One of life’s great delights going back to the year dot ...

WHEN I was a tiny tot of eight years old one of my jobs on Saturday in autumn and winter was to take food to my brother who was sixteen as he ploughed or cultivated the fields.

The farm was high up on the plateau above the North Sea and the wind was a lazy wind off the Arctic and could not be bothered to go around you so it went through.

Bill would stop for a few minutes to take a swig of warm tea in the Corona bottle that was wrapped up inside a sock and then take a few bites out of the cheese and pickle sandwich before he was off again.

Then I would ride on the back above the plough perched on the hydraulic leavers of the Ferguson and watch with fascination the shiny brown furrow rear like a little sandy beach wave down on the coast and settle itself with a soft crust as the worms wriggled in terror and tried to slide out of sight.

I watched the gulls as well and they were even more fascinating since bird-watching was my hobby or rather, passion.

Those gulls seemed to have a sixth sense where to go for Bill said they arrived on the arable almost as he drove up in the morning from the farm buildings far below in our green valley.

The gulls roosted at night on the sand flats a mile away and at close of day bathed in the fresh river water as it flowed under the sluice in the seawall and out to join the tide.

At dawn they rose in white clouds and flew silently inland knowing there would be a tractor somewhere on the move.

Of course they had been doing this for centuries, and followed the ploughman with his horse probably way back over the centuries in time.

My photo here today is of Langford Farm near Chichester with about two hundred gulls following the cultivator before the ploughing proper.

What memories it brings back. I can almost smell the hot oil and nearly boiling water, the sweet smell of earth and bruised sap from the grass and weeds.

The gull nearest camera is a common gull, with that lovely pale blue mantle and a yellow beak.

These birds in their hundreds go down to the harbour at Fishbourne Creek to bathe in the spring that rises just next to the old A27.

With them will be far more blackheaded gulls, sometimes up to a thousand. They all arrive at late afternoon high over the channel and then whiffle downwards like huge snowflakes, all of them very excited and pleased to have clean water to wash the worms down.

There they bathe and splash about like a party of children then stand just above the tide to preen.

I think for safety they roost on the high tide or very near the edge as it drops, for safety. One of the great delights of life for me, going right back to the year dot.

Richard Williamson