Saturday, July 16, 2016

Big slough

"But spare the bald young clerks who add
The profits of the stinking cad;
It's not their fault that they are mad, 
They've tasted Hell.

It's not their fault they do not know 
The birdsong from the radio, 
It's not their fault they often go 
To Maidenhead

And talk of sport and makes of cars
In various bogus-Tudor bars 
And daren't look up and see the stars
But belch instead.

In labour-saving homes, with care
Their wives frizz out peroxide hair
And dry it in synthetic air
And paint their nails.

Come, friendly bombs and fall on Slough
To get it ready for the plough.
The cabbages are coming now;
The earth exhales."

from Slough (1937)
by John Betjeman

We took our first canoe trip on the larger slough by my 
brother-in-law’s field. While this year has been wet, last 
year we experienced a drought with early summer marred 
by the smoke and stench of devastating wildfires hundred 
of miles to the north. This drought meant reduced hay yields 
last year and the level of the slough is noticeably lower this 
year. Sloughs or potholes are not feed by springs or part of 
river systems. They obtain water via rain, snow melt and 
groundwater so any reduction can be quickly apparent. 
We did not see any herons or kingfishers which could 
indicate a higher mortality among over wintering fish 
due to reduced oxygen. The water was certainly lower. 
This is always an interesting cycle to watch. My copy 
of Wildfowl Carving Magazine, Winter 2016 (70) noted 
“Blue-winged teal populations dropped by a worrisome 
40 percent in the prairie pothole region North America 
during a prolonged 1990’s drought, but their numbers 
doubled within a decade when the rains returned."
”My wife and I certainly remember this drought when the 
roadside sloughs drained like bathtubs. The beaver population 
also plummeted, it has now recovered, they are literally 
everywhere taking down trees and blocking culverts. 
My mother-in-law mentioned that in earlier droughts 
the family actually hayed parts of the areas we paddled 
over today.

"Come friendly bombs, and fall on Jersey; 
Each town and city along the Mersey; 
Destroy Southampton, the West Midlands, too; 
And, for a starting-point, that ought to do."


"Kind bombs, pray smite all points between
The Nullarbor Plain and the Forest of Dean.
And last of all, oh bombs, come fall on me; 
For writing such abysmal poetry :) "

both verses from Slough Revisted
by William Mark 

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