I was invited to walk with Ruth Broadbent on Saturday 12th May 2018 as part of #awanderisnotaslog with Blake Morris. Blake is walking each of the walks from Ways to Wander by Clare Qualmann and Claire Hind (Triarchy Press, 2015) and inviting others from around the world to either walk with him in person, or remotely. This particular walk was City Centre by Tom Hall.
This wander was one of those produced by artists involved with the Walking Artists Network and beyond.
For me it was a welcome chance to return to Crouch Hill, a nearby place I once visited almost every day as part of my MA Research in A Disturbing Pre-Occupation, #Crouch Hill and Final Show Public View/Private View.
Ruth’s record of the wander is here From town to countryside walk 12 May 2018
and mine below:
A wander up Crouch Hill– with Ruth Broadbent – Saturday 12th May 2018
It was strange. Just when I was feeling disconnected, came the request. Ruth asked if I’d like to join her and others, globe-wide, on a walk. Hers was going to be up Crouch Hill.
I ‘d almost finishing reading Patti Smith’s M train and already feeling the sense of loss associated with ‘missing a book’ before I had even finished it, so, of course, I said ‘yes’.
When Ruth arrived, I suggested we follow the route I had, at one time, taken so very frequently, almost daily.
It felt recent, until I started walking that day, but actually was months ago. Perhaps not since the building work began, I guess.
As we approached the site and I felt like a traitor. I thought it looked smarter, somehow; tidy.
But when we reached the gateway into the big field I was shocked and hurt. Our way up, alongside the hedge, along the headland, so familiar; was blocked.
There was a high metal construction fence with notices about consideration and respect.
I felt excluded, and imprisoned.
We turned back and went the road-way.
Within minutes, a joyful coincidence – seeing excited faces and waving from a white van parked on the kerb. A mixture of anxiety and anticipation was palpable; exuded by parents and son through the van. Shared feelings of loss and gain were visible through the window, and as they moved on, so did we.
Discussing routes, ownership and permissions, we walked slowly upwards across the mown grass to scrappy woodland. As we searched for paths we’d both walked before, but separately, we made our way through; clambering over branches, caught in brambles, stumbling, finding mossy roots and glimpses of sky; caught in a tale of mystery from time ago.
We rambled this way for sometime (or was it just a few minutes?) emerging almost where we entered, but changed, as in all good tales of wanders and discovery.
Our discoveries were banks of earth, high and newly pushed upwards; fences old and young, wood and metal; and detritus bottles, cans; and a fragment of ‘vintage lino’, which I carried home, and kept as a treasure for my ‘collection’.
Reaching the more familiar path, the hawthorn was overgrown from few passings over the long winter and wet spring. Slippy paths and uneven descents have claimed ankles and wrists in their time. Maybe these routes are less popular with dog-walkers now; no passable route down the hill to the road, anymore?
On the summit we sat, ate and drank, reflected and ‘supposed’- seeing the ingress of the development below into the next precious field.
I thought I saw a friend, Louise with her dogs. Trying to find a way through to the road, near the old way. I called her- but it wasn’t. She was in her garden, not visible, half- a mile or so away.
Ruth used an app. to help us name the hills. The sun shone determinedly bright on the screen making the text difficult to read and our decisions, unconvincing.
We returned by walking back down the hill to the West and took the Salt Way to Giant’s Cave. Along the main road back to my house we looked for new paths through the hedge, formed by others. This was for future reference, giving access, once more, to the big field,a way up the headland, through rough boundary gaps, to the top.
It seemed the right thing to do.
Not far from some pre-cut, carefully laid new turf and a neatly cleared ditch,
we found one.
Rhiannon Evans 17thMay 2018
Blake Morris, A Wander Is Not A Slog (including an invitation to join him in a walk and links to the participants of this walk): https://awanderisnotaslog.wordpress.comand #awanderisnotaslog on social media.
Twitter: @Ruth_HBroadbent Facebook Page: @ruth.broadbent.artistpage Instagram: ruth_broadbent