Personal Projects : 1. People and Landscape – Leaving Traces

 Personal Projects :

People and Landscape : 1. Leaving Traces

O where is it, the wilderness’

 O where is it, the wilderness

The wildness of the wilderness?

Where is it, the wilderness?


And wander in the wilderness;

In the weedy wilderness,

Wander in the wilderness

(Gerard Manley Hopkins)

There are times I go on the Common when it seems as if it’s all mine and no other people are there.  I am surrounded by greenness and tall pines sky-reaching. All is still and quiet. It comes as a surprise to suddenly see someone else amongst the trees .

People leave signs and traces of themselves though even when they’re not there and I’ve noticed this more during the past few months. A small pile of pebbles suddenly appeared by the path one day that now keeps being added to as if it’s a shrine – yet it isn’t. My grandsons were very interested in them, firstly wanting to take one away as a souvenir and then wanting to add one instead. “Is someone dead under there?” they wanted to know. I doubt it though. I’m not talking of litter, but I wonder what it is within us that wants to leave some kind of mark on the landscape which somehow means we take possession of it. When I had this notion of ‘leaving traces” I noticed more. The Common is left in as much of a natural state as possible but there is some tidying going on.

Some trees (seeds blown in by the wind as years go by) have been chopped down to allow the natural heathland to spread. The wind whistling through the pines often blows down the more fragile branches (or even whole trees).  I’ve often seen children playing with the branches to make teepees – temporary installations. However, this year there has been a change.  The structures have become more elaborate and I’ve imagined adults joining in, even taking over maybe.  It got to the stage where I almost decided to start awarding prizes and leave rosettes!  One of the stronger trees has been used as a temporary swing for years  with a strong twig and old bits of rope. This summer a more sophisticated swing appeared – it’s now disappeared.

I decided to make a series of these temporary installations which continue to fascinate me and here are some of them.
























I’m going to continue with this theme on how we interact with the landscape and nature.

28th October 2012


Phillips, C (Ed) (1986), Gerard Manley Hopkins : The Major Works , Oxford University Press (2002)