An expedition to explore our local waterways by full moon.
The countdown to our second Stirchley moon mission has begun. After the success of Dark Moon Walking, we are running a second Stirchley moon walk on the evening of Sunday 8th March, just ahead of full moon.
For this bewitching – if slightly scary – group walk, we shall follow a circular route around the waterways of Stirchley and Lifford. If it is a clear night there will be the chance to view some lunar-charged moon water ripe for rituals and spells.
Our water-themed walkabout features secret tunnels, woodland paths, a swan lake, the calm of the canals and a babbling river.
We think this walk will be magical and look forward to reclaiming these places by night. However our second walk is a lot more off-piste than the first, so please read the small print on the booking page before signing up.
I was at the beginning of a long walk, an adventure that had no fixed time to it. I only knew that I wanted to stay 'out,' in the world and away from my usual life for several weeks. It felt right to take some time to contemplate my journey in the home of a woman who had chosen to go the other way; inward rather than outward.
People get confused between ravens and crows, but once you have seen (and heard) ravens, they are unmistakable. Crows are smaller, with a flapping flight that looks as if it takes some effort; head on, their wing tips curve up in a distinctive arc. Ravens however, are Emperors; lifting off and away with a graceful, soaring flight, they soar more than they flap and are masters of the air. Ravens will fold their wings and fall through the air, flipping onto their backs and rolling before snapping out those great wings and lifting up again, an action that seems to be executed for the sheer joy of it.
Definitely one to add to your "walking blogs" feeds.
Fiona has written up her thoughts about Sunday's Dark Moon Walking night walk through the parks and along the canal in Bournville. She's structured it as a series of questions.
4. Why a night walk?
Because walking at night is otherworldly and comes with a sense of the forbidden. Green spaces, such as parks, canals and cut-throughs, feel off-limits and taboo at night. The absence of people in them makes you feel safer at night but it is simultaneously strange to see these popular spaces deserted.
7. Were you scared at any point?
Briefly – by a solitary figure standing at the edge of the woods in Cotteridge Park. It turned out to be a small conifer. This is where night vision can be deceiving and amplify your fears. The reflections in the pond also warped my depth perception of where the water line was.
I just happened across this by accident but the BBC is showing a new five-part series in which explorer Paul Rose walks the 630 miles of the SW Coast Path – Britain's longest national walking trail. The first episode just went out and you can catch it on iPlayer here: Coastal Path.
After walking a couple of bits of the SW Coast Path last year (photo is from Lizard to Kynance Cove), and reading The Salt Path (highly recommended), I've become a bit obsessed by SWCP. Hopefully this show will do it justice.
The inaugural Walkspace walk took place on Sunday night and we were very pleased with how it went. Eight of us were led by Fiona Cullinan through a recreation ground, a park and along the canal under the clear black skies of a new moon.
We were walking through areas that held no fear during the day but at night were forbidden territory. What would we find and how would we feel to leave the street lights and enter the dark?
We met at Bournville Station and quickly made our way to the Cadbury Women's Recreation Ground, a beautiful hidden gem in the day but a bit spooky by night. After spreading out to contemplate the darkness in silence for five minutes we moved on to Cotteridge Park, pausing for a chat at the glacial boulders.
After the relative quiet and dark of the parks it was back to the shock of the lit main streets before joining the canal for the walk back to Bournville station. The walk completed we adjourned to the British Oak for refreshments and the planning of future adventures.
Fiona will be processing the walk soon – the third in her Stirchley walk series – but for now here are some photos Pete took at a deliberately high ISO and barely in focus.
I've just launched a YouTube channel called Footnotes as an outlet for my walking related videos. Having spent several years working on a ridiculously massive film project about the Central Library (coming soon), it will be nice to get back to shorter, more regular output. The first video is an account of the Cross City Walks project Pete and I did five years ago – have a look and if you like, please subscribe for more!
The plan is to re-upload my old videos at a rate of one every couple of weeks to trick the algorithm into thinking I'm a reliable uploader and by the time I've got my back-catalogue up hopefully I'll have something new to share.
They're using a technique developed by artist Adam Harvey that he called CV Dazzle in 2010 which is based on the pre-radar method of protecting ships from torpedos in WWI by painting them with abstract shapes. This Dazzle Camouflage confused submarines who were unable to accurately calculate the distance and heading of a ship and thus unable to hit it with a torpedo.
CV Dazzle makeup, standing for Computer Vision Dazzle, is intended to work in a similar way by either making the face invisible to recognition software or simply disguising the individual so they can't be tracked.
There's a lot of this sort of art around, but it's interesting, and relevant to our interests, to see the Dazzle Club using group walks as the way to get it out there. It turns the act of wearing the makeup into a protest and it's no coincidence their walks coincide with the London police starting to use live facial recognition systems in the capital.
Wearing the makeup as an individual probably doesn't work – the technology is improving every day and doesn't just depend on faces for identification – but combining it with a silent group walk, which features in the long history of protest, helps raise issues around its adoption without full consideration of the flaws and civil implications.
Dazzle Club walks take place in London on the 3rd Thursday of the month. Sign up to their newsletter for location information. And hopefully Emily & co will bring this up to the Midlands soon.
The latest issue of Craig Mod's Ridgeline, his excellent newsletter about walking to which you should all subscribe, appeared in my inbox with the above title and got me all excited because it would make the perfect manifesto for Walkspace. Walking as tool for creating something new, be it ideas or actualised work. Walking as a coherent and defined platform that enables an anticipated outcome but allows for serendipity and surprises.
Of course, letting my mind race ahead like that meant mild disappointment as Craig was giving the title to a talk at a tech conference where the audience build digital tools on digital platforms, but that's OK.
The talk is worth watching because it summarises a inspirational walk Craig did last year where he tried to find a good balance between being connected and being alone. He would be travelling with a camera and a phone but he would set strict rules on how he would use them. Some, like having to take a portrait of a stranger before 10am, forced him to have encounters he might not have. Others, like restricting him communication with the outside world to one SMS text message a day, enabled him to, as he says in the talk, "be present in the world while connecting with my community in meaningful ways."
Along the 1,000km walk over 43 days Craig would send a photo and a text message which would be relayed to anyone who had opted in to receive them. These recipients could reply but Craig would not see the replies until he got home where a large book containing his photos, messages and all the replies would be waiting for him.
As someone who uses walks to take photos (or uses photos to take walks) and has experimented in the past with platforms like Twitter or Instagram to document a journey, I often struggle to know what to do with the documentary detritus, or whether capturing the walk detracted from the walk itself. Cross City Walks is a perfect case in point – was it made or broken by the way I co-opted it as a tool/platform?
Casting the walk as a tool could be a useful way of mitigating this. A tool is, fundamentally, matter which has been shaped to facilitate an outcome, be it a hammer to bash in nails or a rocket to get you to the moon. If you know why you're undertaking a walk (and that can be a big "if"), how can your act of walking be shaped to facilitate that?
Subscribe to Craig Mod's newsletters and explore his extensive writing on his website.
I often think about the group slow walk Hamish Futon ran in Birmingham in 2012 for the Ikon and Fierce Festival where he got people to walk lines marked behind Curzon Street Station, some very short, some the length of the site, as slowly as necessary to complete the walk in the time allowed. Here's a short interview with him, filmed by Chris Keenan.
I was reminded of this when reading about Rubén Martín de Lucas's art project Minimal Republics where he marks off a 100m2 area of land, declares it to be a sovereign nation, and inhabits it for up to 24 hours. He documents them using aerial photography which looks very pleasing.
The work is about the absurdity of the concept of nations, which I approve of because nations are absurd concepts, but I'm intrigued by the idea of forcing yourself to stay within a specific boundary for up to a day, especially when that boundary is set up in an "uninteresting" area.
It's doubtless meditative with an element of endurance, but the idea of exploring that 100 square metres, of really getting to know every rock in the sand or mark on the tarmac, is really interesting to me.
I've often wanted to do an hour-long photography workshop where people can only explore a small patch of land that they wouldn't consider interesting at first – the corner of a car park, for example – forcing them to look beyond the obvious and start to see patterns and beauty in the details. I think the photos that would come out of such an exercise would be really interesting.
I wonder what it would be like to make one of de Lucas's pieces, to define a micro-country and occupy it for a day. Once the boredom passes, what would you see?