River Severn Estuary is the largest nature reserve in Europe, famous for its broad mud-flats that are the feeding and nesting grounds for migratory birds. Unique for its tidal bore, where the high tide causes a wave occasionally large enough to surf on, to rush many miles up the channel.
Source of River Severn
Although the Bristol Channel and the River Severn are often depicted as separate sections of the same waterway, to the people living along both banks of the Estuary it is common to refer to the Bristol Channel as the Severn. Most of the people I have asked are unsure where the source of the river Severn actually is, assuming it to be the Malvern hills in Gloucestershire. When you look at the map pictures it is not easy to distinguish between where the river ends and the sea starts; especially given that the river appears to flow backwards with the tidal bore.
I became interested in the source of the Severn, the original spring from which it flows. From studying this scholars research (see link) who has traced it from the longest tributary, it seems the river has a long tail, winding from an unexpected source of mid-west Wales, the only nation in the world with a dragon on its flag.
Despite the official line of an unknown origin, the word 'Severn' is quite blatantly derived from the Saxon 'Sey Werm' which means Sea Dragon in the old tongue. I schooled in a town on a tributary river on the northern side, on the border between England and Wales, the river Wye which is also named from Saxon; 'Wy' is from where we get the word 'Why' meaning 'to question', the original context before language mutation was 'to fathom' in the associative context of 'to go within to seek truth' (inner depths - emotions - become synonymous with ocean depths, em-ocean) describes a process of converting instinct and emotions to mental clarity). It is also from where we get words such as; Witch, Wicca, Wick (candles), Wight and White.
Recently there has been some interest by idiot money-chasing government to build a Barrage across the Severn, which would clog up with silt in a few days (see colour picture at top of this blog) and it would cost more money to keep that clean than it could ever take in revenue; more worrying is that a barrage would also destroy the wetlands and all the nature that depends on it, causing extinction of many species.
It seems a strange syncronicity that at the same time, an indigenous Brazilian Amazonian rainforest tribe are also fighting to prevent the proposed Bel Monte dam project across their sacred river, which would destroy their traditional way of life and much extinction of wildlife.
Both of these stories are harmonic with the beautiful John Boorman film, The Emerald Forest, in which a similar situation.
I have lived all over both sides of the River Severn / Bristol Channel, therefore when asked where I am from, 'the Severn' is the most accurate and encompassing answer I have. Several hundred years ago in the mythic time of Arthur and Merlin whose involvement in these lands is legendary, as well as the physical histories; the banks of the river were a lot wider, much of the southern region was islands (Avalon) and the swamplands stretched along both sides of the river.
The Cistercian White Monks of Tintern Abbey painstakingly irrigated these embankments, draining the swamps with a vast network of reens (ditches) by using medicinal willow trees and hand barrows, to create arable farming land which now has cows and sheep grazing on it.
Specific to where I grew up is the legend of the Auroch; giant cows that were hunted to extinction by the local tribe by driving them into the marshes. In shamanic terms I believe this accounts for the red clay soil of that region of the riverbanks I know best, where there is a sacred septenary spiral barrow mound, local legends of which are worthy of their own blog.