Monday, 8 November 2010

Apprentice RCA Meadow Orchard - a personal view

Unfortunately I wasn't able to come to the splendid bonfire the night before but I was there for the presentation the next morning. On Monday night Richard and I had talked to the RCA students and listened to their ideas so far: for example, an arch to take visitors into the different areas. We discussed the rich diversity of the site and told them how Mary Hogan in her nature walks was so successful in encouraging us to pause and quietly experience the different spaces. We all felt that a sign, listing what could be seen, was too prescriptive and it was more magical to have a hint of the wildlife that could be found. We also mentioned the Table on the Marsh (see separate blog) which was such a wonderful image of community coming together.

When I came in daylight on Saturday I loved so much of what they had done. For me, peeping at the Meadow Orchard through the outer door is like looking into a Secret Garden. Viewing the fire pit and seating area, framed by the willow arch, kept that sense of mystery but at the same time invited me in. The table had been moved to beneath a tree, and a chandelier, made from jars and a bicycle wheel, suspended from the branches. Its new position beside the fire pit (or kitchen area) for me strengthened the idea of a living and working space.

The map at the entrance made from recycled wood and roofing felt indicated the different areas and led us to wonder what the Wishing Tree or the Wilderness would be. As we toured the site, we noted the practical use of fencing to make a wood store, reflecting the site ethos of recycling and resourcefulness. But what enchanted me most were the features that made me pause. The Wishing Tree was indeed magical: made from slices of oak and strung with hempen twine, it reminded me of the trees beside wells in Ireland which are hung with pieces of cloth (sometimes made of material that will not biodegrade in a hundred years). And there were chairs to sit on and swing on, allowing us to rest and observe. We finished by going out through another living arch, that ended the tour and completed the journey.

So well done RCA students, Bethany and Jo. The Meadow Orchard Project is such as multifarious site, but it seems to me you have succeeded in communicating its special quality through the features you have added and the journey you have created.

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