Comments about the use of the River
This extract is from Andrew Darke’s presentation at Arnolfini.
Seeing the bore, I become connected to a geological timescale entirely outside my daily life. I imagine this extraordinary, ordinary phenomenon back through aeons. The wave travelling up the estuary unseen by human eyes, carving out the mudstones, the pennants and the purple sandstones, grinding and reducing them to the fine particles that now colour the water so all pervasively. I cup my hands to my ears the better to hear a first faint hissing in the distance, narrow my eyes, the first human eyes to see the coming of the wave, and wonder what manner of godly sign this can be. A curlew calls.
Now, if I go to see the Bore in the morning, I know it will be ruined by the tedious surfers, or worse, by the even more tedious, farting jetskiers noisily breaking wind and wave with their ‘look at me’ display… but their antics cease by dusk…
from Stuart Ballard
Hay! I’m a tedious bore surfer and have been for 15 years! It takes dedication to get up that early. I’m also an artist and so are many that surf the bore. We have a strong and passionate commitmment to the river and have been working for years on both ‘Save Our Severn’ to give the river a future to compliment it’s ancient past and I arranged the ‘Magnificent Severn Event’ in August to celebrate the wonder of the tide and to bring everything that is good about the river out on to the bank for all to enjoy. Please look at http://www.magnificentsevern.co.uk/The_Magnificent_Severn_at_Over_Farm.html to see what we achieved. We will be running it again in 2010 and will have more artists work on show. We ran this not to make money but to bring to people’s awareness what an incredible natural phenomenum we have. I had people come up and tell me they had lived in Gloucester for 40 years and had never seen the bore before – it was a great success.
Andrew, I think you should come along and meet us, I think you be surprised at who we are
from Andrew Darke
It’s interesting to hear back from surfers and I’ve no doubt that it is great fun to surf the Bore. I’ve looked at your site and the consciousness raising work you are doing for the Bore and the river is excellent.
However, such work and good intentions don’t alter the fact that for anyone wanting a clear experience of the Bore and its progress up the river, surfers are a major intrusion which, certainly for me and a number of others I’ve talked to, seriously damages the whole experience. Yours and my two different sorts of engagement with the Bore are simply incompatible. This being the case, I hope you can see that it is very tedious for me, and others like me, that your sort of engagement is in the ascendancy.
I suppose in an ideal world it might be possible to work out some sort of compromise with your group whereby some morning big Bores were not surfed. However, I suspect such an agreement would tend to be scuppered by surfers who were not members of your group…..
In spite of our different desires in relation to the Bore, we do share an important common interest – that the river and the Bore MUST NOT be damaged by insensitive, grandiose and/or pointless energy gathering schemes which fail to take account of the wonder of the Bore and its important position in the overall identity of our national natural heritage.
from Stuart Ballard
I’ve been considering my reply and here are a few points that may give you a perspective.
I’m told by the familes who have lived on the river for years that they enjoy the surfers bringing the river back to life. One of the traditional salmon fishermen says it reminds him of the days when the river was crowded with Trows (traditional shallow trading boats) using the tide to get up to Gloucester and the Thames and Severn canal, so the river, bore and tide has always been a busy place. Some of the older residents refer to it as the ‘old road’.
The river was first surfed 54 years ago by Colonel Jack Churchill, so we have short a tradition of our own. A friend of mine’s Grand Parents ran the last ferry from Elmore Back to Minsterworth and his other Grandparents worked boats on the canal. He has surfed the bore for almost thirty years and is part of the river. I say he has brown blood.
Am am aware of the intrustive nuisance powered boats can have on the experience of watching the bore. Some pilots are frankly daft and insensitive. When I drive the boat, I do it calmly and sit a long way behind the head of the tide. When I want to over take it, I wait for it to fall into deep spot where the wave is lessened. I particularly stay behind the wave past busy viewing spots such as Minsterworth.
There are plenty of spots where the bore can be seen with no surfers on it and plenty of spots where we see no spectators. I see my self as a spectator to this fantastic phenomenon, but some times being in the river is the best place to see it. I do take time to not surf and to stand on the bank and watch the river swell. My favourite spot is the Noose near Fretherne. The river being a mile wide, it’s wonderful to watch this basin fill to the brim in the setting or rising sun and feel the rotation of the earth made comprehensible before my eyes.
My ambition is to get people to love and ‘own’ the bore and river again. I want to drive it to Gloucester one day and see a sign saying, ‘Welcome to Gloucester, home of the Severn Bore’.
Welcome to the river and it’s great that the passion is shared. I wish you well with your continueing exploration and discoveries of the communites, traditions and spectacle that is the amazing and magnificent Severn.
I am sure we will me some day.
from Andrew Darke
It is very interesting to hear your info. about the river and the ferry etc. In fact I’ve been thinking for some time now that there is surely a modest living to be made by re-establishing a ferry – I know lots of people who would want to use it….
Also it occurrs to me that your knowledge of the river and the places people tend to surf could help people like me to get to places where there aren’t surfers.
If you could see your way to making a little map…with some red and green marks on it… that would be really helpful.
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