“…There is in fact a sort of harmony discoverable between the capabilities of the landscape within the circle of ten miles’ radius, or the limits of an afternoon walk, and the threescore years and ten of human life. It will never become quite familiar to you.” (Heny David Thoreau)
Yesterday I went walking around the area local to my studio to find something unfamiliar. I am limited by time and responsibilities to exploring places that are within walking distance of my home but as Thoreau identifies there is much to be discovered in walking around places that are local to you. I enjoy this curious idea, that what should be familiar landscape and well trodden paths can always hold something of mystery if you choose to go looking for it.
So I walked down past the cabbages and other leafy vegetables of the allotments where my studio is to the very far end, to a lower level next to the fence where a path runs between it and the river. Here they have started to grow medicinal herbs and it has been cleared and lined with irrigation tubes all the way along. Here I discovered a cement wall that was teaming with all kinds of plants, mosses, briars and strange objects from the human world; a mangled fork, a DVD, other indistinguishable plastic items.
I found out that this very spot used to form part of the old pilgrims’ path El Camino de Santiago, which extends all the way across northern Spain to end in Galicia. How many pilgrims must have past this now secluded place? What might they have seen as they passed through this ever changing ancient landscape? I really enjoy this quote from Robert Macfarlane’s The Old Ways:
“The journeys told here take their bearings from the distant past, but also from the debris and phenomena of the present, for this is often the double insistence of old landscapes: that they be read in the then but felt in the now.” (Robert Macfarlane 2012)