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Dragons and Monsters

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Dragons and Monsters

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                                  Lone Elver: sallywilliamsartist.co.uk
Continuing with the second in the series about some of the
more unusual features of Gloucester and the Severn we
asked Adam Edwards to report on an activity that is linked
closely with our region. Elver fishing to many Gloucester
people is a very normal activity – cars are seen in early
Spring with the large elver nets strapped to their roofs and
many know at least one person who is an elver fisherman.
Here Adam investigates “elvering” as it is today and how it
justifies itself with conservationists.
                                                                                                A mass of Elvers: sallywilliamsartist.co.uk




T
        o a stranger the tiny translucent filaments that slip       ‘Nothing yet,’ he says in a broad West Country brogue. ‘We’ve
        through our metropolis on the night tide are of less        got to wait now for the tide to turn.’ And with that he plunges
        interest than straws swirling above the Severn Bridge.      the textile net back into the river and scrambles back up the
In fact to the majority of the residents of the Severn flood-       bank for a can of John Smith’s Extra Smooth.
plain the indiscernible shoals that float up the mighty river
in the blackness are, as they say in these parts, ‘something        It has taken years for David to establish his pitch and it
and nothing’. And yet to those locals who know the true             has not been gained easily. At a bend further up the river,
worth of the creatures they are as pertinent to the area as a       for example, where the Elvers tend to congregate there are
Cherry and White pack or an Old Spot drove.                         regular fights between the rougher angling element. Many
                                                                    now have paid security.
The Elver, the baby freshwater eel that is born in the Sargasso
Sea south of Bermuda and drifts over to Europe on the Gulf          There was certainly a menace in the air the night I met
Stream in the spring, is woven into our city as surely as Beatrix   David. Lights flickered along both banks like so many glow
Potter’s Tailor of Gloucester. The fish have fed and financed       worms. Young men in trainers and nylon bomber jackets
generations providing protein for the poor and pin money            briefly emerged and then disappeared into the darkness
for the impecunious. And today they still wriggle through           while a barely visible motor boat raced down the middle of
the place like a golden thread, feted by celebrity chefs, fretted   the river with shadowy figures on its prow.
over by environmentalists and fought over by fishermen.
                                                                    ‘They’re illegals,’ said David. ‘They’ll have got a call on their
And they are worth fighting over. The see-through sea               mobile telling them that there are Elvers down river.’ Scores
worms known as the ‘Whitebait of the West’ now sell for             of night patrols are run by the Environment Agency to catch
£250 a kilogram. On the right night, in the right spot with         these rogue fishermen - but there were none that night.
the right kit it is possible to haul out a kilogram or two,
sometimes even three.                                               Elvers, known as glass eels, migrate upstream on the flood
                                                                    tide. During the ebb tide they move out of the current
It is why David Smith, a print-finisher, has parked his             towards the banks to prevent being washed out to sea. And
elderly Land Rover on a thirty yard stretch of bank beneath         that is where they are caught during March, April and May
Thomas Telford’s historic bridge at Over. The back of his           by licensed fishermen (the illegal lot trawl the centre of the
4x4 is an Elver fisherman’s workshop with hand-held nets,           river). It is a trade that has gone on for centuries mostly
sieves, torches, and beer. He is wrapped up tightly against         to provide cheap nourishment for the inhabitants of the
the bitter cold, wearing a modern miner’s lamp on his head          Severn Valley.
and staring into a cardboard box-sized net that he has pulled
from the river.

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                                                                   Orchard
‘Elvers are carried round in baskets and cried in the streets




                                                                           Days
of Gloucester,’ wrote Florence White in her pre-war cook

                                                                                                       ays
book `Good Things in England’. `They are washed clean
with salt and water and floured and fried in boiling fat and
they are very nutritious. A plateful makes a complete meal                                    Orchard D
for a working man.’                                                                                                 Poems fr
                                                                                                                            om Drag
                                                                                                                                     on Orch
                                                                                                                                             a                             rd

