The Red­mire Restora­tion

Wel­come to the first part of what will be­come an on­go­ing project for us, as we watch the ef­forts of Mark and his team as they re­store quite pos­si­bly the most iconic wa­ter ever, to its for­mer glory...

Carpworld - - CONTENTS - - Mark Wals­ing­ham

Wel­come to the first part of what will be­come an on­go­ing project for us, as we watch the ef­forts of Mark and his team as they re­store quite pos­si­bly the most iconic wa­ter ever, to its for­mer glory...

Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber are the most im­por­tant months of 2018 for me be­cause it is dur­ing this time that the long-stand­ing con­ser­va­tion plans for Red­mire Pool come to fruition and we will be car­ry­ing out the work on site to re­store the pool and set the foun­da­tion for its fu­ture. If you have any in­ter­est in carp an­gling what­so­ever, the name Red­mire will con­jure magic and open a gallery of images in your imag­i­na­tion, from a time when carp fish­ing was in its in­fancy and ev­ery­thing was a glo­ri­ous and ex­cit­ing ad­ven­ture. Whilst the un­der­ly­ing beauty and magic of Red­mire can still be found, you need to look pretty hard th­ese days. No small pool, the size of Red­mire, can pos­si­bly sus­tain the an­gling pres­sure it has ex­pe­ri­enced, with­out show­ing the signs of wear and tear that are ev­i­dent on the banks. Th­ese days though, there are far more sig­nif­i­cant pres­sures on Red­mire than just the con­stant at­ten­tion of an­glers.

The land around Red­mire, is cropped for po­ta­toes and the Pool is a sump in the land­scape for all of the silt, nu­tri­ents and pes­ti­cides that run off the sur­round­ing fields. Potato crop­ping leaves bare soils ev­ery win­ter and the heavy rains of the past few years have taken their toll, leav­ing the pool so badly silted that you can now stand on the spot where The Bishop snaf­fled Chris Yates’ sweet­corn, with­out even get­ting your boots wet. Wasp Is­land is now just a part of the boggy bank, the shal­lows are fill­ing with sed­i­ment and even the depths off the dam are a frac­tion of what they used to be in Walker’s day. In short, Red­mire is dy­ing.

The death of the Pool and the re­main­ing stock of Leney carp could be very close un­less steps are taken now to pro­tect the lake and its fish for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions to en­joy. The ni­trate and phos­phate run-off from the farm­land are po­ten­tially even more of a threat to the Pool than the sil­ta­tion. Last year, in the spring, there was an al­gal bloom at Red­mire that shaded out the rooted weed growth and left the pool bar­ren of weed through­out the sum­mer months. Then in the au­tumn, an­other al­gal bloom took hold and when the bloom crashed, the de­cay­ing al­gae caused oxy­gen lev­els to fall to dan­ger­ously low lev­els. The shift from a rooted-weed ecol­ogy to

a plank­tonic al­gal sys­tem is very hard to re­verse and this change threat­ens to lit­er­ally suck the life out of Red­mire.

An aer­a­tor was in­stalled in the nick of time to save the stock but this is like triage for an ac­ci­dent vic­tim in Ac­ci­dent and Emer­gency and what is needed is a long term, sus­tain­able so­lu­tion to deal with the fu­ture farm run-off.

I’ve been work­ing for the Richard­son fam­ily, who own Ber­nithan Court, for the past three years and the restora­tion of Red­mire Pool is just one com­po­nent of a con­ser­va­tion project on the es­tate that has a far wider scope than just restor­ing and pro­tect­ing the lake it­self. Kim Richard­son asked for my help with de-silt­ing the pool back in 2015 and my ad­vice was that there was no point in spend­ing money re­mov­ing the silt that had ac­cu­mu­lated in the past, if steps weren’t taken to pre­vent fur­ther sil­ta­tion in the fu­ture.

Ber­nithan Court sits in a crit­i­cal pinch point in the Gar­ron catch­ment, be­tween the in­ten­sive, arable and potato farm­ing in the up­per catch­ment above Red­mire and the salmon and sea trout spawn­ing grounds of the Wye and Gar­ron down­stream.

