Who am I?

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An individual, of no great importance, who is unable to the see the natural world as a place for competition, that was until Covid-19 intervened!. I catch fish, watch birds, derive immense pleasure from simply looking at butterflies, moths, bumble-bees, etc - without the need for rules! I am Dylan and this is my blog - if my opinions offend? Don't bother logging on again - simple!

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Friday, 31 December 2021

Happy New Year

 The final day of 2021 and I am only too glad to get this one out of the way. Sure there were some very enjoyable moments but, overall, it hasn't been a classic! From my personal viewpoint it has been a year of transition as, after the very unpleasant episode which resulted in my walking away from Fujifilm SIS, I have struggled to adapt to a new life without the discipline of shift work. Don't get me wrong, I'm finding it easier by the day, yet having spent over forty-six years in permanent employment (41+ in factory/warehouse environments) it is a bit of a wrench to no longer be part of that banter ridden culture.

A Flatland's rainbow - there's gold in them there drains

So I am quite looking forward to 2022 and the challenges it presents. Angling will still be the dominant hobby, although moths and birds also have a significant role in filling my spare time. Bev and I have a few ideas about how we would like to see the garden develop and, top of the pile, we dearly want to get back to Kefalonia, with the regular gang, to spend quality time in fabulous company and surroundings.


 Whatever happens, surely it has to be an improvement on 2021? Once again, huge thanks to all who've visited my ramblings during the course of the year. I am truly astounded by the numbers. Wishing each and every one of you a Happy, Peaceful and Prosperous 2022 - Dylan

Thursday, 30 December 2021

Ideas aplenty & thank-you

So there I was, yesterday, bemoaning the "doldrums" of the festive break when fellow bloggers, Gavin Haig, then Stewart Sexton made mention of the local birding initiative launched by Birdguides/Birdwatch magazine. Now may I make clear that I've absolutely no intention of joining in with any scheme, whatever the merits, purely because it doesn't fit with how my life works. To all who do feel moved to get engaged in this activity I wish you every success and sincerely hope that enjoyment is reward enough for your efforts. This said, I'm certainly finding myself spending more time looking at/for birds when out and about. The recent Ramsgate Harbour sessions have demonstrated, quite clearly, that there is plenty of scope for me to involve birding into my weekly routine without any negative impact on my angling projects. So I have decided that 2022 will see me embark upon a very casual "year list" whilst continuing with the BWKm0 garden stuff. Not too sure how committed I'll be, but it certainly something worthy of exploration?

I'm back out on the flatlands tomorrow, just because I can. Not in search of a non-existent, mythical, Pike but, instead, purely attempting to add to my meagre tally thus far this season. My totals, as of 30th December 2021, are as follow:-

Target No 1 - three "twenties" - one landed = 33%

Target No 2 - twenty "doubles" - ten landed = 50%

Target No 3 - one hundred Pike - twenty three landed = 23%

As you can see, I'm struggling and any Pike, whatever the weight, would be most welcome. Bev and I had a drive down to Hythe today and the RMC is in a right mess. Floodwater conditions persist along huge swathes of the canal and, given the current weather forecasts, won't abate any time soon. For this final session of 2021 it will be centrepins and home-made "Champagne Cork" floats for no other reason than it should add to the fun factor. If I can't catch big fish, nothing wrong in getting the maximum enjoyment from encounters with lesser specimens.

One of the surreal impacts of "Boris's Brexit" is that supplies of dead baits are erratic, cum non-existent, in the local tackle outlets. Fortunately, living on the coast, there is an alternative source via the local fishing boats, however, variety can be very limited. It would be ridiculous of me to complain about my situation when there are so many other problems which are far more challenging to those folk upon which they impact. I've a freezer filled with dead baits, thus am able to get out whenever conditions permit. An alternative source of bait is to be found at the wet fish counter in the Tesco store at Westwood Cross. I was in there today, prior to our drive, just to pick up a few essentials. What is it with some folk? I estimated that 600 people were inside the building, there were FOUR, three guys and a women with a pushchair, who thought themselves above everyone else. No masks - how selfish can they be? It's not a jab in the arm, just a face covering, where's the issue? Maybe they went to Eton, thus the rules don't apply to them, but I very much doubt it in central Thanet. F*ckwit scum would be closer to the mark. Yep, I know I could have said something, just like Tesco security staff could have, but getting into a fight whilst purchasing a few groceries seems a little extreme. I'm 100% behind personal freedom yet, under these current circumstances, don't think that being asked to wear a face mask in enclosed spaces is too much of an imposition?

The whole world has gone "tits-up" since the start of the Covid pandemic. For Bev and I, very little has changed apart from my retirement - oh no we couldn't go on holiday - shame! That one of our neighbours has passed way, due to Covid, is a reality slap that resonates. Despite the fact that Boris is an incompetent clown, Covid remains a very real issue which impacts upon our society with incredible effect. Those NHS staff, on the front line, allied with associated care workers, paramedics and ambulance crews plus the police forces and fire fighters deserve all the praise for getting us through this. Real people, doing real jobs, living on the same street as you and I. That the staff at QEQM Hospital, Margate, were able to provide the cancer treatment for Debbie, is testament to the commitment of these people, and exactly why wearing a mask is the least we can do under the current circumstances.



Wednesday, 29 December 2021

Festive doldrums

 It's that time of year when things really start to become a chore. Obviously adding the Omicron surge into the mix hasn't aided the situation, yet it feels the same every year to me due to being a "Grinch"! Benno and I spent a completely wasted morning, on Boxing Day, attempting to catch Pike from the RMC. Floodwater conditions and copious amounts of flotsam ensured the only time an alarm sounded was due to pesky Eels. Our heavily flavour boosted baits were doing exactly what we hoped, just that the Pike hadn't read the script? We didn't take a lot of persuading to chuck in the towel, before 10.30 hrs, and head back home. 

On the morning of Christmas Eve, I had the great fortune to bump into Heather Willis, a Kent birder and SBBOT stalwart, whilst wandering around Ramsgate Harbour. It was really nice to spend some time reminiscing about those halcyon days of Sandwich Bay Obs & Kent birding during the 1990's. The scary flip-side to our conversation was the realisation of how quickly time has passed and with it, those characters who've now left this mortal treadmill.  


