Saturday, 9 November 2019

Is all progress good progress?

Is all progress good progress?

The bad apple rarely falls far from the tree; I am born and bred Hampshire having lived within the county boundary for the best part of three quarters of my life. It is an unusual county in that it doesn't have a particular identity or purpose. If it had a claim to fame it would be the county city of Winchester, once capital of England and home to the cathedral that has seen, I think I am right in saying, more crownings of our heads of state than any other.

Progress c. 1720. Longstock eel traps
If you wound the clock back to my childhood Hampshire would be largely regarded as a farming county, albeit one of the more progressive and profitable in Britain.

With good communications to London and healthy populations in the major conurbations of Basingstoke, Portsmouth and Southampton it has prospered.

But half a century of prosperity is not without its problems. The boundary between urban and rural has been blurred. Country lanes that were once leafy byways are now commuter routes. Quaint market towns the hole in the doughnut of sprawling development. Airline pilots use the River Itchen as a navigation aid as they descend to Southampton 'International' Airport.

As I write these words I feel guilty. Who am I to stand in the way of progress? Deny jobs and homes to those who deserve them? But then I ask myself should we remain mute to see destroyed those very things that drew people to our county in the first place. Is there not a point at which we say stop? No further. Life is not just about the practical but the beautiful. Protecting beauty, in all its manifest forms - be it human, animal, nature or landscape - has to be one of the given duties for our generation. Which brings me to The Wheelabrator.

I know it sounds like the latest Dyson gardening gadget, but it is truly the most unwholesome thing to be proposed for the Hampshire countryside in living memory. A massive building on the banks of the River Test that would fit the aforementioned Winchester Cathedral inside itself twice over. It sounds at first glance a worthy project, a waste management plant that turns rubbish into steam. What could be bad about that? Well, lots.

Progress c. 2020: Artist impression of The Wheelabrator
To start with it will create more CO2 emissions than it saves. The two chimney stacks, 80m high, will spew out steam for the next 50 years , the vapour, clean only to the extent of standards in which we will have little or no say, settling on the surrounding countryside, which as moisture will find its way into the rivers and food chain with all the cumulative effects that will follow. As for the actual rubbish that feeds this monster it will arrive from far and wide; Hampshire does not need the Wheelabrator as it already has sufficient capacity to deal with its own waste.

But most of all, at least for me, it is a water thing. There is no desalination plant or reservoir that will quench the Wheelabrator's thirst, all 135,000 cubic metres of pure chalkstream water drawn directly from the aquifers beneath. That number might mean little but essentially it is like plonking 1,200 new homes on the combined sources of the Test and its tributaries, the Anton, Dever and Pilhill Brook. It will suck more life out of already hard-pressed rivers.

I know it is all the rage to talk about saving the planet, the space into which the Wheelabrator has squarely inserted its pitch. But you must ask the question: is one transient gain worth the eternal damage?


If you would like to know more about the Wheelabrator Harewood project this is the link to the official company website. Bin the Incinerator is the local alliance fighting the proposal. The Campaign to Protect Rural England have weighed in with a succinct statement on the application. 

The local groups are well organised and committed but are in desperate need of funding to employ field-leading experts to prepare submissions ahead of the December 12th deadline. Give what you can to help the cause via the community crowdfunding website which is one quarter the way to its £25,000 target.

Overwhelming response to catch & release survey

When I say overwhelming, I really do mean overwhelming; to date we have had over 700 responses. I think I may have made a tactical error (!) in giving you all freedom to range wide and free with your replies which leaves me, joking aside, with the huge task of collating them all.

However, the initial headlines are that you are:
  • Massively (95%) in favour of catch and release
  • On catch and keep you are more divided by species. Half want to keep a salmon, one third a grayling and three quarters a brown trout.
  • Two thirds are in favour of compulsory barbless hooks
  • 90% believe catch limits should be set by river owners/clubs rather than statutory bodies
As to how many fish it is reasonable to release or keep in a day, I'm afraid I don't have the numbers yet. This has been really quite contentious, with a huge diversity of beliefs. It is going to take some serious midnight oil to collate the many hundreds of differing opinions into something statistically meaningful. 

But leave it with me; I will release the results in the New Year.

In the meantime, thank you to you all for your contributions and if you still haven't completed the survey, or know someone who might like to, here is the link. The poll closes at midnight on Monday.

Planning for 2020

Sometimes it is hard to wrap our heads around a fishing season that is still, in truth, a full six months away. That said over the years I have sort of become used to it; my 2020 season started sometime around July.

Bullington Manor John above Venice Bridge
Summer on the Test
For those of you familiar with our booking process you'll know by now there is a certain system to it all as we prepare the fishing diary for each individual beat before it finally goes online January 1st. In getting there I have to take into account the many, and often conflicting, requirements of weed cutting, general maintenance, rest days, owner days, grandfathered-in dates and numerous other requirements.

Part of that chronological jigsaw are season rods, those of you who choose to elect to fish the same fishery on a regular basis. 

For 2020 I have five choices: one on the Itchen, three on the Test and back after an absence of a few years the 5x5 which is five days spread across the five months of the season on different beats on different rivers with the chance to catch each of the major hatches. More details here.

That was October. A reel winner. Diane at 15

I am currently reading A Farmer's Year written by Rider Haggard, he of King Solomon's Mines and She fame. As well as being one of the best-selling authors of the 19th century he was also a farmer and A Farmer's Year traces the events on his Norfolk farms in 1898.

Diane with Andy Buckley on the River Dove
In it he writes of December: "... even in my own day the English climate has changed very greatly - now it is common for autumn to stretch up to Christmas, while winter prevails from February to June."

I quote this not in the spirit of climate change denial but by way of illustration as to the fickleness of our climate. In recent years we have become accustomed to treating September and October as extensions of August but lo and behold 2019 has turned all that on its head - autumn trees have provided as much shelter as beauty.

Torrential rain has seen totals for the month as much as double the normal amount for October, which followed a September of a similar ilk. It might be grim for grayling fishing, but it is, joyously, all water in the bank of aquifer for 2020.

Which, with the trout season now officially closed leaves the one final duty to draw the winner from the Feedback Forms of 2019. I am delighted to say that it is Matthew Ives who will collect a magnificent Hardy Marquis reel having fished back in July at Wherwell Priory.

Thanks also to Diane who made the draw and congratulations to her as this month she celebrates (I think that is the right word!) 15 years here at Fishing Breaks. A huge thanks from all of us.


A fireworks and autumn theme. As ever the quiz is just for fun, with answers at the bottom of the page. 
1)      In which year did Guy Fawkes attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament?

2)     The full moon in October is called a Harvest Moon. What is the name for the full moon on 12th November?

3)      If you were phonophobic what would you be scared of?

Have a good weekend.

Best wishes,
Simon Signature    
Founder & Managing Director


1)      1605
2)      Hunters Moon so called as it allowed hunting at night when animals were scavenging fields for the remnants of harvest.
3)      Loud noises

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