Archive | October, 2011

Northern Edge

21 Oct

Completing this initial series of forays around the edge of Shrewsbury I headed towards Battlefield and Harlescott Industrial Estates.  Images can be seen on the Edgelands III page.

4th June 2009

A beautiful summer’s day, and I did a circuit from the Battlefield car park with Julie, and my daughter, Eliza, not quite 4 months old.  The walk commemorates the battle of Shrewsbury of 1403, although there is not a huge amount of information there.

The fields were resplendent in the Shrewsbury colours of blue and yellow flowers.  Initially, it was difficult to avoid the sense that we were walking at the edge of the ring road, and its array of industrial buildings to the south.  The noise of traffic and buzz of overhead power lines was ever present.  However, one doesn’t have to walk far to find beautiful rolling scenery, approaching the historic Battlefield Church.

16th October 2009

Later in the year, I walked around the Battlefield industrial estate in Harlescott.  The contrast of huge shed like buildings and absence of people is quite eery.   I was project director for the design and management of construction contract for the large waste recycling facility, which is quite dominant, and it was slightly strange to be here on different terms.

The adjacent  line of attractively designed food enterprise park buildings were oddly quiet, but not totally empty as I did see at least one person there.  But the road leading onto the greenfield site ready for development was a desolate place, with large concrete barriers warning off potential travellers.

This is a true edgelands area, as I passed further along by the ring road to see a surface water pond.  This could have been an attractive place, as it was naturally landscaped, but a swan was pecking forlornly at fly tipped waste, with new building work going on in the background. In the parking bay alongside the road, a fast food van served cups of tea to lorry drivers, and refuse collection crews.

What now?

So where to go with this project?  Continue visiting and revisiting these places around Shrewsbury I guess, to see how they change with the seasons and as development encroaches and overcomes.  Already, some of the places I visited have been developed and are almost unrecognisable.  These are dynamic zones in the urban planning landscape.

Ponds, rivers and other water features recur frequently on my visits in different places.  It is interesting to compare and contrast these features.  Public reaction and use of the spaces around water features can be very different  depending on whether they are natural or man made.

Trees and woodland are another feature that I will focus attention on, and have already begun a series of paintings.  These are often preserved even when development takes place, but the characteristics of isolated woodland can be quite different to when it was in its original context. 

There has been government pressure to sell off forest land, and this has helped generate an upswell of public resistance.  The question now is whether there will be increased value placed on the preservation of woodland for public access, or whether woodland will continue to disappear or be degraded by stealth.  It is not enough to say that thousands more trees are being planted when it can take decades for new natural eco-systems to develop, and may be such eco-systems will never quite replace those that were lost.  But then there is always change…

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Learning to Wait

11 Oct

“Something understood” on BBC Radio4 at 6am on a Sunday morning is a great way to start the day, a gentle exercise for the mind with an eclectic mix of music.  It is possibly even the media highlight of the week.  A few weeks ago the topic was “Learning to Wait”, and it featured readings from Carl Honore’s “In praise of Slow”, already mentioned in this blog, and also Milan Kundera’s “Slowness” – a book I must read again. 

The latter contains a discussion about our love affair with the car and how the quest for speed has isolated us from any appreciation of the very real and physical exertion necessary to run faster.  I suppose I would add to the debate that, walking is the ultimate conclusion when it is accepted that one will get there in the end, and there is much to be enjoyed along the way, that can only be appreciated when walking.

The programme also asserted that the term “indolence” is misunderstood as meaning lazy, when really it simply means the very sensible objective of avoiding exertion.  I can go along with that, since one of my guiding mottos is “any fool can be uncomfortable”.  Something I actually don’t live up to very well.

With that in mind, I diverged from my normal route to buy the Sunday paper, to take in a brief walk along some paths through Copthorne, Beck’s Field and along the River to Frankwell, emerging again atSt George’s Streetand Providence Row.  The walk by the river was particularly beautiful in the early morning sunshine (putting aside the heady aroma of Himalayan Balsam and dog excrement), with the distant sound of work beginning on setting up the Shrewsbury Folk Festival in the agricultural showground.  Returning around Frankwell roundabout, I passed a rather anguished and dishevelled woman, sitting on a bench, possibly recovering from a heavy Saturday night, and then I saw a (slightly less dishevelled) man sleeping in his car.  It crossed my mind that our respective perceptions of the morning could be so different.  My walk had helped to ease many of the stresses and frustrations with life that had built up.

Of course, I could be misreading the situation: the woman may have just returned from a brisk 5 mile run, and the man may have just been having a snooze whilst waiting to collect his aged mother en route to church.  And let’s hope that was the case.