On 18th May 2022, a group of artists and writers met at the Rural Arts Hub, a former dairy farm on the Welshampton Road in North Shropshire. This was the first Unherd! Walking the Land gathering for walks and creative activities around the Marches Mosses and responding to some of the issues raised as part of Voices Values Actions.
In early November 2021, an international panel was convened to discuss the issues entangled in alternative ways of thinking about, understanding and valuing special environments. The goal was to determine if we needed to consider different ways to inform and shape the future of the Fenn’s, Whixall and Bettisfield Mosses and Macquarie Marshes, and environments like them. In this post, the two event organisers and co-leads of the Mosses and Marshes project, Kim V. Goldsmith and Andrew Howe reflect on the issues raised in the panel discussion.
Keith Ashford and Elizabeth Turner are Shropshire-based artists who have worked together to create sculptures, sited in the landscape at a range of different locations across Shropshire, Telford and further afield. During 2020, we began a conversation about making some work at Fenn’s and Whixall Moss, and we discussed these ideas with Shropshire Wildlife Trust. We were all excited that the National Lottery funding I secured from Arts Council England would enable these ideas to be turned into reality during 2021.
Engaging with the local community is one of the key parts of the Mosses and Marshes project that gives it meaning and brings it to life. I teamed up with artists Kate Johnston and Dr Sue Challis and Shropshire Wildlife Trust for a fabulous collaborative project with Wem Youth Club at Whixall Moss.
During last year, I was contacted by Sheila Birch who said to me that some of my artistic responses to the Mosses resonated with her experience of the landscape. Although she no longer lives in the area, she still has family connections with Bettisfield and is a regular visitor. I invited her to recount some of her childhood memories
In the course of visiting the Fenn’s Whixall and Bettisfield Mosses NNR over the last few years, I’ve met and spoken with people on and around the site, either living locally, or visiting from further afield. Here is the first in a short series of posts recording some of the conversations I have had with local people who lived and or worked on the Moss
Most visitors to the Fenn’s Whixall and Bettisfield Mosses today, will be coming to enjoy the Nature Reserve and to look for wildlife or simply get some fresh air and exercise, but few can escape noticing the physical traces in the landscape and interpretation boards which tell the story of human involvement on the Mosses over many centuries. It is this aspect, the evolving relationship that humans have with the wetlands, that really intrigues me.
After almost two years of research and discussion, the Mosses and Marshes project was officially launched on World Wetlands Day, February 2nd 2021 with preview videos of some of the preliminary work that Kim V. Goldsmith and I have been creating together.
How would we describe the experience of seeing and being in this wetland landscape? It is not a place of classically dramatic views and spectacular rock formations. It is not particularly a place with natural physical challenges for the adventurous outdoor enthusiast. Yet there are challenges, perhaps more psychological than physical. Its charms are more understated, but no less impressive.
In this second part of a conversation with my artist collaborator Kim V. Goldsmith, we look ahead at some of the outcomes from our project and themes to explore… As you said in the earlier part of our conversation, there are all kinds of political, socio-historical issues associated with these wetland sites which inform theContinue reading “Pulse of the Wetland: Part two of a conversation with Kim V. Goldsmith”