Spring on the Copse 2016

I’ve completed this Module now, apart from the preparation for Assessment, but think it appropriate to update my explorations in Landscape to show how I am continuing the theme introduced in Assignment 3.

There has been so much rain in recent months that even the days of sunshine have failed to dry out the ground. The path through the Copse has been almost a sea of slippery mud. Bluebells are beginning to raise their heads but even they look bedraggled at the moment and the strong winds have removed some of the weak branches which have gathered in drifting piles. Sometimes I’ve wondered whether people might have dumped them there over their garden fence.

Two trees were blown down across the path in the recent gales, one of them completely blocking it so that the dogs and I have had to scrabble through some prickly undergrowth to get round it. I had this debate with myself; joggers, dog walkers and families with children do pass through the Copse and the fallen trees are large obstacles. Should nature be allowed to take over or should I phone the Council, who are responsible for the maintenance of this local amenity. I thought about it for a day or so and then decided I would phone as the Copse seemed to be falling in on itself. There was also something in my mind about wanting to prove that people do make use of this small piece of nature, so that there wouldn’t be an attempt to de-label it as green space and make it vulnerable to building development – which has been mooted. I was surprised when the trees were cleared within a week especially as I had agreed with the young man in the parks department that this wasn’t an urgent job. When I say ‘cleared’ I don’t mean completely cleared away but chopped so that there’s a way through.

The other day I was talking with one of the people from a nearby house and we discussed mud, gales, fallen trees and litter on the Copse. The lady said that for quite a while she had cleared the litter but stopped doing that when the Council only started to collect fortnightly and her dustbin got too full. She told me that some young folk have re-built a den again in part of the copse and even installed an old bench. They collect there in the evenings sometimes, lighting fires and making noise. This must have been since a ‘ring’ of branches was laid-out in the area during the Autumn. I wondered about contributing something – maybe I might introduce the bark mask as a decoration. I’ve had some email contact with members of The Elephant’s Journey   (TEJ) and when I mentioned this John recalled Stig of the Dump . I’d forgotten Stig but it does fit. I have to acknowledge that I’ve felt a bit of a fraud somehow in relation to TEJ because they do their work in urban areas, highlighting adverse developments through their art, whereas I’m out of that loop, working in small green spaces in the suburbs, interacting with what I see. However, John was very encouraging around the idea of a discourse with the den builders.

I’ve also just started to read a lovely book Common Ground (R. Cowen,2015) which is an account of Rob Cowen’s explorations in a nearby edge-land after moving from London to a new home in Yorkshire. He writes, ‘Enmeshed in every urban edge is also the continuous narrative of the subsistence of nature, pragmatic and prosaic, the million things that survive and even thrive in the fringes. This little patch of common ground was precisely that: common. And all the richer for it’ (2015:9) Looking at the illustrated map at the front of the book  Cowen’s  piece of edge-land is much much larger than mine but I can still notice changes over time and see how nature and people impose their presence.  A little further on Cowen writes of entering Chauvet Cave  in the Ardeche Gorges and seeing the representations painted and scratched on its walls over between 15,000 and 30,000 years ago and how they show  the engagement between animal, land and human. He concludes, ‘What I didn’t realise until later is that in seeking to unlock, discover and make sense of a place, I was invariably doing the same to myself. The portrait was also of me’ (2015:11).

References

Cowen, R. (2016) Common ground. United Kingdom: Windmill Books.
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Stig-Dump-Puffin-Books-Clive/dp/0140301968
http://bradshawfoundation.com/chauvet/
http://robandleo.com
https://theelephantsjourney.wordpress.com
King, C. and Ardizzone, E. (1963) Stig of the dump. United Kingdom: Puffin Books, Middlesex.

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10 thoughts on “Spring on the Copse 2016

  1. I’ve been thinking about Edgelands recently, I had a conversation about new developments – there are quite a few in the towns nearby, none in the village where I live – whereby “wasteland” is being pushed out and how it is viewed as without value. Where in fact it is abundant with life who provide its value, humans continuing to value land from their singular perspective.
    Still looks an interesting project.

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  2. The edgeland concept is interesting as where I am almost all the green space could be considered edgeland as its new town planning was based upon fingers of green so in a way the whole town is a collection of edgelands. They make a big difference to how I feel about the town and the amount of birds and wildlife I can see on my walks. I often think these untouched edgelands contain more wildlife and diversity than other supposed green spaces that are managed.

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  3. Very interesting series documenting the natural changes and human intervention in this little piece of land. I know you were interested in Augé’s ideas about anthropological versus non places and I find your copse intriguing in that the people have invested in the space giving it a history and an ongoing story when it could have just been a pointless piece of woodland left over by developments. I especially like your photographs that show human invention like the bench which must have its own little history. The fact that you, as a user of this space, has taken the time to document its story has given it a status that it wouldn’t otherwise have had. I’ve enjoyed following the story, thank you.

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    • thanks Steve. I too would love to know where the bench came from – can imagine a group of lads bumping it up the slope and then sitting down to have a rest on it. I wonder what they talk about?

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  4. Lovely post Catherine that taps into my current assignment where I am trying to apply urban edgland topography/ psychogeography to a rural farm. I’ll be ordering the book that you mention.

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