A Matter of Loaf and Death (Lammas: August on the Mel)

This title, taken from a Wallace and Gromit film (Nick Park 2008) seems appropriate as in Topcliffe Mill — where James and I spend an afternoon this month of August — are two anonymous poems from the 19th century, telling stories of theft and murder at the mill in the middle ages. Derring-do, robberies, and hidden treasure: the mill lends itself to adventures and ghosts (however there is no trace of Bake-o-lite!)

Topcliffe Mill
Photograph: James Murray-White © 2018

A phrase from a song that was on the radio a lot in my late 1950’s childhood is running in my mind. I think it is Burl Ives singing If you take my advice there is nothing as nice as messing about on the river.

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Waterlight: A River to Sail Away On…

It was still only June and it has been beautiful. Warm and light, the woods close to the river have been high with cow parsley. We have been back to Meldreth Primary School to share the results of the filmmaking day we spent with the children of Year Six on our walk along the section of the Mel.

In the time in between, they have edited and considered their two-minute pieces and we were treated to a wide variety of approaches and themes. Many of the films were a plea to save the environment, some were very visual looking closely at certain places on the river reflectively and imaginatively — using close-ups of flowers, stones, and water.

Photograph: James Murray-White © 2018

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Chalk Stream Lullaby

I do not know much about gods, but I think that the river
Is a strong brown god, sullen untamed and intractable’

This short phrase is taken from T.S.Eliot at the beginning of the rolling and wonderful, Dry Salvages, in the Four Quartets. It is said he was inspired to write it by some rocks with a beacon on the north east coast of America at Cape Ann, Massachusetts.

River Mel, Meldreth. Photograph: Yvonne Chamberlain © 2018

The river Mel is a classic English chalk stream that I have walked in all weathers for the last 18 years and in winter it can indeed be sullen, especially when just below the A10  when it becomes full of crisp packets, plastic bottles and other things which just happen to be dumped from cars. It is only the painstaking work of the River Mel Restoration volunteers who have slowly removed this from the river there. It links my village, Meldreth, with the next village, Melbourn, and is a well-worn route crossing fields and through woodlands used by dog walkers, runners, and children on their way to Melbourn village college.

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