What’s Over the Horizon?
(Click on image to enlarge)
I am reading about the industry, the people and the families that have affected Wilden Marsh over the years.
Today, Wilden Marsh has scars and relics from some of the heavy industries that have surrounded it during the past five hundred years. Most of that heavy industry has failed the test of time. Could the marsh be an analogy for a world of excesses, with all the trials and tribulations that go with an ever-increasing demand for material wealth? Maybe the marsh has a warning for those who don’t give a damn, and hope for those who appreciate the subtleties of ecological cause and effect. The shame is that very few individuals have the opportunity, the ability, or the will to develop the necessary perception and communication skills needed to persuade the masses, and particularly those who make important decisions on our behalf, that the dangers around the corner must be taken seriously. I realise that this might appear very dramatic and a somewhat broad-brushed point of view, but we all have our ways of making sense of what we see.
Back in the fourteen and fifteen hundreds, there would have been foxes, badgers and buzzards on the marsh, just as there are today. Maybe, there were beavers too. If we protect the marsh and its fauna and flora, these might still be thriving when we have lost the local manufacturing industry that we see here today. Just as we have lost Wilden Iron Works, the British Sugar Factory, the forges, the enamellers and the chain makers. I’m not denying that change is a necessary part of progression, but consider the number of resources and amount of energy that has been expended in progressing industry from its birth to the present day. The animals are still making their living in the same way as they always have; they don’t need extra resources. The wild animals require the same amount of energy to survive today, as they always have.
Our animal predators and their prey need our protection, if a balance is to be maintained. There is a natural balance on the marsh, and I am trying to understand the interactions that exist there.
The rapid decline in our global fauna and flora is not showing any signs slowing down. Fortunately, there are people and organisations working to understand the problems and are actively protecting some of our natural environment.
I don’t believe in ‘quick fixes’ any more than I believe in a tooth fairy. I do, though, believe in well-reasoned and steady progress, the power of education, and the value of good publicity. I am not a believer in all publicity being good publicity, either.
Wilden Marsh gives me hope for the future. The application of a few well-aimed resources, a good sympathetic plan, and a decent measure of enthusiasm is a recipe for success.
I have no doubt that every county, state, country and continent has its own Wilden Marshes: islands of nature that have withstood the greed, misappropriation, corruption, and the test of time.
Back in the year 1511 a mill was built at the southern end of Wilden Marsh. As far as we know, this was a fulling mill (the pounding of cloth and wool to eliminate dirt and oils and to make it thicker). The mill was subsequently used as a corn and then a slitting mill.
In 1647, the mill was converted to a finery forge by Thomas Foley. In 1685, the ironworks was described as having a slitting mill and two forges. Wilden Ironworks was one of a number of Lower Stour Valley ironworks that used the flow of the river to drive their machinery. Pig iron was transported from the Forest of Dean and was turned into finished iron goods such as nails, hinges and chain. Stanley Baldwin, a UK Prime Minister in the 1920s and 30s, worked as a partner in the Wilden Ironworks for 20 years, before becoming Prime Minister. The ironworks closed in 1958 and the area it once covered is now The Wilden Industrial Estate.
So Wilden Marsh is surrounded by industry and domestic housing developments. This kind of environment subjects the marsh to all sorts of negative pressures that must be endured or overcome. Even though nature will always win in the end, it is important that islands of nature be preserved and protected. By definition, a nature reserve must preserve and encourage a sustainable ecology. There is not much point in a nature reserve that isn’t able to sustain varied flora and fauna.
The British Sugar Plant opened in 1925, and closed in 2002. The plant pumped its effluent into large settling ponds situated at the north end of the marsh. These settling ponds have now been filled-in.
In the days when the Wilden Ironworks was in full production, weirs were built in the River Stour to make it navigable and allow pig iron and finished good to be shipped in and out on the River Stour via Pratts Warf and the Worcestershire and Staffordshire Canal System.
During the 1970s, the weirs were removed and the River Stour dredged as part of a flood prevention project. This action resulted in the draining of the marsh. A couple of years ago, two new weirs were built to increase the marsh water table level and restore the marsh.
That’s it! I have stepped off my soapbox. I don’t know what got into me. Something in the book I was reading must have triggered this outburst.