Caught by the River

Shadows and Reflections: John Richardson

John Richardson | 28th December 2012


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

Another year has inexorably passed by and they seem to pass ever quicker the older you get. As a youngster I remember going back to school in September and thinking Bonfire night was in the next month only to find the thirty one days of October in the way; now you blink in September and it’s almost Christmas. It’s hard to believe Sue and I have been here in West Norfolk for two and a half years and we grow to love it more with each day, each passing season and each passing year.

When we first moved here and I was out and about fishing and walking the dogs I always felt that I was ‘on’ the landscape but as time has gone by and I have learned more about the area, the farming, the customs, the wildlife and the rivers I have begun to feel that I am now ‘in’ the landscape; a part of the landscape not a visitor to it. One farmer told me he never spots me Pike fishing on his stretch of river anymore, even when I’m there, so I think I’ll take that as a compliment.


Most people motor through the Fens on the fast roads: the A14, the A10 and A47 on their way to the North Norfolk coast, the Norfolk Broads or central Norfolk but if you stop and pause to enjoy the big skies and the unique landscape of Fenland there are great rewards to be found. When we return to it from our native North East or the family in the South East and release a collective sigh of pleasure as we drive back into our new home area of the West Norfolk Fens. Even the two terriers seem to perk-up as we get closer to home, maybe they simply recognize the smells that are only available to terriers with their super sensitive noses.

I have gradually come round to thinking that to enjoy Fenland you have to learn to be still, see what is there all around you and gradually absorb your surroundings, feeling the natural rhythms of the Fens, whatever the season and whatever the weather. The silence is blissful and broken only by the sound of the wind, the reeds, the water and birdsong. Oh, and maybe the odd tractor and fast jet. Although this has been a wet year the great dome of the sky has put on some wonderful shows; shows that can take your breath away no matter what the weather is delivering.

The fishing has been good, if not spectacular and despite the wet weather, Pike, Perch and Zander have been caught and even if you catch nothing you just have to enjoy that fabulous landscape. It’s fair to say that at the moment I’m catching nothing, having enjoyed four blanks, so I am enjoying the landscape. The printmaking continues to develop as my understanding of the landscape continues to grow and a body of new work is steadily building up for a planned exhibition next year.


Thankfully there have been no truly dark clouds in the last year, the only real shadow to fall was the loss of our Jack Russell Border Terrier cross, Rufus. He lived to the ripe old age of seventeen years and a five months before we had to take him for that last visit to the vet; this after the onset of acute diabetes and blindness followed by deafness each of which attacked him very quickly.

I must have walked thousands of miles with him over the years and he is hugely missed by all of the family. The other dogs in the area certainly don’t miss him or his intolerant attitude towards them, neither will the rats that he hunted and killed in the orchards, dykes and farm buildings.

What will the New Year hold? Who knows? No matter what we will continue to enjoy living in West Norfolk and all that it has to offer and I have no doubt that our feelings for the area, its people and landscape will only deepen.