Cogsmill Burn – Slitrig – Teviot – Tweed: World Listening Day Reflections

I set off on the bicycle to find the junction of Cogsmill Burn and the Slitrig Water, which later joins the Teviot at the point where the heron fishes in Hawick.

Cogsmill Burn is my closest water way and runs a couple of fields away from the back of the house.

It passes Cogsmill Hall – the pink hall which will soon be pink no longer – and under a bridge – and somewhere between that point and before the pig farm it runs into the Slitrig.

From the road, the junction is concealed. Instinct suggested it was somewhere behind the big gated entrance to Stobs Estate.

The sound of flowing water is audible and a broken down wall offered a glimpse of it, so leaving the bike, it was a scramble down the bank to a shady river – which one, though? I thought the Slitrig, as it seemed unlikely the Cogsmill Burn would have widened quite so much in such a short distance, so upstream seemed the most likely direction to find the meeting place. The riverbanks were lush. I noted hawthorn, beech, ash , rhododendron, hogweed, campion, wild garlic, raspberry and dock.

Slitrig Water Photo Claire Pencak

It was difficult to move through, and the easiest way to make any distance was by taking to the river. I imagined this might have been how the first people moved up the tributary.

After a good ten minutes or so of slow river walking, there it was, the meeting place of the Cogsmill Burn and the faster flowing, more chattering Slitrig Water.

meeting cogsmill and slitrig

Listening is a continuous, subtle adjusting and shifting of your weight as your feet negotiate stony riverbeds.

River Listening

It is a state of opening up and out through all the senses.  A present tense state of being in complete attention. We might talk about listening with the soles of your feet, the sternum, the back of your neck.

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It occurred to me that it wasn’t the water that I was listening to but the flow, the passing of the water that sounded the stones and branches and plants that it moved over, under and by.

I thought I was hearing voices on a distant radio somewhere but this turned out to be the conversation of a specific combination of river, stone and branch in one specific place very close by.

flowing conversation in the Slitrig

The ‘over there’ and ‘out of sight’ of passing cars travelled to me as sound even though the road was up the bank and the other side of the wall.  I could hear the cars through the wall even though I couldn’t see the cars through the wall.

Dipping a long, slim branch into a faster part of the water and allowing it to be taken by the river whilst still holding the other end, it was easy to sense the rate and energy of the flow which seemed to want to take it with you. This was easier to experience through the medium of the branch than by placing my hand into the river. The energy of the flow could be more sensitively felt when channelled through the branch into the hand and arm and finally the spine, and I thought I could perhaps begin to understand what it must be like to know the river with a rod and line and knew that this was river listening too.

Later in the day I passed the junction of the Slitrig with the Teviot on its way to join the Tweed at Kelso.

slitrig meets teviot

 

The heron was riverside listening too.

Heron on Slitrig

 

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Artists’ Paxton Netting and River Trip – 10th Aug

Calling Borders artists! Would you like to join a Riverside Meeting at Paxton, followed by a Tweed boat trip on the new Paxton-Berwick shuttle service?

This is the first in our series of six meetings between artists and river specialists, and it’s aimed at uncovering the hidden world of river work and making links between the arts, environmental and science communities, as well as cross art-form.

Get picked up by shared minibus from various parts of the Borders, then we head to Paxton for a riverside gathering to hear from Dr Ronald Campbell, fish biologist at the Tweed Foundation, Melanie Findlay, ecologist specialising in otters, and Martha Andrews, the curator at Paxton House. It’s a rare chance to see river netting and hear about the changing fish patterns in the Tweed catchment. Then we head downriver on the ‘On a Promise’ with skipper David Thomson to the mouth of the Tweed at Berwick, accompanied by Mel with her insights into the local wildlife. The boat can only carry 12, so please book your place soon! Deadline Fri 2nd Aug (later than on application form).

Download Riverside Meeting Paxton details here.

Download application form here.

Many thanks to Tweed Foundation and Paxton House for their support with this event.

Working the Tweed at the Border Union Show

Working the Tweed at Border Union Show.

Working the Tweed had a lovely weekend at the Border Union Show thanks to Tweed Foundation, Tweed Forum and the Border Union Agricultural Society, who let us share their marquee.

    ClaireatBUS3 small

We were placed next to a large map of the Tweed which belongs to Border Union Agricultural Society, and made an interesting contrast in scale to the Tweed Catchment maps drawn by Working the Tweed artist Kate Foster.

