At The Wine Shop, in Russell Street, Leek, Saturdays are busy. Easter Saturdays are incredibly busy, so busy in fact that they are second only to December Saturdays. Busy that is unless the Town Council and, ironically, the Leek Chamber of Trade, decide to shut the street to accommodate it's very own St Georges Day celebrations.
I'm all for the town's people celebrating what ever they like, The Royal Wedding, Christmas Lights Switch on, Club Day, Leek 800, Leek Show, or St Georges Day as long as it works along side local businesses, I don't even expect the events to help local businesses but I do expect these events to avoid having a detrimental affect on the trade of local businesses at all cost.
In the last two or three weeks or so, I've been hearing more and more people commenting that it feels like this recession has only just begun and that it is going to get worse before it will get better. As a small business, we are certainly finding this to be the case. No individuals like Councillor Steve Povey or Mike Cozens, or any organisation such as the Chamber of Trade or indeed the Town Council should be allowed to ever come close to having a negative effect on it's local businesses especially in such desperate conditions.
And so, Steve Povey, Mike Cozens, the Chamber of Trade and the Town Council got their way. They closed Russell Street, and the top of Derby Street to traffic today. What for? So that an actor can ride up Derby street sat on a white horse dressed as St George, so that a man could display his owls, and a couple of local organisations could set up their fund raising stalls. These could have been shunted a few yards up the street on to the pedestrianised part of Derby Street and our one way street could have remained open. Cars could have parked, people could have ran into town shops for provisions instead of being turned away at the bottom of the street and redirected to....Morrisons...where the cars were queuing right up to the Leek Road. The very people who organised today's event protest about Sainsburys coming to town, and protest about the road changes that will inevitably come, and shout 'save our town'. When independent shops begin to close in Leek, it won't be because of Sainsburys who will simply take market share from Aldi, Morrisons, Coop, and Netto, when those shops begin to close it will be down to you Povey, you Mr Cozens, you Leek Chamber of Trade and to you Leek Town Council. Leave us retailers to worry about Sainsburys, let us give the town an independent presence, don't pretend you are doing us a favour by arranging these events just let us get on with keeping our heads above water in these incredibly tough times.
We preach to the people of Leek, begging them to shop local, and then we close the town off to them and play right in to the hands of Morrisons who are loving it.
Traffic in town was horrendous because of the street closures. Those vehicles trying to turn up Russell Street added to the gridlock and those trying to pass through Leek to enter the Peak District will only remember Leek for the misery it hat to go through to get away from it.
I'm sure the ice cream man sold a lot more ice cream. I'm sure the coffee shop sold a few more cups of coffee. But our trade was obliterated, I don't mean we were 10% down, I don't mean 20% down, I mean that up until 1pm today, we'd sold £60 worth of goods where on a normal day we'd have sold £600 and on Easter Saturday more like £1000. And that stock that we ordered in to achieve those sells sits on the shelf, and the corresponding invoice requires paying.
Leek needs tow worry about some of it's Councillors, shops opening on Thursdays, not closing our streets and radical things like that before it worries about Sainsburys.
All the way to the motorway, through Stoke on Trent, people were stopping and waving to us and cars were peeping their horns. Once on the motorway, all we could see ahead were dozens and dozens of SCFC buses, minibuses and cars with red and white scarves and flags, with just the occasional car with one or two Bolton fans making rude gestures at us...
Passing a huge crowd of Bolton fans, and just around the corner, we found the Stoke fans, in fine voice and well oiled.
Our first glimpse of Wembley, awesome.
I was expecting our view to be poor given the fact that we were in inexpensive seats but Wembley has been designed in such a way that the sides rise up much more steeply than pictures suggest and the view is amazing wherever you are.
Stoke City had sold every single ticket they were allocated whilst Bolton had returned 6000 tickets. Empty seats in their half of the stadium was easy to see and they struggled to make enough noise to counteract the roar of the city supporters.
Red and white everywhere on this glorious Sunday afternoon.
"Come on you mighty potters!!!!!!!!!!"
Just before kick off, 'Delilah' was played over the PA system much to the delight of the city support.
Jen positive that Stoke are going through........
Bolton coaches on the left, Stoke on the right, mind you, most Bolton fans left at half time.
Oh...sorry, I didn't mention the score....
Bolton Wanderers 0
Stoke City 5
(Etherington 12', Huth 17', Jones 30', Walters 68' and 81')
I'll never forget the roar from Wembley stadium when Matty Etherington smashed the first goal into the net in the 12th minute. I've watched it a again and again on the FA website and find it very hard to describe. The goal was at the Bolton end of the stadium so the noise started with the nearest Stoke fans on the half way line and slowly crept to the back, building and building like a huge thunderstorm....totally awesome and mindblowing.......
That's Stoke in the FA Cup final for the first time in the club's 139 year history, and in all probability a ticket into European football......
Bring on Man City in the Final, we've got nowt to lose...
I was lucky enough to discover quite early on this morning that I would be given the opportunity to set off to fish for the day. This was most unexpected and given the fact that I went to bed thinking about nowt but fishing after such a great day yesterday, and consequently dreaming about nowt else but fishing, the last 48 hours has turned out to be a full on angling experience.
I jumped out of bed to have a look at the weather. No more rain during the night, a light breeze and yes still overcast. Looking good I thought. A quick call to the Peacock, a text to Jan, and I was booked on. Yes!
I decided that I should perhaps give my confidence a boost and head to a spot where I thought I was most likely to get into a fish early on, and so, it was on with the trusty LTD sedge, a couple of casts with a careful mend to avoid the drag and wallop...fish on.
The river was up by a fraction compared to yesterday with a slight colour in the main flow, all was looking good for 'ron. I was tempted to revisit more of the water where I had success yesterday but managed to persuade myself that I should visit other places where I hadn't fished with the dry during trout season before, so I called in at the Spar shop for some provisions and pointed the car towards Caudwell Mill and the lower beat of the Peacock Wye.
I walked a little way up the river and started to see rises and made a cast or two. The LTD was getting hammered by Brownies and Rainbows alike especially in the faster water. The lower beat is the place to be if you want to get away from the people and the traffic and I knew quite early on that I was in for a special day.
I began to walk further upstream and noticed an increasing amount of fly life as I did so. I reached a short stretch that I hadn't had much success in during grayling season. A deep long glide with a myriad of complex swirls and flows, basically drag hell. All of a sudden the river was alive. There were fish moving everywhere and the river appeared to boil. I've never seen such a response to a hatch before and I found my self gazing at the spectacle for minutes on end instead of getting on with what I was there for and cast a line. There didn't seem to be a pattern to the rises, fish were leaping from the river, brownies and rainbows alike as well as more delicate rises that just blemished the surface. Tight in to the opposite banks and hugging close to line tangling, expensive fly stealing branches and tree roots, bigger fish emerged, top and tailing mostly in the most impossible to reach without drag places.
For roughly 40 minutes, grannom were hatching so profusely that, if it wasn't for the fact that the air temperature had risen to what felt lie about 14c, you'd be forgiven for thinking that it was snowing. As I watched the river, there wasn't a moment when there wasn't some disturbance that had been caused by a rising fish, and I've never ever experienced anything quite like it before, it was amazing and the fish were going mental! Around this time last year, I remember reading an angler's comments on a fishing forum concerning the fact that trout don't like grannom and, in fact, it isn't until other flys start to hatch that trout become interested in rising for food. Let me tell you, Wye trout love grannom.
I made a cast and kept as much fly line off the turbulent water as I could and waited to see if I'd managed to put them off their rises by getting so close to them and the river.....smash, a brownie was on and it gave me a right run around the whole pool. Rises, still everywhere I made another cast, and another, nothing it would seem would put these fish off their feeding frenzy as the grannom came off in their hundreds. I was chuffed to bits to see such a spectacle, and obviously, I'd taken advantage of the situation and managed a few fish. Jan arrived and he encouraged me to have a go at a fish that was top and tailing right in the most difficult place to cast to on the far bank. A fish of much bigger size, age and one that knew what I was at. I made a good few casts to it but it never once made a move towards my sedge.
When all the activity was over I sat down to think about what had just happened on that short stretch of this beautiful river. If I was still a smoker, It would have been the perfect moment to light up a fag....I carried on upstream, preferring to fish the faster, shallower water and I continued to tempt a fish or two, mostly brownies today and no grayling (all excepting my last cast of the day that is). I couldn't believe how different the banks looked compared to how they were when I fished there during the winter. Jan and Warren have obviously been doing a lot of work and their are some very fishy looking, previously hard to get to swims that will now be accessible to the Wye angler come the summer months.
What a top day, without question one of the most amazing day's fishing I've ever had, and one that could spoil the angler for ever. I think I may pack in and take up golf.......not.
I've been looking forward to getting back on to the Wye and today was my first opportunity to do so. I watched the weather last night and was gutted to see that temperatures were dropping and there was a fair bit of rain coming Bakewell way....Typical, I thought, just as I was getting on to the river, all hopes of bagging a few fish dashed!
Anyhow, I'd arranged to have the day off and I was already booked on to fish so I thought I'd go anyway, it would give me a chance to get back into casting a dry fly at least. I bumped into Jan the river keeper at the petrol station at about 9am and he seemed surprised that I wasn't on the river already. "Isn't it too early?" I asked, "..and too bloody cold?" and he said that I should get straight on the river. So I headed up to a favourite spot up towards Riverside business park and set up my 8 foot 4wt Hardy Demon and set about casting an LTD sedge across the fast water. I was gobsmacked to find that I was into a fish immediately, a fighting fit, Wye wild rainbow and I was over the moon. I found some of the casting a little tricky with the Demon and was having trouble with drag so I switched to my 10ft Streamflex and immediately found that controlling the line was much easier, confidence started to grow.
I never strayed too far from town. The furthest upstream I fished was Riverside and the furthest downstream was that run just below the pumping station, and although I did have a problem picking my way between the grayling which seemed hard on the feed. I managed around 25 rainbows, none very big but all giving me a right run around on light tackle.When I set out this morning I had absolutely no expectations of the river and just when I thought I was sure to be on a blank I end up having one of my best days on the Wye. I've found the early season on the Dove incredibly tough and frustrating and today has been a very welcome change.
I'm a keen angler and whisky enthusiast. I'm lucky enough to have lived and worked on the Isle of Islay in the Scottish Hebrides, angling and dramming paradise! I fish for wild brown trout and sea trout whilst up North, back in Leek in the beautiful Staffordshire Moorlands I like to meet up with my pals and fish for wild brown trout, grayling and other river species in the Dane, Dove, Churnet, Manifold and Wye.
(firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to contact me)