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