Cross Keys Swing Bridge, Sutton Bridge, Lincolnshire


People who live and work in Sutton Bridge
and surrounding areas



Have you, like me, ever wondered what it is like to bring in one of the big ships that we see moored at Port Sutton Bridge, or which pass through the Swing Bridge on its way to Wisbech? Do you stop your car and watch mesmerised from the bank to see it being effortlessly manoeuvred into the quay? Or are you more concerned about the time you have to wait for the bridge to re-open so that you can continue your journey?

Recently, one warm summer evening, it was arranged with the master of the Russian vessel, the Kovera, that I could accompany the Wisbech pilot, Glenn Lewis, as he brought this 2,300 tonne vessel, 82 metres long, 4.5 metre draft, from its position out in the Wash at the anchorage, into the River Nene, through the Cross Keys swing bridge and to its berth at the port of Wisbech. The Kovera had come from Riga, in Latvia, with a cargo of timber. The ship's complement consisted of the captain plus eight crew, which included a female cook.

I was given brief instructions on how to don a life jacket and we left the pilot mooring near Port Sutton Bridge in the pilot boat at 6pm, allowing approximately two and a half hours passage to arrive at Wisbech at high water.

Pilot Boat and the Fenlander
The pilot boat and the tug, the Fenlander returning to their mooring at Port Sutton Bridge
Photo by Jim Ramsey

On board the pilot boat was the new coxswain, Darryl, the pilot (Glenn Lewis), the harbour master, Clinton Dorrington, and me. We stopped at the port itself to take on board another pilot, Barry Knight, who was to bring in a second vessel to Port Sutton Bridge (PSB). The journey from the pilot mooring to PSB was done slowly so as not to cause too much wash, which would rock the pilot boat as we neared the quayside.

As soon as we had left PSB and picked up speed, the pilot called up the Kovera to say we'd be there in 35 minutes and would be boarding from their port side (on the lee side, out of the wind). There were two ships to be brought in that evening. The other vessel, Thea Marieike, which was to be piloted by Barry, was coming into Sutton Bridge and she was also contacted and a similar instruction was given.

As we passed the tide gauge at the Lighthouse jetty, a reading of 4.4 metres was taken. This is a point of reference which enables the pilot to gauge the depth of water at different points in the Wash.

'Everything's critical when you are bringing a ship in,' said the pilot, 'the timing, the state of the tide, weather conditions, the height of the water, the depth of the water beneath the ship, everything.'

A pilot has several navigational aids to assist him: radar, GPS (satellite), gyro compass and a rate-of-turn indicator. Because it was a fine evening and visibility and conditions were good, the pilot was able to use eyesight to navigate. However, when there is poor visibility, bad weather conditions or at night, the pilot uses the navigational aids in addition to his eye.

As we came alongside the Kovera, there was had very little time for the pilot and I to board. Once the pilot boat member was satisfied that it was safe, he called 'Go!' and we had to go. Stepping from one moving vessel to another is momentarily a bit scary, but you don't have time to think about that for very long. You just go! On board the Kovera, it felt firmer, steadier and quieter, compared with the engine noise of the pilot boat and the rocking motion as it pulled alongside.

Once aboard, the pilot boat headed off to the other vessel and I followed Glenn up to the top deck and into the Bridge where I was introduced to the ship's Master before he was politely asked if he would allow the pilot to take over. There is a formal etiquette to be followed: the captain is in charge of his ship at all times and can dismiss the pilot, if he wishes. It has never happened to Glenn and watching him bring the ship safely to anchorage at Wisbech, I can understand why.

The Pilot Glenn Lewis on the ship's bridge of Russian vessel, the Kovera
Wisbech Pilot Glenn Lewis on the ship's bridge of Russian vessel, the Kovera

As soon as the pilot took over the control of the ship, he was in charge and acted efficiently and professionally. The first task took place as we passed the Wisbech No 1 buoy. Here the pilot informed the Swing Bridge of the vessel's position and expected time of arrival at the bridge. The pilot and the ship's captain then discussed the Passage Plan—a chart that shows the channel that must be followed from the safe anchorage to the Port at Wisbech. The pilot also checked with the Captain that the vessel was in good order and had adequate stability. This is vital, especially when a ship's cargo is also carried on the deck (as in Kovera's case) as the ship's centre of gravity is altered. This effect has to be taken into account in any calculation concerning speed and the course followed.

A pilot needs to know the channel: its twists and turns require some tight, critical manoeuvrings. He also needs to know if there is adequate water to pass through the channel, giving the vessel a minimum of 0.4 under-keel clearance.

The channel is marked by different coloured buoys: red (Port), green (starboard) and cardinal (yellow and black). Their shapes (red-can, green –triangular) also indicate which is which, necessary in case of poor light, or no light on the buoy. The cardinal buoys show the direction position of deeper water. All the buoys are numbered or named after previous pilots or harbour masters, or the sand banks which they indicate.

The arrangement of the symbols on the cardinal buoys and the position of the markings indicate the north, south, east or west direction of deep water. A fifth indicates deep water all round. The red and green buoys mark the extremity of the channel, so the passage between numbers 3 and 9 Green, indicate the shallowest part of the channel and here it is very narrow, making navigation of a long ship tricky. Similarly Red Inner Sand marks a sandbank that is close to where the cross tide might make a vessel go aground.

This happened to one chartered vessel recently when its captain tried to come into the Nene without a pilot and ran aground on the sandbank where he had to wait for some considerable time until there was enough water in the channel to lift him off. It is compulsory for all vessels over 20 metres to have pilot assistance.

It is therefore crucial to keep within the buoys as the waters on either side are very shallow and it is easy to go aground, especially if the sun is in the pilot's eyes (as it was on this occasion). The pilot cannot afford to take his eyes of his task for more than a couple of seconds! Even though it appears that there is water all around, only a small part of it is navigable.

Seagulls on their way to their roost on the 'doughnut'—the man-made island that was intended to be a fresh-water store, but is instead 'home' to thousands of seabirds— flew across the bow and stern of the Kovera as it changed its course to follow the deep water channel between No3 buoy and Inner Sand (red).

The curves of the channel brought the ship into an area of 'cross-tides' and the pilot had to increase speed to get across this to avoid being set off course by the tide. When approaching shallow water, the ship has to slow to reduce the draft to avoid 'squat'. This occurs when the vessel's draft is increased due to speed—it creates a kind of 'dip' in the water, making less water beneath the vessel.

The returning pilot boat went ahead to take depth of water soundings at the tide gauge at the Lighthouse jetty. If there is not enough water, then the vessel has to wait or slow down until the level rises. We proceeded slowly.