The im­pact of the silt, nu­tri­ent and pes­ti­cide run-off from the farm­land above Ber­nithan is as dam­ag­ing to th­ese im­por­tant salmon and sea trout nurs­ery grounds as it is to Red­mire. I have de­signed and im­ple­mented a land man­age­ment trans­for­ma­tion for the own­ers of the es­tate that es­sen­tially turns Ber­nithan into a land­scape-scale fil­ter for all of the agri­cul­tural run-off from the up­per catch­ment. The changes in land man­age­ment and the em­pha­sis on na­ture con­ser­va­tion rather than farm pro­duc­tion will pro­tect the Gar­ron and Wye and, of course, Red­mire it­self, from the in­ten­sive farm­ing that is tak­ing place above the pool.

The project will trans­form the en­tire Ber­nithan Es­tate into a con­ser­va­tion haven that will not only pro­tect the im­por­tant aquatic habi­tats and fish­eries be­yond its borders but also gen­er­ate more in­come from con­ser­va­tion man­age­ment than it could ever earn from pure farm­ing.

Across the wider es­tate, ex­ten­sive grass­land man­age­ment and re­in­stat­ing the hedgerows shown on the old es­tate plans from the 1700s will make Ber­nithan a wildlife haven and pro­vide en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits far be­yond the es­tate borders. The land will still re­main pro­duc­tive and gen­er­ate farm­ing in­come but the grant in­come de­rived from this long-term con­ser­va­tion man­age­ment is bet­ter and more sta­ble than that which used to be gen­er­ated from farm­ing on its own. Ber­nithan Court will be­come an en­vi­ron­men­tal fil­ter, a buf­fer, which will de­liver en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits for decades to come.

When deal­ing with the ef­fects of in­ten­sive agri­cul­ture on a fish­ery, you need to think on a large scale. You must un­der­stand how wa­ter, and the pol­lu­tants it car­ries, moves through the land­scape and, if pos­si­ble, act to mit­i­gate their im­pact be­fore they ever reach the fish­ery. Ideally, re­spon­si­ble farm­ers would stop the prob­lems at source by only crop­ping ap­pro­pri­ate soils, avoid­ing plough­ing on slopes and cre­at­ing ef­fec­tive buf­fers around our wa­ters. Sadly, how­ever, the drive for profit of­ten means that farm­ers push the lim­its of the en­vi­ron­ment and both the in­cen­tives to pro­tect our wa­ters and the penal­ties for fail­ing to do so are in­ad­e­quate.

It is es­sen­tial that fish­ery own­ers take mat­ters into their own hands as much as pos­si­ble and take prac­ti­cal steps to pro­tect their wa­ters. At Red­mire, there is a nar­row area of rough pas­ture around the pool that acts as a pro­tec­tive buf­fer against the agri­cul­tural run-off. I’ve de­signed swales (dry ditches) to di­vert all of the agri­cul­tural run-off from the sur­round­ing fields into a se­ries of silt traps, and a new wet­land and area of reedbeds. Th­ese will al­low the sed­i­ment to set­tle and strip the wa­ter of most of the nu­tri­ents it is car­ry­ing be­fore it en­ters Red­mire it­self.

Th­ese fea­tures will have to be main­tained and man­aged but they will re­duce the sed­i­ment en­ter­ing the pool suf­fi­ciently to pro­vide longterm sta­bil­ity and jus­tify the cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture needed to re­move the silt al­ready in Red­mire.

It is that de-silt­ing work that is about to take place, start­ing with the drain­ing of the Pool and re­moval of the fish in a few weeks. The carp will be held in a safe lo­ca­tion on the es­tate un­til the restora­tion work is com­pleted and the pool is ready for their re­turn. The plan is to re­move as much of the ac­cu­mu­lated silt as pos­si­ble and re­store the 1952 depth pro­file of the lake. By the time this ar­ti­cle goes to print the work will be well un­der­way!

Sil­ta­tion and eu­troph­i­ca­tion are just the start though. About 13 years ago, some ghost carp were stocked into the Pool by ac­ci­dent and th­ese have bred with the Leney carp. If the Leney legacy of Red­mire is to be re­stored, th­ese ghost carp and any carp that may be their progeny have to be re­moved.

Of course the drain­ing of Red­mire for the de­silt­ing work means that all of the fish in the Pool will need to be caught and held safely whilst this work is go­ing on (in­clud­ing the pre­cious gud­geon and eels). This is the per­fect op­por­tu­nity to sort through the stock and re­move the ghost carp and any fish that might be their progeny. Only a low den­sity of care­fully se­lected orig­i­nal Leney carp will be re­turned to the pool and th­ese carp should thrive in their re­stored en­vi­ron­ment.

