£6.7 million improvement project for two rivers

River scene close to Avon Aqueduct
River scene close to Avon Aqueduct

The rivers Avon and Almond are the focus of a photographic exhibition being staged in West Lothian over the summer months.

West Lothian College has teamed up with the River Forth Fisheries Trust to display the work of the NC Photography Students as part of the RiverLife: Almond and Avon Project.

The students, who have used the rivers and tributaries to create their Higher portfolio, picked one photograph each which best represents their local river.

These photographs will initially be on display at Almondell and Calderwood Country Park visitor centre for the summer and then at various locations across West Lothian and Edinburgh later rest of the year.

The River Avon is the larger of the two rivers and if you include its tributaries, the total length is almost 76 kilometres. It rises south east of Cumbernauld and flows for around 28km in a north easterly direction passing through Muiravonside Park and Linlithgow Bridge before meeting the Forth estuary at Kinneil, near Grangemouth.

The River Almond, on the other hand is 45 kilometres long and rises at Hirst Hill in Lanarkshire near Shotts and runs through West Lothian before passing through Kirkliston before draining into the Firth of Forth at Cramond.

The exhibition’s aim is to highlight the natural, industrial and cultural heritage of the two rivers, the photographs cover many aspects of urban rivers and their surroundings.

From the symmetry of the culverts that keep the river flowing as roads and railways wind across the catchments to the beauty in the flow of the water as it moves across rocks and stone, these pieces are a representation of diversity in everyday surroundings.

Jamie Ormiston, community engagement officer for the River Forth Fisheries Trust, said: ‘We hope this display of the students’ work will inspire people to get down to the rivers and use them in their own creative way.

‘‘For as long as people have created art, rivers have been an inspiration to get the creative juices flowing and our local rivers, streams or burns can still provide that even in a busy 21st century.

‘‘I was surprised at the range of work produced by the students and the quality of their pieces really shows the variety found in our river habitats.’’

Allan McGregor, lecturer at West Lothian College, commented: ‘The full-time students were charged with the task of producing and submitting one image that serves to epitomise their personal perspective of the river.

‘‘The result of which is a diverse series of images that demonstrate compositional and technical understanding in addition to highlighting aesthetic approach.

‘‘We are all very proud of the quality of work produced by the students and we look forward to the exhibition which allows our student work to be displayed professionally’’.

The display will be open to the public free of charge at the Almondell Calderwood Country Park visitor centre up until Sunday, August 13, and will transport people along the length of both the River Almond and the River Avon.

Visitors then have an opportunity to explore the River Almond, or the tributaries Linhouse Water and Murieston Water, which meander through the 220-acre country park between East Calder and Broxburn.

Aside from the exhibition, the River Forth Fisheries Trust, which is delivering the RiverLife Almond and Avon project, aims to connect local communities to both rivers, their tributaries and wildlife.

At present they are carrying out bank erosion improvement works on the Avon near Slamannan.

The soil erosion into the river has had a detrimental effect on the river’s fish stocks due to their habitat for spawning being destroyed.

On the Almond, work is also underway at Cramond to create a fish passage for salmon and sea trout to ease their passage upstream.

In the Linlithgow Bridge area, members of the Linlithgow Anglers’ Association are getting together with local Scouts to introduce them to angling.

The Trust’s Jamie Ormiston added that a number of conservation work activities, set to be carried over the next four years, are on offer to members of the public such as water quality monitoring, river clean-ups, tree planting, invasive species control, path maintenance and river restoration