All I need now is the parrot!

Cast your minds back if you will to Monday 21 January.  The vision you have in you minds eye is one of torrential and persistent rain, floods and chaos.  Here in the valley it was as wet as I can ever recall it being.  The river was not just in spate it was out across the the fields and pastures, a foaming raging torrent that just about cleared under the arch at New Inn bridge.  By the Tuesday morning the rain had stopped, but with the clear sky came ice making the roads pretty treacherous.  By breakfast time the sun was warming through so I thought that a quick trip down the lane to check for flood damage would be safe enough.  WRONG!!

200 yards down the lane I struck the ice.  The bike went left, I went right and the upshot has been a week spent in Airedale hospital whilst the NHS put the ball back on my right femur.  Ouch!

So, sorry for no blog last Sunday, but normal service should be resumed from this week end.  These will be the reflections of an armchair keeper for the next six weeks until I get the all clear to put weight on my right leg again.

See you soon


A Horton Flood

Yes, I know it's Monday, but I thought you might like to see a couple of photos of the weather conditions we are experiencing here at Horton today.  The river is well above its banks all the way down the fishery from above Low Birkwith and neighbours are busy moving their livestock to higher ground as many of the lower pastures are flooded.

This pic doesn't show a beck it's actually the lane at Newhouses.  Sorry about the spots – it's impossible to photograph anything today without getting rain on the lens.

This one shows the river at New Inn bridge where the water has broken through a breach in the wall to flood the lane.  This where I did the riverfly check on Saturday.  Only a madman would go near the river today!

I was chatting to one of the farmers from up the valley this morning who reckoned that he could remember very few occasions in the past 40 years when the flood has been this bad.  It may be less wet tomorrow so I will take a walk and see what damage has been done to stiles and bank fences.


20 January 2008

Is there no end to this unrelenting wet weather?  Yesterday, I thought things might be on the way up. It was warm sunny and very pleasant and I spent quite a time down at New Inn bridge doing the monthly invertebrate check in conditions that were nothing short of uplifting.  The river was still high, mind you and the results reflect the high water conditions with fewer free swimming creatures and more stone clingers.  Wading in the strong flow was quite a challenge and it's surprising just how strong a current sweeps under the west arch in high water.  We had a phenomenal amount of rain on Friday.  I was in Halifax for much of the day and coming back up the B6479 from Settle at about 7pm I was staggered by the amount of flood water in the pastures and meadows between Studfold and the river.

Apparently at one stage during the afternoon the river was 2ft deep across the bottom of Newhouses lane and when we drove up later we could see the gravel banks left by the receding water up near Harber farm.  A new weir has appeared just above New Inn bridge where the flood has scoured out the gravel bed.  All this material is now deposited in a high gravel bank just downstream of the bridge where the flood coming down Brants Gill has pushed the flow to the west bank.  I fear for the trout and salmon redds and only time will tell what damage has been caused by this severe spate.

It's back to foul weather again this morning.  I had planned to walk the river to see what damage has been done, but the combination of strong westerly wind and driving rain makes this a less than attractive idea.

The invertebrate check did go well though,  with every sign that the river continues to be healthy.  I am getting increasing numbers of Turkey Brown in the samples which suggests that the water is about as clean as it can be.  I have published the results on the spreadsheet and will upload those for Turn Dub when the weather improves enough for me to do the check safely.

I had an email last week which pointed me towards a new Blog.  This is the daily diary of Warren Slaney who many members of the MAA will recall is the Head River Keeper on the Haddon Hall estate in Derbyshire.  This blog is compulsive reading and I would recommend that you all take a look and bookmark it.  Find it at:

Warren's writing is as entertaining and informative as he is in the flesh and furthermore he is using video clips to illustrate his blog which I haven't got to yet.

Also worth checking for those of you looking for fishing trips further afield this season is:

Many thanks to Gavin P for this link.

I'm off now to dry out after checking the animals so see you next week.


13 January 2008

I always feel that January seems the longest month.  Despite having only 31 days like many other months it drags by almost never ending.  The reason for this I know not.  Perhaps its the persistent dark mornings and evenings, the cold or just jet lag after Christmas and new year, but from this vantage point mid way through the month spring seems very distant.

The very wet weather we have had here over the past few weeks has not helped.  The sun now is just a distant memory and each morning we have woken to damp grey skies or a veritable monsoon as we had on Thursday,  This brought one of the potentially more serious problems I have had to deal with in the past 4 years as keeper.  I had a phone call early on Friday morning from  a resident down by Rowe End.  Those of you who know the river at Horton will be very familiar with the large concrete sewer pipe that forms the west bank from just below Rowe End farm for a few yards downstream and which is used as a footpath.  The caller told me that he was watching this pipe disgorging a large volume of grey water into the river.  I dropped what I was doing and belted down to Rowe End and sure enough the two inspection covers on the top of the pipe were spewing water like small fountains.  Clearly this had been going on for a few hours and had probably been much worse during the night as the furthest cover had lifted and discharged a fair amount of solid matter onto the bank some of which had washed into the river.

A quick call to the Environment Agency and the problem was well on its way to being sorted.  Their efficiency and effectiveness is reassuring and by lunchtime I was back on the bank with the local field officer who had already organised a team from United Utilities to come up to Horton to clear the blocked pipe and clean up the mess.

Not a catastrophe as the river was running bank full and had been in spate during the worst of the discharge so I'm sure that there will be no lasting damage downstream from here, but it does go to show that you have to be vigilant even in a place such as Horton where pollution seems less of a threat than lower on the Ribble.

Since this spot is just below the main site where we regularly sample invertebrates we have no baseline data with which to compare a sample taken here now, but I may well do a quick kick sample next week just to see what turns up and how the results compare to New Inn just a few yards upstream.  As I say, I doubt if there is any damage here, but the results may be interesting.


6 January 2008

I thought a trip down to the hatchery this morning would be in order since I haven't been there since just before Christmas and the weather here at the moment is fairly benign. I had a good look round, but can see no strong evidence of trout redds yet in the spawning channel.  The water is running high and clear and all looks healthy with no signs of damage after the recent floods.  What we do have a lot of is rununculus which is starting to block the channel just below the lower pond.  It's good to see how well this plant is colonising here and the surplus will be welcome as it offers me the chance to try transplanting a few clumps in sheltered pockets along the river.  This should help to provide cover for gammerids and snails which will add to the larger prey species vital for our larger fish.  Whether the transplants will be successful remains to be seen, but progress only comes through experiment and by carefully selecting the sites, anchoring the plants in hessian bags secured well down in the gravel I just might achieve some success.

I wrote last year about trying to establish a cress bed in which to breed water snails and gammerids and this prompted a warning from Gavin P who reminded me about the problems experienced on a particular southern river which is fed by the run off from the vitacress farm.  I can't remember the details of this, but I have a suspicion that the problems were due to the amount of nutrient being washed out of the beds since this commercial operation is in the habit of feeding the crop to increase production.  Where small scale organic methods are practised the problems seem not to occur and if the evidence of our crop of rununculus is anything to go by conditions are such that a worthwhile crop of cress can be obtained naturally and without much human interference.  In fact it would seem best to work with nature here and encourage the rununculus to grow in one of the remaining redundant ponds which already has a good few inches of water in the bottom.  A mix of rununculus and cress should provide an ideal snail habitat.  I must talk to Neil.