top of page
  • Writer's pictureRitchard Allaway

28/08/22 - Petticoe Wick Bay

8TH – 9TH August 2022


Reflecting on Wilderness

Location: Pettico Wick Bay, St Abb’s Head – Scotland


Experiencing Isolation and Remote Wilderness



Another ‘residency’ so soon? And the work planned

You are all probably asking the question, ‘why Richard have you explored another isolated location when you just did the Merrick?’. At least that is what I think you might be asking me, and for this blog I will discuss and reflect upon my latest residency.


Before you carry on reading this post I would suggest that you read my reflection on the Merrick residency. If you do not want to then spoiler alert, the Merrick was not as successful as I had hoped for, although I would say I was given the true wilderness experience and that it has provided me with work, but I now wanted to obtain further potential substance.


Was this residency too soon after the Merrick? A part of me at first believed so, but I think that was due to some of the disappointment I took away with me after leaving Merrick. It is sad to think that the negative outweighs the positives from that residency when in turn, it was a success, just not what I expected. The extreme conditions were also a contributing factor to the residency and with ‘the bog’ incident, fear and some anger had taken control of me. I had a lack of motivation to create acts of practice and my concern steered towards survival and safe camping. The extreme heat on the hottest days of the year drained my enthusiasm and the consumption of water whilst when depleted, finding a source was critical. These factors have clearly provided me with a first-hand wild remote experience to reflect on and in some way become an act of practice.


With my practice, my outcomes are varying in their production, some are of photographic imagery, elements are pieces of sound spliced together, some are videos of me walking into landscapes over a period of time and with my latest work in the Merrick I provided a detailed and honest reflective journal that was hung page by page on the gallery wall. Pettico Wick Bay was an opportunity for me to attempt to conceive another outcome that I have been interested in and this would be a sound piece that leads listeners to a wilderness through an intimate journey. The work is still in development and in need of being placed together but once it is complete, I will include it on my webpage. The idea was that I would record the stages of me travelling to my destination from walking down my stairs, to starting the car engine, listening to the radio, hearing the wheels move from tarmac to dirt road, and then being placed within remoteness. The occurrence would be temporal and a personal and intimate sound reflection which would include known sounds (radio, car etc) and then move into an unknown wilderness where nature would be the dominate sound. The nature would include familiar sounds and also many minutes of stillness, an opposite from the beginning of the piece where the socio chaos dominates and soon translates to remoteness.


The Location


My previous overnight residencies in Scotland have been located at the South-West and South-Central areas of the country. For this residency I decided to move towards the South-Eastern area. I am based in the North-East of England and so this locality in Scotland would be easier to travel to and not as far. I was still looking at a one hundred- and sixteen-mile journey which would take me around two hours and thirty minutes to drive. The intention was not to travel to an ‘easier’ location no, but to instead explore somewhere that was away from humanity and not as challenging as the Merrick. I have discussed this in previous entries that to escape you do not have to travel to the ends of the world (although that would be exciting) but instead, you can find remoteness in many forms within ‘your’ landscapes, it just depends on how you navigate them. This closer residency was located with a known ease for when planning to travel to it.


My chosen destination was that of Pettico Wick Bay located at St Abb’s Head along the Berwickshire coastline. The bay would be used to run supplies to the St Abb’s light house, a light house that was built in 1862 by brothers (father and uncle to the author of Treasure Island Robert Stevenson), Thomas and David Stevenson. Although the light house was built on the coastline near the bay, the bay is famous for the stories of smugglers bringing in an arrangement of goods including Brandy which was taxed highly after the union with England in 1707. Smugglers who were caught either by revenue men or local militia were sentenced to death by English law. Tales of smuggling has always fascinated me from a young age and although my intention was not to start exploring caves looking for lost loot, an excitement did surround this location.


