From May to September 2021
Kate is Artist-in-Residence
in the Elan Valley.
The 1892 Water Act allowed Birmingham Corporation to purchase the watershed of rivers Elan and Claerwen. These 70 square miles would provide water to fuel the city’s industrial growth.
The WATERSHED LINE, the perimeter of the land claimed, was, and still is, marked by concrete posts.
Today, 81% of the Elan Estate is an SSSI. Ironically, the economic value of its water has protected it from the use of pesticides and other chemicals, preserving habitats for now rare plants and animals. However, harnessing the natural cycle of these valleys was a feat of Victorian engineering that accelerated industrialisation, contributing to the current global environmental crisis.
the hills were bleached & the teme had gone to earth
my ankles ballooned & i cut hazel for support as i walked for three
days & two nights between coordinates fancied significant in twenty
years of life & landscape
sleeping on & under a tri-folded tarp, begging facilities, food & water,
i tested myself without knowing the question
in some ways i became the landscape & the landscape became me
to prevent duty of recording from eating into being present, i carried
an old polaroid which set a limit of sixteen shots & with reluctant
responsibility to those who love me, i buried a phone in my pack
pathways have been rewalked & reworked
these words & images are my attempt to link life’s switchback with
time spent in the unmappable space that lies adjacent to a linear route
“I decided to tie white cotton tape on to branches as I walked so that, on the route home, in a ‘breadcrumbs in a fairytale’ sort of way, my head torch might illuminate them. I packed a shawl that my brother had brought back from the Annapurna mountains over 20 years ago, a torch he had left behind when he visited (the last time I saw him) at Christmas 2015 and a large, leaf shaped piece of felt that had been made from the fleece of his sheep to be placed on his coffin. I thought these things would be useful if I became too tired and had to lie down in the forest to rest.”...
Read full accounts of these walks and others made during the Lines in the Landscape residency.
I found a way
"Perhaps it was the absence of people that confused time and place; or perhaps it was my state of mind; most probably it was because I carried no map. I have recognised a tendency of mine to confuse a map with the ground; to use a paper representation of the landscape to try to determine where I step and to predict what’s around a corner. I need to remind myself that ‘The map is not the territory’. These old ways were not navigated by following a green/red, dotted/dashed line on paper/screen; they were navigated by the depression in the ground made by the footsteps of the people who had walked before. I could have been walking from Wigmore Abbey to Limebrook Priory or from Brandon Camp to the now lost village of Pedwardine. I stopped worrying about the ‘Right of Way’ and looked at the way the ground was sculpted by human and animal traffic; at the incline of the hill and the dip in the horizon where one could pass into the next valley; at ancient trees that beckoned and nodded, ‘Safe journey, Traveller’ as I passed by.".......
“So I found myself on a steep green field overlooking Salcombe and the Kingsbridge Estuary, a patch of diesel marking the point where he died. Leaning forward, I walked up the slope between the wheel tracks. When I reached the road, lines of mist, like breaths from the sea, passed in front of me and the skylarks were singing to my right but I couldn’t see them. I chose a bridleway of rocky chevrons, followed a stream through patchy gorse and met the coastal path as the stream fell off the cliff.”...
“Thank you for welcoming me into your home a few weeks ago; and for the magical tour of the grounds.
On reflection, I truly felt I had walked alongside RPK, following the flow of his Gorge-in-miniature garden from beneath his crows-nest of a window.
And the light!
RPK would have surely approved of the abstraction of that weak spring sunlight as it squeezed through the rain drops.
I suspect that such an atmosphere of intimacy and connection to the past may not be surpassed by even my visit to the Gorge proper on Saturday.”......
“Home was becoming somewhere I felt both safe and trapped and the motivation to breach its walls for any length of time was withering. I felt my body had failed me; how could I ever learn to trust it again? Maybe by propelling my tiny shape across the surface of the Earth, by making indentations with my feet, by casting a moving shadow, I would be able to reaffirm my existence. And so I simply placed one foot in front of the other, again and again.”...