Music from the depths of a river- and other tales

Richard Lutz gets to see the woods through the trees. 


Where I am this week I can either walk north with the sea on my left or take to the woods. The fifteen mile-wide Clyde estuary is unlimited, a small blue part of this world’s oceans.

But the woods on the western Scottish coast has its own unlimited world, a world of quiet age, of creaking branches, of leaves appearing instantly after a rain. In the trees I glimpsed a trio of young red deer. They stare unblinkingly, they drift rather than trip away and disappear into the oak and beech. Did I actually see them as the wood’s shadows swallowed them? 

The forest is never far from the sea. So I hear the sea, I can smell the salt coming off the water and the iodine from the seaweed that drifts in.

But looking around me, I might as well be a million miles from the ocean. Red campion, white campion, bugle and vetch line the trails that loop in and out of the woods, the fields, that cross little roads that amble down to the shore heading towards western islands such as Arran, Holy Isle, the pudding-shaped Ailsa Crag (as above) Cumbrae, Bute. On hot clear days, they hover above the horizon as if airborne, as if painted onto a Japanese print.

That fragrance, that touch  of the sea doesn’t overcome another smell, though. The odour of horse shit.

There’re stables near my garden and, lordie-o-lordie, you can take away as much horse muck as you want. It stinks up my car as I drive it away and it’s heavy and wet to dump onto the garden and turn it over.


Manure machines

I’m not sure how it will all work out. I put seaweed into the earth for three straight years and it didn’t seem to do any harm and things seemed happy to grow in it.But a gardener/friend says horse manure is ‘hot’ and should lie for a while.

Now, I’m not sure what ‘a while’ really means. But I think I’ll find out soon enough when I either have 20 foot high cabbages and 40 foot worms or a simply a sterile overcooked desert full of torrid equine muck.


Pic:  Colin Hattersley

Finally, away from manure and woods, it’s off to the delightfully named River Nith in Dumfrieshire. An artist called Mark Zygadlo has invented a waterborne pipe organ on a little boat as above. The little catamaran uses the bubbling rush of river to create real water music. Handel would have been impressed.

The flow of the river pushes a paddle which creates melodies from an old church organ. There is a playlist, inevitably Old Man River and the Blue Danube. But the real beauty is the bouncy sounds flowing up and away as the Nith bubbles down to the sea .It is unearthly, ethereal, and, thankfully, a touch mad.


Here’s a Youtube clip:




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