River Wissey Lovell Fuller


March 2009

Another stirring tale from the banks of the River Wissey

The woods seem dark and unwelcoming. The network of thick branches blank out all light apart from a single beam of brightness. Here everything grows from oak to alder and chestnut to fir and you could easily imagine that there is a void of all living creatures. In truth it is a mighty kingdom for both big and small, Beyond the trees the river Wissey runs fast and flashing and along this narrow grass divide is the domain of a particular cock pheasant.

He struts about looking astute with his fine display of colour but alas all is deceptive as he is without any natural instinct or field knowledge. Last spring he was artificially raised and endlessly fed and watered by man. Once fully fledged together with hundreds upon hundreds of others he was released into the wilds. Then came the beaters but by good fortune he took refuge in a foxhole and escaped. Some days latter more beaters came but those working the flanks lacked numbers so our friend merely heard the noise and stayed buried in the bracken. Thus he avoided the two-bores and for many long weeks hence he wandered aimlessly and without mission.

Now he stalks alongside the river and its boundary of sedge and willow. Soon they will show the beginnings of fresh green for the recent weeks have already generated sufficient warmth to prompt the catkins to burst. All about the ground is stirring with energy and the expectation of Spring. Alas not everything is awaking as the hedgehogs and frogs and toads nearby are still in a deep sleep but rest assured their alarm clocks will soon be sounding.

The pheasant has made friends with a family of partridges. Their strange clockwork movements are unlike his own but they all peacefully cohabit the same undergrowth and night-time roosts. Whilst they are not so brave or fearless we know it is only ignorance that rules the pheasant's head.

A poacher enters the woods. He cares not whether game is out of season or whether he has permission. He treads carefully and knows the pathway well. Our pheasant is well used to man and has no reason to fear the strange personage in his territory. Whilst the pheasant's gay colours provides the perfect camouflage in autumn he now stands out rather too conspicuously and can hardly be missed by a person with a keen eye. He does not even take to flight and in an instant a single shot rings out and then echoes over the fields. A flock of wood pigeon clatter and rise up into the sky from their previously unseen position but otherwise no one pays any attention at all!

The family of partridges will hardly miss their short-stay companion. During the next few weeks many changes will be racing. The eye will be no longer be able to penetrate the tangle of brambles and the neighbourhood rabbits will be even more active up and down the riverside. Great waves of birds will be returning from their faraway places to bring back the missing chorus. The bluebells will display a bigger carpet of colour than can previously be remembered for Mother Nature's clock cannot be stopped and will carry on ticking regardless.

So the final chapter pertaining to our friend is over but there is an epilogue - a tantalising smell coming from a stew pot in several hours hence!

Ivor Hook

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