Back in the late summer of 2020 we spent 4 days walking in the Wye Valley, following the river, catching it in different moods, and chatting to people who know it well. Here’s one of the poems that emerged from that walk, inspired by our meeting with a man checking the condition of Sellack Bridge. He’s a pretty busy man – there are 720 bridges in the county of Herefordshire, and each one is monitored every 3 months. Every 2 years, there’s a more detailed inspection.
After eating our lunch beside the river to the sound of his inspections – listening to his heavy footfall and the clink of tools on metal – we walked to Foy bridge, and there he was, methodically carrying out another inspection. We began to think of the bridges as witnesses to all that happens here: the passing of the river through all the seasons, the people who walk across bridges or drift beneath them in canoes, the birds along the riverbanks, the fishermen, and the floods that can threaten the bridges’ survival.
While we were walking, apart from simply enjoying the experience, we tasked ourselves with gathering material that we could later use in a series of poems and photographs. We’d been chatting about the Wye’s long and winding journey from its source to the sea with many people. We discovered how this river has seeped into hearts and minds, and how sensitively it responds to all the activities along its banks. Here’s a poem that has arisen from these thoughts and the many prompts along the way – the sounds we recorded, the images we captured, and the weather that teased us with its unpredictability.
This short booklet combines the words of people we met in the Wye Valley with our own reflections, through photographs and poetry. Take a virtual stroll with us, find out what this place means to a few of the people we spoke to, and dip into some poems. Meet George Woodward (fisherman and former water bailiff), Gemma Bode (ecologist), Richard Bavin (artist in residence at Herefordshire Wildlife Trust) and some of our Wye Valley AONB Youth Rangers amongst others.
There’s no map here – the route is one of curiosity, stories, poetry and glimpses of the river. Download the pdf here: