Late last year many of you very kindly supported my entreaty
to lobby your MP in respect of the Environment Bill; at that moment we were
specifically concerned about sewage treatment but out of that has come
great progress to halt another great scourge to our rivers: over
The Environment Bill is still winding its way through
parliament but thanks to an amendment by Sir Charles Walker MP new powers
will come into being that should be used to protect all rivers, including
chalkstreams, at times of greatest threat. In a letter to Sir Charles,
Environment minister Rebecca Pow wrote last month,
“I strongly agree that it is important for the Secretary of
State’s new powers to be as effective as possible in protecting the water
environment from the broadest range of damage. To this end, the powers have
been drafted in such a way that the reference to ‘damage’ includes damage
caused by low flow levels in a river due to unsustainable abstraction. I
will be pleased to clarify this in the Explanatory Notes for the Bill and
to confirm this at the Dispatch Box.”
Much though many of us don’t like any abstraction we have to
be realistic. Rivers, and the water they provide, is a national resource
that has to be shared. We can’t simply say no and, actually, that would be
unreasonable. Speaking specifically about chalkstreams, for 8 months out of
12 abstraction makes not a penny difference to flow or habitat. Looking out
my window the Wallop Brook it is pushing through as much water on this
single February day as it will in the whole of August.
And that’s the point. Boreholes are fine when used in time
of plenty. But when your borehole damages my river you have to stop. For
sharing is a two way street and nobody, be it an organisation, corporation
or government appointed body should ever have any right to deplete a scarce
resource to the detriment of others.
My experience of CHALK taught me just how hard it is to make
a feature length film, so hats off to Jack Perks who has launched his
project Britain’s Hidden Fishes.
You may have seen Jack on Countryfile a couple of
weeks ago in which he talked with passion about the many amazing wildlife
spectacles on our doorsteps, all unfolding beneath the waterline. His film
aims to showcase hidden, untold stories about British fish.
He has pulled in many talented helpers for the project
including Jeremy Wade of River Monsters fame who is going to narrate
the film. However, the magic ingredient is always money. Jack needs to
raise £30,000 and I suggested the crowd funding route through which you all
so generously supported CHALK.
Britain’s Hidden Fishes is already on its way with nearly £9,000 pledged. You may
pledge anything from a few pounds to a few thousand with a graduated range
of rewards, including a day for two on a chalkstream at £600 which is
waiting to be snapped up. Read more about Britain’s Hidden Fishes
and join the crowd funding here....
Jack Perks tells more about his film
Our Finest Dour
I am often looking for illustration of what the term
‘chalkstream’ means. Over the years I have had all sorts of odd remarks;
the client who complained in indignant terms that the riverbed was gravel
not chalk. The person who wondered why the water was clear as opposed to
Laughable as these observations might be I guess we have to
temper apparent ignorance against our baseline knowledge but occasionally,
even with that benefit, something comes along that makes you think, wow, is
our unique geology really that simple?
To see what I mean check out the 18 second video from the Kent based group Our Finest
Dour, who are dedicated to preserving one of our shorter chalkstreams at 4
miles in length, the River Dour which flows bang through the centre of
Dover entering the sea at Dover Harbour. Remarkably for such a short river
the Dour used to power eight corn mills and five paper mills dating all the
way back to Roman times.
Our Finest Dour volunteers at work
'picking' litter on Bridge Street, Dover
Fish in the Reads
As part of the Orvis Company effort to keep us sane through
yet another bloody lockdown I am delighted to be taking part in their Fish
in the Reads when a famous author (their words not mine!) reads an
extract from a book they have written.
It is no bad place to be, sandwiched as I am between similar
events with David Profumo and Charles Rangeley-Wilson, but it does create a
problem for me. I have absolutely no idea which section to read from Life
of a Chalkstream. Can you help me? If you have a particular
favourite part of the book, do drop me an email with your nomination.
You will need to register in advance with Orvis via the
Eventbrite ticket site (it is free) to join me for Fish in the Reads
at 7pm on March 4. Click here....
Hero or Villain?
The series continues
This was certainly our most lively debate to date though,
thanks to an unexpectedly dodgy internet connection, I was unable to
participate in the first half. However, kudos to my co-conspirator Charles
Jardine who rescued the entire hour with a magnificently adjudicated
I think the summary of the discussion, if you exclude the
extreme outliers on either side of the debate, is that we regard stocking
as a necessary component of managed rivers. However, you can judge the mood
for yourself by watching on You Tubeor listen to the podcast.
Next up is Hero or Villain? The north/south divide.
In inviting comparisons between the relative merits of each are we doing
our sport a disservice? Is there an angling red wall? Are we
culturally different breeds? Is it all about cost? What can we teach each
other? Where do/did the famous anglers live? Or is there really no
As ever we will be live at 11am on the last Friday in the
month, February 26th. And joining us this time on the panel
from ‘the north’ will be accomplished fishing guides Marina Gibson and
Phillippa Hake. If you have registered previously you will automatically
receive a Zoom link 24 hours prior. Otherwise, register here to take part.
PS In post-debate correspondence Paul Kenyon from Devon sent
me this interesting video he made that usefully illustrates the
inverted pyramid of brown trout sizes in an all-wild river.
World Fly Fishing
World Fly Fishing Day is coming on 21stJune! It is the
creation of Italian fly fisher Osvaldo Galizia who says, “WFF Day aims to
be a special day for fly fishermen (sic) all around the world, celebrating
the art of fly fishing.”
I am sure something has been lost in translation (surely, he
means fly fishers?) but otherwise this has to be an initiative to be
applauded especially when launched in the depth of a pandemic crisis.
Details of the events are yet to be finalised but register your support by
joining the WFF Day Facebook page which already has over 1,000 members.