Thursday, November 6, 2008
We are ready for the next invasion of opportunistic mammals, birds or plants that will undoubtedly find there way here thanks to Mans unbelievable and thoughtless blundering, what ever they may be.
It certainly isn't the fault of these creatures, that found themselves in completely the wrong place and are only trying to survive. That said this useful brace is again the product of Jans attention to detail and hard work. He's been after that female mink for some time now. As the clays have 'gone quiet' we think what remains of our Water Voles might be safe for the winter.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Sunday, October 26, 2008
When the really high water comes in a week or two and the frosts knock back the watercress, it will be ripped out as the river claims back its full channel width, but for now the peppery cress is present in almost every sandwich I make.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Otter’s somehow bring about the opposite feelings. We chatter away about the chances of seeing our resident and feel very proud that it has chosen the Wye as a place to live. There is no doubt that it will eat what it chooses and amongst that diet will invariably be Water Voles but Voles and Otters can exist together, as part of the balance of nature on a British river bank- haven't you read The Wind in the Willows...
Monday, October 20, 2008
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Taking out another of the weirs, holding back the flow, has shown yet again the craftsmanship, and deep understanding of water that existed 100 years ago. A bolster run along the top face couldn’t reveal the joins between the gritstone lintels, they were so perfectly joined. Under these huge stones we found a wider, but no less thick base of flat slabs, lying exactly level. Downstream were diamond/cone shaped limestone wedges, fitted so their most part was underground by at least 20 inches and only their tops showed. Sloping away from the base they were set so tightly it took an hour with a bar to get the first one out. Then they could be taken out by hand. Above the weir were huge limestone slabs on a bed of very thick clay. This weir could easily withstand erosion from the falling water coming off the weir boards and the head of water upstream. Apart from a layer of tufa and moss, it could have been built yesterday and would have resisted the forces of nature for the next hundred year without the slightest problem.
Last week we rescued some coarse fish from a pond. It had been built 19 years ago by damming a valley stream with clay. This glacial valley is almost entirely clay so it should have remained water tight. Unfortunately no safeguards were installed to guard against the large amounts of silt, eroded from the valley sides, so it acted as a very efficient silt trap, filling it’s eight foot depths in as many years. These modern day constructers built a concrete spillway onto the clay, but the water soon cut from behind creating leaks. We found the level down and the fish huddled together in a puddle towards the centre, in water no deeper than a welly.
Why is it that the men who built their weir 100 years ago understood so much more than the men who built this dam wall and why also was the standard so much higher?
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Friday, October 3, 2008
I called The Environment Agency incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60. A very professional chap took the location and all the details of the pollution. He asked all the right questions and listened for the answers. I asked for the National Incident Recording System number and was given 00626065. I asked for a call back.
A lady walked towards the sludge, which had developed a tell tale white fungus, so had been running for some time. She saw and smelt the mess and asked;
“ What on earth is it?”
“It’s sewage, please don’t come any nearer”
“Well get it cleaned up then!” she replied and turned around muttering to her self.
All the time dogs and people were walking through this sewage without knowing what it was. This lady was right of course. They shouldn’t have to walk through other peoples toilet waste. Should they?
I rang the District Council and spoke to the Environmental department. The women who answered my call said;
“Yes we know about the leak. Its been leaking for some time“.
I replied” Do you know people are walking through it?
She said “The sewage is coming from a building development who have been given 28 days to sort it out. Its not our responsibility, you need to talk to the town council”
My friend called the building development. Apparently, ‘the old pipe is fractured and needs replacing‘. It wasn’t the building development who were responsible at all, rather Severn Trent Water for not mending their leaking sewer.
We walked around to the Town hall and although it was 3.30 on Friday afternoon, no one answered our knock at their door. On the notice board next to the office was a sign saying ‘general enquiries could be made at a drop in clinic over at the Agricultural Business Centre. My colleague and I went to report it.
On entering the drop in clinic I introduced myself and began explaining the problem.
