Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Mr Clapham, a Leucistic Goose and a Surprise Spaniel Experience

Happy New Year everyone and best wishes for 1973

We did that one?

Ok, on with the guff and a report of recent movements.

Which this week, as ever have centred principally around habitat enhancement and raising biodiversity, cos that's the kind of guys us keeper's are.

Up around a spring hole for much of the week with Lord Ludg and The English.

Willow had taken hold and the hole and the thirty yards of spring ditch was fairly void of light and life. So with Messer's Stihl and Husqvuarna forming the vanguard the forces of Salix were not so quietly conquered,

light streamed in and from the centre of the spring hole appeared a hand holding a sword.

I may have dreamt that last bit, but pictorial evidence would suggest otherwise and we have had an email from an regarding the precise location of said spring.

Ducks have already found the new patch of water and I reckon Pike will find it a perfect part to nose up in order to spawn. I'll plant it up with sedge and reed in a few months which should thrive with the improved light. It was a fairly lifeless piece of water and wood and at this point I could strike up the band to perform the familiar standard of this house of why some habitats benefit from being managed by man (keepering they used to call it) but won't because if we refer to the top of the piece, we are currently living in 1973 so if all interested parties can send a SAE I'll pop a postcard and a few Polaroid's in the post.

There are a few boggy areas around the spring hole and logistically it took a bit of working out as to how some of the willows could be extracted for introduction to the fire but not for the first time the little orange tractor performed magnificently and three pairs of hands on a job like this can reduce the time taken to complete the task substantially so thanks as ever to Lord Ludg and The English for helping out.

It must be cold somewhere else as we've quite a few teal in the valley and more geese than I can ever remember,

including this strange looking cove.

It had me foxed for a bit but google suggests that it's a leucistic greylag. A greylag goose whose body can't form enough pigment to colour it's feathers. There is also some small feathered oddity in the wood that I have yet to pick out. It hangs around the tree canopy and makes a "peep peep" sound every thirty seconds or so, I'll let you know on here when I find out what it is. The number of cormorants flighting this valley continue to increase and I now see them most days, six on the pond on one occasion and twenty buzzing the main river valley as I joined the A303 on a dash for provisions one lunch time.

River levels have slowly crept up during the opening weeks of this year. It was evident that the springs in the spring hole around which we were engaging the forces of crack willow flowed a little stronger as our work progressed. Aquifers have received some replenishment and the welcome sign of a chalk stream increasing in level during a couple of dry days as the contribution made by groundwater flow increases sent me scurrying over to the cricket pitch, where I can take the lid off a borehole and with the aid of a torch, shine a light to reveal the height of the groundwater in the valley (we don't do dodgy data, fake news or conjecture just have a look with our own eyes and form our own opinion) It had indeed risen but was still three feet below causing groundwater flooding on the outfield that was not such an uncommon occurrence in front of the pavilion ten or more years ago.

Recent left foot right foot expeditions in an effort to extend life have seen us cross a couple of chalk stream valleys both of which would characteristically carry standing water at this time of year. Here's one of the Anton Valley

And the Upper Itchen,

Apologies folks, but more rain please.

Just by way of reminder here's that island in the middle of the Itchen that has been exposed since September and has since been claimed by this wagtail.

In other news,

We've had a spaniel to stay. For twelve years we played host to the world's worst spaniel. Bill Hicks once joked that in the event of a nuclear war from among the dust an indestructible Keith Richards would stir and proclaim

"I saw the light and I thought we were on"

The same applied to Chump. A spaniel with duff back legs, indomitable attitude and a propensity to bring back half a hedgerow in his feathers he was terrific fun, but high maintenance and once he passed on we both agreed that we'd had ticked the "spaniel experience" box.

Until last week, when Madam agreed to look after a friend's elderly spaniel for a few days. Soporific, well mannered and with a dislike of a puddles he was a dream to look after, although he did have a funny way of taking his ease.

To return to guitar legends who surfaced in the nineteen sixties, I understand that a film is currently being shown in picture houses across the land that centres on the life and times of Eric Clapton.
I trust that the scene in which he fishes at this place and we shared a cold lunch at my employer's kitchen table made the final cut and the visit to our local pub where the landlady continually called him "Mr Clapham"

Top bloke and not a bad fisherman.

Oh yes almost forgot,

here's one of the dog who refuses to believe that Christmas is over.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

2018 Already, Are You Sure?

Happy New Year everyone, and best wishes for 2008 .

