A Gathering of Waters: catchment poem

A Tweed Catchment poem

Read them aloud to really taste the waters.

Tweeds Well Cor Water Smidhope Burn Glencraigie Burn Pipershole Burn Badlieu Burn Old Burn Peddrire Burn Glenwhappen Burn Fingland Burn Hawkshaw Burn Hallo Burn Rigs Burn Fruid Water Longslack Hallo Burn Gala Burn Biggar Water Holms Water Lyne Water Manor Water Ugly Grain Langhale Burn New Holm Hope Burn Dry Cleugh Kirkhope Burn Linghope Burn Horsiehope Burn Mill Burn Tower Burn Hallmanor Burn Hundleshope Burn Ternies Burn Rae Burn The Glack Belanrig Ditch Glensax Burn Stakelaw Burn Shortstrands Meldon Burn Eddleston Water  Fairy Dean Burn Longcote Burn Whitelaw Burn  Dean Burn  Wormiston Burn  Gill Burn Edderston Burn Soonhope Burn Kittlegary Burn Common Burn Haystoyn Burn  Waddenshope Burn Linn Burn Kailzie Burn Kirk Burn Dirtpot Burn Fawn Burn Kay’s Burn Quair Water Kirk Burn Banks Burn Gumscleugh Burn Peat Burn Deuchar Burn Blair Burn Weil Burn Fethan Burn Glass Burn Violet Burn Redmore Burn Newhall Burn Curly Burn Paddy Burn Hannel Burn Dean Burn Blacksike Fingland Burn Campshiel Burn Taniel Stell Burn Armour Burn Leithen  Bowbeat Burn Craig Hope Burn Luce Burn Huthope Burn Purlukas Burn Back Burn North Grain South Grain Williamslee Burn Denly Burn Leithen Door Burn March Burn Glentress Water Dewar Burn Rothmoss Burn Whitecleuch Burn Gill Well Black Grain Wolf Cleugh Long Grain Middle Burn Kitty’s Cleuch Burn North Grain South Grain Rae Cleuch Blackhopebyre Burn Razorscar Burn Landlaw Well Glentress Burn Whitehope  Burn Woolhope Burn Hope Burn Perlego Syke Mousedean Burn Harpershiels Shaw Burn Lee Burn Middle Burn Blinkbonny Burn Pious Dean Walkerburn Thorter Syke West Grain Priesthope Burn Minchmore Burn Glenmead Burn Glenbenna Burn Bold Burn Scrogbank Burn Stonegrain Brummycleuch Caberston Grain Seathope Burn Corgay Sike Gatehopenow Burn Slade Sike Back Burn Perlooie Burn Hollylee Burn Caddon Water Lugate Water Hope Burn Fore Burn moveBack Burn Gately Burn Nether Shiels Burn Calfhope Burn Thrashie Burn Ewes Water Fernie Grain Sit Burn Cockholm Burn Nethertown Burn Pirntaton Burn Still Burn Comely Burn Howliston Burn Toddle Burn Brockhouse Burn Shoestanes Burn Brothershiels Burn Armet Water Heriot Water Tathiesknowe Burn Ladyside Burn Gala Water Crosslee Burn Halk Burn Crumside Burn Soonhope Burn Leader Water Linn Dean Water Headshaw Burn Mean Burn Hillhouse Burn Kelphope Burn Cleekhimin  Burn Whaplaw Burn Jocks Burn Earnscleugh Water Harry Burn Lauder Burn Snawdon  Burn Blythe Water Wheel Burn Wester Burn  Easter Burn Brunta Burn Boondreigh Water Strudon Burn Packman’s Burn