I led a performative water walk on 29th April as the final project event. Thirty people of all ages came. Here is an outline of the walk:
This walk is part of Water Histories (with Somerset Art Works) where I’ve been exploring the significance of water in Chard, on this journey I will take you to some places and times which have been part of my project.
2.10 – High Street Streams (walking on the left side). Notes and anecdotes about the streams. So the folklore goes: this stream flows into the Axe and eventually the English Channel, the other one into the River Isle and eventually the Bristol Channel. But now at some point this stream has been diverted into the Isle (mill industrial estate) – oh no the local folklore! *Remember this because we will come back to it at the end.
We have some inclination to move towards water with our bodies, intuiting it’s route, but these streams make me think about water’s connection to more water, far-reaching connectedness to vast salty bodies (of water).
2.20 The Sluices. Underneath this drain cover lies the plug which controls the water flow. (See earlier images). Gary and Mark are the people who maintain these streams. Describe the ways the flow can be adjusted. *Also mentioned in the first project film.
2.30 – Chard Museum. If we go back far enough, this area was under sea and there is plentiful evidence of the local prehistoric marine life in Chard museum. Somewhere between 120 and 200 million years ago, an animal that looked like a river, with the name of a plant: A Sea Lily died, and gradually became fossilised, now this creature has become a thing and this thing seems to me a reminder of deep time and our underwater history.
This and other fossils lay in a bed (a fossil bed) (limestone + chalk) on top of a greensand strata underneath Chard, formed under a shallow sea. (110mil yrs ago) (sandstone, yellow sand, blue clay and loose greensand). This bed houses a huge variety of marine fossils and is a very important fossil record. The greensand itself has something to do with why there are plentiful springs here: the porous greensand lies over impermeable clay and this is why there is abundant water supply here in the first place.
I found these fossils nearby (I’m wearing a fossil necklace I made with them). The timescale actually varies hugely, even in places very near here because it was a shallow sea. The museum has recently been gathering information dating a collection of local fossils which have been recovered from the museum archive, lets go inside to find out more.
Gloves given out, fossil handling with Gerrie and Elaine.
3.10 – Mill pond. Divining rods! We all try. There is lots of water under here and some of it’s moving quite fast. I’m an amateur, I’ve only just started – but you can try. Here is one place you can still see a spring rising (most are covered over now).
And here was a Grist Mill, I think this could be the remnants but we are not sure, in fact we don’t know the name of the Mill, it is just labelled ‘grist’ on the old maps, maybe owned by a Mrs Lovel. Driven by a waterwheel, turning a mill stone, grinding grain for bread.
Corn ritual – sprinkle flour as an offering to the spring. When I release mine you can all release yours too.
‘Water for our thirst, water for our bodies clean, water to move heavy stones, to grind our grain, to keep us keen.‘
3.20 – Down the alley to Holyrood Street, back to Guildhall. Follow the side stream, point out where it spilts: Do you remember I talked about the different seas? It was such a nice idea, but is it for real? It IS still true. This one (Holyrood) still goes into the Axe. So up until the Holyrood point it goes into 2 seas (North – Isle, Bristol Channel and South – Axe, English Channel).
3.30 – Guildhall, End.