Thursday, 6 June 2013
Witton Bridge, Looking Upstream
This nineteenth century painted and stained glass panel of Witton Bridge was designed to be hung in a window. It's a pretty rural scene, with two passers by pausing on the bridge to appreciate the scene, as the River Tame meanders beneath.
Bridges are the perfect spot to contemplate the river, especially if views are blocked at the edges by buildings or walls. Just because the scene has changed doesn't mean that the river has become something to be ignored. It follows a unique journey through a place. If you stand at Witton Bridge today you may be struck by the litter in the river, but then, there is no way of getting down to the waterside to clear it away. If you could follow the waters upstream you would reach the manicured lawns of the Holford Estate, where the river is truly kept tame. But what lies further up?
The river is hidden by the perfectly kept shrubs, but like a curtain, if you pull it back you find a whole world of life. Rob has written a verse about the journey that he, Stuart and Jenni took from Perry Bridges to here, and the surprising wildlife that was discovered. You can read it here.
But the river has still come a long way once it has reached here. It goes back, through Hamstead and then quickly into a semi-rural landscape with Forge Mill Lake and Farm; a reminder of our industrial heritage, but here in Sandwell Valley is a nature reserve, a small island of wilderness. It continues, the river weaves and bobs through urban clumps never far from railway, canal or motorway. Until it splits in two, as two river Tame's feed our one. One branch zigzags through Wednesbury, another urban park at Sheepwash and then into Dudley. The other takes its path through Willenhall from Oldbury. And so we find the sources of our river in the Black Country, but everything that is put in the river here will pass by our Witton Bridge.
I wonder what lies downstream?
Glass panel held in Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Ref: 1971 F3128 (16/5144)