keep his shirt on during the sharpening process due to potential hazards, which was duly published and drew mixed reviews. 

Anyway the mayfly is on. Steady hatches from late morning through to late afternoon and the fish now know what they are. Some significant lumps have fallen to a mayfly dun this week and tomorrow I will make my third trip to the smoker. Over wintered fish are in surprisingly good condition. With the high number of fish in the river during the winter just gone one would expect a few thin fish to be put on the bank, but so far all trout have been fully finned and torpedo like in shape. This week the sun has shone more often and the wind has dropped significantly, which has made flicking a fly a far more comfortable and satisfying experience. Wind and heavy rain are the nemesis of the mayfly. High wind can result in egg laden females struggle to get back to the river to deposit their load. Heavy rain can see them deceived by a wet road where they will crash land mid carriageway in the mistaken belief that it is a body of water. I have yet to see a mating dance by the beech tree at the end of our garden but I don’t think it will be long.
Grass has really pushed on of late and mower and strimmer have both been whirring and banging keeping the banks and paths in order. The long grass in the meadows that we leave until the orchids have finished is around twelve inches high and dotted with cuckoo flower,knitbone and king cups. While strimming and mowing my new clever noise cancelling headphones have been a revelation. While listening to podcasts, radio and talking books via the magic of the Bluetooth pixies, I no longer need to have the volume turned up to the max. Turn the noise cancelling feature up to high and all noise from the outside world melts away, it really is clever stuff although it does take a little getting use to. 

Before making preparations to go at the grass with the four stroke strimmer the other day, I popped up the road to the garage to fill the petrol can. Passing the small car park by the allotments at the end of the road, I caught a group of ramblers mustering to complete the four mile circular walk that now features in many walking guide books. It was a welcome sight and another baby step in the slow walk out into the light and normality. Petrol purchased I returned home put on my strimmer trousers and clever headphones and turned the noise cancelling feature up to max. The pando has caused my mind to skip and slip around a bit and I suddenly remembered that the compost bin that takes the food waste unsuitable for chooks would benefit from a layer of grass clippings to aid the composting process. It wouldn’t need much and the small strip of grass between the Mill house and the road would provide just enough clippings before I set off with the strimmer.
Still in strimmer troos and clever headphoned up I dragged my small rechargeable mower (we’re saving the planet here) out of the shed and made my way over to the grass. Two turns in the rambling group, suitably roped together, pass by. All twenty have their hats on the sides of their head, are all smiles and waves, which send me into a reverie centred around the benefits of walking with regard to mental health throughout my third pass with the mower. 

Five times up and down and I guessed the grass box must be nearly full. The collection part of the machine was removed and a close inspection revealed that it was completely empty.
That’s odd, I thought, the cutting height is set correctly and it normally fills up after five turns.
Removing my headphones to don the headgear of a rechargeable lawn mower technician a light bulb moment occurred. 
 The battery on the mower was flat, I couldn’t hear the rechargeable mower wasn’t whirring due to the clever headphones. 

I had just been pushing the dead mower up and down. 

I don’t know what the Val-deri Val-dera brigade thought, a very quiet mower or possibly a silly old fool, 

we don’t know, but the next edition of the rambling guide book may well be amended to “and at this point of the walk you will pass an old Mill house on the river Dever. There has been a mill house on the site for at least a thousand years. The current workings on the sluice by the road were installed in 1842 by a local Andover company. If you look closely at the wall on the end of the house you will see the initials of several of the previous mill owners and the year in which they were in residence. The area around the mill is rich in wildlife and an important example of a rare chalk stream environment. Fed by aquifers and springs that impart their unique character, they have been managed by man for hundreds of years. Occasionally local pagans can be seen outside the Mill in late spring muttering in tongues while wheeling small machines up and down in an attempt to appease the goddess of the springs. Pagans believe that this process delivers a soothing massage to the goddess of the springs who will reciprocate with a bounty of water throughout the summer.” 

Well that’s what I told them when they came past again ten minutes later.

Tuesday 18 May 2021

The Bridge Over the M3 at Fleet Services and Some Noise Cancelling Headphones.

What to write? 

This is getting hard. 

