Most of you are now thinking about shenanigans in high political places in America.
Watergate to us is a fence across our river, placed to attempt to keep sheep out of an area by stopping them using the river as a transit route.
We’d never realised that people other than us wouldn’t know what one was until a friend saw ours and asked what it was. So here’s a bit of background.
The Grwyne Fawr (the river that frames the bottom of our land) is a tributary of the River Usk, a river famed for its salmon and trout fishing. As such the Grwyne Fawr – pronounced griinee vower – is a designated SSSI – site of special scientific interest – and the higher designation SAC – special area of conservation.
There are definitely trout in the river, we see them in the deeper pools when the surface is relatively calm, and there used to be huge salmon coming up to spawn, but we haven’t seen any for some time now.
What’s that got to do with watergates for sheep you may well ask? Well, some years ago an organisation called the Wye and Usk Foundation – a conservation / angling body – came along and asked if we’d help out by having some of the riverside trees ‘laid’ – like laying a hedge. The idea of this is to make shady places for trout and salmon to hide and escape predators and alos to encourage insects on the surface of the water for the fish to feed on.
In order to protect these laid trees there was a need to keep the sheep out, thus the watergates at each end of our stretch of river. Nice idea, but the ‘forest sheep’ managed to find ways of getting round the gates, as sheep always manage to do!
So that’s the reason the gates are there. Nowadays with this interesting weather we are having the watergates have taken on another role: that of river depth gauge! The gates are suspended on wires stretched across the river which allows them to swing upwards as the water level and speed increases. However by looking at the angle of the woodwork it’s possible to see, roughly, how deep the water is. Back in February with Storm Dennis and co. the gates disappeared entirely underwater meaning a rise of at least four feet!
Water like that, needless to say caused some damage, and so I could have been seen bare-leggedly standing in front of one of the gates just recently with my trusty cordless drill in hand!
So next time we are able to welcome you back to the garden you will be able to explain to your companions what these strange structures are!
By the way, as I write this on August 21st we have just recorded the second highest monthly rainfall of the year to date – and 10 days still to come – so there’s unlikely to be any sheep trying to cross the torrent!