In a strange way it feels like we’ve been back to normal forever; that moment when the government released us from lockdown seems a great deal longer ago than five weeks. We’ve packed in a great deal of fishing since then! But then again, that is only fishing; the rest of the what is loosely called the leisure industry remains shuttered with much pain still to come. I regard ourselves as very fortunate, especially compared to our colleagues in Wales and Scotland.
Closer to home Stockbridge is busy; not super summer busy but enough to have the tills jangling with all the shops now open. The next shoe to drop will be in early July when our local pubs and hotels reopen.
It is hard to get perfect information on the precise nature and character of the reopening. Many websites are at best confusing, at worst misleading, the home pages stating, “closed until further notice”. However, if you dig around the online bookings systems nearly everywhere is offering rooms from 4th or 5th July. The only exceptions to this in Stockbridge are The Grosvenor (1/August) and Lainston House (6/August). Likewise, self-catering weekly rentals and B&Bs through portals such as Airbnb and cottages.com are now taking bookings from 4/July.
All that said I don’t think it is going to be a mighty bound to business as usual. Many of the hoteliers I have spoken to are planning a ‘soft’ reopening including restrictions such as dining confined to residents only, breakfast served in rooms and no walk-ins.
Best to check exactly what is on offer before you travel, but its good to be one further step down the track to our new world.
How did you spend last Sunday? If you were a river keeper on the River Test it is a fair bet, you were in waders with a scythe in hand.
This photo was shot soon after lunch on Sunday at Bullington Manor, a build-up of watercress, celery weed and ranunculus at the hatches on Beat 1. It took our team of four over an hour to move it through and a further two days to clear it on and out to our downstream neighbours. Sorry guys! By now it will be heading for the sea.
After a dearth of weed last year, 2020 has been a bumper year. In my thirty years on the upper stretches of the Test I have never seen anything like it, no doubt a product of one of the wettest winters on record followed by one of the warmest springs. River weeds love sunlight and fast, oxygenated water – they have had it in spades.
So, we are nearly done with the weed cut on the Test. It moves in tranches, so we’ll be on to the bigger river south of Stockbridge to wrap it all up on Thursday. Then all we have to do it hone and oil our scythes for the cut towards the end of July ……
It is not all hand scythes; we do make the odd concession to modern machinery. Here Kris (above) is using a strimmer with a hedge cutter attachment to cut the watercress. This is probably the closest a strimmer comes to its original purpose here in Britain, invented as they were in the Far East for cutting rice fields.
Did you miss TV sport?
I was going start by saying I don’t watch much sport on TV but when I came to list the sports I regularly watch – horse racing, golf, tennis, motor racing and …. well, I better not go on as I’m rather embarrassed to see this list is rather longer than is decent. I am beginning to understand why my family roll their eyes at my viewing habits.
But have I missed TV sport during the lockdown? Not a bit of it. After a few days of cold turkey Sky Sports was entirely erased from my consciousness. It was a relief to be spared those blathering football managers who mostly fill the sports news reports. I can’t say I’ve been weeping buckets at the postponement of the Olympics. My Coral betting account has remained blissfully undepleted.
Now sport is back have I wrested back control of the remote? Well, not really. I dipped my toe in with the PGA from Texas last week sans spectators. Was it any the worse for the lack of crowds? Did we really miss that guy who travels to every golf tournament around the world to shout ‘get in the hole’ at the most inappropriate moment? Will our viewing experience be diminished by the absence of the director panning in on the gurning faces of the spectators? Royal Ascot was certainly less royal, but I watch horse racing for the horses not the people.
I can see that BCD (behind closed doors) will play havoc with the finances of sport but I have to say a bit of me rather likes this particular part of the new normal as sport is honed back to its essence without distractions. And maybe that is no bad thing to like as I’m told many governing bodies are planning BCD for way into 2021.
Royal Ascot jockeys take the service tunnel to the paddock
My favourite night of the year
By all measures the Summer Solstice this Saturday is my favourite day of the year; it is, all at the same time mystical, magical and significant, both the longest day of the year – 16 hours and 38 minutes and the shortest night with sunrise at 4.43am and sunset at 9.21pm.
I often stay up all night; I love the fact it hardly gets dark, the grey/blue inkiness of the sky providing enough light to read a book. I’ve spent it at Stonehenge, on Glastonbury Tor, amidst Avebury Ring and upon the ancient hill fort of Old Winchester Hill. It is a dawn you only see once a year. A dawn that that our forebears chose to celebrate in ways we would not contemplate today.
The solstice probably became a major celebration in the pagan calendar not just for its astrological significance (summer starts this day astrologically speaking) but because it marked a pause in the agrarian calendar. Lambing was done. The back of haymaking broken. Harvest was still ahead. It was the chance for rural communities to let their hair down. This was the time for holidays, such as they were, and the month of choice for weddings.
And if you believe in the afterlife the eve Midsummer’s Day marks the point in the year when the veil between this world and the next is at its thinnest; the moment for fairies and an inkling to what is beyond.
Top photo: Glastonbury Tor. Lower photo: Old Winchester Hill.
A solstice theme this week but as ever, it is all just for fun with the answers at the bottom of the page.
1)The new year began for which ancient civilisation close to the summer solstice?
2)Are we closer to the sun at the summer or winter solstice?
3)What belief did Galileo recant on this day in 1633?