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  • Writer's pictureRitchard Allaway

15/08/23 - Auchope Rigg & The Pennine Way

15th August 2023:

Residency: Hiking the Pennine Way Between Scotland and England

On August the 7th I headed out on another residential, one I planned to undertake in Easter but was unfortunately postponed due to horrific weather conditions. See conversation entry ‘Scotland Residency Postponed’ Unfortunately, this summer has been nothing but typical English weather, rain, rain, and more rain, the wettest on record apparently and so as the weeks went by I believed that I would be not able to make it out or I would just have to suck it up and partake in a residency in very damp conditions. One condition a walker endured for thirteen days as she hiked the whole of the Pennine Way, which I later found out. The weather forecast was looking positive, and rain would soon be moving on and with that news I decided that August the 7th would be the day (and maybe evening) of my residency.

During the Easter I had already made my plans for this residency and so I knew my route and landmarks to look for to keep me on track to the Auchope Mountain Refuge. I just then had to familiarise myself once again with my route, timings, and key points as well as understanding what I was possibly aiming to create/achieve when there. Planning stages also included equipment and so I packed essential items but aimed to travel a bit lighter, one aim that never happens… one day (Colin showed me how – Colin I will introduce later). I carried with me the following for artistic purposes:

· M50 MK2

· Rode Video Microphone with deadcat

· X3 Batteries

· X5 Petri Dishes

· Tape

· 3” Paint Brush

· Small garden bedding shovel

· Small empty glass jar

Not too much equipment and I do enjoy the M50 due to their lightness and high-quality image/video capturing abilities. Something to eventually invest in as I move along with my studies. The Rode microphone was brought along to capture sound if I was to make any films. The petri dishes were brought to collect land samples found along the Pennine Way and the tape is used to seal them. The paint brush… I had this idea of making/painting marks into the land, but I instead used it to help brush and view samples. The small empty glass jar was for me to collect stream water which could be brought back to my photography studio to use as a STOP during development or to be mixed into the developer and/or work as a charge material for the Earth Battery, i:e dampening the soil.

The plan was to head out onto the Pennine Way. Now the Pennine Way is a rather long hike which is between Kirk Yetholm in Scotland (where I would start) and Edale in England, totalling a 268mile route. It is a popular hiking route as it crosses some marvellous landscapes including the Yorkshire Dales, North Pennines, Northumberland Forest, and Hadrian’s Wall to name just a few. I, however, was not going to walking 268miles (possibly a future project), instead I would be working my way from Kirk Yetholm to Auchope Rigg and maybe to the Hen’s Hole. The walking hike would be about six miles and thirteen in a circular route. I would be taking the high pass to start off and on my return I would take the low pass. The circular route would take around six hours but with possible time to make work, this journey would have extra hours added on top. I brought along my tent just in case I decided to stay overnight, there was the mountain refuge ‘bothy’ available as a last resort, but I told myself to decide on staying/not staying when I was there. I liked the idea of having flexibility with this residency, no pressure to stay and work. I have found with previous residencies a slight weight on my shoulders to create work or that I must achieve something whilst there. This time I went without that weight. Yes, I brought equipment along, but I would use this equipment when and if needed, I just wanted to walk/hike and experience the land as it was and create a relationship with it (something I intend to do moving forward with each residency).

I began my journey up the A1 and onto the A697 (CHECK) which was a very interesting/dangerous road to drive. I parked my car up at….. there was a couple of people about including grandparents with their grandchildren. I heard ‘You walking to Manchester then?’ I laughed and had a brief conversation with Malcolm, a retired engineer from Newcastle and avid Newcastle United fan. He was interested in what I was doing and wished me look. He also informed me of his artistic enjoyment from when he was an engineer, finding scrap metal and making a three-foot-high Alan Shearer statue. This statue still residing within his living room, one his wife does not approve of as he shouted to her, and he received a ‘polite’ acknowledgement to it. After I said bye to Malcolm, I set off working my way to the left and towards the high-pass.

As I believed that to be probably the last human I would see for the day I began my walk contemplating the solitude that was to come and how I would embrace it. Not five minutes in and I spot two people sat on the floor along my path… so much for solitude. An older couple, I would say around Malcolm’s age, maybe just a tad younger. We greeted one and other and I asked if they have had a good walk. They told me that they were rather tired and had to turn back due to the steep climbs. From past climbs I understood their problem but without being ‘ageist’, I believed I could manage the high pass. I then carried on my walk believing that this time would be the last time I would see any human for some time. I took in a deep breath and viewed the landscape around me, and the lower land started to get smaller, and I climbed higher and began to share the rolling hills and mountain tops. Some way into the walk I stopped, and looked around and what was before me. I wanted to just understand what was happening and where I was and what I was in. I said to myself, ‘this is wonderful’. I do enjoy the moment of realisation, of where I am and what I am doing, it gives me this sense of gratefulness but also excitement to be a part of a distant landscape not populated by humanity (although farmland, walls, signs etc existed, they were not dominant).

With this walk, I wanted to just feel my way through the path I had planned and enjoy what the landscape ‘offered’ me. I did not want to put the pressure on myself to make work (as I stated earlier), but instead, just react when I felt it necessary to do so. Too often do I push myself to make work, instead of engaging in the experience with the landscape. So as this walk progressed and after I moved on from my realisation moment, I followed the mix of stone walls, wooden fence posts and wire fences. What was weird was that this collection of materials was the border between Scotland and England… a contemporary Hadrian’s wall perhaps. This border wall became my guide, and although there was a ‘path’, well this path was more flattened Earth by other walkers, at times my path would be unclear and so by using the border wall, I was able to navigate myself towards my destination. It could be said here that, this wall acting as my guide means that I am not fully alone or truly wild. As I have discussed in my PM1 and other blog conversations, I recognise and accept that a true lonesome wild is not achievable, I make do with what I am within and therefore see my residencies as having lonesome and wild points/stages/moments.

The high pass was indeed steep at times, and I clearly remember one point of the walk descending with quite a drop. I am grateful for my walking poles as they were used to anchor my descent however, my knee did not enjoy this section (football injury). This section was comparable to a giant skateboard half pipe, but one made of mud and grass. As soon as I completed the descent down, I was then climbing back up and climbing a very steep hilly section. I powered myself through this part, with some moans and groans as well as the occasional swear word but as I approached the top I said to myself ‘ahh why did you think you were more capable than the older couple, should have listened to them’. To my surprise on the ridge and no more than ten feet in front of me, sat a family of four having tea and biscuits. I still wonder to this day if they heard me talking to myself up the steep hill climb. I must have been an hour or so into the walk and I knew it was break-time for food and water. I set the objective of getting to the top of the ‘half pipe’ and resting for a small food and drinks break. I sat next to the family as I caught my breath, and they welcomed me. We shared conversation for a short time, the same conversation I had with the previous two meetings along this walk. I joked about their car as the father asked about his blue pick-up, and I replied with ‘the one with smashed windows and a missing wheel?’ They laughed, I was just surprised that I made a joke so quickly for once, usually I am terrible at thinking fast on jokes. I asked about the route and their thoughts, and they informed me that it was windier at the high points, but I still had a good hour or so to get to my destination. I decided to not have my food and drinks break i:e not interrupt their family time and so I moved on as the next bit was another steady climb but I could make the top of that my uninterrupted break point.

After my break I moved on, and so I would not see any humans for quite some time. The landscape was in a constant flux, moving up and down, the surface was hard and soft, dry, and wet, and the environmental weather conditions differed throughout. It was indeed windy for most of this walk, but sometimes an odd stillness of almost nothingness would occur, it was as if the wind had been switched off and there was silence. At those moments I would stop and absorb the quite or listen out for the landscape projecting its songs of nature. The clouds above were broken, some white and grey whilst some few were ‘black’ and storm-like, and those did question whether my journey would head into a storm. Rain did fall but only to be fought back with glorious sunshine, it truly was a day of mixed conditions but none that would hinder my walk.

As you can see from the images above, the landscape was that of a ‘typical’ and ‘wild’ Scottish country, rolling hills of green and yellow patches as far as the eye can see, demonstrating distance and the space between remoteness and humanity. What wonderful feelings to have when within this landscape, a sense of escape, a break from the socio-chaos, a release from some humanity, it was joyful (I will refrain from mentioning the romantic sublime, even as I describe this landscape in poetic language). Rather than describe the whole of the journey, I would prefer the imagery to tell the rest of that story and instead now focus on what came about from this residency.

I made it to the mountain refuge around four o’clock which was on schedule even with the stop breaks. I decided to not stay over as I was curious about the ‘black’ clouds and the severity of the wind picking up further (something that did not eventually occur). I was aware of the landscape and so I explored it throughout the day as a place to gather land samples, similar to that of my day residency at Danby Forest. What stood out for me with this walk was the feeling and texture within the landscape I experienced, and I wanted to collect elements of that to process as an artistic outcome. There was something within this landscape that appealed to me at micro levels. Perhaps not micro at first but it felt and looked micro when put in perspective with the rolling hills. An example of this would be the flower and fauna that lived on the surface. It came apparent to me that although I was walking within and through this vast country around me at a local level were elements that made up this place. I felt and touched varying textures, and these were of all types from flower heads to rocky surfaces, crumbling or sloppy Earth, moss residing over wood and so on. I therefore deemed it right to look into these micro landscapes in more detail. This is when I decided to take out my camera and capture them. Idiot me though brought the macro lens but forgot the adapter which was left in my car. All was not lost as the M50 is a fantastic piece of equipment and it managed to photograph the textures I came across. The question here is, why would I want to capture these elements? I think that there is not a defined reason as of yet, but when present with the landscape I am recognising that the vastness was built up by many varying elements and natural forms. These forms were somewhat overlooked and not accounted for due to the grandeur that dominated the feeling within the human experience. I refer back to Nick Jordan and the wood wide web as well as Timothy Morton’s interobjectivity. Nature is interconnected and it shares with one and other a natural processes system of working to produce not just its own life but that of a bigger picture, this being the landscape of Auchope Rigg/Pennine Way. The natural elements and forms live together sharing processes of growth and I wanted to investigate those interconnected activities through documenting and sampling them. I then (once photographed) collected small samples of certain natural elements/forms within clear petri dishes. I do enjoy collecting land samples, I think it is just the scientific nature of it that makes me excited by it (nerd). Now I did not just collect every natural form I came across, instead I collected a varying type that I believed contrasted significantly with one and other. I therefore sampled, flower fauna, grass, moist earth, and rock moss. These natural elements were dominant and consistent throughout the walk and so became common at times and described the landscape best. Over the next couple of weeks, I will experiment with these samples by producing photograms with digital editing and also incorporate the samples into the Earth batteries. It will be interesting to see whether or not the natural elements can aid the power outage of an EB.

To conclude this conversational post, I will say that this residency was one that was simply pleasant. Although pleasant may seem underwhelming or stale to some I would disagree, because to me that was what it was. It was not overwhelmed by grandeur, awe, and a sensory overload, no, it was a walk and a hike that I enjoyed through working my way within the landscape. At times my route became challenging, but I overcame those difficulties through physical and psychological endurance. Just a note on psychological endurance. I do often find myself talking out loud when walking, I see it as a comforting tool and a way for me to formalise my thinking as with what I am experiencing there and then. When I speak out loud, my somewhat troubling thoughts are pushed to one side and instead I am focussed on where my feet take me and what it is I am engaged with.

What do I take away from this? To follow on from the pleasantries of above, I would say that I have taken from this residency a sense of relaxed progress when working with landscapes. Unforced and non-strict methods of working with a landscape and simply just being with what it is I am within. I was able to feel through the environmental conditions and perceive the landscape as a collection of natural interconnected forms working systematically to create an overall ‘picture’. The samples collected will enable me to produce new photographic outcomes and lead to developments in the making of the earth batteries. I must also conclude with the knowledge that I did in fact meet four further people on this walk. Tony from Canada, who was walking part of the route due to his English father once walking it in his youth. Colin a local man, who after work will come visit this part of the route and walk for three hours as a way of relaxing from the stresses of working life. I finished by meeting two runners who I did not get their names as they were passing but a brief discussion took place as they came from behind and passed me.

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