Pettico Wick Bay, located on a coastline would contrast to my previous (and the majority) of the remote landscapes I have predominately found myself within. These would normally be adorned with stunning green mountain ranges and deep forests. The bay was instead on the eastern edges of Scotland. It was not covered in sandy beaches, but instead steep cliff tops and rocky edges would dominate and promote its natural beauty. The northern sea will harshly eat away at its surfaces. The bay meets the North Sea but looks out towards Crail, Arbroath, and Montrose. Though not visible to the naked eye, to the north-east across the sea Norway resides. I understood that St Abb’s Head was a somewhat popular tourist location and that I would not be able to truly escape humanity during my hike and that the evening time would be where my escapism would truly come to fruition. Accepting this was ok by me as I was setting myself a new task to require a new form of practical outcome that could be navigated between human interactions. I was as well aiming for my own intimate residency and if beings were to pass through and within my intimacy then they would be a part of the experience. A change for experience would be recognising that in previous residencies I have aimed to travel up a mountain to its peak to find remoteness or I have buried myself deep within forests, whereas with Pettico Wick Bay, I was travelling to the edge of a landscape. My escapism here was to be found at where the land meets the sea.


Equipment

As with all my residencies keeping my backpack light was key and from my experiences with the Merrick residency, I would not be making the same mistake and overpacking. A difference with this residency was that I was camping for one night and not two as was the Merrick.


The tech equipment that I took to document the landscape were a Tascam DR-40X Linear PCM Recorder with an external microphone and dead cat cover as well as a Canon MK2 mirrorless camera. I decided to keep this equipment light and the Canon was a very light camera but could still deliver high quality imagery. In previous residencies I have experimented with full format camera equipment, but the body has always been very heavy and over time, the weight would add to my hike. This time I made the decision to replace the full format with a mirrorless.


With each residency camp, I brought a small tent, with basic camping equipment; stove, eating utilities, sleeping bag, vacuum sealed meal pouches, protein bars, two books, lightweight clothing which aided warm and cold weather climates and a 2.5ltr water bottle. Although I have only completed three overnight residencies, I can say that I am starting to gain confidence with the equipment I pack within my bag. I will develop what I take over time as further advice will be given from other hikers and campers and also from my experience of knowing what I do and do not need.





Getting there

The drive to Pettico Wick Bay was a simple and relaxed route. Due to the locality of St Abb’s Head being on the east coast, I was able to take the A19 all the way up to Cramlington not before passing through the Tyne Tunnel and from Cramlington, join the A1 until I reached my destination of St Abb’s Nature Reserve. Knowing I only had to take two main roads made the drive a relaxing journey, but this was also emphasized by the picturesque landscape that accompanied me the whole route. I have on a couple of occasions experienced this route before, but only from the train when travelling to Edinburgh via the east-coast Northern line. The north-east coast of England and the south-east coast of Scotland host many spectacular views accompanied by historical landmarks. The Holy Island of Lindisfarne with the Lindisfarne Castle is just one of them. As I drove on the A1, I was given the pleasure of witnessing in the distance out to sea a small island surrounded by water and on that island was a castle built upon a small mound. This was a site I had not seen in many decades, and as my mother would tell me, ‘You have been there… we took you when you were very little’. I would most often reply with, ‘Well I do not remember’. It was just that response, I did not remember visiting Holy Island and I am glad I did not remember as I was given chance to see this landscape for what felt like the first time. Although Holy Island was some distance away, it appeared to me as a secretive and secluded place. It was as if the landscape wanted to remain away from England and all that occupied the mainland. The tide dictated when you could visit the island and that added further value and character to a landscape that lived in its own parameters of chosen solitude.


With a beautiful landscape accompanying me the whole one hundred- and sixteen-mile journey, I had the pleasure of a sun filled sky and another hot English day. I knew that the weather was due to be pushing the high twenties and to help my hike, I left my house around 8am. A two hour or so car ride would let me arrive at my destination before the peak mid-day heat and therefore I would be able to hike when the day was not at its hottest point. These are again self-taught learning points that I have gained from previous residencies (see Merrick blog… again).