Back out for a recce on Tuesday, allowing me to gauge the state of the drains prior to planning any fishing activities. Whilst I was out it seemed silly to ignore the recent influx of wild geese into this part of Kent, thus I took a long diversion (8+ miles) to ensure I espied a group of Barnacle Geese which must be the best candidates for wild birds I've ever seen in the county?

So onto this morning. I arrived at the drain and had two split cane "Mk IV's" cast out by 07.30 hrs. It was a horrible grey, drizzly, day and I'd leapfrogged the rods twice before I was to finally hear a sound from my alarms. A spirited tussle ensued before a feisty "jack" of 6lbs 8oz found itself on the unhooking mat. The only action of the session and, quite likely, my final Pike of 2021? The weather forecast for Thanet is stating temperatures will not fall below 10C until Sunday 2nd Jan, when they go down to 8C. Fairly brisk winds, from the south, associated with this phenomenon, have meant it would be insane not to run the moth trap. What's the worst thing that could happen? I don't catch anything - well that would be consistent with my angling!

Friday, 24 December 2021

Hoping you all have a good one

I've been searching the cyber system in a vain hope of discovering some way I might offer my sincere thanks to the incredible number of "unknown" folk who've visited my blog during 2021. That I remain dumfounded by the scale of interest my rambling nonsense is capable of creating is very sobering and I'm truly humbled by this basic fact. Knowing that not everyone is attuned to "The God Squad" (and that includes me) I ventured into the Neo-pagan origins of the Yuletide celebrations which pre-date Christianity within a European context. Still didn't help me.

You need a modicum of "Greek" slang to understand the blatant relevance of my festive headwear

Obviously, I can't separate the word Christ from Christmas and not expect to cause offence, thus I am not minded to do so. All I would like to say is that Bev & I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a peaceful New Year. Take care & stay safe

"May the true spirit of Christmas shine in your hearts and light your pathway as you journey into 2022."

Thursday, 23 December 2021

Harbour ramble

I can't remember the last time I took a stroll around Ramsgate Harbour with the intention of looking at the avian inhabitants which  might be present. Having seen a superb photo, by Steve Ashton, of a Black-throated Diver posted on Birdguides a couple of days previously, I knew exactly where it was when Ramsgate was the location. A grotty grey day didn't offer much hope of decent photographic conditions but, it still had to be better than sitting indoors just wondering "what if?" So at 10.30 hrs I headed out, telling Bev I'd probably be away little longer than an hour! Wrong - very wrong!! Just over two and a half hours elapsed whilst I wandered around the site. There was so much to look at I'd forgotten just how much pleasure comes from such a simple walk. I took nearly 150 images and will share just a few to attempt to convey the enjoyment I derived from the outing.


Red-throated Diver  - 1 juv


Turnstone - numerous around the harbour and very confiding


Shag - five, probably seven, present in the marina area




Black-throated Diver - a juvenile 


Guillemot - two

Black Redstart - imm/female type on upper deck of Weatherspoons, although very elusive.

Great Crested Grebe - two in outer harbour area

Cormorant - twenty plus roosting on the old port structures beyond the harbour wall.

I did keep an eye open for colour ringed gulls/cormorants with no result, but feel sure that I will be back, sooner, rather than later, as it was such good fun.

Tuesday, 21 December 2021

Dark days

 I fished the RMC on both Friday and Monday with very similar results - I blanked. Not a single occurrence during either session. Friday was even more of a disaster because, having loaded my barrow, the tyre split as I started to push it towards my chosen section. The result was a very quick U-turn and reload the van before driving to another section with easy access but also one that sees a lot of angling pressure. The bank side litter spoke volumes about the type of "anglers" who fish here. I won't be in any hurry to return, although a group of five "redhead" Goosanders were my first, for this winter period, so not a total waste of time?

I went to B&Q for a replacement tyre, purchasing a complete wheel assembly for the princely sum of £16. I only wanted a tyre! However, this ensured that the barrow is, once again, fully functional thus money well spent in my opinion. Just out of interest I had a look at the Carp Porter (the barrow manufacturer) website to discover that a "genuine" replacement would have cost me £39 plus postage. Carp tax - those logo smitten morons deserve everything they get. 

Back to Monday and at least I was able to return to a favoured section of the canal where, happily, very few anglers ever make the effort to fish. No litter issues and the only folk I see are the familiar faces of the regular dog walking and rambling communities. I had nice chats with Chrissy and Kevin, ending with seasons wishes as it was my final visit before Christmas. The most unexpected conversation, however, was with a couple who were out enjoying the scenery, he being a match angler. A very interesting exchange of views, yet shared concerns over the accessibility issues and litter problems. I find it absolutely incredible the diversity of characters who are happy to engage in conversation in this wide open environment yet wouldn't pass the time of day if encountered along a busy isle in Tesco!

Because it is my only session this week I stuck it out until 13.30 hrs, thus my baits had been in the water for six and a half hours. If it hadn't been for a couple of Kingfishers and three Little Egrets, I'd probably have packed up sooner. It was one of those days when light levels never rose above dull. I played around with the camera kit, having to resort to ISO 1600 with a maximum shutter speed of 1/320th sec. It will be Boxing Day before the rods get another airing. Surely my luck has to improve at some point?


Saturday, 18 December 2021

How lucky am I?

 Yesterday night Bev and I attended a private gathering (Boris says it wasn't a party!) at our friends, Mike & Penny's, pub. Absolutely off the scale of what I was expecting, it was a privilege to spend time in such diverse company. Obviously the, Omicron, Covid situation couldn't be ignored, thus social distancing was part of the gig, yet I don't think anyone left without a very positive vibe about what they'd experienced. As I was driving I was only had a Stella and a couple of "Cokes" whilst Bev had no problems with three double "Pink Gins & tonic" and associated dancing (she doesn't drink? - My arse!)

Mike and Penny are in the process of retiring, selling up the pub and moving back to Deal where they will be closer to friends and family without the pressures associated with running the business and all those responsibilities to the livelihoods of their employees, which includes Mike's daughter! I only started to visit the pub when I embarked upon my flatland's angling journey, yet very quickly established a rapport with Mike, who's a couple of years in advance of myself, but has explored a very different adventure. GOLF!!!! What the f**k is that all about? It matters not a jot, we're mates and that's more than enough. What I will say is that I do hope he woke with a sore head this morning, he was on top form, as a pint of Stella didn't do it for me. Bev was a bit fragile - hey-ho! It is the random nature of these encounters, along my life's journey, that makes me realise just how lucky I've been.

