Saturday, May 31, 2008

Heron wound

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.

Bowers Hall CSO again

NIRS 591981

Severn Trent Water have breached their consent yet again. The screen cleaning device has failed allowing sanitary towels, toilet paper, condoms and waste nappies into the River Lathkill.


No car or bike today. A stiff walk down the rivers to meet the anglers at the hotel for an hour, then up the Wye to Bakewell. The walk will take in all three rivers and provide an opportunity to have a good close look at the summer rivers. It will also blow away some of yesterdays cob webs.

Friday, May 30, 2008


I buried her this morning under the apple trees. She was 16.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

How to fish

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.


He is foraging for two. The female is sitting eggs in the garden hedge and relies on his regular bill full of dandelion seed.


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


Forecast is saying the air is going to warm up tomorrow. Every leaf in the wood must have a big green drake dun underneath it, waiting to finish it’s short airborne life. The spinner is a transformation not just in colour and size but in aerial prowess. The males are able to dance up and down in the tree high columns whilst finding the lea of the wind. The females fly up underneath, copulate and back to the river. They then head upstream, sometimes up to half a mile. I followed one once, running alongside as she made a b-line for the weir. At first they dilly and dally but soon the indecision ends and they fly with absolute purpose. It’s possible to see their yellow egg sacks underneath the end of their abdomen waiting to be dipped onto the surface. They sink like stones and are soon gone from view. Her energy or her will leave her and she dies, wings flat out, her little body drifting with the flow.

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.

Can I help you?

Weed cutting. Standing in the middle of the river, up to the waist of the chest waders and wielding a scythe gets the most attention. Any riverside job though, carried out in view of a footpath, can lead to those walkers 200 yards away stopping and lifting up their binoculars to take a look. I remember walking through a small village with a pole scythe (6m long wooden pole with scythe blade on the end) on my shoulder when a walker started taking photographs of me, paparazzi style.

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.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Statement of Warren Slaney
Head River Keeper, Haddon Estate

I am employed by Haddon Estate to look after and bailiff waters their fishery interests. These waters include 7 miles of the River Wye including the river running through Bakewell. The fishing is let on a yearly and daily basis with day tickets costing £65/day to fish with artificial floating flies only, to give the trout a sporting chance. All fish are returned alive to the river and no fish are ever killed by our paying guests. The river in Bakewell is fortunate to hold a large number of fish that are enjoyed by hundreds of people each day.
At approximately 22:20hrs on Sunday 25 May 2008 I was patrolling the North Bank of the river through Bakewell as part of my duties. Four adults could be seen leaning over the handrail on the single span bridge over the river, opposite the Co-op. It was dark at this time but the were easily seen as they stood almost directly under a street lamp which lit up the area. As I watched a man cast a handline into the river. This man is now known to me as:

xxxx xxxxxxxx of
xx xxxxxxxx
D.O.B. xx/xx/xx

Satisfied that an illegal act was taking place I telephoned my assistant Jan Hobot and asked him to drive to Bakewell Police Station where he was to ask a Police Officer to attend the scene. After a few moments I saw xxxxxxxx catch a fish and lift it from the river. At 22:40 my assistant appeared from the South Bank/Bakewell side with two Police Officers. I watched xxxxxxxx throw something into the river as the Police came into view.
In the presence of PC xxxx xxxxxxxxx I cautioned xxxxxxxx and asked if he had permission to fish the water. He said he had not. PC xxxxxxxxx then searched xxxxxxxx and discovered the handline he was using and a spool of nylon line. The handline had a barbed hook attached. By this time my assistant had found the fish they had throw in and was trying to revive it by standing in the river. Unfortunately it could not be saved and a decision was made to kill the moribund trout.

I told xxxxxxxx that he would be reported for fish poaching offences and that the line, spool and fish would be seized as evidence. He said that he was sorry for the trouble he had caused.

W. G. M. Slaney
25 May 2008

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Police Intelligence

Any idea what 22,500 dead fish look like? Four generations of wild strain Brown Trout, wiped out during one night in 1997, covered the bottom of the ponds in our fish farm. They turned the water white and still. The mind takes a few seconds to register the change from the twisting and splashing of hungry fish to the sight of them upside down with their gills flared, totally dead.
It wasn’t hard to find the cause; white powder sprinkled through a grid covering our ten year old brood fish could be seen caught between the grid joints and making small piles on some leafy debris. The deadly water had left the tank, joined the river and back through the rest of the farm inlets where it finished its killing.

