A Gedney Drove End man’s life on the Wash and the marsh

They may be known as Marsh men when they are away from the village, but the people of Gedney Drove End are “Drove Enders” when they’re at home.

Norman Parnell is a Drove Ender, his life embedded in both The Wash, where he spent 20 years as a fisherman, and the marsh he visits regularly to clear ordnance and maintain marker buoys on behalf of RAF Holbeach Bombing Range.

Fishing scene: Fred Parnell in front of the painting  of his fishing boat he built himself. SG171013-113NG

Fishing scene: Fred Parnell in front of the painting of his fishing boat he built himself. SG171013-113NG

Norman says: “I always worked on the bombing range and I’m still doing it at 70.”

At six or seven years of age the marsh was somewhere he went wildfowling with his grandad Macky, Norman shooting hares mainly before graduating to a bigger gun and going further out on the marsh to get the ducks and geese.

Norman said: “I was born and bred into it, but mum and dad were always against me shooting. They didn’t like it. I used to bring too many home and we couldn’t eat it all. What we didn’t eat I used to sell.”

At that stage wildfowling was unregulated, but in 1963 when local wildfowlers were in danger of losing any shooting rights on the marsh, Gedney Drove End & District Wildfowlers Association was formed – and Norman has been chairman for years.

The group, together with other local wildfowling groups, was able to negotiate an agreement with the Ministry of Defence allowing members to wildfowl over marshland controlled by the MoD.

Wildfowlers celebrated the 50th anniversary of the association this year with a dinner at Whaplode Manor.