Wednesday, June 11, 2008


I'm lucky. I knew I wanted to live near the river and now it is just a five minute walk away, bordered by fields where cattle graze.

Sometimes we regard it with apprehension. If enough rain falls in Wales, then sure enough a day or two later we are flooded. The reason these fields have survived being snapped up for housing is that they do double duty as a flood plain. No insurer would look at anything built on them.

I remember the first time I saw it in spate. It is terrifying. Angry. What shook me was the volume of the noise made by the rushing water. Stained reddish-brown by the topsoil gathered from flooded fields, the river boils and it roars. Whole tree trunks and branches are caught up, swept through the town and onwards downstream as swans, ducks and humans retreat to higher ground to wait out the torrent. Mostly though the Wye wears a tranquil face, a fisherman's and a canoeist's delight. At one time it was used for navigation - the path in the photos below was once a towpath - but no longer. Dog walkers and hikers now keep the grass short.


The internal combusion engine holds sway. The powers that be have recently decided that a major bypass should be built to cross the river just beyond where the cows are grazing in the bottom picture, near a rookery and the nesting site of a pair of buzzards. It will take years; the plans will be protested for many reasons, not all of them scenic and aesthetic. I'll do my part with local environmental groups, but I suspect the outcome may be inevitable.

Now I walk these fields with a sense of foreboding and try to to imprint on my memory the solitude, the sound of running water, the exact detail of a leaf, a bird. All of them ephemeral.

Love of place. Not dissimilar to love of a person.

The usual advice: it really is worth clicking to enlarge the photographs.


River Wye, Wikipedia
Wye Valley, Wikipedia
Wye Valley, AONB
CPRE transport page


Zhoen said...

Putting a road in a flood plain, that's a good waste of resources.

leslee said...

That does look lovely and tranquil. So sorry about the road building. Very sad.

Dale said...

Yeah. The reason Martha and I live in the city is because we couldn't bear to live someplace beautiful and then see it built over.

But you never know. Maybe the protest & cost of oil together will quash it! These things happen sometimes. xoxo

Stella said...

Oh yes, the love of place can be so deep, so powerful.

Your description of the river had me recalling an old (1970) UK film - D. H. Lawrence's The Virgin and The Gypsy - with its roiling flood.

(An aside: The actress who played Yvette is the long-time spouse of Sidney Poitier.) No, I don't carry that kind of info around in my head. But since I was going to mention the movie, I had to go to and get the year of release.

mm said...

Zhoen: Exactly. One of the main arguments against.

Leslee: It is indeed tranquil. Thank you.

Dale: Thank you for understanding.

Stella: Wonderful word, roiling. Your comment is encouraging me to visit the bookshop ..... not sure if I've ever read V and the G.

Sky said...

i hope there are some kind of wetland protection groups, environmental groups, wildlife protection groups (birds), etc., who can join together and fight this. so sad to lose the tranquility and the beauty. beautiful photos. thanks for sharing them.

mm said...

Sky: Thank you. As Dale says, the cost of oil is going to be a critical factor. Who knows?

Anonymous said...

Those pictures are so beautiful, remind me of home--dense green stillness. I hope Dale is right, protest and price of oil will prevent the road. tk

mm said...

Tky: thank you.