Friday, 6 December 2019

Earthly bounty

Earthly bounty

We've been back at our lake pumping again here at Nether Wallop Mill, picking up where we left off in February when our rather ancient pump c. 1960 vintage died. This time we have a state-of-the-art version that purrs rather than deafens, using as much fuel in a week as the old one did in a day.

Kris (l) & Simon (r) preparing for a day of pumping
Pumping is a pretty laborious process. Firstly, the piping is incredibly heavy and difficult to move around. The discharge pipe is not too bad, a bit like an overly large fire hose. But the suction pipes are stiff, moulded heavy rubber with unruly attachment clamps that have a tendency to bite fingers. These you have to manoeuvre around the lake, hence the floating platform. In your dreams you might hope to simply dump the pipe in the lake, leaving it sucking away for as long as it takes.

In reality, the syphon head only has an effective range of a few inches, so it has to be constantly moved amongst the silt that has amassed at the bottom of the lake, churning it up to create an output the consistency of thin gravy. Of course, it is not just silt in the 2-3-foot thick layer. Decades of woody debris regularly conspire to block the head which has to be lifted clear of the water to be cleared by hand. This is inevitably accompanied by much shaking of heads and sucking of teeth by both Simon and Kris who have suffered torrential rain and sub-zero temperatures during the course of the past ten days.

Aside from the sheer labour involved the other great difficulty with silt pumping a lake is what to do with the tens of thousands of gallons of dirty water produced each day without causing upset to your neighbours. In our case we create a lagoon with a bund of straw bales in what was, a century ago, the water meadows. By slowing the pace of the water as it makes its way towards the Wallop Brook the silt settles amongst the raggedy grassland, the bales acting as the final filter.

The silt, which slightly resembles an arid, cracked desert lake as it spreads out, has provided a veritable smorgasbord for the local population. At night the otters trail across in search of amphibians and bull heads; I even saw fox prints but quite what he was after I have no idea. Probably just following in the footsteps of the otters. They have become quite competitive of late with the fox stealing a trout off one of the otters a few nights ago. By day it is bird city; egrets, herons and kingfishers all digging into the feast in their various different ways.

All I have to do now is persuade Mr. Mole to relocate from my lawn and we'll all be happy.


I do sometimes wonder what manufacturers think motivates us fly fishers. Now, I covet fly fishing reels as much as anyone. They are the bling of fishing. 

I have some absurd specimens that I have bought regardless of cost and utility. They might be useless for the intended purpose, but we don't love them any the less.

But I do truly struggle to understand the latest $1,355 offering from Abel. The AC/DC reel. 

I have criss-crossed the CV of this hard rock/heavy metal band but have yet to find any reference to any of the assorted members, alive or dead, showing any interest in fly fishing.

However, with 200 million album sales to their name I guess they have a massive following and I may well have to eat my words when each of the 300 limited edition becomes a collector's item.


Google alerts

I have a Google news alert that trawls the internet for news items of interest flagged by the various key words I have chosen; it is something of a mixed blessing.

Clearly, I have the obvious ones such as chalkstream and fly fishing. At the risk of appearing a narcissist I have Simon Cooper which occasionally leads me to learn stuff about myself I never knew. 

It is also, annoyingly, the name of a court reporter for the Press Association so I know a great deal about the activities of petty criminals across the breadth of Britain. Not to mention the troubles of holiday operator On The Beach who's CEO is a Simon Cooper. However, it is The Otter's Tale that generally brings up the weirdest stuff.

Surprisingly, book titles are not, in most circumstances, copyrightable. This turned out to be a great help when we found out, just a few weeks ahead of my publication, that Gavin Maxwell had published a children's book of the same name. Soon after my Otters' Tale was followed by another, this time a sex novel about a guy called Otter. And then not long after a Christian publication. However, it seems the title remains a deep seam for up popped last week another Otter's Tale, this time in TV advert format by the luxury handbag maker Loewe.

It hasn't exactly received many plaudits; it has a low approval rating of 1 compared to 5 for the latest John Lewis Christmas ad but I'll leave you to be the judge as it is, to say the very least, a little weird. I have no idea what they are on about. Watch it here ........

More mayfly mystery explained

Most years during the height of the mayfly hatch I will come across the strange sight of Danica dancing above a tarmac road, pointlessly fulfilling their appointed destiny by diving down to lay eggs on the road surface.

Mayfly on the Tisza River in Hungary
I have often wondered why assuming, mistakenly as it turns out, the wet or shiny surface in some way resembled a river surface.

However, a comprehensive review of the scientific evidence to date into light pollution as a driver into the rapid decline of insect populations has provided an unlikely explanation. Some insects use the polarisation of light to locate the water they need to breed and as Brett Seymoure, a behavioural ecologist at Washington University in St Louis and senior author of the review explains, "Mayflies live for only one day, so they come out and look for polarised light. They find it - but from asphalt - lay their eggs there, and they all die. That's a good way to knock out an entire population in 24 hours."

On the topic on mayflies, David Attenborough's latest series Seven Worlds One Planet featured a monstrous hatch of mayfly on the Tisza River in Hungary. These seem to be larger and thicker in body than our own, almost more moth than mayfly. The hatch is also faster and more furious than our own, the males just living for three hours the mass mating (up to seven males to one female) taking place in the surface of the river. The spent males are left to die as the females migrate upstream for three miles to ensure that as the eggs (and presumably nymphs) drift downstream over the next three years they will hatch in the self-same place they were born.

You can see the five-minute section on BBC iPlayer. It is episode five of the seven-part series.


No theme this week other than tangentially the Newsletter topics and the small matter of next Thursday. As ever the quiz is just for fun, with answers at the bottom of the page. 

1)     What is the name of the biggest selling record album of all time?

2)      What is Boris Johnson's full name?

3)      What was Google's original name?

Have a good weekend.

Best wishes,
Simon Signature    
Founder & Managing Director


1)   Counting methodology is disputed so if you said Thriller (Michael Jackson) or Greatest Hits 1971-75 (Eagles) take a point. AC/DC Back in Black in somewhere in the top ten.
2)      Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson

3)      BackRub

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