THE DARENT PROJECT
This is a long term project exploring the River Darent. The Darent rises near Westerham in Kent, flows along the Darent Valley until it flows into the Thames near Dartford. Once one of the country’s premier chalk streams, it fell victim to the demand in the 18th and 19th centuries for water power and later to water abstraction to provide water to the towns and villages along its banks. This culminated in parts of the river drying out in the summer of 1989. Since then, the efforts of the Environment Agency and local pressure groups has restored the river’s fortunes, however there are reviewed threats to the river arising from government pressure to build new homes in North and West Kent.
What started as a project photographing the landscape of the Darent Valley and the river, has morphed into a project exploring the river and how man has impacted on its course and flows over the ages.
The first part of the project to be completed is entitled Flows, and investigates the permanence of the water flow and the contrasts between the natural flow and flows imposed on the river by manmade channels and obstructions. It contrasts dynamic flows with picturesque panoramas of the bridges built to control the river and provide a way across this natural barrier.
Tracing the river from its source there is recurring evidence of man’s attempts to control the flow of water. The flood prevention schemes in place at villages such as Chipstead shape the flow and provide a stark monument for the river’s potential power when in flood (houses were washed away in the 1968 floods)
This project explores two aspects of the river. The flows of water in the river and the bridges that man has built over the centuries to control the river and provide him with access to the surrounding countryside. Without bridges the river acts as an, at times, insurmountable barrier to free movement. Bridges also symbolise an alternative independent flow across the river that continues, often unaware of the river beneath.