Sunday 20 September 2020

YYYYiiipppeeeee!!!!! The Avon Roach Project book is done…

320 pages filled with 100,000 of our own words and pictures and illustrations, plus a generous foreword by our great mate Chris Yates, and we are both delighted and relieved.

The link to where you can get your copies is below, early in this blog post, rather than me bluster on for half a page about what a year it’s been… But, what a year it’s been, which I’ll come to after we’ve flogged you a book or two…

The book cover with one of the most striking pictures we’ve ever taken, plus our very posh limited leather edition.

We have done an open hardback edition which is £25 plus £5 P&P and a very special limited leather edition of just 50 copies at £185 plus £5 P&P, which is confidently predicted, by those who know about these things, will be quite a collectors item, as indeed is the open edition itself to a lesser degree, being of such an extraordinary and unique, pioneering project.

Copies of the open edition will be with us on Monday 28th September, so can be posted out soon after that; and the leather edition a few days after that.

The book is a detailed chronicle of the extraordinary journey from elbows on knees, wondering what we could possibly do to help, to the most phenomenal level of success few could have predicted – even us two.

As we revisited the notes we kept of our journey over the years to thread into the book, even we were stunned by the sheer lunacy of the concept and the journey of discovery and achievement thereafter; and we’d lived it.

It will have your jaw hitting the floor in disbelief at some of the astonishing strokes of good and bad fortune, the amazing discoveries, the science and the antics, but all the while it will make you smile. We are confident it will make you laugh; it will make you cry, and it will make you cry laughing.

The essence of the book is captured in the two representative paragraphs we have chosen for the back cover of the dustjacket…

‘In the early days we were scared to even blink in case something bad happened while we weren’t looking.’

‘In this fast-moving progressive world of perpetual advancement, almost all the ecological standards we aspire to achieve are those of our past. Now, perhaps the Avon has the chance to look forward to brighter days, rather than having to look back to see them…’

        We enjoyed visiting the printers, and were very pleased with the print quality.

Strange seeing your own words and pictures flying out of the end of the press.

So then, what a year it’s been…

The penultimate roach stocking was planned for our usual time in March. We’d done the health checks on the roach, chosen the three locations in the river for the releases and cleared all the marginal growth from around the stews to make netting easier and more effective but, at the last minute, because of the high river levels persisting from the winter floods, we decided to postpone the releases for one week.

Then the country stopped, and the day we’d intended making the first stocking became the first day of lockdown. Dreadful, dreadful times. It really put things into perspective.

It meant that the roach were going to have to stay with us for another year. Fortunately, being livestock, I was able to obtain permission to attend the stews once a week. And, because they would reach maturity and look to spawn in April, I needed to implement ‘plan B’ which was to place spawning boards over them in the stews, have them spawn on them, which they duly did on the day we knew they would, then relocate the spawn to hatch in the nearby weir pool.

The period of lockdown enabled us to complete and finely hone the words for the book, then as restrictions relaxed, we were able to get the book printed, and although I served a life sentence in the print trade before selling up and escaping to a life in the slow lane, it was great to revisit as a client, with Budgie, who had never been inside a proper printers before, to see our own words and pictures hurtling out of the end of the press.

Then, just as we were awaiting delivery, we received a call from a supporter at one of the first locations we discovered roach spawning in the river who said ‘you must both come along and see your roach and the wonderful impact you have made on the river. It will blow your minds. It has ours.’

As we stood taking pictures, we remembered standing in exactly the same spot with hearts in our mouths pondering the impact on such a tiny remnant population, which we could then count on the fingers of three hands, if we interfere and muck it up, as we were, at the time, almost completely clueless…

The first deposit we made here was some thirteen years ago, with one year olds, so the survivors of these could well be two pounds now, which some of the beauties in the pictures below are. The last lot we stocked was a good number of three year olds, some four or five years ago. So, knowing what we do, and seeing what we were seeing, we decided it is very likely that we have played a part in what you see in these pictures.

We both agreed we’d love to have been able to include some of these images in the book.

And, of course, for every yin there is a yang – the coffee we were given was like mud… Blimey, the things we have to put up with for this project…

This picture was taken of the roach spawning when we first discovered this place, and clearly shows just how few there were.

And this is the same pool now.

Roach everywhere.

The clear conditions made for easy photography.

We could hardly believe our eyes.

We contacted the owner of the land downstream to invite him along to see and he told us he’d been watching huge shoals of roach at the bottom of his garden, just like the old days.

This is the lot in a different part of the pool, closer to the bridge we were on.

And, of course, some of them were whoppers.