Thursday, 16 December 2021

Staying focussed & a hedgehog

 I'll be the first to admit that concentration is not high on my behavioural traits table, if there is such a thing? So many other things happen in the world which distract me from what I genuinely set out to achieve. The RMC pike fishing is no different from any project I've undertaken, thus, no surprises that the split canes, then The Stour, managed to enter the fray. We're now half way through December and, after chatting with a couple of friends, I realise that my original plans are suffering due to a lack of commitment, on my part. To be fair it was a reality slap, that was much needed, and I've decided on a course of action which I intend to stick to - Covid rules allowing?

The Stour is a magnificent venue, especially the tidal reaches, and I'm intending to join C&DAA next season to ensure that I've access to much more of the river. There's a Barbel/Chub gig which needs planning, with the assistance of Benno & Luke, plus that "river twenty" which could provide a real challenge next pike season? However, there's an awful lot more angling to be done before then and I must get back into the mind-set of my RMC Pike project. Looking at my results, thus far, I'm not too far off achieving my goals in two of the categories, however, one hundred Pike in a season is way off the mark. It might be possible, weather and water conditions allowing, to get another six sessions in before the New Year? If I do manage this, my perception of how things are going could alter significantly. All of my sessions, thus far, have given me the chance to "learn" the canal and if I'm to use this to my advantage it's time to stop my exploring and concentrate on those areas where I've been fortunate to capture some very nice Pike. 

There are still a few tweaks, in the locker, just in case I need to up the ante? Basically, I'm very confident in my rigs and bait presentation. Bite detection is as sensitive as I can make it without incorporating a float, which is never going to happen given my attention span! Bait is the best that I can acquire, then boosted with fish oils and colour, before being presented to the fish, popped-up, suspended or flat on the bottom. All I can say is that whatever I'm offering won't be anywhere close to what those "lazy, weekend anglers" cast into the RMC straight out of the packet. That is not a slur on the guys who go about their angling in a very responsible manner but, instead, a snipe at the "sheep" who can't walk further than the first few swims from the car park, yet incapable of taking home the rubbish they create whilst on the bank. A beer can, dead bait packet, luncheon meat/sweetcorn tin weigh an awful lot less, once empty, so why leave it(them) behind? Shit for brains and an embarrassing advertisement for angling when viewed from the perspective of other visitors to this historic waterway. 

I've blogged many times, over the years, about the role Pike fishing plays in my annual cycle. Obviously, there was a huge gap when Kent birding took centre stage, but the allure of our "apex predator" has been central to more years of my adult life, than it hasn't. That I'm now in a position to expend more effort in my quest, due to the removal of work commitments, should mean that any challenge will require little more than just turning up and going through the ritual. Of course this is a glib simplification of the situation. I've already agreed with Bev that three sessions a week will be the norm, although not tablets of stone. Weekend fishing is to be avoided, wherever possible, due to not wanting to compete with other anglers for both swims and fish. Talk to a "carp faggot" then a session equates to a camping trip, for me it is usually fours hours with my baits in the water. Therefore, if I manage three sessions a week, I'm only fishing for twelve, or so, hours! Of course it might be a little longer if the Pike are playing ball but, even if they are, six hours per visit would be the limit, odd social sessions excepted.


Other bits that might be of interest, depending upon how closely you follow this nonsense. I ran the moth trap on the night of 14th/15th and was rewarded by the presence of four Light Brown Apple Moths! It's now back in the shed where it will remain until a good few weeks into 2022! The hedgehog feeding station remains a focal part of the Dumpton garden, with sightings on a nightly basis, although Storms Arwen & Barra certainly impacted upon the activity. Having spent the weekend away, I wasn't particularly surprised that there were no visitors whilst I was sat in my study on Tuesday & Wednesday. However, tonight (Thursday) at 19.00 hrs a beautiful little "hoglet" appeared at the bowl and allowed me the opportunity to rattle off a few shots. I consider it an absolute privilege to witness such activity in our garden. Pike fishing in the morning - everything in the garden is rosy?

Tuesday, 14 December 2021

Canal capers

The weekend get together with Leon & Leeney, Craig & Carrie-Anne, was everything Bev and I could have wished for, plus some! The tears of joy and laughter were a result of genuine friendship and there was no disguising the fact that we all need a Kefalonia holiday asap! Over all too quickly, there are at least a few ideas knocking about which, Covid willing, should see us back on the hallo'ed isle next year? That there is no logical reason why we should be so close is one of life's great mysteries? Not that any of us care to seek answers, just happy to accept that fate has dealt us a proper result?

Because of the travelling associated with this social gathering, plus the significant detour to Bath, I couldn't attend the Canterbury & Thanet PAC regional meeting (Christmas bash) on Monday. Therefore I spent my evening getting the kit assembled in readiness for a return to the RMC. On my way just after 05.00 hrs, this morning, I had all three rods fishing by 07.00 hrs. The section I'm targeting remains very coloured, due to run-off from the adjacent escarpment, but I felt sure that conditions should have stabilized enough to allow the pike to get back on the munch! So much for the theory? At 07.45 hrs the middle rod was away when a bloody Eel decided to take a bite out of my Sardine section. I got it sorted out and, within ten minutes, the same rod was away again. This time there was no messing and, after a decent tussle, a nice Pike of 11 lbs 6 oz found itself on the unhooking mat. That'll do nicely.

At 11 lbs 6 oz it is the smallest "double" I've landed this season.

Within twenty minutes of getting the bait back in the canal, that same rod was again in action, however, I failed to connect with the culprit and was less than pleased with my own performance. Fresh bait, and back out again, only in the water for forty minutes when the same rod was away again! This time round I managed to go through the drill and set my hooks, no messing. Barry, the dog walker who'd photographed my "twenty" earlier in the season, popped his head through the trees on the opposite bank, having heard the alarm, and watched me land Pike number two of the morning. A rather battle scarred warrior of 14 lbs 5 oz, this one. As I was going through the unhooking ritual, Mouse (a Jack Russell, with attitude) and his "mum" turned up to view my prize. That was about the sum of it. Another great session on this section of the RMC, enhanced, as always, by the other folk who share a passion by enjoying the surroundings of the wide open space adjacent to the historic waterway.


"Double" No. 10 for the campaign - I'll settle for that.

