14 December 2008

It's been a mixed week weather wise with some bright days and a fair bit of rain on Thursday night.  The steady thaw has continued despite pretty low temperatures and all we have left now of the deep snow covering lies in the gullies and wall edges on the fell sides.  The prolonged thaw has kept the river running clear and fast, just right for the salmon and trout redds that are now well established in the gravel beds all up the river.

And so Christmas and the shortest day are almost upon us with the tuning of yet another year only a few short weeks away.  It's possible to mark the passage of time here by the steady tick of village life.  Perhaps a better metaphor is to regard life here as a fabric with the warp composed of the fixed points of the social calendar that almost never vary.  In the deeps of winter most folk snuggle down by their fires and events are few, but come spring thoughts turn to the Gala at the beginning of June.  Then the village is alive with tourists, the pubs and cafe are busy and the roads are thronged with cars.  Late summer brings the Show which is a chance to compare how your garden has performed against others.  More often it's a case of seeing how well you have overcome the dismal weather to produce a few stunted veg.  Then comes harvest festival and the highlight of the year – the Parish Party!

We had this year's on Friday with the usual seasonal offering from the WI who despite ever dwindling numbers always manage to put on a production guaranteed to kick start the festive season.

Into this warp is woven the weft of an agricultural calendar that is equally predictable.  The cows are in in winter and need daily feeding and watering.  March brings the first flush of lambs which reaches its crescendo in April when the pastures become full of bouncing bundles of wool all busy learning how to be sheep.  July is haytime, so vital for winter feeding.  The shows are held throughout the summer and competition is fierce amongst farmers in the livestock classes.

Summer ends with the sales when the lambs go off to market, old yows are shed and new breeding stock bought in ready for the tupping season in October and November.  The pastures now are full of technicolour sheep all proudly bearing the badge on their backsides which is proof that they have been in season and visited by the tup.

So now we pause and wait just a short while for the evenings to lengthen and life to begin stirring the fabric of the valley once again.


Open Country

Yes, I know it's not Sunday, but I thought that you might be interested in listening to the episode of Open Country that was broadcast on 6 December at 6am since I doubt f many of you were above the covers at that time.

The programme was broadcast from Settle and was about the Settle hydro scheme which is causing a fair bit of concern here at present.  Regular readers will recall that I have talked about the scheme before on a number of occasions and in principle I'm not against it.  However there is far to little information in the application currently available to determine whether or not the scheme will have an adverse impact on our migratory salmonids.  So we must continue to press for a thorough Environmental Impact assessment that will show conclusively whether the abstraction of water needed to generate sufficient power to make this scheme viable will prevent our salmon and sea trout from ascending the Settle fish pass when they want to.

As an added bonus there is a long interview with Neil Handy who is well known to many members of the MAA as a passionate guardian of the upper Ribble and its wildlife.

Listen for yourselves at http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00fr5lb/Open_Country_06_12_2008/

More on Sunday.


7 December 2008

This is the view from my front door that greeted us on Thursday morning.  All very seasonal and it's probably the most snow we have seen here for a good few years.  The fells are still white despite a rise in temperature over Friday and yesterday.  There is quite a bit of snow melt to lift the river which runs very clear and cold, just right for ova incubation as there is very little sediment in the water to starve the ova of oxygen.

The plans for the Pennine Bridleway which will cross the river just below Drain Mires have been submitted to the YDNPA for consideration.  These include detailed drawings of the route, fencing and proposed river crossing.  They are well worth a look at http://www.yorkshiredales.org.uk/planning_application_search_results?criteria=C/44/243A&parish=Horton-in-Ribblesdale&appCode=&settName=&searchType=0&pageNumber=1.

The bridge looks like a very substantial affair with an eliptical arch held on four piers which are designed to lift the deck well clear of flood level and the boggy ground on the east bank.

Good news reaches me from the Ribble Fisheries Consultative that the efforts to encourage a Europe wide cormorant strategy have taken a significant step forward.  The press release issued includes the following;

The European Anglers Alliance (EAA) is extremely happy
about yesterday's plenary voting on MEP
Dr. Heinz Kindermann's report
“on the adoption of a European Cormorant Management Plan
to minimise the
increasing impact of cormorants on fish stocks, fishing and

As many as 558 MEPs voted in favour of the report and its
resolution calling on a pan-European cormorant management.
Only seven MEPs voted against!

 This overwhelming vote in favour will be hard for legislators to resist so we should see some positive action to minimise the threat to inland fish stocks in due course.

Also thudding into my email inbox came the latest newsletters from the Cumbria watervole project and FreswaterLife.  The former tells a tale of some good results obtained from recent reintroduction of water voles at a number of sites in Cumbria with individual animals spreading out from the original sites to colonise suitable habitat up to eight kilometers away.  It would be good to see these small mammals on the Ribble in good numbers and our recent efforts to fence off suitable habitat at least provides a place for them to thrive if any populations are left in the catchment.  FreshwaterLife have now published their programme of courses for 2009 which includes a number that will be of interest to anglers.  So if you want to lift your skills in identifying that elusive fly that the large trout under the tree opposite is feeding on get yourself booked on a short course at Windermere.  Contact me if you would like details.

Finally, the latest edition of Horton Parish News should reach an eager audience this week.  It includes a short essay by me on the first MAA hatchery at Douk Ghyll which was set up in 1882 and survived until 1906 when the new hatchery at Brants Ghyll was built.  I will leave a folder of these newsletters in the refurbished hut next spring.