Friday, 26 March 2021

A Salty Path to Salvation




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 his path.



A sort of good news


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 central Mongolia.......



Getting Mr. 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 …….


Join our Zoom Meeting 


Meeting ID: 871 5442 8300


Passcode: 357355




River keeper internship


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 with your CV, covering letter and date you would be available. A full driving licence and your own car is a requirement.


Weed cutting




This week questions loosely based on anything at all to confound, dismay or delight.


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 year?


3) What is the name of the capital city of Mongolia?



Have a good weekend.



Best wishes,



Simon Cooper

Founder & Managing




Quiz answers:


1)     Mars

2)     1999

3)     Ulaanbaatar

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