The pilot constantly mentally calculated as he steered, using the depth of the water in the channel ahead of him, the speed of the vessel, and the state of the tide, the time of arrival at various points, making sure he is at the right place at the right time. Much of this information is gathered over the VHF via the pilot boat and from the Port Sutton Bridge Office, which has an electronic tide gauge. All this enabled the pilot to set the right course and speed. The pilot is fully focussed all the time: he barely had time to drink the mug of coffee offered to him by the ship's steward.

Sometimes vessels that are moored in the deep water channel waiting for the water level to rise have to be contacted to be asked to move away to allow the larger vessel to have priority. The rule is: larger vessels have right of way. As we approached, the fishing vessel Lucky Luke was in the Roads waiting to proceed into Wisbech. The pilot instructed him to go ahead so that we could follow him through the swing bridge while it was open.

Ahead the coastline was becoming more defined. Familiar landmarks could be picked out: the silo in King's Lynn, the two lighthouses at the mouth of the Nene; wind turbines on Gedney Marsh. Moored near the 'doughnut' was Centrica's cable barge, while on the marsh itself, the two monster machines (Nessie III and Nessie V) used by Centrica for cable laying, stood incongruously in a landscape normally only inhabited by sea birds, samphire pickers and wildfowlers.

The evening sun tinted the sky vermillion. A few walkers on the west bank turned to watch as Kovera left the estuary and glided between the riverbanks. Seabirds took flight from the disappearing mudflats. The banks of the river assumed their shape. The lighthouses were more apparent: gleaming white in the warm sunshine.

At the lighthouses, the vessel reduced its speed to dead slow ahead, giving it a speed of 9 knots (as indicated on the ship's GPS or speed over the ground). The tide was coming in at 5 knots which gave the vessel a speed of 4 knots through the water. At this point the Pilot contacted the swing bridge again to advise Kovera's postion and again at the next calling-up position (the double reds). By now, the Kovera was approaching Port Sutton Bridge, and the pilot was keeping to the centre of the channel. Here he again reported to the Swing Bridge and PSB office. The Thea Marrieke, following some distance behind us, began to slow, preparing to swing to come into the Nene stern first.

Keeping to the centre of the deep water channel in the river as a vessel approaches the bridge is vital, even though it brings the ship close to other vessels moored at the quay. It is also crucial to keep in the centre of the channel on the final approach to the bridge to avoid the vessel being drawn into the bank, making the final approach to the bridge difficult. Just before entering the bridge hole, the pilot increased the speed to half ahead to pass through the bridge as quickly as possible to prevent the vessel making contact with the bridge itself. As the bridge is built on a bend, the tide will try to set the vessel into the bridge on the east side. The actual speed of the vessel passing through was increased to approximately 10 knots to avoid this. Once through the bridge the pilot reduced speed to dead slow ahead.

As we were a 'bit early'—we needed to be at the swing bridge forty minutes before High Water at Sutton Bridge in order to be in Wisbech at the right time (where High Tide is 30 minutes later) to swing the Kovera in sufficient water before mooring at the quayside. Mentally calculating what his speed should be, the pilot slowed the ship again.

A vessel on its way to Wisbech, passing through the 'bridge hole' of Crosskeys Swing Bridge at Sutton Bridge
A vessel on its way to Wisbech, passing through the 'bridge hole' of Crosskeys Swing Bridge at Sutton Bridge
Another vessel, the Icelandica, passing through the swing bridge on another occasion
Another vessel, the Icelandica, passing through the swing bridge on another occasion

By now the bridge was in sight. It was opened and we could see Lucky Jim pass through. Kovera passed Port Sutton Bridge at minimum safe speed possible to maintain safe steerage to prevent the ships moored there from parting (breaking) their mooring ropes.

The open width of the bridge is 21metres; the width of the vessel is just less than 11.5 metres. The pilot has to make sure that as the vessel begins to pass through, it has to be very close (a metre or so) on one side to ensure that the stern on the other side passes clear.

Below: Short video clips taken on behalf of the pilot, showing him piloting another vessel through the swing bridge can be viewed on YouTube

The journey beyond the swing bridge to Wisbech was different. At this point everything was going according to plan for an estimated time of arrival at Wisbech at approximately high water. If the vessel had been running late, an increase of speed would be necessary. If the vessel had been too early, the speed would be reduced by stopping the ship's engine for as long as the vessel could maintain steerage, and then the engine must be started again. The vessel has to be travelling faster than the tide to give adequate steerage. This is where the skill of the pilot comes in.

Near Foul Anchor, a father and his two young children waved as we passed and gestured to the pilot to sound the siren, but on this occasion he was unable to do this. We waved instead.

By 8.30 pm (two and a half hours after setting out), Wisbech port was in sight. It was dusk, and the port and the faint dark outline and starboard lights of the tug, The Fenlander could be seen ahead. Before berthing, the ship had to be turned in the Wisbech swing basin at Crab Marsh Corner.

This is the tricky part. The pilot asked the Captain to take the controls and take orders from him, the pilot, who by now was on the wing of the bridge and looking over the side, shouting out instructions, all of which were repeated by the Captain, to make sure that both knew the instruction has been understood.

At the same time he was talking to the tug master and the mooring men on the quayside using his hand-held VHF radio. He had to shout to be heard above the noise of the bow thruster, the propellers and the engine. At the same time the Captain was relaying messages to his crew on the bow concerning mooring ropes and the sound of the bow thruster could be heard on the bridge through the talk-back system.

"Three steps to port."
"Hard at-starboard."
"Dead slow ahead."

Darting between the bridge and the ship's side, the Pilot was constantly monitoring, giving instructions to the Captain and the Tugmaster, James Hodge, on board The Fenlander via the ship's VHF:

"A slight push, Fenlander, to starboard."

Back to the captain:

"Dead slow ahead, captain."
"Two steps."
"Stop the engines."
"Two steps to port."
"Slight push, Fenlander."
"Half power."
"Full power"

I watched from the deck noting the effects of these instructions. At the point where Kovera was straddling the river horizontally, the pilot instructed me to look over the stern. It was now quite dark and people walking on the bank seemed very close to us. The dark murky water was being churned rapidly by the ship's propeller, keeping the boat in its position. With the help of a rope, the bow thrusters and the Fenlander to push at the bow, Kovera's bow was nudged into the turning basin. The gap between the ship's stern and the riverbank was so narrow (5 metres) that you couldn't help wondering just how this huge heavy ship would complete the turn. But it did. It was a successful manoeuvre.

