The following letter has gone out to every county council in the country and to the Environment Agency Procurement manager with regard to responding to flood situations throughout the country…

REF: Flooding

February 2014
To Whom It May Concern,
In the ongoing flooding situation we would like to offer the following services as required:
 We can make available at short notice 4 trained staff and
 15ft heavy duty boat (1000kg capacity)
 12ft shallow draft boat (250kg capacity)
 Generator
 Pumps (Max 55000 litres p/h)
 Waders
 Water management equipment
All staff have extensive boat experience from general boat use, electrofishing and installations of aerators and bank repair materials from boats. Therefore we can offer:
 Transport of people, equipment, sandbags
 Unblocking of ditches gullies, culverts etc.
 Water pumping
 Most other services required in flood situations
Can work completely independently or as part of a larger force
We have comprehensive insurance to cover staff and the public; we also have Hired-In plant insurance. We don’t wish to profiteer on the above services therefore we will reduce our rate by 15% in the current emergency situation.
We can also remediate flood damage to banks using Nicospan and posts, gabions or Rockroll. Any work carried out from contacts made in this period will be discounted by 10%.
Due to our central location we can access most areas very promptly; we can muster staff and equipment and be mobile within 90 minutes.
Contacts as follows:
Office 01536 204335 09:00 – 16:30
Tony McKenna – 07782 109180 Anytime
Ann Leonard – ann@aeseurope.co.uk

By rotating staff we can maintain a 24 hour service if required.  We are happy to ferry staff, stranded motorists, sandbags etc.

Our staff are also experienced excavator and dumper drivers, we have hired in plant insurance.




AES Europe Limited wish you a merry christmas…

The Rusty Chevrolet

Dashing through the snow in my rusty Chevrolet.
Down the road I go, sliding all the way.
I need new piston rings. I need some new snow tires.
My car is held together by a piece of chicken wire!

Oh, rust and smoke, the heater’s broke, the door just blew away.
I light a match to see the dash and then I start to pray-ay.
The frame is bent, the muffler went, the radio’s okay.
Oh, what fun it is to drive this rusty Chevrolet!

I went to IGA to get some Christmas cheer.
I just passed up my left front tire and it’s gettin’ hard to steer.
Speeding down the highway, right past the county cops.
I have to drag my swampers just to get the car to stop.

Oh, rust and smoke, the heater’s broke, the door just blew away.
I light a match to see the dash and then I start to pray-ay.
The frame is bent, the muffler went, the radio’s okay.
Oh, what fun it is to drive this rusty Chevrolet!

Bouncing through the snowdrifts in a big, blue cloud of smoke.
People laugh as I drive by; I wonder what’s the joke!
I have to get to Wal-Mart to pick up my layaway,
Cause Santa’s comin’ soon in his big, old, rusty sleigh!

Oh, rust and smoke, the heater’s broke, the door just blew away.
I light a match to see the dash and then I start to pray-ay.
The frame is bent, the muffler went, the radio’s okay.
Oh, what fun it is to drive this rus-ty Chev-ro-let!

Dedicated to Logan Mott who has had some severe bad luck with cars this year!

Fab classic cars in the snow here!



Merry Christmas from AES Europe Limited…





Experience Corby, work placement, Nathan Hilton

My first work placement

Hello my name is Nathan Hilton and this is my story about my work placement at AES Europe. I have been looking for work since school and it has been very hard for me to find anything because of the lack of work around. But there was a light at the end of the tunnel when I found out about Experience Corby. I first found out about Experience Corby when a letter came through my door asking me to attend a work placement day at Tresham College. What I had to do at Tresham was go round the businesses that agreed to attend and offer one person of their choice a work placement. That’s how I first met Ann and Tony from AES Europe. They told me about the work placement that they were offering and I found it interesting. So I told them that I would be interested and they took my details and told me that I would get a phone call if I was successful. I waited at home for a phone call and just an hour after the work placement day I get a call from Ann and Tony saying that I had been accepted and offered a place at AES Europe.

Work placement at AES Europe Ltd

Nathan in charge of Social Media

My first day I was nervous but in the end I really enjoyed it and my nerves calmed down. My role in my placement is admin which is to keep the Twitter and Facebook account updated for anyone looking at the site to keep up to date about what is going on in AES Europe. I am really enjoying my time here and the staff and everyone are great to me they really look after me and make me feel as welcome as possible.



I was talking to Logan in the office this morning about wild birds and he mentioned cormorants as controversial visitors to UK fresh waters.  So I looked up cormorants to see what was new and interesting.

Serendipity took me straight to the Alde Valley Festival which is exhibiting some of Maggi Hambling’s pictures.  She paints startling seascapes and by chance the Festival is using one of her paintings as publicity – it’s a cormorant of course.

