Wednesday another day away from the Glen, but remembering a walk we made with the same group a week ago at our first in person amble.
Thursday I’m back in the Glen with the young people from first year at CETSS. Remotely as we are in the school grounds making a map. There are so many ways of working that must be modified in the current climate, I see the perspex screen hanging between each workspace and realise there will be no teamwork on productions here but pair work and group work can happen outside and fortunately the day is clear. We share our memories of our Silent walks and begin to map out a new version of the Glen, sharing as much as we can from sounds to images and reflections. Some spontaneous new inventions arrive on the map as we are working. Once we recall the infant group we encountered there a narrative of redheads emerges, a student adds a mop of red hair, and the powers of association clicks in, seeking out other co-ordinates and I remember MB strawberry blond and red bearded in his waders. The trope takes off, as these things do and soon the duck also has an invented red crest. I let it roll and pick up pace allowing narratives to ebb and flow between the real the virtual, the invented and the remembered, finding a form of its own, which turns out to look remarkably like our version the Glen River park, as we mark in the co-ordinates of N-S-E-W, the landmarks, the stopping points and encounters. There is discussion and an absence of disagreement as each addition sparks another. The Students have some personal time to draw their secret object from memory or from observation. Then they are invited to draw something that resonates with the object, either then or now. Students place these drawings at chosen spots on the map.
Later I’m walking the Glen alone again, its evening and I have my plant identification app. I admire the winding up of the vetch from among the hog weed and marvel at the membrane filming the surface of the coltsfoot, like a newborn, its underside fuzzy and furry. I am surprised by some lemon balm leafing out from the embankment. I test it plucking a leaf and scrolling it between my fingers, scented. At the pencil factory I find fumitory and roll the name about in my mouth, I imagine a cleansing and a smoking which is so apt for this site, and writing this now I entertain a trail of thought which encompasses enbalming and purifying.
Further along I see a new patch of cuckoo flower beneath the pretty Alder at the cage. I go down to the river’s edge where I find a cairn of stones, a man made thing, looking like a trap for water born creatures, or I wonder could it be a gathering pile for the creation of a crossing point? Perhaps a stone wall for calming the river’s flow, like the dams I made as a child. I dislodge a stone and try to cross the river here but then I feel bad about disrupting someone else’s plan. I look up stream to the Willow and I remember an earlier sighting of a lone cuckoo flower, one we stumbled across while navigating a low branch beneath the willow’s dome, back when we were planting our Easter eggs at the beginning of the month, it might have been a marker for a clue. I clamber back up the bank over old red bricks that are shored up here for how long? There is that brick posted by a Glen walker on the FB page, a Victorian brick from the old industrial past, just here is also a wide bone-coloured thing with a curved surface that could be a pipe, still functioning or not. I doubled back to another crossing point by the willow, drawn by the bulrushes, I am summoned by their strange animalistic candy floss spears.
The smell of household waste from the river looms large this evening and a deep sadness comes over me. There is a ping from my phone, a reminder that a webinar is beginning on rivers and river life, I decide not to rush home but to tune in from the river itself. I move away from the willow’s bank and head on up to the high heath, unprepared and without earphones the volume is up on my phone. Here I am another disturbance. Passing over red clover, golden rod, milk wort, passing by Japanese knot weed and gorse and then lower down, back on the path again, past the wide armed hazel where the kids had stopped and gathered on their first silent loop of the Glen. I listen half attentively and meander in a dream as the speaker talks of her river watching and gives guidelines for making contributions to citizen science.