Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The sources of the Little Ouse

The Little Ouse river has been a neighbour for most of my life. I was brought up in its catchment area, its villages are familiar, and I have often explored its marshy reaches on foot and via maps. Its sister river is the Waveney; both rise in the flat lands around Lopham Ford on the boundaries between the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk; they are like Siamese twins joined at the head, but each flows in different directions.

Reproduced from Ordanance Survey map 1:25,000, 1891. 

The Waveney is the more impressive river; it flows eastwards through the claylands and the Broads for 59 miles to meet the North Sea at Great Yarmouth. The Little Ouse is more modest and more obscure, and is just 37 miles long. It rises in the claylands then flows eastwards for four miles before entering the chalky and sandy confines of Breckland, through which it flows into the Fen basin. Its waters there dissolve into the Great Ouse, and hence go into The Wash. 

Swamp woodland at Blo' Norton Fen. A century ago this site was was open fen, but the progressive effects of
drainage and cessation of economic management for reed and sedge have allowed it to fall back to woodland.

In 2011, the Little Ouse Headwaters Project  (LOHP) commissioned the Sainsbury Centre to develop a creative group to explore artistic responses to this part of the valley. My contribution to this enterprise was a book. It weaves together text, photographs and images from many sources, and my fellow photographers are Gill Farlam, Mary Thompson, Sheila Tilmouth and David Whatley. We used the 19th century Albion hand press at Francis Cupiss Ltd to print the book's title.

The name of the book is 'Sources'. It is a multi-faceted phenomenology of water, touching on its ageless life in the valley and its relationship to people, places, plants and animals. It is also a tribute to the rewilding work of the LOHP in the five parishes of Blo' Norton, Garboldisham, Hinderclay, South Lopham and Thelnetham. Their habitat restoration work is stemming past ecological degradation in the valley, and helping to promote the valley's natural wealth. Its source is water.

'Sources' is published online, via print-on-demand (paperback or hardback formats), and is available at cost price.

Click here to see a book preview.