Site specific drawings

I first became interested in site specific drawings when I was making The Stinging Nettle Atlas, finding that few things make me happier than lying in wet shingle, drawing with a chinagraph pencil.

Below is an excerpt about the Romney Marshes, taken from the Atlas.

The sea walks
The Devil’s Kneading Trough is the steepest coombe, sculpted by meltwater torrents that once raced down its slopes. Once, and only once, we venture through the snow to toboggan down its breakneck sides, so fast I feel sure we will all die.

Fossilized sharks teeth hide in the ground; relics from when these hills were under water. Now we gaze across a coastal plain, hemmed in by shingle carried on the longshore drift. Still it comes; the swash brings the flints in and the backwash pulls them out, zigzagging eastwards down the coast. At Dungeness lorries work night and day carrying shingle to rebuild the beach so the power station does not cast its nuclear load into the sea. Bound by this shingle belt the land fills with sand carried on the wind. Rivers flow in slow motion, plugged with silt. Drowned in sediment they turn to marshland; home to wintering swans, sheep with rot resistant feet, and ditches that writhe with newts. Martello Towers squat on the low horizon, litter-blown defences smelling of emptiness, pee and salt.

The school bus climbs Wye Hill in the January twilight, and as we rumble slowly over the ridge we see the beam from Dungeness lighthouse swing across the darkening marshes.


Here is excerpt about making a site specific map for the Atlas.

At one end of Bodsham Woods is a gate with ‘Private Property Keep Out’ written on it. At the other end is another gate with a heavy chain and padlock. I slip past the gatepost and into the woods. They are very overgrown and don’t seem to be being coppiced anymore. There is a long barrow marked on the OS map but I can’t find it and am not sure what it should look like anyway. I don’t mind not seeing it; I have enough ghosts of my own. I choose a tree and draw a map of our breakfast picnics here, then slide back out onto the road.
Breakfast picnic

How to use nettles
This water trough is just below my allotment. Sometimes, in spring, I harvest young nettles to make delicious soup. You can also make tea with the older ones, although I haven’t tried this yet. I drew and wrote this information onto the trough because I thought other people might find it interesting and/or useful.


Nettle detail

Malago walk
As part of the Hidden Waterways and Daylighting project, some of the team walked up the river Malago in South Bristol and I did some site specific drawing and writing on the way. All the photos that I am in were taken by Owain Jones.

I pointed out that the river was flowing under the bridge, because it’s so overgrown that it’s easy for it to be completely forgotten.
On Hartcliffe Way, which is quite a busy route, I wrote about debris from the traffic and the road ending up in the river.

As we stopped to look into the water, this little snail made its way across the stone. It moved so slowly that I had time to label it before it slid gently away.

This litter bin in the park already had the blue wavy line drawn on it (who by?) It made me think of the river and so I incorporated it into what I imagine is a pretty inaccurate map of how the rivers flow through this area.
Some of the river is culverted and we walked without it for a while. When it appeared back above ground my spirits lifted to hear its voice again. The grille that Helen and I are lying on is where the river drops noisily down into the culvert…

…and I recorded my feelings onto it.