A few days ago I had the pleasure of paying a visit to the Aust Goddess (figurine; replica) and Gail Boyle (museum curator; real). This Iron-age/early Roman bronze figurine was found around 1900 at the muddy coast of Aust, on the Severn Estuary near Bristol. The original now resides in the British Museum in London...
Not only does the form display an elegant simplicity but the uncovering of two similar statuettes on or near the Severn coast suggests - to me - a practice of votive offerings to these life-giving (and taking...) dynamic tidal waters. (On the head is a broad, flat, crescentric head-dress, with a lunar appearance) It is the endless geo/eco/tidal changes of this land-waterscape - and related human and non-human activity - that frame my current Sabrina Dreaming explorations.
|British Museum 1900,1019.1|
(Coincidently, I learnt that our vessel The Tower Belle was abandoned, no longer considered river-worthy, at the appropriately named Eel Pie Island on the River Thames in 1976. She was found there by the owner of the Bristol Packet Boat company)
|attempting some underwater photography : see below for results|
The list of most abundant Severn fish species was sent to me (in response to my urgent request via Twitter) by the font of all fishery knowledge -namely Libby Ross of the Severn & Devon IFCA. I'd met Libby a week earlier on the Somerset coast of the Severn, along with Shelley Vince (new in post at the Severn Estuary Partnership), and Natasha Bradshaw (a former co-ordinator of the SEP). The aim of the day at the coast was to share info, and help familiarise ourselves with this part of the coast and some of its issues - especially biodiversity and ecosystem-related. And possible changes on the horizon e.g the new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point; a proposed tidal lagoon in Bridgwater Bay; and the ambitious realignment of the coast at Steart. At this last site, we met Tim McGrath and Alys Laver of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT), who explained the plan - the culmination of which in this coming September will be the breaching of the existing sea defences to allow the high tides in to form the new salt-marsh. Due to a combination of factors particular to the Severn Estuary, such as the huge tidal range, the presence of other well established salt marshes nearby and the continual mixing of the sea water between these sites, the saltmarsh should develop relatively rapidly on Steart Peninsula.
|Steart image : via WWT website|
|Former coastline and salt marsh zones|
an inexorable process along this and many coasts. Very near Steart another substantial zone of realignment/retreat will be created by the RSPB in a few years. Further to the west, at Porlock, the National Trust has long adopted a policy of managed retreat. The protective shingle ridge was breached in 1996 and following regular tidal inundation the farmland behind has developed into a richly diverse saltmarsh habitat.
In this recent press article, Andrew Cooper, professor of coastal studies at the University of Ulster says: "The approach to coastal change management being adopted by the National Trust is exactly the type of adaptive approach that we will need to embrace as we face extremes of weather set against the backdrop of a changing climate and rising sea level. We cannot afford to, nor is it desirable, to try and engineer our way out of this. "
Finally, the first rough 'n ready sample clips of sub-aqua footage: