A rhyne (pronounced reen) is a ditch or canal used to transform areas of wetland into pasture. Huish is a habitational name that may refer to small areas of woodland. Through the winter months the Somerset Levels are often shrouded in thick fog and mist. Fog is low-lying, the moisture being generated locally. The only difference between mist and fog is visibility. The area is also subject to severe flooding, both from internal waterways and from coastal flooding. It is unique in the UK for this reason, being, essentially a delta which barely rises above sea-level. During December 2013 and January 2014 heavy rainfall led to extensive flooding with over 600 houses and 17,000 acres (6,900 ha) of agricultural land. The village of Thorney was abandoned and Muchelney cut off.
Rhyne and Huish is a new body of work which uses the Somerset levels and the Avalon Marshes as its focus, to explore water in this very specific landscape. It is a trans-disciplinary project which proposes that climate change is changing this landscape irrevocably, and that wetness as a way of being provides a starting point for negotiating life in a changing landscape. The intention is consider water as vapour, beyond liquidity, as a significant aspect of wetlands ecosystems, and as a sensuous yet disorienting phenomenon.
I am taking a number of approaches to this work – a preliminary sketchbook has already been exhibited – but significantly the approach sits within experimental geography, and focuses upon filmic and sonic field notes, walkshops and meandering conversations. I am interested in exploring the possibilities of developing sonic rhynes, and have started to create very short filmic field notes. I am mapping the convergences with this work and with Astrida Neimanis’ work on Bodies of Water.
I can’t and won’t pre-empt the outcomes, but am punctuating the research with opportunities to share work in progress with a broader public. The next (and imminent!) iteration of this is a sonic walk at Newton Park campus (Bath Spa University) at Seeing Sound symposium.