Back down again tomorrow, although targeting a section three quarters of a mile to the east, just on a hunch? I pushed my barrow passed it, as I left, and couldn't help but ask myself "how many "twenties" have I walked by to reach my preferred spot? It is the same area as I caught my first "twenty" from the canal in February 2013. What's the worse that can happen? If I don't try, I'll never know.

Thursday, 9 December 2021

Some good news

 Family issues and personal life have little, or no, place within my blogging. Obvious exceptions might crop up from time to time, purely because they're humorous but that's as far as it goes. Over the past three/four months, Bev's daughter (thus my step-daughter) has been through an horrific sequence of medical problems. Starting with a mis-carriage which, in turn, led to the discovery of a malignant growth. As soon as the "C" word gets mentioned everyone fears the worse, purely because of the unknown. Thus, I am delighted to say that the medical procedure, undertaken today, by the magnificent staff at QEQM Hospital, Margate, has been 100% successful and we, as a family, can look forward to an enjoyable festive period without the cloud of doom which has been such a feature of our recent lives. 

My only river "twenty"  8th January 1987
Mapledurham, River Thames.

So I was sixty-six on the 4th, thus state pension has kicked in. Debbie's got the all clear and the Kefalonia gang assemble on Saturday. Yes, I think we're looking forward to much brighter times. I might even catch another Pike, although I don't want to push my luck too far! I've had two, short, sessions down on The Stour this week. Not a touch! It is a magnificent, characterful, moody, stretch that I'm focussing on with a history of decent Pike being caught from time to time. Tidal influences play a huge role in how the river is flowing and where the fish are likely to be found. I'm right back at the start of a new learning experience. Bait presentation and rig mechanics need to be revised, purely because of moving water entering the equation. I haven't done any serious river pike fishing since the mid/late '80's when I'd visit the Thames, at Mapledurham, or The Royalty Fishery, Hampshire Avon. With that as a background I certainly have an awful lot of catching up to do if I'm to succeed on The Kentish Stour. I have a feeling that Rickards & Webb "Fishing for Big Pike" might just get dusted down and given another perusal? No better way to learn than starting at the beginning?

Tuesday, 7 December 2021

Groundwork

 I took a drive down to The Stour, around 09.30 hrs this morning. Not to cast a line, just wanting to have a look at the river and, more importantly, ensure that I was still okay to fish the stretch. As I was parking the van I spotted one of the tractor drivers and quickly established that I was more than welcome to use the yard and go fishing on their land. I enquired about driving closer, only to be told that the recent wet spell had resulted in one of the shooters getting their Toyota Hilux 4x4 stuck, so my van had no chance! I'll stick with that, and am happy to walk from the yard, almost a mile, to reach this particular stretch of the waterway. At least I know that the van is safe and for that I'm very grateful.

On arrival at my chosen section, I was delighted to find the river in fine fettle and the banks offering me a choice of positions from which to present a bait. I'm hopeful of getting two sessions in before the weekend, when Bev & I drive to rendezvous with the Kefalonia gang and also visit Daryl & Alix (Bev's son and partner) in the magnificent city of Bath. So for these first two sessions I am travelling light, gear pared-down to the absolute basics. With no barrow, what I can't carry I don't need, simple as that. I feel quite confident that, if Pike are present, I'll get some action purely because of Jim Gibbinson's  "Pike thrive on neglect" theory which has served me so well over the decades. I'm also incorporating a little ruse, suggested by both Andy Larkin & Andy Brown (Canterbury & Thanet PAC guys) which might just prove to be an edge? Only time, and effort, will tell.

What with flowing water, proper snags and the possibility of a "big" Pike there is no place for the split canes, nor centrepins. My starting gambit wouldn't be out of place on Loch Awe? Two thirteen footers, Big Pits loaded with 50lbs b.s. braid and size 2 "doubles". I'm not going down there to play games, well not to start with. I'm ever hopeful that the weather settles down and a return to the "unfinished" RMC project is a realistic goal. However this sojourn, out on The Kentish Stour, might provide a spark for future campaigns as the retirement gig moves forward? I have only ever taken one "twenty" from a river; could The Kentish Stour provide a second? Let's get a bait in the water and find out!

Monday, 6 December 2021

Change of scenery or a break?

The section of the RMC I have been targeting is proving to be a very fickle challenge. It is perfectly obvious that, when conditions are favourable, some very nice Pike live in the stretch as my early sessions proved. However, over the past three weeks, the variable weather patterns have contrived to ensure water clarity and flow rates are never the same two days running. As such, I've been unable to discover a feeding pattern? Bloody fool - I've been unable to find a feeding Pike! Yes, of course I've been lucky on a couple of occasions, but that's exactly what it was. Luck playing a far greater role than any skill on my part. 

The pre-dawn sky, looking East across Romney Marsh this morning.

I endured yet another blank session this morning, not a single bleep from the alarms, so even the Eels weren't feeding in the heavily coloured water conditions.  As it's a seventy mile round trip, thus two hours driving via the country lanes due to no more direct routes being available, the fuel costs are not without consideration. Storm Arwen is now to be followed by Storm Barra and the canal will get another top up with escarpment run off as a direct result. As much as I absolutely adore the wilderness and associated freedom, I still like catching fish. I've been scratching my head, whilst wary of splinters, attempting to put a plan B in place. I do have the option to return to the drains of the East Kent Marshes yet, am rather drawn to conundrum posed by The Kentish Stour. Due to my farming connections, I have access to some fairly remote spots, so it has to be worth a bash whilst I await the RMC to settle down, doesn't it? 

Sun rise today - it's bloody quarter to eight!

I've made no plans, nor any phone calls to secure permission, thus far, yet feel that my December split cane project will be derailed, somewhat, if the weather remains as erratic as it is at present. Because it is so much closer, the river might just provide the distraction required, as I await the weather patterns to return to some type of seasonal normal before going back to the banks of the RMC. I've only ever taken one "double" from the river, so there's plenty of scope for me to improve upon that statistic!

13 lbs 8 oz - my only Stour "double" - I've caught heavier Barbel!

Sunday, 5 December 2021

The Kodak legacy

It was in mid 1979 that I joined the Kodak D-SR (Distribution Southern Region) gang in the massive warehouse complex at Swallowdale Lane, Hemel Hempstead. Five years of absolute mayhem followed, as it was the era before PC and Health & Safety rules came to dominate factory life. A warehouse full of young lads, a recipe for anarchy and so it proved. We had an absolute scream within the confines of the warehouse, with a social scene which went far beyond the Kodak Sports & Social Club and facilities which the company so generously provided. We played football together, we drank and partied whenever the opportunity arose, it was quite simply the best period of my life up to this point. Our manager was a spineless, posh, goon by the name of Don Kay , thus immediately referred to as Donkey by the lads. Alan Berry was the D-SR senior supervisor and far more in tune with the vibe of the guys than "Donkey" could ever have hoped for. 