Bogle Burn Kelly Burn Eden Water Redden Burn Yarrow Water Altrieve Burn Eldinhope Burn Whitehope Burn Wurtus Burn Black Sike Hangingshaw Burn Gruntly Burn Mountbenger Burn Catslack Burn Craigshope Burn Lewenshope Burn Ettrick Water Entertrona Burn Longhope Burn East Grain Coomb Burn  Broadgairhill Burn Glendearg Burn Phawhope Burn Kirkhope Burn Brochhope Burn Master Grain East Grain Back Burn Black Grain Cossarshill Burn Scabcleuch Burn Kirk Burn Tima Water Over Dalgeish Burn Nether Dalgeish Burn Tairlaw Burn Glenkerry Burn Dunhope Sike Stairlaw Burn Crow Burn Phenzhopehaugh Burn Killing Sike Stanhope Burn Warleshope Burn Dunhope Burn Shorthope Ske Rushy Sike Tinker Sike Boor Sike Deephope Sike Blackbird Sike Deloraine Burn Foster Linns Potloch Burn Whitehill Sike Blind Burn Whitehillshiel Burn Gilldiesgreen Burn Baillie Burn Dodhead Burn Dodhead Grain Little Thorniecleuch Burn Thorniecleuch Burn Bellendean Burn Crookedloch Sike Kingsideloch Sike Byrelee Burn Yoke Burn Rough Grain  Kings Grain  Hopehouse Burn Tushielaw Burn Smail Burn Rankle Burn Clear Burn Little Burn Priest Sike Milsey Burn Crosslee Burn Ale Water Boglie Sike Bleakhill Burn Gowdie Sike Black Sike  Mid Sike  Woll Burn River Teviot Worms Cleuch Ewesdown Sike Lambs Cleuch Allan Water Linhope Burn Frostlie Burn Corrie Sike Phaup Burn Limie Sike Hare Sike Black Cleuch Limiecleuch Burn Hazelhope Burn Lairhope Burn Dovecot Burn Nest Burn Weens Sike Borthwick Water Aithouse Burn Cromrig Burn Southdean Burn Northhouse Burn Back Burn Teindside Burn Newmill Burn Ropelaw Sike Hay Sike Rankle Burn Wolfcleuch Burn Northhope Burn Dirthope Burn Nitshiel Sike Wood Burn Camp Burn Hoscote Burn Merchelyton Burn Wilton Burn Cala Burn Boonraw Burn Hassendean Burn Grinding Burn Leap Burn Flosh Burn Harwood Burn Midburn Langside Burn Priesthaugh Burn Skelfhill Burn Dod Burn Allan Water Slitrig Water Flex Burn Horseley Burn March Sike Acreknowe Burn Pagton Burn Barns Burn Gibby’s Sike Lang Burn Brown’s Sike Rope Sike Grey Mare’s Sike Kiln Sike Steel Sike Long Sike Leap Burn Blind Sike Honey Burn Hawk Burn Tower Burn Rule Water Hawthornside Burn Hob’s Burn Hallrule  Burn Dyke’s Burn Wolfhopelee Burn Catlee Burn Hass Sike Bracken Sike Redstone Sike Common Sike Pench Rise Burn Cogsmill Burn Jed Water Bowmont Water Leet Water Lambden Burn Faseny Water Wedderlie Burn Mid Burn Edgar Burn Blackadder Stoney Park Burn Foul Burn Black Rig Burn Wellrig Burn Bogpark Burn Millknowe Burn Fangrist Burn Langton Burn Kirk Burn Lintlaw Burn Fosterland Burn Draden Burn Billiemire Burn Whiteadder Kale Water Eden Water River Till Finger Burn Simprin Burn Horndean Burn

