People seem fed up at the moment. Unlike the previous lockdowns, this one doesn’t really have an end in sight. The days feel long but they’re flying by, restless nights lag with unused energy reserves from days spent inside. The weather has been grey.

While I’ve been waiting for something to lift, the stillness of lockdown is making me more aware of patterns and routines, of the people and places around me. I’ve been trying to get out for daily walks around the park next to my flat and find myself drawn to details in nature that signal change and growth, signs of continuance that amble towards life beyond the pandemic. These details feel defiant.

On a lunch break walk a few Fridays ago, I listened to a short audio piece about mindful walking that Niki sent to the group, in preparation for an online group workshop. As I wandered around the park, I saw sprouts of daffodils preparing to burst into spring, and tender new buds on old mossy trees. From my flat window, the park looks square and a bit uninviting with rusting goal posts at either end, but when you’re in it the path meanders between trees and hedges, leading you close to birds hiding in bushes and the damp, collapsed ruins of firework packaging.

In the far corner of the park from my flat, I’d seen what looked to be a community garden behind some railings. Today, there were people in it. It took a second lap around the path to build my confidence, before I just thought DO IT and said hello, asking them what they were doing and if I could join in. I’d caught them at the right time, in the midst of their regular Friday afternoon session. In that little window of time, two routines had aligned.

I returned the following week and was moved by a gardener called Terry making a ledge for bird feed out of an old slice of tree trunk. He secured it between some branches with a mallet and said, ‘This will still be here in 50 years. I won’t, but this will.’ As long as the trees are protected, he added, and it made me think about the way time goes on and the things we can do to make the world feel better for us here now, and for those who come after.

I’m finding new connections with my local green spaces and the people who also gravitate towards them. There’s comfort in having a shared purpose and growth in learning from the different perspectives people bring along: it feels natural. The passing on of knowledge and stories is something I also appreciate about the walking group. Wandering together round Leigh last year during eased restrictions, so many memories were shared from different angles or moments, crossing over and correlating to build up a bigger picture. When I walk through Leigh now, the places we paused at for someone to reflect are now charged with that inherited memory, likely to be passed on again.

At one point we stopped at a wall behind Asda and a lady said, ‘That’s my seat,’ asking Chris to mind out the way so she could sit on it. It seemed she liked to use a step in the wall as an armrest. The group shared some stories and as we walked away, Chris told us it was the lady’s birthday that day.


This post was written by Brit Seaton, Gallery Assistant at the Turnpike. Brit has been supporting the ACTIVATIONS programme and this project since summer 2020, these are some of her reflections on the process so far. Many Thanks to Brit.


To set the scene –

Our last meeting was just before Christmas, when there was still some optimism in the air, but it was waining – the pandemic at this stage is becoming an endurance, I don’t think anyone expected that we would be living under such strict conditions for so long – and even the brightest spirits are beginning to fade. Walking is becoming one of the only activities that is safe and accessible, but even this is more difficult with the onset of winter. There’s also a collective tiredness, a definite screen fatigue – and it is within this that we manage to find a ray of light – a way to come together and find hope.

For this meeting, I invited fellow artist Tina Dempsey to join us, Tina has also been investigating walking whilst in lockdown and I thought it would be interesting for the group to hear about her ways of working. Tina talked through some of the questions she had been asking herself “What is art doing in this moment?” and “What do we actually need?”.

Which led on to a discussion about the local – how we come to belong to a place, how the identity of a place is formed, what happens when we pay more attention to our immediate environment? And where might we focus more of our attention whilst we walk? After spending more time in her local nature spaces, Tina shared that she has a renewed pride of where she’s from and feels more grounded.

We also considered the act of walking as a way to generate creative ideas – for example, how we might be visually stimulated, or affected by a snippet of overheard conversation. We talked about how we have been bringing art activities into our walking, setting tasks to help us stop and notice again. This is something we have been doing as a group, sharing ways of looking in order to break the mundane, now that we have been walking in the same spaces for almost a year.

At the end of the meeting some of the members shared their joy, including the feeling of having got “four wheels back on my wagon!” – a wonderful testament to the project. Sometimes we just need to hear the enthusiasm of others to spark our own.