Lockdown has been a period filled with highs and lows. For many of us it has brought uncertainty, change and interruption to our comfortable and comforting routines. Interestingly for our project, lockdown has also corresponded with the end of the RiverLife Community Survey, which has been running in stages since August 2017. The purpose of the survey was to collect information about how people in local communities along the Almond and Avon use their local rivers. We have had 390 individual responses from participants and with some of the trends beginning to emerge, one thing that stands out immediately is that 313 of our 390 respondents say they use their local river for walking or running.
Our survey responses made me realise, as a river user myself, one thing lockdown has not changed or interrupted is how much I use and enjoy my local river. So, with a shameless plug to the launch of our Virtual Trails series [Almond here and Avon here], our upcoming Resilient River photography exhibition and with the aim of sharing trails and stories of our local rivers in mind, I have decided to share my almost daily trail run along the Lyne Water.
The Lyne Water is a tributary of the Tweed, which rolls out of the Pentland hills at Baddingsgill Reservoir and winds through several villages on its way toward the Tweed in Peebles. There is a trail that follows the river out of West Linton and carries along it for a few miles. There are many variants of the trail, and many different paths to explore the river’s spluttering swerves. This journey follows a riverside path before leaving the Lyne Water behind and curving back again into the village. It begins and ends with the river.
Brightly coloured spring flowers, budding tree leaves and a cacophony of bird calls are just some of things you might encounter on a spring lockdown journey along your local river. Spring along the Lyne means the wildflowers and spring leaves have been in full bloom since mid-April and are now identifiable everywhere you turn along the trail. Bluebells are not quite falling open yet, but it is a great time to see Doronicum, Leopard’s Bane, which is one of the only members of the daisy family to bloom early in spring. There are also ‘Raspberry Splash’ Pulmonaria (lungwort) along the way. Lungwort is so named because it has been used in the past to treat breathing problems and can still be found in some cough medicines.
Spring also means that horse chestnut leaves can be spotted drooping lazily along the river backdrop, reticent to take their more majestic forms too soon. They are not bothered by the keen green of the nearby Sorbus aucuparia, or Rowan trees, that line the sides of a large portion of this trail.
Further along the journey is some great habitat for nesting dippers, seeking out cavernous bankside real estate. While it may be good habitat for some animals, I cannot help noticing that it is also evidence of fairly bad bank erosion and would benefit greatly from some of the greenbank protection methods, like brash banking or willow weaving , that our team have installed on the Almond and the Avon.
After coming full circle and arriving back at the point on the Lyne where the trail began, it is nice to stop, breathe and appreciate that even in lockdown, this little tributary remains a constant. Research has long shown that spending time in nature can have positive impacts on mental health and wellbeing, but more and more studies are mapping out ways that spending time in nature can actually change the ways our brains work. As little as 15 minutes can reduce stress hormones, drop blood pressure and reduce heart rate (for more details, Google a study called Physiological Effects of Nature Therapy by Yoshifumi Miyazaki).
The trail ends with some bird watching. The phone camera used for this video does not do it justice but see if you can spot the grey wagtails bobbing in and out.
Don’t forget to submit your photographs and stories to our Resilient Rivers exhibition!