16 December 2003

Milnthorpe Stainton Beck

Stainton Beck held a number of memories for me mostly all good. It was the beck I now suddenly realise that I occasionally dream of but although I see it in the same place it looks different. The one I see in my dream is not fast flowing but it is with a lazy flow through stony pools of eddying water and lazy fish. I do dream a lot don't I?

Stainton Beck was too large really to be called a beck; it was really a small river and flowed through Kidside House paddock near the road. It is the place of the large hollow tree where I found a tree creeper's nest. I saw this small bird running up and down the trunk of a large tree pecking here and there for small insects. Although I had never seen this small bird before but I recognised it immediately from drawings. I watched for a while and then saw the tree creeper disappear into a hole in the trunk. I climbed the tree and found the nest with 4 eggs present behind the loose bark and I took one.

During my days at Sharrow Bay I never came across a robin's nest but when we came to Kidside I quickly found one. Yes, it was along Stainton Beck in the boundary wall of a house upstream from us. I like robin's with their cheerful cheeky chatter, hopping close to see if you have dislodged any insect life as you move along. In 2003 during our visit to Vicky and Ian's Wiltshire home, they had a resident robin in their garden and it its antics took me back to the days of my youth.

Sometimes after heavy prolonged rain I used to go down to Stainton Beck by the Kidside farm lane bridge fishing. Here just down stream of the bridge was an old holly tree with its trunk bent over the water and its roots partly blocking the current, this forming a slowly swirling eddy and a small deep backwater pool. I used to get my fishing rod out, dig some worms from our compost heap and go fishing. The trout in the river were hungry for worms in the deep swollen swiftly flowing brown water from the rain and I could always count on a bite in the holly pool. Sure enough not long after popping my line in the brown water there would be a bite and out I would pull out a trout, and then another and another. When I had sufficient I would head home to the frying pan with the fish.

John used to fish Stainton Beck too but that was really at the confluence really of Stainton Beck and Peasey Beck where they joined to form the River Bela that was at the end of Kidside Farm land. John’s method of fishing was by swimming, he was a good swimmer and much better than I. John would dive into the deep water and swim towards the weed bent over with swift flowing current, dive and run his hands along the horizontal weed strands until he felt a resting fish. Then he would grab it by the gills and toss it onto the bank. Quite a party trick, really.

We weren't really allowed to fish in the Stainton Beck, not even if it flowed through your land. The fishing rights belonged to the local fishing club with yearly right of renewal. Strange, your land and you couldn't fish in your part of the river! But that was England in the 1940s and probably long before that.

I had a friend called Tom Wilson. He was much older man than I and I met him in the mid 1950s through our mutual interest of amateur radio. Tom was a keen fly fisherman and the Stainton Beck flowed through his back garden in the village of Stainton about 5 miles from our home. Tom belonged the angling club so he could fish as he pleased but worms were illegal bait. I never told him of my fishing exploits. More about Tom later.

One day I went down to the beck to find an otter hunt in progress by the local Otter Hunt Club. The large shaggy coated long-legged hounds were following fast, the scent all over up and down the banks of the stream but left after a while empty handed to try their luck further down stream. I was glad, Otters were not a problem here decimating the river fish stocks and I don't like hunting too much purely for the sport of it.

But, I'll tell you of fox hunting later.

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