Wednesday 30 June 2021

Scaffold Ziggurat, Spotted Oddities and a Beaver Tail Stern

Been a bit busy in the garden again so I’ll repeat apologies for tardiness with regard to chucking up guff. 

I seem to be letting things slip. 

Anyway, for the last fortnight or so the parish has resounded to clangs and clunks akin to a ship yard as a ziggurat formed from scaffold is constructed over the burned out shell of the grade two listed thatched terrace that looms over the bottom bends. 

It will be with us for some time, a thatched cottage of a similar age that caught fire in a neighbouring village hid under such a cover for the best part of two years while wrangling was undertaken between owners, English Heritage and multiple wings of the local council. 

Last week we had just under three inches of rain in a twenty four hour period. A whole day of an exciting world test final at the Ageas bowl was lost and in these environs lots of long grass lay flat the following morning. The big orange topper was introduced to clear paths that could not be travelled on foot without the gift of soggy wet troos being presented. The river briefly carried some colour and cut weed hung up on shallows upstream dislodged and made passage downriver.
It’s clear now and remains in good condition for the time of year. Fish are now far more circumspect and several skulk on the bottom in deep water despite a reasonable trickle of olives from late morning on. 

It’s the time of year to tour the woods with paint brush painting crosses while crying “bring out your dead”.  

Ailing ash trees are easily identifiable at this time of year and goodness we’ve a few about that will need attending to next winter. It’s become perennial winter work for a few years now coupled with replanting other native hard woods to fill a few gaps for the next generation. 

Currently we are orchid rich. 

Oodles of the purple variety with the occasional spottet oddity in the long stuff. 

Bees are about and we have a bunch living in our garden shed roof that we are just getting along with; we go about our business and they go about theirs. We all seem to be rubbing along fine together at the moment.
Damsel flies are massing. Bumbling through the long grass, squadrons of the two inch things are dislodged and forced to take flight. 

I’m not so good on my damsel flies, but most are blue with the odd emerald offering. 

Some may be rare, some may be not, 

we don't know , we're down on damsel fly knowledge 
Last week we travelled north for forty five minutes to visit our one time neighbour for her ninety ninth birthday. Mr and Mrs Robinson lived next door when we first fell into this stretch of the river nearly thirty years ago. 

They couldn’t have been more different from our neighbour on the other side, the ribald force that was Mary Gunn, but they were nice people and good neighbours. Mr Robinson had been a big noise at Hampshire County Council and had a half rod at Bransbury for a few years and sadly died sometime around the turn of the century. 

Mrs Robinson remained in Bransbury up until a few years ago.
An indomitable force with echoes of Lady Sale, she could speak at length on the travails of England’s top order and the dearth of decent spin (as opposed to Elphy Bay's dithering on the way out from Kabul} 

We (Mrs Robinson, not Lady Sale) had regular and lengthy conversations on cricket of which she knows a great deal. 
She drove well into her nineties and up until a few years before her departure from Bransbury would undertake a weekly drive a short way down the highway to the sun to pick up Anne. 

Anne lived at the old Longparish railway station and was gifted in the dark arts of ironing. 
Anne couldn’t drive, and relied on the ironing money for things various, but as time progressed Anne became concerned about Mrs Robinson joining the dual carriageway to pick her up each week, an event which occasionally featured on the traffic news. 

Anne broached the subject of the arrangement coming to an end for health and safety reasons, and Mrs Robinson quickly came back with:

“Good grief Anne, I’d rather risk my own life on the A303 than have to do the ironing, I’ll pick you up this time next week” 

I picked Mrs Robinson up a few times. She had a doofer around her neck that she could press if she fell over. 

It didn’t happen often,  but an alert was sent to my phone and I would immediately attend emboldened with my medical knowledge learned in the scouts,  which chiefly centred around the recovery position, slings and tourniquets. 

Luckily none of the falls were too serious and no bones were broken, a result that she would immediately attribute to the water we drank from a shared borehole that she insisted could do for a kettle in a matter of months but had also given us all the bones of a rhinocerous. 

Anyway, ninety nine and counting she remains an indomitable force and held strong views on the recent tests between Old Albion and New Zealand, particularly Joe Root’ s reluctance to have a dart at Kane Williamson’s sporting declaration in the first test. 

It was good to see her on such good form and she retains a strong spark.  

It’s a substantial pile of familial bricks on the banks of the Thames in which she is comfortably ensconced.
The house has a boat house at the bottom of the garden beneath which sits a stunning Thames river cruiser with beaver tail stern. 

It’s quite the thing, 

Principally polished wood and brass, it brought to mind my own parents’ experiments with wooden boats. 

With myself off out of the place and my brother close to completing A levels my parents purchased a steam boat. A propensity to live for pleasure alone once the children have flown runs deep in our family line, and well done for that. 

A single cylinder steam frolic, they pop popped up the Welsh Dee, trailered it to the Lake District and glided along many canals. 

To quote Neil Diamond, it was a beautiful noise. 