Alan Berry was huge character with a man management skill base that very few others, I've ever crossed paths, possess.  A phone call, on a land line, at 04.30 hrs one Saturday morning in late November/early December 1980 (1?) and I hear "Dylan, get your arse up here now! Boots are calling!!" Turned out that Kodak had released an instant imaging system based upon the "Polaroid" technology. Polaroid subsequently took Kodak to court, in the USA, winning the case only for Kodak to pay the fine then purchase the entire Polaroid business, thus also the patents associated with this type of photography. I digress, Boots had advertised that these Kodak products were available in their stores via some huge ITV campaign. They weren't, they were actually still on pallets in our warehouse and Alan needed to rouse the troops to come to assist the cause. Boots main warehouse was at Island Street in Nottingham (if memory serves me correctly?) The gang assembled and loaded all the Kodak "trunkers" well before 08.00 hrs, thus ensuring the products were now Boots problem, not Kodak's? Job done, so early, Alan then pulled off a masterstroke. He got Monday's picking sheets printed off and we, as a gang, absolutely smashed the orders for the next working day before packing it in around 11.00 hrs. We were all told to go home, get the family, be that the missus and/or kids, and get back to the Crabtree PH, Adeyfield, Hemel Hempstead where Kodak footed the bill for the entire gathering. A stroke of genius, Alan then ensured we were further "on side" by agreeing that O/T would be payed for the Monday, despite the fact that we'd already completed the majority of the day's order picking. My Kodak experience certainly impacted upon my life in a very positive manner, although I walked away for very selfish reasons. 

So why have I decided to revisit this period? Well, if ever I felt that I had gained an insight into a subject beyond that of my angling peers, then fish photography was it! In 2021, getting a decent record shot of any capture is a breeze, such is the power of digital technology. Back in the early/mid 1980's I was serving as R/O for the Chiltern Region before joining the Executive Committee of NASA (National Association of Specialist Anglers) and was able use my Kodak employment as a way of allowing me to share technological experience of this medium. The use of either print, or slide, photography was all we had. That the floors of the building, directly above the D-SR warehouse, contained the Kodak photographic technical team, was a God send. I spent many hours in their company, seeking advice, when I should have been order picking or operating a fork lift! "Specialist Angler" was the NASA members bi-annual(?) publication and it was within the pages of this splendid magazine that I found a platform to share my photographic thoughts with fellow anglers. Originally, I'd offered Kodak a suggestion that they targeted angling with their products. Obviously modern specimen hunting was all about catch and release angling, thus the trophy shot being a vital part of the process. The Kodak slogan of the time was "Keep it with Kodak" I'd offered a slight twist with my suggestion of "Keep 'em with Kodak" - Unsurprisingly, rejected by the business hierarchy due to contractual issues. What it did allow, however, was for me to get involved in producing a magazine feature in which Kodak took publishing credit, yet I earned a huge (£1,000 +) fee. That was at least ten weeks wages back then! For sure, there were a few of my photos that Kodak took copyright control of, I'd get over it. On the back of this single article, I embarked upon a series of "slide shows" which took me from Newcastle to Somerset, and many destinations in between, where I was able to share my experiences and offer practical advice to fellow specimen hunters. 

Ronnie Thomas returning a superb 23 lbs + to Emberton -  Grebe Lake.
Not your typical trophy shot of the time.

Alas, the Kodak brand is now but a memory. The American parent company completely unwilling to embrace the advent of digital imaging and, as a result, the business collapsed in spectacular fashion. Fortunately, I'd already parted company and was firmly established within the Unilever empire, thus not at all affected by this colossal misjudgement. As a member of The Upper Gade Specimen Group, our motley crew might not have been  the most successful anglers of the period, yet our photo display boards were the envy of many due to the Kodak link. Therefore I remain eternally grateful for the time spent within the organisation, the skill-set I was taught and able to share with so many other anglers of the period.

Baz Adams enjoying a Fenland dawn captured
with Ektachrome slide film and E6 chemical processing

Thursday, 2 December 2021

That's more like it

 I am delighted to report that the "split cane caper" is up and running. I spent an eye watering session on the banks of the RMC, this morning, temperatures never getting above 2C and combined with a brisk WNW wind, all the time I was there. Just one bite but, enough to start with, it resulted in a Pike on the unhooking mat. At 14 lbs 6 oz I'm certainly not about to start moaning, especially after the run of blanks I've recently endured. The best thing, for me, was the fact that the Mk IV coped perfectly well with the situation. Absolutely no issues with setting the hooks or playing the fish. What made it even better was the fact that the loaded drop arm and Siren R3 combination did exactly what I'd hoped. I got a single bleep, as the fish picked up my bait, thus was already moving towards the rod when the line pulled from the clip and it was game on. The pike was hooked perfectly in the scissors, there's not much more I need to say. It's a good feeling when a plan comes to fruition and you get the result that was hoped for.


A nicely conditioned Pike and a good way to get the "mini project" up and running?

Once again I am indebted to one of the regular dog walkers, for taking these trophy shots. I should really make the effort to put a name to these guys & gals as they play such a significant role in my enjoyment of being on the banks of the RMC. I will also make an effort to get some images of the rods, reels and assorted debris, which I call essential, just to give an idea as to what this folly is all about.

Tuesday, 30 November 2021

A December "mini" project

The spark for this idea came from my old mate Ric Francis, via the Blogger comments box. He suggested that the, 1959 split cane, Mk IV's might be better used if matched with my ABU Cardinal 66X's. This got me thinking about what I might do to further enhance my enjoyment of the Pike fishing whilst on the banks of the RMC, yet remaining aware that my targets have already been set. December will prove to be quite a testing month due to a medical issue which has no place for discussion in the Blogger domain. That we, as a family unit, will find a way to deal with any problem is a given. It comes of being a "Wraftie" I guess?