Apparently it's 2018, I am no longer forty years old and hell's horses, where did the last ten years go? If these cranks are to be believed and it is indeed 2018, where are the Hover Shoes we were promised by Blue Peter in the 1970's and come on everybody, where are the flying cars?

Anyway, we are where we are so on with the guff.

Well it has rained.

Which is welcome and during recent explorations of the northern territories to touch base with relatives there was water lying in some valley floors in the midlands, so expect the usual hyperbole from a disconnected media sometime in the new year regarding flooding, But all those rivers we passed with water in the fields ( Cherwell, Windrush, Avon - flood plains anyone?) are supposed to flood at some point.

and by way of balance here's one of a spring ditch that we crossed during our early morning walk on New Year's Day that used to run most winters but has remained dry since the spring of 2014.

Bridges remain precipitous and the hatch on the house which was installed in the 1840's and is opened notch by notch to release water from a river on the rise through winter rain remains shut with a small surplus spilling over the top.

More rain please, keep it coming.

The brief cold snap during the festive period brought more teal into the valley who can be heard whistling their way up the valley as the light fades. Geese have mustered on the meadow upstream along with numbers of swan several of whom seem a little sick, it seems to be a cyclical thing with a spike in the number of winter mortalities every three of four years. Up until recently we have been spared the attention of greedy graculus. It's not really cormorant water with only a few stretches offering sufficient depth for them to fish. This winter they have been more persistent, targeting both pond and river, I see them most days, five years ago I could count the number of encounters with Noggin the Nog's Budgerigar on one hand (I have the full compliment of digits and nor am I a witch) Thirty years ago it was rare to a see a cormorant this far inland.

Woodcock retain a presence in the wood as do several pheasant despite the best efforts of Elma J Fudd and his blunderbuss on the neighbouring estate who spent part of Boxing Day blazing away at our pheasants exiting from the side of his block of maize. He hit some this time and sent word of several birds that needed picking up on the riverbank with ten minutes of daylight remaining,

once again


Before Christmas I filed annual river reports to the relevant authorities. For part of the report for this stretch of the Dever I offloaded about the Candover Stream supplementary flow abstraction and the revelation that it had impacted upon the aquifers of the Dever and may even have used the word "weasels" when describing a Water Company's objections to the EA's attempts to reduce the quantity permitted to be abstracted to limit any impact on the Dever aquifers.
A reply arrived shortly afterwards from the compiler of the excellent annual report suggesting that the scheme had not been used that much in recent years. With scars still raw over another recent revelation regarding "Dodgy Data" and the rise of "Fake News" I touched base with a couple of keepers who jump into the river immediately below the Candover stream to ask their opinion on this claim. Turns out the river can change level at a remarkable rate during a summer with wellies required one week to cut the weed, waders the next.
The question also remains that if the pumps in question have not been used very much in the past forty years how did it come to light that their "cone of influence" extended to the aquifers that feed the neighbouring Dever valley?

Dodgy Data and Fake News.

What times we live in.

In other news, Child A and Plus One are close to completing the process of purchasing a house across the county line in Berkshire, and I don't mean to keep coming back to the passage of time but didn't they do their O levels the other week? I think 2018 could be an exciting year for them both.

Child B attended most days at the Melbourne Test and has two more lined up in Sydney where he currently resides having taken in the Fireworks on New Year's Eve. He has met Kangaroo, Koala and Mike Atherton over Christmas Lunch,

Apologies the Kangaroo and Koala were not at Christmas lunch,

I don't think.

Face to face with Kangaroos and Koala were a new one for Child B but he's previous with Athers.

The first encounter was in Sri Lanka in 2001 at a thrilling test match in Kandy. Call us out as Carpet baggers but we received a four figure sum following the demutalisation of Scottish Widows, a merry band that Madam had signed up for following advice two years before to opt of Serps. We didn't own a house and had a fair old car loan, but common sense prevailed and we blew the lot on a three week trip to Sri Lanka to take in the Test match, tickle turtles, temples with teeth, elephants, monitor lizards and much much more.

A real adventure. I've banged out several thousand chunks of guff on here regarding short trips away, a reprise of this trip could make the internet creak a little so I'll stick to the cricket. It wasn't an organised tour, we went on our own and rocked up at the ground in a tuk tuk with our seven and eight year olds to pay less than two pounds for our tickets to sit on plastic garden chairs with the locals and a small division of the Barmy Army. Child A completed many puzzles and several books as cricket wasn't really her bag and Child B introduced himself to Mike Atherton. Each day we popped into the score box, said hello to England scorer Malcolm Ashton before climbing the ladders to change a few numbers with the dozen or so kids who seemed to operate the scorebox. Up on the hill behind the stand we could make out many orange robed Bhuddist Monks who had abandoned their chores to take in what was a very exciting cricket match and an unexpected win for England.

