Eel and salmon celebrations

In the last newsletter I commented how two months into the elver season and nothing had yet been caught on the River Severn and how an opportunity presented itself to the Environment Agency to extend the season and create an atmosphere of goodwill. After lobbying from several other parties the EA should be congratulated for deciding to extend the season by 7 days to enable fishermen to take full advantage of the last big tide of the season. What we couldn’t possibly envisage was that as the elvers started to enter the river, and fishing started in earnest, the huge size of the catches completely overwhelmed our expectations. After only 2 weeks of fishing all the orders for elvers had been satisfied and UK Glass Eels stopped buying fish, which more or less brought commercial fishing for the season to a halt. Fishermen now are just catching them for personal consumption; it’s at least 15 years since they have seen catches of this size. It's fantastic news that the elver numbers are recovering and this being the fifth consecutive year of a recorded catch increases it is surely time for CITIES to reappraise their red listing of eel.

The frost saints days of St. Mammertus, St. Pancras and St. Servatus are on the 11th 12th and 13th of May. In Yorkshire there is an ancient saying that a shepherd who shears his sheep before St Servatus day loves his wool more than his sheep. This is also the green light for vegetable growers across Northern Europe that now is the time to start planting out their tender veg without fear of frost. As a result of my successful appeal to the EA in last month's newsletter I am taking it upon myself to appeal to an even higher authority this month, namely the Pope himself, and suggest that for one year only that the Frost Saints days be put back at least 7 days just to be on the safe side.

The delay in the elver season has also meant a delay in getting our Eels in School scheme started. We are starting to get the elvers feeding on cod roe and then onto a very fine fish food. Hopefully we will start siting tanks in schools within the next couple of weeks. We have had an amazing response to the scheme and to take things to the next level and expand the scheme further we’re setting up an Eels in School Charity which will help fund a dramatic increase in schools we can take the scheme to, educating British children about conservation and where food comes from at the same time restocking British rivers with British fish. Within the next two years we hope to have expanded the scheme to over a hundred schools.

Our Severn & Wye River Festival on the 25th - 26th May will be the charity’s first fundraising event. We plan to set up a small fishing museum that will display all the ancient forms of fishing practised on the River Severn and River Wye, not only eel fishing but salmon fishing as well. We will be setting up a very large triple tepee tent to house a kitchen theatre where cooking skills demonstrations will be performed. A number of chefs and friends of Severn & Wye have agreed to do cooking demos amongst which we have John Williams, Executive Chef at The Ritz London, Brian Turner, Rose Prince of The Telegraph, Bill Knott ex chef and food writer for Financial Times, Charles Campion food critic and judge on BBC’s Master Chef plus of course our very own chef Tania Steytler. I‘m sure we will have some other surprise guest appearances come the weekend. During the day we have planned it to be very much a family affair, tractor rides for children to help with restocking of elvers, children’s art workshop, entertainment from ‘The Music Man’, face painting, competitions, outdoor games plus a birds of prey feature.

There will be plenty of different food offerings and refreshments and of course a cider tent plus an offering of local beers and wine. On the Saturday we are planning to extend the festival through the evening with music from The Wurzels and other local artists, culminating in the lighting of a beacon and a firework display. We look forward to welcoming customers and friends old and new and I’m sure it will be a weekend to remember. Help support this event - buy your tickets now! Call the office on 01452 760190 or email for ticket information.

For the latest info check our website, the festival twitter feed @SevWyeRiverFest or our Severn and Wye River Festival Facebook page.

More riverbank news soon.

Dai Francis