Saturday, November 14, 2009

Best day of the year

Our spring fed rivers drain the aquifer of the results of last winters’ rain. As summer turns to autumn the aquifer is reduced and the rivers flow decreases progressively. In my 20 year association with the Lathkill, 14 of those years living on its south bank, I can only remember the aquifer recharging quickly and the river coming back with a huge rise in levels. We call it ‘coming back in’; an association with its upper reaches being dry for the latter part of the summer and then, over-night, the river reappears.

The latest I can remember for this event is December 12th, a year that had me worried sick. Today the river ‘came back in’ with its usual gusto and caused excitement amongst the rivers inhabitants. Huge weed beds broke free of their roots, were smashed to thousands of smaller rafts and shot through a three mile beat in less than an hour. Trout were taking advantage of this displacement and eating shrimps and invertebrates which were losing their hold on the shifting starwort beds. Little Grebes and other waterfowl were much more active as they too ate from this bounty. In only a few hours I’ve noticed the appearance of shining patches of newly turned stones on the river bed as the hen brown trout, stimulated by the new current, are beginning to investigate places to lay their eggs.

Data beamed to my computer shows our new Mini-Hydro making the most of the new flows too. Its energy production doubles in the length of a day before the turbine seems to become confused by the high water. It settles down to its job quickly enough before steadily churning out enough electricity to feed 20 homes.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


The symbiotic relationship between the host lichen which retains water for the photosynthetic algae is visible on this damp, north surfacing bridge. There are at least five separate colours visible including the algae trentepohlia, with contains carotenoid to make it orange, and the lichen Lepraria which is crusty white. The correct site, with good air quality and very little disturbance means these plants have an excellent chance of seeing it through the next hundreds years at least.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Haddon Estate website

Finally got a home for an all-in-one fishing site with an occasional blog. Over the past few months I've started an HND and am someway through the book that I always wanted to write.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Mini-Hydro. Final Steps

The Hydro-Generation Building; finished in local stone and partly buried.

A wide, low velocity inlet and sloping automatic screen is shown here. The debris and weed from the screen drops into a trough of running water and is washed back into the river. The picture shows the mill pond level, right down, with the whole river running through the sluice gate. The mill pond is now filled.

This is the turbine with the roof still to be installed. The generator, sitting in the bottom left of the picture, will be brought over and be belt driven from the fly wheel.

The finished turbine house, with the roof seeded with a wild flower mix.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Mini Hydro- The first steps

Although I have primary interest in the rivers I have been involved closely in the planning of the first mini-hydrogeneration scheme in the Peak Park. Situated at Alport Mill the project will make use of 4.5 meters of head-loss to drive a crossflow turbine. The scheme will work around the Grade 1 listed Mill and all of the outbuildings. I was particularly keen to see that no harm would come to the river or it's inhabitants so safeguards have been put in place to protect fish, water voles, brook lamprey, crayfish and the surrounding riparian land.

Today we began our excavations on the area where the turbine housing will stand.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sepia Brownie

Sufficient time (27 years) has now passed for a prosecution to be brought against me for use of an illegal instrument under the Salmon & Freshwater Fisheries Act. Having flown under the radar for so long I feel it's now time to 'fess up to my crimes. A handline was used. There, I hope we can all move on ;-)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Sounds from the river at night

Its about 100 paces from the house to the river. Living on the side of the valley means the sounds from below are often magnified, so a heron calling in the middle of the night can sound like its under the bed. When two are squabbling over the best fishing places they often wake us up. Every so often a ‘wild rumpus’ starts along the river bank with every bird causing a din, encouraged by their neighbours. They will remain jumpy all night, never really settling down, especially the moorhens.

A moonlit night like this is perfect for tawny owls. They talk amongst themselves in the wood opposite and really get going in the early evening. You can lie in bed and listen to the progress of the fox along the river bank as each water bird gives a shriek of alarm when he pokes his nose into the river margin for a sniff. In a few weeks we will hear the vixens calling their single bark or their eerie scream.

On muggy, short summer nights with the windows flung open for air, fish jumping to dislodge a parasite can be heard slapping their sides on re-entry. But the best sound of all is made by the dippers soon after dawn in the spring. Their song rises above the dawn chorus and suddenly the river seems to be in the bedroom with you.

About Me

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