I am al­ready en­cour­aged by the trans­for­ma­tion seen at Red­mire this year, af­ter some very ba­sic work was car­ried out last au­tumn to test the ef­fec­tive­ness of the planned silt traps and wet­land. We threw a bund of earth across the sea­sonal stream that feeds through the farm­land above Red­mire and car­ries much of the silt and nu­tri­ent into the pool. This stream only flows at times of high rain­fall, in the win­ter, and when there has been pro­longed rain at other times of the year. The earth bank al­lows the wa­ter to per­co­late through to feed Red­mire but it backs it up first into a wet­land area where the silt set­tles out in the still wa­ter. Last year, I vis­ited Red­mire af­ter a thun­der­storm be­fore the bank was in place and Red­mire (as its name sug­gests) was the colour of tomato soup. I went back in the late spring this year, af­ter an even heav­ier spate of thun­der­storms had swept the Wye val­ley and the area above the bank was full of red, silt-laden wa­ter. The con­trast in Red­mire it­self was dra­matic and the pool re­mained gin-clear and I could see the bot­tom in seven feet of wa­ter.

The cre­ation of the sim­ple bank above the lake has meant that, for the first time in years, Red­mire has re­mained clear through­out the year and the growth of the rooted weed in the lake has been pro­lific. This re­mark­able change, caused by tak­ing such a sim­ple mea­sure has meant that

the ecol­ogy and oxy­gen lev­els in the lake have re­mained sta­ble and the fish have re­mained safe though one of the hottest sum­mers on record. It gives me con­fi­dence that the long-term health of the pool can be se­cured and that the restora­tion project will suc­ceed in its aims.

Even if Red­mire Pool never pro­duces an­other carp of the size of those wit­nessed by The Carp Catch­ers Club and caught by an­glers such as Bob Richards, Dick Walker, Ed­die Price, Jack Hil­ton, Bill Quin­lan and Chris Yates, it re­mains a very spe­cial and quite re­mark­able fish­ery. For such a small pool to pro­duce so many huge carp is just as­ton­ish­ing and de­fies the ac­cepted sci­ence of fish­ery man­age­ment. Wa­ters in this coun­try should nat­u­rally be ca­pa­ble of sus­tain­ing be­tween 200 and 400 ki­los of fish per hectare (200-400 pounds per acre), yet any es­ti­mate of the Red­mire stock, grown nat­u­rally in just three acres of wa­ter, far ex­ceeds those ac­cepted norms.

If you think about the num­ber of truly enor­mous carp that Red­mire is known and ru­moured to have held, then you re­alise that Red­mire is sim­ply mag­i­cal. In con­trast to many of the large carp around th­ese days, the Red­mire fish grew big nat­u­rally and with­out the sup­port of an­gler’s baits. For such a small pool to pro­duce Bob Richard’s 31lb 4oz record and Dick Walker’s 44lb com­mon nat­u­rally is re­mark­able but Red­mire also grew carp like the 58lb mir­ror net­ted by Walker on the shal­lows when it was stranded dur­ing spawn­ing. Add to th­ese the other known big carp, in­clud­ing the old thirty-eight, which grew on to be­come Chris Yates 51-pounder and the record of this sleepy, three-acre pool will never be sur­passed.

And then there are the myths! The King, the huge com­mon seen by so many yet never landed; The Black Mir­ror hooked and lost by Chris Yates one Oc­to­ber and seen by other an­glers in­clud­ing my friend Barry Mills; The Knights, a pair of big com­mons seen by sev­eral an­glers and es­ti­mated to pos­si­bly be over 60lb apiece. Even to­day there are ru­mours of a ‘four-foot’ com­mon and a huge lin­ear...

By the time this ar­ti­cle is in print a care­fully se­lected group of peo­ple will know for cer­tain if the mod­ern myths are truth or fic­tion but th­ese peo­ple will be sworn to se­crecy and the mys­tery of Red­mire will be pre­served, as far as pos­si­ble. That mys­tery is such an im­por­tant ele­ment of fish­ing Red­mire that it would be a tragedy if it was lost as a re­sult of the restora­tion project.

As part of the Red­mire restora­tion, I have been delv­ing into the ar­chives of old Red­mire pho­to­graphs and I have spent time with some of the great an­glers from Red­mire’s hal­cyon past. The rea­son for this is to get an image in my mind of how the Pool looked in its hey­day and an un­der­stand­ing of the ex­tent to which the Pool has silted up over the years. While we have Walk­ers depth plan from 1952 as a guide, there is no sub­sti­tute for ac­tu­ally spend­ing time walk­ing around the lake with an­glers who know it in­ti­mately and who can de­scribe in de­tail how it looked.

What I have gleaned from spend­ing time with th­ese an­glers though is far more than a plan of depths and the lie of the banks. I have been in­spired by their pas­sion with a true sense of the magic of Red­mire and how it must have felt to fish there at a time when le­gends swam in its depths and in the imag­i­na­tion of the an­glers who cast their lines in the hope of mak­ing the myths real. It is in that magic and sense of mys­tery and prom­ise that the real im­por­tance and unique­ness of Red­mire lies. No other wa­ter has ever or could ever in­spire a gen­er­a­tion of an­glers in the way that Red­mire has done.

Chris Ball ar­ranged a day at Red­mire with some of the early an­glers from the ‘Nixon’ pe­riod in

the Pool’s his­tory, to mark what would have been Dick Walker’s 100th birth­day. It was a won­der­ful day, at­tended by an­glers whose names are of key im­por­tance in Red­mire’s his­tory. Char­lie Kirkham was there, the an­gler who made a sur­rep­ti­tious visit to the pool in 1963 fol­low­ing the big freeze up, which The Carp Catch­ers Club be­lieved had killed all of the Pool’s carp. He de­scribed how he crept down to Green­banks and saw large num­bers of huge fish cruis­ing on the Red­mire shal­lows. This visit pro­vided the ev­i­dence that Red­mire was still very much alive and was the spur for John Nixon to se­cure the fish­ing rights and open the Pool to mem­bers of se­lect groups of spec­i­men an­glers.

Oth­ers who fished at that time, be­fore the Hil­ton syn­di­cate, were also there, in­clud­ing Bob Rolph, Bob Jones and Roger Bowskill. Roger has gone down in Red­mire leg­end as the an­gler renown for catch­ing a 38lb mir­ror that he took to Llan­gar­ron to be weighed on the potato scales at the green­gro­cers. This was the carp that grew on to be Chris Yates’ 51lb record – The Bishop.

As well as th­ese an­glers, Chris Ball had ar­ranged with the own­ers of some im­por­tant pieces of an­gling his­tory for key pieces of tackle to be re­turned to the pool for the day. Chris Sand­ford brought the Mk IV built by Dick Walker, on which he landed Ravi­oli (later re­named Clarissa). My old friend Pete Rogers brought along the land­ing net in which Pete Thomas en­meshed the record carp, when it dived un­der the bram­bles next to The Wil­low Pitch on the end of Walker’s line. Lots of other Red­mire mem­o­ra­bilia was brought for the day, in­clud­ing Walker’s orig­i­nal bite alarm (the one that sig­nalled that the record com­mon had taken his hook­bait) and, of course, Chris Ball brought his re­mark­able col­lec­tion of pho­to­graphs.

Miss­ing from the day were an­glers from the Red­mire syn­di­cate years and I ar­ranged to meet a num­ber of old friends from the Jack Hil­ton era later in the year, for a tour of the lake. Over the years, I’ve been very for­tu­nate to be­come friends with a num­ber of the old Red­mire syn­di­cate, who I have met on var­i­ous carp lakes, in­clud­ing of course, Ash­mead. This year there was a bit of a Red­mire re­union planned and I spent sev­eral hours at the Pool with Keith Hil­ton and Mike Min­tram (sons of the Red­mire syn­di­cate lead­ers) as well as John Carver and Barry Mills (both of whom were there when Chris Yates caught his record mir­ror). John, of course, took on the man­tle of lead­ing the Red­mire syn­di­cate af­ter Tom Min­tram.

I have im­mersed my­self in a year of Red­mire his­tory and it has been both a priv­i­lege and a plea­sure. I’m very grate­ful to all of th­ese an­glers for their time, sup­port and en­cour­age­ment. The first-hand knowl­edge they have shared as we walked the banks to­gether will be in­valu­able as the restora­tion takes shape. The depth and ac­cu­racy of their recol­lec­tions was in­cred­i­ble:

If you think about the num­ber of truly enor­mous carp that Red­mire is known and ru­moured to have held, then you re­alise that Red­mire is sim­ply mag­i­cal. In con­trast to many of the large carp around th­ese days, the Red­mire fish grew big nat­u­rally and with­out the sup­port of an­gler’s baits

even a bit of rusty old cor­ru­gated tin sheet that was buried in the bank, was trans­formed by the rev­e­la­tion that it was a sheet of tin laid down by Mau­rice Ing­ham on one of his early vis­its to the wa­ter, to en­able him to fish a new swim to the left of the old Wil­low Pitch.

