Contours, Boundaries and Conversation
After reading Anthony Hall's brilliant description of his experiences walking with Alison Lloyd and Cora and Dave of Glassball the previous week and when I saw that there was another walk that fell into a time I could manage to attend I signed up straight away. I am so glad I did.
I drove over from Manchester early in the morning and managed to contour the steep and narrow Church Lane approach to Diggle without encountering any oncoming traffic, as I emerged at the top where the road returns to two lanes and two cars passed me in the opposite direction I felt very grateful and happy that circumstances had fallen into place so perfectly.
While I waited for the group, I decided not to wait by the road but to stroll over the canal side, as I passed the body-shaped metal gateway to the canal (to prevent traffic passing) I made a decisive 'hum' to myself, and as I did so the sound bounced back off the metal plates either side of my ears and reverberated in a very satisfying vibration/sound. I couldn't quite understand what had just happened so I went back through and tried it again, this time it didn't really work. So I spent the next passage of time going back and forth through this gateway making different sounds in different ways and listening for this fascinating, self generated 'soundmark'.
The small group gathered at the roadside and then we headed off along the canal. The walk was made up of interesting conversation and learning about Alison's approach to her walking practice, micro navigation and the Guidelines project - exploring the Peak District National Boundary. 2019 marked 70 years since the government passed an Act of Parliament in 1949 to establish National Parks to preserve and enhance their natural beauty and provide recreational opportunities for the public. I learned a lot about the history of the boundary and how it was established (by a lady on horseback), how wide the actual boundary is (30 meters!) and some of the issues of access and land rights as the boundary weaves it way dissecting the landscape.
I was particularly interested in Alison's approach to her walks. She has a thoughtful and accessible methodology of navigating via the contours of the lands, these are the landmarks that are unchanging, unlike a significant tree that can be cut down or building that can our change. If our lifetime at least, the contours of the land herself can be relied on as way markers. Furthermore, Alison has found that counting every second step she has been able to establish how long it can take her to cover a particular distance. This means that when she is walking she can always know how far she has traveled on a particular compass direction either by counting or by time. It also means that she look at a distance remaining on a map and know how long it will take her to travel. Alison was generous with her methodology as well as her art practice of documenting her walks using low down cable release photography to capture gesture and motion.
I love this clear relationship between body and land. It resonates with Traditional Chinese Medicine where some of the pressure points along the energy of the channels are named in relation to the landscape. (Often overlooked by the Western academic system of naming the points by channel name and number, (for e.g. Large Intestine 11 instead of 'Pool at the Bend', or Kidney 1 instead of 'Bubbling Spring'). We find 'upper' and 'lower ridges', 'closed valley' 'Kun Lun Mountain' (the name of a large mountain range in China). These names help us to navigate the points on the body and signify a reflection of the natural world in the contours of the body, a continuum between micro and macro. This is part of many traditional cultures' view that we are part of the natural world, not separate to it, and not all powerful over it. These beliefs are literally written on the body. On this walk we were mark making on the land with our bodies and gestures, in conversation and silence, time well spent traversing the hills.
Another enjoyable part of the walk was meeting John Hewit. John is an artist who lives locally and had made contact with Alison on Instagram. He wasn't able to take part in the walk due to his health, but he wanted to draw us walking. Throughout our walked he kept popping up - from behind a bush, or would suddenly be behind us, or waiting for us at a gate ahead. He had a jolllots of local knowledge to share which really enriched our walk and he later published this beautiful drawing on his Instagram page. I share it here with his permission.
A very enriching day.
Explore the artists more here: