I try to steer clear of politics, so I hesitate to write
this, but whatever side of the political aisle you choose to sit accept
this in the context of politicians in general.
I was hopeful of late that we had broken through the glass
ceiling on national consciousness in respect of the woes that assail our
rivers – the All-Party Parliamentary Group. Chalkstream summit. Public
awareness that only 18% of our rivers are in a good state. Fergal Sharkey
using his status to motivate parts of society who had never previously
given the plight of rivers a thought. All amazing stuff.
Over an early lunch on Wednesday I tuned into Prime
Minister’s Questions and how my heart soared when, from out of the blue a
Zoom call beamed into the chamber of the House of Commons, Dame Cheryl
Gillan, MP for Chesham and Amersham who asked this question:
“May I welcome the Prime Minister’s excellent Conservative
party conference speech yesterday, which outlined his vision of our
Government’s plans for a green economy that will create hundreds of
thousands of jobs? Does my right hon. Friend agree that the merits of his
green economy proposal extend far beyond energy production, and also
include the preservation of our green spaces? As the UK prepares to host
COP26, will the Prime Minister show the international community the way, by
committing the UK to championing greater protections for our chalk streams?
Will he extend his vision to redesignate the Chilterns area of outstanding
natural beauty as a national park, following Julian Glover’s recommendation
in the Landscapes review?
In the few moments between the question and Boris climbing
to his feet my brain went into overdrive. Chalkstreams? PMQs? Yes. Yes.
Yes. Our moment has arrived. Boris, primed as he would have been for this
question from his own side, would have the answer off pat. Welcome to the
new chalkstream dawn. I was ecstatic. This is what the Prime Minister
“I thank my right hon. Friend, and we are committed to
protecting areas such as the Chilterns area of outstanding natural beauty.
I understand that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is
considering each of the recommendations in Julian Glover’s review, and
following the correct procedures. I hope my right hon. Friend will
acknowledge—I hope she knows—that the Government are also leading the way
globally in protecting biodiversity, habitats and species, and that is what
we will be doing at the G7, and in the run-up to COP26 in Glasgow next
Oh dear. Cue massive disappointment. Even my sandwich seemed
to curl in distaste. I had at least hoped Boris would use the word
chalkstreams. Acknowledge in some way the problems we all know to be true.
But like too many who have control of the levers of power they default to
pretending that local problems will be resolved by global solutions. It is,
of course, absolute nonsense.
We can discuss climate change at eternal length – they
certainly will at COP26. But the truth is that the Three Horsemen of the
Apocalypse that threaten our rivers – agriculture, water management and
urbanisation are problems entirely of our own making. We will poison the
green fields of England long before the seas rise to flood them.
We need the Fourth Horseman to ride to our rescue; it seems
we will have to teach Boris how to mount that particular horse.
More stings in the
Who would have thought wasps could excite such passions? I
had some, best described as heated, emails in response to my piece last
time about wasps. It seems bee lovers have a passionate hatred of wasps, so
there is nothing on God’s earth that can be said in favour of yellow backs
who can invade and destroy beehives. However, I did discover a few things
further about wasps.
Firstly, they are much loved by badgers who will dig them
out, especially in summer to primarily eat the grubs but generally the
entire nest. The grubs are also a great fishing bait. Dame Julia Berner
(born 1388) cited them as excellent for chub and more recently they have
largely been banned from competition use. Frankly, sourcing them requires
more dedication to the cause than I’m willing to give.
Finally, I did discover why they might gravitate towards
rivers in the summer as other sources of moisture dissipate. Wasps require
water to dilute honey so it can be fed to young and to regulate the nest
temperature and humidity. Top tip to keep wasps away from your picnic:
place a bowl of water at short distance where they will hover to drink out
of harm’s way.
Jack Perks, the underwater filmmaker who recently became the
first person to capture every British freshwater species on film and in the
wild, spent a week in September on, or rather in, the chalkstreams.
His target was grayling, but in the course of that pursuit
he revealed a new perspective on the many fish that inhabit the southern
rivers. Jack does film with a handheld camera, but actually many of the
best shots come by way of a series of Go Pros that he places on the
Charles and I took something of a sojourn over the summer
but now with time on our hands and plenty to say (in truth more of the
latter …..) we met on Wednesday to catch up.
Charles was aching from what he promises will have been his
last ever marathon, which brings to a close many years of raising many
thousands of pounds for Fishing for Schools. I’d like to believe Charles
but somehow, I wonder; I do recall how often The Eagles and their
like have ‘retired’.
So, hear all about Charles’ marathon effort, our views on
the latest Angling Trust Anglers against Pollution campaign, tips
for the grayling season and our wishes for the coming winter.
We have just two bottles of River Test gin left in the
office, which works out handily as September marks the penultimate feedback
draw of the year.
People often ask me which is the best month on the
chalkstreams – aside from Mayfly I always reply September. Actions speak
louder than words so, for those of you not lucky enough to live beside a
river you should take a clue from those of us who do. The month of autumn
mists is the moment we shrug off our summer slough and head out – September
is truly a great month and this one proved to be a cracker. Daddies, which
came late, were supreme but equally ants were on fire. It was the best
curtain call to a season I can recall in a very long time.
Well done to Angus Dodd who enjoyed one such day at
Bullington Manor. Angus, the gin is in the post – get in the tonics.
1)Not exactly straightforward. Here is the
Wikipedia explanation: the Conference of the Parties will be attended by
countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate
Change (UNFCCC) - a treaty agreed 1994. This meeting will be the 26th,
which is why it's called COP26. Hope that is clear!