“Mr. Slaney has stood up and is now walking out of the office saying he is going to go to the Police!", she said to her very unhelpful boss.
The women at the desk in the Police Station began to brush me off. I had to stare straight into her eyes and say:
At once she saw my side and went to find someone in the station who could help. I heard a gentleman say from behind the screen “ Its nothing to do with us”. He appeared at the counter and began to pass responsibility to the town council. Again, I had to get him to understand the problem. When he did understand he offered to call the Mayor and went back behind the screen.
Returning a few minutes later he said that the Mayor said that they own the land, but do not own the pipe and would not be doing anything about it. It was now 4pm. After a brief, heated one sided exchange from me he agreed to ask the Peak National Park Authority to close the footpath. I thanked him and left the office. It seemed that the PNPA had declined to get involved either, though they are contributing to the sewer in a big way, so him and another PC were seen stretching barrier tape across the entrance to the field, affectively closing the footpath at 4.45pm.
If I wasn’t so persistent and determined, nothing would have been done and people would have to tramp through human shit and rags until the job reached the top of some priority list. No one, other than the Police could give a monkies. Its simply astonishing how, in an affluent area such as Bakewell paying huge rates and council taxes, the services do not exist to keep us safe. There wasn’t the will in any of the council or government agencies I spoke to, for anyone to stand up and act in a decent, public spirited way. As the conversation begins I hear them waiting for an chance to send me somewhere else and as soon as they have the slightest angle to get rid of the problem elsewhere, they grasp that chance with great enthusiasm.
Copy to Patrick Mcloughlin MP
Scott was able to collect a couple of bucketfuls of gravel from downstream and pour them into the scrape he created. Then the original surface stone was blinded over the top to give the impression that nothing had been disturbed. We left her to it, hoping she would return.
She’s back! Well done…
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Very few birds inspire so much hate as the Sparrow Hawk. Pigeon fanciers stand at their lofts and watch helplessly as the local ‘awk takes daily from their flock. The men seem incredulous that the audacious thief shows no respect and takes even the best birds. Those Fan Tails in the farm yard at home can be saved if you are quick. Dashing in, before the sparrow hawk mantles, it is possible to fend it off with a wellington boot although it often stands its ground for a few seconds, not willing to give up all that tasty breast meat without a fight. Taking the stunned dove and setting it between two bales just delays the inevitable. He is watching from the thorn tree and as soon as you turn your back, clumps of white feathers are being torn out.
Earlier generations of gamekeepers would exploit this ownership. Carrying a pouch from which a small amount of white powder would be dusted onto the corpse, turning these fantastic birds into stumbling, useless dizzy things, fighting desperately for a few more seconds of life, before they are dispatched with a kick. As a ten year old boy, impressionable and so keen to please my gamekeeper guide, I was shocked and ashamed to see the death of a hen sparrow hawk in this way, acutely aware that this wasn’t a fair fight.
These birds deserve respect. Respect that they can take down prey species of the same size or bigger and that they are so well adapted to human encroachment by simply hedge hopping through suburban gardens. Most of all they never kill more than they can eat and that kill is never wasted, even if they are initially scared off. Having worked hard in the chase, that pigeon is theirs.
Now they are tolerated and our birds, having fledged from a nest only yards from a release pen holding 900 poult pheasants, would prove themselves to be blameless if they were ever charged with trying to address such a ridiculous imbalance.
One of the boys from that nest makes a return to his home valley for a fat woody, its crop full of wheat from the hoppers. He knows he is being watched even though only the lense is showing from the window. Sorry about the camera shake, after waiting for quite a while and confident he would return, it was still exciting to see him back.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
I wrote to them a year ago after they left this lot in exactly the
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Out came their rods and lines. During the following couple of days we had reports of them fishing along the river in town. On Sunday 28th September, Jan, in the presence of a Police Officer caught two pony tailed men fishing with a handline. When questioned, the eighteen year old said to his accomplice‘.. they cant do any thing anyway’.