A gentle click click of an engine that allowed one to creep up on all manner of riverside wildlife. The boiler had a built in kettle for beverages, a hotplate for bacon sandwiches and an added a frisson to the riverine experience of a highly compressed operating system that could go bang at any time reducing all aboard to a million pieces if the thing had failed to be properly maintained.
My parents moved it on a few years ago. 

As I said, it’s trailerable and quite an effort to get into the water. According to the steam boat register it’s currently bobbing about on the cusp of explosion somewhere in France.   

I don’t think I misremembered any of the previous guff, although I’m not providing any guarantees (see terms and conditions) 

Back soon.

Monday 14 June 2021

Up Ashlett Creek Sans Paddle and Ding Dong Avon Calling

Christopher de Cani is neither unwell or away, he’s just been a bit busy in the garden. 

Apologies everyone, I know it's been a while, but on this slow walk back out into the light and a return to normality, life’s been a bit hectic, details of which to follow, But first the Mayfly. 

Goodness it’s been good on the Dever. The last knockings of May and the early skirmishes of June saw some very heavy hatches with spectacular dances between the beech tree and sycamore that tower above our garden, followed by some heavy evening falls of spinners in perfect conditions for brer mayfly. 

Which is a good thing and bodes well for mayfly fishing next year.

Olives are also about along with a few large sedge. Many fish have been caught and the local smokery is already running at full chat. However we are now experiencing the consequences of such gluttony with many fish now sulking, feeding only occasionally while suffering from piscine gout. The mayfly were late in appearing and are late in disappearing, the June weed cut is now underway and the mayfly are still pouring off.
Weed has done well and carpets of flowering ranunculus are the main feature of this stretch of the Dever.

When weed growth is as prolific as we are now experiencing the main flow of the river is pushed around and is often right under the feet of the angler flicking a fly. While attending to the fringe earlier this week I disturbed many fish that were hugging the bank due to the main flow being pushed into the bank by verdant mid river weed growth. 
Early this week I received a kind invitation to fish the Avon midway between its Nethers and its Uppers. 

I’ve been a few times before and its always a fun afternoon in good company.
Carrying a little more colour than the Dever, fish betrayed their presence with free rises during a heavy hatch of mayfly. Five fish, three on a mayfly and two on a klinkhammer as some fish were ignoring brer Danica and feasting on a steady trickle of olives.
I was keen to take in the river restoration work on the top beat that had been carried out a couple of years ago. It’s a sensible piece of work, void of the extremes of some re-wilding projects pushed in some quarters. 

In normal times half term would find Madam and myself off and away to foreign climes and living for pleasure alone. 

Well the Pando put paid to that so we went for a few walks instead.
Firstly down to Titchfield to follow the canal down to the coast at Hillhead for a picnic on the dog friendly beach. 
Secondly to the other side of Southampton water and a bumble along the water from Ashlett Creek to Calshot. 

Ashlett Creek nestles between the Fawley oil refinery and Fawley power station which is not something that the Ashlett Creek tourist board would possibly seek to promote. However, by the old tide mill and marina accessible by boat only at high tide, the refinery and power station are invisible and our “holiday in a day” commenced.

It’s an easy flat walk for us oldies and brim full of interest.
Fawley power station is currently being decommissioned including the 650ft concrete chimney stack that has stood sentinel over the Solent for sixty years. Myth has it the thing is the highest point in Hampshire, it's not, but its aid for navigation cannot be underestimated. Every ship, cruise, freight or naval, that rounds the Isle of Wight heading to Southampton must receive the advice over comms, “Just head a bit right of the big chimney” 
Part of the Fawley site is now used for the manufacture of wind turbine blades. There were many piled up on a vast expanse of hard standing waiting to be transported by pontoon to their offshore destination. The two mobile cranes detailed to manoeuvre the things onto the barge have 90 tonnes of ballast on the back. The blades are collosal, why we don’t see more wind turbines with a blade down is beyond me as the stresses on joints various must be immense. 
On up across a swing bridge and the marshes to Calshot a place that Madam knows well. Formally a centre for seaplane activity the place now operates as an activity centre and velodrome that year six of the local school visit each year for a residential week of activity. Madam has attended in a supervisory/having a go at lots of fun activities role for many years. 
We had a picnic on the beach and both commented on the dearth of big ships entering Southampton water, one oil tanker made stately passage but the usual procession of banana boats, car transporters, container ships and cruise ships was absent. 
It was good to be out, and we had a nice picnic in the sunshine on the beach but Italian lakes it ain’t. 

Continuing our slow walk out into the light, life has become a social whirl with a series of garden based meetings with friends and wines of all colours consumed. 

I’ve always been a firm proponent of the “awkward silence” when in company.
I find it adds a certain “frisson” to the occasion and the recent flurry of social events gave several opportunities for its implementation as regular visitors to this house will know, we haven’t really done anything over the past year other than keep our heads down emerging intermittently to shake a fist at an increasingly frustrating world. 

Neither social occasion seemed the place to offload so we stuck to drinking vino and talking nonsense while trying not to offend. 

I think we pulled it off, although the flurry of invitations has now dried up so I may have let myself down somewhere.