I took my time driving to St Abb’s Head. I do always follow the speed limit but sometimes I feel rushed to get to my journey, but with this trip something made me relax and set me in a comfortable condition. Maybe it was my attitude and determination to succeed on this residency, or maybe it was the locality of St Abb’s being just a short trip. Some bias in me would say it was the landscape and the weather and maybe it was just that. I enjoy being within and moving through beautiful landscapes and when I drive within, I am moved not to rush the experience as I do not want it to end. In a way it would only end when I would return home because the outward journey is taking me through and within landscape to a remote and wild point of call. It was strange to find this through the drive, I would not say from the start I was moved by the landscape, but I did feel comfort and calm and I believe it supported the residency.


Walk/Hike


I arrived at St Abb’s Head just after half past 10 in the morning. I had researched where I could leave my car and due to the location being a place of interest to walkers and holiday makers, the landscape was classed as a nature reserve and so a small car park existed at the outskirts of the reserve. It is always a concern for me about where I can leave my car and knowing a car park existed was a reassurance however, as I entered a sign stated, ‘No overnight parking’. This was something I was unaware of. I decided to risk leaving my car overnight as I could see no gate, or any sight of the car park being monitored by some form of security.


Once I had completed my traditional sitting on the boot of my car and putting on my walking boots, I double checked that my sleeping bag and tent were secured tightly to my bag, and I then lifted the pack onto my shoulders and closed the boot of my car and pressed the lock. I set off out of the car park and headed right towards the farmhouses of Northfield and along the bridal way. I made some adjustments to my backpack straps and then decided to document the beginnings of my journey via the mirrorless camera. I removed the lens cap and flicked the switch to ‘On’. No image appeared on the screen. I switched the camera ‘Off’ and ‘On’ again, still nothing. I removed the battery and placed it back into the camera and still no luck. I could not believe that my camera battery was flat. I also made the silly mistake of not bringing a spare. I was adamant that I charged the battery for the camera a few days previously. I must have accidently flicked the ‘On’ switch on the camera when moving it and unfortunately drained the battery. This was a shame to have and also not a good start to my hike. I also realised that I had not brought my water bottle along with me. My water bottle was the most important item I had to have with me but luckily, I had left it in my car. I headed back to my car, grabbed my water bottle, and left the mirrorless camera in the boot. I then sat back off again…. Take two.


To pass through Northfield Farm I had to open and close the first large gate, move along the dirt road some two hundred yards and then open and close the second large gate. A small donations box was placed next to the gate asking for a small donation to maintain the road and walkway. The pass split to three but from my map I knew I had to take the central road which had a slight uphill gradient. There is always an enjoyment when I close a gate or know that a last part of humanity is behind me and that is what I found when I moved through the last gate and headed up the middle road. I did understand that I would not be completely alone throughout this residency as the location was a popular one and low and behold, as I made my way up the middle road, I met my first walker. After a polite ‘hello’, I continued on my way gaining hight as the road climbed.


I was surrounded by farming fields, fenced to stop livestock moving freely between borders. Livestock was bountiful as sheep, cows and pigs occupied certain selected fields. I did enjoy walking past them at some ease and be only a couple of feet away and for the livestock not to move or really acknowledge my presence. Maybe they passing humans was a commonality for them and their calmness perhaps suggested that they are not ‘disturbed’ by walkers/hikers/tourists etc. Along with wire fences to stop livestock from roaming away, cattlegrids were plenty and I came across three on my hike. Once the gradient path levelled out, the road bent to the right and that is where the first cattlegrid laid. I did not realise how separated the metal beams were from each other. My own footing had to be carefully navigated across so that I did not fall between the gaps.


After successfully feeling like a lightweight Indiana Jones, the road bent to the left and then back to the right. Tall hedges appeared and strangled the road giving clear direction to move through. This feeling and appearance only last fifty yards or so and during that time I came across a group of four woman walking. We exchanged friendly hello’s and continued on our chosen routes. Another cattlegrid and then road turned a sharp left. At this point the landscape directly in front of me opened up dramatically. I was welcomed with a green valley where Loch Mire resided. Above and beyond the Loch, a spine of rocky green and yellow hills stood. They appeared in the form of what could describe as a roller coaster ride, rolling up and down within a short space and horizontally across the landscape. Between the hills the North Sea introduced itself as waves diagonally moved across to the left, almost in unison with elements of white visible from the tips of crashing waves. I could make out a couple of silhouettes of walkers/hikers moving across the landscape. I knew that a trail existed on that side of the Loch and I myself planned to explore it later on in the day. For now, I continued along the road and more of the landscape opened up. In the far distance to my right (I would say at one o’clock), I could just make out Pettico Wick Bay. It was some way off, maybe another twenty minutes, but my path was clear.


