It was certainly a night to remember. A strong wind whistled through the merest crack of the window. The tiles on the roof rattled away to the buffeting. Sleep was impossible. It was a gale of enormous measure that had begun several hours before!
Down at the river the same maelstrom raged. The meandering curves were awash with waves and tumbling water was forced down the narrow course by the fury. White crests crashed by and immediately disappeared into the darkness only to be followed by the same over and over again. The sedge alongside the margins bent double and in places touched the water whereupon the whole sedge bed became swamped. The debris of branches and even the river bank itself floated past as the strength of the wind and water demolished anything suspect. Young trees were well and truly tested and mature trees groaned and creaked. A sudden crack followed by an earth shaking thump showed a long dead oak tree astride the river. The obstacle made a feeble attempt to hold back the fierce flow but it was quickly turned and floated downstream adding to the already chaos.
Mother Nature must have given warning to her kingdom earlier that day long before any signs were recognised by the likes of us! Thus most animals were tucked up snug under the ground and perhaps even asleep and ignorant of the happenings above. Fifty or even sixty rabbits in the same warren formed a single furry mass with their breathing the only movement. The sedate badgers choose to be more individual and snored away in rows whereas the lone fox monitored everything from within the entrance of his den with one eye whilst fast asleep with the other!
Alas the feathered folk had few options. They went low instead of high and choose mid hedge and bush to find shelter but not complete escape. The partridge and pheasant, all with little sense, stayed their ground and merely looked bemused hardly able to remain upright!
Within an adjacent spinney a family of deer had found a convienent hollow and with their heads down had perfect shelter but for sure no man was about tonight. Even the perennial poacher had chosen to stay in his bed!
Beneath the surface of the river Wissey most of our friends the fish had found sanctuary from the fast flow in dykes and inlets. Here they amassed in unusual numbers. A few less fortunate sought the shallows and some the outside of curves but were still forced to contend with the severe current by swimming endlessly to remain stationary. Occasionally an unfortunate was just swept away!
However a different picture was also forming. A particular family from the watery world was actually enjoying the remarkable change of atmospheric pressure and was in a highly restless state of near frenzy. Little detail is known but all eels are governed by the moon and like influences and tonight the ‘force was with them!’ The eels of the river were not of normal mind and had gathered in large numbers. The calling had gone out and as the storm reached another peak they departed the river. Wriggling up the banks and across the grass and meadows they marched. It was a sight to behold! Thus they continued throughout the night with more and more exiting the water. As the rain came sheeting down their passage was made more easy and comfortable. Onward they went.
Now such travellings of the eel population occur only a few times in a human life span and is seldom witnessed. Where they go no one really knows but they must all return to water eventually! With that reassurance I pulled the covers over my head and tried once more to go to sleep!
By Ivor Hook