Maggi Hambling's painting of a cormorant with struggling fish

Maggi Hambling’s painting of a cormorant with struggling fish

Among the artists on display until 3rd May 2013  are: Stuart Anderson, Marchela Dimitrova, Meriel Ensom, Kate Giles, Maggi Hambling, Mercury Hare, Raymond Hopkins, Robina Jack, Tory Lawrence, Ffiona Lewis, Tessa Newcomb, Jim Parsons, Dylan Pym and Sam Taplin.

Jason Gathorne-Hardy  says “It’s all about Suffolk and the Suffolk landscape and the way it stimulates the arts, the traditional crafts and people’s sensitivity to the world around them. I think it also provides a sense of home.”


In angling circles the cormorant seems to be universally detested but then so are herons and, unbelievably, I’ve even heard anglers moaning about ospreys; everybody hates geese, and even ducks have their detractors.  And I’ve read lots of articles from everyone’s point of view.

Juvenile Cormorant 2011 at Sandford Lakes, photographer unknown.

Juvenile Cormorant 2011 at Sandford Lakes, photographer unknown.

The cormorant above is conveniently displaying the juvenile plumage and the last pouchy vestiges of its expansive gullet that indicates the distant relationship to the pelicans.  This disappears into the sleek, sinuous neck of the adult.

A cormorant on the river Lea in east London, photo by David Bowron, from The Observer, Saturday 11 August 2012

A cormorant on the river Lea in east London, photo by David Bowron, from The Observer, Saturday 11 August 2012

Cormorants remain stunning birds, perfectly structured for their place in their environment; they crop excessive fish populations and improve the water quality in overstocked water.  They require about half a kilo of fish per day if they are fishing inland, less if they are taking oilier saltwater fish.  There are a number of photos around of cormorants with fish of a decent size… this one below would be a pike of about 600grms. It wouldn’t need to catch another fish for the rest of the day.

Angling Times 2010

Angling Times 2010


I can say that I’ve seen articles in which anglers have said cormorants should be culled to prevent 30lb carp being taken . . . cant quite imagine a cormorants being able to ingest one of those!




American Mink – non-native species

American Mink

Light coloured American mink

Light coated American Mink photo Lan_keven

Another American alien species is the American mink.  Thoughtlessly introduced into the wild it now appears over most of the UK except for the very north of Scotland.  It’s a lively, bold predator; much more likely to be spotted than the shyer otter.  It’s not even that perturbed by humans. It ravages the banks of the rivers where water voles live and the females, particularly, are small enough to slither into the voles’ nesting holes.  Like foxes taking poultry, they kill prolifically and continue until the entire group of birds or animals are dead; they will raid a hen house too, given the opportunity.  They carry away some of the kill but leave a great deal behind.


American Mink Phil Lanoue

Portrait of an inquisitive American mink. Photo by Phil Lanoue

Obviously American mink are great swimmers, having partially webbed feet, but they also climb trees and raid nests for eggs and chicks.  It’s frustrating that the American Mink don’t have a much greater impact on American signal crayfish.  They do take crayfish as a regular part of their diets; however, the native crayfish is far more vulnerable.   They also take advantage of ground nesting birds and moorhens are particularly suffering a decline from the predation by American mink.

American mink are smaller and slighter than otters; they are brown with a white chin/throat and under parts.   Breeding light coloured specimens selectively for the fur trade rendered the British feral mink a lighter brown than the true American Mink. They have somewhat fluffier tails than otters and more pointed faces.  Although there are reports that the species is diminishing more needs to be done by way of trapping and removing mink from sensitive areas where water voles are established and breeding.

The reintroduction of the otter in many areas will hopefully help stop the catastrophic crash in water vole numbers that has happened over the last 6 decades – up to 95% loss.   Otters prey on mink and, by reducing numbers, allow water vole numbers to improve.  Although otters eat water voles the otter is too large to enter the water vole burrow so the whole family is at less risk of obliteration.

Welsh otters Photo by JC Roberts

Welsh otters Photo by JC Roberts

The above photo shows the difference between a mink and an otter.  If nothing else the foot print of an otter has the webbing visible and is an appreciable size, the footprint of an American mink is as dainty as a kitten’s and the webbing is not visible, in size no bigger than a 2 pence piece.

It is essential to remember that if you catch an American mink in the UK you may not then release it back into the wild, nor may you keep it.  It must be humanely dispatched with a suitable firearm.  If you are unable to do this you should contact a game keeper, a ranger or the RSPCA.  

American Signal Crayfish – non-native species

Crayfish are freshwater crustaceans, and there are two main species in UK – the native white-clawed crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes), and the non-native American signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus), which was introduced to Britain in the 1970s by crayfish farmers.