We are arranging a summons for the two men to appear at Chesterfield Magistrates Court to answer charges of Fishing with an illegal instrument (Salmon and Fisheries Act 1975) and unlawfully fishing without permits. These summons will be served personally by us in the presence of Police Officers. If they do not attend the Court hearing which is listed, the court will order a warrant for their arrest. Upon arrest the Police will give them a second hearing to attend. If they fail to attend then, the court may find in their absence or may issue a warrant, not backed by bail, to ensure that on the second arrest the can be retained in custody before appearing in court.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
It’s a full year since the EA survey team electro fished a short length of river. Among their recommendations were the import of small stones so the young fish would have something to sit amongst.
Going one step further we finally decide to remove the 100 year old weir sill, rear pitchings and front flag stones. This had a number of advantages;
Remove the weir sill across two sections of the weir whist keeping the furthest bay fully boarded up. This would create a sharp turn in the river, increase its flow through the section and reduce the amount the river is held back
The stone freed up will go into the river channel above as habitat for the young fish through this perfect yearling water.
Use the large stone to widen the footpath so we can get the tractor through and to narrow the river channel, quickening the flow.
20mm gravel will be added to the newly created lift, so fish can now spawn here.
On the left hand bank, below the weir, a nursery area of shallow water and brash cover will be built, so the babies have somewhere safe to go.
Only 30 more weirs left...
Monday, September 15, 2008
Later that morning Jan caught one of these temporary, Irish accented males spinning for our trout at the back of his caravan. We were advised by our Solicitors that it would take so long to serve the summons on a Gentleman ‘I now know as Mr. Cunningham‘, that he would quite likely have moved on. Far better for the Police, being not satisfied with the address he produces, to take him to the cells where the Custody Sergeant can release him under a bond, to appear later. Everyone thought this a great idea expect Mr. Cunningham… and the Custody Sergeant. And so Mr. Cunningham was free to go.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Sunday, September 7, 2008
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Monday, August 18, 2008
More recently, as the chicks became fully fledged and difficult to tell apart from mother in anything but colour and of course airborne alacrity, she would feed them by calling to them as she approached. Their fledging wood stands on the far side of the valley from home, they would wake us each morning. By listening out for her it would be possible to witness many of these ariel handovers. They took place over the hay meadow, her swooping right up in the sky, them coming out to meet her. When they were nearly upon her she would cast the dead bird, allowing it to tumble to the earth, unless either young would be quick enough to catch it. Win or lose the young were always disciplined to return to the sycamore canopy to wait for the next chance.
This morning she arrived as normal but without a talonful of feathers and warm meat that meant another dead starling. Her call was instantly recognisable but very different in tone. This family nest here every year but I have never been lucky enough to see this moment before. She was calling them to come out hunting with her and I knew the valley would become quiet for another year. With these three now on the wing, no small bird is safe.
Friday, August 1, 2008
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Friday, July 4, 2008
My Father told me the other day that when he was a boy out playing, Partridges were very common. The Grey Partridge is an indicator of balance between farming and nature. Since then the balance has swung towards an intensive style of farming, at the cost of our natural history. I am 39. Although I grew up on a lowland farm I have never seen barn owls. I began work on a country estate 20 years ago and have never seen them here either. Until two years ago when I caught one in the head lights late at night, they might as well have been as extinct as the Dodo.
Since then these fantastic creatures have been making a remarkable comeback. The most significant thing we have done to help is to provide boxes in barns and out-buildings. Of course the land needs to be right. Silage has a lot to answer for. The grass isn’t dried out like hay (which is turned at least three times). Hay is made by killing the grass under the heat of the sun. The constant turning and drying causes the seeds to fall and be left behind providing food for the short tailed vole. Barn Owls feed almost entirely on these small mammals and their numbers are directly linked. Thick, dark green rye grass, waving in the wind spells starvation for Barn Owls. Artificial fertiliser is spread onto the land to enable three and four cuts of silage during the growing season. All excess nutrients find their way into the water table and to our rivers.
