Last of the Postcards- with Final Photo Album

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:

22 thoughts on “Last of the Postcards- with Final Photo Album

    1. Thank you my brother!

      It was nice that you could be a part of these pages at one point. As you know, the world changes too fast for blokes like us. I hope you will keep surfing for as long as I keep fishing!

      Love, Gazza

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  1. Thanks for sharing it!
    Your stories and the pictures that illustrate them have taken me back to the Kent I love, hope all goes well for you in you next enterprises……

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So nice of you to say, Tim. I’m moved by that, old son. The writing in these pages was always heartfelt. The English countryside is a romance. For men like you and me, we find England in the streams and in the ever-changing skyline. We’re a dying breed. Most people want to race through the old country, ticking boxes. Ironically these days many of them are fishermen. Modern angling is a strange affair. But I’ve never made that a theme of my blog and it’s never affected how I fish or write. I’ll always fish and bird on a local basis. I’ll always develop obsessions with catching a pike from a particular mill pool or seeing an owl in a certain field. I don’t need to conquer anything- it’s just enough to get the odd glimpse at the elemental.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, Tim- Good Luck to you, too- Gazza

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    1. That’s a lovely comment, Andy.

      Thank you very much. I think perhaps I went against my own principles in the end. I’m proud of the writing I’ve done here, but angling and birding are best kept simple. The expectation of writing about or photographing my sorties started to hamper my trips not long after I started to blog- and I’ve kept it going for nearly three years. As you’ll know from these pages, I’m a simple soul when it comes to the countryside; when I bird, I watch; when I fish, I wait. And when I drink, I drink! My other life is busy and highly talkative (I’m a teacher and therapist) so I rely on the natural world for escape….

      I hope you keep escaping too, Andy- I sure will be, even if I’m not writing about it.

      God Bless and Best Regards, Gazza

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  2. Well this is another sad day in my life …I’ve looked forward to reading the ‘ next installment ‘ every time I’ve finished the last one… You’re too good at this to stop ..have a break and come back ..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Jonathan, That’s hugely kind of you to say, mate! But then I’m well accustomed to your generous feed-back.

      I’ve mentioned in some of my other comments that the blog was slightly complicating the time I spend escaping from my professional life. I’m not a prolific blogger but I haven’t been a slouch; there are thirty-odd entries here and every one is written from the heart.

      To me, the one thing in my life I can speak 100% honestly and simply about is the natural world. It was my ballast as a child and I went too long as an adult without it. I remember being in my early thirties, living in London, and just dying to be able to cast a perch bobber out on my one my old childhood haunts. Or to be able to drink a beer again in a seaside pub, after a dusk bassing trip. I’ve not captured too much of the latter! There have been plenty of owls and perch, but not enough bass!

      So when you talk of taking breaks and coming back- who knows? Perhaps I could write something about the coast at some point? It’s where I’m heading back to. I have a growing addiction for sea bass spinners and plugs- and I’m beginning to watch the wading birds again on my local estuary- though I don’t know if I’d want to write online about it.

      But your words give me pause.

      Best Regards and Thanks so much again for all your kind comments- Gazza

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      1. I regard Bass , Mullet and playing golf with the same comteptuous frustration …. one day I’m God the next day and abject failure – though I’ve never been tempted to throw fishing rods in the same way that several golf clubs became airborne , the remainder are gathering dust in the garage ….so good luck with the Bass 🙂

        Perhaps a few trips to the coast will make the finger tips itchy to touch the keyboard again and cheer up some distant friends who will miss your writings in the meantime … ( though perhaps as a teacher you could set an assignment for your pupils to ghost write a few columns for you ) ..

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m sure they’d be happy to, Jonathan!

        And yes, who knows- perhaps in a few years’ time. The sea is where I started fishing; most of my coarse fishing in these entries was done on coastal marshes which are all part of the same estuary where I learned to bass, so there’s a neat connection there. I’ll still be fishing and birding the whole area- so who knows? I’ve an awful lot of stories I haven’t told.

        But for now the postcards can go a little brown! Perhaps when they begin to curl at the edges, I could add some more.

        Stay in touch, Gazza

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  3. I’m really going to miss your posts Gareth. They have always been most enjoyable and certainly never boring.

    You’re so right about not setting targets. Fishing should always be about the enjoyment of doing it the way that gives you the most satisfaction. We should not get obsessed with the numbers game and we should always take time to enjoy our surroundings and the beauty of the things we are privileged to see and touch.

    I certainly hope to hear more of you in the future and I know there’s a book in you somewhere.

    Sincere best wishes,
    Malcolm

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Malcolm- Very kind of you, mate.

      And thanks for all the lovely comments down the years- they were hugely valued.

      You’re so right about taking time. I’m the slowest angler in the world and have often had to turn trips down because I’ve been nervous about how people will view my approach. I often take ages to get fishing and seem to get completely distracted by everything else. I’m a confirmed ‘wallower’! I tend to fish or bird stretches of the countryside that have somehow caught my imagination; I then return over and over until I feel I know what’s going on. Like a kind of therapy; I suppose it’s that way for many of us.

      I hope to write again at some point- I have a view on my own patch of the world that I think is worth sharing- but perhaps not always online. And not for the moment,

      Stay in touch and Best Regards, Gazza

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  4. Gareth, The press has stopped. I loved my reads over Christmas last year when I found your blog and I shall miss it. A lot. I hope you return at some point like a message in a bottle. Postcards will remain in my favourites and Blogs I follow.
    You can still open a digital book again and again. All the best, John

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lovely words, John- especially from a fellow levels-man! I’ll continue to look in on your wonderful, evocative work.

