Wednesday, 13 September 2017

The Legend of Redmire Pool

Something made me reach for that magnificent book Redmire Pool by Clifford & Arbery (Beekay, 1984) last night. The wind was howling and the rain was smashing against the windows….that period just before you head for bed when a read puts you at rest. I had forgotten that the following day, today, marks the wonderful anniversary when Richard Stuart Walker (Dick Walker, Water Rail, The Master) caught the then record carp (Clarissa) at 44lbs from the legendary Redmire Pool in Herefordshire. The fish was caught around 5am on 13th September 1952. It’s a wonderful story, full of drama as the best stories always are.

I was obsessed with Redmire Pool as a schoolboy, we all were. Where was it? Did it exist? Who fished there? Walkers record was bettered by Chris Yates with a fish of 51lb 8oz in June 1980 – I still have my copy of Angling magazine that my friends and I poured over at school. We couldn’t believe it, that such a fish existed. The story and accompanying photographs blew our 12 year old minds away. Who was this upstart to beat Dicks record? If any of us caught a decent fish the cry would go up, even in the 80’s, “who do you think you are, Dick Walker” – happy days.

Needless to say, Dick Walker, ever the gentleman, was absolutely ecstatic that Chris caught the fish and later we would pour over the excellent articles by CY in the same magazine.

The story brought back many happy memories for me as well – for I last fished the pool around 2002 and virtually all of my twelve or so trips to fish there were with my much missed friend Pete. We fished a bizarre trip during the even stranger “Diedrich” period (1988 I think) when so many obsessives like us were ripped off and never ever got to fish the pool. We paid, heard nothing and just went. For we, by now, did know exactly where the pool was thanks to the book which had been published a few years earlier. I think Petes parents had actually walked near to the pool or knew a neighbouring farmer who also confirmed its location. The pool obviously hadn’t been fished for weeks, possibly months and it rained. It rained hard and the reason Redmire is named so became obvious – it was like fishing in a bowl of tomato soup. The original bailiff, an elderly Dave Bufton (who lived in a farm cottage on the estate), came down and was amazed to see us. He hadn’t seen anyone since the beginning of the season.  He watched me fishing for carp that were feeding by the dam and uttered the words “thems artful fuckers ‘en um” – he was quite right. My friend Pete then became the bailiff himself at Redmire – he loved it, I loved it too as I got to go with him many times just to take in the air, talk fishing and then go for a pint on our way home. We met some incredible characters and sometimes, actually quite often, we would visit the pool and have the whole place to ourselves. It was magical. I’m sure some of that magic still exists, but for me a lot of it has gone, along with my memories and my friend.  

So, for a period last night, I was transported to Redmire Pool. I was following Walker, him of the magic hat, in real time. I read as he travelled in pouring rain, arrived and set up at the pool and went to bed in the knowledge that both he and his friend Peter Thomas were waiting for the day to break and the hope of catching one of the Redmire monsters….I woke up this morning happy that they had succeeded.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Season of plenty

It's been a great growing year for us - after constructing planters last year, a tad late to grow anything worthwhile we have found it hard to keep up this year. The spuds are Pentland Javelin and wonderful roasted with herbs and oil. We are still cropping, but I have no idea what these behemoth spuds are. The soil to fill the planters was moved from another part of the garden, so these are self-setters.....absolutely huge and the size of rocks. Ideal baking potatoes.

The season of red cabbage or cabbo as we call it has also arrived. It means to me Autumn is nigh and roasts, sausages and all the comfort food is upon us - I am not complaining as there is plenty to make meal times special. The beetroot has been a success along with the peas and beans. The garlic has just been pulled to spend a few days drying in the sun. Hang on, is that a falling apple I hear?

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Finnicky feeders and the price of gold

After a break from Blighty (more of this another day) it was a joy to return to my favourite crucian pond and watch the comings and goings of all that live on, in and around this haven. I, of course, spoil the whole scene as I bimble through the undergrowth, brew tea, eat inordinate amounts of pie and pork products whilst watching a float which remains motionless for great parts of the day - the general public if they were to view such a scene would probably think I was mad.......I know otherwise, I am in heaven.  

Not much has changed in the few weeks since my last visit. I was pleased to see, if anything, it was more overgrown. Obviously very few other anglers have been to fish and the weed growth was a tad dense and the lily pads were still in fine fettle. I have sensed a slight change in the season these last few can sniff autumn is in the air and as I settled down the wind was blowing in the trees around the pool and the leaves are just on the turn. I love these subtle changes and they make the year of the fisherman all the more memorable.  

