Friday, 9 May 2008

What Has Happened To All The Walkington Ducklings?

Hey Jeff

The above was a headline in last weeks Beverley Guardian that caught my eye on a bank holiday visit to see my parents. Walkington is a small village in a semi-pretty part of East Yorkshire. I spent my teenage years there before escaping the rural coma and heading to the Big Smoke to achieve my ambitions of finally becoming the low-rent media-yahoo-borderline-alcoholic-with-nagging-drug-problems I had always dreamed of. I have mixed feelings about the place as it's not really home anymore but it's nice to visit sometimes. One ex-girlfriend of mine once described it as "the land of cowshit and four-wheel
drive" which pretty much sums it up I suppose. Anyway, it seems fear and horror is stalking the Walkington village pond. This
year's batch of ducklings are being devoured by some mysterious creature or creatures. Parents are afraid to take the kiddies to the pond to feed the ducks (which seriously cuts down the list of potential leisure activities in the village). Of course there was no other subject being discussed by the dark lords around the bar at the local pub The Barrel on Saturday night. One might immediately suspect Mr Fox but this has been dismissed as the foxes up there are properly wild (not the fried chicken-loving hipsters we are used to down here) and would never venture as far as the pond because of passing traffic and the volumes of people around the centre of the village. Even village godfather and highly accomplished naturalist Ernie Teal is stumped. Some are suggesting a more plausible villain is the Terrapin. After the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle craze of a few years ago it was claimed that unloved and unwanted terrapins were being released into the pond where they have been breeding and adults are quite capable of devouring a ducking apparently. See the attached photo of one sunning himself on Saturday. Local farmer and occasional crab fisherman Rodge 'The Dodge' has taken to baiting crab pots with rotting flesh and putting them out in the pond at night in an attempt to rid the local landmark of the amphibian menace.
However I fear I may have another explanation which has remained a dark and guilty secret of mine for some twenty years. Well, until now that is I suppose.
The year was 1988 and I was a slacking six-former. The second summer of love pretty much passed us by up there away from the bright lights of Shoom and Spectrum and apart from the occasional trip across the M62 to the Hacienda my best friend and I spent most of the summer taking acid and going fishing. One fateful night dead-baiting for pike we caught a frisky 5lb Jack and my friend (who ironically is now a respected marine biologist working in the Pacific monitoring the Japanese fishing fleet) decided it might be a gas to release it into Walkington village pond.
Now I have felt very bad about this for years. A smallish village pond is no place for a noble fish like a pike and I assumed that the poor thing must have expired but my partner in crime (armed with an MSC in marine biology by this time) always claimed it would have thrived on the small fish and large amounts of bread in the pond and, of course, would be totally at the top of the food chain. Could that very same fresh-water wolf from all those years ago be responsible for the violent decimation of the Walkington duck population?
I fear so and that I have created a monster.....