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  • Writer's pictureRitchard Allaway

01_12_21 - Sutton Bank

1st December 2021

Reflecting on Wilderness

Location: Sutton Bank – North Yorkshire Moors

Collecting visuals and sounds

The weather has been pretty rubbish of late, with snow and storm Arwen tearing up the northern parts of the UK, which includes my back garden fence that links to my neighbours Ste and Sue. It has been something to talk about at least, reconfirm our coexistence with each other in a social space[1]. I took it as another opportunity to venture out into the ever-wanting wilderness of aesthetics, but unfortunately, I missed the snow and instead was presented with wind and rain.

Today I took out the same equipment as before, my Canon DLSR and the Tascam DR-40X Linear PCM Recorder but with an external directional microphone with a dead cat cover. The requirements of the latter pieces of equipment was to help aid with muting certain sounds i:e extreme winds that may distort, pop and crackle.

I decided to venture up towards the North Yorkshire Moors again but this time via Sutton Bank. Sutton Bank is a hill in the Hambleton District of the North York Moors National Park, in England. It is a high point on the Hambleton Hills with extensive views over the Vale of York and the Vale of Mowbray. It is a place I have driven through but never parked up and walked across. I was aware that there were several walkways that led across the Moors in many different direction, one (which I took) led to the white chalk horse past the Yorkshire Gliding Club. Author James Herriot declared the tremendous view from the dramatic Sutton Bank escarpment over the Vale of Mowbray and the Vale of York, the "finest in England" [2].

I parked up and wrapped myself in my waterproof and headed on out to the stated path. I found the man-made dirt path to be quite sturdy, I suppose it had to be as wheelchair and cycle access was permitted. One thing I came across quite often was memorial benches, for those who had passed and had a connection to the landscape and few. Two army memorials were stationed on the hill side, dedicated to those lost in British wars.

It was quiet, except for the noisy drone of cars behind and below me but the weather lashed around me. Hail and sleet and strong cold gale force winds battered me on my walk but then and again a moment of stillness would occur and an element of ‘natural nothingness’ would be present with me (or I trespassed on its occurrence). I felt somewhat saddened by the fact I could not escape the artificial noise of cars, but in all honesty, did I expect to just be transported away to a wilderness with no human involvement… certainly that was wishful thinking from me. But one would state there is no harm in wishing such a magical rare possibility. With my continuing walk, I came across a small wooden forest area away from the ‘you must follow this path if you wish to pass to the next level’ (you can tell I have been reading too much T Morton... everything is rather sarcastic) which gave me some shelter from the weather. What I always notice is the softness on foot when it comes to forests. The moss and fungi layer the floor like a carpet which mutes any sort of trespassing noise. There is somewhat of a deafening sensation that I experience when I enter such forests and I think in time that could be a point of reference when examining landscapes and the sensory experience.

Out of the forest and onto the path I continued with my walk, where in which I saw a four older people braving this wonderful weather. A smile, nod and ‘hello’ and they were gone from view. This moment of interaction was the only beings who would interact with me… as long we don’t count the man-made objects littering the walkway. As the winds intersected with objects of nature I consistently was drawn to those elements, enjoying the movements between space and the formations that would occur. The blue-sky foreground would be covered with the movement of bare black/brown tree branches, all different sizes and of complex networks, almost like an electric lightning field. There was something suggesting movement and yes, the wind was in fact naturally pushing the branches back and forth in all directions, the formation of the branches themselves presented a static movement through real space.

I came across the Yorkshire Gliding Club airstrip, I wondered whether this was the one my dad had flown a glider from many years back. It was desolate expect for a couple of cars. I was thinking about why those humans would be in a ‘shut down for the season’ airfield, do gliders need constant maintenance when stored away? My passing of the YGC led me to the edge of the Moors cliff side. The large drop that cornered the walkway. It could be seen as a look out point or a place that would take you to the ‘edge of the world’ where you would feel like a great conqueror… maybe a little less than great since it was just a small part of Yorkshire. It was a place though that gave me a chance to stop and consider all that lay before me, parts of home and elements of humanity overwhelmed by greenery. There was an array of texture and colour within my remit, forests lined the floor and surrounding hills, and it was here I enjoyed my journey the most. To go the ‘edge’ was the place to find solace, and when you think about that, why is it that we must push ourselves and will our minds and bodies to go to the edge of something to find true solace, beauty, peace etc? Is it only at our wits end do we find a position in time that we achieve a moment of pure ‘stillness’? Obviously, I was not at that stage of bliss, but I was within something that intrinsically satisfied my wellbeing. It was here then that after taking on board my natural landscape I captured sounds of what present with me. I am yet to playback my recordings but what I am to find will be examined against the visuals I collected and through sound experimentation I will persist with manipulating soundscapes.

I would take you back to my car, but I think it is somewhat rewarding to take you to the ‘end’ of my walk via not going back to ‘reality’ as such. Leaving you at the edge of the walkway with me as I record the landscape is somewhat enjoyable. We made it to a point in which we can stop, be torn apart by the natural elements lashing at us, but we can also stop and visually soak up the environmental aesthetics provided to us.

1.Timothy Morton (2013). Hyperobjects: Philosophy and ecology after the end of the world. Minneapolis: The University of Minnesota Press.

2. (North York Moors National Park, 2021)

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