a work in progress . . .

Night River Wood is an evolving journal of essays and interludes on the subject of nature, place, memory and mystery, written from a hillside on the Welsh borders by writer and artist James Roberts.

 

 

 

The Oak and the Swift

Lately I’ve started to pity swifts.  They arrive around Mayday every year, appearing over the river in helter-skelter couples. They then form larger groups and spread out over the valley, chasing invisible entities which must be far more important to them than...

Hidden Words

I’ve been scribbling words onto stones for a few years. The hills around here are littered with small, disused quarries, shallow pits containing loose stones of different shapes and sizes. Choosing the right one is difficult as the local mudstone is coarse and...

A River of Sound

Close to its surface a shallow river talks loudly. It's as if the water is passing through many throats, being gulped, gargled and spluttered as it moves over pebbles and rocks, willow roots, rafts of dead vegetation piled against the bank. I propped the recorder on...

Dark Water

Tonight the river is high. I don’t know what atmospheric conditions out in the Atlantic are driving this endless rain. Like all weather these days it doesn’t seem right. My headlights project two beams across the water, which boils and writhes downstream. Nothing...

Unremembered

The cloud is down. My navigation is reliant on the recall of shapes close up: twisted trees, broken walls, mawn pools, the bends and intersections in tracks. In the past week fieldfares have returned, I can hear them now, ransacking the rowans. A small flock of...

A Desertion

I remember that the sand whispered and sound carried for miles. And dunes the colour of tanned skin - their perfect, female contours. I remember how the desert engulfed the town, dust blowing down narrow streets, gathering and drifting in doorways. There were blue...

The Roundabout

It’s an ancient-looking structure cresting a high hill. The stone was formed in the Silurian period, 400 million years ago. It was gathered from the surrounding hilltop quarries and assembled into a head-height circular wall for Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee....

Offshore

On the last day of a family holiday I sneaked out of the caravan just after dawn and walked to my favourite spot on the cliff to say goodbye to the sea. The place was near an old stone hut where fisherman used to keep watch for the pilchard shoals coming close to...

Success and Succession

The path drops steeply via a series of switchbacks, between granite outcrops and boulders, crossing streams that plummet down the mountain. I hear birds whose calls I don’t recognize, their songs mingling with the drone of traffic far below on the road.  It is hard...

Up Close and Far Off

I don't remember the name of the town where the railway started, or the destination at the end of the line, only that the train sometimes arrived, but most of the time didn't. I think I waited a week. There were a handful of half-ruined colonial buildings on a single...