The road was high up compared to the valley below, and fence line surrounded each side along with some tall grassland. More cows stood on the left, all facing towards me and when up close these cows were rather large, very dominating, and as I am no expert on livestock, I would suggest they were bulls to me, but I know that I am incorrect but even with their huge stature they remained placid as they chewed on grassland. The road moved across but began to dip and gradually drop down towards the bay. A slight bend to the right and I found myself at another cattlegrid, but this was placed within the valley ravine, positioned between the road dropping to the road then moving upwards. At this point I was a few hundred yards from the bay and welcomed by a finger post for the Berwickshire Coastal Path and Westerside Dene. To my left the bay opened up and straight ahead my road veered steeply up to the right, towards the lighthouse. I came off the road and made my way through the bumpy, grassy landscape and onto the clearing of the bay.




The Bay

I walked to the edge of the bay cliffside and looked out into the North Sea and attempted to encompass what wilderness lay before me. To be within this as an observer and as an active participant, was hindering my ability to transcribe what this experience was to me. To describe this moment is ineffable, again it is a phenomenon that must be lived, and one must be present to comprehend the experience. As I stood on the bay edge, the North Sea layout before me. It was rich with blues and whites, and waves were moving across the surface, not aggressively, just at a consistent flow and pattern towards the cliff edges to my left. The cliff face was a picture of British romance, encapsulated so well from the likes of Constable, Turner, and Whistler. A clear surreal natural beauty stood firm at the edges of the Scottish landscape. There was power behind these cliff edges, power with how they stood, power with their scale and material and power towards their viewer as they projected tremendous feelings of beauty. I became fixated on them and living on and amongst them were flocks of birds, and birds of varying species. Guillemots, Guls, and Fulmars, each making calling songs to one and other, as they navigated around the coastline. I watched one white gul from up high, make several circular passes within the cliff face and down to the rocky bay below. It floated its way down in a spiral motion and it seemed to take its time. This was no hurried gul, but instead one that enjoyed its decline to the rocky surface.


In the distance I could make out more of the Scottish coastline, Dunbar on my left and St Monans and Crail across the sea. To my right, further cliff edges stood but these dramatically vacated to the right that I could not see their surface and face. Before me jaggered rocky tower stood vertically, and at the bottom I could make out small caves with rocky dry patches. I considered possibly heading down there to explore but I did not want to put myself at a risk where I could become stuck or slip. To the left of these rocky monuments a small rocky beach lie. The tide was out, and heaps of green seaweed consumed much of the rocky beach surface. I could see a stone jetty which led off at a decline into the ocean. I knew I would be able to access this rocky beach and I decided that I would at some point during the day, make my way down to it.


The bay cliff top I stood on to view my landscape was to be my camp for the evening. It was a small bumpy green cliff top with a few flat areas to pitch my tent. The location was excellent and away from the path, although I would at times come across walkers who would pass by.






On the Edge of the World (Scotland)

After some time of taking in the bay and the picturesque landscape that surrounded me, I decided to head on out and explore the rest of the coastline. I knew where trails were from my map as well as the lighthouse and I wanted to visit the man-made structure. I once again picked up my backpack and clipped it across my back and chest and headed behind myself and to the path that climbed up hill out of the bay’s ravine. There was a sharp steep dirt path to my left but with my bag and from my Merrick hike experience I decided to stick to the less challenging path and carry-on hiking straight ahead. The path was a road, and it was tarmacked making the hike really straight forward even if it was a climb. It bent sharply to the left and back in on itself but continued climbing. I could see white cottages in the not too far distance on the peak of the climb. I decided not to walk towards them and instead head off the path onto the cliff edges to my left.


