Saturday, 11 August 2018

Claiming back what belongs to us

Nether Wallop Mill  Friday August 10th 2018

The BBC news carried a piece last week about the dire water levels in the English and Welsh reservoirs, along with a map to illustrate their various locations. I was transfixed by the map, so much so that I pressed hold. A notion was biting inside my head but I couldn't quite work out why or how. There was something horribly familiar about the map. What? And then it struck me. My eye wasn't being draw to the locations of the reservoirs but rather the blank areas where there were none. If you compare reservoir map with the chalkstream map you will see what I mean: where there are chalkstreams there are no reservoirs. Somebody, for that read water companies, have been getting a free ride on the back on a fragile resource for far too long.

I have to admit we have been lucky this year on the chalkstreams. A wet winter and a wetter spring that came right on into April filled the aquifers to brimming and beyond. We were still struggling to mow wet bank sides as late as June. But this extended heat wave has taken its toll however hard the springs naturally pump. Evaporation is a potent force. In addition trees, believe it or not, are massive extractors of water. Back in the 1990's, when two extended dry years bought our rivers to their knees, there was a serious proposal to create a tree free corridor of 25 yards in width. Someone, I can't recall who, had calculated a massive water saving by way of this deforestation, though I suspect the proposed cure would have been worse that the disease itself.

Aside from nature there is a certain amount of agricultural irrigation that deplete the chalkstreams but in the end, whichever way you cut it, it is the water companies, who bore deep into the ground for ever scarcer supplies, to fulfil ever rising demand, that are the water thieves. Now you can't blame them.
It is what they are tasked to do. They are protected and encouraged by parliamentary statute. Occasionally the scales tip against them, most recently in the case of Southern Water plc who lost out in court in their attempt to pump water from the River Test catchment to supplement supplies for homes and businesses in the River Itchen catchment. They are said to be looking at desalination and reservoir options. We will see.

So what to do? Well, to start with we mustn't fall back on climate change. This has become something of a catch all excuse used by government and business. A good way of deflecting. Suggesting that the solution is beyond local means. A problem requiring international cooperation. It is a sort of intellectual shrug of the shoulders. Southern Water by the way have a document, a requirement of government, that runs to dozens of pages outlining how they will 'cope' with climate change for the next fifty years. I don't like to be cynical but they didn't see this year coming......

But the problem is that the problem has little to do with global weather patterns but everything to do with local water supply and demand. If the population and water use of southern England stood today at the same levels of 50 years ago we would have no shortages. Our aquifers wouldn't be sucked dry each summer. The headwaters, now August empty, would flow fast and clear. For the fact is that over the past 50 years the amount of rain that falls each year has remained remarkably consistent. That giant chalk sponge continues to absorb rainfall as it has done for millions of years. The aquifers still fill as much as their geology will allow.

But then we abuse Mother Nature. Suck out more than our fair share. Take the easy option when, if we truly, really, want to preserve our chalkstreams we should legislate to force the water companies to pay more and take less of something that didn't actually belong to them in the first place. 

We need to claim back what belongs to us.


Trout & Salmon have introduced many new features to the new look magazine and one that caught my eye in the July Issue was the '5 Minute Interview' with Feargal Sharkey, lead singer of The Undertones.

I have known Feargal a little over the years, largely through a common friendship with Terry Griffiths who was best known for being one of Britain's most accomplished fly tyers and as a photographer of flies. The latter might not seem so difficult, but it truly is. Terry had perfected a technique that made the flies 'float' off the page, every strand and feather in perfect focus. 

What is less well known is that Terry was an amazing graphics guy; the iconic Fishing Breaks brochures that have featured the reflected fish in sunglasses, the chalkstream signpost and the fly floating on mercury were all down to him.

It was two years ago this month that Terry died so when I read Feargal recounting a memorable day with Terry at Bullington Manor it made me glad to know them both.

July feedback draw winner
What a month ... July will remain seared (good choice of word I think) in our collective memories for many years to come.

The last comparator was 1976 but 2018 has been of a very different order. The Wallop Brook that feeds our lake here at The Mill, all but dried up back then. The lake actually did. Unfortunately I can't lay my hands on it for the moment but there is a shot of Charles Jardine and Jim Hadrell, resident instructors, standing on the dry bed of the lake that is cracked like a scene out of Death Valley.

I know I said something similar last month but both the rivers and fishing held up surprisingly well. Hatches have been steady with dry fly the order of most days. 

Well done to Tony Pollard and his son who fished Bullington Manor on July 13th. The Fishing Breaks snood is on its way. Everyone else back in the hat for the end-of-season Simms pliers draw.

More Special Offer for August

Such was the success of the first tranche of Special Offers that I have added more to fill the demand.

2 FOR 1 Book two rods for the price of one. £147 (was £294). August 18th-31st.

HALF PRICE One Rod £42.50 (was £85). Two Rods £75 (was £150). August 10th-31st.

2 FOR 1 Book two rods for the price of one. £150 (was £300). August 24th-31st.

To check dates and book click on the links. Or email or call Diane on 01264 781988.


More chances to prove, or improve, your intellect.  Answers, as ever, at the bottom of the page. 

1)   Why did the Met Office rescind an all time national temperature high for Scotland of 33.2 °C recorded at Motherwell, Strathclyde Park on June 28th?

2)   Who was the Greek god of the Sun? And an Orvis fishing rod .....

3)   What is an Astronomical Unit?

Enjoy the weekend.

Best wishes,
Simon Signature 

Founder & Managing Director

Quiz answers:

1)  A car with an running engine, presumably belonging to the station operator keeping cool (!) judging by the opaqueness of the Met Office press release, was parked too close to the recording device during the afternoon in question.

2)  Helios

3)  Light travels at a speed of 186,287 miles per second. It takes 499 seconds for light to travel from the Sun to the Earth, a distance called 1 Astronomical Unit.

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