The Vintage Magazine would like to share this newsletter from Simon Cooper of Fishingbreaks, he writes:-
I have to express sincere thanks to everyone who has asked how we are in The Mill here at Nether Wallop in these watery times. It is usually a lovely place, with two rivers flowing under it and completely surrounded by the burbling Wallop Brook that joins the River Test nine miles downstream.
Under, around but not through the Office
But burbling is hardly the word I would use right now. Torrential and turbulent come to mind more readily. As I sit here in my office the din of the water that is pummeling beneath our feet through the mill race almost drowns out normal conversation. The lake and the river have joined which makes me think some of the trout we have so lovingly nurtured since the close of the season will have made a bid for freedom. So are we flooded? Well, happily not and it is all due to some amazing hydrological engineering that dates back 500 years that takes the water under and around but not through the buildings.
There has been a mill here at Nether Wallop for over a thousand years, listed as it is in the Domesday Book. The current buildings are relatively new, from the 1600s when the water meadows and mills around here were largely created by Dutch engineers who obviously knew a thing or two. But I have to confess when doing the restoration back at the turn of the millennium I almost undid all their good work at a stroke by filling in what turned out to be an essential spillway.
In essence we have two rivers; one that takes the Wallop Brook and the other a diverted channel that powers the mill wheel, the latter being a full three to four feet above the level of the true brook. As the channel approaches the mill it is contained by man-made banks that carry the water above the level of the house to create sufficient ‘fall’ to spin the mill wheel. As the channel gets close to the buildings the banks are replaced by brick walls, which at the time of the restoration needed some minor repairs. It was the height of a dry summer, with just a foot or so of water so it was all easily done but I could not understand why the top on one of the brick bank walls dipped down for two yards of its length by 4 inches. It looked a bit irregular and my plan was to fill the gap to level the top. But the bricklayer (bless him) took a shine to it and decided to retain it as a feature, simply repairing the damage to keep it as it was. If he hadn’t I can promise today we would be flooded because that four inches represents the emergency spillway that is the difference between being wet and dry.
So whoever you are, Dutch water genius of medieval times, thank you. Your foresight has now saved me twice; once in 2003 and again right now.
How the chalkstreams are coping with the floods:-
Understandably I have been receiving emails and calls over the past week asking how the deluges will affect the chalkstreams for the coming season.
This far out from the opening day and with plenty of unpredictable weather to come it is hard to soothsay, but as I write I am not unduly concerned. In the twenty five years or so that the chalkstreams have been part of my everyday life I have experienced two years like this and both turned out fine. Yes, I am sure the banks will be soggy and yes I am sure access will be tricky to some parts of some rivers, but what is remarkable is the clarity of the water. In the past week I have visited my rivers in the five southern counties. I have walked along plenty of banks which are wellington-boot deep and stared across hundreds (make that thousands) of acres of flooded water meadows but when I stop to peer into the river there are the trout, serene in their post-spawning torpor whilst the grayling continue to jink around.
My guess is that this freakish start to the year will be harder for river keepers and fishermen than it will ever be for the fish.
Simon Cooper firstname.lastname@example.org
Simon Cooper is the founder and managing director of Fishing Breaks the leading agent for chalkstream fishing in England. He has over 120 miles of river under his control, across eight counties and twenty rivers. Fishing is mostly let by the day and if you want advice on which to choose Simon regularly fishes every beat under his care, living by the company motto time is precious. use it fishing. It is not a bad job!
Founder & Managing Director