Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Discovering the lakes and gardens that surround John Wilson’s luxury home in Lenwade, it’s hard not to feel that he’s a fool to go.
The 70-year-old bought the property 31 years ago and created a lakeside paradise out of a wilderness.
He landscaped the land, planted the trees, introduced fish to the lakes, and watched his two children grow up at the site.
And he has spent countless hours sitting on a chair or in his hut, which is decorated with photographs of some of his biggest catches, with a rod in his hand.
But he has sold the property for a sum he would rather not divulge and this week he leaves it all behind to go and live in southern Thailand.
It’s a huge move and he admits it’s scary, but he does not appear at all sad to be going.
He said: “There’s nothing negative in the move. I have had my enjoyment from the lakes and my home here, but we are going on a new adventure, where the lakes will be stocked with huge species of fish.
“At first, it felt a bit scary, but we have got so many good things to go to. It’s a great opportunity for my wife Jo and I.
“Jo is looking forward to it. She loves gardening and the gardening opportunities out there are countless.
“We’ve found this property in Thailand. It’s seven acres, about the same as here, and we’re having a bungalow built besides the lake, so when you wake up in the morning there’s a vista on a beautiful lake.”
He’s not a stranger to Thailand where he has been fishing for about 12 years, but just for weeks at a time.
He said: “My brother David lives out there. He married a Thai girl. We are going to live near each other. We’ve been great friends all our lives and he’s a keen angler.
“We will retire in the warmth. A cold day in Thailand is about 75F and the water temperature is about 85-90F.
“They have got huge fish over there, fish that grow to about 500lbs. The largest fish I have ever caught would probably be somewhere between 300 and 400lbs – but the fish over in Thailand are huge, such as giant Mekong cat fish, and Siamese carp.”
And there’s no way he is going to give up fishing in Thailand, although he said that, like a lot of mature fishermen he now receives more pleasure from other people catching fish, than from doing it myself.
He said: “No, I’m not giving it up. Why would I want to? Retire from what? Life.
“We are going to Thailand to embrace the land, the food, the culture, the warm weather.”
He said the move was permanent and they won’t be returning to Blighty, other than for family events.
And he won’t be pining for British TV soaps, any special foods or any particular newspaper, he said.
He will continue to write books in Thailand, however.
He said: “I was born in Enfield, London and spent the first 22 years of my life in a London flat. That’s why I’m here now. I love the seclusion.
“I’ve been writing since I was about 15. I was a member of the Enfield Town Angling Club, and used to go by coach once a month on fishing trips. I used to write about it in the Enfield Gazette and Observer: never got paid for it, but that’s when it started.
“I also started fishing in Norfolk when I was a teenager. I used to fish on the Broads during the school holidays. I came to live in Norfolk in 1971. We lived near Norwich at the start, and came here to Lenwade in 1982, and it’s been a privilege living here.
“I came to Norfolk originally because of the fishing here, and the fact that housing prices were so much cheaper compared to London. You can come here and lose yourself. I have no neighbours and I love the seclusion of it.”
He has fished in about 60 countries, written 41 books, and his latest is an updated edition of The Definitive Guide on Where to Fish in Norfolk and Suffolk. It’s the eighth edition of the book in 40 years, with the number of pages increasing over the years from about 100 to 300. He made 108 TV programmes in 17 years for Anglia, and 42 programmes for the digital TV channel, Discovery Real Time, making three series in five years.
He added: “Altogether that’s 150 half-hour programmes for Anglia and Discovery. And I have contributed to 90 books.”
For 25 years, from 1971 to 1996, he ran a tackle shop, ‘John’s Tackle Den’ in Bridewell Alley, Norwich.
He also conducted fishing tours for 20 years and was made an MBE in recognition of his outstanding contributions to angling broadcasting and literature. Once voted The Greatest Angler of all Time in a poll by readers of the Angling Times Newspaper, he has fished all over the world as well as many locations within the United Kingdom.
He has two children Lisa, 41, and Lee, 43, and four grandchildren, ranging in age from three-year-old twin boys to a 19-year-old granddaughter.