The crucians had obviously had their breakfast as my float did not stir for some considerable time. This does not matter in the slightest as there is much to observe and take in - the dragonflies were active as were the birds around the pond - long tailed tits were on the wing and having family arguments about the insects they were consuming on a sallow. It always surprises me when the float stirs. When it does it is like a little electrical charge which makes me almost jump from my idle thoughts.

The first crucian of the day is a perfect little bar of gold, a delicate delightful fellow who is handled with such great care as in my eyes he is worth far more than gold. He is admired with wet hands and gently returned to the pond.

My tackle at these two Saxon ponds is delicate - for there are two, one upper and one lower and both completely different in appearance and atmosphere. A small quill float which is gently shotted coupled with my 1950's Hardy General rod and Overend's Speedia reel. That's it - I keep it simple and it will not change for the summer and early autumn here. 

I have not caught a single tench all summer although today I lose one in the pads as my mind and eyes wandered - there was the most amazing spectacle of a Brown Hawker dragonfly chasing his lunch through the trees, the most amazing acrobatics I have seen of late. Just as the afternoon moved towards evening I continued to catch a few more of these little chaps and was joined by another angler (Stephen) who fished a little further along the path. 

The time the float moves and you are coupled to a larger specimen always surprises me, it is one of the joys I guess, and at a tad over 1lb 8oz I was really pleased. Another chubby one graced my landing net and it was soon time to leave.

Stephen and I discussed the atmosphere here, it can be strange and is not surprising for such place of just know when it is time to pack up and the silence and darkening skies told me now was the time.

Stephen was at the gate and had come with the most welcome of gifts....a jar of his home made jam which, like the crucians, was worth more to me than the price of gold.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Purbeck Quarryman

I have mentioned in the past how intrigued I am when I find some of the artists I like have such close connections to others - this sparks a new avenue of interest and such was the case with Mary Spencer Watson who I came across whilst admiring the works of her father George and the photographs of Helen Muspratt.

This delightful carving of a Purbeck Quarryman is in the churchyard at Langton Matravers near Swanage in the Purbecks, Dorset. Carved for the millennium and weathering nicely. I was pleased, on a recent visit to the treasure trove that is Dorset County Museum in Dorchester, to find a working scaled down model of the same Quarryman. Treasures hidden in the Dorset landscape.   

Monday, 14 August 2017

The nine o'clock chimes

As you have probably guessed, the crucian bug has got a hold of me. Who can blame me when fishing such a delightful ancient pool as this. Time just seems to disappear there. Always so much to take in from the abundant wildlife to cloud formations, church chimes and oh no! The float has gone under once more and another bite has been missed.

It was such an evening recently. I was joined by Merv who started to fish and had no idea I was actually there. I had not heard him arrive. A quiet raspberry made him look round in astonishment. We were then joined by Chris who came down for natterings only and no fishing. He departed just as the light was thinning - his parting words were "remember it will all happen at 9 o'clock, I guarantee it".  

I brewed some tea, we ate some biscuits and I heard the splashings of Merv landing a crucian - then my float dipped and I lost one...........just as the church clock chimed nine. We haven't told him he was right. We wouldn't hear the end of it. As Merv left, my float dipped and I too landed a small lump of gold - just enough to keep me going until the next time I am here again.

Friday, 28 July 2017

The Golden Vision

The wonder of modern technology amazes me - I was just settling down to my first brew of the day, the air was still and there was a quiet murmur of bird song above the increasing wind. I could be anywhere, any time. Nestled in a quiet fold of Wiltshire, just over the border from my home county of Dorset are two ancient ponds that I am coming to love very much. I had completely removed myself from the outside world.....for the time being this very place was my world.

I heard the gentle buzz of an incoming text message. It was from The Captain "where on earth are you?" - it was before seven and I had been here, staring at my quill float, before five. An unearthly hour I know, but somehow in my excitement I had forgotten to tell The Captain. All was well.  

There is not a great deal that will get me out of my bed at three thirty in the morning, but a last minute day off work and a last minute thought of fishing for crucians got me so excited to a level I had not experienced in a long while.

The journey is memorable, the day just beginning and the odd sign of creatures returning home to bed after a night on the prowl are the perfect prelim to actually arriving and casting out. I open the gate quietly and, lights off, free-wheel down the hill.

The weather has been lovely this summer, a true mix of everything and after some really hot days it was pleasant to feel the wind in my face and only the odd spot of rain.......not enough to make it unpleasant.   

The top pond was the order of the day after spotting, in the half light, fizzing, churnings and movement of the lily pads which made the water the colour of a Caramac bar.....this is where I would fish. The weather had made the fish active and hungry.

A small handfull of "secret" bread mash, some "special" bread paste on my barbless hook and cast out, just a very short distance on the edge of the lily pads and wait.

