The Redmire Restora­tion – Part II

With all the hard work now done and dusted, Mark takes the time to re­flect upon the in­tense jux­ta­po­si­tion pre­sented to him whilst un­der­tak­ing all the hard work he and the team car­ried out on this, the most sen­si­tive of an­gling projects

Carpworld - - CONTENTS - - Mark Walsingham

With all the hard work now done and dusted,

Mark takes the time to re­flect upon the in­tense jux­ta­po­si­tion pre­sented to him whilst un­der­tak­ing all the hard work he and the team car­ried out on this, the most sen­si­tive of an­gling projects

“Tread softly be­cause you tread on my dreams.”

Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven W. B. Yeats

This quote, from one of my favourite po­ems, cap­tures my ap­proach to the Redmire restora­tion. I al­ways knew that the plan­ning and im­ple­men­ta­tion of the restora­tion of Redmire would be the eas­i­est part of the project. The hard part was al­ways go­ing to be ex­plain­ing why the work was nec­es­sary and car­ry­ing the many carp an­glers who love Redmire, with us, dur­ing the project and af­ter its com­ple­tion. Redmire is all about his­tory, myths and dreams, and the Pool is the em­bod­i­ment of those things that make carp an­gling so com­pelling.

From a per­sonal per­spec­tive, as an an­gler and con­ser­va­tion­ist, some­one who was taught to catch carp by my life­long friend, Chris Yates, and as some­one whose early carp an­gling was in­spired by tales of Redmire, I have deep and con­flict­ing emo­tions about the work of the past month.

It has been a priv­i­lege to be en­trusted with the restora­tion of Redmire and I am gen­uinely pleased with the em­pa­thetic way in which we have se­cured Redmire’s fu­ture, with­out de­stroy­ing its char­ac­ter or dam­ag­ing the banks and swims.

On the other hand, I am a carp an­gler who was brought up on the Redmire myths and I have loved ev­ery minute I have spent fish­ing the Pool. I share the sad­ness and anger of some, that the work was needed, and mourn the loss of myth and mys­tery. As I ex­plained in my last ar­ti­cle though, with­out the work we have just fin­ished, Redmire would have had no fu­ture as a carp wa­ter. I know in my heart that the loss of some of the mys­tique is a price worth pay­ing to en­sure that the Pool’s Leney carp can in­spire fu­ture gen­er­a­tions of carp an­glers, as they in­spired me.

Of course you will never please ev­ery­one with a project as sen­si­tive and in­va­sive as de-silt­ing a lake which means so much to carp an­glers ev­ery­where. One post on a Chris Yates page on Face­book struck a chord with me: “With­out putting too finer

[sic] point on it... They have prop­erly screwed a whole gen­er­a­tion of carp an­glers [sic] dreams by com­pletely de­stroy­ing the Mistry [sic] a his­toric wa­ter... and be­fore you go on and say ‘owwwhh but its for the greater good !!!! Its not... there are some­things [sic] that should be left alone and Redmire was one of them!... So please save me your fee­ble ex­cuses as to the whys and whens...”

Un­doubt­edly this was a post, writ­ten from the heart, that cap­tured the reaction of some an­glers to the restora­tion work. In fact, I em­pathise with the sen­ti­ment the post ex­pressed, al­though I dis­agree with its as­ser­tion that Redmire should have been left alone.

In an ideal world, Redmire would never have been touched and those myths and dreams would live on, un­sul­lied for­ever. Sadly, we don’t live in an ideal world.

Con­trary to the view ex­pressed in the Face­book post, the ra­tio­nale for the work is im­por­tant and worth re­peat­ing. Redmire is sur­rounded by in­ten­sive farm­ing and the Pool is a sump in the land­scape for the soil, nu­tri­ents and pes­ti­cides washed from the bare win­ter soils gen­er­ated by crop­ping pota­toes. The nu­tri­ents and silt caused al­gal blooms last year that pre­vented the rooted weed from grow­ing and nearly killed all of the carp through an oxy­gen crash. Lastly, the ghost carp, in­tro­duced in er­ror years ago, had bred with the Leney carp and sort­ing through the en­tire stock to re­move any ghost carp and their prog­eny was the

only way to re­store Redmire’s Leney prove­nance.

