Drifting with dragonflies: a canoeing trip on the River Severn near Shrewsbury

21. červenece 2022 6:30


While the Wye struggles with pollution, an overnight paddle and camping trip in Shropshire points the way to a gentle wildlife revival alongside England's longest riverMy first solo swim outdoors - when I was about 10 - was across the River Wye. I had just read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and thought that the swim would be good preparation before I built a raft and escaped to another adventure. The slow, muscular water picked me up and carried me downstream, brushing through patches of water-crowfoot, with its sinuous underwater fronds and flowers that protrude, miraculously, from the riffles and rapids. The first tickles made me gasp in fright, but I got used to it. I had no idea at the time that this plant was an important signifier of river health. When I reached the other bank there were some cows staring down at me. I turned and fled back into the water.The Wye has been synonymous with beautiful countryside since the 1770s, when William Gilpin bestowed on it the title "picturesque". By about 1800 there were 20 guidebooks to the area, and the crowning achievement of many an education was a watercolour sketchbook of river views. Little did the Reverend Gilpin suspect, however, that the same industrial society that fast-tracked his romantic appreciation of natural beauty would also threaten to gobble up his favourite topographical feature. In the past decade, the Wye has started to deteriorate. Instead of insects, the air is filled with clouds of bluster, thicker than a sewage soup, blanker than the walls of a chicken megafarm. The anglers catch no salmon. Swimmers get sick. Birders are birdless. Continue reading...


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