Finding the Source

After my Pewsey walk yesterday, and before picking my son up from school in the afternoon, I took another walk along the River Avon, this time starting in the village of All Cannings. With all these different walks, I am gradually piecing together my knowledge of the river (or as near as I can get on public footpaths).

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Today I printed a few maps off of Google Maps, which showed where my particular stretch of the River Avon begins. On the maps it is shown as a thin blue line, and it seemed to stop half way up a hill not far from my son’s school. So after dropping him off I parked on a concrete farm track at Horton (a couple of villages along the Pewsey Vale from All Cannings) and started my walk.


It didn’t take too long to get to the spot on the map that I had told myself was the source. Not an official one, but my river’s source. A band of uncut vegetation with a dip running down the centre, showed where water would flow if it was wet enough. In the Winter perhaps. I looked around in case there was an obvious spring to feed it (I had brought a bottle to fill and bring home), but that was it.


I figured that this little stretch of river must be fed by rainwater draining off of the Pewsey Downs, of which the hill was a part, and after stopping to sit, write and experiment with making marks with the earth, leaves and flowers, I decided to keep walking up to the top.

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Being in an area of intensively farmed arable fields, I wasn’t expecting a huge amount of biodiversity, but the banks that flanked the path were covered in wildflowers and insects. I wrote lists of what I could recognise, pondered whether it was better to ignore names altogether, and decided that combining several ways of recording/responding was best.


As I reached the top of the hill the sky had clouded over and a single shaft of sunlight fell onto an old water tower at the top.

I had noticed other pipes, troughs and reservoirs as I made my way up, to water the cows and sheep, but the age and prominent position of this one struck me.


A metal ladder ran up one side, protruding into the sky at the top of the tower. As the shaft of sun fell down on it, the ladder seemed to be pointing up to the clouds. The penny dropped and I smiled as I realised (you would have thought I’d have got this by now) that the source of my river wasn’t where the blue line ended, it was the hill that funneled the rainwater down, it was the clouds in the sky that fed the hill, and the flowers and butterflies that drank from that water.


As Elizabeth Sawin commented on Twitter ‘given that your own body is around 70% water, you might even say that the river walked upstream to see its source’.


However much Kathy and I talk about everything being connected, about the water bodies that we are and the water bodies that we visit/drink from, the idea of our interbeing isn’t always easy to appreciate through direct experience.

So for me, today, that’s what this collaboration is offering, an opportunity to directly experience and learn from the interconnected nature of all life, through the interconnection of my body and the body of the river.




5 thoughts on “Finding the Source

  1. That was such an interesting blog James, I felt so connected to your journey and it just clarifies that nature can reveal its secrets without any fancy wrappings. Your picture of the sun shaft on the water tower evokes similarities to sunrise at Stonehenge. Perhaps this was your Solstice moment when all was revealed. I love following your art it’s so thought provoking and creative. 🌳x


  2. Reblogged this on Queer River and commented:

    As I start this new research project drawing on my own direct experinces of the Hampshire Avon, both walking alone and with others, I am also drawing on previous work carried out in collaboration with US based artist Kathy Skerritt. Please take a look at this previous post from my general arts blog on a walk to find the source of the River Avon.


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