This ‘natural wilderness’ and the arable fenland of Wardy Hill (from yesterday) are of course both highly managed. The difference with Wicken Fen is that it follows systems of land management dating from hundreds of years ago, and allows for a far more sympathetic dynamic between the land and our use of it. I was fairly ambivalent about the difference previously. I considered the banks of the Wash – land drainage on a magnificent scale. Having visited WF, I feel very happy that this place is right. I think the ‘ecological dimension’ is becoming more meaningful to me, and the particular historic subtleties and environmental consciousness it represents seem to move me in ways the awe of brutality of the Wash and the land technologies of farming don’t actually. It seems I’ve also discovered something of the human scale I mentioned in the previous post.

I spent the time walking around Sedge Fen, the oldest part of WF (purchased by NT in 1899) and where sedge has been harvested, and still is, since 1419. It became apparent fairly quickly that my methodological vision and the amount of gear I was carrying were both wrong. The sheer amount of equipment and access to it was unhelpfully cumbersome. Having just finished a video-only project, and with a new enthusiasm for the medium, for the first time I was venturing out with two cameras plus all my audio gear. Methodologically speaking, the idea of finding one place, for now at least, was not the right approach. At this stage I need to walk in order to establish a relationship with the space, to learn to feel what it is for me. It reminded how integral walking has been in most my recent work. Even when I did stop and set up a stationary camera I ended up walking around the area. Walking is central, and even when going ‘somewhere’ (the sound-hole at Howick for example) the process of walking there somehow merges with actually ‘being there’.

But I think I’ve found a place I want to work with. I’ll return tomorrow, weather permitting, with less gear and a far more open mind to what I’m there for and how the work might unfold, and will explore areas I didn’t get to today. Philosophically, I keep thinking about ideas of continuity: revisiting this area of my childhood and where my parents still live, there’s such a strong sense of continuity and sense of ‘placeness’ that is unchanging and permanent. MS

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