The American signal crayfish is bigger, breeds earlier and more prolifically and carries a fungal disease that affects the white-clawed crayfish very badly.  They can cross dry land to move to ponds and rivers and will survive a long time out of the water completely.  They can be 25cm long; flip one over and the bright red claws signal that you have found the alien.

Its legal to catch American signal crayfish for food but there are bylaws covering the trapping of crayfish, and what you can do depends on local circumstances – especially if there are native crayfish in your area.

Contact the Environment Agency to ask about your local circumstances, or you can get a crayfish trapping advice pack from the National Fisheries Laboratory on 01480 483968. You will need Environment Agency tags on your trap for it to be legal.

Don’t put any crayfish you’ve caught into ponds or other bodies of water temporarily, as they could escape and colonise an area that doesn’t have them.

Depending on whether the Environment Agency allow it in your area, you can make your own trap. You could make a cylinder with chicken wire, up to a metre long, and bend the ends over forming a cone that crayfish can climb into but not out of. The trap shouldn’t have an entrance of more than 95mm, because if there are otters in the area, they could get caught.  Bait your trap with something attractive to crayfish (a fish-head would do), and a stone to weigh it down, then put it into the water.

Check the next day. Anything other than American signal crayfish, let go, and don’t leave a trap in a watercourse for more than 24 hours, in case something other than a crayfish gets trapped in it. Let any native crayfish go.

But if you catch any American signal crayfish even small ones,don’t put them back because it is illegal.

American signal crayfish are cannibals, and if you remove only big ones, there will be nothing to keep the numbers of small ones down. The Environment Agency in Scotland have urged fishermen to kill American signal crayfish on sight.

Take them out of the trap, and keep them in lidded buckets of tap water for a couple of days to purge their intestines of any food.  If you just put them in a bucket they will get out and be roaming round the garage and climbing into the car engine.



American Signal Crayfish

How to use American Signal Crayfish after you have caught a few.

Whatever your thoughts on non-native species there’s no disputing that the Americans are over here and they’re thriving.  The only patriotically British thing to do is eat the blighters!  So I started browsing the net for a recipe… and came across this one from a chap called James Graham.  And it features another non-native – the zander, well what can you say?  You just have to eat your way through the aliens! 

American Signal Crayfish

American Signal Crayfish signalling!

Fillets of Gloucestershire zander with duck egg, asparagus and crayfish


For the zander
For the crayfish stock and crayfish jellies
For the duck eggs
  • 3 duck eggs, yolks only (reserve the egg whites for another recipe)
For the almond foam
  • 50g/2oz almond paste
  • 100ml/3½fl oz chicken stock
  • 70ml/2½fl oz semi-skimmed milk
  • asparagus spears, trimmed and peeled, to serve

Preparation method

  1. For the zander cheeks, sprinkle the flour onto a plate. Coat the zander cheeks in the flour, then dip into the beaten egg, then into breadcrumbs. Dip again into the egg and again into the breadcrumbs, until the fish cheeks are well coated. Set the coated cheeks aside and reserve with the zander fillets.
  2. For the crayfish stock and jellies, heat the olive oil in a saucepan over a medium-high heat, then add the crayfish heads and fry for 1-2 minutes, until they turn red.
  3. Add the onion, leek and carrots and fry for 3-4 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and the water, to cover (you may not need all the water).
  4. Bring the liquid to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 50 minutes. Strain the liquid into a clean pan (discard the solids) and reduce the stock until the volume of liquid is about 400ml/14½fl oz.
  5. Remove 200ml/7fl oz of the stock, place in a bowl and, while still hot, whisk in the agar-agar powder.
  6. Pour the liquid into an ice cube tray to make eight large ice cubes. Add one crayfish tail to each cube compartment and set aside for the jelly to set.
  7. Whisk the butter into the remaining crayfish stock until it is glossy and has a sauce consistency. Set aside.
  8. For the duck egg, place the duck egg yolks in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water (do not allow the water to touch the base of the bowl). Whisk the yolks until they thicken and register 60C on a sugar thermometer, then remove from the heat immediately, cover and keep warm.
  9. For the almond foam, bring the almond paste, chicken stock and milk to a simmer in a saucepan, whisking continuously, until well combined. When combined set aside and keep warm.
  10. Just before serving reheat gently (do not boil) and blend with a hand blender to create a foam.
  11. For the zander, heat the oil and butter in a frying pan until the butter is foaming. Add the zander fillets, skin-side down and fry for about three minutes. Carefully turn over, then cook on the other side for 2-3 minutes or until cooked through. Set aside and keep warm.
  12. Just before serving, cook the asparagus until tender in boiling salted water, drain and season.
  13. Heat the vegetable oil to 180C (check the temperature with a digital thermometer) or use a deep-fat fryer (CAUTION: Hot oil can be dangerous. Do not leave unattended.) When hot, add the breaded zander cheeks and deep-fry until until golden-brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.
  14. To serve, spoon half of the duck egg yolk onto both plates. Place four cubes of crayfish jelly on top, then top with the asparagus and a zander cheek. Place a zander fillet to one side and drizzle with crayfish sauce. Spoon the frothed almond foam over the zander cheek.


