I know I often give Southern Water, and water companies in
general, a hard time but the news that Southern Water plc, one of the most
influential custodians of our chalkstreams is considering building a
desalination plant deserves congratulation.
The bare bones are that the plant, planned to be built on
the western shore of Southampton Water, just a few miles downstream of
where the Test, Itchen and Meon enter the sea, will supply 75 million
litres of water daily. Put into some sort of context that is enough to
provide the water needs to half a million people, or 215,000 homes each
day. In terms of the Test Valley, that is enough water to supply each home
in the River Test catchment four times over. In terms of ecological
transformation, it is hard to overstate how important the Fawley
desalination plant will be if it comes into being.
Where rivers meet the sea
The details of the project are still sketchy, though it has
run into local opposition who largely cite the energy burn required to run
a desalination plant on this scale which is, in truth, a fair
consideration. The cost is also big - £600m and will fall on Southern Water
customers but spread across say 10 years that will only require a £60, or
15% annual increase in the average household water and sewerage bill.
As the CEO of Southern Water Ian MacAulay points out in the
virtual consultation process you can view online, 99% of the planets’ water is in the
oceans: desalination as a route to protecting scarce aquifers, and by
association rivers, has almost limitless potential. Let us hope, for our
chalkstreams at least, he can make this happen and that others will follow in
A sort of good
It is a sort of good news; earlier this month the Senedd,
the Welsh parliament, voted by a narrow margin (30 to 27) not to annul
Welsh Government’s plans to introduce new “Control of Agricultural
Pollution Regulations” across Wales from the start of April this year.
Yes, you read that right ‘not to annul’. The regulations
were first introduced in January after four years of unsuccessfully trying
to convince farmers, by dint of persuasion, time, help and funding to
reduce environmental damage (especially to water) by placing restrictions
on activities such as manure spreading and the application of fertilizers.
However, the ever-powerful farming lobby fought, and continue to do so via
the courts, a determined rear-guard action to head off the Regulations. The
fact that twenty-seven Welsh parliamentarians voted in favour of
maintaining the pollution status quo is, at least to me, a sad reflection
that elected politicians, despite warm words about climate change, are
content for our countryside to be laid to waste by farming.
I have not always felt that way. I come from a farming
background. In years past I have stoutly defended the rights of farmers.
But today, when the facts tell you that agriculture is responsible for 40%
of all river pollution, then I know my loyalties back then were misplaced.
Writing The Otters’ Tale I extensively researched the history of
organophosphates. First used in the 1950’s in pesticides and sheep dip,
organophosphates began wiping out songbirds, raptors and otters almost
immediately. A research paper, commissioned by the government of the time,
conclusively proved this and recommended an immediate end to the use of
organophosphates in 1957. But the findings suited neither the government
nor the farmers. The report was quietly shelved and this poison, a
derivative is DDT, remained in use until the 1980’s.
The vote in the Welsh parliament, though it went our way
this time, is a reminder how easily apparently small battles are lost.
Cycling guru Dave Brailsford talks about success through small incremental
gains. Flip that on its head: there was no big bang that bought our rivers
to their current parlous state but rather seventy years of small
incremental losses. The Welsh vote is one step in reversing those losses
but there are many thousands more ahead for the entire British Isles.
I had to find a man beside a hedge somewhere in north
Oxfordshire last week; the location was miles from the nearest road with no
name or number and the postcode was next to useless. My hedge man sent me a
text with three words with instructions to download the What3Words app.
As the Google map lady instructed me to turn off the main
road, down a country lane and past a dead-end sign I was less than
convinced but unerringly the words took me, via two miles of farm track, to
the appointed meeting place.
If you have not used What3Words it is a mapping app that has
given every 3m square in the world a unique 3 word address. The words are
randomly assigned to each square and will always stay the same. Our
What3Words address here at Nether Wallop Mill is treaty.necklace.staring
Put this into the What3Words search box, choose your preferred navigator
e.g. Google maps, Apple maps, Bing etc and follow the directions.
The beauty of What3Words is the simplicity of its precision.
Postcodes are notoriously vague, often covering many square miles in rural
locations. Likewise, there are still plenty of roads without a name which
defeats even the most sophisticated sat nav. Yes, Google map coordinates
are equally precise but which would you prefer to find Nether Wallop Mill:
treaty.necklace.staring or 51°07'34.4"N 1°33'53.7"W?
As of now we will be including a What3Words address in all
the directions to our fishing.
Especially useful for horses lost in
Halford in a spin
Join Charles Jardine and I for our monthly Zoom debate at
11am today (26/March) when we ask the question: when is a fly not a fly?
Should a fly always represent something that exists in
nature? Have we blurred the lines as to make the term fly fishing valueless?
Are some flies the fishing equivalent of cheating at patience? Or should we
accept that if it is good enough to fool a fish it is good enough to use?
I can hear Mr Halford spinning as I type these very words
With a busy summer in prospect, I am delighted to say
Fishing Breaks has a vacancy for an intern to work on the chalkstreams.
It is ideally suited to someone currently studying to become
a full-time river keeper or similar who enjoys working outdoors. You will
need to be familiar with rivers and confident handling strimmers, grass
cutting machinery and hand tools.
Based on the River Test, Itchen and tributaries working
within a 15-mile radius of Stockbridge you will report to our Head River
Keeper which will help you develop a wide variety of skills that will hold
you in good stead for any future full-time river keeping position.
The internship lasts 3-4 months starting in May/June. The
salary is £18,532 - £13,645 pa pro rata depending on age. Closing date for
applications Sunday 28th March 2021.
Apply by email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your CV, covering letter and date
you would be available. A full driving licence and your own car is a
questions loosely based on anything at all to confound, dismay or
1) The month
of March is named after which Roman god, also the name of the fourth
planet from the Sun?
2) The Senned,
originally known as the National Assembly for Wales, first sat in what
3) What is the
name of the capital city of Mongolia?