Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Zines up the Logjam

Hi, I really enjoyed giving out some free copies of my Late Shows Zine at the weekend. Officially I don't feel they've been mine to give out, as they were part of my paid commission last year, but I really wanted to share them with some people. I'll stick a few pictures on here when I can, but I live in the countryside these days and the internet is weak (I like this), which means uploading photos is a right royal pain. I need to devote actual planned time to do it, so apologies for the sparseness of my sharing on here.

Anyhow, two zines should be out and about this summer, which were ready last summer. One is the Late Shows Zine, and the other is the Coffeeshops Zine.

If you would like either, post me something to my new address at
Millfield Cottage, 
Bardon Mill, 
Northumberland, 
NE47 7HX. 
A postcard is easily sufficient. 
A letter is a treasure. 
A zine a gift.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Today was a good day for footprints.

The sand and silt layer now covering our riverside woodland is a great material for collecting footprints.
 
Normally this is mostly dog walkers, but by the river, amongst the birds, this little fellow has been pottering about.
 
I especially like the scale : the moorhen or ducks are loads bigger than this little mammal (we've guessed bank vole, but haven't consulted the books yet to find out).
 
You can count the toes and work out how he was walking, tell the front paws apart from the back paws and speculate about what he was doing : looking for food? Looking for a likely new home after the floods?
 
Just look at all those footprints! The pattern of them is enough to make me happy.

Pancake Football

I've lived in Newcastle or Northumberland for 20 years now, and never once made it to the football played on pancake day in Alnwick. Until this year that is!


First the feudal overlords dropped the ball from the Barbican of their castle: keeping their distance to avoid the germs of we the crowd. Then their loyal serfs marched to the field over the river.

Here we are gathering to watch, and I expected fisticuffs and nosebleeds.
 
Action! Note the leafy green goal. The players were younger, more skilled, and less violent than I expected. I was shivering, ill-equipped for the wind.

So like this dead duck, I ducked out when the teams changed sides, and went off to Alnmouth for the train home.

I don't know if it's a spring tide, or just the general saturation from our recent storms, but I've never seen the land so inundated. We watched a barn owl hunting over the hedges and reed edges, dwarfed by the curlews flocking over it. Back on a warmer day in Spring.




Thursday, 28 January 2016

This : Flood

I live by the river. A really lovely stretch of woodland lines each side, with a shingle bank for dippers and oystercatchers on one side, and a sandy cliff for sand martins on the other. The big floods caused by storms Desmond, Eva, Frank and so on have had a massive effect. Many trees have gone and the shape of the bank is altered. But apart from that I don't yet know the impact, so on my firewood collecting walk today I took photos of some places and spring beginnings that I will follow up next time. Will the Himalayan Balsam have disappeared? Will we have lost species, or will seeds in the silt have finally reached the light and bring back the plants of the past?

This is the river bank, note the orange willow and the (new) way the bank curves smoothly down to the water.

This is just to the west of the bridge, with the telegraph pole the main landmark. It shows the route taken by the flood waters last month and, again, this month.

This is just to the east of the bridge, the dogwalkers' path which persisted as a stream for a week or two after the floods were officially over.
 
All that sandy surface is new. It used to be carpeted with green, and in autumn winter became a mostly brown, leaf and mud and plant-tufts floor. Now a lot of this ground was washed away (surely?), but what is more noticeable is how a dumped layer of silt and sand has been layered on top of it, sometimes up to 8 inches deep. What's inside this layer? And what will have the strength to poke through? 

A broader view of the wooded riverbank shows how sandy the ground now is, and how sparse the trees appear : how many were washed away? How many were just outgrowths, deadwood and shrubby extras?

Edge of wood and water. I suspect this used to a spot I would launch my kayak from, in which case the bank was generally a metre higher than the water, and I had to jump down to the edge.

Success! This broom (or is it called furze, I'll look it up) is having a great time in this wet warm winter. Its black pods were also dry and rattled full of seeds, ready to strike new ground if nothing else does.

A typical colouration of green as new shoots come through the sand : the water above is not the river, but a still channel left parallel to it,
A wider view of the channel, about 10 metres inland and not to drain until the water table lowers.

New grass shoots. I'm assuming pre-existing grass. We might get a nice lawn at this rate.
 
Bulbs coming through in one spot.
A typical selection of persisting and poking-through plants, including nettles in the front right, creeping buttercup and maybe ground elder, which used to dominate in quite a few areas.

Lots of these little heart-shaped leaves, which I've not yet looked up to identify.

Docks are tough, they're gonna make it in lots of places.
Dandelions also have roots persisting here.

But they'll not be alone: other leaves like this suggest that red campion, knapweed, wood avens and suchlike may well return. I'll make a list of what I noticed in previous years, and tick em off when they appear.

Alder buds in their super purple period: a lot of alder were uprooted and washed away, but they're still around.

One of the mysteries : what makes stalks white? Do certain species not bother to make chlorophyll until a certain age? Is it something to do with the sand and the wet?

This bit of tree has held enough stuff together (or created enough of an eddy in the water) to create something of an island in the sand, with a lot of old comrades still hanging on together in a survivalist community.


Brambles like this have survived, although they might have forgotten what's the top and what's the bottom.
This hummock is an area I think I quite systematically removed Himalayan Balsam from over the last couple of years. I'll be watching to see who comes back.

One area is much lower and more fragile/fragmented than before, and it will be interesting to see if it grows or gets slowly pulled away. This view is facing west.
 
And this view is the same spot facing east : note how wet and loose the land is.

Will this sort of spot become a stream, or will it become a great fertile base for new life, once the water table returns to 'normal'?

These little islands are our precarious outliers : nothing but the roots of their inhabitants to keep em with the land.

The clumps to the left indicate how high the river was.

Odd little mandrake-style roots pop up. Maybe they'll make it and gather new mud around them. Maybe me and the dogwalkers will kick em to bits.

Nice moss, liverwort and semi-aquatic plant communities have survived on the vertical edges of some coast : amazing to think of the hours they stuck together against the speeding current.

Daffodils, now in a daft place. They look happy for now.

I don't know what these sedges or reeds are but they survive in various clumps.

This used to be part of the shore. The tree to the left was more upright yesterday than it is today. Doomed to wash down the Tyne I reckon.
 
Another of the dogwalks that became streams, leaving higher triangles and diamonds of grass.

Presumably this is ground elder, kicking off again like nothing much happened.

This bent over pine also survived, just.

And my first flower of spring (not counting all the ones that never stopped flowering over the new year), a bonny colts foot.

More like this to come : again, showing the benefits of persistent roots.

More of the spring greens will come from this sort of thing, however : the green dusting in front of my feet is new shoots, which will make it if our feet don't grind them down.

New shoots coming up on the, er, these reedy plants whose names I don't know.

And other vegetative growth: are these flowers?

A view further east to re-check later in spring, with the nice fallen trunk landmark.

Flow, recorded in the sand : shoots coming through.

And above the ground, this tree has made a hanging basket for some plants.

Snowdrops, a bit exposed but still in position.

I hope the otters return, and the voles with them.