They don't play Test cricket at the ground now, which is a shame as we would like to have returned one day. By pure coincidence, Our local club Longparish held a fund raising auction a few years ago and one of the lots was a signed print by Sporting artist Jo Bowen of the same Test match at Kandy, it now hangs on our wall and four of those little blobs in the background are the four of us.

The next time we met Mike was a few years later at the Lords Test between England and The West Indies. Channel Four had the live coverage contract and as part of the build up to the day the presenters, Mike Atherton, Simon Hughes, Ian Bishop and Mark Nicholas would sit casually on a picnic table on the Nursery Ground musing on the impending action. Child B and myself, a jovial West Indian and a chap in a very stripy blazer were invited to sit on the picnic table behind discussing cricket to complete the scene.

Anyway, piece done. Mark Nicholas flounced off as some hair had been deemed to be out of place, Simon Hughes went in on himself but Mike Atherton and Ian Bishop came over for a few minutes chat. The chap in the stripy blazer had a lot to say, so we didn't get to jog Mike's memory about our encounter in Kandy but Child B did finally get his autograph (Child A didn't trust him with her pens at the Kandy test).

I think that's it, and I'll own that I was going to end this guff for good this month as it's ten years since it first started. It was only intended to run for one year and ten years seems like a number to say "fin" but I guess it's become a bit of a habit.
So in the words of my first employer Arthur Dodd, (Google him kids, he was very much the Jed Clampett of his day)

Press on Regardless!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Digger Donovan and some Super Sexy Wiggles

Well, we'll begin this latest chunk of guff with a good news story and some high praise for a big corporation. Having sourced the few items that one is allowed to send in the post to Australia, a box was purchased and a hefty chunk of moolah handed over to the post office wallah on the penultimate day for posting to Australia in time for Yuletide. Five days later we received word via something called Whatsapp that it had arrived at Child B's flat in Melbourne. So well done the Post Office or whoever it is that deals with that kind of delivery, and at this point I'll pause to consider how such a transaction occurs, Yes the post office cove picks up the money but how does Digger Donovan at the other need get his cut for taking the box from the plane to the door.

And not just Digger Donovan, how do all the overseas posties get their slice of the money furnished for stamps at a UK post office to send items overseas?

I have given it quite a bit of thought and it's beyond me. I don't know how overseas post works and all this thinking about international matters is starting to hurt so I'll return to the business in hand of managing a short stretch of chalk stream and its valley.

Here's a link to an interesting article that was referenced in The Times earlier this week

We've turned the chainsaw's attention to the Mill Stream, which has been mothballed due to lack of water for almost three years. To recap, the millstream is the half mile long man made channel used to carry water to drive the wheel at the Mill.

Uniform in length and initially canal like, over the last twenty years we have been attempting to make it a more natural environment. Reed and sedge have been planted and used to pinch and flick the flow and create a few sexy wiggles and lines. Cut back completely the Mill stream is a featureless channel with a silty bottom but pinching and flicking the flow keeps the gravel bed a little cleaner and allows weed to grow where it previously didn't.

As I have previously mentioned we haven't had the water to run the Mill stream for the past three summers as the main river must take precedence and if we were still in the business of grinding flour there may also have been limited supply of bread these past three summers. Of course there is willow to attend to interspersed with some particularly vicious bramble and thorn, and currently I sit chucking up this guff in a haze of TCP that has been dabbed on the many scratches and pricks on all parts of the body, the blackthorn in particular laughs in the face of the toughest chainsaw trouser. It's a steady business as most of the tree work is in the water and wood must be dropped in the river and then pulled out on the other side for introduction to the fire.

We had a second wander about with guns last week. I was a little disappointed at the number of pheasant that were in the parish on our first day. I was aware that despite the best efforts of Otis and myself each day a significant percentage of our birds wandered up to a neighbours block of maize.

Here's one of our neighbour taking pot shots at them as they fly home. Which is fair enough, as he doesn't get much shooting and warming the barrels as twenty or thirty of your neighbour's birds steadily exit stage left out of the side of the drive provided him with some much needed sport.


