Mining the Lines

Posted on September 26, 2015

On Sunday 20th September I led Mining the Lines: Shepherdswell – Eythorne, a narrative walk exploring part of the Miners Way Trail between Shepherdswell and Eythorne and connecting up the lines (both physical and historical) of the East Kent Railway and the mining landscape.

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My reason for wanting to organise a walk is that increasingly, as this project goes on, I have felt that I am working with something which goes way beyond just a little heritage centre in a little village – I am working with a community, a landscape, a history, a way of thinking and doing; a collection of quite powerful things which are all actually very immaterial.

I am interested in the poetry of the relationships that have been and continue to be formed, within this project as a whole and ongoingly within the complex archive of my own practice and history.

A walk for me feels like a very significant way in which to simultaneously tie together, encounter, open up, navigate and interpret these relationships and forms.

It is a form of production and interpretation of a personal sense of poetry that I have been wanting to explore for some time.

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Starting at Shepherdswell East Kent Railway station, we wound our way through the countryside, along scenic paths, roads, fields and ancient byways…

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…to the mining village of Elvington, from where we silently followed the ‘Pit Path’ used by miners to reach the site of the former Tilmanstone colliery.

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After spending a little reflective time here (and witnessing the extraordinary sight of two motorcyclists speeding around the site), we walked to Eythorne…

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…and finished our journey with a trip on the East Kent Railway line back to Shepherdswell. Here, Gabor Stark also introduced us to his ‘Friendly Army’ of sculptures which he is close to finishing and installing along the EKR lines.

I loosely ‘narrated’ the walk by recounting personal experiences, encounters or stories relating to particular points of the walk and sharing historical information about the landscape and mining heritage that I had accumulated through my research.

New encounters and conversations that took place along the way also informed our experiences and the overall narrative of the walk.

The walk was documented collaboratively through voice/sound, text/drawing and photography, with each participant being giving either a sound recorder, pen and paper, or a disposable camera.

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Everyone was encouraged to document throughout as they wished, though we paused at particular points to record collectively.

We could not have asked for more perfect weather or a nicer walk together.

Here are some feedback comments from some of the walkers:

“I was drawn to the idea of a walk connecting the railways and mining…I actually had no idea what i would discover next on the walk –  the bikers at tilmanstone was a wonderful surreal experience…I found walking off track up on the ridge through the woods very exciting…It was a complete experience and one I could not have imagined and always held my interest. The length was perfect for me and the train ride was a great end.”            – Joanna Jones

“It was a great combination of multiple layers at once: beautiful weather and landscape, underlying themes and currents contributed by Louisa, interesting conversations with others while walking. Stopping to discuss and document. Loved seeing the site of the Tilmanstone Colliery, the Pit Path, going from that space with the two motorbikers to that intimate raised little path through the woods…Interesting to think about memory in the face of so few concrete/visual cues of memory I suppose…The slag heap was powerful. So was a group of people walking about.” – Marcia Teusink

“I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing. The leisurely pace and the land. The way it has been changed by the mining industry…I enjoyed the route and the fact that along some of these familiar roads there is some beautiful countryside that you just drive past. I found the history of the miners interesting and I find the slag heaps fascinating…I enjoyed the act of walking and stopping to take in various elements. I found the narration particularly helpful and liked being led because I didn’t have to worry about getting lost!                    The last project I had participated in during my studies at UCA was at Betteshanger Country Park. A group of us camped there and made sculpture from the land and in response to the land there. I was and still am fascinated by how the land was kind of turned inside out and the blackness of the material of the slag. This walk has inspired me to continue exploring this. I hope there will be more walks like this. – Julie Sumner

“I love walking and was intrigued to visit the place where one of the mines had been…It was a beautiful day for a walk, and there was a nice group of people. It was interesting to have a little pad and pencil to make drawings along the way…I found the drawing really engaging in that it gave you a moment to really look at where you had stopped. Also the knowledge that Louisa imparted about what she had discovered about the area…I would say the walk really surpassed what I had expected, my partner really enjoyed it as well especially as he had to take photos with a disposable camera which he quite enjoyed as he doesn’t normally take photos of anything!” – Rosie James

“I had walked from Shepherdswell to Eythorne several times before. I was surprised how different the experience was when Louisa took us along new and unexpected routes…Visiting the site of the former Tilmanstone colliery for the first time and encountering the rural weekend cultures in East Kent: from horse riding, via men dressed-up as soldiers shooting in the fields, to teenagers driving their motocross bikes through the black, lunar landscape of the colliery slack heaps….Louisa’s idea to involve the audience in the documentation of the walk: some strangely beautiful and otherworldly photographs came out of this – like from another time, when the coal mines were still active.                              I really enjoyed the moment when we were asked to asked to walk in silence for a while. A future walk could have more of such curated moments, when the act of walking becomes less of a casual experience, and more of a conscious performance.”                     – Gabor Stark

 

See more of the archive of photographs & drawings by participants below…