The choice was a stark one, be­tween al­low­ing Redmire to die or in­ter­ven­ing to keep more than just the his­tory and mem­o­ries alive. That’s an easy choice to make if you want to have the chance to fish Redmire, rather than merely read about its past in a dusty book.

My own per­spec­tive reaches far be­yond sim­ply sav­ing the Pool and its stock. At a time when I see carp fish­ery man­age­ment re­duced to the stock­ing of huge fish into soul­less wa­ters, Redmire can, and should, stand as a bea­con of good fish­ery man­age­ment and a demon­stra­tion of how a longterm, em­pa­thetic ap­proach can de­liver a fish­ery of out­stand­ing qual­ity. For me, Redmire strikes to the very heart of what carp fish­ing is and I be­lieve that with a lit­tle care­ful man­age­ment, Redmire could pro­duce a su­perb, self-sus­tain­ing carp fish­ery long into the fu­ture – just as it did in the past.

The restora­tion started with the drain­ing of the Pool. Two four-inch syphons and a three­inch pump were needed to draw the wa­ter down prior to the re­moval of the fish and it took three days to get the Pool down to a suit­able depth. A small, hand-picked net­ting team su­per­vised by my friend, Mark Gregory, car­ried out the net­ting and drain down. Mark and I have worked to­gether many times on sim­i­lar net­tings and I used his ser­vices when I led The Na­tional Trust’s fish­eries work.

I slept on the bank through­out the drain­down, keep­ing a care­ful eye out for dis­tressed fish but all went smoothly and, in the end, the ma­jor­ity of the fish were re­moved safely in a sin­gle day. What a day though! Sev­eral feet of thick, liq­uid silt un­der a foot of wa­ter, made for hard and messy work with the nets and by the end of it we were shat­tered and looked like a cast of ex­tras from ‘The Crea­ture from the Black La­goon’.

The fish were sorted into tanks on the dam and sep­a­rated into groups of fish to be re­stocked at the end of the restora­tion, and fish to be re­moved from the es­tate (any that were ghost carp, or may have had ghost carp genes). The gud­geon went into tanks in the old tithe barn and by the time you read this ar­ti­cle, they will al­ready have been stocked back into Redmire, along with the swan mus­sels that we res­cued from the silt.

Sixty carp, known to be pure Redmire Leneys and suit­able for re­stock­ing, were taken to an­other small lake on the es­tate, where they will be held safely be­hind ot­ter fenc­ing and with an aer­a­tor run­ning un­til the main lake is ready for their rein­tro­duc­tion. The plan is to hand­pick 50 of th­ese known Leneys for re­stock­ing, once the Pool has re­cov­ered from the trauma of the de­silt­ing work.

There has been plenty of spec­u­la­tion on so­cial me­dia but, the truth is, that only a very small group of peo­ple know ex­actly what was re­moved dur­ing the drain down and, con­se­quently, what will be rein­tro­duced once Redmire is ready to hold carp again. Those of us in­volved have all been

sworn to si­lence and even in th­ese days when leaks on so­cial me­dia are in­evitable, I think we have kept the ex­act de­tails of the Redmire stock a se­cret. Were there any mon­sters? All I will say is that over the course of this project I have han­dled some re­mark­able and beau­ti­ful carp that re­flect the very best of the Leney legacy.

The most im­por­tant thing is that we know for cer­tain that no ghost carp or their prog­eny re­main, so the Leney prove­nance of the Pool has been re­stored. Why 50 carp? In three acres of wa­ter, 50 carp will have plenty of room to grow and re­pro­duce, so that with care­ful man­age­ment Redmire will once again sup­port a re­mark­able stock of fish. The other rea­son for choos­ing to re­stock 50 fish is that the first Leney stock­ing was of 50 fin­ger­lings and I love the sym­me­try of re­flect­ing that orig­i­nal in­tro­duc­tion in the re­birth of Redmire.