Compiled by Claire Pençak and James Wyness for Working the Tweed in 2013.

Young Water / Old Water

We spent a sunny day last May working on the edge of the Ettrick Water at Philiphaugh, a stone’s throw from the hydro turbines. It was the first few days of a project working with dancers and movement improvisation to explore what an ecological approach to choreography might be.

Improvisations, Tim Rubidge at Ettrick Water, May 2014. Photo Claire Pencak

Improvisations, Tim Rubidge at Ettrick Water, May 2014. Photo Claire Pencak

The collaborators on this were Claire Pençak, choreographer, dancers Merav Israel and Tim Rubidge and environmental artist Kate Foster.

One of the questions that emerged from this process was – How long would it take for a droplet of water to travel from the source to the mouth of Tweed?

This was the fascinating email from Professor Chris Soulsby, Chair in Hydrology, University of Aberdeen in response to our question.

‘What may seem a simple question actually has a very complex answer!

 I’ll start simple, for water molecules (water may enter the catchment as rain DROPS, but it’s better to think of the subsequent movement through the landscape as individual molecules) to travel from the source to the mouth of the Tweed RIVER SYSTEM will – as you say – depend on flow rates. In really wet conditions, it would probably take only a day or two. In dry weather, it might be a week or two.

But, water is only in the river for a very short proportion of its overall “residence time” in the Tweed CATCHMENT. Only a tiny (<0.01%) proportion of rain falls on the river channel, most will fall over the catchment land surface. There it may follow a bewilderingly complicated spectrum of possible flow paths to the river channel (depending on where you are geographically and whether it’s wet or dry). At one extreme end of the spectrum, rain may fall on a road surface, rapidly drain down the gutter in to storm drains and get to the river in a matter of minutes. The same rapid transport could happen in mountains if rain falls over bare rock and rapidly runs off in to mountain streams. At the other end of the spectrum it may fall on dry soils and slowly drain into groundwater in the underlying bedrock where (in the sedimentary sandstones in the lower Tweed) it make take decades or centuries to reach the river channel.

So the water in the river channel at any point in time is an integrated collection of water flows from these different sort of flow paths (specialists talk about a rivers “transit time distribution” to acknowledge this. In the winter and during wet periods, the water “age” will be biased to the rapid, short term flow paths and may be an average of several weeks/months old (in other words, most fell as rain in the previous few months).  In summer low flows, the water in the river will be dominated from deeper groundwater contributions and might be – on average – decades old.  But, these “ages” are averages of water that has a spectrum of ages. So, almost at any time SOME of the water in the river will have fallen in the past few months and SOME will have fallen before – say – the Battle of Flodden. The relative proportions shift depending upon how wet the weather is (when its wet the water is on average younger, as it dries the water is older).

In other words the water in the river is not only integrating everything that has happened over the large area of the catchment, but (to get back to your question) it’s integrating through history. That’s why protection of water is so important; for example agricultural or industrial pollutants input into the catchment today, may still be draining into the river in hundreds of years’ time!

 June 1st 2014

Improvisations, Tim, Kate and Merav, Philiphaugh Hydro Ettrick Water, May 2014.  Photo Claire Pencak

Improvisations, Tim, Kate and Merav, Philiphaugh Hydro Ettrick Water, May 2014. Photo Claire Pencak

Improvisations on Paper:, Ettrick Water May 2014 Photo Claire Pencak

Improvisations on Paper:, Ettrick Water May 2014
Photo Claire Pencak

Stone Lives




The above images are available as a postcard © Tabula Rasa 2014

Stone Lives is an artwork that developed from an investigation of riverbank ecology at the meeting point of the Ettrick and Yarrow, at Philliphaugh near Selkirk.


Our arrival at the riverbank in an afternoon in late May coincided with a hatch of Stone Flies – aquatic insects emerging from the water to find a stone to air themselves, and shed their final larval form.


Drawing © Kate Foster 2014

We were there to explore the river junction through movement improvisation, to understand it better as a complex place and to pay attention to more-than-human aspects. We were three dancers  – Merav Israel, Claire Pençak, and Tim Rubidge – and myself as recorder.  The river was low and we could walk on the smoothed rock, ancient mudstones shaped and sifted by ice and water.


Image © Tabula Rasa 2014

We had in mind the idea of a ‘passing-through-place’, a concept developed by an Australian cultural geographer, Leah Gibbs:

“So what I’m trying to get at with the idea of a ‘passing-through place’ is that some places may not be permanently dwelt in, but are extremely significant, vital places none-the-less. Permanent dwelling, fixity, longevity, are not the only ways of forming meaningful relationships with places.” (Leah Gibbs, reference 1,  see previous post)

As a newcomer to dance improvisation, I was entranced by the dancers’ swift and playful development of ideas. We all followed suit, when Tim placed a stone on his head.


Drawing © Kate Foster 2014

As Merav said, placing a stone on your head is a way to know the shape of your skull. What shape of stone fits you best – flat, hollowed, rounded, long?


Drawing © Kate Foster 2014


And how do you walk? My sense was of becoming a taut and aware line, a line moving between the shapes under my feet and the touch of the stone on my head. Attention is drawn to what is above and below. Tim described needing to adopt ‘a lightness of touch – otherwise the rocks got too rocky!’  With great balance, the dancers developed the possibilities of a stone minuet by circling in the forms of an early and stately dance.

Meanwhile Stone Flies were passing through their own sequences, taking flight after many larval forms. They left husks of themselves on the stones, an abandonment to life. Females were flying upriver, dipping into the water to lay eggs.


Photo © Tabula Rasa 2014


Merav was the first to see them, and puzzle over their presence. She described this later:

I was going in a direction no-one else was, I was skipping over stones for a long time … trying to see how far into the river I could go and still be on land. One of my jumps, was so! that I had to bend over because I lost my balance, then I realised there was lots of stuff clinging to the stone I was standing on. Something I have never seen before, so I had to squat down to have a good look at them. They blended into the stone quite well so I had to try to figure out: what is it I am seeing? There was an interesting shape, I couldn’t figure out what was the head and what was the tail so I had to investigate the structure. I imagined there was a bit of a split somewhere, that could be the tail – though the head did not really look like a head, on the other side. The colours – there was a nice pattern of lines, greys, lighter greys, and blacks, almost like a tiger. It really was the colours of the stone itself, and it did not seem like they were moving at all.  So I wondered if they were alive.  And I saw they were everywhere, everywhere on the stones around me.


Photograph © Tabula Rasa 2014

This set me on a trail, I collected husks for some days after – keen to find them before river levels rose. I searched online too, learning that of all the insects that live in water, Stone Flies need the cleanest water. They are ecological indicators of healthy streams, flattened and adapted to be able to cling to stones in rapid currents.  Apart from Trout who devour them, they are best known to fishermen, river ecologists and entomologists.  As one source remarks: “they are rather endearing little creatures once you get to know them”.

The fossil record of Stone Flies stretches far back to the Permian, but their adult life is brief.  A juxtaposition of Stone and Fly offers simultaneity at different timescales – a ‘so-far story’ (see earlier post here).

Stone Lives became an artwork inviting anthropologists at an international conference to share a sense of stone, and life supported.


Stone Lives Installation at Speculative Ground, 2014 (detail, tactile element). Tabula Rasa, 2014


Stone Lives Installation at Speculative Ground, 2014 (detail, audio and drawing elements). Tabula Rasa, 2014



Stone Lives Installation at Speculative Ground, 2014 (detail, drawing). Tabula Rasa, 2014


This work will be documented further. Support from the University of Aberdeen (Knowing From Inside project) allowed presentation at the Anthropological Association Decennial Conference, in Edinburgh June 2014, as part of a collaborative Speculative Ground Project with anthropologists Jen Clarke and Rachel Harkness.  The conference theme was Enlightenment. Stone Lives assisted an artistic exploration of Land Use. Our contribution  re-works anthropocentirc perspectives with an exploration of multiple aspects of place, articulated through Claire Pençak’s new text on Approaching Choreography.

Reference: Gibbs L 2014,  Arts-science collaboration, embodied research methods, and the politics of belonging: ‘SiteWorks’ and the Shoalhaven River, Australia. cultural geographies 21(2) 206-226

 Grateful thanks to support from the funders and conference organisers:






Little Green Book

We are delighted to be able to share this Little Green Book with you which has been imaginatively designed by Felicity Bristow of But ‘n’ Ben Bindery & Press, Maxton.  Click here to open the Little Green Book

The Little Green Book is based on our environmental policy and reflects our activities as a small rural based organisation that runs arts projects and tours performances and exhibitions both near and far. It is a simple achievable policy to help us to start to actively reduce our carbon footprint.

Please do share this Little Green Book with others and use it as a basis for writing your own.

Alongside the Little Green Book we are compiling an online directory of suppliers that we have found and used that have sustainable credentials and clear environmental policies. Please do tell us of suppliers you would like to recommend both locally within the Scottish Borders and beyond the Borders.

Rethinking the border

Cinema Sark
Cinema Sark, John Wallace
photo, James Wyness

Borderlands: The Historical and Cultural Significance of the Anglo-Scottish Border

13 December 2013, Gallery North, Northumbria University.
Convened by Dr Ysanne Holt (Northumbria University) and Dr Angela McClanahan (Edinburgh College of Art)

On 13 December Claire, Jules and I attended ‘Close Friends’, the first in an ESRC seminar series hosted by Northumbria University on the theme of assessing the impact of greater Scottish autonomy on the North of England. The programme can be consulted here and an account by our close friends in Dumfries and Galloway, who spoke at the seminar, can be read here

My impression of the event was that it offered a forum for meaningful and incisive discussion on a range of topics that are not easily covered by those representations of debates (dressed up as real debates) which take place in television studios. Nor are such meaningful discussions likely to happen in the village and town halls of the Borders. This was yet another excellent opportunity, following the series of discussion events hosted by the Environmental Arts Festival Scotland in the autumn of 2013, to listen to a range of speakers covering topics of critical importance to the margins, edges, centres and borderlines in, around and between the counties of Southern Scotland and the shires of Northern England.  The complexity of cultural, social and economic relationships between the regions was aptly described as a set of superimposed Venn diagrams, not dissimilar to a living ecosystem.

Without echoing too much what has been said in The Commonty (above), we learned that the whole notion of ‘North’ is up for fresh discussion in the light of moves towards Scottish independence. Regardless of the referendum result, preparations, both practical and intellectual, will have to be made by those regions adjoining Scotland. Both Northumberland and Cumbria might very soon, in the face of possible Scottish independence or at least a process of moving towards greater autonomy, find itself on the extreme Northern fringes of a different England, itself independent of Scotland. And paradoxically or if you prefer, reasonably, professionals are looking with great interest at topics of mutual interest to regions on either side of the borderline: land use and (crucially) food production, tourism, transport, cultural strategies, not to mention differing policies, attitudes and initiatives relating to health and education. In addition Northumberland and Cumbria might themselves be forced into a new East/West dialogue, again looking at areas of mutual interest in the wake of their (possible) increasing isolation from London following the production of new abstract spaces along the border.

As a discussion around the arts and individual arts projects we were treated to illustrated accounts of projects from Dumfries and Galloway (John Wallace’s Cinema Sark, shown in the image above), North Northumberland (Northumbrian Exchanges) and the ghost town of Riccarton near Hawick. There is a long and deeply embedded tradition of cross-border cultural merging and collaboration, a well-oiled machinery of processes and institutional methodologies that are set to grow and develop over time in spite of national political changes. There is no University of the Borders which represents the needs of the creative and cultural community on the Scottish side – any notion of advocacy or mediation on the part of Edinburgh or Glasgow is fanciful. It would therefore be apposite (and again wonderfully paradoxical) to look to institutions like Northumbria University for such advocacy and mediation, not only because they have already begun the work of cross-border collaboration, but more importantly because doing so subverts the notion of border as a produced space implying exclusion, exclusivity and divisiveness.

Any discussion of Borders and Borderlands is of great interest to projects like Working the Tweed, for obvious reasons relating to the topography and political geography of the river, less obviously perhaps in view of the fact that Scotland’s Land Use Strategy is currently being piloted in the Scottish Borders and Aberdeenshire. The Borders pilot, in adopting an ecosystem approach, will be considering the following:-

•Provisioning services: e.g. food, fibre

•Regulating services: e.g. water quality, soil carbon

•Supporting services: e.g. biodiversity

•Cultural services: e.g. recreation, sense of place pilot looking at cultural strategy as a subset of the main heading.

While all of these areas are of interest to artists like ourselves engaged with a working river, the last field of investigation sits especially well alongside many of the key points discussed at the seminar. This study will undoubtedly be met with great enthusiasm by the ‘cultural sector’, which includes artists and arts administrators working in the region, but the initiative also carries the potential to encourage new perceptions among the wider community of scientists, educators, landowners, food producers and, hopefully, politicians. We look forward with to Northumbria University’s proposed conference in 2014.

