Wednesday 13 December 2023

Brain Fog, Risk Assessment and Brucie's GP

Crikes this one took a bit to get going, bit out of practice. 

Back in the day I could chuck this guff up in a matter of minutes (the clear evidence of rushed work is on here somewhere) follow it up with 850 words for the ST, a couple of football/cricket reports and update relevant websites regarding weekend sporting results before answering emails and responding to keyboard warriors and trolls various. 

Bit of a brain fog at the moment that I’ll attribute directly to the scientifically proved manopause. 

Oh yes, the river. 

Brim full of water, still within it’s banks but chugging along like a good un. I’ve bankside willows to attend to that must wait for drier conditions, the banks are super soft and I could currently do a lot of damage trundling about in the tractor. Hauling a few felled limbs from the river could quite easily result in the clever Kubota attaining “feature status” for a few weeks stuck in the meadows. 

At which point I’d like to mention that I currently spend a lot of time on my own about the place. I am quite aware that if anything went wrong while in the river on my own with a chainsaw or trundling along in the tractor on a soft riverbank, I’d be in a bit of a fix. 

The RNLI don’t operate this far up river and if my phone got wet or went down I’d be in a bit of a pickle. It may be an age thing but I have become increasingly aware of my capabilities and where once I would have climbed a tree in shorts and flip flops to nip off a limb of willow holding a chainsaw in one hand, I now proceed with caution.

We’ve had a few frosts and the beech and oak trees cling on to their final few leaves. Milder days have seen a few olives emerge with the odd grayling and triploid brown demonstrating interest. Trout are kicking up redds relatively untroubled by avian predators, the higher water carrying a little colour affords a relative degree of protection from “Jack Ern’s” indiscriminate stabbings. 

We continue to play host to a plethora of survey wallahs clad in the highest level of viz with regard to all manner of projects whose inception is planned for the next couple of years. This little lane could become quite crowded in the second half of this decade with machines of all shapes and sizes on manoeuvres. 

There is also river restoration work planned for the stretch up stream from here owned by the MOD. 

Back in the day the meadow and river was used regularly as a training ground associated with the now defunct Barton Stacey Camp. At some point it seems soldier boys got to drive some diggers and there are some very long deep stretches up stream of here. Folk in the finest fleece jackets and cutting edge walking shoes are keen for such stretches to be filled with many tonnes of gravel, raising the river bed before the addition of a few wiggles to flick the water about. 

Here at Bransbury the bottom and middle bends, which are the only deeper stretches would be a prime candidate for some, to receive the gift of gravel. My late employer and myself, always resisted the calls to do so citing the deeper stretches added some interest to the angling experience. We are being encouraged to maximise biodiversity and the deeper holes played host to fish and invertebrates that didn’t appreciate the faster flowing water: Roach, Perch, Pike, Chub and Eels to name a few, plus the odd leviathanic trout. 

Chalk stream management in the latter part of the last century had been accused of being too “Troutcentric” – if it wasn’t a trout, it was coming out! 

Aren’t we being similarly “troutcentric” if we remove any naturally occurring deeper stretches. 

Gravels laid down here, when Tyrannasaurus walked the wood, naturally lie at different levels, deposited by a much bigger and powerful braided stream. There are patches of alluvial gravel in this part of the valley that sit several feet above the current river level, there are parts of the valley where I can push a twelve foot punt pole down and not find gravel, there are also some serious deposits of sticky claggy light grey clay with overlying peat, 

that is for another day, this is all about the gravel. 

There is plenty of faster, shallower water at Bransbury that the river’s salmonids revel in, trout fishing may be the principle provider of income here, but a decade or so ago we had a burgeoning roach fishery here (until Tarka took hold) and some reasonable water for pike fishing with a spinner or fly (again……. well you can the fill the rest in yourself) Roach and Pike anglers who become stakeholders in the chalkstream habitat. 

In the current climate monitoring by trusts, associations, private individuals et al proves more effective at holding the feet to the fire of those that would do this precious habitat harm than that of the agencies charged with task by government of protecting the chalk stream habitat . The greater the number of stakeholders with an interest in the protection of chalk streams the better, all the deep bits don’t need to be filled in. 

I think that’s it, some sort of order seems to have been restored.

Seasons greetings everyone, here’s to a happy and peaceful 2024 and to channel the late great Bruce Forsyth (whose GP taught me to Spey Cast on the Carron, proper chap by the way Bruce and his GP Dr Loxton was a great guy and talented salmon angler) 

Keeeeeep Fishing!