Caught by the River

Shadows & Reflections – John Richardson

John Richardson | 29th December 2011

In which, as the year comes to its end, our friends and collaborators look back and share their moments:

The end of the first full year in West Norfolk and The Fens and our enthusiasm for this part of Albion remains undiminished. There haven’t been any real shadows cast during the last year and the twelve months has been a period of discovery and settling in.

In the past we have both felt that living here is a little like being in a painting and the description has always been an English seascape or watercolour scene, now I’m not quite so sure. The landscape is addictive and seductive in a pleasant and welcoming way. I’ve heard people say that there isn’t much to see, after all the Fens are almost all sky, aren’t they? Look harder and closer and all the little details sharpen the focus as do the little events and the landscape that lies at your feet, the landscape is what you make it and want it to be; big, small, watery, plant filled, foggy and even on grey wet days when all you hear is the drip of water the melancholic haunting beauty is still there demanding that you look twice or three times, and look even harder each time too.

There is so much produce around us. There’s fishing and the rough shooting where you gather just what you need for the pot; the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables, shellfish and sea fish as well as pigeon, wild pheasant and partridge and they are all wonderful. Sorry, they are delicious and wonderful, and we make no excuses for that statement; the simple rule here is take only what you need and eat it or share the bounty with others.

The fishing from estate lakes to drains and rivers has been hard but highly enjoyable, wild carp, roach, rudd, perch and in the last few weeks some excellent pike caught on wobbled dead baits. The Boxing Day pike fishing expedition is eagerly anticipated, just like Christmas Day was as a child, and before the fishing there is the tranquil experience of making up some new pike and zander rigs with a pint of Double Swan on the side.

The dominant presences of the sky and the weather remain endlessly fascinating; one day while trying to catch tench, unsuccessfully I would add, I watched the condensation trail of a military aircraft. It seemed to climb as it came towards me and then drop as it passed towards the horizon behind me, an optical illusion of course generated by the great dome of the sky. Some times when I am fishing in these lonely places I feel sure that I can see the curvature of the earth but that’s not possible because the fens are flat, aren’t they?

As we have become more involved with the landscape we have gradually realized that the suggestion is more than that of a ‘watercolour painting’. There are moments when sections of the landscape are abstract expressionism and pure Rothko, it all just depends how your eye focuses down and crops the image. Equally the Zen-like image of the farming landscape and the inevitable rhythm of the crop changes alter the picture month-by-month and season-by-season.

Gold fen, blue doors, a linocut by John Richardson

We feel welcomed by the landscape as well as the people, and as you may have guessed, we love it.