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.
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.
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.
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.