River Wissey Lovell Fuller


November 2010

Ivor watches the arrival on the River Wissey of the migrating geese

The birds were exhausted. They had been flying for three whole days and more. Their numbers had gradually fallen away and now they were reduced to just twenty seven. It was without doubt a survival of the fittest. Far beneath them was the unwelcoming North Sea and certain death - so on and on they went.

The geese were en-route from the Artic Circle. There it was already a barren waste of ice and snow and the cold was getting even colder. The severe weather had woken up the urge of nature and had bid them to take to flight. Such was always the calling at this time every year. The mass exodus of the geese was over a period of several weeks and in flights of varying numbers - some big and some small. The compass point was fixed and so they travelled onward in their unnerving V formations until the east coast of Scotland appeared. Here after a short respite they followed the coastline down to the unmistakeable shape of The Wash. Several similar flights had already veered away to their own favoured destinations and now only our particular feathered friends remained high aloft. Onward they drove themselves until the course of the river Ouse was recognised and at long last they were nearly there!!

Thus every year a particular stretch of our very own river Wissey is hearth and home to just a few bands of travel weary geese. Well sheltered it provides a safe haven for them for several months and so our flight arrived late one afternoon with a final circle and a timely splash down.

Night quickly followed and soon a lonely stretch of river was filled with sleeping wildfowl. A clear sky pierced with bright stars watched overhead. A barn owl glided the length of the river but all remained deathly quiet. There was not even a rustle in the dry thick undergrowth for few beings were out and afoot. All continued until a startling red and yellow sunrise burst through the tangled tree line. Then without warning the mornings activities commenced with an almighty splash from mid-water. A large lethargic pike had been unable to resist a passing shoal of silver roach as they made an early passage upstream. This proved to be the trigger for all gods creatures to display themselves. Fish topped and paved the way for the passing of a well disciplined armada of ducks. A pair of bright white swans followed as they began their stately patrol. Rabbits appeared from nowhere as if from a conjurers hat and bobbed this way and that to complete a busy picture.

The geese in their black and brown and white dress took measure of their new surroundings. Two or three walked the walk and went to wing. Having satisfied themselves that all was well they quickly returned whereupon they all commenced their morning toilet with great chatter and splashing. Groups within groups formed and rivalry commenced as individual territories were claimed and counter claimed. The narrow but deep waters of this part of the river was now confirmed as the winter residence for the visitors. Eventually they would meet their estranged cousins who are full time residents of the river Wissey. These geese for what ever reason have no calling to migrate but that is a story for another day!

Rain came that same afternoon followed by a dark blanket of cloud which quickly spread. A wind evolved and commenced its plaintiff howling through a nearby copse. Trees bent as a fierce rainstorm hammered patterns in the river to make for a torrid end to the day. For certain no man would choose to venture out in such weather but our friends the geese were perfectly happy. Perhaps they were even smiling but anyway they carried on doing what geese do and were totally content!

By Ivor Hook

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