Having spent a couple of fascinating hours with a licensed bird expert one thing became apparent. He must have handled hundreds of birds but couldn’t fail to be impressed by the colours and the markings on the face and head of this female. The Barn Owl is dressed in the most superb livery and seeing them bouncing along in the lessening light of dusk, dropping down occasionally into standing hay, is a spiritual reward of the highest order.
My friend put her back on her eggs and let her settle before we made our way off to check the other boxes.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
'PRIVATE FISHING - WE ALWAYS PROSECUTE FISH POACHING
I would prosecute for fishing private waters without permission. He would be asked to produce an EA rod License. If he couldn't produce, a statement would be passed to the EA who would draw up papers for us to prosecute on their behalf. The tackle and fish would be seized as evidence. We would request compensation for the fish at £15/each.
The moaner will have his back to the river and wont have seen a fish rise all day. He will try to infect others. I remember two brothers ruining the whole weekend for anyone daft enough to listen to them. Negativity spread like cancer turning the river bank into a morgue. These people had been given freshly stocked fish in the past without having to think or work at it. When it comes to wild trout, that aren’t going to rise when they stand in full view and aren’t going to splash at a clumsy cast, it’s the river that’s at fault not them. Gareth and I met the two brothers and offered to spend our time and give up a few river secrets that we had taken the time to find out. They wouldn’t have it and left, never to return.
There is a short stretch of river that is almost empty of fish and I don’t know why. It is a tributary with all the characteristics appropriate to wild trout living. There are many tasty looking spots that should hold trout but don’t. It's below a Combined Sewage Outfall so we are having tests carried out to see if that is responsible before looking further into the problem. One thing is for certain, it will be sorted out and fish will rise there again in good numbers.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Monkey Flower Mimulus guttatus
Water Cress Nasturtium microphyllum
Water Speedwell Veronica anagallis
Rosebay Willowherb Chamerion angustifolium
Water Mint Mentha Aquatica
Water forget-me-not Myosotis Scorpio ides
Marsh-marigold Caltha palustris
The Mimulus is a naturalised import from the States. All the others are native. Insects will prefer one plant to another so this area of river bank has a diverse range of both plants and animals.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
I’ve got 1901 in my head as a date for the picture. George Bartram’s grave is so worn away over time his name is hard to pick out. Even Batemans House is a ruin but the photo remains in excellent condition.
Headley Slaney is buried in Youlgrave Cemetery and George Bartram. Buried in Over Haddon Cemetery
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Our Mink raft/trapping scheme is co-funded by The EA and The Derbyshire Wildlife Trust. Haddon Keepers run the trap line on a day to day basis and are reponsible for dispatching the mink. Ultimately it's all paid for by anglers.
Clive used to visit the area from his home in California. His wife was from nearby Chesterfield and his only chance of keeping sane whist visiting the in-laws was to spend almost his entire visit on my rivers. He would fish and fish and fish and end the day with as much enthusiasm as he started. I fondly remember walking him off the mid summer river at mid-night after I’ve searched the banks for him, considering him drowned. He was back on the river at eight in the morning.
The Major was a long term visitor and a great friend. We would chat much more than fish and his long stays at the local holiday cottage always meant some fascinating stories from his life, like the time he went round Aintree in the National.
I’ve never liked those who try and catch a hundred fish and over do things. Anyone with a basic understanding of the river and a couple of good patterns can easily hook a hundred fish in a day. The only reason they catch that many is so they can tell people. This type of angler has some way to come. I admire anyone who can enjoy themselves fishing, not those who need it or take it for granted.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
This is a very significant photograph. It shows how wild trout can become extinct in a river. We came very close to just that about five years ago.
A bag and size limit encourages mature fish to be killed. Stock trout are introduced and taken as part of the bag, but look what else gets killed too. The top fish was a 3lb wild hen rainbow trout, worth 3,000 eggs on the redds in the spring and every year after. All of the other four together were worth less than a fiver. There were huge discrepancies between the two types of fish, yet they were treated the same and dispatched to fill a bag limit. The stockies were easily replaced but this wild fish could have taken seven years to grow, brown trout even longer. Our wild trout were being killed much faster than they could regenerate naturally.
