Sunday, 8 December 2013

Annual Fundraiser Doo...

OK, pick your bottom jaw up off the floor. Yes, here is an Avon Roach Project update and the first BLOG. We are as surprised as you, believe us.
We are always being told off for not updating our site as often as people would like; and to be honest, we would love to be able to report far more often than we do. After all, as those of you who know us know, we love talking about our roach and our project. We’ve had hind legs falling off donkeys wholesale.

However, just as we are about to write something, something else happens and we wait to include it; then something else, and something else, and... So it goes on. And, the facility to upload information as and when, is slightly beyond us, or has been ‘till now.

With this blog we think we can fill in some gaps and give a little more day to day and behind the scenes stuff, if anyone’s interested.... There might be a lot of mud, moaning and mediocrity though, so brace yourselves.
And while it may not be as carefully honed as the general web updates; more a case of us just rambling on, we do feel that we can generally have some fun and have quite a lot to say. Hope so.... We’re sure you’ll let us know if we are hitting the spot..... or not.
Our good friend and supporter Hugh Miles does a great blog and when we are with him he is always stopping, saying ‘I must get a picture of that, or you in front of that, for the blog.’ Two minutes later and the day resumes with him having got the image he needs. We just need to get into the same mindset. Have a look and you’ll see what we mean on 
So, excuses over, now for the moment of truth.......
Once upon a time, long, long ago, far, far away in a deep dark forest lived a little Avon roach called Graham who had almost no friends left...... Just kidding!
We’d like to start with a blog about our annual fundraiser...
On October 5th we held our fifth annual Avon Fundraiser Event, which is the lifeblood of our project, together with the donations we receive throughout the year from a whole raft of wonderful kind and generous folk. And, as we drive away from the hotel at sometime after midnight, we wish with all our hearts that we could turn the clock back and do it all over again. Not for the money, but for the amazing atmosphere throughout the whole day and particularly in the room in the evening. The show of support and belief in what we are doing is truly eye-watering. We really do have to pinch ourselves sometimes.
The day consisted of a friendly fishing match to the death followed by a three course meal at The Tyrrells Ford country hotel. This was then followed by an auction of some sixty fabulous lots, from exclusive guided and guest fishing days, signed books and DVD’s, rods, reels, pictures and an exclusive centrepin made and engraved especially for this event. There was also a special section of lots donated by avid Roach Project supporter and good friend Chris Yates which included signed books, a reel and a special float once owned and used by the legendary Bernard Venables.
We have been doing this now for five years, and while the organisation of it all still sends us into orbit, with stress and anxiety levels off the scale, we are reminded every time just how lucky we are to have the level of support we do.
We have learned a great deal over these years and with a few tweaks of the format and timing, plus the pre-event organisation of the running order of auction lots and the production of a lots list/running order/catalogue, call it what you will, we felt this years’ event was the smoothest yet. 
Even we enjoyed it, and managed to stop worrying about what could go wrong or if everyone was having a nice time.
This year we are delighted to be able to report a number of firsts and milestones.
The friendly fishing match to the death that we hold on the day, which is a pretty informal affair, with a lot of wandering, chatting and tea drinking, is decided by the best specimen of any species, so a two pound gudgeon gets it over a four pound seventeen ounce barbel, and the Avon being the Avon has always made her cries for help heard loud and clear, with all previous matches returning a very average stamp of fish and always in fairly small numbers.... and never producing a single roach.
This year we got our own back. Regular supporter Kevin Dyer took the trophy with a magnificent barbel of 14lb 1oz, the first ‘double’ ever to be taken at one of our gatherings.
Also, for the first time in the five year history of the event, roach featured in the catch returns. So, maybe, just maybe, we are actually making a difference.
Finally, this years’ attendance was a record at seventy three, as was the total amount raised, which was over six thousand pounds; in fact, with donations it was nearer seven thousand.
Kevin Dyer with his magnificent match
winning barbel, caught on a wooden rod
and a meatball. Nice one Kevin...
A not so quiet corner of the dining room.
If only the atmosphere could be bottled...
Trevor gives his end of evening speech with a genuine lump in his throat
and a tear in his eye. He says if he could find a word that meant
thank you ten times over, he’d probably still use it ten times over.
The first thing to benefit and be made safe with the funds raised at these annual events is our Roach Project and as we say, with tedious regularity, the project has moved way beyond the days of sponsored haircuts, half beard shaves, burglary, prostitution and drug dealing, and way passed being of elastic bands, string, sellotape and sticky-backed plastic. We now have the luxury of being able to just get on with growing roach for the Avon without the financial burden that projects such as ours are often severely inhibited by.
As funds have allowed, we have been reinstating a row of disused trout stews at Bickton, just south of Fordingbridge, and a mere Wallis Cast from where the legendary Capt. L. A. Parker used to enjoy catching roach of a size and in numbers that dreams are made of. We sometimes wonder what people like him would have made of what we are doing and, more sadly, why. 
We have had to do it in stages over the past four years and have just completed the last in the line which should allow us to virtually run the second phase of growing our roach almost exclusively from here.
Stew zero almost complete.
We call it zero because we already have
a stew one..... Don’t ask.
Stew 3.5 complete and being filled.

