Of the Beaten Track

Step in harmony

within natures holloways

a continuum

Not far from sand and sea, with the sounds of families having fun, lies a hidden, almost forgotten world: the world of ‘Sunken Lanes’. In some counties, they are ‘holloways’; in Devon, they are known as ‘Green Lanes’, so called by their very nature; a verdant tunnel of wild flowers, hedgerows and trees. There names offering an insight into their form and structure. This other world is a portal to an ancient time and reminiscent of ancient ways.

Many routes have a pre-historic heritage, like The Ridgeway; others, like The Pilgrims Way have been immortalized in Chaucer’s ‘Canterbury Tales’. Most ancient lanes have a private history, and it is into this secluded world that I enter, quietly, reverently and respectfully. The lanes are awash with the sights and sounds of nature: the rustling of leaves, the whipping of the wind through the overarching branches, insects scrabbling in their own hidden world, whilst the tracks of horse and boot indicate travellers moving onward into this other world. When walking these lanes, I am transported in both mind and body to another place and another time. I am mindful that rural practices have been the backbone of our heritage; hunter gatherers evolved into settled communities and the land was tamed. The organizing of field systems led to the growth of communities and parishes. Movement between field, stockade and communities brought about the creation of route ways.

As I walk these lanes, dressed in the correct walking clothes and boots, with a camera in hand, I have the words of Thomas Hardys’ Tess D’Urbeville echoing in my mind ‘…walking among the sleeping birds in the hedges, watching the skipping rabbits on a moonlit warren…’ Romanized words of Tess D’Urbeville’s life of rural servitude in 18th century Dorset, but an accurate description of what you would see on a leisurely walk along our Green Lanes.

Today, the Green Lanes of Devon are used primarily for recreation than agriculture. No longer does the shepherd lead sheep from field to field: no longer do horses and carts transport winter feed to cows; now, it is the jogger, the motor bike scrambler, the horse rider and walker who uses the lanes for pleasure and exercise. Much of our post-modern society has little knowledge of the countryside and its ways, and many have lost sight of the value of our rural heritage. The wheel ruts of carts are replaced by the tyre tracks of scrambling bikes: it is as though the wheel remains the constant, but the purpose has changed from work to leisure. The same can be said of the horse: once the muscle-power of the farmstead, the steeds that now use this route way is for gentle exercise.

How life has changed!

Like the ‘created track made by the land-artist Richard Long, where movement along a route produces an impression: the more the route-way is used, the deeper, more permanent the track becomes. Green Lanes provide us with an example of well-worn trails; many of which can be traced to the Anglo-Saxon period. For expediency, they followed the most direct path, in harmony with the contours of the landscape. These are routes, acted as a pointer of both purpose and need. Agricultural pursuits have always been a matter of survival, where poor weather can leads to crop failure and starvation, although today, not as acute as in our Early History. Working on the land and with the land was, still is a series of tensions: a challenging, unforgiving existence, where hard work alone does not equate with success.

The winter of 2015-2016 has been the wettest on record with crops flooded, excessive soil run-off and winter grazing waterlogged. The rural idyll is a myth, often forgotten by those whose existence is unrelated to land-matters. In pre-industrial Britain there was a great socio-economic divide between the agricultural workers and agricultural landowners: between those who did the work and those who reaped the rewards of ownership. Literature and Art have given us a record of rural life, but the rural nirvana was not always blissful. The true reality cannot be adequately portrayed by pen or brush.

Pastoral landscapes were idealized, with verdant pastures, calm surroundings and bountiful harvests, that belied the poverty and hard work of a feudal farming system.

Not far from sand and sea, with the sounds of families having fun, lies a hidden, almost forgotten world: the world of ‘Sunken Lanes’. In some counties, they are ‘holloways’; in Devon, they are known as ‘Green Lanes’, so called by their very nature; a verdant tunnel of wild flowers, hedgerows and trees. There names offering an insight into their form and structure. This other world is a portal to an ancient time and reminiscent of ancient ways. Many routes have a pre-historic heritage, like The Ridgeway; others, like The Pilgrims Way have been immortalized in Chaucer’s ‘Canterbury Tales’. Most ancient lanes have a private history, and it is into this secluded world that I enter, quietly, reverently and respectfully.

The lanes are awash with the sights and sounds of nature: the rustling of leaves, the whipping of the wind through the overarching branches, insects scrabbling in their own hidden world, whilst the tracks of horse and boot indicate travellers moving onward into this other world. When walking these lanes, I am transported in both mind and body to another place and another time. I am mindful that rural practices have been the backbone of our heritage; hunter gatherers evolved into settled communities and the land was tamed. The organizing of field systems led to the growth of communities and parishes. Movement between field, stockade and communities brought about the creation of route ways.

Years ago, what would have my relationship been with the land? Would I have been like Hardy’s Tess, in Tess of the D’Urbevilles, chained to the land by poverty or would I have been born into the gentrified classes of Mr Darcey in Pride and Prejudice or the professional classes described in Trollopes’, Barchester Towers. It is chance that decides our fate.