Fortunately our brownies especially have made a great come back, under the protection of catch & release and careful handling from our anglers.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Then we started to feed the rivers. During one late winter period over ½ a ton of pelleted food was hoofed in. Those fish really grew, but when an early season rod bent into one, many others in the pool would think it feeding time and come splashing around the rod tip. What’s happening Warren ? ‘Territorial behaviour’ came my answer. I didn’t tell the truth and have my fattening up campaign rumbled. Again, everyone remained happy… except the river.
Up on the bookcase here is an old booking diary showing how we regularly sold 30 rods on many mayfly days. This was followed by a pat on the head from an agent who knew no better. I was bleating about the over fishing but didn’t make a stand until my early 30’s. Until then it was all about ‘making hay while the sun shined’, at the expense of the river.
We now have a strict twelve rod limit on our day ticket water. There’s plenty of room for them at 7 ½ miles but even our owner will not fish when all twelve rods have gone out. We don’t feed the river and haven’t for five years. The public are being asked to stop their urban feeeing too. Our fish farms are all closed and we don’t stock any adults, yearlings, babies or eggs in boxes and haven’t done for five years.
The River now comes first, at the expense of the anglers, agents, farmers, owners and keepers.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
My guess is a Goshawk killed this Barn Owl. That perennial villain of the edge of woodland must have carried off its kill to feed it's young. Those Barn Owl chicks nearby will be having a lean time of it with just one parent working overtime to bring voles and mice.
The upper river bed dries up in the summer. Sometimes it holds on until mid summer but it always goes. The Lathkill still flows underground, through a coffin shaped subterranean ‘sough’, draining access to the rich lead veins and any hope of annual flow. Until the sough can be blocked the EA come and take the ex-brood fish, having run the winter river to spawn and their offspring, safely downstream. The method used is labour intensive for safety sake and requires a team of five. Before they can begin the sluice is opened to let off the pool, An electric current stuns the fish so they can be netted. Alec, the keeper on this patch, transports them to safer, summer quarters after a count and health check. Before the EA came to help, all these fish would just die in the mud. They catch as many as two thousand fish over their two visits.
Living willow, that is willow wands twisted around willow posts driven into the river bed, provides protection against severe erosion threatening to create an ox-bow. It also give cover to water voles and water birds as well as all sizes of trout. We are learning that it must not be installed on a fishing bank as it grows up and prohibits access but on infrequently fished banks, there is nothing better.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
After cutting the tape with a saw Jan declined my offer to catch the first fish in a generation from Ogden Island. A two summer wild rainbow soon came up to a mayfly and was slipped back. We watched one very big brown living behind one of our croys and a shoal of large grayling would often bump into our legs whist we waded up and down. There are a couple of Club members who have their eyes on them this winter.
Earlier in the week I was helping a guest towards understanding wild trout and how to catch them. His white trousers were grass stained with their knees an earthy mix of nature. We had spotted a trout up in the water, finning, sipping flies from the film and a good prospect on a tough day. He had learnt to turn that long leader over and drop the fly like thistledown. He was getting the hang of side casting to keep the wavy stick off the skyline but, just as you can be frightened by the closing double at darts, this chap was dropping his fly short. Off came a couple of yards from the reel and his tiny beetle landed perfectly. The fish…never moved. What came next surprised me. I was ready to go into my comforting, optimistic, encouraging mode when my guest turned to me with a huge smile on his face and said…”Now this is real fishing!”
He got it. This wasn’t the time to blame the line, or the fly or the rod, or me. He simply gave credit to the fish in front of us. It made all the forelock tugging and fussing about with corporate guests worth while.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
James Ogden. 5th June 1865. Fished the Wye in Bakewell. Used a artificial dry fly. Watched by the Head Keeper and the Estate Agent. Made law the day after. Dry fly Only rule: 143 years old today.