The Police were called as we realised this was something all together different to the trouble we were used to. Our EA Officer turned up in double quick time and ordered that the river water, thirty miles downstream, was stopped from being pumped into the public water reservoir, supplying the city of Derby.

When our Police Sergeant was shown the powder he bent down to take a closer look and with a sage expression on his face, took a finger full and began to lift it to his nose! The EA Officer saved the Sergeants life by quickly stopping him sniffing the lethal cyanide powder.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Wakener

I know it as a ball in cricket that isn't as bad as a beamer but has you alert to the possibility that your life is in danger out there at the crease. The videos going down here at blogger has highlighted the fact that this blog and the technology behind it is someone elses hands, so we have made the decision to move the blog and upgrade the movies, to the new Haddon Estate website. Those of you who look in from time to time will get plenty of notice and a redirection address will be left behind here.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Make the most of it

Yes yes, they live for a day... Those who believe their eyes rather than a wives tale passed on down the line, will know Mayflies can live for a day but regularly live for longer. It is possible to experience a number of afternoon’s where mayflies hatch but at no time do they return, that is until the third or forth late afternoon when they all seem to climb and fall above your head in huge columns. The appearance of spinner in numbers usually means the hatch is coming to an end. I’ll stick my neck out and say the hatch is going to be a short one judging by what I am seeing and what I know.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Where are the water~lines videos?

All the videos have disappeared following a bug at blogger. I'm told they are going to return so will upload some mayfly stuff when they do.

The Wye

From the seat of the tractor, looking down into the river this afternoon I have never seen the river look so clear. Being spring fed it has the potential to be very clear indeed but the summer river always has a algal tint. Not now. Caddis can be seen moving about on the river bed in six feet of water and the grayling…there are some really big grayling in this river and plenty of them. I reckon the algae has been checked by the night time frost and very cool east wind of recent days. It’s got to do wonders for our weed growth.

WTT membership

When you buy a day ticket at the Peacock from today onwards you will be given a small card with the details of the WTT on it. Please consider joining the Trust, they are better than ever with the recent appointment of three excellent people.

Rodbaston visit

Staffordshires Rodbaston College run ND course in Fishery Management and Fish Farming. A mini bus full of their 2nd years arrived in Alport yesterday to be shown around by Jan and me, to find out how we have changed things here. I remember these field visits from my time at Sparsholt in Hampshire; a similar agricultural college, where I qualified. The hosts were always badly prepared and would show us around with all the charisma of an outlet screen mortality. This wasn’t going to be the same so we prepped for our guests like we would for a Duke. A handout was drawn-up and given to each student, so they wouldn’t miss any important points. The walk was direct and designed to take in as many interesting points as possible. This all culminated when Jan ran ahead and lit the stove in the fishing hut. They were served teas and chocolate biscuits as we sat back in the sun on deck chairs.

We hope to build a special relationship with this local college, taking students for work experience and hosting regular visits. A grayling fishing event is to be planned for the winter also.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Here is the weather

Fine and dry until Thursday. I do this a lot; whittle about how dry it is and the lack of prospect for rain. With the weather set fair and May turning out to be a very dry month, those growing gardens or crops and those keeping rivers are getting nervous. How can the silly women announcing the weather on the tele use terms like better, great and improving when she describes high pressure? Only when the country is browned to a crisp with drought does she concede that we may need rain.

Our local Natural England office has a farm visit advisory service. They are able to calculate how much nutrient has been spread on fields during the winter and persude the farmer that he doesn’t need 20/40 artificial fertiliser as well. This keeps the nitrates down in the ground water. Thanks.

Dry weather and extensively farmed catchments are OK. Drought and euthrophication leads to algae; that’s bad news. It smothers the ranunculus which leaves more nutrients available for even more algae. Fewer flies, less fish food, no braiding of the channels; rubbish. There is still time to turn it around though and a good flush through will save the season on the small streams.

Saturday, May 17, 2008


“Help! Help!”
“What does she want?”
“[Hysterical] HELP!”

We were gapping a wall at the top end of Bradford Dale, in the frost. She is 200 yards upstream and frantically pulling at her clothes whilst watching something splashing in a deep water dam.
“Someone’s fallen in” says my mate.