Kate’s maps caught people’s attention and imagination because they reveal the complexity and density of the Tweed catchment, which is the most dendritic in Europe. As one person noted, it looks just like a lung.

Knowing your River Border  Union Show CP

The maps are one element of Knowing your River, a family activity which encourages us to consider where we are each placed within the catchment and how the Border region is connected through the many burns and tributaries which eventually all meet and flow into the Tweed.

After a slight pause for thought, many people were able to find whereabouts they were located on the map, which shows the fantastic amount of river knowledge that people have in the Borders.

I liked this local river knowledge encapsulated in a verse:

The foot of the Breamish and the head of the Till
Meet together at Bewick Mill.

People used the catchment ink drawing to make a tracings which showed their river journey to Kelso if they had travelled there using the water ways. By adding other details of favourite haunts, activities and memories, these transformed into personal maps of stretches of the rivers. These will all feature in the Working the Tweed exhibition at Harestanes Countryside Visitors Centre, October 9th – 31st.

Jules Horne also collected ‘biological records’ about our visitors, along with what their local river means to them and what they might change if they could.

Making the most of having so many river specialist in the same space, we were introduced  to the art of tying  fish flies by Tweed Foundation, were entertained with lively conversations and stories by River Bailiffs Eric Hastings and Kenny Graham (below with Tracy Hall from Tweed Forum), and witnessed the difference that Natural Flood Management techniques can make to slowing down water as it moves through an area through the Tweed Forum’s comparative catchment models.

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Next weekend we will be at Kailzie Wildlife Festival, Kailzie Gardens.  http://www.kailziewildlife.org/

World Listening Day – a selection of links

A selection of work celebrating Riverbank Listening, our  contribution to World Listening Day 2013 :-

Bridget Khursheed: Huntlyburn meets the Tweed

Jules Horne: Teviot meets Tweed: Junction Pool at Kelso

Kate Foster: listening upriver, downriver

Claire Pençak: junction of the Cogsmill Burn and the Slitrig

Felicity Bristow: Laret Burn – The Embankment – Kirk back

Joy Parker: meeting of theYarrow and the Ettrick

Fin McDermid: Leader joining the Tweed, with anonymous bird and low A68

Chris Whitehead: where the small Murk Esk joins the River Esk at Whitby

James Wyness: junction of the Jed Water and the Teviot

Chris Hurst: where a burn meets the Tweed with participant coughs, a Border Biscuit barking and a taciturn frog in the burn

Teviot meets Tweed

The nearest river junction to my home is in Kelso. It’s Civic Week.

We live up on a hill. Listening over the past couple of nights, we’ve heard fireworks in the sky. Celebrations down in the valley.
Today, on World Listening Day, the people and parties are gone. We’re hearing a hangover.

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Kelso’s characteristic sound is its cobbles. Growing up, I lay awake in my grandparents’ house in Horsemarket, listening to cars rattling across the cobbles, the drunk race-day men pouring from the pubs, grandad’s unearthly snore, like a slow echoey giant walking the timbers overhead. It wasn’t a place to sleep easy.

By the Junction Pool, where the rivers Teviot and Tweed meet, Kelso is obliterated by a constant rush of white noise. The pool itself is quiet, the water slow-moving. The white noise comes from a cauld, used by the salmon and trout to travel upstream. A small waterfall, in essence. It’s like a soundbed that cushions and blunts everything else.

Junction Pool, Kelso

Layers pierce through. On the far bank, a couple laughing. Overhead – birds. I don’t know birds. Gulls? Something crow-like? Squawks and tussles in the air. Mike is with me and we listen. He names them. Black headed gull. Jackdaw. Something lighter, more delicate – swallow. Very far off – grey wagtail, I’m told. I wasn’t tuned in. I missed it.

Mike hears a birdmap when we go out walking. Each individual, its life, its territory, its name. My own birdmap was always a crude cartoon. Pheasant, cuckoo, and dislocated twittering. But lately, I’ve been learning birdsong ID near my home. The soundscape is pulling into focus. Yellowhammer. Martin. Curlew. Blackbird. Now I can’t get them out of my head. They’re everywhere, vivid. Beaks, lungs, feathers. It strikes me that listening is changed by naming.

