Sunday, 5 June 2022

Avon Roach Project BARBEL News

Some will already have heard that we are shifting/broadening our focus, as the roach project demands a less full-on level of input; although we are still hands-on with habitat stuff, spawn relocation and advising folks on other rivers, and will always be.

The ‘what about other species’ question has always been put to us regarding the core principles of the roach project, and the better we got at what we were doing with roach and the more fishy stuff we understood, the clearer it became.

Now we have taken the plunge.

Just as there were ‘elbows on knees’ contemplative moments at the beginning of (in fact all the way through) the roach project, so there were regarding some other rather obvious issues in the river. One being gravel spawning substrate enhancement which would benefit barbel and others, including salmon and trout if we needed to sell the idea.

The ‘penny-drop’ moment came to us after a monster flood in, I think, 2012 and although, on the face of it, there is nothing good about a flood, the shifting and desilting of the gravel in the river did have one positive consequence, an obvious increase in egg survival and fry recruitment for gravel spawners resulting in a noticeable proliferation of dinky barbel in the river.

All gravel spawning species need loose gravel for egg survival and fry recruitment, but particularly barbel as they spend a slightly longer period after hatching between the stones as larvae, where others ‘swim up’ earlier.

Improving gravel quality in rivers is a recognised practice for salmon and trout so we thought the same would unquestionably also work for barbel, which had probably just naturally occurred.

The compaction and siltation of spawning gravels in our rivers significantly restricts egg survival and therefore fry recruitment, and there are a number of factors responsible such as runoff, poaching by cattle, bank erosion, increasingly exacerbated throughout the country by Himalayan Balsam (don’t get us started… there’s not enough space here)…

Even here on the Hants Avon, locally, every spring, we see huge mounds of topsoil as big as a house sitting on a field by the river, which is then spread and planted with maize. Then in autumn the maize is harvested and the field is left, where almost every winter a large low-lying section of it floods, even in fairly normal winter river levels, taking goodness knows how much of the soil into the river. Then the following spring, we see new mounds of topsoil delivered and the whole thing is repeated. We have tried to address this issue in partnership with the EA by suggesting secondary planting with clover to prevent the run-off but, of course, these things need incentivising, rather than a bunch of fishy-folk asking farmers to stop their dirt washing into our river.

So, with our motto being ‘doing something is better than doing nothing’ (although lately, following our roach success, it’s become ‘don’t you just love it when a plan comes together’), we decided to initiate a scheme where the gravel at specific spawning sites on the river is desilted and cleaned at critically timed points in the year to optimise effectiveness for spawning barbel: so close to, but not too close to spawning times so the gravel is clean and loose, but far enough ahead of spawning to allow the recolonisation by invertebrates, the vital food of the barbel larvae, but not too far for siltation to reoccur. See, I resisted writing larval barbel…

Just as our thoughts on roach started with us getting together with the EA Fisheries guys and tabling our ideas, so the gravel spawning substrate enhancement project did too. And, once again, the EA were in full support. As well as our existing partnership with Fisheries, the EA Geomorphology guys will also be involved.

The plan was to select a few sites to start with, which will be added to, and assess the need for improvement, firstly simply by getting in the river with rakes and gauging the compaction and siltation levels, and manually loosen and clean a few obvious patches.

However, although thoughtfully timed, all areas would have to be thoroughly checked before we commenced our disturbance for any signs of spawning fish, salmon redds and anything else we might negatively impact upon, and avoided or abandoned if discovered.    

In time as the project broadens and the equipment and people become available, we can take ongoing sediment samples which might more accurately determine the level of siltation and required improvement at different sites and the methods we use to achieve it, be that simply raking annually or jetting with powerfully pumped water, or even perhaps installing permanent in-stream habitat features to flush water over the gravels and reducing the need for repeated manual raking or jetting.

However, there is already enough support in the valley for an annual coordinated gravel scratch… There is a bit of a knack to it which can easily be shared and will also have to be critically timed, but we are confident we have enough to make a huge difference even at this basic level of effort.

So, once the partnership and an initial plan of action was agreed, we made contact with folks along the river; clubs, land owners, river keepers etc. and got an amazingly supportive response from almost everyone – possibly off the back of the roach project success… those crazy nut-jobs at it again.

The fact is, there is nothing really not to like. It’s a relatively ‘no-fail’ undertaking with absolutely no negative impact that has every chance of improving the barbel population density.

