I have been thinking about the fact that one day a week for one year is not enough to find out all I want to know about the River Ericht . . . I am literally only skimming its surface. The months since June have been crammed with events, thoughts and ideas, conversation and learning new skills. I could make a list of all of these however that would not communicate the intensity of the last ten weeks, what I can communicate is the abrupt changes in the Ericht’s flow. Through May, June, July and August the water levels continued to be low enough to paddle in places that were usually inaccessible, then on the night of Monday 14th the heavens opened and the torrential downpour lasted for hours. On the Tuesday morning I went out with the dog and the Ericht was in spate, racing and tumbling, churning and falling over itself in its hurry towards the Isla. The rocks beneath the viewpoint at Cargill’s Leap were totally overwhelmed with brown, raging torrents and invisible then only two days later the water was falling and they could be seen again. I would not like to be a form of life which depends on stable water flow although anything which exists alongside the Ericht must be able to adapt to such extremes. Interestingly, even though the river still looks high this morning when I look at SEPA’S website it is still within normal levels for the time of year. Today, for example, the water level is just beneath 0.7m which is at the lower end of ‘normal’.
If such turbulence continues it may mean the coracle I have made with willow weaver Jane Wilkinson of Special Branch Baskets will not be moored in the Ericht during BRAW 2017. Unexpectedly (for myself) I feel very attached to my coracle and am now reluctant to set it free from the Ericht’s beginning up at Bridge of Cally to see how far it floats down towards its confluence with the River Isla. I am thinking of a way around this. . . when I first had the idea I was quite willing to let it go and see what happened. The idea was connected to my reading about David Nash’s (British Sculptor) Wooden Boulder and I was impressed with his ability to accept that whatever happened to the work was the work. I don’t know whether the physical method of weaving has endowed this particular coracle with more meaning than if I had used an axe to hack and shape a log boat from a tree which I had felled myself. Does the controlled and regular weaving of the willow wands with my hands and fingers mean more than the abrupt movement of wielding a heavy and sharp tool. Maybe my reluctance to deliberately leave it out in the elements is intrinsically to weavings’ links with domesticity. Some artworks I make do not exercise a strong hold on my imagination and I am willing to send them on their way, or even speed their destruction. My son Thomas has helped me make my coracle and I would have been lost without his physical strength – fifteen years ago maybe I could have made it myself but not now. Thomas and Jane spoke about how weaving and using coracles was an ancient and worldwide way of transport, there are writings describing them as well as drawings. The whole process took three days and even now the stitching needs completion then I will make it watertight by painting it with bitumen paint before seriously considering what to do when it is finished. By the way it has been christened ‘Theo’ by the Tibetan Mastiff of the same name when it was being woven at Eastfield House before being taken down to be handstitched at the Alyth base of Outdoor Explore in The Barony.
Midway through July I visited the Ericht’s Witches Pool near Craighall Bridge with Danielle Muir and she had shown me how she takes freshwater samples of bugs to establish how clean the rivers are around Perthshire . . . the Ericht scores highly with its evidence of invertebrate species living in the water including; the larvae of Stonefly, Mayfly, Midge and Cased caddis; Pond snails, Freshwater shrimp, Water and Whirligig beetles. Plant species were abundant as well including; Harebell, Pink Purslane, Valerian, Wood Sorrel, Wood Cranesbill, Herb Robert, Dog’s Mercury, St John’s Wort, Dog Violet, Enchanter’s Nightshade, Common Figwort, Hogweed, Yellow Pimpernel, Sticky willies (Cleavers Herb), Common Comfrey, Self-Heal, Hedge Woundwort, Nipplewort, Foxglove, Nettle-leaved Bellflower, Golden-rod, Leopardsbane, Butterbur, Feverfew, Ragwort and Marsh Thistle. Among the birds were Dippers (the Ericht is a favourite River of theirs), Grey wagtails, a Common sandpiper (I have only seen them at the sea before), Wrens, Long tailed tits and a Buzzard. We heard noises in the undergrowth which may have been deer but the only mammal we saw was the Red squirrel. All of these inhabitants really on each other for their survival and any imbalance will have long term effects which may not be immediately visible but are there nevertheless.
There has been more, much more, and as usual I do not have enough space. Perthshire Open Studios 2017 looms where I will be showing at Cornelia Weinmann Design . . . only nine days to go!