I now carry an image of each swim in my mind and an un­der­stand­ing of how far the silt has en­croached into the shal­lows and how much the pro­file of the lake bed has changed. This de­tailed map is over­laid with tales of en­coun­ters with the Red­mire myths. Above all, I am grate­ful for the in­spi­ra­tion that spend­ing time with th­ese an­glers has given me for the restora­tion work. This will per­haps be their most im­por­tant con­tri­bu­tion dur­ing the weeks ahead.

I also fished Red­mire my­self for three days this sum­mer with three friends, while I was work­ing on the es­tate. In the full throes of the project work and all of the plan­ning and stress in­volved, it is easy to lose sight of what we are re­ally try­ing to achieve. Those few days served as a fur­ther re­minder that Red­mire is unique in the world of carp an­gling. Whilst the prob­lems at the Pool were all too ev­i­dent, fish­ing Red­mire still held a spe­cial magic and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing it first hand, af­ter hear­ing so much from the an­glers of times past, re­ally brought home how worth­while and im­por­tant the restora­tion is.

The vi­sion we have is to re­store Red­mire to a con­di­tion such that if Bob Richards, Walker or BB strolled onto the Red­mire dam, they would in­stantly recog­nise the Pool they fished and en­counter the same nat­u­rally-rich fish­ery en­vi­ron­ment that they loved

I fished The Fence swim but the fish­ing it­self wasn’t re­ally the point of the visit (al­though I en­joy it). I spent most of my time walk­ing the banks and savour­ing the pool’s at­mos­phere. Chris Ball had given us a tour of the Pool dur­ing the Walker birth­day visit and he had de­scribed each swim and the mo­men­tous events that had hap­pened in each spot with his usual en­thu­si­asm. Now I had time to ab­sorb those tales in a more leisurely way and it was won­der­ful.

An­glers visit Red­mire to­day for nos­tal­gic rea­sons and to pay homage to the cra­dle of carp an­gling and those who fished there. It is es­sen­tial that the Red­mire they ex­pe­ri­ence, matches the Pool that lives in their imag­i­na­tion. The vi­sion we have is to re­store Red­mire to a con­di­tion such that if Bob Richards, Walker or BB strolled onto the Red­mire dam, they would in­stantly recog­nise the Pool they fished and en­counter the same nat­u­ral­lyrich fish­ery en­vi­ron­ment that they loved.

Be­tween the writ­ing of this ar­ti­cle and that vi­sion be­com­ing a re­al­ity, lies a great deal of hard work and stress, but I am con­fi­dent that the project will be suc­cess­ful and the out­come worth­while. As Chris Yates said to me re­cently when we were chat­ting about the pres­sure in­volved in de­liv­er­ing an in­va­sive project like this at the cra­dle of mod­ern carp an­gling: “Red­mire will die in any case with­out the work, so any risk in­volved in try­ing to pre­vent that from hap­pen­ing must be worth tak­ing.”

By the time you are read­ing this, with a fair wind, the restora­tion work will be com­plete and the care­fully se­lected Leney carp will have been rein­tro­duced to the Pool. If ev­ery­thing has gone well, they will be re­dis­cov­er­ing Red­mire as it should be – a healthy and vi­brant lake that will in­spire fu­ture gen­er­a­tions of carp an­glers in the same way that it in­spired me.

The land around Red­mire is cropped for po­ta­toes TOP LEFT

ABOVE A new wet­land and area for reedbeds

The pool re­mained gin-clear af­ter the storms ABOVE TOP

ABOVE BOT­TOM Af­ter the storms it was still pos­si­ble to spot the Red­mire carp

TOP LEFT Dick Walker’s 100th birth­day

BE­LOW Roger Bowskill with Dick Walker’s rod and net

BE­LOW Roger Bowskill, Chris Ball and Bob Jones

A guided tour of the swims by the mas­ter of cer­e­monies ABOVE

LEFT My friend, Dar­ren, play­ing a fish in the sum­mer

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.