From the U.K. to Maine: Geese walking

5 mins read

We walked the north Norfolk marshes and paths along the seacoast, watching birds, and remembering the ones we used to know some years ago when my husband and I lived over here with our first child. The birds are similiar but not quite – especially the sea birds which I am not so familiar with. Inland, the robins and blackbirds have melodious songs.

The robins are noted for their friendliness to people, often coming inside a kitchen through an open window for treats. There is nothing so heart warming in the early morning at this small bird’s call.

On the coastal marshes, many people were bird watching, carrying expensive binoculars, and wearing dark clothing. Everyone felt friendly to each other as we all passed on the narrow footpath through the marsh. A slight wind blew, and the sun was warm.

The county of Norfolk, is one of the least populated in England. It is an agricutural land, also famous for its series of waterways and fens and birdlife. I find it very restful to look out on hedgerows, fields being cared for, waterways being protected because of the feathered wild life on them. Sailboats are banked up on low tide strands. Fishing takes place out of my range of sight, but it is there. People flock to the small food stand for their crab cakes after a morning of writing down lists of birds while walking.

After doing so ourselves, we went into a 15th century Inn run by the owners of a pub called “The Pigs” and a number of family members spent some hours catching up on news from this part of England, north of London.

We are staying in Norwich where once, leather shoes were made for geese to annually at this time of year, October, begin their walk to London. About 200 of them, along with their herders, spent two months walking 120 miles south to the markets of the big city in time for the winter holidays. Each year, these shoes were taken off the geese once they had made the journey via country lanes and fields. Of course, they were well fed by the time they reached London. They were lovely and healthy on a diet of green grass, and grains growing along the byways.


As statue of a goose walking at a station near Norwich, England.

I am almost a vegetarian again, after many years of not being so, so I don’t like the thought of them having such a wonderful outdoors tramp, only to be slaughtered on reaching their destination.

The leather shoes for the geese were repaired, then put aside for the next year’s exodus of the gaggles heading for market in the autumn. It is my desire to find such a pair of shoes and hang them up in my kitchen back in Farmington to remind me of my desire to stop eating meat.

Visiting these fens, marshes, watching birds is a time away from American and world politics. Time to focus on small things like a beautiful bird song, or waterway, or a family gathering in honor of its memories, history in live making.

Inland, the vast open areas of countryside are interspersed with hedges — ( it doesn’t resemble the USA agricultural land. The hedgerows break the wind, and also are ecological habitats for varied animal,bird and herb, plant life).

On our last day here we will roam the city of Norwich, visiting its museums, shops and market and a famous cathedral. With such beauty interwoven into the landscape, spires of lesser churches touching the skyline, I will hold a few things dear. Especially the story of the feathered flocks with people herding them in what I would call a meditative silence broken with bird song, goose grunts, and perhaps a whistle of a herder, walking along hedges and roads. A story of history totally gone.

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