Rivers are rebels. They ignore human development because their ancient courses run hither and thither across the earth, whether rock, marsh, chalk or clay. They wind and meander all through the landscape ignoring the marks and buildings that we humans leave behind. We crave permanence and fail every time, rivers flow and become a fluid permanence. Rivers are the markers of what the landscape once was.
An ancient beauty
If you stand at the back of the Saxon Mill pub near Warwick and watch the dark brooding Avon cascade and crash over the old mill structure, you can feel the ancient beauty of that river’s unstoppable presence. As it flows under Guys Cliffe, there is a deep sense of pre-Christian, pre-industrial Warwickshire. This land has been lived in since after the Ice Age a mere 25,000 years ago with the fields and the river intimately enmeshed. It is the rivers which support life, rivers are life and it is the life of the rivers we all need in our lives now more than ever.
Michael Drayton, the 17th century Warwickshire poet was enraptured by the rivers of his home county:
And likewise tow’rd the North, how lively-tripping [River] Rea
T’attend the lustier Tame, is from her Fountain sent:
Here Drayton mentions both the Cole and the Blyth before continuing with:
…There playing Him awhile, till Anker should come in,
Which trifleth twixt her banks, observing state, so slowe,
As though into his arms she scorn’d her selfe to throw:
Yet Arden will’d her Tame to serve her on his knee;
For by that Nymph alone, they both should honor’d be.
(13th Song, Poly-olbion, part 1, Drayton)