Interrogating the environmental impact of the way the Dorset land is farmed, and the impact on the rivers and waters that feed Poole Bay.

One of the biggest challenges to the UK environment is the poor state of freshwater and the amplifying impact of climate change and farming practices on it. Wildlife in freshwater has declined at a faster rate than in other habitats and is particularly susceptible to climate change.

RiverRun 2019-2022

RiverRun is a three year project that connects Cape Farewell’s scientific partners with local farmers and artists. The creative programme of research and development is designed to embrace and interrogate the complex issue of the poor state of freshwater, and aims to raise awareness of the magnitude and impact of the problem. The research and development phase culminated in exhibitions, events and workshops in Autumn 2021, and we were delighted to be partnering with Durlston Country Park in Swanage and Lighthouse in Poole.

The RiverRun project has grown from recent studies by the scientist Antony Jensen at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, on the increased algae blooms that form in the summer in Poole Bay. These have a negative impact on wildlife, fish and human health, and proven links have been found with farm practice and food supply. Even organic food production has environmental impacts, witnessed by the algae blooms on the Sydling Water which runs past Cape Farewell’s HQ in Sydling St Nicholas and feeds into the Frome River, which, in turn, feeds into Poole Harbour. Cape Farewell wants this information to be part of our wider conversation about the relationship between food production and land use, water courses and the associated links to climate change.

RiverRun 2023-2026

RiverRun is continuing with a three-year partnership project between Cape Farewell and Wessex Museums running from 2024 to 2026, to create a series of community projects and a series of major exhibitions to chart the stresses being faced by the River Frome and Avon in the South West UK. This will build on the pilot work undertaken on the project by Cape Farewell over the last three years.

Wessex Museums Trust is a registered charity and thriving consortium of the principal museums of Dorset and Wiltshire: Poole Museum, Dorset Museum, The Salisbury Museum, Wiltshire Museum and Swindon Museum. The Wessex Museums are perfectly placed to share the story of Wessex, its people, and its relationship with the world. The partnership brings the opportunity to reach a wider audience, educating people to our unique local chalk river ecosystems. Eighty percent of chalk streams are located in England with the majority of them situated in the South West region.

Through workshops & using museums’ collections, artists, scientists, curators and participants will collaborate on creative responses to the ecological crisis in our rivers. The project will culminate in major exhibitions in the Wessex Museums in 2025 and 2026 showcasing the work. Each of the Museums have vibrant youth and community partnerships already established and the RiverRun programme will stimulate creative engagements augmenting a societal shift in how we nurture and protect rather than pollute our rivers. Currently these rivers are physically stressed due mainly to farm run-off, human waste treatment and discharge, recreational use and water abstraction.

Meet the Artists


Helen Moore

Award-winning ecopoet, socially engaged artist and writer

Anna Frijstein

Artist whose practice evokes the bestial side of ‘socialised’ human beings

David Buckland

Artist, designer, film-maker, founder and international director of Cape Farewell

Sasha Constable

Artist, Teacher, Art Project Coordinator, Curator and Company Manager

Research, Development, Partners and Aims

In August 2020, poet Helen Moore, performance artist Anna Frijstein, film-maker James Murray-White and lens-based artist David Buckland took part in a one week workshop at Cape Farewell’s HQ, The WaterShed. Over five days the four artists, plus Cape Farewell Trustee and Emeritus Professor of Psychology, Wendy Hollway, met with some of our scientific and farming partners, and immersed themselves in the science, farming, politics and culture of the Frome Valley, one of UK’s paramount chalk rivers.

Inspired by this pilot, the artists are being supported to continue interrogating the issues and produce works that respond to the science, finding narrative forms on a human scale that are accessible and pertinent to our daily lives and importantly to make something that reaches out to its audience. An Artwork.

In mid year 2023, the core team have been having meetings with Wessex Museums to discuss the second phase of RiverRun. Working with each of the museums and their relevant collections, he projects have been designed that address local issues and strengths.

Dorset Museum: will address the uniqueness and importance of salmon spawned in the River Frome. Their numbers are declining, and the creative interventions will interrogate these magical fish and their complex life story. The second integral part of this project is the focus on farm practise touching upon
the incentives farmers are given to reduce their phosphate and nitrate use and the issue with leakage into rivers, and also how farmers are going to support our future food supply.

Salisbury Museum: The focus for Salisbury RiverRun will be scientific and historical data, looking at
items from the Salisbury Museum drainage collection and the systems that were created to flood the water meadows to enhance the yield of feed for sheep/corn production.

Wiltshire Museum: Working with the museums archive and the extensive historical collection the focus for Wiltshire will be how ancient communities were fed and watered and the link between humanity and folklore.

Wessex Museums

  • Dorset Museum
  • Salisbury Museum
  • Wiltshire Museum
  • Swindon Museum & Art Gallery
  • Poole Museum

Scientific Partners

  • Dr Simon Boxall – National Oceanography Centre, Southampton
  • Dr Rasmus Lauridsen – Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust
  • Prof Genoveva Esteban – Bournemouth University
  • Dr Antony Jensen – National Oceanography Centre, Southampton
  • Dr John Murphy – Queen Mary University, London

Local Organic Farming Partners

  • Pam & Will Best – Manor Farm, Sydling St Nicholas
  • Chris Legg – Dollens Farm, Sydling St Nicholas

  • To raise awareness of the unique and special chalk river ecosystems of Wessex, their
  • heritage and relationship with the communities surrounding them, and the ecological crisis
  • they currently face.
  • To foster collaboration between artists, scientists, museums and local communities to
  • engage a broad and diverse audience in the issues around climate change and
  • environmental degradation in our local area through art and heritage, leading to positive
  • changes in behaviour.
  • Project Objectives & Outcomes:
  • To facilitate community/arts/science/museum collaborations around chalk rivers in five
  • localities in Wessex, resulting in co-created creative responses including with audiences
  • currently underserved by our partner museums.
  • To engage contemporary artists in five localities in Wessex in residencies to create a new
  • body of work in response to the ecological crisis facing our local chalk rivers.
  • To deliver an exhibition bringing together the work produced through the collaborations and
  • by contemporary artists in each of the five partner museums, to engage

“a way a lone a last a loved a long the riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation…”

Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce

Work Produced For RiverRun

Recent events

See also

spot-lit woman performing poetry


A unique take on the climate emergency

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