I had a great day in Singleton Park, Swansea this week where I and about 20 others enjoyed a day of training in the delivery of the John Muir Award (see pics below). John Muir’s environmental philosophy and the award criteria fits perfectly with the ethos of StillWalks.
Appreciation and understanding of the natural environment is at the top of the agenda with StillWalks as are other features such as stress relief, health and wellbeing – these elements are also a part of the John Muir philosophy.
Town and Country – StillWalks, however, does not exclusively feature the natural environment and wild places. Indeed, the urban environment is of as much relevance to StillWalks as the countryside – and in fact this is the case with the John Muir Award as well. The young and the old, school children, teachers, families and individuals are all encouraged to look at and listen to, explore, discover and appreciate the wild places within urban areas as much as those in our countryside.
And the news is – StillWalks is going to be carrying out a project with schools and communities over the Autumn and Spring called Sights and Sounds of the Countryside. The project will tie in closely with John Muir Award work also being delivered to schools by Tim Orrell and Swansea Nature Conservation Team (hence the training day). StillWalks has successfully applied for funding for the Sights and Sounds project from Swansea’s Countryside Connections, Sustainable Development Fund and Literature Wales to work with an artist and writers to produce a collection of videos similar to those made on the Josef Herman project.
The training day was interesting, useful and great fun. Fortunately it was good weather and we were able to get out and about in the park for some fun and games.
Time to Pause – This is largely what StillWalks is about – taking the time necessary to keep calm and not get too stressed. Whether it be relaxing at the end of the day or taking 5 minutes out in the middle of the working day, StillWalks can be both enjoyable and a useful alternative to actually getting out there for a real walk.
The queue of things to do – There never seems to be enough time to do all that I want or is necessary. So, considering what I have just said about StillWalks, I have decided to make a priority completing the four or five StillWalks that are half way through the post production stage by the end of September. The production days for these walks date back to the middle of March and completing them should be a priority because this is work I enjoy doing and, like taking a real walk or watching a StillWalk, has it’s therapeutic value.
Current explorations – In the meantime I have been enjoying finding a new place to produce a StillWalk – Singleton Park in Swansea and its botanic garden. I joined Martin Humphreys and others last Wednesday for a Bees and Butterflies walk through the botanic garden – it was very enjoyable and relaxing. The walk will take place again next Wednesday at 10 AM – anyone interested should meet at the botanic garden entrance in the park. Enjoy the photos from my phone below.
Suburban Lakeside Walk – Yesterday I uploaded a new StillWalk to Winter Walks. It is from Middlesbrough, one of those places that only ever get bad press and gets into those Ugly Towns books and programmes every time. The result is an undeserved bad and sad reputation.
There are, however, many aspects to Middlesbrough that defy this reputation. The StillWalk produced here, is, as described in the title, a suburban walk, but I have plans to go back and produce at least one more of the town itself. The images below will help to explain why.
Middlesbrough and Claes Oldenburg's "Notes"
Middlesbrough Town Hall from MIMA
MIMA - Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art
MIMA – Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art is one of the places I visited over the New Year. There was a great exhibition of South American Drawing and, in particular, I liked Brigida Baltar’s work. I am definitely going to go and see the Sean Scully show when I am next there.
Brigida Baltar's work in the South American Drawing exhibition
Full Screen Samples – The StillWalks on the website are sample length only, but remember always to watch these in full screen mode. If you would like to see more, you can buy it for just £1.99 or, if you haven’t already signed up to the website, do it now and get the StillWalk FREE.
Here is one more image from the Suburban Lakeside Walk – the location of which is here.
Two weeks ago I went did a recce walk on Ryer’s Down on the Gower. Starting just along the road from Burry Green, the weather was misty but the sun just about got through at one point – though not quite!
Then, at the beginning of this week, I took some exploratory shots near the mouth of the River Loughor – the light was particularly difficult in the early afternoon because the sun was only half managing to to push through that same mist. This Little Egret is one of many on the Loughor Estuary.