We chose four widely spaced sites to look at; starting with Sopley Mill Stream, the head of which is a known spawning site where any improvement and resultant increase in fry would play nicely into the fry bay we excavated half way along a few years ago (known as Trev’s damp patch) which is still functioning at an amazing level thanks to the ongoing maintenance by the Christchurch Angling Club river team who look after it. The whole mill stream should be a good barometer of any success over time.

We went along supported by the land owner and stalwart ARP supporter, David, and a bunch of good guys from CAC, who have already offered themselves up as partners in any annual doings. They all offered to get in with rakes and help on the day, but health and safety (EA, not us) meant that only Trev and Phil Rudd of the EA got in and did the raking. Our Budgie also offered but said he’d only go in up to his knees… They raked two sections of the known spawning area, which can clearly be seen in the pictures below, demonstrating just how effective a simple undertaking like this can be. It literally went from being like walking on concrete to walking on, well, loose gravel in a matter of just fifteen minutes.

It was then on to Bisterne and a wonderful couple of hours spent with keeper Paul Coombes. Here we were looking at a vast expanse of open gravely shallows which might lend itself to some large-scale attention in the future, but more about that prospect in a later communication.

On the actual spawning areas, we were quite encouraged to see the gravel in pretty good condition as it was being naturally cleaned by the pinching of the flow alongside little promontories and islets, confirming the potential effectiveness of any permanent instream features we consider installing.

Next day it was way upstream to Britford, just south of Salisbury, and under the guidance of keeper Stuart Wilson, we got in and raked an upstream section of a large spawning area where he sees the barbel each year. We did half as an experiment to determine whether the barbel will actually choose a raked area, as we know fish feel the percolation of water through loose, uncompacted gravel; a bit like when we tested the roach spawning boards by placing them away from the natural substrate so the roach would have to choose them… not that we are expecting anything we do to gravel to come close to what we achieved with our ‘magic’ roach spawning boards… but now, as then, we’ll be looking out for anything that gives us an advantage or refines our effectiveness.

Day three and we were back on the middle river looking at some shallows below one of two weirs with owner, ARP supporter from day one and now good friend, Peter, who was very keen on being a part of our project.

Unfortunately, one of the things listed above as causing siltation was evident and abundant with cattle accessing the river and using the shallows to cross from one side to the other.

Quintessentially English and seen in paintings and pictures down the centuries, it’s only now that the horrors of such rural Englishness continuing in such a different time are beginning to be understood.

We raked the gravels below, but quickly gave up as the level of siltation was way beyond being remedied with rakes. There were also other rather unpleasant brown deposits.

A sensitive matter, as the cattle owner has been there far longer than us and has probably grazed in the same way for years. There might even be a grazing policy on the land, as there are in many other places, set by Natural England.

The only way it can become a viable fish spawning area would be for the cattle to be fenced and stopped from crossing and a substantial fixed instream habitat feature, or two, be installed to pinch the flow and flush water across the shallows. Fortunately, Peter was receptive to the idea. So, watch this space…

It was very interesting to see such a contrast in conditions in just the four locations we looked at this year.

There was actually a fifth site which Trev visited with positive effect above the railway bridge just south of Ringwood and above what’s known locally as Severals. This site was already on our list for future attention but time, conditions and easy access allowed an early visit.

So, what next?

We will initially concentrate on known spawning areas but will, over time, also create additional areas throughout the river, as we know the fish will be attracted to an area if the conditions and, of course, location are favourable, using the same principles as our roach regarding upstream migration to accommodate larval drift, and good oxygenated flow over suitable spawning substrate, which we can easily create. And we know that not all fish return to the place of their birth to spawn at maturity, so creating additional options could add significantly to the effectiveness of our efforts. This might also mitigate the differences in effectiveness of each site… the old ‘more the merrier’ approach we adopted with our roach.

We have a list of additional sites and permissions already for next year and beyond; a kind of hitlist, which range from above Salisbury, courtesy of Salisbury and District Angling Club, right down to the famous Royalty Fishery in Christchurch, courtesy of new managers South West Lakes Trust, perhaps one of the most renowned barbel stretches of river in the country, in its day, with a history unmatched almost anywhere – so what an honour it’ll be to apply our influence here.

We have also established some potential sites over on sister river the Dorset Stour for future attention and are in communication with the relevant folks… so, who knows, Avon today, Stour tomorrow, then the world…

Seriously; there is no reason why elements of what we do here on the Avon can’t be replicated and undertaken by forward-thinking, resolute folks on other rivers, with the right EA and NE consents and guidance, just as elements of our roach project have…

Finally (thank goodness for that, I hear you say), there have, down the years, been a few questions over the compatibility of barbel and roach in the same stretch, with some suggesting that an increase in barbel numbers has directly impacted on the roach, so obviously this is something we’ve had to consider.

We are sure the jury’s still out for some, but are confident that we will not be compromising the wellbeing of our roach and our ARP efforts by improving barbel numbers in the Avon and base our views on the fact that many of the Avon’s roach strongholds, as well as other rivers, past and present, have been shared with barbel; existing in slightly different environments, but still often within touching distance.

Vital pre-raking survey of the site to assess flows, depths, drop-off points and actual compaction to optimise effectiveness of our efforts.

Trev and Phil get stuck in to rake the agreed areas, starting upstream and working down.

They did two fairly large areas and a simple phone photo through polaroid glasses shows the very clear difference between the raked and non-raked area.

In this world of negativity and desperation, it was good to have a laugh; and the humour was about as non-PC as it is possible to get… You had to be there to be offended. Thanks to Dave Taylor for the perfectly timed photo.

And, it was good to get Budgie along, as the whole thing is partly his idea. But it was a bit touch ‘n’ go as the meadows were wet from overnight rain.

But we had the assurance that if we did get the van stuck, owner David would drag us out. And there were a few heart-stopping moments.

With so many spare hands it seemed only right that Trev was the target of the heckling… You had to be him to be offended… Big green jelly-baby with an Allan Shearer hairline he still argues is ‘full-coverage’… 


Up to Britford and we were joined in the river by Jim Allan of the EA and Lewis Swift who took the pictures when he realised just how leaky his waders were.


Only a picture of some stones on a riverbed, I know, but this again clearly shows the contrast between raked and non-raked areas of the spawning site.


The shallows below one of Peter’s weirs and, although a quintessentially rural English scene, with our rivers now a far cry from the days of The Hay Wain, the negative impact of such historical customs is far more extensive.


And this is what it’s all about…


Crowds of dinky Avon barbel… Very likely just a single year class, which we are hoping to add to.


As we said with our roach ‘doing something is far better than doing nothing’ so let’s see where this takes us.


Monday, 22 March 2021

FINAL AVON ROACH STOCKING

We knew it was going to be special, but even we were surprised at just how special it ended up being.

The week beginning March 15th (the first week of the fishing closed season, and the usual week we stock our roach into the river) started with the unpleasant task of netting the thirty unfortunates to be taken off for the health check and it was this first casual sweep of the net around a quarter of a pond, expecting just a few hundred roach at most, that revealed just how special the week ahead might be. There were so many roach that we even considered stocking additional locations – perhaps five or six instead of the usual three.

As usual, the health checks came back clean so we had the go-ahead to stock.

Looking back, we have never failed a health check. We’ve had a bit of blackspot and eye fluke and mild Echinochasmus in scale pockets, but they’ve always passed and our size to age ratio has always been comparable with historical records, so all in all us boys done good… Or we’ve just been lucky.

Unlike previous years, when the netted stews would be receiving fish from the tanks to grow on, this year was the final netting, so we were able to drop the water to assist and increase effectiveness as, usually, despite repeated sweeps of the net, there are always a few (perhaps fifty or so) which evade capture and live for a further few years in our care. This year we were aiming to remove every roach, then drop and dry the stews.

One of the most obvious things that was evident on many levels, should we have decided to continue, was the need for significant investment in desilting our feeder stream and stews and re-posting and netting them against avian predation. Not surprising after more than a decade.   

Being our final lot, we thought long and hard about where we wanted to stock which, as a result of the extraordinary level of success of our efforts over the years, now wasn’t so critical to the ongoing recovery of roach in the river. However, we were happy with the spacing of the deliveries and the continuing huge natural impact they’d have. We even had enough fish to put some where, at the beginning of the project, might have been regarded as needing them the least. However, with the rest of the river now in as good a state regarding its roach for a generation, we could afford to be generous.

The stockings happened on the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday with a great deal of extra care and consideration having to be applied due to Covid, meaning the nettings had to be critically coordinated. The EA guys, Jim, Phil and Lewis, stepped up to the challenge and made it the amazing experience it always is. They once again not only supplied all the equipment, tanks, nets, oxygen etc. but also an astonishing level of expertise. We’ve said it before, but we could not have achieved what we have without them.

