Assorted Toffees from Colne Engaine

Assorted Toffees from Colne Engaine

Letter from the River Colne to the People of the Colne Valley

Dear People of the Colne Valley,

Once I was wild. I had all the land I wanted. I spread wide across my valley in little rivulets, I seeped through marshes, I gurgled, oozed and flowed towards the sea at my own pace. My valley was filled with reeds, rushes, willows, alders; it thrummed with all manner of birds and insects, frogs and snakes. Wildboar plunged about in the marshes, beavers built dams in my streams, and otters grew fat on my teeming fish.

Then you came along. You wanted to tame me. You dug a channel, confined me, claimed my alluvial plains for your grazing beasts, your tillage. I did not complain. I provided you with a Hythe for your ships to come and go; I allowed your boats upstream with luxury goods from Rome; with Barnack stone for your castle at Hedingham, your Priory at Earls Colne.
I bore your boats down to the sea with flints, wool, cloth and bricks.

I furnished your table with fish, lampreys, clams and eels. You ensnared my ducks and geese, and delighted in my cranes, storks and fish eagles. Your livestock drank at my banks. You washed your sheep, you washed your linen and fulled your wool and cloth in my waters.

Then you harnessed my energy, built twenty mills along my length, which turned, pushed, pulled and ground; your corn became flour, your wool became thread, then cloth, with my strength. Courtaulds, Chalkney, Bourne, Marriages, Cannock, to name just a few of them. Your children played and swam and sometimes drowned in me.

I rose and fell, the tides came up and ebbed back, but always I flowed, from Birdbrook to Brightlingsea, from source to sea. Now, you spurn my power - you have other ways of moving things. You prefer to trundle your goods noisily overland. You no longer eat my fish, or wish to swim or wash your clothes in my waters.

But just remember, you still need me. I take away your nasty waste. Every few miles I receive without complaint your treated sewage and bear it away for you to the sea. I do my best to clean it further, as I draw it through my reeds and rushes.

I can help in another way too, but many of you do not know this. Stand beside me, and watch me flow. I was flowing thousands of years before you were here, and I will continue to flow long after you are gone. I flow, with constancy, into the sea and am drowned, and then renewed. Watch me, by day or at dawn or at dusk; best of all, watch me at night when the moon is full; allow yourself the time, and cast your sorrows on my moving waters. I may seem indifferent to your griefs, but I can help you wash them downstream and away. All in the end is transitory.

So please, do not complain if sometimes I "burst my banks" and flood your meadows and block your roads. I am only reclaiming what was once all mine.

Yours ever flowingly,
River Colne.

Polly Clarke

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Paperback, 76 pages with 21 illustrations price £6 plus 60p for postage and packing

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