FresH2O Superhighway

Innerspace biopunk and the Butterfly Effect
Two years of groundwork later and The FresH2O Connection is finally ready to fly. Lining up my ducks seems to have taken forever. A heady mix of dead-ends, deskbound duties and dreaming have tested my resilience to the extreme. I have a new appreciation of the chicken and egg conundrum!

The dream - the easy part – was centred on the tapestry of freshwater systems that permeate our landscape. But like many good dreams, the edges were a smudge of slow-wave imagery. And upon waking, the crux remained but detail was lost and the ending lay perpetually out of reach. So it was back to school for grown-ups, looking to fill in some blanks, throw light to the shadows. Research led to the biology-rich Open University, where a field of knowledge tamed my inner truant. A few cherry-picked courses later and the substance I’d been missing was outlined in black. That was the theory anyway.

Yet still I hadn’t deciphered what the water was telling me. Lao Tzu’s quote, “Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and the water is clear?” taunted like a mosquito. Until I realised I was thinking about the dream all wrong. It didn’t matter if the water was muddy, murky or clear, only that it held potential. Possibility, a tangible project outline, emerged from the gloom. Off-the-beaten-track recces to explore freshwater sites close to home had initially drawn blanks. But further afield, two had led to interesting discoveries. Unique lake environments where water hosted very different forms of life. One boasted intriguing alien spectacles, space-age bugs and silt. The other, stunning plant life, an exceptional ecosystem and the clearest water you could wish for. But perfect habitats, like perfect dreams, are hard to find in our fickle world.

I can set an even spirit level on the line between these two lakes. East to West they’re maybe 250 miles apart, as the crow flies. What connected them and how? If I were a toad, or a newt, or an eel, or a pike (yes, a pike!), how would I get myself from East to West? Well, the Freshwater Superhighway of course! Three other pins - a deep-water quarry, a section of England’s longest river and an urban wildlife pond - were added to my latitude of discovery. Axis marks between the two lakes, sites I could explore and photograph underwater. Each point of reference represented a different ecological environment but they all had one thing in common, they were freshwater territories. These dots join together via thousands of other watery checkpoints to create a habitat mosaic. An essential, extensive network that enables life to roam from one place to the next in search of food, a mate, shelter and protection. But they are a diminishing resource. Many of these spaces are under threat from the collective impact of human activity.

It’s estimated that only 0.3% of all water on Earth is surface freshwater. I want to get into it and tell the story from beneath that surface tension. Visually, tell the story I mean! With a home-turf focus on the British scene. A challenge to keep my feathers oiled and my camera skills water fit. Something I can develop over time, a means to feed my fascination with atmospheric surfaces and anti-heroes, like algae and tadpoles. So here’s to the Superhighway, wherever it leads!