160 yards of main river cut off from fishing by carrier. No wading here and the island is like a jungle. Not been fished for a very long time. Jan and me studied, watched, planned and grafted. Made accessible and fun for fly fishing. Bridge built over to it, which was opened today. One fish caught to close the project. Door left open for the rest of you to enjoy it.
Monday, June 2, 2008
There’s many a proud Wizard
In Araby or Egypt
Can read the silver writing
Of the stars as they run
And many a dark Gypsy
With a pheasant in his knapsack
Has gathered more by moonshine
Than wiser men have won
But I know a Wizardry
Can take a buried acorn
And whisper forests out of it
To tower against the sun
There’s many a magician
In Baghdad and Banaras
Can read you for a penny
What your future is to be
And a flock of crazy prophets
That by staring at the crystal
Can fill it with more fancies
Than there’s herring in the sea
But I know wizardry
Can break a freckled eggshell
And shake a throstel out of it
In every hawthorn tree
There’s many a crafty Alchemist
In Mecca and Jerusalem
And Michael Scott and Merlin
Were reckoned very wise
But I know Wizardry
Can take a wisp of sun fire
And round it to a planet
And roll it through the skies
With cities and seaports
And little shining windows
And hedgerows and gardens
And loving human eyes
Saturday, May 31, 2008
This fish has wriggled free from a heron’s strike. Herons use their lower bill to pierce and their upper bill to hold. The fish darkens from the entry wound forward towards and including the head, but only on one side as can be seen here. Without becoming too scientific, freshwater fish are constantly trying to get rid of water and retain salt. This osmo-regulation is reversed in marine fish. A wound like this will lead to fresh water flooding the body, meaning the fish has to constantly urinate until the wound heals. The melanism is already beginning to fade in this Brownie. He will be as right as rain by the end of the summer.
Friday, May 30, 2008
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
When fishing for chub the approach should be a very stealthy one or we risk scaring the fish. Why is it that a similar approach isn’t popular with trout anglers? They prefer to stand rather than crouch or sit and march up to the river, putting a long coloured line over the fish.
This stealthy angler gets a few chances at those wild trout under his nose.
During an afternoons weed cutting, above Conksbury Bridge one year, I had time to take a break and watch the mayflies hatching. It was possible to see the nymphs swimming to the surface from the river bed, breaking their thorax through the film and hatch clean off through a split where our shoulder blades would be. When the weather is chilly or misty (as it was today) the duns take longer to hatch, lying still in the nymph below the surface, like a tiny thin stick. On sunny days I challenge anyone to catch it on film because it all happens so quickly. I plucked the trapped mayfly from its shuck and let it walk from my fingers for it to join the rest of the big floppy ‘S’ shapes, disappearing into the woods.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
The mayfly to me is the spinner. Many anglers miss the fall of imago, their appetite for catching long since sated by the hatch of duns, they turn in for dinner. They miss not only another chance to get amongst the trout but also a remarkable natural spectacle that occurs on only a few evenings each year.
Imagine being asked on a daily basis; ‘What are you doing?’ , by complete strangers as you go about your business.
I don’t like it one bit. My usual reply to those with such terrible manners is to call across and ask if I can help them, but to be honest single finger gestures are just as effective. This doesn’t give a very good impression though and I can only guess the conversation back in suburbia coffee mornings, when the incident is played out and the man in the river ‘just stuck his finger up at me’, doesn’t show us in the best of light.
A previous under keeper didn’t mind being stared at, the current one feels the same as me. Melissa was throwing balls for her dog, Webley, in our back garden yesterday. The garden has high walls around its perimeter with a footpath running down one side. A family of six, including two small children who were helped up to see, stopped and watched her while she and Webley played. So the townie coming into the country and staring at it human occupants isn’t restricted to riverside activities.
What if the shoe was on the other foot and the country people started to watch the Scaffolders and Construction Workers through binoculars? What if they approached people in the street and asked them what they were doing? The cells in the Police station would be full before the day was out.
Townies think the countryside and those in it exist for their pleasure and entertainment. Perhaps it does and we do.