James Wyness

Indicator species

Ecologists have taken four species to act as indicators of the ecological health of the Tweed catchment: Salmon, Lamprey, Water Crowfoot and Otter. Conversations with specialists at Riverside Meetings prompted me to make a series of drawings. These were ink on perspex, and were shown in the project space at Harestanes last October.  Combined with field visits, making these drawings let me develop knowledge and become more observant. I now also understand these species better within my own life – as indications of time of year, of place, of change.

Water crowfoot


Detail from Indicator Species series © Kate Foster 2013

In summer Water Crowfoot (various species of Ranunculus – the buttercup family) can grow into great mats that include other plants. I learnt these are called ranunculion  – assemblages that can alter river flow and sedimentation pattern, sheltering the locality downstream. How had I never noticed them up till now?

I learnt the five species found in the Tweed Catchment have underwater leaves with varied branching patterns, examples below.




Details from Indicator Species series © Kate Foster 2013

These species show great plasticity – their form is very variable according to environmental conditions. Water Crowfoot readily hybridises, so its precise identification is complicated. I need to look closer to see patterns in ranunculion.


Photograph by Kate Foster 2013


Three types of Lamprey spawn in the rivers of the Tweed Catchment: Brook, River and Sea. The photo below shows electrofishing at a fish rescue by The Tweed Foundation and Tweed Forum at Eddleston Water in July 2013, where mature lamprey were found.


Photograph by Kate Foster 2013

Primitive jawless fish, that I had never before seen. Through google I learnt they sift microscopic organisms from silt in the riverbed in the larval form.


Detail from Indicator Species series © Kate Foster 2013

The larger two species (River and Sea Lamprey) mature and migrate to the estuary. They are parasitic and attach to fish to suck their flesh.


Detail from Indicator Species series © Kate Foster 2013

Each of the three species has its own characteristic mouthparts (diatoms slipped into the picture).


Detail from Indicator Species series © Kate Foster 2013

The drawing became about what lampreys eat, and what eats them.


Detail from Indicator Species series © Kate Foster 2013

Spawning time is when lamprey are most visible – look out for birds gathering to feast at the river’s edge in spring.



Photograph by Kate Foster 2013 with acknowledgements to The Tweed Foundation

Scientists at The Tweed Foundation explained to us what a fish-scale can reveal – you can see more here  about how the scales of Atlantic Salmon show how they move to cold northern waters to feed and grow.


Detail from Indicator Species series © Kate Foster 2013


Detail from Indicator Species series © Kate Foster 2013

 The drawing above is taken from a prediction of expanding scope for navigability, opening the arctic up for human commerce. I have learnt that the Tweed is one of the best salmon rivers anywhere – and also that researchers are speculating about future patterns of Salmon migration in a warming Arctic.


Detail from Indicator Species series © Kate Foster 2013

As the Arctic opens up to ships, what paths will these cold-water migrants take? Can they adapt?


Detail from Indicator Species series © Kate Foster 2013

Researchers do not leap to conclusions: – they take a long view, and trust to salmon’s resilience.  I am chilled all the same.



Detail from Indicator Species series © Kate Foster 2013

Otter on the Tweed Catchment are becoming more common, but it takes skill to interpret the signs they leave.


Detail from Indicator Species series © Kate Foster 2013

What for example is the difference between otter or mink scat? or dog and otter footprints?


Detail from Indicator Species series © Kate Foster 2013


Detail from Indicator Species series © Kate Foster 2013


Detail from Indicator Species series © Kate Foster 2013

Infra-red videos used in camera traps give more information into how otters behave.

Findlay Ecology have made a long-term study of a natal holt, where otter cubs are nursed. It was found that that the male otter regularly stayed in the same holt as the breeding female and her cubs.


Image © Findlay Ecology Services

Now in my mind, being an otter becomes a sociable kind of thing.  I imagine the parents underground with their cubs, and traversing long sections of river to maintain territory and fishing rights.