When I chose the title of this project it was with a view to describing the Haecceity of the chosen locations in response to the brief of the WCAF theme – ‘History of the Future’, for me it was the ‘this-ness’ of place, which I wanted to convey with the new work. However, as the project has developed I have realised that Haecceity exists in both a spiritual and physical sense and that it can in fact relate to the creative process itself.
Over the last few weeks I have revisited four mossland sites within close proximity to Warrington in preparation for my residency in March at Warrington Museum and Art Gallery. Cadishead, Little Woolden, Risley and Delamere, each one of these sites is familiar to me and yet with every visit a new discovery is made.
Cadishead and Little Woolden are two former peat extraction sites, which once formed part of the historic Chat Moss mossland. These sites formed a considerable part of my Masters project ‘Sensorium’ in 2015 and were fundamental in the understanding and development within my practice.
Delamere I have already written about in a previous blog post, a unique site, familiar to many but has the capability to surprise and offer unseen spaces if you are prepared to look.
Risley Moss is the closest of the chosen sites to Warrington and is protected as a SSSI site. This site has a complicated past and has been misunderstood for many years however, its care is currently entrusted to two wonderful rangers Mark and Gaynor who work endlessly to ensure that the legacy of this special place is not lost or forgotten.
Last week I had the very great pleasure to spend a day in the company of Mark and Gaynor who generously shared their passion, knowledge and a good deal of their time showing me why Risely Moss is so special.
The communities of Warrington are inextricably linked with this moss, which was formed 10,000 – 15,000 years ago during the last ice age. For decades it has witnessed many changes and accommodated demands placed on it by its occupiers but now it is being allowed to regain some of its former glory.
It is breathtakingly beautiful, bold and dynamic yet fragile and transient. I was overwhelmed as I was guided around the site, this was not the place you think you see from the main viewpoint or the pathways created to offer walkers a space to easily navigate. This was a place that demands your attention, every sense of your body must engage to navigate and keep yourself away from the pools of water, which sit quietly hidden away between tall grasses and reeds.
You become acutely aware of the sounds and light, moments of focused light drawing your eyes to areas around you, which would ordinarily be easily missed.
Periodically there are visual clues in the ground where animals and man have crossed, or where traces of the past surface. A visual palimpsest, which reminds us of the hidden narratives held within this mossland and the narrative, which is still playing out as communities work to restore the site to its former state.