Tuesday, 21 March 2023

Press on Regardless?

Hello, Hello, 

Apologies again for being away so long, not much has changed other than the demise of Dickie Davies, who we bumped into on many occasions, and a brief bought of covid 19 (Apparently it is still a thing) 

Rain today was very welcome as the river had dropped at a remarkable rate following an arid February, but weed is growing and all looks promising for the coming trout season. 

It is now apparent that the locale will be under new ownership sometime later this year. What this means for madam and myself is still a little unclear. We have both recently turned 55 which a plethora of junk mail, both actual and ethereal, inform us is a bit of a thing when it comes to stages of life. 

We’ve a three bed ex council house a little way up the valley all bought and paid for which we could live in if necessary, but are exploring the possibility of purchasing a “chez nook” somewhere else. 

I have worked for my deceased employer and her family for thirty one years and it has been a blast. Madam and myself both consider ourselves immensely fortunate to have lived, worked and raised a family in this parish, and if we do have to move on, it will be quite a wrench, with so many memories, friends and fishers.

New owners may require my services on the river or they may not, they may be happy for me to continue to chuck up guff such as this, or they may not want their river up and out there on the internet. 

We don’t know, 

But for a while until we know which land lies where, I’m going to muffle the oars and switch to radio silence. 

Feel free to stay in contact directly, deep cover, by email with further questions if necessary.  

I’m just a little concerned that any potential new owner could stumble across this guff and mark me out as a troublemaker/troubled/ addled or possibly just a loon who shouldn’t be allowed near sharp tools.

Of course six months down the line, it may be "press on regardless, Chris" from new owners and we can all sit down once again in a circle on the same familiar patch of grass and lace daisies into one another's hair, in which case see you back here later this year. 

Time will tell.

Tuesday, 14 February 2023

Scientific Discovery, MOTs and Surveys

Hello and Happy New Year, 

Oh, we’ve done that one.

No matter there is much to discuss, not least my latest condition. 

On me everyone, 

I have now attained a vintage that triggers a summons for both a health and financial MOT. 

While it’s best we move on from the fiscal visions of Mad Lizzie and the Uxbridge Berlusconi and the impact of their machinations on my pension pot. The health side went surprisingly well with normal cholesterol, blood sugar levels, and pucka prostate, blood pressure and heart rate. 

Ok I am carrying a little extra timber and yes the psoriasis, but inexplicably I have grown a centimetre in height since my last health check in 1992 (Clearly aged 24 I was still growing). 

Following further questioning, there was much admiration for my consumption of fruit and vegetables and fifteen thousand steps each day, countered with mild consternation over my determined and sustained consumption of red wine. All information was entered into the clever computer and we waited for my “body age” and percentage risk of suffering a heart attack, stroke and possibility of making it through the day. 

Turns out my body is 55 years old, which I knew anyway, and my chance of suffering heart failure or a stroke in the next few years is less than 5%. 

I'll take that.

Ok I could have the body age of a 45 year old if a smaller figure had been entered in the “number of glasses of red wine drunk each week” column, but statistics prove that I may well have been a centimetre shorter back then aged 45 and anyway, Madam is not drawn to a young, earnest and stumpy cove.

As I explained to the excellent nurse, and at this point Basketball people you may wish to take note, 

It is clear that science now teaches us that drinking red wine makes you grow taller. 

In other medical news, during the recent cold snap I slipped over on the ice and fractured my wrist.

I was informed by the lady tending to my injury that this is a more common occurrence with the elderly, so maybe I’m not 55 after all, or perhaps my left wrist is older than the rest of my body or possibly, in the manner of a new born giraffe, I am a little more ungainly now that I have achieved my full height. 

Whatever, after four weeks the splint is now off. 

For the record the incident happened at 11.30am well before any wine had been taken. I’d stopped on the road next to the ditch that carries water from the field known across the ages as “Spring Bottom” through the village and down into the Dever. It passes under the road via a trio of pipes that can often become blocked causing water to back up in the ditch. I often stop and check for blockages. On this occasion I stepped out of the jeep and went base over apex on the thick ice on the road. 

While we’re on Spring Bottom and its related ditch, the water level has fallen markedly through the past few weeks and Spring Bottom currently sits sans spring. We’re ready for some more rain now please. 

The river is running clear and weed is starting to grow. Ranunculus will always be stimulated by good winter flow and all of the unsightly gunk that built up in river during the low flow of last summer has been swept away. 

We have been subject to two surveys of late. 

One by wallahs from the Wessex Chalkstream Trust who are carrying out some restoration work on a stretch upstream and wanted to make an assessment of the Dever’s natural profile. 

The gravel drew rave reviews

The second by the weasels from the water company, who plan to put a pipe from a waterworks on the lower Test to a waterworks on the upper river in order to “relieve pressure on the aquifers” 

A Damascene moment perhaps with regard to a more sustainable provision of the old eau to society, although it seems a little out of character when they have been more than comfortable with their increasing over abstractions in recent decades, and is it finally a tacit admission that water is running short in these parts. 

If water entering the upper reaches of The Test system is increasingly of a "recycled" nature the river"s water quality will fall and the characteristic of the river will change.  No water treatment works can match a chalk aquifer for producing clean, clear and chemical free water. 

Grayling fishing has been disappointing. 

Despite the implementation of the flawed “Trout and Grayling Strategy” in 2015, numbers of grayling in this stretch have fallen off a cliff. 

Where a competent angler may have expected to catch 15 to 20 grayling in a day fishing here twenty years ago, today’s expected bag is below half a dozen. The grayling is very much the junior partner in this strategy, despite the number of anglers targeting them increasing over the years. Each grayling angler is a stakeholder in the health of a chalk stream and a supporter when it comes to protecting these precious rivers. I have not seen grayling spawning in numbers for a while. I put a video on the the “tube they call you” back in the day, of many adult grayling oblivious to my presence getting jiggy on the shallow in front of the Fishing Hut. Twenty years ago it was common place to find several seriously senior grayling dead on the weed rack in front of the Mill House in spring, exhausted by the process of spawning. I haven’t picked one off the rack for some years. The Dever doesn’t get bothered by Graculus in the way that the middle Test does and I know this type of thing can go in cycles, particularly with a true wild fish, but the lady of the stream’s plight needs a little more looking into than is currently being undertaken.

Looking ahead to the summer, we do seem to have a full book of rods ready to arrive to bother trout, with few free days available.

Which is a good thing. 

While out doing the left foot right foot thing in sustained efforts to prolong life. Madam, Moss and myself took in a dozen heron on the meadow upstream. 

Tightly formed up, although not in a Red Arrows kind of way, I don’t think I have ever seen so many in one spot. Away from the river but close to a spring ditch, they appeared to be holding parliament in the manner of the mad March hare. There’s a heap of greylag geese turned up as well and I’m sure that following the cold snap if I’d run Moss down the middle of the meadow there would have been a few snipe about. 

I think that’s all, 

Still in limbo here, working towards the impending trout season, but beyond that, who knows? 

Difficult to get away with no trips booked, which is a bit strange after Madam and myself had taken to gadding about and living for pleasure alone since the kids left home (it's on here somewhere).

Plans are slowly forming, but we are both very aware that in many respects there is a clock ticking with an increasingly voluble tick and a tock.

Thursday, 19 January 2023

International Kidney, Fallow Deer and Brer Beaver

A belated Happy New Year everyone, 

sorry it’s taken so long but to quote Jack Lennon: 

Strange Days indeed, most peculiar mama. 

First morning of the year found Madam, Moss and myself once again bumbling about on the common. Puddles aplenty and a triptych of egret. The Great, the Little and The Cattle. 

Not seen a Cattle Egret before. A stumpy cousin of the other two, and who knows what shakras, portents and runes have been invoked regarding prospects for the new year following it’s presence in the valley on the first day of the new year, but we press on regardless through the month all the same. 

By the way, the Silver Birch pictured above stood and struggled in the centre of the common for many years. A favourite perch of the many avian oddities that dropped in, it was sad to see that it had succumbed to the wind, although it never looked like it was having a happy time of it despite it's array of exotic visitors. 

Muntjac currently mass in this part of the valley and our small garden currently plays host to a substantial, if slovenly male who nibbles daintily at any green shoots presented. Down on the common we took in the resident heard of twenty fallow deer. 

Out bumbling in Harewood Forest, Child A/Maisie (status - married and a few months shy of thirty years old – how did that happen) took in a group of fifty or more fallow.  