Once the fish were safe and se­cure, we drained the lake com­pletely in prepa­ra­tion for the de­silt­ing work. Or rather we tried to – the big­gest chal­lenge through­out the restora­tion was deal­ing with the vol­ume of wa­ter flow­ing from the springs that feed Redmire from be­neath. Whilst we man­aged to dry the lakebed out com­pletely on some days, if we didn’t keep a syphon run­ning it would re­fill overnight to a depth of sev­eral feet.

We had been told that there was a bedrock base un­der the silt on which the ex­ca­va­tors and dumpers would be able to track and that there was one main spring feed­ing the lake. The re­al­ity was that the lakebed be­neath the silt was al­most pure red sand, with only small ar­eas of bedrock. We found one ma­jor spring in the spot where Pitch­ford’s Pit swim is recorded on the old maps of the Pool (per­haps ex­plain­ing why the Pool at this point was re­puted to be “bot­tom­less”) but we also found nu­mer­ous other mi­nor springs through­out the lakebed. Th­ese springs and the con­stant flow of wa­ter through the silt was our great­est chal­lenge as the work pro­gressed.

With any project like this you need to have a clear un­der­stand­ing of what you are try­ing to achieve. Do you re­store the lake to its orig­i­nal pro­file from the 1700s? Do you take it back to the Walker era? How do you deal with mod­ern per­cep­tions of the Pool and re­cent fea­tures, such as the fallen oak and the col­lapsed wil­low pol­lards? Th­ese re­cent fea­tures will form part of the mem­o­ries of an­glers who have fished Redmire in the past few years and their re­moval was bound to raise con­tro­versy.

It was a lit­tle bit like restor­ing an old mas­ter­piece, and re­mov­ing the lay­ers of silt was like re­mov­ing the lay­ers of old var­nish to re­veal the true colours of the orig­i­nal paint­ing be­neath. The chal­lenge is that if you go too far, you may dam­age the paint­ing you are try­ing to re­store. In any case, it is in­evitable that the end re­sult will look quite dif­fer­ent to the im­age known to those who have seen the paint­ing in mod­ern times.

The key to suc­cess was to form a project team who had em­pa­thy with the vi­sion for the restora­tion and I had asked my friend, Clive Pearce, to drive the ex­ca­va­tor. Clive has worked with me be­fore dur­ing the restora­tion of Ash­mead, and he was the one per­son I would have trusted at Redmire. Clive knows just how far he can push the ma­chine and he has a prac­ti­cal ap­proach to ev­ery chal­lenge; there is no ob­sta­cle that can’t be over­come with a ‘Farmer’s Fix’ and a bit of lat­eral think­ing!

An­other vi­tal com­po­nent of this sort of project is to have the con­fi­dence and back­ing of your clients, and for them to trust you to de­liver the vi­sion you have agreed. Les Bam­ford, who man­ages Redmire, sought me out and asked me to man­age the restora­tion work about three years ago and it was Les who recog­nised the need for the work we have done since then to safe­guard the Pool’s fu­ture. The Richard­son fam­ily, who own Redmire Pool, backed the project from the start. They un­der­stood that the de­silt­ing work was only one com­po­nent of a much larger project that was needed to pro­tect Redmire and re­store the lin­eage of the carp stock. We have trans­formed the land use at Ber­nithan, cre­at­ing a con­ser­va­tion haven that will buf­fer the Pool from fu­ture sil­ta­tion and un­der­pin the restora­tion of the Pool and the fu­ture man­age­ment of the wider es­tate. Les and the fam­ily have been bril­liant through­out the project, back­ing it to the hilt and fund­ing the work but step­ping back and let­ting me run the project with­out any in­ter­fer­ence. With­out their back­ing and trust, the task would have been im­pos­si­ble.

We knew we would never please ev­ery­one but the vi­sion was clear and we wanted to re­store the pro­file of the lake as closely as pos­si­ble to that mapped by Walker at the time of his record cap­ture. At the same time, we knew that by the time Walker fished Redmire, the lake had been col­lect­ing silt al­ready for a few hun­dred years. There was a prag­matic need to al­low for fur­ther sil­ta­tion in the fu­ture, even though this will be mit­i­gated by the new wet­land above the Pool, which is de­signed to trap the farm­land run-off, be­fore it gets into Redmire.

