Monday, 20 August 2012

Packing Up By The Cherwell

Oil on Board, 16.75 x 22.75 inches

This is a scene from a bridge on a bend near the village of Kirtlington in Oxfordshire, looking towards Bunkers Hill.  It was one of those fleeting light effects when the sky turned dark, but the sun shone brightly like a spotlight on the proceedings.  The foliage of the Ash tree leaning just off centre sparkled in the sunlight and the top canopy gleamed lighter than the sky - quite a rare light effect.  The two lads were packing up their tackle after a day's fishing, while a herd of cattle were mostly lying down, chewing the cud in the distance.

The River Cherwell (pronounced Charwell by the posh folks of Oxford and Churwell in Banbury) is a tributary of the Thames.  I spent a great deal of my childhood by and in the Cherwell in Banbury, watching wildlife and catching Tadpoles, Sticklebacks and Bullheads with my bare hands and studying them in jamjars before returning them to the water.  I also used to catch Perch and Roach with a line and worm on a hook (no rod), when I would lie down over the edge of the galvanised steel man-made bank on one stretch of the river and drop my bait down through gaps between the Yellow Water Lily pads into the crystal-clear water and actually see the small fish take the bait.  

I vividly remember one occasion when, aged 9, I dropped down my bait with my fingers holding the line, watching the 4oz-sized fish eyeing my worm as usual, when they all suddenly scattered in a flash and the largest Perch I am ever likely to see appeared and was about to take my bait.  Knowing there wasn't a chance that I could land the monster without a rod, I quickly yanked the worm out of the water and couldn't believe what I had seen.  I knew every rod-caught record of all British fresh-water fish at the time - in fact I can still reel them off now, nearly 50 years later - and the record for Perch was 5lbs, 15oz, 6dr.  That fish that so nearly took my bait was easily bigger than that and I estimate it was around 8lbs.  After that, I got my first rod and fished for that giant of the deep....needless to say, I never caught it or saw it again - just think how famous I would have been if I had.......

For those of you who don't know what a Perch looks like, it is one of our most handsome predatory fish, and here is an oil painting of Perch by the finest fish painter around, David Miller.  David portrays fish in their natural habitat and creates incredibly real and believable paintings.  David has a one-man show of his fish and bird work at Birdscapes Gallery in Norfolk coming up in October - well worth a look if you're into that genre. 


  1. Excellent picture Peter as always, we,ve been through Kirtlington many times as our caravan is based just round the corner from Stanton St. John, beautifull area. Your childhood memories are also a pleasure to read. Happy days eh! Ve

    1. Thank you Ve - lovely place indeed. you can't beat nostalgia can you, even though it's a thing of the past!


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