Caught by the River

Richardson in Zanderland

John Richardson | 14th June 2011

‘Words on Water’ illustrator, John Richardson, has upped sticks and moved east. Here’s how he’s getting on:

Living in a Dust Bowl

There has been very little rain since early March, on the rain gauge just 18mm in all that time. Once again we’re supposed to have showers today but outside it’s sunshine and a beautiful ‘Simpson’ sky. The verges and lawns are beginning to look like France in late August with some plants and trees unable to survive the drought conditions. Next week it is June 16th and it will be Barbour Jackets, waterproofs and Wellingtons on for certain. Drought over! We’ve had big winds from all points of the compass and lots of dust, giving the car a dun coloured matt suede finish rather than gloss, no wonder hand car washes are big business in West Norfolk!

The house martins arrived in mid-April, but they have moved on allowing the house sparrows to use their old nests. The martins haven’t been able to build new nests because of the lack of mud so the sparrows happily colonise the old nests. A loose facia board at the back of the house has allowed starlings to nest and raise their family; when they fly it will be screwed back into place but not before. Magpies have pulled down two of the old house martin’s nests to get at the sparrow eggs and nestlings, leaving the grim results all over the side path. The carrion crows quarter the drains looking for ducklings but fortunately the luxuriant growth seems to be working to the advantage of the ducklings.

Since January we have kept a list of birds seen in the gardens around the house and the population is mixed to say the least: Crow, Jackdaw, Rook, Wood Pigeon, Dove, Starling, Fieldfare, Redwing, House Sparrow, Hedge Sparrow, Robin, Wren, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Sparrow Hawk, Kestrel, Blackbird, Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long Tailed Tit, House Martin, Swallow, Swift, Yellowhammer, Pied Wagtail, Pheasant, Mallard, Teal and a pair of Ducks nesting. A farmer told me about the strange sight of a Kestrel swooping on to a Green Woodpecker that was browsing for food in the middle of his lawn. A real fight ensued, complete with horrendous sound effects, but after a short struggle the kestrel let go and the woodpecker made good his escape. The rest of the wildlife is harder to see because of the cover that has grown up, the field where we see the family of hares is now blue with linseed and only a bow wave across the field shows where they are running.

Next week, June 16th is getting ever closer and an early foray for tench with Andrews of Arcadia and possibly rudd later in the day, but before that, swim dragging and pre-baiting in the knowledge that nobody else fishes where we are going. New sliding floats have been made and tested, hook supplies checked and new line bought as well as an early birthday present of a new seat. The expectancy is almost like a child at Christmas.

Late spring, early summer and the season of plenty is here: strawberries, asparagus, carrots, peas, beetroot and delicious new potatoes that taste like new potatoes should. The delights to come will include currants, raspberries, gooseberries and then, a little later, the plums apples and pears. The end of this week is our first ‘Strawberry Jam Making Day’, the first of many various fruit jam making days we hope and then there are the strawberry sponge cakes too.  Marvellous! Oh, and the walnuts are almost ready for pickling as well.

Maybe we’re living in a fruit bowl.

Click here to read John’s previous letters from Zanderland
John at The Two Terriers Press