Chalk Streams in Culture and Crisis

In due course, the pages and links at OWNED BY EVERYONE will, we hope, become a version for our times of what Dermot Wilson founded for the Salmon & Trout Association: a Water Resources Board. His was a board of committed people, but who happened to fish for game fish, and were, mostly, male. For Dermot Wilson, the trout, too, was ‘His Lordship’. And inspired by memory of her own father’s fishing, anthropologist Mary Douglas once wrote a brilliant essay called ‘The Gender of the Trout’.


Image: Charles Rangeley-Wilson

Our version will, we hope, be an interactive forum hosting experiences, testimony, images, art, writing as beautiful as the rivers that inspires it, as well as cutting edge science, news and successes from river restoration projects, latest news and stories: advice on how to work with a local authority, or why it’s not always a good idea to let your dog plunge into the water; examples of a water company’s good practice (there is some); citizen science initiatives; fish, insects, kingfishers, otters; celebrations of a particular river’s history, or of particular people whose lives have been touched and changed direction by contact with a river.

To get us started, and set the bar inspiringly high, we thought we would share, in two instalments,, some of the contents of a public panel of writers and film makers which took place during the conference as part of the Cambridge Festival 2023, and the work led by one of the audience, and England’s leading chalk stream restorationist, writer and photographer. As it happens, technical challenges on the night meant that we couldn’t record the panel event, but we have gone one better here, and will begin with three short films as doorways onto the beauty of our chalk streams. Discover what follows at your own pace, particularly if you’ve already enjoyed Kate’s Drifting Paper, which we introduce on our home page.

First, two trailers of fine films about Cambridge’s waters.

Waterlight began as a collaboration between poet and writer Clare Crossman and filmmaker James Murray-White, and the project team has since grown to include local expert Bruce Huett and filmmaker Nigel Kinnings. James joined us by Zoom to introduce the trailer, which you can watch here:

Further details of the Waterlight Project, including how to buying a DVD of the whole film or or download a digital copy, are here.

Cambridge conservationist, film maker and member of the Cam Valley Forum Tony Eva also introduced his new film about Hobson’s Conduit, which too many Cambridge residents step over, or in by accident, and probably never do more than curse or raise an eyebrow at. Never again. You can watch the trailer for Pure Clean Water here:

And find the website, still in development, as this one is, here.

Please share these films.

And then enjoy, or be moved by, this, from poet and activist Tony Davis, and share this too. Tony and his partner Genny Early swim locally in Oxfordshire Genny also works on projects locally in Oxfordshire to improve the state of Nature with her Farmland Bird Aid Network and also the Wychwood Flora Group. 

They both recently had a zoom session with our Stonesfield village environment group (our nearest river is the Evenlode – a tributary of the Thames). This meeting featured pioneering work done by W.A.S.P in Witney against river pollution. Predictably, writes Tony, their local MP Robert Courts (West Oxfordshire) voted against the recent Lords amendment requiring the water companies to reduce pollution and sewage outflows. 

This was so upsetting that Tony set about writing a poem about it. He’s now created a shortened video version of this with music by Nick Hooper.

Lest water company board members don’t watch movies, Tony is also planning to send hard copy versions of the poem to all water company board members with specific verses written for the catchment they’re responsible for damaging.

I think it’s safe to say that there are more films from Tony to follow; here’s one called Auguries of Iciness, based on WildSwimmer Kath Fotheringingham’s photographs taken during an icy swim in the Cherwell.

And talking of things to follow, our next posts, as we prepare the first episodes of our series of podcasts from our conference, will include its Closing Statement, new writing from new Adam Nicolson and David Profumo, and links to the impressive Catchment Based Approach Chalk Stream Strategy, Implementation Plan and Chalk Hubs, which we see these pages as complementing and extending, helping them flow.

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