(It is compulsory for the tug to attend a loaded vessel above a certain length. Its role is to nudge the ship alongside once the ropes have been thrown ashore and the ship is safely moored.)

It took about twenty minutes of steering in reverse to get from the turning basin, round the horseshoe bend and towards the discharging berth where the cranes were waiting to off-load the cargo of timber. By then it was very dark and all the amber lights of Wisbech and the headlights of traffic crossing the Freedom Bridge were dazzlingly visible against the dark sky. Once at the quayside, crew members in the bow and the stern were throwing heaving lines (which are attached to the ropes) ashore and Kovera was safely moored.

Then it was finished: the pilot's job done, he called to me and we left the Kovera, thanking the Captain and descended to the deck below to transfer to the Fenlander for the trip back to Sutton Bridge. In two days, the pilot returned to Wisbech to take the Kovera back out into the Wash.

The return trip on the tug (Fenlander) allowed the pilot time to relax and reflect. He had been fully focussed on his task for nearly four hours and welcomed this time to banter with his team members. They explained to me that there are many other jobs to be done apart from providing support to the pilots. The tide gauges have to be regularly cleaned to be visible in all weather conditions. The buoys are regularly checked and lights replaced where necessary. Every two years they are removed from the water and rusty chains are replaced. The deep water channel has to be regularly surveyed as the sand banks are always shifting. The Harbour Authority has its own survey boat for this purpose.

As we approached the swing bridge again, the barge Master, James Hodge, contacted the bridge to let them know we were coming. No real need as they could see us, but procedure must be followed at all times. The Fenlander's engines drowned out the radio tuned to rock music on the shelf behind my seat. The sky was clear except for a thin veil of clouds slightly dimming the moon's brightness.

"How romantic!" I expressed my thoughts aloud and all three men laughed as if I had made a joke!

The skill and expertise of the pilot, the barge master, the boatman and those on the quayside are vital to bringing a sea-going vessel safely through the narrow and potentially dangerous environment of the Wash and into its river estuaries. Their knowledge of the environment in which they work, their willingness to co-operate and trust each others' judgment is vital to the work they do.

I wish to offer my thanks to Glenn, James, Darryl, the harbourmaster and the Captain of the Kovera, for the opportunity of being allowed to share for a few hours the complexities of their work and perhaps grasp a little understanding of what they do.

As a final request, (while he was helping me edit this article), the Pilot asked drivers travelling along the river bank at night to remember to dip their headlights when seeing a vessel in the river as this causes dazzle and reduces his ability to see clearly.


All ships bound for Port Sutton Bridge with a bow thruster usually come in stern first. This procedure was developed after the Lajik went aground at the turning basin whilst swinging at Sutton Bridge in 2000. As the Lajik blocked the turning basin, it made it impossible for ships to swing, so some method had to be devised to bring ships to the dockside at Sutton Bridge. By bringing them in astern not only saved time by allowing the ship to depart up to two and a half hours earlier than previously, but also made it easier and quicker for the ship to be docked safely and her cargo unloaded. The only ships for Sutton Bridge that now come in bow first are those without bow thrusters and these are discharged of their cargo first and then swung in the turning basin, or if they are bringing in ballast, they are turned first and then loaded with their cargo.

Lagik straddled across the Nene, taken in December 2000
Lagik straddled across the Nene, taken in December 2000


¦ ⇑ Back to top of page ⇑ ¦

(By a Sutton Bridge Pocillovist)

Pocillovy comes from the Latin ‘pocillum ovi’ meaning a small cup for an egg so an egg cup collector is known as a Pocillovist.

These days it seems that everyone collects something; it certainly seems like that when you visit a collectors’ fair and it is amazing what people do collect from buttons to grandfather clocks and everything in between.

When I say to people that I collect egg cups they usually smile and recall an egg cup they had as a child when they were told to 'eat up your egg and grow big and strong'. Anyway they all seem to think egg cups are nice little things and say there must be quite a few different ones about. Well, this is the understatement of all time and when I started to collect egg cups in 1985 I didn't realise what this was going to lead to and that life was not going to be quite the same again!

I was talking to my sister-in-law, Jill, who has a wonderful collection of piggy banks, and said that I would like to collect something. Jill suggested egg cups as it was Easter time and there were some chocolate eggs about in egg cups.  I thought about it and liked the idea so that was it.

Family & friends took an interest and started to give me egg cups, they all thought it was a bit of fun and really enjoyed having something to look out for on their travels. My enthusiasm grew and I was totally hooked on collecting these fascinating little things and was constantly on the look out at jumble sales, car boots, bric-a-brac shops etc., never intending to spend much more than 50p on a cup! I started to visit collectors’ fairs and saw some wonderful egg cups that were far beyond my budget. However, it was not long before my original 50p per cup had increased to about £5 as I could not resist some of the egg cups that were about. 

Pocillovist egg cup collection

By 1992 I had 500 egg cups! Never in my wildest dreams did I think of such quantities when I started collecting but more were to come!

In 1993 I saw an advertisement for The Egg Cup Collectors Club of Great Britain. I did not realise a club existed for collectors of egg cups, in fact, I thought I was in the minority. I excitedly sent off my subscription and joined the club. To think I could now speak to people with the same interest was lovely. The Egg Cup Collectors Club was a source of inspiration. They published a quarterly magazine called Egg Cup World and had a worldwide membership of over 500.

In 1994 I went for the first time to a huge antique and collectables fair, one of the largest in Europe, held every few months. I thought it was the most fantastic place and although I came home with only 2 egg cups, they were £10 each, a record payout for me! Seeing some very expensive 'quality' egg cups made me determined to try and treat myself now and again to something 'special'.

I collected all types steadily over the next 4 years visiting some good fairs around plus many smaller venues which sometimes proved more productive, and this made me realise that even the smallest fairs are worth a look as you just never know what you might find.

In 1998 with over 1100 egg cups and a big display problem, I made the momentous decision to collect older traditional style egg cups, known as the pedestal shape.

Pocillovist egg cup collection

Right from the start it has been a fascinating and absorbing hobby especially with the research involved on unmarked egg cups, of which there are many. I do prefer to buy egg cups with a maker’s mark on the base.

The anticipation of the 'find' is the best part of going out and about for me and also meeting the lovely people I have had contact with along the way. Of course we now have the internet and I can easily buy/sell and ‘talk’ to people all over the world about my hobby.

Unfortunately The Egg Cup Collectors Club is no more which is a great shame as we used to have regular meeting around the Country where we bought and sold, aired one’s news and views and had a good ‘eggy’ day.

