Wednesday 10 January 2024

Mine Shafts, Floods and The Harwood Arms

Happy New Year everybody, 

Covid for Christmas, which is not what we asked for and resulted in a funny forty eight hours of sleep, sweating and unusual dreams, before the immune system kicked in and conquered all. 

Spent the run up to New Year in Cornwall on the beach with Madam and Moss in some spectacular storms. Porthtowan was the place, plenty of people with dogs about. Not so many surfers, but then the waves were enormous, and the wind so strong that we thought twice about walking along the cliffs. 

There was also the thought that Moss and windy cliffs could be a disastrous combination. He doesn’t listen at the best of times and we were minded that our cries warning him of a cliff edge or a mine shaft may be carried away on the wind. 

Back in Bransbury now and with the place still unsold, currently working towards what increasingly appears to be another summer of trout fishing at Bransbury. 

Mostly maintenance stuff at the moment. 

The chainsaw has remained in the workshop for much of the time, only putting in an appearance in emergencies such as the two small ash trees that cashed in their chips during recent winds, falling into a decidedly swollen river. There are bankside willows that need some attention, but any activity near the river turns the bank to a muddy mess, creating further work for later in the winter, so I’m standing back for the time being and being very careful where I take the tractor. 

Fences, gates and any other outside wood have been treated when the weather allows, I also have two small bridges in the workshop that are drying out before treatment and attention. All the hedges are now cut, every tool in the workshop is pin sharp and the fisherman’s wash room has been decorated. Its just the trees that need some attention, but I don’t see it happening anytime soon. 

We have had a tremendous amount of early winter rain and the river is in great condition. Ranunculus is already pushing through sparkling silt free gravels. Currently the river’s catchment area is completely saturated and thankfully we have a relatively dry period forecast. 

Last week storm some such name or other dumped several inches of rain in the valley in the space of twenty four hours. The river rose remarkably quickly and coloured up in a matter of hours as a result of the principle contribution to its flow coming from direct run off of rain rather than groundwater, behaviour not seen in these parts for some years. 

The field known across the ages as “Spring Bottom” has a spring in it and ditches are flowing well. I have seen groundwater levels higher here, 1998/99 and 2013/2014 spring immediately to mind, but we have a lot of winter left to go for further aquifer recharge which bodes well for summer trout fishing. 

The road into Bransbury is also carrying a lot of water. Again I have seen this several times. 

In early March 1999, I made my way slowly along the road in welly deep water and disturbed half a dozen grayling swimming along the road, probably gone spoony and looking for somewhere to spawn. In 2013/14 this part of the road was flooded for several months and this may well be the case again this winter. In 2013/14 the flooding upstream on the water meadow and in the village was considerable. Currently there is no flooding on the fields and meadows upstream around the village, all ditches are doing what they were designed to do having been maintained regularly in recent times. 

The reason the river is flowing down the road in Bransbury is because a small carrier stream on the main river Test has been “let go” – “Rewilded” if you will. 

There is a lengthy section where it emerges from under the Highway to the Sun, that is unmanaged and has become overgrown and is unable to take the water it used to. (There was a lot more water about back in the day when it would have been maintained to preserve grazing in the substantial meadow upstream) 

Currently the water backs up, breaks out across its bank, makes its way around the electricity substation, that never thought water would be coming its way, 

before making its way across the meadow to run down fifty yards of Bransbury lane before entering the Dever via a ditch by the road bridge. 

Don’t get me wrong, I like a lot of water and a flooded meadow at this time of year is my kind of thing. 

But rather than abandon any management programme for the errant carrier, manage it in such a way that biodiversity is maximised and most of the water ends up at its original intended destination.

Snowdrops are out and the daffodils are thinking about doing something. Down in Cornwall camellia were in flower as was a large hebe in the small garden of our surf shack overlooking the bay. The current cold snap and first dusting of snow should restore some order to what has so far been a confusing winter for some of the flora and fauna in these parts. A lot of geese have turned up, along with a few snipe, which usually means its very cold somewhere else. We’ve another Muntjac taken up residence in the garden and the fallow deer were up on the fields between Bransbury and Newton Stacey, presumably because there’s a lot of standing water about on the common where they normally like to hang out.

Off up to the smoke this weekend to see Child B for lunch, who is somehow turning 29 next week. 

All trains are off with replacement bus services invoked. We’ll stump up the ULEZ as our oil burning pig of a car is considered a health hazard, despite it attracting an annual car tax of just £30 for its friendliness to the environment– work that one out. 

We will then park for four or five hours having purchased a solid gold pay and display ticket virtually by phone. I assume it’s solid gold judging by the price of the thing, but having purchased it virtually we will never know, could be bitcoin for all we know.

An exceptional lunch will be taken at The Harwood Arms, where wine, food and company will provide succour to a mind swirl of questions, such as:

Why is it so difficult to get into what some would have as the greatest city in the world? 
Why is our car so efficient, cheap to run, cost £30 to tax, yet still be considered undesirable in the ULEZ zone?
Where is my solid gold parking ticket and why do I just receive a message (possibly a scam) assuring me that I have made such a purchase from a man called Ringo?

How is it that Child B is now 29 and it is the year 2024?

Wasn't he at school only a few years ago?