Recently, I found myself in a creative rut, I needed inspiration, a change of scenery, a different way of looking at things but, like a lot of us, had low energy & a tight budget. Then I listened to Michael Nobbs, creative coach, talking about how tiny adventures help you break with routine, dismantle creative blocks, find motivation & reflect. Just the job!
A tiny adventure
- is a little bit different to your usual day,
- something that makes you feel excited
- relatively easy to make happen
- is within your budget and energy levels
- includes a creative method of recording e.g. Writing, drawing, collecting objects, photography, video, sound recording.
Now I walk everday, it’s a must, it helps me regulate anxiety & boosts my sense of feeling good. I call them my medicine walks. But of late they’ve become a chore, however, with the tiny adventure guidelines I realised I could reclaim them.
What I took with me…
Waterproofs, camera, journal, pen, pencil.
Keri Smith recommends taking plastic bags for found objects. She also suggests lots of other stuff like plasticine to take moulds but I’ll try other things on future walks & tell you about them but if you can’t wait, check out her book by clicking on the link below.
Getting into it
Like anything else I had to get in the right mindset, so I told myself:
- Take the walk slowly, (this not a route march or a challenge)
- In the first few minutes there will be vital information, so be conscious of what happens when you arrive.
- Have a heightened awareness to the information you receive from your senses and your unconscious. The walk will be communicating with you through symbols.
- Do not have a plan, goal or end point, instead welcome distractions, meanderings, memories and daydreams.
- Try and see beyond what you expect, really look at what is actually there. Draw stuff.
As soon as I opened my van door there was a roar of water that boomed from the cavernous mouth of railway bridge 118. Storm Aileen had lashed the area & water levels were high in the small river that ran under the bridge.
Hypnotised by the deep grumble, thrum, and rumble sounds of water & overhead trains I felt like I was in a huge industrial womb. I looked at what were once white tiles and now were smeared & daubed with stains from silt and slime. This once pristine chamber had been polluted over time leaving huge wall hangings of greys, blues, greens & purples.
Following the road I walked through a small hamlet, the site of Jumble Hole Mill, one of 5 built at the end of the eighteenth century, now houses & workshops. Further along there was a high wall, reclaimed by ferns & brambles, previously a retaining wall for a dam which provided a water system for the mills. This was a busy site with terraced back to back houses for the mill workers.
It began to spit, a yellow mottled Sycamore leaf fluttered to the gravel floor. There was a loud crack, startled, I looked up to see a squirrel dashing along a branch. The crash & spray of the river continued to dominated the space.
The path continued up & then split into two hairpin bends, one that crossed the river over Cow Bridge, the site of another mill, the other that snaked up to the right. I continued on the latter but before I did I investigated a small stone shed built over the river.
The door was screwed shut and on the side was a hole into which I pointed the camera.
I wondered how many people had come in and out of this tiny building, had it been a long drop toilet? Doreen Massey says that space is a constellation of people and that we are always walking on other peoples stories so that places are in flux. There is never one defining “reading” or meaning of a place or space. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Space-Doreen-Massey/dp/1412903629
Similarly Phil Smith talks about us overlaying our stories with those that have gone before that leads to a palimpsest of fluid meanings.
It feels uncanny that I have walked this route over 50 times in the last 17 years but it is only on this occasion that I investigated the shed, saw remnants of the mills and thought about living and working conditions of people who were here before.
My body felt overwhelmed by the thunder of thousands of gallons of water smashing over rocks. It elicited a memory of my mother taking me to see my grandmother & aunt, both weavers, who worked side by side in a Lancashire textile mill. The noise from the looms was a deafening wall of mechanical clatter, the workers communicating by lipreading. I was petrified & have never liked loud noises since.
But there was a sense of being alive as I stood by the white water with the spume on my face. I recorded videos from different points to capture the exhilaration but later the representation just didn’t compare. The space between my sensory memory and the recording was huge. The more I reflected on this void the deeper I dropped down into an appreciation of what was being swept away in my life. And to let an 8 year relationship finally go.
On viewing the photographs later, I found the patterns on the inside of the railway bridge to be more visually exciting than at the time of looking. So much so that I returned the following day & collected more images.
I ruminate on how perception is influenced by noise. How can I create distorted soundscapes? I have no idea of how to edit sound but I want to learn.
My plan is to take the images & experience into the studio and work with the preliminary “research”. I’ll share the rest of the walk & my creative process in the next post.
For more history see the Charlestown & Jumble Hole tour on the Pennine Horizons app.