Little Loughor Egret
I went ahead with the planned production day later in the week in the hope that, if I started out in mist, there was a reasonable chance I would finish in some sunshine – fat chance! The StillWalk that will be produced from that day will have to be titled “Misty Gower Walk” I think. It was still a beautiful walk however, and the Skylarks sang for me as well which would lift the heart of the most miserable soul. You can listen to them on SoundCloud and find out about them on the RSPB website.
Looking up Ryer's Down, Gower
And here are a couple of images that describe the different state of weather on the recce walk and the production day.
Looking down from Ryer's Down, Gower on the Recce Walk
Looking down from Ryer's Down, Gower on Producton Day
More photos from the recce walk can be seen on Flickr as well as many more from other explorations.
The Ryer’s Down production day was the first one where I used the full sound recording and photography kit simultaneously throughout the walk but I am going to write a separate post about the more technical aspects of the kit and production. Suffice to say for the moment, that I was very tired by the end of the day.
Finally, remember, anyone interested in the weekly recordings and photos I am getting down on the marshes can find them on SoundCloud and Flickr. Better still, download a StillWalk or two from the website and enjoy virtual walks in many different places at different times of year.
As a follow up to yesterday’s post, I have to report a change to one of my favourite locations, namely the old St Teilo’s Churchyard.
St Teilo's Churchyard - Before
St Teilo's Churchyard - After
Something is missing!
St Teilo's Churchyard - Previously
It won’t look like this in the Summer anymore! I am very glad my StillWalk of the churchyard features it in this happier state rather than the current state. These large, well established trees were cut down in order to renovate a wall. :-/
The locations of the StillWalks I produce are many and varied – from woodland to coast, townscape to park, I enjoy them all. Pre-production recce walks can sometimes be the most interesting as that is the time of initial discovery if the place is new to me. Production days, however, are the time to look and listen really closely.
Some of the places I have enjoyed most are: Penllergaer Woods, samples of which can be seen in – the Autumn Walks, Woodland Walk 1 and Woodland Walk 2 in Winter Walks. Also the old St Teilo’s Churchyard down on the marshes near where I live can be seen in the Old Churchyard Walk from Summer Walks and Carrick Shore in SW Scotland – Coastal Walk Evening in Spring Walks. One more is on the Swansea cycle route – Abertawe Walk from the Autumn Walks.
Pennlergaer Woods in Winter
M4 Traffic – Pennlergaer and the old churchyard, are both close to the M4 motorway, which is busy at all times. In Penllergaer I find the gradual absorption of the sound of traffic, by the trees and their foliage, as you go deeper into the woods, very attractive. Perhaps it is the contrast of the two adjacent environments that creates a better sense of release from one and welcoming of the other.
On the other hand, I love the walk down to and around the old St Teilo’s Churchyard and you cannot get away from the M4 traffic in this place. I find I “filter out” a lot of the sound from the road and just listen to the birds that can easily pierce the sound of the cars and trucks. The sound recorder does not ignore the traffic of course, but, as I do it subconsciously on location, I feel justified in filtering out some (but not all) of the background road sounds when editing.
StillWalks Works for Me – I tend to use them when I need to take a few minutes out of the working day, relax and focus my mind on something other than work. I also use them at times of stress – this is often when waiting for an approaching event such as a meeting. I use them occasionally at the end of the day too, when I need to wind down before going to sleep.
On the Move – If I am on the move and, therefore, watching a StillWalk on my iPhone, the screen may be small but with headphones plugged in and the video filling the screen, I find I easily “move” into the space of the StillWalk. At all times of viewing on a computer screen, I would always watch the StillWalk in full screen mode and I try to prompt others to do this. Not only do you see more, but full screen view also prevents many other distractions and helps promote your relaxation and enjoyment of the StillWalk.
Still Watching . . . I may have to add one of the latest StillWalks to my favourites list – Moss Wood Walk in the Autumn Walks. This is from Gnoll Park in Neath, South Wales and I have just watched full screen in full HD . . .
Week 6 – Marshwood Birds – Anyone interested in following my weekly recording and photos from this project can find the recordings on SoundCloud and the images on Flickr.