It has been a regular subject of contemplation for your faithful blogger that his Mother river, the Derbyshire Wye, is alive and well but like any living thing it is hanging by a thread. That thread can be snapped at anytime. A serpentine ribbon of slippery road, the A6, runs down the valley by the side of this river for much of its length. All it would take is for one of the many trucks that run the A6, hauling oil or chemicals, to have a mishap and roll over into the river and that will be that for decades. There would be no quick fix. It would take a very long time for the river to recover and many of us would lose the bulk of our dry fly fishing, in some cases for the rest of our lives.
Another weighty threat that could easily snap the thread is lurking in the many farms that are to be found all along the catchment. Wise advice written 2,000 years ago tells us to judge folk by their actions and not their words. Much is made of the farmers' bond with the English countryside and how we would lose most of it if the honest sons of the soil were not here to farm it. However, actions speak louder than all the nice words we hear and those actions can be pretty harmful. The tragedy waiting to happen, when it comes, will most likely be the result of neglect, idleness, a blatant disregard of the law and dereliction of duty by the regulating authority, the Environment Agency (EA), in not enforcing the regulations governing the storage of slurry. Here is an unvarnished account of something that happened on Friday 22nd February 2013...
Pure luck and nothing else seems to have saved the fish for now, we will have to see what the algal blooms are like later this year thanks to this massive influx of eutrophicating material. If this discharge had happened in summer, during drought conditions. That would have been that and all the mountains of work done by the keepers over the years to make the Derbyshire Wye the glorious river it is and should be, would be snuffed out in one gruesome, grey, stenching mess that would take a lifetime to recover from, if indeed it ever did recover. This was not an accident! It was bound to happen, but it should have been impossible for it to happen
What can be done to make the river a little safer?
The EA officers should be out there tomorrow morning, visiting every farm within the catchment to conduct surveys and risk assessments at each site and enforcing the law as they should already have done before now. There was no need for this slurry tank to have failed so catastrophically, if it had been constructed in accordance with the law and if the site was properly bunded sufficiently well to have contained at least 120% of the slurry tank's contents, again in accordance with the law!
Here's another Gateway to Heaven. Let's hope that it is never turned into the gates of Hell...