Richard Williamson tribute: Farewell to Chichester's own 'David Attenborough'

If ever a man embodied a Chichester version of David Attenborough then it was Richard Williamson who has died.

The cover of Richard Williamson's final book
The cover of Richard Williamson's final book

For 56 continuous years Richard wrote his wonderful columns for the Chichester Observer.

Week in and week out his perfectly and beautifully constructed prose about the natural world in this corner of Sussex were delivered with immaculate precision.

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He was not just an expert in local natural history - he had that magical ability to share his knowledge with boundless enthusiasm and fun.

How I relished his regular visits to the Observer offices prior to lockdown when our conversations were always punctuated with the most ridiculous but heart-warming humour.

Obscure bird calls were often a feature of such a visitation and the newsroom always looked on spellbound at the banter.

We all knew we were in the presence of someone who was as wise as he was kind.

He started his weekly column for the Chichester Observer series and several of its sister titles aged 29 after pitching the idea to then editor Graham Brooks, and only stopped writing in April of this year due to illness.

His father – the great author Henry Williamson – encouraged him to write, and while writing his first book, The Dawn is my Brother, and working during the day at forestry, Richard wrote a daily wild-life correspondent article from 1957-9 for the Daily Mail. He has also written for many other national newspapers and magazines over the years.

Despite his local celebrity status there was nothing grand or formal about Richard.

At heart, he was at one with the natural rhythms of the world and that was reflected in his amazing poetry.

Just before he died, his new book of bird poems Flights of the Mind was published.

One such entry, entitled The Barley Field, ends thus:

For brief time they sway and hum

Until the earth in terror rings

And stalks are cut, shelled, seed,

Then after blade, flail, belt and drum

The field is freed.

After a long period of illness, that wonderful friend of all of Chichester and its natural world is freed.