Walking with… The WWT Water Team

The second in my series of my Queer River walks and talks was with Nick Wilson, Project Officer at the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust’s Water Team.

Nick and I met up near Netheravon in Wiltshire and visited three different sites along the River Avon, steadily moving up the river towards Upavon. The 3 sites had been restored by The Water Team at different point in the past, from 3 weeks to 3 years ago, with corresponding levels of growth in vegetation and adaptation by the river. Nick described the aim of the work as being to undo the damage that had been done to the river previously, and to work with the river’s natural processes.

My conversation with Nick mainly consisted of his showing me the sites that had been restored, and of me asking him a lot of questions. The language and the techniques of river restoration fascinate me, and I can see that as this research project develops, the connections between the different ways of seeing and talking about the same river are going to develop in my mind and my artwork, into an excitingly entangled web.

My next walk willI be with Artist Jonathan Mansfield. Jonathan describes his work as follows:

My work focuses on colour, surface and pattern, and I like to represent the physical environment as energised by using lines and marks that show themselves to me during my ‘mindful walking’ and quiet meditation before I begin to paint... I grew up in Wiltshire surrounded by the undulating chalk downs, forests and wide open skies that make this county special. I have always felt it to be a mysterious place, where ancient ancestors appear to emerge from the hills, stones and trees to join me as I walk through the landscape.’

Jonathan also happens to be my husband, which is pretty handy as we are now in lockdown again, and some of the other partners/collaborators won’t be able to join me for a while.

I will come back to my experience with Nick as the project continues, but for now wanted to share some of the language and terminology that he used:

Hinge Cut – cutting a tree at the river’s edge part of the way through its trunk, so that it both lays in the water and is still attached to its roots.

Bed level raising – adding gravel to a river bed to raise it back up to were it would have been before dredging

Habitat enhancement (as opposed to Rewilding) – due to the small scale

Deflector – structure that sticks out in the river and deflects the current

Meander – returning meanders to a river by use of deflectors

We also discussed…

Rising water temperatures – due to climate breakdown

River fly sampling – measuring the health of a chalk stream by the level of/number of fly larvae living in it

Too wide, too deep, too slow – this is what the work is intended to counteract, a river that has been straightened, widened and dredged

Online and Offline ponds – ponds dug on the path of the river, or to the side but within the floodplain (see the third image).

Some of the animals we saw on our walks – Red Kites, Roe Deer, Mallards, Heron

Published by James Aldridge

Visual Artist and Consultant, working and playing with people and places. Based in Wiltshire, UK

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