By the end, we all agreed that the story of this week would have made the perfect final chapter to the book – copies of which are still available, by the way. So, for those who still haven’t got your copy yet… Shame on you! How do you sleep at night?

We have had some eyewatering comments about it, with folks saying the simply can’t put it down; so to all who have one, we thank you very much.

Here’s the link for those who haven’t:-

www.avonroachprojectshop.co.uk

It was a very strange feeling both Budgie and I shared while dismantling elements of what we have spent a decade and a half building, maintaining and caring for. But we also agreed, the system has done its job to a level beyond what any of us could have anticipated.

This final stocking is unquestionably the greatest number of roach we have deposited in a single year. It was mind-blowing…

Although this was the ‘final’ stocking; as we have said before, there will always be an Avon Roach Project, if only in name and to enable us to advise and assist others to do what we have, and front or encourage or advise on ongoing habitat enhancement. And, you never know; there might even be an encore…

We will also uphold our promise of ensuring sufficient spawning substrate at the locations at which we have helped bolster the roach population density and look at improving gravel spawning substrate, in partnership with the EA, for species such as barbel in the Avon – now we are ‘experts’…

Again, in partnership with EA Fisheries, we are also looking at allowing adaptations of our techniques to be used in management of some stillwaters – watch this space.

We’ll let the pictures and captions tell the rest…

As well as the water being dropped slightly, work is carried out in the weeks prior to netting to remove all marginal sedge and weed growth, alive or dead, to assist the smooth running of the net.

The net in this picture has a slightly heavier lead-line, and while it also gathered quite a bit of silt, we had some dinky gudgeon, stone loach and swan mussels indicating its effectiveness.

Of course, it also has to be expertly executed as the roach don’t just give ‘emselves up, as we have found over the years.

All we needed for the health check was thirty, but a casual sweep of a corner of a pond returned this little lot. This is when we realised we were in for a very special week.

Such was the effectiveness of the netting and the extraordinary numbers of roach; we employed this floating retaining net to keep the fish in to minimise the time they are in crowded barrels and tank.

It also gave us a few moments to indulge and get some good pictures. This also shows just how big some of those we missed three years ago have grown… Proper whoppers. 

Still a very proud moment when we reflect on the fact that we have grown all these from eggs in our care. We’ve learned a great deal and come a long way over the years. From a pair of clueless crackpots eh?

The starting pistol is fired and we get them into the barrels then the oxygenated tank as quickly as we can, with the odd pause for a quick snap of the action.

Plus, of course, the obligatory cuddle of the plumpest beauties. Some moments just have to be savoured. 

Avon Roach perfection… From an egg stuck to some netting banged to a plank and chucked in the river to this – simply awesome! And so maybe not such a pair of clueless crackpots after all. 

The pace is stepped up slightly when we get to the river as we net the roach from the tanks for release… My hair isn’t as thin as that in real life, by the way…

Cameras are all around and clicking away to try to capture as many of the moments as possible, and the first dip of the net reminds us just how many roach we have.

We don’t need reminding of just how stunningly beautiful these creatures are, but are reminded at every turn… Red-finned wonders, all courtesy of our pioneering efforts.

Us two very proud boys with the first scoop of the net for the river. We still go all gooey… 

A very grateful Britford keeper Stuart Wilson with a net of roach he swears he’ll look after like they were his own kids.

And in they go; the beginning of the final stocking, and a long hard week ahead, but a week of unimaginable rewards.

First stocking done and then it starts… ‘One thing I ask you to do - one thing… Bring the f***ing Hobnobs: and you can’t even get that right…’

By the way, it might look like I’m carrying a few extra lockdown pounds…I’m not actually that fat in real life…

They say the camera adds at least eight pounds, and we had about four pointing at us that day.

Day two, and the first of many barrels are deposited in the middle reaches of the river at one of the locations from which we have historically collected spawn, and where we have seen the roach population burgeon, thanks to our efforts.

Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together?...

Further down-river and we assess the most suitable spot to drop possibly the greatest number of roach in a single location in the projects’ history.

Just look at that little lot… Roach soup. This was one of about eight barrels.

Although small, all these will be looking to participate in spawning at the end of April, adding literally hundreds of thousands of eggs to the increasingly healthy system.

Barrel after barrel of perfect adult Avon Roach, all starting their time in our care as eggs deposited on our spawning boards… Mad eh?

