Friday, 3 February 2012

A hundred rivers in one valley

It has been my privilege these past few weeks to have worked on a publication with my old friend David North, who by day is education manager at Norfolk Wildlife Trust, and who also is an unfettered naturalist, a passionate sharer of nature in words and pictures, a thinker of wild things and, one might say, a free radical. We have been writing and editing a guide with the aim of involving people in the Gaywood Valley Living Landscape with their local wild places and their natural neighbours. This is an NWT initiative, in partnership with the Gaywood Valley Project and with support from various other organisations. David and I have just come from a meeting with wise, thoughtful and gifted designer Paul Westley on the shape the guide is to take. David mentioned a snippet of text I had written and encouraged me to quote it here:

Everyone knows what a river is, right? It’s a beautiful feature of the landscape, it’s great for wildlife and it’s a wonderful place to take the children for a walk. All that’s true but a river, indeed any feature of the landscape, is also a complex expression of the prehistory, natural history, human history, mythology and daily bustle that have formed it and surround it still. A river such as the Gaywood filters first through chalk laid down a hundred million years ago in a warm ocean. A river’s course is dictated in part by the slow but inexorable movement of glaciers across our landscape during the hundreds of thousands of years of the Ice Age. A river slices through its landscape and is shaped in turn by humans with designs on its water, its fish, its rich soils, and its inherent energy, or by humans fearful of its impacts on their homes and streets. A river is shaped by beavers too, though we have long since banished these from Norfolk. A river is a long walk and solace on a sad day. A river is a child’s playground, a canoeist’s life away from land, a poet’s wordstream, a fisherman’s fish and, more importantly, his time to think. A river is the whole wide world to a water vole. A river, the Gaywood, is the heart of Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s vision for a Living Landscape in West Norfolk and weaves its way, at times unseen, through every page of this guide.

Reproduced with NWT permission.

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