For whatever reason, we saw many more birds on our maraud through the woods this week. The cold weather earlier in the week had brought quite a few teal into the valley along with fifty odd geese and the occasional woodcock. It's not about the numbers and it's always a fun and relaxing day with a long lunch to finish. Thanks very much to everyone who turned out to worry the wildlife.

If we can all hum the Nina Simone somg "I wish I knew how it would feel to be free" for the next few lines the ambience will be significantly improved.

I have been invited to review a film. Not the current smash about Neil and Christine titled Hamilton, or the new Star Trek feature. It's called "Chalk" and its centred around either the end of a snooker cue, a day in the life of a blackboard or a chalk river, we don't know. But as soon as I have got around to watching the thing and chuck some words together about what I think it is all about I will let you know on here.

And there we have it, almost made it through another year. I don't know how it happened but twenty five years have just passed and Madam and myself will be on our own on Christmas morning for the first time in all that time,

which will be a bit odd,

although the bacon in the sandwiches at breakfast may be a little thicker than the previous twenty five years with a top brand name brown sauce on the table rather than the usual supermarket's own version sauce.

Yes we miss the kids, they are now very grown-ups and goodness how fast does time fly but we must look up and not down and acknowledge the fact that we now eat considerably better cuts of meat than we used to and don't have to share/fight over roast potatoes.

Oh yes, almost forgot,


because no Christmas is complete without them

Happy Christmas everyone and thank you for reading the rubbish that I write.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Postal Problems and Difficulties with The Duchess of Cambridge

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas,

Stop right there festive Freddie as it's still many weeks away and it has long been a tradition in this house not to consider a modicum of tinsel until the business of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year has been attended to. I know some look to the heavens for guidance as to when to put the tree up and to the good book for a date to topple the thing but in this house the state TV channel's annual gong giving has always served as a marker for the opening skirmishes of Yuletide.

Only this year we have had to go early.

Not due to capitulation in the face of a relentless campaign by retail and media to get festivities underway sometime in September, but because the final day for sending stuff to Child B in Australia in order for it to arrive in time for Jesus's birthday is December the 9th, which is one day before Gary Lineker and Clare Balding dish out the gongs.

And it grates a tad.

As does the long list of things that we are unable to send to the Antipodes. I find shopping hard enough and normally once what I consider to be the ideal gift has been sourced a purchase is quickly made before doubt can set in. Of course this hasn't always gone well and can go a bit meatloaf (two out of three ain't bad) but when a list of prohibited items is introduced the process becomes even more complicated.

Ok dogs continue to be a controversial choice when it comes to Christmas, they are for life after all and quite rightly this festive rule holds when sending gifts to Australia. But it is not just a dog that the Australian's balk at receiving through the post. Erasers are out, so the stationary set was returned to the store and try the following for size:

"The importation of written matter relating to goods that purport to be for therapeutic purposes and containing any statements or claims that are misleading , false or extravagant "

Online analytics demonstrate that this house has a small band of followers in Oz who, judging by the previous statement, may well be in jeopardy.

Used or second hand bedding is a no no, paint brushes are out as are wooden clogs, chocolate is discouraged and locomotives are more than frowned upon.

All of which may/may not have featured on prospective presents for Child B had he been back in Old Albion.

Christmas shopping seems to have become complicated quite early this winter.

You are allowed to post cricket bats.

Playing Grade cricket for South Yarra recently, Child B bust his best bat in the nets. With the second day of a league game with Flemington imminent and his second best bat summoned from the bag, he made efforts to source another bat for backup.

Unfortunately a bat of equivalent quality in Australia is twice the price it is in the UK, so it was on the email to the chap up the road who has made Child B's bats for some years (Chase cricket - if you've a requirement for a bespoke bat give Dan a call) who is aware of his requirements. A new bat is now winging its way around the world for several hundred dollars less than a bat of equal quality in the Antipodes. It's common practice apparently and hey Theresa, when discussion over trade deals comes up with Oz it might be worth mentioning English Willow (not the Crack variety, although with The Ashes in mind a few phoney bats made from crack willow may not be a bad idea) as they can't get enough of a beautiful British bat on the other side of the world, they'll stick those sponsor labels on any bat. A Kookaburra sticker on an Aussie pro's bat doesn't mean that the bat was made in the Kookaburra factory.

In Other News.

Here's one of a recently cleared out spring ditch that has remained dry for the last three winters.

This valley and its aquifers now need rain, so come on Madam Water Cycle and all you weather gods, it's time to turn the taps on. There are spring ditches in this parish staring at a fourth consecutive year of redundancy.