There are Avon Roach Project moments that are beyond words. The unimaginable privilege and honour we both feel at having played such a significant part in the recovery of what we all thought was lost forever is indescribable.

Just one of what the EA guys estimate to be in excess of ten thousand roach deposited in the Avon over three days. Not bad going eh?

Now buy a book and read all about it…


Well… What did you expect?



Monday, 23 November 2020

The beginning of the end and an everlasting legacy...

 

The Hampshire Avon is, arguably, in the best state now in terms of its roach for more than a generation, so it’s ‘job done’ as far as the tanks are concerned.

However, it’s quite a wrench starting to dismantle Project HQ; an entire hatchery painstakingly set up and responsible for unimaginable numbers of Avon Roach over the past decade and a half.

Now, instead of scrubbing and reinstating everything in perpetuation, it’s very strange leaving it in redundancy as the project concludes. A part of us feels compelled to carry on, given the extraordinary effectiveness, but we can’t justify the level of effort required, given the amazing roach population density now existing in the river, which is not only made up of those we have directly reintroduced, but there are strong signs of them having successfully increased their own numbers naturally with plenty of fish showing to anglers and in fry sampling that are too young to be ours, which was the whole idea. Larval drift, displacement and natural migration means they are also showing in places we haven’t had direct access to, but in nowhere near the same numbers; but, a positive sign, nonetheless, and again, all part of the plan.

We have a huge and final double helping of roach going in the river from our stews in March 2021; all being well, which will conclude our fish growing activities, but we’ll still be very active with spawning board placement and relocation throughout the river.

It has been strange having our time and movement governed by something other than the doings of our roach this year. However, like so many, it presented other opportunities.

The first lockdown enabled the book copy to be finely honed and made ready for design then print, which happened as we were finally allowed back out to play.

You’d have thought that having spent a life sentence in the print, I might have been able to handle it a little less nervously than I did. But, nope… all it did was compound everything. This book would be the definitive chronicle of the most extraordinary, ground-breaking fifteen years and we were both desperate for it to be a thing of beauty and truly representative. And, oh boy did we get what we wanted… We are both absolutely delighted with it; and immensely proud.

The link to where the book can be purchased online is here:-

www.avonroachprojectshop.co.uk

Anyone wanting an order form sent by email or post to pay by BACS or cheque, please email me at trevorharrop@talktalk.net

We decided to go ahead with a book launch/signing despite the pandemic restrictions, and make ourselves available for anyone who wanted to come along and see us. We did this in the same hotel we’ve held our annual fundraiser doo’s, and on the same Saturday in the year. Number restrictions could be dealt with by partitioning the bar and large dining area off into sections and have folks filtering through these.

Unfortunately, as well as the pandemic and all the associated inconveniences, it was possibly the wettest day of the year. It simply thumped it down with rain all day. Not ideal for the wellbeing of hundreds of books, nor those signing them. However, it was a great success and lots of folks came along and made it a wonderful afternoon… All rather strange and a little overwhelming, especially for a timid pair of little wallflowers like us.

Since then, we have been delighted with how the book has been received. Within just a few weeks, the limited run of fifty leather bound copies had sold out and the open edition has continued to sell well following a rather breath-taking initial run of interest.

We have received some eyewatering comments from folks saying how much they have enjoyed it, with some saying they are already on their second read. One said ‘half of me can’t put it down, while the other half doesn’t want it to end…’ Nice eh?

So, we'd like to thank everyone who has shown support by buying a book.

While the book was at the printers, three weeks were spent filling three skips with the dismantled filter tables, concrete and other assorted rubbish at Project HQ with a little help from project supporter Steve Percival… A fitness workout the likes I can never remember – I ended up like I was made of iron. I even had muscles in my spit by the end.

Very evident from the start was that energy and stamina were in far greater abundance when putting it all together than when taking it all apart. I was literally cursing Budgie as I dug great lumps of concrete out of the lawn, which had supported the wooden platforms upon which the tanks had sat.. ‘Even at two tonnes apiece, when full of water and our precious roach, they didn’t move though, did they?’ was his response.

The rest of this story is told with the pictures and captions below where we have included some amazing roachy images, as this is what it has all been about.

We made an arrangement with the leather binders that, as long as we’d paid for the leather and blocking guide, we’d be able to bind an initial run of 30, then bind copies either singularly or in small numbers to order after that, being as they are all bound by hand. However, before the initial 30 were bound, we’d placed an order for a further five, then another ten, then the lot. 