While we’re on the age of children and fallow deer, we recently had cause to travel up to the smoke for Child B/ William’s twenty eighth birthday (once again, how did that happen) Recently accustomed to living high on the hog we were directed to a michelin starred gastro pub to provide a celebratory lunch, where the star of the show was fallow deer, possibly from Hampshire served several ways, the centre piece of which was a piece of fillet. 

Anyway, enough social stuff, 

and that really is the sum of my social movements this past few weeks. 

There are days when the only communication I have is with Madam and Moss, Like Lord Ludg I’ve taken to popping into shops with little intention of making a purchase only to converse lightly with poorly paid orderlies on matters of the day. 

The river, yes the river. 

Well rain has done a lot of good. 

Not an exceptional amount as some would have us believe, but it is good to see spring ditches flowing and a bunch of big puddles in the field known across the ages as “Spring Bottom” 

There’s still no water on the football pitch and no flow down the road yet. 

If the new series of Dancing on Ice take the show out on tour I’d like to offer my allotment as a possible venue. It’s a serious frost pocket and digital equipment hanging from shed recorded several nights of minus ten degrees prior to the festive season. If anyone has a reliable source of International Kidney seed potatoes, don’t be a stranger, can’t find any anywhere and they seem to do quite well here as a first early. 

With all the rain I’ve held back on shifting silt as the river is doing a perfectly good job on it’s own. Most work has centred around planet chainsaw with several trees of all denominations cashing in their chips. The latest a couple of lanky Aspen that fell across the track at the bottom of the Andyke. 

News Just In: 

A tentative online order for International Kidney seed potatoes has delivered a surfeit of the things. Seems they got my order wrong and I now have half the UK supply of International Kidney seed potatoes. If any body needs any, don’t be a stranger, I’ve enough for several acres. 

Confusion reigned this week in the valley over a speech given by new EA chairman Alan Lovell in Hampshire. Years ago an Alan Lovell gave a presentation to keepers and owners regarding groundwater data and river flow in the region, in which hapless Alan stated that flows on the Wallop Brook had been particularly reasonable for the previous year only for a now retired and very venerable keeper on the middle river to stand up and reveal that the Wallop Brook had run underground throughout a significant length of it’s course during the period that Alan claimed all had been ok with regards to flow.

Several keeper’s remember the moment when the quality of Alan’s data was questioned. 

Seems there is more than one Alan Lovell. 

Fingers crossed the chap featured in The Thunderer this week is not the same said man, and the original Alan has taken a more creative course, as he seemed to be doing with regards to data presented. 

One thing that whichever Alan Lovell it was who gave the latest presentation got right was the need for anybody with an interest in the aquatic environment to lobby their MPs with regard to the dropping of EU standard environmental protections. Pre Brexit, EU law was used successfully to hold several to account over their trashing of the aquatic environment or a failure to adequately protect the aquatic environment.  

New son in law got in touch last week with a link to a newspaper article regarding Beavers in Hampshire, and he wasn’t referencing the scouting association. 

Apparently some misguided soul with far too much money and very little knowledge of the chalk stream environment has got themselves a couple of beavers and built a big pen on a water course not far from here. 

The aim is to promote them as the future of chalk stream management. 

At which point could I question all those trusts, associations and dimbulbs who promoted the removal of all hatches and sluices on the chalk streams in the quest to eliminate “perched streams”  Hatches and sluices that had for years done the job that can only be described as “Beaver Plus” and managed by an animal with a bigger brain and capable of more sympathetic management with regard to what water goes where. 

Beavers may be of benefit to the headwaters of river systems prone to high levels of direct run off following heavy rain, where their wooden dams delay the entrance of heavy rain to a river system, but in chalk valleys this is not a problem, 

So come on all you Trusts who purport to have great knowledge of the Chalk Rivers, who, over the years, have promoted the cause of letting water go rather than holding it up. Stand up and say that the UK’s rivers vary greatly in characteristic and Beavers may not be the answer for all.

Wouldn't it have been preferable to raise knowledge of how to use those hatches and sluices to promote the aquatic environment and biodiversity rather than rip the things out altogether.  There's a wealth of lost knowledge on how to manage water in a chalk valley, and those guys who built most of those hatches sluices had a lot more water to manage than we do today, 

but no, chances are it could be over to you Brer Beaver.