The cliff edges were all misshapen and pushed in and out of the mainland and into the North Sea. Short grassy feathered spurts covered each surface with the odd mud hole appearing which was made by some form of wildlife. As I walked, I could hear the sound of rattles, and instantly I assumed that whatever wildlife was hidden within the grass could be a snake or an insect. I decided not to go looking for the source of the sound, although it appeared to be on either side of me as I walked forward. As I walked, I was once again welcomed by the sea and the call of bird song. I was able to see the North Sea trail off southwards towards England and to my home. The sky and weather were clear and that allowed for my view to not be hindered by unwelcoming conditions. Below between each cliff edge, rocky structures stuck out and pointed upwards. Their presence was aggressive as if fighting against the cold harsh sea but yet, they remained as forms of natural beauty that seamlessly united the mainland with the sea.


The differences between landscapes from this residency and the Merrick was that some contrast existed but the feeling that resonated through the landscape was the same. Yes, one location was a coastline and the other a forest and a mountain range, and their appearance and topographical formation differed but the way they induced a surreal and almost dreamlike state was quite remarkable. The landscapes had a power to seduce a human and I was seduced by them both. On this landscape I found myself fixated on all areas within my ocular vicinity. Wherever I looked or moved through I discovered and/or experienced feelings that produced not overwhelming stimuli but this gradual pleasure that enhanced and elevated itself the more I encountered the landscape.



For I have learned

To look on nature, not as in the hour

Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes

The still sad music of humanity,

Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power

To chasten and subdue. —And I have felt

A presence that disturbs me with the joy

Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime

Of something far more deeply interfused,

Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,

And the round ocean and the living air,

And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:

A motion and a spirit, that impels

All thinking things, all objects of all thought,

And rolls through all things.


Tintern Abbey - William Wordsworth (1798)





The Lighthouse

Throughout my residencies I do state my intention to escape the human (mostly the socio-chaos), but it is virtually impossible and therefore I come to an agreement with myself that humanity won’t just vanish, and elements will appear. Most of those elements might be crossing paths with the odd walker or two, or finding a sign post directing trails etc, though this time, humanity placed a small and isolated white lighthouse on the cliff edge of St Abb’s Head.


I am not going to discuss (re-discuss) the history and purpose of the lighthouse in this section but rather talk about the aesthetic and its placement within the landscape. When I think of a lighthouse I use to think about a red and white diagonally striped, tall building with a circular light. That was how it was shown and described to me in my early school years. Now I actually think about the film Shutter Island and the light house that lives on a remote island for the mentally and criminally insane. That does sound like a rather extreme connotation, but I must digress that I do not relate lighthouses to insanity, no, instead I relate them visually to the design of the lighthouse via the crisp, clean, and cold appearance, (The appearance of the lighthouse on Shutter Island – see fig below). Lighthouses sit on cliff edges and waves batter the coastline and yet these white objects stay strong and resolute as they deliver their guidance each night. The structure of lighthouse varies but its purpose is always the same.


I sat on a grassy mound, between two cliff edges and viewed the lighthouse. Another couple were also viewing the manmade structure in front of me. There was something abstract about the lighthouse, not the fact that a manmade structure situated itself on a beautiful landscape (that felt and looked ‘normal’), but how this structure was this cube shape with a transparent dome balanced on top. These two basic shapes sat balanced together, seamless and yet they resided on a rugged, uneven, rocky landscape. My way to describe it artistically would be to take an idyllic landscape of Turner’s and stick one of Donald Judd’s Stack pieces within the frame. Two genres of art colliding that should never sit together and yet, in the case of the lighthouse and the Scottish landscape, two opposites are working in unison to form a deep routed connection that actually provides a view of beauty and historical romance.


