Wildlife of the Severn Photography Exhibition/Worcester Festival


WHENEVER we pause to gaze at England’s longest river, it’s perhaps easy to overlook the fact that much of the Severn is essentially man-made.

The Victorians’ no-nonsense approach to Nature was that she was a headstrong beast that had to be tamed and ultimately subdued.

Until the 1840s, when a series of locks were constructed between Gloucester and Worcester, the river was tidal as far upstream as Bewdley. Indeed, flounders were regularly caught by fishermen at this picturesque Severnside town.

However, what suited the 19th century industrial machine didn’t fit in very well with wildlife. The numbers of allis shad –fish that were once counted in their hundreds of thousands and in Saxon times a major food item – plunged.

And although they are still occasionally caught on spinner tackle at the mouth of the river Teme, today they are but a shadow of their former selves.

But now that is set to change, thanks to a project titled Unlocking the Severn: Reconnecting to our River. The aim is primarily to bring back the shad by providing fish passages at six barriers currently hampering their migratory routes along the Severn and Teme.

It will also help the survival of other species such as salmon, lampreys and eels, all types of fish that have suffered marked declines in recent years.

Among the hundreds of events being staged during the current Worcester Festival is an exhibition of community photographs on display at The Hive titled Wildlife of the Severn.

Under the tutelage of Iain Green, four photography workshops were held between April and July this year. The sites, all along the river, included Diglis Island, Worcester, Upper Lode, Gloucestershire, and Severn Valley Country Park, Shropshire.

The resulting images are varied and provide intriguing glimpses of the sheer profusion of wild plants and creatures that exist right on our doorsteps yet are so often overlooked by 21st century human beings.

It is a cast of hundreds, if not thousands. Many of the main players on this riverbank stage make their dramatic entrances, from star of the show herons to exquisitely marked ringlet, orange tip and speckled wood butterflies.

Thankfully, the vast majority of the shots have not been photo-shopped to any great degree. Computer slight-of-hand so often disproves the old adage that the camera cannot lie… oh yes, it does, and nowadays much too often!

This delightful exhibition runs for the duration of this month’s Worcester Festival and is well worth visiting, whether you’re a wildlife nut or not. Visit www.UnlockingTheSevern.co.uk

John Phillpott