For those of you who enjoyed reading  ‘Eggcusions in Pocillovy’, you will no doubt be interested to learn more about the…


The egg cup has to be one of the world's simplest and most successful ideas. It has been produced for centuries in countless thousands but it has only really become 'collectable' during the past few decades. Its popularity has grown along with the prices fetched and collectors now search far and wide for the rarest pieces.

The earliest recorded images of egg cups appear in a Turkish mosaic dating from 3AD and examples were found among the ruins of Pompeii from 79AD. The date of the advent of the egg cup in England is uncertain but it is known that the Elizabethans enjoyed roasted eggs and in 1690 a certain Lady Harvey referred to 'a silver ege thing' in a thank-you letter. Wooden cups were probably used before silver ones but they are very difficult to date.

Some of the earliest wooden egg cups were made from maple, pine, rosewood, mahogany, olive wood, fruit woods, oak, birch, ash, walnut, and many others.

In France, Louis XV helped to boost the popularity of egg cups. He was reported to be able to 'decapitate an egg at a single stroke'. People would buy an egg cup to try and emulate their king.

Throughout the 18th and into the 19th century, pottery and porcelain egg cups only featured as part of a dinner service and they would have been of a matching style, colour and pattern. Later in the 19th century, egg cups were produced as individual pieces of china ware in their own right. Most egg cups did not have a maker's mark on the bottom, so it helps to look out for larger pieces in the same pattern in order to identify the maker and the date.

19th century silver egg cups were often gilded inside to prevent the sulphur from the egg staining the silver. However, some say that it affected the flavour. At this time 'egg' spoons tended to be made of horn, ivory or bone and these are now avidly collected.

Egg cups were very common and consequently many became chipped or damaged, which explains why intact 19th century designs are so difficult to find and so very expensive when they do turn up.

The earliest examples of Victorian egg cups often come in sets of four, six or even twelve pieces on a matching tray. Breakfasts had become gastronomic feasts at a time when families of 10+ were commonplace.

Photo 1: a) hoop in blue / white, similar to a table napkin ring
b)  Pedestal (antique) 
c) Pedestal (traditional)

Photo 2: Two ‘doubles’

The egg hoop is like a waisted napkin ring with one end sometimes larger than the other to take different sized eggs. One end would be for a hen's egg and the other for a turkey or a duck egg. ‘Hoops’ are quite rare these days, especially if in good condition

Photo 3: Three bucket shaped cups with designs by Art Deco artists

During the early 1900's, the huge growth in railway travel launched a boom in the holiday souvenir trade. Potters were quick to supply cheap egg cups bearing a black and white or sometimes a full colour scene of the seaside resort or town. Probably the most well known of the souvenir ware makers was W H Goss of Stoke on Trent, who produced somewhat better quality egg cups up to 1930.

These egg cups were decorated with a town's name and coat of arms, richly displayed in high quality enamels. They were not just limited to popular destinations and seaside resorts but many inland towns were also featured. These souvenirs sold at the time for pennies. Many egg cups from this period have been chipped or have a hairline crack. All genuine W H Goss pieces have a Goshawk stamp on the base.

Another souvenir style was known as Devon 'motto ware’. These cups usually have a motif of a cottage, crowing cockerel or a seagull with sayings such as 'fresh today' or 'waste-not-want-not’ printed on them.

By the 1930’s the double egg cup had became very popular. The smaller end would be used to serve a boiled egg in the usual way. The larger end was used to serve the egg chopped, mixed with salt and pepper and eaten with a spoon or fork.

Between the wars, 'Art Deco' exploded onto the scene with egg cups designed by Clarice Cliff and Susie Cooper, making them very fashionable. (see Photo 3)

Not surprisingly, vast quantities of egg cups were made to appeal to young children, to encourage them to eat more eggs. Egg cups were decorated with pictures of favourite characters from children's books, cartoon films and comic strips. Characters such as Felix the Cat, Bonzo and Mickey Mouse became very popular. Later Muffin the Mule, Sooty and The Muppets came along—to name but a few. Latterly, a set of Teletubbies egg cups as been produced!

Photo 4 : Popeye a favourite in the 1930’s; Postman Pat c.1985 and Sooty, c.1950’s

Up to recent times, most pottery firms, large or small, had a range of egg cups in their pattern books. Some had short production runs and some were made for many years. The Willow Pattern has been in use by a variety of makers since the first decade of the19th century, and Spode have had the Italian pattern in continuous production since its introduction in 1816

Over the years egg cups have been used for advertising hotels, railway companies and brands of food and drink.

Photo 5: Sidney & Gaffer of Tetley Tea fame on either side of a Hovis egg cup.

Popularity in egg-cup collecting (pocillovy) continues today. In 2005 the Today Programme (Radio 4) produced and sold figural shaped egg cups of the Today presenters Sarah Montague, John Humphrys and James Naughtie in aid of Children in Need.

Photo 6: Figural shapes also include animals and birds as well as people.

¦ ⇑ Back to top of page ⇑ ¦

Bridge Road, Sutton Bridge

At the turn of the century, when horse drawn vehicles used to travel along Bridge Road, and people walked to the shops instead of driving to them in their cars, a parade of shops, known as 'Watsons' was thriving.

Some time later, each shop was turned into individual shop units and one, the second from the corner, was a children's clothing shop, known as 'Young and Gay'!.

Today it is the Fruit and Veg shop that is run by Tracy. Tracy knows Sutton Bridge well; her family come from Sutton Bridge and its surrounding areas and she herself was brought up in Crosby Row, where she lived with her parents. Her father, Kevin, was born in neighbouring Chestnut Terrace and remembers when this was a tree-lined street.

Two views of the Victorian Terrace in Bridge Road that has seen better days.

Tracy's father attended the primary school in Wharf Street before crossing the road to attend the Old School on Bridge Road. From then he went to Peele School in Long Sutton.

By the time Tracy was old enough to attend school, a new one had been built — Westmere and she remembers starting there when she was only four. (Being born in August meant, in those days, that you started at the beginning of the year in which you were five, so Tracy started shortly after her fourth birthday).

She remembers some of her teachers, Miss Starling, Mr Langston, Mr Filby, Mr Seal and Mr Brewis. From here she went, like her dad, to Peele School in Long Sutton. After she left school, Tracy worked as a receptionist at Warwick Concrete and although she enjoyed her time there, she was unfortunately made redundant, just before her 18th birthday.

