Thursday, 3 July 2014

Living on the Bank of the River

Rivers have their own stories, but you have to listen for them.


The Eden is a big river, just at the start of its journey.  We’re only a few miles from its source up in Ravenstonedale, but already it’s deep and wide - made much more so by the weir.  The river was dammed hundreds of years ago to power the water wheels of the mill.  The foundations of the weir go back to Roman times - humans have been controlling this river for a long time.


Or trying to - there are lots of times when the river is beyond control.  It can rise fast and spread across the landscape in a lethal brown flood.  In 2005 the footbridge at the mill, which is 20 feet above the river, was completely submerged - including the handrail.


It regularly drowns my garden and runs through the ground floor where the mill wheels used to be.  We don’t use it in winter - just in case!

The weir is becoming increasingly ruinous, despite efforts by the local council to patch it up.  Personally, since that involves dumping bags of concrete into the water, I’d prefer they didn’t -
Cement is not a sympathetic material here
There’s something natural and graceful about the process of decay - it makes spaces for wild life to flourish.  There's always a heron fishing in the early morning light. Today I spotted a duck with her tiny ducklings, and once we saw an otter walking up the face of the weir with two cubs.


One of the natural breaches was widened recently to help the salmon make their way upstream in the autumn.  This means that we no longer see the salmon leap in October - a really beautiful sight.


Now there’s mimulus growing in the fallen boulders from the weir.


Islands are beginning to form, creating pools that contain wild crayfish and salmon fry.


I love the trailing weed, with its daisy like flowers - it always reminds me of Lizzie Siddal’s hair when she posed in the water as Ophelia.


At night I lie awake with the window open, listening to the river, letting it sing me to sleep.  I was blown away by this verse in Jean Sprackland’s poem ‘Night in the House’ because it describes my feeling exactly.

‘In the night house
she is nothing but riverbanks
all she can feel is river
drawn through her
like a green rope.’



Jean Sprackland, ‘Night in the House’ from Sleeping Keys



3 comments:

  1. Beautiful Britain, Beautiful North Britain.Living by water is a luminous thing.

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    Replies
    1. It's wonderful Wendy. I can't imagine living without water nearby.

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  2. Spent many hours down by the river as a child and a young adult with our own children in Appleby. Super photos........

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