I considered the lighthouse keeper and the solitude they endure or did endure when the world was a little less hectic and full, and technology did not dominate our lifestyle and communication could take days and weeks to arrive. How must it have felt to be alone within this ivory ‘fortress’, cut off almost from the world and the only sign of humanity might be the light from passing ships or the arrival of supplies once a week. How does one choose to be a lighthouse keeper and decide that a big part of their life will be kept in solitude? It must take a lot of courage to enter into such a hardship (if one deems it a hardship), or would it be a runaway, a possible meditative commitment, a religious pact, or maybe a man just needed the stability of a job. Whatever reasons placed the keeper within their role, they took on something that was completely personal and intimate throughout their time keeping. Although journal entries can be found of how keepers maintained and entertained themselves, what is missing is the true reflective experiences they lived through.




Back to the bay

After taking in a small protein bar and those moments of contentment I decided to make my way back to the bay. I believed it best to set up camp at a sensible time whilst there were several hours of daylight left. I made my back via the lighthouse road, rather than venture back off course and re-enter those cliff edges piers. I did, however, catch a glimpse of a manmade structure that stood at what looked like the highest peak of St Abb’s Head. At a guess I would say it was the peak because when stood amongst the natural hilly landscape, perception can get a little lost and therefore judgement may also be distorted. I made a detour up a small vertical dirt track climb unto which I came across a point of location structure. The structure detailed historical and local information about St Abb’s Head including the wildlife and ancient settlements. On top of the structure a flat stainless-steel plate lay. It had markings engraved into it which showed arrows to locations locally and across the world. Many arrows pointed to the north-west and to Norway with one quite randomly pointing towards China.


Once I had looked out to several global locations, I hopped down the other side of the peak and back onto the lighthouse road. I came across a woman who was cleaning the road guttering. On closer inspection I noticed she was clearing a mixture of rocks and weeds out. I began to understand that the guttering was for these reasons, to reduce any rock fall from entering the roadway and causing damage to walkers and transport. I said hello and we had a brief chat about her clearing and how the weather was lovely but to be clearing rocks and weeds in it was not ideal. After I left the conversation, I was about a five-minute walk from the bay. A straight downward road, it reminded me of a winter ski jump slope. It led to a tight left-hand bend, but it was easily possible to ignore the bend and jump yourself off from the bay cliff, something the winter weather must pose a threat too.



Setting up camp

Due to the bumpy landscape, trying to locate a flat enough patch of ground was proving to be a little bit of a challenge. I had brought with me a sleeping matt, which can be slightly inflated to give some cushion, but it would not provide much when laid on bumps and holes. A sensible decision was to set up camp back from the edge of the cliff so that I could remain safe from any form of natural weather conditions that could damage my tent and put me at risk of harm. Another factor I considered was if I as to remove myself from my tent during the night and from sleep, my senses might be a little fuzzy, I may in turn put myself at risk by walking to close to the cliff edge. With these factors in mind, I was able to find a patch of land that was most flat (but with a slight incline) and at least one hundred feet away from the cliff edge.


My tent is a simple and lightweight, it functions well and is easy to erect. With no real dominating wind, erecting the tent was hassle free. From reading my Merrick blog, you will remember the struggle I had at Loch Enoch erecting the tent in the high winds. This time, I was owed some ease and low and behold my tent was erected in a matter of minutes. I decided to place the entrance to the tent to face out to sea. I wanted to perceive and experience the natural sight of the coast, the distant shore, and the open sea at every moment I was either inside or stepping out of my tent. It would be a privilege to commandeer such a view at every given moment and I wanted to relish each moment.


With my tent set up, I went about organising my belongings as well as my sleeping bag and ground matt. I like to be organised and know where items are and when camping (and although I have a lamp and torch) I want to be able to reach needed items with little to no hassle.


