Friday, 12 February 2021

You did it. Thank you




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 abstraction.


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.



Britain's Hidden Fishes


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 chalky white.


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 extended Q&A.


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 Tube or 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 difference?


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 Day


World Fly Fishing Day is coming on 21st June! 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.


I’ll keep you posted as well. Here is the Facebook link....




This week questions loosely based on topics mentioned in the Newsletter to confound, dismay or delight.


1) The robin has an orange breast but is called a red breast. Why?


2) When was the first series River Monsters broadcast?


3) Which famous painting was stolen from the National Gallery of Norway on this day in 1994?



Have a good weekend.



Best wishes,



Simon Cooper

Founder & Managing




Quiz answers:


1) In the 14th century, when the robin was first named, there was no word for orange in the English language.

2) 2009. Since then there have been 10 series and 103 episodes, all presented by Jeremy Wade.

3) Edvard Munch's ‘The Scream’

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