It is my joy and delight that these lanes offer a time of solitude: with my own thoughts after a long and busy week. I walk to the rhythm of my heartbeat… pacing out the route so that mind and body are one. With an unhurried and deliberate pace, so having time to notice the extraordinary detail that is so often overlooked. I am lost, even for a short time with my thought, as I walk in spirit with those who have walked before me. Our steps in harmony, as we walk as one, across time and space.

 

Mary Pearson

February 2016

an Talamh – ilroinnte II

These images form part of a larger series called ‘an Talamh’, created when I was participating in an Artist Residency in Donegal, Eire in May 2015. The residency was based upon the notion of combining writing with the ritual burial and exhumation of processed medium format film negatives.

By taking words from the Irish language [Irish Gaelic], as a lead title, it gives resonance to both time, place and process.

‘an Talamh’, the name for the entire Residency series, means ‘The Land’.

‘ilroinnte’, the title for following images means ‘fragmented’. This is part two of the series.

Image 13a Image 16a Image 17a

© Mary Pearson

Naming the Research

Although it has to be recognised that experimental work is new, there are others that are pursuing similar work. Blogs and websites are a valuable way to post your findings, share ideas and gain knowledge of the work of others.

I have named this research work, BIOSIGNA.

Daro Montag from Falmouth University who explores the relationship of nature on film, paper and refers to himself as an artist. His work is called Bioglyphs, meaning Life Signs.

http://www.falmouth.ac.uk/content/dr-daro-montag

http://www.microbialart.com/gallieries/daro-montag

Renata Busiak, working on a PhD at Queensland University explores the relationship of nature on photographic paper. Her work is called Biochromes, linking Bio, meaning life, to chromatic papers.

http://www.renata-busiak.com

My work is called Biosigna:

Bio referring to life [nature and the environment] and Signa meaning signals.

It is important to have ‘working title’ for a research project, as it gives focus and identity to the work in hand.

 

Pleasure Piers in Devon & Somerset.

 

I have heard piers called ‘disappointed bridges’, making them sound unfulfilled and not entirely useful.

They have also been described as, ‘on the sea but not of the sea’, which gives them a more elegant, romantic and playful description.

The Victorians were bold and adventurous. They built hundred of miles of railways and countless bridges, defying all geographical obstacles. It is little wonder that they devised a method of building a firm structure on shifting sands.

Piers were both functional and ornamental, showing the expertise of their designers as both engineers and artists.

Piers were originally built as jetties, so that the Victorian steam-boat passenger could alight at a seaside resort without the indignity of getting their feet wet. The broad-walk afforded them the opportunity to make the most of the bracing sea air without suffering from seasickness.

It was only after the Public Holidays Act of 1871 and later, the Paid Holidays Act, when the seaside experience became available to all classes of society, that various forms of entertainment developed on both the broad-walk and in pier pavilions.

Move on a century and many of these piers still exist in some way, shape or form, in varying states of repair and disrepair. They still form an iconic structure in many seaside resorts and are part of our national identity.

 

_MG_2820BRefurbished Grand Pier in Weston.

IMG_2983B Grade 1 Listed Pier at Clevedon._MG_2811B Derelict Birnbeck Pier at Weston.IMG_3067 Abandoned Pier building at WeymouthIMG_3121 Teignmouth Pier_MG_2463Paignton Pleasure Pier.

Teignmouth Pier

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Teignmouth Pier is the 13th oldest pleasure pier in the UK.

These images were taken at three different times of the day in three differing weather conditions. The sea alters its mood and texture in relation to the current weather conditions, and the times of the day changes the tone and quality of the image.

For 150 years this pier and pointed its finger to sea and throughout that time has become an iconic symbol of the traditional British seaside holiday experience.

Relationships: Piers and their users.

For my investigation I used the newly refurbished Grand Pier in Weston-super-Mare. The Pier was built in 1904 and has essentially stayed the same throughout its entire history. Fire and storm have caused some disruption over the years, but the 2008 fire completely destroyed the pier pavilion.

The relatively new owners pledge to rebuild and in 2010, the newly designed pier was opened. It attracted 100,000 visitors in the first weekend. Its design is a more elegant and streamlined outer structure, based upon that which it was replacing. It cost £39 million to build

Inside however, the building has been designed for the 21st century: it is not only a pleasure palace with games and rides that will delight and entertain, but has has conference facilities for 1000 delegates, a high-end restaurant and is licensed for weddings.

It has a comprehensive business plan, and its success has had a profound effect on the economic os Weston-super-Mare.

My study was to research through photographs the relationship between pier users and the games within the pavilion.

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This is the newly refurbished pier. It is an immense structure and the people on the beach act as in indicator of tis size.

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The interior of the pier is vast and multi levelled: two levels of games and a race-track circles within the roof-space.

It is not brightly lit; the brilliance comes from the bright, neon lights of the games, that flash and draw in visitors like a magnet.

The noise and the beat of the music and the riot of colour has an over whelming effect on your senses.

The image looks chaotic: it is a chaotic space, that is timeless. There is no day or night and time is suspended.

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The four portraits show.

  • varying age groups from young, early & late middle age and elderly using the machines. It was a generational experience.
  • Each person have entered this chaotic public space and found within that a private space.
  • Body language is passive and relaxed.
  • Expressions are the opposite of what you would expect in a high-energy pace.
  • Eyes are fixed and focussed.
  • There is a reflective glow on faces and body.