We cover the muddy ground and up the footpath towards her in record time, even in wellies and overalls. I’m first to reach her and quickly notice slight rings dispersing from something resembling a black button, 10 yards out.

“What is it?!”
“It’s my dog!”

It makes sense. A black terrier is treading water but is so tired it is vertical and the last part of it is disappearing below the surface over 8 feet. The black button is its nose.

I jump straight in, swim out, lift up the dog, swim back and lift it up onto the bank. It rights itself, shakes, has a wee and goes off up the bank…rabbiting. Climbing out I remember the electronics in my pockets while my mate reassures the lady who is thoroughly fretting.

We walk back down to the wall and he persuades me to spend the next five minutes copping the wall so the job is finished. I’ve stopped dripping; icicles are forming on the drips. Finally back at home it’s straight in the bath to warm up.

Ogden Island update

First of all that sycamore from the top had to come out due to it blocking light out from the whole stretch downstream. It was trailing branches in the water but over dead, shallow water and so had no real benefit. We used the trunk of the tree to put in a high water upstream croy to turn the water back into the main channel to stop the island margin being eroded anymore. The new bankline was defined with willow branches with flag iris rysomes planted at the back. More upstream croys were installed all the way down to continue the turning of the water from the outside of the bend.

Click on the picture to read the labels.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Lapwings in the wheat

It’s been a fine year so far for our Green Plover with record numbers of nests on the Estate. Our farmers know them as ‘Puewits’ and climb down from their lofty tractor cabs to move the nests to safety.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Three ways of measuring flow

Q= 2.8 x h3

The v-notch weir has to be a right angle and h is the height of water. We were able to get the entire river running through the v-notch here and found a flow of 750m3/day during one late summer period. 60% of the flow is going underground to the next valley and coming out here:

2) Q=VA which can be measured with an orange or 'beer can in the Narayani' in the case of my Father! The Lathkill and Bradford are easy to measure because their cross section is so square.

3) Timed filling of a known area such as a dustbin. We used this method when monitoring the through flow at the fish farms.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Worth the wait

We had been getting some nasty poaching taking place up and down the river. Our night time uninvited guests were emptying the river and leaving their calling cards all over the place for those bothered to look. They were no respecters of boundaries so we decided that we wouldn’t be either, teaming up and providing a seven night a week watch over the whole river, paying particular attention to the hot spots. I’d borrowed an image intensifying monocular, lighting up the night in a pixelated green. The first weeks watch came to an end, then the second and then the third. Thursdays and Sundays were my nights and I was beginning to become jaded and bored with the endless touring round… when a panel van could be seen turning round in the road some way off in front.
At 2am, everyone knows where they are going, so this was strange. As the van came past me I noticed it was three up in front. There’s no rush, you have to give these things time to mature in cases like this but when I trundled back down the road my suspicions were confirmed with the van parked on the verge across the road from a well stocked trout farm. The lights were off and the van was still as I passed by and this meant we had trouble. Down the road and through a gate I parked the vehicle behind a thorn bush, grabbed the image intensifier and the phone and began to run back up the middle of the road, in the pitch black with the monocular to my eye. I’d made a rough count of the corners in the road from where I pulled off into the field, back to the scene. Unfortunately for me I missed counted because as I turned a corner I was upon them, eight men, out of the van and trying to break into the fish farm right in front of me. I ducked into some cover on the road verge and threw myself flat. I’d got myself far to close and was literally amongst them.
It pays to know your kit. I hadn’t taken the time to investigate the functions of this new mobile phone and I needed to turn off the back light and be sure the ringing volume was at nil, or below. I rang the keeper for this beat, as one of the men came to take a leak about ten feet away. It was important that he picked up and didn’t ring back, I wasn’t sure I had disabled the ring on the phone and the Nokia tone was the last thing I wanted as he returned the missed call. He picked up. I told him what was going off and instructed him not to call back, I gave him half an hour to organise the Police and I would call him.
During the next half hour I watched as the men trashed the place! The site was miles from anywhere and they had no need to be quiet. All the time I was making mental notes for my statement; seeing who was smashing down doors to steal equipment and who was fishing out the trout. The time came round to make the call and everyone was ready; Police, Keepers, Dogs were waiting a mile down the road. My instruction was to call when they moved off. During my vigil one of the group had moved the van further down the road so as not to attract attention from the occasional passing car. Now he went to fetch it and as the group finished their rampage they jumped back into the van and made off in the opposite direction to the Police. I called and about 30 seconds later two Police cars screamed past under blue lights in pursuit.
The van was stopped, searched and following information from my statement, the men got 250 hours community service each, were ordered to pay compensation for the many trout and the damage caused plus some stiff fines. It turned out they had made a 200 mile round trip to steal what they could that night.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Whispering death ;-)