Not only did we pour all over the words, the font, the leading, paper, spacing, design and a million other elements; we, of course, also had a catalogue of some of the most amazing pictures that exist anywhere to choose from. However, the cover image almost chose itself as one of the most representative of the project. And, we’d be happy for our book to be judged by its cover… 


The book signing was an awesome afternoon, and we’d like to thank everyone who took the trouble to come along; in particular, Dave Taylor, for the fab photo’s. It was a strange thing and, I guess, not experienced by many folks. Having illustrated and written guest chapters in other books; always being part of the collective and ‘always the bridesmaid and never the bride’, as was once pointed out by a fellow artist; now for us to be the co-writers, illustrator, photographer, designers, publishers, gardeners, waste disposal officers, architects and bottle washers, it is all really rather special.


Thankfully nobody asked for complicated messages and all had fairly ordinary names. I was a bit nervous as I am a terrible speller, and have appalling handwriting, and had visions of people asking for all kinds of messages like ‘can you make it out to Kevin with a ‘p’ and say well done on passing his bgsdetrsfdgetrhings exams…’


Budgie’s condition means that he can’t just pick up a pen and sign the books. So, even the obvious demand for the authors signatures needed serious consideration. We could have me sign for us both, we could have me place the pen in Budgies hand, wrap mine around it and hold it and sign, or do it as he usually does, with the pen in his mouth. OK for the occasional birthday card, but we were talking about hundreds of books.

He said, ‘we have done this project together from the start, and we have done this book together, so I am determined to sign every copy in the only way I can, which is with my gob, so if you and everyone else are happy to show a little patience, I will come up with something to make that possible’.

Within a week, or so, he and his PA, Emily, had made an amazing adjustable and portable table-top lectern, which you can see in the picture… They called ‘Hannibal’. 


Our great mate, Chris Yates, has done a very generous Foreword to the book and we needed to get his signature in a few for those who had requested it, while we were meeting up for one of our lunch dates. We’d usually meet up and have a long afternoon lunch in a pub, but his daughters had forbidden him to enter a pub because of the virus, so we met at the usual pub, but sat on our fishing chairs, behind Budgie’s van, out of the breeze, in a corner of the pub car park and lunched on our own homemade grub and nattered and laughed until the sun went down; another very special day.


The initial rush was a little hard to keep up with, but once I got into a rhythm, it was fine. This lot was over just a few days.


A few days later and same again. We realised we weren’t going to end up with a garage full of books nobody wants. We also realised we were going to get our money back on the leathers, which are the thicker ones to the left in the picture.

Getting whole car boot loads of books in the post all together was always going to be an issue, but we found a very helpful and accommodating little post office up in the New Forest at Burley which eased the pain.

Goodness knows what grief I’d have gotten had our local post office remained open, where the big ugly one used to tut and sigh at you just for the awful inconvenience of making her reach and get a book of stamps from the drawer.


Our own two rather tired old tanks were cut up and put in the first skip, revealing the bases which needed clearing. The other tanks, awaiting collection by the EA, became the perfect storage units for some of the rubbish, allowing the skips to be loaded efficiently.


And here’s where it all started. My first go at concrete (with Budgie’s guidance)… Not bad for a printer. But now it all had to be bashed up and carried to the skip. So, not just fish eggs and fun. Oh my aching bones… 


Even the tables that held the filter barrels were put together so sturdily that I couldn’t unscrew them, so had to saw them into bits. Fortunately, everything could be put in fairly neat piles rather than having it all strewn about the place.


First skip full and a second load waiting on the drive. Tonnes of concrete – Budgie.


All clear, cleaned and empty. Just awaiting collection by the EA. I now see a stripey neatly cut lawn, and more runner beans and tomatoes than I can give away.


And this is what it has enabled. The roach really did reward our efforts.


And this is what we did with it. It’s easy to get caught in the moment and the image that is before us, but this picture was taken many, many years ago. And, as the clockwork symmetry of the project rolled on, the survivors of these little sparklers might now be the two pounders themselves providing tens of thousands of eggs every year to assist the continued growth and health and genetic purity of the natural population.


One of countless nets of adult roach being returned to the Avon and a small part of an overall astonishing level of recovery.


Wonderful Hampshire Avon Roach, very likely ours; and, as we say in the book, ‘now, perhaps the Avon has the chance to look forward to brighter days, rather than having to look back to see them…’