The other ob­jec­tive was to dam­age the banks as lit­tle as pos­si­ble dur­ing the restora­tion. Th­ese rep­re­sent fa­mous swims and con­trib­ute to the wider ecol­ogy of the lake. We wanted an­glers to find the swims and the over­all look and feel of Redmire un­changed and un­sul­lied as much as pos­si­ble. We also wanted to re­turn the carp at the end of the project to a Pool that re­flected the rich, di­verse and pro­duc­tive en­vi­ron­ment that the Carp Catch­ers Club would have known in Redmire’s hey­day. It was a chal­leng­ing set of ob­jec­tives, but I was con­fi­dent that we could de­liver them.

To stretch my pre­vi­ous anal­ogy, like the first scrape of the pal­let knife by an art his­to­rian

charged with restor­ing the Mona Lisa, tak­ing the first bucket of silt from Redmire was a mo­men­tous and slightly daunt­ing ac­tion. The main dif­fer­ence, of course, was that our pal­let knife was a 14-tonne ex­ca­va­tor and that the first scrape of silt weighed about a tonne!

The silt in the shal­lows where we started work was three to four feet deep and the bed of the Pool be­neath was hard sand, rather than the bedrock we had been led to ex­pect. The dif­fi­culty this pre­sented in con­junc­tion with the small springs we found be­came clear im­me­di­ately. When track­ing the ex­ca­va­tor onto the firm sand and start­ing to work for­wards, the vi­bra­tion of the ma­chine drew wa­ter from the sur­round­ing springs into the sand around the tracks and this trans­formed what had been the firm bed of the Pool into quick­sand. It was like stand­ing on a firm sand beach, just back from the tide­line, and wig­gling your feet; any move­ment cre­ated a sink­hole of quick­sand. Within ten min­utes the ma­chine was go­ing down and Clive re­treated to terra firma with only a mo­ment of panic, when it looked like the Redmire shal­lows might end up with a new, ex­ca­va­tor-shaped is­land.

Time for a com­plete re­think! Our next ap­proach was to start at the dam end and work back up the Pool to­wards the shal­lows. In this way, we could di­vert the wa­ter, from any springs we uncovered into a sin­gle hold­ing Pool at the dam, where a syphon could be left run­ning to keep the over­all level of wa­ter in the lake un­der con­trol. This would al­low us to dry out the ar­eas of lakebed where we were work­ing as we pro­gressed.

We opened up an en­try point in the cor­ner near the out­flow and made good progress from the start. Work­ing with the ex­ca­va­tor and two eight-tonne tracked dumpers run­ning in re­lay,

we set­tled into a rhythm of work that ex­tracted about 300 tonnes of silt a day. We spread the silt else­where on the es­tate, as agreed with the En­vi­ron­ment Agency and we re­moved be­tween 5000 and 6000 tonnes of silt in to­tal dur­ing the restora­tion.

We worked up the east bank from the dam, strip­ping the silt back from the mar­gins and then mov­ing the silt from the deep cen­tral chan­nel to recre­ate the lake pro­file that ex­isted in the 1950s. Dry­dig­ging the silt made it pos­si­ble to be very ac­cu­rate in terms of what was re­moved from each area of the Pool. It was in­ter­est­ing to see the lay­ers of silt – with old silt and de­cay­ing weed from decades past over­laid with what was es­sen­tially top­soil from the sur­round­ing fields that had run into Redmire dur­ing the re­cent pe­riod of in­ten­sive potato farm­ing around the Pool. This was all capped with a thin layer of new or­ganic silt that held the weed and in­ver­te­brates from the past year or two.