After two weeks off work, she found another job at the Potato Marketing Board working on the floor. She soon learned the many tasks required: grading potatoes, putting them though the packaging and stitching machines and finally, packing them in larger sacks. She found this work tiring and tedious although she remembers the good times she had with her work mates. After she became pregnant she asked to be transferred to 'light duties' but this was refused and so she had to leave.

When her children were old enough, she decided to open up a fruit and veg shop in the village. She remembers the one that is now the Barber shop and another that recently opened in part of the Antiques warehouse. She said her interest began when her family used to sell fruit and veg at the front gate and this was what prompted her into having her own shop.

Tracy's Fruit & Veg shop as it is today

Tracy has worked hard to make the shop clean and inviting and has many things to offer other than fruit and veg. She sells flowers and can make up bouquets for special occasions as well as sending them by mail order. She sells party balloons, and other party fayre. She is also interested in the history of Sutton Bridge and has collected together a lot of photographs of Old Sutton Bridge, which are displayed on the wall of the shop above the display counters. She has also made a CD containing the photos, which is also for sale.

Tracy is a keen supporter the Walpole Roller Hockey Club, which is an exciting sport that is becoming increasingly popular in the UK. It is similar to Ice Hockey but is played on roller skates with a ball, rather than a 'puck'. It is a suitable game for all the family and the Walpole Club has teams from the whole range: under 11's, Minors, Inters, Schoolboys and Seniors. Tracy first became interested in roller skating when she was a young girl but it was her friend, Jane, who introduced her to the Walpole Roller Hockey Club. She can still roller skate but not so well as her son and daughter, who excel. Her son Alex, has won many trophies and daughter Jasmine is a very good roller skate dancer.

Tracy spends a lot of her spare time ferrying the teams to competitions in Soham, Burwell, Letchworth and Manningtree, to name but a few. She is a keen fundraiser for the Club and collects old ink cartridges for the Club to recycle for their funds. Tracy also thinks the sport is good for youngsters, especially lads the age of her son (15). Not only is it a sport, says Tracy, but it is one that keeps the youngsters inside, and where they are meeting and making new friends outside school. She says it helps them to mature.

While Tracy has lived in Sutton Bridge all her life, she is not sure how long she will remain here. Unlike when she was growing up, there is 'nothing here for the kids' and places that she and her friends used to go to make their own amusements no longer exist, and people do not seem to be so relaxed towards youngsters as she remembers them when she was growing up.

She remembers the fun she had during the Galas and in 1984 she was chosen to be the Gala Queen, and talked about the excitement at school whilst they prepared the float, especially the making of artificial flowers for it. She felt really proud as she, as 'Queen' led the procession along Bridge road. She was also a Girl Guide and remembers the 'Scout Hut' where the guides met, when the Scouts and the Brownies, who also shared it, were not meeting.

Tracy said it was a shame that the old things had passed away and that there was very little left of the Old Sutton Bridge. Even the parade of shops where she has her own fruit and veg shop is not as well cared for as it was shown in earlier photographs.


October 2014

Sadly Tracy closed her fruit and vegetable shop opposite the church in May 2014 and in June moved to another small shop further along Bridge Road, near Allenby’s Chase.

Although no longer selling fruit and vegetables, Tracy still makes up beautiful bouquets and funeral floral tributes as well as other novelties.  A speciality is in balloons, either as a presentation piece or as room decorations for weddings, birthdays or other events.

Her daughter has now started playing roller hockey and the family all support the Walpole Highway Roller Hockey team.

¦ ⇑ Back to top of page ⇑ ¦

The Boathouse - Bistro Bar & Tea Rooms
(Formerly The Gathering 'Rock Pub-Cafe' P.H. / The New Inn)

The New Inn has had yet another takeover and facelift.  It has now been renamed 'The Boathouse’ and opened as a bistro bar and tea rooms in July 2014. 

The Boathouse Bistro Bar & Tea Rooms

The Boathouse tea rooms are open from Wednesday to Saturday and the Bistro Bar serves good food during the evenings Thursdays to Sundays.

 A couple of photos of the inside:


The Gathering 'Rock Pub-Cafe' P.H.

Debs and Andy bought the former New Inn in October 2011, with exciting plans to transform it into a ‘ Rock Pub ’. They had both worked in the music business, had run a rock group in London—Hard Rock Hell—among other things, so both of them had some idea of what they were embarking on. It was still a big decision, a big risk because neither of them had ever run a pub before and there was to a lot to learn about the business in a very short while. Debs said it was a huge learning curve. You have to find out for yourself, there is no handbook on how to run a pub.’ But first they had to find a pub they could afford to buy.

The New Inn
The New Inn

They looked for a long time, scouring the internet, as well as the usual places, looking at pubs from Hastings in Sussex to Norfolk, Lincolnshire, anywhere where they might find what they could afford, given the risk involved. Finally they settled on the New Inn, in Sutton Bridge, because they knew nearby King’s Lynn quite well, having previously lived in Soham, and even though their first look was in the dark and they had to use a torch because the electricity had been cut off!  

 Previously Debs had worked for Age Concern (now Age UK) and Andy was into renovation and restoration—skills he would need to work on the New Inn. From the word go, Andy & Debs worked together on improving the pub. The first thing was to clear away all the rubbish, dirt and vermin. The drains needed attention, the windows had to be renovated and done in accordance with regulations governing a Grade ll listed building.  Debs said the place was filthy, dirty and smelly: it was neglected and ‘unloved’. There was evidence of rat infestation as well as fleas, so the first step was to have the place professionally fumigated. Eventually it took two months for them to clear the property before restoration work could begin. All the time this work was going on, Debs and Andy lived in one room upstairs, so one of the first jobs was to renovate the kitchen.

The inside has not been changed much. Listed buildings regulations extend inside as well. Progression of additions over time have to be kept unaltered so the fabric of the building is unchanged. But inside it seems lighter and bigger. It has a new wooden floor in the band area and has been carefully decorated to reflect its theme. Posters and other decorations indicate that this is no ordinary village pub. And it has a new name: The Gathering. Debs explained:’ we wanted to start afresh, so a new name was important. The Gathering is the name of a gothic rock band and as such is known to Rock enthusiasts. A ‘Gathering’ is also a place where people come together, a meeting place.’ So the regular visitors to The Gathering are bikers and others who like rock music as well as some who don’t; they just like Andy’s good beer.

The Gathering
The Gathering

You won’t find the usual plush seats, table and comfy chairs in The Gathering. There are a few small square tables and stools, which can easily be cleared away for the band and its audience. ‘Too much furniture,’ says Debs, ‘means clutter.’ One corner of the oldest part of the pub is the stage area, with sound equipment ready to be used by visiting bands. The walls are mostly painted dark red or white and the paintwork is black, in keeping with gothic imagery.

