Over the last few months Milborne Port Plastic Free Communities has been working with the West Country Rivers Trust to monitor and restore the river Gascoigne. Milborne Port is inseparable from its river, and the history of our community has been shaped for centuries by its waters.
The Domesday Book of 1086 records six mills in the village, and surviving mill sites stand mute witness to the river’s importance to past generations. The Gascoigne was once a source of unique, natural power, and over time countless lives and livelihoods have rested on the strength and health of the river.
Tracing the course of the river takes us back in time, from the industrial to the agricultural era, and finally to a period before both. Yet however far back we tread, the river remains at the centre of the story of Milborne Port. It is both old beyond measure, and eternally young, perpetually renewing itself from century to century, and moment to moment.
However important its economic role, throughout its life the river has always offered us more than a living. Its beauty can place us under a spell, taking us beyond the preoccupations and stresses of our daily lives, allowing us to live for that briefest of moments in a timeless present. In a way that escapes our understanding, the river helps us renew ourselves.
Unfortunately changing farming practices and the pressures of our ruthless, modern economy have taken a toll on the Gascoigne, and the river now resembles a shadow of what it once was. The Environment Agency classifies much of the river as in ‘poor’ health. Like so much of the natural world around us, our river faces a deepening, ecological crisis.
Increasingly hot and dry summers have also sapped the vitality of the Gascoigne, and as climate change accelerates this attrition is likely to worsen. The wildlife that depends on the river’s health is also affected. When rivers suffer a cascade of effects spreads outwards, impacting other species, as the biodiversity on which they depend is destroyed.
Milborne Port relies on a healthy environment and clean water for public health, tourism, and agricultural sustainability. Fundamentally we are all dependent on the web of life that surrounds us. Rivers are a crucial thread in the complex pattern that sustains all of our lives. If you would like to help, please get in touch via Plasticfreemilborne@gmail.com