Scroll down below the home page for a full list of perch, pike and owl hunting tales. This is my last post; I started with the story of ‘The Haunted Tin’ and shall end with this entry. At the bottom of this page, you can view the final photo roll. As you’d expect, there are wild owls, kestrels, kingfishers, carp, peregrines, pike, and perch. And of course, the landscapes I found myself sharing with them. Many of the images have not been seen on the blog. Some are quite good, many are bad and some are downright ugly. Several of the photographs were intended for future blog posts; the last time I checked, there were 104 pending entries in the draft box- everything from rabbit poaching (at which I was rubbish) to haunted carp lakes; there was even an entry on an elderly ‘African Grey’ parrot I once met in a village pub- it was addicted to nicotine and could remember phrases that American G.I’s taught it in world war two.
But…. There’s only so much one can say online without becoming a bore! Printed media, being less easy to access, is all the more remote and precious for it. There are thirty-odd ‘postcards’ here, so I think that’ll do for an online presence. I’ll keep writing as a hobby. I’ve been published in some nice magazines and who knows, perhaps I’ll get a book together some day.
I started writing this blog in the autumn a few years back, with a view to keeping an online angling and birding diary. I chose the title- ‘Postcards from the English Outback’- with my tongue firmly stuck in my cheek. I’m a townie and, other than an idyllic childhood spent growing up on Pegwell Bay, I’ve spent most of my life as a lover of home comforts. But this changed nearly ten years ago when I decided to move back to Kent, having spent a few years teaching up in London.
My madeleine moment came when I moved from one of the capital’s greyest areas (the St Helier council estate in Merton) to the leafy delights of Putney Heath; it’s a glorious part of the capital and I lived in an old flat hidden away in the woods. The whole area was beautiful and reminded me of an earlier time in my life. I heard tawny owls every evening and once came face to face with a sparrowhawk that blocked one of the old paths as I trudged back from the pub- it was the first time I’d ever seen one up close. If I walked north, I could quickly reach ‘The Green Man’ tavern, where Dick Turpin used to hide his guns. If I wandered south, I could be sat opposite Wimbledon Common within a few minutes. There I’d watch the weekend horse-riders and sup ale in some of Oliver Reed’s favourite old watering holes. The more I fell back in love with the old country, though, the more I wanted to get back home to Kent and rediscover the lands of my youth. Within six months, I’d given notice at work and moved back to my home-town.
These ‘Postcards’ pick the story up a few years in to my adventures. By the time I started to write them, I’d been back in Kent for a full five years and had spent an unreasonable amount of my spare time wild coarse fishing and bird watching. When I published the first post- ‘The Haunted Tin’, about an old fishing tackle box my friend Morag gave me, I’d come to see my part of the county’s countryside as a sort of ‘outback’. Even today, in 2019, 85% of Kent is rural. But it’s one thing to know the statistics; it’s another to love and appreciate a ‘land’ for what it is. There are many ways to come to this; some go walking, others paint (I’ve always wanted to do more of the latter) but I did it via angling and birding.
Tracking migratory birds (often meeting the same creatures year in, year out) and pursuing wild fish, immersed me into the local landscape. This has been predominantly East Kent: the Stour Valley and the land just westwards with its ancient woodland and pretty little villages; east of there, my tales encompass the old Wantsum Valley (much of which was under water just two hundred years ago) with its strange marshes, small streams, ex-industrial ponds and great tidal rivers. Much of this part of the land was mined and worked on by my grandfather and his generation of my family. In the more recent entries, I’ve travelled east of the Wantsum to write about my childhood in Pegwell.
The heart of this writing beats in these wild places. My efforts to locate the birds and fish that reside in them is what stoked my initial desire to write a blog. However, I quickly found other themes- not least of all family, history, the landscape and at times, the concept of an English ‘Eerie’. These concepts haunt the stories you will find herein and it’s my intention to leave the pages up and online, even if I’m no longer adding to them.
It’s entirely possible I’ll go ‘wild’ again at some point and really have something to write about. There are lots of themes and adventures that intrigue me. Perhaps if I get the time away from work, I’ll be able to pursue them more.
I feel as though I’ve written enough about the marshes here but that I didn’t sufficiently cover the other two great ‘outbacks’ locally: the Blean Woods and the English Channel. My recent short-eared owl quest helped to address my lack of writing on the latter front. But it doesn’t go far enough.
There are still bass to be caught.
And the woods grow older and more interesting every day.
Final Photo Album
Please click on images to enlarge: