Friday, 19 October 2012

The Witchery of Water

Far from the bondage of bricks and mortar, far from the hurry of urgent deeds, give me to live by the running water - running water and whispering reeds.
Let it be where there are mills and hatches, and water meadows - where kingcups grow, and bridges to lean on, from whence one catches a fugitive glimpse of the trout below.
In a little cottage - with friendly neighbours, with books and a rod for my simple needs, so shall the soul find rest from its labours by running water and whispering reeds. 

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Kenneth Allsop Memorial Talk

Kenneth Allsop is often mentioned in these parts - some liked him a lot and some disliked him even more. He died in 1973 and was the sort of chap I think my father quite liked. He watched Allsop present the current affairs programme "Tonight" (BBC) in the 1960's.

I get the impression Allsop had no fear of upsetting the apple cart - I've mentioned in a previous post that we have much to thank him for in these parts as he was indeed a pioneering conservationist when atrocities were easily overlooked and indeed at a time when caring for our natural environment was thought by some to be quirky.

The rather interesting and humorous blog westdorsetconfidential will give you more information on the man, but I would recommend that you read the rather lovely piece by his friend Brian Jackman at the end of the above blog first.

I was looking forward to last years Bridport Literary Festival where we were expecting to see Ronald Blythe at the Kenneth Allsop Memorial Talk - unfortunately it was cancelled. It was a great shame as his book Akenfield is a classic and anyone who has a sense of place should seek it out. The talk was also to be used as the launch for Allsops book "In the Country" (Little Toller Books).

Little Toller have also started to publish some unpublished writings by Allsop - unearthed in Brian Jackmans loft, they were left to him and some are now published for the first time - buried treasure.

The 2012 Memorial Talk takes place at our very own Electric Palace in Bridport on Friday 16th November at 18:30 - Richard Mabey (Country Matters - A Writing Life) is the guest and he will be in conversation with Sue Clifford of Common Ground. His talk will be complimented by a celebration of Kenneth Allsop's "In the Country".

Eggardon Hill is my favourite place - when I am away it is the place I have in my mind that not only reminds me of home, but reminds me of who I am. When I am home I visit it often - on a journey I often take a route to purposefully circumvent it so I at least have it in sight. It's never far away.

Eggardon Hill with birds - Kenneth Allsop

It meant an awful lot to Allsop as his house was shadowed by its gigantic form and I'll finish with some appropriate words of appreciation from Richard Mabey:    

He celebrates the commonplace in uncommon words, and makes these arcane Wessex prospects suddenly accessible - none more so than the great whaleback of Eggardon Hill. In the finest, defining piece, he takes an amble round an unfamiliar side of Eggardon, and looks back at his mill, past the echoing Iron Age barrows and the bog oaks of King John's Powerstock Forest, past "gorse spitting yellow sparks. Rooks blowing like charred scraps across great fields", and recalls Hardy's rhapsodies for Wessex, "that wondrous world of sap and leaves".

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Cultivate your luck

HT Sheringham is an author I greatly admire. As an angler he was a superb all rounder. Just as happy watching a float for carp as he was fishing a chalk stream for trout. I also like his humour - I think of his writings on many of my own trips.

Hugh Tempest Sheringham

One example is his account from Coarse Fishing (1912) - it relates to the catching of carp. Hard to believe now, but then a mystical creature with the capture of a double figure specimen making the national press:

 "For practical purposes there are big carp and small carp. The latter you may sometimes hope to catch without too great a strain on your capacities. The former - well, men have been known to catch them, and there are just a few anglers who have caught a good many. I myself have caught one, and I will make bold to repeat the tale of the adventure as it was told in the Field of July 1, 1911.

The narrative contains most of what I know concerning the capture of big carp. The most important thing in it is the value which it shows to reside in a modicum of good luck. So far as my experience goes, it is certain that good luck is the most vital part of the equipment of him who would seek to slay big carp. For some men I admit the usefulness of skill and pertinacity; for myself, I take my stand entirely on luck. To the novice I would say: “Cultivate your luck. Prop it up with omens and signs of good purport. Watch for magpies on your path. Form the habit of avoiding old women who squint. Throw salt over your left shoulder. Touch wood with the forefinger of your right hand whenever you are not doing anything else. Be on friendly terms with a black cat. Turn your money under the new moon. Walk round ladders. Don't start on a Friday. Stir the materials for Christmas pudding and wish. Perform all other such rites as you know or hear of. These things are important in carp-fishing."

It obviously worked for Sheringham. He was extremely successful with big carp at Cheshunt Reservoir. Being of a superstitious and sentimental nature I try to cultivate my luck at all times.

Bad luck comes in threes I am told. I thought I was doing quite well after the flood to not have a second and third but good old HTS was in the back of my mind. I had not done enough to cultivate my luck. It all caught up with me last week. My car was hit by a pony and trap (number two out of the way) and on Friday the mighty Hoot presented me with my Brit Valley Fly Fishers permit - permit No 13 (number three out of the way). I have requested the permit be changed of course, it will now be 13.5! 

All should now be well - with the prospect of a fishing trip in the near future and the shrooming season underway I hope to bring you positive news.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Gather in the Mushrooms

The season is underway - slightly mixed, but a few pleasant finds just to keep me going back. There is something about the chase when on a shrooming trip, it can be as exciting as actually finding the funghi itself. Will they be in the same spot as last year? Some have never failed me for twenty years or more thanks to my little black book and their location of course. 

My shrooming trips have been as rare as my fishing trips with only the odd poke around on my journey to and from work. The last few weeks have seen quite a few Agaricus (field mushrooms) as the season has wetted up a bit, but no Wood or Field Blewits at my usual haunts. I live in hope, as in previous years I have had them right up to the Christmas period. Boxing Day has been the latest I have enjoyed Field Blewits on toast.

My weaponry has pretty much been the same for a few years now, but I could not resist the Opinel knife (above, far left) which I came across rather surprisingly in a local shop. It has just entered service and was duly christened by taking the glorious Chicken of the Woods (Laetporus sulphureus) that you can see below.
The other knives are also favourites and get an outing every now and again - the two middle knives were very welcome purchases on a Tuscan adventure and the knife on the far right has particular sentimental value as it was my very first dedicated shrooming knife.
A Somerset willow basket and firkling / furkling / fettling stick complete the set up, and more often than not these days I tend to have a pocket magnifier to hand. The stick that accompanies me on every trip is ideal for turning over leaves and woodland flotsam. A joyful item hand made for me by my good friend Styx the boatman.
The season is young, so i'll endeavour to bring good news to these shores soon. 
Come on my beauties, you can do it!