      I said earlier that I’d have to wait until the postcards go brown at the edges (!) before I could think about adding any more- I’m unsure that digital content can do that; in fact, it’s all the poorer for not being able to. But I’ll be leaving all the posts online. Maybe in a few years I could add to them when my voice is a little gruffer and my words a littler greyer.

      But not too much greyer, I hope! The green spaces we love should always keep us young at heart and I will always return to them. I have a lot to say about what I consider ‘my patch’- the coastline and marshes of east Kent- and to an extent the ancient Blean and the old farms that surround it. Who knows? Maybe I’ll write about it again at some point. But online? I don’t know…

      For now, though- I’m putting these posts to sleep.

      All the Best and stay in touch- Gazza

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    1. That’s wonderful, John- Thank you very much! I shall be in touch, and please do enjoy re-reading. I often stumble across parts of these pages which I’ve forgotten about myself- Best Regards, Gazza

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  5. Thank you so much for your wonderful posts and pictures – though I came rather late to discovering you, I’ve avidly gorged on the backlog like a Ruffe on a worm! I imagine so many of us have a sense of synergy with your passions shared – owls most recently for me, but the fish you pursue are the same fantastical creatures I seek through the year too, hence the delight in your writings. A book is a daunting task and will never make you rich, but my word you have a talent and if I may it easily fits in the same lofted company of Chris Yates, BB, and others of their ilk which fill my bookshelves here. Go catch those Bass – CY’s excursion to the Saltwater stirred a wonderful book in him i read again in a week in pursuit of North Cornish Bass recently. I’m sure we all hope it will one day do the same for you. So it’s “Fallons Angler” to satiate me now. It would be great to see you in there from time to time. Thank you again.

    kind regards
    Dave

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, David- Very kind indeed.

      Yes, it could be that I want to write about different themes in the future- but for the moment I’m happy to remain a bumpkin. I can travel a bit lighter (both in terms of equipment and expectation) without the blog.

      I think I did what I wanted to; there are an awful lot of stories I haven’t told but the initial aim of the postcards was to take the reader into the Kent countryside and get close to truly wild quarry. That was the key. Long ago, I read something Ted Hughes said about loving the landscape but how it would be meaningless without the game that resides in it. I think something similar. For me, the creatures and the landscape are one.

      The stories of which I’m most proud relate to perch and owls. These seemed to be the two spirits most willing to commune with me. Or in any case, these were the creatures that inspired the most madness in me! Bird-watching and angling are relatively harmless but they’re still forms of hunting. And that’s what opened up the land for me.

      I’d always wanted to be closer to the edgelands that I’d skirted as a boy. It didn’t seem enough to fish day ticket waters and see the odd kestrel. I wanted to be ‘out there’, as it were. The blog shows some of this. There’s an awful lot of personal stuff I’ve left out. Although some may say I’ve included too much.

      So there we are. Thanks again for all your support, David!

      All the best and please stay in touch- Gazza

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  6. my god ! ( not that i’m religious in the slightest ) …gareth craddock to fold up his digits and pen no more !! …… it’s the biggest disaster since the comedy series ‘brexit’ or that sick barsteward trump ( don’t get me started )

    seriously though many thanks for some delightfully emotive writing …… which , as i’ve said before, ranks with anybodies work – and far too good for a mere blog .
    you are not the only one who likes to saunter and ponder a bit … as wordsworth said up a hill somewhere ( i walked around a bit – on my own ) . with a bit of hiking thrown in my trips to cheshire ( robinson’s bitter ), the peak district and the lakes ( hartley’s bitter ) showed an escape from big city life that improved my life no end. i regularly meet similar people from the angling and also dog walking world who just don’t want to be rushed – at least some of the time.

    all the very best for the future and i hope some of those bass get caught

    ttfn

    ron

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Ron! Most generous comments, my friend- and thank you for all your support.

      In terms of pondering- I am the ponderer’s ponderer. Both my angling and birding seem to involve a series of stutter-steps and diversions until I really feel like I know the target (which, of course, I rarely do). Wild fishing and birding is like dismantling one of those Russian Babushka dolls. You proceed little by little until you get to the core. And very often we never get there.

      I’ve tried to show some of the process we go through. I feel that I’ve occasionally succeeded. I was particularly proud of the ‘Wild Perch of Black Dyke’ series. And the early tench dyke fishing series. These were situations where the fishing was uncharted, wild- and free! And I genuinely didn’t know what I would catch.

      In terms of birding, I think that same process was reflected in the later short-eared owl stories. It still makes my heartbeat quicken to think of how close that bird allowed me to get.

      All the best and do stay in touch, old son! Gazza

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  7. Deeply saddened that ‘Postcards’ has come to an end….. but the English outback endures, and is much the richer for your writings which have inspired me to explore once again something I thought had been lost for ever. Cheers Gazza! and good luck for the future; tight lines!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Dave- I appreciate it. The Outback Endures! I do like that, mate. Yes, many of these spots weren’t hugely remote by other countries’ standards, but they were secluded. That’s still possible in southern England and I suspect it always will be- particularly the coastal marshes, being what they are. I fell in love with one patch- I suppose a thousand acres or so of Kentish fenland (we don’t have much of that but it is there!); it had a hell of an effect of me and I’m glad I found it when I did… Best Wishes, Gazza

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