I cannot hide the reality of November being a very disappointing month, Pike wise. I feel that, somehow, I took my eye off the ball and ended up simply going through the motions. Talking it through with Sye and Benno, last Saturday, there were quite a few minor adjustments suggested which were felt might aid my cause moving forward. Silly things like bait size and spacing between the hooks were all talked through and it's always good to hear other anglers views on such mundane matters. I took these ideas home with me and have made some minor adjustments to my set ups accordingly. I did have a session on Monday morning but, Storm Arwen had wreaked havoc with the water clarity in the canal. It being a similar colour to "builder's tea" with visibility less than a couple of inches! I should have gone straight back home?

If I can get anywhere close to such a Pike, using the split canes, then the "mini" project 
will be considered a success.

I'm back down on Thursday, when I will get the split cane "mini project" up and running. My kit consists of two 1959 Mk IV's and a mid-1960's Mk IV Avon, which will all host Mitchell 300's as a starting point. Obviously, I do have the ABU Cardinal 66X's as a fall back, should I feel the need and I might even be tempted to use my Allcock's Match Aerial centrepin at some point during the month. As a realistic target, I'd love to land a fish in excess of 15 lbs using these rods, a twenty would be the icing on the cake. Because there is an element of the unknown involved with using these ancient relics for Pike fishing, I will be steering clear of some of the more snaggy sections of the canal until I've a better idea how they perform. Fish welfare has to be the paramount consideration after all and with that at the forefront of my thoughts I am ditching the back-biters for this project. Just for the duration of this split cane challenge, my Nash Siren R3's will provide my audible indication. They are the most sensitive devices I've ever used and I feel that they will provide me with an additional edge whilst using these very soft rods. I will still use drop arm indicators, but they are loaded and will cause a Siren to sound if they so much as move. Monkeys on angled needles remain as effective as ever when using my regular bait presentations.

Because there is so much happening during the month, be that medical, my sixty-sixth birthday, a social gathering of the Kefalonia Gang or a small celebration known as Christmas, I'm unsure how many sessions I'll be able to fit in? Add in the role played by unsettled weather patterns and it becomes even more challenging to make any definitive plans. Obviously, first things first, I need to get a bait in the water which Pike find attractive enough to produce that, long overdue, bite! 

Monday, 29 November 2021

November scores on the doors

It has been an exceptional month which started like a tidal surge, yet ended with barely a ripple. I can offer no end of excuses as to why I've struggled for bites since the second week of November but, if I had worked even harder, it might have been different? The erratic weather patterns certainly played a part in the results I achieved, yet I'm convinced that there were Pike to be caught if I could find them - I couldn't! I remain superbly confident in my rigs, baits and presentations as they are the best I can produce. I'm absolutely sure that no-one else is offering these Pike anything similar? To be fair, I've only seen five other anglers on the RMC, all month, which has to be a direct consequence of me not fishing during the weekends. Fourteen sessions, eleven on the canal, during November have resulted in just six Pike on the unhooking mat. Using the same format as the October post, these are my current stats 

Target No 1 - three "twenties" - one landed = 33.3%

Target No 2 - twenty "doubles" - seven landed = 35% 

Target No 3 - one hundred Pike - eighteen landed = 18%

Just to make it clear. The doubles total doesn't include "twenties" thus I'm actually hoping for twenty three Pike in excess of 10 lbs in order to achieve these targets! Just to spice things up a bit I've decided to add the split canes into the mix. I've only one, accidental, double caught on these iconic rods. I'd like to land a Pike in excess of 15 lbs, using these historic artefacts, before the 14th March 2022. I'll finish this offering with a rather sobering fact. On 3rd December 2021, I caught a superb brace of RMC Pike (22 lbs 6 oz & 19 lbs 5 oz) which constituted my seventh & eighth doubles for that season. I was in full time employment and working flat out! It's a day before the month's end, I no longer have to worry about work, yet am no better off, pike wise, than last year. Time to pull my finger out?

Sunday, 28 November 2021

Woe is me

Since my last post, it's been a struggle to get any enthusiasm for writing about my angling experiences. Even though our "social" went ahead, on Saturday, the effects of Storm Arwen certainly ensured we had to be content with a single Pike, which fell to Benno's rods, as our reward for the massive effort involved in getting to the venue. As Benno and I drove over Ditchling Beacon, early doors, snow was laying on the road which is incredible for Kent in November. Sye did have an occurrence on a Dyson-rig presentation, but it came to nothing and that about sums up our session. It was the first time that all three of us had fished together since Kilchurn Bay, April 2018, so it was always going to be a good laugh as we reminisced about past sessions and successes. We also had chance to bounce ideas off each other; Sye being one of the best "thinking anglers" I've ever been lucky enough to encounter. 

So now back to the RMC sessions of the previous week. Hard going would be an understatement. Man, I really struggled to locate the Pike in the section of the canal I'd targeted. Thursday morning was to provide the real kick in the guts when I lost a "big ?" Pike after a decent battle. I was using a big bait (6-8 oz) and a heavy (4 oz) lead. The lead choice being a direct result of watching some brilliant Youtube footage posted by Steve Pitts. Talking through my methodology we all agreed that a couple of tweaks might be useful in assisting my efforts moving forward. I remain convinced that the lost fish was a direct result of using an excessively heavy lead. My set up being incapable of setting the hooks whilst attempting to do so via a plugged lead?  I am sure that my hooks are as sharp as it possible to present, thus, fully confident that once set, they'll not let me down. 

This is where it all goes "tits up" as I'm not about to share whatever methodology that will now be used, purely because my angling is not about anything other than my enjoyment. The last thing I want to do is encourage inexperienced Pike anglers to attempt to try something which might be an absolute disaster in reality. As an "old'n" I'd like to think that I've the experience to deal with whatever deep hooked situation I might encounter. Carp faggot/converts won't have the first idea of how to deal with deep hooked pike, so whatever I'm attempting, they'll not have learned anything from my blogging? 

Reading back over that last section, what do I think I'm doing? My current presentation is not designed to deliberately "deep hook" any Pike which pick up my baits. However, if an inexperienced angler, without the bite indication technology I have at my disposal, were to attempt to copy my methods then dead fish would almost certainly be a direct result! If you want to catch Pike then join the PAC - end of!

Whilst the banter was being exchanged, on the banks of this very ordinary reservoir, a guy turned up to investigate where the aroma of "bacon sandwiches" was coming from? It turned out that he was a local "carp faggot" who blamed "Carl & Alex" for his inability to catch the fish which they'd publicised in their "Reservoir Diaries 3"  What the f*ck? It's a piss hole in the snow by comparison to the Scottish Lochs and/or the "barrages" of mainland Europe. I did what was needed to placate this moron and he returned to his own swim without me needing to engage in meaningful conversation - dumb C*NT!!! I am a subscriber to the Carl & Alex Youtube channel and have nothing but admiration for what they're attempting to do. Doesn't mean that I agree with keeping Koi as pets or want to start collecting mushrooms, but am fully supportive of their efforts to promote angling beyond that of the established boundaries.

So back to what's happening today! I'm down to the RMC in the morning with a score to settle? I know exactly where I need to place a bait and have decided to add a bit of spice to the challenge by incorporating a 1959 B James & Son "Dick Walker" Mk IV split cane into the equation. I've only taken one double Pike using these rods, I'd like a "twenty". Is it possible? Only by casting a bait will I ever discover the answer to that question. Split cane and Mitchell 300's - does it get any better? 


Monday, 22 November 2021

Small tweaks

A new week and another three sessions on the RMC to go, prior to our Pike fishing social this coming Saturday. Confident that the canal will produce many more Pike, to my rods, before I finish this challenge on 14th March 2022, I need to have a serious think about what I must adapt in order to give myself a chance at the massive still-water venue that we'll be tackling. With this huge reservoir being an obvious deviation from the normal, intimate, venues I now target, there is a requirement for a few rig tweaks, thus bait presentation options. I've ditched the centrepins for this coming week, wanting to concentrate on the use of fixed spool techniques. Bite indication, as always, involves the use of electronic alarms of two designs. Back-biters and front-runner systems, used in conjunction with monkeys on angled needles, are my go to methods. Both have stood me in great stead ever since my decision to only use dead baits, way back in the mid 1980's. Assuming the water levels are favourable, we are hoping to use the bait boat technology that we have at our disposal. None of this silly "hopper" type design, that is perfectly suited to the carp angling requirements and, therefore, priced accordingly. Our boats are hand made, at a fraction of the price, by my brother Sye, specifically for the purpose of getting a rig into position using "Deeper Pro" and GPS technology with whatever bait (type & size) presentation we choose to deploy? Available commercially? Dream on! They are based upon a prototype that we first used up on Loch Awe in 2014. The huge advances in technology have since allowed Sye to refine the feature finding and accurate repeat positioning capabilities, of the later versions, to give us the best chance possible in these "one off" situations. 

One of Sye's very early versions - the fish/feature finder mounted on the 
outside of the hull. Not anymore they ain't!

All I have to do is ensure that whatever bait presentation I use is the very best that my kit is capable of. My baits will be pre-prepared with whatever flavours and colours I feel will ensure I'm offering the Pike something different than they're used to. My buoyancy aids are already assembled, in various guises, thus giving me even more flexibility with my final presentations. I'm sure this all sounds very pretentious to those, non-angling, visitors to my blog. There's only one way of discovering whether, or not, my thought processes are correct and that is by putting my baits into the water and seeing what happens? If my result on the RMC, this morning, is an indicator, then I've a long way to go yet! My fourth blank on the spin, if I ignore the Eels - and I certainly can. Next trip out is Wednesday and I'm off to explore an area which I've not visited since 2019. 

In the mid-80's John Foster was R/O of the Fenland PAC group. We crossed swords on many occasions but became mates because of our shared interest in the Zander which inhabited his part of the UK. Always thinking outside the box, John had some fairly radical ideas about the fish populations that inhabited the Fenland drains. One concept which has stayed with me is that of the "three-sided Fenland lake". John was convinced that any structure, be that a road bridge or sluice, which crossed any waterway was capable of producing the effect of a "bay", thus the three-sided effect. I know it's a long shot, but I'm now using this theory in my own exploration of the RMC. Our past results at Seabrook, Gigger's Green and Iden Lock would certainly do little to discount John's hypothesis. I would like to think that "an open mind" is the best way forward? Oh, and a Pike in the landing net might help!

Saturday, 20 November 2021

Slow progress

Twenty days into November and my nine sessions after Pike have yielded just five fish. However, the recent Canterbury & Thanet PAC meeting allowed me to establish that I am doing rather well in comparison to the majority of other members, so I'll cope with that. The RMC has reverted to type and, once again, I am struggling to locate my quarry. Not all doom & gloom as, on Wednesday, I was able to spend a good hour, or so, chatting with Ian Roberts about many aspects of natural history whilst enjoying a cuppa on the banks of the canal. Thursday was to produce my only fish of the week, with a small jack from the flatlands but, once again, it was the chance to chew the fat with Neil Davies which provided the bulk of the enjoyment. I was also able to exchange a few words with another guy, out birding, who came from Deal and that was nice. Whilst out on the flatlands I managed to record my first "ring-tailed" Hen Harrier (an imm male) of the Autumn, plus also added Lesser Redpoll to my list for the season.

The garden moth trap continues to produce the goods, although variety is rather restricted. Silver Y, Angle Shades, Lesser Yellow Underwing and Diamond-backs have been recorded on several nights. Rusty-dot Pearl and Light Brown Apple Moth (20+ some nights) are nightly visitors whilst I've managed a couple more Oak Rustics and, last night, added Cypress Carpet (2) to my garden list, which was a surprise. Palpita vitrealis  (Olive-tree Pearl) is also being seen regularly, although only once have I managed to record a pair!




Not back out with the rods until after the weekend, although the real highlight will be next Saturday (27th) when Benno, Sye, myself and a bunch of our angling mates rendezvous at a large still-water for the annual Pike Fishing Social. Something we weren't able to do last year for obvious reasons.

Sunday, 14 November 2021

This is getting silly

 Having written in my previous post that new species, for me, were very unlikely to occur in the garden. I only had two macros in the trap, this morning, and what do you know. Yep! Another "lifer" in the form of a Radford's Flame Shoulder. I'd mis-id'd the other individual as "The Sprawler" but, fortunately spotted my error before posting the news. Once again I am indebted to Ian Roberts (Folkestone Birds) for sorting out the issue with a speedy email exchange. The moth is actually a Blair's Shoulder-knot, a species that I should have been able to id. 

Radford's Flame Shoulder

Micros have been rather restricted with just a couple of Diamond Backs and a smart little Monopis obviella (Yellow-backed Clothes Moth) The forecast remains mild, yet the wind direction is shifting to a more North & Easterly pattern, thus I would expect my little purple patch to come to an abrupt end? However, just to see if lightning might strike twice. I'll never catch a "thirty" from the Royal Military Canal and I'm back down there in the morning!

