Saturday, 19 September 2015

The Wantsum Channel Sculpture

The Wantsum Globe

In the March of 2014 we had amazing floods and the river Stour and large swathes of lowland areas in Kent were flooded for several weeks. I now realise these low-lying areas I had trouble navigating on my bike rides because there was so much water, were once covered with water before, as this was part of the long gone Wantsum Channel. The Wantsum Channel was the stretch of water that separated The Isle of Thanet from the rest of Kent. 

I cycled through this flood.

What brought this into focus for me was coming across the Gough Map, (to view click here) this is kept at the Bodliean Library in Oxford. It is thought to be the earliest map of UK ever made about 1360. What is really odd about it is that Kent is at the top and Wales at the bottom with Scotland way over to the left, as if the whole of the UK is laying down on its stomach!  You can zoom in and have a good look at places you know to see what was drawn there, I went straight to Canterbury and saw Kent represented as a cluster of Islands! That's when I went.... 'Oh yeh,.... Grain.... Sheppey.... and Thanet'. So then I researched the Wantsum Channel in more detail, already being very familiar with Reculver and its location and role as a Roman fort and site of a Monastery etc.

My map of the Wantsum Channel

I remembered reading a folk tale about the Wantsum Worm, it lived in the Wantsum Cannel. It would swim out and somehow by magic shape shifting disguise itself at parties and dances and over a period of years had managed to eat all the young girls in the surrounding area. A series of bizarre people were brought from far and wide to locate and kill this monster, these people who seemed to be just parts of bodies, like a pair of large ears, or just a pair of large legs and a pair of huge hands, I think there was a massive nose in it as well, who all tried to locate and kill the monster.

It put me in mind of Hieronymus Bosch paintings. The last girl to be eaten was the Princess and she was supposed to marry who ever managed to get her out (she was still alive inside!) But it had a really rubbish ending where as all these bodyparts people had played some role in her rescue and it was confusing as to who actually saved her. The story asked the reader to decide who the Princess chose to marry. Oh What..I was shocked.. I had invested emotionaly into a story without an end. That's rubbish!

The characters in the story are carved into the globe

I made an artwork based on the Folk Tale called 'The Wantsum Worm', I liked the idea of a maps and stories merging together. The result is difficult to describe, it's definitely a sculpture, it's also a globe and by drawing a 2D image of the Wantsum Channel onto a 3D sphere inevitably distortions occur. In this particular case Herne Bay has Deal as the town next door! I'm not going to explain why or how, but this has to happen to enable the drawing to join up. 


Monday, 7 September 2015

The Radfall


I was looking through a cabinet of old Ordnance Survey maps in the local studies section of the Library in the Beaney. I was looking for Reculver, but while I flicked through the large sheets I saw something I recognised instantly in a blink of an eye. It was the Radfall. It was drawn exactly the same on an old 1896 map (or whatever) as it was on my OS Landranger map. Exactly the same with a lost section in the middle. 
I know the Radfall very well as I drew a Drover using it, to take his live stock to sell at the market in Canterbury. This drawing was used on an interpretation panel and was commissioned by The Kent Wildlife Trust and placed in the Thornden Wood right smack in the middle of the Radfall. I have also ridden my bike along it and I used to  walk along it with my dog Cosmo.


What is the Radfall? 
 Ancient drove-ways through The Blean known as Radfalls. These tracks are bounded by earth banks on each side to prevent livestock browsing on the valuable young coppice shoots. Later woodland reeves were responsible for keeping these drove-ways clear and it is recorded that they could take any wood from the clearance as a perquisite, a perk of the job for their own use.
In an instant on seeing this Map in the cabinet I said to myself I will walk the entire length of what remains of the Radfall and see what happens at that section in the middle where it fades away? I will draw a map and record what is actually there. My Drawing is nearly 7m long and 0.3m wide. The walk was about 3 and a half miles from the outskirts of Herne Bay to Tyler Hill mainly through Thornden Woods. 

Here is a small selection of my Radfall drawings


(Click here) to see an electronic book I made about the walk