The bar area

Interior showing some of the comfortable stools and small tables

The pub opened in June 2012, just less than eight months after Debs and Andy bought the place. It is their home as well as their business. They are keen that it should fit in with the village and be looked upon as an amenity, which is what it has become. It attracts people from a wide area, who come to enjoy the experience, listen to the rock bands, meet and socialise with other bikers and rock enthusiasts. The venue won the 2012 TBFM Ward for the best live music venue, which is some achievement after only six months in business!

Debs says she has been visiting rock pubs for over 25 years and in all that time has only ever witnessed two fights. There is a lot of camaraderie among the clientele, people come to socialise, have a nice time and go home in one piece. Everyone looks out for everyone else; there is a strong element of self-policing among the bikers. From advertising locally in the press, on Radio KLFM, on face book and through networking the bikers’ market, interest and customer numbers are growing. Deb and Andy provide a few light snacks (coffee, cakes & filled rolls) and 50p from cooked meals on ‘bike nites’ is donated to the Air ambulance service.

Outside the walls are painted a tasteful green with an outside ‘terrace’ with a few tables and chairs where smokers can gather. Flower tubs maintained by The Sutton Bridge in Bloom team enhance the frontage and blackboards discretely announce the latest attractions.

The Gathering finally closed for business in 2013

¦ ⇑ Back to top of page ⇑ ¦


David Oxtoby, Priest in Charge of St Matthews Church, Sutton BridgeDavid Oxtoby has been Priest in Charge of St Matthews, Sutton Bridge, and Assistant Curate of Tydd St Mary since September, 2013,

He has a seemingly light-hearted passion for his calling; it might be more accurate to say that he has a large number of enthusiasms – a word which in its old Greek origins literally means being imbued with the spirit of God – the major one of which could be said to be a zest for communicating the true meaning of Christianity as 'a living reality of Jesus Christ in people's lives, an engagement of heart, soul and mind'. He has a great concern for people and a belief in the need to create opportunities in order to communicate. I sense that he has very successfully merged true Christian beliefs with practice.

The academic interest includes a wider and very modern interpretation of physics which might seem mystical but is well-founded in scientific theory; he has a vital concern for the sheer 'physics of stuff': the universe as a kind of gigantic physical manifestation of the 'creator' all the way from the span of galaxies beyond galaxies right down to the microcosmic interaction of carbon and paper which he commented on as I made notes with a pencil.

What he called the 'physics of stuff' is not just an abstract idea but naturally evolves into an enthusiasm for practical tinkering, a mending & making exercise in the garage, an isolated activity which gives him plenty of time to think. He has a big old V8 BMW renovated sports car from the 1980's which does 25 mpg. He loves the sound of it and the sensation of speed which he also gets from riding a motorbike. Working with his hands like this and the enjoyment of speed makes a nice contrast with day to day work in the parish.

David's concerned about what he calls 'the vicar image'. He has been asked, "Aren't you young to be a vicar?" which of course raises the question of how old you have to be before you can be a vicar – somebody with responsibility and a considerable duty of care towards a flock. At 40, David seems to have a great community spirit and energy to spare.

He has definite ideas about breaking down perceived ideas about what a vicar should be; by the many projects he has in mind and through his enthusiasms he seems determined to break down 'the vicar image', however you define it.

When not in vicar-mode, he wears second hand clothing – the handsome jacket & trousers he was wearing were bought from Ebay; the shoes were 20 years old.

He has a general liking for 'old stuff', for a proper fountain pen with the nib showing and for old quality hi-fi, for example, with very large speakers which are 'good to look at'; one might be able to recall that a small drawback with vinyl LP's was the way they attracted dust – applying his practical bent he once invented an LP cleaner using a modified vacuum cleaner. "The sound you get from vinyls is much better than from CD's... and they're so nice to handle, taking them out of the sleeve with middle finger & thumb on the edge and swinging them round by it without touching the playing surface to play the second side... And then there's the fact that you can watch the arm & have a feeling for the stylus as it goes round in the grooves – you don't get this sense of observation of something happening when you play a CD."

David is essentially a problem-solver Between the ages of 16 to 33 he was involved in IT in the areas of networking, programming, web-design and so on; he regards IT work as a kind of electronic mechano – fixing all the bits & pieces together so they make sense and work as they should. He's still dabbling.

His problem-solving will come in handy as he devotes himself to various extra-curricular projects in Sutton Bridge. He has plans to enter into Food Bank Partnerships with Holbeach/Spalding, to set up an Internet Café with a computer club in which primarily youngsters could practise designing their CV's and perhaps engage in graphic design and learn programming; older residents might learn about home automation and networking.

Another long-term project is a Scalectrix racing club. We fantasised about setting up ride-on motor-mower racing in the park...

Scalectrix car racing track

He and his musician wife Christina have two border collies & a Great Dane. Christina belongs to Team GB 'Heelwork to Music' where handlers have to work with dogs at heel in a specified routine, a sport which has apparently been evolving since the early 1990s.

David is keen on rock-climbing: he likes the risk and the technical and physical challenge it involves.

Christina plays violin and piano; he is not musical but would like to learn to play his d'jembe drum which is currently in use as a coffee table support!

d'jembe drums

In his early 20's David was a member of a Pentecostal church; then he began to ponder the idea that it was God's message that he could do something in the pastoral way. He continued to think that it was 'not me', but the minister of a sleepy rural Anglican church encouraged him in the idea. In the end the minister gave him three days to decide – which he did. Nothing like the discipline of organised thinking to aid decision-making! It's as though in such a concentrated time span you become the natural unique you, free of all clutter, to whom God can speak.

And so he began to explore the idea of ordained ministry. It was a lengthy preparation – seven years in all to get to being priest in charge: two years of exploration; two years academic studies in Cambridge; three years of curacy. St Matthews is David's first post as priest in charge. Dedicated to obedience, he is prepared to give it 'a real shot'.

He believes powerfully in the pattern of a loving & supportive community and will do his best to encourage local representatives & agencies in the development of such a spirit.

He is hoping that an Internet café and community charity shop will be up and running by the end of this year; to his way of thinking it would constitute a hub for further developments – by paying due attention to the minutiae it might grow into 'who knows what...' He is determined to take things carefully, waiting & listening, and building on organic growth from simple & sound beginnings.