I won't go on, but can we all agree that if it rains a lot in the South East of England in the next few months it will be a blessing and not the apocalypse that many in the media would have us believe.

While we're on the much diminished aquifers and over exploited groundwater supply, it was recently reported by OFWAT that there are numerous basic errors in the reporting of data by both Southern Water and Thames Valley Water.

"The trouble is the system incentivises water companies to report better data rather than improve performance, said David Hall, professor at Greenwich University. The reliance on self reporting also extends to information on water leaks and sewage. Thames Water is responsible for self monitoring the amount of sewage it pours into the Thames but only reports 61% of the actual volume according to the EA"

Here's the link to the BBC report on the weasels that are water companies and their dodgy data.

Private Water Companies?

Weasels! Weasels! Weasels!

Chainsaw work continues, and the battle with the forces of crack willow was briefly parked when a sycamore cashed in its chips and fell across the mill stream during a bit of a blow one night last week.

Today we have been coppicing hazel a little further up the Mill stream bank in order to let in a little more light.

We seem to have several Waterail about the place, both on the river and pond and last week the geese turned up and even lifted off the water on our short shoot day which didn't go well with birds flying every which way but over the guns and a fox putting in an appearance on the second drive. We'll have another go just before Christmas and fingers crossed for a more productive day. Although there is no shortage of birds on the market. Five pheasant for ten pound were peddled by vendors various on Winchester market.
Heron are proving to be a particular nuisance at the moment and we have lost more spawning brown trout than previous years to their stabbing in low clear water.

Oh yes, almost forgot,

The dog

Apologies, that's Henry Moore's cucumber, now where did I put it,

Ah yes, here it is

The dog

Almost forgot, remember this?

Well we've another bridge to build early in the new year and while the Duchess of Cambridge was a delight when she deigned to open our last bridge after Lord Ludg called in a few favours a couple of years back (see left),

there's a new princess in town, so thanks for the offer of a return visit Kate but I'm afraid Princess Meghan has agreed to open our next crossing.

I trust this won't be the cause of any trouble around the family dinner table during the festive season.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Thunderflash Cufflink and a Fear of Scanners

Here goes with another tranche of guff, and bare with me here because tapping away at a keyboard hurts as does standing up, walking around and bending over. It's been quite a week for chopping down trees and throwing wood around and plus I gave my ribs a bang while performing stunts with a chainsaw bouncing on a branch sticking out over the flight pond. A little like one of those funny videos when the gymnast gets it wrong on the asymmetrical bars with the addition of an orange chainsaw some wet chainsaw trousers and a gymnast approaching his half century. To the list of activities that cause pain we can now add breathing coughing and sneezing.

None of this discomfort was picked up on a recent MOT and well done the NHS for that. Chest Xrays revealed some lovely lungs while blood tests confirmed normal heart, liver and kidney function. The pumpy thing that squeezes your arm gave a reading of 120 over 80 the only thing of any real concern was the cholesterol reading of 6.2. Ideally the Doc had hoped for 5 but conceded that the National average was probably somewhere around 6. No pills or prescriptions just a little less red meat and we'll measure the thing again next year. It's the first time I've ever had such a thing measured and who knows, it could have been at that level all of my life. I forgot to mention to our doctor of twenty five years that for the preceding six days we had been living relatively high on the hog "en France" and why I mentioned it to madam on my return I don't know because vin rouge consumption has been trimmed and I am required to consume a small bowl of seeds and nuts sans sel that I have taken to eating after sundown as I am convinced that should I eat them in daylight the window sill would soon be crammed with concerned tits and finches eager to know why such provender has been diverted away from their bird table.

Anyway, now that we have established that I am lucky to have made it this far into November onto the week's movements.

As I've already said it's been all about the saw. Work around the pond is complete and we have pulled out in order to let the ducks find it during the day before our first shoot in ten days time. A few pheasants are always quite inquisitive of chainsaw work and on returning post lunch it is not unusual to find one or two poking around where we have been working in the morning. We have moved on to the settlement pond that used to serve the fish rearing ponds behind the fishing hut, it is only a splash but willow has been cut right back in order to make it easier for quackers to get on and off the pond and the margins planted up with sedge and reed. It's always been a bit of a mystery to me as to why we don't see more ducks in the bag on our driven days, Ok we only used to feed in one place and many ducks were drawn to spend a night on the flight pond but in a bag for a driven day of fifty it was rare to see more than one or two duck. Last year's resumption of driven shooting saw a small bag but half were duck, we had not only fed the flight pond but also the spring ditches up and down the valley which seems to have resulted in duck spending more time in the day in this part of the valley rather than just visiting in numbers for the night. I might be wrong but it will be interesting to see how many duck we put up in the air in ten days time.

It may now be prescient to suggest that the requisite photo of the dog is imminent.

Nope, that's a chicken.

There he is, I was right

The dog

He's going to have to pace himself a little as last year he ran out of steam with one drive remaining. I might suggest a few stretches before we set out.

Just come back from the Itchen where I bumped into a tame local who has some clever cameras that have caught all manner of local wildlife out and about at night. he also informs me that a Hoopoe was sighted in the environs recently. I've never seen such an exotic avian in the UK but once caught sight of one when fishing in central France and also on the Ebro in Spain. There are also reports of a sighting in Basingstoke last week which I imagine is the same bird. They can't be confused with any other bird other than a Jay heavily into Punk Rock.

This week the end of season newsletter from The Test & Itchen Association dropped through the door (and into the Inbox)

Well done!

Supercilious preaching - gone

Aloof "sciencey" tone - gone

Cosying up to Big Business et al who put on discussion groups with nice biscuits while simultaneously trashing a chalk stream - hopefully gone.

It reads well, is informative and gets the right message across regarding the principle threat to groundwater fed rivers of over abstraction. It even calls out the water companies for the weasels that they are.

The message that effective habitat management over a fetish for preserving genetic lines of individual strains of a single species being key to maximising biodiversity in the aquatic environment of a chalk valley went unheard for a few years.

Once again, well done.

In other News:

Today we are told that our much loved Eurotunnel is to change. A smartly dressed and well remunerated team have, after much agonising and no little deliberation decreed that Eurotunnel will now be known as "Getlink"

Nothing to do with leaving the EU and a subsequent switch of destination from Calais to Cowes. It will depart from and arrive at the same two stations, the journey will take the same length of time and be undertaken on the same trains manned by the same people.

What times we live in.

And at this point after a similar amount of unremunerated agonising and deliberation in my slightly stained stripy shirt I'd like to announce that with a nod to Eurotunnel as was, I am implementing a similar rebrand, have cast off the shackles that is the moniker "Chris de Cani" and will now go by the name of Thunderflash Cufflink.

Same old bones, brain and bits but a more contemporary feel that should open a few more doors in the coming years.

Also in the news are the results of a survey that suggest that Silver surfers and Baby boomers are intimidated by supermarket self service check outs and self service scanning machines, and while we're on these hand held scanners why is that whenever I have a bit of a dicky back and am required to visit the principle fleshpot of local town society the scanner that always flashes once my card is presented is always on the lowest row.


I don't believe that pensioners are intimidated by self scanning machines and if they are they are savvy enough to go to a till/checkout where they will be served by a human being and perhaps even the bonus of a chat, human contact which is important as the years progress and possibly a reason for some pensioners eschewing the scanner.

A bogus survey unworthy pf news coverage. Regular visitors to this parish will be aware of the house's views on some sections of the media, (and once again we look towards you Jeremy Vine), who take the view that

"if we're not frightened, they're not doing their job"

I like The Smiths and yes, Morrissey has said some pretty daft things across the ages, but he gets it right in his latest assault on the hit parade,

"Stop watching the news, because the news contrives to frighten you"


Don't fear the scanners, ignore bogus surveys and if you prefer to use a manned checkout that's absolutely fine too.

Come on UK News media, up your game.

Here's a few photos of the sinister forces of crack willow with which we have been engaged this week.

It's on a bend a hundred yards upstream from the fishing hut and I last attended to it six years ago. In that time it has grown to a size that its excessive shading has impacted upon marginal growth in the immediate vicinity and in partnership with another crack willow has begun to restrict light to the whole bend whihc has begun to affect weed growth.

It took the best part of three days to complete and it looks a little stark but margins will be replanted and it will soon grown up again in spring. A note has been made to attend to this particular specimen every three or four years. rather than six.

Last week we once again attended the Countryside Day which is the first day of the three day meeting at Cheltenham which heralds the opening of the National Hunt season.

It's a terrific place to spend half a day and there were many thousands in attendance. I didn't do very well in the betting stakes and I'll be the first to admit that I know nothing about horse racing but it is a fantastic sporting venue a great atmosphere and on this occasion, a fine warm day.