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  • Roger Waterhouse

River wood


Our smallholding in the upper Amber valley is fortunate in that it has the river running through the middle of it. It can be very picturesque.

But before you get too envious, let me tell you, the river can be a problem. And in 25 years of attempting to manage the river, it still beats me every time.

It floods. And when it floods it flows through the field, stranding the sheep, and gouging out a big hole. And I mean BIG - like 8 foot deep.

A previous owner built a small dam and created a pond which we grandly refer to as 'the lake'.

About 20 years ago we awoke one morning to find that the dam, and therefore the lake, had disappeared. The river in flood had taken the dam away.

We replaced it and added an emergency sluice to regulate the flow.

I built a substantial bridge. At the next flood we watched as it floated off stately as a barge down the river.

And the river brings loads of silt, so periodically the lake has to be dredged. It's needed doing for the past 3 years, and eventually, we persuaded a friend with a digger and a dumper truck to do half the job. The rest will have to wait till next year.

Along with the silt the river brings other presents. Over the years we must have had 30 or so car tyres. And logs, sometimes sizeable, float down and get dragged out.

But during the recent dredging the digger hoiked out la log about 9 feet long from the bottom of the lake. It was sodden, of course, but of a dense wood, and very heavy. We reckoned it was holly.

Having left it a few weeks to drain, I cut a section and halved it. I really looked very interesting, though small. So I turned a small pot.

I boast that I can recognise a lot of English woods by their smell, but this smelled really acrid, though not a river smell. And although I might recognise the smell of holly when turning it, I can't call the smell to mind. And the wood was uniformly grey.

Who knows how long the log had sat at the bottom of the lake, or been in the water before that. Whatever chemical reaction occurred to turn the wood grey it had completely permeated to the heart of the log.

I must say I like the resulting pot. I turned it thin enough to avoid cracking as it dried out - even though the moisture content was 25%. My theory is it was dead and seasoned before it hit the water.

In any event, it attracted a lot of attention at the PDA Winter Arts Fair in Derby this weekend, and a very discerning lady bought it. What she got is truly unique!


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