The way we car­ried out the work left large ar­eas of or­ganic sur­face silt and weed un­touched, so that Redmire’s rich, nat­u­ral larder will be largely un­af­fected. We dug a very deep chan­nel along one side of the Pool and then dumped the re­main­ing silt into it, by dig­ging out the base of the bank of re­main­ing silt and by jet­ting wa­ter at the bot­tom of this bank, this meant that the sur­face layer across much of the Pool re­mained in­tact, with the weed and food sup­ply it held, un­touched. We also spread or­ganic silt back across the ar­eas where we ex­ca­vated down to the basal sand lay­ers. As a re­sult of this in­no­va­tive ap­proach, the weed should re­turn in pro­fu­sion in the spring and a rich sup­ply of swan mus­sels and other in­ver­te­brates will be avail­able to re­colonise the Pool af­ter it has re­filled. The depths of the Pool had to be re­stored with the min­i­mum dam­age to its ecol­ogy and nat­u­ral pro­duc­tiv­ity as a fish­ery.

I am sure that the most con­tro­ver­sial work we car­ried out was the re­moval of the fallen oak and the pol­lard­ing of the an­cient wil­lows on the east bank of the shal­lows. Re­mov­ing the oak be­fore it col­lapsed, and whilst we had the ma­chin­ery there, was the sensible thing to do. Both the oak and the col­lapsed pol­lards have be­come recog­nised fea­tures of Redmire in re­cent years and I am sure there will be some that will be un­happy, but, it was right to re­move them, and es­sen­tial to give us the ac­cess we needed.

Wil­low pol­lards are sec­ond only to the oak tree in terms of their value to Bri­tish wildlife. Pol­larded wil­lows pro­vide a rich habi­tat for a wide range of species from in­sects to bats and there are even spe­cialised fungi that can only be found in the moul­der­ing hearts of old pol­lards. The wil­lows should be pol­larded reg­u­larly and the work we car­ried out will keep them healthy for years to come.

Af­ter the sec­ond week, we moved back up to the shal­lows, cre­at­ing an ac­cess on the west bank, just up from the Num­ber One pitch. It was still like work­ing on a set blanc­mange and Clive soon had the ex­ca­va­tor buried up to the cab. The se­cret was to work quickly and to keep mov­ing on the soft sub­strate un­til we found a harder base from which to op­er­ate. Once a hard spot had been found, Clive could draw the silt back to­wards him and swing it into the dumpers for re­moval.

Af­ter a few days of work­ing in this way, we had taken the shal­lows taken back 30 yards to where Len Ar­bery, John Carver and Brian Mills had all told me they reached in the old syn­di­cate days. We were won­der­ing where to stop, when Clive uncovered an old walk­way and some cut stumps in the mud, which had been used to give ac­cess to the head of the Pool in times past. I’ve worked very closely with Chris Yates, Len Ar­bery, John Carver, Keith Hil­ton, Mike Min­tram and oth­ers, and the in­for­ma­tion th­ese friends have pro­vided has been in­valu­able dur­ing the restora­tion.

We man­aged to work around the two small is­lands in the shal­lows, so that they no longer form part of the bank and we man­aged to ex­ca­vate be­hind Climb­ing Is­land, Bram­ble Is­land and the walk­ways, so that carp will be able to move freely through the mar­gins be­hind them once again.

Slowly, but surely, we re­vealed the Redmire of times past and it felt like we were breath­ing life back into the fish­ery. Four weeks af­ter we dug that first bucket of silt from the shal­lows, our work was done and I am de­lighted with the re­sult. The shal­lows cover their orig­i­nal ex­tent; the mar­gins of the Pool are as deep as they were in Walker’s day; the is­lands in the shal­lows are no longer part of the bank and fish can once again swim be­hind them; and the deep cen­tral chan­nel once again runs to­wards the shal­lows from the dam.

Only four points of ac­cess to the Pool were nec­es­sary, so the banks were left un­touched around most of the Pool and will look al­most the same as they did be­fore we started the work. The main dif­fer­ence that a Redmire reg­u­lar would spot is the ex­ten­sion of the shal­lows, which makes the Pool look far larger than it has in re­cent years. The other dif­fer­ences will be found when the an­gler casts and their lead sinks through twelve feet of wa­ter off the dam, in­stead of six.