Once set up, I decided to explore the lower areas of the bay. When looking out to sea, on my left was a small rocky cove with a disused jetty. The jetty had been long abandoned but when in operation, small boats would ferry supplies to the jetty, and these would be transported up to the light house above. I made my way down to the lower bay area via a winding dirt/gravel path. There was a sign that read ‘dangerous path, do not go beyond this point’. I obviously read the sign, looked at the ‘path’ beyond the sign and decided that I would be able to navigate down to the rocky beach. I was welcomed by a gap in the path, one that was not as extreme as found by the Fellowship of the Ring in the halls of Khazad-dûm, but still, I made a little leap across. I had to carefully drop between boulders but just as I approached, I notice something move across the rocky beach surface at the bottom of the boulders. It was rather large and somewhat camouflaged, and it slid across each rock with some haste. A little taken back I then realised that this camouflaged entity was a seal. I had never seen a seal close up in the wild and within a moment where it was just me and this sea mammal. I remained stationary to allow the seal to make its way to the sea without disturbing it any further. I was fixated by its presence and also a little apologetic to find myself encroaching into its habitat. I decided not to drop onto the beach just in case any further wildlife was nesting until I could make sure nothing was there.


I walked to the jetty where I could freely push myself out about thirty feet due to the tide receded. The jetty was made up of a wall of large stones and then completed with a variety of cobble stones for the central path. Three thick iron mooring rings were bolted into the edge of the jetty closest to the sea. I grabbed one to take a feel of it and it was slightly heavy, but smooth and still functioned as it was able to lift up and down. As I stood up from releasing the mooring ring, I caught a glimpse of movement within the clear sea, the seal was watching me. Its head protruding out of the water was directly looking towards me and it was slightly making its way to the jetty. A clear curiosity was directing it to the human and once again I was a little taken back. I watched as the seal slowly approached wondering if its curiosity would allow for a closer encounter but within an instant it dived, and I did not see the sea mammal again.




Sitting, listening with stillness

After a rest, some food, and a read of one of my books, I decided to re-engage with the landscape through a meditative act. With the day moving towards the evening, a relationship between me and the landscape started to form and one that became much more intimate. Throughout every residency, a deepening engagement between myself and the land will occur, and I often discover it around early to mid-evening. I do believe it lies in wait this deepening engagement, it is as if the land waits for me, entices me and like a patient predator it catches its prey. I allow myself to open up to the land and let it intensify its wholeness on me.


I took my book and a drink to the cliff edge, and I sat comfortable facing towards the sea, catching in my peripheral vision birds moving around the bay. I felt at ease, alone but not fully alone, as I had these two comforts from home with me. They weren’t invading or affecting my mood, they just accompanied me. They were not of anyone else’s possessions; they were mine and mine alone and they joined me on this journey of solitude. After some time, I placed my book beside me, and I just sat and watched the landscape live around me. I did not speak, and I had not for some time, although I spoke as I read (in my head) and yet this wilderness was speaking to me. The sounds of the sea, the bird song, the slight change in the wind all composed itself into a natural symphony but the picturesque scenery also composed itself into a symphony. I find that observing landscapes can speak to the self, it creates dialogue and communicates to you and that is through its use of daily evolution. I see the light of the sun change, from warm day light to deepening and comforting tones. The cliff faces create dark and contrasting shadows where light moves across their rocky surfaces. In the distance humanity speaks out as small dots of orange light appear on the horizon, and I am reminded of JMA Whistler’s ‘Nocturne: Blue and Silver – Cremorne Lights’ (1872). The appearance of a landscape seeks to communicate with a being through multiple formats and it can do so as an individual composition or as a whole symphony.


It can read quite intensely that paragraph above but when you expose yourself to a setting that is distant from your everyday landscape, but you cannot help but observe with overwhelming emotion. It is ok to feel that way and I welcome such feelings of joy, calm and the deepening phenomena on the body. The phenomena is able to well up in and through me and that is increased by my ability to use solitude as a tool to discover such experiences. It can be difficult to discipline oneself away from the socio chaos, to pick up the phone and take a look at the ‘world’ within a 6x4” screen, it is easily tempting, but through solitude (and that does not have to be extreme solitude), whether that be for an hour, a day, a week, a month etc, it is possible to find something within nature that intimately deepens self-giving, all we have to do is seek remoteness.





Night and the cold.

As the night sky became dominant and light faded with the sunsetting directly across from me, cold air began to infect my body. I made sure at this point to add further clothing layers to my upper and lower body, with base under armour, a mid-layer fleece and a lightweight raincoat, along with a hat and my neckerchief. It had been some time since I had wrapped up this well, and this was due to excellent summery conditions we had been experiencing in England. Even though I was wrapped up well, I was struggling to see the pages of my book and the cold air and wind was still penetrating the comfort of my being. I made the decision to move into my tent and complete the chapter of my book before I settled down for the night.