Junction Pool, Kelso

Far in the distance, there’s a man shouting through a tannoy. The shows are in full swing, way across the other side of the town. His voice carries over the field, the river. Rags of amplified sound. His lips, a microphone, a cable, amp, speaker, all the way across Kelso to our ears.
Other sounds, close by: the click of a shutter, a blop of rising fish, Doppler flies. Our clothes, hair rustle. A generator drone.

We’ve lived here 12 years. It’s the first time we’ve stood on the bank at Junction Pool.

See video here.

Junction Pool, moon

listening upriver, downriver

Last Thursday’s mission was to walk to my nearest tributary junction, and join World Listening Day by paying attention to sounds. I had an equidistant choice of going upriver and downriver. I walked upstream late morning, and downstream in the early evening.

Going along the riverside road became part of the listening. There were signs of heat – grasshoppers, flies buzzing, swallows chattering.

LDcowdraw

field drawing © Kate Foster

 

Cattle are noisy eaters I learn –  a bullock catches my ears, grazing and wading in the burn (appreciating the coolness I assume).

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photo © Kate Foster

 

My attention brings quiet, as the herd pauses to look at me.

Through the gate to the next holding, I am wished Good Listening by the neighbour who farms there. She tells me of a band of thirsty scouts, concerned for them in this heat as they walk down this reiver’s valley to the Borders Abbey Way.

LDscoutsdraw

field drawing © Kate Foster

 

I meet the Scouts and we look at the map of their walk. I suggest which houses they can get water from. A mix of adolescent voices drift away: tired, broken and half-broken tones.

Now close to the burn, a skin-slap against a horsefly, the dog slumping in the river.  I stop in tree-shade and listen to water flowing: noticing that a fish-ripple is soundless but that a crow caw has two-beats.  I learn that few of the things I look at yield sound, and I see little of what I hear.

The particular chink of a gate; the stridulation of a cricket; a ewe moving through a wire fence (metallic string tone), cool wind in my ears – all can be heard.

The open thistle, bone dry grass, distant forming clouds – all quiet.

LDmapdraw

field drawing © Kate Foster

 

At the farm-bridge at the river intersection, I remember falling off, into the river, last summer. With children’s laughs ringing alongside my shock as the plank broke.

I realise my intersection map should have been of sounds not sight, but the allocated hour is up.

The evening mission starts with a swim in the loch and from there to the road-bridge, where the burn meets the river. The moon is visible – is it always silent?
Shoes giving a rubbery flap on dry grass. There is a nettle wall between the road and my chosen point. I manage through to see, on the opposite bank, a woman watering her garden in a bikini. She might take my watchful presence amiss.  My mistake: to consider visual rather than aural access. Hidden in bracken, I start to listen and things rapidly become more abstract.

LDriver2draw

field drawing © Kate Foster

 

I find I can’t listen well with my eyes open

LDeyesopen

field drawing © Kate Foster

 

I draw birdsong from above, mistakenly using pink (not exactly a flutey hue)

LDdrawmove

field drawing © Kate Foster

 

Drawing sounds becomes a movement. I compromise with half-closed eyes, but the midges have found me.

Click here for a thought-provoking TED talk by Bernie Krause on ‘The Voice of the Natural World’ that inspires me to keep listening.

The Tweed Sessions

public-domain-fiddler-p

Are you interested in the traditional song and music of the Borders region? Would you like to participate in a series of sessions along the Tweed throughout 2013 and into 2014?

If so, you’ll be interested in The Tweed Sessions, a series of six traditional music sessions, and one of the main strands of our Working the Tweed project.

These sessions, which will take place throughout 2013 and into early 2014, aim to celebrate the music and song of the Tweed catchment in particular, and of the Borders region more generally, meaning ‘both sides the Tweed’.

We will be holding these sessions at various locations along the Tweed, inviting along local musicians and members of the public. All are welcome to attend and all events will have both dry weather and wet weather plans.

Please pass on details of these sessions to friends and colleagues and do get in touch if you plan to attend. We look forward to meeting you at the sessions.

The dates so far are as follows:-

17 August 2013, 5 – 7 pm in the Union Club Innerleithen as part of the Innerleithen Music Festival

25 August 2013, 2 – 5 pm at Paxton House in the courtyard

28 September 2013, afternoon at Berwick-upon-Tweed, location to be decided. We’re delighted to be welcoming the Northumbrian Ranters to this session.

 

Contact

e: fieldlugs@wyness.org

t: 01835 863061

m: 07896305368

Links

Innerleithen Music Festival

The Northumbrian Ranters