                                                                                                                                 es Be nnett
                                                                                                                        by Charl
Not any more they don’t. Nowadays it would be easier and
certainly cheaper to buy a tin of Beluga Caviar on the streets
of Gloucester than it would a pint of Elvers.
Today the Elver is sold to the eel-eating Germans, Poles
and Dutch who use it to re-stock their depleted rivers. It is
                                                                                  Dragons and Monsters
hawked to the Chinese and allowed to grow into adult eels
for supply to Japan and very occasionally it will be flogged                      join forces to produce
                                                                                  poetry!
to a Gordon Ramsay or Marco Pierre White to satiate the
palates of their wealthy customers.
‘At the peak of the season there are a thousand licensed
fisherman on the tidal reaches of the Severn and I am buying                      Two of our customers have joined forces to design and
from all of them,’ said Richard Cook, the managing director                       publish a poetry book that Severnprint are printing.
of the Severn and Wye Smokery and one time director
                                                                                  Dragon Orchard, an organic apple orchard in
of UK Glass Eels, the last ‘quarantine’ on the river where
                                                                                  Herefordshire and one of the first crop sharing ventures
the fish are weighed and held prior to shipment. And he
                                                                                  in the UK, have teamed with Monster Creative, graphic
is buying them because he is concerned with conservation.
                                                                                  designers based near Ledbury, to produce the book
‘The emphasis has to be on re-stocking,’ he says.
                                                                                  entitled Orchard Days. Richard Crompton designer
There has been a huge decline in the catch of Elvers in the                       and partner in Monster Creative is an award winning
last thirty years mostly it is believed due to a slight shifting                  photographer and has taken some stunning photographs
north of the Gulf Stream. Pollution, man-made barriers to                         of the orchard which appear on each page.
migration and in particular the over-fishing by continental
                                                                                  The paper chosen for the book was Cyclus Offset
trawlers is also blamed. The result is that the price has
                                                                                  an uncoated 100% recycled paper with very high
soared.
                                                                                  environmental credentials. The paper is challenging to
‘The European eel is at a historical minimum which                                print as it tends to produce flat colours – this adds to
continues to decline and is dangerously close to collapse,’                       the charm of the paper but needs to be printed carefully
said Sam Wilding, the Fisheries Officer with the Marine                           and requires a sympathetic design to work well. For
Conservation Society. ‘Yet ironically the Severn fisherman                        more information on this project look at the news
with his hand-held net is helping to conserve the Elver                           page of our website for links to Dragon Orchard and
because he is the only one taking part in any sort of                             Monster Creative.
conservation programme.’
And David Smith with his bespoke Elver fishing Land
Rover and his £73 annual licence is one of those who sells
his live Elvers to Richard Cook. However there will be
little conservation tonight. There was only one Elver at the                           Foreword
bottom of his white bucket by the time the tide had been and                           W      hen you walk through an orchard, it’s easy to feel that what you are
                                                                                              experiencing is stable – a grouping of trees in particular arrangements.
                                                                                       But an orchard is not so much a place as an event, a series of moments


gone. ‘Every night’s a gamble,’ he said. ‘I could be here for                          becoming and evolving slowly over time. It was this sense of time in the orchard,
                                                                                       the slow changes over the course of a year, the openings and releasings, that I
                                                                                       wanted to explore in the poems. So the poetry trail is a walk through an orchard


two weeks and not catch anything and then I have a lucky
                                                                                       undertaken by a particular individual at a specific moment of the year. But the
                                                                                       walk is also a way of recovering and discovering: a whole year in one long gulp.

                                                                                          I came to Dragon Orchard for a few days once each month. On these days,


night. It’s a casino.’ Although I would venture to suggest
                                                                                       chosen mostly at random when I was free, I took my chances with weather
                                                                                       and light and atmosphere, and built these moments into the poems. There are
                                                                                       naturally poems which tend to reflect a seasonal pattern, and there are poems



that despite the nightly punt, the flickering lights and the
                                                                                       which record both chance discoveries and significant events, treating the
                                                                                   8



criminal element it could not in truth be further from Las
Vegas if it tried.
                                                                                  Above: pages from the book ‘Orchard Days’ showing some
                                                                                  of the beautiful photography featured throughout.



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X-ray guides for the world!
This summer we have produced a series of guides for Mettler-Toledo Safeline X-ray
                                                                                                                        rayon X




– the 74 page X-ray guides have been printed in 15 languages and distributed to over
20 countries throughout the world. Each country also received marketing material in                                                          Détection
                                                                                                                                      de contaminants
                                                                                                         Inspection par




the form of a direct mailer and a poster to promote the company’s x-ray inspection
technology for the food and pharmaceutical industry.
The guides were printed either digitally or lithographically depending on the most
economic way of producing the number of copies required. They were then packed
for export and sent out directly from Severnprint along with the correct documents
to the countries – including several in the Far East and America.
Mettler-Toledo’s x-ray systems offer contamination detection like glass, mineral
stone, metal or bone ensuring product safety. In addition, they can simultaneously                                                Guide d'inspecti
                                                                                                                                                  on           par rayon X
perform a wide range of in-line quality checks like measuring mass and ensuring                                                                          Réduisez les risq
                                                                                                                                                                          ues
that no product is trapped in the seal ensuring product quality.




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