Much of the new film about the first 50 years of the Fenland Wildfowlers? Association (FWA) takes place at the iconic East Nene Lighthouse, in Sutton Bridge, Lincolnshire. Once home to Sir Peter Scott, son of the ill-fated Captain Scott of the Antarctic, the naturalist, broadcaster and wildfowler lived at the lighthouse in the years before World War II and painted extensively in this wild isolation.
The old building?s current owner, Commander David Joel, is also an accomplished wildfowl artist. He owns many of Scott?s works and there is more than a little hero-worship in his voice when he talks about the great pioneer who set up the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust: ?He was brilliant at whatever he turned his hand to ? painting, ice skating, sailing or gliding ? and was also highly decorated in the war.?
The lighthouse has an original lintel etched with wildfowl, a doodle Scott made in the drying concrete. Thieves tried to steal the etching during the 1970s, but an FWA member, Paul Oakley, intervened to save it. When the lighthouse was renovated by Commander Joel, vice-president of the club, the lintel was returned to its rightful place. Many of the club?s older members were inspired to take up wildfowling by Scott and the film reveals the pride the members have in the man who put local wildfowling on the map.
The FWA was formed in 1952, when a group of concerned and knowledgeable Wash and fenland wildfowlers called a public meeting, held at the Angel Hotel, in Wisbech. The imminent introduction of the Protection of Birds Act and an increasingly mobile general population were motivating forces; clubs such as the FWA were needed to provide a degree of management and regulation of the sport and to respond to current and future pressures.
?The FWA has always taken a lead in promoting the sport, in 1969 becoming the first wildfowling club in the country to purchase land,? says honorary secretary Stephen Sellers. ?The club now owns and manages four per cent of the Ouse Washes, its most recent acquisition in 2005.
For more than 50 years the FWA has managed seven miles of Crown Estate foreshore between the Great Ouse and the Nene. We plan to do the same for the next 50.? During the past 54 years, the club has accumulated a great deal of archive material, including 8mm and 16mm film footage of its most celebrated characters. Following the success of the Dorset WA video, the Fenlanders decided to follow suit, with the aim of recording the club?s history and notable members.
Much of the archive material was of poor quality, so the first step for OutThereFilms? father-and-son team Martin ? a longstanding wildfowler and former member of the FWA ? and James Worby was to convert the footage to digital format and save the film from further deterioration.
The film also celebrates the life and work of one of the FWA?s great characters, that lovable rogue Kenzie Thorpe. Valuable footage of this celebrated Wash guide shows him leading clients out through salt marsh creeks, calling hares and shooting at birds from a gutter, all expertly converted to digital format. Long-time member and punt-gunning legend Lawrence Thompson, who was friendly with Kenzie, recalls being summoned to his deathbed. ?He pulled out his old balaclava, which had never been washed. ?All my life I have worn this,? he said. ?I?ve wiped the sweat off my brow with it. I?ve blown my nose on it, done everything with it except wipe my? Lawrie, it?s yours!”
On the film, founding member Mac Narborough, bursting with pride for the club?s achievements, remembers the time Kenzie met with royalty. While he was a wonderful countryman and wildfowler, he was no stranger to the courts, doing time for clocking a gamekeeper and regularly poaching the royal pheasants from Sandringham. Eventually, Prince Charles decided to visit Kenzie, who is reputed to have apologised, before showing Charles his geese and collection of wildfowling paintings. After that, the county council changed the name of his street to ?Royal Close?.
Most of all, the film gives an insight into the mindset of fowlers and what drives them out into such inhospitable conditions in awful weather, with only an average chance of coming home with something to eat. ?Why do you do it?? asks Commander Joel of Mac Narborough. ?You have to be mad!?
?Yes,? Mac replies, ?but it?s magic out there ? nature in the raw. You see dawns and skies you wouldn?t believe. Once you have goose fever, there?s no going back.?
For a copy of the film, priced £26.99 inc p&p, send a cheque payable to ?Fenland Wildfowlers? Association? to Mr S. Sellers, 5 Fenland Road, King?s Lynn, Norfolk PE30 3ET, or email honsecFWA@