Passion for Pure Rivers

John Bailey

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On the 31st October The Sunday Times carried nigh on a full page review of the campaigning work carried out by Feargal Sharkey. “Sharkey’s circling – so cut the crap, polluters” screamed the headline. It made for a compelling read. A few days before that, Feargal had been on ‘Breakfast TV’ and had swept all the polluting water companies before him. Yet again. He’s been doing this for more than three years and and the drip-feed of fury and common sense that he has fed the nation’s media is at last turning into a flood that is proving irresistible.

Okay. It helps that Feargal is famous, but only perhaps moderately so – though how I would have loved to have A Good Heart to my credit. What he has done is to use that fame as a launching pad, but build on it with tireless energy and passion.

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All institutions in this country, whether Governmental or not, depend on public apathy to allow them to do sod all. For 90+% of the population, providing there’s food, the internet is working, and the soaps are screening, then the big issues that face us can go and look after themselves. Remember Rome? Give the populace bread and games, and those in power can do as they wish. That is how it has been here, but ever so slowly the public mood is changing, and much of that is down to Feargal and those few like him.

I first met ‘The Man’ on the banks of the Lea, filming Gone Fishing. You couldn’t wish to meet a nicer, more humble bloke but, blimey, get him onto chalk streams, sewage, abstraction, and the water companies, and you unleash a tiger.

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What you need, as Feargal has proved, is passion, bravery, a command of the facts, and a silver tongue. But above all those things, it’s about stickability. The water companies have built their history of abuses on the knowledge that the public might whinge, but then forget and go their merry way. But not the front man of the Undertones.

You’ll have read a couple of weeks back that the Duke of Wellington forced through an amendment to the Environment Bill that calls on water companies to take action as soon as is reasonable to stop pumping sewage into rivers. Much of the credit for that goes down to Feargal, and the racket he has been making for three years or more. But it’s not all glam rock in Feargal’s world. Behind the scenes, he lobbies politicians, addresses meetings nationwide, links up local river groups, communicates with Ofwat, and hounds the Environment Agency at the least whiff of a sewage discharge.

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Yet again, the question is how can WE help? Now, I haven’t made a sliver of difference compared with Feargal, but within six weeks this autumn I will have written to my MP, met with the Wye & Usk Foundation, talked to a board member of the Rivers Trust, discussed chicken manure management with half a dozen farmers, and written half a dozen pieces like this.

We can’t accomplish as much individually as Feargal, but if we all do our bit, I can see the **** really hitting the fan. A crude phrase, but it is better than seeing it going into our rivers! Like the planet and COP26, the future of our rivers really is both in the balance and in our hands.

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Feargal on the Lea

The post 'Passion for Pure Rivers' first appeared in Fish&Fly Magazine.

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bonefishblues

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What you need, as Feargal has proved, is passion, bravery, a command of the facts, and a silver tongue. But above all those things, it’s about stickability. The water companies have built their history of abuses on the knowledge that the public might whinge, but then forget and go their merry way. But not the front man of the Undertones.
I think he does a fantastic job, for sure, it's hard to think of a better informed or more tireless campaigner.

Point of order, mind, Feargal's not been the front man of The Undertones since 1983. :ROFLMAO:

Oh and Teenage Kicks is still far and away their finest work - just ask the late John Peel, whose favourite all-time record it remained until his untimely death.
 

JohnH

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Oh and Teenage Kicks is still far and away their finest work - just ask the late John Peel, whose favourite all-time record it remained until his untimely death.
Agreed about The Undertones, but I would argue Feargal's finest work was "Never never" from late 1983, where he took lead vocals for The Assembly, a venture of Vince Clarke. Superb...
 

Reg Wyatt

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Yes it's very good and helpful what he's doing and long may he continue. It's what some river keepers I've been privileged to know have been doing for more than thirty years without much help and not looking for any recognition at all, just an end to this horrific pollution. Some of these river keepers have challenged these filthy water companies with an unbelievable bravery and a passion sometimes under threat from their employers and with no support from those charged with protecting the environment. Well done for the six weeks of contacting your MP etc it all helps and as you say, stickability is important - we should maybe listen to and perhaps acknowledge more the people on the ground who have stuck at it most of their working lives. Perhaps you could write about them?
Keep up the good work Feargal.

Reg Wyatt
 

John Bailey

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Contact Your MP

Let’s say there is a swing in the way that government in general is viewing the environment and, in our case, it REALLY does help to press your MP on where he stands on these issues. It REALLY is an easy matter.

Simply go to Theyworkforyou.com and tap in your postcode in the box provided.

Your MP’s name will come up AND all his/her voting details so you know what type of person you are being represented by.

Best of all, there is even a box you tick to send a direct message. Type it out, fill in your details and press send. Keep it short but keep at it if you don’t receive a reply.

For example.

Dear Mr Wiggen (my MP) I am very concerned about the prevalence of chicken farms in Herefordshire and along the Wye corridor in particular. The effects of manure disposal are now well known and responsible for damaging levels of phosphates on the land and in the river Wye and its tributaries. The ecological damage has been proven beyond any doubt and I would like to know your stance on the licensing of future farms and the viability of more effective manure management plans. I hope you agree this is one of the most serious of environmental issues facing this part of England. Thank you for your reply etc etc

That took a few minutes and I’m keeping at it in a drip-feed manner. If we ALL do this then the window of opportunity that is off the latch might just be pushed open!
 

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