River Wissey Lovell Fuller


May 2010

More spell bounding tales from the banks of the River Wissey!

The river Wissey ran its course as always. The wind stirred the waterside tree tops and several long dead branches creaked in protest. A barn owl up there in the midst stared out into the darkness. His perch was sheltered so he just patiently watched and waited as he did every night. With his acute vision and the light of the moon he could see every happening in the world below. Day break was still many dreams away but already it had seemed a long night. A handful of bright stars twinkled away and added to the classic setting. No man or creature was afoot and thus the picture was of an utter sleepy peace.

A disturbance in the river startled the owl but he merely repositioned himself and stared at the spreading waves. They multiplied outwards and smacked into the reed-beds and rocked a long forgotten rowing boat. Over time fast growing sedge had overtaken the mooring and hidden it from view. The owl became uneasy and gave a string of hoots which echoed out into the night. As if to answer a lonely dog fox somewhere over the fields barked away but soon all was quiet again. The waves became mere ripples and then faded away returning the river to a complete calm.

A weathered and wrinkled hand gripped the old oars of the boat and pulled steadily backwards. The large black shape slowly glided out into the river with the oar blades gently dipping into the water and so it was until it just vanished! It didn't go right or left, it didn't reach the other side - it merely faded away! Our friend the owl hooted again whereupon there was another hefty splash from the river sending more waves to the bank. Now owls, and all our fur and feathered folk, have no imagination such as ourselves and they only see what is for real. In fright he took to flight and with a single effortless flap he glided away and was gone.

The midnight hour had long passed but full darkness still laboured. Suddenly the wind strengthened and there was a surprise spell of lightening with a single crack of thunder that shook the ground. The river became rough and crests grew which travelled in wide bands down the narrow length but there was no rain. Clouds formed but when they overtook the moon the wind lessened and all returned to quiet - exactly as a night should be.

Dawn eventually commenced as light slowly became obvious. Fish topped and a water rat swam the width to the opposite bank. An evergreen grebe appeared from the reeds and proclaimed to the world that small doesn't mean quiet! In the margins the newly formed tight buds of water-lilies hoped for a hint of the sun. So another morning began.

A mile or so away in a tiny village churchyard our barn owl sat on the top of a mossy and ivy clad grave-stone. Everywhere nettles grew tall confirming a total neglect. The owl was now desperate and surveyed this highly probable place for a fat field-mouse or similar for he had been without any find all night and hunger was becoming a real pain. However, fear not, for he was soon to be satisfied (and just by way of information, the grave stone on which our owl was perched refered to a local man, an eel catcher by trade, who had sadly drowned in the river Wissey on that same day some 60 years ago!)

By Ivor Hook

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