A Healthy Fascination.

Sunrise: 05.07   Sunset: 09.23

I have had a deep fascination with Wilden Marsh for many years. A new story seems to present itself with every visit.

Moonlit evenings provide the best atmosphere. I’m never lonely or afraid when walking through the blackness of the nighttime marsh, with its strange noises, fleeting shadows, and darting will o the wisps. I am often accompanied by ghosts from its near and distant past, showing and telling me the most interesting things about everyday life in bygone times. Sometimes a miasma lifts off the river giving the impression that a corpse might be floating by or, even more distressing, caught up in one of the rubbish rafts. The miasma is a drawback of having an old sewage works high up on the river bank. I dread the thought of finding a dead body in the river.

From the instant I set foot in the meadows and pastures, the ghosts begin their whispering. In fact, I don’t know of another place that is so eager to give up its colourful secrets in such detail. No, I am not deluded or suffering from a schizoaffective disorder. I am receptive to the lay of the land and what it can tell me. I also have a vivid imagination, and a strong interest in local history.

Standing close to the Riverside Pasture stock fence, at the point where Hoo Brook rushes into the River Stour, I look across to the stark, sharp-edged, relatively modern buildings of the Hoo Brook Sewage Pumping Station. Sometimes, in the right light, the area melts to a vision, set some 150 years ago, of the dark, satanic, hotchpotch buildings that were the Falling Sands Rolling Mill and Cottages. In fact, the industrial buildings weren’t placed randomly at all; they were placed at the precise angles necessary for the efficient operation of their waterwheels. There were four industrial buildings. The site was then owned by Lydia Barnett, and the tenant was Samuel Barnett.

I hear grinding and creaking of waterwheels, rushing  water, clanking of loose gear wheels, hissing of water quenching red-hot metal passing through steel rolls, and  rhythmic ringing of 20 lbs sledge hammers striking iron. My nose tingles at the smell of high sulphur coal used to fuel the mill furnaces. All these noises, sounds and smells are memories of visits to my grandparents house, on the edge of the Abergavenny steam railway junction, way back in the 1950s. We have a steam train railway crossing the marsh on the Falling Sands Viaduct.

A leat allowed the river water to bypass the waterwheels that spanned the full width of the river and provided power for the rolling mills. To stop the waterwheels, a gate lowered into the river cuts the water flow. The river water was then diverted into the leat at a point close to where the Falling Sands Viaduct is now, and exited 700 metres downstream into Hoo Brook.

The time I imagined was 1840. The Staffordshire and Worcester Canal opened in 1770 and the Severn Valley Railway in 1862.

Urgent shouts of the mill workers going about their daily business filled the air, as did excited screams of dirty little urchins playing around stacks of metal and redundant machinery spread haphazardly around the rolling mill stockyard. These urchins were the children of the mill workers, and they lived on-site in company cottages.

I don’t know why I am affected so by Wilden Marsh, its history, its fauna and flora, and its geology, but I’m glad I am.


Falling Sands Viaduct.


33 Comments on “A Healthy Fascination.

  1. Every location has its own spirit of place that echos the entire history and inhabitants of the place. Beautiful photo.

    • I’m sure you are right, Alex. Although finding and pressing the replay button is the difficult thing.

      Thank you for liking my image.

  2. Thank you for giving us an insight into the place that you picture so well. It makes the pictures even better when we see them less as abstract art and more as an expression of belonging and place.

    • You are welcome, Tom.

      I wonder sometime where the motivation comes from, and whether I am destined to discover a huge dark secret that will change my life….

      Having a vivid imagination is not without its problems. 😉

  3. What a great post! I completely “get it”. And enjoyed the historical perspective too. I have a similar fascination with our little salt marsh and can see things happening there at dusk and dawn. I think it’s a sensitivity to the spirits of the marsh 🙂

    • I do seem to have an affinity with the marsh and a sensitivity to what is happening, and to an extent what has happened there. Maybe the draw of the marsh goes beyond basic curiosity, but not as far as suggesting anything supernatural is occurring. I don’t believe in ghosties; if I did, I probably wouldn’t set foot down there. 😉

    • Thanks very much. There is no escaping he fact that the “what was ” is a very big part of the “what is”.

  4. Can I just go on record as saying that your images form one of the highlights of my day… every day, and for that, I thank you.

    • Thank you for looking, Keith. Its a real privilege for me to be able to help you start your day in a positive way.

  5. A very atmospheric post. It’s fun to stand on a patch of land and imagine yourself back to past times.

    • Yes Emily! If you know a little of the history too, it makes the experience a little more potent.

  6. Pingback: Falling Sands. | The Wilden Marsh Blog.

  7. Thanks for sharing why Wilden Marsh is such a special place for you. You have attuned your senses to see and feel the magic and beauty of the place. I feel similarly about Rabbit Lane, although you have a deeper and longer connection to the marsh. Would love to visit someday.

    • Thanks Roger. Some places really capture a person’s imagination. I’m fortunate that my favourite part of the world is right on my doorstep.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: