Around the A4074 this month…

I’m clearing out my camera and finding evidence and reminders of all the things I’ve done so far this July in my explorations of The A4074. Firstly, I’ve been trying to discover what plant this is. It grows all along the verges beside the road for miles around Ipsden, and it looks to me like it may belong to the mallow family? In this photo it look more lilac than blue, but on a clear sunny day it is a bright, periwinkle shade. So far the closest match for my photo seems to be Chicory; does anyone know if this is a relation to the kind of Chicory we put in salads, or have an opinion on whether or not I have correctly identified this plant?

In other news around the A4074, there was a splendid BBQ had by myself and my good friend Stav last Friday. We purchased sausages, salad leaves and cheese from local Blue Tin Farm (TASTY!) and cooked the sausages in a layby, as a sort of homage to the old burger/bacon/sausage wagon that used to operate here. Stav made use of some dumped furniture to assemble a fine table and we feasted at it, just a few metres from the road.

Earlier on Friday morning, I recorded an amazing performance of music from one of my favourite local bands – Telling the Bees – in a field in Sandford, near the A4074.

This music was performed before a live audience of cows, who took a great interest in our doings!

There was also the Soundwalk on 18th July for World Listening Day, around the A4074. In truth, this turned out to be a rather more solemn affair than I was hoping it would be. I had terrible anxiety dreams the night before and was too nervous and shaken by 8am on the Sunday morning to bring my customary playfulness to the event. I feel I learned a lot and got some amazing recordings of very subtle sounds… and it was amazing to listen in the stillness of the morning with Liz and Jonathon. But the fun of the lovingly-printed stationery and the concept of the Soundwalk didn’t – at least in my mind – translate into a public event of dazzling joy.

I guess three hours is a long time to walk with other people without speaking. I love the bleak soundscapes around the A4074 and because I walk there regularly alone and in my own silence, I am accustomed to listening for long stretches of time to the sound of wind rustling through leaves and grasses. But as Liz pointed out, this is quite a hardcore introduction for people who are not already dedicated ‘listeners,’ and the event could be made more welcoming with meeting points and discussions, chats about the soundscape and so on. So there are things to learn from the Soundwalk, but it was a most informative adventure – from thinking up the concept, to printing the stationery, to actually doing the walk – but I was very glad to have company and feedback on the idea and I am comforted by knowing that I learn more when things don’t work out as I had planned, than when they do.

There is Jonathon, listening.

In terms of the Warborough and Shillingford festival, it was difficult to entice the locals away from the festivities and out into the surrounding landscapes on Sunday morning as there were some very diverting (and FUN!) things to see in Warborough – such as the camel races which took place on Warborough Green during the Saturday. Just look at those eyelashes! I loved the festival; it is a wonderful local production, and I met some amazing people there whose voices will all be heard on the forthcoming radio show.

So around the A4074 this month we have had wildflower identification, camel-racing, layby-BBQs, local sausage appreciation, soundwalking, and MUSIC! This week I will be mostly working out how to turn these – and other – adventures into a 2 hour radio show to air on BBC Oxford, on 31st August.

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