Artist Paul Chaney considering the agricultural possibilities of the Downs to support people:
I stand on the edge of a desolate windswept and sodden bog. A brownish smudge of a hedge lays against the brownish smudge of late winter’s heath. The pale horizon, always somehow near and always wide, is brushed with a vague trace of blood, sweat and tears. Small fields, tenuously and temporarily enclosed from the heath cling to some small memory of human order. Whose days passed here? Whose will prevailed against this barren and over saturated soil? No doubt forced by some dastardly compromise, or vile threat considered greater than the horror of spending one’s days and nights entrenched, trench-footed, and tallow-lit in a dark hovel perched atop this nefarious and toxic sod?
Actual empathy makes a brief skirmish. The tyranny of the physical body, the tyranny of labour, the back breaking tyranny of acidic peats over barren stagnogleyic rankers, in turn over fine serpentinitic loessic drift, in turn over serpentine.
I tip my hat to the Barnicoats, the Thompsons, the Roberts, and the Rules. Potato weary folk who endlessly drove rickety carts of seaweed and sand up here from Kennack, pared the moor with wide spades, stacked and burned the turves against the odds and the treacherous seasons, only to be cruelly beaten by foul fate and the misplaced suspicion of others more fat and fortunate.
I thank the forces of globalised capital that I do not have to squeeze some small calorific advantage from a place such as this and dwell therein.
At least for now…
Paul Chaney has been exploring an imaginary future vision of The Downs, taking into account people’s needs; farming, technology and environment, among other things. His information boards detailing future scenarios will be on display at The Gathering on 18th May.