Just before Rambles with Nature began, whilst I was artist in residence at Pitzhanger Manor and Walpole Park, I carried out three informal park 'rambles', went and met four phd Students at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and led a pilot Rambles with Nature workshop in The Richard Flanders Day Centre with over 65s in Acton... All of these were pre-project research. A chance to practice talking about my ideas and to even try some of them out...
Here's what happened on the 3 walks:
Informal Park Ramble 1 with artist Sue Palmer
|The tree we 'disappeared' our heads into|
Sue is actually going to be collaborating with me on Ramble 4 of Rambles with Nature, but we don't know each other that well as yet - there's a just a strong recognition of a shared interest - and on my part a huge admiration for Sue's work. I feel incredibly priviledged to be working with her. Anyway, because of this I invited Sue along to me my first visitor during my residency and we went for a walk in the park. Here's a few random memories I have of it:
A conversation about the word municiple, a wondering about who the contractors working in the park were, what they thought of the brightly coloured gentically engineered flowers they were planting, the packed togetherness of them (the flowers not the workers), the 'old school' designs they were being planted in, the dreaminess of the park, the lines of trees, plunging our heads into a densely packed odd shaped tree, a questioning of where nature resides, what a ramble with Nature could constitute, a conversation about masonry bees.
The pathway we walked was an odd shape and slow, full of pauses and ambling.
Informal Park Ramble 2 with performer / maker Alyn Gwyndaf
|The green insect on my jeans|
I don't know Alyn at all apart from having briefly met him post breaking a Covet Me Care For Me heart. Alyn came along to my Preamble talk at BAC and took up my invitation to come and visit me in Walpole park (made at the end of that Scratch).
My strongest memories of the couple of hours we spent together are the heat that day, our desire for an ice-cream at the end (which Alyn achieved and I didn't), breaking through the perimeter of the park and briefly getting lost, observing a squirrel foraging in a bin and then later a child, a bright green bug that sat on my jeans for a while and Alyn whipping of his hat and sticking his head into a hedge to look at its insides (as I'd told him about mine and Sue's experiments with this). We also came across a fanatastic clock shop - which I'm not sure I'd ever manage to find again! We discussed the type of talking that happens when you're side by side as opposed to face to face, about what the difference between a hedge and a hedgerow might be and of what a park was (its history, its present uses)...
The pathway we walked was looping and expansive and as i've already mentioned left the grounds of the park itself.
Informal Park Ramble 3 with writer (and Actionette) Maddy Costa
Like Alyn, Maddy too took up the invitiation to walk post my Preamble talk. We had however already gone on a kind of ramble together at the beginning of my BAC week when Maddy interviewed me as part of her and her colleague Jake Orr's Small Talks... because of this Maddy already new a lot about the intentions of Rambles with Nature, so we didn't need to chat about that.
|Walpole Park's curved path|
We talked instead about my wondering about wanting to collaborate with others after all (a fundamental part of the structure of Rambles with Nature) as I'd had such a fantastic time on my own during the Ealing residency, about how I'd made a very definite decision not to record the conversations on the park walks and about the affects this might have. Maddy recounted a story about a dinner she'd had recently with another artist in Exeter which was recorded and how the conversation had somehow turned out to be a bit mundane, whereas the next day out of nowhere (when not being recorded) an 'electric' and 'exciting' conversation had taken place. Again the question of the difference between a hedge and a hedgerow arose and the idea of it being a boundary, perhaps a boundary between different histories / time. Somehow later on whilst eating almond biscuits after our walk I discovered Maddy was also an Actionette - a night-club dance troupe I've long loved!
The shape of the walk with Maddy was round, curved, without pause and direct.