Article written by Colin Blundell

¦ ⇑ Back to top of page ⇑ ¦


The Sutton Bridge and neighbouring areas that include South Holland, West Norfolk and North Cambridgeshire are covered by three internal drainage boards (IDB’s) : King’s Lynn Internal Drainage Board , North Level Internal Drainage Board & South Holland Internal Drainage Board

Living where we do in a high risk flood area, we are fortunate that the three drainage boards maintain to a high standard all the watercourses that drain this area of South Lincolnshire and North Cambridgeshire and West Norfolk.

As part of their regular day-to-day working, IDB’s manage water levels for land drainage, flood risk management, irrigation and for the benefit of the environment.

Through these functions, IDB’s ‘defend and sustain land use’ which includes local communities, agriculture, industry, recreation and wildlife habitat. In carrying out this important work, the IDB’s liaise with the relevant authorities to ensure their sustainability.

The Land Drainage Act 1991 allows drainage boards to raise a levy against the occupiers of land which could be used for agricultural/horticultural purposes, including grazing. Other funding for this important work also comes from local District Councils and the Environment Agency.

On environmental issues, the IDB’s work to maintain all the designated environmental areas within their catchment areas, as well as working towards minimising climate change impacts their necessary maintenance work may cause.

During the past few years work was carried out by the King’s Lynn Internal Drainage Board to refurbish the sluice gates on the corner of East Bank and Sluice Road, Wingland Sutton Bridge. Further work was needed when the machinery that automatically operates the sluice gates was flooded during the December 2013 sea surge. A new electric box was installed and raised on a higher plinth, and the entire work was surrounded by stout metal fencing to protect the public and reduce possible damage.

More recently, in June 2015, extensive work was carried out on the dyke that runs parallel to Sluice Road, Wingland to replace the old damaged bridge that provided access for tractors to the farm field, which was considered unsafe for all modern agricultural vehicles. This dyke drains the surrounding land and empties into the river Nene at the sluice gates mentioned above.

The conduit was put together on site: panels of corrugated iron were bolted together to form an ovoid which was inserted by a large mechanical digger. 

Each stage of the work was carefully measured and monitored and the structure gradually in-filled and secured by various materials, including gravel, Carr sand, excavated mud from the sluice, cement bags, and soil and gravel mix.

The difference in height between the road and the field was managed by a well engineered slope to minimise the gradient of the different levels. Finally the surface was overtopped with compacted tar chippings, and safety barriers were erected on either side.  The work took just under three weeks to complete.

A film on the North Level Inland Drainage Board website ( shows the activities the IDB’s carry out on a day-to-day basis.

North Level District Internal Drainage Board
from Spare Wheel Productions on Vimeo.

¦ ⇑ Back to top of page ⇑ ¦


Following the December 2013 sea surge, the water pressure at the bottom of the sluice gates at Foul Anchor, where the North Level Main Drain meets the River Nene, caused damage that was so severe that drastic attention was needed. The height of the surge when the tide turned caused the triangular concrete shutting plinth to become torn away from its concrete base at the bottom of the tidal outfall into the River Nene. This compromised the integrity and security of the pumping basin. Upon inspection it was found that the gates also need to be replaced.

Stephenson’s bridge & damaged doors before before work started

But first, a few historical facts:

The old iron bridge part of Stephenson's sluice.

The original coffer dam.

The Existing Sluice outfall has a Grade II listing, and for this reason, the manual winding-gear structures were re-furbished and reinstated.

The refurbishment was a highly skilled activity. The North Level Drainage Board engineers, their contractors and work forces carried out this work to a very high standard. The original gates had to be removed. The drainage canal under the road bridge that runs across the Drain from the road between Tydd Gote and Sutton Bridge, and the road off that leads to the hamlet of Foul Anchor, had to be dammed at either end and cleaned out.

During all this time, the only noticeable signs that work was being undertaken were the traffic lights that managed the traffic flow along the B1165 and to and from the access road to Foul Anchor.

Site works looking towards the junction with the B1165.

The sluice gates had been in place since the drain was cut in the 1850’s and although they were built from solid oak, time and many tides had finally made them less efficient and it became necessary to replace them.

During the inspection of the gates and their supports, it was found after de-scaling them that the original cast iron hinges and the Stephenson winding gear were undamaged and could be refurbished. They have been reused to hang the new gates.

The original hinge before refurbishment

The work involved the use of a cofferdam (see above) to hold back the water, and the original cofferdam supports, which had been in storage since 2008, were also reused.

Stephenson’s winding gear being lifted into place

Divers were used to ensure that the cofferdam was securely in place. Work and the safety of personnel was inspected from above through a trap door.

The refurbished winding gear in its original position.

The new gates were put together on site and are made from Ekki, a native hardwood from tropical West Africa, large quantities of which were exported from Gabon and Cameroon. It is also known as Azobe, Bongossi or Red Ironwood. It is tough, durable and although difficult to work with, its longevity, especially in marine applications, makes it well worth the effort.

New doors on old hinges

The gates should last at least as long as the ones they are replacing. Cranes were used to put them in place and divers, and other key workers, were lowered securely harnessed, to check on their correct installation.

Photographs: R. Ward & D. Smith.
Historical facts gleaned from The Fenland Past & Present, Miller SH & Skertchley SBJ, Longmans, Green & Co 1878

¦ ⇑ Back to top of page ⇑ ¦

(Eastern IFCA)

Eastern IFCA’s new fisheries protection vessel Sebastian Terelinck was named on Sunday 13th September at a special ceremony held on The South Quay, King’s Lynn, in the presence of seventy descendants of the former bailiff, after whom the vessel was named.

Sebastian Terelinck naming ceremony

Guests attending the ceremony

Sebastian Terelinck
Sebastian Terelinck (courtesy True’s Yard Museum)

Sebastian Terelinck was born in Holland and moved to Lynn when he was 20. He worked as a fisherman before becoming a water bailiff for the Eastern Sea Fisheries Joint Committee at the turn of the last century. He was well known and respected for his knowledge of shellfish fisheries and supported by the local fishing community when he introduced measures to help maintain shellfish stocks in the Wash, thereby protecting their livelihoods.

Tragically, on December 29th 1913, Sebastian Terelinck (aged 75) and his assistant, John Allen (28) were drowned when their rowboat capsized while inspecting mussel beds in the Lynn Channel. His memory was honoured on Heritage Sunday 2015 when the second fisheries enforcement vessel was officially named after him.

FPV Sebastian Terelinck moored at Port Sutton Bridge
FPV Sebastian Terelinck moored at Port Sutton Bridge

The first FPV John Allen, named after Terelinck’s companion, has been in operation with EIFCA since 2013. It is an 11m Redbay cabin RIB (rigid-hulled, inflatable boat). It was launched in Levington, Suffolk on September 9th 2013.