The experiment with the bikes has proved to be a great success. An estimated 50% of my work can and will be carried out on a bike, saving £1250 on diesel each year alone. A benifit of all this peddling is getting to know the countryside far better than driving and seeing much more than when walking. Biking over the last week has help me find two pheasant nests, a black caps nest, a seat of young hares and a poacher called Dave from Clay Cross.

Good news

While watching a likely site with a history of nesting owls earlier this evening a barn owl flew from a barn to my left and entered a hole in a gable end of a deserted farm house. The video shows it leaving the hole after a few minutes.

Two things could be happening here:

The adult is a male, visiting a female sitting eggs and reaffirming the bonds before going off hunting.

The owl is the female, visiting a young brood after resting up for the day in a near by barn. The parents don't spend the lay up period of daylight being mithered by the ever demanding young owls. They need their rest and will sit out near by. When dusk arrives they are keen to check that all is well before going off hunting.

I'm really pleased with the low light settings on my camera when I could only just spot the owl myself. Canon XH-A1 with CS3 Premier Pro are the hard and soft ware of choice here.

Friday, May 9, 2008


Dressed in my dpm and using all available cover I’ve been trying to get footage of a particularly stunning brown trout, native to one of our streams. But even the sight of my lens over the margin or in between the branches of a riverside willow tree sees him flick that tail and disappear into deeper water. The fish seems so familiar with the bank side vegetation that any change in that field of view is enough for him to know something is wrong. If you were to walk into your living room, you would instantly notice if something was out of place too. Tawny Owls become incredibly aware of the woodland floor and see any changes under their perch as a potential feeding opportunity in the form of a rat or vole. When keeping an eye out an old keeper I knew called Bill used to remove a copping stone from a wall and stick his head there instead. It really is some fish so I’ll take a leaf out of Old Bill’s book and make that film.

'Too good to be caught only once’

Telephone conversation with fisherman on the river:

“ Warren, I’ve caught that big old black bugger under the bridge. Do you want me to knock it on the head?”

No! Put it back carefully please. The video shows this dark fish back on station after its return only 36 hours ago.

During a riverside conversation with Gareth we likened the killing of old fish for the sake of it with entering an old folks home with a Kalashnikov. Same with the old fish turned ‘cannibal’. All trout are cannibal but if a big male was ever caught during our mayfly it would always be dispatched as a 'service to the fishery'. However those big males are extremely welcome on the redds in December and like the old fish, they are part of the river…they should always go back.

Monday, May 5, 2008


Well the bank holiday weekend is over. We’ve covered the three rivers day and night since Friday evening and have been very lucky with the poachers. Not many fish have been nicked and we’ve got a couple of statements to write so that those poachers we have caught can appear before the magistrates. My mountain bike patrols have been hugely successful. On one occasion I rode past a family on a busy footpath, noticed they weren’t behaving quite right, pulled over to ‘fix my chain’ and they started fishing with a hand line right in front of me!

Over the next seven days we aren’t going to use the vehicles at all while we experiment futher with the use of bikes for patrolling. I have some jobs planned for the Kubota tractor but the Landy’s will be in the garages all next week.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Wild Black Fallow

We have a herd of about 25 at the moment.


We dropped off our Landrover today and picked up the new one. Our TD5 was 11 years old and we had travelled the equivalent of 8 ½ times around the earth in it. It seemed a good time to take stock of the changes that have taken place during the life of our Landy. One of the most satisfying is the wild flower meadow project. As riverside fields have become vacant, we have stepped in and looked after them (see above). This has usually meant cutting the hay and always meant pulling the ragwort and strimming the thistles and nettles. When I took over one meadow around the time my TD5 was new, I completed a census of wild flowers. This shows that two cowslips existed on a south facing bank. Today we counted over 160. We have given them everything they could possibly and they have responded by seeding and growing in greater numbers.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

About Me

My photo
Derby Uni LL.B.yr4 Birmingham Uni (field lecturer)