Friday, 12 April 2019

Saving the British Countryside

Rescuing the British Countryside


On Sunday, jaded and jet lagged, I pulled out a wheelbarrow and did what I do about once a month - a litter patrol on the lanes that lead into Nether Wallop. I know my fellow villagers think me quite mad; waving as they drive past with faces that are a picture of bewilderment. To this date, and I'm talking years, nobody has ever stopped nor does anyone ask when I meet them at some village event or other. Maybe they just think it is behaviour, to lean on the East Anglian psychiatric phrase used by doctors to describe their 'unusual' patients, Normal for Nether Wallop.

The fact is that I am determined that anyone arriving into our village is greeted by hedgerows and verges that are flecked with wild flowers rather than the glinting of abandoned tin cans. For even in our rural backwater we are blighted by litter.

As I plod along the road, with my gloves and long stick, I often try to discern the mindset of the car drivers who discard all manners of trash. It's not like you can just drop it or make a misjudged hurl at a waste bin. You have to consciously wind down the window intent on littering the green, unsullied countryside. Why? I have no idea but I suspect my never ending audit of my gatherings might give some clue.

Essentially 9/10ths of what I collect is what you might describe as the detritus of food of the move - coffee cups, energy drinks, soft drink cans, plastic bottles and food wrappers. To date I have never found anything of value or worth keeping though the large blue device, best described, to save blushes, as a sex toy, caused some hilarity. There must also be a secret drinker taking a nip on the way home - there is a regular cache of empty ready mixed Gordon's Gin &Tonic cans. 

Most litter forays will end in a half filled barrow but I'm long past being angry. It is, along with rural crime, the blight of life in the countryside. And I'm not alone in this essential chore. Ask any river keeper whose patch takes in a local picnic spot where the river bed will have to be scoured clean after a sunny weekend.

I guess the only consolation is that the blight of litter is far from being a uniquely British disease. I was jet lagged after returning from a bone fishing trip in the Bahamas where the mangrove swamps are the collectors of ocean rubbish and the white sand beaches as blighted as the green verges of Nether Wallop. It is nothing new. I recall something similar fishing on the northern extremes of The Great Barrier Reef two decades ago. Not that familiarity makes the sight any less depressing but it does illustrate the intellectual conceit that surrounds the current 'save the planet' debate.

David Attenborough's latest opus on Netflix quite rightly highlights the horrible mess we are making of our world and no doubt the dying auks will become the poster children of the cause on social media. But as I stare into the contents of my barrow I know exactly the demographics of the culprits. It is the very generation who will reap the whirlwind of the unfolding environmental catastrophe but it seems to be a generation who like to talk big about saving the oceans without be able to sweat the small stuff. I mean really, if you can't dispose of your litter responsibly, what hope is there? As I say it doesn't make me mad any longer, but it does make me very, very sad.

Postscript: after penning the above piece I headed for the offices of Harper Collins for a marketing meeting on my upcoming Frankel book, which by the way is out on 13/June in time for Father's Day and Royal Ascot. As the meeting finished Helen Ellis, the PR genius to whom I am ever grateful, pushed a copy of the just published Green and Prosperous Land into my hand. 'You'll like this.' she said. And Helen is right. 

The writer Dieter Helm, an Oxford economist and chairman of the National Capital Committee (a government quango) sounds an unlikely ally to find beside you at the barricades. But he's one of us - a fly fisher and the subtitle to his book A Blueprint for Rescuing the British Countryside takes to task the decades of bureaucracy and vested interest of lobbyists that have bought us to our current sorry state. It is more than worth a read and available from Amazon. As is my Frankel book for pre-order; ignore the 11/July date which has been superseded.

Life mimics art

I think there is a phrase 'life mimics art'. If I'm right then writer of 
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, the late Paul Torday will be grinning from ear-to-ear from whatever cloud he occupies as news comes of a successful salmon farming operation in the United Arab Emirates.

It seems that for the past two years weekly batches of fingerlings from Argyll in Scotland have been flown the 5,000 miles to saltwater tanks of a desert fish farm which is able to perfectly replicate the salinity, temperature and water movement of the Atlantic salmon's native home.

But far from ending in the disaster of Torday's novel the fish are now on the menu for UAE restaurants leapfrogging nearly all other fish to become the second most popular fish in the region, a particularly popular choice for the health conscious young.

You really could not make it up ......

One Fly on the move back

It looks like the One Fly will be making a move back to where it originally began for, in case you haven't heard the news, Lucy and The Peat Spade team have taken over The Grosvenor Hotel in Stockbridge to expand their portfolio.

Nick (r) with Top Angler Ed Burgass
Lucy tells me the restoration and upgrade of this iconic building on the High Street will be done gradually, but after a brief closure for a major spring clean, it reopened last week. Do drop in or visit the website.

As you know the One Fly is now a biannual event so no Festival this year but we will be back on 23rd/24th April 2020. I am delighted to announce that the winning guide from 2011 Nick Parish will be taking over from the late and much missed Peter Roberts as Guide Captain, the pivot on which the whole One Fly swings. 

Thank you Nick for putting your hand up. As they say one volunteer is worth a thousand conscripts.

Details of the 2020 One Fly Festival here.....

New fly packs for 2019

In association with the leading British fly tying company Fulling Mill we have reworked my fly pack selections with a whole new range for 2019.

We still have the seasonal variants for spring, Mayfly, summer and autumn but I have also added a Chalkstream Nymph selection and Grayling selection. 

In addition you will receive a free tapered Fulling Mill leader with each pack specifically chosen to optimise your presentation. So, for instance, there is a 9ft 6lb/3x with the mayflies, a 15ft 2lb/7x for the grayling and so on.

All the packs are available online and will be dispatched the same day direct from us here at Nether Wallop Mill.

The Quiz

More questions to hopefully entertain and enlighten. As ever it is just for fun with the answers at the bottom of the Newsletter.

1)    Who wrote "Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life"?

2)    The 32nd President of the United States died on this day in 1945. Who was he?

3)    Which are the three most common species of Hirundinidae birds that arrive in Britain, mostly from Africa, around this time of year?

Have a good weekend.

Best wishes,
Simon Signature 
Founder & Managing Director


1)    Oscar Wilde in his 1889 essay The Decay of Lying.
2)    Franklin Delano Roosevelt
3)    House Martin, Sand Martin and Swallow

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