There was no dawn chorus today, it does get significantly quieter at this time of year, but just the odd gentle warble here and there. This magical place is noted for its dragonflies, but again there was no sign. The resident moorhen family kept me amused with their busy breakfast gathering and family goings of my favourite birds on a fishing trip, they exude a quiet waterside happiness.

Crucians can be notoriously difficult to catch. Clever, delicate feeders they can fiddle about with your bait driving you crazy as you miss bite after bite. This was the order of the morning coupled with quiet cursings from me, but still ever so happy to be here.

I managed to catch six lovely little bars of gold - I adore them and, as I may have posted previously, I now understand what all the fuss is about. My friends have been bewitched by crucians for some time and I kept my distance until last year when, I too, came under the spell of the golden vision. 


Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Life in miniature

The past few fishing trips have seen me looking down more often than not. Usually, I spend most of my time looking up - I have been aware of movements on the overgrown fisherman's paths and have seen more frogs and toads this year than I have done in recent years.  This is a risky business. The last thing our friends need is a size 10 Dr Marten ruining their day. 

The other day I was conscious of some overexcited twitterings at my elbow - my elbow was resting on a helpful log. A newly fledged wren had, at that moment, left the nest and the parent was helping it on those first big steps. This is likely to be brood number two.....or possibly three. After they departed I bent down and found the most delightful Hobbit House - completely moss lined in the underside nook of the log. The years turning in miniature.  

Friday, 21 July 2017

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Lay Down Thy Raincoat And Groove

I was amazed to find these gems of ephemera in the treasure trove that is more commonly known as our attic.

Amazed to find them, amazed they had survived and amazed to realise it was 34 years ago that The Bunnymen had played at The Royal Albert Hall for two consecutive nights in July 1983.

Aged 14 I was already aware of The Bunnymen – I had been a fan for a few years already as I started my exploration of post punk and found their music to my liking. I loved exploration, I loved field trips, archipelagos, fishing, poking around on beaches, old stuff and I dressed in camouflage……they seemed to like most of this too. It was a match made in heaven.

I can categorically say that I was the only one at our rural school who liked them – I got the school bus driver to turn up the volume as high as he dared when The Back of Love came on the radio and I got shouted at by everyone for doing so………I did the same for Tiny Children by The Teardrops knowing full well the girls liked it and they would like me too for sorting it out.

Aged 13 I had already seen The Bunnymen live. My first outing was to the wonderful WOMAD Festival in July 1982 to see them perform in the Showering Pavilion at Shepton Mallet. I remember the whole experience as being a mind blowing extravaganza on my young senses. My brother and I, after purchasing the remaining two tickets left at the gates, had literally £1 left to last us the day. This was a bummer when there were new experiences to enjoy and a huge Zoo Records merchandise stall that had delights a schoolboy could only dream of.

Later, when I had sufficient funds to purchase a Postal Order, I sent a few quid to Bunnymen HQ for some of the items I had spotted on the Zoo stall and that is when the fun started – I soon realised these guys were OK and they knew what it meant to be a teenage fan. Not many bands have had such a rapport with their young followers – I got the impression after talking to Mick Jones of The Clash when my best mate Overend Watts introduced me to him at one of the Hammersmith reunion shows that they (Mott The Hoople) had exactly the same rapport. Sneaking young fans in, giving them goodies and generally looking after them.

The Bunnymen did this – my PO was soon returned by that amazing and lovely chap Jake Brockman with a pile of freebies and asking my brother and I to make ourselves known at future gigs…….the rest is history and Jake, Will, Les and Pete were a joy to be around.
I digress….this was meant to be about the “buried treasure” find of the Albert Hall ephemera…..needless to say I was at both gigs and as was the norm at that time school was totally forgotten about and two days in London sleeping in my brothers old Renault 5 car and record buying were the order of the day. We had a ball.

The gigs to this day are still up there in my Top Ten – any gig that starts with dry ice and Mendelsshons Fingal's Cave is going to be a classic. I liked that overture then as much as I do now. The first night saw the gig being halted as panic ravaged RAH staff tried to stop the surge and get fans off the carefully laid out chairs in the hall. It was chaos and I loved it. My older brother, looking after his 14 year old younger brother, lost me and we eventually found each other at the end………and did it all again the following night.

A few years later I remember telling my friend Overend about it – his reply, “that’s nothing new Son, we did all that in July 1971 at theAlbert Hall and we got all rock gigs banned there, sort of makes the fans freakout a bit that place”……I think he’s right, but it remains a special memory and I feel somewhat freaked out myself that it was 34 years ago today.