Thursday, 25 April 2013

Ways of Mapping Dukes Wood

A carpet of wood anemones
I have visited Dukes Wood now (as part of a new project there by Ordinary Culture) in the winter and more recently as spring breaks through. Watching how the woods develop through the seasons, turning from a skeleton structure of dried hogsweed and spindly trees to an emerging lushness of wood anemone carpets and bursting bright green hawthorn leaves.

The first time I walked through the woods it was bucketing down. But in the winter months, without leaves or undergrowth to hide it, I could see the structure of things, the way climbers were twisting up tree trunks and the undulation of the earth where mining work had moved the soil. In my mind I mapped it in terms of structural routes, verticals and horizontals, connecting elements and paths.

The second time it was beautifully sunny and full of the promise of spring. Wild woodland flowers started appearing, intriguing green pushing up through the earth, not quite big enough to identify. This time I started mapping it as a forager might, looking for clues for what might grow where and the properties of plants that may appear in future months.

Suddenly a hare appeared on my path
The third time I mapped it for sounds. It was sunny again but incredibly windy, and the noise through the trees created squeaking noises in the northern side of the woods, and huge rushing sounds at the southern edge. The wind turbine viewed from the northerly edge of the woods generated a high pitched squeal as it turned.

New growth reaches for the sun
The woods are incredibly sensory places, this wood particularly so. It seems imperative that when I run my workshops at Dukes Wood later in the year they should include sensory mapping.

But there is another map at Dukes Wood. A secret underground map, a network of drilled holes for oil extraction. Nodding donkeys are dotted about and obvious. However the trail map for the woods, found in the museum, is peppered with little crosses that mark where the wells once were but are now hidden under the undergrowth, and marked with rectangles of manmade structures that are no longer there, just traces of them remain, the odd pipe sticking up or lying along the ground.

This is the other sense of Dukes Wood that I want to engage participants in. A sense of the unseen things, the layers of the site that have been built up by history and its former uses. A sense of the hidden world deep, deep under the ground. The special qualities of rock and millions of years of layering that made this place what it is, and produced the oil in between its cracks.

I am working on a workshop idea about layering: up above, on the ground, and below.

I will be running a school's workshop on site in July, and open public workshops at the end of August. Watch my list of events for details nearer the time, or sign up to my newsletter for updates.