Yellow-backed Clothes Moth

Saturday, 13 November 2021

Not a bad start?

I've now run the 125w MV moth trap for three nights in the back garden. Already things are looking very promising with a few unexpected visitors appearing on the egg boxes. Two macros stand out, thus far. A Delicate was a very pleasant surprise, an Oak Rustic was even more so. It's a new species for me and there aren't too many of those likely to turn up in our Dumpton garden?


I'm very grateful for the input of Ian Roberts (Folkestone Birds)
who confirmed my id.


Another couple of Rusty-dot Pearls and two micros which need further study about sums up the catch report. So long as it remains mild, I will continue to run the light. Happy days - well nights actually!

Thursday, 11 November 2021

Let's get the party started

 It's Armistice Day and at 11.00 hrs, on the banks of the RMC, my Poppy proudly on display, I took a minute to reflect upon the heroic acts and sacrifices that others have made to ensure my freedoms. "Lest we forget" - Amen to that! That's the "Wraftie" bit out of the way - what's been happening?

Well, if I'm totally honest, not a lot. I blanked yesterday, not a single bleep from the indicators, although a Noctule Bat was a most unexpected sighting. Back down this morning and another encounter, although this time I had the Magenta 5 detector with me and was treated to a spectacular audio fest as the bat hunted directly above my position for a good five minutes. Fishing was a struggle but, eventually, I did manage to tempt a Pike - No.16 for the season. A clean little jack of 8 lbs took a fancy to a "popped-up" Mackerel, but that was it. It's incredibly mild for the time of year, 16 C yesterday, and not falling below double figures at night. What's a guy supposed to do? Run a moth trap of course! 

I'd switched it off at 04.40 hrs, prior to me departing towards the RMC, and had already potted a Udea ferrugalis (Rusty Dot Pearl) before I left. On my return, some eight hours later, I was delighted to discover two Palpita vitrealis (they used to be "unionalis" when I first started trapping) Olive Tree Pearls, a Setaceous Hebrew Character, an Angleshades, two November Moths and several Light Brown Apple Moths. Funnily enough, I've got it back in action tonight.





Tuesday, 9 November 2021

New toys

 It was way back, in late 1993, when I first stumbled across the dark art that is moth trapping! It was at Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory, which is not SBBOT!. Back then it was still a hub of ornithological activity and not the money motivated, pitiful, excuse that it has now become. Andy Johnson, Paul. A.  Brown, Tim Bagworth and, the late, great, Tony Harman were central to the moth recording at the "Obs" during this era. In 1994, Benno needed a project for the school summer break. Because of the impact that the "hands on" moth trapping experience at SBBO  had exerted, we decided to build and run a moth trap in our tiny garden in the village of Ash, just outside of Sandwich. It was one of those pivotal moments? I have to admit that since the passing of my father, August 2016, that I've rather lost interest. I think Gavin Haig refers to it as "phasing" which is exactly what I feel has happened. However, just recently I've gotten hold of two 125w Robinson MV moth traps and am really looking forward to using them. Obviously November isn't the best time to embark upon such an adventure, so I'm happy to wait for Spring. The important thing is that I do have these items available. Retirement and unlimited time? What a combination. Just as I recognise that my bird call recognition has been been "dulled" by the lapse in involvement, so will discover how much my (macro) moth id skills have been impaired by the lay off? Surely it has to better that I look, and don't know, than not look at all?


Monday, 8 November 2021

Matt Hayes "Limited Edition" centrepins!

 It must have been way back in 2013 when Dragon Carp had a store in Ramsgate. A temple to cheap, and cheerful, Chinese produced, crap fishing kit? Certainly the Carp Kinetic brand label was akin to "Satanic worship" such was the mentality within carp anglers of the period. The enterprise was part of Mike Ashley's  "Sports Direct" empire and, as such, could wield amazing influence in the market place. Just as Mick Brown had sold his soul to Shimano, Matt Hayes did so with the CK brand label. Yet another demonstration of the power of money over personal ethics.  So this is my starting pitch. Matt Hayes had allowed his name to be scribed on a centrepin reel which, to all intents and purposes, was manufactured by folk who had not the first idea what the finished item was to be used for? In this instance, the engineering wasn't too shabby, it was the assembly of the assorted components which caused the issues. I purchased three of these items, feeling sure I had enough confidence to tweak them into shape, and so it proved. They are actually true centrepins, not some look alike ball bearing type reel, and reminded me, very much, of the old Grice & Young "Big Piker"


There were three major issues with the reels, as they came off the shelf. One; the ratchet system was ridiculously tight. Two, the rotating drum (the spool?) was prone to be warped and three, the central screw, on the drum, hadn't been properly positioned. The ratchet was easy to rectify, simply by bending the sprung metal bar which applied pressure to the "clicker" thus reducing the force on this mechanism. The warped drum could be properly aligned by adjusting some, or all of, the six spokes on the outer face, whilst the fine adjustment of the central screw ensured that all three of my examples are now as free spinning as any Allcock's Match Aerial I'd ever used. 


Having ironed out these problems I admit that I've grown rather fond of these Chinese reels. Under no circumstances do they come close to the build quality of the more traditional versions yet, they've performed admirably for me in many situations. My PB Barbel, that 24 lbs 10 oz Loch Awe Pike and several nice "wild" Carp have been landed using these reels and to be fair, because they are not top notch kit, I tend to rather abuse them. My "Match Aerials", both Allcocks & Fred Crouch versions, are handled with kid gloves by comparison to the treatment these reels are subjected to. So there you have it, my personal assessment of these cheap reels. Obviously, you pay your money and make your choice. That there will be other anglers who disagree with my opinions isn't an issue. I'm happy to use them, so nothing else really matters?

Back out this morning for another session on the RMC and yet another "double" on the centrepin set-up. A fairly non-descript fish, of 14 lbs 12 oz, was landed within an hour of me getting the rods out. It was the only action I experienced, although I'm certainly not complaining. Cracking morning, weather wise, plus I had a nice chat with a couple of the regular dog walkers who visit this section of the canal. 



Finally, I got another addition for the BWKm0 list, on Saturday morning.

BWKm0 - No. 72 - Shelduck - five flew north over the garden, early doors, whilst I was struggling to spot what had sent the local Herring Gulls into meltdown! This is the first garden and patch record of this species, so very much appreciated.