The John Allen
The John Allen moored at Port Sutton Bridge

FPV Sebastian Terelinck is slightly larger than its companion vessel: a 12m Redbay cabin RIB, which will patrol Eastern IFCA’s district from the Humber to the Stour and will be based at Lowestoft. The photograph below shows both vessels moored alongside each other, close to the Three Counties, the Eastern IFCA survey vessel, at Port Sutton Bridge.

EIFCA vessels at Port Sutton Bridge
The three EIFCA vessels at Port Sutton Bridge.

Both patrol vessels will be able to provide a quick and effective advice and enforcement service, enabling Eastern IFCA to fulfil its remit of fisheries and conservation management in the Wash and the Eastern Counties seaboard.

Visit their website for more information on the work of the Eastern IFCA
Eastern IFCA logo

¦ ⇑ Back to top of page ⇑ ¦


Anyone walking on the riverbank alongside the East Lighthouse at Sutton Bridge will be familiar with the monolith in the grounds of the Lighthouse that is dedicated to the Fenland Wildfowlers Association. It was erected in June 1993.

Fenland Wildfowlers Association (FWA) monolith
Fenland Wildfowlers Association monolith

The FWA was formed in Wisbech in 1952 and is one of the best known clubs in the country. The club ranks highly with managers of estuaries and other wetlands because wildfowling activities, if properly managed, can make positive contributions to creating and maintaining habitats for wildlife.

The East Lighthouse, known locally, and wider afield, as Peter Scott’s lighthouse, was the naturalist’s home for about six years before the Second World War. During his early life he was a keen and active wildfowler and it was while living here that he decided to turn his attention to conservation, rather than wildfowling and set about creating ponds for the wild geese that overwintered here.

Peter Scott at work in the East Lighthouse
Peter Scott at work in the East Lighthouse

Peter Scott’s painting of the geese pens
Peter Scott’s painting of the geese pens

Whilst living at the lighthouse, during its repairs and renovations, Peter Scott inscribed a drawing in wet cement on the base of the tower that forms part of the studio that was built on to the lighthouse. For a period after Peter Scott left the lighthouse was uninhabited and open to possible vandalism.

Between 1964—1974, the FWA leased the East Lighthouse and it was occupied by a series of wardens. It was about that time that the FWA removed the concrete ‘plaque’ and kept it in safe-keeping. When the lighthouse was eventually sold to Commander David Joel in 1984, the Fenland Wildfowlers Association returned the plaque to the lighthouse and the link between wildfowling and the lighthouse was resumed. The plaque is still in situ today.

So what makes a wildfowler? A typical wildfowler is someone who has grown up in East Anglia, learning the skills from an early age from his forbears, like John, a member of the Fenland wildfowlers Association, for example.

John was first taken out onto the marsh by his uncle when he was about four years old, but it was not until he was about seven, and after he had learnt how to recognise birds by their flight patterns, their calls and their habitats, was he allowed to have a gun and even then without cartridges. First, he had to learn how to hold the gun safely, how to carry it (not aiming it at anyone), aim it correctly, and then fire it etc. One day, when John was out on the marsh with his uncle, he gave him a cartridge and told him to shoot. John aimed at a duck and missed; his uncle praised him for dispersing the birds! For John, wildfowling is carrying on a family tradition, even to the extent that his daughter goes out with him, but does not shoot.

Dave, on the other hand was born in Milton Keynes, not the new town of today, but the Buckinghamshire village that gave its name to the bustling and thriving city that it is today. Dave was about thirty years old when he moved and came to live in Norfolk and took up wildfowling.

John, Dave and John’s daughter, with the punt boat & gun at the Open Heritage Day at the King’s Lynn Conservancy Board on September 13th 2015.

Wildfowling has been part of the fen dwellers way of life since the Bronze Age. It was an important source of food and was a way of life for many. As time went on and populations increased and towns and cities developed, the demand for fresh food also grew, especially for a goose for the Christmas table. Professional decoys were set up and supplied large quantities of wildfowl to the London markets.

Today Wildfowling members follow a strict code of conduct and are not allowed to sell the fowl they catch. Whatever they bag, they eat or put in the freezers for food during the year. The FWA was set up at a time when population increase and mobility was putting pressure on local wetlands. By setting up the Club, the FWA were contributing to formal management of the wetlands surrounding the Wash.

The FWA lease the foreshore from the Crown Estate. Its members are bound by statutory regulations and are licensed gun-holders; their activities are monitored by club wardens. FWA works together with other wildfowling clubs around the whole Wash estuary. Responsible wildfowling is recognised by statutory bodies and its properly managed wildfowling activities contribute to the sustainability of the wetlands. Members of FWA make a compulsory contribution to the conservation and sustainability of the wetlands by buying a Wildlife Habitat Stamp, known as a ‘duck stamp’ which has raised thousands of pounds for conservation purposes. Members also act as volunteer Wardens for the Wash National Nature Reserve (NE) and they have representation on the Wash Management Project through their membership of the King’s Lynn Joint Advisory Group.

John is head marsh warden for Fenland Wildfowlers Association and currently a Natural England Voluntary Warden representing the FWA.

A Wildfowler knows the marsh, the prevailing weather conditions, the tides, and above all knows his quarry, recognising the bird by sight and sound, and most importantly, can judge the range where he can get a clean kill and obtain a quick retrieve. That is where his dog comes in.

John learnt all this from his uncle and other wildfowlers. He demonstrated a call taught to him by Kenzie Thorpe (the well-known Sutton Bridge wildfowler / poacher / loveable rogue).

Kenzie Thorpe with his own painting, copied from one by Peter Scott.

The loud resonant call can bring in a goose. The pitch of the call is determined by the sound the goose itself is making. John told me of the time when he was with his family in King’s Lynn Saturday Market Place and he saw a goose flying overhead. He turned his head skyward, took a deep breath and deafened those around him with his ‘call’, and the goose responded. John said his wife nudged him and told him to ‘pack it in as everyone was looking!’

Like many other wildfowlers, past and present John and Dave do what they do because they are part of the landscape. When not out wildfowling they might be gathering samphire, birdwatching, fishing, or just looking.

Material gleaned from Wildfowling on the Wash and in the Fens – Fenland Wildfowlers Association 1995, and a discussion with John and Dave at the 2015 Open Heritage Day in King’s Lynn.

¦ ⇑ Back to top of page ⇑ ¦