Zander ... caught by Nick Horton - Jan 2013

Zander … caught by Nick Horton – Jan 2013

Water Shrews – UK native species

Water Shrews –  Neomys fodiens

 Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.

 Water shrews are the largest British shrew. They are busy little mammals who are well adapted to an aquatic lifestyle. They have a dark black-grey coat of short fur that has a white underside and which is waterproof.  They have hidden ears, only visible as white tufts, which are closed when they are in the water. They have a stiff fringe of hair beneath their tail, which they use as a rudder when swimming and they can dive to depths of over  70cm. Although they don’t have webbed feet,   they have large hind feet with a row of stiff hairs and are the only shrew likely to be seen in the water.

Small picture of water shrew

Water shrew; dense fur and hidden ears.

Water shrews are mostly active at night, particularly just before dawn. They need to eat 50% of their body weight every day to stay alive and can travel up to 160 metres along the water’s edge to find food and shelter. Water shrews do not hibernate but remain active throughout the winter when their dense fur protects them from the cold and wet.

Pregnancy lasts roughly 20 days and 3-15 young are born per litter between April and September, with a peak of activity in May and June. Females have between one and three litters in a season. The juveniles usually leave the nest at six weeks old.  Water shrews are generally solitary, each maintaining its own territory, although they frequently live in close proximity to each other in a favoured area of stream-bank.  Females produce their young in a nest woven from dry grass, usually in a burrow or under a log. After breeding the adults die-off and the young shrews carry the population through the winter before becoming sexually mature the following spring, ready to breed in the summer following their birth.

small picture of water shrew on water

Water shrew, they can leap out of the water to catch prey in the air.

They spend their time hunting for invertebrate prey, even swimming underwater to catch caddisfly and mayfly larvae. Their main food source is freshwater shrimps, small snails, water skaters and caddis larvae which they obtain by diving and hunting underwater. Occasionally frogs, newts and small fish are eaten. They also feed on many terrestrial invertebrates such as earthworms, snails and beetles.

Occasionally water shrews are killed by birds of prey, foxes, large fish and cats but most water shrews die from exhaustion after the breeding season.

Water shrews are widely distributed throughout mainland Britain, but generally uncommon. They are scarce in the Scottish highlands and absent from Ireland and most of the small islands including for the Channel Islands, the Isles of Scilly, Scottish islands and the Isle of Man.  They are found on some of our larger islands, including the Isle of Wight, Anglesey, Arran, Skye and Mull.  Occasionally the species is found far from water in rough grasslands, scrub, woodlands and hedgerows, usually as young are dispersing. They have low populations densities compared with most small mammals.

Unlike other shrew species found in Britain, the water shrew has venomous saliva that stuns its prey. Over the centuries, this has led to many myths surrounding them. In Ancient Egypt, they were worshipped and mummified, whilst the Greeks and Romans believed that these little creatures were a source of evil!  Even though the shrew’s bite rarely punctures the skin, a red rash appears at the site of the bite which is sore to touch for several days.  Water shrews have red tipped teeth, caused by iron pigment deposits; this wears away with time.

Because water shrews are never very abundant, it is difficult to tell if their populations are under threat. They are still numerous in many sites where long-term studies have been conducted. The likely reasons for any decline in their numbers are habitat loss and water pollution. While they can tolerate a good deal of disturbance from human activities, drainage schemes and river-bank clearance may adversely affect them by altering the water supply, reducing their food supplies, destroying their burrows and the vegetation cover. They are very vulnerable to pollutants and pesticides in the water which they ingest indirectly via their prey and directly through their grooming activities.

Thanks to Lev Dahl at Wiltshire Wildlife Trust who inspired this article.

Latest Update on desilting

Nice to be able to add a couple of pictures from the Royal Botanic Gardens major desilting job at Wakehurst Place. Hopefully Lewis will be able to pop in later in the spring and get a new pic once all the plants are in full plumage!

After the drain down

Before the work started.

It’s quite an eye-opener to see the photo that PHB took once the water was drained down and the silt was revealed.

Then the point in a de-silting job where you think it can never be right ever again!

Retaining bund in lake

Major works – Nicospan, rigging wire and posts.

After a while you all decide its finished, clear up the site and go home. And you wonder how its all doing while other jobs are on the go. And then….

After ... PHB

Looking shiny and bright. Over the winter it will have been settling even more and we can look forward to it looking pretty spectacular this summer.