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This is how ladybirds die

This might be something else to worry about in terms of a datapoint on the longer term climate trend but as weather goes I think it is pretty near damn perfect. Mid September and in parts of the UK temperatures are set to top 30 degrees this week in a clean heat but this last few days the mornings have started to move in the autumn. So we have got this cool, early day chill, a heavy covering of dew and the dog is wired with scent as we walk onto the common land. Slime on the cobbled hill dangerous under boot, mud, the metal rainbow of an oily film on the puddles around the drainage channel that enters the river at the bottom of the lane. Then a brush through wet stands of hogweed and willowherb and skeletal butterbur leaves, an unfamiliar feeling of cold against the squint of the tinfoil sun. Turning it bronze. It is the change, the transition, that comes always suddenly as a dawning shock. Pause at the goat willow, its old trunk split into a perfect seat and every time I pass I see a
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The minutes are slipping away

In George Monbiot’s excellent article published today (Wednesday 12th August 2020) he exposes the shocking regulatory failure that has led many of our rivers to lose their hard-won gains in terms of pollution over the last few decades. In that article Monbiot states that: “As an agricultural contractor explained to the Welsh government, some farmers are deliberately spreading muck before high rainfall, so that it washes off their fields and into the rivers. A farm adviser told the same inquiry that only 1% of farm slurry stores in Wales meet the regulations.” To substantiate those claims, he links to a blog post I wrote for Fly Fishing & Fly Tying Magazine, which in turn quoted extensively from the November 2019 minutes of the Wales Land Management Forum’s subgroup on agricultural pollution, hosted by Natural Resources Wales. My blog post can be found here , which links to the minutes in question which can be found here (scroll down). Follow that link and you will see that the l

Every environmentalist has got a secret

 (5 minute read) The soot splattered on the stone gable end where it had been fired, its umbra like a hole through my neighbour’s wall. Then it scattered, losing its intensity as the thick black particulate gave way again to stone, but it was that dark centre, that black heart, which foretold its promise. This was the productive diesel cough of my Land Rover, the satisfying tarry-taste of an old man’s phlegm after a night of beer and filterless cigarettes. Simple pleasures, the Land Rover. Every morning I’d leave the house and note the black daub on that wall. I came to view it fondly, like the worn handle of a favourite tool, that patina, that wooden hoist-up over a stile that had smoothed into a dome under pulling hands, or the cobbles bowed by boots below. It was a mark of work done, of being here, a brusque story of utility and the comforting grind of routine. Backed in carefully, parked, then the next morning hoist up into that cab, prime it, turn the key (almost any key would do)

Life is cheap when you’re a fish

I would like you to consider two stories. First, 100,000 litres of slurry leaks into a tributary stream of the River Coly in the Axe catchment which flows through Devon in the south west of England. That is one hundred tonnes of cow shit from the dairy farms which border the rivers in the region gone into the river. Talking to Shaun Leonard, Director of river conservation charity the Wild Trout Trust , he tells me that slurry pretty much suffocates a river. “It can happen incredibly quickly,” he says.  “It moves as a slug. It will kill just about everything in the river. Not just fish, but everything which needs oxygen. So bugs, invertebrates, it will wipe all them out too. It can quite possibly do this overnight, it is a pretty instantaneous effect.” The second story concerns the shooting of a Red Kite in North Yorkshire one month before. I chose this one but it could have been any of a number of killings of birds of prey over the years, from eagles in Scotland, to that lightning rod

Divide and rule

My last blog post   reported on the publication of draft Water Resources (Control of Agricultural Pollution) (Wales) Regulations 2020 by the Welsh Government. I am trying to understand why some of Wales’ most beautiful rivers have been allowed to become so impacted by pollution in recent years, particularly as a result of the intensification of the dairy farming industry. I’ve been looking into the background to agriculture in Wales and comparing it to England, to put those draft regulations - and the problem as a whole - into some context. This post is a part of that process. I have a fly fishing friend who has held some senior public positions and advises on policy at government level, so on the few occasions when our chat turns to such matters I tend to listen, and my terribly insightful thoughts about what fly we need to tie on go on hold. I was writing a story about canoeing and struggling to get to grips with the different policies and laws in England, Scotland and Wales. We w

Wales' draft farming regulations published

As some of you who read the hard copy of Fly Fishing & Fly Tying Magazine will know, I write comment / analysis pieces for them, usually interview based, two of which come to mind are about the pros and cons of salmon hatcheries (FF&FT May 2019) and cormorant predation on our fisheries (Oct 2019). These are longer stories, I speak to a lot of people, and they take some time to put together. I thought a good use of this blog, that people who are interested in fishing and the environment might be interested in, would be to give updates on areas I’m looking into, as I go along. I am deep into slurry at the moment. I’ve covered it twice so far in the hard copy magazine. First in FF&FT Feb 2020 when we exclusively reported an Environment Agency report into a clampdown on the River Axe which revealed that 95% of farms were not complying with slurry storage regulations and 49% of farms were polluting the River Axe. Then in March 2020 we discussed the implication of the re