Saturday, 16 February 2019

The Warwickshire River Dene – Lawful Blankets and Laystalls

The little river Dene, a diminutive tributary of the Warwickshire Avon gave rise to Peter Bolton naming his book about Wellesbourne 1800-1939 - A Society under a Magnifying Glass.

‘The Naples of the Midlands’

It was literally an open sewer 100 years ago and all waste was piped directly into it. The title refers to Naples in Italy, that city had an equally pungent odour.

Now I didn’t know that much about the River Dene until recently where I followed it’s coarse on Google Earth like us anglers do to look for potential fishing spots, and I’d looked over the bridge as Charlecote Park which where the river debouches, but apart from that, I would be fishing blind for this reccy mission.

The internet to the rescue....

The source of the River Dene rises on the western slopes of the Burton Dassett Hills and flows westward towards Kineton. Five miles downstream of Kineton, the river turns abruptly north, flowing through the villages of Walton and Wellesbourne before joining the Avon at Charlecote Park.

To the west of Kineton, the river was followed, and bridged in numerous places, by Britain's more impoverished and least efficient little railways the Stratford-upon-Avon and Midland Junction Railway and here at Kineton, you can be seen the remains of four sets of sluice-gates, possibly used for the washing of sheep.

In May 1760 an agreement was entered into by George Lucy at Charlecote Park and Capability Brown which was to widen the River Avon and lay its banks properly, giving them a natural and easy level, corresponding with the ground on each side of the river. To fill up all the ponds on the north front of the house, to alter the slopes and give the whole a natural, easy and corresponding level with the house on every side.

Now that landscaping, still evident today, and cost Lucy £525 at the time, part of the work involved altering the course of The Dene to allow a cascade into the Avon within sight of the house. I suppose that’s why it looks a little unnatural at that point.

But then there is plenty to go at looking at the windy course it takes. £525 in today’s money would be around £350,000 quid, so you can see how much work went on, it wasn’t completed with a few people with spades in an afternoon.

Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown the revered designer, entrepreneur and salesman, apparently his nickname came from his fondness for describing country estates as having great ‘capabilities’ for improvement. The world’s greatest landscape gardener ? most probably, you only have to visit the hundreds of parks he designed that can still be seen to day as a testimony to his work.

Go and visit Charlecote Park when you’re in this neck of the woods, wow what a landscape especially for an angler as apart from the River Dene in its grounds it has the Warwickshire Avon flowing through it as well, I was on first name terms with the head groundsman as I fished it for a couple of years and caught some nice fish from it. Roaming Deer, Jacob sheep, those lovely landscaped gardens, oh and and the manor house, there is plenty for everyone.

Anyway back to the ‘Naples of the Midlands’ as recently as the 1970’s the 16th century built mansion Walton Hall (once owned by Danny La Rue) which has the Dene flowing through its pool had ‘lawfully’released treated sewage in to this small river, till things went wrong one day. 

It received consent of pursuance to discharge treated sewage effluent, up to 200 cubic meters per day of it straight in to the river, now It doesn’t take much to bugger up these forgotten wildlife havens, even after they have been restocked after pollution incidents.

Waterways like this rise and all rapidly with the rainfall but most of the time they hover around the similar low levels. Luckily some of us anglers, dog walkers and ramblers are the eyes and ears to these forgotten streams and rivers, and we can highlight any issues quickly.

The route we planned to take, as Sam was with me for this one, was to follow the meandering river for around a mile or so and then work our way back to where I started. The access looked good with public access as I don’t like to tread on private land on these excursions of mine, but the key thing was despite it looking that there was quite a few trees and overgrown bushes, in places there was access to the water, thumbs up.

We didn’t know what to expect for the session, just catching a fish would be nice, any fish. So ‘any fish’ dictated the bait, We had the ickle 5ft 5" Advanta River Ambush wand quiver rod with us with a SSG link-ledger rig and bait would be maggots which I had to use up and some small wriggly worms.

So did the trip pan out as planned? !!!!

Well we didn't fish that many swims but the fishing was a little tougher than expected, maggot was the order of the day though and after a missed bite and a sucked maggot, we found some roach.

We managed 5 or 6 in the two hour session and at last knockings a surprise Chub that came out the blue he didn't want to handle as it was 'slimy'. Sam enjoyed it immensely though because there was a wooded area to explore and he chose the 'fishy swims' we fished.

We should have fished it maybe the week before because it was much lower than I thought. I'm sure with a bit more water on it would fish better.


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