The Ripple Effect with Wessex Archaeology

Next month sees me beginning an exciting new river based project in Salisbury with Wessex Archaeology. The Ripple Effect (#RippleEffectSalisbury) links with the Salisbury River Park project, and although not specifically a part of Queer River, will be informed by and inform my ongoing Queer River research.

The Salisbury River Park Project responds to the increased flood risk to Salisbury city centre from climate breakdown (see the image below for areas currently at risk – https://flood-map-for-planning.service.gov.uk/), as well as the need to improve riverside habitats for wildlife and improve access to the river for local people and visitors to the city.

Salisbury City Centre

I have worked with Wessex Archaeology’s Leigh Chalmers, Heritage Inclusion Development Specialist to inform the development of The Ripple Effect, and Leigh and I have spent time with Andy Wallis, Salisbury River Park Project Lead for The Environment Agency, in order to understand the changes that are being made to the river corridor.

The river in question is the Salisbury or Hampshire Avon, which is also a primary focus of my Queer River research, and whose headwaters pass close to my village in the Vale of Pewsey, Wiltshire.

I’ve spent quite a while walking with the River (see previous posts on that here) and with others who live or work near/on it, and am really looking forward to sharing and developing my knowledge alongside Leigh, Wessex Archaeology experts (including the subject of my first Queer River post, Marine Archaelogist Dr Claire Mellett) and project participants.

River Avon at Patney

Here’s a short description of the Ripple Effect project from the Wessex Archaeology website:

Wessex Archaeology’s Heritage Inclusion specialists will be working alongside local artist James Aldridge to tell the story of Salisbury’s relationship with the River Avon over time, through people, place, and purpose. ‘The Ripple Effect’ project is designed to improve people’s wellbeing through positive engagement with the local environment, the community and each other. With the launch of ‘The Ripple Effect’ the Salisbury River Park project will be able to engage people across all generations through walks, workshops, creative moments and shared experiences.

In addition to the directly human dimension, our experts will help bring these workshops to the next level by shedding light on what archaeology can tell us about the ecology and environment of the Salisbury River Park area in the past, and how the biodiversity improvements the scheme will deliver help to re-establish aspects of these past ecosystems and ensure the city’s wildlife population continues to thrive in future.’

See here for the full post on The Ripple Effect from Wessex Archaelogy.

I’m particularly interested, at this stage, to see how the changes that are made to this city centre river, combine flood mitigation, habitat improvement and riverside access for people. It’s a subject that is close to my heart and one that I explored with my Queer River Wet Land. collaborators in Glasgow, as we walked together along the Kelvin and the Clyde, in the lead up to COP26.

River Park Project works in progress – April 2022

Leigh and I are also working together on the Well City Salisbury project this Spring. Although the projects will focus on different areas of the city, and work with different sections of the community, it will be fascinating to see the crossover between them, with both using art as a way to engage with and map experiences of place and benefit wellbeing (The Ripple Effect will start slightly later than Well City and take place over two years).

Of course, the Salisbury Avon is also a chalkstream, which connects nicely with another project that I’m currently working on, Living by the Ash Tree Waters with Andover Trees United, through which I’m learning loads about chalkstreams, winterbournes and their relationship with local communities, supported by knowledge gained through an earlier Queer River walk with Ecologist Tim Sykes.

Leigh and I will be carrying out further research before project sessions with participants begin, and I’ll be adding more updates here as The Ripple Effect progresses, so please sign up to receive notifications if you’ve not already.

Published by James Aldridge

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

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