It’s been a while I know, but as we walk slowly out into the light now much of the madness has passed, a fug has once again descended. Time was when I could bang out multiple chunks of guff for platforms various of an evening

Damn this poxy pando!
Yes there is weed and yes there is water and the river carries a sparkle that only occurs at this time of year. Mayfly are putting in the occasional appearance and fish are slowly coming round to the idea that they may make a reasonable meal but other than that not much new to report. Swallows are about and Lord Ludg raises a glass to a squadron of swifts each evening from his garden throne but brer swift was a tad tardy in putting in it’s opening appearance. 
A warmer week has resulted in a more verdant locale. 

Last weekend Madam and myself moved south to Sway. She to score a cricket match, me to walk dogs and just be somewhere else talking to different people. On the edge of the New Forest the ground is surrounded by substantial oaks all of which were pretty much in full leaf and several weeks ahead of the oaks that live along this river valley. 
This week’s cricket, a home tie against Alton, fell to the weather, which was a shame as Child B had fled the capital in order to take part. We ran him home on the Sunday morning and visited the outside area of a Lebanese restaurant in Fulham, or possibly Chelsea, for lunch. The mighty repast was mostly meat based with the occasional chickpea and today, with a view to extending life, we felt duty bound to undertake a “meat free Monday” 

Which was nice (see Fast Show) 
Oh yes, a life changing moment. 

While working with machinery I always wear ear protection especially so now that one of my ears doesn’t work and I need to look after the one that does. I will often listen to soothing music, talking book or podcast piped in from my clever phone. My new clever phone monitors decibel levels delivered to my ears and got quite cross a few times while strimming this spring. A pair of noise cancelling headphones have been purloined and the clever phone is happy. The noise cancelling feature means that I can listen to said soothing music at a lower level and the good ear is thus protected.

That’s noise cancelling headphones everyone, get them if you can,
Apologies should have put P at the beginning of previous paragraph to indicate product placement. 

P: That’s noise cancelling headphones everyone. 

In weed news, the Dever is full of the stuff. Ranunculus is in flower and holding water up well, banks are becoming soft and mushy and the June weed cut will, for the second successive year, be a heavy one, which is as it should be and why it is the longest designated weed cutting period of the summer.  
In fly news, the fly are slow to put in an appearance, which may be temperature related. Mayfly are just beginning to show and last week we had several days of heavy hawthorn hatches which points to things happening a couple of weeks later thsi year than one would expect. 

In Beaver news, we have no beaver in the Dever valley, for which some continue to give great thanks. 
In Tarantula news, we have no tarantula in the Dever valley, for which we also give great thanks. There were tarantula on “Cruising with Jane McDonald” last night and they were not doing the dance.

Sneaky feckers (Tarantula, not Jane McDonalds per se), they hide in holes popping out to pounce on prey; although Jane McDonald hiding in a hole, leaping out to deliver a killer blow or possibly belt out some ditty classified as"easy listening" could be equally terrifying.

I’ll stick with the rabbit as my hole dwelling demon of first choice. The nemesis of the allotment, he can be dealt with reasonably effectively, doesn’t offer a deadly bite and, if cooked long enough, is the food of the gods. 
On the allotment the taytos are up and suitably ridged. Broad beans promise much and strawberries bear flowers. The one struggle has been runner beans. I had great success with “Tenderstar” last year but this year three packets of seeds have failed to germinate and rotted in their pots. I’ve now gone back to the safe pair of hands that is “Enorma”. 
Driving up the M3 to deliver Child B back to the smoke, Madam commented that the last time we had driven up the M3 we were 51 years old and both my ears worked. 

We’re 53 now, we’ll forget the ears. 

Pre Pando, we’d pound up the M3 many times a year on the way to somewhere else or just to visit bits various of Das Kapital. 

I never imagined I’d feel nostalgic for a trip up the M3. 

In its interminable transfer to “smart motorway” status it was the stuff of Dante. 

Last Sunday as we delivered Child B back to the smoke, we took our time, idly rolling along cheerily pointing out sights that we had not seen for sometime. 

The short deceleration lane at Junction 5 to Odiham, the brown sign to Birdworld and the bridge over the motorway at Fleet services being particular highlights. 

We’re going to try the M27 soon, which is in the throes of attaining “smart motorway” status which may instigate further traffic based nostalgia in the months to come. 

Got there in the end, 850 words plus, which used to be like falling off a bike back in the day.  
One step. two step, one step two step, one step two step, slowly we walk back out into the light (after Bill Hicks)