For those of you who haven’t been following this story, my partner Mark is designing a 200-mile route from Portland (where the Olympics sailing events will take place) to Stratford, (and the Olympic Stadium). Our plan is to walk this route during the London 2012 Olympic Games. It’s our non-sponsored, unofficial, DIY way of celebrating what the Olympics mean to us by doing our favourite sport while the London 2012 Games are on: WALKING.
Whenever we can, we explore sections of the route, testing our stamina and tweaking the path so that at the end we will have designed a usable and enjoyable way of getting from Portland to Stratford. Last weekend Mark and I had a jolly time working out the Wareham-Wimborne leg of the route.
Mark has written about this stretch of the walk here, and of how difficult this section has been to consolidate. I agree with what he’s written – it’s really a section where one has to focus on details, because compared to the stunning views from the South West Coast path, or the horsey magic of the New Forest, Wareham to Wimborne is far less obviously spectacular and affords few stunning vistas. Nevertheless I have a certain fondness for this section of the walk, precisely because it is so ordinary. The terrain is mostly flat, and although there are some nice wooded sections in Wareham, much of the journey involves tramping through working agricultural land. Rape, barley and beets (for livestock) in tractor-dug, orderly lines are mostly what you get to see and – unlike the more scenic sections of the walk – the company one finds in these parts is mostly that of the birds who proliferate in the hedgerows dividing the crop fields. In fact this bit of the walk reminds me of a Mural by Andrew Davidson that hangs on the wall at MERL, and which compares the countryside of the 1850s and the 1950s within a single landscape. Traces of the old ways of doing things can be seen between Wareham and Wimborne in the occasional thatch, millstone and rusted plough, but most of the route is more like the section on the left of Davidson’s mural; mechanised, with large fields, and outbuildings topped with corrugated iron roofing. The contrast on the walk feels similar to in this painting; you have the arcane JOY of White Mill with its oaken beams, hessian flour sacks and creaky floorboards…
…and then fields being managed in the contemporary, monoculture style of industrial farming methods today.
Here is the illustration by artist Andrew Davidson (MERL 2006/65), as commissioned for a mural that features in the displays of the Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading (image © Andrew Davidson)
I feel that the stretch between Wareham and Wimborne will be the part of Walk 2012 when I will feel furthest from the crowds of the Stratford Stadium; the inevitable Olympics traffic jams and public transport nightmares; the jammed pub lounges with their television-sets turned to “SPORT” and the constantly-on, constantly competing noise and hype of the actual Olympic Games. Instead I will be photographing butterflies, wading through shoulder-height crops, and looking out for ants, moles and – my favourite detail of this section – BRICKS.
I always love how differently Mark and I remember and record our walks together. I am working at the moment on an episode of framework:afield which explores how we record, document and edit our experiences (in terms of sound) and I keep returning to the idea that the first stage in editing is one’s personal imagination – the things one chooses to notice or single out. I reckon this is the first stage of editing, which takes place even before one has written a word, taken a photograph, or recorded a sound. As a test of this theory, I decided to compare the photos I took last time we did this section of the walk to the ones I took this time, to see if I’d focussed on the same things.
Photographs taken between Wareham – Wimborne 2011:
Photos taken between Wareham – Wimborne 2012
So I think we can agree I have some natural tendencies, and my first edit of any experience will likely involve documentation of THE BRICKS and THE ANIMALS that I saw there. However this time, I decided to bring in one additional idea or EDIT on my record of the walk, as I have been really enjoying Tom’s visible mending programme. So here is Wareham – Wimborne in BRICKS, with some visible mending thrown in for good measure. (You might be surprised by how often bricks feature in visible mends in the landscape…)
Visible Mend #1 – duct tape gate fix
…Mark’s definitely right. This section of Walk 2012 requires you to focus on the little things, but I love what happens when we do this.