Ar­eas of silt and weed were left un­touched de­lib­er­ately and I’m con­fi­dent that next spring Redmire will be clear, rich in both weed and in­ver­te­brates and have the depth pro­file of the 1950s. We’ve had the 14-tonne ex­ca­va­tor stuck, suf­fered thrown tracks on the huge dumpers, strug­gled with trou­ble­some pumps and syphons and wal­lowed in more mud and mess than you would ever be­lieve, but for ev­ery chal­lenge we have found a ‘Farm­ers Fix’ and I hope Redmire’s reg­u­lars will think we have done a great job.

On the last day I found a very ap­pro­pri­ate me­mento of the work, buried deep within the Redmire silt. It was an ECHO mug. I first met Les at an ECHO meet­ing and it was my pre­sen­ta­tion there that prompted him to get in touch about the restora­tion work. Many of the val­ues of ECHO also re­flected per­fectly what the fu­ture of Redmire should be about: Long term fish­ery man­age­ment and nat­u­ral fish­eries that con­nect an­glers with na­ture and the her­itage of our pas­time.

As I write this, the ex­ca­va­tor and dumpers have gone, the syphons and pumps have stopped work­ing and Redmire is now re­fill­ing from the abun­dant springs we have re­vealed. The gud­geon have been re­stocked and the 50 hand-picked Leney carp will soon fol­low them into their re­stored

home. The cre­ation of a new wet­land above Redmire will in­ter­cept the agri­cul­tural silt and chem­i­cals be­fore they en­ter the Pool and pro­tect it for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions to en­joy. Peace reigns once more at Ber­nithan.

I share the sad­ness of many who hold Redmire dear, that the work has been needed and re­gret the loss of mys­tery and myth. Man­ag­ing the work has been like car­ry­ing out heart surgery on a loved one but it has saved the life of the Pool and se­cured its fu­ture. In a bet­ter world, where the en­vi­ron­ment was pro­tected prop­erly and farm­ers had the right in­cen­tives to care for places like Redmire and penal­ties large enough to pre­vent them from de­stroy­ing them, the work wouldn’t have been needed.

The own­ers of Redmire, Les Bam­ford and the rest of the man­age­ment team have done their best to se­cure Redmire’s fu­ture and to pro­tect the fish­ery and I ap­plaud them. As we left on the last day, the sun set blood-red over Ber­nithan and I won­dered briefly if it was set­ting for good on the Pool that has in­spired so much of my fish­ing. Then I thought back to the clear, frosty start of that same au­tumn day and it struck me that, in­stead, we have se­cured a new dawn for Redmire. It has been a priv­i­lege and a plea­sure to have played my part.

Cor­rec­tion: In my pre­vi­ous ar­ti­cle about the restora­tion, I said that Char­lie Kirkham ‘re­dis­cov­ered’ Redmire af­ter the big freeze of the early 60s. It was, of course, Bob Rolph, who made the dis­cov­ery, ac­com­pa­nied by Gra­ham Ig­gles­den. I’d like to set the record straight and apol­o­gise to Bob and Char­lie who were both at the Pool for the Walker cen­te­nary where I heard the story. I have never been good at re­mem­ber­ing names!

BE­LOW LEFTSwan mus­sels res­cued from the Pool

Redmire, be­fore it be­came fa­mousABOVE

LEFT Hard, muddy work net­ting the carp

LEFT Crea­ture from the Black La­goon

LEFT We found ev­i­dence of ot­ters

LEFT TOP The net­ting party LEFT MID­DLE Start­ing on the shal­lows LEFT BOT­TOM The re­tained carp safe in an­other Pool on the es­tate ABOVE Re­mov­ing the fallen oak

BE­LOW More than 5000 tonnes of silt

ABOVE TOP Back on the shal­lows

ABOVE Work­ing be­hind the Climb­ing Is­land LEFT TOP The Pool ex­tends for an­other 30 yards LEFT BOT­TOM The shal­lows com­pleted

LEFT TOP & IN­SET A me­mento from the silt Sun­set on the Redmire of my imag­i­na­tion? Clive, Seth, Spike and my­self: job done! LEFT BOT­TOM BE­LOW

BE­LOW Or a new dawn for BER­NITHAN?

RIGHT START­ING TO RE­FILL THE POOL

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