grass string

Alice Fox grass string

I’ve had a welcome few days away with family and surrounded by beautiful landscape that was abundant with wildlife. The warm summer we’re having is glorious but I love the relief of the evening air and the light at that time of the day can do wonderful things to a field of grasses.

During walks I gathered grass and twisted it into this ball of string. I enjoy exploring a material like this: manipulating it and seeing what it will do and improving my technique as I go. It dries quickly and the fresh green above is soon dulled. Working the grass I find there is a sweet point where it is dried a bit and so a little firmer but once it dries too much it becomes brittle. The ball is my little record of the places we walked.

edgelands

Alice Fox train tracks

I’ve really enjoyed reading Edgelands by Paul Farley & Michael Symmons Roberts: a wonderfully playful mix of observations and poetic writing about those in between places that are not quite city, not quite countryside, not quite classifiable as one thing or another.

in their words:

Somewhere in the hollows and spaces between our carefully managed wilderness areas and the creeping, flattening effects of global capitalism, there are still places where an overlooked England truly exists, places where ruderals familiar here since the last ice sheets retreated have found a way to live with each successive wave of new arrivals, places where the city’s dirty secrets are laid bare, and successive human utilities scar the earth or stand cheek by jowl with one another; complicated, unexamined places that thrive on disregard, if we could only put aside our nostalgia for places we’ve never really known and see them afresh.  (p 10)

Edgelands are constantly shifting and being re-developed.  That’s part of what makes them dynamic, hard to pin down.  Some crop up in pockets close to city centres, where waste ground and industrial decline has offered space for the edgelands to self-seed. (p 213)

When I walk to my studio I go along part of the Leeds Liverpool canal, along the back of industrial buildings, offices, under roads, beside railway.  This is a classic example of an edgeland, an un-cared for piece of land that is pretty much left to its own devices, complete with rubbish, graffiti, weeds, ducks, magpies, blackbirds…  And this is the magic, the wildlife that just gets on with things.  The resilience and sheer bravery of some of the plants you find in these scruffy places, pushing up through cracks and flowering away no matter what, brings an enchantment to these walks and the sudden flit of a long-tailed tit can make my day.

Alice Fox pansies in the cracks

In Robert MacFarlane’s The Wild Places, having visited some of the most remote parts of the UK, he comes to recognise the wild all around him in his local landscape.  This is certainly true for me too.  While the call of the coast is never far from my mind and the lure of remoteness is always tempting, it is the wild of my streets and pathways that keeps me engaged with my landscape on a day to day basis.

Further reading: Weeds, Weeds & Wildflowers

Alice Fox stone and growth

lanes

I’m really enjoying my walk to work here in Cumbria, despite the grey and wet conditions (Sedburgh isn’t getting the heatwave that the rest of England have been enjoying).  I’m staying about 15 minutes walk away from Farfield Mill and I have a choice of walk across the fields or round the lanes.

On Tuesday I walked up the lane, picking wild strawberries on the way, then across the fields.  I saw a roe deer and then a hare in quick succession: both exhilarating experiences.  The footpath wound its soggy way but I couldn’t have been happier, arriving at the Mill very wet.

Yesterday I took the lane the other way and found all sorts of bejeweled plants.  The hay has either been cut and sits waiting for a dry spell or it hasn’t even been cut yet.  Things are so damp but also lush and green as a result.

These lanes are absolutely amazing: they’re jammed with a rich mix of foliage, flowers, insects, mosses, birds flitting about, trees and the most lovely smells.  I could spend hours lingering in them, but I have work to do

 

delight

A day of respite from the relentlessly wet summer we’re having means I can linger a little longer on my forays into the garden.  One of the advantages of working at home is that I can potter a little outside in between other jobs or, at the least, sit outside or on the steps to have my lunch.

I am constantly delighted by my garden.  It is a very important part of me.  At the beginning of the year there was nothing here: a patch of grass and a tired fence.  I’ve changed that and in the space of a few months it is overflowing with greenery of the ornamental and the edible kind.

As I potter it is the detail that draws me in, fascinates me: the tiny holes in leaves (made by who?); the textures of different foliage mixed together; the various insects that are going about their own business; and the mix of colours that can be so stunning.

And then there is the satisfaction of finding something edible forming, and the hope that you will manage to harvest it before the slugs do.