Monday, 8 April 2013

Above the River

From our upstairs windows, we can just see a long silver strip of river in the distance, the mighty River Severn.  Whenever we travel up on the main road, the river is visible alongside, three or four miles away, and on walks we can often see it, glinting in the far distance from whatever hill or common we are on.

Whilst upstream there are beautiful English scenes of life by the river, with little boats, bullrushes, picturesque cottages, children laughing and playing in the water, summer picnics on the grassy banks and lazy, contented ducks, downstream the river changes into a vast, moody, dangerous body of water.  It is the longest river in Britain, at 220 miles, and it has the second (or third, depending on your source) highest tidal rise and fall of anywhere in the world.  The huge tides cause lethal currents.  Stand near the edge of the Severn Estuary at, say, Portishead, and you can see whirlpools where the river and the sea are pushing against each other.  There are no little boats here, no little ducks.  You hold your children's hands tightly and try and instill respect of the river in them.  No-one can swim in this water.  Many have drowned.

Vast cargo ships head carefully up the channel to the docks at Avonmouth and Gloucester.  As well as immense tides, there are mudflats, sandbanks, rocky platforms and salt marshes.  It is compulsory for large vessels to have a pilot, and these travel out to cargo ships from the docks to bring them safely in.

So why "Above the River"?  Well, mostly the river is a distant shining line across the countryside to us.  We can see it from our home and when we are out at many of the places we visit.  Indeed, we often go to various places along its banks.  We look down on it from a place of safety, admiring its beauty and power. It is a beacon, a sign that we are not far from home.

And as the boys grow up, I hope for them it will bring happy memories of childhood.

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