My watch told me it was 10:34pm, I had been awake fifteen hours and my body was reminding me I was tiring. I switched on my lamp and hooked it to the inside ceiling above the door of the tent. After fifteen minutes or so, I finally decided to call it a night. I made sure to strip down to my base layers but keep my woolly hat and socks on. The wind was picking up and my tent was starting to move more frequently. The call from the guls, fulmars and guillemots had dwindled tenfold from the daytime but still they could be heard. I wrapped myself up in my sleeping bag, set my alarm for 6am and attempted to sleep. An attempt was not in vain as I did manage to sleep pretty well but on occasion the weight of the wind would batter my tent and wake me. Those moments of surprise were not the concern I had when sleeping, what I struggled with was the cold. No matter how much I crouched myself together and closed myself within my sleeping bag the cold air penetrated my body and bitterly it did so. I layered my extra clothes across me and my lightweight towel. I craved any form of material help to warm my body and from time to time it worked but I would never escape the cold air circulating within my tent.


I understood cold wild camping and I have had experience with cold nights in tents on many occasions. This was just another one of those experiences and I welcomed it. To be in the wild and trying to discover intimacy comes with all forms of natural phenomena and at this point within the residency I was in the stages of suffering. I stated the privilege to look out of my tent and be greeted by the sea and to gain such a pleasure one must sometimes take on forms of pain and discomfort. Are the rewards worth the pain… I would say yes.



The morning

The cold air of the morning welcomed me around 6am, although throughout the night I could feel the bitter chill of the cold Scottish coastal air, along with strong nightly winds which battered my tent on the cliffside. It was a mixed night of on and off sleeping and on reflection I think it would be a good time to invest in a well-insulated sleeping bag and ground matt. I understood that sleeping on the coast would be a challenge with the elements more aggressive but when waking up and opening my tent door, I was welcomed with the sight of the North Sea stretching out to the horizon line. The sky was overcast with the greyness of morning light and the cold air hit my face to wake me up. In the distance morning fishing boats were sailing across the sea, I could not make out if they were returning or heading out to sea. The nesting birds continued to speak to one and other and move across the air from cliff to cliff. The bay was as I left it, continuing on with its natural cycle although this morning was new to me as I had never experienced a morning at Pettico Wick Bay. This morning was gentle and fresh to the body and as a morning person I enjoyed the moments of slowly waking myself up to this wilderness without the hassle of a socio routine. My morning routine did not exist here, and even when I ignited my small gas burner and poured water into a pan to make a cup of coffee, I was in a state of calm. I kept the bottom half of my body in my sleeping bag and the top half out but placed my fleece and woolly hat on.


After coffee and eating a breakfast bar, I made my way out of my tent to stretch and go to the natural bathroom. Even at the edges of the world I still checked my surroundings to make sure no one was around to see me ‘go’. Quite funny on reflection. I made my way to the cliff edge and once again just stood and took as much of the landscape in as I could. The pleasantry of the morning view was something I enjoyed, and I enjoyed all to myself. It was me and the bay and no one else, this morning was mine and without words of mine, I partook in a remote intimacy that could not be repeated and shared to an audience. My being present on that cliff edge, was my own personal phenomena that only through this form of reflective commentary can I best try to share with an audience.


When I was able to tear myself away from the cliff edge, I began the task of washing up, hydrating myself, packing my backpack and taking down my tent. I made sure to not leave any trace of my being and any rubbish was placed within a rubbish bag. As with the previous morning, I took my time with my morning, and I felt the packing up go with ease. I stated earlier within this text that yesterday I was at ease and nature supported my calm state. With my tent down and packed away, I securely fastened it to my backpack along with my sleeping bag. I lifted my backpack on my back, adjusted its fitting and made my way back to my beginning point, where my car waited.









10 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

コメント


bottom of page