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  • Writer's pictureRitchard Allaway

20/01/2024 - Over Silton - A return or a derive?

20th January 2024:

Collecting material: Re-visiting landscape - a return or a derive?

On New Years Eve 2022, I found myself walking around Guisborough forest as a means of relaxation, escape and to collect some samples of the landscape through sound. A year on I decided to do the same act and visit a landscape, one that was familiar to me and this was Over Silton. Maybe every December 31st during mid-morning I will find myself walking through a landscape. A possible means to reflect on a year gone by in solitude or to find comfort in a nonhuman environment before the year ends in the hustle and bustle of late night revellers and party goers screaming ten, nine, eight, seven.... whatever my walk means it is something that can be left unanswered, but I do know I find comfort in it.

I keep revisiting this small hilly landscape on the borders of the North Yorkshire Moors due to its close proximity to my own dwellings, maybe a sort of convenience for escape... one not too far from home and a landscape with miles of beyond over the hill line and through the forest, a sort of endless passage waiting to be discovered if one really wants too. Although found within are elements of the human, such as the overgrown 'road' above, or the clay shooting range situated at the bottom of the hill, this landscape manages to demonstrate how nature can remain natural in its own way and in turn make a human (i:e myself) feel immersed in what I deem as a nonhuman landscape. Yes, you could argue 'but you just said human elements are evident', but for me to recognise their existence is ok. I see a human was here once before me and they left a mark, and my foot steps will also leave their mark, but for my time in the immersive experience of that landscape is one that is an understanding of a togetherness between the human and nonhuman.

This return then, why did I find myself Over-Silton? I have for sometime been collecting imagery, film and sound recordings of landscapes I have visited and once again I wanted to set out collecting more material. I had just created a film with the electrical current shot directly onto 35mm film as a means of interpreting the invisible energy within the landscape. This film was silent so what if I could narrate that invisible energy with sounds of the landscape. I reviewed previous recordings but these were too punchy and much of the sound was peaking due to my levels not being set correctly. These recordings did not work when layered over my electro film and so I set out again to collect such material alongside possible video recordings. I took with me my trusty Tascam with external microphone and deadcat cover (to reduce wind punch), a microphone tripod, an M50 camera (I do enjoy filming with) and an attachable microphone for the camera to collect direct sound at a better quality. My idea was to leave the Tascam in locations around the landscape, set it off on record and leave it be. I wanted to not linger on the recordings hearing every sound as it was documented. Instead I left the recording device with the location and I left for ten minutes at a time, looking at other elements I encountered. The leaving of the Tascam would enable the landscape to 'speak' with it and without my presence, a conversation between the two. I would then encounter this conversation at a later date, listening to a revealed sound brought to me as an encounter I did not experience. The Tascam would reveal a landscape invisible to me, unveiling what might not have unveiled itself to me per-say. I am trying not to go down some deep philosophical tangent about the living landscape and a possible OOO situation, I am just simply stating what my intentions were for leaving a device within a landscape and returning to it at a later time.

I have stated that I had an intended plan on what I wanted to do and that is all good however, with recent reading I wanted to attempt a new form of encounter with my revisited landscape, one that does not rely on deep routed planning and GPS led guidance. Instead, I wanted my route to be decided by my landscape, whether that be an overgrown man-made 'road' or an inviting gap between two trees. This idea has come about through the practice of drifting or also known as a derive. I will not go into detail about a derive/drift here as I intend to create a post on this soon, but to break it down for this post quickly, coming from psychogeographical effects a derive/drift is a practice that involves walking through varied ambiences i:e landscapes. The landscapes would encourage passage through areas due to the psychogeographical effect in play with the human. It is a playful means to navigate through a landscape without prior thought or planning, allowing the body to encounter spaces in contrast to a traditional walk or journey. (REF 1)


I knew my location and so I once again parked my car in the little muddy side cut on the country road, grabbed my equipment and headed up a very muddy public bridal way. My decision to drift would come about from a certain spot within the chosen landscape, I would reach a point that I would refer to as a cross-road and allow location to decide on my next steps. My only thought for concern was whether or not it was my prior visit that decided my next steps i:e told me to take another route that I was unknown too or it actually was landscape directing me. I do not think that can be answered so easily but I do know I allowed myself to let go. The latter is the key to this, letting go of planned direction and idea, although some intention is given prior to the drift as this grounds a central position for the human to drift from, the let go is then achieved once a step in a direction is enacted. It is worth saying also that my intention for a drift was not to get lost either, difficult to say when entering unfamiliar territories but when lost it is seen as a negative or a danger. I did not wish to see my drift as a situation where I would feel any form of lostness, I would simply be walking with no intended direction other than the direction of feeling.

Throughout my drift I would find myself within many varying situations and forms of the landscape, including being submerged in a boggy swamp, climbing over crumbling walls, crouching and crawling through forest pine and attempting not to loose my footing down a steep slope (which would end in myself covered head to toe in mud). It was simply a walk that allowed me to encounter and immerse the self in a landscape where I unveiled new sights, sounds and feelings. With these discoveries I could collect them as either an embodiment of me simply being with them and/or recording through the use of the Tascam or M50. I was able to interweave the self to a space.

An encounter that has stayed with me is a moment that occurred when I found myself within a pine forest. Along an old grass covered 'road' surrounded by fern my directive landscape took me to what appeared at first sight to be a broken and weather torn pine forest. Thin tall stems of tree trunks lifted themselves from the ground and stretched upwards closer to the sky than I could ever reach if I was to extend my body out vertically. It was a city of vertical stems with fine and fragile winter branches protruding horizontally outward, creating a sort of mesh barrier. I came across a clearing at a broken stone wall and climbed through, getting caught up in the fragile branches. The floor was covered in orange and green pine needles, a soft spongey carpet, muting my footsteps, but at odd times a crunch and snap would be heard as I put each step forward. I found myself standing still, watching, listening and absorbing my environment, it was quiet, apart from the wind between trees and then I heard it... a pop, crack, movement within the tree. I found the sound of the pine forest. With occasional movements within the wind a sound would be produced that demonstrated a communication between each pine. To me it was a step into a conversation of nature and I was observing and listening. This moment could be a form of dwelling, where I and the landscape were in a moment of togetherness, 'foldings and involvements of human and nonhuman'. [REF 2] Although my involvement was as a listener, the idea of folding oneself through and within a passage in space enabled me to gather experience of natural sound. Below I have attached a recorded clip on the pine tree speaking.

Pine Tree - Recording

How then has this derive/drift supported the collection of material that would be in turn produced into an artistic outcome? I think first of all, engaging in a landscape through a new method of walking has been a positive manoeuvre. It demonstrated that I am now able to embody different approaches to the practice of walking. Moving forward I will have to ask myself do I just walk or do I drift and, what are my reasonings? For the collection of materials it has supported the development of the practice. During the drift I engaged with the landscape at multiple points directed by nature which in turn placed me in a position to document and record my immersive experience. I gave myself up to the landscape and embraced whatever was encountered and so with that I have been able to collect material. This material will in turn be 'examined', experimented with and put into an outcome.

I hope to document my outcome sometime soon within this blog series and/or on my portfolio.

One last thought - A possible phenomenological geography, do I situate the landscape through the body and translate with meanings. Is the body, in, of or on the land? Something for later.

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