FIELD NOTES

Field Notes

FIELD NOTES
100 Kilometre Walk
20 May 2011 to 17 June 2011

A SUMMER WALK UP THE TYNE AND THE NORTH TYNE

 

In May/June 2011, I walked with a group of people from the mouth of Tyne, via Hexham up the North Tyne to Thorneyburn with natural historians Keith Bowey, Matt Hawking, Steve Westerberg and Tina Wiffen. Participants included: Tom Kyle; Alex Lockwood; Ian Dawson; Clare Satow; Liz Beech; Alice and Rob Massey; Paul Usherwood; Diane Jones; Anne and Neil Gardner; Marjorie Baille; Izzy McDonald-Booth; Anne Purvis; Suzanne Lloyd; Michael Davies; Frank Anderson; Fred and Margaret Watson; Freda Hamilton; Eric Nicholson

 

There were nine walks (graded easy to moderate) over five weekends. Each walk lasted between six and eight hours with regular stops to identify flora and fauna.  

 

All these walks were free and were part of an art project funded by VARC (Visual Arts in Rural Communities) and supported by the Customs House, South Tyneside Council, The University of Sunderland and Northumberland National Park.

 

I have used the material I recorded on the walk (all the flora and fauna seen and heard and written down in a series of 30 pages in my diary) to create a new body of work (30 images of coloured pastel notations drawn over digital prints of the diary pages) a selection of which can be seen below. The work was exhibited in both the Customs House (at the mouth of the Tyne) and the VARC gallery at High Green, which is close to Tarset where the walk ended, in June and July 2013

 

For more information about this project, please click on the 'more information' box below

Two years ago, I undertook a guided walk from the mouth of the River Derwent (at the Metro Centre in Gateshead) to its source, high in North Pennines. The journey was led by an ornithologist (Steve Westerberg) and a natural historian (Tina Wiffen). About 15 people took part over a period of 4 days (every Saturday for four weekends). I learnt much about the landscape through which we walked and as a group we shared our ideas, thoughts and knowledge. It was fascinating to see how some flora and fauna appeared as ‘friends’ throughout our journey whilst others remained very specific to particular habitats and locations. It was also interesting to see first hand the dramatic impact that humans have had on this environment over thousands of years.

 

It was this 'event' that led me to undertake a more ambitious series of guided walks for groups led by (variously), Matt Hawking (Countryside Officer, South Tyneside); Tina Wiffen (Ecological Consultant); Keith Bowey (Owner of GEES – Glead[2] Ecological and Environmental Services) and Steve Westerberg (Site Manager, RSPB Geltsdale). Our journey started on the 21st May at the mouth of the Tyne, and continued up the River to its junction with the North Tyne. From here, we followed the North Tyne, branching off at Tarset Burn and finally ending at Thorneyburn. This walk was significant to me for a number of reasons – it linked the urban and the rural, it was a local walk, but, just as importantly, it was also a walk of pilgrimage, since it took me from one source (physical) to another (creative) in that we ended up at Tarset – which is where the pastels I use exclusively are made.

 

My work is related to my walking (although it is in no way an illustration of these various walks I make) and explores the interrelated nature of ecological and cultural ideas through a detailed study of local environments and (through walking) our embodied engagement with ‘landscape’. Although much of my work ‘takes place’ in rural environments, I am aware that the landscape through which I walk has been shaped by human intervention – it is not ‘wild’, a fact that is often clearly indicated by the flora and fauna seen, heard, smelt or touched. One of the reasons I have chosen to undertake most of my walking ‘locally’ is that I am aware of the need to ration our use of the car and airplanes etc., and to conserve energy. It might be tempting to travel to ‘wild and far off, exotic places’, but we can overlook the ‘wilderness’ that lies on our own doorstep. Furthermore, it might be that we don’t have to travel long distances to experience a sense of ‘wildness’. In his recent book, The Wild Places [1], Robert McFarlane explored a range of so-called wild places from the Burren in Ireland to the Cairngorms in Scotland. However, towards the end of this book, he became

 

increasingly interested in [an] understanding of wildness not as something which was hived off from human life, but which existed unexpectedly around and within it: in cities, in backyards, roadsides, hedges, field boundaries and spinnies.

 

He continued: 

 

That margins should be a redoubt of wildness, I knew, was proof of the devastation of the land: the extent to which nature had been squeezed to the territory’s edges, repressed almost to extinction. But it seemed like proof, as well, of the resilience of the wild – of its instinct for resurgence, its irrepressibility. And a recognition that wildness weaved with the human world, rather than existing only in cleaved-off areas – in national parks and on distant peninsulas and peaks; maybe such a recognition was what was needed to help us end the opposition between culture and nature, the garden and the wilderness, and to come to recognise ourselves at last as at home in both.

 

My aim is to use the material ‘collated and noted’ on this series of walks to create a new exhibition and a book to accompany the show. The work will be exhibited in both the Customs House (at the mouth of the Tyne) and the VARC gallery at High Green, which is close to Tarset in 2013 and I hope to develop my work throughout this project by looking further into the use of folk language – and exploring in more detail what influences our use of language. For instance, paying more attention to the sounds, tastes and smells experienced on the journey – and find a way of notating such findings, linking them textually, phonetically and visually, exploring further the notion of mapping as a phenomenological means of understanding the environment – tracking movement through space

 

 

[1] * McFarlane, R. (2007) The Wild Places. London: Granta.

[2]‘Glead’ - from the Anglo Saxon to ‘glide’, the old English name for the red kite

 

Two years ago, I undertook a guided walk from the mouth of the River Derwent (at the Metro Centre in Gateshead) to its source, high in North Pennines. The journey was led by an ornithologist (Steve Westerberg) and a natural historian (Tina Wiffen). About 15 people took part over a period of 4 days (every Saturday for four weekends). I learnt much about the landscape through which we walked and as a group we shared our ideas, thoughts and knowledge. It was fascinating to see how some flora and fauna appeared as ‘friends’ throughout our journey whilst others remained very specific to particular habitats and locations. It was also interesting to see first hand the dramatic impact that humans have had on this environment over thousands of years.

 

It was this 'event' that led me to undertake a more ambitious series of guided walks for groups led by (variously), Matt Hawking (Countryside Officer, South Tyneside); Tina Wiffen (Ecological Consultant); Keith Bowey (Owner of GEES – Glead[2] Ecological and Environmental Services) and Steve Westerberg (Site Manager, RSPB Geltsdale). Our journey started on the 21st May at the mouth of the Tyne, and continued up the River to its junction with the North Tyne. From here, we followed the North Tyne, branching off at Tarset Burn and finally ending at Thorneyburn. This walk was significant to me for a number of reasons – it linked the urban and the rural, it was a local walk, but, just as importantly, it was also a walk of pilgrimage, since it took me from one source (physical) to another (creative) in that we ended up at Tarset – which is where the pastels I use exclusively are made.

 

My work is related to my walking (although it is in no way an illustration of these various walks I make) and explores the interrelated nature of ecological and cultural ideas through a detailed study of local environments and (through walking) our embodied engagement with ‘landscape’. Although much of my work ‘takes place’ in rural environments, I am aware that the landscape through which I walk has been shaped by human intervention – it is not ‘wild’, a fact that is often clearly indicated by the flora and fauna seen, heard, smelt or touched. One of the reasons I have chosen to undertake most of my walking ‘locally’ is that I am aware of the need to ration our use of the car and airplanes etc., and to conserve energy. It might be tempting to travel to ‘wild and far off, exotic places’, but we can overlook the ‘wilderness’ that lies on our own doorstep. Furthermore, it might be that we don’t have to travel long distances to experience a sense of ‘wildness’. In his recent book, The Wild Places [1], Robert McFarlane explored a range of so-called wild places from the Burren in Ireland to the Cairngorms in Scotland. However, towards the end of this book, he became

 

increasingly interested in [an] understanding of wildness not as something which was hived off from human life, but which existed unexpectedly around and within it: in cities, in backyards, roadsides, hedges, field boundaries and spinnies.

 

He continued: 

 

That margins should be a redoubt of wildness, I knew, was proof of the devastation of the land: the extent to which nature had been squeezed to the territory’s edges, repressed almost to extinction. But it seemed like proof, as well, of the resilience of the wild – of its instinct for resurgence, its irrepressibility. And a recognition that wildness weaved with the human world, rather than existing only in cleaved-off areas – in national parks and on distant peninsulas and peaks; maybe such a recognition was what was needed to help us end the opposition between culture and nature, the garden and the wilderness, and to come to recognise ourselves at last as at home in both.

 

My aim is to use the material ‘collated and noted’ on this series of walks to create a new exhibition and a book to accompany the show. The work will be exhibited in both the Customs House (at the mouth of the Tyne) and the VARC gallery at High Green, which is close to Tarset in 2013 and I hope to develop my work throughout this project by looking further into the use of folk language – and exploring in more detail what influences our use of language. For instance, paying more attention to the sounds, tastes and smells experienced on the journey – and find a way of notating such findings, linking them textually, phonetically and visually, exploring further the notion of mapping as a phenomenological means of understanding the environment – tracking movement through space

 

 

[1] * McFarlane, R. (2007) The Wild Places. London: Granta.

[2]‘Glead’ - from the Anglo Saxon to ‘glide’, the old English name for the red kite