The Chessboard Fields

For some minutes Alice stood without speaking, looking out in all directions over the country - and a most curious country it was.  There were a number of tiny little brooks running straight across it from side to side, and the ground between was divided up into squares by a number of little green hedges, that reached from brook to brook.

`I declare it's marked out just like a large chessboard!' Alice said at last.  `There ought to be some men moving about somewhere - and so there are!' She added in a tone of delight, and her heart began to beat quick with excitement as she went on.  `It's a great huge game of chess that's being played - all over the world - if this IS the world at all, you know.  Oh, what fun it is! ....

Through The Looking Glass - Lewis Carroll

"Below the villa, between the line of hills on which it stood and the sea, were the Chessboard Fields. The sea curved into the coast in a great, almost landlocked bay, shallow and bright, and on the flat land along its edges lay the intricate pattern of narrow waterways that had once been salt pans in the Venetian days."

"Each neat little patch of earth, framed with canals, was richly cultivated and green with crops of maize, potatoes, figs, and grapes. These fields, small coloured squares edged with shining waters, lay like a sprawling, multi-coloured chessboard on which the peasants’ coloured figures moved from place to place.

This was one of my favourite areas for hunting in, for the tiny waterways and the lush undergrowth harboured a multitude of creatures. It was easy to get lost there, for if you were enthusiastically chasing a butterfly and crossed the wrong little wooden bridge from one island to the next you could find yourself wandering to and fro, trying to get your bearings in a bewildering maze of fig-trees, reeds, and curtains of tall maize. Most of the fields belonged to friends of mine, peasant families who lived up in the hills, and so when I was walking there I was always sure of being able to rest and gossip over a bunch of grapes with some acquaintance, or to receive interesting items of news, such as the fact that there was a lark’s nest under the melon-plants on Georgio’s land. ..."

MY FAMILY AND OTHER ANIMALS © Gerald Durrell 1956

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"... old Venetian salt pans used long ago for collecting the brine that floated into the channels from the big salt-water lake on whose shore they lay. The lake had long since silted up and the channels, now flooded by fresh water from the hills, provided a grid-work of lush fields...

... This was an area overflowing with wildlife and so it was one of my happiest hunting-grounds."

BIRDS BEASTS & RELATIVES © Gerald Durrell 1969

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