Stew seven (which is actually stew nine)
with the digger in the distance giving it all
a sense of scale and perspective.

We will be placing what we currently have in the tanks at Project HQ in the most recently excavated stews, but already have last years’ roach growing strongly in three of the others, and the lot from the year before in the remainder. These will be ready for release into the river, hopefully, early in 2014. These are already showing signs of maturity, with red fins and broad flanks. If river conditions allow us to release them early enough for them to settle down, they should look to spawn in April.
While we sometimes get caught up in our own little Roach Project world and get battered by all that needs doing, the mud, the midges, the cold... It’s sights like these roach in our stews, our roach, grown from eggs, and now on the brink of sexual maturity, along with the knowledge that we have such boundless support from wherever we turn, countrywide, that lifts our spirits and drives us on.

Our 2+ roach feeding in stew one at Bickton.

And a close up of what lurks in our Bickton stews,
and almost ready for release back into the Avon.

Beyond our project, the Avon itself is to get the shot in the arm it so desperately needs and will benefit directly from the funds raised at our doo’s by way of habitat reinstatement, enhancement and restoration schemes funded, or part funded, by us.

Our first habitat reinstatement project in partnership with the EA and Barbel Society, the Bisterne fry bay, put off from last year because of the wet conditions, is now complete and, we are told, was full of fry within a day of its completion.
Bisterne fry bay before we got the digger in...

And after, and full of fry. Aaaahhhhh!
Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together?...

There are a number of other habitat reinstatement and enhancement initiatives in the pipeline with the most substantial, and already completed, being at Severals, just south of Ringwood, where there are a number of flow deflectors in place and fry bays excavated. This is a partnership run project with the Environment Agency, Avon Roach Project, the BS, RDAA and WCSRT. The works also attracted the interest of the Mayor of Ringwood who was invited along to visit.
Three of the fry bays we helped with on the Avon just south of Ringwood.

The more the merrier...

The more of these slacks we can create and reinstate, the greater chance
of the rivers recovery in terms of fish populations of all species.

We are planning on putting some of our roach in the river here early next year.
These projects are a vital and priceless element in the continuing recovery of our river. The more fry and juvenile protection we can create the better, and not only for our roach, but for all species of fish.
We are starting to receive a number of calls, emails and messages telling us of the capture of small roach from various parts of the Avon that have benefitted from our releases, and while we have no guarantees that these are ours, they have been non-existent for so long that the coincidence is too great to ignore.
So, if any of you guys are out and about and start catching roach, we’d love to hear from you. Please just send a short email telling us your story and maybe a picture or two.
In the future, as the project progresses, we might share these messages on this blog with everyone who is interested in the development of what we hope will be the projects eventual success.
We’d like to sign off by thanking everyone for their support, both at the event and up and down the country, who donate financially or with their physical help, or who simply write and email us with wonderful messages of support and encouragement.
A short film was made of the fundraiser day by the very talented young brothers Carl and Alex Smith, who some of you may be familiar with through their work with the mainstream angling press and YouTube.

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